Sunday, April 28, 2013
Below are galleries featuring photos and screenshots from the 1953 Western drama called "ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO". Directed by John Sturges, the movie starred William Holden, Eleanor Parker and John Forsythe:
"ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO" (1953) Photo and Screenshot Gallery
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Below is my review of Disney's 2004 adaptation of Jules Verne's novel called "AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS":
”AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS” (2004) Review
The year 2004 marked the umpteenth time that an adaptation of Jules Verne’s travelogue movie, ”Around the World in Eighty Days” hit the movie screen. Well . . . actually, the fifth time. Released by Disney Studios and directed by Frank Coraci, this adaptation starred Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Cécile de France, Ewan Bremmer and Jim Broadbent.
This adaptation of Verne’s novel started on a different note. It opened with a Chinese man named Xau Ling (Jackie Chan) robbing a precious statuette called the Jade Buddha from the Bank of England. Ling managed to evade the police by hiding out at the home of an English inventor named Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan). To keep the latter from turning him in to the police, Ling pretends to be a French-born national named Passepartout, seeking work as a valet. After Fogg hired “Passepartout”, he clashed with various members of the Royal Academy of Science, including its bombastic member Lord Kelvin (Jim Broadbent). Kelvin expressed his belief that everything worth discovering has already been discovered and there is no need for further progress. The pair also discussed the bank robbery and in a blind rage, Phileas declared that that the thief could be in China in little over a month, which interests “Passepartout”. Kelvin pressured Phileas Fogg into a bet to see whether it would be possible, as his calculations say, to travel around the world in 80 days. If Fogg wins, he would become Minister of Science in Lord Kelvin's place; if not, he would have to tear down his lab and never invent anything again. Unbeknownst to both Fogg and “Passepartout”, Kelvin recruited a corrupt London police detective named Inspector Fix to prevent the pair from completing their world journey. However, upon their arrival in Paris, they met an ambitious artist named Monique Larouche (Cécile de France), who decides to accompany them on their journey. Ling also became aware of warriors under the command of a female warlord named General Fang (Karen Mok), who also happens to be an ally of Lord Kelvin.
I might as well make this short. ”AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS” did not do well at the box. In fact, it bombed. In a way, one could see why. In compare to the 1956 and 1989 versions, it took a lot more liberties with Verne’s original story. Phileas Fogg is portrayed as an eccentric inventor, instead of a Victorian gentleman of leisure. He takes on a bet with a rival member of the Royal Academy of Science, instead of members of the Reform Club. Passepartout is actually a Chinese warrior for an order of martial arts masters trying to protect his village. Princess Aouda has become a cheeky French would-be artist named Monique. And Inspector Fix has become a corrupt member of the London Police hired by the venal aristocrat Lord Kelvin to prevent Fogg from winning his bet. Fogg, Passepartout and Monique traveled to the Middle East by the Orient Express, with a stop in Turkey. Their journey also included a long stop at Ling’s village in China, where Fogg learned about Ling’s deception.
Some of the comedy – especially those scenes involving Fix’s attempts to arrest Fogg – came off as too broad and not very funny. Also, this adaptation of Verne’s tale was not presented as some kind of travelogue epic – as in the case of the 1956 and 1989 versions. The movie made short cuts by presenting Ling and Fogg’s journey through the use of day-glow animation created by an art direction team supervised by Gary Freeman. Frankly, I thought it looked slightly cheap. I really could have done without the main characters’ stop in Turkey, where Monique almost became Prince Hapi’s seventh wife. It slowed down the story and it lacked any humor, whatsoever. I am a major fan of Jim Broadbent, but I must admit that last scene which featured his rant against Fogg and Queen Victoria on the steps of the Royal Academy of Science started out humorous and eventually became cringe-worthy. Poor man. He deserved better.
Did I like ”AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS”? Actually, I did. I found it surprisingly entertaining, despite its shortcomings. Jackie Chan and Steve Coogan made a rather funny screen team as the resourceful and clever Ling who had to deceive the slightly arrogant and uptight Fogg in order to quickly reach China. Cécile de France turned out to be a delightful addition to Chan and Coogan’s screen chemistry as the coquettish Monique, who added a great deal of spark to Fogg’s life. Granted, I had some complaints about Broadbent’s performance in his last scene. Yet, he otherwise gave a funny performance as the power-hungry and venal Lord Kelvin. It was rare to see him portray an outright villain. And although I found most of Bremmer’s scenes hard to take (I am not that big of a fan of slapstick humor), I must admit that two of his scenes left me in stitches – his attempt to arrest Ling and Fogg in India and his revelations of Lord Kelvin’s actions on the Royal Academy of Science steps.
