Five Favorite Episodes of “STAR TREK VOYAGER” Season One (1995)

Below is a list of my five favorite episodes from Season One of “STAR TREK VOYAGER”. Created by Rick Berman, Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor; the series starred Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway:

 

FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “STAR TREK VOYAGER” SEASON ONE (1995)

1. (1.11) “State of Flux” – Captain Kathryn Janeway and other senior members of Voyager’s crew Janeway attempt to flush out a spy who is sending information to a group of aggressive Delta Quadrant species called the Kazon-Nistrim. Martha Hackett and Josh Clark guest-starred.

2. (1.14) “Faces” – When Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres, Lieutenant Tom Paris and Ensign Pete Durst are captured by Vidiians during an Away mission, Torres is split into her human and Klingon halves in order for her captors to use her DNA to find a cure for their species. Brian Markinson guest-starred.

3. (1.01-1.02) “Caretaker” – While searching for a Maquis ship with a Starfleet spy aboard in the series premiere, the U.S.S. Voyager is swept into the Delta Quadrant, more than 70,000 light-years from home, by an incredibly powerful being known as the “Caretaker”. Gavan O’Herlihy and Basil Langston guest-starred.

4. (1.04) “Time and Again” – While investigating a planet just devastated by a polaric explosion, Janeway and Paris are engulfed by a subspace fracture and transported in time to before the accident. Nicolas Surovy guest-starred.

5. (1.07) “Eye of the Needle” – Voyager’s crew discover a micro-wormhole leads to the Alpha Quadrant and makes contact with a Romulan ship on the other side with ironic consequences. Vaughn Armstrong guest-starred.

“The Power of One” [PG-13] – 5/20

 

“THE POWER OF ONE”

PART V

Piper felt more than happy that she had finally found the perfect nanny for Wyatt. Donna Thompson turned out to be a Voudon practioner – a mambo, like Cecile Dubois. Although Ms. Thompson’s power happened to be thermokinesis, she also possessed the ability to use other forms of psychic powers through spells and chants. Nor did she seem to mind dealing with the constant demonic attacks upon Wyatt. It seemed that Ms. Thompson had experienced plenty of them, during her years as a mambo. But it was Wyatt’s immediate acceptance of her that led Piper to finally hire her.

“So, when can you start?” the Charmed One asked the priestess. She lowered Wyatt back in his basquinet.

Ms. Thompson replied, “Is tomorrow okay?”

“Sounds great.” Piper led the other woman out of the Solarium. “Uh, how about eight in the morning? Is that okay?”

“Fine by me.”

Piper continued, “You know, I didn’t realize there were any Vodoun practioners here on the West Coast. I mean, my sisters and I had once encountered this witch doctor, but we thought he came from somewhere else.” She noticed that the other woman had stiffened slightly. “Is there something wrong?”

Flashing a prim smile, Ms. Thompson replied, “We Vodoun practioners don’t like the term ‘witch doctor’. We find it insulting. And the word – witch – is considered . . . an insult in the Vodoun world. I know that it isn’t in your world. But it is in ours.”

“Oh. Uh . . .” Now there was something that Cecile or the McNeills had never bothered to reveal. “I, uh . . . didn’t know that. Maybe this guy was a priest. Anyway, I don’t think he was from around here. And Cecile and Andre are from New Orleans. Besides, I’ve always thought that Vodoun was only practiced back East.”

Ms. Thompson added, “I didn’t realize you were that familiar with Vodoun. You’ve been to New Orleans?”

“No, I met Cecile and Andre, here in San Francisco. In fact, they’re visiting the city, this week.” The Charmed One told the Vodoun priestess about the two visitors from Louisiana.

For a brief second, Piper thought she saw Ms. Thompson’s eyes widened in alarm. She realized that she had imagining things, when the other woman smiled. “Really? And this Miss Dubois is a telepath? And a clairvoyant? That’s interesting. My grandmother was a seer.”

“So is one of my sisters,” Piper added. “Phoebe. She’s also an empath.” Then she sighed. “I should warn you about the latter. Phoebe had just received her empathic powers over a month ago. And it’s been driving us all crazy.”

Ms. Thompson smiled. “Thanks for the warning.” Then she glanced at the floor and a frown appeared on her face. “Hey, what happened to that amulet? The one that daemon had been wearing.”

Piper glanced around. “I don’t know. I didn’t see it after we had vanquished him. Maybe it was destroyed.”

“Hmmm. Well,” Ms. Thompson glanced at the grandfather clock, “I better get going. I had promised to pick up a friend in another twenty minutes. Uh . . . see you tomorrow morning? Around eight?”

“Around eight.” The two women shook hands and bid each other good-bye. After Ms. Thompson had left, Piper heaved a smile and returned to the Solarium to begin the cleanup.

Two figures materialized into the room, taking Piper by surprise. It was Cole and Cecile. “My God!” the latter replied. “Piper! Are you okay? Have you been . . .?”

“Attacked? By a demon?” Piper nodded. “Yeah, but I’m fine. How did you, uh . . .?” Realization hit Piper, as she remembered one of Cecile’s powers. “Oh. Yeah. Uh, everything’s okay. I . . .”

Two more figures orbed into view. Phoebe and Chris. The former rushed toward her older sister. “Piper! You’re alive!”

