Monday, May 30, 2011

"My Ten Favorite ANTEBELLUM Movies/Miniseries"

Below is a list of my favorite movies or miniseries about the Antebellum period in the United States:


1. "North and South" (1985) - Based on the first of John Jakes trilogy about two families in the mid-19th century, this six-part miniseries stars James Read and Patrick Swayze as two friends from Pennsylvania and South Carolina who meet at West Point. The two friends and their families become embroiled in the events that overwhelmed the United States during the last twenty years before the outbreak of the Civil War. The best of the three miniseries.

2. "The Chisholms" (1979) - This three-part miniseries tells the story the story of a western Virginia family who emigrate to California during the mid-1840s. Based on Evan Hunter's novel, it stars Robert Preston, Rosemary Harris ("SPIDER-MAN" movies) and Ben Murphy. A big favorite of mine.

3. "A Woman Called Moses" (1978) - This is a two-part miniseries about the life of former slave Harriet Tubman. Starring Cicely Tyson, it tells the story of Tubman's life as a slave in Maryland and her years as a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

4. "Skin Game" (1971) - Released in 1971, this comedy-drama starred James Garner and Lou Gossett Jr. as a pair of antebellum con artists who scam slave owners by selling Gossett's character to them before escaping to split the profits. Things turn serious when they are found out and Gossett's character is sold to Texas.

5. "The Heiress" (1949) - William Wyler directed this adaptation of Henry James' novel, "Washington Square", which starred Oscar winner Olivia DeHavilland, Montgomery Clift and Ralph Richardson.

6. "Race to Freedom: The Underground Railroad" (1994) - Courtney B. Vance and Janet Bailey portray a pair of North Carolina slaves in 1851, who undertake a perilous journey to freedom in Canada. A TV-movie that is a lot better upon repeated viewings.

7. "Westward the Women" (1951) - Robert Taylor portrayed a former frontiersman-turned-rancher, who led a wagon train of women from 1851 Missouri to California for a group of unmarried men eager for matrimony. William Wellman directed this excellent western.

8. "Reap the Wild Wind" (1942) - Cecil B. DeMille directed this love story and adventure about ship salvagers in 1840 Key West. Ray Milland, Paulette Goddard, and John Wayne starred.

9. "The Liberators" (1987) - Disney produced this television biopic about Kentucky-born abolitionist John Fairfield and his friend escaped slave Bill Jackson, who become conductors on the Underground Railroad in Northern Kentucky in 1849. Robert Carradine and Larry B. Scott co-starred.

10. "California" (1946) - Barbara Stanwyck and Ray Milland portray fractious lovers during the California Gold Rush of 1848 and 1849. This movie was Stanwyck's first in Technicolor and it was directed by John Farrow, husband of Maureen O'Sullivan and father of Mia Farrow.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

"MILDRED PIERCE" (1945) Photo Gallery

Below are images from "MILDRED PIERCE", the 1945 adaptation of James M. Cain's 1941 novel. Produced by Jerry Wald and directed by Michael Curtiz, the movie starred Oscar winner Joan Crawford and Ann Blyth:

"MILDRED PIERCE" (1945) Photo Gallery

Friday, May 27, 2011

"BATTLE: LOS ANGELES" (2011) Review

"BATTLE: LOS ANGELES" (2011) Review

I was surprised to discover that "SKYLINE", an alien invasion movie that had been released last fall, was not the first movie to be directed by Greg and Colin Strause. Three-and-a-half years ago, they directed a movie called "ALIENS VS. PREDATOR: REQUIEM", which managed to generate solid box office, if not critical acclaim. "SKYLINE" generated even less box office and critical acclaim than the 2007 movie, but it did earn a profit. But the movie generated even more – a scandal involving cries of plagiarism that involved the latest alien invasion film called "BATTLE: LOS ANGELES".

Before making ”SKYLINE”, the Brothers Strause had been hired by Sony Pictures and the producers of ”BATTLE: LOS ANGELES” to generate special effects for the latter. But after working on the latter film, they began producing and directing a film with a similar premise – alien invasion in Southern California. Sony Pictures decided to dismiss the arbitration against the brothers, six days after ”BATTLE: LOS ANGELES”, claiming that after the discovery phase they were satisfied that none of the ”BATTLE: LOS ANGELES” visual effects were used in ”SKYLINE”. After seeing both movies, I personally believe that Sony Pictures had nothing to worry about. ”BATTLE: LOS ANGELES” made ”SKYLINE” look like a drop of dog poop on the side of the road.

Set in Southern California – mainly in Santa Monica and West Los Angeles, ”BATTLE: LOS ANGELES” is an alien invasion tale about a squad of U.S. Marines, tasked to search for civilians trapped at a local police station, before the U.S. Air Force can commence upon a saturation bombing of Santa Monica. Before they could find the civilians, the Marines are joined by two others and a U.S. Air Force intelligence tech sergeant, who has information regarding an alien command center that allows the invaders control of the air. But before the Marines can make use of tech sergeant’s information, they have to ensure the safety of the civilians they finally come across and survive the best way they can.

Although ”BATTLE: LOS ANGELES” is obviously better than ”SKYLINE”, it is not without its flaws. To be honest, I have very few problems with the movie. Perhaps two or three problems. One, I think that screenwriter Chris Bertolini may have rushed the movie’s first fifteen to twenty minutes. From the moment when the camera focuses on lead character Staff-Sergeant Michael Nantz engaged in an early morning jog on a beach near Camp Pendleton to when he and his squad discover that they will be facing invading aliens at the Forward Operating Base at the Santa Monica Airport, at least fifteen to seventeen minutes passed. That seemed a bit . . . too fast to me. I would have preferred if Bertolini had been a little more in-depth in his introduction of the major characters. And I would have preferred if they had discovered that they would be facing hostile aliens, after hitting the streets to find the missing civilians. Oh well. We cannot have everything. Two, it almost seemed as if the Marines were using a strange mixture of military and sports jargon. I have heard it before in a miniseries called ”TOM CLANCY’S OP CENTER”. I found it strange then and I still find it strange. I suppose they use this brand of jargon in the military. But quite frankly, it makes me cringe. After a scene in which some of the Marines survived a traumatic attack by aliens near a freeway, director Jonathan Liebesman followed up with a brief scene of them tramping through the streets before seeking refuge at a convenience store. That scene featured a building that is located in downtown Los Angeles. But the Marines had not reached downtown. Because after leaving the convenience store, they returned to the Santa Monica Airport. There is no way they could have traveled from the West Los Angeles area to downtown Los Angeles and back to Santa Monica . . . that fast. Liebesman should have never included that building in a shot.

