Saturday, December 29, 2007

"NATIONAL TREASURE 2: THE BOOK OF SECRETS" (2007) Photo Gallery


Below are images from "NATIONAL TREASURE 2:  THE BOOK OF SECRETS", the new sequel to  2004 hit film, "NATIONAL TREASURE".  Directed by Jon Turteltaub, the movie stars Nicholas Cage, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha and Jon Voight:


"NATIONAL TREASURE 2:  THE BOOK OF SECRETS" (2007) Photo Gallery























Friday, December 28, 2007

"The Corellian Connection" [PG] - Prologue




Here is a sequel to my first SW story - "Altered Lives":

"THE CORELLIAN CONNECTION"

SUMMARY: A message between Bail Organa and a fugitive senator sets in motion, changes for Anakin, Padme and another familiar character.
FEEDBACK: - Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: All characters and things STAR WARS belong to Lucasfilm. All non-original dialogue in this story is credited to "Revenge of the Sith", which is based upon the story and screenplay by George Lucas. The characters, Romulus Wort aka Darth Rasche, Voranda Sen and Thalia Yeb are my creation.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is the second in a series of five stories set between ROTS and ANH. Also, this particular story is more or less an Alternate Universe story set nine months, following "Altered Lives"


PROLOGUE

18 BBY - AMIR, ANDALIA

The Imperial shuttle entered Andalia's atmosphere, before it smoothly made its descent upon the planet's capital, Amir. The young Sith Lord, Darth Rasche, stared through the shuttle's cockpit window and saw a delegation of officials gathered on a nearby landing platform.

Rasche stood up and made his way to the other end of the shuttle, where four platoons of clonetroopers sat. "Men, we're now approaching Andalia. Get ready." The troopers nodded.

Minutes passed before the shuttle finally settled upon the landing platform. The shuttle doors opened, as the boarding ramp extended outward. Rasche took a deep breath and stiffly marched down the ramp. The four platoons marched close behind him. A light-brown skinned Andalian man, covered in a deep teal robe, stepped forward to greet the Imperial visitors. "Good day, um . . .?"

"Darth Rasche," the Sith Lord coolly finished. "I'm here as a liasion of the Imperial Senate."

The Andalian's eyes flew wide open. "Liaison? I . . . I don't understand. Why would the Senate . . .?"

Rasche regarded the other man with cool and impassive eyes. "You're harboring a Jedi on this planet," he accused. "In fact, I believe that the Knight in question is here in Amir." He took a step forward, forcing the Andalian to step back. "Where is she, Senator Yeb? Where is Anjuli Nab?"

The Andalian delegates regarded the Sith Lord with confusion. The one who had greeted Rasche replied, "I'm afraid that you have me confused with someone else, sir. I am not Solipo Yeb. My name is Junipero Khan, head of the Andalian State Council. Senator Yeb has left for his personal retreat, a few hours ago."

The Emperor's apprentice became still. He took a deep breath and used the Force to extend his senses. Then he felt it . . . another Force sensitive signature. One that could only come from a Jedi. The signature emitted from the capital's busy center. Rasche glared at the Andalian politician. "You lie! The Jedi is here in this city! I feel her presence." He summoned the clonetroopers' company commander. "Lieutenant Necros, have a squad set up a detention center, nearby, and place Representative Khan and the rest of these . . . prominent members of the Council there, where they can pass the time."

Outrage flared in Junipero Khan's dark eyes. "You cannot arrest us! We're members of the High Council! We haven't done anything!"

"You are harboring a Jedi fugitive! An enemy of the Empire!" Rasche barked, "Necros! Do as I ordered!"

The clone officer ordered a squad of troopers to arrest the High Council members. "Do you honestly expect to take over an entire planet's governing body, because of some fugitive?" Khan exclaimed in disbelief. "The citizens of Andalia will not allow it!"

Rasche glanced upward. Imperial Destoyers descended from the sky like locust. The Sith Lord then stared pointedly at the Council leader. "I'm afraid that your citizens no longer have any say in the matter."

-------------

A male Andalian stepped out of a landspeeder and covered his head with his cloak's hood. He glanced furtively about and rushed inside a two-story building made from pale-rose adobe mud. The building, called the Karidote Seminary, happened to be a chapel that served as a sanctuary for those citizens who wanted privacy for religious mediation. Senator Solipo Yeb strode past a series of doors, until he came upon the last one on the right. Once more, he glanced around to make sure that no one saw him. Then he knocked.

Over a minute passed before the door slid open. A tall, lithe female with similar light-brown skin, along with high cheekbones, wide brown eyes and long dark hair worn in a single braid, stood in the doorway. "Senator Yeb?" she said in a low, husky voice. "What is it?"

The senator threw back his hood. "Anjuli, you must leave at once. Imperial troops have arrived in the city. And I believe that the Senate has sent a liaison to arrest you."

The Jedi Knight's face became slightly pale. "The Senate's liaison?" She paused with a frown on her face. "I thought I had sensed a presence, but I wasn't sure. And this person is . . .?"

Sighing, Solipo added, "His name is Darth Rasche."

Fear crept into Anjuli's eyes. "Darth? A Sith Lord? The Emperor has a Sith Lord working for him?"

"Anjuili!" Solipo exclaimed sharply. "This is no time for questions! You must leave! The planet will soon be overrun by Imperial troops!"

The pair entered Anjuli's room. The sparse décor struck a deep contrast to the more lavish furnishings favored by many of the planet's citizens. The room consisted of a pallet, a low table, two large cushions next to the table, and a wardrobe filled with her personal belongings. Anjuli grabbed hold of a burlap sack and opened the wardrobe. Then she began dumping its contents into the sack. "If I were you, Senator, I would also leave. Get your family and get out. Hide out in the Outer Rim Territories."

Solipo sighed. "I've already made arrangements for my sister to leave, not long after your arrival."

The Jedi Knight finished packing. "I'm ready. Let's go." She led Solipo out into the corridor. Blaster fire whizzed past their heads. The pair glanced down the corridor and saw three clone troopers approaching them with blaster rifles. Anjuli barked at Solipo, "Get out of here! Now!" She nodded at the door situated at the other end of the corridor. "That way!"

Without hesitation, the senator sprinted down the corridor, toward the door indicated by Anjuli. Just as he reached it, Solipo glanced over his shoulder. He saw the Jedi Knight use her lightsaber to deflect the troopers' fire with great ease. He opened the door and found himself in a lush, formal garden with hedgerows, low trees and flowerbeds. A stonewall surrounded three-fourths of the garden. And a wooden gate divided the wall in the middle.

A minute later, a panting Anjuli emerged from the building. "They've been taken care of," she murmured. "Let's get out of here, before it's too . . ." She broke off, as a tall man dressed in a black tunic, black pants and a maroon cape leapt over the stonewall.

"Anjuli Nab!" the tall man growled. "I arrest you in the name of the Emperor! You are charged with treason!"

Anjuli stared at the man with disbelieving eyes. "Romulus Wort? You're . . . you're a Sith Lord?"

"The name is now Darth Rasche!" Wort shot back. He whipped out his lightsaber. Its red blade illuminated his handsome face.

Blue light lit up above the Jedi Knight's lightsaber. "Senator Yeb!" The mention of his name popping into his mind startled Solipo. "The minute we start fighting, I want you to leave. Head for your transport and get out."

Solipo opened his mouth to speak, but the two Force users began to ignore him. He watched anxiously, as the pair circled each other, cautiously. The moment their blades connected, the senator sprinted toward the wooden gate. Upon reaching it, he glanced over his shoulder. Both Anjuli and Wort . . . or Rasche . . . or whatever his name was, swung their lightsabers at each other with the ease of master swordsmen. Solipo almost felt inclined to remain behind and watch. But his sister and freedom waited. The senator inhaled sharply. Then he passed through the gate and into the streets of Amir.

-----------

Red and blue blades clashed in the gardens of the Karidote Seminary. Utilizing the Sorensu form, Anjuli Nab coolly parried Rasche's aggressive attacks against her. The Sith apprentice could not help but admire the Jedi Knight's lightsaber skills. As he recalled, Nab possessed a talent for luring her opponents with minimal physical moments. Rasche decided that he would not fall for such strategy.

The moment he took another step toward her, Nab made her move. The Jedi Knight swiftly executed a 360-degree spin, otherwise known as the Jung Ma move. She would have sliced Rasche's midsection in half, if he had not parried the blow. But he did . . . by dropping to one knee and swinging his weapon in front of his face.

Nab gasped in surprise and Rasche sprung to his feet, forcing her weapon away with another swing. Then he finally went on the attack. Rasche delivered a series of fast swings that kept his opponent off guard. The attacks continued, until Rasche forced Nab against a stone bench, causing her to fall over backward. Then Rasche sliced off her sword hand. She cried out in pain.

