Friday, September 30, 2011

"Torn Duties" [PG] - 5/6





"TORN DUTIES"

Part Five

At promptly nine twenty-five in the evening, Mira entered the half-empty Eaton Suppliers warehouse in South San Francisco, accompanied by three men. The young wizard had hired three warlocks to serve as bodyguards, in case her client decides to spring a trap. One of them held Mira's laptop. The other two disappeared behind some crates immediately upon arrival.

"No one's here," the remaining warlock commented. He was tall and blond, and he also held Mira's computer. "Are you sure that this is the place?"

One of the crates inside the warehouse read EATON SUPPLIERS, INCORPORATED. Mira nodded. "Yeah, I'm sure. Perhaps she's just . . ."

At that moment, the client in question and four other companions entered the warehouse. "Mira, darling! You've made it!"

The younger wizard recognized the vibrant voice. With a tentative smile on her lips, Mira turned to face the tall, female wizard. With long, auburn curls, sharp cheekbones, pale skin and flashing turquoise eyes, Oria Mundi struck quite a figure. Although Oria looked like a woman in her early thirties, Mira knew for a fact that the former had been born long before the early 1970s. A tentative smile tugged at Mira's lips. "Oria. Ready for business?" She eyed the other woman's four assistants. One carried a metal briefcase, while two others began setting up a folding table and two chairs.

"Of course I am." Oria's gaze swept over the younger woman. Unease crept into her turquoise eyes. "Darling, where's the sword?"

Sweetly, Mira replied, "Don't worry. I'll hand it over as soon as I'm paid."

"Oh dear. You don't trust me?"

Mira's smile widened. "Of course I do," she gently admonished. "I'm just being careful." She indicated the table and two chairs. "Why don't we begin?"

The two women sat down, facing each other. Mira's blond companion placed her computer laptop on the table in front of her. Oria's thug removed a laptop from his briefcase and set it up for the auburn-haired wizard. Mira accessed her bank account on the computer, while Oria did the same.

"Let's see," Oria began. "The deal called for ten million dollars . . ."

Mira interrupted. "I'm sorry. I'm just . . . well, I'm still surprised that you're able to pay such a sum for the sword. How did you managed to become so wealthy since your escape from the Barakus Wasteland? It hasn't been that long."

Oria's mouth formed a cruel smile. "Apparently, an old and lonely . . . friend of my late uncle . . . had recently passed away." She paused dramatically. "And he was kind enough to leave me his money. It turns out that he was a multi-billionaire."

"You must have seen to his every need," Mira responded.

The older wizard's smile widened in a suggestive manner. "Right to the end. Now, let's see about this transaction." Oria typed an entry into her computer laptop. "The money should start transferring into your account . . . right about now."

Seconds passed before Mira glanced at the laptop's screen. Her Cayman Islands bank account now read $10.8 million dollars. Triumph fluttered within the young wizard's breast. She smiled at her benefactor. "Everything's there." Then she turned to the blond warlock and snapped her fingers. He summoned another warlock, whose name happened to be Rolf. The second warlock - a thin, chestnut-haired man with dark brown eyes - appeared from behind a stack of crates, holding the sheathed sword. Rolf handed the sword over to Mira. She removed the purple velvet sheath from the merchandise. "Here we are. Haldane's Sword."

Oria's eyes glittered with desire. "At last! I never thought . . ." She paused as a heavy breeze filled the warehouse. Frowning, she asked, "Was there a storm forecasted for tonight?"

"What?" Oria asked. She had also noticed the strong breeze that whipped her long hair into the air.

The older wizard became grim. "Something's not right. This wind . . . it's unatur . . ."

What began as a heavy breeze became something stronger. Soon, a strong whirlwind filled the warehouse, knocking a few stacked crates on the floor. Mira found herself being lifted off her feet, before the wind hurled her body across the floor. A cry escaped from her mouth, as her body slammed into a large crate. And everything went black.

