Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"4.50 FROM PADDINGTON" (1987) Review




"4.50 FROM PADDINGTON" (1987) Review

The 1957 Agatha Christie novel, "4.50 From Paddington" aka "What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw" has been a favorite of mine since I was in my early teens. There have been one film and two television adaptations of the story. I never saw the film adaptation, which starred Margaret Rutherford. But I have seen the two television versions. One of them was the 1987 BBC adaptation that featured Joan Hickson as Miss Jane Marple.

"4.50 FROM PADDINGTON" begins when Mrs. Elspeth McGillicuddy, an old friend of Miss Marple, travels by train to visit the latter in St. Mary's Mead. When her train passes another on a parallel track, she witnesses a woman being strangled inside a compartment of the latter. Mrs. McGillicuddy reports the murder to Miss Marple, who suggests that she contact the police. But due to her age and inability to see the murderer's face, Mrs. McGillicuddy is ignored by the police. Miss Marple decides to take matters into her own hands by tracing Mrs. McGillicuddy's rail journey. The elderly sleuth's investigation leads her to the Rutherford Hall estate, where the railway borders at a curved embankment. Miss Marple recruits an acquaintance of hers, a young professional housekeeper named Lucy Eyelesbarrow, to hire herself out to the family that resides at Rutherford Hall, the Crackenthorpes, to continue the investigation.

Considering that the 1957 novel happened to be a favorite of mine, I had hoped this adaptation by T.R. Bowen would prove to be very satisfying. Needless to say . . . it did not. I am not one of those who demand that a movie or television adaptation adhere closely to its source. But some of the changes made by Bowen in his adaptation proved to be rather annoying to me. And I do not believe these changes served the movie very well. Among Bowen's changes were:

*No one was stricken by food poisoning

*Only one member of the Crackenthorpe family was murdered, instead of two

*The above mentioned victim was killed in a hunting accident, instead of being poisoned

*The nature of the romantic triange between Lucy Eyelesbarrow, Cedric Crackenthorpe and Bryan Eastley has been changed considerably

*Instead of Detective Inspector Dermot Craddock investigating the case, Detective Inspector Slack from three previous "AGATHA CHRISTIE'S MISS MARPLE" productions served as the main investigator

*The addition of Chief Inspector Duckham, who was an invention of the screenwriter, was added.


As I had stated earlier, the novel featured the second appearance of Dermot Craddock as the chief investigating officer in a Miss Marple mystery. But instead of hiring John Castle to reprise his Detective Inspector Craddock role from 1985's "A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED", the producers brought back David Horovitch to portray the irritating Detective Inspector Slack. Horovitch had already portrayed Slack in two previous Miss Marple movies, "A BODY IN THE LIBRARY" and "MURDER IN THE VICARAGE". Horovitch is a first-rate actor, but the character of Detective Inspector Slack has always annoyed me. I would have preferred if Craddock had made his second appearance in this movie. To make matters worse, actor David Waller, who had worked with T.R. Bowen for "EDWARD AND MRS. SIMPSON", was added to portray Chief Inspector Duckham, a character who never appeared in the novel.

Screenwriter T.R. Bowen made matters worse with more changes. Instead of two, only one member of the household ended up murdered - Harold Crackenthorpe, who was a banker. And his murder was disguised as a hunting accident. Harold was murdered with poisoned pills. Bowen completely left out the scene featuring a mass case of food poisoning from which the family suffered. Although the subject of Martine was brought up, Bowen never made the connection between her and the best friend of Bryan Eastley's son, Alexander. And instead of following Christie's portrayal of the "love triangle" between Lucy, Cedric Crackenthorpe and Eastley, who happened to the widower of the late Edith Crackenthorpe; Friend decided to settle matters by having Lucy fall in love with Eastley, who was portrayed as an infantile and suggestible man. Even worse, Lucy seemed to have lost her sense of humor, thanks to Bowen's script and Jill Meager's uninspiring performance. Friend also transformed Cedric into an annoying and oozing ladies' man who tries to hit on Lucy every chance he could. In the novel, Cedric never openly displayed his attraction to Lucy, when he was swapping witty bon mots with her. Yet, Christie made it obvious that he was attracted. And the novel left the matter open on whom Lucy would choose open.

But the one change made by Friend that really annoyed me, turned out to be the big revelation scene. After Miss Marple identified the killer to the police, the Crackenthorpes and Elspeth McGillicuddy; a ridiculous action scene was tacked on by Bowen, allowing Eastley to run after and have a fight with the fleeing killer. It was quite obvious to me that this scene was nothing more than a setup for the audiences to approve of the unconvincing love story between the humorless Lucy and the infantile Eastley. What an incredibly stupid ending to the story!

But despite these flaws, I still managed to somewhat enjoy the movie. One, Joan Hickson was great as ever as Jane Marple. She was supported by solid performances from Joanna David as Emma Crackenthorpe, Andrew Burt as Dr. John Quimper, young Christopher Haley as Alexander Eastley, Robert East as Alfred Crackenthorpe, David Waller as Chief Inspector Duckham, Mona Bruce as Elspeth McGillicuddy and even David Horovitch as Inspector Slack. Slack may have struck me as an annoying character, but I cannot deny that Horovitch gave a competent performance.

Another aspect of "4.50 FROM PADDINGTON" that impressed me was its production design. Raymond Cusick did a first rate job in transforming television viewers back to the mid-to-late 1950s. He was ably supported by Judy Pepperdine's convincing costumes - especially for Jill Eager and Joanna David's characters. I was not that impressed by most of John Walker's photography. However, I must admit that along with Martyn Friend's direction, Walker injected a great deal of atmosphere and mystery into the scene featuring the murder that Mrs. McGillicuddy witnessed.

It really pains me to say this, but despite Hickson's first rate performance and the production design, "4.50 FROM PADDINGTON" does not strike me as one of the best Miss Marple movies to feature the late actress. Another version was made in 2004 and quite frankly, it was not an improvement. Hopefully, someone will make a first-rate adaptation of one of my favorite Christie novels.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

"Breath of the Undead" [PG-13] - 14/15




"BREATH OF THE UNDEAD"

Chapter Fourteen

"I'm making some tea for Cole. Does anyone else want a drink?" Olivia asked the four guests. Cole glanced around his living room and saw both Darryl and Scott shaking their heads. Both Piper and Master Chan, on the other hand, asked for water. Olivia nodded. "I'll have a bottle of water for each of you," she added. Then she turned to Cole. "And I'll get started on your tea."

Cole frowned at his wife. "What for?"

"After what happened to you this evening, you'll need it," Olivia continued. "You should see your face. You look exhausted." She turned away and headed for the kitchen.

The half-daemon automatically began touching his face. "What did she mean by that?" he demanded. "Do I look tired?"

"A little," Scott answered.

The Taoist priest grunted. "I am not surprised. The breath of the chiang shi can be very powerful."

