Tuesday, November 25, 2014
"THE CORELLIAN CONNECTION"
CREVASSE CITY, ALDERAAN
Padme's eyes widened at the sight of the bustling metropolis, perched atop a stark canyon wall. The city's location seemed a sharp contrast to the lush island that served as Aldera's location. "What is this place called, again?" she asked.
Captain Antilles answered, "Crevasse City. We're here to meet a pilot who can take you where you want to go."
"You're not coming?"
With a sigh, the good captain explained that he needs to return to Alderaan's capital. "The Imperials might still be on the planet. And my presence has missed, long enough." He landed the shuttle on an obscure landing pad, next to the city's outskirts. On the pad stood a small, Corellian-designed space skiff. "There's the ship."
The shuttle landed on the pad. At the same time, the skiff's boarding ramp lowered. A red-haired woman dressed simply in a freighter pilot's outfit - dark-blue jacket, white blouse, tight blue trousers and knee-high boots - descended the ramp. Both Padme and Antilles left the shuttle. "Raymus Antilles," the woman greeted with a smile. "You finally made it. I was beginning to worry."
"Sorry," Captain Antilles replied breathlessly. "We had to make sure that we weren't being followed by the Imperials. They are crawling all over the palace and Aldera."
The woman shrugged. "They're here, as well. We might have to wait for them to leave. I don't want to attract any attention." She turned to Padme. "Captain Voranda Sen at your service, Milady. This is my ship, the Alberforce. I will be happy to take you to the destination of your choice."
Antilles explained, "Captain Sen is very reliable, Milady. She has helped many refugees from the Clone War settle here on Alderaan. Voranda, this is . . ." He paused.
Captain Sen smiled knowingly. "I believe I recognize the former senator from Naboo. Pleased to finally meet you, Senator Amidala." Padme inhaled sharply, as the female captain added, "Don't worry. Your secret is safe with me. Whatever it may be."
"Thank you," Padme said with a shy smile. "I guess my party should board your ship." She turned to the Queen's cousin. "Captain Antilles, could you help me and my droids unload my belongings?" The royal officer and the skiff's captain helped Padme and the droids unload her trunks and place them on board the Alberforce. By the time the droids, the twin and Madga were settled aboard the starship, Padme rejoined Captain Antilles on the landing pad. "Thank you, Captain. I don't know what I would have done without your help."
Antilles' rock-like jaw twitched momentarily. "It was my pleasure, Milady. And I am quite certain that you would have made your escape without my help."
Again, Padme smiled. "Thank you, Captain. And please convey my gratitude to Her Majesty. Since we did not have time to talk before I left, I will try to contact her within a week."
With a bow, Captain Antilles replied, "I will be sure to tell her, Milady. Have a safe journey." He boarded his shuttle and flew away.
Captain Sen turned to Padme. "You might as well board, Milady. Who knows how long we'll have to wait before we depart."
As the two women walked toward the skiff, Padme's curiosity got the best of her. "Pardon me for asking, Captain, but are you a native of Alderaan?"
"My mother was Alderaanian," the red-haired pilot replied. "But my father originally came from Abregado-rae. I spent most of my childhood there, until my father died when I was sixteen. Then my mother and I moved here." The two women paused at the bottom of the boarding ramp. "I must admit that I'm rather curious as to why you would fake your death and avoid the Imperials."
Padme hesitated. Discretion had been the hallmark of her life, ever since she became involved in politics. And maintaining a secret marriage with Anakin had only increased her tendency toward discretion. Realizing that it would unwise to reveal her children's connection to the Jedi, Padme lied. "You've heard of the Petition of the 2000, haven't you?" she asked the captain.
Captain Sen shook her head. "I'm sorry, but that doesn't sound familiar."
With a sigh, Padme explained that several senators had formed a petition demanding that the then Chancellor Palpatine give up the extra powers and the office of the Chancellor at the end of the Clone War. "Unfortunately, the whole Jedi Purge began and the Chancellor declared himself emperor. Many senators who had signed the petition recanted and removed their names from the petition." She paused. "I didn't. In fact . . . a pair of Jedi Knights and Prince Organa helped fake my death and arranged for my family to escape retribution from the Emperor."
Nodding, Captain Sen continued, "Now, I understand. When the Imperials showed up on Alderaan . . ."
"Both Bail . . . I mean, Prince Organa and I decided it would be best if my family and I leave," Padme finished.
