Five Favorite Episodes of “UNDERGROUND” Season One (2016)

noahrosalee

Below is a list of my five favorite episodes from the WGN series, “UNDERGROUND”. Created by Misha Green and Joe Pokaski, the series stars Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Aldis Hodge:

FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “UNDERGROUND” SEASON ONE (2016)

1 - 1.05 Run and Guns

1. (1.05) “Run & Gun” – The attempt by the escapees from the Macon plantation to catch a northbound train out of the state is complicated at every turn; while Tom and Susanna Macon have the remaining slaves – especially Pearly Mae, who was captured while trying to run – questioned about their plans.

2 - 1.09 Black and Blue

2. (1.09) “Black & Blue” – One of the escapees, former house slave Rosalee, is captured in a small Kentucky town and held at a slaughter house, while fellow escapees Noah and Cato plot to rescue her. Underground Railroad agent John Hawkes (who is also Tom Mason’s brother) learns of his wife Elizabeth’s reckless action to save the orphaned escapee Boo from her ex-fiancé and U.S. Federal Marshal Kyle Risdin.

3 - 1.04 Firefly

3. (1.04) “Firefly” – A notorious slave hunter named August Pullman and his son Ben track Noah and Rosalee, following their escape from the Macon plantation at the end of the previous episode. The other slaves involved in Noah’s plot contemplate running, as well. Meanwhile, John and Elizabeth face a lethal predicament, when one of the runaways they are sheltering turns hostile.

5 - 1.01 Macon Seven

4. (1.01) “The Macon 7” – In the series premiere, Noah begins to plot an escape from the Macon plantation to the Ohio River and free states. He contemplates on choosing which slaves to be included in his plan, while dealing with a hostile Cato, who also happens to be one of the plantation field drivers.

4 - 1.07 Cradle

5. (1.07) “Cradle” – This episode featured a collection of vignettes about the younger characters – all children – facing the harsh realities of the world in antebellum America.

The 19th Century in Television

Recently, I noticed there have been a good number of television productions in both North America and Great Britain, set during the 19th century. Below is a list of those productions I have seen during this past decade in chronological:

THE 19TH CENTURY IN TELEVISION

1. “Copper” (BBC America) – Tom Fontana and Will Rokos created this series about an Irish immigrant policeman who patrols Manhattan’s Five Points neighborhood during the last year of the U.S. Civil War. Tom Weston-Jones, Kyle Schmid and Ato Essandoh starred in this 2012-2013 series.

2. “The Crimson Petal and the White” (BBC) – Romola Garai starred in this 2011 miniseries, which was an adaptation of Michel Faber’s 2002 novel about a Victorian prostitute, who becomes the mistress of a powerful businessman.

3. “Death Comes to Pemberley” (BBC) – Matthew Rhys and Anna Maxwell-Martin starred in this adaptation of P.D. James’ 2011 novel, which is a murder mystery and continuation of Jane Austen’s 1813 novel, “Pride and Prejudice”.

4. “Hell on Wheels” (AMC) – This 2012-2016 series is about a former Confederate Army officer who becomes involved with the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad during the years after the Civil War. Anson Mount, Colm Meaney, Common, and Dominique McElligott starred.

5. “Mercy Street” (PBS) – This series follows two volunteer nurses from opposing sides who work at the Mansion House Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia during the Civil War. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Josh Radnor and Hannah James.

6. “The Paradise” (BBC-PBS) – This 2012-2013 series is an adaptation of Émile Zola’s 1883 novel, “Au Bonheur des Dames”, about the innovative creation of the department story – only with the story relocated to North East England. The series starred Joanna Vanderham and Peter Wight.

7. “Penny Dreadful” (Showtime/Sky) – Eva Green, Timothy Dalton and Josh Harnett star in this horror-drama series about a group of people who battle the forces of supernatural evil in Victorian England.

8. “Ripper Street” (BBC) – Matthew Macfadyen stars in this crime drama about a team of police officers that patrol London’s Whitechapel neighborhood in the aftermath of Jack the Ripper’s serial murders.

9. “Underground” (WGN) – Misha Green and Joe Pokaski created this series about runaway slaves who endure a long journey from Georgia to the Northern states in a bid for freedom in the late Antebellum period. Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Aldis Hodge star.

