Monday, February 28, 2011

"TOWARDS ZERO" (2007) Photo Gallery



Below are images from "TOWARDS ZERO", the 2007 adaptation of Agatha Christie's 1944 novel.   The movie starred Geraldine McEwan as Miss Jane Marple:


"TOWARDS ZERO" (2007) Photo Gallery
































Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Strange Bedfellows" [R] - Part 1




"STRANGE BEDFELLOWS"

Part 1

MAY 27, 1969; MONTREAL, CANADA . . . Belthazor found his prey emerging from a three-story building that faced the Rue du St. Michel. He recognized the man as another daemon named Balmung. Only this daemon happened to be a member of the Gimle Order - an organization dedicated to protecting all beings from supernatural evil. The half-daemon could tell from Balmung's furtive manner that the latter had discovered the object of his desire before he could.

The Gimle daemon turned into a nearby alley. Belthazor shimmered away from his spot and re-materialized into the alley - and right behind Balmung. Taking the other daemon by surprise, the half-daemon punched Balmung in the kidneys. The latter cried out in pain, as he sunk to his knees. Then Belthazor jerked the other daemon, wrapped a red hand around the latter's neck and shoved him against the wall. A dagger appeared in the half-daemon's free hand.

"Sorry Balmung, but I cannot allow you to live." The Gimle daemon's eyes grew wide in fear before the half-daemon plunged the dagger into Balmung's heart. A gurgle left the other daemon's mouth, before he sunk to the ground for the second time and died. The dagger disappeared from Belthazor's grip. He knelt beside the corpse and removed a tan, leather-bound book from inside Balmung's jacket.

Belthazor glanced briefly through the book. Satisfied of his prize, he transformed back into his human form - that of Cole Turner. He shot the dead daemon one last disparaging glance and murmured, "Adieu, Balmung." Then he shimmered out of the alley.

He ended up in the wide, yet empty corridor, on the 26th floor of a commercial high-rise in the middle of Manhattan Island. The building served as the East Coast headquarters of Acheron International, the business front for the Thorn Brotherhood, here in the mortal world. Cole walked along the corridor until he came upon a pair of double doors. Beyond was a spacious room filled with elegant, Art Deco-style furnishings and a sprinkling of antiquities. A stocky man of medium height and brown, shoulder-length hair strode toward the half-daemon. "Greetings Brother," he said, holding out a hand. "How was Canada?"

"Not bad," Cole murmured. He shook the other demon's hand. Then he removed a tan book from inside his jacket and waved it in the air. "In fact, very satisfying."

The other daemon, whose name happened to be Tarkin, smiled. "I believe that the proper word should be successful. Is that . . .?"

"Lambert's grimoire?" Cole nodded. "A Gimle daemon named Balmung had managed to retrieve it, first. Fortunately," a cold smile curved his lips, "I got to him, before he could return the grimoire to Lambert's granddaughter." For the second time, he peeked inside the book. It had originally belonged to a powerful French wizard named Thierry Lambert. Following the wizard's death over twenty years ago, the book disappeared, which set off a two-decade search that finally ended in Montreal. The Brotherhood of the Thorn also sought possession of the grimoire. And once the order's leader had received word of its appearance at a Montreal occult shop, Cole received the assignment to retrieve the grimoire and . . . kill anyone who got his way.

Tarkin snarled, "Damn Gimle daemons! They and others like them are an affront to our kind. Death is too good for them." He glanced at Cole, who immediately stiffened at his words. Looking slightly contrite, Tarkin added, "Oh. Sorry about that, Belthazor. I had forgotten about your uncle."

Cole collected himself and responded with a cool shrug. "No need to apologize. Uncle or not, Marbus was a traitor. He got what he had deserved." He gave his friend a tight smile.

"A very admirable attitude, Belthazor." A tall, middle-aged looking male approached the two younger daemons. He projected an imposing appearance with his pale and fleshy countenance, pale blue eyes and thinning dark-blond hair. "Raynor was right to assign you to kill Marbus. He knew that you would have never allowed family connections to impede your objective."

A flash of anxiety jolted Cole. He knew that Marbus - who had turned against the Source over a century ago - remained alive, thanks to him and his mother. And for the past year, the half-daemon has feared that one of his colleagues would eventually learn the truth. Good or evil, blood came first before any other loyalty in Cole's demonic family. Including the Source. "Thanks, Vornac," the half-daemon murmured to his sect's leader. He nodded at the imposing, yet exotic-looking woman who had appeared by Vornac's side. "Klea."

