Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"FANTASTIC FOUR: Rise of the Silver Surfer" (2007) Review




"FANTASTIC FOUR: Rise of the Silver Surfer" (2007) Review

"FANTASTIC FOUR". When it was released, many critics panned the movie as a ghost of other Marvel cinematic hits such as the "SPIDER-MAN" and the "X-MEN" franchise or the DC comic hit, "BATMAN BEGINS". Unlike these films and others such as 2003's "DAREDEVIL", "THE FANTASTIC FOUR" told the story of how four people with close connections ended up with super powers . . . and how they dealt with it. It also introduced the quartet's main villain, Victor Von Doom. But it felt more like an comedic character piece than a costumed action film. Although this new sequel, "THE FANTASTIC FOUR: Rise of the Silver Surfer" managed to retain the comedic element of the first story, it turned out to be a suprisingly good action piece with strong character development.

The movie began with the arrival of a mysterious alien presence that caused havoc with the Earth's resources in various locations. This alien turns out to be the Silver Surfer (Doug Jones and voiced by Laurence Fishburne). The movie soon shifted to more familiar ground - namely the upcoming marriage of Reed Richards aka "Mr. Fantastic" (Ioan Gruffudd) and Sue Storm aka "The Invisible Woman" (Jessica Alba). Or should I say . . . another attempt by the couple to get married. It seemed their past efforts at matrimony have ended up being delayed by either their roles as costumed super heroes, or Reed's anal obssession with his work. With the threat of the new alien presence announced by Army General Hager (Andre Braugher in a rather intimidating role), Reed and Sue are forced to cancel their wedding plans once more and join other FF4 members - Ben Grimm aka "The Thing" (Michael Chiklis) and Sue's younger brother, Johnny Storm aka "The Human Torch" (Chris Evans) - to save the Earth from the Silver Surfer.

The blue-suited quartet are eventually embroiled in other crisis as well. As I had stated earlier, Reed and Sue end up enduring an angst fest over their failure to get married. Johnny's first encounter with the Silver Surfer ended up changing his DNA structure. Because of this, he is able to change powers with any of his colleagues with only a touch. Even worse, Johnny's uncertainty regarding his powers and his failure to seduce General Hager's beautiful aide - Captain Raye (Beau Garrett) - led him into an emotional crisis. Also, an old nemesis returned in the form of Dr. Victor von Doom (Julian McMahon). Claiming a desire to help the Army and the Fantastic Four deal with the threat of the Silver Surfer, Victor' real agenda turned out to be a desire to claim the Surfer's power source for his own use.

As I had earlier stated, the 2005 movie mainly told the story about how the quarter acquired their powers and became a costumed super hero team. The 2007 sequel, on the other hand, features a solid action-filled story on how the Fantastic Four battled the Silver Surfer, Victor von Doom, the U.S. Army and their own neurosis. Which is probably why this new story is a lot better than the original. Yes, the humor had remained. But the new movie seemed better paced, more solid . . . and dare I say it? More mature. Their interactions with both the Silver Surfer and General Hager turned the story from a basic comic book action flick into something more complex. And adding to the complexity were Reed and Sue's further obstacles facing their relationship, and Johnny Storm's troubles with his powers and his own self esteem.

Thankfully, the people at Marvel had decided to reunite director Tim Story with the cast of the 2005 film. Because of this, Story was able to maintain the style created two years ago and take the FF4 franchise to a more complex level. With the exception of Michael Chiklis and Julian McMahon, the returning cast managed to take their roles to a new level in characterization. Do not get me wrong . . . both Chiklis and McMahon did a fine job with their roles. But their characters were not able to shine as much as the others. I suspect this was due to possible conflicting schedules with their respective TV series ("The Shield" and "Nip/Tuck"). Andre Braugher's tough and intimidating performance as General Hager seemed to have put the rest of the cast on their toes. Both Ioan Gruffudd and Jessica Alba's screen chemistry seemed a lot more believable in this film as their characters - Reed and Sue - struggle to take their relationship to another level despite the obstacles put in their paths. The real surprise turned out to be Chris Evans' portrayal as the usually shallow Johnny Storm, who discovered their was more to his life than fast vehicles, women and his celebrity status as one of the Fantastic Four. Who would have thought that this superficially charming character could possess real pathos? Yet, Evans' first-class performance made this possible. He also provided one of the movie's funniest scenes, when he "accidentally" torched the bridal bouquet before his new girlfriend, Captain Raye, could catch it. Although I found the Silver Surfer's abilities and his impact upon the Fantastic Four impressive, I must say that his personality struck me as a little too distant for me to really care about him. At least the revelation of his bondage to a powerful and destructive alien entity made his character a little more interesting than I had originally believed. And I have to give Laurence Fishburne kudos for doing a good job with the character's voice over.

I would highly recommend "THE FANTASTIC FOUR: Rise of the Silver Surfer" if you are looking for some solid summer action. Granted, it does not have the level of angst or epic-like proportion of other Marvel movies such as the "SPIDER-MAN" or the "X-MEN" franchies, it is still a more complex and interesting story than its 2005 predesessor, "THE FANTASTIC FOUR".

Monday, September 29, 2008

"THE MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA" Photo Gallery



Below is a gallery of photos from Spike Lee's World War II drama about four black soldiers trapped behind enemy lines in Northern Italy. The movie is based upon James McBride's novel:


"THE MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA" Photo Gallery


































Saturday, September 27, 2008

"CAPTAIN BLOOD" (1935) Review




"CAPTAIN BLOOD" (1935) Review

Based upon the 1922 novel of the same name by Rafael Sabatini, the story of ”CAPTAIN BLOOD” centered around an Irish-born physician living in an English town, who finds himself in trouble with the Court of King James II after aiding a wounded friend who had participated in the Mounmouth Rebellion of 1685. The 1935 film, released by Warner Brothers and First National Pictures, featured the first collaboration between stars Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland, and director Michael Curtiz.

When Jack Warner and studio production chief, first made plans to film Sabatini’s novel, they had planned for British actor, Robert Donat to portray the Irish-born doctor turned slave and pirate. But Donat proved to be unavailable and the then unknown Flynn ended up with the role. As everyone knows, not only did ”CAPTAIN BLOOD” prove to be a hit, the movie made instant stars out of Flynn and De Havilland.

Many years have passed since I last saw ”CAPTAIN BLOOD”. Which would explain why I have never developed any strong feelings for this particular film, in compare to certain other Errol Flynn movies. After watching it recently, my opinion of ”CAPTAIN BLOOD” has improved. Somewhat. Basically, I feel that it is a first-rate story filled with excellent characterizations, a strong narrative and some decent action. But I do not know if I can say that I love ”CAPTAIN BLOOD”. The movie is not exactly Flynn, De Havilland and Curtiz at their best.

Once Peter Blood finds himself a slave in Jamaica, he plots with his fellow prisoners to escape the island via a ship. Before he can make his escape, Blood falls in love with his owner – Arabella Bishop, the niece of the planter he and his fellow slave work on. An attack by a Spanish pirate ship allows Blood and his friends to finally make their escape. They form a crew to become one of the most formidable group of pirates in the Caribbean. Blood eventually befriends a French pirate name Levasseur and the two become partners – an act that the Irishman comes to regret. The two eventually come to blows over Arabella, who has been captured by Levasseur. Accompanying Arabella is a royal courtier name Lord Willoughby with some interesting news for Blood.

One problem I have with the film is the lack of balance between the dramatic scenes and the action. Quite frankly, ”CAPTAIN BLOOD” came off as a bit too heavy on conversation for a swashbuckler. I realize that screenwriter Casey Robinson was trying to stay faithful to Sabatini’s novel. But I suspect that this attempt may have slightly reduced the movie’s pacing – to its detriment. And most of the action sequences did not strike me as that impressive. Mind you, the sword duel between Blood and a French pirate named Captain Levasseur (portrayed by the always competent Basil Rathbone) over Arabella Bishop, Blood’s owner, struck me as impressive. Well . . . somewhat. Actually, I have seen better swordfights – especially those featured in 1938’s ”THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD” and 1940’s ”THE SEA HAWK”. The most impressive action sequence in the movie featured Blood’s sea battle against two French ships attacking Port Royal in the movie’s finale. I have to give kudos to Curtiz for directing an action sequence that struck me as surprisingly realistic.