"But powerful enough to kill Cole?" a confused Piper demanded. "Even for a few seconds?"

With a shrug, Master Chan continued, "Telepathy can affect him. Why not the chiang shi's breath? Not only is it powerful, but insidious as well. Luckily for Mr. Turner, he has a self-healing ability."

"And apparently it's still working," Scott added. "Which would account for the exhausted look on Cole's face."

Cole retorted, "I don't feel tired." Actually, he did. But he had felt annoyed by Olivia's coddling and Scott's immediate observation of his physical state.

Darryl shook his head and said, "I'm still confused by how one becomes a . . . chiang shi. I mean . . . is it the breath of another vampire?"

"Sudden death." An amused Cole noticed that both Scott and Master Chan had spoken at the same time.

The Taoist priest added, "It is like I had explained to Miss Halliwell, every sentient being has two souls - a superior soul or the 'hun', and an inferior soul called the 'po'. You see, the hun or yang energy usually leaves the body upon death. But the po or yin remains active. Especially if the deceased has unfinished business on Earth."

"And Ronald Wong had unfinished business, when he was murdered," Darryl said, nodding. "Okay, I get it." He paused with a frown on his face. "The superior and inferior soul? Now, why does that sound familiar?"

Clearing his throat, Cole explained, "Because Cecile Dubois probably told you something similar, when you were possessed by that bokor over a year ago."

Scott demanded, "What are you talking about?"

Olivia returned to the living room, carrying a tray that held two water bottles and a cup filled with tea. She served the water to both Piper and Master Chan. "Cole is talking about Vodoun or West African beliefs. You remember, don't you, Piper?"

"Not really," the Charmed One remarked dryly.

Recalling what Andre had once told him, Cole continued. "Like the Chinese, Vodoun practitioners believe that the soul has two parts - the gros bon ange, which the Chinese call the hun and the ti bon ange, or the po."

"Now, the gros bon ange reflects the part of the cosmic energy that turns into life force and the ti bon ange reflects the person's knowledge and experience," Olivia added. "The ti bon ange is also responsible for deciding individual characteristics, personality and will and is also the most vulnerable part of the human psyche to sorcery. And when the ti bon ange is dormant - when you are asleep or near death - a person becomes vulnerable to possession." Olivia handed Cole his cup of tea. "Here you go. It's a mixture of thyme, cloves, caraway seeds and peppermint."

The half-daemon rolled his eyes and took a sip of tea. Hmmmm. At least it taste pretty good.

Master Chan shook his head in amazement. "I had no idea that some Chinese beliefs were similar to West African ones. Very interesting."

"What happens to Ronald Wong now?" Piper asked.

Scott shrugged. "His body will be given a proper burial. And since his killer is also dead . . . there's nothing else we can do."

"What about the people who had hired that warlock, Larson?"

Between sips, Cole revealed what he had learned from Hazika. "Now that Curt Decker is dead, his soul now belongs to the Khand Order. Forever."

A silent pause filled the room before Piper continued, "Shouldn't we go after them?"

"What for?" Olivia demanded, as she sat down next to Cole. "Curt Decker is dead. So is Keir Larson. What else can we do?"

Piper muttered, "I don't know. How about we try to save his soul?"

In his most patient voice, Cole explained, "It's too late for that, Piper. Curt Decker had agreed to a contract. Without any coercion by the Khand Order, I might add. Only the Khand Order can break the contract." Piper opened her mouth to speak, but he continued. "If you're thinking of destroying the Khand Order . . . don't bother. The deaths of their members won't change anything. Trust me. A demonic contract usually survives the death of the daemon who drafted it." With a shrug, he added, "What can I say? Loopholes."

"Besides," Master Chan added, "This Mr. Decker had made a deal with 'the devil' - so to speak. Just because he was human does not mean that he can easily avoid the agreement he had made with this demonic order. Human or not, Mr. Decker must pay the consequences for his actions. Even if it means with his soul."

One glance at Piper's face told Cole that she did not care for this resolution. Well, he did not exactly care for it, either. But he knew that the destruction of the Khand Order would not save Curt Decker's soul.

"I have a question," Scott piped up. "For Darryl. What do you plan to do with the surveillance tape from the Diamond Club's parking lot?"

Both Olivia and Darryl exchanged cryptic looks. Then the latter added, "Turn it over to Captain McPherson." His answer produced uneasy looks from the others - including Cole.

"Uh . . ." Scott began uneasily. "What did you do? Change it or something?"

Darryl replied, "Nope. Olivia had convinced me that we might as well leave it alone." Both Piper and Scott opened their mouths to protest. "Don't worry. The tape didn't catch Livy using her telekinesis to grab Larson's sword. And she had turned it off before the rest of you and Harry had even arrived in the parking lot."

"But it still shows the vampire," Cole reminded his wife's partner.

A cryptic smile curved Olivia's lips. "Yes it does. And when McPherson and the FBI finally see it, they will make damn sure that the public will never learn the truth. Trust me."

-----------

Just as Olivia had predicted, the FBI paid a visit to her squad room, the following morning. The redhead found herself inside Captain McPherson's office with Darryl, the Captain and two FBI agents. All five people were viewing the video tape that the Federal agents had retrieved from the Diamond Club's parking lot security camera.

Olivia winced, as she watched herself slice off the chiang shi's head. The camera had failed to tape her picking up the sword, using her telekinesis - thank the God and Goddess. Her fellow companions - including Darryl - watched the video images with rapt attention. Fortunately, the video did not include sound . . . which meant that it did not capture any compromising dialogue. Once the tape ended, Special Agent Daniel Archer let out a breathless, "Wow! You really took care of that . . . that thing, didn't you?" He regarded Olivia with admiring eyes. "When did you learn how to use a sword like that?"

Coolly, Olivia replied, "While taking martial arts lessons. It's a form of Kung Fu called Wu Su." She sighed. "I only wish I could have killed him before he got his hands on Agent Alvarez."

The other FBI agent, a stoic, middle-aged man named Langella, frowned. "I thought that Keir Larson had killed Alvarez."

"No, he had killed Agent Ruhl," Darryl replied. "The . . . um, thing had killed Alvarez. Snapped his neck." Captain McPherson shot him a warning glance.

"What thing?" Langella's words drew stunned stares from the others. "As far as the FBI are concerned, Special Agents Lee Alvarez and Jay Ruhl had been killed by Keir Larson. Along with Ronald Wong, Dean Corbin and Curt Decker. The Justice Department had always suspected that other investors had financed his drug operation. Only, we never learned their names. With Wong investigating the money trail, it only seemed natural that Decker's partners wanted the prosecutor dead. And as far as we're concerned, these investors had also decided not to stop with Wong. They hired Larson to kill anyone connected to the case, including Agents Alvarez and Ruhl who were investigating Decker. I wouldn't be surprised if the main prosecutor - John Reyes - was next on the list."

With genuine sarcasm, Darryl asked, "And how do you expect us to explain the deaths of Kenny Jai and Bernard Remar?"

