Top Ten Favorite Movies Set in the 1930s

Below is my current list of favorite movies set in the 1930s: 

 

TOP TEN FAVORITE MOVIES SET IN THE 1930s

1. “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984) – In this exciting second installment of the Indiana Jones franchise, the intrepid archaeologist is asked by desperate villagers in Northern India to find a mystical stolen stone and rescue their children from a Thuggee cult practicing child slavery. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the movie starred Harrison Ford as Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones.

2. “The Sting” (1973) – Paul Newman and Robert Redford starred in this excellent Oscar winning movie about a young drifter who teams up with a master of the big con to get revenge against the gangster who had his partner murdered. George Roy Hill directed.

3. “Death on the Nile” (1978) – Peter Ustinov made his first appearance as Hercule Poirot in this superb adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1937 novel about the murder of an Anglo-American heiress during a cruise on the Nile. John Guillermin directed.

4. “Chinatown” (1974) – Roman Polanski directed this outstanding Oscar nominated film about a Los Angeles private detective hired to expose an adulterer, who finds himself caught up in a web of deceit, corruption and murder. Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway starred.

5. “Gosford Park” (2001) – Robert Altman directed this Oscar nominated film about a murder that occurs at shooting party in 1932 England. The all-star cast includes Helen Mirren, Kelly MacDonald, Clive Owen and Maggie Smith.

6. “Evil Under the Sun” (1982) – Once again, Peter Ustinov portrayed Hercule Poirot in this entertaining adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1941 novel about the murder of a stage actress at an exclusive island resort. Guy Hamilton directed.

7. “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” (2000) – Ethan and Joel Coen directed this very entertaining tale about three escaped convicts who search for a hidden treasure, while evading the law in Depression era Mississippi. George Clooney, John Tuturro and Tim Blake Nelson starred.

8. “Murder on the Orient Express” (1974) – Albert Finney starred as Hercule Poirot in this stylish adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel about the Belgian detective’s investigation into the death of a mysterious American aboard the famed Orient Express. Sidney Lumet directed.

9. “Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981) – Harrison Ford made his first appearance as Dr. “Indiana” Jones in this classic movie, as he races against time to find the iconic Ark of the Covenant that contains the Ten Commandments before the Nazis do in 1936 Egypt. Steven Spielberg directed.

“Seabiscuit” (2003) – Gary Ross directed this excellent adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand’s 2001 book about the famed race horse from the late 1930s. Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper and Elizabeth Banks starred.

Honorable Mention: “Road to Perdition” (2002) – Tom Hanks, Tyler Hoechlin and Paul Newman starred in this first-rate adaptation of Max Collins’ 1998 graphic comic about a Depression era hitman who is forced to hit the road with his older son after the latter witnesses a murder. Sam Mendes directed.

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“THREE ACT TRAGEDY” (2010) Review

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“THREE ACT TRAGEDY” (2010) Review

When I was in my early teens, I had shifted my attention from Nancy Drew mysteries to those novels written by Agatha Christie. And I have not stopped since. I confess that this shift in reading material was the result of seeing the 1978 movie, “DEATH ON THE NILE”, for the first time. Properly hooked on Christie’s works, I focused my attention on her 1934 novel, “Murder in Three Acts”, also known as “Three Act Tragedy”

I have seen two adaptations of Christie’s 1934 novel. The first was television adaptation in the mid 1980s, titled “MURDER IN THREE ACTS”, which starred Christie veteran Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot. Although I enjoyed it, I had hoped to see an adaptation of the novel in its original 1930s setting. I had to wait many years before the ITV series, “AGATHA CHRISTIE’S POIROT”granted my wish with an adaptation that not only retained the original setting, but also the original title, “THREE ACT TRAGEDY”.

The story begins on the coast of Cornwall, where Hercule Poirot attends a dinner party at the home of famed stage actor, Sir Charles Cartwright. The latter’s guests also include:

*Dr. Sir Bartholomew Strange – Sir Charles’ old childhood friend and a nerve specialist
*Lady Mary Lytton-Gore – a Cornish neighbor of Sir Charles, who is from an impoverished old family
*Hermione “Egg” Lytton-Gore – Lady Mary’s young daughter, with whom Sir Charles is in love
*Muriel Wills – a successful playwright also known as Anthony Astor
*Captain Freddie Dacres – a former Army officer and gentleman gambler
*Cynthia Dacres – Captain Dacres’ wife and a successful dressmaker
*Reverend Stephen Babbington – the local curate and Sir Charles’ Cornish neighbor
*Mrs. Babbington – Reverend Babbington’s wife near Sir Charles’s home in Cornwall.
*Oliver Manders – a young Cornish neighbor of Sir Charles’, who is interested in Egg
*Miss Milray – Sir Charles’ secretary

The guests gather in Sir Charles’ drawing-room for a round of pre-dinner cocktails. The party is marred when one of the guests, Reverend Babbington, collapses and dies after drinking his cocktail. An inquest rules his death as a result from natural causes. However, Sir Charles believes that Reverend Babbington may have been murdered, but Poirot is not convinced. About a month or so later, Poirot is vacationing in Monte Carlo, when he encounters Sir Charles. The latter reveals via a newspaper article that Dr. Strange had died from similar circumstances, while hosting a dinner party at his home in Yorkshire. Most of the guests who had attended Sir Charles’ party had also been there, with the exception of Mrs. Babbington and Miss Milray. Unlike Reverend Babbington, Sir Bartholomew’s death has been ruled as a homicide. Both Poirot and Sir Charles return to Britain to investigate the two deaths.

Although “Three Act Tragedy” was one of the first Christie novels I had read, it has never been a favorite of mine. I liked it, but I did not love it. Screenwriter Nick Dear made some changes to the story that I either found appropriate or did not bother me. Dear removed characters like society hound like Mr. Satterthwaite and stage actress Angela Sutcliffe (and one of Sir Charles’ former lovers). I did not miss them. One change really improved the story for me. One aspect of the novel that I found particularly frustrating was the minimized presence of Poirot. The lack of Poirot almost dragged the novel into a halt. Thankfully, Dear avoided this major flaw by allowing Poirot’s presence to be a lot more prominent. He achieved this change by making Poirot a friend of Sir Charles and removing the Mr. Satterthwaite. Dear also made one other major change in Christie’s story, but I will get to it later.

Visually, “THREE ACT TRAGEDY” is a gorgeous movie to watch. Peter Greenhalgh, who had passed away last year, provided the production with a colorful photography that I found particularly beautiful. My only complaint about Greenhalgh’s photography is that it struck me as a little fuzzy at times to indicate the story’s presence in the past. Another dazzling aspect of “THREE ACT TRAGEDY” were the production designs created by Jeff Tessler, who more orless served as the production designer for “AGATHA CHRISTIE’S POIROT” between 2005 and the series’ end in 2013. Judging by the admirable way he managed to re-create not only the movie’s 1930s setting, but also various locations, only tells me that he had been doing something write. I certainly had no complaints about the costumes designed by Sheena Napier. Like Tessler, she worked for “AGATHA CHRISTIE’S POIROT” for a long period of time . . . even longer than Tessler. Although I am no expert on early 20th century fashion, I thought Napier excellent job in creating costumes for the production’s setting and the different characters.

The performances featured in “THREE ACT TRAGEDY” were first-rate. I did not find anything exceptional about David Suchet’s portrayal of Hercule Poirot, but I thought he gave his usual more-than-competent performance. Martin Shaw gave a very solid performance as the charming, yet intelligent Sir Charles Cartwright, who was the first to sense something wrong about the first murder. I was also impressed by how the actor conveyed his character’s insecurity over a romance with a much younger woman. Kimberly Nixon seemed like a ball of fire, thanks to her portrayal of the vibrant and charming Egg Lytton-Gore, who found herself torn between two men. I also enjoyed Art Malik’s portrayal of the extroverted Dr. Sir Bartholomew Strange. Although there were times when his performance struck me as a touch too jovial. Ronan Vibert gave a rather insidious, yet oddly charming performance as “gentleman” gambler Captain Freddie Dacres. The one performance that really impressed me came Kate Ashfield who gave a very interesting performance as playwright Anthony Astor aka Miss Muriel Wills. Ashfield did an excellent job in recapturing Miss Wills’ secretive, yet uber observant personality. The production also featured solid performances from Anastasia Hille, Tom Wisdom, Anna Carteret, Suzanne Bertish, and Tony Maudsley.

I do have a complaint about “THREE ACT TRAGEDY”. I really wish that Nick Dear had not changed the murderer’s main motive for the killings. I have heard rumors that there are two different versions of the story’s resolution. My literary version of “THREE ACT TRAGEDY” questioned the murderer’s sanity, making the murders a lot more interesting to me. Unfortunately, Nick Dear used the other resolution, one that struck me as a lot more mundane and not very interesting. Too bad.

