Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"Once More From Lieutenant Fusco" [PG-13]




"ONCE MORE FROM LT. FUSCO"
RATING: PG-13
E-MAIL: lee66132000@yahoo.com
FEEDBACK: Please feel free to send a little feedback. Please, no flames.
SUMMARY: Sequel to "Anthony's Doubts". Anthony Fusco expresses further feelings on the Danny/Evelyn relationship and Rafe.
DISCLAIMER: Yadda, yadda, yadda! All characters pertaining to the motion picture, "Pearl Harbor", belong to Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay, Randall Wallace and the Walt Disney Company . . . unfortunately.



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


A hell of a lot has happened in the past two months since Danny and Evelyn began dating. A lot. And it happened - well, not exactly as I had imagined. But it all came to shit, anyway.

What am I talking about? Lieutenant Danny Walker of the U.S. Army Air Corps and Lieutenant Junior Grade Evelyn Johnson of the U.S. Navy, of course. You see, about two months ago, my friend and fellow pilot, Danny, began dating this nurse. I'm talking about Evelyn. Who happened to be (or should I say, used to be) the girlfriend of another pilot named Rafe McCawley. Who is now dead. Or was dead.

Okay, let me start from the beginning. Nearly a year ago, Rafe had received permission from the Army to volunteer for the Eagle Squadron in England. The Eagle Squadron was a group of American pilots who had volunteered to help the Royal Air Force fight the German air force. Last July, we received word that the Krauts had shot down Rafe over the English Channel. As far as the RAF and the U.S. Army were concerned, Lieutenant McCawley was dead.

Both Danny and Evelyn had taken the news pretty hard. I know that Danny did. He mainly kept to himself, during off duty hours. Then three months later, he and Evelyn ran into each other at a movie theater at the Kai Kai Korner in downtown Honolulu. I wasn't there at the time, but Billy, Barbara, Red and Betty saw them at the Black Cat Café. Three or four days later, Danny and Evelyn had become an item.

No one really saw anything wrong with a guy dating his dead buddy's girl. Well, no one but me. Hey, what can I say? It's wrong! Okay, maybe it was okay for Danny to date Evelyn, but couldn't he have waited until poor Rafe had been dead for at least a year? Red said that at least Danny was around to take care of Evelyn. Hey, I see nothing wrong with that. But jeez, he doesn't have to romance the woman! Wouldn't a simple friendship suffice? You know, it seemed to me that both Danny and Evelyn thought they had fallen in love. Or called themselves moving on, after Rafe's death. Yeah right! That's what they and everyone else wanted to think. But I knew better.

Danny seemed convinced that he was in love with Evelyn. I don't know. Maybe he was. I remembered that he seemed to be walking on air, following his little plane ride with Evelyn. But I also remembered that scene I had witnessed, the following day. It happened at a park near Wakikki Beach. There I was sitting on this bench, while trying to think of ways to convince Sandra O'Connell to date me. Jeez, I must be pathetic! It had been nine months since I had first asked her for a date and she still wouldn't give me the time of day. Maybe I should just give up. Hey, there are plenty of women who would love to get their hands on an Army flyboy. Why, I know this waitress at . . .

Okay, I'm veering off course, here. Anyway, there I was, sitting on a park bench and wallowing in misery, when I heard two familiar voices from behind a hibiscus bush. Danny and Evelyn. When I heard the words, "I had a wonderful time last night," and "too fast," I forgot about Sandra O'Connell and everything else. Being nosy and proud of it, I began to wonder what happened after their little plane ride over Wakikki. Danny wouldn't let her finish. Instead, he went on about how he watched the sunrise this morning and that he didn't care what others thought, and about liking her. Jeez, what the hell happened between those two? And the poor schmuck looked so desperately happy, it was pathetic.

Evelyn caved in, of course. Who wouldn't after that performance? And so, their little romance began. The rest of us didn't see much of them during off duty hours. After striking out with Sandra O'Connell so many times - God, I hate admitting that - I met this waitress from the Black Cat Café named Marie Blake. She more than made up for my failure with "youknowwho". Marie and once came across Danny and Evelyn, on this half-deserted beach, one Saturday afternoon in early November. One look from them and Marie and I got the hint. Danny and Evelyn wanted to be alone. Danny wanted his ladylove to himself that afternoon. And Evelyn - well, she seemed embarrassed to see us. See me. Gee, I wonder why. She had no reason to feel embarrassed. Did she? Realizing that we weren't wanted, Marie and I left and found our own private spot.

Danny and I never spoke about what happened that day. I guess we both felt too embarrassed. Especially since I never bothered to hide how I felt about him dating Evelyn. Besides, other events began to occupy our thoughts. For one, the peace talks between our government and the Japanese hit a snag. The Army and Navy bigwig placed all military personnel on alert, in case of an attack by Jap fifth columnist saboteurs. Naturally, nothing happened and the talks continued. And Washington cancelled the alert. Then one week later, the shit really hit the fan. And I don't mean from the Japanese.

Trouble arrived in the form of one Lieutenant Rafe McCawley, back from the dead. Jesus, it was a shock seeing him in our barracks, dressed in his uniform. We were all so happy to see him that we didn't notice the sour mood on his face. Well, Red and Billy didn't. But I did. I wondered what brought on his bad mood, until Danny arrived a few minutes later. The look that Rafe gave Danny could have left that poor bastard's body decomposing six feet under ground.


Somehow, Rafe must have found about Danny and Evelyn. Danny tried to talk with Rafe, but no dice. Rafe kept ignoring him.

Since Rafe appeared out of nowhere, he had no quarters assigned to him. Billy and I led him to a little motor court not far from the base. Rafe didn't talk much. Very unusual for a guy with a motor mouth like his. We also invited him for a little celebration at Hula-La bar. He wasn't in the mood and asked if we could postpone at least until tomorrow night. Billy and I agreed and left. On our way back to the barracks, Billy wondered out loud if the war had done something to Rafe. I told him, yeah. Because of the war, he had lost his girl to Danny. Being one of the idiots who pushed Danny into going after Evelyn, Billy didn't take my remark very well.

I had planned to spend the following day with a ride around Oahu with Marie. Remembering that Rafe was alone in his hotel room, I asked her if it would be okay to invite him. She didn't mind and Rafe seemed glad to join us. It was a different man who rode with Marie and me that day. I swear, Rafe couldn't stop talking. And he talked about everything - well, almost. He talked about his home and parents in Tennessee, his childhood, England and even the girls he had dated. But not once did the subject of Danny or Evelyn ever cross his lips.

Marie had to work that evening. Which meant I was able to join the others to celebrate Rafe's return at the Hula-La bar. The place was really jumping that night. No big surprise, considering it was Saturday night. The entire squad was there - including Danny.

Red got really excited . . . and drunk. Like the rest of us, he wanted to know what it was like fighting the Krauts in Europe. So Rafe told us about the R.A.F. and the German air force. He also told us how he got shot down and how members of the French Underground found him and nursed him back to health before sending him back to England. Thank God that Rafe seemed occupied, because for a while, it seemed that he had forgotten Danny. That is until Walker arrived. The moment he entered the bar, I could feel the hostility pouring out of Rafe.

So naturally, our luck didn't hold forever. Soon, Rafe began talking about tactics that include shooting from behind. Yeah, he was also talking about Danny. Things were starting to get really uncomfortable, but Gooz saved the day - somewhat - by offering Rafe his shirt. But it didn't last, because Danny had to talk to Rafe. The damn idiot could not see that his timing - as usual - was off. Danny practically begged Rafe to understand what happened between him and Evelyn. Yeah, right. Like that was gonna happen. And sure enough, it wasn't long before a fight broke out between the two. Which led to a major brawl in the bar.

The MPs and the Navy's shore patrol soon arrived to break up the fight. I don't know what happened to Danny and Rafe. But Red, Billy, Joe, Gooz and me hightailed it out of the bar before we could get arrested. We all headed for the beach and scattered. After the military police left, we returned to the Hula-La. The place was a wreck and there seemed to be no use in hanging around.

Red wanted to know what happened to Rafe and Danny. Gooz speculated that the MPs caught them. But Joe told us that he saw them take off in Danny's Oldsmobile. "Probably to talk about that nurse," he added. That was when I told them that the whole mess was their fault. For encouraging Danny to run after Evelyn. Except for Gooz, everyone protested, claiming they had no idea that Rafe would return from the dead. "Even if he had remained dead," I continued, "it would have been a mistake. You don't go after your dead buddy's girl. Especially if your buddy had only been dead for three months! What the hell were you all thinking, giving him stupid advice like that?"

The boys all grumbled, claiming they had thought the idea of Danny and Evelyn was not so bad. But I could tell they were beginning to think otherwise. Gooz, however, suggested that Evelyn might have fallen in love with Danny. I shot down that idea the moment it came out of his mouth. I remembered that moment in the park. In love, my foot! Even a blind man could see that although she obviously had a lot of affection for Danny, love wasn't it. In love with Danny. Yeah right!