Captain McPherson answered, "Unsolved cases, as far as the Department is concerned." Olivia opened her mouth to protest. "Not now, McNeill."

"It's Turner," Olivia retorted. "And may I assume that the Diamond Club video tape won't see the light of day?"

McPherson shot back, "Unless you decide to start a citywide panic over unnatural beings. And I don't think any of us would want that to happen. Including you."

Olivia expressed silent resentment, although she privately felt relieved. Her first impulse had been to destroy the nightclub's surveillance tape. But she soon realized that neither she, Darryl nor Scott had any excuses for the deaths of Alvarez, Ruhl and Curt Decker. Also, the police and the FBI had arrived just as Darryl and her had finished viewing the tape. With the video tape in Federal hands, agencies like the FBI or the Homeland Security might realize that Darryl had nothing to hide.

Feigning disappointment, Olivia muttered, "No, I guess not." She ignored Darryl's surreptious glance.

Langella nodded. "Good. As far as we're concerned, there were no . . . vampires." He paused. "The one that . . . flew away, no longer exists. "And as for the . . . uh, man or . . . whatever that Inspector Turner had killed last night . . ."

"Vampire," Olivia curtly corrected. "It was a vampire. I had chopped his head off. Then it became . . . human."

The FBI agent sighed. "Has he or . . . it been identified?"

Darryl spoke up. "His name was Saad Yooung, a Chinese-Malaysian building contractor from Singapore. He had been murdered by person or persons unknown. A few days later, his body had disappeared from his coffin, hours before the funeral."

"As far as we're concerned, Yooung's body is missing," Langella stated. "The FBI will be more than happy to make sure that it ends up back in Singapore. Anything else?"

To Olivia's surprise, McPherson asked a question. "What about that blond man in the video? The one who was talking to Decker?"

Agent Archer inhaled sharply. "You mean Alonzo Giovanni? Two of our agents are questioning him, right now."

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

Cole picked up the glass of water and took a sip. Then he leaned back into his chair and stared at the two FBI agents that sat on the other side of the conference table. Alonzo Giovanni fidgeted nervously in the chair next to him.

"We want to thank you for coming here, Mr. Giovanni," Agent Black said in a polite voice. "I suppose that you've heard about Curt Decker. He was killed last night by a professional hit man."

Alonzo jerked forward. "Professional hit man? I thought he was . . ."

The female agent sharply interrupted him. "It was a hit man, Mr. Giovanni. A Mr. Keir Larson." She glanced at Cole. "I believe that your wife had been present at the scene."

The half-daemon ignored Alonzo's questioning stare and smiled. "And I believe that you have questions for my client."

The FBI agent allowed herself a sardonic smile. "If you insist, Mr. Turner." Then she returned her attention to Alonzo. "Mr. Giovanni, a surveillance tape for the Diamond Club's parking lot has revealed that you had conversed with Mr. Decker, shortly before his death. What did you two discuss?"

Cole spoke up. "Didn't you find out through the video?"

A grimace appeared on Agent Black's face before she answered, "The video didn't pick up any sound." She turned to Cole's client. "Mr. Giovanni?"

Looking as sullen as ever, Alonzo heaved a sigh. "Money."

"What?"

Cole repeated his client's answer. "Mr. Giovanni said that he and Mr. Decker had discussed money."

Alonzo added, "Curt . . . wanted to borrow money from me. I guess that he's been tight with the cash, ever since his arrest."

"That happened last fall, Mr. Giovanni," Agent Hamill added. He was a stocky man, who happened to be Agent Black's partner. "Are you saying that it took him four months to ask his best friend for money?"

Cole decided it would be best to speak up for his client. "What are you suggesting, Agent Hamill? Are you accusing my client of lying?"

Agent Black sighed. "No, Mr. Turner. We just find it odd that Curt Decker would wait so . . ."

Alonzo interrupted. "If you must know, Curt had first asked me for money after you guys had frozen his assets. But the recent testimony from one of your witnesses and Dean Corbin's death had made him panic. He asked for money, again. I think he was planning to skip town."

Agent Black leaned back into her chair and sighed for the second time. "Okay, Mr. Giovanni. You're free to go."

Cole and his three companions stood up. Then Alonzo took the half-daemon by surprise with his next question. "Ummm . . . what happens to Curt's assets, now that he's dead?"

Both Cole and the agents stared at the blond man. "Why do you want to know?" Agent Hamill demanded.

With a shrug, Alonzo replied, "Just curious. I figured that Curt must have lost a lot of money after he was arrested."

"If you must know," Agent Black said, "Mr. Decker's assets will be confiscated by the U.S. government. I understand that the amount is considerable - over twenty-three million dollars."

Not bad, Cole thought privately. The Federal government manages to make a twenty-three million dollar profit, due to the illegal activities of a millionaire's son. Then Cole glanced at his client. The younger man's face looked deathly pale. Cole wondered how much of that twenty-three million had belonged to Alonzo.

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

Nearly an hour later, Alonzo arrived at the Giovanni manor. He ignored the family's manservant and rushed upstairs to his bedroom. Once behind closed doors, he whipped out his cell phone and the business card that Curt had given him. Alonzo took a deep breath and dialed the number from the card. Seconds passed before a female's voice answered. "The Twenty-Two Investor Group. May I help you?"

"Yes. I would like to speak to Saundra . . . Gilroy," Alonzo replied. "Um . . . she was recommended by a friend."

The voice asked, "May I have your name, sir? And the name of the person who had made the recommendation?"

Alonzo hesitated. "My name is Alonzo Giovanni. And the person who had told me about your company is . . . I mean, was Curt Decker."

A long pause followed. Then the voice said, "One moment please."

Several minutes passed before another female's voice spoke up. "This is Sandra Gilroy. May I help you, Mr. Giovanni?"

"Um . . . before he was killed, Curt . . . Mr. Decker had recommended your company to help me with a financial matter," Alonzo replied.

Ms. Gilroy hesitated. "Oh. Are you interested in investments?"

"I . . . Does your company only handle investments?"

The woman replied smoothly, "I see. You need to borrow money. Is that it?"

Hope dawned within Alonzo. "I can pay you back," he promised in a slightly wavering voice. "With interest."

Along long pause followed. Ms. Gilroy finally said, "Then I suggest that you pay a visit to my office, tomorrow. It's located at 582 Montgomery Street, Sixth Floor. I'll expect you around . . . ten-thirty."

For a brief moment, Alonzo wondered if he might be making a mistake. After all, the Twenty-Two Group never did help Curt . . . in the end. But unlike his late friend, he did not plan to start a drug operation. Just pay off a blackmailer. "I'll be there," Alonzo quietly replied.

"Good. Good day, Mr. Giovanni."

Alonzo sighed. Somehow, he felt as if he had signed a pact with the devil. "Good day." And then he hung up.

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

Piper glanced up as Paige entered the manor's living room. "You're home rather early."