The demoness returned his nod. "Belthazor."

Cole glanced around the room and noticed something odd. "Unless I'm imagining things, the entire order seems to be here. Does anyone know why?"

Vornac took a sip from a glass of yellow liqueur. "It seems that Raynor has an important announcement to make." A door swung open and a tall, dark-haired and dark-eyed man, dressed in black, emerged from a private office. "Ah, here he is."

An elegant, chestnut-haired woman accompanied the Thorn Brotherhood's leader. Tarkin nodded at the pair. "Isn't that Avara of the Noldor Dimension with Raynor? What . . . what's going on?"

"You'll find out within a few mintues."

Several minutes later, the entire order faced their leader, as he began to address them with a speech. From the corner of his eye, Cole spotted his mother - along with her faithful assistant - looking slightly bored. Nimue glanced away from Raynor and acknowledged her son with a slight nod. Instead of acknowledging her nod, he simply turned away.

Raynor finished off his speech with a grand announcement. "And that is why," he concluded, "I would like to introduce you to my future wife and the future mistress of the Thorn Brotherhood - my fiancée , Avara of the Noldor Dimension!"

Applause filled the large room. When it finally died down, the order's members lined up to offer their congratulations to the newly engaged couple. Tarkin whispered to Cole, "This is a surprise. Raynor is getting married? Again? Avara will be his . . . what?"

Cole added, "Third wife. I can only wonder what Avara will contribute to the marriage." The two friends finally approached their leader and politely offered their congratulations.

"Thank you," Raynor responded with a smile. "By the way Belthazor, I would like to see you inside my office in another fifteen minutes from now. I would like to discuss Montreal."

"Of course, Raynor," Cole said with a smile. He and Tarkin moved on, allowing the next Thorn daemon to greet their leader.

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

Fifteen minutes later, Cole knocked on the door to Raynor's office. Once inside the luxurious room, the older daemon said to the younger one, "Well, Belthazor. I understand from Vornac that your trip to Montreal was a success."

Cole handed the leather book to Raynor. "Here it is - Thierry Lambert's grimoire.

Raynor's dark eyes lit up with excitement. "At last!" He turned the book over in his hands. "Do you have any idea how long I've longed to get my hands on this book?"

"Considering Lambert's age when he died, I can only assume for at least half a century."

"Longer," Raynor murmured. "Since you were a child. An adolescent. For over seventy years, as a matter of fact." He sighed. "Excellent work, Belthazor. I understand that you had to kill a Gimle daemon to acquire this. Good riddance, as far as I'm concerned." He placed the grimoire on his desk. "Now, on to another matter. In light of your recent work, I believe that you are entitled to a vacation. What do you say?"

Cole smiled. "I say . . . that I have no problem with that idea. I had considered asking Vornac for a vacation. I suppose you'll be taking one yourself, soon. At least a honeymoon."

Raynor nodded. "Yes. Avara and I intend to spend our honeymoon in the Melora dimension. We haven't decided how long." He paused. "By the way, have you ever considered . . . getting married? How old are you?"

"At least eighty-four," Cole answered.

A sigh left Raynor's mouth. "Still young. Yet, old enough to consider matrimony."

The idea of marriage churned Cole's stomach. "Uh, to be honest Raynor, I don't think I'm ready for marriage, yet. In fact, I might not be the marrying kind."

"Really?" Raynor regarded the half-daemon with an appraising look. "I've always believed otherwise. I'm sure that you've . . . indulged in the usual flings over the years. But I've always thought you were the type who would eventually settle down. Start a dynasty of your own. I've been trying since before you were born. Hopefully, I'll have better luck with Avara."

Wondering what Raynor was up to, Cole frowned. "Are you . . . ordering me to get married?"

Raynor threw back his head and chuckled. "Of course not, Belthazor! Where did you get such an idea? I could never order you to do such a thing. Even if I wanted to." He quickly sobered. "Neither could the Source, for that matter. It was merely a suggestion." Was it? Cole wondered.

On that note, the senior demon finally dismissed the half-daemon. Much to the latter's relief. Cole felt more than happy to escape his mentor's presence and any further discussion on his matrimonial prospects. As Cole opened the office door, he nearly collided with a dark-haired beauty with hazel-brown eyes, and a theatrical-looking outfit that emphasized her voluptuous figure. Cole stared at her longer than he had intended. She looked very familiar.