"Why?" she whispered, clutching her burnt stump with her uninjured hand. "I don't understand."

Rasche coolly replied, "It's simple. You're Jedi. I had dedicated nearly all of my life to an order that proved to be nothing more than an archaic institution that ruined the lives of others. Why should I remain loyal to it?"

"Ruined . . . lives?" Nab exclaimed. "The Jedi served democracy! Brought light to the galaxy! How could you . . .?"

Harsh laughter escaped from Rasche's mouth. "I used to believe the same. Until I learned the truth about the Jedi. But do you want to know why I really hate them? Hate all of you? Because despite their power, they could not prevent the deaths of those I cared about. In fact, I believe that they are responsible for his . . . those deaths. And they allowed the so-called Chosen One in our midst. The Jedi weren't all wise and powerful. They were stupid! And blind."

Confusion whirled in Nab's dark eyes. "I don't understand."

Rasche stared down at her with contempt. "Pity. I guess you never will." With that remark, he plunged his lightsaber into the Jedi Knight's chest.

Seconds passed before he stared at his former colleague's dead body. Six or nine months ago, he would have felt a little remorse over her death. But Rasche had learned a lot about the institution he had served most of his life. Before the Jedi records had been destroyed, he learned about the Council's duplicity in keeping their diminished power to the Force a secret from the Senate. He learned of their plans to take control of the Senate during the Clone War's waning days. He also learned that the late Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas had been responsible for the creation of the clone troopers. These discoveries, along with knowledge of Master Windu and Master Yoda's illegal assassination attempts on Palpatine, led Rasche to realize that the order he had served had been nothing but a lie. His anger deepened and he developed hatred toward the Jedi Order. And a deep contempt for those who continued to serve it.

A clone trooper appeared in the seminary's garden. "Lord Rasche," he announced, "the Andalia High Council members have been incarcerated, as ordered. Three divisions have taken positions throughout the planet. So far, no resistance has been met."

"Good," Rasche replied with a nod. "Also send a squad to track down and arrest Senator Solipo Yeb. As soon as possible."

The trooper nodded. "Yes, my Lord." Clutching his blaster rifle, he rushed back inside the building. Rasche picked up the fallen Jedi Knight's lightsaber and followed closely behind.

END OF PROLOGUE

Thursday, December 27, 2007

"CHARMED" RETROSPECT: (2.14) "Pardon My Past"




"CHARMED" RETROSPECT: “Pardon My Past”

”Pardon My Past” is an episode from Season Two of the TV series, ”CHARMED” (1998-2006). In it, one of the Charmed Ones – Phoebe Halliwell - is haunted by a spirit in her past life. The past life turned out to be one P. Russell, a first cousin of the sister’s great-grandmother.

To find out why she is being haunted by P. Russell’s spirit, Phoebe visits 1924 and diiscovers that P. Russell was a pyrokinetic witch who had been romanced by a warlock named Anton. While in the past, Phoebe also acquired a glimpse into the past lives of her sisters – Prue and Piper. She discovers that they were former relatives of P. Russell and out to destroy her and all the latter’s future lives before any of them can become completely evil. Prue and Piper must then stop their past lives' curse in the present before Phoebe falls victim to it and dies.

This episode was the second, following Season 1’s ”That 70s Episode” that revealed their family’s past history. And like many of these episode . . . it had a lot of flaws. Let us take a look at them, shall we?

Flaws in “Pardon My Past”

*Ownership of the Manor – In this episode, it was revealed that the parents of the sisters’ grandmother – Penelope Johnson Halliwell – had been living in the manor in 1924. Yet, according to the Season 1 episode - ”Is There a Woogy in the House?” - the Halliwells (which happened to be Penny’s in-laws) had purchased the manor following the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906.

The Ages of Phoebe Halliwell and P. Russell - While perusing the Warren family tree, Phoebe had this to say about her past life:

”I think that this one is me. (She points to P. Russell) She died February 17th, 1924. The same age I am also."

How was this possible? According to the family tree, P. Russell lived during the period July 1894-February 17, 1924. She was 29 years old when her cousins killed her. The episode ”Pardon My Past” occurred between February 16-18, 1924; and February 16-18, 2000. Phoebe was born on November 2, 1975; making her 24 years old at the time, not 29 years old.

Past Life for Leo Wyatt? - According to Phoebe, she had spotted Leo’s past life in 1924 and he was P. Baxter’s (Past Piper) lover. I am curious. How is this possible? The series has claimed that Leo had been born in May 1924. But again, this is not possible. According to the Season 1 episode, ”Love Hurts”, Leo had been a medical student when he joined the Army in 1942:

”No. World War II. I left med school and enlisted as a medic. I wanted to help save people not shoot them. The last thing I remember, I was bandaging a soldier's head wound and I felt a sharp pain and the next thing I know I was floating surrounded by White Lighters."

If Leo had been at medical school at the time when the U.S. entered World War II, he should have at least older than 22 years old when he joined the Army. Which means that he should have already been alive at the time of P. Russell’s death in 1924.

Phoebe’s Theory - How did Phoebe get the idea that she was going to die within a day because of her encounter with her past spirit? From the moment she had encountered P. Russell’s spirit on the very anniversary that the latter was killed, Phoebe made this assumption:

”So, it doesn’t mean that I’m going to die today too, right?”

Even before she found out about the curse placed on P. Russell’s future selves, Phoebe came to the conclusion that she was doomed to die:

”Phoebe: Not much time. By midnight, I’ll be dead again.
Piper: By midnight? How do you know that?
Phoebe: Midnight, a full moon, what’s the difference? It’s always one or the other, right? I know I won’t make it to February 18th unless…
Leo: You go back to the past again and find some answers.


How on earth did she come to this conclusion without knowing the facts? Or was this another example of the Halliwells producing theories out from their respective asses?

Phoebe’s Ability - Phoebe had asked Leo why she did not have a power like P. Russell’s – pyrokinesis. This is what Leo had told her:

”Well, if you screw up your regrets. Your past self must have abused the power. That’s why it was taken away from you.”

What the hell? How did Leo come to this conclusion? Although Past Piper (P. Baxter)’s ability – slow down others – was a variation of Piper’s ability, Past Prue (P. Bowen)’s ability turned out to be cyrokinesis (freezing ability), which had nothing to do with Prue’s abilities of telekinesis or astral projection. Nor did P. Russell’s ability (pyrokinesis) have anything to do with Phoebe’s ability of precognition. And why is Phoebe’s precognition ability considered a REGRESSION of P. Russell’s fire ability? Phoebe is a seer. She has the ability to summon information on the past, the present and the future through visions. Information is power. Both of her parents have told Phoebe that many magic practitioners would kill to be a seer. Apparently, Phoebe never believed them. Even the Source did not want Phoebe’s precognition ability . . . despite the fact that he had depended upon two seers. Which only tells me that even intelligent individuals like Phoebe and the Source can be incredibly stupid.

The Warlock – Anton - So, Anton (who was P. Russell’s lover) was supposed to be a warlock? How is that possible? It is quite apparent that Anton had never aged in the 76 years between 1924 and 2000. It was established in the first episode that warlocks were merely witches who had gone bad:

”A bad witch or a warlock . . .”

Despite what Leo had believed, witches ARE mortals. If Piper could die from a bullet wound in an alternate timeline, then witches are mortals. And if witches are mortals, then warlocks should also be mortals. Which means that either Anton should have aged or he was something other than a warlock. Also . . . the sisters and Leo have declared many times that evil cannot love. Yet, Anton was in love with P. Russell and had remained in love with her for a long time.

Phoebe’s Warning in the Book of Shadows - Apparently, all of Phoebe's future lives are doomed to die in their early 20's unless they can somehow stop P. Bowen and P. Baxter’s curse from affecting them. They end up saving present Phoebe by putting the necklace on her, but the rest of her future lives are still doomed to die in their early 20's. Thus, Phoebe wrote a warning in the Book of Shadows to warn her future selves about this. What if Phoebe’s future selves do not end up as a member of the Warren family line? Had anyone stopped to think of this?

Gordon Johnson’s Piano Talent . . . or Lack Of - Greg Vaughn, as the Charmed Ones’ great-grandfather, Gordon Johnson, is shown playing the piano in 1924. Unfortunately, it appears that Vaughn lacked the talent to fake playing the piano. One can easily see that his fingers do not even reach the keys.

The Confusing Warren Family Tree - This episode marked the only appearance of the Warren family (which began with Charlotte and Melinda Warren) tree. I came across some interesting entries that seem contradictory:

-Grams’ age: According to the family tree, Penelope Johnson (the sisters’ grandmother) was born in 1937. She gave birth to her only daughter, Patricia Halliwell, in 1950. Are we expected to believe that Grams gave birth to Patty at the age of 13? I rather doubt it. The family tree also stated that Grams had died on March 3, 1968. Gee, they got the date of Grams' death wrong by 30 years.

