Monday, August 30, 2010

"SALT" (2010) Review




"SALT" (2010) Review

It has been a while since I last saw a movie directed by Philip Noyce. In fact, the last one I can recall was 2002’s ”THE QUIET AMERICAN”. Imagine my surprise when I discovered he had been chosen to direct Angelina Jolie’s new action thriller called ”SALT”.

The movie told the story of a CIA agent named Evelyn Salt, who is accused of being a KGB sleeper agent. She eventually goes on the run to try to clear her name. At the order of her supervisor, Ted Winters, Salt interrogates a Russian defector named Orlov, who tells her about an operation organized by a powerful Russian since the Cold War; which will lead to the destruction of the United States. Orlov mentions that at the funeral of the late Vice President in New York City, the visiting Russian President will be killed by Russian spy - Evelyn Salt. Shaken at the accusation, Salt attempts to contact her husband Mike, a German arachnologist, fearing for his safety. Meanwhile, Orlov escapes, which prompts Salt to escape. This causes Winters and a counterintelligence agent named Peabody to believe she is a spy. After finding her husband missing at their apartment, Salt grabs a few essentials and continues her flight. After barely escaping a highway pursuit, Salt takes a bus to New York City to deal with the threat of the Russian president being assassinated.

When I first learned about the plot for ”SALT”, the first thing that came to mind was that it was a female variation on the recent BOURNE trilogy, starring Matt Damon. And in a way, it is. After all, Jolie portrays a CIA agent, who finds herself pursued by her former colleagues. And her character performs stunts that would make Damon . . . or his stunt man rather proud. However, after the movie’s setting had switched to New York City, Kurt Wimmer and Oscar winner Brian Hegeland’s script took an unexpected turn that left me a little breathless. And if that was not enough, another plot twist awaited, once the movie shifted back to Washington D.C. and a plot to kill the U.S. president. Another aspect of ”SALT” that surprised me was that the movie was released on the heels of news about a real Russian spy ring that was recently discovered in the U.S.

Angelina Jolie has come a long way since her two LARA CROFT movies. In her portrayal of Jennifer Salt, she is more assured and matured. And thankfully, she has also dropped the poseur attitude that slightly marred her performances as Lara Croft. Not only did Jolie do a first-rate job with her action sequences, she skillfully guided the emotional turmoil that her character endures throughout the movie. Adding solid support is Liev Schreiber, who portrayed her supervisor, Ted Winters. Beneath the charm and intelligence, Schreiber did a great job in conveying Ted’s emotional reaction to the possibility that Salt might be a Russian deep-cover mole. And Chiwetel Ejiofor was effective as the intense and determined counterintelligence agent, Peabody, who genuinely believes that Salt is a mole. He managed to convey this without indulging in any hammy acting.

Daniel Olbrychski gave a fascinating performance as the Russian defector, Orlov, who accused Salt of being a Russian agent. August Diehl portrayed Salt’s husband, the soft-spoken arachnologist, Michael Krause. Although he hardly had any lines in the film, he quietly conveyed his role as Salt’s emotional center. I was surprised to see Hunt Block, who portrayed the U.S. president. I have not seen him since the 1980s nighttime drama, ”KNOT’S LANDING”. I was also surprised to see Andre Braugher in the movie. He portrayed one of the President’s aides, yet he only had one or two lines. At first, I thought his career had really taken a nose dive, until I remembered that he was on the TNT television series called ”MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE”. So, how did he get stuck in a role that called for only two lines?

Noyce worked well with cinematographer Robert Elswit and film editors Stuart Baird and John Gilroy to create some very interesting action scenes . . . especially the fantastic sequence featuring the attempt to assassinate the Russian president in New York. Jolie contributed to these scenes with some of her own stunt work. Yes, I realize that some of the stunts seemed implausible – especially one that featured a jump by Salt from a Washington D.C. expressway to the top of a moving truck. But I have seen stunts in other movies that I found a lot more implausible. It seemed a pity that the movie was set either during the late fall or the winter. Although the cold season did not take any atmosphere away from the Manhattan sequences, I cannot say the same about the Washington D.C. exterior shots. I have always believed that the capital looked a lot better on film during the spring, summer and early fall seasons.

In the end, I enjoyed ”SALT” very much. I believe that it is one of the better summer movies this year. Director Philip Noyce did a first-class job with a solid script written by Kurt Wimmer and Brian Hegeland, and skillful performances from a cast led by Angelina Jolie. I noticed that the movie ended on a vague note that I would usually find annoying. But considering rumors that a sequel might follow, I can give it a pass.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

"The Power of One" [PG-13] - 12/20





"THE POWER OF ONE"

PART XII

Cole appeared at Olivia's apartment, later that evening, dressed completely in blue. He wore a dark-blue suit, a light-blue shirt and a royal blue tie that matched his eyes.