10. “War and Peace” (BBC) – Andrew Davies adapted this six-part miniseries, which is an adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s 1865–1867 novel about the impact of the Napoleonic Era during Tsarist Russia. Paul Dano, Lily James and James Norton starred.

The UNDERGROUND RAILROAD in Television

tubman_nps

Recently, the WGN Network began airing a new series about a group of Georgia slaves who plan and conduct a daring 600 miles escape to freedom in the Northern states called “UNDERGROUND”. However, it is not the first television production about American slaves making a bid for freedom. Below is a list of previous productions that I have seen over the years:

 

 

THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD IN TELEVISION

“A WOMAN CALLED MOSES” (1978) – Cicely Tyson starred in this two-part miniseries adaptation of Marcy Heidish’s 1974 novel about the life of escaped slave-turned Underground Railroad conductor/activist Harriet Tubman during the years before the Civil War. The miniseries’ first half focused on Tubman’s years as a Maryland slave and her escape to freedom in December 1849. The second half focused on her years as a conductor with the Underground Railroad. Paul Wendkos directed.

 

 

“THE LIBERATORS” (1987) – Robert Carradine and Larry B. Scott portrayed Virginia-born abolitionist John Fairfield and Bill, the escaped slave of the former’s uncle; who become conductors for the Underground Railroad. After the former helps the latter escape from Virginia, the pair reunite nearly a year later to rescue the relatives of African-American freedmen living in the North. Kenneth Johnson directed.

 

 

“RACE TO FREEDOM: THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD” (1994) – Janet Bailey and Courtney B. Vance starred in this cable television movie about a group of slaves who risk their lives to escape from their master’s North Carolina plantation to Canada, following the passage of the Compromise of 1850. Look for the surprise twist at the end. The movie co-starred Glynn Turman, Dawnn Lewis, Michael Riley, Falconer Abraham, and Ron White. Don McBrearty directed.

 

 

august and annalees

“THE JOURNEY OF AUGUST KING” (1995) – Jason Patric and Thandie Newton starred in this adaptation of John Ehle’s 1971 novel about an early 19th century farmer in North Carolina, who finds himself helping a runaway slave, while on his way home from the market. Co-starring Larry Drake and Sam Waterston, the movie was directed by John Duigan.

 

 

“CAPTIVE HEART: THE JAMES MINK STORY” (1996) – Lou Gossett Jr. and Kate Nelligan portrayed a Canadian mixed race couple who sought a husband for their only daughter, Mary. The latter ends up marrying a Northern American. Upon their arrival in the United States, he sells her to a Virginian slave dealer and she ends up as a slave in that slave. After Mary manages to send word to her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Mink set out for Virginia to organize a rescue of their daughter with the help of the Underground Railroad. Bruce Pittman directed.

 

 

*********************

 

Four of the productions on this list – “A WOMAN CALLED MOSES”, “RACE TO FREEDOM: THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD”, “THE JOURNEY OF AUGUST KING”, and “CAPTIVE HEART: THE JAMES MINK STORY” can be found on DVD. Only “THE LIBERATORS” has not been released on DVD. In fact, I do not know if it has ever been released on VHS.

 

Favorite Films Set in the 1830s

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Below is a list of my favorite movies (so far) that are set in the 1830s:

 

FAVORITE FILMS SET IN THE 1830s

1. “The Adventures of Huck Finn” (1993) – Elijah Wood and Courtney B. Vance starred in this excellent Disney adaptaion of Mark Twain’s 1885 novel about a young Missouri boy who joines a runaway slave on a journey along the Mississippi River toward the free states in antebellum America. Stephen Sommers directed.

 

1- The Count of Monte Cristo 2002

2. “The Count of Monte Cristo” (2002) – James Caviezel starred as the vengeful Edmond Dantès in Disney’s 2002 adaptation of Alexandre Dumas, père’s 1844 novel. Directed by Kevin Reynolds, the movie co-starred Guy Pearce and Dagmara Dominczyk.

 

2 - Pride and Prejudice 1940

3. “Pride and Prejudice” (1940) – Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier starred in this entertaining adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1813 novel. Robert Z. Leonard directed.

 

3 - The Count of Monte Cristo 1975

4. “The Count of Monte Cristo” (1975) – Richard Chamberlain gave an intense performance in the 1975 television adaptation of Dumas’ novel. Tony Curtis and Kate Nelligan co-starred.