The younger woman sighed, as she flopped down on the sofa. "Barbara had let me have the day off. Especially since Harry and I have been taking care of Janet all night long. And this morning. Ron's family had finally arrived just before lunch."

With a nod, Piper added, "I heard from Scott that Ron's body was found this morning."

"Yeah. Two cops came by to tell Janet." Paige heaved another sigh. "This whole thing has been very depressing. I mean . . . why would anyone want to kill Ron?"

"Scott thinks it has something to do with the Curt Decker case," Piper answered. She frowned. "The odd thing is that the guy who had killed Ron was a warlock. At least according to Olivia and Darryl. Olivia plans to look deeper into his background."

Paige shook her head in confusion. "Why would a warlock want Ron dead? He didn't practice magic, did he?"

"Olivia and Cole think that the late Curt Decker had signed a contract with a demonic order. Maybe they had Ron killed to prevent him from finding out about them."

This time, Paige groaned out loud. "Oh God! I've had it with vampires! If you think that dealing with the Queen of the Vampires was bad enough, try dealing with a chiang . . ."

Blue lights appeared in front of the sofa before they formed into the sisters' whitelighter, Chris Perry. "Hey guys!" he greeted. "I'm glad that you're all here."

Piper rolled her eyes. "Oh God! What is it now?"

"Before we start, we'll need Phoebe on this." Chris turned to the other woman. "Paige, could you send for . . .?"

"No, I can't!" the youngest Charmed One retorted. "In fact, I suggest that you fetch Phoebe yourself. I've had enough of demon hunting to last a lifetime!"

Piper regarded her sister with shock. "Paige!"

"Paige what? I'm serious Piper. I've had enough! I'm tired of being nothing more than a glorified demon hunter. There's got to be more to being a witch than that."

Chris mumbled sarcastically in a low voice, "This sounds familiar."

"What do you mean by that?" Paige demanded. When Chris failed to answer, her voice became even more acidic. "Oh, I see. Another secret that you have to keep from us. What's the point of you being our whitelighter, when all you do is . . ."

Chris interrupted, "You know, why is it that all of you had such a bad habit of complaining constantly about being witches?"

Piper's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "We 'had' a bad habit? Had?"

A sigh left the young whitelighter's mouth. "Great! Okay, I didn't want to say this, but . . . In my time, all three of you are dead. The Power of Three is over."

"We were all killed?" Paige demanded. "I thought you had first told us that I was the one who ended up dead in the old timeline. Because of the Titans."

Chris glanced away nervously. "Yeah, well things changed . . . after the Titans were taken care of. This time . . . I mean, in the new timeline, you were all eventually killed. By a great force of evil."

"Who happened to be?" Piper insisted.

Chris hesitated. "You son. Wyatt. He will become a great force of magical evil. All other witches, warlocks, demons and other beings will be oppressed. By him. And you . . . well, Phoebe and Paige will be killed by him." Another pause followed. "After you, Piper, are killed by a demon. Look, the reason I'm here is to prevent Wyatt from turning to evil. He was in danger of becoming evil, even in the old timeline. I need the Power of Three to find the demon who'll turn him." He stared at Paige. "That's why you can't give up on being witches. Your future . . . and Wyatt's future might depend upon you staying the course."

Silence enveloped the living room. Both Paige and Piper stared at each other in shock before directing their stares at Chris. Paige opened her mouth to speak, but seemed unable to say a word. Piper could see that her resolve to give up witchcraft had crumbled under Chris' words. And even the oldest Charmed One felt a new resolve. Chris was right. Until they found the demon who might end up changing Wyatt's life, their lives as the Charmed Ones might end on a premature and tragic note.


END OF CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Friday, January 27, 2012

"LOST" (2004-2010): Favorite Character Centric Episodes - Part II



Below is Part II of a list of my favorite episodes featuring "LOST" characters:


"LOST" (2004-2010): FAVORITE CHARACTER CENTRIC EPISODES - Part II


James "Sawyer" Ford



1. (5.08) "La Fleur" - Sawyer, Juliet and the other remaining island survivors are left in 1974, following the end of the time jumps. They join the Dharma Initiative after rescuing one of their members from the Others.




2. (1.16) "Outlaws" - Sawyer becomes obsessed with finding the boar that raided his tent and goes into the jungle to find it. A flashback reveal the murder/suicide of his parents and his hunt for the con man who cheated them in Australia.




Sayid Jarrah



1. (4.03) "The Economist" - Sayid makes a deal with Frank Lapidus to leave the island and head for the freighter, in exchange for freeing Charlotte Lewis from Locke's group. Flash forwards reveal his experiences as Ben's personal assassin.




2. (1.09) "Solitary" - Sayid meets Danielle Rosseau for the first time and is held captive by her. Flashbacks reveal his reunion with an old childhood friend, Nadia




3. (6.06) "Sundown" - After Sayid is recruited to the Man in Black's (aka the Smoke Monster) cause, the latter issues an ultimatum to the Others: either join him or die. Sayid helps his brother deal with a loan shark in the Flash Sideways.




Jin-Soo Kwon



1. (1.17) ". . . In Translation" - Jin finally discovers that Sun knows English, while dealing with his latest clash with Michael. Flashbacks reveal the Kwons' troubling marriage from his POV.




2. (5.05) "This Place Is Death" - This episode featured Jin's experiences with a younger Danielle Rousseau, her team and the Smoke Monster in 1988. Charlotte Lewis dies from the time jumping and Locke finally leaves the island via the Donkey Wheel.




Sun Hwa-Kwon



1. (3.18) "D.O.C." - After revealing that the Others' pregnant women have died before giving birth, Juliet helps Sun confirm the date of conception of her unborn baby, verifying the identity of the father.




2. (2.16) "The Whole Truth" - Sun discovers that she is pregnant. And flashbacks reveal some of her close relationship with an old beau and Jin's infertility. Meanwhile, Ana-Lucia, Sayid and Charlie set out verify Ben's story about arriving on the island in a balloon.




3. (1.06) "House of the Rising Sun" - Sun's unhappy marriage to Jin is revealed in this episode. Also, Jack makes plans to move the crash survivors to a large cave.




Benjamin Linus



1. (3.20) "The Man Behind the Curtain" - Ben leads Locke to a meeting with the Others' leader, Jacob at the island's mysterious cabin. And flashbacks reveal Ben's birth and his early years on the island.




2. (4.09) "The Shape of Things to Come" - In this episode, a team of mercenaries from the freighter attacks Locke's group at the Others' barracks. Meanwhile, flash forwards reveal Ben's early months off the island, which include recruiting Sayid as his assassin and a confrontation with Charles Widmore.


