Monday, May 31, 2010

Top Twenty Favorite Movies of the Decade (2000-2009)



Below is a list of my top twenty(20) favorite movies of the decade between 2000-2009:


TOP TWENTY FAVORITE MOVIES OF THE DECADE (2000-2009)



1. "Casino Royale" (2006) - In this adaptation of Ian Fleming's first novel, James Bond must stop Le Chiffre, a banker to the world's terrorist organizations, from winning a high-stakes poker tournament.






2. "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones" (2002) - Anakin Skywalker shares a forbidden romance with Senator Padmé Amidala; while his teacher, Obi-Wan Kenobi, makes an investigation of a separatist assassination attempt on Padmé, which leads to the discovery of a secret Republican clone army.





3. "Speed Racer" (2008) - In this adaptation of the famous Animie 1960s cartoon, Speed Racer is a young man with natural racing instincts who determined to become one of the top racers, while dealing with the ghost of his dead older brother.






4. "American Gangster" (2007) - In 1970s New Jersey, Detective Ritchie Roberts works to bring down the drug empire of Frank Lucas, a heroin kingpin from Manhattan, who is smuggling the drug into the country from the Far East.






5. "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" (2006) - In this second movie of the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN franchise, Jack Sparrow races to recover the heart of Davy Jones to avoid enslaving his soul to Jones' service, as other friends and foes seek the heart for their own agenda as well.






6. "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" (2005) - After three years of fighting in the Clone Wars, Anakin Skywalker concludes his journey towards the Dark Side of the Force, putting his friendship with Obi Wan Kenobi and his marriage at risk.






7. "Brokeback Mountain" (2005) - In this adaptation of Annie Proulx's story, a forbidden and secretive romance develop between two cowboys over nearly two decades.






8. "Public Enemies" (2009) - FBI agents led by Melvin Purvis try to take down notorious American gangster John Dillinger; along with the likes of Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd during a booming crime wave in the 1930s.





9. "Munich" (2005) - Based on the true story of the Black September aftermath of the 1972 Olympic Games, five men are chosen by Mossad to eliminate the ones responsible for that fateful day.





10. "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" (2004) - In this adaptation of J.K. Rowling's novel; it is Harry Potter's third year at Hogwarts and he has to deal with an escaped convict from the wizards' prison, Azakaban; who might be after Harry.






11. "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings" (2001) - In this adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's novel, a young Hobbit named Frodo becomes entrusted with an ancient Ring. Now he must embark on an Epic quest to the Cracks of Doom in order to destroy it.






12. "Batman Begins" (2005) - This is the story of how Bruce Wayne became Batman and his conflicts with the police and a mysterious vigilante named Ra's Al Ghul.






13. "Cold Mountain" - In the waning days of the American Civil War, a wounded Confederate soldier embarks on a perilous journey back home to Cold Mountain, North Carolina to reunite with his sweetheart. Based upon Charles Fraizer's novel.






14. "Terminator Salvation" (2009) - After Skynet has destroyed much of humanity in a nuclear holocaust, a group of survivors led by John Connor struggles to keep the machines from finishing the job.






15. "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (2000) - Two warriors in pursuit of a stolen sword and a notorious fugitive are led to an impetuous, physically-skilled, nobleman's teenage daughter; who is at a crossroads in her life.






16. "Infamous" (2006) - While researching his book "In Cold Blood", writer Truman Capote develops a close relationship with Perry Smith, one of the convicted murderers.





17. "Changeling" (2008) - A grief-stricken mother in 1928 Los Angeles takes on the local police to her own detriment; when it stubbornly tries to pass off an obvious impostor as her missing child, while also refusing to give up hope that she will find him one day.





18. "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" (2003) - In the first of the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies, blacksmith Will Turner teams up with eccentric pirate "Captain" Jack Sparrow to save his love, the governor's daughter, from Jack's former pirate allies, who are now undead.






19. "Dreamgirls" (2006) - Based on the award winning Broadway musical, a trio of black female soul singers cross over to the pop charts in the 1960's.






20. "The Cat's Meow" (2001) - Semi-true story of a Hollywood death that occurred at a star-studded gathering aboard William Randolph Hearst's yacht in 1924.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

"An Afternoon in Babysitting" [R] - 2/3





"AN AFTERNOON IN BABYSITTING"

PART 2

Within an hour, all seemed well inside the penthouse. Wyatt was fast asleep in one of the guest bedrooms. Olivia and Cole were on the living room sofa, locked in another passionate embrace. Actually, Olivia sat on Cole's lap with her arms wrapped around his neck. And her lips pressed against his.

"Do you think we should be doing this?" she murmured, after Cole's lips traveled to the curve of her neck.

Cole planted a soft kiss, emitting a small moan from her. "Why not?" he whispered. "Wyatt is fast asleep in another room." His tongue flickered into the hollow of Olivia's throat. "And we finally have an opportunity to enjoy some quality time, together." His mouth returned to hers, and the couple engaged in another passionate kiss. Then . . . cries of an infant reverberated into the living room. The half-daemon heaved a long suffering sigh. "Shit!"

Olivia reluctantly climbed out of his lap. "I better see what's wrong."

"Probably nothing," Cole growled. "I think that damn kid simply wants some attention."

"Wait a minute. I thought you and Wyatt were bonding."

Cole rolled his eyes. "I had to do something to keep that kid quiet. Besides, this is the second time, I had to deal with 'coitus interuptus', thanks to his crying!"

More wails traveled into the bedroom. Olivia sighed. "I'll be back." She marched into the guest bedroom, where she found Wyatt squirming underneath his baby blue blanket. Olivia picked up the squalling infant. And sniffed. "Cole!" she cried. "Could you come in here, please?"

Seconds later, the half-daemon rushed into the bedroom. "What's wrong?" he demanded. Then he sniffed the air. "What the hell?"

Olivia replied, "It's Wyatt. We need to change his diapers."

Cole took a step back. "We?"

"Yes, Mr. Turner. We!" Olivia grabbed the reluctant half-daemon's hand and jerked him forward. "I'm not the only one who's going to be changing diapers, today."

Terror filled Cole's eyes. "But I don't know how!"

Smirking, Olivia replied, "Don't worry. By the end of the day, you will be an expert. Now, hand me that bag, and then remove his diaper." She dumped the soiled infant into Cole's arms. He regarded her with horror. "What?"

Cole handed over the handbag filled with Wyatt's belongings. "You want . . . me . . . to remove his diaper?"

A sigh left the redhead's mouth. As much as she loved Cole, he could be so anal at times. She handed him a smaller blanket. "Yes. Put this on the bed, lay Wyatt down and remove his diaper. You don't need written instructions!"

Muttering to himself, an annoyed half-daemon spread the blanket on the bed, using magic. Then he lowered the still squalling Wyatt on the blanket. He stared at the diaper. "Okay," he began, "how do I unfasten this?"

While she rummaged through the bag containing Wyatt's belongings, Olivia replied, "Unfasten the tapes at each side of his diaper. Near the waist."

Cole heaved a deep sigh and bent over the infant. Olivia realized that he must have found the adhesive tapes that held the diaper together, for Wyatt finally stopped crying. And a ripe odor filled the room, as Cole removed the diaper. "God, he smells . . ." the half-daemon began. Then it came at him without any warning. One minute, Cole was holding a soiled diaper, while talking to Olivia. The next moment, an arc of urine streamed out of Wyatt . . . and struck Cole right in the center of his chest.

"Wow!" Olivia exclaimed. "Talk about bullseye!" Then she broke into laughter, earning a glare from the half-daemon. Cole returned his attention to the now gurgling infant, and regarded him with a murderous stare. Olivia's laughter continued, unabated.

Nearly twenty minutes later, Cole strolled out of the bedroom, with Olivia close at his heels. She held Wyatt in her arms. "Oh God," he moaned. "That was probably the most traumatic experience I have ever endured. Not even getting killed by Phoebe and her sisters come that close."

Olivia gave him a cheerful pat on the back. "Oh come on! It wasn't all that bad. You did a good job."