Now that I got my complaints out of the way, how did I feel about ”BATTLE: LOS ANGELES”? As I had earlier stated, I believe it was at least ten times better than ”SKYLINE”. In fact, it has become one of my favorite movies of 2011 . . . so far. I really enjoyed it. Despite Bertolini’s fast introduction, he did a first-rate job of maintaining some of the personal storylines and angst that plagued the main characters. The most important personal story involved Staff-Sergeant Nantz’s last assignment in Afghanistan. He turned out to be his squad’s sole survivor, which led many Marines to believe he had abandoned the squad. Because of his last tour in Afghanistan, Nantz decided to retire from the Marines. One of the Marines in Nantz’s old squad turned out to be the brother of one of the movie’s survivors, Corporal Jason Lockett. Lockett’s resentment toward Nantz more or less remained on the back burner, until after the tragic circumstances of the freeway battle. Another personal story centered on the squad’s commander, the newly commissioned Second Lieutenant William Martinez and his eagerness to prove himself in battle. Yes, this kind of storyline has been seen in many military films. Yet, thanks to the performances actors Aaron Eckhart (Nantz) and Ramón Rodríguez (Martinez), this storyline actually worked. I read somewhere that the character of Air Force Tech Sergeant Elena Santos was added at the last minute. And yet, this addition worked, for her character provided valuable information for the Marines to do something about the aliens’ command center. Nantz’s emotional connection with civilians like the veterinarian named Michele and a Latino father and son pair named Joe and Hector Rincon provided a great deal of angst in the movie’s center. More importantly, both Bertolini and Liebesman milked these minor storylines throughout most of the movie.

And I cannot talk about ”BATTLE: LOS ANGELES” without bringing up the film’s special effects. As I had earlier pointed out, the Brothers Strause was responsible for the visual effects and I believe they did a first rate job. Between their visual effects, Liebesman’s direction, Lukas Ettlin’s photography and Christian Wagner’s editing, ”BATTLE: LOS ANGELES” featured some very memorable scenes. Some of the scenes included the squad’s first encounter with the aliens on the fogged-covered streets of Santa Monica; Lockett and Lance Corporal Peter Kerns’ sighting of alien scouts on the roof of the police station and the surviving squad members’ nighttime helicopter ride above battle torn Los Angeles. But the visual centerpieces proved to be – at least for me – the two major battles featured in the movie. And I am referring to the freeway battle that resulted in tragic consequences and the final battle that featured the squad’s attempt to destroy the aliens’ command center. Between the visual effects, the editing and the action, these scenes struck me as mind blowing.

The movie’s producers and Jonathan Liebesman did an excellent job in casting the roles in the films. Aside from a few performances, most of the cast did solid work. I was even impressed by singer Ne-Yo, who portrayed one of the Marines, Corporal Kevin Harris. He and Gino Anthony Pesi (Corporal Nick Stavrou) managed to establish a humorous screen team as two best friends. I am certain that many people are aware that Elena Santos became another one of Michelle Rodriguez’s “tough girls” roles that has become her personal stock over the past decade. Mind you, her Santos came off as mature and did not turn into one of those “in your face” types that many have complained about over the years. And she blended well with the cast. Bridget Moynahan gave a solid performance as one of the civilians trapped at the police station. And she and Eckhart managed to establish a good chemistry without any taint of romance. I was especially impressed by his work in a scene in which his character expressed regret over his failure to leave the police station, when he had the chance. I would like to point out that Adetokumboh M'Cormack (Corpsman Jibril Adukwu), Jim Parrack (Sterns), and Will Rothhaar (Corporal Lee Imlay) did a great job in establishing why Nantz seemed to regard them as three of the sqaud’s most dependable character. And Rothhaar managed to achieve this with a great deal of humor. I just realized that Rodriguez is not the only ”LOST” cast alumni who appeared in this film. M’Cormack did two guest appearances on the show and both acted opposite British actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje.

But there were performances that really stood out for me. Michael Peña also gave excellent performance as Joe Rincon, of the other civilians that were trapped at the West L.A. police station. Cory Hardrict gave a first-rate and subtle performance as Jason Lockett, the one Marine who harbored lingering resentment toward Nantz over the death of his brother – especially in one scene in which the two finally faced the matter. The last time I had ever seen Ramón Rodríguez , he portrayed Shia LaBeouf’s frantic roommate in the second ”TRANSFORMERS” movie. Imagine my surprise in seeing him portrayed the squad’s earnest, yet inexperienced leader, Lieutenant Martinez. I am happy to report that his Martinez came off as a lot less frantic (and embarrassing) than his character in ”TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN”. In fact, he did a great job in portraying Martinez’s anxieties and eagerness without even going over the top. And for that I am eternally grateful. However, it was Aaron Eckhart who really carried the movie. And he did a superb job. This is the second time I have seen him in the lead of a movie. And after watching his performance as the competent, yet angst-ridden Michael Nantz, I can only wonder why he has not been cast in the lead in more of the A-studio films. For me, his best scene featured Nantz’s reaction after destroying an alien drone using a walkie-talkie and a grenade. Watching Eckhart’s hand shake, while the other cast members applauded his character’s actions was one of the best examples of silent acting I have seen in quite a while.

