Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Lessons in Witchcraft" [PG] - 9/9




”LESSONS IN WITCHCRAFT”

Chapter 9

“For the last session,” Olivia said, “I want to return to the subject of the Law of Three. Or the Threefold Law.” The Charmed Ones groaned. “Oh, come on,” the redhead continued, amused by the sisters’ reaction, “this is a simple subject. At least on the surface.”

Piper said, “I thought we had discussed everything we could about the Wiccan Rede and the Law of Three.”

Olivia gave the oldest Halliwell a crisp smile, which drew a slight frown from the younger woman. “Piper, we’ve barely skimmed on the subject. Now, I’m sure you guys remember telling you that the Threefold Law basically claims that that whatever energy a person puts out into the world, be it positive or negative, will be returned to that person three times. Whatever action you perform or enact, you will receive or face the consequences of that action in threefold. Karmic payback. Not all Wiccans believe this. Those who don’t believe in this law, feel that it is based on Christian morality and not worth believing in.”

“Well it does sound something similar to what Christians believe,” Phoebe replied. “'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'? Book of Matthew?”

Nodding, Olivia said, “You know the Bible. Pretty good. The Law of Three and what is said in the Book of Matthew is what we would call the ’ethnic of reciprocity’. And it is believed not only among Christians and some Wiccans, but also by practitioners of other religions – modern or otherwise.”

“So, if you commit some crime or dark deed,” Paige said, “you’ll pay the consequences for it, one way or the other?”

“It’s not just about wrong doing.”

“Before you continue, Livy, I have a question,” Olivia’s mother said, interrupting. Everyone glanced at her. “For Paige.” The youngest Charmed One’s dark eyes grew wide. “Why did you give up your job at the Social Services office?”

A long pause followed, as a frown appeared on Paige’s face. “Didn’t Olivia or Barbara tell you?”

“I just need to hear it from you.”

Paige sighed. “My job was interfering with my duties a witch. And I decided it was best to become a full time witch.” Paul Margolin coughed slightly, earning a glare from the young woman. “Yeah, I know. It was a stupid thing to do. Which is why I took up Barbara’s job offer.”

“I see.” Gweneth faced the two older Halliwells and Leo. “And why didn’t you three say something?”

Phoebe’s mouth hung open. Piper quickly replied, “There was nothing we could say.”

The middle-aged witch nodded. “I see.” Once more, she turned to the youngest sister. “And Paige, I understand that you had first received a promotion before you had left your job?”

“Oh . . . that.” Paige released a gust of breath. “Yeah. Um . . . after I had helped this woman to get custody of her child from an abusive ex-husband. She was a friend of Darryl’s.”

Olivia frowned. “Wait. Are you talking about Caroline Seldon? I heard about her ex. She’s a clerk at my precinct.”

Paige nodded. “Yeah, that’s her.”

“What exactly happened?” Gweneth demanded.

The youngest Charmed One recounted the incident regarding police clerk Caroline Seldon. Darryl Morris had approached Paige for help in acquiring legal aid for the battered clerk, who wanted sole guardianship of her son. Through one of the Social Services attorneys, Caroline managed to get a hearing. On the day of the hearing, Caroline appeared with Darryl at the manor with a bruised face. “She was worried that the judge would take one look at her face and assume that she had resumed some old bad habits. So . . .” She took a deep breath. “I used a spell to get rid of her bruises. Caroline got custody of her kid. Her ex was sent to jail and my boss offered me a promotion from assistant to social worker.”

Olivia added, “And so, you had decided to resign from the office, months later?”

“No, I turned down the promotion the next day,” Paige answered. “Mr. Cowan ended up promoting me, several months later. Around the time when Cole had returned from the Wasteland.”

“Why?”

Paige frowned. “Huh?”

Olivia sighed. “Why did you turn down that promotion after helping Caroline?”

Piper answered for Paige. “Uh, personal gain? Because of the spell, this Caroline person won her case. And Paige ended up being promoted over someone else. We thought . . .”

”Are you bloody serious?” Gweneth’s outburst drew stares from everyone else in the garden. She shook her head with a sigh and added, “Oh dear. Sorry about that. I believe I may have overreacted. I just . . . I cannot believe that you turned down the promotion.”

“She had to,” Leo calmly replied. “Paige had received that promotion due to magic. That’s personal gain.”

Annoyed by the whitelighter’s smug reply, Olivia retorted, “It’s horseshit, Leo! Like I told them, there is no rule regarding personal gain in the Wiccan Rede.”

“That rule is made clear inside their Book of Shadows!”

“Considering that a good number of entries in their Book of Shadows is wrong, the whole matter of personal gain is irrelevant!”

Gweneth spoke up. “Paige, did you have any intentions of receiving a promotion when you helped Ms. Seldon?”

“No!” Paige replied breathlessly, as she shook her head. “I only got involved, because Darryl asked for my help.”

“Did you have any intentions of using magic to help her?”

Again, Paige shook her head. “No, I . . . it was a last minute thing.”