"Well, you certainly look handsome, tonight!" Olivia gushed in her usual forthright manner. She gave him a warm kiss. "Almost military. New suit?"

Cole gave her another kiss. "That's right. And you look very beautiful." His eyes swept appreciatively over Olivia's outfit. The redhead wore a light-green, long-sleeved silk blouse that contrasted nicely with her forest-green skirt that reached her calf. She looked beautiful and elegant. Then Cole glanced over her shoulder. "Where's Cecile? Isn't she ready?"

"Almost. She should be ready, soon." Olivia closed the door. "Where's Andre?"

"He'll be down in a few minutes."

Olivia smiled. "Making sure that he has the uh . . . ring on hand?"

Feeling slightly uneasy, Cole tried to dismiss the topic by giving Olivia a blank look. "Huh?"

"For heaven's sake, Cole! The . . ." Olivia shot a quick glance at the door to Cecile's bedroom. ". . . engagement ring. Hel-lo? Have you forgotten?"

He wished he had. At the moment, he had no desire to think about his friend making a step that could guarantee future unhappiness. A step that reminded him of a very painful phase in his own life. But Cole dared not say so. "No, I haven't," he finally told Olivia. "I guess . . . I guess I have other things on my mind. Like Wyatt's nanny. Have you heard anything on those prints?"

Olivia shook her head. "Not yet. Forensics seemed to be taking its own sweet time. As usual." Then she gave Cole a long stare. For a moment, the half-daemon wondered if his girlfriend had read his mind. Until she reached out and took hold of his tie. "You tie is needs to be straightened." As Olivia proceeded with her task, she added, "By the way, what did you mean when you said it was just as well that Andre didn't end up marrying Cecile?"

The question took Cole completely off guard. "Huh?" His eyes blinked momentarily. "Uh . . . what . . .?"

"When I mentioned that Andre might not propose to Cecile because he found out that she planned to break up with him," Olivia continued, "you said it was just as well. Why did you say that?"

Green eyes regarded the half-daemon with an intensity that left him feeling wary. He loved Olivia with every breath in his body, but he deeply suspected that her Machiavellian mind could send the Source and the rest of the demonic realm trembling with fear. For some odd reason, Olivia's question reminded Cole of those last hours spent with Raynor. Just as he did two-and-a-half years ago, he felt as if he was walking a fine line between safety and danger.

"Cole?" Olivia added. "Did you hear me?"

The redhead's voice snapped the half-daemon out of his thoughts. "Yeah, I heard. Sorry. Um . . ."

"Um . . . what?"

Shit! "I just . . . um . . ." Cole took a deep breath. "Well, with Cecile determined to break up with him, I didn't think Andre had a chance in getting her to marry him."

Olivia said, "But the reason Cecile had planned to break up with him in the first place is because she thinks that he doesn't want to get married. But he does. So, are you saying that Andre still doesn't have a chance?"

Of course Andre had a chance in getting Cecile to marry him. Cole simply believed that their chance of a happy marriage did not seem very promising. Only he dared not say this to Olivia. Yet, one glance into her eyes and he saw a glimmer of realization in them. She knew. A sardonic smile curved her lips. "That's okay. I think I already know the answer to that question," she added.

"Olivia . . ." Cole began.

Her eyes narrowed. "What? Are you trying to say that I'm wrong? That you don't believe that Andre and Cecile don't have a chance at a happy marriage?"

Cole snapped, "I didn't say that!"

"You didn't have to," Olivia retorted coolly. "I could see it in your eyes." She gave his tie a sharp tug and turned away. "I guess I should have . . . considering the circumstances of your divorce." Her tone sent a shaft of fear into Cole's heart.

He tried to talk to Olivia - make her see that she had jumped to the wrong conclusion. Only Cole could not find the words to convince her . . . or himself.

At that moment, Cecile emerged from her bedroom. She wore a peach-colored silk sheath dress with a matching jacket. "Hey! What's going on?" she asked.

Cole opened his mouth to speak, but Olivia answered first. "Nothing," she said. "Nothing at all."

Cecile regarded the couple with suspicious eyes. "If you say so." She glanced around. "Where's Andre?"

"He'll be down in a minute," Cole murmured. "He had to . . ." The doorbell rang. "Then again, that might be him." He walked over to the door and peered through the peephole. Sure enough, Andre had arrived. Cole opened the door. "Hey buddy," he greeted. "You're just in time."