“No kidding,” Piper murmured in her usual sardonic manner. “I’m fine. I’m okay. And the demon has been vanquished.” She paused and stared at both Phoebe and Cecile. “You mean to say that the both of you had visions of me . . .”

Cecile interrupted. “Apparently so.” She stared at Piper. “So, uh . . . you managed to fight off the daemon?”

Piper sighed. “Actually, I had a little help. I probably would have been dead, if it weren’t for her.”

Cole asked, “Who rescued you?”

“Wyatt’s new nanny.” Piper then proceeded to tell the others about Donna Thompson, and the demon who had attacked them. “It turns out that she’s also a Vodoun priestess. Like Cecile. If she had not spotted that amulet . . .”

Chris frowned. “What amulet?”

Piper told them about the amulet that had protected the demon from her powers. “I think it may have been destroyed, when we vanquished him. We couldn’t find it.”

Phoebe enveloped her sister into a bear hug. “Who cares? As long as you’re safe. And alive,” she said. “Is this Miss Thompson here? I would love to thank her.”

“You can do that, tomorrow. She’ll be arriving around eight.” She glanced around the Solarium. “Oh God! Look at this mess! I’m going to be cleaning this up, all day!”

“Why don’t you use that spell that Paige had used when . . .” Phoebe broke off and shot an uncomfortable glance at Cole. Then she murmured, “Never mind.”

But Piper knew what Phoebe was about to mention – namely the spell Paige had used to clean up Cole’s penthouse, after they had killed him. She sighed and decided to thank her younger sister for the advice, later. “I guess I better start . . . cleaning up, right away. Meanwhile, you all can leave. Because once I’m finished, I’ll have to feed Wyatt and then both of us will be taking naps.”

The others mumbled their good-byes and teleported out of the house. Much to her relief.

———–

The doorbell to Daley’s house rang, later that evening. The sorceress made her way to the front door and opened it. Marc stood in front of the doorway, wearing an anxious look. “Well? How did it go?” he asked.

“Everything’s just peachy,” Daley wearily replied. “You’re looking at Wyatt Halliwell’s new nanny. Of course, I had to help his mama fight off a daemon in order to get the job.”

“Say what?” Marc stepped inside the house. Daley led him to her large sitting room, just east of the foyer. He sat down in one of the chairs. “You had to do what?”

Daley settled on the sofa. “Help save her and the boy from a daemon. Some damn shapeshifter, I think. He had disguised himself as some Mexican woman, applying for the job. He tried to kill Piper . . .”

“Who?”

Annoyed by her assistant’s dense questions, she threw a pillow at his head. Marc neatly caught it, instead. “The damn witch who had just hired me! Piper Halliwell! Who in the hell do you think I’ve been talking about?” Daley retorted. “Some daemon had tried to kill her. Strange that he didn’t bother to simply snatch the kid.”

“Maybe he wanted to make sure that this Halliwell witch didn’t come after him. After all, she’s supposed to be pretty powerful, herself.”

Daley sighed. “Good point. Anyway, I helped Piper kill him. And in gratitude,” she allowed herself a smug smile, “she hired me on the spot. No references were necessary.”

Marc nodded approvingly. “So, everything’s okay. Right?”

Daley’s smile disappeared. “Not quite. It seems that one of the other sisters – the newspaper columnist – is clairvoyant. And empathic.”

“That’s not good,” Marc said with a frown. “She might find out the truth about you, before you’re ready to do the ritual.”

“Oh, it gets worse,” Daley added. “The Halliwells are friends of a Vodoun priestess named Cecile Dubois, who also happens to be clairvoyant. And she’s a telepath. And guess who happens to be her boyfriend?” Marc shook his head. “Andre Morell. He’s here in San Francisco. With her.”

A low whistle escaped from Marc’s mouth. “Are you shitting me?” he cried. “Have you ever met . . .”

“No! But, I’ve met the drug lord that he used to work for – Aaron Mercer. And there’s a good chance that he has heard of me.”

Marc shrugged his shoulders. “As long as you two have never met, and you’re using a phony name . . . what’s the big deal? You have nothing to worry about.”

Daley paused, as she walked over to her bar. “Except for this Cecile Dubois, and Phoebe Halliwell. It’ll be nearly a week before the half moon. I don’t want to take the chance of being found out by a bunch of seers.”

“So, what are you going to do? Kill ’em?”

A sigh left Daley’s mouth. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. Not now. Maybe I’ll . . .” She broke off and contemplated on how to deal with this psychic double threat. Until she spied an object resting on the bar’s surface. It was the amulet that had been worn by the daemon killed by her and Piper Halliwell. She had snatched the amulet, while the witch’s back had been turned. “Maybe I won’t have to worry about them, after all.”

“What’s that?” Marc asked.

Daley stared at the object in her hand. “I don’t know. Judging from the symbol on this thing, it may have been created by a dominion spirit. All I know is that it prevented that daemon from being affected by the witch’s powers.”

Marc stared at her. “Do you think it’ll work against the two seers?”

“I’ll find out, tomorrow.”

———-

Cole and Andre stepped out of the elevator and made their way toward Olivia’s apartment. They found the two women finishing the last of their breakfast.

“You mean to say that you two aren’t ready, yet?” the houngan protested in jest.

Cecile remained silent, while Olivia shot Andre an amused look. “My, we are impatient this morning! You must really enjoy going through my shop.”