"Do you mind?" the female retorted. "I don't plan to stand here, all day."

Cole stepped aside. "Sorry." He continued to stare. "Pardon me, but do I know you?"

"I don't think so." Then the beauty swept by. Cole's body hardened, as one of her breasts brushed against his arm. Hoping that no one would notice his arousal, the half-daemon quickly headed for the bar.

Tarkin appeared by his side. "How did it go? With Raynor?" he asked.

"Fine," Cole murmured. He ordered a glass of Scotch whiskey and faced his companion. "Did you see that that woman who had entered Raynor's office? The one I had bumped into?"

One of Tarkin's brows rose questioningly. "Woman?" A sly smile curved his lips, as Cole glared at him. "Oh yes. That was Idril. She's part of Melkora's sect."

Cole continued, "For some reason she looked familiar to me. And I don't know why."

Tarkin ordered a glass of absinthe. "She should. Idril is a movie star. Well . . . not really. She's produced and starred in a couple of Hollywood B-movies over the past few years. Really cheap stuff, but she's managed to make a profit from them. And a little fame as a sex symbol."

The memory of a rather bad beach movie flashed in Cole's mind. Along with images of a dark-haired beauty, who happened to be the leading lady. Idril, he realized, seemed a lot like her movies - colorful, yet cheap. On that note, he quickly dismissed the demoness from his mind.

----------

"So that was Belthazor." An image of the tall, dark-haired daemon lingered in Idril's mind. "Very handsome. Was there a reason why you wanted me to meet him?"

Raynor closed the office door with a wave of his hand. "As you know, Avara and I will be married within a week."

Dismay overwhelmed Idril. "So soon?" She had been Raynor's mistress for nearly a decade.

"I'm afraid so, my dear." Raynor gathered the demoness into his arms. "Avara insists. Apparently, she's looking forward to becoming first lady of the Thorn Brotherhood."

Idril jerked out of her lover's arms. "And you couldn't consider me for the position?" she demanded peevishly.

Raynor sighed. "Really, Idril. Must you be childish? Avara is the leader of a small, but very powerful demonic faction. And she can provide a connection to another one from a dimension outside the Source's Realm. This marriage is purely political." He paused, as he drew Idril back into his arms. "And as you should recall, I had suggested that you form a marriage of convenience, as well. Remember?"

Of course she remembered. Idril also recalled being appalled by Raynor's suggestion. The idea of being married to some daemon other than her lover seemed repugnant to her. Then she recalled the half-daemon she had just met. "Is that why you wanted me to meet Belthazor? You want me to . . .?"

"To consider him as a prospective husband," Raynor finished.

"But he's only a half-daemon!"

Raynor rolled his eyes in contempt. "My dear Idril! Must you be so close-minded? Despite his human blood, Belthazor is very powerful."

Idril pouted. "And?"

An impatient sigh escaped from Raynor's mouth. "And he is also very intelligent. Think . . . Idril. I'm Belthazor's mentor. With his brains and power, he has a very prominent future ahead of him." He added surreptiously, "And he's also very wealthy. In his own right."

A beautiful and aristocratic demoness with auburn hair appeared in Idril's thoughts. Nimue. "Human wealth. And isn't his mother, Nimue? The leader of one of the order's sects? I've met her a few times, and I have a feeling that she doesn't care for me, very much."

"She's irrelevant!" Raynor snapped impatiently. "Belthazor's relationship with his mother barely exists. They haven't exchanged a civil word with each other in nearly thirty years. Belthazor hasn't bothered to touch his father's money. And he also has quite a fortune within the Source's Realm, as well. "

"Oh." Idril decided that she could deal with that situation.

A smile curved Raynor's lips. He added, "As Belthazor's wife, you will be in a position to move through the top echelon within the Source's Realm. He is very popular with our . . . great leader. Especially since he had killed his traitorous uncle, last year. And . . ." the daemon planted a light kiss on Idril's exposed neck. She sighed. ". . . you will be in a position to spend time in my company, without arousing Avara's suspicions."

Idril slowly slid her arms around Raynor's neck and smiled. "Hmmm, now that's very appealing," she said. "You are a very clever daemon."

"Thank you."

