“OTHER MEN’S WOMEN” (1931) Review

 

“OTHER MEN’S WOMEN” (1931) Review

Adultery is rarely treated with any kind of maturity in fiction – whether in novels, plays, movies and television. I am not saying that adultery has never been portrayed with any maturity. It is just that . . . well, to be honest . . . I have rarely come across a movie, television series, novel or play that dealt with adultery in a mature manner. Or perhaps I have rarely come across others willing to face fictional adultery between two decent people with some kind of maturity.

If one simply glanced at the title of the 1931 movie, “OTHER MEN’S WOMEN”, any person could assume that he or she will be facing one of those salacious tales from a Pre-Code filled with racy dialogue, scenes of women and men stripping to their underwear or morally bankrupt characters. Well, “OTHER MEN’S WOMEN” is a Pre-Code movie. But if you are expecting scenes and characters hinting sexy and outrageous sex, you are barking up the wrong tree.

“OTHER MEN’S WOMEN” is about a young railroad engineer named Bill White, who seemed to have a drinking problem. When he gets kicked out of his boarding house, after falling back on his rent, Bill is invited by fellow engineer and friend Jack Kulper to stay with him and his wife Lily. All seemed to be going well. Bill managed to fit easily into the Kulper household. He stopped drinking. And he got along very well with both Jack and Lily. In reality, his relationship with Lily seemed to be a lot more obvious than with Jack. And this spilled out one afternoon, when in the middle of one of their horseplays while Jack was out of the house, Bill and Lily exchanged a passionate kiss. Realizing that he was in love with Lily, Bill moved out and left Jack wondering what had occurred. Matters grew worse and eventually tragic, when Jack finally realized that Bill and Lily had fallen in love with each other.

From the few articles I have read, there seemed to be a low regard for this film. Leading lady Mary Astor had dismissed it as “a piece of cheese” and praised only future stars James Cagney and Joan Blondell. Come to think of it, so did a good number of other movie fans. Back in 1931, the New York Times had described the film as “an unimportant little drama of the railroad yards”. Perhaps “OTHER MEN’S WOMEN” was unimportant in compare to many other films that were released in 1931 or during that period. But I enjoyed it . . . more than I thought I would.

“OTHER MEN’S WOMEN” is not perfect. First of all, this is an early talkie. Although released in 1931, the film was originally shot and released to a limited number of theaters in 1930. And anyone can pretty much tell this is an early talkie, due to the occasional fuzzy photography. Also, director William Wellman shot a few of the action scenes – namely the fight scene between Bill and Jack, along with Bill and another engineer named Eddie Bailey – in fast motion. Or he shot the scenes and someone sped up the action during the editing process. Why, I have no idea. There were a few times when members of the cast indulge in some theatrical acting. And I mean everyone. Finally, I found the resolution to the love triangle in this film a bit disappointing. Considering that divorce was not as verboten in the early 20th century, as many seemed to assume, I do not see why that the whole matter between Bill, Lily and Jack could have been resolved with divorce, instead of tragedy. In the case of this particular story, I found the tragic aspects a bit contrived.

Otherwise, I rather enjoyed “OTHER MEN’S WOMEN”, much to my surprise. Repeating my earlier statement, I was impressed by how screenwriter Maud Fulton, with the addition of William K. Wells’ dialogue; treated the adulterous aspects of the love triangle with taste and maturity. What I found even more impressive is that the three people involved were all likeable and sympathetic. I was rather surprised that this film only lasted 70 minutes. Because Wellman did an exceptional job with the movie’s pacing. He managed to infuse a good deal of energy into this story, even when it threatened to become a bit too maudlin.

Wellman’s energy seemed to manifest in the cast’s performance. Yes, I am well aware of my complaint about the performers’ occasional penchant for theatrical acting. But overall, I thought they did a very good job. Future stars James Cagney and Joan Blondell had small supporting roles as Bill’s other friend Eddie Bailey and his girlfriend, Marie. Both did a good job and both had the opportunities to express those traits that eventually made them stars within a year or two. I was especially entertained by Blondell’s performance, for she had the opportunity to convey one of the movie’s best lines:

Marie: [taking out her compact and powdering her face] Listen, baby, I’m A.P.O.

Railroad worker at Lunch Counter: [to the other railroad worker] What does she mean, A.P.O.?

Marie: Ain’t Puttin’ Out!

I noticed that due to Cagney and Blondell’s presence in this film, many tend to dismiss the leading actors’ performances. In fact, many seemed to forget that not only was Mary Astor a star already, she was a decade away from winning an Oscar. Well, star or not, I was impressed by her portrayal of the railroad wife who finds herself falling in love with a man other than her own husband. She gave a warm, charming and energetic performance. And she portrayed her character’s guilt with great skill. I could also say the same about leading man, Grant Withers. He is basically known as Loretta Young’s first husband. Which is a shame, because he seemed like a first-rate actor, capable of handling the many emotional aspects of his character. Whether Bill was drunk and careless, fun-loving, romantic or even wracked with guilt, Withers ably portrayed Bill’s emotional journey. I also enjoyed Regis Toomey’s performance as the emotionally cuckolded husband, Jack Kulper. I mainly remember Toomey from the 1955 musical, “GUYS AND DOLLS”. However, I was impressed by how he portrayed Jack’s torn psyche regarding his best friend and wife.

I am not going to pretend that “OTHER MEN’S WOMEN” is one of the best films from the Pre-Code era . . . or one of director William Wellman’s best films. Perhaps that New York Times critic had been right, when he described the film as “an unimportant little drama of the railroad yards”. But I cannot dismiss “OTHER MEN’S WOMEN” as a mediocre or poor film. It is actually pretty decent. And more importantly, thanks to the screenplay, Wellman’s direction and the cast, I thought it portrayed a love triangle tainted by adultery with a great deal of maturity.

“Crossroads of the Force” [PG-13] – Chapter Six

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“CROSSROADS OF THE FORCE”

CHAPTER SIX

ANCHORHEAD, TATOOINE

The burly man strode casually along one of Anchorhead’s dusty streets, accompanied by two children. The golden protocol droid followed closely behind, filling their ears with incessant chatter.

“I really do not see why Miss Padme had left me behind and taken Artoo,” the droid complained. “As a protocol droid, I have knowledge of over six million forms of communication in my programming. Surely, I could have serve as interpreter for Miss Pad . . .”

“Not now, Threepio!” Luke barked. “Now is not the time for you to be complaining about being left behind. Mother has made her decision.”

The protocol droid sounded affronted by his young charge’s outburst. “Well really, Master Luke! I did not realize . . .”

“One other thing, Threepio,” Owen added, “I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be bandying Miss Padme’s name out loud. There might be Imperial ears listening.”

“Yes, Master Owen.”

The group finally reached a poundstone store that sold power converters at the street’s south end. Uncle Owen turned to Luke and Leia. “I want you two to wait here. Threepio and I will be right back.”

“You need me, Master Owen?” the droid asked.

With a sigh, the moisture farmer replied, “Yes, Threepio. I need you to translate the binary language for the moisture vaporators.” He nodded at Luke and Leia. “And you two, stay close.” Then he and Threepio entered the shop.

The twins settled on a small bench outside of the shop. Nearly ten minutes passed before Leia heaved a loud sigh. “I’m bored,” she muttered darkly. “I thought that Anchorhead would be more exciting than this.”

Luke rolled his eyes. His sister could be quite a grouch at times. “Then you should have stayed at the farm.”

“And spend hours in the company of two women barely able to conduct a conversation with each other?” Leia snorted. “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Another three minutes passed. Leia opened her mouth for another complaint, but Luke spotted a familiar figure. “Hey! It’s Biggs!” Then he cried out, “Biggs!” A dark-haired boy around the twins’ ages stared at them. A smile lit up this thin face, before he waved. Luke waved back and stood up.

“Luke, where are you going?” Leia demanded. “Uncle Owen told us to stay here.” The fair-haired boy ignored his sister and rushed toward his best friend. “Luke!”

The two boys met in the middle of the street and slapped each other on the backs. “Hey Luke!” Biggs Darklighter greeted. “What are you doing here on Tatooine? Your family usually don’t visit until another two months from now.” Biggs happened to be the son of a wealthy land magnate . . . and Luke’s best friend for the past six years.