"That . . ." Cole glared at a placid-looking Wyatt. "That crea . . . kid pissed on my shirt." He pointed at the wet circle on his T-shirt. "On my favorite T-shirt."

Mock sympathy appeared on Olivia's face. "Hmmm, Wyatt does have good aim, doesn't he?"

"I'm glad that you found it funny," Cole growled. "Meanwhile, I have to deal with piss on one of my favorite shirts!"

Olivia rolled her eyes. "For heaven sakes, Cole! Just change shirts, will you? And stop making such a fuss." Cole shot her one last glare and headed for the bathroom. He heard her give one last parting shot. "And I would take a shower, if I were you!"

----------

Less than fifteen minutes passed before Cole emerged from the bathroom. He wore a clean, white long-sleeved shirt. Olivia now sat on the sofa, rocking Wyatt in her arms. She looked very maternal. "Is he asleep?" the half-daemon asked. Upon closer look, he noticed that Wyatt seemed focused upon the television set. "I guess not."

"I can't get him to sleep." Olivia shot Cole a long-suffering glance. "And I think he's turning into a TV addict. If he hasn't become one, already."

Cole sat down on the sofa, next to her. In a sardonic tone, he suggested, "Why don't you take him for a walk? Maybe that will stop him from becoming a couch potato before his time."

Despite his sarcastic tone, Olivia seemed to find the idea acceptable. "That is a good idea. We can take Wyatt out for a nice, afternoon stroll. Maybe at Fisherman's Pier. Or the Marina Green."

Cole stared at her, as if she had lost her mind. "Are you crazy? I was just joking!"

Olivia stood up, breaking Wyatt's attention away from the television. The baby began to cry. "Well, it's a good joke. And it's also a good idea. Why don't we?" With Wyatt still crying in her arms, Olivia strode toward the guest bedroom.

Cole closed his eyes and sighed. "Me and my big mouth," he muttered.

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

Forty minutes later found Olivia and Cole strolling along a paved path that woven between the park and the marina. The reddish-gold spirals of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge loomed in the far left. Cole pushed a baby blue pram that contained the increasingly hyper Wyatt Halliwell.

Olivia took a deep breath and glanced up at the sky. "Isn't it a beautiful day? A blue sky, white clouds, the boats, and the bay looks cleaner than . . ."

"We shouldn't be here." Cole glanced nervously around, as if expecting a daemon to pop up from the nearest bush. "Allowing Wyatt out in the open like this is a mistake. What if we're attacked by . . .?"

"By another daemon?" Olivia snorted. "Well, I can only assume that we're both capable of dealing with an attack. Come to think of it, even Wyatt can take care of himself. Don't you think you're being a little paranoid?"

Cole rolled his eyes. "Of course I'm paranoid. How do you think I've managed to survive for over a century?"

Looking slightly annoyed, Olivia retorted, "Well, can't you ease up a bit? You're ruining my day."

"May I remind you that this park serves as a gateway to one of the demonic market places?" Cole shot back. They passed a man standing next to an ice cream cart. He seemed to be placing a wallet in his back pocket.

Olivia shook her head in disbelief. "That was at the Golden Gate Park, Cole! Remember? And as I recalled, Piper and Phoebe had destroyed that marketplace, last spring. So, why don't you please get it together and put your paranoia on ho . . ." She glanced down into Wyatt's pram and found the infant playing with a wallet. "What on earth?"

"My wallet!" The cry came from the man standing near the ice cream cart. "Someone took my wallet!"

And Olivia knew who was responsible. She gave the baby an admonishing stare. "Wyatt!" Then she turned to Cole, who looked slightly confused. "Wyatt took a wallet from that man near the ice cream cart. Could you send it back?"

"Huh?" Realization slowly dawned on the half-daemon's face, as Olivia pointed out the distraught man. "Oh. Yeah." Cole waved one hand over the wallet and it disappeared. And Wyatt . . . began to cry. "Hey! Kid!" He picked up the infant. "I'm sorry, but you can't go around swiping other people's wallets."

The man near the ice cream cart cried out, "My wallet! It's okay. It's here on the ground."

Wyatt continued to cry. Cole tried to hand him over to Olivia, but she removed a bottle of milk from the shoulder bag, instead. She tried to stick the bottle's nipple into the baby's mouth. "Here you go, sweetheart. Are you hungry?" Apparently not, for Wyatt's wails continued.

Cole lifted the baby, until they were face-to-face. He shook Wyatt for a few seconds. "Hey. Hey! Wyatt?" he said in a stern voice. "Stop this. Listen to me. Listen. You can't go around taking other people's stuff. It's called theft and you can get into a whole lot of trouble." Olivia rolled her eyes in disbelief. Was he kidding? Cole continued, "Trust me on this. I know from personal experience. You hear me?"

To Olivia's surprise, the speech worked. Wyatt's cries finally subsided. Cole coddled him for a few seconds and returned him to the pram. The baby picked up the bottle of milk and happily shook it.

"I don't believe it," Olivia exclaimed in disbelief. "He actually listened to you. I'm beginning to think you're not so bad with kids, after all."

Cole growled, "Don't fool yourself. This experience is only going to make me insist that I use contraceptives, as much as possible. And that we should have stayed indoors."

A long-suffering sigh left Olivia's mouth. "I see the paranoia has returned. Your mother was right. You are too paranoid for your own good."

"Like I said, being paranoid has kept me alive."

Olivia shot back, "It's too bad that it didn't save you from being possessed by the Source. Or being killed by Paige and her sisters, over a year ago."

"What?"

"Look Cole, being vigilant and careful is fine. But no amount of paranoia is going to keep you completely safe." Olivia began pushing the pram. "We all take chances with our lives, when we wake up, every morning. Surely after 118 years, you've managed to figure that out." She glanced down into the pram and heaved an exasperated sigh. Wyatt sat happily inside, playing with a pair of sunglasses that did not belong to him, Olivia or Cole. "For crying out loud! Wyatt!"

Cole demanded, "What did he do now?" Olivia pointed at the baby and the sunglasses. A smirk appeared on the half-daemon's lips. "I see. Now I wonder if this would have happened, if we had remained at the penthouse?"

Annoying bastard! It took all of Olivia's willpower not to bitch-slap her boyfriend. It was a miracle that more than one woman had ever fallen in love with him. Glaring at Cole, she retorted, "I used to do it all the time with my telekinesis, when I was kid. I had even released a bunch of puppies at a pet store, once. And I don't recall being kept inside the house all of the time. Now, will you please return those glasses?"

"Whatever," Cole muttered. He waved his hand over the sunglasses and they disappeared from the pram.

The couple continued to argue over the merits of staying indoors, while they continued their stroll through the park. By the time they had returned to the safety of Olivia's BMW, Wyatt had teleported another seventeen more objects.

-----------

"In Purson's name!" a tall, blond-haired man hissed in a low voice. "I can't believe my eyes!"

One of his companios, a portly man with thinning dark hair asked, "You found the portal, Ciyaher?"

The blond man, a daemon from the Khorne Order, replied, "I found something a lot more interesting."

"Not the portal to the new marketplace?" The portly man, whose name was Grogor, hovered near Ciyaher's shoulder.

Ciyaher sighed. For the umpteenth time, he wondered why he had allowed such a single-minded creature like Grogor to serve under him. "He's not talking about the new market's gateway, moron," the third member of the trio retorted. A gangly redhead, sporting a goatee and mustache, dragged Grogor away from their leader. "He's talking about Belthazor." Ciyaher gave the red-haired daemon a grateful nod. Unlike Grogor, Umbar possessed brains.

"Belthazor? Where?" Grogor glanced frantically around him.

"Over there, idiot!" Ciyaher pointed at the couple climbing into a dark-green BMW. "There's Belthazor . . . with his witch. And a baby."

Confusion whirled in Grogor's dark eyes. "Belthazor is a father?"

To Ciyaher's satisfaction, Umbar swiped the side of the slow-thinking demon's head. "No! Of course not! Belthazor doesn't have a child! We would have known, if he had. That must be the Halliwell baby. Belthazor and the witch are familiar with the Charmed Ones. They must be taking care of the child."