Pity crept into the captain's turquoise eyes. "I'm so sorry."
"That's okay," Padme replied quietly. "I could have removed my name from the petition, but I chose not to. I've made my choice." May all deities in existence forgive her for the lie.
At that moment, two ominous shapes appeared in the skies above Crevasse City. Padme immediately recognized the small, triangular-shaped shuttles that belonged to the Imperial Fleet. "It looks as if the Imperials did not find what they were looking for," Captain Sen commented.
Padme frowned at the other woman. "Why do you say that?"
The red-haired woman said, "Those shuttles are obviously returning to their ships. And there aren't more in the atmosphere." She sighed. "Time to go, Senator."
The two women climbed aboard the skiff. When it finally lifted from the landing pad, fifteen minutes later, Padme heaved a sigh of relief.
An impatient Kirtan Loor slammed a fist on the desk in front of him. "How could we have missed them so easily?" he cried. "Where could they have gone?"
"Obviously to the city's spaceport," Captain Hardy suggested. He found Loor's dramatics a little tiresome. "It would not be difficult for Solipo and Thalia Yeb to find passage aboard any starship leaving Corellia."
CorSec Officer Bastra suggested, "Or they could have caught a shuttle to another city here on Corellia."
"What about the space stations above this planet?" Hardy suggested.
Both Loor and Bastra shook their heads. "The planet's shipyards are located there," Bastra said. "I believe your best bet is to check the spaceport. In fact, I already have several officers doing just that." He broke off, as another CorSec officer entered the office. "Yes, Veritas?"
The assistant informed the three men that a couple matching Solipo and Thalia Yeb's descriptions had been seen near the spaceport. "According to Officer Gropos, three starships have departed recently," she added. "The Eureka had departed with four passengers - political lobbyists on their way to Coruscant; the Javian Hawk with only its pilot; and the Tawhid, which is carrying a shipment of Corellian brandy and whisky bound for Wroona. The Tawhid had departed a little over a half hour ago."
Captain Hardy stood up and placed his cap on his head. "This requires my attention. I will find each starship and search for Senator Yeb."
"How will you find them?" Bastra demanded. "The last ship had departed thirty minutes ago."
The Imperial officer allowed himself a thin, cold smile. "The Agamemnon is one of the new warships to join the Fleet. Which means that it possesses the new hyperdrive technology. I should be able to catch up with all three ships with no problems."
Bail Organa glanced out of the window of his hotel room. Although the view beyond project an elegant and sophisticated metropolis located near a winding river, his mind harbored on matters other than the view. Namely the whereabouts of one Solipo Yeb.
Two days had passed since the former Andalian senator contacted him. Upon his arrival on Averam, Bail had expected to be reunited with his former colleague. Unfortunately, Solipo had not arrived. Either the Andalian and his sister had failed to leave Corellia, on route to Averam, or now prisoners of the Empire. Bail found it difficult to accept the last possibility. If Solipo had been captured, the news would have been broadcasted on the HoloNet News by now.
A faint beep interrupted Bail's thoughts. It came from his mini holoprojector from within his pockets. Bail removed it and switched it on. A warm smile tugged at the corners of his mouth, as his wife's holographic image appeared before him.
"Bail," Breha began, "I thought you should know that an Imperial ship carrying an emissary from the Emperor has paid a visit to Alderaan." The senator's heart nearly lurched at the news. "They had detected Solipo Yeb's signal from Corellia," she continued. "Fortunately, I had your private holoprojector destroyed before they could find it. Both Padme and myself had also decided it would be best if she and the children leave Alderaan permanently. I suspect they are on their way to the Lars' farm on Tatooine. I am sure that you would be relieved to learn that the Imperial ship has also left, along with the new emissary. Speaking of the latter, I suspect that this new emissary might be the Emperor's new apprentice. He called himself Darth Rasche. I'm confused, for I could have sworn that you and Padme had told me that his name was Darth Vader. Please hurry home, my love. I miss you very much." The transmission ended.
Darth Rasche? Bail frowned. Who was Darth Rasche? Did the Emperor acquire a new Sith apprentice? Then Bail recalled Padme once informing both him and Breha that the Sith usually consisted of two - a master and an apprentice. Although more than one Sith Force user has served the Emperor in the past - including a renegade named Asjiy Ventress who ended up being defeated by young Skywalker - only two have used the Sith title of Darth. Has Darth Sidious aka the Emperor changed the rule? Or has Anakin Skywalker truly abandoned the Sith?