Luke shrugged. “Leia and I are staying with our uncle, while Mother is on a business trip. Are you with your father?”

Biggs pointed at the Weary Traveler Tavern. “He’s in there, getting a drink. I saw you and Leia. Where’s your uncle?”

“Buying a new moisture vaporator,” Luke answered.

Biggs nodded. “Maybe your uncle can allow you to visit our home before you leave. Dad just bought me a new skyhopper. A suborbital T-12 model.” A wide grin appeared on his face. “The wings’ span are this wide, and . . .” As he threw out his arms, his left hand knocked against a burlap sack held by a passing pedestrian. Bottles of liquor fell out of the sack and crashed upon the ground. Luke detected the strong odor of alcohol.

Tall, burly and grizzled, the pedestrian cast an intimidating glare at the Biggs. “Clumsy brat!” he growled. “Look at what you’ve done! I had paid a good amount of wupiupi for those bottles of ale.”

“I’m sorry, sir,” a slightly frightened Biggs pleaded. “It was an accident.”

The man retorted, “Sorry doesn’t mean anything! I’m out of 200 wupiupi and some good Spiced Ale!” He grabbed Biggs by the latter’s tunic. “It’s gonna take more than an apology to make up for my loss, boy!”

Luke decided to help Biggs escape the man’s grip. “Hey! Let go of my friend! He said that he was sorry!” Then Luke tried to pry the man’s fingers from Biggs’ tunic. His efforts ended in vain, when the man shoved Luke aside with a free hand. The eleven year-old’s rump landed on the ground.

“Luke!” Leia rushed forward and helped her brother to his feet. She then rounded furiously on the man. “You bully! I suppose you consider yourself brave for picking on boys half your age!”

Sensing the man’s growing ire, Luke grabbed his sister’s shoulders and drew her back. “No! Leia! Don’t!” he hissed.

But Leia’s temper had passed the point of no return. “Why don’t you let our friend go? What can you possibly achieve by bullying a twelve year-old boy?”

With Biggs still in his grip, the man leaned down and sneered at Leia. “Mighty fine words coming out of the mouth of a little girl. Your friend just cost me 200 wupiupi. One way or the other, I’m getting payback!”

“By bullying a child?”

“Is there a problem?” another masculine voice asked. The three children and the pedestrian stared at the robed figure that had materialized before them. Luke immediately recognized the mysterious man who had joined Mother, Uncle Bail and another man at Mos Eisley. “You seemed to have that young man in a rather tight grip, Mister . . .?”

The man snarled, “The name is Oswald Rankin and this matter is none of your concern!”

“What has the boy done to you?”

Looking slightly annoyed, Rankin retorted, “He had cost me two hundred wupiupi, when he broke my bottles of very expensive Corellian Spiced Ale!”

The robed stranger smiled. “Really? And did the boy break your bottles of ale on . . . purpose?”

“Look here, old man! I suggest that you leave now! Like I said, this is none of your concern.”

Luke glanced up at the robed man’s face and noticed that his blue eyes glittered mysteriously. “This boy has not harmed you in any way.”

Rankin stared hard at the robed stranger. It seemed to Luke as if the former had suddenly become mesmerized, as he released Biggs. “You’re right,” Rankin murmured. “The boy did not harm me.”

The robed stranger murmured, “He did not mean to break your bottles.”

With a nod, Rankin added, “Yes, you’re right. He did not mean to break them.”

“Perhaps it is best that the ale is gone,” the stranger added. “You do not need to consume all that alcohol.”

His eyes still glazed, Rankin said, “No . . . I don’t.”

“You will forget this incident and go home.”

Rankin frowned momentarily. Then he said to the stranger, “What incident?” He stared at the three children. “What’s going on?”

“It is nothing, sir,” the stranger answered with a smile. “You seemed a bit out of sorts. We were all trying to assist you.”

“Well, I’m fine.” Rankin regarded the others with confusion. “Um . . . thanks. Excuse me.” He nodded curtly and walked away.

Luke and his two companions stared at the robed stranger. “How did you do that?” he demanded. “How did you manipulate his thoughts like that?”

The robed man merely smiled in a mysterious fashion. “I’m afraid that your Mr. Rankin might be an easily suggestive person.” He regarded the three children with concern. “And you . . . are you three unharmed? Has he . . .?”

“I’m fine,” Biggs replied. “Other than he nearly scared me senseless.”

Luke added, “No harm . . . except for my pride and backside.” He thrust out his hand to the stranger. “Thanks for your help. I’m Luke Sk . . . uh, Organa, by the way. And this is my sister, Leia and my friend, Biggs Darklighter.”

The man shook Luke’s hand. “It’s very nice to meet you.”

“And exactly who are you?” Leia demanded. “You look familiar.”

The man’s smile widened. “My name is Ben. Ben Kenobi.”

————

WORLPORT, ORD MANTELL

Once the Alberforce penetrated Ord Mantell’s thick outer cometary cloud, it made its way toward the planet’s glittering capital, Worlport. A heavy sheet of rain greeted the starship’s passengers and crew as it finally settled upon one of the spaceport’s landing platforms.

The starship rolled into an empty hangar and came to a halt. Several minutes later, Padme and R2-D2 followed Bail, Captain Sen and their Jedi protector down the Alberforce’s boarding ramp. “I need to report my arrival to the portmaster,” Voranda declared. “I will meet all you at the hotel, later.” She hesitated. “What names will you be using to check in? In case I need to contact you.”

Bail replied, “I will be using the name, Tam Avner. As for Senator Amidala, she will . . .”

“My name will be Rhiannon,” Padme added. “Rhiannon Chir.”

Voranda nodded. “Good. I will check with you, later tonight.” She walked away from the others.

Bail led the others outside of the hangar. Then he hailed a shuttle taxi to convey them to the Hotel Grand. Dominated by skyscrapers and red-domed topped buildings, Worlport’s skyline reminded Padme of a heady mixture of Coruscant and Naboo’s capital, Theed. To her surprise, Master Olin expressed a similar opinion, out loud.

“I must say that this is a very lovely city,” he commented, while glancing out of a shuttle window. “I cannot tell whether it reminds me of Coruscant or Theed.”

Padme stared at the former Jedi. “You’ve been to Naboo?”

“Yes, Milady.” Unease briefly shadowed his eyes. “Nine years ago, to be exact.”

“Around the time of Queen Apaliana’s death,” Padme murmured quietly. “And the death of my grandmother.”

The former Jedi remained silent, while Bail continued, “It is hard to believe that this place is now a smuggler’s haven. Especially since it was originally settled by Corellian farmers.”

“A Jedi master named Pablo-Jill had managed to bring peace to this planet about fourteen or fifteen years ago. Just before the Clone Wars.”

“You must be very proud.” The words came out more sardonic than Padme had originally intended. Master Olin stiffened, while Bail focused his attention to the view beyond his window.

Padme glanced out of the window beside her and spotted the words – HOTEL GRAND – in bright lights that illuminated through the heavy rain and gray skies. The shuttle soon descended upon one of the hotel’s landing platforms. Upon reaching the hotel lobby, Bail and Padme checked into their rooms under their aliases. Bail managed to acquire a suite with adjoining bedrooms for himself and Master Olin. Padme acquired a room next door to theirs. The trio and R2-D2 then set out for the hotel’s turbolifts. Upon entering one, they encountered none other than the senator from Chandrila, Mon Mothma. She was a tall, slender woman woman with red hair and intense blue eyes.

“I see that you’ve all finally made it,” the Chadrilian senator greeted.

Bail asked, “Are we the last to arrive?”

“No. One other is still missing.” Mon shot an uneasy glance at Olin. “Who is your friend?”

Bail made the introductions. “This is our protector, Master Ferus Olin. He is a former Jedi.”

Mon continued to eye the younger man uneasily. “Really?” Then her gaze narrowed. “Have you ever been on Coruscant? In recent years, I mean.”

“I’m afraid that it has been quite a while, Milady,” Olin calmly answered.

The turbolift arrived on the hotel’s tenth floor. All of the occupants stepped out. “Your room is on this floor?” Padme asked.

The Chandrilian senator smiled. “I have ensured that all of us have rooms on this floor. The conference room is located here, as well.” After shooting another curious glance at Olin, Mon added, “Well, I should prepare for supper.”