"But I thought that Belthazor's witch was one of the Charmed Ones," the idiot insisted.

Ciyaher closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Why did Grogor always seemed to be one step behind the times? And why did he continue to allow the idiot to be a part of his circle? Then his eyes snapped open. "Belthazor's relationship with the Charmed One is over, Grogor. He is now dating a McNeill witch. And I don't recall any of the Charmed Ones being a redhead. Do you?" He glared at his minion.

A nervous looking Grogor shook his head. "No Ciyaher."

"Then shut the hell up! Unless you are spoken to." Ciyaher paused and thoughtfully regarded the green BMW pulling out of the parking space. "If only we could get our hands on that child. What a source of power he could be for us! Only . . . I don't know how we can take him from Belthazor and the witch."

Grogor commented, "The car must belong to her." The other two daemons stared at him. "What?"

"Did I ask for your opinion?" Ciyaher growled.

Grogor's face turned red. "No Ciyaher. Sorry." He fell silent.

Ciyaher turned to speak to Umbar . . . until he regarded Grogor's words. In Purson's name! He was about to ask for this idiot's opinion. He took a deep breath. "Why do you think the car belongs to the witch?"

"Because she's driving, instead of Belthazor."

Umbar regarded the younger demon as some kind of idiot savant. "And your point?"

Grogor shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. Isn't it supposed to be the other way around? The man driving the car, and the woman holding the baby? And with Belthazor holding the baby, how do we get it from him? How are we supposed to get the baby from him?"

Shaking his head in disbelief, Umbar retorted, "How did that tiny brain of yours ever dredged up such nonsense?"

"It's not nonsense," Ciyaher commented. He stared at Grogor, surprised that the younger demon's babbling had made some sense. "Frankly, it's good observation on Grogor's part." Umbar gawked at the blond demon. "Even more importantly, they're traveling by car and not teleporting."

A confused Umbar shook his head. "What are you getting at Ciyaher?"

The senior daemon smiled cryptically. "I have an idea."

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

Olivia drove the BMW into the building's underground parking lot and eased it into her usual space. After she switched off the engine, Cole climbed out of the passenger seat. "Uh, mind opening the trunk?" Seconds later, the trunk popped open. Cole removed the pram, placed it on the ground and unfolded it. While Olivia climbed out of the car, he reached inside for Wyatt and placed the latter inside the pram. "Ready?" he asked.

"Just a . . ." Footsteps clattered across the concrete floor. The couple exchanged wary looks. "Oh. Someone's here," Olivia said. "We better use the elevator, instead. You go on ahead, while I get Wyatt's bag from the back seat."

Cole nodded, as he began pushing Wyatt's pram toward the elevator. He had not gone very far, when he heard what sounded like a gasp, followed by a scuffle. Alarmed, he turned around and spotted Olivia surrounded by three men. One of them - sporting red hair and a goatee - held the witch in a tight grip. "Olivia!"

"That's far enough, Belthazor!" a familiar and deep voice ordered. Cole recognized that voice. It belonged to a mid-level daemon he had not seen in twelve years. Ciyaher. The latter continued, "Or else my associate will kill the witch."

Keeping his fear and anger under control, Cole took another step forward. He stared menacingly at the three demons. "Nice try, Ciyaher. But you won't be able to hold on to her, very long." He waved his hand at Olivia. And nothing happened. Much to his consternation. "What the hell?"

Ciyaher smirked. "Thought that would take you by surprise. Didn't you look carefully, Belthazor? Your witch is wearing a little present I thought you might appreciate."

Cole's eyes narrowed, as he spied a necklace hanging from Olivia's neck. An amulet. Or a talisman. "What's that?" he demanded.

The three daemons chuckled. "You don't recognize the talisman around the witch's neck?" Ciyaher mocked. "I'm surprised at you, Belthazor. You're losing it."

An exasperated sigh escaped from Cole's mouth. "Well, why don't you enlighten me?"

"It's a talisman. Valac's Talisman. Surely you've heard of it?"

Indeed, Cole had. The talisman had been created by a dominion spirit for some wizard, over four hundred years ago. It prevented any magic practioner from teleporting a person or object that the talisman hung from. "Very clever," Cole murmured. "How did you manage to get your hands on it?"

Smiling, Ciyaher replied, "Oh, the talisman has been in my order's possession for nearly thirty years. It used to belong to Artemus, the head of my order - until the Source had him imprisoned in the Stygian Abyss. Now . . ." The daemon's smile disappeared. ". . . I want you to hand over the Halliwell baby. To my companion over there." Ciyaher nodded at a dark-haired, stocky being, who stood near Olivia's captor.

Cole hesitated. Ciyaher had him trapped and he knew it. As much as he wanted to save Olivia, he could not sacrifice Wyatt. The eight month-old baby got on his nerves, but Cole could not hand the child over to a second-rate monster like Ciyaher. If only he could teleport Olivia . . . Wait a minute. The talisman only blocked a teleportation power.

"So I can't teleport a person or object while that thing is around," Cole said. "Am I right? Is that all it does? Block teleportation?" He shot a meaningful stare at Olivia, who arched a brow.

Ciyaher frowned. "What do you mean? Of course that's all it does! It's all I need it for. You can't rescue your little girlfri . . ." He rolled his eyes in disgust. "Don't tell me that you're still going to try to rescue her? Give it up, Belthazor! Hand over the child, and you'll get her back."

"I know I can't rescue her," Cole retorted.

"Good." Ciyaher's amusement returned. "Now, don't tell me that you're attached to that baby. He's the son of your enemies - one of the Charmed Ones and that whitelighter. The son of one of the witches who had killed you, over a year ago. You want to protect him?"

Cole sighed. "No. I guess not."

Nodding, Ciyaher added, "Why don't we end this ridiculous standoff and you hand over the child to Grogor."

Feigning reluctance, Cole reached inside the pram . . . and waved his hand over Wyatt's form, causing the infant to disappear. He straightened up, empty-handed. "Why should I hand Wyatt over to you? What if Olivia . . . is able to rescue herself?"

Ciyaher rolled his eyes. "What are you getting at? She's not a Charmed One, Belthazor. So, stop playing around and hand over the child! Or the witch dies! Umbar! Why don't you give our old 'friend' a demonstration? Don't kill her. Just . . . show a little blood."

Before the red-haired daemon could press the knife against Olivia's neck, it flew out of his hand . . . and toward his stocky companion. The hilt buried deep into the latter's forehead. As the daemon called Grogor dropped dead to the ground, Olivia sent Umbar flying against a concrete pillar. He quickly flung a fireball at the witch. Using her telekinesis, she deflected it back toward him and he incinerated into a ball of fire. Olivia removed the talisman

The blond-haired daemon reacted with horror at the deaths of his minions. "Oh my . . . Wait a minute! This wasn't supposed to happen!"

"No kidding," Olivia muttered sarcastically.

Cole sneered at the other daemon. "It probably wouldn't have happened, Ciyaher, if you had also used a talisman to block telekinesis."

A roar from Ciyaher filled the air, and he whist the pram from Cole's grip. At the same time, he flung an energy ball at Olivia. Cole waved his hand, and the witch and the other demon immediately switched placed before the energy ball engulfed Ciyaher.

Once his screams died to a whisper, Olivia turned to Cole. "Not a very bright bunch, were they?"

The half-daemon glared at his girlfriend. "And you consider taking Wyatt away from the safety of the penthouse, bright?" He waved his hand for the second time and Wyatt returned inside the pram, happily gurgling, as usual.

Olivia rolled her eyes. "I see we're back to that topic, again." She grabbed hold of the pram's handle. Cole immediately teleported all three back to his penthouse.

"There's a lesson to be learned from all of this," Cole replied. "Like safety."

"Well here's a lesson for you." Olivia removed Wyatt from the pram. "It's unhealthy to give in to our own paranoia. Wyatt will always be in danger from daemons, warlocks and maybe even humans. Just like the rest of us." She began to bounce the baby up and down. "It's one thing to be vigilant. It's another to become a prisoner of our own paranoia. Besides, Wyatt had a pleasant time at the park. Right Wyatt?" She planted a light kiss on the baby's cheek.