Bail realized that he might one day learn the truth. Then again, perhaps not. He decided that once his business with Solipo Yebs has finished, he would travel to Tatooine and reveal the identity of Palpatine's new apprentice to Padme and Kenobi. His former colleague deserved to know that she may have been right about her husband, after all.
With the Javian Hawk safely out of Corellian space, Anakin put it on auto pilot. He left the cockpit to check up on his new passengers, situated in another part of the ship reserved for passengers. "Is everything okay?" he asked his Andalian guests. Brother and sister nodded. "Good. Just to let you know, we should arrive on Averam, tomorrow."
Senator Yeb asked, "Don't you have another crewman aboard this ship?"
A sardonic smile touched Anakin's lips. "As you can see, the Javian Hawk is not that big and I can handle her, alone. But she's big enough for a crew of three or four." His smile disappeared. "How long has it been since you two have eaten?"
"Too long," Thalia Yeb replied quickly. "Not since our morning meal, six hours ago."
Nodding, Anakin said, "I've managed to purchase some supplies on Corellia, before our departure. Lunch . . . or supper should be ready within a half hour." He left his two passengers and headed toward the ship's galley. As he opened one of the storage bins, Anakin heard a thump from inside another one. He closed his eyes and inhaled. Oh yes, he had a stowaway aboard the Hawk. Someone very familiar. Anakin opened the bin in question and peered inside. A pair of brown eyes that belonged to a young face radiated guilt as they stared at Anakin. "What are you doing here?" he demanded angrily.
Han Solo stood up and climbed out of the bin with Anakin's help. "I needed a ride." He spoke in a matter-of-fact tone that nearly caused the former Jedi to smile.
Anakin's lips twitched momentarily before he gave the young stowaway a grim stare. "Is your idea of 'a ride' is to stow away without my permission?"
The young Corellian's face turned pale. Then the words poured out of his mouth in an emotional outburst. "Look I'm sorry, but I was desperate! I tried to run away from Shrike earlier, but he managed to catch me. And I had to run away again. Only Dewlanna helped me, this time. But Shrike . . . he . . ." Tears began to form in young Solo's eyes, taking Anakin by surprise. Between gasps, the boy continued, "Shrike, he . . . he . . . he killed . . . killed Dewlanna!" His tears now flowed freely.
At that moment, a voice cried out, "What in the name of the Republic is going on, here?" Senator Yeb and his sister entered the galley. The former's eyes rested upon the silently sobbing Han. "Who is this?"
"My name is Han Solo," the boy declared in a defiant, yet still tearful voice. He wiped the tears from his eyes. "Who are you?"
Thalia Yeb regarded Han with kindly eyes. "Was there a reason why you had to get away from Corellia, young Master Solo? To the point of stowing aboard this starship?"
Han sniffed. "I'm running away." His eyes blinked furiously. "From . . . someone. What's it to you?"
Regarding the boy with suspicious eyes, Senator Yeb demanded, "Is he telling the truth? For all we know, he could be an agent of the Empire, hired to keep an eye out for us."
"Solipo!" his sister cried in outrage.
Anakin rolled his eyes, annoyed by the senator's paranoia. "He's telling the truth, Senator. Believe me. You have nothing to fear from . . . Han."
Yeb glared at Anakin. "And how do you know? What are you? A Jedi or something?"
Thalia's voice rang loud and clear. "Actually . . . he is." Everyone stared at her. "Captain Horus is the former Jedi Knight, Anakin Skywalker. 'The Hero With No Fear'?"
END OF CHAPTER SIX
Saturday, November 22, 2014
"4.50 FROM PADDINGTON" (1987) Review
The 1957 Agatha Christie novel, "4.50 From Paddington" aka "What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw" has been a favorite of mine since I was in my early teens. There have been one film and two television adaptations of the story. I never saw the film adaptation, which starred Margaret Rutherford. But I have seen the two television versions. One of them was the 1987 BBC adaptation that featured Joan Hickson as Miss Jane Marple.
