Thursday, September 3, 2015

"Death Undone" (R) - Chapter Four



"DEATH UNDONE"


Chapter 4

March 3, 2004 . . . A ring of light appeared on the floor inside the semi-furnished bedroom. Seconds later, three people materialized inside of it. Paige glanced around with mild dismay. "We're back! We haven't gone anywhere."

"Wanna bet?" Cecile shot back. "Haven't you noticed something? Listen."

Both the Charmed One and Harry paused momentarily. "No footsteps," the latter declared. "And no voices."

Paige could not believe it. "You mean to say that we've traveled back through time? But to when?"

Cecile started toward the bedroom door. "We'll soon find out." The two witches followed her.

"I don't get it," Paige continued, as the trio marched along the second-floor hallway. "A time travel spell requires very powerful magic. Like the Power of Three. We shouldn't have been able . . ."

A sigh left the Vodoun priestess' mouth. She paused momentarily. "Paige, magic isn't always about brute force. How many times do I have to tell you? It's about doing it properly . . . regardless of powerful any magic practitioner is. I think you and your sisters need to rethink about how you practice magic." She added in a low voice, "After we reset time and save Olivia and Cole."

Paige shot a quick glance at Harry and noticed the smirk that briefly curled his lips. Asshole. She would get even. Meanwhile, she and her asshole of a boyfriend followed Cecile downstairs to the manor's foyer. The lack of demons running afoot told her that Cecile's spell had worked. They also encountered the McNeills' manservant, Davies.

"Mr. Harry?" Davies regarded the youngest McNeill with surprise. "What are you doing here?"

Harry regarded the manservant with relief. "Davies! Boy, am I glad to see you!" One of Davies' eyebrows rose questioningly. "I mean . . . I live here, of course."

"I understand that sir," Davies continued. "But what are you doing here? Now. Just two minutes ago, you had called to inform me that you would not be joining the family for supper, tonight. Something about spending the evening with Ms. Matthews." His gaze rested upon Cecile. "And I didn't realize that Miss Cecile . . . I mean, Mrs. Morrell was here in town."

"Ooops!" Harry took a deep breath. "Okay, Davies, uh . . ."

Cecile blurted out, "Davies, we're from the future." Both brows rose toward the manservant's hairline. "Two weeks from the future. A pretty horrible one, at that."

The manservant paused. Then, "I see. Is there anything you need, sir?" he asked Harry.

"No," the redhead replied. "Just the nearest telephone. Excuse us." Harry led the others into the library. There, he telephoned the police station where Olivia worked. One of her co-workers, an inspector named Marcus Anderson replied that Olivia, Scott Li and Darryl had reported to a call. "Do you know where?" Harry asked. Several seconds passed before he bid a frustrated good-bye and hung up. Harry informed the two women that it was the police policy not to reveal the locations of crime scenes to civilians – except for the media.

"I'm not surprised," Cecile heaved a sigh. "I just wish I could remember where Olivia had been shot."

"Shot?" Davies' tone expressed surprise. "Miss Olivia has been shot?"

Paige curtly replied, "She will be . . . very soon. Unless we can find a way to find her."

The manservant gave a slight cough. "Well . . . there is Miss Cecile."

"Huh?" The Vodoun priestess frowned.

"You are a seer, are you not?" Davies continued. "I'm sure you can find something in Miss Olivia's old room to channel."

Cecile shook her head in self disgust. "Of course! What was I thinking?"

Harry started toward the door. "I'll take you there." The two women and the other man followed the red-haired witch out of the library and up the stairs to the second floor. He led them to one of the rooms on the hallway's right side. "Here we are." He opened the door.

"Nice," Paige commented, as her eyes drank in the tastefully decorated room. Painted in light mint green, it possessed an English-style highboy and a four-poster bed. "What do you want to use to channel Livy's wherea . . .?" She broke off, as a gasp escaped from the other woman's mouth. "Cecile?"

The Vodoun priestess opened her mouth and heaved a sigh. "I think I know where Olivia is. In an alley, off Powell Street. At least I think it's Powell Street. And there's another Olivia with her."

"So, Darryl was right!" Harry exclaimed. "Let's go." He started toward the door.