Part III will feature the last five characters

Thursday, January 26, 2012

"TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY" (2011) Photo Gallery

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Below are images from "TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY", the new adaptation of John le Carré's 1974 novel. Directed by Tomas Alfredson, the movie stars Gary Oldman as George Smiley: 


"TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY" (2011) Photo Gallery

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"J. EDGAR" (2011) Review




"J. EDGAR" (2011) Review

Actor/director Clint Eastwood directed his third - or possibly fourth - biopic film, during his career, with "J. EDGAR", an examination of the career and private life of F.B.I. director, J. Edgar Hoover. The movie starred Leonard Di Caprio as the infamous lawman.

"J. EDGAR" is a 137 minute movie that spanned Hoover's career in a series of flashbacks. The movie begins in the early 1960s, when the famed F.B.I. director is recounting his forty-to-fifty years as a Federal lawman. Hoover's recollections span from his participation in the Palmer Raids - a series of attempts by the U.S. Department of Justice to arrest and deport radical leftists, especially anarchists, from the United States, his appointment as director of the Bureau of Investigations in the 1920s, his "War on Crime" campaign in the 1930s, the Lindbergh Baby kidnapping during the same decade and his investigation of civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr.. The movie also focuses on his use of blackmail to retain his position with the F.B.I., and his relationships with both his mother and Clyde Tolson, his assistant director for the Bureau.

I do not think I would ever regard "J. EDGAR" as one of Eastwood's best work. It had the potential to be a top-notch film. But a slightly incoherent script written by Dustin Lance Black prevented the movie from reaching its potential. One, the movie's use of flashbacks started fine. But somewhere in the movie's second half, this use fell flat. I suspect that my problem with the flashbacks was that Black's script and Eastwood's direction seemed inconsistent and slightly confusing.

Another problem I had with "J. EDGAR" was its focus on the Lindbergh Kidnapping Case. It was simply too much. Hoover reached the heights of his fame as the Bureau's director, because of the manhunt for Midwestern criminals such as John Dillinger, Alvin Karpis and Charles Floyd. I realize that this topic was also covered in Michael Mann's 2009 crime drama, "PUBLIC ENEMIES". But Eastwood and Black seemed determined to ignore the topic, aside from Hoover's bouts of jealousy toward the agent that hunted down many of these criminals - Melvin Purvis. Instead, Eastwood and Black decided to focus a great deal on the Bureau's participation in the Lindbergh case. Too much, if you want my opinion. The film never touched on the Bureau's dealings or lack of with organized crime. I find this a pity, because one of the most memorable moments in Hoover's career was his so-called "arrest" of gangster Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, a publicity stunt supported by columnist Walter Winchell.

Fortunately, "J. EDGAR" was not a complete loss. I must admit that despite its flaws, it was a solid and entertaining movie. Eastwood's direction seemed to be at its best in scenes that featured anarchist Luigi Galleani's attempted to assassinate Hoover's boss, Mitchell Palmer with a mail bomb; Hoover's meeting with Herbert Norman Schwarzkopf and Charles Lindbergh; a highly charged scene between Hoover and his mother regarding his sexual preference; and especially the scenes featuring Hoover's relationship with Tolson. Most movie or television productions tend to portray the relationship between the two men with a slight tawdriness. Eastwood and Black's portrayal of the Hoover-Tolson relationship struck me as surprisingly tasteful and compassionate - especially since other aspects of Hoover's life and character was portrayed with less sympathy.

I must admit that Tom Stern's cinematography was a solid piece of work, but it did not exactly blow my mind. And if I must be frank, I was not exactly enamored of the film's slightly gray tone. I also felt slightly leery of the makeup created for Di Caprio, Arnie Hammer and Naomi Watts. The makeup did not seem effective in aging the three leads in the 1960s and 70s sequences. However, I was impressed by James J. Murakami's production designs that conveyed the years between 1919 and 1972. I believe the re-creation of the early and mid 20th century would not have been complete without Deborah Hopper's superb costume designs.

The biggest virtue of "J. EDGAR" turned out to be its cast. Once again, Leonardo Di Caprio rose to the occasion and gave a superb portrayal of a complex and some would say, difficult personality. As usual, Di Caprio managed to inject a good deal of sympathy and poignancy into a historical figure that has harbored a negative reputation over the years. Di Caprio managed to receive a Golden Globe nomination for his performance. But for some reason, was snubbed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences I had been impressed by Armie Hammer's solid portrayal of the Winklevoss twins in last year's "THE SOCIAL NETWORK". But he really outdid himself as Hoover's right hand man, Clyde Tolson - especially in the scenes featuring the pair's relationship. Judi Dench gave her usual solid performance as Hoover's strong-willed mother, Anna Marie Hoover. But in the scene featuring Mrs. Hoover's disapproval of her son's sexual lifestyle, she was brilliant and slightly scary. Naomi Watts gave a solid and slightly melancholic performance as Hoover's faithful secretary, Helen Gandy. "J. EDGAR" also featured solid support from the likes Josh Lucas as the introverted Charles Lindbergh, Dermot Mulroney as the ineffectual New Jersey State Police superintendent Herbert N. Schwarzkopf, Lea Thompson as Lela Rogers (Ginger's mother) Geoff Pierson as the intense Mitchell Palmer and Jeffrey Donovan as Attorney General Robert Kennedy. However, I was a little confused by Donovan's slightly exaggerated take on Kennedy's Boston accent, considering that Donovan is also a native of Massachusetts.

I noticed that "J. EDGAR" did not earn enough to make a profit at the box office. In a way, I can see why. I feel that it was a solid movie that failed to live up to any potential it could have achieved - especially at the hands of a first-rate director like Clint Eastwood. But thanks to his direction, the movie's production designs and a first-rate cast led by the superb Leonardo Di Caprio, "J. EDGAR" still proved to be a somewhat entertaining and solid film.

Monday, January 23, 2012

"Breath of the Undead" [PG-13] - 13/15




"BREATH OF THE UNDEAD"

Chapter Thirteen

The vampires attacked before Piper barely had time to blink. To her left, she saw Harry fend off a blond, female vampire. The latter grabbed him by the neck and opened her mouth, exposing fangs. Harry closed his eyes briefly before the vampire cried out in pain, clutched her head and released him. The redhead took the opportunity to drive a piece of wood into her heart.

Scott beheaded one male vampire, using his sword. Before a second one could attack, Master Chen drove a wooden stake through the vampire's heart. Piper sighed with relief. Three down and one . . .

"Oooof!" The sound came from the Charmed One's mouth, as a pair of strong hands shoved her against the wall. Within a matter of seconds, the fanged creature pounced upon her. Piper quickly flung out her hands and froze the vampire. Then she stabbed it with her own stake, causing it to disintegrate into a pile of dust.

Harry's voice cried out, "Piper! Look out! Behind you!"

The Charmed One whirled around. Her eyes widened at the sight of another vampire zooming toward her. And for some unexplainable reason, she found herself frozen on the spot.

