Thursday, March 31, 2011

"THE TOURIST" (2010) Photo Gallery

Below are images from the new adventure thriller, "THE TOURIST". Directed by
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, the movie starred Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie:

"THE TOURIST" (2010) Photo Gallery

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Top Ten Favorite "AGATHA CHRISTIE'S POIROT" Episodes

Below is a list of my top ten favorite episodes from ITV1's "AGATHA CHRISTIE'S POIROT", which stars David Suchet as Hercule Poirot:


1. "Triangle at Rhodes" (1989) - While on holiday on the Greek island of Rhodes, Hercule Poirot stumbles across a love "triangle" and murder, involving two couples.

2. "Problem at Sea" (1989) - While vacationing with Arthur Hastings on a Mediterranean Sea cruise, Poirot investigates the murder of the aggressive and demanding Mrs. Clapperton.

3. "The Plymouth Express" (1991) - Poirot and Hastings investigate the brutal murder of a wealthy Australian's daughter aboard the Plymouth. A forerunner of Christie's 1928 novel, "The Mystery of the Blue Train".

4. "Dead Man's Mirror" (1993) - Poirot and Hastings investigate the murder of the bullying millionaire, who had outbid the Belgian detective on an antique mirror.

5. "The Yellow Iris" (1993) - Poirot's investigation into the death of a British heiress spans from Buenos Aires to London, during a period of two years.

6. "The Case of the Missing Will" (1993) - Poirot investigates the death of a British millionaire and his missing will.

7. "The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb" (1993) - Poirot and Hastings investigate a series of mysterious deaths related to the opening of the tomb of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh.

8. "The Third Floor Flat" (1989) - A new tenant, who had just moved into Poirot's apartment building, is found murdered.

9. "The Mystery of the Spanish Chest" (1991) - A peeress asks for Poirot's assistance, when she comes to fear for the safety of her unhappily married friend.

10. "The Affair at the Victory Ball" (1991) - Poirot and Hastings investigate the murder of a peer at a costumed event called the Victory Ball, and his connection to an actress with a drug addiction.

Monday, March 28, 2011

"EMMA" (1996 TV) Review

"EMMA" (1996 TV) Review

Several months after Miramax had released Douglas McGrath’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1815 novel, "Emma", another version aired on the BBC and later, on the A&E Channel in the U.S. This version turned out to be a 107-minute teleplay, adapted by screenwriter Andrew Davies and directed by Diarmuid Lawrence.

As many Jane Austen fans know, "EMMA" told the story of the younger daughter of an English Regency landowner, with a penchant for meddling in the lives of friends and neighbors. Her meddling in the love life of her new protégé – a young woman named Harriet Smith – ended up having a major impact on the latter’s search for a husband. Emma also becomes involved with Frank Churchill, her former governess’ stepson, and the highly educated granddaughter of her village’s former curate named Jane Fairfax.

This ”EMMA” incorporated a heavy emphasis on class structure and conflict, due to Andrew Davies’ adaptation. This emphasis was hinted in scenes that included a conversation between Emma and Harriet regarding the role of the neighborhood’s wealthiest landowner, George Knightley. Greater emphasis was also placed on Jane Fairfax’s possible future as a governess. The movie included moments featuring tenant farmer Robert Martin’s barely concealed resentment toward Emma’s interference in his courtship of Harriet. And the movie concluded with a harvest ball sequence that allowed Mr. Knightley to display his role as Highbury’s wealthiest and most benevolent landowner.

I cannot deny that I enjoyed ”EMMA”. Davies’ script and Lawrence’s direction captured a good deal of the mood from Austen’s novel. The movie also featured scenes that I found particularly appealing – scenes that included Mrs. Cole’s party, where Mr. Knightley becomes aware of Emma’s friendship with Frank Churchill; the comic reaction to Emma’s drawing of Harriet; and the Box Hill incident. Yet, for some reason, my favorite sequence turned out to be Mr. and Mrs. Weston’s Christmas party. One, production designer Don Taylor created a strong holiday atmosphere that seemed distinctly of another era. And two, the sequence featured some of the movie’s funniest moments – John Knightley’s rants about attending a party in bad weather and Mr. Elton’s marriage proposal to Emma.