I am aware that ”BATTLE: LOS ANGELES” only managed to garner mixed reviews from the critics. I am also aware that the movie is not perfect. Nor is it the best alien invasion movie I have ever seen. But I still managed to enjoy the movie so much that I have to give kudos to director Jonathan Liebsman for his direction of a first-rate movie and an excellent cast led by the always superb Aaron Eckhart. Not surprisingly, I went to see this movie for a second time before it left my neighborhood’s movie theaters . . . and enjoyed it even more.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

"Bride of Belthazor" [PG-13] - 5/16


Chapter Five

Cecile speared a piece of honeydew melon from her place and popped it into her mouth. As she chewed, she note the subdued air that permeated the McNeills' dining room during breakfast. No one seemed inclined to talk. Not after the verbal bloodbath between Mr. McNeill and Mr. Morgan that she and Olivia had encountered, following their return from Cole's penthouse, last night.

The Welsh-born witch had castigated Olivia for getting involved with a notorious half-daemon, and the McNeills for supporting the relationship. Jack McNeill made it clear that any of Olivia's relationships were none of his business. Before matters could get worse, both old Mrs. McNeill and Cecile's own father managed to convince the two men to cease hostilities.

Strangely enough, Olivia had remained silent during the entire quarrel. And her subdued manner seemed to have continued into the morning. Cecile knew the reason behind the redhead's mood. Her vision. That damn vision about Cole marrying some old daemonic lover. Right now, Cecile wished that she had never opened her mouth in the first place.

After twenty-one years, Cecile knew Olivia. Very well. On the surface, the redhead usually projected an air of great self-confidence. But when it came to her love life, that self-confidence usually threatened to crumble at the first hint of a major trauma. And those traumas usually involved romance. Cecile knew about the high-school football player to whom Olivia had lost her virginity. He used her feelings for sex and dumped her not long after he got what he wanted. And there was poor Richard Bannen, whose only real crime seemed to be that he was killed before he and Olivia could get married. But Olivia's biggest trauma occurred during college when an old boyfriend and fellow witch named Adrian Chambers had dumped her after she failed to live up to his ideal of what a girlfriend and a witch should be.

It seemed ironic to Cecile that the biggest threat to Olivia's relationship with Cole Turner happened to be his status as a divorced man, and not his past as a daemonic assassin. A divorced man who remained in touch with his ex-wife. Barbara had told the Vodoun priestess about the summer breakup between Olivia and Cole . . . and the latter's brief reconciliation with Phoebe Halliwell. And now it seemed that another one of Cole's former lovers threatened to ruin the upcoming wedding. Or marriage. Cecile knew that Olivia would remain in a state of anxiety until . . .

"She really planned this well. Didn't she?"

Everyone stared at Brion Morgan, who had spoken. Mr. McNeill sighed wearily and stared at his brother-in-law. "I'm sorry, Brion. Did you just say something of any significance?"

Mr. Morgan glared at the other man. "I'm speaking of Bel . . . Cole's mother. Nimue. Haven't any of you wondered why she didn't tell you about the connection between her husband's family and yours - until now?"

The younger Mrs. McNeill rolled her eyes in contempt. "I don't know, Brion. Perhaps this is some devious plan of hers to prevent Livy's upcoming marriage," she commented snidely. "Of course, I'm sure that would sit well with you."

"Gwen darling," old Mrs. Morgan said in a firm voice. "Brion. Must we quarrel?"

Olivia's uncle protested, "I was not quarreling, Mother. I had merely stated that I found it odd that Nimue never told Jack and the others about . . ."

"Where are you going with this, Brion?" Mr. McNeill demanded. "Honestly! Why are you so upset by the idea that Cole might be my great-grandfather's godson? Is this some kind of hint or sign that the McNeills are marked by evil?"

Cecile noticed that Olivia's other uncle - Michael McNeill had winced at his older brother's words. "I don't think that Brion meant anything of the sort, Jack," he said in a conciliatory voice.

"The news probably took him by surprise," Cecile's father suggested. "Like the rest of us."

Glaring at his brother-in-law, Mr. McNeill muttered, "I'll bet."

Bruce continued, "C'mon Uncle Brion. I'm sure there isn't a family with a magical background that has connections others might not view with a tolerant eye."

"Like dear great-great-great-whatever grandmother Briana Morgan," Harry added.

Brion Morgan's head whipped around. He glared at his younger nephew. "May I ask why you deemed it necessary to bring 'her' up? And how can you even compare her to any daemon? She may have been a warlock, but she was mortal."

"For heaven sakes, Brion!" Mrs. McNeill retorted. "Briana Morgan was one of the most notorious warlocks in the supernatural world! Everyone knows it! She was practically a favorite of the old Source's! Look at Andre!" Or don't, Cecile added silently. She really wished that Olivia's mother had not brought up her fiancé. But Mrs. McNeill continued, "He was once a notorious bokor with associations with a powerful order! He managed to change his life and will be marrying Cecile, next month!" The Vodoun priestess glanced at her father, whose face had tightened. "And before you experience another fit, I might as well tell you that your niece and two nephews are descendants of at least three daemons!"

The dining room fell silent. Everyone stared at Gweneth McNeill. Cecile noticed that her mother's eyes had grown wide with shock. Brion Morgan, on the other hand, reacted to his sister's words with horror. "What did you say?" he whispered.

Oh oh, Cecile thought. The shit has certainly hit the fan.

"I said that the McNeills are descended from at least three daemons. At least the ones, here in America." Mrs. McNeill glanced around the dining room with defiant eyes. "What? It's nothing to be ashamed of!"

Mr. McNeill regarded his wife with an affectionate smile. "It certainly isn't, sweetheart."

Cecile shot a peek at her best friend. Mrs. McNeill's little bombshell had knocked Olivia out of her anxious mood. There seemed to be something to be grateful for.