-Piper’s birth year: According to the family tree, Piper was born in August 1973. Yet, in one S1 episode, Piper had identified herself as a Gemini. Also, in the S1 episode, ”Thank You For Not Morphing”, Victor clearly made it apparent that she was three years older than Phoebe, who was born in 1975. The S3 episode, ”Coyote Piper” supports Victor’s words with its revelation that Piper had graduated from Baker High in 1990, making her birth date of 1972 very plausible. And I doubt that young Piper was less than two years old in S1’s ”That 70s Episode”.

-The name of the Charmed Ones’ grandfather: According to the family tree, the name of the sisters’ maternal grandfather happened to be Jack Halliwell. Yet in the S6 episode, ”Witchstock”, he is renamed Allen. All I can say is . . . what happened to Jack?

I wish I could say that ”Pardon My Past”’s glimpse into the Warren family line was interesting. But it was filled with so many inconsistencies that I cannot help but harbor a little contempt for the writer who had penned this episode.


Here is a video clip from the episode:


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"Blind Ambition" [G] - 1/1




Here is a "Star Trek Voyager" story set during Season Five:

"BLIND AMBITION"

CODE: Kim, P/T
RATING: [G]
SUMMARY: Harry Kim discovers a few truths about his friends' Starfleet ambitions. Set after S5's "Disease".

FEEDBACK: Send to lee66132000@yahoo.com. - Be my guest. But please, be kind.

DISCLAIMER: Harry Kim, Tom Paris, B'Elanna Torres and all other characters related to Star Trek Voyager belong to Paramount, Viacom and the usual Trek Powers to Be.


--------------


Inside Voyager's Mess Hall, the Talaxian cook placed two trays on the table shared by Harry Kim and B'Elanna Torres. "Here we go," Neelix announced with a flourish, "Rikkorian Quiche. Made from Rikkorian ham, mushrooms from the Airpondics Bay and Bacca leaves. I got the recipe from a restaurant chef, during our shore leave on Rikkor."

Both Harry and B'Elanna stared at the dish on their trays. To the former, it strangely reminded him of an ordinary slice of Quiche Lorraine - much to his relief. "This chef was willing to give you his recipe?" he asked, aware of professional chefs' tendency to jealously guard their recipes.

Neelix replied, "Well, I don't think he really minded. Especially since he knew I wouldn't be around to give him any competition. Besides, I gave him my recipe for Wood Nettle Strips."

"I bet he liked that," B'Elanna murmured.

Neelix's mottled face brightened. "Actually, he enjoyed it very much, when I presented him with a sample of my dish, the following day. Which is probably why he wanted the recipe." He paused, while the others continued to stare at their trays. "Anyway, as you Humans say, 'bon appetite'."

"Yeah," Harry slowly replied. He glanced at B'Elanna, who continued to regard the quiche on her tray with dubious eyes. "Well, here I go." Harry took a deep breath, broke off a piece of quiche with his fork and placed it in his mouth. He chewed.

B'Elanna stared at him. "Well?" she asked. "How is it?"

As Harry chewed his food, he discovered something surprising. Neelix's Rikkorian Quiche tasted a lot like Quiche Lorraine from back home. In other words . . . "Delicious," he declared in a surprised tone. Then he smiled at the Talaxian. "My compliments to the chef."

"Why thank you," Neelix replied happily. "Thank you very much. I thought this would be the perfect dish to serve, after all of those heavy meals we've been eating lately. Excuse me, while I prepare more quiche." He returned to the galley.

B'Elanna leaned forward. "Okay Harry, how is the quiche? Really?"

"It's great!" Harry replied enthusiastically. "Just like it's made back home. Try a bite."

The half-Klingon did as Harry had suggested. And like him, she responded to Neelix's newest culinary effort with enthusiasm. "Hmmm, this is delicicious! I ought to get Tom to try it."

Harry rolled his eyes. "Good luck," he replied sarcastically. "You know how Tom is about Neelix's cooking."

B'Elanna dismissed the suggestion with a wave of her hand. "Maybe he was like that a few years ago, but not anymore. Besides, ever since Neelix stopped serving leeola root, Tom's been a lot more tolerant."

"Tolerant of what?" a third voice asked. The two friends glanced up at the tall, fair-haired man standing before their table.

Harry grinned at his other best friend. "Hi Tom! Didn't think you would make it."

Tom Paris heaved a sigh and placed his tray on the table. "Thanks to the Doc, I nearly didn't. There's nothing more boring than conducting an experiment in cellular construction." He then sat in the empty chair, next to B'Elanna's, before planting a light kiss on her mouth. A surge of envy welled within Harry. Tom's kiss brought back memories of his recently aborted romance with the Varro woman, Tal.

The young Operations Chief shook away his dark thoughts. Tal was now in the past. He should be thankful that he had survived the whole Varro incident with nothing more than an official reprimand, instead of a spell in the brig. Or worse, a demotion. Still, the reprimand meant a black mark on what otherwise could have been a . . .

"Hello? Harry?" Tom's voice brought the younger man back into the present. "Hey, are you in another world, or what?"

Shaking his head, Harry replied, "No . . . uh, no. I was just thinking. About the past."

Blue eyes stared at him. "The past? Oh! You mean Tal. You still miss her?"

Harry shrugged. Yeah. But I was also thinking about my Starfleet record. How this latest incident could affect . . . you know, my career."

Tom reluctantly took a bite of Nelix's new dish. His eyes lit up with appreciation. "Hmmm, not bad," he commented.

"Harry and I thought so, too," B'Elanna added.

"As for your record," Tom continued, "I don't think you have anything to worry about. I mean, we're . . . what? At least 40 to 50,000 light years away from Starfleet Command. I don't think you have to worry about them finding out about your not-so-spotless record, Harry. So relax."

Frustration unexpectedly welled within Harry. There were times when he could not understand Tom's cavalier attitude toward a Starfleet career. Yes, he knew that Admiral Paris had been concerned about Tom adhering to the Paris family's tradition of joining the Command track, and later assuming the ranks of captain and admiral. And he knew that his friend valued flying a starship above commanding one. But Harry sometimes wondered how Tom could be so dismissive about anything so serious as a Starfleet career? Was it because the older man knew that any chance of a higher rank had been destroyed by his actions on the Monean homeworld?

"I'm not worried," Harry insisted, struggling to sound truthful.

Tom gave him a shrewd look. "If you say so, buddy."

Harry clamped down another surge of frustration. He hated when Tom saw through him. "Okay, maybe I am a little worried," he said, changing his mind. "Can you blame me? It's not as if we're seventy years away from home, anymore. Hell, within four years, we've already traveled a good thirty or forty-thousand light years." Harry leaned forward. "We may end up reaching home a lot sooner than we had imagined."

"And the purpose of this conversation?" Tom asked, with a touch of condescension.

Harry bit back a sigh. "What I'm trying to say is that we might end up home a lot sooner. Which means I have every reason to be a little . . . concerned about my service record. Especially after what happened with the Varro. And if that makes me seem a little ambitious, so what? We were all ambitious when we first joined Starfleet. Right?"

Instead of answering immediately, both Tom and B'Elanna exchanged wary glances. "What?" Harry demanded. "Didn't you two have ambitions about joining Starfleet?"

"Well," B'Elanna began uneasily, "I did. It's just . . ."

"What?" Harry stared at the Chief Engineer.

B'Elanna took a deep breath. "Well Harry, my main reason for joining Starfleet was to escape from Kessik IV . . . and my mother." She paused briefly. "We, uh . . . you know that we didn't get along very well. And when a Starfleet Academy recruiter had visited my school . . . Let's just say that Starfleet gave me a good reason to finally leave home. And since I happened to be a good engineer, I signed up for the Engineering track."

Harry stared at his friend in stunned silence. "That's why you had joined Starfleet? But you've always seemed . . . I don't know . . . enthusiastic about being a Starfleet officer."

"I am enthusiastic!" B'Elanna protested. "Well, at least I'm serious about being a good officer. I take pride in my work." She paused. "It's just that I don't have the same enthusiasm like I used to. Or your ambition, Harry. I'm just not a diehard Fleeter at heart."

The young ensign diverted his eyes toward the Chief Helmsman. "What about you, Tom? I know you never had any ambitions to be a starship captain, but you've always wanted to join Starfleet, right?" Harry realized that he was regarding his other friend with hopeful eyes.

It did not take the blue-eyed pilot very long to respond. "Sorry Harry," Tom replied in that soft voice of his. "To be honest, I never wanted to join Starfleet.

This time, Harry found himself feeling flabbergasted. "Wha. . . what? I thought you had at least wanted to fly the best ships in the Fleet?"

Tom sighed. Heavily. "Look, Harry, I love to fly. Really, I do. But, I also love the ocean. You know that. And because of that love, I had wanted to join the Federation Naval Patrol."