Of the actors and actresses featured in the cast, I must admit that at least five performances impressed me. Mr. Elton must be one of the novel’s more exceptional characters. I have yet to come across a screen portrayal of Mr. Elton that did not impress me. And Dominic Rowan’s deliciously smarmy take on the role certainly impressed me. I also enjoyed Bernard Hepton’s rather funny portrayal of Emma’s finicky father, Mr. Woodhouse. The man possessed timing that a comic would envy. Samantha Bond gave a warm and deliciously sly portrayal of Emma’s former governess, Mrs. Weston. But my two favorite performances came from Raymond Coulthard and Olivia Williams as Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax. From my reading of Austen’s novel and viewing of other screen adaptations, I got the feeling that these two characters were not easy to portray. Frank Churchill never struck me as the typical Austen rogue/villain. Yes, he could be cruel, selfish and deceitful. And yet, he seemed to be the only Austen rogue who seemed to possess the slightest capability of genuine love. Actor Raymond Coulthard has struck me as the only actor who has managed to capture the strange and complex nature of Frank Churchill with more accuracy and less mannerisms than any other actor in the role, so far. And Olivia Williams struck me as the only actress that managed to portray Jane Fairfax’s travails without resorting to extreme mannerisms . . . or by simply being there.

Many have praised Samantha Morton’s performance as Emma’s young companion, Harriet Smith. And I believe that she deserved the praise. I found nothing defective about it. Unfortunately, Davies’ script left the actress with hardly anything to work with. Morton’s Harriet almost came off as self-assured and nearly flawless. Mind you, I do not blame Morton’s performance. I blame Davies’ script. His interpretation of Harriet almost seemed . . . uninteresting to me. Prunella Scales gave a solid performance as the garrulous spinster and aunt of Jane Fairfax, Miss Bates. But I must admit that I found nothing particularly memorable about her portrayal. And Lucy Robinson’s Mrs. Augusta Elton never really impressed me. In fact, I found her performance to be the least memorable one in the entire movie.

How do I describe Kate Beckinsale and Mark Strong’s portrayals of the two lead characters – Emma Woodhouse and George Knightley? Superficially, their performances seemed solid. Both knew their lines. And neither gave any wooden performances. But if I must honest, Beckinsale and Strong turned out to be my least favorite screen versions of Emma and Mr. Knightley. Beckinsale’s Emma not only struck me as chilly at times, but downright bitchy. I suspect that her performance in ”COLD COMFORT FARM” may have attracted the attention of this film’s producers. What they failed to realize was that Beckinsale’s role in that particular film had acted as straight man to the rest of the comic characters. And back in the mid 1990s, the actress lacked the comic skills to portray Emma Woodhouse, a character that proved to be one of the funnier ones in this predominately humorous tale. I have been a fan of Mark Strong for several years. But after seeing ”EMMA”, I would never count George Knightley as one of his better roles. I have seen Strong utilize humor in other movies. But his sense of humor seemed to be missing in ”EMMA”. Strong’s George Knightley struck me as a humorless and self-righteous prig, with an intensity that seemed scary at times. The best thing I could say about Beckinsale and Strong was that the pair had decent screen chemistry.

Andrew Davies did a solid job of adapting Austen’s novel. Was he completely faithful to it? Obviously not. But I am not particularly concerned about whether he was or not. But . . . I did have one major problem with the script. I believe that Davies’ treatment of class distinctions in Regency England struck me as very heavy-handed. This lack of subtlety seemed very obvious in scenes that included Robert Martin’s silent expressions of resentment toward Emma, her little speech to Harriet about Mr. Knightley’s role as a landowner, Emma’s overtly chilly attitude toward Robert Martin and in the movie’s last sequence, the harvest ball. Which literally made me cringe with discomfort during Mr. Knightley’s speech. No one felt more relieved than I, when it finally ended.