"4.50 FROM PADDINGTON" begins when Mrs. Elspeth McGillicuddy, an old friend of Miss Marple, travels by train to visit the latter in St. Mary's Mead. When her train passes another on a parallel track, she witnesses a woman being strangled inside a compartment of the latter. Mrs. McGillicuddy reports the murder to Miss Marple, who suggests that she contact the police. But due to her age and inability to see the murderer's face, Mrs. McGillicuddy is ignored by the police. Miss Marple decides to take matters into her own hands by tracing Mrs. McGillicuddy's rail journey. The elderly sleuth's investigation leads her to the Rutherford Hall estate, where the railway borders at a curved embankment. Miss Marple recruits an acquaintance of hers, a young professional housekeeper named Lucy Eyelesbarrow, to hire herself out to the family that resides at Rutherford Hall, the Crackenthorpes, to continue the investigation.
Considering that the 1957 novel happened to be a favorite of mine, I had hoped this adaptation by T.R. Bowen would prove to be very satisfying. Needless to say . . . it did not. I am not one of those who demand that a movie or television adaptation adhere closely to its source. But some of the changes made by Bowen in his adaptation proved to be rather annoying to me. And I do not believe these changes served the movie very well. Among Bowen's changes were:
*No one was stricken by food poisoning
*Only one member of the Crackenthorpe family was murdered, instead of two
*The above mentioned victim was killed in a hunting accident, instead of being poisoned
*The nature of the romantic triange between Lucy Eyelesbarrow, Cedric Crackenthorpe and Bryan Eastley has been changed considerably
*Instead of Detective Inspector Dermot Craddock investigating the case, Detective Inspector Slack from three previous"AGATHA CHRISTIE'S MISS MARPLE" productions served as the main investigator
*The addition of Chief Inspector Duckham, who was an invention of the screenwriter, was added.
As I had stated earlier, the novel featured the second appearance of Dermot Craddock as the chief investigating officer in a Miss Marple mystery. But instead of hiring John Castle to reprise his Detective Inspector Craddock role from 1985's "A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED", the producers brought back David Horovitch to portray the irritating Detective Inspector Slack. Horovitch had already portrayed Slack in two previous Miss Marple movies, "A BODY IN THE LIBRARY" and "MURDER IN THE VICARAGE". Horovitch is a first-rate actor, but the character of Detective Inspector Slack has always annoyed me. I would have preferred if Craddock had made his second appearance in this movie. To make matters worse, actor David Waller, who had worked with T.R. Bowen for "EDWARD AND MRS. SIMPSON", was added to portray Chief Inspector Duckham, a character who never appeared in the novel.
Screenwriter T.R. Bowen made matters worse with more changes. Instead of two, only one member of the household ended up murdered - Harold Crackenthorpe, who was a banker. And his murder was disguised as a hunting accident. Harold was murdered with poisoned pills. Bowen completely left out the scene featuring a mass case of food poisoning from which the family suffered. Although the subject of Martine was brought up, Bowen never made the connection between her and the best friend of Bryan Eastley's son, Alexander. And instead of following Christie's portrayal of the "love triangle" between Lucy, Cedric Crackenthorpe and Eastley, who happened to the widower of the late Edith Crackenthorpe; Friend decided to settle matters by having Lucy fall in love with Eastley, who was portrayed as an infantile and suggestible man. Even worse, Lucy seemed to have lost her sense of humor, thanks to Bowen's script and Jill Meager's uninspiring performance. Friend also transformed Cedric into an annoying and oozing ladies' man who tries to hit on Lucy every chance he could. In the novel, Cedric never openly displayed his attraction to Lucy, when he was swapping witty bon mots with her. Yet, Christie made it obvious that he was attracted. And the novel left the matter open on whom Lucy would choose open.
But the one change made by Friend that really annoyed me, turned out to be the big revelation scene. After Miss Marple identified the killer to the police, the Crackenthorpes and Elspeth McGillicuddy; a ridiculous action scene was tacked on by Bowen, allowing Eastley to run after and have a fight with the fleeing killer. It was quite obvious to me that this scene was nothing more than a setup for the audiences to approve of the unconvincing love story between the humorless Lucy and the infantile Eastley. What an incredibly stupid ending to the story!
But despite these flaws, I still managed to somewhat enjoy the movie. One, Joan Hickson was great as ever as Jane Marple. She was supported by solid performances from Joanna David as Emma Crackenthorpe, Andrew Burt as Dr. John Quimper, young Christopher Haley as Alexander Eastley, Robert East as Alfred Crackenthorpe, David Waller as Chief Inspector Duckham, Mona Bruce as Elspeth McGillicuddy and even David Horovitch as Inspector Slack. Slack may have struck me as an annoying character, but I cannot deny that Horovitch gave a competent performance.