Aside from changing the killer’s motive for the murders, I rather enjoyed “THREE ACT TRAGEDY”. I am thankful that screenwriter Nick Dear had made Hercule Poirot’s presence in the story more prominent than it was in the novel. After all, he is the story’s main investigator. But despite excellent acting and solid direction by Ashley Pearce, I would never regard it as one of my favorite productions from “AGATHA CHRISTIE’S POIROT”. It was simply a pretty good adaptation of a solid Christie novel. There is nothing else for me to say.

St. Paul Sandwich

Below is an article about the dish known as St. Paul Sandwich:

 

ST. PAUL SANDWICH

I am a California girl – born and bred. Yet, a part of me is also a Midwesterner. Most of my family – both paternal and maternal – are from St. Louis, Missouri. And I had spent part of my childhood in the Gateway City.  One of my fondest memories of St. Louis is the collection of various Chinese-American fast food joints spread throughout the city. I might as well say it. Some of the best Chinese-American fast food I have ever eaten was in St. Louis. And one of my all time favorite dishes to emerge from these eateries was the St. Paul sandwich.

The origin of the St. Paul sandwich dates back to the early 1940s, when it was created to appeal Midwesterners’ palates. In fact, the sandwich is believed to be an example of early fusion cuisine. According to legend, a cook or chef named Steven Yuen invented the St. Paul sandwich at an eatery called Park Chop Suey in Lafayette Square, a neighborhood near downtown St. Louis. Yuen named the dish after his hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota. Food writers James Beard and Evan Jones believed that the St. Paul sandwich was an early variation of another dish called the Denver sandwich, which originated in the Colorado city around 1907.

The St. Paul sandwich consists of an egg foo young patty; which is made with egg, mung bean sprouts, and minced white onions; between two slices of white bread. Included in the sandwich are dill pickle slices, white onion, mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato. The St. Paul sandwich also comes in different combinations and specials that include chicken, pork, shrimp, beef, and other varieties. Originally, the St. Paul sandwich contained four pieces of white bread with chicken and egg stuffed inside. Later, it simply consisted of an egg and hamburger on a bun.

The dish can be found in St. Louis and other cities in Missouri like Jefferson City, Columbia and Springfield. It can also be found in Chinese-American restaurants in California and Oregon, notably at the Lung Fung in the Kenton neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. It is usually served with regional names like “Egg Foo Young on Bun”. I have eaten Chinese-American fast food in Los Angeles, San Diego, Washington D.C. and Chicago and have yet to encounter the St. Paul sandwich in any of these cities.

Below is a recipe for St. Paul sandwich from the Feast Magazine website:

St. Paul Sandwich

Ingredients

Canola oil, for deep-frying
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
¼ cup diced or thinly sliced onion
2 Tbsp diced green bell pepper
3 small cooked shrimp, peeled
3 Tbsp diced or shredded poached chicken
3 pieces cooked beef (1/8 inch thick, 1 inch wide and 1½ inches long)
1 large egg
¼ tsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 slices white bread
Iceberg lettuce leaf
2 thin slices tomato
3 to 4 dill pickle slices

Preparation

Pour about 4 cups oil into a deep-fryer or deep saucepan. Bring to 375ºF.

Break bean sprouts by crushing them lightly in the palm of your hand. Place in medium mixing bowl. Add onion, green pepper, shrimp, chicken and beef. Stir to combine.

Beat egg lightly with a fork in a small bowl. Mix in cornstarch. Pour egg mixture over the sprouts mixture. Stir well.

Place egg mixture in a shallow metal ladle 4¼ inches wide (big enough to hold it all).

Test the heat of the oil by throwing in a bean sprout. The sprout will immediately pop to the top if the oil is hot enough.

When oil is hot enough, gradually lower full ladle into hot oil, but don’t allow top of egg mixture to drop into the oil. The egg patty will cook in the ladle. Some hot oil will seep over the edges of the ladle. Cook until almost done, 2 to 3 minutes, then spoon a little of the hot oil over the top of the patty to finish the cooking.

Transfer egg patty to a slotted spoon. If any egg mixture drips out, return the patty to the ladle and place in the hot oil for an additional minute. The patty should be uniformly browned and sealed.

Spread mayonnaise on one slice of bread. Top with the iceberg lettuce and tomato slices. Slide the cooked egg patty onto the other slice of bread. Garnish with pickles. Close the sandwich. Wrap bottom in waxed paper and serve immediately.

Tester’s note: If you do not have a deep fryer, you can use a skillet, but the texture will not be the same. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a 6-inch skillet; sauté the onion and green pepper over medium heat until the onion is translucent. Add the shrimp, chicken and beef and then the egg-cornstarch mixture; cook, stirring constantly, until the egg is scrambled.

“The Helmsman’s Logs – 2374” [PG-13] – 2/2

“THE HELMSMAN’S LOGS – 2374”

PART 2

STARDATE 51463.14:

The Doctor is back, thank God! This means Harry and I don’t have to continue our disastrous efforts to create a new EMH. During his time in the Alpha Quadrant, the Doc managed to contact Starfleet. (Pauses) I don’t know if that’s something to celebrate about, but everyone else seemed to be happy. Especially the Captain and Harry. Starfleet had declared us dead about six months following our disappearance. Now, they know we’re alive. Huh. I wonder how Dad took the news.

The Doc had other news, as well. Apparently, a war had broken out in the Alpha Quadrant. The Federation, along with the Klingon Empire have been at war with a Gamma Quadrant race called the Dominion and their allies, the Cardassians, since the end of last year. Also, upon his arrival in the Alpha Quadrant, he had came upon a Starfleet vessel that had been taken over by the Romulans. It seemed the Doc and a new EMH program managed to keep the ship from ending up in Romulan space. I don’t want to go into details – especially since the Doc never hesitates to talk about it. Over and over again.

As for the array, it seemed to belong to a race called the Hirogen. Seven, B’Elanna and the Captain had brief contact with one of them, before Seven zapped him into oblivion with a feedback from the array’s transmitter. Hmmm, that’s the first time B’Elanna has ever expressed any approval toward Seven’s actions. End personal log.

STARDATE 51468.06:

It’s a miracle that B’Elanna didn’t kill me, a few minutes ago. We were supposed to meet for breakfast, around 0700, this morning. Unfortunately, I overslept – thanks to one hell of a nightmare – and she had to wake me up. Since our breakfast turned out to be a bust, we had arranged a new one for Friday night – the Fiji Islands in Holodeck One. The water skiing should be great. End personal log.

STARDATE 51472.83:

Damn aliens! Hell, I don’t the name of their species, so I don’t what else to call them. Why are we always encountering these aliens who use subtle means to take over the ship? The Bothans, the Nyrians, those aliens who had used us for their . . . medical experiments. And now, this! This waking species or whatever the hell they’re called. Thank God for Chakotay! It seems they were the ones responsible for the series of nightmares that the entire crew were experiencing. Fortunately, Chakotay and the Doctor had discovered their homeworld and threatened to blow it up if they didn’t shut off the neurogenic field that kept the rest of the crew in a state of lucid dreaming.

Now, I can’t sleep. The whole damn episode has left me suffering from insomnia. I wonder if Harry or B’Elanna are awake. End personal log.

STARDATE 51480.04:

I never thought I would see myself giving lessons in Earth slang to a Vulcan. And to Vorik, of all people! I was talking to Liz Jenkins about her recent shuttle lessons, and Vorik had overheard me use the word – cool. The next thing I knew, I found myself explaining the different variations on the word. Oh well, at least Vorik was a willing student. I think he learned his lessons, well. End personal log.

STARDATE 51483.74:

Ah Fiji! B’Elanna was right to choose this program for our date. Granted, I had looked forward to skiing in the Chilean Andes, but water skiing in the South Pacific made a pretty good substitute. Along with B’Elanna in a red bikini. Wow! Let’s just say it was a date I will never forget. End personal log.

STARDATE 51498.93:

Voyager had picked up a signal from another one of those Hirogen relay stations. This signal definitely had a Starfleet signature. Harry quickly assumed that Starfleet had found a quick way to get back to the Alpha Quadrant. Even Tuvok seemed to think so. (Sighs) God, I hope they’re all wrong. End personal log.

STARDATE 51506.33:

Today has been one of the worst days of my life. In fact, I believe that it has been a bitch for a good number of the crew. And all because of that damn relay station!

We finally came across the station that Harry had detected, two days ago. Apparently, this station was situated near the mouth of a quantum singularity that provided energy to all of the relay stations. The Starfleet signal was actually a series of letters from home. From families and friends of the crew. I heard rumors that Tuvok learned that he had become a grandfather. And Liz Jenkins, one of the pilots under my command, is now an aunt. Harry received a letter from his folks, thank God! He was getting on my nerves with his constant carping about not receiving a letter, during Neelix’s rounds. (Sighs) That’s not fair. Poor Harry really misses his family a lot. And this trip through the Delta Quadrant has been particularly difficult for him.

But not all of the news was good. Someone told me . . . Neelix, I think . . . that the Captain had received a “Dear John” letter from her fiancé. He had given her up for dead, met someone else and married her. Talk about life being a bitch! No wonder the Captain looked miserable when I saw her reading her letter. And poor Greg Hamilton! He just received word that a cousin of his had become an early casualty in this war against some Gamma Quadrant species called the Dominion. Greg was supposed to be at the helm during the Beta shift, tonight. I decided to replace him with Baytart, instead.