Her smile disappeared. "If this works, I only hope that neither Belthazor or Avara will find out about us."

"Oh, don't worry, my dear. They won't. I'll make sure of that. All you have to do is make sure that Belthazor finds you attractive enough to want to consider matrimony. That's all. And he would be an idiot if he doesn't." Raynor lowered his mouth upon Idril's and passionately kissed her.

-----------

PRESENT DAY . . . Idril sighed, as she shook her head in disbelief. Poor Raynor, she thought. Over-confident, as usual. Her former mentor and lover had never considered that Belthazor had other plans. Recalling the half-daemon's last words, Idril realized that neither did she, for that matter.

Inside her posh Bel-Air home, the demoness walked over to her living-room bar and poured herself a drink. She needed to drown her memories of that disastrous and humiliating affair with Belthazor. As she climbed the stairs to her bedroom, Idril could only wonder if Belthazor now harbored any memories, as well.


End of Part 1

Saturday, February 26, 2011

"UNKNOWN" (2011) Photo Gallery



Below are images from the new thriller called "UNKNOWN". Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, the movie stars Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Frank Langella, Aidan Quinn and Bruno Ganz:



"UNKNOWN" (2011) Photo Gallery













































Friday, February 25, 2011

Looking Beyond "NORTH AND SOUTH"




LOOKING BEYOND “NORTH AND SOUTH”

In the past year, I have become increasingly obsessed with costume dramas based upon British literature. My obsession has not only focused upon movies and miniseries based on the many movie and television adaptations, but also on various British novels. Ranked near the top of the list of my favorite stories is the 2004 BBC miniseries, ”NORTH AND SOUTH”.

Adapted by Sandy Welch from Elizabeth Gaskell’s 1855 novel, ”NORTH AND SOUTH” told the story of a former clergyman’s daughter named Margaret Hale, who follows her uprooted parents to the Northern city of Milton; and John Thornton, a cotton mill owner who ends up befriending Margaret’s father and falling in love with her. Anyone familiar with Gaskell’s novel and the four-part miniseries would know that both Margaret and John endured a series of misunderstandings, quarrels, their relatives, external crises, and a marriage proposal gone wrong before they end up happily engaged. Yet, the question remains . . . what happened to the couple following the wedding? Did they end up ”happily ever after”?

Lately, I have become aware of a growing number of sequels based upon Jane Austen’s novels. This should not be surprising, considering the obsession that has surrounded the late 18th/early 19th century author for the past fifteen years. Most of these sequels tend to be follow-ups to the novelist’s most famous work, ”Pride and Prejudice”. I have never experienced any inclination to read any of these sequels in the past. And if I must be honest, any inclination remains dormant within me. But in the wake of becoming a fan of the ”NORTH AND SOUTH” miniseries, I found myself wondering if any writers or fans have ever considered writing a sequel to Gaskell’s novel.

I have come across some fan fiction based upon the novel. But most of these stories tend to focus solely on Margaret and John’s romance. Yes, I realize that it was the story’s romance – and especially Richard Armitage’s image as John Thornton – that made the miniseries become so popular with television viewers during the past 6 years or so. But for me and a good number of other fans, ”NORTH AND SOUTH” was more than just about the romance and leading actor. The social upheavals and culture clashes that permeated the story allowed an interesting glimpse into mid-Victorian English society and the differences in class and region. If someone ever decided to continue Margaret and John Thornton’s story, how would he or she do it? Would that writer merely focus upon the romance or follow Gaskell’s example by continuing the exploration of Victorian society? I personally believe that to write an effective sequel to ”North and South”, a writer would have to consider the following:

*the strong wills and temper of the two protagonists
*the protagonists’ family members
*the protagonists’ friendship with Nicholas Higgins and the union movement
*historical backdrop of the cotton trade in mid 19th century


Below is a more in-depth look into these topics:




Margaret Hale and John Thornton Relationship

I am certain that many fans of Gaskell’s novel and the 2004 miniseries sighed with pleasure . . . and relief when Margaret Hale and John Thornton finally acknowledged their love for each other by the end of the story. But one has to consider certain facts. One, love alone cannot always sustain a successful relationship. Two, despite the improvement in their respective characters, the cores of Margaret and John’s personalities will remain constant. One should anticipate future storms in the Hale-Thornton marriage.