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Larson saw the blond-haired kid rush back inside the nightclub. The other kid, whom the warlock recognized as Curt Decker, found himself a captor of one of the vampires. Since the chiang shi had his back facing Larson, the latter could not determine whether or not he used to be Ronald Wong. The vampire lifted the human off the ground, amidst Decker's screams. The latter's cries soon became gurgles, as the vampire sucked out his breath. The warlock reached for Getz's sword. Before he could move, the vampire rose to the ground and flew away - much to Larson's consternation.

At that moment, a dark-suited man with chestnut-brown hair rose to his feet. He aimed his revolver at the remaining chiang-shi. "Hold it right there!" As the dark-suited man prepared to shoot, Larson removed his hand from the sword's hilt and grabbed his revolver. Swiftly, he aimed his gun at Mr. Dark Suit and pumped two bullets into the latter's forehead. The remaining vampire, whose face remained half-hidden by the shadows, stared at Larson.

Two figures appeared in the parking lot with their guns drawn. Larson recognized them from Getz's divination chalice as the pair who had entered his home. Resentful of their trespassing and determined to kill the remaining chiang shi on his own, the warlock aimed his revolver at the pair and began to squeeze the trigger.

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

Scott saw the vampire rush toward Piper before Harry did. As the latter cried out a warning, Scott picked up a wooden stick and hurled it at the attacking vampire. The stick thrust into the vampire's back with great force, causing the latter to disintegrate into a pile of dust.

Piper heaved a relieved sigh. Both Scott and Harry rushed to the beleaguered Charmed One's side. "Are you okay?" Scott demanded.

"Yeah, I'm fine," Piper replied.

Scott added, "Next time, try using your hands to blow up a vampire's head. Trust me, it will . . ."

Piper interrupted him with a gasp. "Mr. Chan!"

Scott whirled around and saw a female vampire grabbed the Taoist monk by the neck. He feverishly searched the ground for a wooden stake. By the time he spotted one, the female vampire had released Master Chan and was now desperately clutching her head, thanks to a telepathic attack by Harry. Scott picked up the stake and quickly plunged it into the vampire's back, vanquishing her immediately.

"Marcella!" The cry came from the dark-haired vampire with the Southern accent. He stared at the quartet of humans with furious, yellow eyes. Two of his remaining colleagues disappeared from sight, determined to survive the rest of the night. The Southern vamp rushed toward his nearest target - Master Chan - with a growl.

The Taoist priest let out a gasp before the vampire grabbed him by the shoulders. The Southern vampire bared his fangs. "Master Chan!" Scott cried out in horror. Before he could rescue the priest, Piper flung out her hands for a second time and decapitated the vampire's head with her molecular combustion ability. The vampire disintegrated into dust.

"Well done, Miss Halliwell," Master Chan declared breathlessly. He leaned back against the wall with a sigh. "Well done. Your intervention could not have come at a better time."

Piper responded with a modest shrug. "It was nothing. I just remembered Scott's advice about using my combustion power." Gunshots rang out. Her dark eyes widened with shock. "What the hell was that?" she demanded.

Scott replied grimly, "Gunshots. And they came from behind the building."

"The parking lot," Harry added.

"I think we've just found our missing Chinese vampires."

Harry started to walk away. "Let's go." He raced down the alley.

Scott exchanged brief glances with both Piper and Master Chan. The latter shook his head in mock disapproval. "Young men," he muttered. "Always in a hurry."

"I know what you mean," Piper commented with mock suffering. "And Wyatt isn't even a year old, yet." She allowed a knowing smile to touch her lips, as she, Master Chan and Scott followed Harry down the alley.

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Darryl and Olivia appeared behind the nightclub in time to witness the blond-haired Larson's murder of FBI Special Agent Jay Ruhl. The agent dropped to the ground . . . dead. Then Larson whirled around and aimed his revolver at the police officers. Forgetting that Olivia had identified Larson as magically dangerous, Darryl whipped out his Glock pistol and shot the blond man twice - in the heart and in the forehead. Larson's body slumped to the ground.

Olivia anxiously cried out, "Darryl! The chiang shi!"

It did not take Darryl long to recognize Curt Decker as the corpse on the ground. After knowing the Halliwells' secret for four years, the police lieutenant thought he had seen just about every creature imaginable. But the pale-green figure in a red-and-gold Chinese robe took his breath away. Fortunately, not literally. The vampire kicked Decker's body aside and stared at the two partners. He growled something in Chinese.

"What did he say?" Darryl demanded.

Olivia replied in a shaky voice, "I think we're depriving him of victims."

The vampire glared at the pair. "Olivia," Darryl began, as anxiety crept into his voice.

The redhead glanced to her left. His eyes flashing red, the vampire rose from the ground and rushed toward the pair with claws and fangs exposed. Olivia shot out one hand and telekinetically flung the creature against a nearby, parked car. Darryl's relief did not last very long. The chiang shi rose up once more and let out a gust of breath. Darryl could not decide what was more horrifying - the vampire's fetid breath or being flung against the club's brick wall.

Then the chiang shi made its final attack. With claws extended, it zoomed toward Olivia. Darryl whipped out his pistol and shot the creature, hoping to give Olivia a distraction. It worked. Unfortunately, Darryl realized that he had attracted the vampire's attention.

The chiang shi immediately changed directions and flew straight toward the police lieutenant. Darryl froze in shock, anticipating the attack. The next few moments seemed like a scene from a STAR WARS movie. Olivia snatched up a sword that extended from a scabbard that hung from Larson's waist. With both hands gripping the sword's hilt, she executed a few moves and sliced off the vampire's two hands. The chiang shi stared at his stumps in shock before the sword's blade finally lopped off his head.

The sword fell from Olivia's grip and it clattered to the ground. Both she and Darryl stared breathlessly at the chiang shi's headless body, as it weaved for a few seconds before falling down. Darryl's body sagged with relief. Olivia finally glanced at him. "Thanks for the distraction," she said.

"Yeah," Darryl replied between gusts of breath. "Sure. But remind me never to do that again."

Olivia allowed herself a brief smile. Then she glanced up at the nightclub's building and frowned. "Oh shit," she muttered.

Darryl stared at her. "What?"

"Security camera. Above you." Darryl's eyes followed his partner's gaze. Sure enough, a security camera hovered above the club's back door. Olivia seared it with an intense stare before she looked away. "There. I had shut it . . ."

Four figures appeared in the parking lot. Their eyes drunk in the scene of blood, bodies and body parts. "Good grief!" Harry exclaimed. "What the hell is this? It looks like a blood bath around here!"

"Olivia killed a chiang shi," Darryl answered. He noticed the thick dust covering the newcomers' clothing. "What happened to you guys?"

Piper replied, "Vampires. Remember the ones from Golden Gate Park, a few nights ago? Well, we just ran into their friends around the corner." She paused and stared at the bodies on the ground. "Who are all these people?"

"Good question." A figure emerged from the building's right side. It was Cole. "What the hell happened?"

