Friday, April 30, 2010

"CHARMED”"RETROSPECT: (6.10) “Chris-Crossed”



Here is an article I had written about an episode of "CHARMED" called (6.10) "Chris-Crossed":


"CHARMED" RETROSPECT: (6.10) “Chris-Crossed”

For the past seven or eight years, I have never hesitated to express my scorn toward Seasons Five to Eight of ”CHARMED”. Granted, I would never consider the series’ first four seasons as examples of television excellence. Yet, in compare to the last four seasons, Seasons One to Four might as well be considered masterpieces. However, ”CHARMED” did managed to air a few noteworthy episodes during its latter seasons. And one of those episodes happened to be Season Six’s (6.10) “Chris-Crossed”.

Penned by Cameron Litvack and directed by Joel J. Feigenbaum, ”Chris-Crossed” features a story in which the Charmed Ones’ new whitelighter, Chris Perry aka Chris Halliwell (Drew Fuller) faces a love from the future who is determined to jeopardize his current mission – namely to prevent Wyatt (Wes Ramsey) from embarking upon a path of evil- in order to save his life. Chris’ mission nearly unravels when his fiancée from the future, a Phoenix witch/assassin named Bianca (Marisa Nichols) appears in order to bring Chris back to the future by whatever means necessary.

”Chris-Crossed” marked another example of how the series in its latter years managed to derive its energy from memorable supporting characters or guest stars. This episode bridled with energy, thanks to the on-screen dynamics between Drew Fuller and Marisa Nichols. Wes Ramsey made an impressive villain as the future, evil Wyatt Halliwell. And I have to say the same for Rebecca McFarland, who portrayed Bianca’s 2003 mother, Lynn. In fact, I have to give kudos to both Nichols and McFarland for portraying Bianca and Lynn as a complex and fascinating mother/daughter pair. The regular cast gave solid performances, as well. But I certainly did not find their performances as impressive as Fuller or the episode’s guest stars.

Litvack’s script did have its flaws. One, I could not conceive future Wyatt using his family’s home to be used as a museum in honor of his mother and aunts. Especially since Chris had made it clear that Wyatt murdered Phoebe, following Piper and Paige’s deaths. Two, the idea that Chris’ reason for traveling to the past seemed to contradict his original concerns from the Season Five finale, (5.22 & 5.23) “Oh My Goddesses!” - namely to prevent the Titans from destroying the Whitelighter Realm and killing Paige.

My final complaint centers around Wyatt’s Halliwell museum again. How on earth did Piper’s oldest son got hold of the mermaid fins that Phoebe wore in (5.01 & 5.02) “A Witch’s Tail? And how did he get his hands on the super heroine costumes that the Halliwell sisters wore in (5.05) “Witches in Tights”? The mermaid fins should have disappeared completely once Phoebe changed back to a mortal. And the super heroine costumes worn by the sisters had been a figment in the imagination of a young witch named Kevin, who possessed the ability of though projection. I also had problems with Piper and Paige’s visit to the home of Bianca’s mother, Lynn. How did they plan to deal with her, when they surreptiously (if you can call it that) let it known to Lynn that they knew she was a Phoenix witch? What were they planning to do? Kill her and leave five year-old Bianca as an orphan, after getting some information? Kill the five year-old Bianca, as well?

Thankfully, the episodes’ virtues outweighed the flaws. Litvack penned a first-rate script that gave the Halliwells the opportunity to discover that Chris might be more than what he seemed. He also provided a poignant romance between Chris and his loving witch/assassin Bianca. Viewers were even able to witness an interesting confrontation between Bianca and the Charmed Ones. Bianca proved in that scene that she could be just as formidable (or perhaps a little more) as the Power of Three, using her brains and skills. Most importantly, ”Chris-Crossed” gave viewers a detailed peek into one possible future for Piper’s two sons. A future filled with violence, chaos, secrecy, love and loss. A future that Chris is determined to alter via the fate of his older and more powerful brother.

As I had stated earlier, I have an extremely low opinion of Seasons Five to Eight of ”CHARMED”. Yet, due to some miracle, producer Brad Kern and one of his writers - Cameron Litvack – managed to create a “diamond in the rough”, namely ”Chris-Crossed”. Not only did the episode proved to be a rare gem in an otherwise dismal period in the series’ history, I believe that it might be considered – on my part – as one of the best episodes of ”CHARMED”.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"THE PACIFIC" (Episode Six) Commentary




I wrote this commentary on the sixth episode of "THE PACIFIC":


”THE PACIFIC” (Episode Six) Commentary

Before the first episode of ”THE PACIFIC” first aired, the producers had pointed out that the miniseries’ centerpiece would focus upon the Battle of Peleliu. Fought between September and November 1944, the battle is considered controversial amongst war historians. Many U.S. Marines had been decimated in a campaign that historians now view as unnecessary, because of the island's questionable strategic value and the very high death toll. In fact, Peleliu had the highest casualty rate of any battle in the Pacific Theater.

Since many Marine veterans have considered Peleliu as an important battle in their personal history, the miniseries’ producers decided to devote three episodes on the infamous battle. Last week, Episode Five featured the First Marines Division’s landing on Peleliu and Eugene Sledge’s (Joseph Mazzello) baptism of fire. By the time the episode ended; Sledge, Robert Leckie (James Badge Dale) and their fellow Marines were ready to storm and capture the airfield on South Peleliu.

The efforts of the First Marines Division to capture the airfield turned out to be a brutal and bloody affair. Before storming the airfield, the Marines had to deal with a lack of water, thanks to the top brass’ poor preparations for the invasion. But the episode’s pièce de résistance focused upon the battle that raged on the airfield. And so much happened. Both Robert Leckie and his remaining close friend, Bud “Runner” Conley (Keith Nobbs), were badly wounded during the assault. Eugene Sledge and his fellow Marines in the 5th regiment made it to the other side of the airfield . . . with a notable casualty in his company – PFC Robert Oswalt (Andrew Lees). He was the Marine who had described to Sledge a childhood trip to the Grand Canyon near the end of the previous episode. While Leckie and Runner found themselves conveyed to a nearby hospital ship, Sledge’s company continued its foray into the hills of Peleliu.

Many fans of the miniseries have waxed lyrical over this particular episode. And I can see why. Director Tony To did a marvelous job in conveying the chaos, insanity and brutality that the First Marines and the Japanese soldiers suffered during the battle for the airfield to the television screen. I have not seen such a brutal combat sequence since . . . well, since the landing in last week’s episode and the Guadalcanal action in which John Basilone (Jon Seda) earned his Medal of Honor in Episode Two. Viewers also got a chance to see other interesting scenes that included Sidney Phillips’ surprise visit to the Sledge family back in Mobile; the death of a Marine in Sledge’s company at the hands of his fellow combatants, due to his constant wailings that threatened to reveal their position in the Peleliu hills; another Marine in Sledge’s company who went off the deep end by counting the number of unseen Japanese soldiers to himself; Leckie’s attempt to find a corpsman (Navy medic) for a wounded Runner; the two friends’ reunion aboard the hospital ship; and the growing friendship between Sledge and the very eccentric SNAFU Shelton.

I have to hand it to both Joseph Mazzello and Rami Malek for doing such a superb job in portraying the two Marines’ growing friendship. And both actors made it so believable, considering they were portraying two characters that barely seemed to have anything in common. My favorite scene featured a moment in which Sledge supported Lieutenant “Hillibilly” Jones’ decision to have someone knock out that wailing Marine. And who was the first to immediately back up Sledge? SNAFU Shelton. This scene also seemed to hint that Sledge was learning to desensitize himself from the horrors of war. Consciously.

Ashton Phillips gave an understated, yet first-rate performance as the returning Sidney Phillips, who paid a visit to Sledge’s family in Mobile. His Phillips seemed bent upon reassuring Sledge’s anxious parents that their son would make it through the war safely. Yet, the oblique expression in his eyes and his slightly intense manner seemed to hint that he is trying to convince himself, as well.