Andre shrugged. “I have to admit that I find it interesting. Reminds me of when I was studying mythology and anthropology in college.” He leaned down to plant a kiss on Cecile’s cheek. “I guess I’ll be seeing you later, baby. Take care.”

“You too,” Cecile murmured. She and Cole watched the other two leave the apartment. Once Olivia and Andre had left, she stood up and headed for the living room. “I’ll be ready in a minute.”

Cole replied, “No problem.”

A few minutes later, Cecile emerged from her bedroom, carrying her portfolio and a suitcase. “Okay. Let’s go.” The pair left the apartment and traveled down to the building’s underground garage, via the elevator. After they climbed into Cole’s black Porsche, the half-daemon heaved a sigh. Cecile stared at him. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

Cole shook his head. “Nothing. I . . .” He paused, before continuing. “I was thinking about that attack on Piper, yesterday.”

“She got out of it, okay. She’s alive. What’s the big deal?”

Another sigh left Cole’s mouth. “Nothing. I just find this whole idea of her hiring a nanny, a big mistake. Maybe she should try to get in touch with Leo.”

Cecile snorted with derision. “Seems like he’s more interested in being some high-level guardian angel than being a husband and father.”

Her acid response drew a long and hard stare from Cole. “What brought this on?”

“Brought what?”

“Why are you so bitter? Are you speaking of Leo? Or Andre?”

Rolling her eyes, Cecile retorted, “What are you talking about? Andre hasn’t abandoned me!”

“No, you seem more interested in abandoning him,” Cole shot back. “Olivia told me about that little rant against men. About how we end up shoving the women in our lives into the background. You were talking about Andre, right? Do you think he’s no longer interested in you? Is that why you want to get married?”

Cecile stared at the half-daemon. “Are you always in the habit of asking so many questions, at once?”

“C’mon, Cecile! Don’t bullshit me!” Cole continued, “Do you honestly think that a marriage is going to help you?”

Resentment flickered in Cecile’s dark eyes. “I guess you don’t.”

It took all of Cole’s efforts not to roll his eyes in contempt. “Why do people believe that a wedding ring is going to solve all of their problems?” He slipped his key into the car’s ignition, and switched on the engine.

“This isn’t about solving a problem!” Cecile retorted. “I just . . . I just want something different in my life. Something more solid than a convenient boyfriend on the other side of town. After what you told me about what led you to propose marriage to Phoebe, I thought you would understand!”

The Porsche rolled out of the parking lot and merged into San Francisco’s early morning traffic. “Yeah, well now I know better! I found out that marriage didn’t make my life better or improved my relationship with Phoebe. In fact, our relationship ended in the toilet. Our marriage didn’t solve one fucking thing!”

“You had been possessed around the time you got married!” Cecile retorted.

Cole shot back, “And you honestly think that Phoebe and I would still be together, if the Source hadn’t possess me? Because I can tell you right now that we wouldn’t. I was in love with a woman who wanted a fantasy romance, and who’s still incapable of growing up. And I would have remained a mortal – a state that I hated with every goddamn breath in my body – for nothing! Trust me. Our marriage would have ended, just as our little summer ‘romance’ did, over two months ago. Maybe a wedding ring might give you a little stability with Andre for a while. But sooner or later, your marriage will become a routine that will bore you out of your mind. And once again, you’ll find yourself longing for a change. For something new. You know, you and Andre have a good thing going. Why can’t you appreciate it?”

“Because it’s no longer a good thing! At least to me.” Cecile’s eyes narrowed. “If what you and Phoebe had before your marriage was such a good thing, why did you ask her to marry you?”

The Porsche rolled to a stop at a red light. Cole took a deep breath and growled in a low voice, “Because I was too fucking stupid to appreciate what we had! That’s why!”

“Hmmph! Just as you probably thought that your friendship with Olivia was good enough, I bet,” Cecile said with a sneer. “Until she got frustrated and started paying attention to that bastard, Paul Margolin. Tell me Cole, what if Olivia decides that she wants to be more than your girlfriend? Are you going to make the same mistake that you did, last spring? Pretend that your relationship is fine as it is?”

The light turned green. The Porsche roared into life and continued toward downtown. Cole opened his mouth to say something. Tell Cecile that she was wrong. Unfortunately, he could not find the right words.

END OF PART V

TIME MACHINE: Battle of the Somme

TIME MACHINE: BATTLE OF THE SOMME

July 1 marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme, which proved to be a major offensive during World War I. The battle or offensive was fought between the Allies (British Empire and French armies) and the armies of the German Empire between July 1 and November 18, 1916.

The military plans for the Battle of the Somme began at Chantilly, Oise; in December 1915. The Allies – namely the British, the French, Russians and Italians – discussed and agreed upon a strategy of combined offensives against the Central Powers – Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria – in 1916. Among those plans included an offensive that required the French army to undertake the major part of the Somme offensive, supported on the northern flank by the Fourth Army of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). But when the German Army initiated the Battle of Verdun on the Meuse on February 21, 1916; French commanders diverted many of the divisions intended for the Somme and the Allies changed their plans, allowing the British armies to become the main forces for the Somme offensive.