Another problem I had with "CAPTAIN BLOOD" was its portrayal of slavery in 17th century Jamaica. I found it amazing that most of the slaves in Port Royal were white. I am well aware that white slaves - or indentured servants - existed throughout the British Empire during that period. And I am also aware that those rebels convicted of treason against King James II during the Monmouth Rebellion, ended up as slaves in the Caribbean. But what happened to the black slaves in this movie? Jamaica and other British controlled islands in the Caribbean had received more African slaves than any other part of the Empire during the late 17th and 18th centures. I did managed to spot one or two amongst the slaves on Colonel Bishop's estate. And he did have house slaves that were black. But at least one of them spoke with an American South dialect, prevalent in the 19th and 20th centuries. I realize that "CAPTAIN BLOOD" is a Hollywood film. But since most of the movie managed to either be historically correct . . . or at least close to being accurate, why did it fall short in its portrayal of Caribbean slavery?

On the other hand, ”CAPTAIN BLOOD” featured some excellent dramatic scenes. And the best of the bunch featured Flynn. I was especially impressed by the scene that featured Blood and his fellow prisoners being sentenced to slavery in Jamaica by a very hostile judge, Blood’s hostile reaction to being purchased by Arabella, his discovery of the body of his friend Jeremy Pitt, the fallout between Blood and Lavasseur, the revelation by a royal courtier that the hated James II had been replaced by his daughter and son-in-law – Mary and William of Orange, and especially the last fight between him and Arabella before she is sent ashore to Port Royal near the end of the film. And Flynn was ably assisted in these scenes by De Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Ross Alexander and Henry Stephenson.

Speaking of the film’s performances, ”CAPTAIN BLOOD” possessed a number of good, solid performances by a supporting cast that included Guy Kibbee, Forrester Harvey, Frank McGlynn Sr. and Robert Barrat, who portrayed members of Blood’s crew. Also portraying a member of Blood's crew was Ross Alexander. Many critics have claimed that if Alexander had not comitted suicide over a year following the movie's release, he might have become an acclaimed screen actor. Quite frankly, I do not know. Alexander's performance in "CAPTAIN BLOOD" seemed personable and competent, but I never really saw the magic. Although the cast members portraying Blood's crew had their moments of humor, the prize for the funniest performance belonged to - in my opinion - George Steed as Jamaica's Governor Steed, who suffered from a gouty foot.

Basil Rathbone only appeared in a handful of scenes in "CAPTAIN BLOOD" and was clearly not the main villain. But his performance as the lusty and avaricious Captain Levasseur was extremely memorable. More importantly, his Levasseur struck me as more human than his roles in both "ROBIN HOOD" and "THE MARK OF ZORRO". I wish I could say the same about Lionel Atwill. Mind you, his performance as the brutal Colonel Bishop was solid, but there were times when it came across as unoriginal.

Olivia DeHavilland was superb in her first leading role as Arabella, the brutal Colonel Bishop's niece and Peter Blood's owner. Her character did not have a great impact upon the plot - aside from her capture by Levasseur leading to a duel between him and Blood. But her Arabella was no limpid damsel-in-distress, whose only role was to be the object of Blood's desire. DeHavilland projected a great deal of energy, fire and wit into her performance. No wonder she and Flynn had such a strong screen chemistry.

But no matter how good the cast was, the real star behind "CAPTAIN BLOOD" was the Tasmanian born Errol Flynn. Jack Warner and Hal Wallis took a great chance in casting him in the lead, considering that he was a virtual unknown. And that gamble paid off tenfold. This is the fifth Flynn movie I have watched in great detail. To this day, I do not understand the old prevailing view that he was not much of an actor. Peter Blood was his first major role as a film actor and if I may be frank, Flynn gave one hell of a performance. Aside from a hammy moment when Blood finally declare his love for Arabella, Flynn's acting was very natural. And like DeHavilland, he portrayed his character with a great deal of fire, energy and more importantly, anger. Flynn's portrayal of the hot-headed Peter Blood is probably one of the better debut performances in Hollywood films.

Other reviewers of ”CAPTAIN BLOOD” have commented favorably on Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s score. Honestly? I did not find it that memorable. In fact, I cannot remember anything about it. Just a lot of horns and strings. I am not carelessly putting down Korngold's talent, because I was very impressed by his "ROBIN HOOD" score of three years later. I simply cannot say the same about his "CAPTAIN BLOOD" score. However, I was very impressed by the movie’s cinematography shot by Warner Brothers' own Ernest Haller and Hal Mohr. I have mixed feelings about Anton Grot's art direction. Granted, I was impressed by the sets for the Port Royal sequences. But the art design for the English sequences resembled fake set designs for a play and the sets for Blood's ship lacked the claustrophobic feel of a real ship.

Granted, "CAPTAIN BLOOD" is not perfect. It has flaws that include an uneven pacing, questionable action sequences and an unmemorable score - at least for me. In fact, I have seen better blockbusters that starred Errol Flynn during that period. But I must admit that it is still a first-rate movie, even after 73 years. And it made for a dazzling debut for the Australian actor.

Friday, September 26, 2008

"With Harry Kim's Compliments" [R] - 1/2



Here is a humorous story set during Season 3 of "Star Trek Voyager" about Harry Kim's efforts to act as matchmaker for his two best friends:



"WITH HARRY KIM'S COMPLIMENTS"

RATING: [R] For sexual innuendos.
SUMMARY: Harry Kim decides to play matchmaker with a shower and his two best friends. Set between Season 3's "Alter Ego" and "Coda".
FEEDBACK: lee66132000@yahoo.com - Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: Tom, B'Elanna, Harry and all other characters related to Star Trek Voyager belong to Paramount, Viacom and the usual Trek Powers to Be. Dammit!


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"WITH HARRY KIM'S COMPLIMENTS"

Part 1


Tom Paris strolled along the corridors of Deck Four, humming to himself. He had just finished a double shift on the Bridge. And at the moment, he looked forward to spending quality time in his quarters. Underneath a nice shower with hot running water. And a meal, along with a long rest, would make a great follow-up.

His quarters loomed ahead. Tom punched in his entry code and walked inside. Ah! Home at last! Without any thought, he began removing his uniform. Once he removed the last stitch of clothing, Tom entered his bathroom and stepped into the shower. "Computer," he ordered, "begin shower with hot water."

Instead of water slucing down his body, Tom heard the computer reply, "Unable to comply. The water system for the shower is malfunctioning."

"WHAT??" Tom cried out in outrage.

The computer dryly responded, "Please restate the question."

"Computer . . ." Tom took a few deep breaths. 'Calm down, Paris. It's just a computer.' Now he felt calm and collected. "Computer, how long has the water shower been down?"

The computer replied, "The ship's water system has malfunctioned since 14:23 hours."

In other words, for the past six hours. Great! Tom heaved an exasperated sigh. So much for a nice, hot shower. It looked as if he would have to settle for a sonic shower. And Tom hated them. "Computer," he continued, "begin sonic shower."

To his surprise, the computer announced, "Unable to comply. The sonic shower is malfunctioning."

What the hell?
Now, Tom was in a fix. How in the hell was he supposed to clean himself, with both showers not operating? Maintaining a tight rein on his temper, the pilot asked the computer how long the sonic shower has been malfunctioning. Since 14:23 hours - like the water shower.

Tom left the shower stall and snatched his uniform jacket to activate his combadge. "Paris to Engineering."

"Engineering here." The voice belonged to Ensign Carl Ashmore, one of the engineers under B'Elanna Torres' command. "I gather you're calling about your shower?"

"That's right. What the hell is going on?"

Ashmore explained that the ship's shower systems were malfunctioning. "None of the showers from Decks Two to Five aren't working. Also Decks Eight and Nine. And only the sonic showers from Decks Ten to Fifteen are operating."

"Great!" Tom retorted. "What the hell am I supposed to . . ." He paused, recalling Ashmore's words. That meant the showers on Decks Six and Seven were fully operational. And Tom personally knew one crewman with quarters on Deck Six. "Never mind, Carl. I believe I know how to solve my problem. Paris out." After severing his connection to the engineer, Tom activated his combadge once more. "Paris to Kim." Sounds of grunting reached his ears. What the hell was Harry doing? "Paris to Kim. Harry, can you . . .?"

"I hear you, Tom. What is it?"

Tom asked, "What the hell is going on? Where are you?"

"Jeffries Tube 23C. Working on the internal systems," Harry replied. "What do you need?"

"A shower, buddy. Neither my water or sonic shower is working. Can I use yours? All showers on Decks Six and Seven are operational."

Harry responded through more grunts, "Be . . . my guest."

"Great! Paris out."

