Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"THE KINGDOM" (2007) Photo Gallery



Below is a gallery featuring photos from the new political thriller, "THE KINGDOM", directed by Peter Berg and starring Jamie Foxx:



"THE KINGDOM" (2007) Photo Gallery











































"The Power of One" [PG-13] - 17/20




"THE POWER OF ONE"

PART XVII

The four people materialized in the hallway, outside of Olivia's apartment. "Home sweet home," the redhead murmured, as she inserted her key into the apartment door's lock.

The moment Olivia opened the door, Andre grabbed his girlfriend's arm. "Hey Cecile, could we talk for a minute? Alone?"

Cecile stared at him. "Sure."

"Let's go outside." As the couple headed for the elevator, Andre glanced over his shoulder and saw Cole beamed out of the hallway. It never occurred to him to question why the half-daemon had not followed Olivia inside her apartment.

The moment they entered the elevator, Cecile turned to Andre. "So, what do you want to talk about?"

"What we were discussing, last night," Andre replied. "About . . ." The doors slid open and two people entered the elevator. Unfortunately for Andre, they accompanied the couple all of the way to the ground floor. Once outside the apartment building, Andre led Cecile a few yards down the street.

Cecile said, "Okay, we're alone. What were you going to tell me?"

Taking a deep breath, Andre faced his girlfriend. "Remember what we were talking about, last night? About you wanting more from our relationship?"

A sigh left Cecile's mouth. "Yeah, I remember. Look, can you just forget what I had said? I've been doing a lot of thinking over the past three days, and I realize that I . . . I don't want to lose you." Her dark eyes bored into his. "I love you too much, Andre. And to be honest, I didn't really want to break up with you. But I was afraid that our relationship was going no where."

Andre contemplated Cecile's words for a stuck his hands into his jacket pockets and heaved a mournful sigh. "That's too bad."

"What do you mean?" Cecile frowned.

"Since you're okay with the way things are between us, I guess . . ." Andre paused dramatically.

"You guess what?"

Andre paused dramatically. Then he reached for the small velvet box inside his jacket pocket. "I guess I might as well return this . . ." He pulled out the box. ". . . engagement ring to Olivia's shop."

Cecile's eyes grew wide with shock. "Engage . . . Are you asking . . .?"

Andre held up his hand to silence her. "Before you say anything else, let me finish." He took a deep breath and snapped open the box. Inside sat the silver 17th century ring that he had purchased. "Cecile," he began, inciting a gasp from the priestess' mouth, ". . . uh, will you marry me?"

The priestess continued to stare at the ring. "Oh God! I . . . is this because you had found out that I . . .?"

"This has nothing to do with what you were planning to do," Andre firmly assured her. "I had been planning to propose for practically a month, now. I've just been too busy looking for the right ring. And I found it. Inside Olivia's new shop."

Cecile continued to stare at the ring with awe. "How long have they known about this? Olivia and Cole, I mean?"

"A few days." A slight dread crept into Andre's heart. He realized that Cecile had not answered. "Um, about my proposal . . ."

A wide smile curved Cecile's lips. "The answer is yes," she crowed.

"Huh?"

Still smiling, Cecile threw her arms around Andre's neck and gave him a passionate kiss. "Yes, you big dummy! I'll marry you. Are you deaf, or what?"

Of course he had heard. But Andre also thought that his imagination had played a trick on him. He slowly allowed himself a wide smile, before returning Cecile's kiss with one just as passionate. By the time their lips had separated, both were breathing heavily. Then Andre removed the ring from the box and gently slid it upon one of Cecile's finger. "Don't worry," he said in a quiet voice. "I hear just fine." Despite the dim light from a nearby street light, Andre could see the happiness shining in Cecile's eyes. Her expression matched exactly how he felt.

-----------

"Is Wyatt asleep?" Leo asked his ex-wife.

Piper coolly replied. "Yeah. It took a while, but he finally fell asleep." She heaved a sigh and sat down in one of the kitchen chairs. "Is there anything else you need?"

"Yes, there is," Leo shot back. "Why didn't you tell me that you had hired a nanny for Wyatt?"

The oldest Charmed One gave her former husband a cold stare. "Why should I? You weren't around, Leo. Remember? You had decided to turn your back on your family, to pursue your . . . destiny. Why should I let you know what was going on? You gave up that right when you had decided to join the Elders Council."

"For God's sake, Piper! Not only am I Wyatt's father, I'm an Elder, too! This . . . what happened to him could have been prevented, if you had informed the Council about this Bakker woman you had hired!"

Rolling her eyes, Piper retorted, "Are you saying that I had to get permission from the Elders before hiring someone to baby sit Wyatt? Whatever happened to free will?"