By the time we returned to the barracks, I was dead on my feet. It didn't take me long to fall asleep. It's funny. One day we were all recovering from Rafe's sudden reappearance, and the next day we were at war. Hell, I was barely awake when I heard planes flying over the barracks. My first thought - those damn Navy flyboys were buzzing us again. Goddamn Navy jocks! I tried to return to sleep, but I couldn't. Not with Red sounding like a stalled engine. Dammit, couldn't he just shut the hell up and let a man sleep?

Then two words finally tore out of Red's mouth and woke me up. "The Japs!" That and the bullets that were whizzing over us. After that, I was wide awake and ducking under my bunk. What had happened? Well, it seemed the peace talks between the Japanese government and ours had fallen apart. Which led the Japanese Navy to attack our military bases, here in Hawaii. We were at war. Rafe and Danny soon arrived in the latter's Oldsmobile. Poor Billy got blown to bits because he wouldn't get away from that delayed bomb. And when Danny drove us and some photographer all the way to Wheeler Field, Jap planes followed us all the way. Shooting bullets at us, of course.

There were planes, and our mechanic, Earl, waiting for us at the airfield. But we couldn't get near a plane thanks to the Japs. And although Danny was our squad leader, we ended up following Rafe's lead. Hell, he was the only one with combat experience. In the end, only Rafe and Danny managed to get in the air. Poor Joe was killed before he could take off. Rafe and Danny ended up shooting down seven Jap planes, while Earl managed to shoot down one from the tower.

All in all, it was quite a shitty day. The Japanese Navy came close to destroying the Navy's entire Pacific Fleet. Came close. If they had made a third strike and destroyed the aircraft carriers, they would have succeeded. Many of our own planes had been destroyed. And I heard that the Japs also struck the Philippines and Guam. The next day, Congress declared war on Japan.

Both Billy and Joe were dead. And Red's fiancé, Betty, had been killed when the Japs struck the Navy hospital at Pearl. Poor Red. I don't think he has been the same, since. As for Rafe, Danny and Evelyn, they all survived. Which meant they would have to settle the mess between them, sooner or later. They certainly hadn't, two days later, when we all went to say good-bye to Billy, Joe and Betty. Both men kept their distance from Evelyn.

Not long after the memorial service, the remaining pilots in our squad received new orders. We were to report to our old commanding officer from Mitchell Field, Colonel Doolittle. He was now in California with a new mission for us. It seemed someone back in Washington had thought up a way to strike back at the Japs. It was a plan that Army pilots would participate in. We didn't know the particulars, but considering that that the Japanese were in the process of taking over the Pacific area, I had the awful feeling we were about to take part in a suicide mission. Don't get me wrong. I wanted to get back at them for Pearl Harbor. But I had a bad feeling about all this. A very bad feeling. I told Marie that I was leaving. She didn't exactly feel easy about the whole matter, herself.

Several days later, an Army transport plane awaited at Wheeler Field, to take us to California. On that day, I finally learned what happened between Rafe, Danny and Evelyn. She was there, dressed in black for Betty. Gooz, Red and the rest of us boarded the plane. Only Rafe and Danny remained outside. Rafe barely acknowledged Evelyn's presence. She did the same. Instead, it was Danny that she talked to, while Rafe headed for the plane.

Then she kissed Danny good-bye. I couldn't believe my eyes! Had I been wrong all this time? Had the others been right? That Evelyn had fallen in love with Danny? I almost believed it myself, until I saw something very curious. While she was saying good-bye to Danny, Evelyn shot a quick glance at Rafe. It was so quick. One would barely notice it. But I did. I also noticed that look expressed her true feelings. She was still in love with Rafe.

I didn't get it. If she was stil in love with Rafe, what was with the big production number with Danny? What's with the public kiss? And why didn't Rafe put up a fight? I thought long and hard about this, while the plane headed down the airstrip. Danny and Evelyn had dated for about two months. I recall the ecstatic look on Danny's face after his little plane ride with Evelyn. I remembered Evelyn's comments in that Honolulu park about moving too fast. I was still stunned on how Rafe gave her up so fast. And that look she gave him, while saying good-bye to Danny.

Then it hit me. It finally hit me as the plane lifted into the sky. Evelyn was pregnant with Danny's baby. How else could one explain why she would choose Danny and not Rafe? Sometime between that plane ride and a month before Rafe's return, Walker had knocked her up. Jesus, Mary and Joseph! What a goddamn mess! That is, if my suspicions were true. And I usually have pretty good instincts.

As our plane flew east over the Hawaiian Islands, I glanced over at both Rafe and Danny. They sat next to each other. Interesting. Danny looked happy, but anxious. And Rafe? Hell, he mainly kept his eyes glued to the window. I got the feeling that he didn't want to talk to or acknowledge anyone. Especially Danny.

So there we were, a handful of Army pilots flying toward California to train for some dangerous mission against the Japs. If Danny survived, he would return to Evelyn and probably marry her. But I couldn't help but feel if that happened, both of them would be making an even bigger mistake than the one they did back in October. I could be wrong. I hope I was wrong. But I rarely am. I guess I would have to wait and see after we return from this mission. That is, if we return.


THE END




POSTCRIPT: Lieutenant Anthony Fusco and Captain Daniel Walker were killed in action on April 18, 1942; following a bombing mission over the Empire of Japan.

Monday, July 30, 2007

"Character Development . . . or Regression?"





Character Development . . . or Regression?


Recently, I had read Lisa Eiseman's review of "Necromancing the Stone" and found the following:

“Phoebe has always sought out the stronger "alpha" male, and really is best when she is the "damsel in distress" needing rescuing. She has an innate need to be watched over, her own self-assurance was very low when the audience was introduced to her five years ago. Over the years her confidence grew, only to be beat down after Cole’s second turn to the dark side. Yet, her self confidence has been getting stronger and stronger this season after fighting and vanquishing Cole and, of course, her success in the business world. However, this episode only showed how much further she has come in shying away from dependency. Instead of taking Jason’s offer, she realizes that she can exist on her own and still be a strong woman and witch.”

Ms. Eiseman’s words had led me to thinking about Phoebe Halliwell’s development on CHARMED. I must admit that I agree with her original statement about Phoebe. She has always been the type who wants an “alpha male” to look over her. A recent example is a description of a scene from the upcoming “Generation Hex”:

“Cole does appear in a few flashbacks-- once in his first meeting with Phoebe when he grabs her calf (Coops says it was a cute meet but Present Phoebe just tells Coop that Cole was setting her up, and another flashback from Cenntenial Charmed when Phoebe throws the potion vial at him and Coop hugs Present Phoebe as Cole vanquishes into flames.”

Not only does the above statement verified Ms. Eiseman’s statement that Phoebe will always require an alpha male in her life (at some point, Prue had served this role before Phoebe met Cole), but that Phoebe had never overcame this desire. Even now, she is using Coop as the role of “prince charming” or “knight in shining armor” in her life.

On the hand, I disagreed with Ms. Eiseman’s statement on one matter. I DO NOT believe that Phoebe had displayed any strength when she finally rejected Cole in Season Five. In fact, I believe that she had behaved in a cowardly manner. Instead of facing the troubles of her marriage, she ran away. Neither she nor her sisters had ever bothered to find out how Cole became the Source back in late Season Four or in early Season Five. When he finally came back, she pushed him away – refusing to discuss their problems or what happened. I cannot help but feel that if Phoebe had not done this, she could have learned the truth about the Source’s possession of Cole. But she didn’t. Instead, she pushed Cole aside and ran away. She behaved in a cowardly manner. In the end, her behavior drove Cole to an emotional breakdown.
Was Cole wrong in his attempt to keep Phoebe in his life? Yes. Back in late Season Three, he had proven with his decision to infiltrate the Brotherhood of the Thorn that he was capable of making a morally correct decision without Phoebe’s encouragement or approval. But one-and-a-half years later, Cole seemed incapable of remaining “good” (if that is the word most fans are willing to accept) without Phoebe in his life, because of his fervent desire to hold on to his marriage. Cole was wrong in his attempt to cling to Phoebe to make his life better. But Phoebe was wrong to push him away, especially when she knew that he was on the verge of an emotional breakdown.