The moment he tapped off his combadge, Tom donned a T-shirt and stretched pants. Happy that he would be getting that shower after all, the helmsman strolled out of his quarters, whistling through his teeth.

* * * *

"Hey Starfleet!"

Harry jumped at the sound of B'Elanna's voice and bumped his head against the tube's wall. He had been staring at the panel before him, for the past five minutes, wondering where the hell he went wrong in repairing the conduits that maintained the ship's shower systems.

Rubbing his head, Harry glanced at the tube's entrance and found Voyager's chief engineer in a crouching position. "Hey B'Elanna!" he greeted in a tired voice.

"How long have you been here, Starfleet?"

A heavy sigh left Harry's mouth. "It seems like forever. Damn shower systems! I can't get the damn thing to work properly. Only the showers on Decks Six and Seven are completely operational."

B'Elanna cleared her throat. "Speaking of Deck Six, isn't your shower working?"

Harry saw what was coming. "Yeah, it is. Why?"

"Well, my shift ends in a few mintues," B'Elanna continued. "And systems malfunctions or not, I'm beat. I really need a shower and rest. So . . ."

This was news. B'Elanna leaving her post before the completion of repairs. Harry realized that she must really be beat. As for her using his shower . . . well, there was the problem of Tom. Who knew how long the helmsman might be using his shower? Harry opened his mouth to tell B'Elanna about Tom, but suddenly changed his mind.

"What is it?" B'Elanna asked, frowning at the younger man.

Should he tell B'Elanna? Harry knew he should. But he also remembered what Neelix told him about what happened at the luau, some ten days ago. The Talaxian cook had described the look on Tom's face after Vorik had usurped B'Elanna's time during the party. Harry had been well aware of the attraction between his two best friends. And their frustrating attempts to deny their feelings. Perhaps an accidental meeting in his quarters would help strengthen the bond between the two. And so with matchmaking in mind, Harry set about a course that no sane person in his or her right mind would attempt.

Harry finally answered, "Nothing. Go right ahead, Maquis. Be my guest. It'll be a while before I'm probably off-duty."

B'Elanna flashed her friend a smile. "Thanks, Harry. You're a prince." She crawled away from the tube's entrance.

Smiling himself, Harry sat on his hunches and returned his attention to the console. If only he were a fly on a wall. He would give his right arm to witness the fireworks between the chief engineer and the pilot. Harry had no idea that in the end, he would sacrifice something a lot more important than a limb.

* * * *

A shower at last! B'Elanna could barely wait. Many of the ship's systems had been crashing all day. With the exception of the showers, B'Elanna, the Engineering staff and the Operations division, managed to repair them all.

After nearly pulling a double shift, all she required . . . needed was a refreshing shower and a long rest. Two years ago, B'Elanna would have insisted on remaining on duty until the last repair was completed. But that was two years ago, when she was an inexperienced division head. It took her staff, especially her second-in-command, Joe Carey, to teach her the joys of delegation. She could deal with working during a double shift. But beyond that . . . well, she was a wiser and older woman. Let poor Harry deal with the remaining repairs. Besides, the ship's system was technically a job usually assigned to the Operations Division.

The turbolift halted on Deck Six. B'Elanna stepped out and made her way along the corridor. In fact, she nearly skipped all the way to Harry's quarters. And she did not care if any passing crewman saw her.

Still feeling high over her escape from Engineering, B'Elanna punched in Harry's entry codes and continued inside. The first thing she noticed was the sound of running water. The shower. B'Elanna frowned. Why in the hell was Harry's shower running? Did he . . .? B'Elanna immediately spoke up. "Computer, locate Ensign Kim."

"Ensign Kim is located in Jeffries Tube 23C Alpha," the computer's voice responded. Which only meant one thing - Harry had left his shower running all day, the dumb idiot. Talk about ration credits pouring down the drain. For her friend's generosity, B'Elanna decided to donate a few extra credits to his account. Meanwhile, she might as well take advantage of the running water.
B'Elanna removed her boots and peeled off her uniform. Completely nude, she strode into Harry's bathroom and opened the shower door. A loud cry escaped her mouth. B'Elanna found herself facing Tom Paris - wet, naked and fully frontal.

"B'Elanna?" Tom's blue eyes grew wide with surprise. "What the hell are you doing here?"

To stunned to speak, B'Elanna surrendered to panic and proceeded to slam the shower door, shut. Unfortunately, Tom had decided at that moment to stick out an arm and the door slammed against the protruding limb. "AAAUGH!" The pilot cried out in pain.

"Tom! Are you hurt?" Forgetting about his naked state, a concerned B'Elanna grabbed his arm and began to examine it. She found a purple bruise between his elbow and his wrist. Without thinking, she began to rub it. "Is that better?" she crooned. "Do you need a dermal regenerator?"

The pilot's eyes grew even wider. "Uh, B'Elanna?"

"What?" B'Elanna stared at Tom, who looked very uncomfortable. Almost stiff. What the hell was the matter . . .? For some unexplained reason, her eyes slid downward and noticed Tom's swelling member. Then she remembered. He was naked. Completely. And when she saw him staring at her chest - her bare chest - she realized that she was also naked. "Kahless!" B'Elanna cried out, immediately dropping Tom's arm. "I have to . . . I have to go!" The half-Klingon woman turned on her heels and quickly fled the bathroom.

* * * *

"B'Elanna!"

Tom cried after the fleeing woman. "B'Ela. . ." As he stepped out of the shower, he nearly slipped on the wet floor. Goddammit! "B'Elanna!"

Tom took one step toward the doorway and realized that he was still nude. He reached for a towel and wrapped it around his waist. Then he reached for another towel and scurried into the living area. And just in time. He spotted B'Elanna, shapely bottom included, scampering out of the door. With no clothes on. "B'Elanna, you don't have any . . ."

The half-Klingon stopped in her tracks, noticed the state of her undress with a gasp and bolted back inside. Tom quickly turned away to spare her any further embarrassment. "Uh, B'Elanna? Here's a towel you might want to use," he said, holding out the object.

Growling a quick "thanks," B'Elanna snatched the towel from Tom's hand. "By the way Paris," she added, "what the hell are you doing here?"

Paris? "You haven't called me Paris in over a . . ." The word stuck in Tom's throat as he turned around. And found the towel wrapped around B'Elanna's torso - accentuating every shapely . . . 'Don't go there, Tommy Boy! Just don't!'

"Tom!" B'Elanna added in a sharp voice. "You haven't explained what the hell you're doing here!"

Tom replied, "Taking a shower, of course. Harry gave me permission to use his shower."

"What are you talking about? He gave me permission!" B'Elanna's eyes grew wide. "Oh my God! The big idiot! I bet he planned all this!"

Recalling the fatigue in Harry's voice, Tom doubted it. He suspected that the Operations chief had merely suffered a lapse in memory. Still, who was he to complain when it gave him the opportunity to see B'Elanna Torres in all her glo . . . 'Stop it, Paris!' Tom inwardly reprimanded himself.

"What's wrong?" B'Elanna's voice cut through Tom's thoughts. "Why are you staring at me like . . .?" She paused and glanced at her towel. Red spots tinged her cheeks. "I better get out of here." The chief engineer gathered her belongings.

Tom rushed toward the departing engineer. "B'Elanna! No! Wait! You don't have to leave now. You can . . ." he grabbed her arm, ". . . take the shower, first. Please."

The half-Klingon paused, seemingly unaware of Tom's hand on her bare arm. He noticed that up close, her eyes seemed to focus upon everything, except him. B'Elanna shook her head. "Uh, that's okay. At least my sonic shower is still working."

"Perhaps, but you were obviously in the mood for a water shower. Why else would you be here? Look, I just barely got started on my shower, when you, uh . . ." Tom stumbled a bit. "Well, you know. Just go ahead and use it. Be my guest." He gently steered the engineer toward Harry's bathroom. "Ladies first."

Dark brown eyes grew wide with disbelief. "Ladies?" However, B'Elanna did not reject Tom's offer. She dumped her clothes and boots on a nearby chair and headed for the shower. Once the bathroom door closed behind her, Tom dumped himself unceremoniously on the sofa and sighed. Green or not, Ensign Harry Kim had a lot to answer for.

END OF Part 1

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"NORTH AND SOUTH" Inaccuracies (Books I and II)



After reading a list of historical inaccuracies in the movie, "TITANIC", I could not help but think about the historical inaccuracies I've found in the first two miniseries of the  "NORTH AND SOUTH" Trilogy - no matter how much I loved it. So, here it is:



“NORTH AND SOUTH" INACCURACIES (Book I and II)



1. George and Orry's journey to West Point - I could be mistaken, but I thought most cadets who traveled to West Point from New York City, did so by a steamer up the Hudson River in the mid-1800s.

