Thursday, December 31, 2015

"Death Undone" (R) - Chapter Five




"DEATH UNDONE"


Chapter 5

The two witches and the mambo teleported into the middle of a small alley. "Well, here we are," Paige declared. "Only I don't see anyone."

Harry added, "Perhaps we got here before everyone else."

Cecile glanced around. An uneasy feeling struck her that this was not the alley she had seen in her vision. "Or perhaps . . . this is the wrong alley." She walked toward the alley's edge and glanced to her right. The Vodou priestess saw police cars and what seemed to be two ambulances converge at the edge of another alley, two blocks away. "We're definitely in the wrong alley."

Both Harry and Paige joined her. "Shit!" the red-haired man exclaimed.

"Don't worry," Paige assured them. "I'll just orb us to the other one."

"Make sure that we're not seen," Cecile instructed. She took one of Paige's hands. Harry took the other. Seconds later, she orbed them out of the alley.

They found themselves materializing next to a dumpster in another alley. They also found Darryl Morris and Scott Yi, standing over an inert figure. "Oh my God!" Paige cried, as she rushed toward the two detectives. "We're too late!"

Cecile and Harry joined them. The inert figure turned out to be a dead tramp. "Shot twice," Scott commented. "One to the heart and the other to the head. Very professional." He paused to stare at the newcomers. "What are you guys doing here?"

"Good question," Darryl added. He stared at Cecile. "Olivia had never said anything about you visiting San Francisco."

A sigh left Cecile's mouth. "That's because Olivia doesn't know I'm here. I assume that you're looking for her."

"Yeah," Darryl replied. "She disappeared on us, after we got here. Only, we found this guy."

Scott added, "And blood stains over here." He stood in a spot, not far from the dead man. "Along with shell casings."

"Oh my God! She must have shot Olivia by now!" Harry cried.

The two detectives stared at the male witch. "Okay, what's going on?" Darryl demanded.

"We're from the future and we'll explain it all later," Cecile replied curtly. "First, we've got to find Olivia." A small murmur or groan breached her psyche. It sounded as if the sound came from . . . She walked away from the others. Again, the sound permeated her mind. Cecile thought she heard Paige call out her name, but she ignored the latter. Then Harry joined her.

"You heard it too," the red-haired witch commented. "The voice." He stared at Cecile with wide eyes. Olivia's eyes.

The pair made their way to a junction where the alley met with another that ran horizontally. Cecile spotted a dumpster near the edge of the other alley. "Over there!" she cried. With Harry, she rushed toward the dumpster. So did Paige and the two detectives. The Vodou priestess peeked inside the dumpster and found a pale and bloodied Olivia. "She's over here!"

The others raced toward the dumpster. Scott reached it first and peered inside. "Oh shit! She's barely alive. Step back. I'll get her out." Scott held out his hands and murmured a few words in Mandarin. Then to Cecile's surprise, Olivia's body levitated out of the dumpster and settled on the ground, next to it.

Cecile and Harry immediately knelt beside the badly wounded woman. "Oh God! Livy!" Harry exclaimed. "Livy?"

"Ha . . . Har-r-r-ry," Olivia whispered. Blood gushed out of her mouth. She began to cough.

Cecile cried, "Paige!" The Charmed One knelt by her side. "You're half-whitelighter, right? You can heal her."

Paige's dark eyes grew wide with doubt. "I don't know. I mean . . . I'm only half-whitelighter. I can't heal like Leo."

"Well, you have to try," Harry insisted. "You know Livy won't make it to the hospital."

"Maybe we should just . . ."

Darryl cried out, taking everyone by surprise. "Hey! Paige! Just do it! If you can't heal her, we'll just take her to one of the ambulances."

A sigh left Paige's mouth. Cecile held her breath as the Charmed One knelt beside the wounded Olivia. A light emitted from the younger woman's hands, as she placed them over the redhead's gunshot wounds. Seconds later, Olivia's body jerked, as she inhaled deeply. Cecile noticed that the gunshot wounds and the blood gurgling from Olivia's mouth disappeared.