 

4 - Impromptu

5. “Impromptu” (1991) – Judy Davis and Hugh Grant starred in this comedic tale about author George Sand’s pursuit of composer Frédéric Chopin in 1830s France. James Lapine directed.

 

5 - Amistad

6. “Armistad” (1997) – Steven Spielberg directed this account of the 1839 mutiny aboard the slave ship La Amistad and the trials of the Mendes tribesmen/mutineers, led by Sengbe Pieh. The movie starred Djimon Hounsou, Matthew McConnaughey, Morgan Freeman and Anthony Hopkins.

 

6 - Wide Sargasso Sea 2006

7. “Wide Sargasso Sea” (2006) – Rebecca Hall and Rafe Spall starred in this 2006 television adaptation of Jean Rhys’s 1966 novel, which is a prequel to Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel, “Jane Eyre”. It focused upon the early marriage of Antoinette Cosway (Bertha Mason) and Edward Rochester.

 

7 - My Cousin Rachel

8. “My Cousin Rachel” (1952) – Olivia de Havilland and Richard Burton starred in this adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s 1951 novel about a young Englishman’s obsession with his late cousin’s widow. Henry Koster directed.

 

8 - The Alamo 2004

9. “The Alamo” (2004) – John Lee Hancock directed this account of the Battle of the Alamo, the only production about the Texas Revolution that I actually managed to enjoy. The movie starred Billy Bob Thornton, Patrick Wilson and Jason Patric.

 

9 - The Big Sky

10. “The Big Sky” (1952) – Howard Hawks directed this adaptation of A.B. Guthrie’s 1947 novel about a fur trader’s expedition up the Missouri River. Kirk Douglas and Dewey Martin starred.

“ANGEL” RETROSPECTIVE: (1.08) “I Will Remember You”

Below is a look into (1.08) “I Will Remember You”, a Season One episode from “ANGEL”

 

“ANGEL” RETROSPECTIVE: (1.08) “I Will Remember You”

One of the most popular episodes to air on ”ANGEL” is the eighth episode of Season One called (1.08) “I Will Remember You”. This particular episode served as a follow-up to the Season Four ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” episode, (4.08) “Pangs” in which Angel, the vampire with a soul, had paid a surreptitious visit to Sunnydale in order to protect his former love, vampire slayer Buffy Summers, from a malignant spirit during the Thanksgiving holidays.

After Buffy had learned of Angel’s visit to Sunnydale, she pays a visit of her own to Angel’s detective office in Los Angeles. There, she confronts him about his surreptitious assistance back in Sunnydale. They are attacked by a Mohra demon. When Angel kills the demon, he is restored to mortality by its powerful blood. After The Oracles – a link to The Powers That Be – confirms that Angel is human again, Angel and Buffy spend a blissful night together. Unfortunately, Doyle receives a vision that the Mohra demon has regenerated itself. Instead of recruiting Buffy, Angel leaves her to kill the demon for good. In the ensuing battle, Angel discovers the consequences of having only human strength. Buffy must come to his rescue and slay the demon herself. Angel returns to The Oracles, who that if he remains human, Buffy will face the minions of darkness alone and die much sooner. They agree to turn back time, so that Angel, accepting the entire cost of the bargain, can kill the Mohra before its blood makes him human. They also inform him that Buffy’s memories of their day together will erase once time is turned back.

I might as well be frank. I really dislike this episode. I almost hate it. Honestly. And although I am not a fan of the Buffy/Angel relationship, the one thing I truly dislike about this episode is the paternalistic manner in which Angel treats Buffy, once he agrees to the Oracles’ bargain. One, I suspect that Angel could not deal having human strength. It still amazes me that many fans have castigated Riley Finn for being unable to deal with Buffy being stronger than him; and yet in this particular episode, Angel seemed to be suffering from the same problem. Then he does something even worse by making that deal with the Powers to resume being a vampire . . . after being told that Buffy would have no memories of their day together. As far as I am concerned, he committed psychic rape via the Oracles and the Powers to Be. Even worse, he only told Buffy about his decision . . . seconds before she lost her memories.