Paige cried out, "Hey! I can orb us from here."

Harry grabbed her arm. "I don't think so, sweetheart." He dragged her toward the doorway. "Protection spell around the house. Remember?"

Dammit! She had forgotten about the McNeills' spell that prevented demons and other magical baddies from making surprise appearances on the estate. Only Cole and Wyatt were powerful enough to overcome the spell.

The quartet finally reached the edge of the front lawn. Harry turned to Davies and asked him to make an attempt to reach Olivia or Darryl. "Ready?" he asked Paige, his hand now enclosed within hers. Cecile grabbed the Charmed One's other hand. Seconds later, Paige orbed them from the McNeills' lawn.

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In an alley off Powell Street, Olivia shot a quick glance over her shoulder, before returning her attention to the doppelganger that stood before her. A visitor from a parallel dimension, this Olivia had arrived to prevent an alternate of a cousin from stealing the Aingeal Staff now in her possession. "Okay. I'll help you just as soon as I deal with this homicide," she said, referring to the death of an informant she used. Then Olivia paused, as an idea came to her. "Do you know anything about this?"

The doppelganger regarded her with confused eyes. "Know anything about what?"

"The two bodies in the other alley," Olivia said in a hard voice. "One of them is Lee Ramos. Is that name familiar to you . . . in your dimension?"

Green eyes widened in horror. "Oh my God! Lee is dead?" Then she shook her head. "What am I saying? It was bound to happen . . . knowing Lee."

"I'm not so sure in this case," Olivia said. "This Lee was found dead with a hole in his chest. Someone . . . had incinerated his heart."

The doppelganger regarded Olivia with suspicious eyes. "Wait a minute. I had nothing to do with that. I had followed you from the station. The only person I can think of . . ."

Olivia sighed. "Fiona. Of course." The witch spoke of her cousin, Fiona McNeill Craig. "She had probably killed Lee to lure me here. I'm sorry. My paranoia got the best of me. I keep forgetting that you're actually . . . me." She glanced around the alley. "I just hope that Fiona is still not here."

"She might be on her way to wherever you live."

A derisive snort from Olivia followed. "And what is she going to do? Break in? I doubt it, considering that Cole has that apartment warded . . ." She broke off, recalling Phoebe's premonition. "Oh my God! Cole! Does your Fiona have a shapeshifting ability?"

"No," the doppelganger replied. "But I'm certain that she knows a spell or two. Why?"

"Oh my God!" Olivia inhaled sharply. "Listen, why don't you hide somewhere for a few minutes, while I finish up here. Then we'll go to my apartment."

A voice cried out her name. Darryl's voice.

The other Olivia suggested that she could go to the apartment to make sure that Fiona has not arrived. "I'll need your key."

Shaking her head, Olivia replied, "That's okay. I should be finished with this case before . . ."

Before Olivia had time to think, the doppelganger whipped out a Glock .29 pistol. The witch spotted a muzzler on the pistol's nozzle, before she felt a sharp pain strike her stomach. "Wha . . .?"

"Sorry," the other Olivia nearly whispered. Her face assumed a cold mask. She fired a second bullet, which struck the witch's chest. The pain had become unbearable for Olivia, as she sank to the ground.
Now lying on her left side, Olivia struggled to fight through the pain and haze. "Wha . . . why?"

"Because I'm the one who wants the staff," the doppelganger coldly declared. "Our cousin Fiona – at least in my dimension – no longer exists, thanks to me." She knelt beside Olivia and forced the latter, flat on her back. She proceeded to remove the witch's keys, cell phone and service pistol. "I'll need these." Then she grabbed Olivia's right hand and removed the wedding ring. "Something tells me that I'll need this, as well."

Again, Darryl's voice cried out Olivia's name.

The doppelganger stood up. She aimed her pistol at the wounded police officer. "Shame. If only you had given me those keys."

Despite the haze and pain that enveloped her, Olivia heard a bottle smash against the ground. The other Olivia whirled around. As the warlock confronted what turned out to be a derelict, Olivia struggled to recall the teleportation spell she had just created. She closed her eyes – not hard to do – and murmured to herself:

"Winds of the North, East, South . . . and West,
From this . . . point of departure.
Carry me henceforth away
From . . . where . . . evil now . . . stands."