Olivia’s mother leaned back into her wicker chair with a sigh. “Now, the Threefold Law clearly states that whatever you do – good, evil or otherwise – will come back to you in threefold. What you would call karmic payback. Or paying the consequences of your actions. Paige, your intentions in regard to Ms. Seldon’s situation was honorable. You got involved because she and Darryl needed your help. You had no idea that you would be rewarded for your actions. And you only used magic as a last resort. The offer for a promotion was the consequence of your actions. The karmic payback. There was no need for you to reject the promotion. Frankly, I think you should have accepted it.”

“But the spell resulted in personal gain!” Phoebe insisted.

“There is no personal gain rule that is part of the Wiccan Rede,” Gweneth coolly replied. “Didn’t Livy make that clear?”

Paul spoke up. “But if the whitelighers . . .”

“Mr. Margolin,” the older woman continued, “personal gain is a whitelighter’s rule. It has nothing to do with being a witch. At least not as far as Wiccans are concerned. Why the whitelighers have insisted that witches follow this rule . . .”

“Because it prevents them from abusing their powers!” Leo insisted.

Gweneth glared at the whiteligher. “Perhaps your bosses are the ones who are abusing their powers! They’re supposed to be whitelighers, Leo. Guardian angels. Guardian angels SHOULD NOT dictate the moral compass of any witch or other mortal. You are not supposed to treat witches like supernatural soldiers in your little war against the demonic world! Your job is to offer guidance and protection via the consent of your charge. You can only do this by consent only. I feel that your superiors have failed to remember this.” Olivia noticed the red flush that had crept across Leo’s face. And the embarrassed expression on his face. Paul and the Halliwells simply looked stunned.

“Wait, so you’re saying that I should have accepted the promotion?” Paige asked.

“I’m afraid so, dear.” Olivia’s mother took a sip of lemonade before she continued. “The real problem in regard to the Threefold Law is that it can be rather vague. And we might find ourselves faced with situations that force us to fill in the blanks as we go along. This is where it gets a bit tricky.”

Phoebe frowned. “What do you mean?”

Olivia shot a glance at her mother before she added, “I think Mom is talking about scope. Considering how chaotic and complex this universe is, I think I can say that none of us can imagine all of the consequences of our actions or decisions. Sometimes, we’ll end up making an honest mistake.”

“Of course,” Gweneth added, “we also have to remember that we do have brains. And sometimes, ignorance is not an excuse for a mistake. If you have an instinct to make a certain decision or commit an action, one also has a brain to consider at least some of the consequences. Or look into the matter to determine if you’re making the right choice. For example . . .”

Piper’s voice interrupted in a tone that bordered on hostility. “This is about Cole, isn’t it?”

One of Gweneth’s brows rose questioningly. “I beg your pardon?”

“Cole. This is about Cole.”

Coolly, Olivia’s mother replied, “I see that you have your family’s talent for making assumptions, Piper. But since you did mention him, I suppose that his time as the Source and your reaction to it could provide an excellent example.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t . . .” Phoebe began nervously.

It was obvious that Gweneth barely heard the middle Charmed One, as she continued, “Paige, I understand that you were the first to sense something about Cole.”

Sighing, Paige replied, “Well . . . yeah. I tried to convince Piper, Leo and Phoebe, but . . . no one listened.” Piper rolled her eyes. Leo’s faced became a deeper shade of pink and Phoebe turned her head away.

“Did you take any other action? Gweneth asked. “Did you try to figure out how Cole could have become demonic again?”

Another sigh left Paige’s mouth. “No. I had been too busy trying to convince everyone that Cole was a demon again. And I . . . assumed that he became one again, because he didn’t like being human.” She paused briefly. “And when we found out that he was the Source. . . well, we just wanted him dead. Especially after Phoebe became his Queen.”

“Cole had also killed an innocent!” Piper declared. “Remember Greg Conroy? We tried to save him after Phoebe told her about her premonition. But Cole got to him, anyway.”

Gweneth stared at the oldest Charmed One. “So, you and your sisters decided to go after Cole. To punish him?”

“And save me from Cole!” Phoebe retorted.

Paige rolled her eyes. “We weren’t interested in saving you!”

“Paige!” the oldest protested.

“C’mon Piper! Why don’t you at least tell the truth?” Paige continued. “We were all pissed off at Cole for killing our innocent. We wanted to punish him. Nothing else. Hell, you even considered vanquishing Phoebe after she became his queen.”

”WHAT??” Phoebe stared at her sisters in horror. “You were planning on killing me??”

Piper rolled her eyes. “C’mon Pheebs! I wasn’t serious about that. And I was drunk at the time.”

Silence surrounded the inhabitants in the garden. The McNeills’ manservant, Davies, appeared bearing a tray filled with more glasses of lemonade. As he served the drinks, he said to Gweneth, “Pardon me, Mrs. McNeill, but that was Mr. Bruce. He wanted me to remind you about the Palmer wedding reception. The ceremony itself had just ended.”

“Thank you, Davies,” Olivia’s mother replied. The manservant nodded and walked away. Then she said to the Halliwells. “Did any of you bothered to learn how Cole became the Source? Did you not have time, considering your . . . innocent was dead?”

