Sunday, June 29, 2014

"TAKEN AT THE FLOOD" (2006) Photo Gallery

Below are images from "TAKEN AT THE FLOOD", the 2006 television adaptation of Agatha Christie's 1946 novel.  The movie starred David Suchet as Hercule Poirot:

"TAKEN AT THE FLOOD" (2006) Photo Gallery

Thursday, June 26, 2014




When I first saw the trailer for the third installment of the "PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN" franchise five years ago, I thought I was in for an overblown and possibly dull movie. Quite frankly, the trailer did not impress me very much. And then word came out once the movie was released around May 24-25, 2007 that the movie was either confusing or not as good as the first two. I approached "AT WORLD’S END" with very low expectations. Thankfully, my expectations proved to be wrong. 

Was "AT WORLD'S END" overblown? Yep. In fact, I can say the same about all four movies in the franchise. But at least the movies were overblown in a manner that I found very enjoyable. And this third movie almost seemed to have an operatic quality about it. That operatic quality seemed to be focused around the movie’s two love stories – Will Turner/Elizabeth Swann (Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley) and Davy Jones/Tia Dalma aka Calypso (Bill Nighy and Naomie Harris). One would think that the saga’s main character – Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and his main nemesis Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) would be overlooked. But these two characters provided both plenty of humor and surprisingly, angst to the movie.

"AT WORLD'S END" did not really have a complicated plot. Thanks to James Norrington’s (Jack Davenport) treachery in"PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST", the world of piracy found itself in danger due to Lord Cutler Beckett’s (Tom Hollander) possession of Davy Jones’s heart. With Jones and the Flying Dutchman under his control, Beckett has the power to rid the seas of pirates and ensure that the British Crown, the East India Trading Company and himself will have control of the world’s seas. The recently resurrected Barbossa seemed to feel that the only way to stop Beckett is to summon the nine pirate lords of the Brethren Court. Both he and the recently deceased Jack Sparrow happened to be part of the Brethren Court. Because Jack had failed to name a successor, Barbossa needs Jack alive to take part in the meeting of the pirate lords. Will, who had witnessed a kiss between Elizabeth and Jack in "DEAD MAN'S CHEST", wants Jack alive for two reasons – he believes that Elizabeth is in love with Jack and he needs the Black Pearl to catch up with the Flying Dutchman. Elizabeth wants to bring Jack back to alleviate her guilt for luring the eccentric pirate to his death in the last film. Tia Dalma, the Vodoun priestess who had resurrected Barbossa needs both the latter and Jack for the “pieces of nine” that represent their positions as pirate lords. Those same pieces of nine could free Dalma from her bodily prison, enabling to become her true identity, the goddess Calypso.

Due to the needs and desires of the main characters, a great deal of double-crossing and back stabbing ensues – especially by Jack, Will and Barbossa. Another pirate lord, Sao Feng (Chow Yun Fat), gets into the act because he wants revenge against Jack for sleeping with his concubines . . . and to ensure his survival against Beckett’s purge. 

I thought I would have trouble keeping up with so much treachery being committed. Oddly enough, I never did – aside from a few points. If Barbossa, Will and Elizabeth needed a ship so badly to reach the World’s End (Davy Jones’ Locker), how on earth did they reach Singapore in the first place? At first, I wanted to criticize the writers Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot for their vague explanation of the curse that had bound both Davy Jones and later, Will to command of the Flying Dutchman. Many fans – including myself – were forced to use the Internet to find out the details of the curse. As it turned out, Elliot and Rossio did include a scene in which Tia Dalma/Calypso had explained the curse in detail to Will. But for some reason, the film's editors decided to cut it out in order to decrease the movie's running time. Idiot editors. All they did was end up confusing a lot of fans, considering Elliot and Rossio confirmed that the Flying Dutchman curse was broken in the post-end credits scene when Will returned to Elizabeth for good. Other than that, I truly enjoy the movie’s story and have to commend the writers for doing a better job than I had anticipated.

The cast was exceptional as always. What can one say about Johnny Depp? His performance in this movie seemed even better than in the second film. I especially enjoyed three moments by Depp – his multifaceted performance of the many aspects of Jack’s personality in the Locker; the serious moment between Jack and Barbossa as the latter pointed out the folly of Jack’s tendency to run from trouble; and his look of horror when Jones managed to fatally stab Will. I had no idea that dear old Jack truly cared about Will. 

And Geoffrey Rush came pretty close to stealing the picture from Depp. This time, his Barbossa turned out to be a much more complex and ambiguous personality than he was portrayed in "PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL". Sure, we saw more of Barbossa’s villainy and double-crossing in "AT WORLD'S END". But this is the same guy who also had no problems with marrying Will and Elizabeth . . . even in the middle of a sea battle. I swear that was one of the craziest wedding ceremonies I have ever seen on the movie screen. And when he double-crossed Jack for the last time, at least he was kind enough not to put Jack’s life in jeopardy.

Both Naomie Harris (who seemed a bit scary at times) and Bill Nighy provided great pathos as the romantically doomed Tia Dalma (Calypso) and Davy Jones. I especially enjoyed their scene in which each confronted the other with their past betrayals. Tom Hollander seemed to take great pleasure in his portrayal of the villainous Lord Beckett. Quite frankly, I can say the same about Chow Yun Fat, who seemed to enjoy delving into Sao Feng's villainy. I had feared he would end up chewing the scenery, so to speak. Instead, he managed to come off as intimidating as Rush, Hollander and Nighy (and Harris, I may add). My only real complaint has to be Jack Davenport’s presence in the movie. Davenport has allowed his James Norrington to become a sad figure haunted by his ever-continuing love for Elizabeth and his betrayal in the last film. And I thought that he did a marvelous job in conveying Norrington's regrets over his actions in "DEAD MAN'S CHEST". Unfortunately, there was not enough of Norrington in the film. Hell, the guy who portrayed Beckett’s right hand man – Mercer – had received more screen time. And there is something wrong with that.