-----------

Bruce, along with Scott, Cirhan and the two older Halliwells emerged from their hiding places behind the crates. "Wow! That's some power you have!" Piper declared to Bruce, looking very impressed.

"Thanks," Bruce replied. "You wouldn't believe how much trouble it first . . ."

A blond-haired minion rose to his feet and murmured a chant before hurling an energy ball at Phoebe. Piper destroyed said ball with her molecular combustion power. Before the minion could attack again, Phoebe knocked him out cold with a roundhouse kick. Piper turned to Bruce. "What were you about to say?"

"Never mind," the oldest McNeill sibling said.

Looking anxious, Cirhan ordered, "Find the sword!

The others - Bruce included - set out to do as Cirhan had ordered. As the search for the sword and Mira Novak commenced, Oria Mundi's henchmen finally recovered from Bruce's aerokinetic attack and faced off the three men and two sisters.

Bruce had no problem using his aerokinesis to send a man and a woman hurling against a wall. But one particular minion with an electrokinetic ability managed to stun Bruce with an energy ball. The minion then formed another ball above his open palm and hurled it at the witch. Fortunately, Scott deflected the attack using telekinesis and the minion disintegrated into a pile of ash. "Need help?" The police officer/sorcerer offered Bruce a hand.

The witch gratefully took hold of Scott's hand and rose to his feet. The pair heard an explosion nearby and turned around in time to see Piper lower her hands. They also saw Cirhan break another minion's neck. Then Phoebe cried out, "I found her! And the sword!" The others rushed toward the Charmed One's side. Sure enough, a dark-haired young woman lay sprawled on the floor, nestled between two stacks of crates . . . and barely on top of the object in question.

Cirhan bent down and rolled the woman on her back. He then retried the object and held it up for the others to see. "The Sword of Haldane." Bruce nearly gasped aloud at the sight of the ornate sword. Blood red rubies crusted the sword's hilt, which supported a silver, double-edge blade with strange markings carved on both sides of the blade's fuller. The daemon announced triumphantly, "Ulmund will be . . ."

". . . very disappointed by your failure to recover the sword for him!" A beautiful and voluptuous auburn-haired woman strode forward. With a sweep of her arms, she knocked the crates aside, exposing the entire party. Then she stretched out one hand and the sword zipped out of Cirhan's grip and into hers. With a smirk stamped on her face, she added, "Thank you."

"Oria Mundi!" Cirhan's eyes reflected shock and distaste at the sight of the female wizard. Bruce regarded her with interest. Superficially, Oria Mundi reminded him of his younger sister. Unlike Olivia, who possessed flaming red tresses, Ms. Mundi's curls seemed more reddish-brown and she wore them long. Ms. Mundi's features seemed fuller and less delicate than Olivia's.

The wizard's smirk became more pronounced. "Cirhan. I see that the Gimle Order has sent their very own official boy scout. How charming." She spoke with a faint English accent. "Now, if you will excuse me, I have a few worlds to conquer."

"I don't think so." Piper stepped forward. She flung out her hands - whether to freeze or blow up the wizard - Bruce did not know. But nothing happened. "I . . ." Confusion filled Piper's eyes.

Ms. Mundi regarded the eldest Halliwell with contempt. "So, you're supposed to be one of the much celebrated Charmed Ones?" She snorted with derision. "So much for your reputation." A Latin chant escaped from her mouth before shooting a ball of energy at Piper.

Before Bruce could intercede, Scott stepped in front of the Charmed One and whipped out a dark-blue fan with white characters. The energy ball bounced off the opened fan and zoomed back toward the wizard. Unfortunately, Ms. Mundi used the sword to swat aside the energy ball before it could harm her.

Then Oria pointed the sword toward the others and began to chant:

"Creatures of good thou art,
Creature of flesh and blood you be.
I name you all as my enemies . . ."


Anxiety and fear illuminated Cirhan's face. "She's using the sword against us! Everyone, link hands and repeat after me!" The two Charmed Ones, Scott, Bruce and Cirhan all linked hands, while the latter chanted:

"Evil send must come to rest Reflect it back to who knows best Energy spent for evil and bane . . ."