It was the best she could do. But it worked. Olivia felt her body de-materialize from the hard ground. A second later, she re-materialized into . . . Olivia sniffed the air and shivered with disgust. A rank odor now surrounded her. The ground beneath her felt loose and lumpy. She opened her eyes and took in the dark walls that surrounded her. The black plastic bag just inches away from her face told her that she had just teleported inside a garbage bin.

Olivia closed her eyes and tried to teleport again. But the increasing pain and haze made it difficult for her to concentrate. A sigh escaped from her lips. She realized with horror that her life was about to end inside a garbage dumpster.


END OF CHAPTER 4

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

"THE TEN COMMANDMENTS" (1956) Photo Gallery

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Below are images from the 1956 Cecil B. DeMille epic, "THE TEN COMMANDMENTS". The movie starred Charlton Heston, Yul Brenner, Anne Baxter and Yvonne DeCarlo: 


"THE TEN COMMANDMENTS" (1956) Photo Gallery

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Monday, August 31, 2015

"LOST IN AUSTEN" (2008) Review

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"LOST IN AUSTEN" (2008) Review

I must admit that I am usually not a fan of novels or any other forms of storytelling that are based upon or continuations of published works of the origin author. This is certainly the case for the numerous works (sans two) based upon Jane Austen's six published novels. 

The 2008 miniseries, "LOST IN AUSTEN" is not based upon any particular Austen novel that was not written by the Georgian Era writer. Instead, it is the brainchild of screenwriter Guy Andrews. The latter created this fantasy-comedy, which is an adaptation of Austen's novel, "Pride and Prejudice"."LOST IN AUSTEN" told the story of one Amanda Price, a twenty-something career woman, who lives in Hammersmith, a suburb of London. Amanda works at a bank and shares a flat with another twenty-something named Pirhana. She dates an obtuse and slightly crude young man named Michael, with whom she has become disenchanted. Amanda is also a die-hard Jane Austen fan. And her favorite pastime is reading the author's published works - especially her favorite novel, "Pride and Prejudice".

One evening, Amanda finds the novel's main character in her bathroom - namely one Elizabeth Bennet. Amanda decides to regard the latter as a vision and views the incident as a reminder that she can do better than Michael. But when Elizabeth re-appears the following evening, Amanda steps through a secret doorway shown by the former and finds herself inside Longbourn, the Bennet family home . . . and stuck in the novel, near the beginning. Amanda manages to become the Bennets' houseguest by claiming that she and Elizabeth are pen pals who had become confused over the dates they were supposed to visit each other. During her stay in this fictional early 19th century world; Amanda not only discovers that Austen's characters are not what she had always assumed they were, but that her interactions with them may have somewhat scrambled the author's tale.

"LOST IN AUSTEN" struck me as this mixture of the 1991 Diana Gabaldon novel, "Outlander" and the television series, "ONCE UPON A TIME". Guy Andrews' tale is basically a mixture of time travel and the collision of the real and literary worlds. I am not one of those purists who believe that a film or television adaptation should strictly follow its literary source. However, Amanda Price's adventures in "Austen Land" not only forced her to deal with the customs and mores of early 19th century Britain, but also changes in the novel that would have left the author spinning in her grave.

Some of those changes resulted from Amanda's determination to maintain the story's original narrative - namely Charles Bingley's brief infatuation with her, Jane Bennet's marriage to William Collins and Charlotte Lucas' decision to become a missionary in Southern Africa. Other equally hilarious and mind boggling changes simply took Amanda . . . and the audience by surprise. Lydia Bennet proved to be a lot more likable than the Austen's version. The three biggest characterization changes proved to be Caroline Bingley, Georgiana Darcy and George Wickham. One of the more interesting aspects of Andrews' screenplay was the difference between Fitzwilliam Darcy's romance with Elizabeth Bennet in Austen's novel and his romance with Amanda Price in this production. The differences were probably the result of Amanda's knowledge of the story, her blunt speaking personality and Mr. Darcy's more ruthless approach toward propriety.