Cecile's words reverberated inside Cole's head, over and over again. The New Orleans woman had predicted future matrimony for the half-daemon. Only not with Olivia. According to Cecile, he would eventually marry Idril - one of the great mistakes of his life. And he could not simply fathom such a thing happening.

Cole leaned back into his leather chair and sighed. Perhaps Cecile's vision might prove to be false. He fervently hoped so. The last thing he wanted to do was marry a shallow bitch like Idril, who would bore him silly after thirty minutes in her company.

The intercom on his desk buzzed. Cole snapped out of his reverie and answered. "Yes?"

"You have a visitor, Mr. Turner," his assistant, Elinor, replied. "A new client. He had made an appointment, earlier this morning. A Mr. Gary . . ."

Cole finished, ". . . Whalen. Oh yeah. I remember. Send him in."

A minute later, Elinor ushered in a blond man just barely under six feet tall, with blue eyes. He held out his hand. "Mr. Turner? How do you do? I'm Gary Whalen." The man spoke with a slight Southern accent.

"Nice to meet you, Mr. Whalen." Cole shook his guest's hand. "Would you like some coffee? Or water?"

"No thanks."

Cole said to his assistant, "Thank you, Elinor." Once she had closed the door behind her, the half-daemon turned to his guest. "So, what can I do for you, Mr. Whalen?"

The blond man cleared his throat nervously. "I . . . uh, I need an attorney," he declared. Then he paused. "I'm looking for a new attorney, that is." He ended his last sentence with a firm nod.

Cole regarded the other man through narrowed eyes. "Is there something wrong, Mr. Whalen? You seem nervous."

"I guess I am," Mr. Whalen said with an uneasy chuckle. "You see, I'm . . . interested in drafting a new will."

One of Cole's dark brows formed an arch. "A new will?"

Whalen hesitated. Then, "My former attorney . . . He, uh . . . was killed by a hit-and-run driver before he could draft a new will for me. And his death, quite frankly, has made me more aware of my own mortality."

"Your accent," Cole continued. "You don't sound like a Californian. Where are you originally from?"

Mr. Whalen gave a slight smile. "Um . . . Richmond. I've lived in San Francisco for the past four years."

Nodding, Cole said, "I see. Now, before we commence upon drafting your will, we need to sign you up as one of the firm's new clients." He strode toward one of the beige filing cabinets and opened one drawer. "This is basically a standard contract. It will remain in effect as long as you remain a client of Jackson, Carter and Kline." Cole removed a blank contract. "I'll have my assistant type it up, so that you can . . ."

Cole turned around. A bright, turquoise-blue stone gleamed in his eyes. And then his mind went blank.


Ensnaring the infamous half-daemon proved to be easier than Gary had imagined. Perhaps those rumors about Belthazor's encounter with Barbas had been correct. The warlock took a deep breath and continued:

"With this stone will soon be linked,
Your mind to mine, shall finally . . ."

A sharp knock on the door interrupted the spell. Gary muttered a quick oath under his breath. Then he said to Belthazor, "Forget the last minute or two. Continue explaining about the contract."

The half-daemon's blue eyes blinked momentarily. Then he finished his last sentence. ". . . sign it."

At that moment, the door burst open. Two men entered the office. "Hey there, buddy! Ready for lunch?" The tall, black man stopped short at the sight of Gary standing near Belthazor. "Oh, sorry man. Didn't realize that you were alone."

Belthazor paused, as if confused about something. Fortunately, his confusion barely lasted a second. "Uh, it's lunch, already?" He stared at the newcomers. "Where's Elinor? Wasn't she out there?"

The other man, who was a white man with dark-brown hair replied, "She wasn't there." His blue-gray eyes fell upon Gary. "Hello."

"Oh yeah. Uh, Bruce," Belthazor began, "this is my new client, Gary Whalen. Well, a prospective client. Mr. Whalen, I'd like to introduce you to my future brother-in-law, Bruce McNeill and a very close friend, Andre Morrell."

It took all of Gary's efforts not to gape at the black man. He had heard of Andre Morrell. An infamous bokor from the Anasi Order. "Oh, uh . . . hi." Gary smiled uneasily at the two men. He realized that he needed to get out. Fast. "Well, I better get going." He started toward the door.

Belthazor frowned. "What about the new contract? And your will? Do you still plan to join our firm?"

"Oh! Of course. Uh . . ." Gary deliberately drifted toward the door. ". . . I'll get back with you, later. Your friends just reminded me that I have a lunch date." He nodded at the three men. "Nice meeting you all." And he quickly made his escape.

Andre regarded the closed door with thoughtful eyes. "That is one strange dude," he commented.

"Huh?" Bruce asked. "What do you mean?"

"Cole's new client. I've never seen anyone - normal that it - move with the speed of light, like that. Strange thing is," Andre paused, "he didn't seem to be much in a hurry, when we first got here."

Cole shook his head and smiled. "I think you had scared him off. He, uh . . . had some private business to attend to. A will." Then he frowned at the other two men. "By the way, what are you two doing here?"

"Bruce and I had decided to take you to lunch," Andre explained. "Help get you out of any funk you might be feeling."

Rolling his eyes, Cole retorted lightly, "Well, you're wasting your time. I'm not in a bad mood."

Andre grunted. "You could have fooled me, last night. And this morning, before you left. Considering how Olivia had reacted to Cecile's little bombshell."

"I'm not upset." Cole insisted in a hard voice.

Bruce shook his head. "That's one hell of a vision that Andre had told me about. Was Cecile referring to that daemon you used to date? The one who had appeared at your engagement party, in the Melora dimension? And who used to be in the movies as Diane Hayward?"

Cole sighed. Long and hard. "You mean, Idril. One of the few mistakes in my life."

"If you feel that way about her, why would you want to marry her?"

The half-daemon rolled his eyes and retorted, "What makes you think that I would ever marry someone like Idril? Cecile's vision must be a mistake. I just can't . . . The idea of marrying Idril makes me ill. Literally."