On July 1, the first day of the Somme offensive, the German Army suffered a serious defeat, when it was forced out of its first position by the French Sixth Army; from Foucaucourt-en-Santerre, south of the Somme to Maricourt on the north bank and by the Fourth Army from Maricourt to the vicinity of the Albert–Bapaume road. The first day on the Somme offensive also proved to be the worst day in history for the British Army, which suffered at least 57,470 casualties – mainly on the front between the Albert–Bapaume road and Gommecourt. Only a few British troops, which compromised a mixture of the pre-war regular army, the Territorial Force and the Kitchener Army, managed to reach the German front line.

The Battle of the Somme was fought over a period of four months and in three phrases. This battle was fought on both sides of the upper reaches of the River Somme in France. It proved to be the largest battle of World War I on the Western Front. More than one million men were wounded, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history.

“TITANIC” (1953) Review

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“TITANIC” (1953) Review

As many moviegoers know, there have been numerous film and television productions about the maiden voyage and sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic on April 15, 1912. The most famous production happens to be James Cameron’s 1997 Oscar winning opus. However, I do wonder if there are any fans who are aware that another Titanic movie managed to strike Oscar gold.

Directed by Jean Negulesco, the 1953 movie “TITANIC” focused on the personal lives of a wealthy American family torn asunder by marital strife, a deep secret and the historic sinking of the Titanic. Family matriarch Mrs. Julia Sturges and her two children, 17 year-old Annette and 10 year-old Norman board the R.M.S. Titanic in Cherbourg, France. Julia hopes to remove her children from the influence of a privileged European lifestyle embraced by her husband Richard and raise them in her hometown of Mackinac, Michigan. Unfortunately, Richard gets wind of their departure and manages to board the Titanic at the last moment by purchasing a steerage ticket from a Basque immigrant and intercept his family. The Sturges family also meet other passengers aboard ship:

*20 year-old Purdue University tennis player Gifford Rogers, who falls for Annette
*the wealthy middle-aged Maude Young (based upon Molly Brown)
*a social-climbing snob named Earl Meeker
*a priest named George S. Healey, who has been defrocked for alcoholism
*American businessman John Jacob Astor IV and his second wife Madeleine

Julia and Richard clash over the future of their children during the voyage. Their conflict is reinforced by Annette’s budding romance with college student Gifford Rogers and a dark secret revealed by Julia. But the couple’s conflict eventually takes a back seat after the Titanic strikes an iceberg during the last hour of April 14, 1912.

There seemed to be a habit among moviegoers lately to judge historical dramas more on their historical accuracy than on the story. As a history buff, I can understand this penchant. But I am also a fan of fiction – especially historical fiction. And I learned a long time ago that when writing a historical drama, one has to consider the story and the character over historical accuracy. If the latter gets in the way of the story . . . toss it aside. It is apparent that screenwriters Charles Brackett (who also served as producer), Richard L. Breen and Walter Reisch did just that when they created the screenplay for “TITANIC”. Any history buff about the famous White Star liner’s sinking would be appalled at the amount of historical accuracy in this movie. However, I feel that many lovers of period drama would be more than satisfied with “TITANIC”, thanks to a well-written personal story and top-notch direction by Jean Negulesco.

Superficially, “TITANIC” is a melodrama about the disintegration of a late 19th century/early 20th century marriage. The marital discord between Julia and Richard Sturges is filled with personality clashes, class warfare, disappointment and betrayal. And actors Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb did their very best to make the clash of wills between husband and wife fascinating and in the end . . . poignant. One of the movie’s best scenes featured a confession from one spouse about a past discretion. I am not claiming that the scene was particularly original. But I cannot deny that thanks to the stellar performances from Stanwyck and Webb, I believe it was one of the best moments of melodrama I have ever seen on screen . . . period. But their final scene together, during the Titanic’s sinking, turned out to be one of the most poignant for me. And by the way, fans of the 1997 movie would not be hard pressed to recognize one of Webb’s lines in the film . . . a line that also ended up in Cameron’s movie.

“TITANIC” featured other subplots that allowed the supporting cast to shine. Audrey Dalton portrayed Julia and Richard’s oldest offspring, the beautiful 17 year-old Annette, who had become enamored of her father’s penchant for European high society. Dalton did an excellent job of slowly transforming Annette from the shallow socialite wannabe to the shy and naturally charming young woman who has become more interested in enjoying her youth. And the character’s transformation came about from her budding friendship and romance with the gregarious Gifford Rogers. Robert Wagner seemed a far cry from the sophisticated man that both moviegoers and television viewers have come to know. His Gifford is young, friendly and open-hearted. Wagner made it easier for moviegoers to see why Annette fell for him and Julia found him likeable. However, I was not that enthusiastic about his singing. Harper Carter did an excellent job of holding his own against the likes of Stanwyck, Webb and Dalton as the Sturges’ son Norman. In fact, I found him very believable as the 10 year-old boy eager to maintain his father’s interest without accepting the snobbery that marked Annette’s personality. Perhaps he was simply too young.

The movie’s screenplay also featured a subplot involving a young priest named George Healey, who dreaded his return to the U.S. and facing his family with the shameful news of his defrocking. Thanks to Richard Basehart’s subtle, yet sardonic performance, I found myself feeling sympathetic toward his plight, instead of disgusted by his alcoholism. Thelma Ritter gave her usual top-notch performance as the sarcastic noveau riche Maude Young. Allyn Joslyn was amusing as the social-climbing card shark, Earl Meeker. And Brian Aherne’s portrayal of the Titanic’s doomed captain, was not only subtle, but he also kept the character from wallowing into some kind of second-rate nobility that usually makes my teeth hurt.