Some fans have used Buffy’s alleged desire for a ”knight in shinning armor” as an excuse for Angel’s behavior. Many of these fans still view Buffy as that 16-18 year-old featured in the series’ first three seasons. And apparently, so does Angel. I really do not see how this desire of Buffy is supposed to condone or excuse Angel’s decision to becoming a vampire again at the expense of Buffy’s memories. Others point out that the Oracles had informed Angel that order to prevent circumstances from repeating exactly, he alone will remember all they have shared. Let me see if I understand this. Angel could not tell Buffy that he had erased her memories of their day together, in case the circumstances of that day repeat themselves. Yet, Angel went ahead and informed Buffy that she would lose her memories seconds before she lost them? If Angel wanted to avoid a repetition of that day repeating, he could have told Buffy what had happened . . . and add that they could not stay together, in case the circumstances of that day would be repeated. But Angel did not bother. In fact, he remained silent. Personally, I found his actions appalling.

To me, Angel was a selfish and controlling bastard who could not handle the lack of vampire strength needed to deal with the supernatural beings he had fought, in the first place. Without that strength, he could not be a hero. One, he was stupid enough to go after the Mohra demon when he lacked the strength to fight it. He could have easily allowed Buffy to do so in the first place. And when he found himself forced to depend upon Buffy’s strength to take down the demon, he turned to the Oracles to get his strength back. And all of this happened before he learned of the details surrounding his return as a vampire. I suspect that deep down, his act of sacrifice was nothing more than bullshit. I have always suspected that Angel was nothing more than a control freak, who got his kicks making decisions for others . . . without their consent. If he had really cared about Buffy, he would have never agreed to the spell in the first place. Or . . . he could have told her what happened after the spell went into effect, just as I had pointed out in a previous paragraph. Or he could have told her what he was considering, before he allowed the Powers to Be remove her memories and turn back time. But he did not, because he simply viewed Buffy as a child who had to be controlled . . . by him. And considering that Buffy ended up dead a year-and-a-half later (with Angel not around), it seemed that Angel had given up being a human for nothing.

”I Will Remember You” strikes me as a good example of why I have never been a fan of the Buffy/Angel romance. It has always seemed like an unequal relationship that was never able to develop into an equal one. This episode also reminded me that many seemed to prefer a fictional romance between an infatuated adolescent female and lovesick older man obsessed with her youth and his need to be controlling. To me, the relationship was nothing but a patriarchal wet dream. And Angel’s actions in both the”BUFFY” episode, ”Pangs” and this episode seemed to confirm this.

“Guidance and Estrangement”

 

“GUIDANCE AND ESTRANGEMENT”

During its seven seasons run, the television series, “BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” has generated a good number of controversy amongst its fans, other viewers and the media in its approach to several subjects regarding its main character, Buffy Summers, and its supporting characters. Many of those subjects have included sex, violence, addiction, and discrimination – both gender and racial. But there seemed to be one topic that fans of the series seemed to be in conflict over – namely authority figures and how it pertained to Buffy’s relationship with her Watcher, Rupert Giles.

When the series first began in January 1997, Buffy and her mother, Joyce Summers, had recently moved from Los Angeles to Sunnydale; following the latter’s divorce from Buffy’s father, Hank. The Summers’ marriage had buckled under the strain of his infidelity and Buffy’s early activities as a Slayer in Los Angeles. The move to Sunnydale also meant the eventual erosion of daughter and father’s relationship. Since Buffy’s first Watcher, Merrick, had killed by a vampire named Lothos; the young Slayer found herself with a new Watcher – the English-born Rupert Giles.

The relationship between Buffy and Giles went through many stages and emotional upheavals. Due to her father’s declining presence in her life, the Slayer began to regard her Watcher as a new father figure. Yet, at the same time, she struggled to maintain a private life of her own – one that involved school and a social life – despite Giles’ insistence upon her focusing upon her training and duties as a Slayer. One such incident occurred when Buffy wanted to forego another training session to attend a fraternity party at Sunnydale’s University of California campus in (2.05) “Reptile Boy”. Despite their occasional bouts of conflict and the crisis surrounding the re-emergence of Angelus in late Season Two, Buffy’s view of Giles as a replacement for her father had grown stronger by mid-Season Three. Then came the Cruciamentum in the episode, (3.12) “Helpless”