The show’s portrayal of the sisters’ emotional breakdowns in compared to Cole’s struck me as interesting . . . and perhaps a little hypocritical. Prue had suffered an emotional breakdown in “Death Takes a Halliwell” and nearly beat a Seeker to death for the wrong reason (Cole had to stop her). Piper in “Hell Hath No Fury” and Phoebe in “Look Who’s Barking” both suffered from emotional breakdowns and found themselves at the mercy of supernatural entities due to their inabilities to get over their problems. The writers made sure that the viewers would be sympathetic to the sisters’ . . . even when they were doing wrong. But when Cole had his own breakdown in mid-Season 5, the writers had expected the viewers to be glad that Phoebe was pushing him away . . . even when he tried to commit suicide twice. What makes this worse is that even after all of these years, Phoebe still does not have the guts or is too blind to realize that BOTH she and Cole were responsible for the failure of their marriage – and not just Cole. In the end, Cole erroneously believed that he could not stay good without Phoebe in her life. And the Halliwells’ continuous declarations that he was “evil” did not help overcome this state of mind. Alyssa Milano once stated that Cole was nothing more than a “bad boy” for Phoebe to indulge for at least two years of her life. I hate to say this, but I find Ms. Milano’s statement very hard to accept. In my opinion, I believe that Phoebe was simply too immature to deal with being involved with someone as complex as Cole. She wanted a one-note heroic alpha male. And Cole proved to be a complex individual with a light and dark side – something that Phoebe could not handle or deal with.

In another passage of Ms. Eiseman’s review of “Necromancing the Stone”, she claimed the following:

“However, this episode only showed how much further she (Phoebe) has come in shying away from dependency. Instead of taking Jason’s offer, she realizes that she can exist on her own and still be a strong woman and witch.”

Apparently, Ms. Eiseman had been premature in this assessment of Phoebe. The latter eventually did accept Jason Dean’s offer to accompany him to Hong Kong. And in the course of their ten-month relationship, failed to tell him that she was a witch. He had discover this, accidentally in “Used Karma”. Why? Because Phoebe was afraid that such a revelation would end her relationship with the millionaire (or billionaire). Ironically, it was Phoebe’s ten-month lie that eventually destroyed the relationship and not her role as a witch. The end of her relationship with Jason ended up signaling nearly a two-year search for Phoebe to find her “true love” and a father for her future baby. In the end, Phoebe still needed a man . . . and apparently a child, to find meaning in her life. And she found her “Prince Charming” in a man who obviously did not have any problems with serving as Phoebe’s future “alpha male protector”, if that scene in “Generation Hex” is anything to go by.

Did Phoebe develop as a character? I cannot honestly answer “yes”. Granted, many fans will argue that Phoebe eventually acquired a career. She also moved out of the house . . . something I believe that she had to do to stop revolving her life around her sisters. Moving out of the house may have helped her learn to become Phoebe Halliwell, instead of part of the Charmed Ones. But in the end, I do not think that Phoebe really developed as a character. Many believe that her romance with Cole had stunted her growth. I agree. But unlike others, I do not believe it was Cole’s fault. I believe that Phoebe could not handle dealing with the moral ambiguity that he represented. As Paige once stated, whenever Phoebe found any of her relationships in trouble, instead of dealing with it, Phoebe ran away from her problems. I believe she did just that with Cole by pushing him away. She did the same with Leslie St. Clair in early Season Seven. And with Jason Dean and Dex Lawson, she resorted to lies to avoid any problems that might arise with them discovering her role as a witch. With Coop, one of the Cupids, she finally gets her knight-in-shining armor or her “alpha male protector”. But she did so at the expense of her characterization. Personally, I find that sad. Phoebe gets her fairy tale ending without really growing up as a character.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

"Anthony's Doubts" [PG-13] - 1/1



Here is a "Pearl Harbor" vignette told in the first person, from the point of view of one of the movie's supporting characters, a New York born Italian-American named Lieutenant Anthony Fusco (portrayed by Greg Zola). It's called, "Anthony's Doubts":

"ANTHONY'S DOUBTS"
RATING: PG-13
E-MAIL: lee66132000@yahoo.com
FEEDBACK: Please feel free to send a little feedback. Please, no flames.
SUMMARY: Anthony expresses his feelings toward the burgeoning relationship between Danny and Evelyn.
DISCLAIMER: Yadda, yadda, yadda! All characters pertaining to the motion picture, "Pearl Harbor", belong to Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay, Randall Wallace and the Walt Disney Company . . . unfortunately.

NOTE: This comes from that delicious line expressed by someone in the movie. I think it was Anthony Fusco, but I'm not sure. I only wish I could remember it, word from word.


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


"ANTHONY'S DOUBTS"


I don't know why everyone seems to think it's a good idea for them to date. I certainly don't. If you ask me, they're making a big mistake. Danny and Evelyn, I mean.

I mean, jeez, anyone can see that Danny and Evelyn are only interested in each other, because of Rafe. Rafe McCawley - Danny's best friend and Evelyn's boyfriend. Well, dead best friend and dead boyfriend. Rafe has been dead for the past three months. Shot over the English Channel by the Germans. Damn Krauts!

Of all the people I could never see getting shot down it was Lieutenant Rafe McCawley, of the U.S. Army Air Corps. I mean, hick or no hick, the man was a talented pilot. Even our old CO from Mitchell Field, the famous James Doolittle, had considered Rafe to be an outstanding pilot. And Rafe . . . well, he just seemed too talented and too alive to bite the dust over the English Channel. Then again, no one lives forever. Not even a walking live wire like poor old Rafe.

Danny Walker is another kettle of fish. Like Rafe, he's another talented pilot. Although not quite in Rafe's league. I guess you can say he was the second best pilot in our squad. Now that Rafe is dead, he's the number one guy. Now Danny is the quiet type. Sometimes, the man barely says two sentences during an entire day. Unless the subject happens to be flying. He had practically worshipped the ground Rafe walked upon – like a typical younger brother Hell, they had seemed like brothers. I heard that Danny's pop had fought in the last war and came home, a drunken wreck. After he died, Rafe's parents took Danny in and the two practically became brothers. Now that Rafe is dead, he no longer has a family. I guess as far as he's concerned.

And then there was Evelyn Johnson. I still remember that evening in New York, when we all first met her and the other nurses. I had my eye on Sandra O'Connell, a pretty redhead with glasses and kissable lips. What is it with that woman, anyway? After nine months, she acts as if I've got the clap or something. Although I mainly had Sandra on my mind, I could not help but notice Rafe and Evelyn. The electricity between them was unmistakable. I swear it seemed as if they were in their own little magical world.

Poor Evelyn. Rafe's death must have hit her just as hard as it did Danny. Both Red and Betty told me that for the past three months - since Rafe's death - she had been crying herself to sleep. I remember how she seemed to be in a daze, during that little memorial service we had for Rafe at the Hula-La Bar. Come to think of it, Danny kept to himself a lot, during that period. The only time he seemed to come alive was during flight duty. I don't know. Maybe he had visions of avenging his buddy's death.

Then just a few days ago, Red proposed marriage to Betty. They, along with Billy and Barbara, spotted Evelyn and Danny together, inside the Black Cat Café. They had run into each other outside a movie theater in downtown Honolulu. Billy and Red talked of nothing but Danny and Evelyn. And how it would be great for those two to get over Rafe's death and start dating. Jesus, what a couple of morons! Meanwhile, Danny ran over to the nurse’s quarters at Pearl, to return Evelyn's handkerchief. Yeah, right. I saw how he looked. Like a man who had found a drop of water in the middle of the desert.

And now we have Evelyn, visiting Danny, here at Wheeler Field. Dressed in this little red Chinese number that fit her in the all the right places. It was obvious that she wore it to impress Danny. And the dumb idiot practically drooled over her like a dog in heat.

Being Danny, he asked us for advice. Should he or shouldn't he date Evelyn? Red told him to give her a shot. As far as Red was concerned, Rafe was dead and it was time for Danny and Evelyn to move on. That was the worst advice anyone could have given. I think I was the only one who thought differently. I said that if I were dead and my best friend was dating my girl, I'd come back and beat the shit out of him. Everyone laughed, thinking I was joking. Well, I wasn’t joking. I Jesus, they can’t all be idiots, can they?

Red, Billy and the others don’t seem to understand that you can't stop grieving over someone, as if he or she was a sink you can easily turn off. I remember my Uncle Mario Fusco. He was a soldier who had served in China, some fifteen years ago. Poor Uncle Mario had been declared dead and his wife, Aunt Lucinda, cried over him something awful. Well, the rest of the family advised her to move on and she ended up getting engaged to one of Mario's buddies, this guy named Paul Rizzo. And guess what happened? After dating Paul for several months, Aunt Lucinda decided to marry him, because she was lonely. Despite the fact that she still had not recovered from Uncle Mario's death. Just before the wedding, Uncle Mario showed up, alive and well. And Aunt Lucinda dropped this Rizzo fella like a hat. It almost broke up Mario and Paul's friendship.