“Who hasn’t arrived, yet?” Bail asked.

“Zoebeida,” Mon replied. “She has yet to arrive.” Padme realized that Mon had referred to Zoebeida Dalhma of Maldare.

They came upon Padme’s room. “Well, here we are,” she announced. “When will the first meeting . . .?”

“A dinner for us has been scheduled to begin in about five hours,” Mon replied. “Just down the corridor, in the Jewel Room. I will see you then.”

Padme nodded. “I only hope that Zoebeida arrives in time, as well.” She and R2 entered her room. As the door shut behind her, Padme heaved a sigh. Between the upcoming Alliance meetings, having a former Jedi in her midst and being separated from her children, the next two days might prove to be strenuous.

———–

ANCHORHEAD, TATOOINE

Owen and CP-30 stepped out of the junk shop and noticed something very alarming – Luke and Leia seemed to be missing. Contrary to his instructions, they had left the bench in front of the shop.

“Oh Master Owen!” Threepio wailed. “Something terrible must have happened to them!”

The moisture farmer rolled his eyes. Threepio could be ridiculously melodramatic at times. Like now. On the other hand, there was a possibility that the twins might be in danger.

“Uncle Owen!”

Owen glanced to his left and saw both Leia, Luke and Biggs Darklighter rush toward him. A man in a hooded robe accompanied them. Alarm bells rang in Owen’s mind, when the man threw back his hood. Obi-Wan Kenobi beamed at him. Owen realized that Padme would have his hide if she knew that her children had met the former Jedi Master.

Luke reached the moisture farmer first. “Uncle Owen, guess who we ran into? Mother and Uncle Bail’s friend from Mos Eisley, Mister Ken . . . uh . . .”

The former Jedi paused before the moisture farmer. “Kenobi. Ben Kenobi. Good day to you, Master Lars.” He held out his hand.

Owen reluctantly grabbed Kenobi’s hand and shook it. “Good day.” He frowned at the twins. “What did I tell you two about not wandering off?”

Leia calmly explained, “We saw Biggs and left the bench to say hello. Only we had trouble with this common . . . thug, who bullied Biggs for accidentally breaking his liquor bottles. Fortunately, Mister Kenobi,” she nodded at the former Jedi Master, “came to our rescue. I think we should repay Mister Kenobi’s assistance with an invitation to dinner. He does not live that far from the farm. In the Jundland Wasteland.”

The moisture farmer found himself unable to respond. If Kenobi had been someone else, he would have accepted Leia’s suggestion. But this was Anakin’s former Jedi master. Owen knew that Padme would disapprove of her children having any contact with the man. “Well, I . . .” he began.

Kenobi spoke up. “Thank you, Miss Organa. But I’m afraid that I might have to decline your kind invitation. I have . . . uh, pressing matters, tonight.”

“What about tomorrow night?” Leia demanded.

Both Owen and Kenobi stared at each other and blinked. How could they explain the truth to the twins without revealing the tumultuous history of their parents? Owen said, “I don’t think . . .”

“You have pressing matters tomorrow night, as well, Mr. Kenobi?” Luke asked. “You sure have a lot of business, lately.”

Kenobi heaved a sigh. At that moment, Owen knew that he and Beru would have a dinner guest, tomorrow evening. “I suppose I could join you for supper, tomorrow,” Kenobi finally said, much to Owen’s consternation. He turned to the farmer. “If that is fine with you?”

Owen realized that he had been trapped by Leia’s sense of courtesy and Kenobi’s eagerness to become acquainted with the twins. He sighed. “I’m sure that . . . Beru would not mind preparing for a guest tomorrow night.”

The children and Kenobi became all smiles and excited chatter. Owen hoped and prayed that Padme would never learn of this encounter with the former Jedi Master. But he suspected that his hopes would prove to be futile in the end.

END OF CHAPTER SIX

The Future and Past Mrs. Don Draper

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I first wrote this article following the airing of the Season Four “MAD MEN” episode called (4.13) “Tomorrowland”:

 

THE FUTURE AND PAST MRS. DON DRAPER

As many fans know, (4.13) “Tomorrowland”, the Season Four finale of “MAD MEN” revealed Don Draper aka Dick Whitman proposing marriage to his secretary, Megan Calvert. And she said yes. Megan is just as beautiful as Betty. She is younger and seemed to be a better parent than the former Mrs. Draper.

Some fans have criticized Don for dumping the pragmatic Faye Miller for the superficially satisfying Megan. Some have waxed lyrical over Don’s new choice, claiming that she will prove to be the perfect addition to the Draper family. I suspect that whatever misgivings some fans have about Don’s engagement to Megan, many of them will fall in love with her during Season 5. Why? Because I have a deep suspicion that series creator Matt Weiner will portray Megan as the perfect wife/mother. She will not only be willing to accept Don as he is and not be concerned with his Dick Whitman persona, she will also be portrayed as the perfect stepmother for the Draper kids.

I suspect that these fans will especially love Megan for being the perfect stepmother, because we live in a society that believes the perfect mother is one that indulges her children, not discipline them. Weiner will make sure to portray Megan in the way many wanted Betty to be portrayed – as the perfect early 21st century mother in a story set in a mid 20th century tale. I have noticed his tendency to kowtow to fans’ demands of how they perceive certain characters.

As for Betty, I never thought she was a monstrous mother. I have always viewed her as a conventional and somewhat mediocre parent. I also suspect that Betty was having a difficult time dealing with her divorce from Don, and the fact that she spent ten years with a man who had been lying to her from Day One. That was why she was having a meltdown in during Season Four. The problem is that our society seem to frown upon people having emotional difficulties in life. We would prefer if everyone behaves perfectly or as if we are not having any personal problems . . . all the time. Especially mothers.

Many have accused Betty of harboring this same attitude and trying to project this image of perfection. And they would be right. But these same fans seemed willing to ignore the fact that most of the series’ characters are also like this. In fact, I suspect that many of the show’s fans are like this, as well. They criticize Betty for trying to project a perfect image . . . and failing; yet they ignore this trait in the other characters. More importantly, they ignore this trait in humanity. They seemed to be unaware of their intolerance toward Betty’s flaws and their demands that she behave like the perfect mother. Quite frankly, I find this behavior a lot more disturbing than Betty’s or that of the other characters.

Post-Scipt:  Don’s marriage to Megan ended in divorce after four to five years.  Don’s return to his infidelity and Megan’s attempt to become an actress (which failed) killed the marriage.

“INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE” (2016) Review

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“INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE” (2016) Review

Back in the 1990s, Twentieth Century Fox Studios, producer Dean Devlin and producer-director Roland Emmerich delivered a science-fiction epic about an alien invasion during the Fourth of July holiday. Hence, the title – “INDEPENDENCE DAY”.

Years later, the studio and the two producers delivered a sequel to the 1996 blockbuster. This movie, “INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE”, featured some of the same characters and the same aliens. And . . . this movie was set during the twentieth anniversary of humanity’s previous victory against the aliens – on the Fourth of July.

In anticipation of the invading aliens’ return, the United Nations have collaborated to form the Earth Space Defense (ESD), an international military defense and research organization that has developed hybrid technology, reverse-engineered from the invaders’ fallen ships in anticipation that they would return. When the returning aliens again attack Earth with an advanced and unprecedented force, a new generation of defenders from the ESD joins forces with the surviving protagonists from the 1996 film to participate in a battle to save the world from annihilation. Humanity also discovers that their adversary might also have other enemies of their own. Among the survivors from the first film are:

* David Levinson – the MIT-educated computer expert, environmental activist and one of the heroes from the 1996 film, who has become the ESD Director in charge of the civilian sector

*Thomas J. Whitmore – the former U.S. president during the first invasion and former Gulf War pilot, who has been suffering from occasional bouts of PTS from the previous invasion

*Julius Levinson – David’s widowed father, who has written a book about his previous experiences from the previous invasion

* Dr. Brakish Okun – the comatose Area 51 scientist, who has awaken after 20 years

*Jasmine Dubrow-Hiller – widow of the late war hero Steven Hiller and a former exotic dancer, who had returned to school to study nursing and become a hospital administrator

*Dylan Dubrow-Hiller – Jasmine’s son and Steven Hiller’s stepson, who became a pilot and captain in ESD; and a fleet leader of the Legacy Squadron

*Patricia Whitmore – Whitmore’s daughter, who is not only an ESD pilot, but also aide to the current president, Elizabeth Lanford

*William Grey – retired U.S.M.C. general, Whitmore’s former head of the United States Space Command, who had succeeded the latter as U.S. President

The movie also featured new characters, but I will get to them later.