Oria continued:

"No more shall you do me harm.
No more shall you repeat harmful tales.
No more shall you interfere in my life.
By the power of Haldane and by my will, So mote it be!"


Once the wizard finally completed her chant, the sword's tip began to glow red. She aimed the blade at the quintet and a wide, red beam shot from the tip.

At the same time, Bruce and the others finished Cirhan's chant:

"Go back now from whence you came Far away we send you this hour May the sword's attempts to harm turn sour!"

A magical shield materialized in front of the quintet. The red beam bounced off the shield and split into several directions, disintegrating Oria Mundi's minions. One beam also struck the female wizard. She shrieked out loud before disappearing completely. Once the red beam cleared, the sword clattered to the floor.

Bruce exhaled loudly. "Well, that was close!" He stared at Cirhan. "How did you know what spell to use to counter the sword's power?"

"Ulmund," Cirhan replied. "He gave me the counter spell. Just in case it was used against me." He heaved a heartfelt sigh. "I better get the sword."

A moan came from the fallen figure behind Piper. She declared, "Looks like your Miss Novak is still alive." Bruce glanced over his shoulder at the inert figure sprawled behind the Charmed One. Piper continued, "What's going to hap . . .?"

Before Piper could finish, Bruce felt his body rise from the floor and slam against a bare wall. Even worse, he found himself stuck to the wall . . . unable to move. A quick glance to his sides revealed that his companions seem to be in a similar situation. He muttered an oath and prayed that his wife and brother, along with Paige, would come to their rescue.

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

Several minutes earlier, Barbara heaved an exasperated sigh and grumbled, "I swear I'm going to kill Bruce for dragging us into this mess. And in the middle of the night."

"Then why did you come?" Harry demanded.

Barbara snapped back, "To make sure that your idiotic brother doesn't get himself hurt!"

Paige, who sat in the back of Bruce's dark-blue Jaguar, quietly remarked, "Bruce only wanted to help."

Another sigh left Barbara's mouth. "I know. I just didn't think I'd end up spending most of this evening sitting on my ass, while my husband rushes into the . . ." A bright, red light emitted from the warehouse's windows. "What the hell?"

A gasp left Paige's mouth. "You don't think something's happened to the others, do you?"

"I don't know," Barbara answered. "But I'm not going to hang around here and wonder." She climbed out of the car. Harry and Paige followed. The trio made their way toward the warehouse entrance. "I don't want to go rushing inside like some idiot. Both of you keep a sharp eye out for trouble."

Once inside the warehouse, the trio surreptiously weaved their way through stacks of crates. Before they could reach the center, they overheard voices that belonged to no one they knew. "What do we do with the witches and Cirhan, Lemsa?" a male's high-pitched voice asked.

Lemsa? Barbara exchanged frowns with Harry and Paige. She could have sworn that Mira Novak had planned to do business with Olivia's old nemesis, Oria Mundi.

A woman's voice coolly replied, "Why do you bother to ask? Kill them, of course. Kill them all." A pause followed before she added, "And Hador, hand me the Haldane Sword."

Barbara pulled out her wand from her inner jacket pocket. "Paige," she whispered to the Charmed One, "get the sword."

Then the trio rushed out from behind the crate. Barbara nearly hesitated at the sight of her husband, the older Halliwells, Scott and Cirhan pressed against the wall . . . and nine feet off the ground. Fortunately, she recovered in time to zap a nearby daemon with her wand. He ended up on the floor, unconscious.

Paige orbed the sword out of the hands of an astonished demoness. The latter, whose name happened to be Lemsa, glared at the newcomers. "Oh great!" she growled. "Will someone please kill at least one lousy witch? If possible!"