For a movie that did not have James Cameron’s advantages of creating the technical effects of the 1997 movie, “TITANIC” proved to be an attractive looking movie. Production manager Joseph C. Behm and his team did a solid job of re-creating life aboard an ocean liner, circa 1912. Behm was also assisted by costume designer Dorothy Jeakins, Don B. Greenwood’s art department, Maurice Ransford and Oscar winner Lyle R. Wheeler’s art directions, and Stuart A. Reiss’ set decorations. Although the movie did not feature an accurate re-creation of the Titanic’s sinking, I have to admit that visually, the special effects created by a team team led by Ray Kellogg were very impressive, especially for 1953. They were ably assisted Joseph MacDonald’s black-and-white photography and Louis R. Loeffler’s editing.

Earlier in this review, I pointed out that James Cameron’s 1997 film was not the only one about the Titanic that struck Oscar gold. Although “TITANIC” did not win eleven Academy Awards, it was nominated for two Oscars and won a single one – namely a Best Original Screenplay award for Brackett, Breen and Reisch. But despite an award winning script, a superb cast led by Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb and a first-rate production team, “TITANIC” still could have ended in disaster. But it had the good luck to have an excellent director like Jean Negulesco at the helm.

“RED 2” (2013) Review

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“RED 2” (2013) Review

The 2010 adaptation of Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner’s comic book series proved to be very popular at the box office. Yet, I was surprised that it took another three years for the sequel, “RED 2” to be released in the movie theaters. Unless the movie in question is part of the STAR WARS franchise, it usually takes two years or less for a sequel to appear on the scene.

“RED 2” picks up a few years after “RED”, which finds ex-C.I.A. agent Frank Moses trying to lead a normal life with his girlfriend, Sarah Ross. The effort seems to be a strain for both, although Frank seems to be more successful in accepting a “normal life”. Frank’s former colleague Marvin Bogge interrupts this “idyllic life” by warning Frank that people might be following them. Frank dismisses Marvin’s fears before the latter drives off before his car is blown up. After Frank and Sarah attend Marvin’s funeral, the former is captured by government agents to a Yankee White Facility, where he is interrogated by a C.I.A. operative named Jack Horton. Frank manages to escape the facility with the help of a resurrected Marvin. And the latter reveals that he and Frank were being hunted for being part of a secret operation called Nightshade, which smuggled a nuclear weapon created by one Dr. Edward Bailey, piece by piece into Russia back in the late 1970s or early 80s. Horton is ordered to label Frank, Marvin and Sarah terrorists to other countries. Former MI-6 assassin, Victoria Winslow informs her friends that she has been recruited by her former agency to kill them. She also informs them that former South Korean agent-turned-top contract killer Han Cho-Bai has been hired by the C.I.A. to kill Frank and Marvin. With so many after them; Frank, Marvin and Sarah are forced to learn the truth about Nightshade in order to clear themselves of the terrorist charge.

I had enjoyed “RED” when the movie first came out, three years ago. But if I must be honest, I did not love it. My opinion of it grew over the years. But after seeing “RED 2”, I realize that my views of it will never be as high as “RED 2”. The summer of 2013 seemed to be plagued by box office flops and from what I have seen of the box office take for “RED 2” after it had been in the theaters for three weeks, it is clear that it is a flop. Once again, I am faced with a movie that I seemed to like a lot more than the majority of moviegoers and critics. If I had been younger, I would have taken the public’s rejection of the film personally. But when I think of the number of failed movies that I have enjoyed over the years, I have come to the conclusion that I no longer cared whether the rest of the public share my feelings for a particular movie. As far as I am concerned, I enjoyed “RED 2” very much and look forward to its DVD release.

As in the 2010 movie, “RED 2” featured a past operation that has come back to haunt two of its main heroes – Frank Moses and Marvin Bogges. But in “RED 2”, the circumstances and plot surrounding the Nightshade Operation struck me as more plausible and better written that the covert operation featured in “RED”. Even the villains’ objectives struck me as a lot more plausible. Realizing this has made me wonder why my opinion of “RED” has increased in the past three years. “RED 2” also delved more into Frank’s relationship with his Kansas City-born paramour, Sarah Ross. I found it rather amusing that the ever paranoid Marvin seemed to understand Sarah’s need for action a lot better than Frank, who seemed determined to treat her as a china doll. But as Marvin pointed out – Frank is blinded by his fear of losing Sarah. Their relationship is also tested by Frank’s reunion with a former paramour – a KGB colonel named Katya, and Sarah’s talent for using her feminine wiles to deal with terrorists such as “The Frog” and a Russian Army officer at the Kremlin. Best of all, “RED 2” featured some top-notch villains – including the proficiently murderous C.I.A. agent Jack Horton and one Han Cho-Bai, viewed as the best contract killer in the world. “RED 2” also possess one of the best plot twists I have seen in some time. It certainly proved to be better than any of the plot twists featured in the 2010 movie. Jon and Erich Hoeber did a great job with a complex script.