The movie begins with the world preparing to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of its victory over the aliens. David Levinson and ESD colleague Dr. Catherine Marceaux travel to the Republique Nationale d’Umbutu to meet with warlord Dikembe Umbutu, who leads him to an intact alien destroyer. Aboard the ship, they discover that the alien occupants had sent a distress call to their home planet before being defeated. Furthermore, Levinson and Marceaux discover that Umbutu has been telepathically linked with the aliens ever since his personal encounter with one, years ago. They also discover that both former President Whitmore and Dr. Okun, who awakens at Area 51 after a twenty-year coma, are also among those who are telepathically linked with the aliens, due to their previous encounters.

The following day, an unknown alien ship or sphere emerges from a wormhole near Earth. Although Dr. Levinson believes it might belong to a race that might be benevolent, Earth’s Security Council orders it to be shot down. When ESD pilots Jake Morrison (Patricia Whitmore’s fiance) and Charlie Miller take Levinson, Marceaux, Umbutu, and Levinson’s accountant Floyd Rosenberg to the alien wreckage on a space tug; an alien mothership appears and destroys Earth’s planetary defenses before approaching the planet. The mothership then lands over the Atlantic Ocean and begins destroying cities on the Eastern Seaboard. The alien invaders also begin drilling a hole through the bottom of Earth to harvest the heat of the planet’s core for fuel, which will destroy its magnetic field in the process.

I once came across an article in which producer-director Roland Emmerich admitted that he did not like making sequels. While watching “INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE”, I found it easy to believe his words. The movie, pardon for saying this, seemed to lacked heart. It also seemed to lacked the magic of its 1996 predecessor and a handful of other movies directed by Emmerich. I am aware that “INDEPENDENCE DAY” had its problems. But it still had a magic and energy that was particularly lacking in this new sequel. It seemed as if Emmerich was going through the motions, while directing this film. But you know what? He was not solely to blame. I also had a problem with the film’s screenplay, written by Emmerich, Devlin and three other screenwriters.

First of all, this movie seemed to lack any kind of originality whatsoever. It was bad enough that it tried to copy some of the aspects of the 1996 – especially with the movie’s finale set at Area 51. I also noticed that the movie tried to copy the old “refugees caught up in the alien invasion” with a sequence that featured David Levinson’s father, Julius, traveling from Florida to Nevada with a car full of recently orphaned kids. The problem with this particular sequence is that it did not last very long, due to Mr. Levinson and his companions reaching Nevada rather quickly. Too quickly, if I must be honest.“INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE” also utilized the old “drilling to the Earth’s core” spiel from movies like 1976’S “AT EARTH’S CORE” and 2003’s “THE CORE”, a storyline that failed to generate any interest within me.

I certainly had a problem with the movie’s portrayal of the central (and fictional) African nation, the Republique Nationale d’Umbutu. I found it so stupid. According to a Wiki page, the country came into existence by a local warlord in the wake of the invasion from the previous movie. But the warlord wanted nothing to do with the outside world, despite spending several years fighting some alien survivors. This was just ridiculous. One, I cannot see the international community standing by and allowing any of the alien survivors posing as a threat, even in a newly formed and isolationist country. Two, the d’Umbutu must have been some kind of idiot to prevent other countries from helping out the alien threat against his. By the time of the second film, the warlord’s son, Dikembe Umbutu, had become the new head of state. Not long after he met with David Leivnson and Catherine Marceaux, all three left the country and the Republique National d’Umbutu was never heard from again. The whole point of featuring this setting in the first place was to serve as a background for the Dikembe Umbutu character and to indicate that the alien survivors in that country had sent a distress signal before they were killed. What was the point of this distress signal in the first place? Surely, the aliens’ defeat at the hands of the humans was enough to encourage them for a second attempt at planetary invasion? Good grief!

Another major problem I had with “INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE” was the characterizations featured in this film. The latter seemed to be reeking with clichés. One good example was the Jake Morrison character portrayed Liam Hemsworth. After portraying the complex Gale Hawthorne character in “THE HUNGER GAMES” movie franchise, poor Hemsworth found himself saddled with a very unoriginal character that seemed unworthy of his skills as an actor. Jake Morrison fit the typical “hotshot” pilot trope, straight out of movies like “TOP GUN” – a brash and talented pilot, whose aggressive and cocky manner seemed to irritate his commander. Boring. And the Dylan Dubrow-Hiller character portrayed by Jessie T. Usher, who came off as a humorless straight-arrow type who always seemed to reek with disapproval of Hemsworth’s Jake. Usher was Val Kilmer to Hemsworth’s Tom Cruise. I am not that familiar with Angelababy as an actress, but it seemed clear to me that her character, ESD pilot Lieutenant Rain Lao, is a female version of Dylan Dubrow-Hiller, whose uncle is the ESD Moon Base’s commander, portrayed by Emmerich veteran Chin Han (“2012”). And what would a “hotshot” type like Jake Morrison be without his goofy sidekick “aka Anthony Edwards”? Travis Tope filled this spot in his portrayal of Jake’s “devoted” friend, Lieutenant Charlie Miller. And just to make sure that poor Charlie was more than a sidekick, the screenwriters allowed him to become infatuated with Lieutenant Lao, who seemed to have no interest in him, whatsoever . . . until he proved his . . . manliness in the final battle against the aliens and their queen. Maika Monroe as Patricia Whitmore did not really do much in this film other than express concern for her ailing father, Thomas Whitmore and be Hemsworth’s romantic interest. Well . . . at least her character played a minor role

But the younger characters were not the only ones I found troublesome. It was nice to see Jeff Goldblum and Judd Hirsch portray David and Julian Levinson, again. Unfortunately, the writers dumped Hirsch’s character with a bunch of kids led by an adolescent Joey King in some convoluted attempt to involve them in an “epic” journey. As the for the David Levinson character, he seemed to be romancing his ESD colleague, Dr. Catherine Marceaux, portrayed by Charlotte Gainsbourg. Which led me to wonder what happened to Connie Spano, the ex-wife with whom David had reunited at the end of the 1996 film. Did her character die sometime between the two movies? Or did she and David break up again? Worse, I noticed that David did not have a major role in the aliens’ defeat. Neither did Dr. Marceaux for that manner. Why was she in this movie in the first place, other than provide Jeff Goldblum with a romantic lead? That honor seemed to go to the military characters. At least Brent Spinner’s Dr. Brakish Okun had a lot more to do in this film. He was the one who made first contact with the alien sphere. But how in the hell did he survive from being attacked in the last movie? I thought he had been declared dead. Confusing. Bill Pullman, who portrayed former President Thomas Whitmore spent most of the film reacting to the Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) from his past close encounter with an alien, twenty years ago. He did have a part in the final action scene against the aliens. Actor Deobia Oparei’s Dikembe Umbutu struck me as a one-note characterization of masculinity. He could have been more interesting and worthy of Oparei’s talent, but the screenwriters sold him short. His only real purpose, it seemed, was to be around to give final approval of the Floyd Rosenberg character, after the latter managed to “prove his masculinity” by saving Umbutu’s life. Sigh. Robert Loggia made a brief cameo as Whitmore’s former Chief of Staff General Grey some time before his death in December 2015. Thank goodness this movie was not the last one for a first-rate actor like Loggia.

The worst characterizations proved to be those for Vivica A. Fox’s Jasmine Dubrow-Hiller and Sela Ward’s President Elizabeth Lanford. The screenwriters’ handling of their characters struck me as sheer travesty. In a nutshell, the screenwriters killed off both of them. I was so disgusted that I left the theater feeling that Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich had something against middle-aged women. Fox Jasmine barely had five minutes of screen time before the writers bumped her off, while son Dylan raced to the hospital to save her. Apparently, Emmerich and Devlin had decided she was not worth keeping around, due to Will Smith’s refusal to do the movie. Worse, Fox’s character was fridged for the sake of the Dylan Dubrow-Hiller character. The President Elizabeth Lanford character proved to be a major problem as well. When I first saw Sela Ward (who also appeared in Emmerich’s “THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW”) on the screen, I was interested to see how the screenwriters would explore how she would handle an alien invasion. Well, audiences did not get to see much, because the writers . . . KILLED HER OFF before the movie had reached the midway point!! Worse, she was replaced by General Joshua T. Adams of the ESD, as portrayed by William Fitchner. Apparently, Devlin and Emmerich do not believe that a woman civilian is capable of leading a nation through an alien invasion.