Leo shouted, "I didn't mean it . . ." He sighed and lowered his voice. "I didn't mean to say that only the Council can approve who will be Wyatt's nanny. But I'm part of the Council, Piper. You could have told me."

"This argument is going nowhere, Leo." Piper stood up and headed toward one of the cabinets. "Unless you have something else to say, I suggest you leave."

"Piper . . ." Leo hesitated. "Look, if you need a babysitter for Wyatt that badly, I'll do it. Maybe this will give me the opportunity to spend more time with him."

Although a retort had formed on her lips, Piper decided not to express it. She realized that she could not argue with Leo's suggestion. Granted, they could no longer share a bed . . . or a life together. At least this situation will not deprive Wyatt of a father. "Okay," she murmured. "Sounds fair. I'll probably need a babysitter for next weekend. That is . . . unless Phoebe and Paige are free." She paused before adding, "You better go."

"Piper . . ."

"Good-night, Leo."

The whitelighter-turned-Elder gave her a curt nod, before he orbed out of the kitchen. And out of her life for the umpteenth time. Piper sighed, as she struggled to hold back the tears.

---------

Olivia heard the front door close. She walked into the living room and found Cecile grinning happily, while staring at her hand. "You're back." She stared at her friend's uber-happy expression. "What happened to you?"

"Huh?" Cecile glanced up.

"You look as if someone had slipped a happy pill in your drink." Olivia glanced at Cecile's hand and noticed a small, silver object gleaming from one finger. "Oh Goddess! Is that . . .?"

Cecile waved her hand in front of Olivia's face. "An engagement ring! Andre had just asked me to marry him!"

Olivia squealed with delight as she and Cecile enveloped each other into a bear hug. "Ohmigod!" Olivia said. "It's crazy. I've been expecting this ever since Andre first told me that he planned to propose. And yet . . . I don't know. It's still feels so unexpected."

"I can understand," Cecile commented. "Considering what's happened in the past two days. With that Bakker woman. We've all been distracted."

With a sigh, Olivia shook her head. "To be honest, I rather envy you."

"Getting engaged?" Cecile shrugged her shoulders. "Hey, it might happen to you, someday. Come to think of it," she paused, "it has happened. With Richard."

A bitter chuckle escaped from Olivia's mouth. "Yeah, and we all know how that ended. I guess that when it comes to the men in my life, I don't seem to have much luck. One boyfriend dumps me, one gets killed by my crazy aunt and the third is so traumatized by his divorce that he doesn't even want to think about another marriage."

"You don't know that," Cecile protested. "I doubt that Cole's feelings are permanent."

Again, Olivia sighed. "Look, I'm not eager to rush into marriage or anything like that. On the other hand, I wouldn't avoid it, either. I just don't want to go through with . . . that again."

Cecile demanded, "Go through with what?"

"The frustration of waiting for Cole to be willing to take our relationship another step," Olivia continued. "It was bad enough wondering if he ever wanted to be more than just friends. I got impatient and ended up flirting with Paul Margolin. With disastrous results."

"Be patient, cherie. That's all you can ever do."

Olivia rolled her eyes and caustically retorted, "Oh, you mean like you were with Andre?"

Cecile shot her a dark glare. "Well then, let me put it another way. At least try to be patient with Cole. Sooner or later, he'll get over his fears. After all, you did." Olivia glared at her. "Remember your break-up with Adrian Chambers in college? Took you quite a while to get over him."

"Please don't remind me of that bastard."

As she began to fiddle with her engagement ring, Cecile continued, "All I'm saying is . . . give Cole a chance. Don't make the same mistake that I nearly made. Okay?"

---------

Phoebe glanced at the clock on the wall and sighed. It read one-thirty. In other words, it was time to cut her Saturday working day, short. She reluctantly collected her jacket, purse and briefcase and headed toward the door. As she opened it, she found her boyfriend and employer standing beyond the doorway. "Jason!"

The young billionaire gave her a dim smile. "Phoebe. Heading home? I'm surprised that you're even here. You usually don't work on Saturdays."

"Yeah, I uh . . . had some work to finish. So, I thought I might as well come in today and get it over with." She paused, desperately trying to avoid Jason's stare. "So, I haven't heard from you, since Thursday night."

Jason glanced away, as if he was too embarrassed to meet Phoebe's eyes. "Uh, I've been busy." Then he heaved a large sigh and faced the Charmed One. "And I guess I've been a little pissed off, as well."

"Jason, I told you there was a family emergency!"

"Phoebe, there always is a family emergency! Even Elise is beginning to complain about them!"

Oh God! "What do you . . .?" Frustrated, Phoebe broke off, as she tried to gather her senses. "Are you saying that I'm not entitled to family emergencies?"