A wide grin appeared on the infant's face, and he continued to gurgle. Cole folded the pram and shot Wyatt a mock glare. "So much for saving your ass, kid. Thanks a lot." Wyatt responded with more gurgles.


END OF PART 2

Friday, May 28, 2010

"PERSUASION" (2007) Photo Gallery



Below are images from "PERSUASION", the 2007 adaptation of Jane Austen's 1818 novel. Directed by Adrian Shergold, the movie starred Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones:


"PERSUASION" (2007) Photo Gallery












































Thursday, May 27, 2010

"THE MUMMY" (1999) Review




”THE MUMMY” (1999) Review

As a rule, I dislike horror movies or thrillers very much. Not only do I dislike today’s slasher films, I am NOT a fan of the old horror classics that feature actors like Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Lon Chaney Jr., and Boris Karloff. In other words, the slasher films disgust me and the old horror classics tend to creep me out.

One of those old horror classics happened to be the 1932 movie, ”THE MUMMY”, starring Karloff. It told the story of an ancient Egyptian priest named Imhotep that became a mummy and ended up terrorizing Cairo. Seventy-six years later, director Stephen Sommers remade the old classic into a half-horror/half-adventure tale in the style of Indiana Jones about how members of a treasure-seeking expedition in 1920s Egypt, revived Imhotep, who wrecked havoc upon the expedition camp and Cairo. I had been prepared to ignore this remake, until a relative informed me that this version had been filmed in the style of an Indiana Jones movie. Being a fan of the Lucas/Spielberg movies, I lowered my guard and saw the movie.

Looking back at my decision, eleven years later, I am glad that I had seen ”THE MUMMY”. My relative had been right. The movie felt more like an action-adventure film, with a touch of horror. Well, more than a touch. After all, this was a tale about an Egyptian mummy that came back to life. But I loved every minute of the film. Well . . . almost. But I believe that it was a perfect blend of action, the supernatural, adventure, comedy and romance. My two favorite sequences featured the Medjai (descendants of Pharaoh Seti I’s palace guards) attacking the Nile River steamboat conveying the heroes from Cairo to Hamunaptra, site of the treasure they sought and Imohtep’s remains; and Imohtep’s reign of terror in Cairo, as he sought the three Americans and the Egyptologist who possessed the canopic jars that held the mummy’s preserved organs. I especially enjoyed this last sequence, because I feel that it managed to evoke the surreal and mysterious atmosphere of the old 30s horror films more than any other sequence in the movie.

Another one of the movie’s major virtues turned out to be its cast. Brendan Fraser did a great job in portraying the aggressive soldier-of-fortune, Rick O’Connell. He must have been at least 30 years old around the time he shot ”THE MUMMY”. And I must say that he also managed to project a strong and masculine screen presence, with a touch of sly humor. Creating screen chemistry with Fraser was Rachel Weisz, who portrayed the inexperienced yet enthusiastic archeologist, Dr. Evelyn Carnahan. I really enjoyed how she injected a mixture of charm and spirit into the very ladylike Evelyn. And John Hannah rounded out the golden trio as Jonathan Carnahan, Evelyn’s humorous yet slightly decadent older brother. Hannah was very funny as Evelyn’s self-serving brother, who seemed more interested in making a quick buck, instead of doing hard work.

Kevin J. O’Connor, a favorite of Sommers, gave a sly and hilarious performance as the Hungarian born Beni Gabor, Rick’s amoral former Foreign Legion comrade that becomes Imohtep’s willing minion. O’Connor was especially hilarious in a scene that featured Beni’s attempts to save himself from Imohtep’s wrath by invoking God’s help in different languages. Actor Oded Fehr provided a great deal of dash and intensity as Ardeth Bay, the leader of Medjai. Actors Stephen Dunham, Corey Johnson, and Tuc Watkins provided plenty of their own comic relief as the three American adventurers seeking treasure from Hamunaptra. Jonathan Hyde provided a stable contrast to their lunacy as the Egyptian archeologist who serves as their expedition’s Egyptology specialist. Patricia Velásquez gave a brief, but very memorable performance as Anck-Su-Namun, the ancient Egyptian courtesan that happened to be the love of Imohtep’s life. Speaking of Imohtep, Arnold Vosloo literally made a name for himself as the imposing and ruthless high priest and future mummy, who becomes obsessed with reuniting with his love through any means possible.

Despite its vast array of virtues, ”THE MUMMY” had its share of flaws. One, some of the humor and so-called wit struck me as rather silly and sophomoric. I also found it annoying that the Rick O’Connell character seemed inclined to constantly use a gun for every situation – especially when they worked fruitlessly against supernatural beings like mummies. Costume designer John Bloomfield did a piss poor job with Rachel Weisz’s costumes. I realize that Westerners in the far reaches of the British Empire tend to dress more conservatively than their fellow citizens in Great Britain. But that was no excuse for why Evelyn wore an outfit and hairstyle dated a decade older than the movie’s 1920s setting:



However, my biggest problem with the movie happened to be the final showdown between the heroes and Imohtep inside the temple at Hamunaptra. How can I put this? Director Stephen Sommers added new meaning to the phrase ”over-the-top”. Not only did the action and special effects struck me as excessive, but it almost seemed to go on with no end in sight.

Despite my misgivings of ”THE MUMMY”, I still enjoyed the movie very much. It is a fun movie filled with memorable characters, humor, suspense and some genuine fright. For me, it turned out to be one of the better summer blockbusters of the late 1990s.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"LOST": A Retrospective



I wrote this article on the "LOST" series finale, (6.17-6.18) "The End" and the series as a whole:


”LOST”: A Retrospective

Two days have passed since ABC aired the series finale of ”LOST”. I have been reading a great deal of articles and Internet posts praising both (6.17-6.18) “The End” and the series as a whole. And there have been Internet posts that have criticized both. I have to say that my opinion stands somewhere in between.

I will not deny that I have enjoyed ”LOST”, since I first began to watch the series during the fall of 2005. I realize that the series had premiered a year earlier, but I had ignored its first season. While watching Season Two on television, I rented the Season One DVD box set from Netflix and watched it at the same time. I became hooked on the show. I cannot deny it. However, by the time episodes like (2.13) “The Long Con” and (2.14) “One of Them” aired, I began to wonder if ”LOST” was really just as good as I had originally assumed.

Then my opinion of the series took a nosedive during early Season Three – the period in which three of the major characters; Jack Shephard, Kate Austen and James “Sawyer” Ford; found themselves prisoners of the island’s inhabitants, the Others. Frankly, I thought it was a poorly conceived story arc. For the next two or three seasons, I found myself flip-flopping on my opinion of the series. After the Season Four finale, (4.13-4.14) “There’s No Place Like Home, Part II” aired, I realized that I would never consider ”LOST” to be a perfect or near perfect series. In fact, I would never even consider it to be one of my top ten (10) favorite television series of all time.

As for ”The End”, it was not bad as far as finales go. There seemed to be plenty of action, poignant moments and excellent acting. I even found myself crying during scenes in the Sideways dimension that featured James "Sawyer" Ford and Juliet Burke’s reunion, along with the reunion between Sayid Jarrah and Shannon Rutherford. And at first, I even found myself about to cry when many of the Oceanic Flight 815 passengers had their afterlife reunion in that church. But when I realized that certain characters were missing in that scene, my tears ceased. Rather fast.