Speaking of the Dominion, it seems they are now the Cardassians’ new allies. And the latter used new ships and weapons from the Dominion . . . God, I can’t believe this! The Cardies had managed to wipe out the Maquis resistance in the Alpha Quadrant. Talk about bad news. I’m still in shock. Most of them are dead. However, a few of them – like Chakotay’s friend, Sveda, are now serving time in a Federation prison. And they are the lucky ones. (Pauses) I discovered this piece of bad news from B’Elanna. (Pauses) While she was downloading a letter from my dad. Talk about bad news arriving in pairs! (Pauses) Yeah, I know it’s supposed to come in threes, but who cares?

(Sighs) Maybe this party will help everyone get over the recent bad news. We’ve also heard about Tuvok and Seven’s encounter with a race called the Hirogen. They’re the ones who had built the relay stations nearly a millennium ago. From our recent encounter with them, they might prove to be a problem. Many of the crew are also disappointed that the quantum singularity had also destroyed the entire relay system, ending our contact with Starfleet. I hope the party will help B’Elanna recover from the bad news. She had taken the news of the Maquis’ destruction pretty hard. As for that letter from the Admiral – it never came through. B’Elanna was able to download Harry’s letter before the relay stations’ destruction, but not mine. (Sighs) Just as well. A small part of me felt a little disappointed not to hear from Dad. But another part . . . maybe I’m just not ready to hear from him. At least not yet. I don’t know. End personal log.

STARDATE 51506.33:

I wish I could say that Neelix’s party was a success, but I can’t. A lot of us were still in a funk over the news from the Alpha Quadrant. There were a few happy souls like Harry, who had received good news from home. But even their happiness were muted by the destruction of the Hirogen’s relay stations. And the fact that the Federation and the Klingon Empire were now at war against the Cardassians and their new allies.

Many of the former Maquis crewmen seemed to be walking around in a daze or in a state of rage. Ken Dalby got pretty drunk and had to be sent back to his quarters. The Captain seemed disoriented. Distracted, is the better word. I guess the rumors about her “Dear John” letter were true. Oh yeah. It has been confirmed that Tuvok is a grandfather, thanks to his oldest son. He didn’t seem particularly happy or sad about the occasion. Just being his usual Vulcan self. Or maybe he was concerned about the Hirogen. I don’t know.

B’Elanna and I had decided to leave the party early and return to her quarters. Frankly, the whole thing was just too damn depressing. (Pauses) We made love that night, but it . . . I don’t know. It just seemed too rough for me. Yeah, we had rough sex before, but I think we were simply using each other to escape our bad moods. And now . . . (Sighs) I feel like some kind of sexual pervert. End personal log.

STARDATE 51569.13:

Ninety minutes! It took me ninety minutes to hunt down a mouse inside Jeffries Tube 32. Which happens to be near B’Elanna’s quarters. I think we may have picked up the mouse from the Aldorni Homeworld, where we had stopped for supplies. (Sighs) Who would have thought that a brave and fearless half-Klingon be afraid of a mouse? End personal log.

STARDATE 51604.07:

(Sighs) What a bizarre day this has been! Hamilton went slightly beserk during flight training inside Holodeck Two, today. It seems he got a little carried away with destroying the enemy – namely a holographic Cardassian ship. I had ordered Baytart to take his place at the Helm and Hamilton suddenly became violent. He raved about Voyager being stuck in the Delta Quadrant, while the Federation was busy fighting Cardassians, back home. I thought Henley would joined in – especially since she was an ex-Maquis. But she refrained herself. In the end, I ordered Hamilton to get a hold of himself and leave the Holodeck. He then attacked me, but I managed to knock him out, cold. I had Segasse and Lin carry him back to his quarters. Although I had informed the Captain of the incident, I asked her not to put him on report. She immediately understood that Hamilton was grieving over a relative and agreed. After all, there was no need for him to endure further suffering. End personal log.

STARDATE 51625.59:

Voyager has lost another crewman, today. Ensign Lyndsay Ballard. Apparently, she and Harry were on an Away mission, when their shuttle was attacked by a Hirogen scout ship. Harry managed to get the shuttle away, but not before the Hirogen fired a few shot, severely injuring Ballard in the process. Poor Harry. Not only was she the second crewman to die while on an Away mission with him – the victim happened to be an old Academy friend of his. . . . and a former crush. B’Elanna is also a little shaken over Ballard’s death, since the latter had served under her. I had planned to console them both, tonight, but I could see that neither of them was in the mood for company. End personal log.

STARDATE 51653.35:

God, I’m tired! And to think we have more hours of repairs to deal with, thanks to the Hirogen and Species 8472.

Species 8472. Christ! I thought all of them had returned back to fluidic space, after their war with the Borg. But a hunting party of Hirogen came across one who had failed to return home in time. They wounded him . . . it, but apparently not enough. Species 8472 defended itself against the Hirogen crew and nearly killed all of them – except one. Voyager rescued the remaining Hirogen hunter, while Species 8472 made its way aboard ship. Deck Eleven. Engineering. It attacked B’Elanna . . . and three other crewmen. Yet, it didn’t kill anyone and B’Elanna and the others were not seriously injured. The Captain allowed our Hirogen guest to join a hunting party for our latest intruder.

So there I was, inside an AVS suite, stalking Species 8472 on Deck Eleven with Chakotay and the Hirogen Alpha. My two companions got into a tetesterone match over who was the superior hunter. I don’t think my exploits as a mouse hunter went over well with either man. When we finally found Species 8472, the Hirogen tried to kill it. Chakotay tried to stop him and was attacked. The son-of-a-bitch also shot me. Fortunately, Tuvok got him.

The Captain finally agreed to help Species 8472 to avoid the Hirogen and return home. But Seven had other ideas. So did the other Hirogen ships that suddenly reappeared. They had really inflicted damage on the ship, including both nacelles and the EPS system. Seven then beamed both our Hirogen guest and Species 8472 to one of the other Hirogen ships and we were no longer in danger. A lot of us realized that Seven had saved our lives, but she also condemned that creature to death. Right now, the majority of the crew is pissed. Including the Captain.

As for me – I guess I share the Captain’s feelings. A part of me felt relieved to be alive. But our safety had came at the expense of our Species 8472 guest, who simply wanted to return home. The whole incident left a bitter taste in my mouth. In a way, the Captain has to take some of the blame for Seven’s actions. She had been so determined to teach Seven about individuality that she failed to point out that Voyager was a military ship with a command structure. The Captain punished Seven by restricting the latter’s privileges and access to the ship’s primary systems. In my opinion, the Captain should have tossed Seven’s ass into the brig. End personal log.

STARDATE 51655.84:

Feelings against Seven are still high amongst the crew. B’Elanna made some comment that the Captain should have dumped Seven on the nearest Class-M planet or send her back to the Borg, when she had the chance. And maybe I should have kept my mouth shut, but I couldn’t. I said that if the Captain had done that, she would have been guilty of the same thing, as Seven. Yes, I’m still angry at Seven for her actions, but I also realized that B’Elanna’s comment had more to do with her dislike and jealousy of the former Borg. And personally, I was getting sick and tired of her anti-Seven attitude. Anyway, B’Elanna did not say anything. But the look in her eyes told me not to bother visiting her quarters, tonight. To hell with it! I’m not ashamed over what I said. I meant every word of it. End personal log.

STARDATE 51660.72:

It’s been two days since B’Elanna and I had stopped talking to each other. But we finally reconciled over lunch, earlier this afternoon. I apologized for my remark. And she apologized for overreacting. We agreed to celebrate our cease-fire with a quiet dinner in her quarters, tonight.

Meanwhile, B’Elanna told me about an incident between Seven and that arms dealer, Koven. Apparently, Seven lost her temper and broke the man’s nose when he touched her. Seven claimed that earlier today, Koven had immobilized her and tried to steal some of her nanoprobes. Although he was charged with assault, no one could prove whether he had done it or not. Koven ended up committing suicide before he could . . . (Red Alert Klaxon interrupts) What the hell?

(Chakotay: “Red alert! All hands to battle stations!)

Oh well, I’ll finish this another time. End personal log.

STARDATE 51717.23:

The Hirogen have finally left Voyager. Thank God! Actually, they’ve been gone for at least 12 hours, by now. (Sighs) I can’t believe we’ve been under their control for nearly three weeks! It’s a good thing Harry had found a way to disengage our neural interfaces. Or else the Captain would have never been able to start a resistance against our “visitors”.

In the end, the Hirogen must have realized their attempt to maintain control of Voyager was futile – to quote the Borg. (Pauses) Perhaps I should start from the beginning. Only I’m not really in the mood to recall what happened. To be honest, I haven’t the foggiest idea on what happened during the past three weeks. I guess that comes from being used as a toy for a bunch of aliens bent upon playing war in the holodecks. (Pauses) To hell with it! I need some sleep. End personal log.