Another aspect of "4.50 FROM PADDINGTON" that impressed me was its production design. Raymond Cusick did a first rate job in transforming television viewers back to the mid-to-late 1950s. He was ably supported by Judy Pepperdine's convincing costumes - especially for Jill Eager and Joanna David's characters. I was not that impressed by most of John Walker's photography. However, I must admit that along with Martyn Friend's direction, Walker injected a great deal of atmosphere and mystery into the scene featuring the murder that Mrs. McGillicuddy witnessed.
It really pains me to say this, but despite Hickson's first rate performance and the production design, "4.50 FROM PADDINGTON" does not strike me as one of the best Miss Marple movies to feature the late actress. Another version was made in 2004 and quite frankly, it was not an improvement. Hopefully, someone will make a first-rate adaptation of one of my favorite Christie novels.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
"ANALYZING LOVE IN THE 'STAR WARS' PREQUEL TRILOGY"
I am curious as to why people think they can analyze love, whether between fictional characters or in real life. And why do many assume that love and morality is one and the same?
If Anakin Skywalker, in the STAR WARS Prequel Trilogy, had been the model Jedi who could do no wrong, people would have never questioned why Padme had fallen in love with him, or why she married him. But since Anakin is presented as being a flawed person, people come up with all kinds of theories and reasons (which usually has nothing to do with love) as to why she fell in love with him in the first place.
The problem is that people harbor the mistaken belief that love is about perfection or near perfection. Or that no one would fall in love with someone with the potential for evil. They also believe that one can only fall in love with someone after a certain period of time. Unfortunately, love does not work like that. Love is dangerous, unpredictable and very confusing for all. You cannot pinpoint on why someone will fall in love with a certain person.
One thing I have always admired about Padme was her willingness to love Anakin for himself. Yes, some people like to theorize that she became his wife, because she mistakenly believed that she could "reform" him. I cannot help but laugh at such a theory. Has it ever occurred to anyone that the true reason Padme fell in love with Anakin was because he brought up feelings within her that no one else has ever been able to?
When you love someone, you have to be willing to accept that person is and always will be flawed - and will always have the potential for both good and evil within. Not only was this true of Anakin, but of Padme as well. She has not always been perfect. In "The Phantom Menace", Padme had allowed her anger and frustration with the Galactic Senate to be coerced by Palpatine into declaring a vote of "no confidence" against Chancellor Valorum. This act led to Palpatine's first step into a position of real power. And it also proved that Padme was just as capable of making disastrous choice on the spur of an emotional moment. Anakin, himself, discovered how arrogant and pushy she can be upon their arrival in Naboo, in "Attack of the Clone". During their time on Padme's home planet, he realized that she was not the symbol of angelic perfection that he had perceived. Yet, he fell in love with her, more than ever.
In the end, I think we must realize that we cannot really judge why Padme fell in love with Anakin. She knew that he was capable of great darkness. But she also knew that he could be a good man. But I think that in the end, what really mattered was that he made her feel something that no one else could. And when you find someone like that - why ignore it? Even if the relationship might end in disaster or tragedy?
Friday, November 14, 2014
Below are images from Season Two of "UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS", the updated version of the old BBC television series. The series stars Keeley Hawes, Ed Stoppard, Claire Foy and Jean Marsh:
"UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS" SERIES TWO (2012) Photo Gallery
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
”AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS” (1989) Review
I have seen at least three full versions of Jules Verne’s 1873 novel, ”AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS”. And if I must be frank, I have yet to see a version that I would consider to be flawless or near flawless. But if I had to choose which version would rank as my favorite, it would be the three-part miniseries that aired on NBC in 1989.
Directed by the late Buzz Kulik, this version of Jules Verne’s novel starred Pierce Brosnan as the globe-trotting Phineas Fogg.”MONTY PYTHON” alumni Eric Idle co-starred as Fogg’s French manservant, Passepartout; Julia Nickson portrayed the India-born Princess Aouda; and the late Peter Ustinov was the English detective who was convinced that Fogg had robbed the Bank of England, Detective Fix. The story started with a conversation between Fogg (Brosnan) and three fellow members of the Reform Club (Christopher Lee, Patrick Macnee and Simon Ward) in 19th century London about the technological advances in transportation in the past thirty to forty years. This leads Fogg to make a wager for twenty-thousand pounds (£20,000) that he could travel around the world in eighty (80) days or less. During the same day, a thief robs the Bank of England and all suspicions point to Fogg, who is identified by a bank employee as the robber.