Family Relations

Since the novel and the miniseries ended with Margaret and John’s engagement, fans can assume that the pair will eventually become husband and wife. Which means that they will have to deal with their respective in-laws.

One would be inclined to assume that John would not have to deal with in-laws on a daily basis, considering that Margaret’s parents were dead, her cousins living in London and her brother Frederick living in Spain. Margaret, on the other hand, will have two in-laws to deal with – John’s younger sister, the silly Fanny; and his indomitable mother, Mrs. Hannah Thornton. Considering John and Mrs. Thornton’s low opinion of Fanny, the latter should prove to be more of a problem for them, instead of Margaret. The worst she would have to contend with the occasional inane comment from Fanny or the latter’s barely concealed jealousy of her older brother. Mrs. Thornton might prove to be another matter. I doubt that John’s mother had not forgotten Margaret’s rejection of John’s first marriage proposal or the mild scandal regarding Margaret’s appearance at the rail station with her brother Frederick. And the older woman has never been fond of younger one. Considering her personality, I would not be surprised if Mrs. Thornton ends up developing a slight resentment toward Margaret’s financial rescue of Marlborough Mills. One can easily look forward to fireworks between Margaret and her new mother-in-law.

As I had earlier pointed out, there would be a strong possibility of John avoiding any conflict with any of his in-laws, due to the deaths of Margaret’s parents and the scattered locations of her surviving relations. But the possibilities remain. After all, Margaret does have close relationships with her Cousin Edith Shaw Lennox and Aunt Shaw, who live in London. The chances of her and John making family visits to the south remain strong. The London family would probably be disappointed in Margaret’s marriage to John and her second rejection of Edith’s brother-in-law, Henry Lennox. And judging from the Great Exhibition scene featured in the miniseries’ third episode, they did not seem enamored of John. Although Margaret’s brother Frederick lives in Spain, both she and John could afford to pay him a visit. But I wonder if that visit would prove to be congenial. Frank had clearly expressed his contempt for John as a “tradesman” in the miniseries’ third episode. I doubt that one rebuke from Margaret would have changed his opinion. And I can foresee a chilly response from Frank, for his new “tradesman” brother-in-law.

Overall, in-law troubles for both Margaret and John strike me as very plausible in a sequel.





Nicholas Higgins and the Union

I wonder if many fans of both the Gaskell novel and the 2004 miniseries would view Margaret and John’s friendship with worker/union leader Nicholas Higgins as a possible source of future conflict. I believe it is possible. Higgins is a strong-willed character with firm ideas. I simply cannot see him permanently giving up his dreams of a strong union for Milton’s mill workers, despite the setback featured in Episodes 2 and 3, and his friendship with John Thornton. And knowing John’s feelings regarding unions and his own strong will, I cannot see him supporting any future efforts to begin one. There could be a chance of a future clash between the two men if a new union is pursued. Margaret might find herself in the middle of such a clash, considering her closer friendship with Higgins and her love for John. Such a storyline could prove to be very interesting in a sequel.







Cotton Trade and the U.S. Civil War

Although I am not certain, I suspect that many fans would never associate the topic of slavery and the U.S. Civil War with Gaskell’s novel or the miniseries. Yet, I do recall a scene in which John and other Milton cotton mill owners had engaged in a conversation about purchasing cotton from countries other than the United States. John insisted that he would continue purchasing American cotton, due to its superior quality. If someone ever decided to write a sequel to ”North and South”, I wonder if the author would set the story a few years following Margaret and John’s engagement. Or would the author allow their tale to continue into the 1860s? If the latter does happen, chances are Marlborough Mill and other mills throughout Great Britain will suffer the effects of the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865).

That particular war managed to deprive many British mill owners of raw cotton for their factories. In return, the British cotton manufacturing business suffered a major economic depression, due to the Confederates’ policy of withholding cotton in exchange for diplomatic recognition and aid from Great Britain. Since the Confederacy never received official recognition or aid, the British mill owners suffered.

Not only could the growing issue of slavery and the American Civil War should have a profound effect upon the Thorntons’ profits. Both issues could be used as potential conflict between Margaret and John. I would not be surprised if concern for his mill would lead to John developing an anti-abolition or pro-Confederate stance. And considering her sympathies toward Milton’s mill workers, I could see Margaret developing a pro-abolition or pro-Union stance. However, a part of me suspects that many writers would go out of their way to avoid the topic of slavery, the Civil War and their effect upon Britain’s cotton manufacturing industry. Since Gaskell’s novel and the 2004 miniseries embraced social issues, it would be a pity if this never happened.