Once more, James Badge Dale delivered a brilliant performance as Robert Leckie. In one scene, Leckie’s platoon leader ordered him to fetch both a corpsman for the wounded Runner and a radio amidst the raging battle in the middle of the airfield. The expression on JBD’s face told volumes about Leckie’s dread of putting himself back into the line of fire. But his performance aboard the hospital ship really impressed me. The actor beautifully conveyed Leckie’s despair at being permanently separated from his three friends. There was a moment that found him staring despondently at a bowl of peaches. And then out of the blue, someone calls his name. It turned out to be the very person who gave him the nickname of “Peaches” on Guadalcanal – a very much alive Runner. What followed was a poignant scene between JBD and Keith Nobbs (“Runner” Conley) in which the latter assured that he knew the former tried his best to find a corpsman.

Well . . . that is it for Episode Six. Next week, Sledge and company fight the Japanese in the hills of Peleliu.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

WASHINGTON SQUARE" (1997) Review




”WASHINGTON SQUARE” (1997) Review

I suspect there might be a good number of movie fans who have seen William Wyler’s 1949 movie, ”THE HEIRESS”. This film, which led to a second Academy Award for actress Olivia DeHavilland, was based upon both Henry James’ 1880 novel, ”Washington Square”, and the 1947 stage play of the same title. In 1997, another version of James’ novella appeared on the movie screens. Directed by Agnieszka Holland, ”WASHINGTON SQUARE” starred Jennifer Jason Leigh, Albert Finney, Ben Chaplin and Maggie Smith.

Anyone familiar with James’ tale should know that it told the story of one Catherine Sloper, the plain and awkward daughter of the wealthy Dr. Austin Sloper in antebellum Manhattan, who falls in love with a penniless, yet handsome young man named Morris Townsend against her father’s wishes. If one thinks about it, the plot sounds like a typical costumed weeper in which a pair of young lovers kept apart from outside forces – in this case, a disapproving parent. But James had added a few twists to make this story. One, the story kept many in the dark on whether the penniless Morris actually loved Catherine. Two, Dr. Sloper not only disapproved of Morris, but also harbored deep contempt and resentment toward his daughter’s plain looks and awkward social skills. Her crimes? Catherine’s birth had led to the death of his beloved wife. And his daughter failed to inherit her mother’s beauty and style. After a great of psychological warfare between Catherine, Dr. Sloper, Morris and Dr. Sloper’s sister Lavinia Penniman, the story ended on a surprising note for those who have never read the novel or seen any of the film or stage versions. Those familiar with the tale at least know that it ended on a note of personal triumph for the heroine.

Many movie fans and critics seemed incline to dismiss ”WASHINGTON SQUARE” as a poor remake of the 1949 film. I will not deny that in many respects, ”THE HEIRESS” is superior to ”WASHINGTON SQUARE”. However, I would not be inclined to dismiss the 1997 film as a failure. It still turned out to be a pretty damn good adaptation of James’ novel. In fact, it turned out to be a lot better than I had expected.

Jennifer Jason Leigh did an excellent job of portraying the shy and socially awkward Catherine Sloper. Even better, she managed to develop Catherine’s character from a shy woman to one who became more assured with herself. However, I do have one small quibble regarding Leigh’s performance. She had a tendency to indulge in unnecessary mannerisms that would rival both Bette Davis and Cate Blanchett.

Maggie Smith gave an illuminating performance as Catherine’s silly and romantically childish aunt, Lavinia Sloper Penniman. I found myself very impressed by Ben Chaplin’s portrayal of Catherine’s handsome and charming suitor, Morris Townsend. The actor struck a perfect balance of charm, impatience and ambiguity. And his verbal battles with Albert Finney’s character left me spellbound. Judith Ivey gave an intelligent performance as Catherine’s other aunt, the sensible and clever Elizabeth Sloper Almond. I especially enjoyed one scene that featured a debate between Catherine’s father and Aunt Elizabeth over her relationship with Morris.

But in my opinion, Albert Finney gave the best performance in the movie as Catherine’s aloof and slightly arrogant father, Dr. Austin Sloper. The interesting thing about Finney’s performance was that he able expressed Dr. Sloper’s concern he felt over the possibility of Catherine becoming the victim of a fortune hunter. At the same time, Finney perfectly balanced Sloper’s concern with the character’s lack of affection or warmth toward his daughter. My favorite scene with Finney featured an expression of disbelief on his face, as his character noticed Lavinia’s enthrallment over Catherine and Morris’ musical duet.

If there is one aspect of ”WASHINGTON SQUARE” that impressed me more than Wyler’s 1949 adaptation was Allan Starski’s production designs. Under Holland’s direction, Starski worked effectively with costume designer Anna B. Sheppard, Jerzy Zielinski’s photography and the visual effects supervised by Pascal Charpentier to transport moviegoers back to antebellum New York City. In fact, the movie’s late 1840s setting struck me as superior to that shown in the 1949 movie. And because of this, the movie managed to avoid the feeling of a filmed play.

Holland and screenwriter Carol Doyle’s adaptation of James’ novel seemed a lot closer to the original source than the earlier version. At least the movie’s last twenty minutes adhered closer to the novel. I suspect that the movie’s first ten to fifteen minutes – which focused upon an embarrassing childhood incident regarding Catherine and her father’s birthday party – had been the screenwriter’s invention. Personally, I found this sequence rather unnecessary. Doyle could have easily used brief dialogue to reveal the origin of Dr. Sloper’s coldness toward Catherine. But in the end, Doyle’s screenplay basically followed James’ novel.

But after watching the movie’s last twenty minutes, I found myself wishing that Doyle and Holland had followed Wyler’s adaptation and the 1947 stage play. The movie nearly fell apart in the last twenty minutes, thanks to a decision on Holland’s part. Most of the dramatic moments in ”WASHINGTON SQUARE” appeared in the last half hour – Catherine’s realization of her father’s dislike, Morris’ rejection of her after discovering her decision to endanger her inheritance, Dr. Sloper’s death, the reading of his will and Morris’ second attempt to woo Catherine. Out of all these scenes, only Catherine’s reaction to her father’s will generated any real on-screen dramatics. All of the other moments were performed with a subtlety that robbed filmgoers of any real drama. The fact that I could barely stay awake during Catherine’s final rejection of Morris told me that Holland made a serious mistake in guiding her cast to portray these scenes in a realistic manner. There is a time for realism and there is a time for dramatic flair. And in my opinion, those final scenes in the last half hour demanded dramatic flair.

Despite my disappointments in the movie’s last half hour, I must admit that I managed to enjoy ”WASHINGTON SQUARE”. It may not have been just as good as or superior to 1949’s ”THE HEIRESS”. But I believe that it still turned out to be a pretty damn good movie.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"The Half-Blood Demon" [PG-13] - 6/7




"THE HALF-BLOOD DEMON"

PART 6

Just as she had been instructed, Paige orbed to the summit of Twin Peaks, overlooking the city. To the west, the reddish-orange sun had began its descent. Also on the hillside stood a petite black woman with three men and two women standing behind her. The Charmed One walked toward the woman. "I have Belthazor's powers," she said. "Just as you had instructed.

The woman held out her hand. "Give it to me."

Before Paige could hand over the jar to the woman, Olivia and Cole's mother materialized on the hillside. Olivia stretched out her hand and snatched the jar from Paige's grasp, using her telekinesis.

"What the . . ." the black woman began. She stared at Cole's mother. "Nimue?"

Cole's mother smiled unpleasantly. "Zamora. I had no idea that the Khorne Order was behind all this. Why? Who in the Order recruited you to steal my son's powers? Or is this little operation your own idea?"

Zamora regarded the other demoness with contempt. "I don't have to tell you anything!" She turned to her minions. "Kill them!"

Paige merely stood by and watched the red-haired witch and the auburn-haired demoness fight off Zamora's minions. The fight did not really take long. Nimue killed two of them with energy balls. Olivia roasted one with a stream of fire and killed another by forcing his knife into his heart.

Zamora disappeared. Seconds later, she reappeared next to the Charmed One. "Paige," she whispered. "Save my friends."

The young witch nodded wordlessly. The moment she saw Nimue toss an energy ball toward Zamora's surviving minion, she summoned it with her power and threw it at Phoebe's former mother-in-law. Olivia re-directed the energy ball at Zamora's minion, who vanquished into a ball of fire.