Wentworth (Robert Morely), an official from the Bank of England and his assistant McBaines (Roddy MacDowell) dispatch private detectives to various ports throughout Europe to find Fogg and have him extradicted back to England. One of the detectives include Fix (Ustinov), who is sent to Brindisi, Italy. Unfortunately, Fix spots Fogg and Passepartout boarding a steamer bound for Suez and Bombay a minute too late and is forced to follow them on their trek around the world. Upon Fogg's arrival in India, one last member joins his traveling party when he and Passepartout (actually, Passepartout) rescue a recently widowed Indian princess from a suttee funeral pyre.
Like its 1956 predecessor, this version of "AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS" turned out to be longer than necessary. The miniseries could have easily been a two-part miniseries or a 135-minute television movie. Unfortunately, John Gay filled his screenplay with unecessary scenes and dialogue that merely served as fillers to justify a three-part miniseries. In Part I, Fogg and Passepartout's adventures in France lasted longer than necessary - especially after they met a balloonist named Gravier and his mistress, Lucette. Even worse, viewers have to endure Fogg and Passepartout's balloon journey from France to Italy - which included a period that the heroes found themselves stranded in the Italian Alps. Part II included scenes that featured Fogg, Passepartout and Aouda's adventures with a Burmese prince and the bandits that kidnapped all of them; and Fogg, Aouda and Fix's encounter with the Empress of China and her son, the Emperor. I realize Gay also added these scenes to make Fogg's journey around the world more interesting. Unfortunately, they failed to interest or impress me.
Another problem I had with Gay's script turned out to be a major blooper that involved Fogg's encounters with the famous bandit, Jesse James (Stephen Nicols). Following Fogg's first encounter with James in San Francisco; he, Aouda, Passepartout and Fix boarded an eastbound train for Omaha. By some miracle, Jesse James and his brother Frank managed to catch up with this train somewhere on the Great Plains (probably in Nebraska), where Jesse boarded said train before the second encounter with Fogg. How was this possible? Fogg's train should have traveling eastbound for at least a day or two before James boarded it. There is NO WAY that the bandit could have caught up with that train. Gay should have allowed the James brothers or Jesse board the train in Oakland, along with Fogg and his party. Sloppy writing. And some of the dialogue featured in the miniseries seemed ladened with pedantic and half-finished sentences and unecessarily long pauses that seemed to serve no other function than to act as fillers to stretch the story.
One might wonder how I can view this version of "AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS" as my favorite, considering the above criticism. But despite the flaws, I must admit there were many aspects about the miniseries I found enjoyable. John Gay's screenplay did not turn out to be a total loss. In fact, the number of gems in the story seemed to outweigh the flaws. I especially enjoyed the following:
*Fogg and Passepartout's charming encounter with actress Sarah Bernhardt (portrayed by a still sexy 54 year-old Lee Remick) at Dover
*Fogg and Passepartout's hilarious adventure at a Parisian bar
*The steamship journey from Brindisi to Suez that featured Fogg's encounter with Egyptian stonecutters and Fix's hilarious encounter with a Turkish prisoner willing to offer himself to help the detective pass the time
*Princess Aouda's rescue
*Fogg, Aouda and Fix find themselves shipwrecked on the China coast
*Fogg's first encounter with Jesse James at a San Francisco ball
*Fogg and James' duel on the Omaha-bound train
One particular scene I truly found enjoyable was Fogg and Aouda's hilarious and unsuccessful attempt to stowaway aboard Cornelius Vanderbilt's (Rick Jason) Europe-bound yacht. It was never featured in the novel or the 1956 movie. Too bad. I thought it was one of the best written scenes in the miniseries.
And it was Pierce Brosnan's performance as Phileas Fogg that really made that last scene a comic gem for me. Which is not surprising, considering he has turned out to be my favorite Fogg. Sorry Mr. Niven and Mr. Coogan, but I feel that Brosnan's portrayal has the other two beat. He managed to combined the best of the other two actors' performances to create the most emotionally rounded Phileas Fogg. He managed to perfectly convey the angst of Fogg's tendencies to suppress his emotions with some great comic timing.