Harry reeled from shock by Tom's news. "The . . .?"

"Yeah," Tom continued, "the Federation Naval Patrol. But Dad was against the idea. A Paris always joined Starfleet. And I gave in to his demands and joined. End of story." A bitter note had crept into the helmsman's voice.

Still stunned by Tom's admission, Harry shook his head. "I don't . . . I don't get it! You had seemed happy when the Captain first gave you a field command. I thought you were happy to be a Starfleet officer, again."

"I was happy," Tom replied. "To be given a second chance, Harry. To be trusted again." His voice grew even softer. "And although I had nearly threw away that trust again, a part of me doesn't regret it." He exchanged a private smile with B'Elanna.

Harry had no idea what laid behind his friends' smiles. To be honest, he did not care. He was too busy trying to reconcile his feelings with Tom's words. "Does the Captain know? About your plans to join . . .?"

"Yeah, she knows." Tom's gaze cooled slight. "I had told her about two or three days before she demoted me and tossed me into the brig." He sighed. "Sometimes I wonder if I had not told her, would she have simply given me an official reprimand."

A slight scowl darkened B'Elanna's countenance. "That's not hard to imagine," she muttered.

"B'Elanna!" Harry stared at his friend in outrage. "You're talking about the Captain!"

The half-Klingon rolled her eyes in contempt. "C'mon Starfleet! You have to admit that she's been acting pretty erratic, this year. Mind you, we've all been having a difficult year, but the Captain . . ." She shook her head. "Sometimes I think that she hasn't recovered from her depression. At least not yet."

The word "depression" brought back memories of B'Elanna's state, earlier this year. And Seven's emotional state following One's death . . . along with the Doctor's emotional breakdown and Harry's own malaise over Tal. Even a good number of the crew had been in a bleak mood during the trip through the Void. "I know, but . . ." Harry began.

Two pairs of eyes gazed directly at him. Tom said, "I think I know what you're going to say, Harry. That after what I had done on the Monean homeworld, the Captain only did what she thought was right. And I would be the first to agree."

"Would you?" Harry demanded. "Because you seem a little bitter about it all. Is that why you're now so ambivalent about a Starfleet career? Because of what the Captain did to you?"

A long sigh left Tom's mouth. A sigh filled with frustration that made Harry feel even more naïve. And on edge. "First of all, the reason I might still be a little bitter is because so far, I'm the only Senior staff officer who has served time in the brig and been demoted. Everyone else - including you, Chakotay, Tuvok . . ."

"And me," B'Elanna added.

Tom nodded. ". . . and B'Elanna have all been officially reprimanded. Except for Neelix, who had only spent two weeks cleaning plasma manifolds and Seven, who was force to remain in the cargo bay, when she was not on duty, last year. All I'm saying is that there's a chance that my little admission about my feelings toward Starfleet may have led the Captain to her decision regarding my punishment."

"So, you're saying that this sudden aversion toward a Starfleet career has nothing to do with what happened on Monea?" Harry demanded.

The helmsman gave the younger man a long look. "Harry, my aversion toward Starfleet had began a long time ago. At least a full decade before I had entered the Academy. But like I told you, I gave in to my dad's wishes and joined Starfleet." Tom shrugged. "Aside from my years on Voyager, I've regretted giving in to Dad."

Harry tried not to feel disappointed by Tom's words. Yet, he could not help it. He felt as if he had lost some kind of connection - not only to the sandy-haired pilot, but to the Chief Engineer, as well. Because of this, he felt even more like a third wheel. Who else, aboard Voyager, with whom he could share his feelings about Starfleet? The Captain? She would have understood, but her position and their recent estrangement made her too remote for Harry. He had never been close with Tuvok - aside from their sessions of Kaltoth. And as much as Harry felt comfortable with Chakotay, the latter seemed to regard his ambitions with mild amusement. Both Neelix and Seven, as civilians, would never understand. As for the Doctor - well, Harry had never found the time to form any kind of bond with the EMH. In fact, aside from Tom and B'Elanna, the only other person Harry used to connect with was his old Academy friend, Lyndsay Ballard. And the Hirogen had killed her, last year.

Glancing into his friends' eyes, Harry detected sympathy. And pity. Their expressions made him feel lonelier than ever. It was a feeling that he had grown accustomed to, over the years. Especially during the past year or so. Perhaps Tom had been right. Perhaps he should not concern himself over a Starfleet record, recently tarnished with a reprimand. Especially since four or five decades might pass before Starfleet Command ever laid eyes upon it.

Harry sighed, as he stood up. Tom frowned. "Leaving already, Harry? You haven't even finished your dinner. And for once, it's good."

"I'm almost finished, anyway," Harry replied in a resigned voice. His eyes shifted from the pilot to the engineer. "Besides, I think you two might want to be alone."

B'Elanna responded in her usual acerbic manner, "If we were really that desperate to be alone, Harry, we wouldn't have asked you to join us for dinner." Her voice softened. "But I understand . . . if you need to be alone, right now."

"I don't . . ." Harry hesitated. Then he sighed. Why bother denying the truth? Tom and B'Elanna's revelations had just exacerbated his present moodiness. "Yeah," he finally said. "I guess you're right."

Harry glanced at his two friends, once more. After nearly five years, it still amazed him how both of them seemed to adapt to the Delta Quadrant. Despite all that they had suffered - Tom's alienation from the crew during that first year and his demotion, along with B'Elanna's depression, the Delta Quadrant suited them like water to a duck. Instead of feeling stifled and frustrated like he did, Tom and B'Elanna had flourished. Looking at them now, Harry felt more than ever like a third wheel. He wondered how long this feeling within him would last? During Voyager's entire journey in the Delta Quadrant? And how long will that last?

He bit back a sigh, smiled at his friends and bid them goodnight. As Harry sauntered toward the Mess Hall's doors, Neelix cried out, "Good night, Ensign Kim!" But the twenty-six year-old ensign barely heard him.


THE END

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Favorite FILM NOIR Movies



"FAVORITE FILM NOIR MOVIES"

Below is a list of my favorite "Film Noir" movies of all times. Not all of them are liked by the critics. And some films that are highly regarded did not make my list. This list is about what I like . . . not what are allegedly the best in this genre:




L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997) – Based upon James Ellroy novel, this Oscar winner told the story about three police officers in 1953 Los Angeles and their involvement in what seemed like a simply robbery-murder . . . and cascaded into something more complex and sinister. It starred Kevin Spacey, Guy Pierce, Russell Crowe, James Cromwell and Oscar winner Kim Basinger. This is my favorite noir film.




SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950) – Billy Wilder’s classic about a down-on-his-luck Hollywood screenwriter who becomes ensnared in the clutches of a fading and slightly insane screen actress. One of the remarkable aspects of this film is that the story is told from the screenwriter’s point-of-view . . . after he had been killed. William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim and Nancy Olson were the stars. My second favorite noir film.




CHINATOWN (1974) – Directed by Roman Polanski and written by Oscar winner Robert Towne, this tale of greed and corruption in 1937 Los Angeles centered around a successful private investigator discovering a scandal involving the city’s water supply and a major real estate scam that would reverberate in the city’s history. It starred Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston and Perry Lopez. Third favorite.




DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) – Another Billy Wilder classic that is based upon James Cain’s pulp novel. It is basically about a murder plot hatched by an insurance salesman and a femme fatale to kill her husband. It is filled with the usual snappy dialogue, sex, violence and backstabbing. A real gem. Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson starred.




DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS (1995) – Based upon Walter Mosley’s novel, the movie centers around a World War II veteran who finds himself out of a job. To earn extra money, he agrees to find a missing woman for a local politician running for mayor and finds himself ensnared in murder and corruption. Denzel Washington, Jennifer Beals, Tom Siezmore, Don Cheadle, Mel Winkler, Terry Kinney and Maury Chaykin.




THE BLACK DAHLIA (2006) – Although not a favorite with critics, I became a big fan of this murder mystery written by James Ellroy and centered around two L.A.P.D. detectives’ investigation of the real-life gruesome death of Hollywood wannabe Elizabeth Short. It starred Josh Harnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart, Hillary Swank and Fiona Shaw.




AFTER THE THIN MAN (1936) – Centered around characters created by Dashiell Hammett, William Powell and Myrna Loy played Nick and Nora Charles for the second time, as they investigate the death of Nora’s cousin-in-law. The movie also starred Elissa Landi, Sam Levene, Jessie Ralph, James Stewart, Penny Singleton, Joseph Calleia and Alan Marshal.




WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?(1988) – Robert Zemeckis directed this Disney noir spoof about a cartoon rabbit in 1947 Hollywood, framed for the murder of a local real estate mogul who happened to be owner of a piece of property called “Toon Town”. A Disney gem that starred Bob Hoskins, Joanna Cassidy, Christopher Lloyd, Stubby Kaye; and the voices of Charles Fleischer and Kathleen Turner.