Paige overheard a slight gasp from Zamora. Then the latter whispered, "Get the jar."

"Yes Zamora," the Charmed One quietly replied. Unaware of the consequences of her actions, Paige teleorbed the jar out of Olivia's hand.

Zamora grabbed the jar. "Thank you." The next thing the half-whitelighter knew, the jar flew out of the demoness' hands and into Olivia's.

"Good-bye Zamora." Cole's mother quickly flung an energy ball at Paige's companion. Before the younger demoness could escape, she dissipated into a ball of fire.

A dizzying sensation struck Paige and she sank to the ground. "What the hell?" she groaned. "What am I doing . . .?"

"Paige?" The Charmed One glanced up and found Olivia and Cole's mother staring at her with anxious eyes. The redhead added, "Are you okay?"

"Yeah. I think so." Paige glanced around. Stared at Cole's mother. And at the jar in Olivia's hands. "What's that?" she asked.

The demoness replied, "Belthazor's powers. You used a potion to take them away from him."

The revelation struck Paige like a thunderbolt. "What?" She struggled to her feet.

Olivia gave the younger woman a pitying look. "It's obvious that someone had cast a spell on you. It's a long story. Can you . . . orb?"

"Yeah, I guess." Paige shook her head in confusion. "I don't know."

Cole's mother grabbed Paige's hand. "I will return you both."

"Uh . . . teleported . . . by a demon? I don't . . ."

Blue eyes challenged Paige. "Is there a problem? Do not worry." Her mouth twisted into a wry smile. "You won't catch anything."

"Huh." Despite her reluctance, Paige allowed the demoness to maintain a grip on her hand. Olivia grabbed Nimue's free arm. And the latter teleported the two witches from the hillside.

---------

Seconds later, two figures emerged from behind a large bush. Artemus regarded the now empty scene with a stony stare. "Do not say a word," he tonelessly instructed Prax. "Not a damn word."

Unbeknownst to the chameleon daemon they had recruited, Artemus and Prax had appeared on the Twin Peaks summit to witness the young witch/whitelighter hand over Belthazor's powers to Zamora. And to ensure that Zamora would not use them for herself. What Artemus had not counted on was Olivia McNeill and Nimue, of all people, interfering in the transaction.

"But . . ." Prax began. He closed his mouth, under the senior daemon's hard stare.

Artemus continued in a low growl, "Yes Prax. I am upset. I'm more than upset. I'm pissed off! That red-headed bitch is really becoming a problem!"

Prax finally regained his courage and asked, "Why didn't you kill Nimue? She wasn't aware of your presence."

"Because Nimue possesses reflexes that even I envy," Artemus shot back. "Because I could not take the chance of her knowing that I was no longer in prison and planning on becoming the next Source."

"Surely . . ."

Artemus cut off his assistance. "Prax, Nimue and I have a long history. We had a brief romance over 200 years ago, but it didn't go anywhere. I . . . well, betrayed her by dabbling with a French warlock named Danielle. She retaliated by cursing me with a . . ." Artemus broke off, deciding not to reveal that little humiliation. "Let's just say that it was an incident that left our relationship less than amiable."

A frown appeared on Prax's countenance. "Strange, I don't recall you two hating one another."

"We've never hated each other, Prax. Actually, it was Raynor whom she hated. But ever since Danielle, she has never trusted me. I'm beginning to wonder if she ever had. And I know for sure that she would have never supported my attempt to destroy the Whitelighter Council. Or support my bid to become the Source. Especially now that she's head of the Thorn Order." He sighed and shook his head. "Why is it that nothing seemed to be going my way, lately? Can you tell me why, Prax?"

The other daemon merely regarded him with wide eyes and shook his head. Artemus rolled his eyes in disgust and left the hillside.

----------

Once again, Cole found himself as a mortal again. And once again, he hated the experience. What made this so difficult to endure was listening to Phoebe babble on in an attempt to reassure him, without a means to shut her mouth or escape from her presence.

". . . might be feeling a little disoriented right now," Phoebe was saying. "But maybe it's for the best. Maybe Paige did you a favor."

Cole stared at his ex-wife, wondering if she had just experienced a lobotomy. "Phoebe, Paige has my powers. And God only knows what she's done with them. Or to whom she has given them."

"I understand," Phoebe said in that defensive whine that he has always found irritating. "You don't want them to fall into the wrong hands. But if Olivia manages . . . well, to find Paige . . . you wouldn't take them back. Would you?" She regarded him with anxious eyes.

Cole opened his mouth to reassure her . . . until Olivia's accusations of him caving into others' desires flashed in his mind. "I don't . . ."

Three figures shimmered into the living room - much to Cole's relief. Paige, his mother and Olivia . . . holding a jar. Cole stared at the jar. "My powers," he murmured.

"We had managed to find Miss Halliwell . . ." Nimue began.

Paige corrected her. "Miss Matthews."

". . . just as she was about to give the jar to Zamora."

Phoebe frowned. "Who?"

"A chameleon daemon," Cole grimly explained. "Remember the shapeshifter I had exposed before Piper was kidnapped by the Source?" The Halliwells nodded. "Zamora is the same kind of daemon. Only she's associated . . ."

Nimue finished, ". . . with the Khorne Order. It is possible that she had been spying on this household for the past several days. And after discovering Miss . . . Matthews' reluctance to help strip Belthazor's powers, she must have cast a spell to make your sister cooperate. Probably a telepathic manipulation spell."

"Bitch," Paige muttered.

Piper eyed her youngest sister. "So, Paige is no longer under a spell?"

"Don't worry. I am once more, my own woman."

"Good. That means I don't have to watch you act like a pod person anymore," Piper added.

Cole's eyes refocused on the jar. "I see that you got my powers back."

"Yeah, we did," Olivia quietly replied. She held out the jar. "Do you want them back? Or should I hide it somewhere?"

Green eyes stared into blue ones. There seemed to be no demand for Cole to make a certain decision. Olivia's eyes only expressed curiosity. Cole recalled his choice before Paige had stripped his powers. In a clear voice, he declared, "I want them back. I want my powers back."

Olivia heaved a sigh of relief.

"Cole!" Phoebe regarded him with dismay. His mother, on the other hand, flashed a triumphant smile.

Olivia nodded. "As you wish." She tossed the jar at Cole's feet. As the glass shattered, a dark gray cloud rose from the ground and seeped into his body. The disjointed feeling that Cole had been experiencing since the loss of his powers, disappeared.

Cole lifted his hand. An energy ball hovered above his open palm. "Back to normal."

Anger and resentment flared in Phoebe's eyes. She stared accusingly at Cole. "Excuse me," she muttered angrily, before marching in the direction of the Solarium.

Cole heaved a sigh. "Shit. Just a minute." He followed Phoebe into the Solarium, where he found her sitting on the sofa and picking up the TV remote. "Phoebe?"

Angry, dark eyes glared at the half-daemon. "What Cole? There's nothing else to say. You've made your decision. Apparently, your powers are more important than us."

Weary of his ex-wife's dramatics, Cole exploded. "God Phoebe! Can't you give it a rest? For once in your life, can you stop being such a drama queen? Everything's not all about you!"

"What the hell does that mean?"

"It means that I have my own life to live!" Cole shot back. In a lower voice, he added, "It means . . . I have to be my own man."

Phoebe retorted rather nastily, "You just lost your chance to be a man, Cole! Now, you're just a demon again."

"Daemon, man . . . who gives a shit? I just want to be me! Is that so hard to understand?" Cole sighed. "But if you can't accept that . . . well, to be honest, I don't really care."

Phoebe shot to her feet. "Cole!"

Three weeks of frustration finally spilled out. "C'mon Phoebe. Why don't we be honest for once? This 'new' relationship of ours is not working. And I think we both need to realize this."

"Oh I see." Phoebe gave him a knowing look. "This is all about Olivia. You still want her back, don't you. I can feel it."

Feel it? What the hell? Cole shook his head. Why deny his feelings? After a long pause, Cole said, "You're right. I do want Olivia back. We, on the other hand, should have stuck to being friends like we had originally intended."

"So what are you saying Cole? That you were just using me for rebound?"