Andre strode inside the apartment. "Is everyone ready?"

The others murmured yes and proceeded toward the door. Cole donned his coat and grabbed Olivia's, as well. Before he could help her put it on, she snatched the coat from his hands and followed Cecile out of the door. Andre shot him a curious glance, as he sighed. With barely a few words, he may have seriously screwed up his future with Olivia.

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

"Chris!"

The young whitelighter paused in his tracks, as he waited for the Elder to catch up with him. Keeping his emotions in check, Chris coolly demanded, "Yes, . . . Elder Wyatt? How may I help you?"

Leo frowned at the younger man's sarcasm. "I need to talk to you," he said. "Now. It's about Valhalla."

Chris immediately became alert. "Are we going to discuss this again? I believe the last time we had, you ended up accusing me of killing a Valkryie in order to send you there. And you were going to bring me before the Council. What happened?"

"I got distracted," Leo retorted, looking slightly annoyed. And embarrassed. "But if what I had claimed isn't true, why didn't you volunteer your soul to rescue me, when Phoebe and Paige needed one? You're their whitelighter."

His cheek twitching with emotion, Chris shot back, "Like you said, I'm a whitelighter. I don't fight demons. Remember?" The younger man turned his back on Leo and proceeded to walk away.

Leo's voice echoed through the Realm's hallway. "Are you in the habit of turning your back on an Elder?"

Again, Chris paused. With barely controlled anger, he replied, "No . . . Elder Wyatt. I'm not. Nor am I in the habit of killing Valkryies in order to trap you inside Valhalla. So, get that idea out of your head."

"Really? Because I don't believe you," Leo continued with an unrelenting stare.

Sneering, Chris shot back, "Really? Because I don't care. The other Elders seemed to think I'm doing a good job." He started to turn away, when Leo grabbed his arm. "Hey!"

"The other Elders might regard you as some kind of savior from the future, but I don't," Leo growled. "I think you're more of a menace. Why did you send me to Valhalla? Did you want me out of the way? Has it something to do with the Halliwells? Because if you harm them . . ."

Unable to control his temper any longer, Chris angrily wrenched his arm from Leo's grasp. "Who are you to lecture me about my relationship with them? At least I've been there when they needed me! I haven't abandoned a wife and . . . a son." Leo's eyes widened and Chris began to fear that he had said too much. "Or my charges," he quickly added.

"I haven't . . ." Leo began. He seemed less sure of himself, after Chris' outburst. "I mean . . . I had no choice! Being an Elder involves great responsibility. Maybe you'll understand, one day. Besides, I still keep an eye on Piper and Wyatt."

Chris stared back at the Elder. "Then I guess you know that Wyatt has a new nanny."

Leo's eyes expressed shock. "What? When? Who is . . .?" His expression relaxed. "Oh. The elf nanny must have returned."

"No, she didn't," Chris retorted. "Piper had hired a human. A Vodoun priestess named Donna Thompson. She was the one who helped Piper vanquish that demon, a few days ago."

Shaking his head in disbelief, Leo murmured, "I can't believe it! I can't believe that Piper would hire some stranger to take care of Wyatt without my knowledge."

Chris regarded the other whitelighter with disgust. Leo seemed so caught up in this latest news that he failed to notice that Chris had left.

-----------

The two younger Halliwells and Jason arrived at the McNeill house around seven-fifty in the evening, where they found the cocktail party in full swing. Judging from the number of people inside the large drawing-room, Phoebe surmised that she and her companions were among the last to arrive.

Harry McNeill appeared before the trio with a ready smile. "Paige! You finally arrived."

"Hey there!" Paige stepped forward, as she and Harry exchanged a brief kiss. "Actually, we almost didn't, thanks to Phoebe." She shot a dark look at the older sister.

Phoebe protested, "I can't help it if I had a hard time finding my earrings!"

Paige rolled her eyes. "C'mon Pheebs! Your earrings were inside your jewelry box. I find it hard to believe that you didn't know that." The heat of embarrassment crept up Phoebe's cheeks. Paige continued, "The truth is that she and Piper had an argument over who would take care of Wyatt, tonight. She didn't want to leave."

Jason frowned at Phoebe. "Is that why you almost broke our date for tonight? Because of Wyatt?"

"Piper's working tonight," Phoebe added. "I only wanted to make sure that Wyatt had someone to take care of him."

Sighing, Paige retorted, "Phoebe, Wyatt has Donna. His new nanny. Remmeber?"