One daemon sent a spray of ice at Harry. Who immediately cried, "Gwyro!" The ice stream bounced back and struck the daemon, turning him into an ice statue. Another tried to stab the red-haired witch with a hunting knife. Harry blocked the attack with a few Wing Chun moves before grabbing the daemon's wrist and forcing the knife's blade into the latter's heart.

A cry rose from Paige's lips. Barbara saw her body being flung against a crate with a solid thud. A female daemon then flung an energy ball at the youngest Charmed One. Fortunately, Paige orbed the energy ball from the daemon and flung it back, instantly killing the latter.

"Enough of this!" Lemsa cried. Her eyes began to glow dangerously red.

Barbara decided that she also had enough of this fight. Raising her wand outward, she chanted:

"Beings of evil, Unfriendly beings Unwanted guests, Be gone!
Leave us leave this place, leave this Plane,
that the Goddess and the God may enter.
By the power of the Mother and the Horned One I vanquish you! I vanquish you! I vanquish you!"


A stream of energy poured out of the wand and enveloped Lemsa and her minions. Shrieks and cries of pain and panic filled the warehouse until the daemons disintegrated into balls of light and fire. The five people against the wall fell to the floor with heavy thumps. "Sorry," Barbara apologized.

Paige exclaimed, "Wow! That's some wand!" Harry helped her to her feet. She picked up the sword.

"Yes, it is." Piper stood up. She asked Barbara, "Where did you get it?"

Barbara replied, "Dad had bought it for me in the Anduin Marketplace. For my 18th birthday. Practically had it custom made." She turned to her husband. "I don't mean to be a spoil sport, but can we please get out of here?"

A loud gasp left Paige's mouth, as the Haldane Sword zipped out of her hands. It landed into the grasp of a very conscious Mira Novak. "Thanks for the sword, everyone. And thanks for taking care of that bitch, Lemsa." She threw out her hands and Barbara - along with the others - found themselves being flung against the bare wall. "Good night."

"Piper, freeze her!" Phoebe cried.

The oldest Charmed One, who stood near the young wizard, raised her hands in the air. For six seconds, Mira Novak froze. Paige took the opportunity to retrieve the sword, using her teleportation ability. But it did not take long for Piper's freezing power to wear off. Once it did, Ms. Novak knocked the Charmed One with a quick punch to the jaw. Then she swiftly knelt beside the fallen Piper and placed a hand on the latter's shoulder. "Hand over the sword right now or I'll kill her," the wizard growled.

"What are you going to do?" Paige retorted. "Cuddle her to death?"

At that moment, electricity surged from Ms. Novak's hand and jolted Piper's body. The oldest Charmed One cried out in pain. "That is what I'll continue to do, if you don't hand me that sword," the wizard threatened. "And I'll keep doing it until she dies. So, give me the sword. Now! Or I'll . . ." Again, she electrocuted Piper. The latter attempted to rise from the floor. Ms. Novak shoved her back down. "Give it to me!" Then she electrocuted Piper for the third time.

Within a blink of an eye, Barbara saw an energy ball form above Cirhan's open palm. So did Phoebe. The latter cried out, "No! We're going to . . ." But the middle Halliwell's cries went unheeded. Cirhan flung the energy ball at the young wizard, instantly decapitating her head. Ms. Novak's body weaved for a few seconds before it fell back on the floor.

Scott rushed forward and helped a stunned Piper to her feet. Barbara picked up the sword and handed it over to Cirhan. "I believe that this belongs to you. And by the way . . . great aim."

A grim smile touched the Gimle daemon's lips. "Thanks. I think."

"You could have killed Piper!" Phoebe angrily accused the daemon.

Cirhan shot back, "Which is why I had aimed at Mira's head!" He slipped the sword into the discarded velvet sheath. Barbara noticed that Phoebe had remained silent.