Another sigh left Cole's mouth. "Yea, Phoebe. That's exactly it. And I forgot the old saying about being unable to recapture the past." A brief smile touched his lips.

Phoebe glared at him. "You really are a bastard! You know that?"

"Perhaps I am. But you're the one who didn't bother to break it off with Jason Dean." Wide-eyed, Phoebe stared at Cole, who continued, "You were using him as back-up, weren't you? Just in case it didn't work out for us."

Shock, followed by guilt flashed in Phoebe's eyes. "How did you . . .?" Now realization lit up her eyes. "Paige!"

"Paige didn't say a word," Cole said. "I was there that night. Remember? When I took you to Quake's over a week ago? While I was waiting for you, Dean called. Now why would he call, Phoebe, when we had been dating for at least two weeks? And then there were the other signs." Cole paused. "Like the fact that you never allowed me to take you to lunch, in case I showed up at your office. All I had to do was put two and two together."

Phoebe's body sagged in defeat. "I suppose you think I should feel guilty about . . ."

"No Phoebe, I don't." Cole sat next to her. "But I think we should end it between us. Before it gets any worse. Maybe we should make a stab at being friends again."

The Charmed One backed away from his closeness. "I guess," she murmured. "But not now." Phoebe lowered her head. "I just can't . . . Not now. Okay?"

"Yeah. Sure." Cole stood up. "I'll see you Phoebe." He turned on his heels and left the Solarium. Upon entering the living room, he found Piper sitting on the sofa. And no one else. "Where's . . .?"

"Your mom left. She said that she'll drop by to see you later. Paige took Olivia back to her apartment." Piper glanced past Cole. "Where's Phoebe?"

The half-daemon replied, "Still in the Solarium. Upset. You'll be happy to know that it's over between us."

Piper hesitated. "I'm sorry."

Cole shrugged. "I'm not. We shouldn't have taken it this far in the first place."

"Oh." Another long pause followed before Piper continued, "Listen, about what Paul Margolin and Leo had done . . ." The telephone rang. Piper picked up the receiver. "Hello? Oh. Jason? Uh . . ." She flashed an uneasy glance at Cole. "It's good to hear from you. Oh. Oh yeah. Phoebe's home. One minute." Piper removed the receiver from her ear and screamed, "Phoebe! Telephone!" After a brief pause, she hung up.

Cole decided that it was time to leave. "Listen, I better go. I'll see you later." Just as he was about to beam out, he remembered that his Porsche was parked outside. He headed toward the front door.

At that moment, Leo orbed into the living room. Piper glared at her husband. "What are you doing here?"

"Piper, we need to talk," the Elder calmly replied.

The Charmed One shot back, "Talk about what? We have nothing to say!"

"Piper! I know you're hurt. Look, maybe we can't be a family again, but I can do something . . ."

Cole slipped out of the manor, closed the door behind him and heaved a sigh of relief. Poor Leo, he thought. Still trapped in that web of Halliwell dramatics - if not physically, then in spirit. Thank God that he had finally escaped. Feeling emancipated after three long weeks, Cole whistled a childhood tune, as he marched down the front steps and toward his car.


END OF PART 6

Sunday, April 25, 2010

"MANGAL PANDEY: THE RISING" (2005) Photo Gallery



Below are photos from the 2005 biopic about Mangal Pandey, the Indian soldier who served as the catalyst for the 1857-58 Sepoy Rebellion against the British called "THE RISING: BALLAD OF MANGAL PANDEY". Directed by Ketan Mehta, the movie starred Aamir Khan and Toby Stephens:


"MANGAL PANDEY: THE RISING" (2005) Photo Gallery























































Friday, April 23, 2010

"24" and the Breaking Point



After watching last week's episode of ”24”, it occurred to me that I had put up a lot with this series over the past eight or nine years. Perhaps a bit too much – especially since Season Three. But this last episode proved to be the final straw for me.


”24” AND THE BREAKING POINT

It seems a miracle to me that I managed to remain a steady viewer of FOX-TV’s ”24”. Despite being a pretty good series, it has presented its viewers with some mind boggling plotlines. Mind you, some of the series’ plotlines from Seasons One and Two left me scratching my head. Kim Bauer’s (Elisha Cuthbert) Season Two adventures that included encounters with a murderous employer (Billy Burke), the law and a slightly demented survivalist portrayed by Kevin Dillon come to mind. And the circumstances that led to Nina Myers’ (Sarah Clarke) revelation as a mole inside CTU left me wondering if she had any senses. The fact that Season One featured two intelligence moles who had no idea that the other was a mole seemed to be skimming on thin ice to me. As did the subplot involving Presidential candidate David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) and his family.

Then came Season Three. Personally, I thought it was a pretty good season. Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) and CTU found themselves battling a former MI6 agent named Stephen Saunders (Paul Blackthorne), who wanted revenge for being abandoned during a disastrous operation against the Season One main villain, Victor Drazen (Dennis Hopper) by unleashing a deadly virus upon Los Angeles. This season also featured a con job perpetrated by Jack, Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) and a CTU employee named Gael Ortega (Jesse Borrego); the return of Nina Myers; the introduction of Chase Edmunds (James Badge Dale) as the first (and my personal favorite) of several younger partners for Jack; a virus outbreak in Los Angeles and an exciting showdown in which Jack and Chase attempt to prevent one of Saunders’ men from carrying out his threat.

Unfortunately, Season Three seemed to have kick started many major mistakes created by the series’ writers over the next six years. I tried to deal with the introduction of the Chloe O’Brian character (Mary Lynn Rajskub). But I failed. After another five seasons, I still dislike her. From Season Three to the present, serious mistakes piled on one after the other - Jack's murder of Nina Myers; the subplot involving Wayne Palmer’s (D.B. Woodside) involvement with a billionaire’s wife and Sherry Palmer (Penny Johnson); Tony's arrest for the so-called "treason" charge for exchanging Jack's kidnapped victim for his kidnapped wife – CTU’s own Michelle Dressler (Reiko Aylesworth); the loss of Chase’s hand and his departure from the series (I rather liked him . . . a lot). In Season Four, I had to deal with Jack’s dull ass romance with the senator’s daughter Audrey Raines (Kim Ravner), that stupid plot to infiltrate the Chinese consulate and extract a terrorist, which ended in the death of the Chinese consul, the return of that traitorous ass, Mike Novik (Jude Ciccolella); and a disjointed and badly written season. Season Five brought about a series of deaths that I still believe was heavy-handed - former President Palmer, Michelle Dressler and the near death of Tony Almeida. Many fans have claimed that Season Five – which centered around President Charles Logan’s attempt to sign some treaty with the Russians - was the best. I would have been more tolerant of it, if it were not for the series of murders that occurred in the season’s first episode, Kim's reaction to Jack's fake death, and a major plot that really did not require a 24-hour setting. Season Six – with a badly written storyline about suicide bombers and Jack’s family (James Cromwell and Paul McCrane) – was the worst. Wayne Palmer became the new president, but he ended up in a coma from a bombing before mid-season. Chloe’s husband – the equally annoying Morris O’Brian (Carlos Rota) – played a major role in this season . . . unfortunately. I found Season Seven tolerable, especially since it introduced FBI Agent Renee Walker (Annie Wersching) and brought back Tony Almeida. However, Season Eight proved to be another matter.

Mind you, I did not hate Season Eight, like I did Seasons Four and Six. But . . . its plot about a group of Middle Eastern terrorists trying to prevent the president of their country from signing a peace treaty with the United States proved to be . . . old hat. Many fans could see that this series seemed a little tired and filled with some plot holes. The worst and dumbest subplot in the series’ history centered on CTU Agent Dana Walsh's (Katee Sackhoff) problems involving her criminal ex-boyfriend and some of the dumbest plot lines in television history. But one of the last season's episodes – (8.17) “Day 8: 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.” - proved to be the last, fucking straw for me. Two things happened. Renee Walker – whom Jack had fallen in love with – ended up murdered by a Russian assassin. And Tim Woods (Frank John Hughes), Director of Homeland Security, fired CTU New York director Brian Hastings (Mykelti Williamson).