I will give “INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE” points for its attempts at originality. One, the humans’ defeat of the alien invaders played out differently than it did in the 1996 movie. It involved the invaders’ Queen (or leader) arriving at the Area 51 base (for reasons that had eluded me), David and Julius Levinson on a bus with the latter’s young traveling companions, both Thomas and Patricia Whitmore, and a group of ESD pilots that involved Dylan Dubrow-Hiller and Jake Morrison. I wish I could go into details on what happened, but I do not think I have the energy to do so. But it was original, if not someone cheesy. The introduction of another alien race that might be enemies of the invaders was another interesting attempt at originality. I suspect this new race was introduced to hint at the possibility of a franchise developing from this movie. Hmmmm. We will see. Although I have my doubts.

I will also give points to “INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE” for its special effects. Yes, I admit that there times when I found Markus Förderer’s photography rather unusually dark . . . more than I care to admit. But when the visuals were clear, I must admit that I found Förderer’s photography rather breathtaking. This was especially the case for the movie’s final action sequence at the Area 51 base. More importantly, his photography greatly enhanced Barry Chusid’s production designs, which did a top-notch job in reflecting how the aliens’ technology had enhanced Earth’s 21st century society; along with the work of the visual effects team led by Shaun Friedberg.

After reading this review, one would come away with the belief that I disliked “INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE”. Yes, I am pissed at how Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich handled the two major middle-aged women characters in this film. And I was far from impressed by the movie’s plot and other characterization. The movie also lacked the magic of the 1996 film. But I liked it. I did not love it. I barely tolerated it. But I liked it. Do not ask me why, because I cannot explain my reaction. Enough said.

Top Five Favorite Episodes of “BABYLON 5” (Season Four: “No Surrender, No Retreat”)

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Below is a list of my top five (5) favorite episodes from Season Four (1996-1997) of “BABYLON 5”. Created by J. Michael Straczynski, the series starred Bruce Boxleitner, Claudia Christian, Jerry Doyle and Mira Furlan:

TOP FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “BABYLON 5” (SEASON FOUR: “NO SURRENDER, NO RETREAT”)

1- 4.15 No Surrender No Retreat

1. (4.15) “No Surrender, No Retreat” – Provoked by EarthForce President Clark’s latest actions, former Captain John J. Sheridan leads the White Star fleet against EarthForce to liberate Proxima 3.

2 - 4.17 The Face of the Enemy

2. (4.17) “The Face of the Enemy” – Thanks to his new employer, CEO William Edgars, former Security Chief Michael Garibaldi is faced with the decision of whether or not to betray Sheridan to EarthForce. Babylon 5’s Dr. Stephen Franklin and telepath Lyta Alexander arrive on Mars with a cargo of frozen telepaths for the final battles in the Earth Civil War.

3 - 4.05 The Long Night

3. (4.05) “The Long Night” – Sheridan make plans for the final strike against the Shadows and the Vorlons during the Shadow War. Meanwhile, Centauri Prime Ambassador Londo Mollari and his aide, Vir Cotto, make the final plans for assassinating Emperor Cartagia.

4 - 4.20 Endgame

4. (4.20) “Endgame” – Following his rescue by Garibaldi, Franklin and Lyta; Sheridan leads the final assault against President Clark’s forces with the help of his rescuers and the Mars Resistance.

5 - 4.14 Moments of Transition

5. (4.14) “Moments of Transition” – During the last days of the Minbari Civil War, the Warrior Caste demands the surrender of Ambassador Delenn and the Religious Caste. Meanwhille, Psi cop Alfred Bester makes an offer to an increasingly desperate Lyta and Sheridan receives horrible news from Ivanova.

HM - 4.06 Into the Fire

Honorable Mention: (4.06) “Into the Fire” – Sheridan stages a final showdown between the Vorlons and the Shadows at Coriana 6 toward the end of the Shadow War.

“Crossroads of the Force” [PG-13] – Chapter Five

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“CROSSROADS OF THE FORCE”

CHAPTER FIVE

JUNDLAND WASTES, TATOOINE

The former Jedi Master and former padawan emerged from the cave hovel that served as Obi-Wan’s home. The cave certainly did not seem like home to Ferus. He could not help but wonder how the older man had endured living in this desert wasteland for the past decade. Roaming the galaxy from one end to the other would seem more preferable than one year on this desolate planet.

“How can you stand it?” Ferus asked, as he regarded the craggy scenery with distaste.

The older man stared at him. “I beg your pardon?”

“Living here. How can you stand it?”

With a sigh, Obi-Wan calmly replied, “One learns to . . . adjust.” He met Ferus’ gaze. “I did not say this earlier, but I am truly sorry about what happened to your friends.”

“They’re not dead,” Ferus tersely replied.

“Oh! I did not . . .” Obi-Wan hesitated. “Pardon my mistake, but you did not exactly go into details about what happened to your friends.”

Memories of the last time he saw Trevor and Roan filled Ferus’ mind. He especially recalled the bitter tone in Trevor’s voice, while he tried to explain his decision regarding the Emperor. “If you don’t mind, Obi-Wan,” Ferus finally said, “I would rather not speak of the matter. At least not now.”

“You sound . . . bitter,” Obi-Wan commented. “Ferus, one day you will have to discuss the matter. With someone.” When Ferus did not bother to respond, the former Jedi Master continued, “So, when will Senator Organa come for you?”

Ferus’ gaze focused upon Tatooine’s rising twin suns. “Any minute now. I had assumed we would leave yesterday, but Senator Amidala wanted to spend one last evening with her children and the Larses before she left.” He paused. “You know, I do not recall her ever being married. And what is the history between you two?”

A long, silent pause followed. Ferus could almost feel the heat burning through the older man’s eyes. “There is no . . . history between myself and Senator Amidala,” Obi-Wan replied coolly. “At least nothing for you to suggest otherwise . . .”

“Forgive me, Obi-Wan,” Ferus hurriedly injected. “I did not mean to imply anything . . . intimate between you and the senator. But the children . . . and you had not seem particularly surprised that she was still alive.”

A sigh left Obi-Wan’s mouth. “That is because Master Yoda, Senator Organa and I had helped her evade the Emperor during the last days of the Clone Wars. In fact, we were the ones who faked her death. Senator Amidala . . . had been at the forefront of an attempt to drive the Palpatine out of office before he became the emperor. The senator and I have shared previous experiences together. My old master, Qui-Gon Jinn and I had assisted her during the Trade Federation’s invasion of Naboo. I’m sure that you remembered that particular incident, although you were a child at the time. Both the senator and I were also among those who had fought at the Battle of Geonosis.”

“I see.” Ferus did not understand, but something else puzzled him. “But if you and Master Yoda had done all that to help her, why had she seemed so . . . cold toward you? And hostile?”

Obi-Wan’s stare became suspicious. “Why are you so interested in the state of my relationship with Pa . . . Senator Amidala?” From the moment Obi-Wan had appeared at that Mos Eisley inn, Ferus had detected great emotion between the former senator and the Jedi Master. Negative emotions that hinted anger, hostility, guilt and resentment. It seemed so unlike Master Kenobi to harbor such feelings toward any living soul, save a Sith Lord. Before Ferus could respond to the other man’s question, Obi-Wan added, “Has this something to do with Queen Apiliana’s death?”

“Pardon me?” Ferus blinked.

At that moment, a starship descended from the skies above. It turned out to be Captain Sen’s skiff, the Alberforce. Once it gracefully landed on the flat desert, a boarding ramp eased to the ground. “I believe your ride has arrived,” Obi-Wan coolly declared.

Captain Sen and Senator Organa descended from the skiff. “Good morning Ferus,” the senator greeted. “Master Kenobi.”