Conclusion

If there is one thing I enjoyed about Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel and its 2004 television adaptation was that both turned out to be a well-written saga that combined romance, family strife and social issues. I believe that this combination could be repeated in a sequel to ”North and South”. This sequel could continue the exploration of Margaret Hale and John Thornton’s relationship through their own personalities, family connections, their friendship with Nicholas Higgins and the economic repercussions of slavery and the U.S. Civil War on Britain’s cotton industry and Northern England’s economy. I could go as far to say that a sequel to ”North and South” has the potential to be just as fascinating as Gaskell’s original novel. However, with so many sequels and spin-offs to Jane Austen’s novels still being written, I suspect that such a novel will never be written.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"THE KING'S SPEECH" (2010) Review




”THE KING’S SPEECH” (2010) Review

Inspirational movies have been the hallmark of Hollywood films over the decades. They especially became popular between the mid-1970s and the early 1990s. After the mid-90s, I never thought they would become popular again. But the recent release of the historical drama, ”THE KING’S SPEECH” proved me wrong.

Directed by Tom Hooper and written by David Seidler, ”THE KING’S SPEECH” told the story of Great Britain’s King George VI’s difficulties with a speech impediment and his relationship with Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, who helped him overcome his stutter. The movie opened with George VI (then Prince Albert, Duke of York) at the closing of the 1925 Empire Exhibition at Wembley Stadium, with his wife Elizabeth by his side. There he gives a stammering speech that visibly unsettles the thousands of listeners in the audience. After nine years of unsuccessfully finding a speech therapist that can help him, Elizabeth recruits Australian-born Lionel Logue to meet him. The two men eventually bond and Logue helps the Duke of York overcome the latter’s stammer during a series of crises that include the death of George V; his brother, King Edward VIII’s romance with American divorcee, Wallis Simpson; the abdication of Edward; the Duke of York’s ascension to the throne as George VI; his coronation and the start of World War II. Also during this period, both king and speech therapist become close friends.

What can I say about ”THE KING’S SPEECH”? I cannot deny that it was a heartwarming tale about the growing friendship of two men from disparate backgrounds. Seidler’s script was filled with wit, charm, warmth and pathos that filled the heart. The cast, lead by Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, did great credit to the script. There have been complaints about the film’s historical accuracy from both the media and historians. And there is a good deal of the story that is historically inaccurate. George VI and Lionel Logue’s collaboration began as far back as 1926, not 1934. And the king was also pro-appeasement in the late 1930s. In fact, the majority of Britons during that period were pro-appeasement. What historians fail to realize is that appeasement was popular due to a lack of desire for another war against Germany. World War I had traumatized a generation that included George VI. One also has to remember that ”THE KING’S SPEECH” is a drama based upon historical fact, not a documentary. One would know by now that complete historical accuracy in a work of fiction is rare. It has been rare for as long as there have been fictional work based upon history. And to be honest, I do not believe that the movie’s fiddling with historical fact has not harmed the story.

One would think that I consider ”THE KING’S SPEECH” to be one of the best movies this year. Frankly, I find labeling what is ”the best” rather subjective. I did enjoy the movie and it made the list of my Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2010. However, I must admit that I do not consider it to be a particularly original film. One, it is one of those inspirational films that moviegoers tend to love – movies like ”SEABISCUIT”, ”CINDERELLA MAN” and the 1976 Oscar winner, ”ROCKY”. And if I must be brutally honest, there was nothing original about ”THE KING’S SPEECH” - even for an inspirational film. I already have a nickname for it - ’ROCKY in the Palace’. Another problem I have with the movie is that I was not that impressed by its visual style. I found Danny Cohen’s photography rather pedestrian. And Eve Stewart’s production designs and Judy Farr’s set decorations were very disappointing. Only the movie’s exterior shots prevented ”THE KING’S SPEECH” from becoming another filmed stage play. And the actual sets struck me as very dull. My hopes of a rich look at London and the rest of Great Britain during the 1920s and 30s fell short. I suppose I should not have been surprised by the movie’s uninspiring visual style. It only had a budget of $15 million dollars. I suspect the producers had very little money to work with.