Speaking of comic timing, Eric Idle's timing was effectively on display in some of my favorite scenes. Granted, I found his French accent rather questionable. But Idle more than made up for it in some very hilarious scenes. One featured his reaction to being attacked by a French thug at the Parisian bar and another a drunken moment shared with Fix at a Hong Kong tavern. But my favorite Idle moment centered around his reaction to a questionable meat pie purchased by Fogg on the Omaha-bound train in probably the funniest line in the entire miniseries.
Julia Nickson was both charming and amusing as the very brave Princess Aouda. Her Indian princess provided the miniseries with some deliciously angst-filled moments that allowed Aouda to question Fogg about his habit of suppressing his feelings from others. Nickson's Aouda also provided the miniseries with some political correct moments that were not only amusing, but well handled without being overbearing. And I simply enjoyed Peter Ustinov's performance as Detective Fix. Like Brosnan's Fogg, his Fix came off as more rounded and complex as Robert Newton or Ewan Bremmer's Fix. Without a doubt, Ustinov had some hilarious moments - especially in scenes that featured Fix's encounter with the Turkish prisoner on the voyage to Suez; and his reaction to another game of whist with Fogg. Not only did Ustinov managed to be funny, but also give Fix's character with a great deal of depth not found in other versions of the story.
I do have to say something about the supporting characters. One, I really enjoyed Robert Morely and Roddy McDowall as the Bank of England official and his assistant. Morely was a lot more amusing and fun in this miniseries than he was as the more stoic bank official in the 1956 version. And McDowall supported him beautifully. I also enjoyed the performances of Christopher Lee, Patrick Macnee and Simon Ward as the three Reform Club members who made the bet with Fogg. I especially enjoyed Lee's performance as the one member who especially found Fogg's precision and rigid habits rather annoying.
This version of "AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS" lacked Victor Young's memorable score and Lionel Lindon's cinematography. But it does possess a pleasant and catchy score written by Billy Goldenberg. And I must admit that I found myself impressed by Emma Porteus' costume design, which captured the styles of the early 1870s more effectively than the 1956 movie.
In a nutshell, the three-part miniseries is simply too long. It has scenes and some clunky dialogue that could have easily been edited. But screenwriter John Gay also provided some wonderful and effective moments in the script. Frankly, I thought the cast was top-notch - especially the four main characters led by Pierce Brosnan. And although he is not well known, I thought that director Buzz Kulik did a solid job bringing it all together. The 1956 version may have won the awards, but in my book, this 1989 miniseries remains my favorite version of Jules Verne's novel.
Saturday, November 8, 2014
"CENTENNIAL" (1978-79) - Episode One "Only the Rocks Live Forever" Commentary
Over thirty-two years ago, NBC Television aired a sprawling miniseries called ”CENTENNIAL”. Produced by John Wilder, The miniseries was an adaptation of James Michner’s 1973 novel of the same title. Because the miniseries stretched to twelve episodes, NBC aired the first seven episodes aired during the late fall of 1978. After a one-month hiatus, the remaining five episodes aired during the early winter of 1979.
Michner’s tale followed the history of the fictional town of Centennial, Colorado and its surrounding region from the late 18th century to the 1970s. By focusing upon the history of the town, ”CENTENNIAL” managed to cover nearly every possible topic in the Western genre. Some of those topics include Native American societies and their encounters with the white trappers and traders, American emigration along the Western trails, the Indian Wars, a gold rush, a cattle drive, the cattle-sheep range wars and environmental issues. The first episode ”Only the Rocks Live Forever” centered on an Arapaho warrior named Lame Beaver, his daughter Clay Basket, a French-Canadian fur trader named Pasquinel, and his partner, a young Scottish-born trader named Alexander McKeag.
”Only the Rocks Live Forever” began with the death of Lame Beaver’s father in the mid-1750s, at the hands of the Pawnee. The episode also covered moments of the warrior’s life that include his theft of much needed horses from the Commanche for the survival of his village, his first meeting with Pasquinel and later, McKeag; and his village’s wars with their nemesis, a Pawnee chief named Rude Water and his fellow warriors. The episode focused even longer on the fur trader, Pasquinel. Viewers followed the trader on his adventures with various Native Americans such as the Arapaho and the Pawnee; and his two encounters with a keelboat crewed by murderous French Canadian rivermen. After being wounded in the back by a Pawnee arrow and barely escaping death at the hands of the French Canadian rivermen, Pasquinel made his way to St. Louis, then part of the Spanish Empire. An American doctor named Richard Butler introduced him to a German-born silversmith named Herman Bockweiss and the latter’s daughter, Lise. Pasquinel formed a partnership with Bockweiss, who provided him with trinkets to trade with the Native Americans and fell in love with Lise.