Did I have any problems with “RED 2”? I had a little problem with Marvin’s ability to fake death. Considering that he was presumably killed due to a car bomb, I was surprised that no one found the idea of a pristine body inside the coffin rather questionable . . . especially Sarah Ross. And who really had been responsible for Operation Nightshade? The C.I.A. or MI-6? Or was it a joint effort? The Hoebers’ script never really made the matter clear.

The performances in “RED 2” were marvelous. Beginning with the three leads – Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and Mary-Louise Parker – and down to Titus Welliver, who more or less gave a cameo appearance; the movie rocked with some first-rate acting. For the second time, Bruce Willis and Mary-Louise Parker created comic and romantic screen chemistry as the love-struck Frank Moses and Sarah Ross. Thanks to the actors’ comedic skills, both did a great job in conveying the pair’s relationship struggles of her boredom of being an “ordinary” couple and his penchant for being over protective. Once again, John Malkovich was marvelous as the deliciously paranoid Marvin Bogges, who in this film, also displays a talent for romantic counseling. Helen Mirren not only gave a deliciously witty performance as British assassin Victoria Winslow, she also proved that to be a bad-ass action star in some of the scenes in the movie’s second half. When I had learned that Lee Byung-hun from the “G.I. JOE” had been cast in the film, I assumed his character would be a great deal like the one he had portrayed in the Hasbro film franchise. I proved to be right . . . superficially. Thankfully, the actor’s portrayal of the assassin Han proved to be a great deal more emotional and rather funny, despite being deadly.

The movie also featured an excellent performance from Neal McDonough as the very dangerous and rather cold-blooded C.I.A. agent, Jack Horton. His character’s takedown of the agents at the Yankee White Facility struck me as somewhat creepy. Brian Cox reprised his role as Russian intelligence official, Ivan Simanov. He was funnier than ever – especially in one scene in which he was lovingly admiring Victoria’s form as she rescued Frank, Sarah and Marvin from a Russian firing squad. Catherine Zeta-Jones gave a sly and sexy performance as Frank’s former paramour, Russian agent Katya. David Thewlis made a brief appearance as a techno-terrorist named “The Frog”. Not only did the actor did a great job during a chase scene in Paris, he was absolutely hilarious in a scene in which “The Frog” finally surrendered to Sarah’s wooing during an interrogation. The one performance that really impressed me came from Anthony Hopkins, who portrayed the scientist who first created Nightshade, Dr. Edward Bailey. Hopkins’ performance struck me as strange . . . and I am being complimentary. The actor was superb in projecting Bailey’s eccentricity, which developed after years of being stuck in an assylum by MI-6 for nearly three decades. And it was quite a thrill to see him in his only scene with Brian Cox . . . especially since both actors had portrayed Hannibal Lector with great acclaim.

Box office flop or not, I cannot deny that I enjoyed “RED 2” very much. Not only did it struck me as better than the original 2010 movie, but also proved to be one of my favorite movies for the summer of 2013. And I have director Dean Parisot, a great script written by Jon and Erich Hoeber, and a fabulous cast led by Bruce Willis to thank.

“The Power of One” [PG-13] – 4/20

 

“THE POWER OF ONE”

PART IV

“Hey.” Jason popped into Phoebe’s private office.

Phoebe smiled at her paramour. “Hey yourself. What can I do for you?”

The publisher leaned over Phoebe’s desk, his face hovering inches away from hers. “How about lunch . . . with me?” he asked in a seductive voice.

Smiling, Phoebe automatically picked up a paper weight that had been an office-warming present from Piper. “Well . . . hmmmm. Let me think about that,” she whispered. “Now, where do you plan to take me?”

“Well, there’s the Compass Rose at the St. Francis Hotel.”

Phoebe wrinkled her nose playfully. “Too stuffy. How about . . .?” A gasp left her mouth, as images of a demon attacking her older sister filled her mind. Despite Piper’s best efforts, the demon kills the oldest Charmed One and kidnaps a sleeping Wyatt. The vision ended with the disappearance of the demon and her nephew.

Jason stared at Phoebe, frowning. “Something wrong, honey? You looked a . . . I don’t know. A bit spaced out.”

“Oh, uh . . .” Phoebe quickly tried to think of an excuse. “It’s nothing. Nothing big. I . . . uh, just remembered.”

“Remembered what?”

Think Phoebe, think! Finally an answer came to the Charmed One. “Uh . . . I just remembered that Piper wanted me to a favor for her. Pick up both her and the food she had prepared for some private luncheon at P3.”

Jason’s frown deepened. “A luncheon at a nightclub?”

“Actually . . . it’s a party. Office party.”

“Yeah, but at a night . . .”

Phoebe stood up and walked around her desk. “Oh baby, I’m sorry.” She planted a light kiss on Jason’s cheek. “I’m going to have to take a rain check on lunch, today.” Then she grabbed his arm and steered him toward the door. “We can have lunch, tomorrow.”

Reluctantly, Jason allowed himself to be dragged out of the office. “Okay, but you tell Piper that I’ve got you all booked for myself, tomorrow.”

“Okay baby. Bye.” Phoebe gave Jason one last kiss and slammed the door in his face. She leaned against the wall and sighed. Then she picked up the telephone receiver on her desk and dialed the number for Ostera’s.

After the third ring, a voice answered. “Ostera’s Herbal Shop. May I help you?”

“Hello? Who is this?” Phoebe demanded.

The voice continued, “This is Maddy. May I help you?”