2. Orry's sword duel w/Bent - I realize many of you found it exciting, but after asking around, I discovered that it is impossible for someone with Orry's difficulties in studies to be an excellent swordsman. Actually, someone like Bent should have kicked his butt.

3. Ulysses Grant did not graduate from West Point two years ahead of George and Orry (as indicated in ”NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II”). He graduated three years before them in 1843.

4. The Mains should not be at Mont Royal during the summers of 1844, 1846 or 1854. Summertime was considered fever season in the South Carolina low country. South Carolinians planters usually vacationed in the upcountry or somewhere else - preferably at Newport Island.

****



5. When Virgilia made the "slave bordellos" reference in her speech during the abolitionist meeting in Philadelphia, she had been very close to the truth, despite Orry's reaction. Due to a Federal law that forbade the import of African slaves in 1808, prosperous slave owners like Tillet Main encouraged their slaves to breed. Female slaves were encouraged to breed by the age fourteen.

6. Fredrick Douglass never referred to God in his speeches. A bitter encounter with the clergy in Maryland erased any religious fevor that he had.

7. Robert Guilliame was too old to be playing Fredrick Douglass in 1848.  During that year, Douglass was only 30 years old. Guilliame was at least 56 or 57 years old when he appeared in ”NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK I”.

8. The song, "Dixie", was written by a Northerner in 1859 and became popular throughout the South in 1860. When James Huntoon sung it at a rally in New Orleans, he may have sung it a year or two early.

****



9. Orry had been premature in referring to John Brown as insane in December 1859. The abolitionist was never considered insane until the 1890s, when the "Lost Cause" myth became very popular.

10. Contrary to the miniseries, Major Robert Anderson was not in his mid to late 30s – the age of actor James Rebhorn, who portrayed the officer when the miniseries was filmed - around the winter of 1860-61. He was at least 55 years old.

11. Hiram Burdan, commander of the Sharpshooters, was not the stickler as portrayed by Kurtwood Smith in the miniseries. In fact, he was not a very good commander and left the Sharpshooters sometime in early 1864.

12. Lincoln had never made a comment about suggesting his other commanders drink the same brand of whiskey as Grant.

****



13. Although he remained sober throughout most of the war, Grant did go on an alcoholic bender sometime during the Vicksburg siege – May to July 1863.

14. West Point never held a ball for its graduates during the mid-1800s. The graduating class usually went to the Astor House in New York City for a graduation supper.

15. Generals Grant and Sherman had met President Lincoln a few weeks before the war ended, they met on a James River steamboat around City Point, Virginia. They did not meet on the field, with General Sheridan, as indicated in "BOOK II".

16. William Stills had been 34-36 years old during the winter of 1855/56. The actor who portrayed him in ”BOOK I”, the late Ron O'Neal, was at least 47 years old at the time of the miniseries’ production.


If you can find any further discrepancies, please let me know.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"A Wedding in Four Acts" [PG-13] - Act 2 (Part 1)




"A WEDDING IN FOUR ACTS"

ACT II - Part 1

When he and his demonic savior materialized in the middle of an expensively furnished living room, Nick released a gust of breath. He glanced around, both impressed and apprehensive by his surroundings and asked, "Where are we?"

Dark brown eyes gave him a cold stare. "You will find out," he said in an Italian accent. Then he cried out, "Hello? Padronessa? Leonardo? We're here!"

A beautiful, dark-haired woman with familiar sherry-brown eyes descended the curved staircase. And aquamarine robe barely hid a statuesque figure that any woman would envy. Nick realized that she bore a strong resemblance to his former partner-in-crime, Portia Della Scalla. Same delicate features, same towering height and curvaceous figure; and the same eyes. Only this woman wore her luxuriant hair in a severe chignon. She also possessed a patrician air that Portia had lacked. Behind her, followed his new defense attorney - Leonard Mollari. Nick closed his eyes and heaved a despairing sigh.

"So," the woman said in a cool voice, "this is the Streghone who killed my sister."

Fear gripped every nerve in Nick's body. "Oh. Oh no! No, Signorina! I didn't kill anyone!"

One dark brow formed an arch. "Oh?"

"I mean . . ." Nick sighed. "Yes, I did kill someone. But it was a man, not who you think."

The woman took a step forward. "Exactly whom am I referring to?"

Nick hesitated. "Uh, Portia Della Scalla? She's a . . ."

"A succubus. I know." The woman stepped closer. "So am I. Portia was my younger sister." Cold eyes bored into Nick's. "If you did not kill my sister, who did?"

Nervously, Nick continued, "Um, mind you, I wasn't present when your sister was killed. I was being arrested at the time."

"Enough!" Portia's sister swept past Nick and the daemon guarding him. She settled upon a nearby sofa in a regal manner. "Sit down! I want you to tell me everything."

Nick waited for the minion to release him, before he eased into an empty chair near the sofa. Bumping his foot against a nearby table's leg. He darted uneasy glances at his hostess and her minions.

"Alessandro," the succubus said to Nick's rescuer, "get a glass of wine for Signor Marcano. The Rosso Villa Monticelli." While Alessandro headed for the liquor cabinet, Nick's hostess returned her gaze toward him. "Now, let us start from the beginning. First, my name . . . my human name is Claudia Della Scalla. I am Portia's older sister. As Leonardo must have told you, a seer had informed us that you were the one who had summoned my sister. The question is . . . why?"

Aware of the panic rising within him, Nick took a deep breath. He then told Signorina Della Scalla everything - his feelings toward Barbara Bowen, her engagement to Bruce McNeill and his reason for summoning the late and unlamented Portia. He also revealed the events that led to Portia's death. "Like I said," he continued, "I wasn't there when she was killed. But before I was sent off to jail, I found out that Bruce killed her. Bruce McNeill is the witch I wanted her to . . . well, you know . . ."

"Yes. Kill," Claudia declared bluntly. "So, some ridiculous little witch had killed my sister. A Wiccan." She gave Nick a hard stare. "Unless, you happened to be lying to me. To save your skin."

Nick drained the last of his wine. "Oh no! I'm telling you the truth! You can use a spell or something to find out. As for Bruce . . . well, he's a very powerful witch. And so is the rest of his family."

"I will simply kill this entire family. I'm sure that my coven will be able to deal with th. . ."

Exasperated by the succubus' arrogance, Nick bluntly interrupted her. "Your sister had believed the same thing and ended up getting killed! Besides . . . Bruce should be getting married this weekend. To Barbara. If you go after the McNeills, you might end up hurting her. And there is one more thing."

"What?" Claudia impatiently demanded.

Nick continued, "Belthazor." He noticed the ominous look that flared in Mollari's eyes. "The half-daemon, Belthazor. He's a very close friend of the family. And he's very powerful."

"He is telling the truth, Signorina," Mollari added. "I have heard of him. He was one of the Source's top assassins of the latter's reame."

The Streghone continued, "Belthazor also became the Source for a while, until the Charmed Ones killed him."

"The Charmed Ones?" Claudia frowned. "I have heard of them. Like the Cavalli family, only Wiccan?"

Nick nodded. "Yes. The youngest witch works at Barbara's shop and is a close friend of Bruce's sister. Anyway, after Belthazor was killed, he returned from the dead more powerful than ever. He's even more powerful than their Source. But not as powerful as Dis and Umbria, who are gods."

Claudia's sherry-brown eyes widened in surprise. "I see." She paused momentarily, while the other three stared at her. "I see that I may have to approach this with more subtlety." Her eyes bored into Nick's. "You say that you had promised my sister with a Soma plant, when you asked her to kill this witch for you?"

Once more, Nick nodded. "Yes, Signorina. The plant is inside the McNeills' greenhouse, at their home. It was given to Barbara by an old friend of hers, some three weeks ago."

"How clever of my sister," Claudia murmured. "She almost had her hands on a Soma plant . . . one that would make her a god. I wonder if she would have told me about it." Her eyes flashed at Nick. "And this Barbara . . . do you want her?"

"Well . . . yes. But she would never . . ."

The succubus dismissed his last words with a wave of her hand. "We'll deal with that later. This Signor McNeill . . . you say that he is getting married?"

Nick added, "This Saturday. "Why?"

Her eyes glittering maliciously, she responded with a slow smile. "Because, I believe we will be attending a wedding, this weekend. And hopefully, I will have in my hands on a plant that will make me a goddess." She suddenly became businesslike. "Now, I want you to tell me everything about the McNeills, their acquaintances and whom you believe will be at the wedding."