There were many moments in David N. Titcher, David Benullo, and David Goldstein’s script that I actually enjoyed. One, I really enjoyed the entire sequence in Paris that featured Ling and Fogg’s meeting with Monique and also Ling’s encounter with some of General Fang’s warriors. Not only did it featured some top notch action; humorous performances by Chan, Coogan and de France; and colorful photography by Phil Meheux. Another first-rate sequence featured the globe-trotting travelers’ arrival at Ling’s village in China. The action in this sequence was even better thanks to the fight choreography supervised by Chan and stunt/action coordinator Chung Chi Li. It also had excellent characterization thanks to the screenwriters and the actors. One particular scene had me laughing. It featured Coogan and the two actors portraying Ling’s parents during a drunken luncheon for the travelers.
I wish I could say that this version of ”AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS” is the best I have seen. But I would be lying by making such a statement. To be honest, all three versions I have seen are flawed in their own ways. This version is probably more flawed than the others. But . . . I still managed to enjoy myself watching it. The movie can boast some first-rate performances from the cast – especially Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan and Cécile de France. And it also featured some kick-ass action scenes in at least three major sequences. Thankfully, it was not a complete waste.
Monday, April 22, 2013
Below are some recipes for dishes prepared by wagon train emigrants during the 19th century:
BUFFALO STEAK - Render some fat in a hot skillet. Add sirloin of buffalo steak and sear on both sides. At a lower heat, cook as beefsteak until done. For gravy, add a tablespoon of flour to the pan drippings and cook until brown. Stirring constantly, add a cup of milk and bring to a boil. Salt to taste.
BUFFALO JERKY - Slice buffalo meat along the grain into strips 1/8 inch thick, 1/2 inch wide and 2 to 3 inches long. Hang them on a rack in a pan and bake at 200 degrees until dry. To prepare outside, suspend them over a fire or drape them on bushes to dry in the sun.
FRIED CAKES - Combine 1 1/2 cups of flour with 1 cup of water. Mix well with a fork. Using plenty of flour on hands and a breadboard, roll out dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Roll into 2 inch balls or cut into 2 inch squares. Render beef fat in a skillet and add squares of dough. Brown slowly on both sides. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Makes about 20 cakes.
SODA BREAD - To make dough, mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda with 1 cup of warm water, add 2 1/4 cups of flour and 1 teaspoon of salt. Knead well. The dough may be used at once or allowed to rise overnight in a warm place. In either case, flatten dough to a thickness of 1 inch. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake (in a 400 degree overn) for about 25 minutes.
MORMON JOHNNYCAKE - Combine 2 cups of yellow cornmeal, 1/2 cup of flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir in 2 cups of buttermilk and 2 tablespoons of molasses. Pour batter into a greased 9-inch pan and bake (in a 425 degree oven) for about 20 minutes. Cut into 16 squares. To make lighter cake; add 2 beaten eggs and 2 tablespoons of melted butter to buttermilk and cook about 25 minutes.
DRIED APPLE PIE - Soak 2 cups of dried apples in water overnight. Drain off the water and mix apples with 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon each of allspice and cinnamon. Line an 8-inch pie pan with a crust, add the apple mixture, dot with 3 tablespoons of butter and cover with a second crust. Make a few slashes in the top for ventilation and bake (in a 350 degree oven) for about 1 hour, until the crust is golden brown.
If you know of any recipes from this era, let me know.
Friday, April 19, 2013
Here is a sequel to my first SW story - "Altered Lives":
"THE CORELLIAN CONNECTION"
SUMMARY: A message between Bail Organa and a fugitive senator sets in motion, changes for Anakin, Padme and another familiar character.
FEEDBACK: - Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: All characters and things STAR WARS belong to Lucasfilm. All non-original dialogue in this story is credited to "Revenge of the Sith", which is based upon the story and screenplay by George Lucas. The characters, Romulus Wort aka Darth Rasche, Voranda Sen and Thalia Yeb are my creation.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is the second in a series of five stories set between ROTS and ANH. Also, this particular story is more or less an Alternate Universe story set nine months, following "Altered Lives"
18 BBY - AMIR, ANDALIA
The Imperial shuttle entered Andalia's atmosphere, before it smoothly made its descent upon the planet's capital, Amir. The young Sith Lord, Darth Rasche, stared through the shuttle's cockpit window and saw a delegation of officials gathered on a nearby landing platform.
Rasche stood up and made his way to the other end of the shuttle, where four platoons of clonetroopers sat. "Men, we're now approaching Andalia. Get ready." The troopers nodded.
Minutes passed before the shuttle finally settled upon the landing platform. The shuttle doors opened, as the boarding ramp extended outward. Rasche took a deep breath and stiffly marched down the ramp. The four platoons marched close behind him. A light-brown skinned Andalian man, covered in a deep teal robe, stepped forward to greet the Imperial visitors. "Good day, um . . .?"
