007 in 23: Assignment #24- Spectre (Warning: Spoilers Ahead)

So we meet again…

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After three years since the last edition of 007 in 23, the world’s most popular secret agent and walking oxymoron, James Bond (Daniel Craig), is back for another assignment. Also, I’m not changing the name of the series to 007 in 24 because of this film, so consider the series an artifact title. Anyway, Bond is about to face off against SPECTRE again after years of not being part of the franchise. Wait, what the heck? That can’t be possible. Wasn’t there legal trouble because of Kevin McClory over SPECTRE?

For those new to this series, producer Kevin McClory got into legal troubles over the rights to the villains of SPECTRE and Ernst Starvo Blofeld. The reason being is because those elements appeared in the film Thunderball, which McClory helped developed for the novels. Legal disputes soon followed and McClory got the rights to Thunderball in 1963. Luckily, Eon struck a ten-year deal to have use of SPECTRE and Blofeld as the big bad for ten years. This explains why starting with Roger Moore SPECTRE is but a mention and Blofeld a throwaway joke in For Your Eyes Only. McClory would remake the novel Thunderball in 1983 as Never Say Never Again with the return of Sean Connery as Bond the same year Octopusssy was released. Spoilers: Both films are not very good.

In 2006, Kevin McClory passed away leading to Bond fans to wonder if the rights would return to Eon and MGM to get use of SPECTRE and Blofeld. That dream was realized in 2013 when Eon Production reached a deal with the McClory estate and Danjaq, LLC. Now SPECTRE and Blofeld are back in their hands, abliet SPECTRE is now Spectre. The announcement blew Bond fans minds, including mine. The minute I saw the octopus bullet hole on the teaser poster, I was hooked.

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Now we have this film to showcase Spectre back at taking down the world with Craig and the rest of the newly established MI6 crew. Can MGM pull it off after years without the iconic villains that torture Connery’s Bond in the Sixties? Let’s not waste any time and get to it. Oh, and be wary as this review is riddled with spoilers.

James Bond is in Mexico City during the Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Day) Festival hunting down a man named Marco Scallia. He causes a bit of a ruckus and by ruckus I mean killing a trio of men involved with an explosion at a hotel and engaging in a fist fight in a helicopter over the Centro above the festivities. Bond heads back to London and gets a scolding from M aka Mallory (Ralph Finnes) about his little mishap. Bond shows off a ring he recovered revealing an octopus logo on it. Though suspicious, Mallory suspends Bond from further action. Mallory and Bond are greeted by a new character named C (Andrew “Holy Shit, Moriarty!” Scott). He is trying to convince the MI6 to join the “Nine Eyes” global surveillance in order to have the ’00’ program be done away with. Think “Tomorrow Never Dies,” but this time it actually makes sense. M tells Bond not to keep being rouge, but Bond being Bond continues on the chase.

While visited by Moneypenny (Naomi Harris), Bond tells her that M had one last mission for him before he died to find Scallia. He does not inform Mallory due to the circumstances at hand. He also asks Moneypenny to see if she can find a lead on “The Pale King,” a name he heard in Mexico City. Bond meets with Q (Ben Wishaw) on what the new gadgets he has with the main attraction being the Aston Martin DB10, which Bond promptly jacks the next day. Bond travels to Rome to meet up with Scallia’s wife Lucia (Monica Belluci) to find more information. Bond gets the info he wants on the new organization known as Spectre and also manages to make love to her on the day of her husband’s funeral. I honestly don’t know why he had to do that, but I am sure the randomness of love making hasn’t ended just yet. Bond heads to a secret meeting Spectre is holding in the city. While the group discusses their plans involving their economic process, one in particular crosses the ominous Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz) and is meet with an immediate death by Oberhauser’s henchman Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista aka Batista). Mr. Hinx grabs his heads and forces his thumbs in his eyes with his steel nails. It’s pretty damn quick and brutal.

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Franz Oberhauser (Waltz) sits in the shadows, despite knowing how he looks already

Oberhauser begins to speak and recognizes Bond in the audience and says his name. Bond escapes by kicking ass and jetting in the Aston Martin DB10, only to be chased by Mr. Hinx in his Jaguar C-X75. Bond messes with the would be gadgets and only some work to his advantage. In a thrilling chase, the Aston Martin finally decides to cut bond some slack as Bond flips a switch, sending flames to Mr. Hinx’s car. Bond escapes via a parachute ejector seat with the Aston Martin falling into the river. It is during this that Moneypenny tells Bond the lead he was looking for with “The Pale King” leads to Mr. White (Jesper Christ and Quantum. Quantum turns out to be a smaller part of Spectre’s bigger organization. Bond heads off to Austri to find White and his whereabouts, but informs Moneypenny to find out about Oberhauser and his whereabouts. Apparently, Bond knows he has been dead for years…or has he? (If you haven’t figured out the obvious twist at this point, then be prepare for a timid response when it happens).