END OF PART FIVE

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"PAN AM" (2011) Photo Gallery



Below are images from the new ABC series about four flight attendants from the 1960s called "PAN AM". Enjoy:


"PAN AM" (2011) Photo Gallery






































































Monday, September 26, 2011

"JOHNNY TREMAIN" (1957) Review





"JOHNNY TREMAIN" (1957) Review

Forty-four years ago, the Walt Disney Studios produced a television movie set during a three year period that focused on the years in Boston, Massachusetts Colony prior to the outbreak of the American Revolution. The name of that movie was 1957's "JOHNNY TREMAIN".

Directed by Robert Stevenson, "JOHNNY TREMAIN" was an adaptation of Esther Forbes' 1944 Newbery Medal-winning children's novel. It told the story of an arrogant adolescent named Johnny Tremain, who happened to be an apprentice for a silversmith living in Boston. Johnny has dreams of owning his shop one day and becoming wealthy and respected in the process.

When a wealthy merchant named Jonathan Lyte commissions his master to repair a family's christening cup, Johnny takes it upon himself to do the actual repairs and win the arrogant Lyte's patronage. Unfortunately, Johnny picked the Sabbath to repair Lyte's cup. And in his haste to repair it before being discovered for breaking the Sabbath, Johnny damages his hand. While repairing Lyte's cup, Johnny discovers that he is the merchant's long lost nephew on his mother's side. But Lyte refuses to acknowledge Johnny as his kinsman and has the boy locked up. Johnny's difficulties with Lyte and in acquiring a job eventually leads him to join the Sons of Liberty, an organization dedicated to American independence from the British Empire. Along the way Johnny befriends several historical giants including Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and Joseph Warren. The story reaches its climax with the Battle of Lexington and Concord and the beginning of the American Revolution.

It had been a long time since I first saw this movie. A very long time. And considering that it had been originally produced as a Disney television movie, I was ready to harbor a low opinion of it. Considering the Disney Studios' reputation for churning out a superficial take on American History, one would be inclined to dismiss the film. And if I must be honest, "JOHNNY TREMAIN" has a superficial take on the later years of the Colonial Era and the beginning of the American Revolution. Although there is some depth in the movie's characters, there seemed to be lacking any ambiguity whatsoever. Well . . . I take that back. Aside from Johnny Tremain's brief foray into arrogance in the movie's first fifteen minutes, there were no ambiguity in the other American characters. Thankfully, screenwriters Esther Forbes and Tom Blackburn allowed some ambiguity in the British characters and prevented them from being portrayed as cold-blooded and one-dimensional villains. Even Sebastian Cabot's Jonathan Lyte (Johnny's British uncle) was saved from a fate of one-note villainy in his final reaction to Johnny's decision not to accept his patronage.

Disney film or not, "JOHNNY TREMAIN" is an entertaining historical drama infused with energy, good solid performances and a somewhat in-depth look into American history in Boston, between 1772 and 1775. Despite a running time of 80 minutes, the movie explored some of the events during that period - events that included an introduction of some of the important members of the Sons of Liberty, the Boston Tea Party of December 1773, the British closure of Boston's port, Paul Revere's famous ride and the Battle of Lexington and Concord. It is also the first costume drama that revealed the establishment of slavery in a Northern state - or in this case, colony. In the midst of all this history, Forbes and Blackburn delved into Johnny's personal drama - including his conflicts with his uncle, dealing with his physical disability and his relationship with Priscilla Lapham, his former master's daughter - with solid detail.

With the use of matte paintings, colorful photography by Charles P. Boyle and Peter Ellenshaw's production designs, director Robert Stevenson did a good job in transforming television viewers back to Boston of the 1770s. But the one production aspect of "JOHNNY TREMAIN" that really impressed me was the original song, "Liberty Tree", written by Blackburn and George Bruns. The song struck me as very catchy and remained stuck in my mind some time after watching the movie. The performances are pretty solid, but not particularly memorable. Again, allow me to correct myself. There was one outstanding performance . . . and it came from the late Sebastian Cabot, who portrayed Johnny's arrogant uncle, Jonathan Lyte. Everyone else - including leads Hal Stalmaster, Luana Patten and Richard Beymer, who would enjoy brief stardom in the early 1960s - did not exactly dazzle me.