STARDATE 51719.82:

God, I am so tired! The repairs on Voyager seemed to go on forever. B’Elanna, Harry and a team of engineers have been removing holo-emitters from Decks Five, Six and Seven. Several of the pilots have been helping me repair both the Helm and the Navigational systems. I also agreed to help Harry repair both holodecks – especially Holodeck One. (Pauses)

The Saint-Claire program has completely gone offline. Several of the crew wanted the damn thing deleted permanently. I’m a little undecided on the subject. It’s funny. I’ve been obsessed with 20th century Earth history for years. I had even managed to express a little enthusiasm to Seven, after our neural interfaces were disengaged. And yet . . . I cannot seem to find the enthusiasm anymore. At least not now. Christ! I’m babbling like an idiot! Maybe dinner with B’Elanna will help. End personal log.

STARDATE 51724.66:

The ship repairs are nearly finished, thank God! We’ve actually managed to have something close to a normal day, today. Almost. Some of the crew – namely old Starfleeters like Baxter and Murphy – have been complaining about the Captain’s decision to hand over holographic technology to the Hirogen, claiming that her action was a breach of Starfleet protocols. Jesus Christ! These “by-the-book” types really get on my nerves! It’s not as if the Captain had any choice. It was either make a deal with the Hirogen or continue the fight against them until we all ended up dead.

The Saint-Claire program remains in the computer system. I guess that some of the crew has actually grown fond of it. I can’t say that I feel the same. I prefer this new program I have created. It’s mainly a garage on Earth, where I can repair a 1969 Camarro and listen to 20th century Rock music from a radio. It’s a hell of a lot better than reliving Saint-Claire, circa 1944. The latter only reminds me . . . (Sighs) Hell, I might as well confess. It reminds me of a lot of unpleasant things. Like getting beaten senseless by that damn holographic Nazi, nearly getting killed twice, and (Pauses) seeing B’Elanna pregnant. With another man’s child. Okay, I know that the baby wasn’t real. And neither was the father. Yet, I still feel uneasy thinking about it. Along with that Nazi pig screaming all over the place about him being the child’s father. Christ! My life has really been out of control for the past two-and-a-half months. Considering how I feel right now, I might as well be wearing one of those neural interfaces. End personal log.

STARDATE 51732.91:

I have a feeling that B’Elanna might be pissed at me. And the odd thing is I don’t care. When Harry was describing the French Resistance in the Saint-Claire program to her during lunch in the Mess Hall, she began comparing it to the Maquis, back home. Like I needed to be reminded of that. It’s bad enough that crewmen like Dalby and Chell have been making similar comparisons. When B’Elanna began comparing the Cardassians to the Nazis, I couldn’t take it any longer. In other words, I left. I rather think about my new Camarro program, thank you very much. End personal log.

STARDATE 51739.75:

Oh God! I think I just had one of the worst dreams, ever. The Hirogen were still on Voyager and using us for holographic simulations. Only, instead of being a WWII soldier or a Klingon warrior, I was myself – Tom Paris. Only this Tom happened to be a Starfleet officer back in the Alpha Quadrant, with a successful career in the Command track, a perfect wife (with B’Elanna’s human face), who was pregnant with the perfect child. In the dream, I found myself commanding a starship battling against the Cardassians. Two of the Cardassian officers appeared on the Bridge’s view screen . . . and transformed into the Admiral himself, beaming with parental pride; and Captain Janeway looking rather smug and satisfied. And that was when I woke up in a sweat. (Pauses) Christ! Talk about a personal horror story. Oh God, it’s only past midnight and I’m fully awake. Maybe a trip to Holodeck Two will help me relax. End personal log.

STARDATE 51752.24:

If one more person asks me how I’m feeling, I swear I am going to space myself out of sheer relief. Chakotay has asked me. So has Harry. Baytart complained that I’ve been neglecting the division. Maybe he feels he can do better. B’Elanna nearly blew her top when I broke our date. For the fifth time, according to her. And the Doctor has been hounding me about missing my shifts in Sick Bay. Hell, if he’s that unsatisfied with my work, perhaps he should request someone from the Science Division to act as his Chief Medical Assistant. There are plenty of candidates.

(Sighs) God, I just feel like I’m trapped, sometimes. If the Admiral could see me now, he would be thrilled that his wayward son is finally becoming the perfect Starfleet officer he had dreamed about. Living up to the Paris name. He would probably give Janeway a medal for accomplishing what he had failed to do. Thank God for my new holodeck program! It’s a hell of lot better than trying to be the perfect Starfleet officer. End personal log.

STARDATE 51754.9:

We have a new visitor aboard Voyager. His name is Steth. He’s a Benthan test pilot, whose ship we had to stabilize after he had jumped out of warp. It seems that he was testing a vessel that used a coaxial warp drive. I’ve heard about it at the Academy, but I never thought I would see one in person.

Steth seems like a pleasant guy. And since we happened to be fellow pilots, I thought it would be great to help him repair his ship . . . and learn how his species managed to utilize the coaxial warp drive. Fortunately, Chakotay gave me permission. Unfortunately that would mean breaking another date with B’Elanna. And she did not take the news very well. End personal log.

STARDATE 51763.84:

(Sighs) Hell, I don’t know how to begin this log entry. The last few days have really been bizarre. Steth turned out to be a DNA thief, who not only steals individuals’ DNA to assume forms, but also deposits his or her current genetic material into the victims. Only, it wasn’t really Steth who had stolen my DNA.

After I had awakened on Steth’s ship and in his body – I met the real Steth. The latter happened to be trapped in the body of a female alien named Daelen. In other words, it was Daelen – in Steth’s body – who had first appeared on Voyager. According to Steth, he had first met Daelen at a space station several light years aways. Daelen pretended to be an admirer of him – giving her the chance to steal his body. And Steth had been trapped in Daelen’s body ever since.

Steth and I eventually caught up with Voyager and captured Daelen – who had, by then, assumed the Captain’s identity. Sound confusing. I suspect that many of us were confused. It seemed a miracle that the Doc had managed to restore all of us to our rightful bodies. He added that there is a good chance that Daelen might not be the true identity of the DNA thief. Steth should be on his way back to the Benthan system, to deliver Daenen to the authorities. I hope that he makes it back without any mishaps. End personal log.

LOG SUPPLEMENTAL:

B’Elanna and I finally had a talk about recent events. And I’m not just talking about Steth and Daelen. I showed her my Grease Monkey program in Holodeck Two, and told her the reason behind my recent odd behavior.

I finally realized that it all began with the letters from home. Contacting with Starfleet had bothered me a lot more than I had realized. I had been happy with my life aboard Voyager, and viewed our communication with the Federation as a threat to that happiness. The Captain, Harry and many others might view the Alpha Quadrant as home. I don’t. Not anymore. For me, the Federation is nothing but a symbol of most of the unhappiness in my life – from being Dad’s little protégée during my childhood, to the problems I had endured in Starfleet and the Maquis. It was in the Alpha Quadrant where I had allowed my father, tradition, Starfleet, and my own fears rule me. Sometimes I wonder if I ever had any kind of control over my life. Thanks to our encounters with the Hirogen and communication with Starfleet that lack of control seemed to have reach Voyager.

B’Elanna understood. She even suggested that I might have been heading for a full-blown depression. Maybe. But my encounter with Daelen seemed to have snapped me out of it. Because right now, I feel as if I’m in some kind of control, again. I’m happy to have returned to Voyager. And I’m glad to be back with B’Elanna. I missed her very much.

The subject of Daelen finally came up. I had overheard what she . . . or he had said to me about B’Elanna, while in the Captain’s body. B’Elanna finally admitted that she and the phony Tom had kissed. Fortunately, she had also been too busy in Engineering for anything “further” to happen. Thank God for small miracles. End personal log.

STARDATE 51786:

I am happy to report that one Ensign Harry Kim may no longer harbor an infatuation for said former Borg drone named Seven-of-Nine. How did this miraculous event happened? Well, I guess one can thank an incident regarding a space phenomenon that threatened Voyager and some alien science station. According to Seven, the Borg regarded the phenomenon as a source of energy and a means to achieve perfection. In her “haste” to examine the manner, she became very officious toward the crew working with her on the project. Including Harry. I guess he didn’t care being treated as another mindless drone being assigned a Borg designation. Hmmm. End personal log.

STARDATE 51812.88:

We seemed to have a bit of a mystery aboard Voyager. Chakotay had come across some written notes in his handwriting, claiming that an alien bounty hunter had visited Voyager seeking asylum from her race. Twice. According to the notes, Chakotay fell in love with refugee and enjoyed a brief affair. O-kay. If he insists that happened. However, there is no proof in the computer’s database to support his claim. End personal log.