Leo protested, “Phoebe was in danger!”

With a shake of her head, Olivia replied, “But Paige just denied it, Leo. She just told us that you were all angry at Cole for killing this Greg Conroy person. And that you all wanted him to pay. Was she lying?”

The only sound that came from Leo’s mouth was a grunt. Paul, on the other hand, came to the rescue. “Does it really matter, as long as they got rid of him? Even if his . . . death didn’t last very long? At least the Source is no longer around.”

Gweneth gave the male witch a cool look. “I’m afraid it does matter, Mr. Margolin.” She drank some of her lemonade. “If the sisters and Leo had went after Cole to . . . rescue Phoebe or save this Mr. Conroy, I can understand why they would kill him. But according to Paige, they were angry over the death of Mr. Conroy and Phoebe’s new role as the Source’s queen. And because of this, they went after Cole to vanquish him. I hate to say this but their actions and the motives behind them sounds a bit like murder to me, not self-defense or the defense of someone else.”

“We didn’t commit murder! He did! He was an evil bastard!” Piper cried. “A demon! I see no reason why we would need any other reason to kill him!”

“How sad,” the older witch said in a pitying tone. “I hate to say this, my dear, but you sound like a bigot. Are you saying that there is nothing wrong in killing another being in cold blood, because he or she is not a human? Regardless of whether or not that being an immediate threat? And to make matters worse, none of you had bothered to learn how Cole became the Source. You had failed to follow up on your instincts or discoveries with a little research. I wonder . . . would you all have made the same assumptions if one of you had become the Source?”

Piper’s dark eyes flashed with anger. She quickly rose to her feet and placed her glass of lemonade on a nearby table. “I’m out of here,” she muttered in a low tone. “Phoebe! Paige!” The middle Charmed One stood up. So did Leo and Paul. Paige remained in her seat. Piper stared pointedly at the younger woman. “Paige?”

Her eyes cast downward, Paige murmured, “Piper, I’m sorry, but Mrs. McNeill has a point. We made a big mistake in killing Cole. And we only did it out of anger. At least you and I did. Phoebe just helped us.”

“Paige!”

“We might as well be honest, Piper!”

An angry huff escaped from Piper’s mouth. “Fine! You can stay here. I’m leaving.” She started to walk away. Leo, Phoebe and Paul followed.

Before the four were able to take at least four steps, Gweneth said, “Do you mind if I say one last thing before you leave?”

The quartet paused. Then they slowly turned to face Olivia’s mother. Phoebe coolly replied, I’m sorry Mrs. McNeill, but I think you’ve said enough. In fact, I don’t think we need any more lessons. Right Piper?”

“You’re damn right about that!” Piper snapped, glaring at the older witch one last time before stalking away from the garden and toward the McNeill manor. Phoebe, Leo and Paul followed closely at her heels.

A large sigh escaped from Gweneth’s mouth. “Oh dear. I believe I may have said more than I should.”

“No you didn’t,” Paige replied in a morose voice. “They’re just not ready to listen. I wonder if they will ever be.”

Olivia shot a quick glance at the remaining Charmed One. She wondered if these lessons in the Craft may have created a serious breach between Paige and her sisters.

----------

Later that afternoon, a wary Paige finally returned to the manor. She opened her mouth to call for her sisters. But she realized that they might not want to speak with her. A heavy sigh left her mouth, as she started toward the staircase. When she finally reached the second floor, Paige spotted Piper leaving one of the bedrooms. The two sisters stopped short at the sight of each other.

“How long have you been back?” Piper coolly asked.

A long pause followed before Paige replied, “I just got back.”

Piper frowned. “You went to that wedding reception with Olivia and Mrs. McNeill?”

“Nah, I uh . . . I did a little shopping around Union Square and got some clam chowder at the Wharf.” Sensing discomfort between her and Piper, Paige started for her bedroom.

“Are you going to continue the lessons with Olivia and her family?” Piper asked. Paige detected a slight note of disapproval in her older sister’s voice.

With a sigh, Paige explained that she and Olivia had decided to discontinue the lessons. “She told me that if I ever need help or information on anything regarding the Craft or Wicca, just give her a call.”

“You could always ask Phoebe or me.”

An uncomfortable silence fell between the two sisters, once more. Paige wished she could escape to her room. But after her discovery regarding the truth surrounding Cole’s tenure as the Source, she had decided never run away from the truth. “Of course. But . . . well, Livy knows more than any of us. I mean . . . there are some things she or her family might know and we wouldn’t.”

“Yeah.” Piper gave Paige a long look. She started to head for the staircase, but hesitated. “Look, about today . . .”

Paige burst out, “I’m sorry, Piper. I’m sorry if you and Phoebe felt humiliated. I don’t think Mrs. McNeill had meant to bring up Cole being the Source.”

Piper sighed. “Yeah, I know. I did. I wish I hadn’t.” Again, she stared at Paige, making the latter feel slightly intimidated. “You still believe that we had made a mistake in killing Cole, do you?”