It was bad enough that producers Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran, along with screenwriter David Fury had killed off Renee. One, she turned out to be one of my favorite characters from the series. And she also seemed to be the only female capable of dealing with the real Jack Bauer – warts and all. Two, Renee’s murder has jumpstarted an old and tired subplot – namely Jack’s desire to go after the person or persons responsible for the death of a loved one. We saw this in his murder of Nina Myers in Season Three. We also saw this in Season Five, when he murdered the man who had assassinated David Palmer. Some fans see this as a return of the old Jack Bauer. For years, I had disliked Jack for his murderous inclinations, his hypocrisy and the fans’ hypocritical view of his crimes. For the first time in years, I managed to enjoy Jack as a character. With Renee’s murder, it looks as if that enjoyment has come to an end. I do not see any possible hope of an emotional recovery for Jack after this. And honestly . . . if Surnow and Cochran wanted to kill someone off, they could have waited to bump off Jack either in the last episode or in the damn movie. But no . . . they drummed up some contrived plot line to kill off Renee in order to bring back Killer Jack.

But the worst thing I ever saw during Season Eight and during the series’ entire run the demotion of Brian Hastings by Homeland Security Director Tim Woods as director of CTU New York and being replaced by that whining bitch, Chloe O'Brian. I had stated earlier, I do not like Chloe. I never have. I have always found her whining and personality disorders a pain in my ass. But this latest plot development regarding her promotion as CTU New York’s new director was truly the most utterly stupid thing I have ever seen on ”24”. On television period. First of all, Chloe was a computer analyst for CTU. A computer geek. Chloe has had at least one or two hours of experience in the field. And yet, that idiot Woods had decided she would be a better person to run CTU New York than Hastings. Why? Because Hastings had failed to sniff out Dana Walsh as a mole. No intelligence official in his or her right mind would allow a computer analyst to assume command of an intelligence field office. It is an utter act of idiocy. And yet, Surnow and Cochran allowed this to happen. And instead of realizing the stupidity of such a plot twist, many fans have been cheering Chloe’s promotion. Why? Because Hastings had failed to do two things – immediately follow Jack’s lead and sniff out Dana Walsh as a mole. Damn hypocrites!

Why do I call the fans, David Fury and the producers hypocrites over this situation with Chloe, Hastings and Dana? Hastings was not that popular with fans. Chloe was very popular with the fans. And the fans were impatient with Hastings’ failure to spot Dana as a mole. Well if that was the case, then allow me bring up another name. NINA . . . MYERS. Have fans and television critics actually forgotten that for several years, Nina was Jack's second-in-command at CTU Los Angeles? In fact, they even had an affair. Jack eventually learned that she was a mole out of sheer . . . dumb . . . luck. Nina was ordered to tell a lie about Kim in order to lure Jack into the clutches of Victor Drazen. No one has ever complained about Jack's inability to sniff out Nina as a mole, until it was almost too late. Hell, in Season Seven; Jack never knew that a vengeful Tony Almeida was playing a double game against him, the FBI and the Allison Taylor Administration until it was almost too late. Yet, Brian Hastings was criticized for failing to sniff out a mole. This is an example of the media and the fans’ hypocrisy at its worst. And all of this happened six or seven episodes before the series ended.

I will not bother to watch the rest of Season Eight. After the debacle of last week's episode, I decided that I finally had enough. In fact, I will NOT be looking forward to any ”24” movies in the future. Thank you Joel Surnow, Robert Cochran and David Fury for allowing any leftover enjoyment I might have of "24" to hit rock bottom. This is how I will always remember the series - with two of the dumbest plot developments I have ever seen.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"The Half-Blood Demon" [PG-13] - 5/7




"THE HALF-BLOOD DEMON"

PART 5

Ten minutes after Olivia had returned home from her trip to Monterey, the doorbell rang. She groaned with despair. After spending nearly one-quarter of the day on the road, she had been looking forward to a long rest at home. Alone.

Reluctantly, she walked toward the front door and peered through the peephole. Outside stood a middle-aged woman - a stranger - with auburn hair, elegant features and strangely familiar blue eyes. "May I help you?" Olivia asked.

"My name is Elizabeth Far . . . Turner," the woman replied with a slight Irish lilt. "I believe that you know my . . ."

Olivia immediately opened the door. "Goddess! You must be Cole's mother. Aren't you?" She stepped aside, allowing the demoness to enter the apartment. "I'm Olivia McNeill, your son's neighbor."

"Yes, I know." Cole's mother glanced around the apartment. "My brother has told me all about you. And your family. I understand that you were once involved with Belthazor." Her blue eyes seemed to express no emotion.

Immediately on-guard, Olivia regretted her impulsive act. She surreptiously opened the desk's drawer, using her telekinesis. Inside was a vial containing the remains of the potion she had used on Cole, three weeks ago. "Yes, I was," Olivia coolly replied. "Is there a reason why you've decided to pay me a visit, Mrs. Turner?"

"My son is about to commit a grievous error," the other female replied. "And it's all due to another witch named Phoebe Halliwell. His former wife." Cole's mother gave Olivia a direct stare. "I believe that you are acquainted with her, as well."

Phoebe? What the hell has she done? Olivia quickly dismissed the question from her thoughts and answered, "Yes Mrs. Turner, I do know Phoebe. What about her?"

"Please, call me Nimue. If you don't mind."

Olivia allowed a brow to quirk upward. "Well . . . Nimue, what exactly has Phoebe done? And why come to . . .?"

The telephone rang. The two females stared at each other, before Olivia went over to the desk to pick it up. "Hello?"

"Livy? Is that you?" Barbara's voice rang into the redhead's ear. "Where the hell have you been? And what's happened to your cell phone?"

Olivia sighed. "I just got in from Monterey. And my phone's battery went dead. Look Barbara, can we talk later?"

"But I have some important news."

"So does Cole's mother. Who happens to be here, inside my apartment. Now." Olivia paused to stare at the demoness, who was busy inspecting the living room. "So can we . . .?"

Barbara cried, "Oh! Oh, then she must know about Cole and Phoebe. I'll let her tell you. Bye!"

"Wait! Barbara!" The line went dead. Olivia stared at the cordless phone in her hand. "What the hell is going on?" She directed her gaze at Nimue. "Okay, what's going on? Barbara said that you might know something about Cole and Phoebe. So what the hell is it?"

Nimue took a deep breath. "According to Marbus - Belthazor's uncle - this Phoebe has convinced my son to give up his powers. I've tried talking the idiot out of this ridiculous plan, but he will not listen." The demoness stared at Olivia. "Miss McNeill? Are you listening?"

Olivia, who had listened to Nimue's words in a state of shock, finally snapped out of her catatonic state. "He's giving up his . . . What the hell? Is he out of his damn mind? Is Phoebe out of her mind?" It did not take Olivia long to answer her second question. "Well, of course she is!" she retorted sarcastically. "This is a fucking Halliwell I'm talking about! She probably talked Cole into this mess, claiming they couldn't have a real life, while he remained a daemon. Insecure bitch! Doesn't she realize . . .?" After a pause, Olivia snatched her purse from the sofa. "I've got to stop that idiot before he destroys himself!" She marched toward the front door.

"Oh, Miss McNeill," Nimue called after Olivia. "I can get you to Belthazor a lot faster." She held out her hand. "If you don't mind being teleported by a daemon."

Olivia took hold of the demoness' hand. "I'm already used to it. Do you know where he is?"

"Yes. Hold on." And at that moment, the two females shimmered out of the apartment.

---------

Both Piper and Paige marched out of the kitchen, with the latter holding two small jars. One of them contained a green liquid that Phoebe assumed to be the potion. "Everything's ready!" Paige cheerfully declared. Piper rolled her eyes. Phoebe noticed, but felt too nervous over Cole's situation to question her older sister's look.

The half-demon stood up, eyeing the potion with the anxiety of a convict about to face the electric chair. It was not an attitude that Phoebe assumed he would harbor. "Cole? Is there something wrong?"

"Uh . . . look Phoebe, I think I'm getting second thoughts. I don't know if this is the right thing to do. I mean, it's like Piper said - the last two times I had lost my powers . . ."