STARDATE 51826.67:

Voyager made contact with a group of aliens called the Vaskans to trade for deuterium and instead, ended up in the middle of a war. The Vaskans’ enemies, the Kyrians, had come to the conclusion that the Captain had formed an alliance with the Vaskans. Apparently, they had never heard of the Prime Directive. Anyway, to make a long story short, a group of Kyrians boarded Voyager and made their way toward Engineering. What is it about that place that attracts intruders? Fortunately, B’Elanna was in one of the Jeffries Tubes and missed the fireworks. But four of her engineers ended up dead. Security tracked the intruders to the Mess Hall and bagged the lot. The Vaskan ambassador needlessly shot the Kyrian ringleader, and pissed off the Captain. Which means we will have to find another source of deuterium. End personal log.

STARDATE 51835.41:

B’Elanna is still upset over the Vaskan/Kyrian incident. She has been taking the deaths of her four engineers rather hard, lately. A lot harder than she has done so in the past. In fact, she’s been shutting herself up in Engineering, continuing with those slipstream drive experiments. Naturally, I sympathize, but I’m beginning to wonder if her behavior is a bit . . . drastic. End personal log.

STARDATE 51837.11:

Our deuterium crisis is now affecting the ship’s systems. The Captain has ordered the crew to double up in living quarters, to conserve power until we are able to acquire more deuterium. Seven finally managed to locate a source on some Demon-class planet, several light years away. Because of the planet’s atmosphere and condition, we would be unable to beam to its surface. Harry had eventually come up with idea of sending an Away team via shuttle, to the surface. Tuvok naysayed the idea – as usual. But to my surprise, Ensign Eager shot down Mr. Doom-n-Gloom with a few choice words. Mind you, I don’t dislike Tuvok, contrary to what one may think. In fact, I rather like him. But he does have a tendency to view everything in a pessimistic manner. And talk down to others. So I say – good for Harry. By the way, the little bastard had also suggested that I accompany him on the Away mission. Cretin. End personal log.

STARDATE 51840.93:

It felt strange seeing duplicates of the crew, standing on the surface of that Demon-class planet, while Voyager departed. Very strange. This all happened after Harry and I became the first to be duplicated, during our Away mission on the planet. Our AVS suits became damaged when the liquefied deuterium made contact with our bodies. We probably would have died if the Doctor had not figured out that Chakotay and Seven had returned to the ship with our doubles.

Harry’s duplicate had asked the Captain if each crewman would leave behind a sample of DNA. Apparently, he and the “other Tom” did not want to be the only humanoid life on that planet. B’Elanna was among the first to volunteer for duplication. Very strange. I felt certain that she would be among the few to protest. She told me that after meeting the clone Tom in Sick Bay, she could not bear the idea of him being alone on that planet. God! Isn’t it any wonder that I love her? End personal log.

STARDATE 51928.11:

Oh God! I don’t want to do this! I don’t want to spend the next four weeks inside that coffin! Okay. It’s not a coffin, but a stasis unit. But the damn thing looks like a coffin. And the entire crew, except for Seven and the Doctor, will be forced to remain in one for an entire month because of some damn Mitara-class nebula. We had already made an attempt to travel through it, yesterday. But it didn’t take long – three minutes to be exact – before we were all affected by the nebula’s subnucleonic radiation. Nor did the Captain want to detour around the nebula. That particular journey would take at least a year. Personally, I couldn’t care less how long it would take. Better that than spending a month in stasis. But the Captain . . . well, there’s no need to go on about her obsession in getting home. She wants to use the shortcut through the nebula. That means, I will have to face the coffin.

Thanks to her Borg nanoprobes, Seven wasn’t affected by the radiation. Which means that she will be monitoring our units and taking Voyager through the nebula. At least she’ll be able to avoid the coffins. Lucky woman. Then again, her only company will be the Doc. End personal log.

STARDATE 51930.36:

Seven said a strange thing during lunch, today. Let me start from the beginning. After Voyager had finally ended its journey through the Mitara-class nebula, the Captain, Chakotay and the Doc found Seven in a state of delirium and sent her to Sick Bay. After being alone for a long period – especially after the Doc’s program went offline – the lack of company had affected her. She later joined B’Elanna, Harry and me in the Mess Hall and brought up the fact that I had managed to slip out of my stasis unit at least three times.

Harry wanted to know why I was so claustrophobic. I certainly couldn’t tell them – at least Harry and Seven – that it all stemmed from a childhood incident. And an embarrassing one, at that. However, Seven came up with her own answer. She said that perhaps I was afraid of being alone. I cannot help but wonder if she was talking about me? Or herself? End personal log.

STARDATE 51972.37:

Neelix, Lang and I will visit the Polarius system, tomorrow for some much needed supplies. I wouldn’t mind the trip. After nearly a month in stasis, I’m beginning to feel a little stir crazy. I could use an Away mission. And a few days in Neelix’s company sounds pleasant. End personal log.

STARDATE 51979.49:

Thank goodness for Arturis. He’s an alien that Neelix, Lang and I had encountered on the homeworld of a Xenon-based race. If it weren’t for his linguist skills, we would have never been able to do any trade. Especially after our Universal translators had began to malfunction. We brought him back to Voyager, where he proved to be valuable, once more. He was able to assist the Captain in breaking the encrypted message we had received from Starfleet, nearly six months ago. End personal log.

STARDATE 51980.35:

I take it all back. I like Arturis, but now I wish that Neelix, Lang and I had never met him. And I wish he had never been able to translate that encrypted message. It seems that Starfleet had provided coordinates to a ship they had sent to the Delta Quadrant to provide us a way home. An experimental ship with a slipstream drive, called the U.S.S. Dauntless.

When Tuvok, Chakotay and I first boarded the Dauntless, it had somehow activated and sent us fifteen light years ahead. It took Voyager two days to track us down. The Captain then ordered the crew to examine the Dauntless for any new technology that Starfleet have provided us. Since she’s reluctant to abandon Voyager, she ordered Engineering to begin modifying the ship’s engines to adopt a similar slipstream drive. Or maybe modify the slipstream experiments that B’Elanna, Seven and the Engineering crew have been conducting.

Everyone seems excited over the prospect of getting home. Even B’Elanna. I sometimes wonder if she has lost her mind. I mean, what does she have to look forward in the Alpha Quadrant? The Maquis has been destroyed. She, Chakotay and the others will probably face at least one or two years in a Federation prison – along with myself. And there’s a war going on, back home. Judging from the information we’ve received, it’s not going well.

And there is one last thing – this whole matter regarding the Dauntless sounds a bit off to me. I find it hard to believe that Starfleet had managed to provide us with a means to travel home in such a short space of time. I mean, how much time had passed between the Doc’s visit to the Alpha Quadrant and our letters from home? Two weeks. And unless Starfleet has been working on such a slipstream drive during the past three to four years, I find it hard to believe that it took them two weeks to create one and send it to the Delta Quadrant – unmanned. (Pauses) Now that I think about it, I’m beginning to wonder if Arturis is responsible for it. This all started when Neelix, Lang and I first met him. Or had it? End personal log.

STARDATE 51988.2:

Everyone is now disappointed that the Dauntless turned out to be a hoax. It wasn’t an experimental Starfleet vessel. It was Arturis’ own ship. He had set a trap. Apparently, he had intercepted Admiral Hayes’ message to the Captain and modified it. All because he wanted to lead us to the Dauntless – and eventually into the arms of the Borg. We managed to get some of the crew off the Dauntless – including B’Elanna, thank God. Unfortunately, the Captain and Seven had remained trapped aboard with Arturis. Using the slipstream modification made on Voyager, we managed to chase the Dauntless and beam the Captain and Seven back to the ship. Poor Arturis ended up assimilated by the Borg.

Why did he do it? Why did Arturis go through so much trouble to get us assimilated by the Borg? It seems that his homeworld had spent centuries evading assimilation. About a year ago, their efforts were beginning to fail when the Borg decided to invade Species 8472’s fluidic space. Arturis’ people had looked forward to the Borg’s defeat. Unfortunately, our alliance with the Borg destroyed all hope. And Arturis’ world ended up assimilated.

I think the Captain tried to dismiss his people’s fate as a bad misfortune. Maybe she’s right. I understand why Arturis tried to destroy us . . . even though my sympathy can only go so far, considering that he had nearly succeeded. On the other hand, aside from Seven’s rescue from the Collective, nothing really good had come from that damn alliance. And despite her “let’s move on” attitude, I suspect that the Captain feels the same. End personal log.

STARDATE 51994.11:

Voyager entered an expanse of space, devoid of any stars, nebulas or other stellar sightings. A void in space. Christ! It looked so . . . empty. And to make matters worse, we’ll be traveling through this void for at least a year or two. According to Seven, the void stretches at least 2,500 light years. That’s about two years. God, how depressing! End personal log.

STARDATE 51999.04:

We haven’t been in this void very long and already, it’s affecting the crew’s morale. Since the New Year is coming up, Neelix has been campaigning for our usual New Year’s Eve bash. Hell, I could sure use it. Staring at nothing but black space for hours on end isn’t doing much for my morale. And I’ve noticed that ever since the Arturis debacle, B’Elanna has been distant toward me. Perhaps a holiday celebration is what the both of us need. I’m beginning to think that the Captain also needs this party. She didn’t bother to leave her quarters, today. And she’s not sick. (Pauses) Anyway, nothing else has happened today. End personal log.