The Cruciamentum was a test that senior members of the Watchers Council put each Slayer through on her eighteenth birthday. She must be weakened (namely stripped of her Slayer abilities) and left alone with a vampire to test her skills and resourcefulness. The weakened Slayer rarely survives such a test. As I had stated earlier, Buffy had truly began to regard Giles as a second father, especially since her own father failed to appear and take her to an ice show for her 18th birthday. Unfortunately for Buffy, the Cruciamentum test proved to be the first time that Giles would betray her. Showing more loyalty to the Council than the Slayer, he placed Buffy under hypnosis before stripping away her Slayer abilities with a drug. However, guilt over his betrayal and the danger of a psychotic vampire loose upon Sunnydale led Giles to confess his actions and help her deal with the vampire. Because of his actions, the leader of the Watchers Council – Quintin Travers – accused Giles of being too emotionally close to Buffy and fired him. However, Buffy severed her ties with the Watchers Council and continued to regard Giles as her Watcher. However, the Cruciamentum did not prove to be the last time that Buffy and Giles would clash.

Season Five provided more heartaches and crisis for Buffy than any previous season. Buffy’s relationship with her college boyfriend, Riley Finn, crashed and burned. She discovered that her old nemesis, the vampire Spike, had fallen in love with her. Joyce became seriously ill. And a new member joined the Summers household – a younger sister named Dawn. However, Buffy and the Scoobies eventually learned in (5.05) “No Place Like Home” that Dawn was originally a mystical object known as the Key, which can be used to open portals to alternate dimensions; a group of monks transformed the Key into human form and sent it to the Slayer for protection from the villainous hellgod, Glory. The hellgod wanted to use the Key (Dawn) to return to her home dimension. The memories of Buffy and her associates were altered, along with relevant records, so that they believed Dawn had always existed as Buffy’s sister. Once Glory discovered that Dawn was the Key, her presence became a threat to human existence. Giles certainly believed so and insisted that Buffy kill Dawn before Glory can use her blood in (5.22) “The Gift”. Fearful for Dawn’s life, Buffy asked Spike to protect the teenager from any threat. I can only wonder if she had viewed Giles as a possible threat.

Eventually, Buffy sacrificed her life to stop the threat of Glory and to close the portal that the hellgod had used Dawn’s blood to open. Several months following Buffy’s death, Giles decided to return home to England in (6.01) “Bargaining”. Following her resurrection, he returned to Sunnydale. However, he noticed that Buffy had begun a disturbing trend of depending upon him for everything – including matters in her non-Slayer life. In the episode, (6.07) “Tabula Rasa”, Giles decided to return to England in order for Buffy to gain independence. He did not return, until the crisis over Willow’s turn to evil evolved, following the death of her lover, Tara Maclay.

Giles’ return to England during Season Six proved to have a major impact upon his relationship with Buffy during the show’s seventh and final season. The impact of his disappearance would not be realized, until the two clashed over the status of a chip-free Spike in the episode, (7.17) “Lies My Parents Told Me”. After acquiring his soul in Africa, during the Season Six finale, (6.22) “Grave”, Spike returned to Sunnydale, racked with guilt over his past as a vampire and his attempted rape of Buffy in (6.19) “Seeing Red”. And unbeknownst to himself and others, he was being mentally tormented and controlled by the season’s Big Bad – the non-corporeal being known as the First Evil. Spike’s troubles did not end there. By (7.13) “The Killer in Me”, the chip was slowly killing Spike and Buffy had to request help from her old flame, Army officer, Riley Finn, to remove the chip for good. Spike was finally free from the dangers of the chip, but not from the First Evil.

Buffy and Giles’ clash over Spike first spilled over in an amusing exchange featured in the beginning of the following episode,(7.14) “First Date”. However, Giles’ anxieties over Spike’s chip-free and First Evil-influenced state continued unabated. He continued to insist that Spike be contained or slayed, for the safety of the Potentials and the Scoobies, now residing inside the Summers house. Giles disappeared for two episodes and returned at the beginning of ”Lies My Parents Told Me” with a magical artifact called a Prokaryote stone. Willow used the stone and a spell to penetrate Spike’s mind and make him more conscious of how the First Evil’s trigger worked. Needless to say, the session ended in disaster, with Spike unintentionally hurting Dawn (why Buffy allowed her to hang around, I do not know). Following the failure to break the First Evil’s hold on Spike, Giles conspired with Robin Wood – the son of a Slayer that Spike had killed back in 1977 – to kill the blond vampire behind Buffy’s back. Buffy eventually realized what Giles and Wood had conspired and coldly ended their Watcher-Slayer relationship . . . and friendship.