"Oh, nothing much," Olivia replied in a nonchalant manner. She and Cole exchanged a brief kiss. "Piper, Scott, Harry and Master Chan had a run-in with that vampire nest from two nights ago. Larson is dead, thanks to Darryl. I don't even know who had killed Alvarez, Ruhl and Decker. Probably our friendly neighborhood Chinese vampires. Except for Ruhl. Larson had killed him."

Darryl added, "And Olivia had killed one of the chiang shi. Chopped off his hands and head. Man! You should have seen her. She went all Jedi on the guy."

"Really?" Cole regarded his wife with admiring eyes.

Olivia blushed slightly. "It was nothing. Darryl had helped me distract him." She turned to face the Taoist priest. "I'm sorry you weren't able to use a Buddhist death prayer on him, Master Chan."

"No matter," Chan replied. "I can still use it on the other one."

Darryl frowned. "The other one?"

"Oh man!" Olivia slapped her forehead. "I forgot! There's still one other chiang shi out there! Darryl and I saw him fly away."

Harry added, "I think Ron is the one still missing." He pointed at the severed head on the ground. "Because I sure as hell don't know that joker." Everyone - except for Piper who kept her gaze averted - stared at the severed head. Darryl saw that it had belonged to a male from Southeast Asia.

"So, if Ron Wong is still alive," Scott began.

Alarm lit up both Piper and Harry's eyes. "Paige!" the latter cried out. "And Janet!"

Darryl frowned. "You think he might go after . . .?"

"I'm not going to wait and find out," Cole said. He stared at the Taoist priest. "Maybe we can finally put that death chant of yours to good use."

Olivia's former kung fu master nodded. Then Cole grabbed him by the arm and they teleported out of sight.

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Ten minutes earlier, both Paige and Janet sat inside the latter's living room, watching television. Only neither woman seemed interested in the images that flickered on the screen.

A sigh left Janet's mouth. "Are you hungry? I realize that it's a little late for dinner, but I can still fix a snack or something." Recalling Harry's views on Janet's cooking, Paige hesitated. The other woman seemed to notice. "Or you can fix it."

"Um . . . do you have any microwave popcorn?" Paige asked.

Janet shrugged her shoulders. "Sure. Anything is better than sitting around, wondering what's going to happen to Ron. Or if he'll show up, again."

Paige tried to assure the other woman. "Don't worry. Hopefully, this will all be over by tonight." Janet's face became a mask. "I mean . . . Ron will . . ."

"I understand," Janet quietly added. Again, she sighed. "I don't know how you can deal with all of this supernatural crap. At least you're not a demon hunter or anything like that. A person would have to be a fool to deal with ghosts, demons and such on a daily basis." Paige remained silent, while Janet chuckled. "I guess you know that Harry hates the idea of being some kind of demon hunter. There was this one guy - an angel, or what Harry called a whitelighter - who used to bug him all the time about going after some demon, back in college."

Paige sighed. "That would be my brother-in-law . . . or former brother-in-law. Leo. He also used to be my whitelighter."

Janet's face turned pink with embarrassment. "Oh. Sorry. Um . . . I guess you must enjoy all of this. Hunting down demons. And killing them."

Recalling her near quarrel with Piper, Paige replied with brutal honesty. "Not really. Not anymore. But I don't have a choice. I'm a witch. It's my duty to protect the innocent."

"Really?" A frown appeared on Janet's forehead. "That's not what Harry told me. He said that although some witches do choose to be regular demon hunters, many others prefer to pursue other paths. Like spiritual guides, healers, environmentalists and teachers. So . . . I don't know. I guess I find it rather odd that you believe that you don't have a . . ." She paused, as her frown deepened. "Did you hear that?"

Paige shook her head. "I didn't hear anything." She stared at Janet. "You think that Ron's here?"

"I don't know." Janet stood up. "I just . . . Never mind."

"Even if Ron is here," Paige continued, "he can't get inside. We had put all of that rice around the house. Just as Scott had suggested."

Janet's frown remained fixed. "Still, I thought I had heard a thump. From upstairs."

The two women glanced at the staircase. Slowly, Paige rose to her feet. She grabbed a wooden stake from the coffee table. As she started toward the staircase, Janet began to follow. "Stay back," the Charmed One ordered. "I don't want you getting in his way." She paused. "Did you leave any of the upstairs windows opened, by any chance?"

"I don't think so," Janet replied. "And I'm still sticking near you. Once you're gone, I'll be screwed."

The pair slowly began to climb the staircase. Upon reaching the first landing, Paige glanced up. The sight that greeted her eyes filled her with horror. "Oh my God! Janet! Stay back!"

"I see him," the other woman said in a trembling voice. "It's Ron."

Sure enough, a figure in red and gold stood at the top of the staircase. Despite the robe, his green-tinged skin and long fingernails, Paige recognized the jovial host from a few nights ago. "Janet, let's get out of . . ." But as she reached for Janet's wrist, the other woman had already began to return downstairs. "Janet!"

The chiang shi, or Ron, rose into the air and sailed over Paige's head. He landed directly between the staircase and Janet. Realizing that the other woman was in danger of being paralyzed again, Paige orbed her to the foot of the staircase, right next to her. The Charmed One grabbed the other woman's hand. "Let's . . ." A fetid odor enveloped the two woman and it knocked them backward.

"Oh God," Janet moaned. "He's coming for us." The vampire had begun to glide toward the staircase.

Paige corrected the other woman, "Actually, he's coming for you. Look . . ." She broke off, as her eyes fell upon a pencil on the coffee table. In a desperate move, she orbed it into the chiang shi's torso. Unfortunately, the latter's thick robe prevented the pencil from complete penetration.

The chiang shi's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Oh shit," Paige murmured under her breath. She grabbed Janet's hand, as she prepared to orb the both of them out of harm's way. At that moment, two figures materialized into the foyer. Paige sighed with relief. With a wave of his hand, Cole sent the vampire flying back into a tall, grandfather clock. "Cole!" Paige literally sang with relief. She glanced at the other newcomer. "Mr. Chan? Where's Piper and the others?"

"They're back at the . . ." Cole began.

A second later, the chiang shi rose to his feet and released a gust of breath. Paige, along with the other three, went sprawling backward until they crashed against the coffee table and the sofa. Cole was the first to scramble to his feet. "Son of a bitch!" he muttered. Before he could retaliate, the chiang shi struck him with another gust of breath. To Paige's dismay, the half-demon's face began to turn a sickly green. Cole clutched desperately at his throat, emitting a gurgling sound.

"What's wrong with him?" Paige demanded.

A shocked Mister Chan muttered, "I believe that the chiang shi is killing him."

"What?" One finally gasp escaped from Cole's mouth. Then his body jerked slightly before it fell to the floor. One glance at the half-demon's pale countenance told Paige that he might be dead. "Oh my God!" she murmured. "Cole! Oh my God, he's dea . . ."