Obi-Wan bowed at the Alderaanian senator and prince. “Good morning to you, Senator Organa. I trust you had a restful night.” He bowed at the red-haired woman. “Captain.”

Captain Sen returned Obi-Wan’s nod before she turned her attention to Ferus. “Master Olin, I believe it is time for us to leave.”

Ferus faced Obi-Wan one last time. “I hope that we will be able to continue this conversation upon my return, Master Kenobi. Until then, good day.”

The older man’s eyes momentarily reflected reluctance at the idea of another conversation. Then Obi-Wan broke into a quick smile and said, “Of course. Do take care of Senator Organa and Senator Amidala. Along with yourself. May the Force be with you.” He nodded at Organa. “Senator, have a safe trip.” Then he turned away and strode back inside his hovel.

Both Ferus and Senator Organa followed the red-haired captain into the ship. Minutes passed before the Alberforce rose from the ground and zoomed into Tatooine’s atmosphere.

——–

MALAG, MALDARE

Mako checked his data chip after his client, Sekka Verdu, handed it back to him. “There you are,” the Quarren declared cheerfully. “Thirty-three thousand credits each.”

A wry Han commented, “You mean thirty-four thousand each for all three of us.”

Verdu nodded at Han and Horus’ new companion. “And the Wookie?”

Mako shot an uneasy glance at the Javian Hawk’s new crewman. “He’s not part of the deal,” he replied curtly. “Will there be anything else, Mr. Verdu?”

The Quarren’s squid-like tentacles wiggled slightly. “I don’t think so, Captain Spince. Our business is over until next time. Gentlemen.” He nodded at the four smugglers and strode toward a shuttle parked near Mako’s freighter.

As Verdu’s shuttle rose above landing pad, Mako turned to his companions. “Pardon my confusion, but I thought this Wookie was supposed to be in chains!” he retorted. “Exactly when did he become part of your crew?”

Horus coolly replied, “From the moment Han escorted him aboard the Hawk. Why? Is he a problem for you?”

Ignoring the other pedestrians’ stares, Mako shot back, “If Captain Skafte had the slightest hint that you were planning to free that . . .”

The Wookie growled, causing the hairs on the back of Mako’s neck to stand.

“Say Mako, if you were about to call him a thing,” Han began, “I better warn you that Chewie might take it personally.”

“Chewie?”

After a pause, Han said, “Chewbacca. That’s his name.”

“I don’t care what his name is,” Mako retorted. “Both of you could have gotten us into a lot of trouble with that stunt.”

Han opened his mouth to reply, but his partner spoke first. “I really don’t see why you’re so upset, Spince. Had a little trouble with Wookies in the past?”

Mako felt a flash of guilt, as recalled a pair of Wookies he had sold to a Trandoshan trader. “Of course not!” he replied hotly. “I just . . .”

Horus continued, “You just what? Thanks to you, we had ended up on a route heavily patrolled by Imperial ships. If you had chosen another route, we would have never encountered the Dreadnought . . . or met Chewbacca. Since it all ended well, neither of us have anything to complain about. Do we?”

Mako dared not stare into Horus’ eyes. Quite frankly, the older man frightened him. He sometimes had the feeling that Set Horus possessed a ruthlessness that could make the galaxy tremble with fear. And he did not want to be the one to unleash that fury. “Fine,” he grumbled. “You’ve made your point.”

A cold smile curled Horus’ lips. “Good! Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I need some sleep. Someone please lead me to the nearest hotel or inn.”

“There’s the Lumati Hotel,” Han suggested.

Mako added, “Yeah, they have a great bar. I know I’m going to need it.”

The three men and the Wookie left the city’s spaceport and made their way toward a nine-story hotel located in one of Malag’s more pleasant districts. Mako had expected the hotel’s clerk to reject the Wookie. To his surprise, the clerk did not raise a fuss.

Feeling like the odd man out, Mako curtly excused himself and headed toward his room. He washed himself and changed into clean clothes before returning downstairs . . . and heading straight toward the hotel’s bar, the Twilight Star. Once settled upon an empty stool, he ordered Corellian ale. “A whole pitcher,” the smuggler added.

After the bartender returned with a pitcher of Corellian ale and a glass mug, Mako poured himself a drink. He had taken a few sips, when a stranger approached him. “Pardon me sir, but are you a . . . spacer?”

Mako glanced to his right and found a short and stocky man with curly black hair, standing next to his stool. He sighed. “Yes, I am. Why? You need a pilot?”

The man hesitated. “Actually, my employer does require one. This is an important job that will pay at least one thousand credits.”

With a shrug, Mako grumbled, “I’ve just finished a job that earned me thirty-four thousand credits. Why would I need another one?” He took another swig of ale.

“Greed?”

Slowly, Mako placed his mug on the bar and turned to stare at the stranger. A long moment passed before he mouth slowly stretched into a wide grin. “You know me well, do you, Mister?” Then he took another swallow of ale. “You’ve got a deal. When do we leave?”

The man coughed nervously. “Um . . . you’re not exactly hired. The best I can offer is an interview.”

Mako frowned. “A what?”

“My employer . . . will offer the job. But only after an interview.” The man paused. “In Suite 60-A.”

The Corellian rolled his eyes in disgust. He considered himself a smuggler, not an employee of the Tagge Corporation. But his sense of greed could not dismiss the idea of an extra one thousand credits. Especially since he had originally expected to earn at least fifty thousand. “All right,” he said with a sigh, “I’ll meet your employer in Room . . .”

“Suite 60-A,” the man corrected. “Please be there within an hour.” He gave a quick nod and walked away.

Mako finished the ale in his mug. He dared not drink another serving. Not if wanted that extra thousand credits.

——–

Within a small room inside one of the Lumati Hotel’s suites, Zoebeida Dahlma observed her aide and manservant interview another candidate for the Ord Mantell job via a holo projector. She had to admit that the bearded young man looked very handsome. He also seemed to project a charm that would appeal to many women. Yet, Igraine seemed immune to the pilot. Zoebeida shared her aide’s sentiments. Despite his physical appeal, he harbored a predatory air that she found distasteful.

The pilot’s surname had certainly come as a surprise. Zoebeida found herself wondering if this Mako Spince was anyway related to Senator Spince of Corellia. She hoped not. The idea of this disreputable pilot being part of the distinguished Spince line seemed like a crime.

The interview finally ended. Igraine stood up and headed toward the room where Zoebeida awaited. “Milady,” she declared upon entering the room. “What do you think of Captain Spince? He seems like a competent pilot, but . . .”

“Let him go,” Zoebeida ordered. The younger woman arched a questionable eyebrow before the former added, “I don’t trust him. I realize that most . . . smugglers are disreputable, but there is something about him that I dislike. My feelings tell me that he would sell us to the Imperials without hesitation . . . if it meant saving his skin. Thank him kindly for his time and let him go.”

Igraine seemed relieved by Zoebeida’s decision. “If you wish, Milady.” She bowed and left the bedroom.

The Maldarian woman leaned back into her chair and sighed. It occurred to her that if she did not find a pilot soon, she might be forced to choose the first one in her thoughts. And unfortunately, Mako Spince seemed to be the only one in her mind, at the moment.

——-

“This is nice.” Han settled back into his chair inside the Lumati Hotel’s only outdoor café. “Isn’t this nice? I mean, I love that waterfall near the waiter’s station. And the drinks – really fancy. A guy could dine here for the rest of his life.”

Anakin heaved a long-suffering sigh. “Han, I don’t want to sound like a grouch, but could you please shut up?”

“What?”

“I know that you don’t want to be here,” Anakin continued.

Han grunted and took a sip of his Corellian ale. “Then why are we here?”

Anakin grabbed his glass of Juma juice. “I . . . am here because this restaurant makes the best Kommerken steak in this part of the galaxy. You knew this when you suggested that we stay here, in the first place. You also had a chance to accompany our new friend, Chewbacca, to one of the local taverns. But you didn’t.”

“Listen, watching a Wookie eat a side of raw meat does not do wonders for my appetite,” Han retorted. “Sharing the dinner table with Dewlanna – rest her poor soul – had already added plenty of trauma to my childhood.”

Anakin murmured, “Hmmm. Poor Chewbacca spends his first meal as part of our crew . . . alone, because you can’t stand to watch Wookies eat. I’ll be sure to remind him.”