In the end, ”EMMA” seemed like a decent adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel. Some of its qualities included first-rate performances from the likes of Raymond Coulthard and Olivia Williams. And there were certain sequences that I enjoyed – like the Westons’ Christmas party and the Crown Inn ball. But I found Davies’ take on class distinctions in the movie about as subtle as a rampaging elephant. And I was not that impressed by Kate Beckinsale and Mark Strong in the lead roles. In the end, this ”EMMA” proved to be my least favorite adaptation of the 1815 novel.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Strange Bedfellows" [R] - Part 5


Part 5

. . . Cole placed a forkful of Beef Wellington into his mouth and chewed. He nearly groaned with pleasure at the combination of the savory meat and flaky dough. "My God!" he exclaimed after swallowing his food. "This must be the best Beef Wellington I've ever tasted. Seriously."

"It's certainly the best I ever had," Christine said with a sigh. "Not even mine is this good. That's why I had hired Ian Terry as the executive chef for this restaurant, in the first place." Cole, along with Christine, Tarkin and Idril were enjoying dinner at a local restaurant in London's West End.

Idril stared at the witch. "You own this restaurant?"

"Yeah," Christine replied. She took a sip of her Cabernet Sauvignon. "This and a few other restaurants and nightclubs around this part of the country. Not much."

Tarkin mumbled, "Not much? I'm only surprised that you don't own the Beatles' recording contracts on top of that."

A smug smile curved Christine's lips. "Not the Beatles, love. Another group." Both Tarkin and Idril stared at her.

Once the three daemons and the witch had finished their meals, they departed the restaurant and headed for Christine's Triple Six Club. Since he was not inclined to display what he felt was his not-so-impressive dance skills, Cole remained in his seat and watched his companions on the dance floor. At one point, he left the table and headed for the men's restroom.

Upon leaving the restroom, he dodged bystanders that crowded the narrow corridor. Someone accidentally shoved him to his right and he found himself inside a half-empty storeroom. And in the middle of the room was a comely blonde, bent over a crate. And right behind her stood Tarkin with his trousers at his ankles, taking her from behind.

Cole decided to leave the couple in peace and quickly returned to his table. Both Christine and Idril had returned. "Where's Tarkin?" Idril asked, as Cole eased into his chair. The half-daemon glanced at the blond witch and noticed the tense expression on her face.

"I don't know," Cole replied. "I didn't see him in the men's room." A heavy silence surrounded the table. "Um . . . would any of you ladies like another drink?"

Idril quickly accepted the offer and asked for a Vodka Martini. After a long pause, Christine asked for a Tom Collins. Cole signaled a waitress and ordered the women's drinks, along with a Gibson for himself. Once the waitress had disappeared, a male customer with shoulder-length hair approached the table and asked Idril for a dance. The demoness seemed reluctant to accept his offer, but eventually joined the man on the dance floor.

More silence followed, as Cole deliberately focused his attention on the dance floor. Christine spoke up. "I reckon I can assume that you saw Tarkin, while you were gone from the table." She gave the half-daemon a direct stare. "I saw him, too. Fucking that girl in one of the storerooms."

Cole shook his head. "Look, I didn't see any . . ."

"If you think I'm jealous, you're wrong," Christine continued. Then she sighed. "To be honest, I'm a bit relieved. Tarkin's . . . allure is not what it used to be. At least for me. I just wish he could have simply ended it between us."

"I'm sorry to hear that," Cole said.

Green eyes glittered provocatively. "Are you? I find that hard to believe."

Cole inhaled sharply, as he felt a slim foot brush against his inner calf. He took a swig of water, longing for the martini he had just ordered. "In that case," he murmured, "I take it all back." He glanced at Idril, who seemed to be enjoying herself with her dance partner. Tarkin remained no where to be seen.

"Prove it," Christine shot back. She gave him a challenging stare. "Tonight. In my flat."

Again, Cole's gaze returned to the dancing Idril. "And what about . . .?"

"I'm ending it tonight, with Tarkin. As for Idril . . . I'm sure that some Belladonna, combined with alcohol, will take care of her for the night," Christine quietly finished.