---------

Andre and Cecile strolled along Chestnut Street, enjoying the early morning crowd that rushed past them and the shops along the street. His stomach growling from a lack of breakfast, Andre demanded that they stopped at a local coffee shop called Peet's Coffee and Tea. The pair entered and each ordered a cup of coffee and a pastry.

"Okay Cecile," Andre said after they settled around an available table, "is there a reason why you had me forgo a nice big breakfast with Cole and drag me out of the building?"

Cecile paused momentarily before she made her announcement. "I had a vision."

The cup in Andre's hand froze just an inch away from his lips. "Say that again?"

Her eyes focused on her boyfriend's, Cecile repeated herself. "I had a vision. A very bad one." She paused. "I met Olivia's new friend, last night. What's his name? Paul Something."

"Margolin," Andre corrected. "Cole told me about him. I heard that he and Livy may be more than just friends."

Shaking her head, Cecile replied, "God, I hope not."

"Meaning?" When Cecile failed to answer, Andre added, "C'mon girl! What could be so wrong about this vision? Is something gonna happen to this Margolin character?"

Cecile hesitated. "No . . . not him. But I think may be responsible. The vision came to me when I shook his hand."

Andre took a sip of his coffee. "Look, why don't you just show me. Telepathically."

"Here?" Cecile glanced around the coffee shop.

"Why not? Or we can go to Olivia's apartment."

Cecile cried out, "No!" Her outburst drew stares from the other customers. "Not there. She hasn't left, yet. That's why I wanted to leave. I couldn't wait to tell you."

In other words, Cecile's vision had something to do with both Cole and Olivia. Andre frowned. "Show me. Right now."

"Okay." Giving the coffee shop another glance, Cecile ordered Andre to lean forward and close his eyes. She muttered a phrase in the Fon language over and over again. A minute later, the vision struck.

Andre saw Cole allow Olivia and a strange man inside the penthouse. The stranger, whom he surmised must be Paul Margolin, stood by wearing a smug expression, while Cole and Olivia engaged in some kind of conversation. Then Olivia began to chant and a heptagon within a circle materialized around Cole's feet. Each side of the heptagon shot bolts of light at Cole, causing the half-daemon to scream. The red-haired witch continued her chant until Cole's body disintegrated into a burst of light.

The moment the vision ended, Andre gasped out loud, drawing more stares. Breathing heavily, he looked at Cecile in disbelief. "What the hell? I can't . . . Did I just see . . .?" He leaned forward and whispered, "Did I just see Olivia kill Cole?"

Cecile nodded. "Yeah, I know. It's impossible. Paige once told me about this sorcerer who had Cole's powers, last fall. Someone named Barbas. She and her sisters weren't able to kill him with the Power of Three. They had to return the powers back to Cole, first."

"So, how would Olivia be able . . .?" Andre paused. "If the Power of Three couldn't kill some guy with Cole's powers, how would Olivia be able to kill Cole?"

A grim Cecile replied, "I don't know. Maybe Olivia will find a way. You know, she once had a theory on how to kill the Source, but Leo didn't take it seriously. I'm worried about why she would kill Cole in the first place. And why would I get a vision like that shaking Paul Margolin's hand?"

Andre stared at his girlfriend with uneasy eyes. "Are you gonna tell her? Tell Livy?"

"Tell her what, Andre? That she's gonna kill Cole? And that her present boyfriend might have something to do with it?" Olivia rolled her eyes. "Are you kidding?"

"Listen cherie, you're gonna have to tell, sooner or later."

Cecile took a sip of her hot chocolate. "I'd rather do it, later. Maybe after I talk to Mama and Livy's parents about it."

A heavy sigh left Andre's mouth. "Okay. It's your call. Man! I should have known something was gonna happen during this trip. I only hope that matters don't get any worse."

---------

Stunned by the news they had just received, Olivia and her partner, Darryl Morris, sat inside Captain McPherson's office, staring at the man with shocked eyes. Darryl became the first to find his voice. "Excuse me Captain," he said, "but you could repeat what you just said?"

The burly police captain viewed his lieutenant with sympathetic eyes. He sighed. Heavily. "I said that Nick Marcano has escaped from the County lockup at the Hall of Justice, last night. He simply . . . disappeared."

"Disappeared?" Olivia leaned forward. "How?"

McPherson continued, "We believe that a guard helped him." He glanced at the report on his desk. "According to one guard named Timothy Hamilton, another guard named Ben Jenoff had told him that one Keith Hardy had called in sick, and a temp named Reyes showed up. Only Hardy never called in sick. At least, according to Hamilton. He stopped by the cafeteria, while Hamilton reported for duty. Jenoff became suspicious and went to investigate."

"So it was this Jenoff who discovered that Marcano had escaped?" Darryl asked.

The captain shook his head. "No, it was Hamilton. He found Marcano missing and . . . Jenoff's body outside the cell. Burnt to a crisp. How, no one knows."

Olivia muttered under breath, "Oh great!"

"What was that, Inspector?" McPherson demanded.

"Nothing sir," Olivia responded morosely.

The captain nodded. "By the way, Hardy's body was also found." He paused dramatically. "Inside a closet, not far from the cafeteria. Also burnt. Now, how the perpetrator managed to achieve this without setting the whole damn building on fire is beyond me."

Darryl asked, "Exactly who is this guard? This Reyes?"

"No one knows," McPherson curtly replied. "He doesn't exist. At least not with the County Sheriff's Department." The police captain heaved a sigh. "This Reyes is probably someone who is mighty interested in Marcano. I can think of someone else who might be behind this escape. Marcano's accomplice in the DeWolfe murder is still alive. And missing."

Both Olivia and Darryl exchanged uneasy glances. They both knew better. "Uh, you mean this Della Scalla woman?" Darryl asked hesitantly.

McPherson nodded. "We need to find Marcano. Fast. This escape . . . it's a real embarrassment not only to the County Sheriff's Department, but to SFPD, as well."

"Um, does this mean . . .?" Olivia began. However, she immediately closed her mouth under McPherson's direct stare.

"Does this mean . . . what?"

Olivia's face grew hot with embarrassment. She shook her head. "I . . . there's a wedding in the family, this weekend. My older brother. Also, we have a few out-of-state guests. I was thinking if I could take part of today and tomorrow . . ."

McPherson's reply was curt. "No, you may not take some time off. I want both you and Morris working on this case, full time. At least until you're off duty. I'm sure that your brother would appreciate your efforts. Understand?"

A sigh left Olivia's mouth before she answered, "Yes sir." Shit!

"Dismissed."

The two partners stood up and left McPherson's office. Silently. Upon reaching their desks, Darryl finally broke the silence. "Well, I guess we better tell Bruce and Barbara the news."

"Along with Deborah Mann, Aunt Carla and Jason," Olivia added morosely. "Nick picked one hell of a time to escape. Three days before Bruce's wedding."

Sympathy filled Darryl's dark eyes. "Something tells me that Marcano had no choice in the timing." When Olivia reached for her telephone, he added, "Giving Bruce a call?"

"Yeah, I might as well. I'm going to ask him to meet with us at Ostera, so we can break the news to him and Barbara at the same time. They're not going to like this."

Something like a cross between a guffaw and a grunt escaped Darryl's mouth. "Huh. That's the understatement of the year."

--------

Two pairs of eyes - one blue and the other blue-gray - stared at the two police officers with disbelief. "Escaped? Nick Marcano has escaped?" Barbara said in a high-pitched voice.

It was lunchtime. Olivia and Darryl stood inside Ostera's storeroom, facing both the store's owner and her fiancé. Darryl nodded. "Yeah. Last night. He . . . uh, he disappeared from his cell. Along with the guard who helped him."

Olivia added, "Who might be a daemon."

Barbara looked away, distress marring her beautiful face. Bruce sighed. Long and hard. Of all the days for this to happen, he thought. He said out loud in a testy voice, "That's just great. Nick decides to escape just three days before my wedding."

Both Olivia and Darryl exchanged uneasy glances. "I don't think he had planned his escape," she added. "It's obvious that someone helped him. Remember the guard?"

"What about him?" Barbara demanded.

Olivia continued, "Well, this guard . . . might be associated with Portia Della Scalla. Or maybe even her sister."

Anxiety flitted within Bruce's chest. Memories of the succubus filled his mind. "Oh shit!"

Darryl frowned. "That . . . uh, she had a sister?"