Now, I'm not saying that Rafe is going to appear from the dead or anything like that. But hey, you never know. Plus, I can see that Evelyn still has not recovered from his death. When she visited Danny, this afternoon, I had this weird feeling that her heart wasn't really focused on him. It seemed . . . well, as if she had to force herself to stop grieving. I suspect that the only reason both are interested in each other is because of Rafe. They're using each other to get over their grief, but they don't seem to realize that.

But it's too late now. Danny just left to see Evelyn. He told me that he plans to take her flying over Wakikki Beach. I don't know. Something tells me that nothing good is gonna come out of this. And my instincts are usually pretty on the QT. I guess all I can do is wait and see.


THE END

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"HARRY POTTER and the Deathly Hallows" Book Review




”HARRY POTTER and the Deathly Hallows” Book Review

I usually do not post book reviews, but a great deal has been made about this last installment of J.K. Rowling’s "HARRY POTTER" series that I thought I might as well say something. I have only been a die hard fan of the series since the release of the third movie, ”PRISONER OF AZKABAN” in 2004. I had also seen the first two movies in the theaters. I had enjoyed both, but it was the third film that had induced me to read the novels. Between ”AZKABAN”and the books, I became a die-hard fan. But this is not about the other stories. This is about the last . . . ”THE DEATHLY HALLOWS”


I am going to make this short. As much as I have enjoyed the series, I have come to the realization that I like the last five novels – starting with ”AZKABAN” more than I do the first two. I guess I find it easier to relate the increasingly ambiguous nature of the story. And if there is one thing I can say about ”THE DEATHLY HALLOWS” is that it is one hell of an ambiguous novel. In it, Harry Potter and his two friends – Ron Weasley and Hermoine Granger – truly start on their road to adulthood. And this, I believe, is the major strength of this novel.

By the time I came to the middle of the novel, I realized that for the first time in the series, most of its setting would take place away from Hogswarts. A part of me felt slightly disappointed that Harry, Ron and Hermoine did not reach the school until the last several chapters of the novel. On the other hand, I feel that this was the correct thing for Rowling to do. For me, ”THE DEATHLY HALLOWS” definitely seemed like a ”coming of age” story for our three protagonists. It was a maturity that they strongly needed in order to face the main villain, Lord Voldemort (aka Tom Riddle) and his Death Eaters. Looking back on the story, I do not think that Harry, Ron and Hermoine would have acquired their maturity and backbone if the story had mainly been set at Hogswarts. I think it was a very good move on Rowling’s part.

And our three heroes truly did grow. Hermoine learned to face her feelings for Ron and overcome that narrow-minded superiority that originally made her dismiss the legend of the Deathly Hallows. Ron learned to overcome his insecurity about his abilities as a wizard, his views on non-human magical creatures like house elves . . . and face his feelings for Hermoine. And Harry learned to overcome his tendency to play lone wolf and realize that people are not always what they seemed to be. The truths about Sirius’ treatment of Kreacher, Dumbledore’s past and his desires for powers, Snape’s feelings for Lily Potter and his true role in the war against Voldemort were powerful lessons for Harry. And I guess one could say they were powerful lessons for Ron and Hermoine, as well.

Of course, the deaths of Fred Weasley, Colin Creevy, Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks and others were painful. But it were the deaths of Dobby and Severus Snape that really moved me to tears. And the trio’s painful adventures throughout the British Isles seemed like another version of Homer’s “ODYSSEY” that probably lifted this last installment almost to an epic quality. I only have three complaints about ”THE DEATHLY HALLOWS”:

a) Aside from Horace Slughorn, none of the Slytherins had participated in the battle. It annoyed me that Rowling went through all of that trouble to allow Harry not to judge others for superficial reasons . . . and yet, she insisted upon maintaining the clichés about the Slytherins that they could not be trusted;

b) I wish that Harry had revealed to the others – especially the other Death Eaters that Voldemort was a half-blood;

c) The final battle at Hogswarts seemed like one chapter too long at times. But what can one expect when it was interrupted twice – first by Snape’s death and past memories and later by Harry’s ghostly encounter with Dumbledore?


But ”THE DEATHLY HALLOWS” also had some great moments. Here are my favorites:

a) Bill and Fleur’s wedding was a hilarious family affair for the Weasleys, until Kingsley Shacklebolt’s patronus warned them of the encoming Death Eaters;

b) Harry, Ron and Hermoine’s adventures in London – including their break-in of the Ministry of Magic;

c) Ron’s return and Hermoine’s reaction;

d) The trio’s adventures at the Malfoy Manor and their reunion with Dobby, Ollivander, Dean Thomas and Luna Lovegood;

e) The trio’s escape from Gringotts on a blind dragon;

f) Harry and Hermoine’s creepy visit to Godric’s Hollow;

g) The trio’s visit to the Lovegood home;

h) The trio’s encounter with Albeforth Dumbledore;

i) The trio’s return to Hogswarts;

j) Ron and Hermoine’s first kiss;

k) Ginny’s birthday kiss to Harry;

l) The chapter on Snape’s memories of Lily Evans Potter and Albus Dumbledore – which in my opinion was my favorite in the entire novel.


I wonder if J.K. Rowling will write any other books, now that she has finished her opus on the boy wizard, Harry Potter. If she does, I hope that they will be as excellent as the seven novels that have entertained the public for the last decade. But if her next book or books are not as good, I will not hold it against her. After all, she did create Harry Potter for all of us to enjoy for years to come – in both the novels and the movies.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Analyzing Love in the STAR WARS Prequel Trilogy




"ANALYZING LOVE IN THE 'STAR WARS' PREQUEL TRILOGY"

I have read some rather curious remarks about the Anakin Skywalker-Padme Amidala relationship in the "STAR WARS" Prequel Trilogy. There are many fans who have questioned Padme's love for Anakin not only in "Attack of the Clones", but also in "Revenge of the Sith". For some reason, they seemed to find it inconceivable that she would fall in love with such a flawed character. I am curious as to why people think they can analyze love, whether between fictional characters or in real life. And why do many assume that love and morality is one and the same?

If Anakin Skywalker, in the STAR WARS Prequel Trilogy, had been the model Jedi who could do no wrong, people would have never questioned why Padme had fallen in love with him, or why she married him. But since Anakin is presented as being a flawed person, people come up with all kinds of theories and reasons (which usually has nothing to do with love) as to why she fell in love with him in the first place.

The problem is that people seem to harbor the mistaken belief that love is about perfection or near perfection. Or that no one would fall in love with someone with the potential for evil. They also believe that one can only fall in love with someone after a certain period of time. Unfortunately, love does not work like that. Love is dangerous, unpredictable and very confusing for all. You cannot pinpoint on why someone will fall in love with a certain person.

One thing I have always admired about Padme was her willingness to love Anakin for himself. Yes, some people like to theorize that she became his wife, because she mistakenly believed that she could "reform" him. I cannot help but laugh at such a theory. Has it ever occurred to anyone that the true reason Padme fell in love with Anakin was because he brought up feelings within her that no one else has ever been able to?

When you love someone, you have to be willing to accept that person is and always will be flawed - and will always have the potential for both good and evil within. Not only was this true of Anakin, but of Padme as well. She has not always been perfect. In "The Phantom Menace", Padme had allowed her anger and frustration with the Galactic Senate to be coerced by Palpatine into declaring a vote of "no confidence" against Chancellor Valorum. This act led to Palpatine's first step into a position of real power. And it also proved that Padme was just as capable of making disastrous choice on the spur of an emotional moment. Anakin, himself, discovered how arrogant and pushy she can be upon their arrival in Naboo, in "Attack of the Clone". During their time on Padme's home planet, he realized that she was not the symbol of angelic perfection that he had perceived. Yet, he fell in love with her, more than ever.

In the end, I think we must realize that we cannot really judge why Padme fell in love with Anakin. She knew that he was capable of great darkness. But she also knew that he could be a good man. But I think that in the end, what really mattered was that he made her feel something that no one else could. And when you find someone like that - why ignore it? Even if the relationship might end in disaster or tragedy?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Notes and Observations on "STAR WARS - EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES"




EPISODE II – ATTACK OF THE CLONES

Notes and Observations

The following is a list of minor notes and observations that came to me, during my recent viewing of “Episode II: Attack of the Clones”. I hope that you enjoy them:

*It is interesting that the story starts out with Coruscant – the seat of the Republic’s power – covered in a shroud of fog. Was this an allegory of the Republic’s impending doom? Or a sign of hidden secrets within the seats of power?

*Why did the Jedi believe they would have to protect the Republic in a military action, if the Separatists broke away? It seems as if the Republic and the Jedi were prepared to consider using military force to draw the Separatists back into the Republic, against their will.

*I noticed that both Mace and Ki-Adi had the same condescending attitude that the entire Council had in TPM, when explaining to Padme that Dooku could never be behind her assassination attempt.

*Why was it so important to Obi-Wan that he and Anakin follow the Council’s instructions regarding Padme, to the letter?