I am not really surprised that Buffy turned his back on him, following the incidents of ”Lies My Parents Told Me”. As I had earlier pointed out, it was not the first time he had betrayed her. He betrayed her in Season 3’s “Helpless”. But he realized his error and made amends in the end. In late Season 5’s “The Gift”, he continuously pressured Buffy to kill Dawn in order to save the world. Not only did she refuse, but she asked Spike to kill him or anyone else who made a move toward Dawn. Even if Dawn’s death would have saved the world, I do not think that Buffy could have lived with herself if she had killed her younger sister. Her slide into catatonia in (5.21) “The Weight of the World”, following Glory’s abduction of Dawn, struck me as proof that Buffy would have serious problems with anything happening to her younger sisters.

But Giles’ betrayal in “Lies My Parents Told Me” proved to be the last straw. Not only did Giles plotted behind her back, he never expressed any remorse for his actions. Worse, he only gave Spike once chance to deal with the First Evil’s trigger before he began plotting with Robin Wood behind Buffy’s back. Giles never took into account that triggered or not, Spike was not the only dangerous person in that house. There was Willow, who was not only a very powerful witch, but still emotionally unsure about herself. And I suspect that if the First Evil had triggered Spike, he would have to deal with Willow, a powerful and experienced Slayer in the form Buffy, and a house full of potential Slayers. Giles never considered all of this or that Wood’s plotting centered on an emotional desire for revenge against Spike. Instead, he allowed his fears and his dislike of the vampire to rule his emotions. And he never expressed any remorse for his actions.

Buffy had been slowly maturing as a person throughout the series’ run. By late Season Seven, it was time for her to realize that Giles did not always have the answers or that he was not always right. It was also time for her to realize that sometimes, every individual has to question authority figures . . . or rely upon yourself and not a parent or a surrogate parent. Back in early Season Six, Giles realized that Buffy could not always depend upon him and that sooner or later, she would have to learn to stand on her own. Unfortunately, the destruction of the Watchers Council triggered a great deal of fear within Giles. He forgot about his resolve about Buffy becoming an adult, and tried to overcome this fear by resurrecting his old relationship with Buffy. By ”Lies My Parents Told Me” he failed to realize that she had matured too much for him to recapture it.

Buffy and Giles had failed to resolve their conflict over his final betrayal by the end of the series . . . despite their willingness to fight together in the final battle against the First Evil’s plans in (7.22) “Chosen”. Their relationship grew worse over Giles’ failure to inform Buffy about his and Faith Lehune’s dealings with a rogue Slayer named in one of the Season Eight stories featured in a series of comic books based upon the series. It was not until their dealings with the being known as Twilight (aka Angel) that Buffy and Giles finally reconciled. Unfortunately, their reconciliation did not last very long. While still under the guise of Twilight, Angel murdered Giles. Pity. It would have been nice to see Buffy and Giles develop an equal relationship between two friends and colleagues.

“KNIGHT AND DAY” (2010) Review

“KNIGHT AND DAY” (2010) Review

Once more, Tom Cruise had put himself out on a limb by appearing in a movie, recently released last summer. The movie in question turned out to be a romantic comedy thriller called ”KNIGHT AND DAY”. Co-starring Cameron Diaz, the movie was directed by James Mangold. 

Surprisingly, seventy to eighty percent of ”KNIGHT AND DAY” was told from Diaz’s point-of-view. She portrayed an auto mechanic named June Havens who found herself swept into the adventures of an eccentric man claiming to be a former CIA agent named Roy Miller. Miller also claimed that he was trying to prevent a corrupt CIA colleague named Fitzgerald from finding a brilliant young inventor named Simon Feck and his new invention, a perpetual energy battery called the Zephyr, and selling both to a Spanish weapons dealer named Antonio. Unfortunately, his former director believes he is a rogue agent that has gone mentally off the grid.