HEAT (1995) – Michael Mann directed this saga about two men – an L.A.P.D. detective and the man he is trying to bring down, a successful and ruthless thief. Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Diane Verona, Ashley Judd, Tom Siezemore, Jon Voight, Mykelti Williamson, Natalie Portman, Wes Studi, Dennis Haysbert, Ted Levine, and Amy Brenneman.




THE THIN MAN (1934) – Based upon Dashiell Hammett’s novel, this is the first film featuring the sleuthing couple – Nick and Nora Charles. They investigate three deaths linked to a missing industrialist. Starred William Powell, Myrna Loy, Nat Pendleton, Maureen O’Sullivan, Minna Gombell and Porter Hall.




THE BIG HEAT (1953) – Directed by Fritz Lang, this movie is about a cop who takes on the crime syndicate that controls his city after the brutal murder of his beloved wife. It starred Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahamme, Lee Marvin, Jocelyn Brando, Jeanette Nolan and Alexander Scourby.




THE MALTESE FALCON (1941) – John Huston directed this third and best version of Dashiell Hammett’s novel about a San Francisco private eye hired to search for an artifact that his murdered partner had been searching. Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Lee Patrick, Elisha Cook and Jerome Cowan starred.




COLLATERAL (2004) – Here is another film directed by Michael Mann about two men. Set during the space of a few hours, it is about a Los Angeles cab driver who discovers that he is acting as chauffer to a professional hit man who arrives in the city to carry out his assignment – a half dozen murders on behalf of a drug lord. The movie starred Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Mark Ruffalo and Jada Pinkett.




MURDER MY SWEET (1944) – Based upon the Raymond Chandler novel, “Farewell My Lovely”, this is the first movie to feature private-eye Philip Marlowe. In it, he is hired by a recent ex-convict to find his missing sweetheart. Dick Powell played the famous detective and is supported by Claire Trevor, Anne Shirley, Otto Kruger and Mike Mazurki. Robert Mitchum remade it in 1975 with the original title.




THE LONG GOODBYE (1973) – This is Robert Altman’s version of Raymond Chandler’s novel about detective Philip Marlowe’s investigation into the charges of a friend who is suspected of murder and later, suicide by the cops. Altman seemed to go out of his way to avoid the usual film noir clichés, making the movie an unusual entry of the genre. It starred Elliot Gould, Nina Van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden, Henry Gibson, Jim Bouton and Mark Rydell.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

"A Convenient Proposal" [PG-13] - 5/5




"A CONVENIENT PROPOSAL"


PART 5 - Regrets and Reunion

Saturday morning arrived brightly over the island of Oahu. Inside the two-story bungalow, four women bustled about, preparing for a picnic on the beach. Actually, three of the women bustled. The fourth remained seated on the living sofa and observed her busy roommates, while her hands rested upon her swollen abdomen.

"Did anyone get the umbrella?" a voice cried from upstairs. Sandra's voice. "I don't see it in the closet up here!"

Barbara shouted from the kitchen doorway, "It's here! Downstairs, near the door!" Evelyn glanced at the front door. Sure enough, a large, green-and-white umbrella stood against it.

Heavy footsteps signaled Sandra's descent on the staircase. The red-haired nurse appeared in the living room, wearing a white, one-piece swimsuit and a blue dirndl skirt. "Oh, I see it," she said, glancing at the umbrella. Her gaze turned to Evelyn on the sofa. "Good. You're ready. Very nice outfit, by the way."

Evelyn did not doubt the other woman's sincerity. Just her taste in clothes. The pregnant ex-nurse privately felt the opposite about her appearance. Since her pregnancy prevented her from wearing her favorite two-piece pink swimsuit, Evelyn had to contend with a white, flower-print dress. As far as she was concerned, she might as well wear a mummu. Or a tent.

"Is everyone ready?" Barbara asked. She and Martha entered the living room, dressed in their own beachwear. Whereas Barbara's outfit resembled Sandra's, Martha wore a white, short-sleeved blouse and tan slacks.

Sandra replied, "We're ready. Only the boys and Clarice haven't arrived yet." She glanced at her watch. And it's already after eleven o'clock."

As if on cue, a car horn signaled the arrival of what sounded like more than one vehicle rolling to a halt on the driveway. Martha went to the window and peeked outside. "They're here!" She then rushed to the door and opened it. "Hey! What happened to you guys!"

Less than a minute later, Clarice and five Army pilots tramped inside the house talking all at once. Red, Steve, Gooz, a pilot named Arnie Goetz and a very somber-looking Rafe. Evelyn drew a silent intake of breath at the sight of the Tennessee-born man. Deeply tanned and dressed in a T-shirt with a Hawaiian shirt over it and swim shorts, he looked good enough to eat. She barely noticed the other visitors. Or the jar in his hand.

"You're late!" Sandra snapped. "Ten minutes late, to be exact."

Gooz rolled his eyes. "Whacha gonna do? Dock our pay?" he responded in his most laconic manner. Sandra speared him with her most formidable glare.

"Now that you're here, you can help us carry everything to the beach," Sandra continued. "Except Rafe. He can help Evelyn."

"God Almighty! I might as well be a slave on some cotton plantation!" Gooz protested, as he picked up a heavy picnic basket. "What the hell is in this thing?"

Carrying the large umbrella, Martha added, "Don't mind Sandra. She's been slowly becoming Miss Simon Legree for the past six months. Consider this change of personality as her contribution to the war effort." She started toward the door.

While the others marched out of the house, carrying various equipment and food for the picnic, Rafe remained behind, looking increasingly self-conscious. Evelyn also found herself growing uneasy. "Ready to go?" he asked, staring directly at her.

Evelyn hesitated, returning Rafe's gaze with her own. "You go ahead with the others," she said, struggling to lift her large body from the sofa. "I'll be right behind you."

"Sure you will. In about an hour from now. That's how long it's gonna take for you to get off that sofa." Rafe placed the jar on the table and reached for her arm. "Here, let me help."

"It's not necessary, Rafe! I'm pregnant, not an invalid!" But the pilot refused to heed Evelyn's protests. He grabbed her arm and helped her rise from the sofa. "I could have done that on my own," she quietly retorted.

Rafe shot back, "Jesus Evelyn! It won't kill you to get a little help!" The former lovers exchanged glares filled with wariness and resentment. Evelyn shook off Rafe's grip and headed for the door.

When they arrived on the beach, Evelyn and Rafe found the others setting up a picnic. Both Barbara and Martha were spreading blankets on the sand, while Red and Arnie set up the portable grill. Steve seemed intent on erecting the large umbrella - with no success. Clarice busied herself with unpacking the food from the picnic baskets. And Gooz had disappeared.

"Say, where's Gooz?" Rafe demanded. He abandoned Evelyn's side to help Steve with the umbrella.

Steve replied, "He went to get his surfboard. You know, the one he made improvements on. I guess he wants to test it before he can slap a patent on it." He finally managed to erect the umbrella - with Rafe's help. "Thanks." Rafe nodded and then helped Evelyn into a beach chair.

Sandra unpacked Barbara's portable radio and clicked it on. Strains of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" filled the air. "For crying out loud!" Barbara exclaimed. "Turn to another station. Please! I've had enough of listening to that song!"

"I happen to like that song," Steve protested. "What? You have something against the Andrews Sisters?"

Barbara retorted, "I have something against that song. Trust the Army to find a way to get a hit song about them on the charts. What did you guys do? Pay off some recording studio?"

It was not long before the old Army versus Navy feud flared up between Barbara and Steve. Evelyn watched the pair with interest. She realized a few things. One, the verbal spat seemed to lack any real hostility between the pair. And two, in place of any hostility, there seemed to be a playful sexuality. Apparently, Barbara had found a new man to attract her interest. Only she had not realized this yet. Before Sandra could switch to another station, the Andrews Sisters had been replaced with the Jimmy Dorsey Band playing "Tangerine".

Gooz returned, carrying his familiar surfboard. "Hey everybody! Ready to hit the surf?"

"What about the food?" Sandra asked. "Who is going to cook the burgers and hot dogs? Evelyn is certainly in no condition to do that."

Rafe spoke up quietly. "I'll do it. Y'all just go and enjoy yourselves." He began setting a fire in the grill.

"You're sure?" Red asked. Rafe nodded. While the two men exchanged a few words, Red and the others removed their clothes, revealing their swimwear underneath.

Barbara leaned close to Evelyn's ear and whispered. "Don't forget. Fight." Then she turned to the others and cried, "Last person in the water is a facist!" She, Steve, Red, Gooz, Sandra, and Clarice raced toward the water, whooping and hollering. Martha and Arnie began walking along the shore. And Evelyn found herself alone with Rafe for the first time in three days.