"Yeah, I know what you mean," Andre said. "I remember her from that trip we had made to the Bahamas, early in '99. Before I had even met Cecile and Olivia. Never understood what you saw in her. She seemed pretty sharp, but . . . just didn't seem your type." He paused momentarily. "Come to think of it, I'm trying to understand why you became involved with Phoebe. Especially after meeting her."

Cole shot back, "What? You're now questioning my taste in women?"

"I have to admit that Andre has a point about Phoebe," Bruce added. "I mean - yeah, she has an outgoing personality that would probably attract someone like you." Cole stared at the witch, as he continued, "But when Leo had first told us about you two, I was surprised that you didn't hook up with Prue. She seemed like more your type. You know, more sophisticated and mature. Then again, maybe Prue was too much your type. You two seemed a little too similar in your natures, despite you being a daemon, and her a witch. As for Phoebe . . . well, sometimes she seems smart and on the ball. And other times, she reminds me of a female Peter Pan. Or a child bride. You know what I mean?"

Cole knew exactly what Bruce meant. One of his former clients - the late DeWolfe Mann of the BAY-MIRROR - had said the very same thing, last spring. The half-daemon began to wonder if his relationship with Phoebe had been doomed from the start. And what about Olivia? She had Phoebe's extroverted nature, but Prue's maturity. Did Cecile's vision meant that he would never find happiness with her, as well?

"For two people who came here to cheer me up," Cole grumbled, "you're doing a piss poor job of it. Now I'm really beginning to question my taste in women."

With a smile, Andre said, "Well, you've hit the jackpot with Olivia. That's saying something. Right Bruce?"

His gray eyes twinkling, Bruce solemnly replied, "I refuse to answer on the grounds of possibly being accused of favoritism."

Cole sighed, as he led the other two men out of the office. He could only hope that Olivia felt the same about him.


Inside a small suite at the St. Regis Hotel, an impatient Idril faced Gary Wheeler. "Where's Belthazor? Why isn't he here?"

Wheeler sighed. "Because we were interrupted before I could finish the spell."

"And that stopped you?" Idril rolled her eyes in contempt. "Why didn't you just deal with them and continue the spell?"

Keeping his annoyance in check, Wheeler shot back, "Because we were interrupted by one of Belthazor's future brothers-in-law . . . and Andre Morrell. I wasn't about to go toe-to-toe with a powerful witch and a powerful Voodoo priest."

Idril's stomach tightened. "Morrell? Andre Morrell? From the Anasi Order? I've met him once. Nearly five years ago." Realizing that the warlock had good reason to abort the spell, disappointment settled within her. "Okay," she added, "I guess you'll have to set up another appointment. Maybe you can see him, later this afternoon."

Wheeler shook his head. "Sorry, but he'll be busy! I was lucky enough to see him this morning. Besides," the warlock paused, "why don't you do the spell?"

The demoness snapped, "Because I would have to get close to him! And I can't. Or have you forgotten? It means you'll have to make . . . another . . . appointment!"

"I tried!" Wheeler sighed, as he plopped down on the sofa. "I just called his secretary. Or assistant. Apparently, Belthazor won't be available after today. Not until after the New Year."

Idril heaved an exasperated sigh. "Of all the . . ." She paused and then added, "All right! Then visit him at home. Tonight." She shook her head in frustration. "This is getting out of hand."

"Then why don't you call it off?" Wheeler suggested. Idril glared at him. "Or not."

Still glaring, the demoness added, "You'll visit Belthazor's apartment, tonight. The McNeill woman should be at her parents' home. Make sure that you're alone and use the stone. Once the spell is completed . . ."

"Yeah, I know," Wheeler said, interrupting. "Bring him here." He sighed. "I only hope that nothing goes wrong."

"It better not." The veiled threat hung heavily in the air. Just as Idril had intended.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Oingo Boingo - "GREY MATTER"

Here is a video clip featuring the song, "Grey Matter", performed by Oingo Boingo in 1982:


Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Below are images from "PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES", the fourth entry in the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN franchise. Directed by Rob Marshall, the movie stars Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane:


Monday, May 23, 2011

"THE LINCOLN LAWYER" (2011) Review

"THE LINCOLN LAWYER" (2011) Review

For years I began to wonder if Matthew McConaughey would be stuck in an endless series of mediocre romance comedies and light action thrillers. The last noteworthy movie I had seen him in was the 2008 comedy, "TROPIC THUNDER". Only, he was not the lead in that film. And the last noteworthy movie in which he was the lead actor was the 2006 drama, "WE ARE MARSHALL" and before that – the 2000 World War II thriller, "U-571". Then I saw "THE LINCOLN LAWYER" and whatever doubts I had about the future of his career were erased. For now.

Directed by Brad Furman and based upon Michael Connelly’s 2005 novel, "THE LINCOLN LAWYER" told the story about a successful Los Angeles defense attorney named Mickey Haller, who operates around Los Angeles County out of a Lincoln Town Car, driven by a former client working off his legal fees (hence the title). Haller has spent most of his career defending garden-variety criminals, until he lands the case of his career – a Beverly Hills playboy named Louis Roulet, who also happens to be the son of a real estate mogul named Mary Windsor. Roulet is accused of the brutal beating of a prostitute. At first, Roulet seems to be an innocent who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. But when Haller and his investigator, Frank Levin, discover that the prostitute’s injuries are similar to a past case of his that landed a previous client, Jesus Martinez in prison for murdering a woman, the seemingly straightforward case suddenly develops into a deadly game of survival for Haller.