I might as well be frank. ”KNIGHT AND DAY” did not strike me as an exceptional action film. The movie featured a series of minor scenes in which a drugged and semi-conscious June found herself being moved from one location to another by Miller. And since these scenes were shown from her point-of-view, I suspect this gave Mangold and screenwriter Patrick O’Neill the opportunity to move their characters around without any real detail. Personally, it seemed like a lazy way to progress the plot along. I was also confused over how Peter Sarsgaard’s character, Agent Fitzgerald, managed to arrange for other CIA agents to appear on the Wichita-Boston flight at the beginning of the movie as the entire crew and group of passengers. Nor did I understand why he bothered to keep June on that flight after Miller tried to ensure that she would miss it. Also, Mangold’s direction failed to infuse the movie with any special energy that could have made it memorable. Despite the somewhat eccentric plot, ”KNIGHT AND DAY” moved and felt like a typical action film.

But the movie also had its virtues. It featured some beautiful photography of Boston, Jamaica (which served as the Azores, off the coast of Portugal), Austria and Spain; thanks to cinematographer Phedon Papamichael. The movie also featured one hell of a plane crash, supervised by Chris Brenczewski. O’Neill wrote a solid plot that I could easily understand – something that has been lacking in a good number of action films (comedy or otherwise) recently. ”KNIGHT AND DAY”also provided some first-rate action sequences. My favorites included Miller’s fight against his former CIA colleagues aboard the Wichita-Boston flight; the gunfight on one of Boston’s highways; and Miller’s fight against a young German assassin named Danny, aboard a train bound for Salzburg, Austria. Humor proved to be another one of the movie’s virtues. Not only did cast members such as Cruise, Diaz, Paul Dano and Marc Blucas provide some excellent comic performances, O’Neill’s script provided them with plenty of material to work with. At least two scenes struck me as particularly funny – Miller’s ”with me, you survive” speech; June’s encounter with Feck and Danny, the assassin, aboard the train; and her encounter with the arms dealer, Antonio. But my favorite scene turned out to be the encounter between Miller, June and her ex-boyfriend, Rodney inside a Boston diner. I really found that scene hilarious.

There were no bad performances in ”KNIGHT AND DAY”. But I must admit that not all of them struck me as impressive. Both Viola Davis and Jordi Mollà gave solid, yet humorless performances as the CIA Director and Antonio, the arms dealer. Peter Sarsgaard, who portrayed Agent Fitzgerald, seemed amusing at times. Otherwise, he came off as distant and slightly stiff. But the movie had its share of good performances. Dale Dye and Celia Weston provided plenty of laughs as Miller’s parents, who believed that their son was dead. Paul Dano proved that he also have a talent for comedy in his goofy and funny portrayal of Feck, the brilliant young scientist that created the Zephyr battery. But of the entire supporting cast, my favorite performance came from Marc Blucas, who portrayed June’s ex-boyfriend and a Boston fireman. Thanks to his two-season stint on television’s ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER”, I have always been aware of the actor’s talent for off-beat humor. But Mangold’s direction and O’Neill’s script provided him with a role that truly exploited his comedic talents. Blucas portrayed Rodney not only as a compassionate and duty-bound man, but also a self-absorbed and shallow jerk. And he managed to achieve this balance with great subtlety and skill.

But what really made ”KNIGHT AND DAY” work for me were the two leads, Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. They had worked together before in the 2001 movie, ”VANILLA SKY” and it was easy to see that they both had a very good screen chemistry. Once again, Cruise proved his talent for both comedy and action as the slightly eccentric Roy Miller, whose idea of keeping his new companion safe was too keep her in a drugged state, as he carted her around the eastern United States and Europe. The actor also effectively conveyed his character’s self-assured nature without allowing it to be tainted by any signs of cockiness. This would not have been the case with a younger Cruise. What I liked about Cameron Diaz’s portrayal of June Havens was that she did an excellent job of conveying her character’s progression throughout the movie. Her June started as a reserved woman just recovering from the end of a trying relationship, progressed to the confused and frightened innocent caught up in intrigue and betrayal; and finally developed into a more confident woman who was self-assured about her love for Miller and what she needed to do to keep him safe.

”KNIGHT AND DAY” was not the best movie I had seen last summer. It certainly did not knock my socks off. But thanks to James Mangold’s direction, a solid script by Patrick O’Neill and an excellent screen team in the form of Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz made it an entertaining movie.  It is not a perfect film, but it is certainly better than I had originally assumed.