Rafe reached for a large platter from the picnic basket and removed the foil covering. Ground beef patties and hot dogs filled the plate. "What do you want?" he asked.

"What?" Evelyn stared at him. Rafe seemed calm. Collected. Perhaps a little too calm.

"I asked what you want. A hamburger? Hot dog?"

A nervous Evelyn cleared her throat. She had to admit that breakfast had failed to satisfy her hunger. "I guess a hamburger would be nice," she replied. "And a hot dog." Rafe shot her a surprised look. "I'm eating for two, now."

"I didn't realize that unborn babies were in the habit of eating hamburgers and hot dogs," Rafe muttered sardonically.

A smile touched Evelyn's lips. It felt nice to know that Rafe had not lost his sense of humor. She watched him place a beef patty and a hot dog on the grill. The sound of meat sizzling made her mouth water.

"Do you want barbeque sauce on your food?" Rafe asked. He picked up the jar that he had carried from the bungalow.

Eyeing the jar of sauce like a hungry predator, Evelyn asked Rafe if that was the famous McCawley barbeque sauce. "You know, your dad's recipe."

Looking somewhat pleased, Rafe added, "Yeah. My dad gave me this jar before I left Tennessee, two weeks ago." He paused and smiled. "You remember."

Evelyn chuckled. "How could I forget? You've talked about it so many times. Frank McCawley's Famous BBQ Sauce. Even Danny once men. . ." She paused, her cheeks growing hot at the mention of the late pilot.

Rafe averted his eyes. "Yeah, Danny was always crazy about Daddy's sauce," he said quietly.

Silence fell between the pair. Evelyn watched Rafe add more meat to the grill. Why did she have to open her big mouth and mention Danny? Just as she and Rafe were learning to grow comfortable with each other again. Evelyn sighed and realized that sooner or later, they would have to clear the air about Danny. Might as well get it over with now.

"Rafe," she began, "about Danny . . ."

The pilot immediately interrupted. "I know what you're thinking, Evelyn. But you don't have to worry. I've finally realized that my proposal was a big mistake. And I also . . ."

Evelyn heaved an exasperated sigh. "Look Rafe, may I finish . . ."

". . . realize that I have some unresolved feelings about . . ." Rafe continued.

"For heaven's sake, Rafe McCawley! Will you please let me finish talking for once in your life?"

* * * *

Evelyn's outburst echoed along the beach. Her face flushed pink with embarrassment. Rafe had to admit that he shared a little of that embarrassment, himself.

He opened his mouth to speak. Only a soft, "Sorry," came out of his mouth.

"No, I'm sorry," Evelyn quickly apologized. "I didn't mean to yell at you like that. I know you meant well. It's just that . . ."

Rafe took a deep breath and finished for her. "I talk too much. I know and I'm sorry."

"No Rafe." Evelyn shook her head. "It's not . . . well, you can be a little overbearing at times. But that's you. And I wouldn't have it any other way. I just . . ." She sighed. "Just let me get this off my chest, first."

Rafe riveted his eyes on the meat cooking on the grill. "Sure. Okay."

A pause followed before Evelyn continued. "When Danny first came to me with news of your death, I knew, you see. I knew even before he opened his mouth. It was . . . well, everything just went dark. I had trouble eating. Became obsessed with my work. I barely hung around the other girls during my off-duty."

"Red told me that you used to cry every night," Rafe added softly.

Evelyn stared at him questioningly. "How did Red find out?"

"Betty. Before she died, I reckon."

A somber moment followed. Then, "Oh." Evelyn pointed at the grill. "I think you need to turn the meat over, Rafe."

"Oh yeah. Thanks." Using a pronged fork, Rafe turned over the beef patty and hot dog. "You were talking about after . . . I mean, after I was reported dead."

Evelyn nodded. "Yeah." Then she revealed her life during the next three months after she learned about Rafe's death. Those miserable months during the late summer of '41and how she encountered Danny at the movies, one afternoon in mid-October. "It didn't take long for us to get comfortable with each other." Rafe made an effort not to wince. "We mainly talked about you, of course. Our memories of you. Barbara, Betty, Red and Billy saw us talking inside the Black Cat Cafe. And when the girls commented on it later, they convinced me that I should move on." A haunted look crept into Evelyn's dark eyes. "What I didn't realize at the time was that I wasn't ready to move on. At least, not yet."

A turmoil of emotions - embarrassment, sadness, anger, and jealousy threatened to overwhelm Rafe. "When did you . . ." He could barely make himself ask this next question. "When did you and Danny. . .?"

Evelyn's face turned even pinker. "I . . . maybe we shouldn't talk about this," she hastily replied.

"No! I . . . No, go ahead. I mean, it must have happened some time." It seemed to Rafe as if a hand had reached inside his chest and squeezed his heart.

A sigh left Evelyn's lips. Her eyes focused on the six figures splashing about in the water. "A few after we first saw each other. Danny took me for a plane ride over Wakikki Beach. And later . . ." She broke off, as her face became even redder. "Never mind."

Rafe found his heart rate beating even faster. "I bet it must have been a very romantic moment," he commented in a caustic voice. He wanted to shrink away. Die. Rail against the gods. Hell, something. Most of all, he wanted to beat his best friend to a bloody pulp. Until he remembered that Danny was dead and just remembering that little fact produced a wave of sadness inside him.

He glanced at Evelyn and noticed that her body had stiffened. "God! I'm sorry, Ev. I didn't mean . . ."

"Of course you did," Evelyn quietly shot back. "Not that I blame you, considering what happened. What can I say, Rafe? I was lonely and depressed. And I thought you were dead. Gone. But after what happened in the hangar, I realized that Danny and I were moving too fast. So, I tried to break it off."

"Why . . . why didn't you?"

Evelyn heaved another sigh. "Oh Rafe! I tried. I really did. The day after our plane ride. I knew immediately that we were moving too fast. Only . . ." Her eyes grew wistful. "When I saw the look on his face at that moment, I realized I couldn't do it. He seemed so desperately in love. I think he would have fallen apart if I had broken it off with him. Don't forget Rafe, he took your death just as hard as I did. Maybe even harder. But it wouldn't have worked in the end. We started dating for the wrong reason. I would have eventually broken up with Danny. Only I found out I was pregnant. And you had suddenly returned from the dead." Her voice dropped to a whisper.

Rafe lowered his head and murmured. "I guess everything just went downhill after that."

Shaking her head, Evelyn replied, "I'm sorry, Rafe. I thought this would be easy, but it's not. I'm so confused right now. A part of me is so angry right now. Angry that you had volunteered for the RAF. That I'm not carrying your child. And I feel so guilty about Danny. I can't even mourn him the same way I had mourned you. And it's not fair! It's not fair that a sweet and wonderful man like him had died before he had the chance to meet a woman who would have loved him unconditionally. The same way I love you."

Evelyn's rant left Rafe's speechless. Had he heard right? Did Evelyn just said that she loved . . .?

"Uh, Rafe?" Her voice cut into his thoughts. He saw Evelyn wipe tears from her eyes. "Shouldn't the barbeque be ready by now?"

"Huh?" Rafe glanced at the grill. "Oh! Shit! I mean . . ." He nearly jumped out of his skin as he tended to the meat. "Hand me one of those clean plates near your . . ." Realizing that Evelyn was in no condition to reach for one of the plates near her foot, Rafe snatched one up, himself. "Do you want your bread grilled?"

Evelyn shook her head. "There's no need."

Rafe fixed her a hot dog and a hamburger, dripping with his dad's sauce. Then he handed the plate to Evelyn, before placing more hamburger patties and hot dogs on the grill. The latter took one bite of the hot dog, closed her eyes and emitted a groan of deep pleasure. "Oh my God, Rafe!" Evelyn exclaimed. "This sauce is absolutely divine!"

"Thanks. I hope I did justice to the hot dog, too," he joked. Evelyn responded with a smile. T hen she finished her hot dog in three bites and started on her hamburger. As much as Rafe enjoyed this relaxed moment, he felt the need to finish their conversation. He waited until she finished the hamburger. "Evelyn? About Danny . . ."

Evelyn allowed the empty plate to slip from her lap and onto the blanket. Her dark eyes focused upon Rafe's face. "What about him?"

"Uh . . ." God! This was difficult! "I just want you to know that I understand what you went through. Both you and Danny."

"Oh."

Rafe continued, "I'm . . . Look, I'm sorry for putting you two through so much. Jumping up to volunteer for the Eagle Squadron like that. God! What an idiot I was!"

"You can't blame yourself what happened, Rafe," Evelyn said in a quiet voice. "You had volunteered before we even met." She paused. "Okay, I admit I was upset. But I was angry because . . ." She sighed. "I was angry that fate took you away from me so soon after we had met. We only had one month together. And when Danny and I heard that you were killed . . ." Tears formed in her eyes.