After watching this movie, it occurred to me that the movie’s title bore very little significance to the actual plot. If anything, the idea that the Mickey Haller operated his law firm from the back seat of his Lincoln Town Car struck me as some kind of plot contrivance that almost seemed like a publicity ploy. Honestly. Both Connelly’s novel and the movie would have been better off with a title that related more closely with the plot. Perhaps I am being a bit of a nitpicker. Yet, before I actually saw "THE LINCOLN LAWYER", I honestly thought the car would feature as a major plot point for the story. Another problem I had with the movie was that at times, cinematographer Lukas Ettlin utilized in that quick-cut photography that tends to leave me feeling slightly dizzy. And I thought that the story’s conclusion may have been rushed a bit. But despite these mild annoyances, I enjoyed the movie very much.

One, it has become increasingly rare to find a major Hollywood movie set in the Los Angeles. There have been movies set in my hometown. But there are not as many as they used to be. And as an Angeleno, this has been a bone of contention for me. Thankfully, director Brad Furman and cinematographer Lukas Ettlin did a great job in revealing the City of Angels to movie goers without resorting to extremes in its portrayal. Two, Furman made great use of a first-rate cast filled with many whose careers I thought were either over or sliding into oblivion. Most importantly, both Furman and screenwriter John Romano did an excellent job of translating Connelly’s novel to the screen. Okay, I confess that I have never read the novel. Which means that I do not know how faithful Romano’s screenplay was to the novel. But whether the movie was a close adaptation or not, I must admit that it had a damn good story. The best thing I liked about "THE LINCOLN LAWYER" was that Haller’s defense of Roulet transformed into a nightmarish situation in which he found himself in an unwitting game of cat and mouse.

When I said that the cast was first-rate, I was not joking. The supporting cast included excellent performances from the likes of Frances Fisher, who portrayed Roulet’s controlling and over-protective mother; Michael Peña, who portrayed Haller’s former client claiming innocence of murder, while serving time in prison; Laurence Mason as Haller’s observant chauffeur/former client; John Leguizamo, who portrayed the slightly sleezy bail bondsman responsible for directing Haller to Roulet’s case; and Bob Gunton, who portrayed the Roulet-Windsor family’s obsequious attorney. I believe that the last decent movie that Josh Lucas made was 2006’s "GLORY ROAD". So, it was great to see him in a first-rate movie in which, once again, he proved how much of a chameleon he could be in his portrayal of the righteous prosecuting attorney, whose self-assurance is slowly whittled away. William H. Macy created a strong screen chemisty as Haller’s intelligent and witty investigator, who helps solve the case. And Marisa Tomei gave a strong performance as Haller’s ex-wife and a prosecutor who is torn between relief that she is no longer married to such a difficult man and lingering feelings for him.

But the two star performances came from Matthew McConaughey in the title role of Mickey Haller; and Ryan Phillippe as his latest client, Louis Roulet. McConaughey, who has spent too many years without a first rate leading role, owned this movie. Let me take that back. He did not completely own the movie, but he definitely made the Mickey Haller character his own. Hell, he practically conquered it. Sure, McConaughey utilized his usual brand of Southern charm in the movie’s first ten or fifteen minutes. But as the movie’s plot made a sharp turn, the actor dropped the charming façade and revealed his character’s range of emotions in dealing with his complicated new client. And speaking of the Louis Roulet character, I believe that it might turn out to be one of Ryan Phillippe’s best roles ever. Due to his superb performance, he transformed Roulet from a charming, yet bewildered client that projected an air of innocence to a dark and malignant man with a talent for manipulation.

Would I recommend that you see "THE LINCOLN LAWYER" before it disappears from the movie theaters? Absolutely. Thanks to director Brad Furman and screenwriter John Romano, the movie turned out to be a superb adaptation of Michael Connelly’s novel. And the movie was also blessed with a first-rate cast, led by outstanding performances from Matthew McConaughey and Ryan Phillippe. It is one of the better movies I have seen this year so far.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

"Bride of Belthazor" [PG-13] - 4/16


Chapter Four

The doorbell rang. Olivia heaved a sigh and stared at Cecile. "Oh God," she murmured. "It's time."

Cecile rolled her eyes. "Get serious, girl. You act as if we're about to attend the wedding party from hell."

"We're talking about my half-daemon fiancé, his daemonic mother and uncle, and my prissy Uncle Brion in the same room." Olivia paused. "You do the math."

With a snort, Cecile added, "Now if you add Daddy and Andre, who can barely stand each other, then you're talking about a hellish night." She grabbed Olivia's arm. "And by the way, since when, as a Wiccan, did you start believing in hell? Time to go downstairs and meet the guests."

The two friends left the bedroom that they shared and headed downstairs toward the large drawing room. Seconds later, Davies ushered in Cole, Andre, Nimue and Marbus. Olivia greeted her fiancé with a kiss. "Ready for tonight?"

"Would you be upset if I said 'no'?" Cole murmured back.

Olivia shot him a quick grimace and made the introductions. "Cole, Andre . . . I'm sure that you two remembered my grandmother, Bronwyn Llewellyn Morgan. From Bruce's wedding."

The half-daemon and the former bokor greeted the elderly witch with warm smiles. Olivia's grandmother literally gushed over the pair. "I must say that it's lovely to see you two, again." She sighed. "Makes me wish I was fifty years younger."

"Mother!" Gweneth admonished.

"How about forty years?"

Barely smiling, Olivia continued the introductions. "Nana, this is Elizabeth Turner, Cole's mother. She's also known as . . . uh, Nimue."

The elderly woman's dark eyes grew wide at the sight of the demoness. "Good heavens! So, you're the one who . . ." She glanced at her son. "Brion, is the daemon who had . . .?"

Olivia's uncle stiffened. "Yes," he muttered.

An amused smile curved Nimue's lips. "Yes, I'm the one who had taken Aeronwyn's Grimoire. I still have it, by the way. Nice to meet you again, Mr. Morgan."

Brion's mouth tightened even further. His mother peered closely at Nimue. "Good heavens! I don't mean to be rude, but why do you speak with a Dublin accent?"

"I was born in Dublin," Nimue explained. "And my family are descendants of the Tuatha Dé Dannan."

Bronwyn exclaimed, "Bloody hell!"