"Yeah. Remember what Cole's old friend had told us?" Olivia replied. "He said . . ."

"Yes, thank you for reminding us!" Barbara curtly interrupted. "I was there, remember? I remember what that daemon had told us about Miss Della Scalla's sister. God!" She walked away from the others, her body trembling. "This is great! Bruce and I are supposed to be married the day after tomorrow, only we have Nick Marcano and maybe a vengeful succubus to worry about. I just knew something would happen to screw up everything!"

Bruce walked over to his fiancé and gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "Barbara, honey . . . Look, don't worry. I'm sure that nothing will happen before the wedding. Maybe Nick has already left San Francisco." He glanced at the two inspectors. "Has he?"

Darryl shook his head. "I doubt it. Look, Olivia and I have to get going. We have to break the news to a few others."

Olivia added, "Yeah, like the BAY-MIRROR." She sighed. "And Deborah Mann. I really don't look forward to her reaction."

Bruce nodded. "We understand. I'll see you two later, okay?" Without bothering to look at his sister and her partner, he gently forced Barbara to face him, and enveloped her into his arms.


END OF ACT II - Part 1

Monday, September 22, 2008

"Crossroads of the Force" [PG-13] - Chapter Seventeen





"CROSSROADS OF THE FORCE"


CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

WORLPORT, ORD MANTELL

The air taxi finally delivered Padme, her three companions and R2-D2 to Acroon Street, in the middle of Worlport’s spaceport. As the four people and the droid headed toward the hangar’s entrance, several beeps emitted from R2. His silver-and-blue dome shifted toward the right. Padme directed her gaze in the same direction and gasped.

“What is it?” Bail demanded.

The former Nabooan senator curtly replied, “Stormtroopers. To our right.”

The other three surreptiously stared at the four stormtroopers casually walking along the street. “Don’t panic,” Master Olin murmured. “Try not to do anything that might attract their attention.”

Holding her breath, Padme quietly walked beside Bail and R2-D2. They followed Voranda and the former Jedi into the hangar’s passageway. “I only hope that we will have a clear shot to the Alberforce,” the red-haired Voranda commented. “Once we board the ship, strap on. I intend to . . .” She paused as her legs came to a halt. Master Olin paused, as well. “Oh no!”

Master Olin grimly added, “This does not look good. More stormtroopers.”

Padme glanced past Voranda and spotted at least three stormtroopers firing at someone. “What can we do?”

Voranda quietly answered, “They seemed to be preoccupied. I say we brush past them as quickly as possible and head for the ship.”

“Why don’t we split up as planned?” a frowning Bail demanded.

The former Jedi replied, “They don’t seem to be interested in us. I agree with Captain Sen. We should head for the ship. And quickly.”

The four people and the droid rushed behind the stormtroopers and quickly headed toward the Alberforce. A curious Padme glanced over her shoulders and surprised to see the young man and the Wookie she had met yesterday evening. A petite young woman whom Padme recognized as Zoebeida Dahlma’s aide stood beside them. “Why I know those two,” she murmured. “They . . .” A bigger surprise awaited her when she glanced past the occupants of the other starship. She saw Darth Rasche, the Emperor’s apprentice from a few HoloNet News reports, engaged in a lightsaber duel . . . with her long estranged husband. “Anakin!” she cried.

The others overheard her and stopped in their tracks. Bail merely stared at the two combatants in shock. Voranda whispered, “Set?” Padme stared at the pilot. How did she . . .?

”Rasche!” The name spitted out from Master Olin’s mouth with great enmity. He regarded the Sith Lord with near hatred. Then the former Jedi swiftly removed his lightsaber and switched it on. A blue blade illuminated.

Bail cried out, “Olin! No!”

Too late. Master Olin rushed toward the combatants with lightsaber in hand. The stormtroopers firing upon the other starship, noticed the newcomers and began to fire. Padme cried to the droid, “R2, my blaster!”

While Olin deflected the stormtroopers’ blasts with his lightsaber, the astromech droid beeped several times before it extended a blaster pistol to Padme. She grabbed it and began to fire. Both Bail and Voranda whipped out their own weapons and followed her example.

The stormtroopers divided their attention between Padme and her companions and the trio firing from the other ship’s boarding ramp. The Wookie managed to kill one trooper. Padme shot another. While the battle continued to rage, the Nabooan woman attempted to inch closer toward the Alberforce, as much as she could. But the stormtroopers made it nearly impossible. Not even Anakin’s duel with Lord Rasche could distract them. Then to her surprise, the Sith Lord kicked her husband, causing the latter to fall backward. A gasp escaped Padme’s mouth, as Rasche raised his lightsaber for the killing blow.

Padme opened her mouth to cry out in protest. But the cry from Master Olin’s lips drowned out hers. He charged the Sith Lord with one hand gripping his lightsaber. Four stormtroopers entered the hangar and immediately fired at the former Jedi. One of the blasts struck Olin in the chest and he immediately fell to the ground.

Bail rushed forward to help the former Jedi under a hail of blaster fire. “Help me!” he cried to Padme and Voranda.

The two women rushed to the senator’s side. Padme shot a quick glance at Lord Rasche and was surprised to find him fighting Anakin again. How did he . . .?

“Padme! I need you and Captain Sen to help me get him to the ship,” Bail barked.

Mindful of the charred flesh and blood that marked Olin’s chest, Padme helped Bail and Voranda carry the Jedi to the Alberforce. Thankfully, the stormtroopers’ blaster fire seemed to be more concentrated on the other ship. They finally reached Voranda’s ship and carried Master Olin aboard. Realizing that someone was missing, Padme glanced around. “Where’s R2?” she demanded. Anxiety over the missing droid gripped her.

Several beeps filled her with relief. Padme spotted the astromech droid near one of the ship’s system panels. “Looks like your droid managed to get to the Alberforce first,” Voranda said, as she and Bail eased Olin’s body onto a nearby cot. Then the red-haired woman checked the panel that R2 stood near. “And it has been checking the Alberforce’s systems. Smart little thing.”

Padme returned to the ship’s open hatch. Voranda stood behind her. Both women stared at the two fighters. “Do you know that man?” the younger woman asked. “The one fighting Lord Rasche? You seemed surprised to see him.”

A sigh left Voranda’s mouth. “I thought I did. Let’s get out of here.”

---------

Several Minutes Earlier . . .

It all seemed to be going wrong. Or so it seemed to Han, who sat inside the Javian Hawk’s cockpit. Anakin seemed to be fighting Darth Rasche from a defensive stance. Han suspected that the former Jedi Knight might not be used to fighting defensively, judging from how the latter seemed to be buckling under the Sith Lord’s aggression.

Han tried to shoot as many stormtroopers as he could, using one of the Hawk’s blaster cannons. Despite all of this, the Imperials’ numbers seemed to have increased. Which meant that Chewbacca might be in trouble. Sure enough, a roar filled the ship’s interior. Han quickly left the cockpit and grabbed a blaster rifle from the Hawk’s armory.

“What’s wrong?” a worried-looking Senator Dahlma demanded. “Why aren’t we leaving?”

Han glared at the older woman. “Because two of my friends are in trouble, lady! And we could have been out of here if you had not dropped that data chip!”

“How dare you!” the senator cried out in outrage. “How dare you insinuate that this is all my . . .”

Again, Chewbacca roared for help. Miss Colbert grabbed Han’s forearm. “Captain Solo, I believe that your friend needs your help.”

“Right.” Han shot one last glare at the senator and joined the Wookie at the boarding ramp. He saw the number of stormtroopers inside the hangar and muttered an oath. “Is it me or did the number of stormtroopers just got bigger?” He aimed his blaster rifle at a trooper about to shoot Anakin and fired.

Chewbacca retorted, “The number got bigger, while you were busy with the senator.”

Han ignored the taunt and continued firing. Despite the intensity of the battle, he could not help but marvel at the fighting skills demonstrated by the two Force users. He had seen Anakin practice with a lightsaber before. Yet, he had no idea of the degree of skills needed to wield the weapon in such a lethal manner. Both Anakin and Rasche move so fast that Han almost felt dizzy just watching them.

A third voice from behind demanded, “What’s going on? Do you need help?” Han turned around and found Senator Dahlma’s petite aide standing behind him, holding a blaster. She glanced past and stared at the two dueling men. “Set? He’s a Jedi?”

Han retorted, “Hey! Lady! Get back in the ship! We can handle this!”

Naturally, the stubborn woman refused. “You need all the help you can get, Captain! And I mean to provide it.” The Maldarian woman shot another glance at Anakin and Rasche, before she aimed her blaster at the nearest stormtrooper and fired.