"Phoebe, you and Paige had disappeared from the party for over two hours," Jason retorted sharply. "Without saying a word to me! I had to find out about your 'little emergency' from Jack McNeill!"

Phoebe protested, "But it was a family emergency! Wyatt . . ."

". . . who has a babysitter. A babysitter who could have dealt with whatever emergency that popped up!" Jason finished. "Or called Piper."

Again, Phoebe glanced at the clock. One thirty-six. "Jason, it was a family emergency. I'm sorry that I forgot to tell you beforehand, but we . . . Paige and I were thinking of Wyatt. What else can I say?"

A brief pause followed before Jason hung his head down low and murmured, "You can say that you'll accompany me to Hong Kong. And stay with me, for a while."

"Huh?"

Jason continued, "I'll be returning to Hong Kong, early next month. I should be back after the New Year. I thought . . . well, that this time you would stay with me."

The proposal took Phoebe by surprise. Then again, she should have known better. Jason had asked her this very same question about six months ago. Then, she had rejected his offer and ended up enduring a four-month separation from him. And although she hated the idea of being apart from Jason for so long, she had family obligations to deal with. Namely the Power of Three.

"I . . ." Phoebe glanced into Jason's eyes and realized that she did not have the heart to reject his offer. "I'll think about it," she finally said.

Disappointment flickered in his eyes. "In other words - no. Right?"

Phoebe gently cupped Jason's jaw. "In other words . . . no, for now. But I'm seriously thinking about changing my mind."

A wry smile twisted Jason's mouth. "Okay. I guess that'll have to do. At least for now." He turned away and paused. "At least let me keep that date we had made for tonight."

"Could we change it to tomorrow night?" Phoebe planted a light kiss on his cheek. "I think I might catch up on my sleep, tonight." Jason nodded and walked away.

Then Phoebe took a deep breath, and finally left her office. She headed toward the elevator. When she finally reached the underground parking lot, her eyes scanned the area for any strangers. The only people she saw were two employees from the Sports Department.

Phoebe then proceeded across the parking lot and toward her car. Upon reaching the latter, she unlocked the driver's door, opened it and dumped her belongings inside. Before she could climb into the driver's seat, the Charmed One felt a sharp prick on the side of her neck. Phoebe fervently groped her neck and pulled out a small dart. As everything faded to black, it flashed through her mind that Daley Bakker had actually fallen for Andre's trap.


END OF PART XVII

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"THE TOWN" (2010) Photo Gallery



Below are photos from "THE TOWN", Ben Affleck's adaptation of Chuck Hogan's novel, "Prince of Thieves". Also starring him, the movie's cast includes Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, and Jeremy Renner:


"THE TOWN" (2010) Photo Gallery








































Saturday, September 25, 2010

"CHARMED": Demons and Humanity




"CHARMED": Demons and Humanity

You know, as much as I like the Season 2 episode, "Apocalypse, Not", there was something about it that reminded me of an aspect of "CHARMED" I dislike. Read the following:


[Scene: Manor. Attic. Phoebe and Piper are there. Phoebe's flipping through the Book Of Shadows.]
Piper: Wait, stop right there.
Phoebe: The demon of cruelty.
Piper: Hardens the heart, corrodes the soul...
Phoebe: And is a woman.


and;

Phoebe: Okay, so no offense to the Whitelighter but we're going with the Demon of Anarchy, right?
Prue: Yes, the Demon of Anarchy.



Demons of anarchy and cruelty? "CHARMED" is the only supernatural show I know that blames non-humans or demons on human aggression. Humans are supposed to be naturally inclined to more positive traits, but when it comes to our negative traits, the show's writers managed to drag a demon, warlock or some other magical entity from the Book of Shadow and place the blame on his/her. According to the "Apocalypse, Not" episode, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were responsible for the Cuban Missile Crisis and other events that featured aggression. I supposed the writer forgot to mention that in Season One's "Which Prue Is It Anyway?", human aggression was blamed on the Lords of War - human beings with supernatural abilities.

By Season Seven or Eight, Leo admitted that humans are "neutral", but demons are automatically evil. Well, that's great. That means the Charmed Ones still have demons around to blame for human negative traits. What is it about this series that it rarely allowed human beings to accept responsibility for their own dark deeds? War is blamed on demons or some other supernatural beings. And so are other negative traits. I never saw this in shows like "BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER".

I am not saying that "CHARMED" never portrayed human evil or negativity. But it rarely acknowledged that humans could be just as evil or monstrous as the demonic adversaries that the Halliwells had faced. And my question is . . . why?

Friday, September 24, 2010

"EMMA" (2009) Review




"EMMA" (2009) Review

After a great deal of delay, I finally sat down to watch ”EMMA”, the latest adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1815 novel. First seen on the BBC during the fall of 2009, this four-part miniseries had been adapted by Sandy Welch and directed by Jim O’Hanlon.