What happened to Michael Dawson and his son, Walt Lloyd? According to the episode, (6.12) “Everybody Loves Hugo”, Michael’s soul remained stuck on the island, because he thought he was in Purgatory for his actions. Unfortunately, producers Damon Lindehof and Carlton Cuse have made it clear that the island was not Purgatory. According to Wikipedia site, Michael’s soul remained stuck on the island, because he had died there. So had Boone Carlyle, Shannon Rutherford, Juliet Burke, Ana-Lucia Cortez, Libby Smith, Mr. Eko, Charlie Pace and even the series lead, Jack Shephard. Sayid Jarrah, Jin Kwon and Sun Paik had all died aboard Charles Widmore’s submarine, not far from the island. Hell, they were a lot closer to the island than Michael, when he died aboard the freighter, the S.S. Kahana. Yet all of them, aside from Mr. Eko, were seen that church in the afterlife. There was no sign of Michael. Some fans claimed that Michael was being punished for murdering Ana-Lucia Cortez and Libby Smith. Yet Charlie, Sawyer, Kate Austen, Juliet, Sayid, John Locke, and Mr. Eko were all been guilty of murder. Both Shannon and Jack were guilty of attempting to murder fellow castaway, Locke. Why were they not punished? Sun, Jin, Sayid and Hurley have all forgiven Michael. Why was he still being punished? Some fans claimed that Michael had not moved on. ”There’s No Place Like Home, Part II” claimed otherwise. Michael seemed to finally be at peace with himself and his upcoming death, due to his actions aboard the freighter. And where was Walt? Some fans claimed that the actor who had portrayed him, Malcolm David Kelley, was too old and too tall to portray him. In the afterlife church? Why not? They were in the fucking afterlife! There was no need for Walt to look like the same 10 year-old that he was during the series’ first season.

And where were Ana-Lucia Cortez and Mr. Eko? Why were they not in that church scene? Both had made connections with the other Losties. They had certainly made connections with Bernard Nadler and Libby, who were in that final scene. What happened to them? Fans of ”LOST” know that Mr. Eko was killed by the Man In Black aka the Smoke Monster in (3.05) “The Cost of Living”. Why? Apparently, Mr. Eko had failed to express any remorse for his more questionable actions. This made no sense to me, considering that Eko had expressed remorse and guilt over the death of his brother, Yemi. He had also expressed remorse for killing two of the Others during the castaways’ first night on the island, when the Others tried to kidnapped. I believe that Cuse and Lindehof needed a quick excuse to kill Eko, because the actor portraying him - Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje – had asked to be written out of the series in order to deal with his parents’ deaths. Ana-Lucia experienced two epiphanies about herself in Season Two. In (2.16) “The Whole Truth”, she said the following to Sayid before apologizing to him for the accidental killing of Shannon Rutherford:

”Yeah, I can't sleep. People don't like me. I tried to get them to most of my life. I guess I just gave up a while back. I mean, I am what I am. But you -- you've got a good reason to hate me. I'm sorry. I'm sorry for what I did.”

Sayid eventually forgave her. But he never forgave the Others for harassing Ana-Lucia and the surviving Tail Section passengers during their first 48 days on the island. And in (2.20) “Two For the Road”, Ben tried to escape by killing Ana-Lucia. Locke came to her rescue. Then Ana set out to retaliate by killing Ben herself. She even went as far as to seduce Sawyer – the Lostaways’ “sheriff” - in order to acquire a pistol. In the end, Ana-Lucia realized that she had enough of indulging in her penchant for vindictive behavior:

” He tried to kill me today, so I wanted him dead. I couldn't do it. I couldn't even kill him. I looked at him and he -- I can't do this anymore.”

This is more than some of the other regular characters have ever achieved as far as development goes – and that includes Charlie, Sawyer, Locke and Shannon. At least Charlie had sacrificed himself to warn his fellow castaways about the threat from the S.S. Kahuna. And Shannon received some kind of reassurance from Sayid that she was not worthless. But Locke was in a state of despair when Ben murdered him in (5.07) "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham". And Sawyer has never acknowledged or expressed remorse for any of his crimes, mistakes or personal flaws. And yet, viewers were led to believe that these two were ready for the afterlife inside that church. But according to Sideways Desmond in (6.16) “What They Died For”, Ana-Lucia “was not ready”. The two producers gave a reason why:

Lindelof: Well, all we can say is that in "Happily Ever After," when Desmond confronted Eloise Hawking and he wanted to know why she wouldn't reveal to him why Penny's name was on this guest list, she said to him that he should stop asking these questions, because he wasn't ready. So that was the other time we heard that word. Ready for what exactly...?

Cuse: It's meant to be an intriguing clue that you are right to be pondering.


In other words, they really had no clear reason why Ana-Lucia was not ready to get over her baggage. They had ignored her epiphanies in episodes like ”The Whole Truth” and ”Two For the Road” FOR NOTHING. The ironic thing about this whole matter is that Ana-Lucia, Mr. Eko and Michael were all condemned in the afterlife, either because of their crimes or in the case of Ana-Lucia, her unpopularity with the fans. Other ”LOST” characters who were flawed or had committed terrible crimes managed to evade this fate. Apparently, Cuse and Lindehof were never really interested in allowing the major characters to face the consequences of their flaws or crimes – unless said character failed to live up to the image of the ideal female or were black men.

This vague form of storytelling has plagued the series for a long time. One example of this centered on a con job that Sawyer had pulled on Jack, John Locke and the rest of the castaways for control of the guns in Season Two’s (2.13) “The Long Con” with Charlie’s help – an act that led to Charlie physically attacking Sun. Why did he do this? Because Jack had invaded his tent to take a bottle of aspirin that Sawyer had pilfered not long after the plane crash. And where did this storyline go? Both Sun and Jin discovered that Sawyer and Charlie had been behind her attack in Season Three. Charlie apologized and Sun slapped Sawyer in retaliation. In other words, this storyline went no where.

Season Three also featured a storyline that I had briefly mentioned earlier – Jack, Kate and Sawyer’s captivity by the Others. This particular storyline began with three incidents in three different episodes – Walt Lloyd’s kidnapping by the Others in Season One’s (1.24-1.25) “Exodus: Part Two”; the capture of the Others’ leader, Ben Linus in Season Two’s (2.14) “One of Them”; and the Others’ capture of the three castaways and Hugo Reyes in (2.23-2.24) “Live Together, Die Alone”. For thirteen to fourteen episodes of Season Three, viewers had to endure a very convoluted storyline that centered around Ben Linus’ attempts to coerce Jack into operating on his spinal tumor. Both Lindehof and Cuse were asked why they had created this storyline in the first place. People have pointed out that Ben could have easily offered the castaways food and transportation off the island in exchange for Jack performing the surgery within days of Oceanic Flight 815’s crash. Lindehof and Cuse admitted this, but claimed they included the storyline to add one more mystery to the series’ storyline. When I had read this, I found myself both astonished and somewhat disgusted.

And I have never understood how the Man in Black became a mortal in "The End". How was that possible? His own body was placed inside one of the island's caves by Jacob. And he never took possession of John Locke's body, following the return of the latter to the island. His essence only assumed the dead man's form. The discovery of the real Locke's body in (5.16-5.17) "The Incident" made that perfectly clear. There was no way he should have become mortal in Locke's form, when Jack and Desmond uncorked the island's energy (or whatever the hell it was). I suspect this particular plot arc may have been an example of contrived writing in order to extend the finale's running time.

There were other storylines and characters that went nowhere:

*Libby Smith – one of the Tail Section passengers that survived the crash. She had a brief romance with Hurley in mid-Season Two, before Michael killed her in ”Two For the Road”. Libby was the only regular character in the entire series that never had a centric episode. Never. She did appear in one of Hurley’s centric episodes - (2.18) “Dave” - as a fellow patient at the Santa Rosa Mental Institution. If one thinks about it, Libby mainly served as Hurley’s dream girl/love interest. And the sad thing is that nearly five years after her character was introduced, nothing much is known about her. In fact, the only reason she ended up in that afterlife church was due to her role as Hurley’s girlfriend.

* (5.04) “The Little Prince” outrigger attacks – In this particular episode, castaways Sawyer, Juliet, Locke, Miles, Daniel and Charlotte were traveling by water to the island’s Orchid Station when someone or a group of unknown people began shooting at them. Considering that they had been traveling through time, many fans wondered if the identities of the attackers would be revealed in Season Six. They never were. Cuse and Lindehof made it clear that some of the series’ mysteries would remain unanswered. This turned out to be another example of sloppy writing.