At that moment, Tarkin returned to the table, looking slightly ruffled. "Sorry I took so long." He glanced around. "Where's Idril?"

"Dancing," Cole quietly replied. Then he met Christine's gaze . . . and blinked.


Another three hours passed before Cole escorted Idril back to her suite at the Rembrandt Hotel in Knightsbridge. After preparing glasses of port for them both, Idril excused herself to change clothes inside the suite's bedroom.

At last! Cole watched his companion disappear into the other room. He then retrieved a small packet of Belladonna that he had received from Christine. She had some stashed inside her office at the nightclub. Cole dumped the Belladonna into Idril's glass of port. She then returned, wearing a sheer red negligee. Cole smiled and handed over her port. "To us," he said, holding up his own glass.

Idril clinked her glass with hers and repeated, "To us." Once the couple had finished their drinks, the demoness slipped into the half-daemon's arms. She planted a light kiss on the edge of Cole's mouth. "Hmmm, tonight's going to be sooo good."

"I hope so," Cole murmured. Then he lowered his mouth upon hers for a deep kiss. The moment their mouths drew apart, Idril's eyes began to flutter. Seconds later, she slumped against Cole's body. He carried her unconscious form into the bedroom and laid her on the bed.

Satisfied over Idril's unconscious state, he shimmered into the corridor, outside Christine's flat and knocked on the door. Seconds later, it swung open and revealed the blond witch wearing a silk blue Chinese robe and nothing else. "Welcome back," she greeted, ushering Cole inside the flat.

"Aren't you worried that your neighbors might see you like that?" Cole asked.

A smile curved Christine's lips. "They're used to me." She closed the door.

Cole glanced around the flat. "Has Tarkin been here?"

"He left about fifteen minutes ago. We had a . . . bit of a scrap." Christine sighed. "Well, not really. I told him that I wanted to end it between us. He resisted at first. Then I told him about that girl I saw him with. And that's when we . . . well, had words. But, we finally agree it was for the best and ended it."

"I'm sorry," Cole murmured in a perfunctory tone, lying through his teeth. "You two had seemed so close."

With a shrug, Christine dismissed the apology. "No need to be. He was a bit fun for a while. But to be honest, I knew it wouldn't last between us. And it was becoming a bit of a fag of getting it in me bum, so to speak." She picked up a glass of martini and handed it to Cole. "Speaking of which . . . what's your favorite position?"

Cole drowned the martini and placed the glass on a nearby Chinese console table. "Well . . . I'll show you," he finally answered. Christine gasped aloud, as the half-daemon drew her into his arms and kissed her roughly on the lips. Not many seconds had passed before he felt the witch's warm tongue slip into his mouth.

The passionate kiss and the feel of Christine's soft body against his excited Cole more than he had ever experienced. Desperate to shed his clothes, he broke away from the witch's warm lips and removed his jacket and turtleneck sweater. Before he could focus upon his trousers, Christine's slender fingers unfastened his belt and zipper. She then lowered both his trousers and boxers to his ankles. Cole removed his shoes and stepped out of both. A loud gasp left Cole's mouth, as the blond witch began to fondle his length.

Desire soon reached volcanic proportions within him. His impatience finally got the best of him and he quickly removed Christine's robe from her body. He then lowered his mouth upon one coral-pink nipple and began to suck hungrily. Almost greedily. Christine threw back her head and moaned.

Desperate for a need for something more than foreplay, the half-daemon shimmered both him and the witch into her bedroom. He sat down on the four-poster bed's edge and drew Christine into his lap. Once more their mouths met in a passionate kiss. Christine raised her body slightly and impaled herself upon him. Groans escaped from their mouths, while their bodies moved together in perfect unison. They caressed each other with eager hands, while their lips remained locked in an embrace. Cole's thrusts grew quicker and harder in his deep desire to reach the very center of her body. Then it finally came. A fierce wave of heat and desire washed over the half-demon after a few final thrusts on his part led to a crescendo of passion for the couple.

"Oh . . . oh God!" Christine exclaimed heavily, as she slumped against Cole's body. "Oh God, I've never . . ."