"You're not backing out now, are you?" Everyone stared at the youngest Charmed One, who had asked the question. Phoebe realized that Paige's attitude had grown to more than just a willingness to cooperate.

Cole frowned at his former sister-in-law. "What . . . uh, why did you . . ."

Paige shook her head. "Sorry. Didn't mean to sound like a ball buster. It's just that we went through all this trouble to make the potion for you. I'm just . . . well, you seemed as if you're about to change your mind."

Confusion whirled in Cole's eyes, as he stared at Paige. And later, Phoebe. The latter silently pleaded with him to stick to the original plan. To her relief, he finally surrendered. "I guess you have a point. Let's get on with it." Phoebe could have kissed her younger sister.

Paige held out the potion to Cole. Two figures shimmered into the living room, causing Phoebe to gasp. Cole's mother and Olivia had decided to pay a visit.

---------

The moment Olivia and Nimue had shimmered into the Halliwell manor, the former saw Paige hold out a small jar to Cole. Using her telekinesis, she snatched the jar from Paige's hand. "I can't believe what was about to happen!" she declared.

Cole and the Halliwells stared at the newcomers in shock. "Olivia? Mother! What are you . . .?"

"What are we doing here?" Olivia finished. "I'd like to know what the hell were you about to do? To yourself!"

Blue eyes regarded his parent with muted hostility. "I'm sure that Mother must have told you."

"Yes she did, Cole. Wha . . . Why? Why are you doing this?"

It was Phoebe who answered. "So he . . . I mean, both of us can have a normal life."

Olivia stared at Phoebe with contempt. "A normal life? Gee Phoebe, does such a thing exist? Now how exactly do you plan to have this 'normal life', while you're still practicing magic? And hunting daemons?"

"At least we won't have to worry about Cole's powers!"

From the corner of her eye, Olivia saw Cole wince at Phoebe's words. She snickered. "No, but Cole will now have to worry about yours! And your sisters'. But I guess you feel that's nothing to worry about, considering that your powers are . . . 'good'."

Phoebe opened her mouth to retort, but some semblance of common sense must have overcame her. She remained silent. Olivia turned to the half-daemon. "Tell me Cole, was this your idea? To get rid of your powers?"

"Yes, it was!" Phoebe finally rediscovered her tongue.

Once more, Olivia seared the Charmed One with a death glare. "I don't recall asking you that question." She faced Cole. "Well?"

Resentment and a touch of longing filled Cole's eyes. "I . . ." He heaved a deep sigh. "All right. It wasn't exactly my idea, but I thought it was a good one. When I heard it."

Olivia sneered. "And how long did it take Phoebe to convince you?"

Cole snapped angrily, "How about . . . it's none of your damn business! Who in the hell asked you to interfere?" This time, he sneered. "Oh wait! I already know the answer to that question. Mother!" He glared at his parent.

"If this is your idea of getting me to back down," Olivia retorted, "it won't work!"

"Butt out, Olivia! This is my choice!"

"Really? I could have sworn it was Phoebe's!"

Cole stepped forward, his face inches away from Olivia's. "At least she's willing to be with me. Give our relationship another chance. She didn't run off at the first sign of trouble!"

"Are you referring to three weeks ago? Or the two separate occasions involving first Raynor, and then the Source?"

Phoebe took a threatening step forward. "Now just a minute . . ."

Olivia ignored the Charmed One. "As I recall, you're the one who made the choice to run to Phoebe, after I had dumped you! While I was under that damn spell! And . . . oh yes, you stayed away, after the spell ended! Now here you are, about to give up your powers, all because Phoebe can only accept your human half!"

Phoebe cried out, "Now wait a minute!"

However, Olivia was on a roll. "Tell me, Cole. How is it that a powerful half-daemon with such a fearsome reputation, could possess such an undeniable talent for kissing ass?"

"Excuse me?" Cole looked as if he was about to pop a vein in his forehead.

Olivia glared back. "You heard me. For most of your life, you've always seemed to follow the dictates of others. You had tried to become the perfect demonic assassin for Raynor, while buying all that shit he told over the years." She overheard Nimue snicker. "Then after you met Phoebe and her sisters, you tried to become some supernatural crime fighter and later, a mortal. Phoebe's little Joe Normal. And now here you are, trying to make that same mistake again. Don't you ever get tired of trying to be something other than yourself?"

Cole stared at Olivia, obviously stunned by her words. "I . . ."

"Has it ever occurred to you that those powers don't belong to him?" Phoebe retorted. "They're not his."

"And exactly to whom do they belong, Phoebe?" Olivia shot back. "The daemons who used to own them? Oh wait! They lost the damn things the moment they entered the Wasteland. In case you didn't know, sweetheart, between the moment those powers were separated from the vanquished daemons and the moment when Cole when Cole took them, those powers belonged to no one. Finder's keepers!"

Nimue added, "Miss McNeill is correct. You may not have been originally born with these new powers, Belthazor, but you were resurrected with them. As of now, they are as good as yours."

"Not for long!" Phoebe faced the half-daemon. "Right Cole?"

All eyes turned to Cole. Who radiated a helpless air. "Uh . . . I . . ." For the second time, he seemed speechless.

Olivia briefly closed her eyes and sighed. "Look Cole, I can't tell you what to do. You have to make the coice on your own. Look into your heart . . . and ask yourself what you really want to do." She stared at him with pleading eyes.

Cole glanced at the five women in the room. Olivia could see the struggle for an answer in his eyes. Then . . . he sighed. "Phoebe," he said to his ex-wife, "I'm sorry."

"Cole!"

"I can't go through with this. Phoebe, I'm a half-daemon/half-human hybrid. I had been born as one, I died as one and I came back as one. I can't . . ." He shook his head. "I can't deal with being a mortal again. It's just not natural for me."

To Olivia's surprise, the potion in her hand disappeared. It reappeared in Paige's hand. Then the half-whitelighter unscrewed the jar and flung the contents upon Cole. The half-daemon screamed in pain, as he fell to his knees.

"What the hell?" Olivia began, as she stared at Cole in horror.

Piper yelled at her youngest sister. "Paige! What the hell did you just do?"

The youngest Charmed One then orbed Cole's powers into the empty jar and closed it. "Job completed!" she crowed, before she vanished.

Both Olivia and Nimue knelt beside the fallen Cole. "What the bloody hell just happened?" the demoness demanded.

Olivia gently patted Cole's cheek. "Paige just pulled a fast one on us. The only thing is that I don't know why."

"Maybe she's under some spell," Piper suggested. "She's been acting weird all day."

A groan left Cole's mouth. His eyes fluttered open. "What happened?" he muttered.

"That witch . . . or whitelighter . . .or whatever she was, stole your powers!" Nimue declared. She glared at the other two Halliwells. "So much for the goodness of the Charmed Ones!"

Piper protested, "We didn't know what was going to happen! She must be under some kind of spell!"

Olivia and Nimue helped Cole to his feet. He sat down in the nearest chair, while the redhead asked his mother, "Do you think you'll be able to track Paige?"

"Of course," the demoness replied. "All I have to do is teleport to wherever she is. That is how my power works."

"Right." Olivia grabbed Nimue's arm. "Let's go." And the pair shimmered out of the manor.


END OF PART 5

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"THE MUMMY" (1999) Photo Gallery



Below are photos from the 1999 adventure-horror movie, "THE MUMMY". Directed by Stephen Sommers, the movie starred Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Kevin J. O'Connor, Oded Fehr and Arnold Vosloo:


"THE MUMMY" (1999) Photo Gallery












































Sunday, April 18, 2010

"The Moral Landscape of the STAR WARS Saga" - The Jedi Order II



Here is the third article on moral ambiguity found in the STAR WARS saga:


”The Moral Landscape of the STAR WARS Saga”

The Jedi Order – Part Two

In my previous essay, I had generally touched upon the moral ambiguity that permeated the Jedi characters in the ”STAR WARS” saga. In the following essay, I hope to give a more detailed account on some of the more questionable actions committed by the major Jedi characters in the story:

Before I do, I want to focus upon something that had just occurred to me. In ”A NEW HOPE”, one of the Imperial admirals serving under Grand Moff Tarkin made this comment about the Jedi:

”VADER: Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.