“Yeah, I do. I mean . . . I saw the visions. Cecile’s visions.” Paige took a deep breath. “Look, I don’t like the idea that killing Cole had been a mistake, anymore than you do. It was very humiliating for me. Especially when I had to face Cole about the matter. But I had to face it, Piper. And one day, you and Phoebe will have to do the same. Cole has learned to face his crimes. I don’t see why we don’t have to, even if our . . . victim was a demon. Because if we don’t, we’ll keep making mistakes and not facing them until one day, we end up doing something incredibly colossal . . . and wrong. And we’ll end up having to pay the price for actions. I just don’t want to do that.”

A gust of breath left Piper’s mouth. “Wow,” she murmured, “talk about a long speech.”

A shaft of disappointment struck Paige. Typical Piper. Using humor to avoid a situation she does not want to face. “I’ll be in my room,” the younger woman grumbled.

“Paige!” Piper began. “I . . .” Paige stared at her older sister with hopeful eyes. “Uh . . . I’ll have dinner ready in less than an hour.”

Paige gave her head a mild shake. “Yeah. Sure. Thanks.” Some things, she realized, never change. And some people. She turned away and headed straight for her room.


THE END

Monday, June 29, 2009

"TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN" (2009) Photo Gallery



Below are photos from the new Michael Bay movie, "TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN":


"TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN" (2009) Photo Gallery






























































Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ten (10) Favorite Films Set in CHICAGO



With the new movie, "PUBLIC ENEMIES" due to release in a month, I decided to post this list of my favorite movies set in Chicago, Illinois. Although the last two Batman films were shot there, both are set in the fictional Gotham City and therefore, not on my list. Enjoy:


TEN (10) FAVORITE FILMS SET IN CHICAGO




1. "The Sting" (1973) - This Oscar winner is about two Depression-era grifters who run a detailed con job on a dangerous local gangster. Directed by George Roy Hill, Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Robert Shaw starred.





2. "Some Like It Hot" (1959) - Billy Wilder directed and co-wrote, what I believe to be one of the best comedies ever made, about two jazz muscicians who witness a mob hit and hide out by disguising themselves as women and joining an all-female band. Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon starred.





3. "The Untouchables" (1987) - Brian DePalma directed this version of the conflict between Treasury agent Elliot Ness and mobster Al Capone in 1930 Chicago. Kevin Costner, Oscar winner Sean Connery, Andy Garcia, Charles Martin Smith, Billy Drago and Robert DiNiro starred.





4. "The Road to Perdition" (2002) - Tom Hanks portrayed an early 30s hit man for the mob who is forced to protect his son, when the latter witnesses a murder. Adapted from Max Allan Collins' graphic novel, the movie wsa directed by Sam Mendes and co-starred Paul Newman, Jude Law, Jennifer Jason-Leigh, Daniel Craig and Tyler Hoechlin.





5. "The Fugitive" (1993) - Harrison Ford and Oscar winner Tommy Lee Jones co-starred in this execellent screen adaptation of the famous TV series about a doctor wrongfully accused of his wife's murder. Jerome Krabbe, Joe Pantoliano, Andreas Katsulas and Sela Ward co-starred.





6. "While You Were Sleeping" (1995) - An elevated train ticket collector pretends to be engaged to an unconscious man she had rescued and ends up being drawn into his family. Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman, Peter Gallagher and Jack Warden starred.





7. "The Blues Brothers" (1980) - John Landis directed this musical about the Blues Brothers (characters from a "Saturday Night Live" sketch) who attempt to reform their band in order to raise money to save their old Roman Catholic orphanage from foreclosure. John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd starred.





8. "Chicago" (2002) - Rob Marshall directed this Oscar winning adaptation of the stage musical that explored the themes of celebrity and scandal in Jazz Age Chicago. Renee Zellweger, Oscar winner Catherine Zeta-Jones, John C. Reilly, Queen Latifah and Richard Gere starred.





9. "Eight Men Out" (1988) - John Sayles directed this tale about Major League Baseball's 1919 "Black Sox" scandal, in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox conspired with gamblers to intentionally lose the World Series. David Strathairn, John Cusack, D.B. Sweeney, Charlie Sheen and John Maloney starred.





10. "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986) - Matthew Broderick starred in this winning comedy about a high school senior who decides to skip school and spend the spring day in downtown Chicago with his girlfriend and best friend. Directed by John Hughes, the movie co-starred Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Jennifer Grey and Jeffrey Jones.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"TERMINATOR SALVATION" (2009) Review



Below is my review of the fourth installment of the TERMINATOR franchise - "TERMINATOR SALVATION":


”TERMINATOR SALVATION” (2009) Review

For some particular reason, I have never been in the habit of anticipating a movie from the ”TERMINATOR” franchise. I never saw ”THE TERMINATOR” (1984) or ”TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY” (1991) in the theaters. Not that I really cared, since I never did make the effort to go see either movie. I had to be dragged to the theater to see ”TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES” (2003). And as for the latest installment in the franchise, ”TERMINATOR SALVATION” - again, I had to be dragged to the theater. Yet, every time I have seen any of these films, I end up enjoying them. Or being intrigued by them – including this latest film.