Harry helped his sister to her feet. Paige stood up. "Oh my God!" she exclaimed. "I actually did it! I actually managed to heal someone on my own!"

"That's great," Olivia murmured. She paused to stare at Harry. Then her gaze fell upon the Vodou priestess. "Cecile? What are you doing here in San Francisco?"

Before she could control herself, tears pricked at Cecile's eyes. She enveloped her best friend into a bear hug. "If you only knew," she whispered back.

"Knew what?" Olivia withdrew from her friend's embrace and gave the latter a wary look. "Did you have a vision of me being killed . . . back in New Orleans?"

A sigh left Harry's mouth, as he drew Olivia into his arms. "You did die, Livy," he said. "In another timeline. Paige, Cecile and me . . . we're from the future. Nearly two weeks from now."

A long silence followed, as Olivia stared at her brother with wide eyes. "I was dead?"

"Yeah."

Darryl exclaimed, "Damn! No wonder you guys knew where to find her."

"We didn't know," Paige replied. "At first. In fact, in the other timeline, you and Scott," she nodded at the third police officer, were able to find Livy. But she . . . um, she . . ."

Cecile let out a gust of breath. "She had died on the way to the hospital."

Harry picked up the story. "The killer . . ."

"My other self," Olivia added. Everyone stared at her. "It was my other self who killed . . . I mean, nearly killed me. She wants the Aingeal Staff for herself." The redhead glanced at her right hand. "She even took my wedding ring. And my keys."

Her friend's last words reminded Cecile that they had another person to save. "Oh my God! Cole! We have to get back to your place!"

"What?" Now Olivia looked upset. "What are you talking about? What about Cole?"

Harry explained. "If your other self is the killer, then she'll run into Cole at the penthouse and kill him. Strip away his powers and stab him with a knife."

"Oh Goddess! I have to get home." Olivia turned to the Charmed One. "Paige, could you give us a lift?"

"Sure thing," Paige replied. "Just grab hold of me."

Darryl cried out, "Wait a minute! What about the two other bodies we found . . . and this guy?" He pointed at the dead tramp.

"Just tell everyone that you had sent Olivia on an errand," Scott suggested. He nodded at the three witches and Cecile. "Need any help?"

Olivia shook her head. "I don't think so. We'll be fine." Seconds later, Paige teleported herself, the two McNeills and Cecile out of the alley.


END OF CHAPTER FIVE

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Celebration of Mediocrity and Unoriginality in “STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS”

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"THE CELEBRATION OF MEDIOCRITY AND UNORIGINALITY IN “STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS"

Look … I liked the new “STAR WARS” movie, “THE FORCE AWAKENS”. I honestly do. Heck, I feel it is better than J.J. Abrams’ two “STAR TREK” films. But I am astounded that this film has garnered so much acclaim. It has won the AFI Award for Best Picture. It has been nominated by the Critics Choice Award for Best Picture. 

“THE FORCE AWAKENS”??? Really? It did not take long for certain fans to point out that the movie’s plot bore a strong resemblance to the first“STAR WARS” movie, “A NEW HOPE”. In fact, I am beginning to suspect that J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan had more or less plagiarized the 1977 film, along with aspects from other movies in the franchise. Worse, it has some plot holes that Abrams has managed to ineffectively explain to the media. In other words, his explanations seemed like shit in the wind and the plot holes remained obvious.

Then I found myself thinking about “THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.”, Guy Ritchie’s adaptation of the 1964-1968 television series. I will not deny that the movie had some flaws. Just about every movie I have seen throughout my life had some flaws. But instead of attempting a carbon copy of the television series, Ritchie put his own, original spin of the show for his movie. And personally, I had left the movie theater feeling impressed. And entertained. It is not that Ritchie had created a perfect movie. But he did managed to create an original one, based upon an old source. Now that was impressive.