"Yeah, but . . ."

Harry spoke up, "Listen, why don't you guys circulate around the room? Or get something to eat? In other words, start enjoying yourselves. I'm sure that you didn't show up to have a family quarrel."

Phoebe flashed Harry an embarrassed smile, linked arms with Jason and allowed him to lead her toward the refreshment table. As they began to fill their plates, Jason commented, "You know, you didn't answer my question."

"Huh?" Phoebe glanced at her boyfriend, as she dropped a canapé on the table - missing her plate completely. "What question?"

Jason placed a piece of poached salmon on his plate. "The one that involved our date and your nephew. Where you really planning to break our date in order to baby sit Wyatt?"

Phoebe's mouth hung open. "Well . . . only if Piper hadn't been able to get a babysitter."

"I thought that Wyatt had a new nanny?"

"Well . . . yeah." What else could she say? That she harbored suspicions that Wyatt's nanny might be a demon who had nefarious designs upon him?

A sigh left Jason's mouth. "Phoebe . . ."

The Charmed One placed a mushroom button stuffed with ground sausage on her plate. "What? What did I say?"

Again, Jason sighed. "Nothing. Except . . . sometimes I feel as if I'm competing with your family for your affections. It's like you seem to wrap your whole life around your sisters, and now Wyatt."

"Ja . . . Where did you . . .?" A nervous laugh escaped from Phoebe's mouth, despite the shock caused by his words. A sickening feeling that Jason had guessed the truth, gripped her stomach. Then she shook her head. "Never mind."

Jason continued to stare at her. "What? You won't admit it, will you?"

Keeping her emotions in check, Phoebe replied, "Admit what? I'll admit that you're way off the mark. But that's okay." She gave her boyfriend a quick peck on the cheek. "I forgive you." To her relief, Jason dismissed the matter and continued on another topic.

As they continued to fill their plates, Phoebe noticed Olivia speaking to some guy near the fireplace. And on the opposite side of the room stood Cole, seemingly engrossed in a conversation with Andre and some other man. The couple seemed oblivious to one another, yet Phoebe could sense frustration from Olivia - and fear from Cole. Cole in a state of fear? Phoebe allowed herself another glimpse of her ex-husband and saw him shoot a lovelorn glance at the redhead. There seemed to be trouble in Paradise. Phoebe wondered what had happened between the pair.

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

Daley carried a blanket outside to the Halliwells' backyard and spread it over a patch of grass. She glanced up at the quarter moon and allowed herself a shiver. It felt chilly, tonight. Hopefully, the ritual would not keep her outside very long.

Then she returned inside the house to fetch her tote bag. It contained materials that she would need for the ritual. Upon reaching the living room, Daley was stopped short at the sight of blue orbs floating above the floor. Seconds later, a blond-haired man in his mid-twenties appeared before her. Familiar with the sisters' whitelighter, Daley realized that she was about to meet another. "Excuse me," the sorceress demanded. "Who are you? And what are you doing here?"

Frowning, the man replied, "I'm Leo Wyatt. Wyatt's father and Piper's husband. Or soon-to-be ex-husband," he added ruefully. "Are you Wyatt's new nanny?"

Wyatt's father? Daley cursed inwardly. The last thing she needed at this moment was to deal with her charge's whitelighter father. Forcing a smile on her lips, the sorceress replied, "Yeah. I'm Donna Thompson." She held out her hand.

Mr. Wyatt shook it, as his eyes scanned the room. "Um . . . nice to meet you. I just wanted to see if Wyatt was okay. Where is he, by the way?"

"Oh he's fine," Daley answered politely. "He's in the Solarium. In his crib."

Mr. Wyatt nodded. "Should you . . . uh, be leaving him alone right now? Especially after that last attack?"

"Don't worry. Wyatt's safe." Daley sighed inwardly. "I'll show you." She led Leo to the Solarium, where they found the infant sitting in the middle of his crib and chewing on a blue rubber ball. "See? He's safe. In fact, I had placed a protection ward on his crib." She pointed to a sprig of mallow that she had tied to one of the crib's bars. "In case another daemon or someone else tries to take him."

The whitelighter's face turned red. "Oh . . . uh . . . I see. Uh, where are Piper and her sisters?"

"Piper is at the nightclub, and the other two are at some business party." Daley took advantage of his embarrassed state. "So, is there anything else you want to know?"

Mr. Wyatt's next words took her by surprise. "No, but I guess you can leave for the night."

"Excuse me?"

He continued, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be rude. It's just now that I'm here, I can take care of Wyatt, until his mother returns."