Directed by McG, who was responsible for the two ”CHARLIE’S ANGELS” movies and "WE ARE MARSHALL", ”TERMINATOR SALVATION” told the struggles of Resistance leader John Connor during the war between humanity and Skynet – the artificial intelligence system that became self aware and revolted against its human creators – in the year 2018. For the first time, a movie in the ”TERMINATOR” franchise did not feature the time travel of one or two of its characters. The movie not only revealed how John Connor first met his father – the teenaged and future time traveler, Kyle Reese, it also focused on how a death row inmate named Marcus Wright had signed over his body to Cyberdyne Systems and ended up being used as a model for the T-800 Model 101 Terminator and to lure Connor to Skynet. The movie starred Christian Bale as John Connor; Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright; Moon Bloodgood as Blair Williams, a Resistance pilot who falls for Marcus; Anton Yelchin as the teenaged Kyle Reese; Byrce Howard Dallas as Kate Brewster Connor, John’s wife; Common as Barnes, Connor’s second-in-command; Jadagrace Berry as Star, Kyle’s nine year-old mute companion; Helena Bonham-Carter as Dr. Dr. Serena Kogan, the cancer-ridden Cyberdyne scientist who had convinced Marcus to donate his body before Judgment Day; and Linda Hamilton as the voice of Sarah Connor.

As far as I know, the movie has received mixed reviews from both the critics and moviegoers. How do I feel about ”TERMINATOR SALVATION”? Well . . . it was not perfect. First of all, singer-turned-actor Common seemed incapable of acting worth a damn in this film. Which I found surprising, considering how impressed I had been by his performances in movies like ”SMOKIN ACES” (2007) and ”STREET KINGS” (2008). It could be that McG might be one of those directors incapable of handling actors with little experience. Another problem I had with the movie was Conrad Buff’s editing. In fact, I have been complaining about the editing in a good number of movie during this past year. I am beginning to wonder if the new and cheap editing style created by Christopher Rouse for the last two ”BOURNE” movies seemed to be getting very popular in the movie industry, these day. And, quite frankly, I found Jane Alexander’s presence in the film as another Resistance leader named Virginia to be a complete waste of time. Aside from a few lines in the movie, she barely said a word. Another problem I had centered around John Connor’s inability to remember that two previous T-800 Terminators had saved his life in the past. Instead, the only thing remembered from his first meeting with Marcus Wright was that the latter reminded him of the cyborg who tried to kill his mother, Sarah, in 1984. I had posted this complaint on one of the movie’s blogs and was told that it was possible that fifteen years of fighting machines may have eroded John’s memories. Hmmm . . . perhaps. However, I am still slightly uneasy about it.

One last complaint – namely the ending. Many fans have been complaining that the filmmakers did not stick with the original ending that called for John Connor to die and for his command to have his skin grafted upon Marcus Wright’s body in order to continue the Resistance. But when the ending was leaked on the Internet, the screenwriters created a new ending. First of all, I thank God for the person who had leaked the original ending, because I hate it. If that had been the ending shown in the theaters, I would have been tempted to throw my shoe at the movie screen. Yes, I hate it that much. Now, I like the new ending. I like it a hell of a lot more than the original ending. But . . . I feel that director McG or screenwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris had rushed it a bit. I feel that it could have been better paced.

Okay. Despite my complaints, I discovered that I liked the movie . . . a lot. Like I did the three previous ”TERMINATOR” movies. Brancato and Ferris’ screenplay for this new installment is quite different from the three previous ones in which no one character had traveled back in time to protect a member of the Connor family. For once, Arnold “the Govenator” Schwarzenegger did not appear in the movie as a major character. And ”TERMINATOR SALVATION” revealed an interesting twist from the last two films in which a cyborg was used to form close ties with John Connor in order to arrange for his death, instead of to protect him. Another interesting thing about the story is that the aim of Skynet was not to kill John Connor before he could become a Resistance leader. Instead, it seemed determine to kill him, while he fought with the Resistance. And it also targeted Kyle Reese in order to lure Connor to Skynet and kill Kyle before his future trip back through time. However, I did notice that Skynet had targeted both son and father, before the son could become ”the top” leader of the Resistance. And when you think about it, with the character of Marcus Wright, Skynet had damn near pulled a con job on both Connor and the Resistance. The reason I found this interesting is that Skynet’s future dealings with John Connor, Sarah Connor and Kate Brewster Connor will never be this subtle again.