With a few exceptions, the cast turned out to be first-rate. Colin Firth gave a superb and complex performance as the insecure sovereign with the speech impediment. I am not that surprised that he managed to earn nominations and win a good number of acting awards. Geoffrey Rush, who portrayed Lionel Logue, gave a first-rate performance filled with a great deal of sly humor. Also, he and Firth generated a strong screen chemistry. Helena Bonham-Carter was a charming and witty Duchess of York/Queen Elizabeth. However, I would have never considered her performance worth of any acting award nomination. She was simply portraying the “loyal wife” schtick. I was surprised to find Guy Pearce portraying the love obsessed and selfish Edward VIII. And I must he was very subtle and effective in revealing the man’s less admirable traits. The movie also benefitted solid performances from the likes of Michael Gambon as King George V, Claire Bloom as Queen Mary, and Anthony Andrews, who was surprisingly effective as Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin.

However, there were some performances that I found unsatisfying. Being a fan of Jennifer Ehle, I was disappointed in the limitations of her role as Logue’s wife, Myrtle. She hardly had a chance to do anything, except murmur a few words of encouragement to Logue. Her only great moment occurred in a scene that featured Myrtle Logue’s realization that the King of England was one of her husband’s clients. Seeing Ehle and Firth in the same scene together brought back memories of the 1995 adaptation of ”PRIDE AND PREJUDICE”. I also had a problem with Eve Best’s portrayal of American divorcee, Wallis Simpson. Her Wallis came off as more extroverted than the divorcee in real life. And I hate to say this, but Timothy Spall’s interpretation of Winston Churchill seemed more like a parody than a serious portrayal. Every time he was on the screen, I could not help but wince.

In conclusion, I enjoyed ”THE KING’S SPEECH” very much. Despite its lack of originality, I found it heartwarming, humorous, and dramatic; thanks to Tom Hooper’s direction and Seidler’s writing. And aside from a few performances, I was impressed by the cast, especially leading men Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. I would never consider it artistically worthy of an Oscar for Best Picture. But I cannot deny that it was entertaining.

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

As an extra treat, below is a video clip featuring a speech given by King George VI at the an Empire Exhibition at Ibrox Park, Glasgow, Scotland; 1938.

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Strange Bedfellows" [R] - Prologue




"STRANGE BEDFELLOWS"

RATING: R - Sexual situations.
SUMMARY: Cole's encounter with a former lover brings back old memories right before his wedding.
FEEDBACK: - Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: Cole Turner and other characters related to Charmed to Spelling Productions, Brad Kern and Constance Burge. Olivia McNeill, Christine Broome and Idril are my creations.
NOTE: Takes place about a few days after "The Uninvited" - Alternate Universe Season 6.



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

Prologue

The intercom on Cole Turner's desk buzzed. The half-daemon heaved a sigh and moved away from his computer screen, which displayed a legal contract, partially written by him. Cole rubbed his eyes and snapped on the intercom. "Yes?"

"You have a visitor, Mr. Turner," his assistant, Eleanor Read, replied. "A Miss Diane Moore. She hopes to become a new client."

As if he did not have enough clients. Cole had no desire to add another to his list of clients. Not while he was trying to finish this contract before his wedding. But he also knew that his employers would not take kindly to him turning away a new client for their firm. Especially since he happened to be Jackman, Carter and Kline's poster boy. "All right. Send her in."

Seconds later, Eleanor entered the office. "Miss Diane Moore," she announced. Cole's assistant stepped aside and ushered in the visitor. Cole gaped at the familiar figure, who brushed past Eleanor.

"What the . . .?" Cole stared at the new visitor in disbelief.

Eleanor asked, "Shall I bring a drink for Miss Moore?"

"An Apple Martini would be lovely," the guest replied. Eleanor regarded the visitor with dubious eyes, before she left the office. Cole glared. Once they were alone, she declared, "Belthazor, it's great to see you. As always."

Cole growled, "Apple Martini? Before noon? Good grief, Idril! And what the hell are you doing here?"

The dark-haired demoness' mouth formed a pretty smile. "I thought it would be nice for us to have lunch, together. Seeing you at your engagement party brought back old memories."

"Memories that I would rather forget," Cole retorted.

Idril eased into an empty chair. "But you can't forget, can you?"

Flashes of their brief affairs illuminated Cole's thoughts. He sighed. "No, I guess not." A triumphant smile curved Idril's mouth. "I guess I can't forget . . . us, anymore than I can't forget Christine Bloome from the Triple Six Club, in London. How is she, by the way? I haven't heard from her in years."