MOTTI: Don't try to frighten us with your sorcerer's ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the Rebel's hidden fort . . .


Judging from Admiral Motti’s comments, are we led to believe that the Jedi Order was a religious one? Considering that its members devoted a great deal of time studying and adhering to the mystical energies of the Force, perhaps it would not be wrong to say yes. And if the Jedi was a religious order, why did they allow themselves to serve a political body like the Galactic Republic? As I had mentioned in the previous essay, Obi-Wan Kenobi had informed Luke Skywalker in ”A NEW HOPE” that the Jedi had served as guardians of peace and justice for the Galactic Republic. In other words, the Jedi acted as diplomats, agents of political intrigue, investigators and even warriors for the Galactic Senate. And I cannot help but wonder if the Jedi Council had made a mistake in forming such a connection.

But serving the Galactic Republic as its cadre of warriors, diplomats and intelligence agents was not the only mistake that the Jedi Order had committed. In the Prequel Trilogy, the major Jedi characters committed a series of questionable acts to preserve the Intergalactic Galaxy, which had become corrupt and fractured; and the survival of the Jedi Order. This is not surprising, considering how attached they had become to the Order. Here is a look into some of the more questionable mistakes that the major Jedi characters – the Skywalkers excluded - had made:



Jedi Master Ki-Adi Mundi

At the time of ”THE PHANTOM MENACE”, the Cerea-born Jedi Master, Ki-Adi Mundi was a member of the Jedi Order Council. And he was among those who rejected Anakin Skywalker as an initiate for the Order. Apparently, he agreed with his colleagues that Anakin, at the age of nine, was too old to be initiated into the Order. In ”ATTACK OF THE CLONES”, he was among the Jedi who accompanied Yoda and the Clone troopers to rescue their Jedi colleagues and attack the Separatists on Geonosis – an action that began the three-year Clone Wars. But it was in ”REVENGE OF THE SITH” where Master Mundi made a questionable suggestion. It was he who had suggested that the Jedi Council assume control of the Galactic Senate if Palpatine refuses to step down at the end of war. Not much came from this suggestion, despite Masters Yoda and Mace Windu supporting his suggestion. But it was a sign that the Jedi were willing to commit questionable acts in order to preserve the Republic and more importantly, preserve the Jedi’s status and existence.



Jedi Master Qui-Gon

When Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn first came to my mind, I found it difficult to spot any flaws in his personality. This is ironic – at least to me – considering that many other STAR WARS have heavily criticized him and he happens to be my favorite character in the entire saga. However, despite my feelings for Master Jinn, I have become aware of a few flaws in his psyche. But my criticism of the Jedi Master does not match those expressed by other fans.

Many STAR WARS fans have criticized Master Jinn for ignoring Master Yoda’s warnings about initiating Anakin Skywalker into the Jedi Order. They have also criticized him for defying the Jedi Council on a regular basis. In fact, they see his unwillingness to abide by the rules and act like the good little Jedi Master as a sign of his potential to succumb to his inner darkness. I do not agree with this legion of STAR WARS fans. I saw nothing wrong with Master Jinn’s defiance of the Jedi Council. I believe that it is healthy to question and defy authority when you need to. Blind obedience strikes me as not a good path to character development. And Master Jinn had been right about Anakin. The boy did turn out to be the Chosen One. Yoda, Windu, the rest of the Jedi Council and Obi-Wan were so focused upon their fears of the future that they failed to heed Qui-Gon’s warning that the future is not set in stone. However, this did not make Master Jinn the only perfect character in the STAR WARS saga. Trust me, he had his flaws.

While watching ”THE PHANTOM MENACE”, I was struck by Master Jinn’s tendency toward stubbornness. It is one thing to know one’s mind. It is another to do so without considering the advice or words of others. I suspect that Master Jinn may have been one of those types who are so intent upon adhering to his own beliefs that he would blindly refuse to consider those of others. Although Qui-Gon had been right about Anakin, I cannot help but wonder if there had been any past advice he had ignored due to his own stubbornness. Judging from how Master Jinn managed to procure Anakin’s freedom from Tatooine shop owner, Watto, one could accuse him of being a manipulator. Naboo’s young queen, Padme Amidala not only seemed aware of Qui-Gon’s manipulative nature, she had also commented upon it with an air of disapproval.



Jedi Master Mace Windu

Like his fellow Jedi Master, Ki-Adi Mundi, Mace Windu was a member of the Jedi Council in ”THE PHANTOM MENACE”. He was the one who tested Anakin Skywalker’s connection to the Force. And although he seemed impressed by Anakin’s abilities, he also rejected the nine year-old boy’s initiation into the Order. Along with Yoda, he questioned Anakin’s attachments to Shmi Skywalker, completely ignoring the possibility that he and his fellow Jedi were just as attached to the Jedi Order. Nor did he bother to consider Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn’s suggestion that Anakin might be the Chosen One mentioned in the Journal of the Whills prophecy. When Master Yoda suggested that they refrain from informing the Senate of the Jedi’s diminished connection to the Force in ”ATTACK OF THE CLONES”, Master Windu supported this decision – another example of the Jedi’s willingness to do anything to maintain the Order’s status quo. Master Windu’s arrogance came into play during the Jedi’s attempt to rescue Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi from Count Dooku and the Separatists forces on Geonosis. He seemed so certain that the Jedi would prevail that he had failed to consider the possibility that they would end up outnumbered.

However, Master Windu’s worst mistakes occurred in ”REVENGE OF THE SITH”. When Anakin had first been introduced to the Jedi Council in ”THE PHANTOM MENACE”, he had been among those who did not believe that the former slave was the ”Chosen One” who would bring balance to the Force. His opinion had changed to Anakin’s favor in ”ATTACK OF THE CLONES”. Yet, after the Jedi Council had learned there was a Sith Lord amongst Chancellor Palpatine’s circle, Windu’s belief in Anakin becoming the ”Chosen One” took a nose dive, due to the latter’s friendship with the chancellor – and for no other reason. He also supported Ki-Adi Mundi’s suggestion that the Jedi Council assume control of the Galactic Senate if Palpatine ever failed to step down as chancellor. But in the end, Windu made his biggest mistake when he set out to arrest Palpatine after learning from Anakin that he was a Sith Lord.

Many fans have complained that Master Windu should have done the following: 1) wait for Master Yoda’s return from Kashyyyk; or 2) confront Palpatine with Anakin by his side. One, I never saw the need for Windu to wait for Yoda. I believe that he was certainly capable of confronting Palpatine on his own. Which he did not do. Jedi Masters Kit Fisto, Agen Kolar, and Saesee Tiin had accompanied him to Palpatine’s office. Granted, they had failed to give him much support, but I do not see how Windu could have foreseen this. As for his decision to leave Anakin behind . . . I saw nothing wrong with it, either. Windu had correctly sensed the fear that threatened to cloud Anakin’s judgment. If I had been Windu, I would have also left Anakin behind.

But the Jedi Master did make two serious mistakes – from my point of view. One, he had confronted Palpatine without informing the Senate or any evidence that the Chancellor was a Sith Lord. He had arrogantly assumed that as a Jedi Master, he had the right to confront Palpatine without considering the latter’s role as the political leader of the galaxy’s ruling body. And two, ignoring his earlier resolve to simply arrest Palpatine, Windu decided to kill the latter. It was not a matter of whether he was capable of committing this deed. He failed to consider that his determination to destroy what he perceived as evil, had led him to a dark place and his own death.



Jedi Master Yoda

Because he had been portrayed as the embodiment of Jedi wisdom in the Original Trilogy, many STAR WARS fans – especially the long time fans – have been inclined to dismiss or make excuses for Master Yoda’s mistakes and flaws in the Prequel Trilogy. And Yoda made just as many as Mace Windu. Yoda was one of the senior members of the Jedi Council who rejected Anakin’s bid to join the Order in ”THE PHANTOM MENACE”. Like the other members of the Order, Yoda viewed Anakin as a threat to their way of life, claiming that his future was clouded. Many fans had viewed this as confirmation that Yoda probably sensed Anakin’s future as a Sith Lord, when the latter was first introduced to the Council. Personally, I rather doubt it. I suspect that Yoda and the other Council members viewed the nine year-old Anakin as someone with an established outside connection or someone with a connection that might clash with their influence. Which would explain why they viewed Anakin as ”a loose cannon or an unknown factor”. If there is one thing that individuals fear more than anything it is an unknown future. I find it rather odd that the Jedi had never sensed Count Dooku as a future threat. Especially Yoda, who had been Dooku’s personal Jedi tutor.