Another major virtue of ”TERMINATOR SALVATION” turned out to be its cast – with the exception of one or two. I have already made my complaints about Common and Jane Alexander, so I will sing the praises of the rest of the cast. Helena Bonham-Carter made a brief and memorable appearance as Dr. Serena Kogan, the Cyberdyne scientist who convinced Marcus to donate his body, following his execution in 2003. For the past two to three years, a good number of child actors have caught my attention with some pretty damn good performances – like Dakota Blue Richards in ”THE GOLDEN COMPASS”, Paulie Litt from "SPEED RACER", Jaden Smith in ”THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL” and Brandon Walters in ”AUSTRALIA”. The fifth child who has managed to recently catch my eye turned out to be Jadagrace Berry, who portrayed the nine year-old mute/Resistance fighter, Star. I found it amazing that a nine year-old girl who had not only made her film debut, but managed to remain silent throughout the film, gave one of the best performances in the movie. And she did it with good old fashioned screen acting . . . by using her eyes, expressions and body language. Anton Yelchin is no longer the child actor he used to be when I first saw him in the 2002 miniseries, ”TAKEN”, but he is still a first-rate performer with a strong screen presence. Actor Michael Biehn had made the role of Kyle Reese memorable in the franchise’s first movie in 1984. And Yelchin proved that he could be just as memorable as Biehn, as the teenaged Kyle. Both Bryce Dallas Howard and Moon Bloodgood portrayed the two female leads in the movie – Kate Brewster Connor (wife of John) and Blair Williams (Resistance pilot who ends up falling in love with Marcus Wright). And both women gave first-rate performances and managed to stand out on their own, despite being surrounded in heavily male-dominated film. Howard – who had taken over the role first created by Claire Danes – had a very memorable moment in the film when her character first realized that Marcus was not as human as he had professed to be.

The director of the first two "TERMINATOR" movies, James Cameron, had recommended Australian actor Sam Worthington to director McG for the pivotal role of Marcus Wright, the death row inmate whose body ended up being used as a prototype by Cyberdyne and later used by Skynet to lure John Connor to his doom. Not only was Worthington was memorable, he almost ended up stealing the picture. He effectively portrayed Marcus as a tough and ruthless who was haunted by his past, fell in love and was determined to maintain his individuality despite what Cyberdyne and Skynet had done to him. The reason I had stated that Worthington had ”almost” stolen the film was due to Christian Bale’s presence in the film as future Resistance leader, John Connor. Like he has been in nearly every film he has appeared in, Bale was an intense performer with a strong screen presence. Hell, he was like this nearly twenty-two years ago in the 1987 film, ”EMPIRE OF THE SUN”. There were scenes in which Bale loudly and clearly expressed Connor’s emotions – whether it was anger, fear or concern. Only a very few actors and actresses can get away with openly expressing their characters’ emotions without being hammy. And consummate actor that he is, Bale happens to be one of them. Frankly, I really do not see the need to compare or choose on whether Bale or Worthington was the better actor. Both gave superb performances and both . . . performed with each other so well that I found myself wishing they had more scenes together.

Despite my dissatisfaction with the editing, there were other areas in the technical department where ”TERMINATION SALVATION” shone. Martin Laing’s production designs and Troy Sizemore’s art direction beautifully created an apocalyptic Southern California set some nine to ten years in the future. And Shane Hurlbut projected their work with some exciting photography. Aside from the franchise’s familiar theme that first appeared at the beginning of the end credits, I did not find Danny Elfman’s score that memorable.

Despite some of the movie’s flaws, I ended up enjoying ”TERMINATION SALVATION” very much - much to my utter surprise, thanks to McG’s direction, Brancato and Ferris’ screenplay, and the excellent cast led memorably by Christian Bale and Sam Worthington.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1-2-3" (2009) Photo Gallery



Below is a gallery featuring photos from the new remake of the 1974 crime drama, "THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1-2-3". Directed by Tony Scott, the movie stars Denzel Washington and John Travolta:


"THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1-2-3" Photo Gallery


































Monday, June 22, 2009

"Lessons in Witchcraft" [PG] - 8/9




"LESSONS IN WITCHCRAFT"

Chapter 8

Leo Wyatt returned home that Saturday evening with one of his charges, Paul Margolin, by his side. The whitelighter and the witch had spent the last two days in San Jose, tracking a darklighter bent upon killing a future whitelighter. Following the success of their mission, Leo invited Paul over for dinner with him, his wife and her sisters. They found the Halliwell household in an uproar upon their arrival.

The main source of the fracas came from Leo’s wife, presently the oldest Charmed One. Piper seemed to be in the middle of some rant against the supernatural world. Which left Leo wondering what brought on this rant. “So you’re finally back,” Piper said in a voice tinged with acid. “Have a good time?”

Leo stared at his wife. Warily. “Not exactly,” he slowly replied. “This darklighter proved to be difficult to vanquish.”

“Especially since he proved to be a former whitelighter,” Paul added. “That was a bit of a surprise.”

A prim smile touched Piper’s lips. “Really? I don’t see why, considering it’s become increasingly difficult to notice the difference between the good guys and the bad ones.” She paused dramatically. “Even among demons.”

The last comment ignited Leo’s suspicions. He frowned at his wife. “Piper, what in the hell are you tal . . .?”

Phoebe interrupted. “Olivia and Cole were here, today.”

A long silence filled the living room before Leo retorted, “Cole? What the hell was he doing . . .?”

“Witchcraft lessons,” Phoebe continued. “Lessons on magical beings. Including demons.”

Leo took a deep breath and calmed down. “Oh yeah. I forgot. Um . . . what happened? I mean, did Cole say something that . . .?”