“Maddy, this is Phoebe Halliwell. I need to speak with Paige. Is she there?”

Maddy replied, “Sorry, but she’s making a special delivery right now. I can take a message.”

Phoebe hesitated. Until she realized that she could reach Paige by the latter’s cell phone. “Never mind. I’ll call back, later.”

“Is this some kind of magical emergency?” Maddy’s question reminded Phoebe that the shop assistant happened to be a witch. “I could get hold of Barbara.”

“No, that’s okay. Thanks anyway. Bye.” Phoebe hung up the phone. Then she took a deep breath and cried out her whitelighter’s name. “Chris! Chris, I need you! Now!”

———

Around the same time of Jason’s visit to Phoebe’s office, Cecile sat inside the McNeill boardroom, as she provided the last figures for her presentation to the Board members. “Cresent, Incorporated now provides computer office software to over thirty companies and corporations in the Lower Mississippi Valley, and parts of the Southeast,” she concluded. “With McNeill Enterprises, I hope to expand distribution to the West Coast. I could provide the Board with a list of my clients and their contact numbers. I am sure they will confirm what I have just told you.”

Bursts of conversation broke out among the members inside the boardroom. Both Cole and Harry gave Cecile reassuring smiles. She smiled back, despite the fact that her heart was not really into the meeting at the moment. Cecile had managed to put aside her bleak mood regarding Andre during the meeting. But once she had completed her presentation, her mood immediately returned.

Perhaps she should consider ditching the idea of breaking up from Andre. To be honest, she did not really want to end their relationship. Hell, she was in love with him! Why on earth would she want to break up with the only true love she had ever had in her life?

Then Cecile thought of Piper Halliwell and Olivia’s former whitelighter. She recalled Olivia telling her about the couple’s difficult courtship and the problems they had encountered, getting married. Piper and Leo had viewed themselves as soulmates. Yet, less than three years after their wedding . . .

The vision hit Cecile’s mind without any warning. She saw Piper unsuccessfully fighting a demon. . . Piper dying . . . and the daemon stealing Wyatt from a basquinet before disappearing from the Halliwells’ Solarium. The vision ended and Cecile gasped out loud.

The others inside the boardroom stared at her. “Is there something wrong?” Cole asked.

“I . . .” Cecile began to rub her forehead. “I think I’m getting a slight headache. Uh, excuse me.” She stood up. Cole and the McNeills did the same.

Mr. McNeill gently took Cecile by the arm. “Why don’t you come inside my office, Cecile?” I’m sure that my assistant could find some aspirin or something for your headache. Cole?”

“Yeah.” The half-daemon and the witch escorted Cecile into the latter’s spacious office. Once they were alone, Cole demanded, “Are you really having a headache? Because if I didn’t know any better . . .”

Cecile sighed. “Yeah, I just had a vision. I saw some daemon killing Piper, before kidnapping Wyatt.”

Mr. McNeill frowned. “How is that possible? I thought that Wyatt had some kind of protective shield.”

“I only know what I saw,” Cecile insisted. She turned to Cole. “Maybe we should pop over there. Now.”

Cole nodded. “Yeah. Right.” He took hold of Cecile’s hand. “We’ll back,” he said to Mr. McNeill. Then the two friends teleported out of the office.

————

Twenty minutes before Phoebe and Cecile had simultaneously experienced their visions, Piper ended her interview with Warren Koslo and bid him good-bye. Then she turned to the Latina woman. “Mrs. Madrigal? Could you follow me, please?”

Mrs. Madrigal rose to her feet and followed Piper into the Solarium. The applicant shot a quick glance at the sleeping Wyatt, before she sat down in a nearby wicker chair.

“So,” Piper began, “I understand that you saw my announcement on the bulletin board at the Red Pyramid. Do you . . . go there a lot? Or was that just a one time visit?”

Mrs. Madrigal nodded. “I’m a regular customer. Are you?”

“I’ve been there a few times.” Piper hesitated, unsure of how to ask her next question. “Um . . . are you into . . . uh, the occult?”

The older woman frowned. “Aren’t you? I had assumed that you were also into it . . . considering where you had posted the ad.” She paused. “You are into it. Right?”

Piper replied sardonically, “More than you can imagine.” Mrs. Madrigal’s eyes grew wide. “I’m . . . uh, a witch. One of those Wiccans. I’ve been one for at least five years.”

“Oh.” The older woman’s shoulders sagged with relief. “Well, I’m glad that I wasn’t wrong. You see, I also practice magic.”

Relief flooded Piper’s veins. “Really? Are you some kind of witch?”

Mrs. Madrigal stood up. And right before Piper’s eyes, she transformed into a pale, stocky man with wintergreen eyes. “No,” he said in a deep voice. “I’m a daemon!” He tossed an energy ball at the Charmed One.

Piper let out a squeal, before she flung her hands at the energy ball and destroyed it in mid-air. “Oh crap!” Then she flung her hands at the demon. His body immediately exploded . . . and reassembled within seconds. “Oh crap! Chris! CHRIS!”

The demon flung another energy ball at Piper. She froze it in mid-air and ducked behind the chair. The demon waved one hand and the energy ball continued its course toward her, striking the wall and missing her head by inches. With her sisters at work and Chris failing to show up, Piper realized that she might be in serious danger. “You can’t hide from me forever, witch! And your sisters can’t help you!” The demon sent another energy ball toward Piper’s direction. Before she could destroy it with her combustion power, it blew up the chair in front of her. And led the Charmed One to rue the day she had thought about hiring a nanny, in the first place.