"Darth Rasche," the Sith Lord coolly finished. "I'm here as a liasion of the Imperial Senate."
The Andalian's eyes flew wide open. "Liaison? I . . . I don't understand. Why would the Senate . . .?"
Rasche regarded the other man with cool and impassive eyes. "You're harboring a Jedi on this planet," he accused. "In fact, I believe that the Knight in question is here in Amir." He took a step forward, forcing the Andalian to step back. "Where is she, Senator Yeb? Where is Anjuli Nab?"
The Andalian delegates regarded the Sith Lord with confusion. The one who had greeted Rasche replied, "I'm afraid that you have me confused with someone else, sir. I am not Solipo Yeb. My name is Junipero Khan, head of the Andalian State Council. Senator Yeb has left for his personal retreat, a few hours ago."
The Emperor's apprentice became still. He took a deep breath and used the Force to extend his senses. Then he felt it . . . another Force sensitive signature. One that could only come from a Jedi. The signature emitted from the capital's busy center. Rasche glared at the Andalian politician. "You lie! The Jedi is here in this city! I feel her presence." He summoned the clonetroopers' company commander. "Lieutenant Necros, have a squad set up a detention center, nearby, and place Representative Khan and the rest of these . . . prominent members of the Council there, where they can pass the time."
Outrage flared in Junipero Khan's dark eyes. "You cannot arrest us! We're members of the High Council! We haven't done anything!"
"You are harboring a Jedi fugitive! An enemy of the Empire!" Rasche barked, "Necros! Do as I ordered!"
The clone officer ordered a squad of troopers to arrest the High Council members. "Do you honestly expect to take over an entire planet's governing body, because of some fugitive?" Khan exclaimed in disbelief. "The citizens of Andalia will not allow it!"
Rasche glanced upward. Imperial Destoyers descended from the sky like locust. The Sith Lord then stared pointedly at the Council leader. "I'm afraid that your citizens no longer have any say in the matter."
A male Andalian stepped out of a landspeeder and covered his head with his cloak's hood. He glanced furtively about and rushed inside a two-story building made from pale-rose adobe mud. The building, called the Karidote Seminary, happened to be a chapel that served as a sanctuary for those citizens who wanted privacy for religious mediation. Senator Solipo Yeb strode past a series of doors, until he came upon the last one on the right. Once more, he glanced around to make sure that no one saw him. Then he knocked.
Over a minute passed before the door slid open. A tall, lithe female with similar light-brown skin, along with high cheekbones, wide brown eyes and long dark hair worn in a single braid, stood in the doorway. "Senator Yeb?" she said in a low, husky voice. "What is it?"
The senator threw back his hood. "Anjuli, you must leave at once. Imperial troops have arrived in the city. And I believe that the Senate has sent a liaison to arrest you."
The Jedi Knight's face became slightly pale. "The Senate's liaison?" She paused with a frown on her face. "I thought I had sensed a presence, but I wasn't sure. And this person is . . .?"
Sighing, Solipo added, "His name is Darth Rasche."
Fear crept into Anjuli's eyes. "Darth? A Sith Lord? The Emperor has a Sith Lord working for him?"
"Anjuili!" Solipo exclaimed sharply. "This is no time for questions! You must leave! The planet will soon be overrun by Imperial troops!"
The pair entered Anjuli's room. The sparse décor struck a deep contrast to the more lavish furnishings favored by many of the planet's citizens. The room consisted of a pallet, a low table, two large cushions next to the table, and a wardrobe filled with her personal belongings. Anjuli grabbed hold of a burlap sack and opened the wardrobe. Then she began dumping its contents into the sack. "If I were you, Senator, I would also leave. Get your family and get out. Hide out in the Outer Rim Territories."
Solipo sighed. "I've already made arrangements for my sister to leave, not long after your arrival."
The Jedi Knight finished packing. "I'm ready. Let's go." She led Solipo out into the corridor. Blaster fire whizzed past their heads. The pair glanced down the corridor and saw three clone troopers approaching them with blaster rifles. Anjuli barked at Solipo, "Get out of here! Now!" She nodded at the door situated at the other end of the corridor. "That way!"
Without hesitation, the senator sprinted down the corridor, toward the door indicated by Anjuli. Just as he reached it, Solipo glanced over his shoulder. He saw the Jedi Knight use her lightsaber to deflect the troopers' fire with great ease. He opened the door and found himself in a lush, formal garden with hedgerows, low trees and flowerbeds. A stonewall surrounded three-fourths of the garden. And a wooden gate divided the wall in the middle.
A minute later, a panting Anjuli emerged from the building. "They've been taken care of," she murmured. "Let's get out of here, before it's too . . ." She broke off, as a tall man dressed in a black tunic, black pants and a maroon cape leapt over the stonewall.