But instead of having his movie appreciated, a good deal of the public stayed away in droves. Warner Brothers barely publicized the film. Worse, the studio released in August, the summer movie season’s graveyard. And for those who did see the movie, the complained that it was not like the television show. Ritchie had made changes for his film. In other words, Ritchie was criticized for being original with a movie based upon an old television series.

I find this incredibly pathetic. One director is criticized giving an original spin to his movie adaptation. Another director is hailed as the savior of a movie franchise for committing outright plagiarism. This is what Western culture has devolved into, ladies and gentlemen. We now live in a world in which the only movies that are box office hits are those that form part of a franchise. We live in a society in which glossy and mediocre shows like“DOWNTON ABBEY” are celebrated. We live in a world in which a crowd pleasing, yet standard movie biopic like “THE KING’S SPEECH” can receive more acclaim than an original film like “INCEPTION”.

In regard to culture or even pop culture, this society is rushing toward conformity, familiarity and mediocrity. God help us.

Monday, December 28, 2015

"THE ADVENTURES OF HUCK FINN" (1993) Photo Gallery

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Below are images from "THE ADVENTURES OF HUCK FINN", the 1993 Disney adaptation of Mark Twain's 1884 novel, "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn". Directed by Stephen Sommers, the movie starred Elijah Wood and Courtney B. Vance: 


"THE ADVENTURES OF HUCK FINN" (1993) Photo Gallery

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Friday, December 25, 2015

"STEVE JOBS" (2015) Review




"STEVE JOBS" (2015) Review

I might as well say it up front. "STEVE JOBS" is a strange film. At least to me. It is probably the oddest film I have ever seen in 2015. There are a good number of aspects about this film that makes it so odd to me. 

Judging from the title of this film, it is not hard to surmise that "STEVE JOBS" is a biography about the late co-founder of Apple, Inc. Directed by Danny Boyle and written by Aaron Sorkin, the movie was inspired by Walter Isaacson's 2011 biography. Sorkin's screnplay was also inspired by a series of interviews he had conducted with people who had known Steve Jobs. So far . . . there seemed to be nothing odd about this film. And it is not the first biopic about Jobs. But what made this movie so odd? Well, I will tell you.

The movie is divided into three acts. Each act is set during an event in which Jobs launches one of his computer products. Act One is set in 1984 in which Jobs and marketing executive Joanna Hoffman deal with problems before the Apple Macintosh launch. Act Two features Jobs preparing for the NeXT Computer launch at San Francisco's Davies Symphony Hall in 1988. The final act is set in 1998, in which Jobs, who has been named CEO of Apple, Inc., prepares to launch the iMac, the computer that restored the company's fortunes. All three acts also feature Jobs interacting with the following people:

*Joanna Hoffman - Jobs' marketing executive and confidant
*Steve Wozniak - Apple, Inc. co-founder and creator of the Apple II
*John Sculley - CEO of Apple from 1983 to 1993
*Chrisann Brennan - Jobs' former girlfriend
*Andy Hertzfeld - Member of the original AppleMacintosh team
*Joel Pforzheimer - GQ Magazine journalist, who interviews Jobs throughout the film
*Lisa Brennan-Jobs - the daughter of Steve Jobs and Chrisann Brennan

By now, many would realize that the movie really is not about those new products being launched by Jobs throughout the film. It seemed to be about his relationships with the other major characters featured in this movie. However, by the time I watched the movie's final frame, it occurred to me that "STEVE JOBS" was really about his relationship with his oldest offspring, Lisa Brennan-Jobs, who aged from six to twenty years old in this film. What was so special about this particular relationship? Well, according to Sorkin's screenplay, Jobs and Brennan had a brief fling toward the end of the 1970s, which resulted in Lisa's conception. However, Jobs had refused to acknowledge Lisa as his daughter for several years. Once he did, their relationship continued to be fraught with tensions, due to Jobs' suspicions that Lisa's mother was an erratic parent who was using the girl to acquire a lot more money from him. By the time Lisa is a twenty year-old college student, father and daughter have a spat over her apparent failure to prevent her mother from selling the house he had given them and his threat to withhold her college tuition.