*I wonder if Jango would have killed Zam if she had succeeded in killing Padme.

*Are dreams usually dismissed by the Jedi in such a cavalier fashion?

*No wonder the Jedi and senators like Bail Organa had never formed a strong bond by ROTS, if Obi-Wan’s general attitude toward all politicians (which the Order shares, I suspect) is anything to go by.

*The more I look at Anakin and Obi-Wan’s interactions in AOTC, the more I realize how unsuited they were for a master/padawan relationship. Anakin would have been better off being trained by someone more suited to deal with his emotional and non-conformist personality. However, I see nothing wrong with Anakin and Obi-Wan forming a strong friendship, once Anakin becomes a Jedi Knight.

*I wonder if Anakin’s feelings about Palpatine would have remained the same if Obi-Wan had been less strident in his teaching.

*How interesting. Obi-Wan ended up following Anakin’s suggested mandate regarding Padme’s would-be assassin, after all.

*The Coruscant chase sequence is another major favorite with me. Note the slightly chubby woman with Ahmed Best and a silver-blond woman with too much eye make-up, both giving Anakin lust-filled glances in the nightclub scene. Come to think of it, I believe I had spotted two other women doing the same.

*”Until caught this killer is, our judgement she must respect.” – Why did Yoda believe that Padme MUST accept the Jedi’s decision that she return to Naboo? I realize that he is concerned for her safety. But why would he assume that she had no choice but to accept the Council’s decision on where she should be? At least Mace seemed to realize that Padme would obey if Palpatine, as the Supreme Chancellor, had given the order.

*When discussing his abilities with Palpatine, Anakin is polite and practically modest. Yet, whenever he is around Obi-Wan or discussing the latter, he becomes arrogant about his abilities and bitter at what he perceives as Obi-Wan’s inability to recognize them.

*”Anakin . . . don’t try to grow up too fast.” – It is ironic that Padme would say this to Anakin, considering that she has been trying to do this very thing for most of her life.

*Although Captain Typho’s assumption on the safety of Padme’s arrival on Coruscant proved to be false, his fear that she might do something foolish or rash proved to be very accurate.

*”If an item does not appear in our records, it does not exist.” – ah, another prime example of the Jedi’s arrogant belief in themselves. Who would have thought it would come from the Archives’ librarian?

*Anakin might be pretty close to the truth in the definition of love he had given to Padme.

*Despite the sweet and charming overtones of the younglings scene, it still has a sinister sense of the foreboding.

*It is interesting how ALL of the Separatists are tainted with the same brush as the Trade Federation and the Banking Union, because they had sought the latter for help. Guilt by association.

*When Sio Biddle had asked Anakin a question about Padme’s safety, Padme rudely interrupts and brushes off Anakin. Now, why did she do that? And in such a rude manner?

*It’s interesting how the imagery and symbolism on Kamino seemed to be of the fertile kind.

*I just realized that if Palpatine had eventually accused the Jedi of creating the Clone Army, he would have been correct. Especially since Master Sifo-Dyas really did order the creation of the clones for the Republic.

*For someone with hardly any experience in romance, Anakin managed to do a good job in winning over Padme without resorting to smooth lines and a cocky manner.

*Of course . . . Padme seemed to be a bit of a flirt, herself. She certainly knows how to use her voice effectively.

*In an article on Anakin and Padme’s relationship, I read a segment from a poem or story written hundreds of years ago that was compared to Anakin’s fireside speech. What amazed me was how similar Anakin’s speech was to what is considered courtly love.

*I noticed that once Padme had rejected Anakin’s offer of love, he turned away from her. And she, in turn, began to pursue him in a very subtle manner.

*It is ironic that Anakin believes that he did not have a choice in leaving Naboo to help his mother. In reality, he did have a choice . . . and he exercised it. Like the other characters around him, Anakin has become adept at deluding himself.

*I see that Obi-Wan had made the first move in his fight with Jango Fett on Kamino. Not only did it result in him nearly falling over a ledge, it was the movie’s first sign of the “good guys” acting as the aggressors.

*”Those Tusken Raiders. They may walk like men, but they’re nothing more than vicious, mindless monsters.” – Judging from Cliegg Lars’ words, I cannot help but wonder if Anakin’s murder of the Tusken Raiders was something rare on Tatooine. Would Anakin’s actions have been condoned by Tatooine’s moisture farmers? Cliegg’s words seemed to have a xenophobic ring to them.

*When Padme told Anakin that it was okay to be angry, she was right. It was okay. It would have been a lot unhealthier for Anakin to pretend otherwise. But where Anakin went wrong was that he had allowed his anger to overwhelm him . . . which led to his murder of the Tuskens.

*Anakin’s claim that he would even learn to stop people from dying seemed to foreshadow his opera conversation with Palpatine in ROTS.

*If Jar-Jar had not proposed that Palpatine should be given emergency powers, I wonder who would have made the proposition? Bail Organa had been certain that the Senate would never grant such powers to the Chancellor or authorize a clone army. Boy, was he wrong!

*Did Obi-Wan’s own prejudices and beliefs in the Jedi’s infallibility led him to easily dismiss Dooku’s claim that a Sith Lord had control over the Senate?

*I think that Padme’s arrogant belief in her diplomatic skills were in overdrive, when she and Anakin learned about Obi-Wan’s predicament. I can see why Typho had been worried that she would do something rash.

*It seems interesting that Anakin was the only one who had managed to control the attacking him in the Geonosis area, without resorting to brute force. Was this a metaphor of his potential to control (but not suppress) the animus within himself? A potential that he had failed to attain until the end of his life?

*Obi-Wan, on the other hand, succeeded in dealing with his animal attacker with brute force . . . just as he had succeeded with Maul and Anakin. Was this a foreshadow of his advocacy of Luke using violence to deal with Vader/Anakin in the Original Trilogy?

*I suspect that Jango’s success in killing Jedi Master Coleman Trebor had gone to his head, when he had decided to attack Mace. Just as many of the Jedi have discovered in this movie and will discover in ROTS, Jango will learn that it does not pay to be the aggressor.

*I did not realize that the Republic and the Jedi had acquired both troops and weapons from the Kaminoans.

*It is interesting that Obi-Wan’s threat of expulsion from the Jedi Order did not faze Anakin one bit, in his concern for the fallen Padme. Either the Jedi Order was never that important enough to Anakin . . . or it was too important to Obi-Wan. Or perhaps it was both.

*Both Anakin and Obi-Wan made the mistake of aggressively moving against Dooku, first. And both had failed. Again, this seemed to be another example of the Jedi’s acceptance of using aggression in this movie.

*Anakin vs. Dooku – it’s ironic that this was the first duel between Palpatine’s present and future apprentices.

*Dooku, who had wisely allowed both Obi-Wan and Anakin to be the aggressors, became the aggressor, himself, in his duel against Yoda. He had barely managed to escape with his life.

*The failure of aggression committed by our heroes and by villains like Dooku and Jango seemed to be the theme for this movie . . . and perhaps the Prequel Trilogy overall. This theme seems especially true for the Jedi, who had agreed to use the clone troopers against the Separatists. The same clone troopers that will become the tools of their destruction. Irony at its most tragic.

*Looking back on AOTC, it strikes me as being a very nourish story, despite the some of the usual STAR WARS elements. Perhaps that is why so many people have difficulty in accepting it. Film noir can be highly regarded – or not. But people rarely understand it, or bother to watch it in the movie theaters.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX" (2007) Photo Gallery

 

Below is a series of photos from the new movie, "HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX"


"HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX" (2007) Photo Gallery















































































Monday, July 16, 2007

"HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX" (2007) Review




"HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX" (2007) Review

I usually tried to avoid reading reviews of movies I am interested in seeing in the near future. Instead of relying on the opinions of others, I prefer to form my own opinions. However, my curiousity got the best of me and I could not help but read several reviews and opinions on the latest cinematic release from the HARRY POTTER franchise - namely "THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX". Mind you, the story was never my favorite HARRY POTTER novel, but after the near travesty (okay, perhaps that description is a bit exaggerated) . . . after the slight disappointment of 2005's "GOBLET OF FIRE", I could not help but wonder this next movie would fare. After all, the novel was longer than even the fourth entry. Fortunately, my fears proved groundless and "THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX" has become my second favorite HARRY POTTER movie.

Before I begin to wax lyrical over the movie, I need to point out what I consider to be flaws in the movie. My sister had informed me that the producers of the HP movies had originally intended Mike Newell - director of "GOBLET OF FIRE" - to helm the fifth novel. Somehow those plans fell through (thank the Lord above) and they found themselves scrambling for a new director before production was scheduled to begin. They eventually settled upon UK television director, David Yates. I must say that for his first theatrical production, Yates did an excellent job. But there is one aspect in which his years in television did the movie a disservice was the pacing. Quite frankly, I found the pacing a bit rushed. The movie felt more like it had a running time of at least 100 or 110 minutes, instead of a movie over two hours long. I understand that Yates planned to helm the next HP movie, "THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE", as well. I only hope that he will learn his lesson from this movie and maintain a better pace.