”EMMA” followed the story of Emma Woodhouse, the younger daughter of a wealthy landowner in Regency England. As a dominant figure in the provincial world of fictional Highbury, Emma believed that she was a skilled matchmaker and repeatedly attempted to meddle in the love lives of others. After successfully arranging the recent marriage of her governess, Miss Anne Taylor, to another local landowner named Mr. Weston; Emma set out to make a poor young boarder at a local girls’ school named Harriet Smith her new protégé. Unfortunately, her plans to find a new husband for Harriet ended in disaster.

I have been aware of other adaptations of ”EMMA” for the past decade-and-a-half, including the 1996 Miramax movie that starred Gwyneth Paltrow and the 1996 ITV version, starring Kate Beckinsale. And considering that I quickly became a major fan of the Paltrow version, I found myself curious to see how this recent four-part miniseries would compare. Many fans seemed to believe that the miniseries format allow this version to be superior over the others. After all, the format allowed screenwriter Sandy Welch to follow Austen’s novel with more detail. Other fans still view the Miramax version as the one superior to others. There are fans who viewed the Beckinsale version as the best. And many have a high regard for the modern day version, ”CLUELESS”, which starred Alicia Silverstone. And there are even those who believe that the 1972 miniseries, which starred Doran Godwin as the most faithful, and therefore the best. My opinion? I will admit that I became a fan of this miniseries, just as quickly as I became a fan of the Paltrow movie.

One of the aspects that I love about ”EMMA” was the main character’s backstory featured in the miniseries’ first five to ten minutes. Most fans of Austen’s novel frowned upon this introduction, considering that it was not featured in the novel. Not only did I enjoy it, I believe the sequence provided a possible explanation for Mr. Woodhouse’s agoraphobia and fear of losing his daughters, Emma and the older Isabella. I also enjoyed the miniseries’ photography. First, cinematographer Adam Suschitzky shot the series with rich colors – mainly bold and pastels. Also, both Suschitzky and director Jim O’Hanlon did an excellent job in filming the series with some provocative shots – many of them featuring windows. One of my favorite shots featured moments in Episode Two in which O’Hanlon, Suschitzky and film editor Mark Thornton cleverly conveyed the change of seasons from winter to early spring. Contributing to the miniseries’ colorful look were costumes supervised by Amanda Keable. They perfectly blended with Suschitzky’s photography.

I confess that I have never read ”EMMA”. I hope to do so in the near future. I could say this is the reason why I had no problems with the changes featured in Sandy Welch’s screenplay, whereas a good number of Austen’s fans did. The biggest complaint seemed to be that Welch did not convey much of the author’s language or dialogue. I guess I could not care less, especially after I had learned that Emma Thompson’s screenplay for the 1995 adaptation of ”SENSE AND SENSIBILITY” had very little of Austen’s dialogue. I believe that Welch did an excellent job in adapting ”EMMA”. She (along with stars Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller) captured the chemistry and wit of Emma and Mr. Knightley with some very funny banter. The screenplay also featured some comic moments that either left me smiling or laughing heartily. Those scenes included Mr. Elton’s attempts to woo Emma, while she drew a picture of Harriet; Mr. Woodhouse’s consistent reluctance to leave Hatfield (most of the time); and Emma’s first meeting with Mr. Elton’s new bride, the obnoxious and less wealthy Augusta Hawkins Elton. But Emma’s hostile soliloquy, following her meeting with Mrs. Elton, left me in stitches. I thought it was one of the funniest moments in the entire miniseries. But ”EMMA” was not all laughs. Welch’s screenplay also featured some poignant and romantic moments between Emma and Mr. Knightley. And this is the only version of the Austen novel that truly conveyed the poignant and warm relationship between Emma and her father.

However, I did have some problems with ”EMMA”. Most viewers seemed to be of the opinion that Episodes One and Two were a bit off or that they barely captured the novel’s spirit. Most of my problems with the miniseries stemmed from Episode Four, the last one. There seemed to be something heavy-handed about the Box Hill sequence and I do not know whether to blame the actors, O’Hanlon’s direction or Welch’s screenplay. This heavy-handedness could have been deliberate, due to the sequence occurring on a hot day. But I am not certain. Some of the dialogue struck me as a bit clunky – especially those moments in which Frank Churchill and Mr. Weston tried to use clever words to praise Emma. Rupert Evans’ portrayal of Frank in this scene struck me as oppressive. And I barely missed Emma’s insult to Miss Bates, due to Romola Garai’s performance. She almost threw away the line. I realize that it was Jane Fairfax who refused to see Emma, following the Box Hill picnic in the novel, instead of Miss Bates. Which is exactly what Welch added in her screenplay. Pity. I think it would have been more dramatic if the screenwriter had not been so faithful to Austen’s novel and allow Miss Bates to reject Emma’s presence following the picnic. Just as writer-director Douglas McGrath did in his adaptation in the 1996 Miramax film. And Welch’s screenplay never allowed viewers to witness Harriet Smith’s reaction to Emma and Mr. Knightley’s engagement . . . or her reconciliation with Robert Martin.