Time to get rid of this dude! As she struggled to remain calm, Daley decided to use Piper's marital status against the interloper. "Well, normally I would be happy to oblige, but I don't think that Piper would be happy if I turned Wyatt over to you, without her knowledge."

Mr. Wyatt opened his mouth, "Well, she didn't tell me . . ."

Daley continued, "And to be honest, I'm getting paid extra for tonight." She paused dramatically. "And I could really use the money."

Fortunately, Wyatt's whitelighter father crumbled under her pleas. "I . . . uh . . . I understand." He bent over the crib to plant a light kiss on Wyatt's head. "I guess you seem to be doing okay." He glanced around once more. "So, I'll leave him to you." He smiled and offered his hand to the sorceress. "Nice meeting you."

"Same here," Daley replied, as she shook his hand. Then to her utter relief, Mr. Wyatt orbed out of the room. Daley heaved a relieved sigh. Finally! She then smiled at Wyatt and returned to her task.


END OF PART XII

Saturday, August 28, 2010

"KICK ASS" (2010) Photo Gallery



Below are photos from Matthew Vaughn's recent spoof on superhero movies, "KICK ASS". The movie starred Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloë Grace Moretz, Mark Strong and Nicholas Cage:


"KICK ASS" (2010) Photo Gallery














































Friday, August 27, 2010

Top Ten (10) Favorite Episodes of "BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER"



Below is a list of my ten favorite episodes of "BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER" (1997-2003), which starred Sarah Michelle Gellar:


TOP TEN (10) FAVORITE EPISODES OF “BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER”



1. (5.07) "Fool For Love" - After a common vampire nearly kills her with her own stake, Buffy turns to Spike to learn how other Slayers met their end so as not to make further mistakes and in turn, discovers a lot about his past history as one of the undead.





2. (6.03) "After Life" - While Buffy deals with being alive again, the Scooby Gang fights a demon that appeared as a consequence of resurrecting her in this haunting episode.





3. (7.17) "Lies My Parents Told Me" - While the gang investigates Spike's trigger; Principal Wood and Giles team up to get rid of the vampire without Buffy's knowledge.





4. (4.08) "Pangs" - Angel secretly arrives in Sunnydale to protect Buffy; who is attempting to prepare a perfect Thanksgiving, while dealing with the hostile spirit of a Chumash warrior. A very funny episode.





5. (7.08) "Sleeper" - After a newly risen and slain vampire named Holden has told Buffy that Spike is his sire, she investigates the possibility that the vampire might be killing again.





6. (3.07) "Revelations" - Gwendolyn Post shows up as Faith's new Watcher and warns the Scoobies that a demon is looking for the Glove of Myneghon, a powerful gauntlet.





7. (3.08) "Lovers Walk" - A lovelorn Spike returns to Sunnydale and kidnaps Willow and Xander. Oz and Cordelia discover them kissing, while attempting a rescue.





8. (6.18) "Entropy" - In a pivotal episode, Anya seeks vengeance on Xander after he had abandoned her at the wedding altar, and finds comfort with Spike; Willow and Tara decide to reconcile by arranging a date.





9. (4.09) "Something Blue" - A spell by a lovelorn Willow goes awry; blinding Giles, making Xander a literal demon magnet, and causing Buffy and Spike to fall in love and get engaged in this very funny episode.





10. (2.19) "I Only Have Eyes For You" - In this emotionally charged episode, a ghost possesses high school boys and Buffy; while his school teacher-lover possesses high school girls and Angelus.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"The Power of One" [PG-13] - 11/20




"THE POWER OF ONE"

PART XI

Daley took a deep breath, as she faced the oval mirror inside her bedroom. Today marked the beginning of the first quarter moon. The day in which she will, hopefully, be the possessor of the most powerful magic in existence. Thanks to a nine month-old baby. Once she possesses Wyatt's powers, no being in existence - human, daemon or otherwise - would be able to prevent her from achieving her goals.

After another gust of breath escaped from her mouth, Daley turned away from the mirror. She donned her coat, grabbed her purse and tote bag, and left. Several minutes later, she was driving along the streets of San Francisco, contemplating on the turmoil inside the Halliwell household, yesterday. And how close her plans for tonight were nearly stonewalled . . . .

---------

Last night at 6:45 pm . . . "I'm sorry, Piper, but I can't," the youngest Halliwell declared. "I've been invited by Harry to attend his parents' party, tomorrow night."

Daley, who had just finished babysitting Wyatt for the day, hovered nearby, as she donned her coat. She realized that Paige had referred to Harry McNeill, the younger brother of that red-haired witch she had met the other day.