END OF PART FOUR

“TRUMBO” (2015) Review

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“TRUMBO” (2015) Review

I tried to think of a number of movies about the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) and the Hollywood Blacklist I have seen. And to be honest, I can only think of two of which I have never finished and two of which I did. One of those movies I did finish was the 2015 biopic about Hollywood screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo.

Based upon Bruce Alexander Cook’s 1977 biography, the movie covered fourteen years of the screenwriter’s life – from being subpoenaed to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1947 to 1960, when he was able to openly write movies and receive screen credit after nine to ten years of being blacklisted by the Motion Picture Alliance for the Protection of American Ideals. Due to this time period, it was up to production designer Mark Rickler to visually convey fourteen years in Southern California – from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. I must say that he, along with cinematographer Jim Denault and art directors Lisa Marinaccio and Jesse Rosenthal did an excellent job by taking advantage of the New Orleans locations. That is correct. Certain areas around New Orleans, Louisiana stood for mid-century Los Angeles, California. But the movie also utilized a few locations in Southern California; including a residential house in northeastern Los Angeles, and the famous Roosevelt Hotel in the heart of Hollywood. And thanks to Denault’s cinematography, Rickler’s production designs not only made director Jay Roach’s “Southern California” look colorful, but nearly realistic. But one of my minor joys of “TRUMBO” came from the costume designs. Not only do I admire how designer Daniel Orlandi re-created mid-20th century fashion for the film industry figures in Southern California, as shown in the images below:

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I was especially impressed by Orlandi’s re-creation of . . . you guessed it! Columnist Hedda Hopper‘s famous hats, as shown in the following images:

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I have read two reviews for “TRUMBO”. Both reviewers seemed to like the movie, yet both were not completely impressed by it. I probably liked it a lot more than the two. “TRUMBO” proved to be the second movie I actually paid attention to about the Blacklist. I think it has to do with the movie’s presentation. “TRUMBO” seemed to be divided into three acts. The first act introduced the characters and Trumbo’s problems with the House Committee on Un-American Activities, leading to his being imprisoned for eleven months on charges of contempt of Congress, for his refusal to answer questions from HUAC. The second act focused on those years in which Trumbo struggled to remain employed as a writer for the low-budget King Brothers Productions, despite being blacklisted by the major studios. And the last act focused upon Trumbo’s emergence from the long shadow of the blacklist, thanks to his work on “SPARTACUS” and “EXODUS”.

I have only one real complaint about “TRUMBO”. Someone once complained that the movie came off as uneven. And I must admit that the reviewer might have a point. I noticed that the film’s first act seemed to have a light tone – despite Trumbo’s clashes with Hollywood conservatives and HUAC. Even those eleven months he had spent in prison seemed to have an unusual light tone, despite the situation. But once the movie shifted toward Trumbo’s struggles trying to stay employed, despite the blacklist, the movie’s tone became somewhat bleaker. This was especially apparent in those scenes that featured the screenwriter’s clashes with his family over his self-absorbed and strident behavior towards them and his dealings with fellow (and fictional) screenwriter Arlen Hird. But once actor Kirk Douglas and director Otto Preminger expressed interest in ignoring the Blacklist and hiring Trumbo for their respective movies, the movie shifted toward a lighter, almost sugarcoated tone again. Now, there is nothing wrong with a movie shifting from one tone to another in accordance to the script. My problem with these shifts is that they struck me as rather extreme and jarring. There were moments when I found myself wondering if I was watching a movie directed by two different men.

Another problem I had with “TRUMBO” centered around one particular scene that featured Hedda Hopper and MGM studio boss Louis B. Mayer. In this scene, Hopper forces Mayer to fire any of his employees who are suspected Communists, including Trumbo. The columnist did this by bringing up Mayer’s Jewish ancestry and status as an immigrant from Eastern Europe. This scene struck me as a blatant copy of one featured in the 1999 HBO movie, “RKO 281”. In that movie, Hopper’s rival, Louella Parsons (portrayed by Brenda Blethyn) utilized the same method to coerce – you guess it – Mayer (portrayed by David Suchet) to convince other studio bosses to withhold their support of the 1941 movie, “CITIZEN KANE”. Perhaps the filmmakers for “TRUMBO” felt that no one would remember the HBO film. I did. Watching that scene made me wonder if I had just witnessed a case of plagiarism. And I felt rather disappointed.

Despite these jarring shifts in tone, I still ended up enjoying “TRUMBO” very much. Instead of making an attempt to cover Dalton Trumbo’s life from childhood to death, the movie focused upon a very important part in the screenwriter’s life – the period in which his career in Hollywood suffered a major decline, due to his political beliefs. And thanks to Jay Roach’s direction and John McNamara’s screenplay, the movie did so with a straightforward narrative. Some of the film’s critics had complained about its sympathetic portrayal of Trumbo, complaining that the movie had failed to touch upon Trumbo’s admiration of the Soviet Union. Personally, what would be the point of that? A lot of American Communists did the same, rather naively and stupidly in my opinion. But considering that this movie mainly focused upon Trumbo’s experiences as a blacklisted writer, what would have been the point? Trumbo was not professionally and politically condemned for regarding the Soviet Union as the epitome of Communism at work. He was blacklisted for failing to cooperate with the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

Also, the movie did not completely whitewash Trumbo. McNamara’s screenplay did not hesitate to condemn how Trumbo’s obsession with continuing his profession as a screenwriter had a negative impact upon his relationship with his family – especially his children. It also had a negative impact with his relationship with fellow screenwriter (the fictional) Arlen Hird, who wanted Trumbo to use his work for the King Brothers to express their liberal politics. Trumbo seemed more interested in staying employed and eventually ending the Blacklist. I came away with the feeling that the movie was criticizing the screenwriter for being more interested in regaining his successful Hollywood career than in maintaining his politics.

“TRUMBO” also scared me. The movie scared me in a way that the 2010 movie, “THE CONSPIRATOR” did. It reminded me that I may disagree with the political or social beliefs of another individual; society’s power over individuals – whether that society came in the form of a government (national, state or local) or any kind of corporation or business industry – can be a frightening thing to behold. It can be not only frightening, but also corruptive. Watching the U.S. government ignore the constitutional rights of this country’s citizens (including Trumbo) via the House Committee on Un-American Activities scared the hell out of me. Watching HUAC coerce and frighten actor Edward G. Robinson into exposing people that he knew as Communists scared me. What frightened me the most is that it can happen again. Especially when I consider how increasingly rigid the world’s political climate has become.

I cannot talk about “TRUMBO” without focusing on the performances. Bryan Cranston earned a slew of acting nominations for his portrayal of Dalton Trumbo. I have heard that the screenwriter was known for being a very colorful personality. What is great about Cranston’s performance is that he captured this trait of Trumbo’s without resorting to hammy acting. Actually, I could say the same about the rest of the cast. Helen Mirren portrayed the movie’s villain, Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper with a charm and charisma that I personally found both subtle and very scary. Diane Lane gave a subtle and very convincing performance as Trumbo’s wife Cleo, who not only stood by her husband throughout his travails, but also proved to be strong-willed when his self-absorption threatened to upset the family dynamics. Louis C.K., the comic actor gave a poignant and emotional performance as the fictional and tragic screenwriter, Arden Hird.

Other memorable performances caught my attention as well. Elle Fanning did an excellent job portraying Trumbo’s politically passionate daughter, who grew to occasionally resent her father’s pre-occupation with maintaining his career. Michael Stuhlbarg did a superb job in conveying the political and emotional trap that legendary actor Edward G. Robinson found himself, thanks to HUAC. Both John Goodman and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje gave colorful and entertaining performances as studio head Frank King and Trumbo’s fellow convict Virgil Brooks, respectively. Stephen Root was equally effective as the cautious and occasionally paranoid studio boss, Hymie King. Roger Bart gave an excellent performance as fictional Hollywood producer Buddy Ross, a venal personality who seemed to lack Robinson’s sense of guilt for turning his back on the blacklisted Trumbo and other writers. David James Elliot gave a very interesting performance as Hollywood icon John Wayne, conveying the actor’s fervent anti-Communist beliefs and willingness to protect Robinson from Hedda Hopper’s continuing hostility toward the latter. And in their different ways, both Dean O’Gorman and Christian Berkel gave very entertaining performances as the two men interested in employing Trumbo by the end of the 1950s – Kirk Douglas and Otto Preminger.

I noticed that “TRUMBO” managed to garner only acting nominations for the 2015-2016 award season. Considering that the Academy Award tends to nominate at least 10 movies for Best Picture, I found it odd that the organization was willing to nominate the likes of “THE MARTIAN” (an unoriginal, yet entertaining feel-good movie) and “MAD MAX: FURY ROAD” (for which I honestly do not have a high regard) in that category. “TRUMBO” was not perfect. But I do not see why it was ignored for the Best Picture category, if movies like “THE MARTIAN” can be nominated. I think director Jay Roach, screenwriter John McNamara and a cast led by the always talented Bryan Cranston did an excellent job in conveying a poisonous period in both the histories of Hollywood and this country.