Rafe tossed the empty platter on one of the blankets and knelt beside Evelyn. "Hey! Hey! C'mon Evelyn, don't cry!" He took hold of her hands. "Please don't cry. I'm still here. See?"

"I know," Evelyn replied in a wavering voice. Rafe gently wiped away her tears. "I still find it a little hard thinking about that time."

Stroking her hair, Rafe whispered, "It must have been a difficult time for you. Wasn't it?" Evelyn nodded. "Yeah. Red told me that it was also difficult for Danny." He sighed. "God! Now I know how both of you must have felt." He felt tears pricking his eyes. "Shit!"

"Oh Rafe!" Evelyn held her arms out, inviting Rafe for a hug. An invitation he did not hesitate to accept. Teary-eyed, he hugged Evelyn, relishing the feel of her arms.

Still crying, Rafe continued, "I miss him, Ev. God! I miss him so much. It's like my brother had died and took a part of me."

"I know," Evelyn murmured. She began to stroke his hair. "I know."

A comfortable silence settled between the couple. Feeling Evelyn's arms around him, Rafe felt a sense of belonging he had not felt in seventeen long months. At that moment, he realized that he never wanted to do without Evelyn again. He wanted her. Needed her. Not only to help him deal with Danny's death, but also because he loved her. Rafe could not imagine life without her.

"Ev?" Rafe withdrew from her arms and wiped away his tears.

Her dark eyes penetrated his own. Evelyn reached out and began to stroke his cheek. "Yes Rafe?"

"Would you marry me?"

A sudden intake of Evelyn's breath indicated her surprise. She stared at Rafe, wide-eyed. "Rafe!"

He continued, "I'm not just asking out of some obligation to you or the baby. Or even to Danny's memory. Mind you, I'll love that baby like he or she was my own. It'll be like having Danny with me, again. But the main reason I want to marry is . . ." Rafe took a deep breath. "Hell! I love you, Evelyn! I've loved you from that first moment I laid eyes on you in New York. After this war ends, all I want for us is to spend the rest of our lives together. So, will you marry me?"

Tears streamed from Evelyn's eyes. A radiant smile lit up her face. At that moment, Rafe knew he had won her back. "Yes," she whispered. "Yes, I'll marry you!" Defying the laws of gravity, she managed to throw herself into Rafe's arms. A grunt escaped his lips. "Oh, I love you so much!"

"I love you too, honey!" Rafe maintained a tight hug. "Uh, Evelyn?"

"Yes?"

"Sorry about the lack of an engagement ring. It's back at the barracks." Rafe withdrew from Evelyn and peered at her. "Would a kiss be sufficient for now?"

Another smile touched Evelyn's lips. "More than sufficient," she murmured. Then she leaned forward and planted a light kiss on Rafe's lips.

He blinked. "Is that it?"

Evelyn let out a surprised, "Huh?"

"You call that a kiss?" Rafe smiled. "I reckon I can do better." Despite both of them being on their knees, Rafe drew Evelyn into his arms and kissed her. Deeply. It became a deep kiss, the moment she opened her mouth and allowed Rafe's tongue to meet hers.

"Hey!" a voice cried out. "Are you two going to kiss all day? Because I think these burgers have been cooking a tad too long." Rafe and Evelyn reluctantly parted lips, glanced up and found a wet Barbara standing above them. Along with the others.

Rafe rose to his feet, before helping Evelyn to hers. "Sorry about that. We, uh . . ."

"You two have some news for us?" Red asked. A smile lit up his face.

Rafe smiled back. It was his first, genuine, from-the-gut smile that had formed on his lips in a long time. "Evelyn and I are getting married."

Cries of joy and congratulations greeted the couple. Martha and Arnie appeared. The former demanded to know what was going on. Sandra told her. "That's swell," Martha replied in her usual dry tone. "Now is someone going to do something about our food before it burns?"

Rafe uttered a curse, ignoring the horrified look on Sandra's face. He raced toward the grill. "Everything's okay. It's not burned. I just need to get more burgers and hot dogs."

"It's in the fridge," Evelyn replied. "I'll help you get them. Barbara, could you . . .?"

The blond woman shrugged. "Yeah, sure. Okay, everyone! Line up for the grub!"

The others scrambled for their barbeque. Rafe and Evelyn linked arms and started back toward the bungalow. "So," Rafe said, "when do you want to get married?"

"How about the next weekend you're free?" Evelyn suggested. "We can spend our honeymoon at that motor court you had stayed at, when you first arrived in Hawaii."

"Why not the bungalow?"

Evelyn shot back, "With three other women?"

"They can stay at the motor court," Rafe explained. "Or find some quarters at the naval base."

"Tell that to Barbara." Evelyn's head rested on Rafe's shoulders. It felt good. "Rafe?"

"Hmmmm?"

"About the baby . . ."

"Yeah?"

Rafe heard a deep intake of breath from Evelyn's mouth. "If it's a boy, why don't we name him after Danny?"

Daniel Walker McCawley. The sound of that name warmed Rafe's heart. "I like that," he said. "A lot. And if the baby is a girl . . ."

"Yes?"

"How about Danielle?"

A quiet pause followed. Evelyn patted Rafe's arm. "That's a matter I think we need to discuss some other time."

In other words, no. Rafe, however, also had other plans for the baby. "Of course, whether the baby is a boy or girl, he or she is gonna be a pilot. Like his daddy. Hell, like both of his daddies. Or hers."

"Whatever you say, Rafe," Evelyn replied, her voice radiating warmth. "Whatever you say."


THE END

Friday, December 21, 2007

"DIE ANOTHER DAY" (2002) Review





”DIE ANOTHER DAY” (2002) Review


The 2002 movie, ”DIE ANOTHER DAY” marked several milestones in the James Bond franchise. One, it was released during the 40th anniversary of the cinematic Bond, which began with 1962’s ”DR. NO”. Two, it was the first time that a non-white actress portrayed the leading lady in a Bond film. And three, it happened to be Pierce Brosnan’s last Bond film for EON Productions . . . at the moment.

”DIE ANOTHER DAY” starts out with a mission in which Bond has to kill a North Korean army officer named Colonel Moon, who has been illegally selling military weaponry in exchange for African conflict diamonds. Betrayed by a MI-6 mole, Bond is swept up in a chase and shootout that results with Colonel Moon being killed by Bond before falling over a waterfall. In a departure from the usual Bond formula, the agent ends up captured Colonel Moon’s father and the North Korean military. He spends the next fourteen months being tortured for information. Disavowed by his superiors upon his release, and his status as Double-0 Agent suspended by M, Bond sets out to find the mole on his own. He eventually uncovers evidence that overtakes his personal vendetta, and M restores his Double-0 status and offers MI6 assistance to help him uncover what he has found. Bond’s search eventually leads to billionaire businessman Gustav Graves, who is actually Colonel Moon surgically altered via gene therapy. Graves/Moon has been collecting African conflict diamonds for an orbital mirror system that uses the diamonds as a source of solar energy for a small area to light the Arctic nights and, if the investment goes well with buyers, provide year-round sunshine for crop development. In truth, the orbital mirror system is actually a super weapon to be used to clear a path through the minefield in the demilitarized zone that separates North Korea from South Korea. Needless to say, Bond discovers the MI-6 mole who had betrayed him and with the help of American NSA agent, Jinx Johnson, destroys Graves/Moon’s weapon and the latter’s scheme.

Since the release of the latest Bond film, 2006’s ”CASINO ROYALE”, a harsh backlash against Brosnan’s tenure as James Bond and especially, DAD in particularly has grown considerably. In fact, DAD is now regarded as the worst Bond movie in the franchise’s history. Personally, I do not agree with this harsh assessment. I do not consider DAD to be a masterpiece or even among the better Bond films. But I certainly do not view it as the disaster that many are claiming it to be. I can honestly say that my assessment of DAD has improved slightly after my last viewing.

Pierce Brosnan had to wait three years after 1999’s ”THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH” to portray James Bond for what turned out to be the last time (so far). I do not think I would consider his performance in ”DIE ANOTHER DAY” to be amongst his finest. Yes, he had some very good moments in the film that were featured in the following scenes:

-his confrontation with M aboard the British frigate in Hong Kong Harbor

-his last meeting with General Moon before being released and exchanged by the North Koreans

-his first meeting with Gustave Graves at the Blades Club

-and his discovery of Miranda Frost as the mole


But I did have problems with certain aspects of his performance – especially his second meeting with M inside one of the London Underground tunnels and some of the sexual innuendos that he was forced to spout. In fact, that second scene with M left me with an uncomfortable feeling that dramatic angst might not be Brosnan’s forte. And I find this ironic, given his superb peformance in an old 1980 TV miniseries called ”THE MANIONS OF AMERICA”. Perhaps he simply was not up to par during the days when he shot that particular scene.