“Wait a minute!” Han paused, as an anxious expression appeared on his face. “You’re not serious, are you?”

A teasing smile curled Anakin’s lips. “Maybe.” Before Han could protest any further, the waiter returned with their meals.

The Kommerken steak proved to be excellent, as usual. Upon the completion of their dinner, the pair left the café and strolled across the lobby. Just as they were about to contact their new companion, a short man with dark and curly hair approached them. “Pardon me gentlemen, but I was told that you were pilots. Is this true?”

Anakin regarded the man with narrowed eyes. “And who told you this?”

“The hotel clerk,” the man answered. “If this is true, I have a proposition for a job. One that is at least worth one thousand credits. If you’re interested, please meet me in Suite 60-A.”

“Wait a minute,” Anakin began. “What exactly is this . . .?”

Han interjected, “A thousand credits, huh? We’ll be there.”

The man nodded. “Good. Don’t forget . . . Suite 60-A.” He walked away.

An irritated Anakin rounded on his younger partner. “Do you mind telling me why you had accepted that man’s offer?”

Han shrugged. “I thought we might need the extra money. To compensate for the credits we had lost, buying Chewie.”

“As I recall, buying Chewbacca from the Imperials was supposed to be an act of compassion.”

Han shot back, “Well . . . being compassionate can also be a little expensive. And besides, we’ve just been given a chance to make up for our loss. Why ignore it?”

Anakin sighed. Heavily. “All right. You have a point. But remember . . . you’ve just accepted an offer we don’t know anything about. I only hope that we don’t end up regretting this.”

——–

THE BRAK SECTOR

Padme sat quietly in her seat, as she glanced out of one of the starship’s windows. Small, bright lights glittered in the dark space, prompting her to sigh.

“Miss the children already?” Bail’s voice asked, interrupting her thoughts.

“Hmmm?” Padme glanced away and found her fellow passenger staring at her.

Bail continued, “You seemed to be deep in thought.”

“I suppose I am thinking of the children,” Padme commented. “Especially Leia. She is . . . not very fond of Tatooine. Mind you, she loves Owen and Beru, but the planet is not exactly to her taste. She prefers Bakura . . . and Alderaan.”

Master Olin spoke up. “I cannot say that I blame her, Milady. Tatooine strikes me as rather desolate. Nor can I understand why Master Kenobi had chosen it as his home.”

“Tatooine is not exactly the place that is bound to attract Imperial attention, Master Olin,” Bail explained. “I believe that Master Kenobi has made the perfect choice.”

Padme added caustically, “I suppose that Tatooine must fit Obi-Wan’s sense of martyrdom. As I recall, he did not care much for it when we first landed there, twenty-four years ago.”

A long silence followed. Padme realized that her current hostility toward her husband’s former Jedi master might have been revealed. Her cheeks burning with embarrassment, she turned away and resumed staring out of the window.

“Excuse me,” Bail said, unfastening his seat strap. “I believe I should check with Captain Sen about supper.” He stood up and made his way toward the cockpit.

Padme found herself enduring another long stretch of silence. Eventually, Master Olin broke it when he asked, “How long have you known Obi . . . Master Kenobi?”

“For at least twenty-four years,” Padme replied. “When he and Qui-Gon Jinn had rescued me from the Trade Federation. That’s when I first saw Tatooine.” And met Anakin, she added silently. Padme continued out loud, “I had also fought beside Obi-Wan and . . . his padawan during the first battle of the Clone Wars, on Geonosis.”

A bewildered looking Ferus Olin shook his head. “I don’t understand. If you two have such a long history together, why . . . Why did I sense hostility between you two on Tatooine? Or when I first mentioned him a few minutes ago?”

Padme sighed. “Obi-Wan and I had a . . . disagreement during those last days of the war. When he, Master Yoda and Bail helped me evade the Empire. It’s . . . a private matter.”

“I see.” Ferus paused. Padme wondered what he was thinking. Then he said, “Your children seemed very attractive and intelligent. Your son . . . he . . . Pardon me, but he reminds me of someone I knew.” Padme felt a lump in her throat, as Olin continued, “In fact, he reminds me of Obi-Wan’s former padawan.”

The lump in Padme’s throat grew larger. “Really? I have never considered such a thing. But I suppose that it has been a while since I last saw . . . Master Skywalker.” Padme wondered if Olin had sensed her emotional turmoil at the mention of Anakin’s name. She glanced at the former Jedi padawan, who wore a calm expression. If he had, he gave no indication.

Bail reappeared in the skiff’s passenger section. “I found Captain Sen in the galley, not the cockpit. It seems that supper is ready.” He stood before Padme. “Milady?”

With a faint smile, Padme rose to her feet. She nodded at Bail, who linked his arm with hers and drew her into the ship’s narrow passageway. Master Ferus rose to his feet and followed closely behind them.

———–

MALAG, MALDARE

The moment he walked inside the hotel suite, Igraine’s heart skipped a beat. She could not keep her eyes off him. The newcomer and his companion gave her a slight nod before they sat down on the suite’s wide sofa.

Igraine struggled to keep herself from staring at the older man. What woman could ignore the lean and muscular quality of his tall frame? Or his dark blond close-cropped hair that framed his handsome, yet hard-edged face? How could any woman not notice the intense blue eyes that seemed to sear into one’s soul? And no one could fail to notice the light scar around his right eye that gave him an extra dangerous aura that rarely surrounded a man of his age. Igraine figured that he must be at least thirty. Or slightly older.

“Nice place!” the man’s companion exclaimed. “A night in this suite could cost a spacer at least two jobs.” Igraine directed her attention at the younger man. There seemed to be no doubt that he was handsome and possessed a scruffy air that women might find appealing. Although affable, his brown eyes had an edge of one who may have seen too much of life for one so young.

Igraine fixed a polite smile on her face. “Good evening, gentlemen. Would you care for a drink?” Both men politely turned down her offer. Then she added, “May I have your names?”

“May we have yours?” the older man countered. His deep voice produced a wave of heat throughout Igraine’s body.

Her smile widened. “For the moment, I wish to remain anonymous.” She paused, taking note of the pair’s questioning stares. “This job is one that requires anonymity. Especially for . . . me. But as my man had told you, it does pay one thousand credits.”

The two pilots exchanged meaningful looks before the older one sighed. “If you wish, Milady. My name is Captain Set Horus. And this is my companion, Han Solo.”

“Captain Solo,” the younger man added.

Igraine continued to stare at the older man. “Does your starship provide space for passengers?” She noticed how his eyes swept over her in an appreciative manner.

Captain Solo replied, “For at least four passengers. And the Hawk is one of the fastest ships in this galaxy. Trust me.”

Still aware of Captain Horus’ stare, a mesmerized Igraine continued, “Well, that’s um . . . I believe . . .” She broke off, as Senator Dahlma’s manservant, Chattal Rahm, whispered a message in her ear. She smiled at the two men. “Excuse me.” Then she rushed into the suite’s bedroom, where she found the older woman pacing back and fourth. “Is there something you wish to tell me, Milady? Will these two pilots do?”

The senator, who regarded Igraine with an amused expression, replied, “Apparently they will . . . for you. Captain Horus is a very handsome man.”

“So is Captain Solo,” Igraine quickly added. Then she blinked, realizing that Senator Dahlma had seen through her little charade. “Um . . . if you’re not comfortable . . .”

Senator Dahlma quickly interjected, “They will do. Tell them I will be ready to leave, tomorrow morning.”

Igraine responded with a slight nod. “Yes, Milady. Pardon me.” And she left the bedroom. The Maldarian woman found the two pilots staring out of a window, talking. “Gentlemen,” she announced, drawing their attention, “I am happy to tell you that you’re hired. We will meet you at the city’s . . .”

“We?” Captain Horus asked, with a raised brow.

A wave of heat flushed over Igraine’s face. “Yes, um . . . there will be a second passenger. As I was saying, we’ll meet you at the city’s spaceport, tomorrow morning. Where, uh . . .?”

“Our hangar is located on Vox Avenue,” Solo added. “We’ll see you around eight in the morning.” He glanced at Captain Horus. “Is that about right?”

The older man nodded. “That would be fine.” He gently took hold of Igraine’s hand and bowed over it. “Until tomorrow morning, Milady.”