Cole grabbed the back of her head and brought her lips to his for another fierce kiss. "Neither have I," he finally murmured. "Funny," he shook his head in disbelief. "For once I'm telling the truth." And he was.

Christine began to nibble on Cole's left earlobe. "You know, I never could understand why you had chosen Whatshername that night. That night when we first met. Why did you? She never struck me as your type. Too insecure."

"As I recall," Cole said between heavy panting, "Tarkin was busy with you, at the moment. And it was easier for me to grab Idril." He gave the witch another deep kiss. "And you're right. She's not my type. And I don't think I'm hers."

More kissing followed. A groan escaped from Cole's mouth, as Christine's tongue flickered across that sensitive spot on the side of his neck. "Hmmmm," the blond witch moaned, "You might be right about that. Someone that insecure would probably go for some middle-aged bloke who usually chase after the young birds. Like that dark-haired chap I once saw Idril with in Nice, last winter. I remember telling your mum about that."

Cole pulled away from Christine and frowned. An odd feeling churned inside his stomach, as the witch's last words echoed in his ears. "What dark-haired man? You told my mother about . . . Describe him?"

"Bugger me! Why are you suddenly so upset?" Suspicion gleamed in Christine's eyes. "Don't tell me that you're jealous?"

The half-daemon immediately replied, "I'm not . . . jealous. Just curious." Christine continued to stare at him. "Look, I have this gut feeling that something's wrong. Could you please describe the man?"

A sigh left Christine's mouth. "When I first met Idril, I thought there was something familiar about her. And when she said that she was in the pictures, I figured that was where I had seen her. I mean . . . I have seen her in the pictures, before. But I soon realized that I've seen her elsewhere. It finally occurred to me that it was in Nice, last winter. At the Hotel Massena."

"Do you remember how this man looked liked?" Cole asked. "You said that he was dark-haired."

Christine continued, "Well . . . he wasn't bad looking, I must say. At least six feet tall or slightly under. He had dark hair - almost the same color as yours, a narrow face, high cheekbones, slim, and dark eyes that looked a bit exotic. He had a small scar on his right temple. And he wore black a lot, which I found rather peculiar for the Riviera. On the whole, he looked like some elegant chap with a flashy, yet expensive mistress in tow. Not the kind of bloke one would forget. Trust me."

The moment Christine had finished her description, one name popped into Cole's mind. Raynor. Idril had been Raynor's lover. There seemed to be no doubt about it. And with Raynor recently married . . . Cole finally understood his mentor's little talk about matrimony. And Idril's surprising appearance in his life, this summer. Son of a bitch!

Looking slightly apprehensive, Christine said, "Oh bugger! I've just mucked up our evening, haven't I?"

Cole stared at the beautiful witch. And smiled. He felt as if someone had removed a heavy burden from his shoulder. "No," he finally answered. No, you didn't. In fact, I think I should be very grateful to you."

"Really?" A wicked gleam lit up Christine's green eyes. She leaned forward and lightly kissed Cole's nose. "Just how grateful are you?"

A smile curved Cole's lips. He grabbed the witch by the waist and pulled her down on the bed. After rolling on top of her, he said, "I'll show you." And he proceeded to do just that.


JULY 19, 1969; LONDON, ENGLAND . . . A dark blur, followed by bright yellow light greeted Idril's eyes the next morning. She blinked several times and groaned, as she struggled into a sitting position. Once fully awake, the demoness realized that she was in her bedroom. She frowned. But how? The last thing she recalled was being in Belthazor's arms and kissing him. Slowly, she climbed out of bed and made her way toward the suite's living room. She stopped short at the sight of Belthazor sitting in a chair and sipping what looked like orange juice.

"Good morning!" the half-daemon greeted cheerfully. "I hope you slept well." There seemed to be a slight, mocking tone in his words.

Idril shook her head and grumbled, "Too well, I'm afraid." She blinked again and noticed that Belthazor wore a different outfit. "Huh. Did you go back to your place to change clothes?"