Idril's mouth tightened. "I wouldn't know." She seared Cole with a death glare, before Eleanor returned with her Apple Martini. Once his assistant had left, Idril took a sip of her drink. "What about lunch, Belthazor? Still interested? I thought Caruso's at the Westin St. Francis would be nice."

Cole gave his former paramour a hard look. "And what else did you have in mind for us at the St. Regis? A room for the afternoon?"

"I see nothing wrong with re-capturing old times." Idril's smile returned. "Do you?"

A derisive snort escaped from Cole's mouth. "I don't recall any 'old times' at the St. Regis or any other hotel," he retorted. "Besides, I still have some work to finish."

Humiliation and anger briefly flashed in Idril's hazel-brown eyes. "What's the matter, Belthazor? Afraid that I might seduce you, again? And that the little lady will find out?" she said with a sneer.

Cole leaned forward, smiling coldly. Contempt oozed from his voice. "The 'little lady' is a good two inches taller than you. And what makes you think that I had allowed myself to be seduced by you? Maybe there was another reason why I had stuck it out with you for nearly a month."

Idril gasped, as her face turned pale. "Wha . . .?"

Someone knocked on the door, startling the pair. Seconds later, it swung open. Cole felt a slight twinge of anxiety as his fiancée, Olivia McNeill, entered the office. She shot a quick glance at the other guest. "Oh. I didn't realize you already had a guest."

"Didn't Eleanor . . .?" Cole began.

Olivia continued, "She wasn't at her desk." She stared at Idril and smiled politely. "Idril, it's nice to see you, again. How long has it been? A few days?"

Idril drained the last of her martini and set the glass on Cole's desk. Then she gave Olivia a tight smile. "And it's . . . nice to see you too, Miss McNeill. I . . . um, . . . I just came by to say hello to Belthazor." She stood up and turned to Cole. "Well, I guess I better get going. You've certainly given me something to think about, Belthazor. Bye."

"Good-bye Idril." Cole allowed himself a brief, triumphant smile, as he watched the demoness leave the room.

Olivia sat down in the chair previously occupied by Idril and brushed a few curls from her forehead. "Wow! What was that all about?" she asked.

Panic filled Cole. "Huh?"

"You and Idril. I had noticed a . . . distinct chill in the air. At least coming from you. What happened?"

Cole sighed. "Idril had asked me out for lunch, in some puerile attempt to revive our relationship. She had suggested the St. Regis Hotel."

Green eyes flew open. "So, that's where you two . . ."

"No!" Cole said sharply. "We were never at any hotel, together."

"Sorry."

Another sigh left his mouth. "Look," Cole began, "I didn't mean to sound sharp. It's just that I've always found Idril annoying. In fact, I'm beginning to regret that I had anything to do with her, in the first place."

Olivia stood up and headed for the liquor cabinet. She poured herself a glass of club soda. "Didn't you once tell me that you only went out with her to satisfy an itch?"

Cole leaned back into his leather chair. "That's how it had started. But I eventually became involved with her . . . to piss off my mother."

"Huh?" The glass paused just an away from Olivia's mouth. "Are you . . . there's nothing Oedipal about all of this?"

Glancing at his watch, Cole mildly retorted, "Of course not! You know, we better get going, if you still want to have lunch. How about the Daily Grill?"

Olivia nodded. "Sounds great." She swallowed the last of her club soda. "Ready?"

Cole stood up and donned his jacket. He then linked arms with his fiancée and seconds later, they materialized in an alley just off Union Square. Once they were seated in a booth, inside the Daily Grill. After the couple had ordered their meals, Cole began his story.

"It all began after I had finished an assignment in Montreal," he said. "Around the late spring of '69."

Olivia frowned slightly. "Assignment in Montreal?"

"It was about a book," Cole murmured. He sighed. "A wizard's book on spells and rituals that Raynor wanted . . ."


End of Prologue

Sunday, February 20, 2011

"SENSE AND SENSIBILITY" (2008) Photo Gallery



Below are images from "SENSE AND SENSIBILITY", the 2008 adaptation of Jane Austen's 1811 novel. Adapted by Andrew Davies and directed by John Alexander, the miniseries starred Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield:


"SENSE AND SENSIBILITY" (2008) Photo Gallery