The young Corellian opened his mouth to protest, but Chewbacca caught his gaze and shrugged. ’Why not?’ the Wookie’s expression seemed to say. Han observed Miss Colbert’s skill with a blaster and realized that she might proved to be useful, after all. Then his eyes caught sight of newcomers entering the hangar. One of them happened to be Voranda Sen. With the exception of the redhead, the others wore hooded cloaks that made it difficult for Han to identify them.

One of Voranda’s companions shouted something and threw back his hood. Han found himself staring at a handsome face twisted with rage. A blue lightsaber lit up. Han realized that the man must have been another former Jedi Knight. The man rushed toward Anakin and Rasche with blade in hand. Unfortunately, some of the stormtroopers began to fire at him.

“Who is that?” Chewbacca growled. “Another Jedi?”

Before Han could answer, Miss Colbert added, “I know him. He’s a former Jedi acquaintance of Set’s. We had met last night.” Her voice dropped to a decibel or two. “And apparently he was not the only former Jedi around.”

Detecting a slight dark undertone in the Maldarian woman’s voice, Han shot an anxious glance at Chewbaca. Poor Anakin had a lot to answer for . . . if they ever manage to get off this rock. Han opened his mouth to explain matters, when Miss Colbert let out a squeak. “What is it now?” he demanded.

“The senator’s data chip! Set must have dropped it.” Miss Colbert started down the boarding ramp.

“Hey!” Han reached out to grab her, but the Maldarian woman had moved too fast. As soon as she reached the end of the ramp, she dashed away from the ship. Han fumed at her recklessness. He could have killed her. Then she bent over to retrieve an object from the ground. A stormtrooper spotted her and aimed his blaster rifle at her. Han quickly swiveled his own weapon toward the trooper and shot the latter dead. Miss Colbert stood up and her eyes grew wide at the sight of the dead stormtrooper. Han cried, “C’mon lady! Get back here!”

Just as the Maldarian woman began to move, Han glanced to his left and saw a horrifying sight. Anakin laid flat on his back, with Rasche hovering above him with a lightsaber. Han quickly aimed his blaster at the Sith Lord. Before he could squeeze the trigger, Anakin sent the black-clad Rasche flying backwards. The Sith Lord landed several feet away from Miss Colbert.

“Run!” Han yelled at the young woman. The latter picked up her skirt and dashed toward the Hawk’s boarding ramp. The moment she reached Han and Chewbacca, the Corellian growled, “Hey lady! What in the hell did you think you were . . .?” Han’s rant remained incomplete, as a laser blast sailed inches above his head.

Miss Colbert exclaimed, “I had to retrieve the data chip, Captain Solo. It is vital to . . .”

“Well, give her the damn chip, while Chewie and I continue this fight!”

“What about Set?”

Han glanced at his partner. The latter’s fight with Darth Rasche seemed to have resume. A quick glance at Voranda’s skiff revealed that the Alberforce seemed to be making its way out of the hangar.

Chewbacca growled, “They’re getting away!”

A sigh left Han’s mouth, as his gaze returned to his friend and the Sith Lord. “Yeah, and I wish we could be doing the same.”

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

Not long after his green lightsaber clashed with Rasche’s red one, Anakin realized that too many years had passed since he last fought with a lightsaber. Either that or his former Jedi colleague’s skills have improved over the years.

Anakin quickly blocked a near fatal blow delivered by his opponent. Yes, Romulus . . . or Rasche – as he was now called – had certainly improved his fighting skills. Although Romulus Wort had been considered one of the finest lightsaber duelists of his generation, he had never been able to defeat Anakin. The latter feared that moment seem destined to arrive. Palpatine had certainly trained Rasche well. And hunting down Jedi Knights and Masters over the past decade had certainly helped.

A red blade slashed downward, missing Anakin’s head by millimeters. Realizing that he had allowed himself to be distracted by his thoughts, Anakin quickly cleared his mind and focused his attention upon his opponent. He noticed that Rasche had not abandoned the Djem So Form after all of these years. Unfortunately for Anakin, he seemed to have forgotten. From the moment his blade had met Rasche’s, Anakin found himself using his former master’s fighting style – the Soresu Form – to defend himself. A fighting style of which he had a lot less experience than Obi-Wan.

Anakin immediately sensed an attack aimed at his legs. He quickly utilized the Sai maneuver – a Force-assisted jump to evade the attack. Frustration and anger marred Rasche’s handsome countenance. Anakin began to wonder if his use of the Soresu Form might prove to be successful after all. He certainly seemed to be do . . .

The woman materialized in his line of vision, taking Anakin by surprise. She appeared to be a petite woman that wore a deep blue cloak. At first, he had assumed she was Igraine Colbert. But a brief movement of her head revealed a face that reminded him of . . . Padme? Was that . . .? A booted foot kicked Anakin squarely in the chest, knocking him against a stack of barrels.

Anakin fell upon the ground and one barrel struck his skull. His lightsaber tumbled out of his hand. Feeling slightly dazed, he barely saw a red lightsaber blade hovering above him. “At last!” Rasche growled with triumph. “When that spacer had spotted Senator Dahlma leaving Maldare on your ship, I never thought I would finally get my revenge!”

Spacer? On Maldare? A handsome, dissipated face flashed in Anakin’s mind. Mako Spince! The thought of the Corellian smuggler finally cleared Anakin’s mind. As Rasche’s blade slashed down to strike him, he retrieved his lightsaber using the Force and blocked the Sith Lord’s attack. Then he sent Rasche flying backwards and away from him. Anakin quickly sprang to his feet. Several stormtroopers began firing at him. He deflected their shots with ease, as he raced toward the Javian Hawk’s boarding ramp. Before he could reach it, Rasche’s form landed between him and the ramp.

“This isn’t over, Skywalker,” Rasche declared menacingly. “At least not yet.” His red blade illuminated and he swung it at Anakin. The latter quickly blocked Rasche’s blow and the duel continued.

Once more, Anakin found himself using the Soresu Form in defense of Rasche’s continuing attacks. Yet, he also noticed something different. The Sith Lord’s energy seemed to be waning. Just as it had when they used to duel against each other in the Jedi Temple’s training hall. Then it finally happened. For a millisecond, his opponent hesitated. Anakin took the opportunity to perform a Jung Ma spin before shifting his fighting style to the Djem So Form. After that he held nothing back.

Utilizing deliberate anger and coldness, Anakin relentlessly went on the attack. On and on he pressed, forcing Rasche to switch to the defensive Soresu Form. The Sith Lord proved to be even less effective with this fighting style than he. Like a hunter stalking his prey, Anakin sensed Rasche’s exhaustion. And his own opportunity. The Sith Lord allowed his guard to drop for the second time. In one swift moment, Anakin executed the Cho Mai maneuver and chopped off both of Rasche’s hands.

The Sith Lord’s eyes widened in shock, as he fell to his knees. Anakin neatly caught the other man’s lightsaber and placed the blades of both weapons at Rasche’s neck. Just as he had done to Count Dooku, eleven years ago. The anger he had utilized to defeat the Sith Lord continued to flow within him. All he had to do was . . .

Dooku’s decapitated hands fell upon the deck of the Invisible Hand’s general quarters. “Good Anakin, good!” Chancellor Palpatine’s voice rang with pure delight. “I knew you could do it. Kill him!” The last words came out as a cold murmur. Both Anakin and Dooku stared at the politician. “Kill him, now!”

Confusion now reigned within the young Jedi Knight’s chest. “I shouldn’t . . .” he began.

This time, Palpatine coldly barked, “Do it!” As if by reflex, Anakin neatly severed Dooku’s head.


A shuddering sigh escaped from Anakin’s mouth. Then he stared at the frightened Sith Lord and deactivated both lightsabers. “No!” he cried fiercely to himself. “Not this time! Not again.” He tossed aside Rasche’s lightsaber and rushed toward the Hawk’s boarding ramp. The remaining stormtroopers fired at him. Chewbacca fired back. So did the Javian Hawk’s turret gun, thanks to Han.

Once he and the Wookie managed to safely board the Haw, Anakin brushed past the two Maldarian women and headed toward the cockpit. “Han!” he bellowed. “Now would be a good time to get out of here!”

The young Corellian needed no further words. Han steered the Javian Hawk toward the hangar’s opening. By the time Anakin sat down in the co-pilot’s seat, the Hawk left the hangar and zoomed into the atmosphere above Worlport.