This time, Piper interrupted. “Oh, Cole told us a lot of interesting things, today. So did Olivia.” She glared at her husband. “Tell me Leo, did you know that warlocks were mortals? Or that they weren’t the only ones that blinked when teleporting?”

“What?” Leo demanded, stunned by the revelation. “I’ve never heard . . .”

Again, Piper interrupted. “Well, according to Olivia, her friend Nathalie Gleason is a teleporter that blinks. And the same is true about a friend of her parents’. And both are witches.”

Leo shook his head in disbelief. “Piper, I don’t . . .”

“Remember Jeremy?” Piper continued. “The warlock I had dated before we became witches? It turned out that he wasn’t a warlock after all. According to Cole, he was a half-demon. A half-demon, Leo! I was dating a demon!”

Leo stared at both Phoebe and Paige, who shrugged. He added, “Okay, so he was a demon. Why are . . .?”

“Oh that’s not all!” Piper retorted.

“Can I please finish one sentence?” Leo cried out in frustration. Piper stared at him with hard eyes. With a sigh, he added, “Never mind.”

Piper continued, “As I was about to say, has any of you ever heard of the Order of Gimle?”

The name brought up memories of a demonic order once mentioned by fellow whitelighters and one or two Elders. “Vaguely,” Leo answered. “It’s a demonic order. Why?”

Paige said, “According to Cole, the demons from this order are good guys. They defend innocents from evil. Like us.”

“He’s lying!” Paul exclaimed, his obvious distrust of the half-demon stamped on his face.

The youngest Charmed One stared at the New York-born witch. “He wasn’t lying.”

“How do you know?”

Rolling her eyes in contempt, Paige shot back, “Because Olivia has also heard of them! Her dad had even saved one member from being killed by some witches who thought he had killed one of their own.”

Leo’s emotions matched the disbelief and confusion that whirled in Paul’s eyes. “Olivia's dad had once helped a demon?” the witch demanded.

“Wait a minute!” Leo demanded, shaking his head. “Are you saying that Cole was telling the truth?”

Hands on her hips, Piper retorted, “What we’re trying to say is that at least one-third of our Book of Shadows might be wrong! Wrong, Leo! And you know why?” Speechless, the whitelighter shook his head. “Because some of our ancestors were probably dumb enough to listen to their whitelighters!” Piper’s eyes blazed with anger. “I mean, we did learn a lot of our stuff from whitelighers, didn’t we? Do you have any idea how humiliating it was to find out how wrong we were about a lot of stuff . . . after five years?”

Unable to respond, Leo turned to Paul for reassurance. But the male witch seemed just as speechless. After a long, silent moment, the whitelighter found his voice. “I . . . I don’t know what to say. I mean . . . are you sure that Olivia and Cole were right? Maybe they’re mistaken.”

“Or maybe not!” Paige shot back. “Why don’t you ask them, Leo? We’re supposed to be meeting Olivia and her mother at the McNeill home, next Sunday? We would have done so tomorrow, but Phoebe will be in Chicago in a few days.”

The whitelighter frowned. “Sunday? You mean for brunch?”

Paige shook her head. “Not exactly. Harry and the others are supposed to be attending some wedding in Palo Alto that day. Olivia and Mrs. McNeill is supposed to be joining them for the reception, later.”

At that moment, Leo decided to accept the offer and accompany the sisters to the McNeill home, next week. Paul volunteered to join them . . . much to Paige’s obvious displeasure. Not that Leo minded the extra company. He figured that Paul, like himself, was curious to learn what kind of lessons that the McNeills have been giving.


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Mother and daughter stated at the two unexpected guests with surprise. “Leo? Paul?” Olivia said. “What are you two doing here?”

Gweneth McNeill added, “Are you two interested in lessons in witchcraft, as well?”

Leo shook his head. “Not quite. Uh . . . Piper and the others told us about that last lesson that Olivia and Cole had . . .”

“Oh, I see,” Olivia said, interrupting. “If you’re interested in knowing what we had discussed, the topic was daemons.”

Realizing that a major argument threatened to erupt, Gweneth suggested they all sit down in the chairs arranged in the garden. Leo and Paul had to wait for Davies, the family’s manservant to provide them with extra chairs. Once everyone had settled in their wicker chairs, Gweneth turned to her daughter’s former whitelighter. “Now, why are you so interested in the last lesson?”

Olivia replied, instead of Leo. “I suspect that this has something to do what Cole and I had told the Halliwells about the Gimle Order, Mom.”

“What about them?”

Paul frowned. “You’ve heard of this Gimle Order?”

“Well, of course!” Gweneth stared at the male witch. “Who hasn’t? The Gimle Order has been around for thousands of years. Probably millions. Despite the Source’s best efforts to destroy it.”

Leo demanded, “Then why haven’t they tried to take over the Underworld, now that it is no longer ruled by the Source?”