Despite any misgivings I might have about ”EMMA”, I really enjoyed it. And a great deal of my enjoyment came from Romola Garai’s portrayal of the titled character. Despite a few moments of garrulous mannerisms, I found her performance to be a delight. Her Emma Woodhouse did not seem to be that much of a meddler – except in regard to Harriet’s relationship with Robert Martin. But she did inject her performance with an arrogance that usually comes from a privileged youth that believes he or she is always right. And I absolutely adored her hostile rant against the newly arrived Mrs. Elton. Not only did she have a strong chemistry with Rupert Evans (Frank Churchill), but also with Michael Gambon, who portrayed Mr. Woodhouse. In fact, Garai and Gambon effectively conveyed a tender daughter-father relationship. Yet, her chemistry with Jonny Lee Miller surprisingly struck the strongest chord. I really enjoyed the crackling banter between them and their developing romance. Most fans had complained about her penchant for being a bit too expressive with her eyes. That did not bother me one bit. However, I found one moment in her performance to be over-the-top – namely the scene in which Emma expressed dismay at leaving Mr. Woodhouse alone in order to marry Mr. Knightley.

Speaking of the owner of Donwell, many fans of the novel had expressed dismay when Jonny Lee Miller was cast in the role of George Knightley. Despite Miller’s previous experience with Jane Austen in two adaptations of ”MANSFIELD PARK”, most fans believed he could not do justice to the role. Many feared that he was too young for the role. I found this ironic, considering that Miller was around the same age as the literary Mr. Knightley; whereas Jeremy Northam and Mark Strong were both a few years younger than the character. After viewing the first half of Episode One, I could tell that Miller was already putting his own stamp on the role. Thanks to Miller’s performance, I found myself contemplating another possible aspect of Knightley’s character. During his proposal to Emma in Episode Four, he admitted to being highly critical. I could not help but wonder if this trait was a manifestation of some arrogance in his character. This seemed very apparent in a scene in Episode Two in which Knightley made a critical comment about Emma’s character in an insulting manner. He was lucky that she did not respond with anything stronger than a reproachful stare. Another aspect of Miller’s performance that I enjoyed was the dry wit and observant manner that he conveyed in Mr. Knightley’s character. In the end, I found his performance to be very attractive and well done.

Michael Gambon, who happens to be a favorite of mine, gave a hilarious performance as Emma’s father, Mr. Woodhouse. I have read a few complaints that Gambon seemed too robust to be portraying the character. I found this complaint rather strange. For I had no idea that one had to look sickly in order to be a hypochondriac or an agoraphobic. I suspect that Gambon used Welch’s description of Mrs. Woodhouse’s tragic death to convey his character’s agoraphobic tendencies. This gave his character a poignant twist that blended wonderfully with his comic performance. Another performance that mixed comedy with just a touch of tragedy came from Tasmin Grey, who portrayed the impoverished Miss Bates. As from being a spinster and the poor daughter of Highbury’s former vicar, Miss Bates was also a silly and verbose woman. Grey portrayed these aspects of Miss Bates’ personality with perfect comic timing. At the same time, she did a beautiful job in conveying the character’s despair and embarrassment over her poverty. Two other performances really impressed me. One belonged to Christina Cole, who portrayed the meddling and obnoxious Mrs. Augusta Elton. Her performance seemed so deliciously funny and sharp that I believed it rivaled Juliet Stevenson’s portrayal of the same character from Douglas McGrath’s film. Almost just as funny was Blake Ralston, who portrayed Highbury’s current vicar, Mr. Elton. He did a marvelous job of portraying the vicar’s lack of backbone; and a slimy and obsequious manner, while attempting to woo Emma in Episodes One and Two.

Rupert Evans did a solid job in portraying Frank Churchill’s energetic and sometimes cruel personality. Although there were times when he threatened to overdo it. Laura Pyper (Christina Cole’s co-star from the TV series ”HEX”) gave a slightly tense performance as Jane Fairfax, Miss Bates’ accomplished niece that Emma disliked. Pyper did a solid job in portraying the reticent Jane and the tension she suffered from being Frank’s secret fiancée. Louise Dylan made an amiable, yet slightly dimwitted Harriet Martin. Although there were times when her Harriet seemed more intelligent than Emma. I do not know whether or not this was deliberate on O’Hanlon’s part.