My gut instinct tells me that the average adult would lacked the patience to watch a movie like "JOHNNY TREMAIN". Although historical drama remains very popular with American moviegoers and television viewers, I suspect that Disney's early superficial style of portraying history might be slightly off-putting. However, "JOHNNY TREMAIN" might serve as a first-rate introduction to American History for children. And if one is in the mood for Disney nostalgia, I see no reason not to watch it again. Even after forty years or so, it is still an entertaining little movie.

Friday, September 23, 2011

"UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS" (2010) Series One Photo Gallery

upstairs-downstairs-2010-full-cast-x-450

Below are images from "UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS", the updated version of the old BBC television series. The series stars Jean Marsh, Keeley Hawes, Ed Stoppard, Claire Foy and Eileen Atkins: 


"UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS" (2010) SERIES ONE Photo Gallery

463752_original


463920_original


464193_original


464451_original


464700_original


3355641


3355651


eileen-atlins-as-maude-lady-holland-in-upstairs-downstairs-2010-x-200-x-2


jean_1787009b


p00cvxxr


updown10500


UPSTAIRS-articleLarge


upstairs-downstairs ep 1 (3)


upstairs-downstairs ep 1 (16)


upstairs-downstairs ep 1 (25)


upstairsdownstairs_1792531b


upstairs-downstairs-2010-staff-x-400


upstairs-downstairs-promo-bird-nest


Keeley Hawes in Upstairs Downstairs 2011


Keeley_Hawes_Upstairs_Downstairs

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"MAD MEN" RETROSPECT: (1.07) "Red in the Face"




"MAD MEN" RETROSPECT: (1.07) "Red in the Face"

Due to some sense of nostalgia, I decided to break out my "MAD MEN" Season One DVD set and watch an episode. The episode in question turned out to be the seventh one, (1.07) "Red in the Face".

After watching "Red in the Face", it occurred to me that its main theme centered around some of the main characters' childish behavior. I say "some of the characters", because only a few managed to refrain from such behavior - Sterling Cooper's co-owner Bert Cooper; Office Manager Joan Holloway; and Helen Bishop, a divorcée that happens to be a neighbor of the Drapers. I do not recall Cooper behaving childishly during the series' last four seasons. Helen Bishop merely reacted as any neighbor would when faced with a situation regarding her nine year-old son and a neighbor. As for Joan, she had displayed her own brand of childishness (of the vindictive nature) in episodes before and after "Red in the Face". But in this episode, she managed to refrain herself.

I cannot deny that I found this episode entertaining. And I believe it was mainly due John Slattery's performance as Roger Sterling, Sterling-Cooper's other owner. In scene after scene, Slattery conveyed Roger's penchant for childishness - proposing an illicit weekend to Joan, resentment toward the female attention that Don Draper managed to attract at a Manhattan bar, making snipes at the younger man's background during an impromptu dinner with the Drapers, making sexual advances at Betty Draper, and gorging on a very unhealthy lunch. That is a lot for one episode. Roger's behavior served to convey a middle-aged man stuck in personal stagnation. Even worse, he has remained in this situation up to the latest season. And Slattery managed to convey these tragic aspects of Roger's character with his usual fine skills.