"That was more or less my reaction," Margaret Ferguson added.

Nimue's smile widened, as she nodded at Marbus. "By the way, this is my elder brother, Marbus. I'm sure you know him as . . . um, Miles Farrell. Like me, he was born . . ."

"Miles Farrell?" The outburst came from Olivia's uncle. Who wrote 'VISIONS OF RAGE' and 'TIME OF THE PHOENIX'?"

Looking slightly embarrassed, Marbus nodded. "That and a few others." He held out his hand to the Welshman. "Nice meeting you, uh . . .?"

"Brion Morgan." Olivia's uncle shook the daemon's hand. "I understand that you're also a Gimle daemon?" Nimue rolled her eyes.

Marbus replied, "Aye. For over 140 years or so." He shook Bronwyn's hand. "Lovely to meet you, Mrs. Morgan."

"It's a pleasure," Olivia's grandmother replied.

After Olivia finished with the introductions, a heavy silence filled the room. Nimue's next comment caught the others off guard. She turned to the Welsh visitors and said, "I suppose that Gweneth must have told you the news."

Brion peered suspiciously at the demoness. "What news?"

"About Jack's family, of course."

Another deadly silence followed. Dread filled Olivia's mind. She feared that her future mother-in-law was about to reveal the McNeills' family secret. "Oh, Nana and Uncle Brion already know about the daemonic wedding ceremony, Nimue." She shot an uneasy look at Cole. "If that's what you're talking about."

The half-daemon stepped forward. "Mother is probably referring to the news about your shop."

"What?" Nimue frowned at her son.

Cole deliberately repeated himself. "Olivia's new shop, Mother. Isn't that what you mean? She plans to open it after the New Year."

"Hopefully in early February," Olivia added, grateful for Cole's quick thinking. She turned to Mrs. Dubois. "I thought you might like a peep at it, before you leave."

A wary smile appearing on her face, Mrs. Dubois replied, "Yeah. Yeah, Andre told me all about it."

Once again, the room fell silent. From the corner of her eye, Olivia noticed that Nimue seemed interested in the room's décor. So did Gweneth. "I realize that this room looks a bit old-fashioned, but I've always been a fan of the old Spanish Colonial style. Ever since I first arrived in California."

"So have I," Nimue replied. "Of course that was 120 years ago. Although I must say that this room looked slightly different, back then."

Everyone stared at the demoness. Including Olivia. "You've . . . been here, before?"

Nimue hesitated. "Well . . . yes. After all, the Turners were a well-to-do family, back then."

"That would make sense," Mr. Dubois said. "Considering that Cole is . . ." He paused and turned to the half-daemon. "Sorry, but I remember Cecile and Andre telling me that you're . . . 115 years old?"

Cole corrected him. "I'll be 119 years, next month."

"That's right," Nimue added. "Oh, how I remember that day. Deirdre had to act as midwife, while Benjamin and William waited downstairs for . . ."

Uncle Mike interrupted. "Wait a minute. William? As in William McNeill?"

"Of course," Nimue coolly replied, nodding her head. "He and Benjamin were close friends. As a matter-of-fact, Belthazor was his godson."

Gasps filled the room. Eyes grew wide with shock. Olivia and Cole's eyes met. Then Jack McNeill turned to the family's boggling manservant. "Uh, Davies, perhaps you should serve another round of drinks."


Several hours later, a furious Cole paced back and forth in front of the penthouse fireplace. Olivia, Nimue, Andre, Cecile and Marbus observed his action with wary eyes, from the comfort of nearby chairs and the sofa. The half-daemon finally paused, as he angrily turned on his mother. "Exactly when did you plan to deliver this little bombshell to the rest of us, Mother?"

"This . . . what?" Nimue coughed slightly. "Oh, you mean our little family connection? Well, I didn't exactly have any plans, Belthazor. Especially since I've been a bit pre-occupied by the engagement and the wedding. And before that, I had not seen you in months."

Cole retorted, "And why didn't you tell me, last summer?"

"Because I was too busy trying to prevent you from making a grave mistake." Nimue's eyes - so similar to her son's - shone with resentment. "You remember, don't you, Belthazor? When you had planned to give up your powers?"

"Mother . . ."

Cecile spoke up, "I don't want to get involved in a family spat, but I don't see why you're upset." Mother and son stared at the Vodoun priestess. "Yes Cole, I'm talking to you."

"What the . . . I . . ." The half-daemon felt speechless. He turned to his fiancée for support.

Olivia merely added, "Cecile has a point, Cole. I don't really see why you're upset. Didn't you once say that you had the feeling that you've been inside my parents' home before? And considering your mother's news, I thought you would be thrilled about being the godson of my great-great-grandfather."

Shit! Cole glared at his mother, who looked slightly amused. His anger increased. "I would be," he growled, if Mother . . . had not deemed it necessary to keep this a secret."

"In Capsiel's name! I did not keep this a secret!" Nimue protested. "I simply forgot to mention it! Bloody hell! I haven't set foot inside that house since 1892!"

Marbus drained the last of his whiskey and stood up. "I don't know about the rest of you, but it's time for me to leave. I need to get home."

"Before you leave Marbus," Cole said in a deceptively soft voice, "how long did you know that I was William McNeill's godson?"

"Who me?" The older demon regarded his nephew with innocent eyes. "Not until tonight."

Nimue added, "He never knew, if you must know. I never told Marbus about our connection to the McNeills. Don't forget Belthazor, he first met you in the Melora Dimension, when you were four."

Cole remained silent, but continued to regard both his mother and uncle with suspicion. Marbus said, "Well, I guess I'll be seeing the rest of you, later this week. Uh . . . when is the bachelor's party?"

"This Friday," Andre replied. "At the Vornado Club. On Powell Street. The party begins at 7:30."

"Right. The Vornado Club. I reckon I'll see you lads there. Goodnight everyone." And the daemon teleported out of the penthouse.

Nimue stood up. "It's time for me to leave as well."