If there is one thing I can say about ”EMMA” is that it quickly became one of my favorite Jane Austen adaptations. Yes, it had its flaws. But I believe that its virtues – an excellent adaptation by Sandy Welch, beautiful photography by Adam Suschitzky and a first-rate cast led by Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller – all well directed by Jim O’Hanlon. It seemed a pity that it failed to earn an Emmy nomination for Best Miniseries. And I find it even harder to believe that ”RETURN TO CRANFORD” managed to earn one and ”EMMA” did not.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"The Power of One" [PG-13] - 16/20





"THE POWER OF ONE"

PART XVI

Scott Yi entered the squad room, the following morning, holding a brown folder. "I've dug up all the information I could find on Daley Bakker," he said, before dumping the folder on Olivia's desk. "It's not much. But then . . . her record is squeaky clean."

Olivia opened the folder and read. She learned that Daley Bakker had been born on August 3, 1966; in Oakland as Daley Anwar. Her parents were also native Californians. However, her paternal grandparents came from Alabama in the early 1930s. Anwar earned a Bachelor's Degree in Biology and Biochemistry from Calfornia State University in San Marcos in 1988; and a Master's in Biochemistry in 1990. She worked for the Bloom Pharmeceutical Company as a chemist upon earning her Master's. After three years, she left the company and opened her own herbal cosmetic company/shop called The Blue Orchid on Telegraph Road.

"Andre was right about her," Olivia said. "She's clean. Not one arrest, whatsoever. Not even for speeding." The red-haired witch continued to read the file. "She married a man some fifteen years her senior in 1990. About three years later, he dropped dead from a heart attack." Olivia gave her colleague a meaningful glance. "Heart failure at 42 years old. Naturally, Mrs. Bakker collected the insurance."

"Did her husband . . .?"

Olivia finished, "Orlando Bakker. That's his name. He owned a small pharmacy, here in the city."

"Hmmmm. And he had a heart condition?" Scott shook his head. "I bet the insurance company must have been taken by surprise."

Olivia glanced at the folder. "Maybe they were. They had investigated Mrs. Bakker's claim, stating that her husband did not have a heart condition, when he first bought his policy. But they couldn't find any traces of foul play. About six months after her husband's death, she formed The Blue Orchid. Not only does she sell herbal beauty products, she creates her own products, as well. Natural ingredients. Allegedly. Looks like her factory is located somewhere on Bayshore Boulevard."

Scott murmured, "I'll check it out."

"I don't know, Scott," Olivia said with a slight frown. "This is a private matter and I don't want to get you into trouble."

But Scott refused to deny Olivia any help. "Look, I don't mind. If this Mrs. or Ms. Bakker has that kid's powers, she might end up as a threat to a lot of people." Although a Taoist disciple, Scott also happened to be magic practitioner.

"I don't know. It's a good chance that Ms. Bakker has already abandoned her factory." Olivia paused, as she contemplated another thought. "Then again, she might still be operating. And you could find yourself in serious trouble."

Scott sat down in the chair next to her desk. "She has to kill the baby, doesn't she? To make sure that the power transfer is permanent?" Olivia nodded. "Well . . . it looks as if you might have to lure her into a trap. Because that's the only way I can see you helping that kid."

Olivia nodded. "And to lure her, we'll have to use Wyatt. But before we can allow her to get near him, we'll have to find a way to reverse the ritual."

"Allow?"

"That's right. Allow." Then she closed the file and leaned back into her chair with a sigh.

----------

The images flashed in Cecile's mind, as she recalled the objects she had found inside that blanket, last night. Objects that had formed part of an altar for Daley Bakker's ritual. Why had she used those particular objects for . . .?

"Cecile?" The elder Mrs. McNeill's voice had interrupted the young priestess' thoughts. "Is there something wrong? You seem a bit quiet."

Cecile sighed. "I was thinking of that blanket I had found at the Halliwells', last night. "You know, the one with objects for an altar."

"Oh." The elderly woman nodded. "Have you recalled something?"

In her quest to identify the ritual used to strip Wyatt of his powers, Cecile had dropped by the McNeills' house for more information. The family library possessed one of the biggest collections of books and notes on the world's mythologies . . . and on the supernatural world. So far, she and Mrs. McNeill had failed to find anything on what ritual that Daley Bakker had used. "No, I haven't. And that's the problem. I mean . . . I can think of one or two rituals for psychic transference. But they didn't require an altar like the one I had found. That altar . . . I don't know. I have the feeling that Don . . . I mean, Ms. Bakker had used a very old ritual."

"Not surprising," Mrs. McNeill commented. "Wyatt's powers are very strong." She joined Cecile in front of the bookshelf. "If she did use an old ritual, I'm surprised that she would know about it. A lot of old Celtic and Druid spells have been lost, since the early days of Christianity."