And this is the problem I had with "STEVE JOBS". Do not get me wrong. Most of the performances in this movie were excellent - including those by Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Katherine Waterston, Michael Stuhlbarg and Perla Haney-Jardine, who portrayed the 19-20 year-old Lisa. Michael Fassbender, in my opinion, gave a performance worthy of an Oscar nomination. In fact, I feel he really deserves one. So does Kate Winslet, whom I thought was brilliant as the pragmatic and loyal Joanna Hoffman. Whether the Motion Picture Academy and the Hollywood community will remember Fassbender and Winslet's performances when the award season begins, I do not know.

I also felt that the subject of this movie was interesting. I also found the various products launched by Jobs, along with his impact or lack thereof on Apple, Inc. throughout this period rather interesting, as well. And Jobs' relationships with Hoffman, Wozniak, Sculley and Hertzfeld were also interesting. But I eventually realized these topics were minor in compare to Jobs' relationship with Lisa. Even during his conversations with the other characters, the topics of Lisa, Chrisann and his own complicated childhood were brought up by the other characters. This movie was really about Jobs' role as a father. And that is why it ended in such an abrupt manner, when he and Lisa finally managed to reconcile right before the iMac launch. And honestly, I feel this was a mistake.

Despite the fine performances and the interesting topics featured in this film, I left the theaters feeling somewhat gypped. I thought I was going to see a biographical movie about Steve Jobs and his impact upon the high tech community and the people he knew. To a certain extent, that is what Boyle and Sorkin gave the audiences. But this movie was really about Jobs' relationship with his daughter Lisa. And instead of admitting it outright, I feel that Boyle and Sorkin manipulated the audiences into realizing this. No wonder everyone else kept bringing up the topic of Lisa. No wonder the movie was only set between 1984 and 1998. No wonder it ended so abruptly, following his reconciliation with Lisa. And no wonder this movie failed to make a profit at the box office. For a movie with such potential, I found it rather disappointing in the end.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The 18th Century in Television

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Recently, I noticed there were a good number of television productions in both North America and Great Britain, set during the 18th century. In fact, I managed to count at least six productions. Astounded by this recent interest in that particular century, I decided to list them below in alphabetical order: 


THE 18TH CENTURY IN TELEVISION

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1. "Banished" (BBC TWO) - This recently cancelled series was about a penal colony in New South Wales, Australia; where British convicts and their Royal Navy marine guards and officers live. Russell Tovey, Julian Rhind-Tutt, and MyAnna Buring starred.



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2. "Black Sails" (STARZ) - Toby Stephens stars in this prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's novel, "Treasure Island", about the adventures of Captain Flint.



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3. "Book of Negroes" (CBC/BET) - This six-part miniseries is an adaptation of Lawrence Hill historical novel about a West African girl who is sold into slavery around the time of the American Revolution and her life experiences in the United States and Canada. Aunjanue Ellis, Lyriq Bent and Cuba Gooding, Jr. star.



outlander

4. "Outlander" (STARZ) - This series is an adaptation of Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" book series about a 1940s woman who ends up traveling back in time to 18th century Scotland. Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan and Tobias Menzies star.



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5. "Poldark" (BBC ONE) - Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson star in this new television adaptation of Winston Graham's book series about a former British Army officer who returns home to Cornwall after three years fighting in the American Revolution.



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6. "Sons of Liberty" (HISTORY Channel) - Ben Barnes, Rafe Spall and Henry Thomas starred in this three-part miniseries about the Sons of Liberty political group and the beginning of the American Revolution.



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7. "Turn: Washington's Spies" (AMC) - Jamie Bell stars in this series about a pro-American spy ring operating on behalf of General George Washington during the American Revolution.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

"SPECTRE" (2015) Photo Gallery

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Below are images from "SPECTRE", the 24th entry in the James Bond movie franchise. Directed by Sam Mendes, the movie stars Daniel Craig as James Bond, 007: 



"SPECTRE" (2015) Photo Gallery

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