EON Productions seemed to have better luck with the movie’s leading lady, Hollywood superstar, Halle Berry. Many fans felt it was improper for her to co-star in a Bond film – viewing her as a bigger star than Brosnan. I do not know if I agree with this assessment. Both Honor Blackman (”GOLDFINGER”) and Diana Rigg (”ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE”) were already well-known thanks to the successful TV series, ”THE AVENGERS” when they shot their respective Bond films. So, I cannot really see the harm in Berry following in their footsteps. She portrayed Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson, a NSA agent investigating the whereabouts of one of the villain’s henchmen, Zao. Her investigation leads to a sexy encounter with Bond in Cuba and eventually a showdown with Graves and Miranda Frost in Korea. Due to her current unpopularity with Bond fans, many of them view Berry as the worst Bond girl ever. Why? I have no idea. Perhaps in some way, she does not fit their image of what a Bond girl should be. Personally, I thought that Berry gave an excellent performance, despite some of the bad sexual innuendos that she was forced to spout. In fact, I really enjoyed Berry’s take on the competent, yet humorous and very sly Jinx. She made the character a fun person to know. And she performed her action sequences in a competent manner. Granted, I did not feel impressed by Berry’s “homage” to Ursula Andress’ watery entrance in ”DR. NO”. But I was never that impressed by Andress’ little moment, either. Although I would never list Berry among my top five Bond ladies, I would certainly list her in my top ten. Probably at number six.

British actor, Toby Stephens portrayed Gustav Graves, a billionaire with sinister ties to North Korean agent Zao, a DNA gene therapy machine and a supply of African conflict diamonds that provide energy to a new destructive weapon called ICARUS. Graves turns out to be the same Colonel Moon with whom Bond had clashed (and allegedly killed) in the movie's pre-title sequence. Stephens had the double task of portraying a credible villain against Brosnan's Bond and recapturing Will Yun Lee's performance as Colonel Moon during Graves' private moments. Personally, I felt that Stephens did a pretty good job. Not only did he managed to portray Gustav Graves' overblown persona, he also succeeded in recapturing Lee's portrayal of the scheming and arrogant Moon, who also longs for his father's approval. Unfortunately, being sixteen years younger than Brosnan, there were times I felt that Stephens seemed too young to be considered as an equal adversary for Bond. And quite frankly, some of his dialogue seemed overblown . . . even when Moon was not doing his Gustav Graves' impersonation.

MI-6 agent Miranda Frost turns out to be the mole who initially turns Bond's life, upside-down by betraying his mission to Moon and the North Koreans. Rosamund Pike gives a subtle peformance as the treacherous Frost, who seemed to blow hot and cold toward the sexually interested Bond. Her performance, in fact, strongly reminds me of American actress Grace Kelly's performance in the Hitchcock film, "TO CATCH A THIEF". However, I did have problems with Pike's love scenes with Brosnan. She seemed to come off as a little too breathless . . . and fake. Perhaps that breathless quality was meant to be an indication of Frost's fake (or real?) ador for Bond. If so, I feel that Pike may have overplayed her scene a little bit. Sophie Marceau did a more subtle and superior job in "THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH". And like Brosnan, Berry and Stephens, Pike had to endure spouting some bad dialogue. Rick Yune portrayed Zao, Graves/Moon's right hand man, who is wanted for terrorist acts by the Americans and the Chinese. He is the very Zao who is exchanged by the Americans and the British for Bond at the North/South Korea border. Aside from his imposing presence, I did not find anything particularly unique about Yune's performance. All I can say is that he did a competent job. On the other hand, I found myself being very impressed by Will Yun Lee's performance as Gustav Graves' alter ego, Colonel Moon. Like Toby Stephens, he did a beautiful job in capturing Moon's arrogance, impatience and great need to impress "Daddy". And speaking of Moon's father - namely General Moon - it seemed a pity that the latter did not turn out to be Bond's main adversary. Kenneth Tsang portrayed the North Korean general as an intimidating and intelligent man that no one would want to trifle with. Even Bond seemed to feel the presence of his forceful personality after a joke failed to make any impact. I must commend Tsang on an impressive performance.

Judi Dench returned as M in "DIE ANOTHER DAY". By this time, she had made the role of MI-6's director as her own. But I must say that I did not find anything unique about her performance in this movie. John Cleese went from Q's assistant to the Quartermaster in his second appearance in the Bond franchise. And if I must be honest, I enjoyed Cleese's performance very much. Unlike his role in TWINE, he did not ruin his character's sharp wit with ridiculous slapstick. I realize that I am about to commit an act of sacrilege, but I found myself preferring Cleese's Q to the one created by the role's original actor, the late Desmond Llewellyn. Do not get me wrong. I thought that Llewellyn did a great job. But I simply preferred Cleese's more acid take on the role. Colin Salmon returned as M's assistant, Charles Robinson. I like the guy, but I barely noticed him in this movie. I did notice Michael Masden's performance as Jinx's NSA boss, Damian Falco. Who could help but notice? The Falco character came off as an aggressive blowhard. It seemed a shame that I found Masden's performance appalling, considering his reputation for portraying his past characters with more subtlety. I can only assume that he was forced to adhere to the Bond franchise's cliche of "the Ugly American". And finally, there is Samantha Bond as Moneypenny. Poor woman. Poor, poor woman. I disliked her sexual innuendo-spewing performance in "TOMORROW NEVER DIES". But I had to wince through that embarrassing sequence that featured Moneypenny's holographic dream of being seduced by Bond. Personally, I feel that Ms. Bond managed to reach the nadir of her tenure as Moneypenny in that scene.

I think that it seemed fitting that "DIE ANOTHER DAY" marked the Bond franchise's 40th anniversary. In many ways, the 2002 movie reminded me of its 40-year counterpart, 1962's "DR. NO". The older movie featured Sean Connery's first performance as Bond. "DIE ANOTHER DAY" featured Brosnan's last. Both movies featured the first appearance of the leading ladies, emerging from the water. Both featured Asian or part-Asian villains. And both seemed to be hampered by what I feel were schizophrenic plots and production styles.

Actually, that is the main problem I had with "DIE ANOTHER DAY". Like "DR. NO", its story was presented in a manner in which the first half seemed more like a spy thriller and the second half, a fantasy adventure reminscent of Bond movies like "GOLDFINGER", "YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE", "THE SPY WHO LOVED ME" and "MOONRAKER". And instead of the two styles blending seemlessly into a solid movie, "DAD" nearly became a schizophrenic mess. I enjoyed the first half very much. Bond's capture by the North Koreans, his and Zao's exchange and the search for the MI-6 mole who had betrayed him felt like a genuine spy thriller . . . well, except for that ludicrous moment in which Bond appeared in the lobby of a Hong Kong hotel. Unfortunately, screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade really screwed up the movie's second half in two ways - they had Q present Bond with that invisible Aston-Martin, which still makes me wince; and they sent him to Iceland and that ridiculous ice hotel. Even worse, they subjected fans to that ludicrous ice duel between Bond (in the Aston-Martin) and Zao (in a Jaguar XKR). The second half also featured the uninspiring fight between Bond and Graves/Moon aboard a military transport over Korea. The only scenes that truly made the movie's second half worthwhile were the tense scene that featured Miranda Frost's revelation as the mole and her deadly fight with Jinx aboard the transport.

Lee Tamahori ("MULLHOLAND FALLS" and "ALONG CAME A SPIDER") directed "DIE ANOTHER DAY". I thought that his direction was not that bad. But I suspect that he may have been hampered by Purvis and Wade's schizophrenic script - especially the movie's second half. Speaking of the script, I think I may have already said a lot about it. On second thought, perhaps not. For example . . . the dialogue. Yes, the movie had a some good lines. But like "DR. NO", it pretty much sucked. To be more specific, the dialogue containing sexual innuendos pretty much sucked. But that seemed to be the case in most of Brosnan's 007 films. If "TND" seemed annoyingly peppered with bad innuendos, "DAD" seemed to choke on them. I truly felt sorry for Brosnan, Berry and Pike who had to spew them every now and then. Cinematographer David Tattersall had beautifully captured the exotic color of Cuba and London's elegance. But that is as far as my admiration can go. I simply could not drum up any excitement over the Korea and Iceland sequences. Madonna sang the movie's title song (penned by Madonna and Mirwais Ahmadzar) and made a cameo appearance as a fencing master named Verity. Many fans raised a fuss over her contributions to the movie. Frankly, I found their fuss a waste of time and Madonna's contributions - both the song and the cameo - rather mediocre.

On the whole, I disagree with the prevailing view that "DIE ANOTHER DAY" was the Bond franchise's worst movie or one of the worst. Frankly, I have seen worse Bond films. In fact, I have a slightly better view of "DAD" than I do of the movie it was supposed to be celebrating - namely "DR. NO". But it seemed a shame that Brosnan's last Bond film had to be one of sheer mediocrity.

5/10