Jon Hamm fared just as well with another first-rate performance as the series' protagonist, Don Draper. In "Red in the Face", Hamm revealed Don's immature and bullying nature behind his usual smooth, charismatic and secretive personality. This was especially apparent in a scene that Hamm shared with January Jones, in which Don accused his wife Betty of flirting with Roger. And Don's less admirable nature was also apparent in the joke that he pulled on Roger in the episode's final scenes. Speaking of Betty, January Jones also did a top-notch job in those scenes with Hamm. She also gave an excellent performance in Betty's confrontation with Don, following the dinner with Roger; and her conversation with neighbor Francine about her desire to attract attention. I have noticed that most of the series' fans seemed to regard Betty as a child in a woman's body. Granted, Betty had her childish moments in the episode - especially during her confrontation with neighbor Helen Bishop at a local grocery store. But I have always harbored the opinion that she is no more or less childish than the other main characters. This episode seemed to prove it. One last performance that stood out came from Vincent Kartheiser as the young Accounts executive Pete Campbell. To this day, I do not understand why he is the only major cast member who has never received an acting nomination for an Emmy or Golden Globe. Because Kartheiser does such a terrific job as the ambiguous Pete. His complexity seemed apparent in "Red in the Face". In one scene, he tried to exchange a rather ugly wedding gift for something more dear to his heart - a rifle. His attempt to exchange the gift seemed to feature Pete as his most childish. Yet, he also seemed to be the only Sterling Cooper executive who understood the advertising value of John F. Kennedy's youthful persona during the 1960 Presidential election.

Earlier, I had commented on how screenwriter Bridget Bedard's use of childish behavior by some of the main characters as a major theme for "Red in the Face". I have noticed that once this behavior is apparent; Roger, Don, Betty and Pete are left humiliated or "red in the face" after being exposed. Betty's decision to give a lock of hair to Helen Bishop's nine year-old son in (1.04) "New Amsterdam" led to a confrontation between the two women at a grocery store and a slap delivered by Betty after being humiliated by Helen. If I had been Betty, I would have admitted that giving young Glen a lock of her hair was a mistake, before pointing out Glen's habit of entering a private bathroom already in use. And Pete's decision to trade the ugly-looking chip-and-dip for a rifle led to being berated over the telephone by his new wife, Trudy. Only a conversation with Peggy Olson, Don's secretary, about his fantasies as a hunter could alleviate his humiliation. During the Drapers' dinner party with Roger, the latter noted that Don's habit of slipping his "Gs" indicated a rural upbringing - a revelation that left Don feeling slightly humiliated. And after accusing Betty of flirting with Roger, she retaliated with a snide comment about his masculinity. Don tried to retaliate by calling her a child, but Betty's stoic lack of response only fed his humiliation even more. However, he did get even with Roger by setting up the latter with a cruel practical joke that involved a falsely inoperative elevator and a heavy lunch that included oysters and cheesecake. Although the joke left Don feeling smug and vindicated, I was left more convinced than ever of his penchant for childish behavior. Aside from feeling humiliated by a pair of young females' attention toward Don, Roger managed to coast through most of the episode without paying a price for his behavior. In the end, he suffered the biggest humiliation via his reaction to Don's joke - by vomiting in front of prospective clients.

"Red in the Face" featured many scenes that I found entertaining - especially the impromptu dinner party given by the Drapers for Roger Sterling. But if I must be honest, I did not find it particularly impressive. Although "Red in the Face" offered viewers a negative aspects of four of the main characters, I do not believe it did nothing to advance any of the stories that began at the beginning of the season. I must also add that Betty's confrontation with Helen Bishop seemed out of place in this episode. While watching it, I had the distinct impression that this scene, along with Betty and Francine's conversation, should have been added near the end of "New Amsterdam". By including it in "Red in the Face", it almost seemed out of place.

I could never regard "Red in the Face" as one of the best episodes of Season One or the series. But I cannot deny that thanks to performances by John Slattery, Jon Hamm, January Jones and Vincent Kartheiser, I found it entertaining.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"THEY DO IT WITH MIRRORS" (1991) Review




"THEY DO IT WITH MIRRORS" (1991) Review

The late Joan Hickson starred as Miss Jane Marple in her 11th movie that featured the elderly sleuth, created by Agatha Christie. The movie in question was "THEY DO IT WITH MIRRORS", an adaptation of Christie's 1952 novel.