When the Council finally agreed to initiate Anakin into the Order, Yoda was the only one who disagreed with this decision. He also disagreed with Obi-Wan Kenobi’s decision to choose Anakin as his padawan. I would not have had a problem with this if Yoda had agreed to give Anakin some initial training before Obi-Wan could assume the role as the nine year-old’s personal Jedi master. But he did not. The movie never confirmed that Yoda had foreseen Anakin becoming a Sith Lord. So, why did he seem determined to have nothing to do with Anakin? How was it that he viewed Anakin as a future threat, yet failed to do the same in regard to his former padawan, Count Dooku? Or sense that Chancellor Palpatine was a Sith Lord? Had Yoda’s own fears of Anakin’s unusual initiation into the Order and high midichlorian count intimidate him? Did he view Anakin as some symbol of an unknown future? Had this fear of Anakin led to the young initiate being one of the very few who had never received any training – whether as a youngling or a padawan – from Yoda? I cannot help but wonder.

Moving on to ”ATTACK OF THE CLONES”, I tried to recall any mistake or bad judgment call that Yoda may have committed. At first, I believed there was nothing I could criticize him for . . . until I remembered the conversation between him and Windu regarding the Jedi’s connection to the Force. After the two Jedi Masters had received a message from Obi-Wan Kenobi about the Kamino drone factory, Windu suggested they inform the Galactic Senate of their diminishing connection to the Force. Yoda nay-sayed the idea, claiming their list of adversaries would grow if they had announced this disturbing news. One could say that Yoda made a sensible decision. Or did he? Why did Yoda insist upon this suppression of the truth? Was it perhaps he feared that if the Senate knew the truth about the Jedi’s weakening connection to the Force, the political body would find a reason to get rid of the Order? Or end the Jedi’s role as the galaxy’s guardians of peace? In other words, is it possible that Yoda had feared the decline of the Jedi’s role as a major influence in the galaxy? If so, his decision struck me as a sign of the Jedi’s willingness to do anything to perpetrate the status quo and survival of their Order.

One of the more ironic moments in ATTACK OF THE CLONES had occurred during the Battle of Geonosis. It was Yoda who led the clone troopers into an attack upon the Separatist forces. It was he who as leader of the Republic forces, acted as the aggressor in the start of the Clone Wars. One could defend Yoda’s actions, claiming that he did so on the behalf of the Chancellor and the Galactic Senate. And that person would be right. But this would have never come about if the Jedi Order had not agreed to serve as the Senate’s political, intelligence, diplomatic and military force.

”REVENGE OF THE SITH”, in my opinion, truly exposed some of Yoda’s personal fallacies. Like Windu and the rest of the Jedi Council, they had made the assumption that Anakin’s friendship with Chancellor Palpatine made automatically made him untrustworthy. Then again, Yoda never really warmed up to Anakin. And his unwillingness to bend to Anakin would prove to be catastrophic. And like Windu, Yoda had agreed to the ludicrous plan to use Anakin to spy upon the Chancellor, not realizing that it would alienate the young Jedi Knight even further from the Jedi Order. But Yoda made even bigger mistakes. Again, like Mace Windu, he agreed to Ki-Adi Mundi’s suggestion that the Jedi commit a coup d’état against Chancellor Palpatine by removing him from office if he fails to give up his political powers by the end of the Clone Wars. Although Yoda stated that such an idea would be dangerous, he still seemed willing to act upon it. This was another sign of the Jedi’s willingness to resort to questionable acts in order to maintain their Order’s status quo and survival.

However, Yoda made his biggest mistake when he decided to kill Palpatine, following the Order’s destruction via the Chancellor’s Order 66. Unlike Windu, Yoda had no interest in arresting Palpatine. And he certainly made no attempt to reveal what he knew about the Chancellor. Blinded by his anger over the Jedi Order’s destruction, Yoda simply tried to kill Palpatine, believing it would be a simple solution to the Jedi’s precarious situation. It almost seemed as if Yoda did not want to acknowledge that the old Jedi Order’s time was over. Or that nothing lasts forever. One could easily accuse the Jedi Master of arrogance and of allowing his attachment to the Jedi Order to blind him from its fate. Even if he had managed to kill Palpatine, the Galactic Senate could easily accuse him of murder . . . and they would be right to do so. Yoda’s act of aggression against Palpatine – whether he had succeeded or not – may have damaged the Jedi’s reputation within the Republic-turned-Empire even further. When he failed in his attempt to kill Palpatine and found himself fleeing from the Senate building, I suspect that Yoda finally realized the extent of his many mistakes.

Following the events of ”REVENGE OF THE SITH”, Yoda spent the next 23 years living on the remote planet of Dagobah. Then he met Luke Skywalker, the son of former Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker and Naboo Senator Padme Amidala. Luke had been sent by Obi-Wan Kenobi’s ghost to learn the ways of the Force by Yoda. One would think that after years of contemplating his mistakes and learning more aspects of the Force by the ghost of Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, Yoda could do no wrong. The events of ”THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” proved otherwise. Like Obi-Wan, Yoda failed to tell Luke that his father – Anakin Skywalker – and the Emperor’s apprentice – Darth Vader – were one and the same. Both Yoda and Obi-Wan wanted Luke familiar with the ways of the Force in order to confront both the Emperor and Vader. Perhaps they feared if Luke knew the truth about his paternity, he would not be so eager confront the two Sith Lords – especially Vader. I suppose they believed they were only doing good. Yet, both Jedi Masters nearly tripped over their lies, when Luke learned the truth from Vader on Bespin. And what would have happened if Vader had never told Luke his real identity? Either the Sith Lord would have eventually killed Luke . . . or Luke would have killed Vader without learning that he had just killed his father. And could you image Luke’s reaction upon finally learning the truth about Vader? I suspect that his reaction to learning that Yoda and Obi-Wan had lied to him in ”RETURN OF THE JEDI” would have been benign in comparison.

Before I end this article, I want to say one last thing about Yoda. Many have regarded some of his advice as words of wisdom and pointed out that if certain characters had heeded them, the Republic would have been spared a great deal of grief. In ”THE PHANTOM MENACE”, it was Yoda who pointed out that Anakin’s future was clouded by fear and attachment to the memory of his mother, Shmi Skywalker. And Anakin’s inability to let go of his attachments eventually led to his downfall. Yoda pointed out that the majority of Jedi Knights and Masters had become arrogant over the years in ”ATTACK OF THE CLONES”. Once again, he was right. And in ”REVENGE OF THE SITH”, he gave a lecture to Anakin about how the fear of loss could lead an individual to succumb to his/her inner darkness. Yet, Yoda’s reaction to the loss of Mace Windu and other members of the Jedi Order was to seek out Palpatine and kill him without considering the consequences of such an act. Like many others, Yoda was very good at dispensing advice. Unfortunately, he did not seem that adept at heeding his own advice.



Conclusion

Before one comes to the conclusion that I have a dislike of the Jedi Order. I do not. What I was trying to prove was that despite their reputation amongst STAR WARS fans for being morally above board, they had their flaws. The Jedi Masters featured in the saga were not above allowing their emotions and ego to drive them into making some serious mistakes. They were not invincible . . . and should never be viewed as such. Also, my criticisms of the Jedi Order are not a reflection of my opinion of George Lucas as a storyteller. I have come across many ”STAR WARS” fans who have either criticized Lucas for portraying the Jedi as flawed characters, or made excuses for their actions. I can do neither. One of the reasons why I have such a high regard for Lucas’ saga is that he was willing to show that characters such as Yoda, Mace Windu and the other Jedi are capable of great flaws – regardless of whether they would are deemed “good” or evil”. It is this ambiguity that makes ”STAR WARS” a personal favorite of mine.

In the following article, I will discuss one last Jedi character – namely Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. And I have a lot to say about him.