How do I feel about these changes? They injected a crazy spin on Austen's tale that left me shaking with laughter. I also found these changes chaotic, funny and at times, simply insane. What can I say? I loved Andrews' tale. I am usually a little wary of revisionist novels or cinematic adaptations of the former. But "LOST IN AUSTEN" proved to be so original and hilarious that I had completely dismissed my apprehensions about the production and fully embraced it.

Mind you, "LOST IN AUSTEN" was not perfect. I found it odd that other members of the Bennet family barely made a fuss over Amanda's lack of wardrobe, or the fact that she seemed to be borrowing the missing Elizabeth's clothes. I found the time-travel method to transport Amanda to Austen's tale a bit lame, but this seemed to be the case in many time travel stories. My biggest gripe proved to be Lady Catherine de Bourgh's socializing with Charles and Caroline Bingley. Apparently, Andrews (and many other Austen fans) seemed to harbor the misconception that the Bingleys were members of the upper-class and the Bennets were part of the middle-class. The opposite was true. The Bennets came from the landed gentry. And the Bingleys made their money in trade, which made them members of the middle-class. There is no way in hell that an ultra-snob like Lady Catherine de Bourgh would associate with the likes of Caroline Bingley or her brother Charles.

The main virtue of "LOST IN AUSTEN" proved to be its cast. Jemima Rooper turned out to be the woman of the hour in her superb portrayal of "the woman out of time", Amanda Price. Considering the crazy shenanigans that permeated Andrews' story, I have to give kudos to Rooper for not only carrying this production on her shoulders and making it all so effortless. One of the most amazing aspects of "LOST IN AUSTEN" was the electric chemistry between Rooper and her leading man, Elliot Cowan. I heard or read somewhere that Cowan was a last minute casting for the role of Fitzwilliam Darcy. I say . . . thank God!. I have to say it. Cowan gave, in my opinion, a brilliant performance and probably the most interesting interpretation of the Fitzwilliam Darcy character I have ever seen. Or should I say . . . the most ruthless? I have never come across a Mr. Darcy so ruthlessly determined to adhere to society's rules. And when the character finally succumbed to feelings for Amanda, his Mr. Darcy struck me as the most romantic.

"LOST IN AUSTEN" also featured some first-rate performances from the supporting cast. Tom Riley did an outstanding job in his portrayal of a more ambiguous George Wickham, who seemed less of the fortune seeker and more of the decent and a surprisingly chivalrous friend for Amanda and the Bennet family. Morven Christie gave an excellent performance as the eldest Bennet sibling Jane, whose long-suffering in this story revealed the character's true strength and backbone. Hugh Bonneville gave an entertaining and witty performance as Mr. Bennet, the family patriarch. I found Alex Kingston's portrayal of Mrs. Bennet to be very interesting. Her take on the role seemed more ruthless and a lot less silly than other interpretations. Another interesting performance came from Tom Mison, whose portrayal of Charles Bingley struck me as more refreshingly complex than other portrayals. 

Christina Cole, who co-starred with Rooper in the Sky One 2004-2005 series "HEX", gave a wickedly subtle performance as Caroline Bingley, Amanda's rival for Mr. Darcy's attention. In many ways, her performance reminded me of her role in the 2009 miniseries, "EMMA", but with more of a sophisticated touch. After seeing "LOST IN AUSTEN", I feel that Guy Henry's take on the William Collins character has to be the skeeviest and yet, funniest version I have ever seen. Lindsay Duncan, on the other hand, injected a good deal of sophistication into her portrayal of the autocratic Lady Catherine de Bourgh. And Gemma Arterton gave a very nuanced performance as the time traveling Elizabeth Bennet. However, I must admit that her take on the character seemed a bit more introspective than previous performances. The miniseries also featured solid performances from the likes of Perdita Weeks, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michelle Duncan, Daniel Percival, Ruby Bentall and Florence Hoath.

Yes, Guy Andrews' screenplay for "LOST IN AUSTEN" had a few hiccups. What movie or television production does not? But overall, Andrews created a wildly entertaining and imaginative look into the pages of Jane Austen through the eyes of a modern day, early 21st century woman. And Dan Zeff's well-paced direction, along with a talented cast led by Jemima Rooper and Elliot Cowan, added a great deal of pleasure to his story.