While paying a visit to her old friend, the American-born Ruth Van Rydock, Miss Jane Marple is asked to visit the other woman's younger sister, Carrie Louise Serrocold. All three women were friends at the same school in Italy when they were girls. Ruth is worried that something is very wrong at Stonygates, the Victorian mansion where Carrie Louise lives with her husband Lewis Serrocold. She fears that Carrie Louise may be in danger of some kind. Ruth asks Miss Marple to find out what is going on. Miss Marple learns that Stonygates has been converted into a home for delinquent boys by Serrocold, who is devoted to the idea of reforming these boys. Christian Gulbrandsen, Carrie Louise's stepson from her first marriage and a member of the Stonygates Board of Trustees, everyone assumes he is there for a business meeting with Serrocold. The latter finally admits to Miss Marple that Later that evening, the visiting Ruth decides to show an old film of her, Carrie Louise and Miss Marple in Italy; when one of Stonybrook's boys, an uber-nervous type named Edgar Lawson interrupts the festivities to accuse Serrocold of being his real father. While they quarreled in another room, the fuse to the house blows out. Within minutes, Gulbrandsen's visit takes a tragic turn when he is found dead - shot in the head - inside his bedroom. Miss Marple, along with Chief Inspector Slack, scramble to find Gulbrandsen's murderer.

From the articles I have read on the Web, "THEY DO IT WITH MIRRORS" seemed to be highly regarded by many of Christie's fans. I wish I could share their sentiments, but I cannot. I am not saying that the movie was terrible. It seemed pretty decent to me. But it did not exactly rock my boat. At the moment, I cannot put my finger on it. There is something . . . weak about the plot. One, I did not find the setting of a Victorian manor converted into a home for delinquent boys that intriguing. I suppose one has to blame Christie for creating this setting in the first place. I suspect that she was out of her league. And two, the mystery itself - the murder of Christian Gulbrandsen - did not seem particularly complicated. Judging from the title and the details that led to his murder, I did not find it particularly difficult to guess the murderer's identity. And three, I thought the movie finished on a slightly weak note. After a murder attempt was made on another character, my attention to the movie gradually began to fade. I was not sleepy. My interest simply began to fade.

I also had a few problems with the cast. The characters of Carrie Louise Serrocold and Ruth van Rycock were portrayed by actresses Jean Simmons and Faith Brook. I had no problems with their performances. I thought both were first rate - especially Simmons, who captured Carrie Louise's vague and slightly fey personality just right. But both actresses were at least a good twenty years younger than Joan Hickson. And I found the idea of their characters coming from the same generation as Miss Marple rather ludicrous. I also had a problem with Todd Boyce's portrayal of Walter Rudd, Carrie Louise's American-born grandson-in-law. At first, I thought he was English born, because I found his American accent rather questionable. I was surprised to learn that he was born in Toledo, Ohio. His family had moved to Australia when he was 16. I think what really annoyed me was that whenever he opened his mouth to speak, I heard a few bars of Western music - to indicate that the character in question was an American. (Pardon me, while I indulge in an eye roll) Thankfully, the music ceased about halfway into the film and I found Boyce's performance a lot more enjoyable from then on.

"THEY DO IT WITH MIRRORS" also had its virtues. I must admit that the cast was first rate. Joss Ackland gave one of his more sympathetic performances as the well-meaning philanthropist who fears for his wife's safety. I have already commented upon Simmons, Brooks and Boyce. I was also impressed by Christopher and Jay Villiers, who gave enjoyable performances as the Restarick brothers - Carrie Louise's stepsons from her second marriage. I could say the same about Holly Aird, who portrayed Carrie Louise's granddaughter, Gina Rudd. And for the first time, I actually enjoyed David Horovitch's performance as recurring police sleuth, Chief Inspector Slack. However, I never understood the need to bring him back. I do not recall his character appearing in the novel. As for Joan Hickson, she was perfect as Jane Marple . . . as usual. In fact, she was a real class act in this film.

Personally, I feel that "THEY DO IT WITH MIRRORS" is somewhat overrated by today's Christie's fans. I found the plot rather unoriginal and a bit weak in the last thirty minutes. But it had a first-rate cast and decent production values. If you want a pleasant movie for a rainy Sunday afternoon, it might be the ticket for you.