A rueful expression appeared on Piper's face. "Dammit! I guess I'll have to ask Phoebe if she won't mind babysitting Wyatt for two days in a row. She doesn't have anything planned with Jason for tomorrow night, does she?"

"As far as I know, she doesn't."

At that moment, Phoebe burst through the front door. "Hi everyone!" She glanced at her two sisters. "What's the big powwow?"

Reluctantly, Piper replied, "I just found out that Paige is going to a party, tomorrow night. On the same night that I need a babysitter for Wyatt." She turned to the younger woman with hopeful eyes. "You'll be free, won't you?"

Phoebe regarded her older sister with pity. "Oh honey, I'm sorry. But I'm also going to a party, tomorrow night. Jason is taking me to some cocktail party at the McNeills."

Surprise illuminated Piper's eyes. "So is Paige. She's going to the same party."

Phoebe frowned at the youngest sister. "You are?"

"Of course!" It became Paige's turn to frown. "I'm surprised that you're even going. Why would the McNeills invite Jason to one of their parties?"

Resentment flashed in Phoebe's dark eyes. "What do you mean by that?"

"C'mon Pheebs! This is Jason, we're talking about! Olivia's old ex. He's about as popular with her family, as Cole used to be with ours."

Phoebe opened her mouth to retort. "You make Jason sound like . . ."

"I'll help," Daley interrupted, taking the others by surprise. "I'll babysit Wyatt, tomorrow night."

Piper regarded the nanny with grateful eyes. "Oh, would you? I don't want to interfere with anything you might have planned for tomorrow night."

"I don't have . . ."

Phoebe quickly interrupted, "Oh, but Donna won't have to babysit for tomorrow night. If it's that important to you, Piper, I'll stay home and take care of Wyatt."

Piper frowned. "Well . . . I don't know. What about Jason?"

To Daley's dismay, Phoebe dismissed the notion with a wave of her hand. "I can call Jason and tell him to go alone. I'm sure that he won't mind."

"Well . . ." Piper began.

Daley realized that her plans for Wyatt were in serious danger. She had originally planned to take a chance and conduct the ritual at the fall of dusk - in the late afternoon. But when she realized that none of the Halliwells would be in the house tomorrow night, Daley saw a chance to conduct the ritual later at night. When the power of the first quarter moon would be complete. And now, Phoebe Halliwell threatened to ruin her plans.

"If you need a babysitter for tomorrow night," Daley finally said, "I'm available. After all, it's my job."

The three sisters stared at the nanny. The latter noticed suspicion brewing in Phoebe's eyes. Even Piper seemed slightly uneasy. "Well . . . I don't want to ruin any plans you might have for tomorrow night," she said.

"What plans?" Daley said with a shrug of her shoulders. "The last time I had any plans was for Halloween. And before that . . ." She paused dramatically. "Let's just say that I lead a rather quiet life."

Paige cheerfully added, "Well, that settles everything. Phoebe and I can go to the party."

Piper continued to regard Daley in a thoughtful manner. "I . . . guess. Would, uh . . ." She paused, and Daley found herself wishing for the ability to read minds. A sigh left Piper's mouth. "Yeah, I guess everything is settled. Since you'll be working after hours, would a higher pay rate do?"

Daley struggled not to show her relief. "That would be fine," she said with a polite smile. "What time do you want me to show up?"

"Around seven would be okay." As Piper spoke, Daley shot a quick glance at the middle sister. Phoebe did not look at all pleased. Which made Daley feel a whole lot better.

The sorceress gave the oldest Halliwell a bright smile. "Seven o'clock, it is."

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

Present time . . . Daley inserted her car into a parking space, in front of the Halliwells' salmon-colored house. She switched off the engine and sighed. Time to begin her last day as Donna Thompson. After tonight, she would no longer have to play the double role of the struggling nanny, using the name of a dead woman.

Memories of the real Donna Thompson assailed Daley's thoughts. Donna had been an old friend of Marc's . . . and in her opinion, a real loser.

Upon Donna's release from prison, Marc had suggested they use her as a runner for Daley's narcotic operation. Despite the sorceress' misgivings about the parolee's drug habit, she had agreed to give the other woman a chance. For a while, Marc's faith in the real Donna seemed solid. Daley assigned the other woman the job of shipping Methcathinone from her ranch outside of San Rafael to San Francisco. Within a year, Donna had performed well enough to allow the ex-con to transfer to a longer route - from San Francisco to San Diego. It took less than a year for Donna to finally screw up.