Upon his return to the West, the Pawnee introduced Pasquinel to the Scottish-born Alexander McKeag, who became his partner. After experiencing a series of adventures, the two arrived at Lame Beaver’s village. There, Pasquinel strengthened his ties with Lame Beaver, while McKeag fell in love with the warrior’s daughter, Clay Basket. The pair eventually returned to St. Louis with a profitable supply of furs. There, Pasquinel married Lise. During the two partners’ visit to St. Louis, Lame Beaver and his fellow Arapaho became engaged in another conflict with the Pawnee in an effort to rescue a child that had been snatched by the other tribe. The conflict resulted in the rescue of the child, Rude Water’s death at the hands of Lame Beaver, and the latter’s death at the hands of Pawnee warriors. When Pasquinel and McKeag returned to the Pawnee village, they discovered that Rude Water had been shot by a bullet molded from gold by Lame Beaver. They also learned about Lame Beaver’s death. And upon their return to the Arapaho village, they learned from Clay Basket that her late father had ordered her to become Pasquinel’s wife. Because of the French Canadian’s desire to learn about the location of Lame Beaver’s gold, he agreed to make Clay Basket his second wife, despite McKeag’s protests.
Directed by Virgil W. Vogel and written by producer John Wilder, ”Only the Rocks Live Forever” was a surprisingly well paced episode, considering its running time of two-and-a-half hours. Viewers received a detailed look into the society of the Arapaho nation (despite the fact that many of the extras portraying the Arapaho were of Latino descent). And through the adventures of Pasquinel and McKeag, viewers also received a detailed and nearly accurate look into the perils of the life of a fur trader in the trans-Mississippi West. Wilder managed to make one historical goof. When asked in late 18th century St. Louis, circa on how far he had traveled upriver, Pasquinel said, "Cache La Poudre". However, that particular river was not known by this name until after the 1820s, when a severe storm forced French trappers to "cache their gun powder" by the river bank. And although the episode never stated outright, it did hint that St. Louis and the rest of the Mississippi Valley was part of the Spanish Empire during that period, through the characters of Senor Alvarez and his wife, portrayed by Henry Darrow and Annette Charles.
This episode also benefitted from the strong cast that appeared in the episode. I was especially impressed by Michael Ansara’s charismatic performance as the Arapaho warrior, Lame Beaver. Well known character actor Robert Tessier (of Algonquian descent) gave an equally impressive performance as Lame Beaver’s main nemesis, the Pawnee chief Rude Water. Not only was I impressed by Raymond Burr’s performance as St. Louis silversmith, Herman Bockweiss, I was also impressed by his use of a German accent. Whether or not it was accurate, I must admit that his take on the accent never struck me as a cliché. Sally Kellerman’s own handling of a German accent was also well done. And I thought she gave a poignant performance as the slightly insecure Lise, who found herself falling in love with Pasquinel. Barbara Carrera gave a solid performance as Clay Basket, but I did not find her that particularly dazzling in this episode. Hands down, ”Only the Rocks Live Forever” belonged to Robert Conrad and Richard Chamberlain. Both actors did an excellent job in adapting foreign accents. And both gave exceptional performances in their portrayal of two very different and complex personalities. Superficially, Conrad’s portrayal of Pasquinel seemed superficial and very forthright. However, I was impressed how he conveyed Pasquinel’s more complex traits and emotions through the use of his eyes and facial expression. And once again, Chamberlain proved to be the ultimate chameleon in his transformation into the shy and emotional Scotsman, forced to learn about the West and who seemed bewildered by his morally questionable partner.
”Only the Rocks Live Forever” is not my favorite episode in ”CENTENNIAL”. I can think of at least three or four that I would personally rank above it. But I must admit that thanks to Vogel’s direction and Wilder’s script, this episode proved to be a perfect start for what I consider to be one of the best minseries that ever aired on television.
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Below are images from the new HBO series called "BOARDWALK EMPIRE". Produced by Terence Winter, Mark Walhberg and Martin Scorcese, the series stars Steve Buscemi:
"BOARDWALK EMPIRE" Season One (2010) Photo Gallery