"Anjuli Nab!" the tall man growled. "I arrest you in the name of the Emperor! You are charged with treason!"
Anjuli stared at the man with disbelieving eyes. "Romulus Wort? You're . . . you're a Sith Lord?"
"The name is now Darth Rasche!" Wort shot back. He whipped out his lightsaber. Its red blade illuminated his handsome face.
Blue light lit up above the Jedi Knight's lightsaber. "Senator Yeb!" The mention of his name popping into his mind startled Solipo. "The minute we start fighting, I want you to leave. Head for your transport and get out."
Solipo opened his mouth to speak, but the two Force users began to ignore him. He watched anxiously, as the pair circled each other, cautiously. The moment their blades connected, the senator sprinted toward the wooden gate. Upon reaching it, he glanced over his shoulder. Both Anjuli and Wort . . . or Rasche . . . or whatever his name was, swung their lightsabers at each other with the ease of master swordsmen. Solipo almost felt inclined to remain behind and watch. But his sister and freedom waited. The senator inhaled sharply. Then he passed through the gate and into the streets of Amir.
Red and blue blades clashed in the gardens of the Karidote Seminary. Utilizing the Sorensu form, Anjuli Nab coolly parried Rasche's aggressive attacks against her. The Sith apprentice could not help but admire the Jedi Knight's lightsaber skills. As he recalled, Nab possessed a talent for luring her opponents with minimal physical moments. Rasche decided that he would not fall for such strategy.
The moment he took another step toward her, Nab made her move. The Jedi Knight swiftly executed a 360-degree spin, otherwise known as the Jung Ma move. She would have sliced Rasche's midsection in half, if he had not parried the blow. But he did . . . by dropping to one knee and swinging his weapon in front of his face.
Nab gasped in surprise and Rasche sprung to his feet, forcing her weapon away with another swing. Then he finally went on the attack. Rasche delivered a series of fast swings that kept his opponent off guard. The attacks continued, until Rasche forced Nab against a stone bench, causing her to fall over backward. Then Rasche sliced off her sword hand. She cried out in pain.
"Why?" she whispered, clutching her burnt stump with her uninjured hand. "I don't understand."
Rasche coolly replied, "It's simple. You're Jedi. I had dedicated nearly all of my life to an order that proved to be nothing more than an archaic institution that ruined the lives of others. Why should I remain loyal to it?"
"Ruined . . . lives?" Nab exclaimed. "The Jedi served democracy! Brought light to the galaxy! How could you . . .?"
Harsh laughter escaped from Rasche's mouth. "I used to believe the same. Until I learned the truth about the Jedi. But do you want to know why I really hate them? Hate all of you? Because despite their power, they could not prevent the deaths of those I cared about. In fact, I believe that they are responsible for his . . . those deaths. And they allowed the so-called Chosen One in our midst. The Jedi weren't all wise and powerful. They were stupid! And blind."
Confusion whirled in Nab's dark eyes. "I don't understand."
Rasche stared down at her with contempt. "Pity. I guess you never will." With that remark, he plunged his lightsaber into the Jedi Knight's chest.
Seconds passed before he stared at his former colleague's dead body. Six or nine months ago, he would have felt a little remorse over her death. But Rasche had learned a lot about the institution he had served most of his life. Before the Jedi records had been destroyed, he learned about the Council's duplicity in keeping their diminished power to the Force a secret from the Senate. He learned of their plans to take control of the Senate during the Clone War's waning days. He also learned that the late Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas had been responsible for the creation of the clone troopers. These discoveries, along with knowledge of Master Windu and Master Yoda's illegal assassination attempts on Palpatine, led Rasche to realize that the order he had served had been nothing but a lie. His anger deepened and he developed hatred toward the Jedi Order. And a deep contempt for those who continued to serve it.
A clone trooper appeared in the seminary's garden. "Lord Rasche," he announced, "the Andalia High Council members have been incarcerated, as ordered. Three divisions have taken positions throughout the planet. So far, no resistance has been met."
"Good," Rasche replied with a nod. "Also send a squad to track down and arrest Senator Solipo Yeb. As soon as possible."
The trooper nodded. "Yes, my Lord." Clutching his blaster rifle, he rushed back inside the building. Rasche picked up the fallen Jedi Knight's lightsaber and followed closely behind.
END OF PROLOGUE
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Below are images from "MIDDLEMARCH", the 1994 BBC adaptation of George Eliot's 1871 novel. Adapted by Andrew Davies and directed by Anthony Page, the six-part miniseries starred Juliet Aubrey, Rufus Sewell, Douglas Hodge and Robert Hardy:
"MIDDLEMARCH" (1994) Photo Gallery