Daley and Marc had learned that Donna invited a former cellmate to accompany her on a 'Cat' run to San Diego. The former cellmate turned out to be a police informant for the DEA. Even worse, Donna had been sampling some of Daley's product, when she encountered her old friend.

The DEA had arrested Donna just outside San Francisco. Using a little magic, Daley managed to retrieve her shipment from the DEA's evidence room. Without any evidence, Donna ended up being acquitted from any charges of drug trafficking. Realizing that her runner's drug habit might be a risk, Daley ordered Marc to substitute Donna's 'Cat' capsules with drain cleaner. It took the other woman less than one hour to die. And within two months, Daley assumed her identity. When the occasion demanded. Like this latest situation with the Halliwell family.

Soon, Donna's name would no longer be of any use to Daley. Since she was on the verge of becoming the most powerful sorceress of all time. And hopefully, the biggest drug distributor in the Western Hemisphere . . . if all went well, tonight. Daley opened the door and climbed out of the car. As she made her way toward the Halliwells' narrow stoop, a satisfied smile curved her mouth.

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

Olivia glanced up from the stack of files on her desk, as Deborah Liu, a Forensics specialist for the Department, strode toward her direction. She noticed the large yellow envelope in the other woman's hand and asked, "Is that for me?"

Deborah paused and stared at Olivia. "Huh?"

"The envelope in your hand. Is it for me?"

Shaking her head, Deborah replied, "Oh no, it's for Marcus. Regarding the Benson case." She continued past Olivia's desk and delivered the envelope to the redhead's colleague, Marcus Anderson. The two chatted briefly, before Deborah turned away and retraced her steps.

The moment the Forensics specialist came near Olivia's desk, the latter demanded, "What about that glass I had given you, yesterday? Any prints?"

Deborah sighed heavily. "For God's sake, Olivia! Stop worrying! Forensics will deal with it before the end of the day. Or maybe tomorrow."

"I have to wait that long?"

"Yes, Olivia!" Deborah looked slightly annoyed. "Your glass is going to have to wait. My guys have a lot of stuff to examine."

Olivia pleaded, "Could you start on my glass, first?"

Now openly annoyed, Deborah replied, "I'd love to, but I have a computer disc to examine for Giamarco and a .44 bullet for Howard. You'll just have to be . . . patient. Okay?"

Realizing that she had no choice in the matter, Olivia nodded. Reluctantly. "Just let me know about the results of the glass, as soon as possible," she added.

The Forensics investigator rolled her eyes and muttered something unintelligible - probably uncomplimentary - and moved on. Olivia leaned back into her chair and sighed.

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

"Have you proposed to Cecile, yet?"

Mrs. McNeill's question took Andre by surprise. He glanced up from the piece of leather that he held in his hands. "Huh? Oh . . . uh, not yet. I haven't had a chance to be alone with her, yet. But don't worry." He flashed a reassuring smile at the elderly woman. "I plan to ask her, tonight."

The elderly witch regarded him with thoughtful eyes. "You seem different, today. As if . . . you seem quite certain that Cecile will say yes. What happened?"

"Cole," Andre simply answered. "He told me the reason why Cecile has been so distant, lately. And why she wants to break up. It seems that she's ready for marriage. And she thinks that I'm not."

"Oh! I see." A smile illuminated Mrs. McNeill's wrinkled face. "Well, it should work all right in the end. Once you present her with the ring . . ."

Andre sighed. "I only hope that you're right. Even if Cecile does accept my proposal, there's her family to deal with."

"What do you mean? Vivian adores you."

With a shrug, the houngan added, "Cecile's mama may feel that way about me, but I wish I could say the same about the rest of the Dubois family. Sometimes, I think they enjoy throwing my past back into my face. I guess I only have myself to blame."

Mrs. McNeill absent-mindedly removed the piece of leather from Andre's grasp and began to finger it. "Perhaps you do. But . . . how long will Claude and the others keep bringing up your past? Forever? I mean, how can you have another chance in life, when they won't allow you to have one?"

A snicker escaped from Andre's mouth. "You know, that reminds me of something Cecile's daddy once told me, after we had started dating. He told me about the Law of Spirit. My grandmother also told me about this. It's basically the moral law in Vodoun - 'Be truthful; do good.' And an initiate who adheres to the Law of Spirit will be able to grow and develop spiritually. They also told me that violators of the law are punished severely by the Vodou and the Ancestors in direct proportion to their level of violation. Additionally, initiates are held accountable for their conduct not only in this life, but are also judged after death. You ever heard of 'The Song of the Divine Judgement'?" Mrs. McNeill shook her head. Andre continued, "'The world is a place of Trail. At the gates of the land of the dead You will pass before a searching judge, His justice is true and he will examine your feet, He will know how to find every stain, Whether visible or hidden under the skin, If you have fallen on the way he will know. If the judge finds no stains on your feet Open your belly to joy, for you have overcome And your belly is clean.'" He added with a humorless laugh, "Only, I doubt very much that my life is spotless enough for a searching judge to accept me into the land of the dead."