Cecile continued to peruse the bookshelf. "It's the same in Vodoun. Many of our old rituals have disappeared in the past century or so. But we still know a good number of them." She paused, as a book caught her attention. The title read "THE SUPERNATURAL WORLD OF THE IVORY COAST". "Well, this looks interesting," Cecile commented, as she pulled the book from the shelf. The publishing date inside read 1911. "Have you ever read this?"

The elderly woman took the book from the young priestess and stared at the cover. "Oh that! I remember Ken's father - my father-in-law - showing me this book, years ago. He had bought it at a bookstore in London, just a month or two after the war. World War I, by the way." She flipped through the pages. "Do any of these spells look familiar?" Mrs. McNeill handed the book back to Cecile.

"Let me see." The Vodoun priestess sat down in the nearest chair and began to pour through the book. After nearly fifteen minutes, she finally came upon what she had been looking for. "This is it!" she cried. "I think I've finally found the ritual that Daley Whatshername may have used."

-----------

Later that afternoon, Cecile and Mrs. McNeill met with the others at the Halliwell manor. There, the Vodoun priestess revealed her discovery. "Some British anthropologist had spent several years at this village in present day Togo," Cecile explained. "He recorded many aspects of the villagers' lives - including the spiritual and the supernatural. This . . . Sir Jonathan Close had learned all about Vodoun beliefs and rituals from a local houngan. Including a ritual that can transfer the essence or psychic abilities from one person to another. I think this is the spell that had been used on Wyatt."

Piper, who held Wyatt in her arms, frowned. "Essence?"

Cecile looked at the oldest Charmed One. "Well, of course. Our psychic powers and our abilities to perform magic come from our essence. Right?" Before Piper could answer, Cecile finished, "Anyway, the items I had found in that blanket, matches those that are to be used in the ritual found in this book. And since this ritual involves psychic abilities, Ms. Bakker must have appealed to Kalfu."

"Who?"

Andre answered for Cecile, "He's a loa. A spirit god associated with evil. Like Legba, he controls the crossroads of the spirit world. But for darker purposes. Legba is his opposite."

"Which is whom I will have to summon to reverse the ritual," Cecile added.

"Does the book show a way to reverse it?" Phoebe demanded.

Nodding, Cecile answered, "Don't worry. It does. I just have to get similar items for the ritual. But since I'll be summoning Legba for help, I won't have to wait until dark to perform the ritual. However, it has to be performed either by the last day of the moon's first quarter . . . which is tomorrow. Or we'll have to wait until the last quarter moon begins."

"We're doing it tomorrow," Piper insisted.

Cecile added, "And we also need to lure Donna or Daley back here. We'll need a sample of her blood. Or hair."

Cole snorted. "Good luck on that one," he murmured.

"Can't we just get a hair sample from her bedroom?"

Cecile gazed at the youngest Charmed One. "Can you get inside? I know you can teleport, Paige. But for all we know, Ms. Bakker might have a protection ward around her house."

Olivia sighed. "In other words, we'll have to lure her to the house, before we can get a blood or hair sample from her. Now that she knows about Cole, that won't be so easy."

"She'll have no choice but to show up," Andre commented. "Especially if she wants to keep Wyatt's powers . . . permanently." A light gleamed in his dark eyes. "However, I do have an idea." He regarded Cole with thoughtful eyes. "Do you have to be in the same room with someone to use telepathic suggestion?"

Cole stared at his friend for a long moment. "No," he finally answered. "No, I don't. I can use it on anyone from a distance. But this Daley Bakker . . . she has Wyatt's powers. I don't know if I can . . ."

"Might as well try," Andre said. "Besides, I have a feeling that your powers might slightly be stronger than Wyatt's."

Piper immediately spoke up. "You don't know that for sure. After all, when Wyatt was born, all magic had ceased . . ."

"Didn't Cole still have his powers that day? I had heard of a few others who also did." And before Piper could respond, the houngan turned to the half-daemon. "Now, this is what I want you to do." Andre then proceeded to reveal what he had in mind.

---------

Daley stood before the liquor cabinet, inside her living room. "What do you guys want to drink?" she asked the two men, who sat on the sofa.

Marc replied, "Bourbon."

"I'll have a whiskey straight," the second man answered. Like Marc, Clive Davis happened to be one of Daley's lieutenants. He usually supervised the manufacturing and packaging of her Methacathinone. "Shouldn't we be making a run for it, or something like that? Now that the cops probably know about us?" The other two stared at him. "I saw an unmarked police car outside the warehouse, this afternoon."

Marc added, "I forgot. There was one parked outside your store, as well."