END OF CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Sunday, September 21, 2008

"FANTASTIC FOUR: Rise of the Silver Surfer" (2007) Photo Gallery




Here are a series of photos from "The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer", the new sequel to 2005's "The Fantastic Four":


"FANTASTIC FOUR: Rise of the Silver Surfer" (2007) Photos



































Friday, September 19, 2008

Charles Gunn and His Role in Angel Investigations




CHARLES GUNN AND HIS ROLE IN ANGEL INVESTIGATIONS

There is something about one of the episodes of ”ANGEL” that has always bothered me. My unease centered around an incident between two of the series’ major characters that occurred in the early Season 3 episode, ”That Old Gang of Mine”. But to understand the nature of my unease, one has to return to two episodes from Season 2 - ”Reunion” and ”Blood Money”.

As many fans of ”ANGEL” are aware, Angel had decided to fire his three companions – Cordelia Chase, Wesley Wyndham-Price and Charles Gunn – as a despondent reaction over his failure to save a human Darla from the manipulations of Wolfram and Hart and the vampire he had sired, Drusilla; in the episode ”Reunion”. Although upset over Angel’s actions, Cordelia, Wesley and Charles had decided to revive Angel Investigations in the following episode, ”Blood Money”:

Gunn takes the card and looks at it.
Gunn: "That's a Angel? Looks like a - a lobster with a - growth or... We'll make our own logo."
Wesley: "Yes. Something sleek, but edgy."
Gunn: "Something that says: you need help, we're there."
Wesley: "Exactly. Danger is our business. (Cordy put a hand to her forehead and begins to stagger) We'll catch you when you fall."


While celebrating the successful conclusion of a case that involved a demon, the trio had a discussion on their agency’s new name:

Gunn: "Our new agency."
Wesley: "Wyndham-Price Agency."
Cordy and Gunn: "The what?"
Wesley: "You don't like it? - It's classy."
Cordy: "It's stuffy. - The Chase Agency! *That* has the right ring."
Wesley: "Why?"
Cordy: "Because it's my name."
Gunn: "Uh, Wes, Ms. Chase, alright, there is only one player here with a name that strikes dread in the demon heart."
Points at himself.
Cordy: "Gunn?"
Gunn: "Uh-huh."


Mind you, the above conversation that took place was nothing more than a spot of fun for the trio. They eventually decided to maintain the agency’s former name – Angel Investigations.

Now, according to many fans of the series, Cordy, Charles and Wesley had all decided that despite being equal partners in the updated version of the firm, Wesley would act as case leader. In other words, due to his past as a Watcher and extensive knowledge of the supernatural world, he would lead the other two when they were actually on a case. This did not make Wesley head of the firm altogether or the official boss of Angel Investigations. He would simply act as leader during a case. But after an early episode in the following season, a good number of people – including Joss Whedon and Tim Minear – had forgotten.

Then came the early Season Three episode, ”That Old Gang of Mine”. In this particular episode, Charles discovers his former comrades are murdering harmless demons for fun. When he tries to convince them to stop, he learns that - due to his association with Angel - he has lost their trust. One of his former associates gives Charles the opportunity to win their trust by killing Angel, who is unable to defend himself due to a spell. Near the end of the episode, Wesley had threatened to fire Charles if the latter ever goes against Angel Investigations again.

Here is the rub. Why in the hell would Wesley threaten to fire Charles? HE HAD NO RIGHT TO DO THIS. Charles was no longer an employee of Angel Investigations. He was one of three partners. I realize that he and Cordelia had voted to allow Wesley act as leader in their cases. But this gave Wesley NO RIGHT to treat Charles as an employee, instead of a partner. He should have told Charles that he and Cordelia would break their partnership with Charles if the latter ever pulled again what he did in "That Gang of Mine". Instead, Wesley treated Charles like a minion. Even worse, no one has protested against Wesley’s behavior this to this day:

Gunn: "Don't guess Rondell and his crew are gonna be crossing Venice boulevard again any time soon."
Wesley: "It's never easy - the pull of divided loyalties. - Whatever choice we do end up making we feel as though we've betrayed someone."
Gunn: "Yeah."
Wesley: "If you ever withhold information or attempt to subvert me again, I will fire you. - I can't have any one member of the team compromising the safety of the group, no matter who it is. If you do it again you will be dismissed, bag and baggage, out of a job onto the streets."


Just reading the above passage pisses me off. Did Wesley actually believe he had a right to treat Charles like an employee? Like some damn minion? Tim Minear – who wrote the transcript – and Joss Whedon obviously allowed Charles to accept the threat as genuine. And I do not understand this. What in the hell were they thinking? Both seemed to have forgotten that Angel Investigation 2.0 had been co-founded by Charles, Wesley and Cordelia. Because of this, Wesley had no right to treat Charles like some employee, instead of a colleague and co-owner of the agency. But since Minear and Whedon seemed to be stuck in their vision of Charles as some muscle-bound employee, they made a major blooper in regard to Charles' character. And worst of all, the majority of the Jossverse fans see nothing wrong in Wesley’s treatment of Charles or the idea that the Englishman was the African-American’s employer and not fellow colleague.

I am sick to my stomach.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Favorite Summer Movies 2008 COUNTDOWN



Below is a countdown to my top ten (10) favorite movies from the Summer of 2008. Naturally, there are some movies that are missing from the list. Either I never got to see them or I did not like them very much:


FAVORITE SUMMER MOVIES OF 2008 COUNTDOWN



10. "HELLBOY 2: THE GOLDEN ARMY" - I rather enjoyed this sequel to the 2004 hit, "Hellboy". In fact, I thought it was slightly better than the first film. I really enjoyed Ron Perlman, Selma Blair and Doug Jones in this one.




9. "PRINCE CASPIAN" - Another sequel that I enjoyed more than the first, due to it being slightly darker. This sequel to "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" is about the Pensieves' return to Narnia, where they help Prince Caspian battle his evil uncle.




8. "GET SMART" - I never thought I would find myself enjoying the big screen version of the 60s hit show, "Get Smart". Even more surprising was Steve Correll's take on the Maxwell Smart character. Both he, the supporting cast and the movie's plot were excellent.




7. "THE INCREDIBLE HULK" - Many claimed that this reboot of the Hulk franchise was an improvement on the 2003 version with Eric Bana. Granted, the action sequences are better and Edward Norton was excellent in the title role. But I would not agree that it was better or worse than the 2003 version.




6. "THE MUMMY 3: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR" - Although its production values were not as impressive as the first two "Mummy" films, this third entry was an entertaining tale about Rick and Evelyn O'Connell (Brendan Fraser and Maria Bello replacing Rachel Weisz) facing their mid-life crisis and helping their grown son face the mummy of a Chinese emperor (Jet Li) in post-World War II China.




5. "THE DARK KNIGHT" - I sure that many are surprised that this sequel to "Batman Begins" was not placed at the top of my list. The answer is that despite being a first-rate film, I had some problems with it - namely its moral code that dangerously came across as a little too neo-conservative to me; and the film's very contrived last half hour. By the way, Heath Ledger as the Joker was superb.




4. "TROPIC THUNDER - Ben Stiller directed and co-wrote this hilarious spoof of Hollywood excess in this tale about a group of actors in Southeast Asia, filming a Vietnam War movie. Robert Downey Jr. outshines an already talented cast as an Award winning, Method Australian actor portraying a black Army sergeant.




3. "INDIANA JONES and the KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL" - Many critics and moviegoers expressed disapproval of this latest Indy Jones entry. For them, it did not seem like the last three movies. But I realized that Lucas and Spielberg were doing a take on "B" movies of the 1950s (the movie is set in 1957), not the 1930s serial flicks. And I thought they did a great job. It was wonderful seeing Harrison Ford and Karen Allen together. And both Shia Labeouf and Cate Blanchett's performance were also enjoyable for me.




2. "IRON MAN" - Robert Downey Jr. must be the man of this summer. He was superb as wealthy industrialist Tony Stark, who becomes the iron-clad superhero, Iron Man. He was ably supported by an excellent cast that included Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard and Jeff Bridges; a first-rate plot and excellent direction by Jon Favreau.




1. "SPEED RACER" - That's right. My favorite movie of the summer is a cinematic version of a cartoon character from Japan about a young American race car driver and his family. With a first-rate cast that included Emile Hirsch, Matthew Fox and Christina Ricci, the Wachowski Brothers created one of the most imaginative movies I have seen in years. Even better, their out-of-this world visuals was backed by an excellent family drama. Two . . . thumbs . . . up on this one!