*Claire Littleton’s abandonment of her son Aaron in (4.10) “Something Nice Back Home” - The series never gave a clear answer as to why Claire had abandoned Aaron, following Martin Keamy’s attack upon Otherton in (4.09) “The Shape of Things to Come”. Viewers know that the Man in Black – in the guise of Claire and Jack’s father, Christian Shephard, had lured her into the jungle, and later told her that the Others had taken Aaron. But why did she abandon him? The series never gave a clear answer.

*The Others Test Walt Lloyd – Why did the Others kidnap Walt? How did they even know he was special? Jacob could have never told Ben. The latter had not been in contact with Jacob. Others spy Ethan Rom could not have known. None of the other castaways were aware of Walt’s abilities, except for Locke. The Others spy, Ethan Rom, seemed more interested in Claire's pregnant state. And Walt never displayed an overt example of his abilities. So, how did Ben find out about Walt? What tests did Walt have to indure as a captive of the Others?

*The Tail Section Passengers Kidnappings - Why did the Others take most of the Tail Section passengers in (2.07) “The Other 48 Days”? Why did they take Oceanic flight attendant Cindy Chandler?

*Cindy Chandler’s Whereabouts – What happened to Cindy and the two Tail Section kids under her care – Zach and Emma? Had they been killed by Charles Widmore’s mortar attack of the main island in (6.13) “The Last Recruit”? Or had they been among the survivors that scattered into the jungle? Did Hurley and Ben ever find them?

I could go on about the numerous mysteries that plagued the series. However, ”LOST” was also plagued by other problems. For a series that is an Emmy winner and highly regarded by television viewers and critics, it possessed a good deal of bad writing. Aside from my complaints about the church scene in ”The End”, I can think of a few:

*Daniel Faraday’s Accent - Why did Daniel have an American accent? He had lived in England as a child, attended Oxford University and both of his parents (Eloise Hawking and Charles Widmore) were English.

*Kate Austen – I feel sorry for Evangeline Lilly. Her character, fugitive Kate Austen, has been plagued by a great deal of bad writing during the series’ six season. Mediocre and questionable episodes like (1.12) “Whatever the Case May Be”, (3.06) “I Do”, ”The Little Prince”, (3.15) “Left Behind” and especially (4.04) “Eggtown” marred her character development. Her criminal trial featured in ”Eggtown” was probably her worst storyline. In fact, I would call it a travesty in legal fiction. Her lie about being Aaron Littleton’s mother struck me as inconceivable. And the fact that Oceanic Airlines and the authorities actually bought it struck me as even more idiotic, considering there was no way Kate could have been six months pregnant when she boarded Flight 815 in Australia. The Australian law enforcement and airport security cameras could have easily disputed her lie. But Cuse and Lindehof led many viewers to believe that such a stupid lie was actually plausible.

*Jack Shephard’s Tattoos – One of the worst episodes of the series, (3.09) “Stranger in a Strange Land”, revealed Jack Shephard’s trip to Thailand following his divorce. In the episode, he acquired a tattoo from his lover, a local Thai woman named Achara. One, I never understood why she wrote the tattoo in Chinese, instead of Thai. And why did Cuse and Lindehof include this horrible episode in the first place?

*Jack’s Appendicitis – What was the purpose of Jack suffering from a sudden case of appendicitis in ”Something Nice Back Home”? Many fans had focused heavily upon Rose Nadler’s hint that Jack was being punished for trying to get off the island. But when one considers Jacob’s comments in (6.16) "What They Died For" that the castaways always had a choice to stay or leave the island, the idea of Jack being “punished” did not make any sense. So, what was the purpose behind the case of appendicitis?

*Miles Straume – Do not get me wrong. I have always liked the character of Miles. I have also enjoyed actor Ken Leung’s acting style. But looking back on Miles’ character arc, I realized that Cuse, Lindehof and their staff of writers have never really done anything with him, since his debut in (4.02) “Confirmed Dead”. One episode, (5.13) "Some Like It Hoth" revealed that he was the son of Dr. Pierre Chang, one of the Dharma Initiative scientists and had been born on the island. His ability to sense and communicate with the dead could have allowed the writers to use him as a means for Claire to remember how she had left Aaron behind in ”Something Nice Back Home”. But this potential use for Miles’ character was never utilized. It is a miracle that he had survived long enough to finally leave the island in the finale. Considering that he had managed to form close ties with both Sawyer and Hurley, I never understood why his character did not appear in that final church scene in the afterlife.

*Penny Widmore and Nadia Jazeem in the Afterlife – Why was Penny in that church scene in ”The End”? She had no close ties with any of the Losties, aside from Desmond. Yet, she was there. However, Nadia Jazeem, who was the love of Sayid Jarrah’s life, was not in the church scene. Instead, he ends up with Shannon Rutherford in his afterlife. Why?

If I must be frank, ”LOST” has too many flaws – bad characterizations and hanging plotlines – for me to write about in detail. Judging from the article so far, one would think that I have nothing but contempt for the series. I assure you, I do not. ”LOST” had its virtues. One of those virtues turned out to be the cast of actors – regular, supporting or otherwise - that have appeared on the show. Superb performances by the likes of Matthew Fox (who has portrayed one of the most complex leading men in television history), Terry O’Quinn, Elizabeth Mitchell, Michael Emerson, Harold Perrineau, Yunjin Kim, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Daniel Dae Kim and Dominic Monaghan really made this series worth watching. Actors such as Josh Holloway, Emilie de Ravin, Maggie Grace, Naveen Andrews, Michelle Rodriguez, Jorge Garcia, John Terry and Ken Leung also gave pretty good performances. I must admit that I had held a low opinion of Evangeline Lilly’s acting skills for several years. But I feel that she has done an excellent job of improving her skills – especially during the last two seasons. But the performances that really stood out for me belonged to Matthew Fox in episodes such as (1.11) “All Cowboys Have Daddy Issues”, ”Through the Looking Glass”, ”Something Nice Back Home”, ”The Last Recruit” and ”The End”; Terry O’Quinn in (1.04) “Walkabout”, (2.17) “Lockdown”, ”The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham” and (6.06) “Sundown”; Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje in (2.10) “The 23rd Psalms”; Michelle Rodriguez in ”The Other 48 Days” and "The Whole Truth"; Elizabeth Mitchell in ”(3.07) “Not in Portland”, (3.16) “One of Us” and (5.08) “La Fleur”; Josh Holloway in ”La Fleur”; Harold Perrineau in ”Exodus: Part II” and (4.08) “Meet Kevin Johnson”; Yunjin Kim in (1.06) “House of the Rising Sun”, (3.18) “D.O.C.”, ”There’s No Place Like Home, Part II" and (6.14) "The Candidate"; and Daniel Dae Kim in "House of the Rising Sun", (1.17) ". . . In Translation", "The Whole Truth", (5.05) "This Place Is Death" and "The Candidate".

And there were story arcs that I found very impressive – the introduction of the Tail Section survivors in early Season Two, especially in the ”The Other 48 Days” episode; the last five or six episodes of Season Three that led to Jack’s contact of Naomi’s colleagues aboard the Kahuna; Season One’s first eight episodes – excluding (1.07) “The Moth”; the last nine or ten episodes of Season Four; and the adventures of Sawyer, Juliet, Locke and other time traveling survivors on the island in Season Five. I wish I could include ”The End”, but as I had made clear, I have mixed views of that episode. The only finales I really enjoyed were Season One’s ”Exodus” and Season Three’s ”Through the Looking Glass”, which I especially found outstanding.

In the end, I guess I can say that I had enjoyed the six seasons of ”LOST”. Do I consider it to be a cultural phenomenon? Of course. Regardless of my personal opinion of the series, I cannot deny that. Was it a good television series? Yes. It was basically an interesting series with an original premise and a cast of talented actors. Would I consider it to be an outstanding series . . . or view it as one of the best in television series? No. Not on your life. Despite its virtues, ”LOST” has too many flaws. There is not a single television series I would consider flawless. But as I had previously stated, ”LOST” has too many flaws for me to ever consider it as great. The next time Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindehof decide to create a television series with continuing story lines, I would suggest that they acquire a few lessons from the likes of J. Michael Straczynski, Joss Whedon and Matthew Weiner on how to create and write such a series. They truly need those lessons.