Daley impatiently dismissed the men's worries. "We're not leaving," she declared in a resolute tone. "Why should we? The only cop who knows about us is that red-haired bitch. And probably a friend or two on the force. She can't say anything to the Department without bringing up magic. And if the cops do try anything . . . I'll take care of them." She allowed a cruel smile to curve her lips. Then her smile disappeared. "However, we do have two problems. Getting rid of Wyatt Halliwell. And that Cole Turner fellow." She handed Marc a glass of bourbon. "Did your warlock friend know anything about him?"

After taking a sip of his bourbon, Marc sighed. "Oh Daley, I think we may have walked into a world of shit with this dude."

"Meaning?"

Marc continued, "Have you ever heard of a daemon named Belthazor? From the Brotherhood of the Thorn?"

During her years of criminal activity, Daley had done business with various supernatural beings and organizations outside the Anansi Order. Including business with the Brotherhood of the Thorn. She had also heard of a daemonic assassin named Belthazor, who was said to be one of the best. "Yeah, I've heard of him. I also heard that he had been killed by these three witches who . . ." She stared at Marc. "Are you saying that Cole Turner is Belthazor? But, he's supposed to be dead!"

"Yeah," Marc said with a nod. "He was killed by the Charmed Ones. Apparently, he had fallen in love with one of them - Phoebe Halliwell. A year after they had met, he lost his powers, became a mortal for a few months and then ended up being possessed by some dude called the Source, who was supposed to be the leader of some daemonic realm. The sisters killed the Source again, along with Turner. Who came back from the dead a few months later with more powers. In fact, he's supposed to be more powerful than ever. My friend didn't know whether he's more powerful than the Halliwell kid. I mean, you."

Recalling how the dark-haired man or daemon had easily blocked her electrokinetic attacks, Daley suspected that she might have stolen powers from the wrong person. "You know anything else about him?"

"He's supposed to be half-daemon/half-mortal," Marc added. "Turns out he and Phoebe Halliwell had been married for a few months. And he's now involved with another witch. That red-haired cop, Olivia McNeill."

Daley sighed. "That's just great. No wonder I can't teleport inside the Halliwell house. I bet he must have cast some protection ward over the damn place."

Marc took another sip of his drink. "One last thing . . . he's a close friend of Andre Morrell."

"So, how do you plan to deal with him?" Clive asked.

Another sigh left Daley's mouth, as poured herself a glass of ginger ale. "One problem at a time. I still need to get near Wyatt Halliwell and kill him. Does anyone . . ." She paused, as an idea came to her.

"Shape shift," a voice inside her head suggested. "Shape shift into one of the Charmed Ones. Only then you will get inside the house and near the boy."

Daley cried out, "Of course! Why didn't I think of that before?"

Marc stared at her. "Of course . . . what?"

"I've figured out how to get close to Wyatt." Excited over her new idea, Daley continued, "Shape shift. All I have to do is glamour. Shape shift into one of the sisters and enter the house. I wouldn't have to worry about a protection ward."

"And which sister do you plan to impersonate?" Marc asked. "What if she shows up before you can get rid of the kid?"

Daley stared at her two companions. "Well, Clive is going to make sure that she doesn't."

"Huh?" Clive stared at his boss.

"You, Angela and Ramon are going to snatch one of the Halliwells. Tomorrow is Saturday. They're not going to stay inside that house forever. Grab her in some secluded spot and take her to the old lab on Kearny Street. Drug her, if you have to. Once I kill Wyatt, you can let her go." Then another idea came to Daley. "Or better yet, kill her. I don't care."

Marc and Clive exchanged questioning looks. The latter asked, "Which Halliwell do I grab?"

Clive's question reverberated within Daley's mind for a few seconds. Then her inner voice spoke again. She replied, "Phoebe Halliwell. I hear that she sometimes work on Saturdays. She's not a teleporter, like the youngest. And I'm sure that Piper will be at home with Wyatt. By the way, Phoebe knows martial arts, so be careful."

"No problem," Clive said. "I know it, myself. And I don't think she'll be in a position to fight back, for what I have in mind for her." He paused. "Where do you want us to meet you?"

Daley strolled toward an empty chair near the sofa and sat down. "The BAY-MIRROR. I'll call you first . . . just to make sure that she'll be there. And if she does show up, make sure that someone is there to keep an eye on her, so that he or she can tell us when she's leaving."

Marc asked, "And what if she doesn't leave the house?"

"Then I'll use her boyfriend to make sure that he does." Daley sank into the chair, as she took a sip of her drink. "And once Clive grabs her, I'll simply take her place."


END OF PART XVI

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"PERSUASION" (1995) Photo Gallery



Below is a gallery featuring images from "PERSUASION", the 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen's 1817 novel. Directed by Roger Michell,the movie starred Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds:


"PERSUASION" (1995) Photo Gallery