But I feel that the movie truly belonged to Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley as the young lovers – Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann. The pair’s characters and performances really struck a chord with me. Instead of the naïve and sweet lovers they had portrayed in the first film, the pair had become more ambiguous and complex. It seemed interesting to watch these two deal with each other’s insecurities, mistaken beliefs and constant sniping. They actually seemed like a real couple, instead of an idealized one. Most of the movie critics have praised Knightley for her performance. Granted, it was a major improvement over her acting in "DEAD MAN'S CHEST" in which she had seemed a bit over-the-top at times, I do believe that Bloom deserved some of that praise, as well. But because he is a major teen idol, the critics have seemed fit to either ignore him or make insulting comments about his acting. I can only assume that their noses were so far up their asses that they failed to notice Bloom’s obvious talent for pathos . . . or the fact that he can be rather funny – especially in a scene in which he had volunteered to take command of the Black Pearl in the middle of one of Jack and Barbossa’s many shipboard quarrels. I hope that one day, Bloom will finally be appreciated as a good and dependable actor.

The movie has its flaws – especially the vague handling of the Flying Dutchman curse and James Norrington’s character – but I must admit that I was surprised that I managed to enjoy it a lot more than I had assumed I would.

Monday, June 23, 2014

TIME MACHINE: Battle of Cold Harbor



May 31 to June 12, 2014 marked the 150th anniversary of the Civil War conflict known as the Battle of Cold Harbor. This conflict, which lasted over a period of 13 days, proved to be one of the last battles of the Virginia Overland Campaign, which occurred between May and June of 1864. 

The Battle of Cold Harbor is known as one of the bloodiest and most lopsided battles fought during the Civil War. On May 31, 1864; the Army of the Potomoc, under the command of Lieutenant-General Ulysses S. Grant and Major-GeneralGeorge G. Meade, swung around the right flank of the Army of Northern Virginia, under Robert E. Lee

The Union cavalry seized the crossroads of Old Cold Harbor, situated 10 miles northeast of Richmond, Virginia, the Confederacy's capital. The cavalry managed to hold that spot against Confederate attacks, until the arrival of the Union infantry. Following reinforcements for both armies, they clashed again on the evening of June 1. During that evening, the Union's VI Corps under Major-General Horatio G. Wright and the XVIII Corps under Major-General William Farrar Smithassaulted the Confederate Army to the west of the crossroads with some success. The following day, the remaining troops of both armies built a series of fortifications seven miles long. Then on June 3, three Union corps attacked the Confederate works on the line's southern end at dawn. They were easily repulsed with heavy casualties. 

Further Union attempts to assault the northern end of the line and resume assaults on the southern end between June 4 and June 12 were also futile. Grant sent a telegram to the Defense Department in Washington, warning that he had not"gained no decisive advantage" after four days. He and Lee communicated with each other between June 5 and 7 via notes without coming to an agreement. When Grant formally requested a two-hour cessation of hostilities, it proved to be too late for most of the wounded, who had become bloated corpses. When Grant realized his army was in a stalemate with the Army of Virginia and that frontal assaults were not the answer, he tried the following:

*He sent Major-General David Hunter to cause a commotion with Lee's supplies in the Shenandoah Valley so that the latter would be forced to dispatch reinforcements in that area.

*He dispatched two divisions from the Union cavalry under "Philip Sheridan to to destroy the Virginia Central Railroad near Charlottesville.

*And he planned a stealthy operation to withdraw from Lee's front and move across the James River. 

As Grant had hoped, Lee reacted by pulling John C. Breckinridge's division from Cold Harbor and sent to Lynchburg to deal with Major-General David Hunter. And by June 12, he assigned Jubal Early permanent command of the Confederates' Second Corp and send the latter to the Shenandoah Valley. Lee also sent two of his three cavalry divisions in pursuit of Sheridan. This pursuit led to the Battle of Trevilian Station. Despite anticipating the Union Army's shift across the James River, Lee was taken by surprise when it actually happened. And On June 12, the Army of the Potomac finally disengaged to march southeast to cross the James and threaten Petersburg, a crucial rail junction south of Richmond.

The Battle of Cold Harbor proved to be one of the final victories won by Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War. The Army of the Potomoc under Ulysses Grant lost 10,000 to 13,000 in attempting the futile assaults over a period of twelve days. Between early May and early-to-mid June 1864, the Union had a total of 52,000 casualties. Lee's army had a casualty rate of at least 33,000. Unfortunately, the casualty rate affected the Army of Northern Virginia a lot more. The beginning of the Siege of Petersburg more or less signified the beginning of the end for Lee's army.

If you want to read more detailed information about the Battle of Cold Harbor, please read the following:

*"Hurricane from the Heavens: The Battle of Cold Harbor, May 26 - June 5, 1864" (2014) by Daniel Davis

*"Not War But Murder" (2001) by Ernest B. Furgurson

*"The Greatest Civil War Battles: The Battle of Cold Harbor (2013) by Charles River

Friday, June 20, 2014

"ONCE UPON A TIME" Season Two (2012-2013) Photo Gallery


Below are images from Season Two of ABC's "ONCE UPON A TIME". The series stars Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas and Robert Carlyle:

"ONCE UPON A TIME" Season Two (2012-2013) Photo Gallery