A loud gasp from Cole's body interrupted Paige. She, along with Janet, Mister Chan and the vampire, gasped in shock, as Cole struggled to his feet. Then he immediately waved one hand and the chiang shi froze right on the spot. "I've managed to slow him down," Cole said to the Taoist priest. "Now would be a good time to use that death chant." His voice sounded raspy.

Slowed down? Paige peered closely at the vampire. Sure enough, his body seemed to move at a millimeter per second.

The Taoist priest removed a slip of yellow paper from his jacket pocket. He stuck it on the vampire's forehead. "Thank goodness for post-its, heya?" Then he began to chant in a Chinese language. Once he finished, a greenish light infused the chiang shi. The latter's body convulsed for several seconds. As it dropped to the floor, a white light burst into a visual explosion.

The light finally dissipated, revealing Ronald Wong's body sprawled on the floor. A sob rose from Janet's throat. "Ron!" She broke free from Paige's grasp and rushed forward to kneel beside her former boyfriend. As she stroked his hair, she added, "Oh Ron!" before bursting into tears.

Paige and Cole exchanged uncomfortable looks. Ron's body had to be moved. They could not afford to allow the police to find it here. Questions would be raised. So, the Charmed One stepped forward. "Janet," she began gently. The other woman now cradled Ronald's head in her lap. Paige heaved a sigh. "Janet, we need to . . ."

"Not now," Janet replied in a tearful voice. "I can't . . ."

"Janet, please!" Paige's voice rang with desperation. "We need to move him."

Mister Chan sharply added, "Young lady! You can grieve for your young man, tomorrow. Right now, his body needs to be moved from here."

Paige took a few more steps forward. She touched Janet's shoulder. "Let him go, Jan. You can see him again. Later."

Wiping tears from her eyes, Janet slowly stood up. She turned away, as Cole approached Ron's body. He waved one hand over it. The body immediately disappeared. "There," he said in a voice that remained raspy. "He should be found by someone, tomorrow morning." Another sob tore from Janet's mouth. Cole regarded her with a helpless expression. "Sorry."

It seemed quite apparent to Paige that Janet needed to be alone. Ignoring the two men, she wrapped one arm around the sobbing woman's shoulders and led her upstairs, toward the privacy of the latter's bedroom.


END OF CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"WESTWARD HO!": Part One - "HOW THE WEST WAS WON" (1962)


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Below is Part One to my article about Hollywood's depiction about the westward migration via wagon trains in 19th century United States. It focuses upon the 1962 movie, "HOW THE WEST WAS WON":


"WESTWARD HO!": Part One - "HOW THE WEST WAS WON" (1962)

I. Introduction

The sprawling 1962 movie, "HOW THE WEST WAS WON" focused upon the fifty (50) years history of the Prescott-Rawlins family between 1839 and 1889. The movie was divided into five sections - "The Rivers", "The Plains", "The Civil War", "The Railroad" and "The Outlaws". Westbound migration was featured in the movie's first two segments - "The River" and "The Plains".

"HOW THE WEST WAS WON" opens in 1839 (I think) with the Prescotts, a family from upstate New York, westbound to settle on new land in Illinois. After a trip along the Erie Canal, the Prescotts and their traveling companions, the Harveys from Scotland, build flatboats for the westbound journey on the Ohio River. During their journey, they meet a mountain man named Linus Rawlins (James Stewart), who is eastbound to sell his furs in Pittsburgh. The Prescotts' oldest daughter, Eve (Carroll Baker), and Linus fall in love. After a disastrous encounter with river rapids that led to the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Prescott; Eve decides to settle at the very location of their deaths in Southern Ohio and accept Linus' marriage proposal. Younger sister Lilith Prescott (Debbie Reynolds) decides to move on.

"The Plains" picks up over a decade later, with Lilith as a dance hall performer in St. Louis. She learns from an attorney that she has inherited a California gold claim from a now deceased customer. Lilith travels to Independence, where she joins a California-bound wagon train by becoming the traveling companion of a middle-aged woman named Aggie Clegg (Thelma Ritter), willing to use Lilith's looks to attract eligible men for marriage. Lilith also attracts the attention of two men, wagonmaster Roger Morgan (Robert Preston) and a roguish gambler named Cleve Van Valen (Gregory Peck).


II. History vs. Hollywood

To this day, I never understood why screenwriter James R. Webb allowed the Prescotts and the Harveys to travel across the Erie Canal. It is obvious that he had every intention of having them settle in Southern Ohio, along the River. So why use that route? According to the 1840 map below, the Erie Canal was a waterway that stretched from Albany to Buffalo in upstate New York.

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This meant that the Prescotts and Harveys's first leg of their journey ended at Buffalo, along the shores of Lake Erie. Are we really supposed to believe that the two families then journeyed from Buffalo to the banks of the Ohio River, in order to reach Illinois, when they could have easily traveled near the U.S.-Canada border to reach their destination? And Webb failed to reveal how they reached the Ohio River without a wagon. He could have allowed Eve Prescott and the other surviving members of the family to settle in Illinois or Ohio near one of the Great Lakes . . . or avoid the Erie Canal altogether and end up in Southern Ohio. Unfortunately, the screenwriter settled for a convoluted route. Even worse, he had mountain man Linus Rawlins traveling toward Pittsburgh to sell furs. Really? In 1839? Linus could have easily sold his furs further west in St. Louis or more importantly, Independence in western Missouri, without having to cross the Mississippi River.

When Lilith Prescott traveled to California after inheriting her California gold claim over a decade later, she chose the correct route - the Oregon/California Trails. However, Webb, director Henry Hathaway, and the producers decide to include nearly every cliché regarding western migration.

One, gambler Cleve Van Valen tried to join Roger Morgan's wagon train in Independence, in order to make acquaintance with Lilith. He was told to get lost. Cleve managed to catch up with the wagon train some 100 miles west of Independence. Yet, the terrain looked suspiciously arid for eastern Kansas. The wagon trains used in this production were very large. In fact, they struck me as looking larger than a typical Conestoga wagon. One scene in the movie featured Cleve and a group of male emigrants playing poker inside one wagon . . . while it was traveling. This was Hollywood history at its worse. And guess what? Those wagons were pulled by horses, not oxen or mules.

"HOW THE WEST WAS WON" never featured any well known landmarks along the Oregon/California Trails. I suspect this was due to the movie's constraining time for each segment. However, there was time to feature a large scale attack on the wagon train by a horde of Cheyenne warriors. And this attack was made against a large and well-armed wagon train. In reality, there would have never been such an attack in the first place. And if such a thing had happened, the Cheyenne would have been seriously wiped out.

I cannot deny that "HOW THE WEST WAS WON" was an entertaining film. But in the end, it turned out to be too much "Hollywood" and not enough "History".

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"TOM JONES" (1963) Photo Gallery



Below are photos and other images from the 1963 Academy Award winning movie, "TOM JONES". Directed by Tony Richardson, the movie starred Albert Finney and was based upon Henry Fielding's 1749 novel, "The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling"


"TOM JONES" (1963) Photo Gallery

























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