Upon meeting Mr. White, White tells Bond he has been poison by thallium for some run-ins gone bad with Oberhauser. He tells Bond that he is done with Quantum and Spectre and tells him to track down his daughter Dr. Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux). Swan will lead Bond to L’American which will lead to Spectre and a confrontation to Oberhauser. White decides to end his life in front of Bond and Bond goes about his merry way. Bond goes to Swann, who is beginning her analysis of Bond’s character when Bond tells her that he kills people, her dad is dead and only she can lead him to Spectre. Swann says she wants him out of her office for hi very poor bedside manner. Bond at the health bar outside of her office is met by Q, who has forensically linked Le Chiffe, Roaul Silva, and Dominic Greene as agents of Spectre through Scallia’s ring. He either had really good blood or he never washed his hands. Honestly, I don’t know how this work, but I just went with it.

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It's kind of like Waterworld at Universal, but with snow

Swann is taken away by some of Oberhauser’s men lead by Mr. Hinx and Bond chases them down in a plane. It’s a fast-paced action scene with a hell of a plane crash towards the end. Swann and Bond escape with Swann still refusing to take up Bond’s offer. She eventually gives in because the plot needs to go somewhere. They head of to Tangier where L’American turns out to be a a hotel room. Here is where Bond and Swann find a secret room used to track down the location of the Spectre headquarters. The two have an drunken intimate beforehand to give some background of Swan’s upbringing.

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The Gorgeous Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux) makes a lasting impression

From here, the two head off on a train to the Spectre base in the desert with Bond decked out in his From Russia With Love dinner jacket and attire with Swan coming out with the essence and beauty of Titiana Romanova of the same film. As they are about to drink and dine, Mr. Hinx unleashes his inner animal and goes full Red Grant on Bond. Hinx is giving it to him throughout the train by tossing him in walls, hitting him on kitchen counters and not stopping. See, this is how you book a Batista match, Vince. Unfortunately, for me at least, Mr. Hinx is taken out by the end after he slaps Swann down to the ground and Bond takes him out by tossing him out the train tied to a box. Hinx utters his only line of “Shit” and is killed. Swan and Bond, of course, decide to Bond closer. So, if you are keeping track at home, Bond has made love to two women, both of which have lost someone they loved. What a classy guy, this Bond character is.

As they end up in the desert (see Diamonds Are Forever, License to Kill and Quantum of Solace for influences in this scene), they head to the Spectre headquarters in which Oberhauser has “been expecting you.” Here it is discovered that Spectre has been in cahoots with the Joint Intelligence System to set up the Nine Eyes program due to the terrorist attack. C has been working with Spectre as well so Spectre can keep track of the entire world. Oberhauser uses his connection with C as an opportunity to make sure to stop any investigation into their plans. Moriarty is a bastard who cannot be trusted, I swear. Oberhauser grabs Bond and Swan, a duo of names that unfortunately not the name of a craft beer yet, and tortures Bond.

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Former WWE Champion Dave Bautista ditches the squared circle for the silver screen as Mr. Hinx

Bond is being tortured as Oberhauser discusses how he is still alive besides being proclaimed dead. Oberhauser tells James that his father adopted him as a son to be his new gaurdian. Fed up with this, Oberhauser killed his own father and faked his death. After doing this, he went through a change. Cue the white cat hopping to Bond’s lap and the reveal that Oberhauser is in fact Ernst Starvo Blofeld. Wait, so Blofeld has been involved since the beginning screwing MI6 and Bond over because of daddy issues. That’s a bit…well, I will get into that in the review portion. Bond and Swann do their best to fight off the henches and mooks, escape, and blow the headquarters to kingdom come and go off with Blofeld having to die in the process. Roll credits.

Wait, there’s a whole half hour left? Oh, hell.

Bond and Swann must arrest C for his connections as they inform Moneypenny, Q and Bill Tanner (Rory Kinnear in a oddly minimal presence this time around) on the hunt. Bond is captured by as Swann is as well, leaving the other three to launch into badass mode. They inform Mallory of C’s bullshit and Q ensures that Nine Eyes does not interfere with MI6’s own computer systems. C gets his ass handed to him by Mallory and falls to his death from Richenbach Falls aka M’s office. But what of Bond?

Bond is stuck in a maze set up by Oberhauser in the old headquarters of MI6 by Blofeld, now disfigured with the signature scar and blind eye and gives Bond the choice of saving himself from the explosion or saving Swann from being exploded into a million pie es. Bond has to Bond again and saves himself and her and escape into a boat on the Thames as Blofeld watches from above in a helicopter. Bond shoots it down, leaving Blofeld to crash on the Westminster bridge and nearly crippled. Bond is ready to kill Blofeld, but settles on M having to arrest him because this franchise needs to continue with Blofeld trying to take over the world every step of the way. Adoptive brothers even have dick measuring contests every now and then. The next day or so, Bond rides off into the sunset with his beloved DB5 and Swann by his side. Cue credits and we are done with the picture.

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Spectre is a strange effort in the franchise, but an enjoyable one. It’s not the best Bond movie, but it is far from being the worst as some critics. The direction by returning Skyfall director is still on par with his prior effort as is the cinematography. It’s a gorgeous film to watch and the opening sequence proves that to a tee.