“AND THEN THERE WERE NONE” (2015) Review

“AND THEN THERE WERE NONE” (2015) Review

Ever since I gave up reading the “NANCY DREW” novels at the age of thirteen, I have been a fan of those written by Agatha Christie. And that is a hell of a long time. In fact, my fandom toward Christie’s novels have extended toward the film and television adaptations. Among those stories that have captured my imagination were the adaptations of the author’s 1939 novel, “AND THEN THERE WERE NONE”.

To be honest, I have seen at least three adaptations of the 1939 novel – the 1945, 1966 and 1974 adaptations – before I had read the novel. Although I found some of the novel’s aspects a bit troubling – namely its original title and minimal use of racial slurs, overall I regard it as one of Christie’s best works . . . if not my favorite. After viewing three cinematic adaptations, I saw the BBC’s recent adaptation that aired back in December 2015 as a three-part miniseries.

I noticed that “AND THEN THERE WERE NONE” was the first adaptation I have seen that more or less adhered to the novel’s original novel. But it was not the first one that actually did. One of the most famous versions that stuck to the original ending before the 2015 miniseries was the Soviet Union’s 1987 movie called “DESYAT NEGRITYAT”. However, I have never seen this version . . . yet. Anyone familiar with Christie’s novel should know the synopsis. Eight strangers are invited by a mysterious couple known as Mr. and Mrs. U.N. Owen for the weekend at Soldier Island, off the coast of Devon, England in early August 1939. Well . . . not all of them were invited as guests. Waiting for them is a couple who had been recently hired by the Owens to serve as butler and cook/maid. The weekend’s hosts fail to show up and both the guests and the servants notice the ten figurines that serve as a centerpiece for the dining room table. Following the weekend’s first dinner, the guests and the two servants listen to a gramophone record that accuses each of them with a crime for which they have not been punished. The island’s ten occupants are:

*Dr. Edward Armstrong – a Harley Street doctor who is accused of killing a patient on the operating table, while under the influence of alcohol

*William Blore – a former police detective hired to serve as security for the weekend, who is accused of killing a homosexual in a police cell

*Emily Brent – a religious spinster who is accused of being responsible for the suicide of her maid by abandoning the latter when she became pregnant out of wedlock

*Vera Claythorne – a games mistress hired to serve as Mrs. Owen’s temporary secretary, who is accused of murdering the young boy for whom she had served as a governess

*Philip Lombard – a soldier-of-fortune also hired to serve as security for the weekend, who is accused of orchestrating the murder of 21 East Africans for diamonds

*General John MacArthur – a retired British Army officer accused of murdering a fellow officer, who was his wife’s lover during World War I

*Anthony Marston – a wealthy playboy accused of killing two children via reckless driving

*Ethel Rogers – the maid/cook hired by the Owens, who is accused with her husband of murdering their previous employer

*Thomas Rogers – the butler hired by the Owens, who is accused with his wife of murdering their previous employer

*Justice Lawrence Wargrave – a retired judge accused of murdering an innocent man by manipulating the jury and sentencing him to hang

Shortly after listening to the gramophone, one member of the party dies from poisoning. Following this first death, more people are murdered via methods in synonymous with a nursery rhyme from which the island is named. The murderer removes a figurine from the dining table each time someone is killed. The island’s remaining occupants decide to work together and discover the murderer’s identity before time runs out and no one remains.

From the numerous articles and reviews I have read about the miniseries, I came away with the impression that many viewers and critics approved of its adherence to Christie’s original ending. And yet . . . it still had plenty of changes from the story. The nature of the crimes committed by five or six of the suspects had changed. According to one flashback, Thomas Rogers had smothered (with his wife Ethel looking on) their elderly employer with a pillow, instead of withholding her medicine. General MacArthur literally shot his subordinate in the back of the head, instead of sending the latter to a doomed military action during World War I. Beatrice Taylor, the pregnant girl who had committed suicide, was an orphan in this production. Lombard and a handful of his companions had literally murdered those 21 East Africans for diamonds, instead of leaving them to die with no food or other supplies. And William Blore had literally beaten his victim to death in a jail cell, because the latter was a homosexual. In the novel, Blore had simply framed his victim for a crime, leading the latter to die in prison. I have mixed feelings about some of these changes.

By allowing General MacArthur to literally shoot his wife’s lover, instead of sending the latter to his death in a suicidal charge, I found myself wondering how he got away with this crime. How did MacArthur avoid suspicion, let alone criminal prosecution, considering that Arthur Richmond was shot in the back of the head in one of the trenches? How did the murderer find out? Why did Thomas Rogers kill his employer? For money? How did the couple avoid criminal prosecution, if their employer was smothered with a pillow? Even police forensics back then would have spotted death by smothering. I understand why Phelps had made Beatrice Taylor an orphan. In this scenario, Emily Brent would have been the only one with the authority to reject Beatrice. But what about the latter’s lover? Why did the murderer fail to go after him. And how did Blore evade charges of beating a prisoner to death inside a jail cell? None of his fellow officers had questioned his actions? And if they had kept silent, this made them accessories to his crime. Then why did the murderer fail to go after them, since he or she was willing to target Ethel Rogers for being an accessory to her husband’s crime?

One character that went through something of a major change was Philip Lombard. His aggressiveness and predatory nature remained intact. But for some reason, screenwriter Sarah Phelps had decided to transfer his bigotry to both Emily Brent and William Blore. The screenplay seemed to hint through Lombard’s comments that if those 21 men had been Europeans instead of Africans, he still would have murdered them to get his hand on those diamonds. In fact, he went even further with a tart comment to Miss Brent by accusing European religious fanatics of being more responsible for the deaths of Africans than the military or mercenaries like himself. It was Blore who used a racist slur to dismiss Lombard’s crime. And it was Miss Brent, instead of Lombard, who insulted the mysterious Mr. Owens’ intermediary, Isaac Morris, with an anti-Semetic slur. I can only wonder why Phelps deemed it necessary to transfer Lombard’s bigotry to two other characters.

There were some changes that did not bother me one bit. Certain fans complained about the presence of profanity in this production . . . especially the use of ‘fuck’ by at least two or three characters, who seemed like the types who would use these words. Mild profanity has appeared in previous Christie novels and adaptations. And the word ‘fuck’ has been around since the Sixteenth Century. I really had no problem with this. Phelps also included lesbian tendencies in Emily Brent’s character. There were some complaints about this change. Personally, I had no problem with it. This change added dimension to Miss Brent’s decision to cast out Beatrice Taylor, when the latter ended up pregnant. Episode Three featured a party scene with the four surviving guests in which they indulged in booze and Anthony Marston’s drugs to relieve their anxiety over their situation. It was not included in Christie’s novel, but I thought the scene did a great job in showing the psychological impact upon the remaining characters . . . especially for Dr. Armstrong, who went into a drunken rant over the horrors he had witnessed in World War I.

Watching “AND THEN THERE WERE NONE” left me with the feeling of watching some kind of early 20th century Nordic thriller. I have to credit both the producers, director Craig Viveiros, production designer Sophie Becher and cinematographer John Pardue. What I found interesting about the miniseries’ visual style is the hint of early 20th century Art Deco featured in the house’s interior, mixed with this gloomy atmosphere that truly represented the production’s violent and pessimistic tale. Everything visual aspect of this production seemed to literally scream death and doom. Even the production’s sound department did an outstanding job in contributing the story’s atmosphere, especially in those episode that featured the storm that prevented the survivors from making an attempt to leave the island. I also enjoyed Lindsay Pugh, whose costumes did an excellent job in re-creating the fashions of the late 1930s. More importantly, “AND THEN THERE WERE NONE” was not some opportunity for a Thirties’ fashion show, but a more realistic look at how British middle-class dressed on the eve of World War II. My only complaint is the hairstyle worn by actress Maeve Darmody, who portrayed Vera Claythorne. I am referring to the long bob worn by Vera in her 1935 flashbacks, which struck me as a bit too long for that particular year.

Many have complimented both Sarah Phelps and Craig Viveiros for closely adhering to the moral quagmire of Christie’s tale. Each or most of the characters are forced to consider the consequences of their actions and their guilt. If I have to be brutally honest, I have to compliment the pair as well. At first I was inclined to criticize the production’s three hour running time, which I originally believed to be a tad too long. But now I see that the running time gave Viveiros and Phelps the opportunity more in-depth explorations of the characters – especially Vera, Blore, Miss Brent and General MacArthur. This was done through a series of flashbacks for most of the characters. I said . . . most. There were some characters that hardly received any flashbacks – especially the Rogers, Anthony Marston, Edward Armstrong and Philip Lombard. I could understand the lack of many flashbacks for one or two characters, but I would have liked to see more for Rogers, Dr. Armstrong and Lombard. Especially Lombard. I never understood why he only had one flashback that vaguely hinted his murders without his victims being seen.