A breathless Igraine replied, “Captain Horus.” Remembering the other man, she nodded at him. “And Captain Solo. Good evening to you both.”

The two men bowed – the older one with more ease – and left the suite. With Captain Horus’ departure, Igraine felt a personal sense of bereft . . . something she had not experienced since the death of her former fiancé. And it frightened her.

——–

The following morning, the Javian Hawk’s three crewmen stood near the bottom of the ramp, inside the Vox Avenue hangar. “It’s almost eight,” Han complained. “Where are they?”

“They have another eight minutes,” Anakin replied. “Give them time.” He paused before adding, “Are all systems in order?”

Chewbacca growled, which Han took as an affirmative.

“I wonder why our employers didn’t just give us her name,” Han speculated. “This trip must be very special.”

Anakin replied, “Perhaps she doesn’t want the Empire to know about this trip. And she’s not our employer.”

Han frowned. “How do you know?”

“Let’s just say that I had sensed another presence inside our employer’s suite.” From the corner of his eye, he saw Han struggled to keep from expressing contempt at Anakin’s reference to the Force.

Another growl emitted from Chewbacca. Han translated. “Here they come.” Two cloaked females entered the hangar. The older woman looked slightly familiar to Han, who murmured to Anakin, “Looks like you were right about a second person.”

The two women paused before the Javian Hawk’s crew. “Good morning Captain Horus, Captain Solo,” the older woman greeted. Her dark eyes settled upon Chewbacca. “A Wookie! Well!” She nodded at the latter. “Good morning to you, sir.” Chewie responded with a polite growl.

Anakin bowed before the women. “Good morning, Senator Dahlma.” The older woman’s eyes widened with shock. “Yes, I had recognized you from a half-torn campaign poster on a wall, nearby.”

Grudging respect dawned in the senator’s eyes. “So much for anonymity,” she murmured. Then she turned to her younger companion. “I believe you have already met my aide, last night. Igraine Colbert.”

Anakin’s gaze met the petite woman’s vivid green eyes. He bowed. “Milady.”

“Captain,” Miss Colbert murmured. Red spots began to form on her cheeks. Anakin wondered if she felt just as attracted to him, as he did toward her. A part of him hoped so. Another part felt reluctance at the idea. Aside from a mere physical longing for Vi’dal, Anakin had never felt so drawn toward any woman after Padme. He doubted that his feelings for Miss Colbert matched his intense love for his wife. But he felt more than simple lust for the young Maldarian woman.

Being his usual pragmatic self, Han asked, “Where are we going?”

The senator hesitated. “Worlport, on Ord Mantell.”

Anakin recalled the former military station located in the Bright Jewel System. It had possessed a weapons storage facility and a series of barracks for the clone troopers during the Clone Wars. “Ord Mantell? That’s at least a day’s journey from here,” he said. “But it should take us less than a day if we jump to hyperspace. The trip should not be any problem.”

“Good,” Senator Dahlma replied. “Shall we go?”

Nearly fifteen minutes later, Anakin guided the Javian Hawk out of the Vox Avenue hangar. Just before the starship could lift off, he spotted a man hovering near the hangar’s entrance. Now what was Mako Spince doing there this early in the morning?

END OF CHAPTER FIVE

 

“SADIE McKEE” (1934) Review

“SADIE McKEE” (1934) Review

Back in the 1930s, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) was king of the Hollywood industry, thanks to the business and artistic acumen of Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg. One major aspect of MGM that made it the most successful studio eighty years ago was its star system. The studio used to boast that it had “more stars than there are in heaven”. One of its top stars was Hollywood icon, Joan Crawford.

Crawford first gained the notice of the MGM brass back in the mid-to-late 1920s. By the early 1930s, she had become a major star, whose metier was the “shopgirl-turned-Cinderella” story. This certainly seemed to be the case for her 1934 movie, “SADIE McKEE”. Based upon Viña Delmar’s 1933 short story, “Pretty Sadie McKee”, this movie told the story of a young part-time serving maid from upstate New York, who moves to New York City with her n’er do well boyfriend, Tommy Wallace, to start a new life as a married couple. When Tommy abandons Sadie to become part of a nightclub act with a beautiful singer named Opal, Sadie is forced to take a job as a chorus girl at a nightclub. There, she meets a wealthy businessman named Jack Brennan, who falls hard for her. Although she marries Jack, Sadie realizes that she still loves Tommy and that her new husband is a serious alcoholic.

When I first saw “SADIE McKEE”, I feared it would become another “EVELYN PRENTICE”, an old and rather unsatisfying MGM melodrama that had been originally released during the same year. And I viewed “SADIE McKEE” with a jaundiced eye. I am happy to say that my wariness proved to be groundless . . . for about two-thirds of the film. I have to commend both director Clarence Brown and screenwriter John Meehan for setting up Sadie’s story – her initial friendship with childhood companion Michael Alderson, attorney for her future husband; their falling out over Sadie’s romance with Tommy; and her engagement to and abandonment of the latter. If I must be honest, Meehan’s screenplay – at least two-thirds of it – proved not only to be detailed, but also well paced. Probably the best aspect of “SADIE McKEE” was its dark portrayal of alcoholism in the form of Sadie’s husband, Jack Brennan. In a scene that I never came across in a movie made before 1950, the film revealed how excessive alcoholism could lead an affable man like Brennan commit a shocking act of violence against the leading lady.

I managed to enjoy and appreciate “SADIE McKEE” so much that I was surprised when the movie took a disappointing turn during its last fifteen to twenty. Two things occurred that I believe brought about the movie’s downfall. Brennan finally became sober – a bit too early for my tastes – and Sadie discovered that her former fiancé, Tommy, was dying from tuberculosis. I honestly wish Brown and Meehan had either allowed Sadie’s story with Brennan and Michael to last longer. In fact, I wish she had never re-entered Tommy’s life in the first place. Their reunion at a hospital reeked with over-the-top sentimentality that bored me senseless. I believe in forgiveness as much as the next person – which is probably barely at all. But I thought Sadie’s forgiveness of Tommy happened a little too quick for my taste. I also had a problem with the movie’s last scene, which followed rather quickly on the heels of Tommy’s death scene. I read other reviews of “SADIE McKEE” that claimed it ended with a romance between Sadie and Michael. Really? I certainly did not get that impression. I felt more of a renewed friendship between them.

The performances in “SADIE McKEE” more than made up for the movie’s last act. Several bloggers have complained that leading lady Joan Crawford had failed to convey Sadie’s innocence in the film’s early scenes. I cannot agree with this assessment. I thought Crawford did a fine job in portraying the more innocent Sadie. More importantly, she expertly conveyed Sadie’s developing character as the latter faced more troubles. Franchot Tone gave an earnest performance as Sadie’s once and future friend, attorney Michael Alerson. On paper, his emotions seemed to be all over the map, but Tone skillfully kept his performance under control and did not allow his character’s emotions to get the best of him. I have never been much of a Gene Raymond fan. In fact, the only movie I had previously seen him in was the 1933 musical, “FLYING DOWN TO RIO”. Needless to say, I was not impressed. However, I was impressed by his portrayal of the charming, but shiftless Tommy in “SADIE McKEE”. Raymond made it easy for me to understand Sadie’s attraction to him.

Esther Ralston gave a funny, yet sympathetic performance as Sadie’s dependable friend, Dolly Merrick. Jean Dixon gave a skillful performance as the charming, yet shallow songstress Opal, who lures Tommy to her act and later dumps him. Fans of the television series, “THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.” would be surprised to see Leo G. Carroll portray the butler in the Brennan household. I thought he gave a solid performance. But the movie’s best performance came from Edward Arnold, who was outstanding as Sadie’s alcoholic husband, Jack Brennan. Arnold once claimed that Brennan was his favorite role. It struck me as a difficult role for any actor to perform. But Arnold more than held his own in a skillful performance that revealed the best and the worst of this complex character. Personally, I feel that Arnold should have received an Academy Award nomination for his performance.

Despite the disappointing finale, I still managed to enjoy “SADIE McKEE”. I would not regard it as one of the best films to star Joan Crawford. But aside from its maudlin finale, I found it fascinating. Director Clarence Brown, screenwriter John Meehan and a talented cast led by Crawford did a solid job in bringing the adaptation of Viña Delmar’s short story to the screen.