I also had a few other problems with the movie. One of them happened to be Evanna Lynch, who portrayed the eccentric Hogswart student - Luna Lovegood. Before I receive accusations of sacriledge, please hear me out. Ms. Lynch physically captured the essence of Luna perfectly. And although she managed to convey Luna's offbeat persona in a competent manner, there seemed to be something missing from her portrayal in the movie. Then it occurred to me that there were times when the movie Luna seemed to be devoid of any emotion. She came off as too serene. And as I recalled, the literary Luna was capable of expressing more emotion - including anger at Hermoine's dismissive atttitude toward her. And Luna was not the only character I had problems with. Characters like Remus Lupin (David Thewlis), Percy Weasley (Chris Rankin in a non-speaking role), Nymphadora Tonks (Natalia Tena) and the Blacks' house-elf Kreacher, barely seemed to exist. Lupin's biggest moment came when he tried to prevent Harry from chasing after the murderous Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham-Carter)
One last problem I had with the movie was the lack of closure on a few plot points. We never learned the consequences of Harry's discovery that Umbridge had used veritaserum on Cho Chang in order to coerce her into exposing "Dumbledore's Army" and Harry's lessons. I never understood why Kreacher even made an appearance in the movie, considering he did not seem to have an impact upon the story. The movie failed to bring some closure or allow Harry to discuss with Sirius and Remus about Snape's memories of the bullying James Potter. And what happened to Lucius Malfoy after Sirus (or Remus - I forgot whom) managed to defeat him? The movie never revealed his fate.

Despite the above flaws, I enjoyed "ORDER OF THE PHOENIX" very much. It still managed to be a more than satisfying summer movie. The original novel happened to be the largest in the entire series. Yet, screenwriter Michael Goldenberg managed to pare it down to the novel's main narrative. I suspect many HP fans would have preferred an exact adaptation of the novel. Thankfully, Goldenberg spared the moviegoing audience of what could have been a long and excrutiating period in the movie theater. To this day, I still believe that "THE SORCERER'S STONE" and "CHAMBER OF SECRETS" could have faced a little more editing. And some of the changes made to the story - Neville Longbottom's discovery of the Room of Requirement (instead of Dobby the house elf); no visit to the St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries (along with no repeat appearance of Gilderoy Lockhart and Neville's parents); Neville's own revelation of his parents' fate to Harry (instead of the discovery being made at St. Mungo); and Cho Chang's exposure of the Dumbledore Army (instead of Marietta Edgecombe committing the deed) - did not hurt the story at all. However, I am certain many fans would disagree. What made "ORDER OF THE PHOENIX" work for me was the combination of a mystery regarding Harry's connection to Voldemort and the growing fascist state at Hogswarts that also reflected within the wizarding world under Cornelius Fudge (Tom Hardy). I have to commend both Yates and Goldenberg for skillfully weaving these two elements within the movie's plot.

The movie also benefitted from excellent acting by the cast. In fact, I found this to be a great relief after suffering from the hammy acting found in the previous entry - "GOBLET OF FIRE" . Both Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) and Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) were top-notched as usual. And so was Matthew Lewis as the likeable, yet clumsy Neville Longbottom. I especially must commend Radcliffe for conveying Harry's angst over Cedric Diggory's death in the last story and frustration at being ignored by Dumbledore. And I want to sink to my knees and give thanks to the spirits above and David Yates for preventing Emma Watson (Hermoine Granger), Michael Gambon (Dumbledore), Ralph Finnes (Voldemort), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy) and also James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley) from repeating their over-the-top performances in "GOBLET". Oh, such a relief! On the other hand, Helena Bonham-Carter's portrayal of the insane Bellatrix Lastrange did seem over-the-top. But considering that the literary Bellatrix was equally hammy, I had no problems with this. By the way, I must applaud Imelda Staunton for her delicious portrayal of "Miss Hitler in Pink" herself, namely the ladylike, yet poisonous Dolores Umbridge, a Ministry undersecretary who became the new Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor. In the novel, she is described as being toadlike, yet Ms. Staunton is obviously a more attractive-looking woman. But despite this, she managed to capture Umbridge's insidious and bigoted evil beautifully.

However, the movie's piece-de-resistance - at least for me - happened to be the battle that takes place inside the the Ministry of Magic. I must confess that the literary version of the battle usually left me slightly confused. I guess I simply found it difficult to visualize what took place. But Yates' direction not only clarified the entire battle for me, it left me feeling thrilled beyond measure. In my opinion, the battle has catapulted in what I now feel is probably the best sequence ever shown in any of the films so far. It was simply superb. Yet, there are other little golden moments in the film that I managed to enjoy:

-the Dumbledore Army's Defense Against the Dark Arts lessons
-Ron stands up to Seamus for Harry
-Filch's attempts to get inside the Room of Requirement
-Ginny's jealous glances at Harry and Cho
-Dean Thomas' (Alfred Enoch, who had more lines in this movie than the last two combined) argument with Umbridge
-Hermoine's handling of Gwarp (different from the novel)
-the fact that both Ron and Ginny helped Neville and Luna escape from Draco and the Inquisitor's Squad (I could be wrong that Ginny helped; if so, please inform me)
-Harry and the Order of the Phoenix's trip to London via broomsticks

And one of my personal favorite moments in the movie turned out to be Fred and George's torment of Umbridge before making their escape from Hogswarts. Classic moment.

Although "ORDER OF THE PHOENIX" possess have some flaws that prevent it from becoming my favorite HARRY POTTER movie so far ("PRISONER OF AZKABAN" still holds this title in my heart), I must admit that it reassured me that the movie franchise had not declined following the slightly disappointing "GOBLET OF FIRE". I do look forward to seeing it again before the summer ends.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

"Neighbors" [PG] - Part 6




"NEIGHBORS"


Part 11


"That was a delicious meal, Mrs. McNeill," Cole commented to Olivia's mother. "Especially the London Broil. I haven't had a meal like that since . . . well, in a long time." Over eight months ago, Cole privately calculated. Since the night before he and Phoebe had first moved into the penthouse.

The half-demon and the McNeills had gathered inside the large, well-furnished drawing of the McNeill manor. They just completed one of Gweneth McNeill's succulent meals.

The red-haired and still beautiful middle-aged woman flashed a bright smile at Cole. "I'm glad that you enjoyed it. And you might as well call me Gweneth. It's a shame that you didn't try a slice of my six-layer Eggnog cake."

"Yeah," Harry added, "it's one of her specialties. And it's a big seller at Morgan's bakery."

Cole promised to sample a slice of the cake before he left. "I noticed that Olivia didn't eat a slice, either." He gave his neighbor a sly smile. "On a diet?"

Olivia wrinkled her pert nose in protest. "You're a real sweetheart, aren't you, Turner? If you must know, I barely had any room in my stomach to finish dinner. It's what I get for not eating, today."

"Busy day?" her father asked.

A sigh left Olivia's mouth. "Are you kidding? Captain McPherson has started this major investigation on the Tower Bay Company. It seems no one can explain the sudden disappearance of the company's employees. Or the disturbance reported by some patrolman."

Jack McNeill's eyebrows quirked upward. "Really? Is it a bit premature to say that the Crozat Coven is gone for good?"

"I don't know," Olivia said with a shrug. "My friend in Seattle told me that the Malehex Corporation was in the process of moving its operation to San Francisco. And there is still that warlock whom Cole turned into a pebble. I haven't been able to find him, today."

Cole spoke up. "The pebble . . . I mean, he's probably still there. I'll help you try to find him, tomorrow. However, I wouldn't dismiss the Crozats so easily, if I were you. Although much of the Source's old council had been destroyed during the last coronation . . . " Cole paused, as he realized that he had just referred to his unborn son. Then again . . . maybe not. He continued, "I suspect that several members might still be at large. And I've been keeping an eye out for any of them. And members of my old order, the Brotherhood of the Thorn."

Elise McNeill eyed the half-demon with interest. "Now, I know that not all upper-level demons were part of the Brotherhood." Cole stared at her, impressed that she knew that much about his former organization. "I'm simply curious as to how YOU became a member. How old are you, by the way?"

A hesitant Cole answered, "Uh, 117 years old."

The McNeill men whistled in appreciation. Olivia and Gweneth's eyes grew round. But the old lady did not seem that impressed. Interesting. "Really?" she said. "Not exactly old for a demon. Most demons join the Brotherhood at an older age. How did someone your age managed to join?"

Again, Cole hesitated.