Monday, May 24, 2010

"An Afternoon in Babysitting" [R] - 1/3




"AN AFTERNOON IN BABYSITTING"

RATING: R Mild sexuality, mild violence and language
SUMMARY: Due to a Halliwell family emergency, Cole and Olivia are forced to baby-sit Wyatt on a Saturday afternoon.
FEEDBACK: - Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: The Charmed Ones, Wyatt Halliwell, Leo Wyatt, Victor Bennett and Cole Turner belong to Constance Burge, Brad Kern and Spelling Productions. Olivia and Harry McNeill are thankfully, my creations.
NOTE: The story picks up about two weeks after "In the Wake of Valhalla"
.



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"AN AFTERNOON IN BABYSITTING"

PART 1

"Phoebe and I are going to be in San Jose for most of the day," Piper said to her youngest sister, as she and the other two Charmed Ones descended the stairs. "Do you have everything you need?"

Paige nodded. "You mean for Wyatt? Sure. Plenty of diapers, lotion, baby powder, baby food, his milk . . . Don't worry, Piper."

The three sisters reached the bottom of the staircase, where Victor Bennett awaited them. He, along with Piper and Phoebe were dressed in mourning clothes for a Bennett aunt that had recently passed away. They planned to attend the funeral being held in nearby San Jose. And since Piper felt leery about bringing along her eight-month old son, Paige had volunteered to stay behind and baby-sit. Especially since she had no family connections to the Bennetts.

"What about protection for Wyatt?" Phoebe added. "Maybe we should bring him along."

Paige heaved a sigh. "Don't worry! Wyatt has his own built-in protection system. Or something. Besides, I'll just add a protection spell around the house, if it would make you feel better."

Anxiety flared in Piper's dark eyes. "No, it won't! Paige, you know that protection spells aren't very reliable. I don't want some spell to backfire on Wyatt."

"Harry doesn't think they're unreliable. Neither do Olivia and the others," Paige said. "Besides, he thinks we might not know how to perform a protection spell, correctly."

"And he does?" Phoebe retorted. She was not a fan of any of the McNeills, save for Bruce.

Victor gave his youngest daughter a reassuring squeeze. "Don't worry, honey. Paige may be right about Harry. Don't forget, he's been practicing witchcraft longer than any of you."

Piper, however, did not seem assured. "I don't know . . ."

Heaving another exasperated sigh, Paige exclaimed, "Piper, c'mon! Don't worry. Harry knows what he's doing. He's coming by, today. To help me cast this protection spell. In fact," she glanced at the grandfather clock, "he should be here, any minute."

"If you say so," Piper said reluctantly. "By the way, do you have Uncle Russell's number?"

The doorbell rang. Paige rushed toward the front door. "That must be Harry." When she opened the door, she found the red-haired male witch, standing on the stoop. "Hey! I wondered when you were going to show up."

Harry planted a light kiss on Paige's mouth. "Sorry. I had overslept this morning." He entered the house. "So, where's Wyatt?"

"Sleeping in his crib, upstairs," Piper answered. She cast Harry a dubious look. "Now that you're here . . . I guess we can leave."

A touch of sarcasm tinged Harry's voice. "And it's nice to see you too, Piper." He nodded at the middle Charmed One. "Phoebe. Mr. Bennett." He shook Victor's hand. "It's been a while."

Victor smiled at the younger man. "Not that long. Just five months. How are Jack and Gwen? And your grandmother?"

"They're doing fine. Will you be coming by for brunch, tomorrow?"

"Uh . . ." Victor cast a anxious glance at his two daughters.

Paige impatiently answered for him. "We'll all be there. Okay guys, it's time to go. You don't want to get caught up in traffic."

A reluctant Piper added, "Yeah, I guess you're right. The funeral starts in less than three hours. And it'll take us at least an hour to get to San Jose. If the traffic's okay."

Paige almost told her sisters and stepfather to have fun . . . until she remembered that they were headed for a funeral. "Uh, have a safe trip. Bye." After the three Bennetts left the manor, she closed the door and sighed. "Finally. Alone. I never thought they would leave."

Harry slowly made his way toward her, a seductive smile stamped on his face. "I didn't realize that you wanted to be alone with me that badly." He slid his arms around Paige's waist.

She responded with a teasing smile. "Don't flatter yourself. You're not that . . ." A shot of pain stabbed the back of her mouth. "Ow!"

Harry frowned. "Something wrong?"

"No. It's nothing. I . . . It's just a molar." Paige winced from more pain. "Needs to be pulled out."

"Maybe you should go to a dentist. For an emergency."

Shaking her head, Paige replied, "Nah. It's okay. I have a dental appointment on Tuesday, anyway. I guess I can hold out for another three days."

Harry removed his arms from her waist. "Well . . . okay. If you say so. Meanwhile, let's get started on that protection spell. Shall we?"

---------

The redheaded witch and the half-daemon washed the last of the breakfast dishes, wiped them dry and placed them inside the kitchen cabinets. "Now that was a first-class breakfast," Olivia declared with a heartfelt sigh. "You make a better Eggs Florentine than either Mom or Bruce." She added surreptiously, "Don't tell them I said that."

Cole chuckled. "Don't worry. I won't say a word. And I'm glad that you enjoyed it."

"Hmmmm. You know, you should give up the law and become a chef. You've already been trained as one." Olivia shook her head. "How many daemons can claim that they had studied at Le Cordon Bleu Academie in Paris?"

Dumping his rag on the nearby counter, Cole murmured, "You'd be surprised." Then he sighed. "So, what do you have planned for today?"

Olivia stared at him. "What's that?"

"Nothing."

"Do you have any ideas?" Olivia asked. She followed Cole into the penthouse's living room. "For today?"

A desperate idea flashed in Cole's mind. "Well . . . the invitation to spend the weekend at Mark Giovanni's Santa Rosa ranch is still opened. Marbus and his wife were also invited."

Visions of a weekend with the Giovanni family filled Olivia with horror. "I don't think so." Olivia shot Cole an anxious look. "You did turn down his offer. Right?"

"Well I did consider saying yes," Cole replied sarcastically. "Until I contemplated two days in Pamela Giovanni's company. Of course, we could still head out . . ."

"No thanks. The idea of bearing witness to the ongoing Giovanni soap opera fills me with dread." A possibility occurred to her. "How about a drive down the coast? Go as far as Monterey? Or Santa Cruz?"

Strong arms encircled Olivia's waist, taking her by surprise. She could feel Cole's hard body pressing against hers. "Or why don't we simply stay here?" he murmured in one of her ears, causing her to shiver. "Spend the day together. In bed." He nipped at the delicate spot where Olivia's neck and shoulder met. A slight moan escaped her mouth. "What do you say?"

"Uh . . . are you suggesting . . . that we indulge in some kind of sexual marathon for . . .?" Olivia paused and pondered on what she had just said. "Wait a minute. Am I actually resisting this idea?"

Cole nipped her exposed flesh for the second time. "You tell me."

Olivia turned around to face her lover. "Hmmm, now that I think about it," she smiled seductively, "your idea sounds a lot better."

"Glad you think so," Cole murmured, before he lowered his mouth upon hers.

-----------

"Okay, do you have the Angelica root?" Harry asked.

Paige nodded. She held up the herb in question. The two witches stood inside Wyatt's nursery. Upon Harry's instruction, they had earlier placed sprigs of Mallow on every windowsill inside the manor. "It's too bad that mallow didn't work."

"Yeah, well I guess it just didn't work for you. Angelica root seems to be more your style."

A smile curved Paige's lips. "Ah yes. The herb that is under the guard of angels. That old whitelighter heritage coming back to haunt me. So, what do I do next?"

"Place the Angelica Root in a small blue or white cloth bag and hang it outside the house," Harry instructed. "Near the door, if possible."

The Charmed One headed for the Solarium. "Let's see. There were some pieces of cloth inside that desk near the . . ." A familiar shot of pain filled the back of her mouth. Without thinking, Paige grounded her teeth, increasing the pain. "Aaaugh! My tooth!" She dropped the Angelica root from her hand.