Belthazor rose from the chair and placed the empty glass on a nearby table. "Actually, I left the moment you had fallen asleep. Didn't see the need to stick around." For some reason, the half-daemon's offhand tone made Idril feel inconsequential.

"Oh . . . um . . ." Idril glanced around the suite for something to drink. Except for a cabinet filled with booze, she could not find anything else. "Uh, how many times did we . . .?"

A sigh left Belthazor's mouth. "Is it really that important for us to discuss that?"

In Caspiel's name! "Never mind," Idril said. "Forget what I had . . ."

"Actually, we didn't." Belthazor's curt answer took Idril by surprise. "Like I said, you fell asleep." He strode toward one of the windows that overlooked the city. "After I left you, I went over to Christine's flat. Tarkin had left. It seemed he and Christine finally broke up."

Jealousy twisted any last remnants of Idril's heart. "Oh? You were with Christine? Alone? What did you do? Console her?"

Belthazor chuckled. "She didn't need consoling. Trust me." He stared at the panoramic view of London's streets. "However, I did learn something very interesting, last night." The half-daemon stared at Idril. The intensity in his blue eyes made her squirm with discomfort. "You still need a drink? How about some orange juice? I found some in the liquor cabinet."

Idril shook her head. She no longer felt thirsty. Just anxious over what Belthazor had learned. "Maybe later. Water will be fine." She strode toward the liquor cabinet and poured herself a glass of seltzer water. "What . . . um, what did you find out?" She took a sip.

After a brief hesitation, Belthazor coolly replied, "That you and Raynor were lovers. You might still be." Idril nearly choked on her water. "It seems that . . . someone had seen you two together, at the Hotel Massena in Nice, last winter. And I can't help but wonder if this - along with his recent marriage - had anything to do with his sudden interest in my marital state. Or us meeting by 'accident', last month."

Uneasy laughter rose from Idril's mouth. "Really Belthazor! You get the strangest ideas. Who told you that . . .?" Memories of her conversation with Nimue at that warlock's party flashed in the demoness' mind. "In Caspiel's name! You've seen your mother, haven't you? She must have told you about me and . . ." Idril broke off before she reveal anything further.

A wry smile touched Belthazor's lips. "About you and Raynor in Nice? Actually, it was Christine. She was the one who saw you two together. By the way, how long were you Raynor's mistress?"

"It's none of you . . ." Idril paused and took a deep breath. "I have nothing further to say."

Belthazor's smile widened. "It's just as well. You know, you seemed to have a problem with holding your tongue." He gave Idril an appraising stare. "Are you related to Orobas, by any chance? He never could lie, no matter how he tried."

Idril drained the last of her water and placed the empty glass on the cabinet. If only she could make the half-daemon understand her feelings. She whirled around to face him. "No. No, I'm not related to Orobas. And about Raynor and I . . ." Again, she paused. For once she needed to think before she spoke. "Look, I did spend some time in Nice. But that was a long time ago."

"Six months ago, to be exact," Belthazor coolly added. "With Raynor."

"No, not with Raynor," Idril desperately lied. "With another man. A warlock. He may have looked like Raynor . . ."

Belthazor sharply interrupted, "Idril, Raynor was described perfectly. Right down to his scar. I don't like being taken for a fool. Nor do I care being set up to act as some kind of shield for you and Raynor." He gave the young demoness a contemptuous look. "I'll be leaving now. Good luck in finding a new patsy for you and Raynor." He paused momentarily before adding, "By the way, sorry about spiking your drink with Belladonna, last night. I . . . I wanted to be alone . . . with someone else. Good-bye."

"No, wait! Belthazor!" But the half-demon shimmered out of the hotel suite before Idril could stop him. Feeling abandoned, Idril marched straight to the liquor cabinet and poured a drink. Something a lot stronger than water.

End of Part 5

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"BATTLE: LOS ANGELES" (2011) Photo Gallery

Below are images from the new science fiction thriller called "BATTLE: LOS ANGELES". Directed by Jonathan Liebesman, the movie stars Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan, Ramon Rodgriguez, Ne-Yo, and Michael Peña:

"BATTLE: LOS ANGELES" (2011) Photo Gallery