"You might as well tell her," Olivia told him. "You've told me."

Gweneth perked up. "Really? When did that happen?"

"Last Sunday," Olivia replied.

Cole added, "I suppose you want to hear the whole story."

In her blunt manner, Mrs. McNeill replied, "Dear boy, we've been dying to hear about your life story. Ever since Olivia first met you."

"Gran!"

"Well, it's the truth!" the elderly woman protested.

Cole could not help but smile at Elise McNeill's bluntness. She reminded him of Olivia. To the point, but without the self-righteousness he had encountered over the past few years. "That's okay. I don't mind," he said. "But it's a long story."

"Don't worry about that. Telepathy has a way of making a long story, short," Mrs. McNeill said with a smile.

His eyes widened immediately. "Telepathy?"

"Of course." Realization lit up the elderly woman's gray eyes. "Unless you have a problem with me reading your mind."

Cole's first instinct was to reject her offer. He valued his privacy too much, to expose his thoughts to a telepath. But he had been a lonely man for the past several months. Meeting Olivia and her family made him realize that his two years with the Halliwells have made him long for company. And the opportunity to tell someone about his problems. His revelations to Olivia had seemed like a relief. Maybe he would feel an even greater relief once the McNeills learned what led him to becoming the Source. And to his break-up with Phoebe. If there was anything Cole now longed for was the load off his shoulders.

"Okay," he finally relented. "I guess I wouldn't mind."

Mrs. McNeill nodded her head. "Good. Bruce honey, bring that chair over here so that Cole can sit in front of me." Olivia's older brother did as he was told. Once the chair was in place, Cole sat in it. "Now, just relax and allow your memories to be released," she added. "As they come to me, I'll project them to the others. If you don't mind."

"I don't."

"Good." Mrs. McNeill's hands hovered over Cole's temples. He took a deep breath and relaxed. The next thing Cole knew, his memories of the past two years rushed back to him. Everything. Well, except for those more intimate moments with Phoebe, thank goodness.

When it ended, Cole took another deep breath. The McNeills did the same. "Well, that was certainly interesting," Mrs. McNeill said in a breathless tone. "As Harry would say - wow!"

Jack McNeill added, "It would make quite an interesting story. A bestseller on the Wiccan literary underground."

His wife added, "Including what happened to Ed Miller." She gave Cole a pointed stare. "So you were the one responsible for his disappearance. I guess you paid for it."

A hot flush washed over Cole's face. Memories of Phoebe's reaction to that little incident returned to him in full force. "Not exactly one of my finest moments, I admit."

"Well, vanquishing him did seem a bit . . . drastic." Gweneth McNeill continued, "What you should have done is ask Leo to give him memory dust. Or turn him into a dog. And drop him in the middle of on-going traffic."

Olivia cried out in protest, "Mom!" Even Cole felt shocked by the older woman's remark.

Gweneth shrugged. "You all know how I felt about Mister Edward Miller. The man was a bloody rotten berk. Did you know that a young boy had died in one of his buildings, after being bitten by a rat? And that bloody . . . that bastard managed to avoid prosecution by blackmailing several city officials. Everyone knows it's true, even though no one would prosecute him."

"She has a point," Elise McNeill added. "What you did was wrong, Cole. And you paid for it in true Wiccan style, I gather. Considering what you endured afterward. But I must admit . . . what happened to Ed Miller was poetic justice. He avoided responsibility of a death through blackmail. And because of blackmail, he was killed." She shook her head. "Poetic justice." When Cole saw that the other McNeills nodded in agreement, he realized that they possessed a moral code that would appall the Halliwells. Although it did suit him.

Bruce turned to Cole. "Uh, there is one other matter that I'm curious about."

Feeling somewhat uneasy, Cole asked, "Like what?"

"What in the hell made you think you could trust the Seer?" Bruce demanded in astonished tones. "Don't take this personal, but were you that stupid?"

Once again, Olivia defended her friend. "Okay, Bruce. That's enough!"

"What? Don't tell me that you didn't find what he did, stupid? I certainly did."

Jack McNeill piped up. "I have to admit, so did I."

An outraged Oliva continued, "Okay, so did I." Cole shot her an astonished look. "But he was in a desperate situation. Couldn't you see that?"

Sighing heavily, both Jack and Bruce admitted that they understood. The older man continued, "I probably would have done the same, to save all of you."

"Thanks," Cole murmured sarcastically. He turned to Olivia. "So, you believe I'm stupid?"

Green eyes radiated innocence. "Not really. Just . . . short-sighted. Rash. Besides, can you blame any of us for thinking that?"

Before Cole could answer, the McNeills' manservant entered the room and announced the arrival of new visitors. A minute later, Cole was surprised to find himself greeting the Charmed Ones and Leo. Who also seemed surprised by Cole's presence. It seemed like a miracle to Cole that he managed to remain calm. Especially with Phoebe only standing a few feet away.

"Well, look who's here," Elise McNeill greeted politely. Cole detected a touch of frost in her voice. Both Piper and Leo flinched. Much to his amusement.

Clearing her throat nervously, Piper stepped forward. "Sorry to interrupt. We, uh . . . well, my sisters and I wanted to say thanks to Olivia and Harry for saving our lives, yesterday." She shot a quick glance at the half-demon. "And Cole."

Mrs. McNeill's smile grew even more arch. "Well, that's nice of you, honey."

"And we also want to apologize," Phoebe added. "For lying to you, on Sunday. Piper, uh . . . made a cake for you."

Piper thrust the cake forward. "It's Coconut. From Grams' recipe."

Both Mrs. McNeills gasped with delight. "What do you know? Penny's famous Coconut cake!" the older one declared in breathless tones. "One of my favorites." Elise McNeill gave Piper a pointed stare. "May I assume that you followed your grandmother's recipe to the letter?" She took the cake and handed it to Davies.

"To the letter," Piper said with a smile. "I hope you like it."

"Oh, I'm sure I will. Gwen, is it okay if they each receive a piece of your cake?" The elderly woman turned to the Halliwells. "It's her six-layer Eggnog cake. One of Gwen's best."

Now, it was Paige's turn to squeal with delight. "Ooo! I used to buy a slice or a whole cake every time I went to Morgan's. Is it the same kind?"

"Of course, Paige," Gweneth replied, looking pleased. Then she ordered Davies to wrap four slices of the Eggnog cake. "Oh, I mean five. Wrap an extra slice for Mr. Turner as well, Davies."

At the mention of Cole's name, the Halliwells stared at him. The room fell into an uncomfortable silence. Then Olivia made an announcement. "Oh, I forgot to tell you all. Guess what happened this morning? Darryl and I became partners." She chuckled softly. "Poor Darryl. Can you imagine his expression when Captain Thompson told us the news? He always thought I was crazy. But now that he knows I'm a witch . . ." She broke off, chuckling again. Cole laughed softly to himself. He wished had been there to witness Darryl Morris' reaction.

Leo brought up the subject of the Crozat Coven. "The Founders heard what happened. You can't imagine how relieved they are. The Crozats were in a good position to take over the Underworld. Fortunately, it's still in chaos."

Elise McNeill grunted. "Hmmm! If I were the Founders, I'd be worried, instead of relieved."

The Halliwells and Leo frowned at the elderly woman's statement. "What are you saying?" Leo demanded. "With the Underworld in chaos, we don't have to worry about a new Source."

The old woman sighed. "Oh Leo! And I thought you would understand. Don't you get it? With the Underworld in chaos, the balance between good and evil has been altered. It's out of whack. Surely you realize what that means?"

Paige replied with a frown, "I certainly don't."

"It means that sooner or later, the chaos in the Underworld will spread to where the whitelighters reside," Jack McNeill added. "And that can spell trouble for all of us. Unless the balance is restored."

Now the Halliwells stared at Olivia's father, as if he had lost his mind. "Wait a minute!" a shocked Phoebe declared. "Are you saying that it would be a good idea if a new Source emerged?"

"It's not something any of us relish," Gweneth McNeill calmly explained. "But with the Underworld in chaos, all of us might find ourselves in serious trouble in the near future. Witches and whitelighters. It's important to maintain a positive and negative balance in everything. Why do you think the Hollow is traditionally guarded by two - one who chooses good and one who chooses evil?"

It seemed obvious to Cole that the McNeills' words had seriously disturbed the Charmed Ones and Leo. Cole, on the other hand, understood perfectly. He still recalled Phoebe telling him about a warlock's attempt to destroy the Founders. Such an act would have not only spelled disaster for witches and whitelighters, but trouble within the Underworld, as well. Demons, warlocks and many others would have surely fallen upon each other for control of the whitelighters' realm. And on a scale that would have meant trouble for the Source.