Harry rushed forward to comfort her. "What's wrong? Are you hurt?"

"My tooof!" Paige mumbled. "It huuths!"

"Must be your molar, again." Harry's green eyes regarded her with concern. "Maybe we need to get you to a dentist."

Paige's eyes flew open. "Noo! My dooctah ez guw! Wihaat! Whud abooh . . ."

"Huh?"

Heaving a sigh, Paige tried again. "My dooctah! Heh'z guw! Und Wihaat!"

"Did you say that your doctor hez . . . I mean . . . Your doctor isn't in the office, today." Harry said. "Is that it?" Paige nodded. He continued, "Okay, I'll take you to mine. As for Wyatt, we'll drop him off at my parents' . . ." Harry hesitated. "Oh wait! Shit! I forgot. They went to Tom Boucher's wedding in Palo Alto. Gran's also there. As for Bruce and Barbara . . ."

Paige screamed in pain.

Harry took a deep breath. "Right. Look, I'll go upstairs and get Wyatt and his things." He started toward the staircase. "Don't worry, we'll find someone to take care him." Then he raced upstairs, leaving Paige to continue moaning in pain.

-----------

A serene air almost permeated the atmosphere, inside Cole's living room. Almost. Serenity could have been achieved, if it were not for the passionate moans emitting from the couple locked in a horizontal embrace, on the living room's sofa.

With Olivia's body writhing underneath his, it took all of Cole's self-control not to rip off her remaining clothes, part her legs and sink right into her. Instead, he slowly stroke every inch of exposed flesh. Including the pale tan flesh that strained above Olivia's lacy white bra.

"Cole . . . please . . ." Olivia moaned between ragged breaths. ". . . now. I need . . . oh!" Cole had finally removed her bra. He gently squeezed one fleshy globe, before covering its coral pink tip with his lips, allowing it to become engorged. Another moan left her mouth. And when he gently bit into the nipple, she immediately arched her body.

At that moment, the doorbell rang. Olivia gasped with surprise and breathlessly asked, "Was that the doorbell?"

Cole reluctantly removed his mouth from her breast and murmured, "I didn't hear anything."

Again, the doorbell rang. Olivia sat up, causing Cole to moan with frustration. "That was the doorbell," she said. "Maybe you should answer it."

"Shit!" Cole muttered the oath, as he sat up and donned his T-shirt. Scowling, he marched toward the front door and peered through the peephole. Harry. It was Harry standing in the corridor outside, and holding . . . something. Cole sighed and opened the door. "Harry. What do you . . .?" A quick glance at the bundle in the male witch's arms told Cole that he was staring at Wyatt Halliwell. "What the hell?"

Harry dumped the baby in Cole's arms. "Here. I need you and Olivia to take care of Wyatt for a few hours. She's here, right?"

"Wha . . .?" Cole stared at the infant, who immediately began to wail. "What the hell?"

Olivia appeared in the doorway, wearing a bra . . . and her STANFORD U T-shirt. "What's going on?" she demanded.

Harry quickly explained that he and Paige were babysitting Wyatt, when the Charmed One developed a dental problem. "I'm taking her to my dentist, since hers isn't available. Mom, Dad and Gran are at that wedding. And Bruce and Barbara went to Santa Barbara for the weekend. So . . ."

To Cole's relief, Olivia took hold of the squealing Wyatt and began to rock him. "So, why didn't you summon Leo?"

"I don't know. I guess I just forgot about him!" Harry retorted, as he handed a large shoulder bag to Cole. "How often do I summon Leo? Besides," he grunted, as he placed a folded pram inside the penthouse, "I figure it would be hard to find him, considering the whole Elder gig. There."

Frowning, Olivia asked, "How did you know where to find me?"

"I tried your apartment, downstairs. I figured that if you weren't here, I'd take Wyatt to the dentist with us."

Cole retorted, "Why didn't you take him with you, anyway?"

"And have to deal with both Paige and him? Oh." Harry reached inside his jacket pocket for a slip of paper and handed it to Cole. "This has my cell phone number. And Piper's, in case you can't reach me. So, uh . . . I'll be back, later." He turned away.

"Wait!" Cole cried out. "You expect us to baby-sit . . . this . . . this . . . uh, kid?"

Harry flashed him a reassuring smile. "Don't worry. Olivia has done some babysitting before. Right Livy?" His older sister glared at him. "Anyway, I better get Paige to that dentist as soon as possible. Bye!" He rushed toward the elevator and entered, before Cole and Olivia could do or say anything further.

-----------

Back inside the penthouse, Wyatt's cries filled the living room. Cole glared at him. "Why is he crying?"

Olivia sighed, as she continued to rock the baby. "I don't know, Cole. Maybe he's having abandonment issues. I'm not a tele . . ." An empty bottle materialized in Wyatt's small hands. "Oh. I guess he's hungry."

Cole stared at the bag filled with Wyatt's belongings, in his hands. "You don't really expect me to make baby formula . . . or milk . . . or whatever, do you?"

"No, I don't. I'll do it." Olivia placed Piper's son in Cole's arms. "You can hold him, instead." The infant continued to cry. "Rock him up and down," she ordered. "Gently. And I'll take this." She removed the bag from Cole and headed toward the kitchen.

As Olivia had instructed, Cole began to rock Wyatt in his arms. At first, it seemed that his efforts might be in vain. The baby continued to cry, while squirming in Cole's arms. Another five minutes passed before the tears subsided. Wyatt's cries became gurgles, as he stared at the half-daemon with wide, curious eyes.

"Hey there, partner," Cole murmured. He eased into a nearby chair. "You're finally getting used to me. Huh? You know, the way you're staring at me reminds me of your dad. Well, when we used to get along. God, how long ago was that?" Cole continued to rock the infant. "Did you know that I almost had a son, myself? Yep. He would have been at least a few months older than you. Of course, I was possessed at the time, when he was conceived. Sometimes, I . . . I wonder sometimes if . . ." The half-daemon sighed. "Never mind. I guess it's best that we put the past behind us."

Wyatt gurgled once more and grabbed a fistful of Cole's T-shirt. Then he began chewing on said shirt. Cole smiled. "Getting hungry there, are we? Let's see if Olivia has that bottle of milk ready." He carried the infant into the kitchen, where Olivia hovered over the stove. "Is the milk ready? Wyatt is beginning to mistake my shirt for food."

Olivia rolled her eyes. "It's almost ready. She removed the bottle from a small saucepan. After a brief wait, she dabbed the bottle's content on her wrist. "Just to make sure that the milk isn't too hot."

Cole glanced down at Wyatt, who continued to chew on his T-shirt. "Is it ready now? I don't think I'll have a shirt left, within the next half hour."

With a sigh, Olivia walked over toward the pair. "Here you go, Wyatt," she said in a singsong voice. "Here's your widdle milk. Poor thing. You must be very hungry. Huh? Does Wyatt want his milk? Here we go! Choo-choo!" Cole stared at her in disbelief, as she plopped the bottle's nipple into Wyatt's hungry mouth. Then she looked up at Cole, before a horrified expression appeared on her face. "Oh God! I sound just like Phoebe whenever she uses that ridiculous baby voice! What's the matter with me?"

Cole's eyes watched, as Olivia rushed out of the kitchen in a fit of horror. Then he returned his gaze to Wyatt, who had also been staring at the redhead. Then the half-daemon and the half-whitelighter's eyes regarded one another. Cole sighed. "Partner, women are a curious breed. Even after a century, I still don't understand them." He regarded the infant with a sympathetic smile. "And you're going to find out, for yourself. One day."

Wyatt's blue eyes blinked, as he continued to guzzle from the bottle.


END OF PART 1

Friday, May 21, 2010

"ROBIN HOOD" (2010) Photo Gallery



Below are photos from "ROBIN HOOD", director Ridley Scott's new adaptation of the English folklore hero. Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett and Mark Strong star:


"ROBIN HOOD" (2010) Photo Gallery