With an inward sigh, Gweneth wondered how Leo had survived this long as a whitelighter. “Dearest Leo,” she began in a tone usually reserved for a child, “I believe I should inform you on a few facts of life. One, the Source has never ruled the Underworld. Only the spirit of Death. Or Angel of Death, as many preferred to call it.” Leo opened his mouth to protest, but Gweneth continued, “And two, why on earth would any member of the Gimle Order be interested in becoming the new Source?” They are not interested in becoming one of the dark nasties, just protecting others from them. Do you understand?” Leo looked slightly abashed, but nodded. “Good. Now that I have cleared matters regarding the Gimle Order, we might as well continue with the lessons.” She turned to her daughter. “What have they learned so far?”

Olivia took a deep breath. “Well, we’ve talked about the altar, magic circles, color magic, the pentagram, and magical tools. Bruce and Barbara taught them about herbal craft, and Gran talked to Paige about the role of a witch, the Wiccan Rede, elements and the Book of Shadows.”

“Nothing on mediation?” Gweneth asked.

“I touched on it, last week,” Olivia added.

Nodding, Gweneth continued, “Good. Now, what about protection magick?”

“No, not yet.”

“Right.” The middle-aged witch faced the Charmed Ones. “Let us discuss protection magick.”

Paige asked, “Is this for defending ourselves against evil?”

Olivia shook her head. “If you’re simply talking about protection from any supernatural bad guy, no.”

“Well, there are protection spells that can be used against them,” Gweneth added. “But I am referring to other kinds of protection magick . . . the kind that is used while working with spells and rituals.”

Phoebe blinked. “Huh?”

With a sigh, Olivia said, “What Mom is trying to say is that in dealing with magic, one might end up opening or facing . . . certain things many do not experience in the non-magical world. We use protection magick to protect ourselves from possible side effects while casting a spell or ritual.”

Gweneth added, “We also used it to shield ourselves from other dangers – especially from what we like to call psychic vampires. You know, people leaves us feeling tired or spent for no apparent reason, when we’re around them. They have the ability to feed off from our life force or energy. They are like the psychic versions of the incubus and succubus, or an actual vampire. And some of these beings are basically ordinary mortals, believe it or not. My personal names for them are psychic deadbeats or spongers.”

Piper chuckled. “That’s pretty good. And I’ve actually known a few.”

With a smile, the older witch added, “So have I. Of course, one of the safest forms of magick for such a danger is a protective white bubble. You can use a spell to form one, but meditation is just as good.”

“What about our powers?” Phoebe asked.

Gweneth’s eyes rested upon the middle Charmed One. “What about them?”

“How would you describe our powers? What kind of magic would you call them?”

The older witch gave her daughter a questioning stare. “Livy, I thought you had discussed psychic abilities?”

“She mentioned it,” Paige said. “But it was Andre Morrell who had talked about it, once.”

Piper frowned. “To be honest, I find it hard to believe that our powers aren’t really magic.”

“Why?” Gweneth demanded.

“Well, look at us. We’re all witches and we all have these . . . psychic powers. Isn’t that saying something?”

Gweneth shook her head. ‘Not really. Barbara lacks a psychic ability. And I can say the same about her father. My maternal grandfather was the same. Yet, Barbara and her father are talented witches. And so was my grandfather.”

“Besides,” Olivia added, “I’ve met people with strong psychic abilities.”

Paul added, “So have I.”

Olivia continued, “And so have you three. Leo told me about the seer who was on trial for murder, two years ago. Phoebe, didn’t you serve on the jury for that one?”

The middle Charmed One briefly glared at her whitelighter, who had the grace to look embarrassed. “Yeah. The defendant received premonitions . . . like me.”

“And there was that guy who was able to enter the consciousness of others, while asleep,” Piper said. “I think he was psychic. And he nearly killed Prue.”

Gweneth smiled. “There, you see. A psychic ability is not magic.”

“Would we need to use protection magick for our powers?” Paige asked.

“No, dear. Not for that.” Gweneth sighed. “But the next time you prepare a spell or potion, I suggest that you use protection magick. Or when you suspect that someone might be . . .”

“A magical deadbeat,” Piper finished with a slight smirk.

The middle aged witch added, “One more thing. About protection spells. Why don’t you have one around your house? Considering the number of times certain beings keep popping into your home, don’t you think you should consider creating one?”

The three sisters looked at one another. “Well . . . we . . . uh, we never bothered,” Piper finally said. “We’ve never thought about it.”

Phoebe added, “Besides, they backfire all the time.”

Gweneth stared at the witches with disbelief. Then she stared at Paul. “Do you believe this, as well?”

The New Yorker adopted a wary expression. “Uh . . . well . . . I haven’t had much luck with protection spells.”

“Good God! Are you all serious?” Gweneth then turned to the whitelighter. “Leo, surely you must have encouraged your own charges to learn how to prepare more effective protection spells?” Leo’s mouth opened, but not a word came from his mouth. “Never mind. Olivia or I will lend you a protection spell that you all can use. If it does not work, we’ll help you develop a proper one.”

Piper spoke up. “That’s okay, Mrs. McNeill. We’ve been able to manage without a protection spell.”

“I’d like learn a few,” Paige said. Her sisters glared at her. Gweneth smiled.


END OF CHAPTER 8