"Andre," the elderly witch said with a sigh, "I doubt there is one human being in existence, whose life is spotless. Including me." She paused. "You know, this 'Law of Spirit' reminds me of Ammut, the Egyptian daemon and the Hall of Maat. You know, the statuette we had found, a few days ago?"

Andre chuckled. "Yeah, I remember talking about it just a few days ago with Cecile, Cole and Olivia."

Mrs. McNeill continued, "As for Cecile, I wouldn't worry. If what Cole says is true, she still loves you very much. Cecile doesn't strike me as the type who would cave in to family pressure."

Silence filled the shop. Andre unexpectedly found himself thinking about Cole's past relationship with the Halliwells. The houngan hoped and prayed that his relationship with Cecile and her family would not suffer the same fate. He glanced at the leather parchment in the older woman's hands. "Have you figured out what that is?" he asked.

She turned the leather parchment over, examining it. "Could be some kind of Native American artifact. Perhaps a piece of hide. Judging by these hieroglyphics, it might be an account of someone's life. I have an old friend who could help me find out." Then she changed the subject. "Speaking of artifacts, did any of you learn anything more about Caspiel's amulet?"

"According to Olivia, this Donna Thompson didn't have it when she and the others had dropped by the Halliwells' house. Or she could have . . ." His cell phone rang. Andre plucked from his jacket pocket and answered the call. "Hello?"

A familiar voice replied, "Andre? It's me, Janet. I got that information that you wanted." The houngan immediately recognized Janet Colbert, a Tulane law student, who also worked as an operative at his detective agency. Although not yet a Vodoun priestess, Janet happened to be an experienced and talented magic practitioner. "From what Bobby found out," she continued, "there's a woman named Esmerelda Ross, who happens to live in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She might be the person you're looking for." She paused. "By the way, isn't that were we found the body of that daemon, a couple of months, ago?"

"Sounds familiar," Andre replied. "And thanks, cherie. Tell Bobby that he did a good job."

Janet replied, "Yeah, I will." She paused. "Hey, have you asked Cecile, yet?"

"Not yet. Hopefully, tonight." Andre added, "Now, get back to work. I'll probably see you in about another week or so." He finally hung up.

Mrs. McNeill stared at him. "What was that about?"

Taking a deep breath, Andre replied, "A lead. Remember me telling you about some witch who might be connected to that Nairn daemon?" The elderly woman nodded. "Well, I think I know who she might be."

-----------

Daley, accompanied by Marc, strode into the warehouse that she owned near the San Francisco Bay's docks. She glanced approvingly at the stacks of crates that surrounded them. "Not bad," she murmured. "Not bad at all. I guess that you managed to package them all in bottles?"

"Yeah. All of the 'Cat' has been packaged." Marc heaved a sigh. "There's been a lot of overtime this past week, since this shipment is the largest yet. And at such short no . . ."

Daley waved aside his misgivings. "Don't worry. It'll all be worth it, in the end." She walked around, with Marc close at her heels. "Once I have that kid's powers, I'll send the crates to the rendezvous points for the others to make the exchange. Tony, Gloria and the others - they are at their locations, are they?"

"Yes ma'am."

Nodding, Daley added, "Good."

Her companion added, "What time will you be doing the ritual?"

Daley sighed. "I don't know. I can't guarantee what time when Piper and the others will be leaving. It'll probably be around eight or eight-thirty. When I have Wyatt's powers, I'll come back here." Daley shot a wry smile at her assistant. "Ought to be fun."

Anticipation and greed gleamed in Marc's eyes. "And profitable. Hell, I reckon we'll be richer than ever." He returned Daley's smile. "Maybe you'll end up running the cartel."

Daley allowed herself one last glance at the crates. "That's the whole idea."


END OF PART XI

Monday, August 23, 2010

"EMMA" (2009) Photo Gallery



Below are photos from the 2009 BBC miniseries, "EMMA". Directed by Jim O'Hanlon, the miniseries stars Romola Garai, Jonny Lee Miller and Michael Gambon:


"EMMA" (2009) Photo Gallery