On the other hand, I was more than impressed with the production’s exploration of Vera, Blore, Miss Brent, Mrs. Rogers and General MacArthur’s crimes. Both Phelps and Viveiros seemed to have went through a great deal of trouble to explore their backgrounds and crimes. In the case of Mrs. Rogers, the production did not really explore the crime of which she and her husband were accused. But the miniseries did spend some time in Episode One focusing on the consequences she had suffered from her husband’s crime . . . and I found that more than satisfying. I enjoyed how General MacArthur, Miss Brent and Blore had initially refused to acknowledge their crimes . . . and how the growing death count and the possibility of their own deaths led them to finally face their guilt, whether out loud or internally. I found General MacArthur’s acknowledgement of guilt very satisfying, for it culminated in that famous line regarding the characters’ fate:

“No one’s coming for us. This is the end.”

From a dramatic point of view, the most satisfying character arc proved to be the one that belonged to Vera Claythorne. She is not my favorite character . . . at least not in this production. Nor did I regard her as the story’s most interesting character. But I thought Phelps and Viveiros did a hell of a job handling her character arc. Vera struck me as the type who went through a great deal of effort to hide her true nature via a respectable facade. Actually, the other characters share this same trait. Judging from what I have seen from this production, no one seemed to do it better than one Vera Claythorne. I suspect most people would be hard pressed to believe that this attractive and intelligent woman would deliberately lead a young boy to his death. Like I said, I did not particularly regard Vera as the story’s most interesting character. But I do believe that Phelps and Viveiros handled her story arc with more depth and mystery than any of the other characters . . . and with more flashbacks.

While reading several articles about “AND THEN THERE WERE NONE”, I noticed that many had placed emphasis on the characters’ guilt and the possibility of them facing judgment for their actions. In a way, their opinions on this topic reminded me of why the murderer had set up the whole house party in the first place. Then I remembered that the murderer had also used the house party to indulge in his or her blood lust. And the killer used the guilt of the other inhabitants to excuse the murders . . . in his or her mind. This made me wonder about society’s desire for others to pay for their sins. Especially sins that involved death. Is society’s desire for killers to pay for their crimes a disguise . . . or excuse for its own blood lust? Like I said . . . I wonder.

What else can I discuss about “AND THEN THERE WERE NONE”? Oh yes. The performances. The miniseries featured a collection of well known actors and actresses from several English speaking countries, especially Great Britain. I must admit that I may have vaguely heard of Douglas Booth, but I have never seen him in any particular role, until this production. But I must say that I found his portrayal of rich playboy Anthony Marston very impressive. Booth did a beautiful job in capturing the selfish and self-indulgent nature of the young elite. I wish Anna Maxwell-Martin had a bigger role in this production. However, I had to be satisfied with her performance as Ethel Rogers, who had been hired to serve as maid and cook for the Owens’ house party. I thought she was excellent as the bullied wife of Soldier Island’s butler, Thomas Rogers. I was also impressed by Noah Taylor, who gave a first-rate performance as Rogers, who hid his brutish nature with the facade of a servile man. I only wish that Phelps had not made the same mistake as Christie – namely failing to get into Rogers’ mind. I think Taylor could have rolled with such material. Miranda Richardson gave a masterful performance as the prim and hypocritical Emily Brent, who hid her own passions and sins with a stream of moral pronouncements. Her performance culminated in that wonderful moment when her character finally acknowledged her role in that young maid’s suicide. One of my favorite performances came from Sam Neill, who portrayed the very respectful retired Army officer, General John MacArthur. Neill had claimed that this particular performance was not a stretch for him, since MacArthur reminded him of his own father. But I thought the actor’s performance rose above that assessment, as his character not only faced his guilt for a crime of passion, but also faced the realization of his impending death.

On the surface, Charles Dance’s portrayal of retired judge Lawrence Wargrave seemed like many roles he had portrayed in recent years – cool, elegant and a little sharp. But I really enjoying watching him convey Wargrave’s subtle reactions to the temperamental outbursts from the other inhabitants. And I found his skillful expression of Wargrave’s emotional reactions to memories of the man the character was accused of killing via an execution sentence really impressive. “AND THEN THERE WERE NONE” marked the third time I have seen Toby Stephens in an Agatha Christie adaptation. Of the three productions, I regard his work in this miniseries and the 2003 television movie, “FIVE LITTLE PIGS” as among his best work. Stephens did a superb job in developing . . . or perhaps regressing Dr. Edward Armstrong’s character from this pompous Harley Street physician to a nervy and frightened man by the third episode. Thanks to Stephens’ performance, I also became aware that the character’s alcoholism and tightly-wound personality was a result of the horrors he had faced during World War I.

Ever since I first saw 2012’s “THE DARK KNIGHT RISES”, I have become aware of Burn Gorman. He is one of the most unusual looking actors I have ever seen . . . and a first-rate actor. I really enjoyed his portrayal of former police detective William Blore as this slightly shifty man with a penchant for allowing his paranoia to get the best of him, as the body count rose. Although his Blore comes off as a rather unpleasant man, Gorman still managed to inject some sympathy into the character as the latter finally faces his guilt over the young homosexual man he had beaten to death. Most of the critics and fans seemed to be more interested in Aidan Turner’s physique than his performance as soldier-of-fortune, Philip Lombard. I feel this is a shame, because I thought he gave an excellent performance as the shady and pragmatic mercenary, willing to do anything to stay alive . . . or have sex with Vera Claythorne. What really impressed me about Turner’s performance is that he is the second actor to perfectly capture the animalistic and aggressive Lombard as described in Christie’s novel, and the first English-speaking actor to do so. The miniseries’ producers had some difficulty in finding the right actress to portray Vera Claythorne. In the end, they managed to find Australian actress Maeve Darmody six days before filming started. And guess what? They made a perfect choice. Darmody was superb as the cool and intelligent Vera, who is the first to connect the poem to what was going on.

I thought some of screenwriter Sarah Phelps’ changes to Agatha Christie’s tale did not exactly work for me. But despite a few flaws, I have to commend both her and director Craig Viveiros for doing an excellent job in translating Christie’s most celebrated and brutal tale to the television screen. And they were ably assisted by superb performances from a very talented all-star cast. “AND THEN THERE WERE NONE” is one Christie production I can watch over and over again.

“X-MEN” Movies Ranking

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Below is my ranking of the movies I have seen from the “X-MEN” film franchise.  Warning: many may not agree with it:

“X-MEN” MOVIES RANKING

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1. “X2: X-Men United” (2003) – Bryan Singer directed this film about Army colonel William Stryker’s plans to use Professor Charles Xavier to destroy the world’s mutant population once and for all. As you can see, this is my favorite in the franchise.

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3. “X-Men: First-Class” (2011) – Matthew Vaughn directed this tale set in 1962 about the first meeting between Charles Xavier “Professor X” and Erik Lensherr “Magneto”, their creation of the X-Men and their efforts to prevent mutant villain Sebastian Shaw from using the Cuban Missile Crisis to acquire world domination. Despite the questionable costumes and a few plot holes, this was a big favorite of mine.

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3. “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006) – Brett Ratner directed this tale about the X-Men overcoming tragedy to deal with the resurrected and more powerful Jean Grey and Magneto’s continuing war on non-mutant humans. Many fans hated this film. I enjoyed it, although I found the pacing a bit too rushed. Enough said.

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4. “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009) – Gavin Hood directed this movie about the origins of James Howlett aka the Wolverine and his relationship with his murderous half-brother Victor Creed aka Sabertooth and his first class with William Stryker in the 1970s. Another movie hated by the fans. And again, I enjoyed it, although I consider it lesser than the 2006 movie.

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5. “X-Men: Days of Future Days” (2014) – Directed by Bryan Singer, this movie is a time-travel adventure for Wolverine, who must convince a younger Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr to prevent Mystique from murdering a anti-mutant scientist, whose work will prove deadly for mutants within a half century. Great premise, but shaky execution. Too many plot holes, but still enjoyable.

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6. “The Wolverine” (2013) – James Mangold directed this atmospheric tale about Wolverine, still grieving over a recent tragedy, traveling to Japan to meet the Wolverine heading to Japan for a reunion with a soldier named Ichirō Yashida whose life he saved during the Nagasaki bombing at the end of World War II. He ends up defending Yashida’s granddaughter from the Yakuza and her avaricious father. Great Japanese atmosphere and interesting beginning, but it nearly fell to pieces in the last half hour.

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7. “X-Men” (2000) – Bryan Singer directed this first movie in the franchise about Wolverine and a young Marie aka “Rogue”’s introduction to the X-Men and their efforts to defeat Magneto’s plans to transform the entire population into mutants against their will. Enjoyable, but it felt like a B-movie trying to disguise itself as an A-lister. Also, too many plot holes.

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8. “Deadpool” (2016) – Ryan Reynolds starred in this reboot of the Deadpool character about the comic book hero’s origins and his hunt for the man who gave him an accelerated healing factor, but also a scarred physical appearance. Despite the sharp humor and fourth wall cinematic device, the narrative struck me as sloppily written and mediocre.