A troubled Leo quickly nay-sayed the idea of a new Source. "There won't be a new leader of the Underworld. Well, we almost had one," he shot a dark glance at Cole, who merely stared back, "but it didn't last. Besides, without the Grimoire, I doubt there will be a new Source. I destroyed the book, last spring."

"Are you sure that you destroyed it?" Mrs. McNeill asked in an ominous tone.

Leo firmly added, "Trust me, it's destroyed. And it's a good thing. With the Underworld in chaos, maybe evil will finally destroy itself."

Bruce frowned. "You don't really believe that, do you? C'mon Leo! You know that one cannot destroy evil. Maybe reject it or rise above it, but destroy it?"

Once again, the drawing room fell silent. The Halliwells remained rooted to floor, looking as if someone had kicked them in the teeth. And the McNeills seemed to regard them as specimen underneath a microscope.

Davies reappeared in the room and broke the uncomfortable silence. He held a cardboard box in his hands. Olivia let out a gust of breath. "Well, here's Davies with your cake. And just in time. It was about to get heavy in here with all that philosophical talk."

Piper took the box, with a polite smile on her lips. "Well, thanks for the cake. And I hope you enjoy our present."

Mrs. McNeill returned the smile. "I'm sure we will, honey. Thank you. By the way, will you be available for our next Sunday brunch?

The three sisters hesitated. Exchanged brief glances. Cole already knew their answers. No. And sure enough, Piper answered, "Uh, we're not sure. We've already made plans for Sunday. But if they fall through . . . we might be available."

"That's a no if I ever heard one," Olivia grumbled. Fortunately, only Cole overheard.

But judging from Mrs. McNeill's expression, she did not have to hear her granddaughter. The hesitation in Piper's voice and the Halliwells' expressions seemed to have made their feelings about another Sunday brunch quite clear. "Well, if you ever find the time," the elderly woman continued with a cool smile, "let us know."

The Halliwells said good-bye and immediately retreated to the door. Phoebe shot Cole a quick glance, before she followed the others out of the room. Once the door shut behind them, a sarcastic Bruce asked, "Any bets on whether or not we'll see them, next Sunday?"

Harry piped up, "I'll place twenty bucks on NOT."

Cole wondered if he should defend the Halliwells. He thought about it for a few seconds and realized it would be a waste of time. Especially since he doubted they would do the same for him.

"I think all this talk about a new Source may have scared them, Elise," Gweneth commented. "Leo too, I shouldn't wonder."

Elise McNeill snorted. "Well, they're not Jack and Penny Halliwell's granddaughters for nothing. I loved Penny like a sister, but she always did have this rigid sense of morality. Of course, in her case, she always had trouble practicing what she preached."

Cole struggled to suppress a smile. And failed.

* * * *

The black Porsche slowly eased into its familiar spot inside the underground parking lot. Cole leaned forward and switched off the engine.

"You know, you could have save some gas money by using your powers," Olivia commented laconically. "Instead of driving your car."

Cole turned to her and smiled. "You ever heard of the term - 'boys with toys'? I was in the mood to drive, tonight. Helps me relax." He opened the car door on his side and climbed out. Then he walked over to the passenger side and helped Olivia out of the car. He noticed an aluminum-wrapped container in her hands. "Is that a piece of your mother's cake?"

"Yep," Olivia replied. "Her six-layer Eggnog cake is my favorite. Although I wouldn't have minded a slice of Piper's cake." She stared at Cole's empty hands. "No cake for yourself?"

Cole coughed slightly. "I had a piece of Eggnog cake before we left. And to be honest, I never was crazy about Coconut cake. You don't know how many times I've had to keep from spitting it up whenever Piper made one."

The pair made their way across the parking lot and toward the elevator. "Then why didn't you just tell her?" Olivia asked.

"Are you kidding? The last time I criticized Piper's cooking, she gave me a look that told me I should be grateful that the family tolerated me. After that, no more complaints."

A knowing smile creased Olivia's lips. "In other words, you wimped out."

"Hey! I didn't wimp out!" Cole growled. His growl merely hinted annoyance, not menace. And it only widened Olivia's smile even further.

Oh c'mon Cole! It's not like I don't know what I'm talking about. When Richard and I were dating, he used to tiptoe around the family, all the time. He was afraid they would reject him, because of his past." Olivia paused, shaking her head. "Poor Richard. He really had a fear of rejection. And he eventually got on Dad's nerves. I told him to stop trying to prove himself, but he wouldn't listen. At first."

A curious Cole asked, "Did he eventually stop?"

"Yeah, but only after I had another talk with him." The elevator doors slid open. Both Cole and Olivia entered. The doors closed. "When I first told Richard," Olivia continued, "I don't think he was really listening. In fact, it got so bad, Dad and Bruce started calling him Dudley Do Right, behind his back."

The nickname drew laughter from Cole.

Olivia joined in his laughter. "Yeah, I know. Can you imagine a warlock with a nickname like that?"

"No, I can't," Cole replied between guffaws.

After their laughter subsided, Olivia immediately sobered. "But after one of Richard's urges to play hero nearly ended in disaster for Bruce and Harry, I had enough."

Memories of his own decision to use the Hollow rushed back to Cole. He asked, "Did you break up with him? With Richard?"

"No," Olivia said, shaking her head. "But I told him that I wasn't interested in him playing Sir Galahad. That I only wanted him. I also told him that if he wanted to help other people, fine. But he should do it because he wanted to and not to please me."

The elevator reached Olivia's floor. Cole found himself brooding over her last words. Hell, he had been just as guilty of the same thing, as Richard Bannen. Fighting evil in order to save Phoebe and her sisters. And prove to them that he was no longer evil. He never realized how much he had grown weary of trying to be someone he was not.

"Cole?" Olivia's voice snapped him out of his reverie. "Is something wrong?"

He shook his head. "No, I was just thinking. Richard and I had a lot in common."

"Oh. You tried to pull the Dudley Do Right routine also, huh? To impress Phoebe?"

Cole sighed. "Yeah. And it worked for a while. Until I lost my powers. And the Source possessed me. It got even worse after I returned from the Wasteland. I guess the problem is being myself doesn't seem to help. Phoebe and her sisters . . . well, they're a little uncomfortable with my dark side."

A frown creased Olivia's face, as she unlocked her apartment door. "They've got a lot more to worry about than your dark side. Like their own." The pair entered the apartment. Olivia placed her piece of cake on the kitchen table. Then she faced her neighbor. "Cole, may I ask you something?"

"Yeah?"

Olivia took a deep breath. "You're still in love with Phoebe, aren't you?"

Cole felt his face grow warm. "Well . . . yeah. Yeah, I'm still in love with her." He eyed Olivia warily. "Why?"

"Because I think she's still in love with you," Olivia continued. "I saw the way she kept looking at you."

Hope fluttered within Cole's heart. But only for a moment. For reasons he could not fathom, the love he felt toward Phoebe no longer burned brightly as it once did. He still loved her - somewhat - but his desperation for her love had dimmed. "I guess she does," he quietly replied.

"But you don't seem very . . . I don't know, hopeful."

Cole let out a gust of breath. "Look, don't get me wrong. I love Phoebe. I always will. But I can't be the man she wants. Not anymore. I guess after all that has happened, I'm tired of trying to live up to her ideals."

Olivia's face almost matched her hair coloring. "Oh. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have brought up the sub . . ."

"No. I don't mind. I guess it was time I told someone how I felt." Cole gave Olivia a warm smile.

A red brow cocked upward, as Olivia returned Cole's smile. "Glad to be of service." Then she glanced at the clock on the mantle. "Oh Lord! Look at the time! It's almost eleven-thirty."

"I better get home. I have an early appointment, tomorrow morning."

"Before you leave, I have something for you." Olivia raced back toward the kitchen. Seconds later, she returned to the living room, carrying a deep dish pan, covered by a sheet of foil.

Cole glanced at the pan. "What is it?"

"Floating Island." Olivia lifted the foil to reveal the dessert. "After what happened last Friday, I thought we should start all over again. So here, this is my 'thank you for saving my life' gift." She held out the pan.

Unlike the first time, Cole took the dessert without hesitation. "Thank you, Miss McNeill," he said with playful formality. "And I hope it will taste a lot better, eating it from a plate or bowl than it did from my face."

Hands on hips, Olivia shook her head as she smiled. "You know, you really are evil. Maybe that's why I like you so much."

Cole gave his neighbor a winning smile, before he disappeared from her sight.


THE END



AUTHOR'S NOTE: I realized that some of you wanted Cole to end up with Olivia McNeill or Phoebe. Since he and Phoebe became divorced in this story, I thought it was a bit too soon for him to end up in another romance. So I ended the story on a vague note. But don't worry. This is just the first of at least three stories featuring him, Olivia, the McNeills, Darryl Morris, Leo and the Halliwells. If you have any questions, please send me a message via lee66132000@yahoo.com. Thanks.