"Making your escape as well, Mother?" Cole murmured in an insinuating voice.

The demoness sighed. "You really amaze me sometimes, Belthazor. You're about to be married in a few days. Someone has recently tried to kill your bride-to-be . ."

"I had hoped everyone had forgotten that," Olivia added.

Nimue finished, ". . . and you're creating a fuss over something I had forgotten about for years." She shot a friendly smile at Olivia and the two New Orleans visitors. "It was lovely seeing you all, again. And I'll be seeing you two ladies, Friday night." Then she glared at her son. "Belthazor." She shimmered away.

Cole stared at the other three, who deliberately avoided his gaze. "Okay. You might as well say what's on your mind."

"Oh, you mean that you've been acting like a complete ass?" Olivia volunteered. "Or that once again, you've allowed your feelings toward your mother to overcome any sense of forgiveness?"

Frowning, Cole shot back, "Olivia, is it your goal in life to make me feel like a complete shit?"

With a sigh, Andre answered, "Hey man, you're doing that all on your own."

"No kidding," Cecile added. "You really need to make up your mind about how you feel about that mother of yours. Apparently, you still have a grudge against her, because of what happened to your daddy. Yet, you've allowed her to become involved in your wedding. What's up with that, anyway? Have you forgiven her or what?"

A gust of breath escaped from Cole's mouth as he sat down on the sofa, next to Cecile. "I don't know. I mean, I want us to move on, but . . ." He paused, as a gasp left the Vodoun priestess' mouth. Everyone stared at her. "What?" Cole demanded. "Something wrong?"

A frown appeared on Cecile's face. "I don't know. Are you familiar with a dark-haired woman who looks like a second-rate Vegas showgirl?"

Idril. The moment Cecile spoke, he recognized the demoness' description. "Yeah," he said warily. "I think I know her. Why?"

The frown remained stamped on Cecile's face. "Because sooner or later, I think the two of you will end up as husband and wife."


Idril climbed the stoop of a Baltimore townhouse and rang the doorbell. Seconds passed before a man's voice answered. "Yes? Who is it?"

"My name is . . ." Idril hesitated. She had considered using her mortal name, but decided against it. Why bother when Wheeler happened to be familiar with the supernatural world? "My name is Idril." She paused. "I'm a daemon."

The door immediately swung open. An attractive man with conservatively cut blond hair and light-blue eyes appeared in the doorway. He stood at least an inch under six feet tall. And Idril could not help but admire his compact, muscular body - especially his wide shoulders. "What do you want?" he demanded in a suspicious voice.

Idril took a deep breath. "I understand that you have an object - an amulet that I might be interested in. Evendril's Amulet. I would like . . ."

"Who told you that?" Wheeler regarded the demoness with hostile eyes.

"Valindal of the Anduin dimension."

Wheeler muttered through his teeth, "That bitch! Can't keep her mouth shut. I'll never do business with her, again." He glared at Idril. "If you think that you can take the amulet from me, think again."

Idril retorted, "I could have simply killed you and taken the amulet. Which I assume is hanging from your neck."

"I doubt it." Wheeler glanced at an object that hung from the doorway - inside the house. Idril's eyes followed his gaze. She saw a white pouch hanging from above. "Protection ward. Angelica Root."

A frustrated sigh left Idril's mouth. "Look, I understand that you have to be close in order to use the amulet on the . . . person in question. Which is something I won't be able to do. Not with the person I have in mind. Which means I need someone to get close to this person." She paused. "Namely you."

Silence followed, until Wheeler finally agreed to cooperate. "Okay. Fine. I'll help. But for a price." His eyes hardened.

"How much?" Idril asked.

The warlock hesitated. "One hundred thousand. I want half before I do anything."

"Fine. One hundred thousand is chump change to me." Idril glanced at the protection ward. "By the way, may I finally come in? We need to make plans and that's not gonna happen with me standing on this stoop."

Reluctantly, Wheeler removed the protection ward from the doorway. He stood back. "C'mon in," he said. With a tight smile on her face, Idril entered the townhouse.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Top Five Favorite Episodes of "LOIS AND CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN" (Season One)

Below is a list of my top five (5) favorite episodes from Season One (1993-1994) of "LOIS AND CLARK: The New Adventures of Superman". Developed for television by Deborah Joy LeVine, the series starred Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher:


1. (1.12) "All Shook Up" - After preventing an asteroid from impacting upon Earth, Clark Kent/Superman loses his memory and forgets how to use his powers. Martha and Jonathan Kent arrive to help Clark regain his memory, so that he can become Superman and stop a fragment of the asteroid still heading to Earth. A first-rate remake of an old "Adventures of Superman" episode.

2. (1.08) "The Green Glow of Home" - In this tense-filled episode, an Environmental Protection Agency report leads Lois and Clark to Smallville in order to investigate. They discover that Jason Trask and Bureau 39 is after kryptonite to be used to kill Superman.

3. (1.17) "The Rival" - This humorous episode featured a reunion between Lois Lane and her college rival, reporter Linda King of The Metropolis Star. The two rivals and Clark investigate a serious of accidents, and discover that The Star is causing them for stories.

4. (1.16) "The Foundling" - A globe that Clark had retrieved from his spaceship begins to project messages from his biological father, Jor-El. A teenage thief steals the globe and other items from Clark's apartment, and it soon falls into the hands of Lex Luthor. Interesting episode.

5. (1.02) "Strange Visitor (From Another Planet)" - In this episode, Clark first learns about his origins and the sinister Jason Trask of Bureau 39, who views Superman as a threat to humanity.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"THE KENNEDYS" (2011) Photo Gallery

Below are images from the new miniseries, "THE KENNEDYS". Directed by Stephen Kronish, the eight-part miniseries stars Greg Kinnear, Barry Pepper, Katie Holmes, Diana Hardcastle and Tom Wilkinson:

"THE KENNEDYS" (2011) Photo Gallery