————–

Daley heard a woman’s voice cry out the name – Chris. She frowned. What in the hell was going on in the other room? Then she heard a man shout, “You can’t hide from me forever, witch!” At that moment, the sorceress realized that something was wrong. She had seen a middle-aged woman follow Piper Halliwell into the other room. Where did the man come from?

An explosive sound interrupted Daley’s musings. Without thinking, she rushed into the other room and found Ms. Halliwell cowering before a stocky man with pale skin. And no sign of Mrs. Madrigal. An energy ball formed in the intruder’s hand. Viewing him as a threat to her plans, Daley quickly reached for a dagger in her knit bag and threw it at the man. The dagger’s sharp point pierced his shoulder, forcing him to cry out in pain and dissipate the energy ball.

“You!” the man growled, as he glared at Daley. An energy ball materialized in his hand. As he hurled it at Daley’s direction, she cried out, “Deflect” in Yoruba. The energy ball zinged back toward the man. He ducked before it could strike his body.

Daley rushed toward Ms. Halliwell. “Are you okay?” she asked, breathlessly.

“I could be better,” the other woman shot back. “Do you . . . uh, recognize this demon?”

“He’s a daemon?”

Another energy ball zoomed toward them. Ms. Halliwell flung out her hands and the energy ball exploded in mid-air. “I guess that’s a no.” Desperation shone in the witch’s dark eyes. “Do you know any spell to get rid of this guy?”

“Uh . . .” At that moment, one immediately came to Daley’s mind. “Wait. Here’s one.” She began to chant, “Hell threw you from its inner core, but earth won’t hold you anymore. Since heaven cannot be your place, your flesh and blood I now erase.” The two women stared at the daemon. Nothing happened. “Damn! Maybe we should say the spell, together.”

Both women took a deep breath and repeated the spell. “Hell threw you from its inner core, but earth won’t hold you anymore. Since heaven cannot be your place, your flesh and blood I now erase!” Instead of the daemon’s death, they were faced with another energy ball that missed Ms. Halliwell’s head by inches. The pair quickly scurried on their knees, toward the sofa.

“Too bad my sisters aren’t here,” the witch commented. “I could use the Power of Three. And why does that spell sound familiar?”

Daley asked, “Why is he trying to kill you?”

“So that me and my sisters won’t come after him, if he steals my son.”

Ah! So the attack was about the child. Then Daley’s eyes narrowed, as she spotted a string holding an object around the daemon’s neck. “Look! There’s something around his neck! Let me . . .” Focusing her attention upon the object, Daley murmured a chant underneath her breath. The string broke, taking the daemon by surprise. Then the object – obviously an amulet – fell upon the floor. “The spell again!”

The two women chanted, “Hell threw you from its inner core, but earth won’t hold you anymore. Since heaven cannot be your place, your flesh and blood I now erase!” Cries of pain poured out of the daemon’s mouth, as flames engulfed his body. Within seconds, he exploded into a ball of fire and light.

Ms. Halliwell rushed over to the basquinet for a peek at her son. “He’s safe,” she said with relief. “Awake, but safe.” She turned to Daley. “Are you still interested in the job?”

Daley struggled not to flash a triumphant smile. “Sure.”

“You’re hired.”

END OF PART IV

Five Favorite Episodes of “TURN: WASHINGTON’S SPIES” Season One (2014)

tn-s1-caleb-abe-anna-ben-560

Below is a list of my five favorite episodes from Season One of AMC” “TURN: WASHINGTON’S SPIES”. Created by Craig Silverstein, the series stars Jamie Bell:

 

FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “TURN: WASHINGTON’S SPIES” SEASON ONE (2014)

1 - 1.08 Challenge

1. (1.08) “Challenge” – Against the wishes of Abraham “Abe” Woodhull, one of the Culper Ring spies, fellow spy Anna Strong earches for enemy intelligence at an exclusive gentleman’s party hosted by British spymaster Major John Andre.

2 - 1.10 The Battle of Setauket

2. (1.10) “The Battle of Setauket” – Mary Woodhull discovers that Abe is a rebel spy. Other members of the spy ring, Major Benjamin Tallmadge and Lieutenant Caleb Brewster, lead a raid on the Long Island community, Setauket, to save the local Patriot families.

3 - 1.05 Epiphany

3. (1.05) “Epiphany” – During the 1776 Christmas holidays, Caleb and Ben follow mysterious orders, while General George Washington’s army crosses into enemy territory in New Jersey. Meanwhile, one of Anna’s recently freed slaves, Abigail, agrees to spy for the Rebels after she is assigned to work for Major Andre, if the former would agree to look after her son Cicero.

4 - 1.09 Against Thy Neighbor

4. (1.09) “Against Thy Neighbor” – British Army Captain John Graves Simcoe (at least the fictional version) ignites a political witch-hunt to weed out rebel conspirators in Setauket. General Washington assigns Ben to a secret mission.

5 - 1.06 Mr. Culpepper

5. (1.06) “Mr. Culpeper” – En route to New York, Abe is ambushed by a desperate patriot. Washington charges Ben with the task of creating America’s first official spy ring.