The action is well thought out and paced in a way that the audience feels in the moment. The chase in Austria is filled with thrills and chills as Bond tries to get his plane onto the tight riads. The train fight is a more elaborate throwback to Grant vs. Bond in the 60’s that is on par with the classic bout.

The performances are good with the exception of one newcomer. Seydoux is fantastic as Swann as she plays the charming and brilliance of her in grand fashion. Bautista is fine as Mr. Hinx with a menancing present and commanding skills. Like his previous role in Guardians of the Galaxy, his work in the squared circle made the action with him seems believable. Monica Bellucci is great, but wasted in a small role. Waltz plays Blofeld as if he already knew he had the role within him. It’s manic, sincere and chilling at points. It’s reminiscent of Telly Savalas’ performance in that way.

Andrew Scott is completely one-note. He is basically playing Moriarty again, but without the charisma and menace. It’s boring and he is wasted in the time. In fact, that is a problem in this film. Characters with great presence are utterly wasted in this film and are only their as convenient plot devices. This leads to other problems with the film.

The story itself is a bit rough as they had to tie Spectre not only to the last movie, but the entire reboot in general. It’s feels shoehorned in and not natural. Same could be said for the humor and old ways of Bond appearing in the film. These moments make the movie seem cheap and awkward. During the car chase scene, there is a joke with a guy in his car listening to opera, then being run into to go faster in order to be parked in the right spot. That joke is best saved for the cheese of the Roger Moore era, not the dark grit of the Craig era.

The twist on Blofeld is utterly dull and disappointing. Having Blofeld do what he is doing because of some issues with not being loved by his father and hating his adopted brother does not make him sympathetic, but rather childish and selfishly idiotic. Blofeld is cold, careless and wants the world to be done for. If the twist was changed to revenge because Bond killed his father, then that would have made the twist a tad more tolerable.

The theme by Sam Smith is very iffy. On its own, the song is not his best effort and the theme itself seems more sullen and not close to what is expected in a Bond film. Luckily, it works with the intro title cards and that’s what maaters. It’s not great, but it’s not bad either. It’s the most mediocre of the bunch.

In the end, Specte is a enjoyable effort of the modern era of Bond, but still stuck in the shadow of the past. The use of old elements is hit and miss at times and can easily deter die hard fans, but the performances and action help the film stand on its own. Spectre is a small step backwards, but has enough good to keep the series going forward.

Assignment Status: 3 out of 5

Serg Beret will return in The Franchise Runner with Back to the Future

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The Franchise Runner- Back to the Future (1985)

Welcome to The Franchise Runner. This written series focuses on those movie franchises that have taken over our hearts and our hard earned dollars. They’ve exploited their popularity, their characters and their premise to go beyond the constraints of one story. As with anything else, this can either be a great epic series like The Lord of the Rings Trilogy or drawn out to cash in on fan’s loyalty like The Twilight Saga.

Every franchise (hopefully) will get a look at their rise, fall and eventual rise as time goes on film by film. With bigger franchises with too many films or specific stories such as Star Wars, Batman or Marvel, those will be broken up into sections as to not be exhaustive. Also, James Bond is out of the question as that was covered back in 2012 in the 007 in 23 series (though Spectre was covered in a one-off recently).

Without further ado, let’s get to running by running through time.

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In 1985, director Robert Zemeckis and writer Bob Gale, with the power of Steven Spielberg’ s production company Amblin Entertainment, gave the 80’s a new twist on time travel with the hip and youthful Back to the Future. It spawned what is arguably considered the greatest trilogy  created with its brilliant setup, unique world and balancing humor & science fiction into a nice cohesive blend. However, before this series can set the world on fire, it had to deal with the world of Hollywood before making it to the silver screen.

PART ONE: PAGE TO SCREEN

Zemeckis and Gale had been shopping around the script from studio to studio, only to be rejected at practically at every turn. Disney and Columbia, in particular, were having none of the “my mom’s gots the hots for me” aspect and were promptly turned down. Other studios thought the concept of the time machine being a refrigerator was a little far fetched as kids would try to imitate it. As Zemeckis and gale shopped around, Spielberg got a hole of the script. Speilberg, working with Universal at this time, called them up. The president read the script and was intrigued. Unfortunately, he felt the film should be titled Spaceman from Pluto as he felt any film with the word future in the title wouldn’t grab the audience of the 80’s.

After much convincing, Zemeckis and Gale got their wish and their project was launched into production at Universal. During the beginning, they had the cast set with Christopher Lloyd as Dr. Emmet Brown (aka Doc Brown), Lea Thompson as Lorraine McFly, Crispin Glover as George McFly, Thomas F. Wilson as Biff Tannen and Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly. “Wait, what?” you ask yourself after reading that. Yes, Eric Stolz is the original Marty, but according to Zemeckis, while a good actor, he didn’t connect well with the others in the world they were creating. This lead Zemeckis and Gale to find a new lead that could capture the character they way they wanted it. Enter Michael J. Fox.

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Fox was becoming popular on television with the sitcom Family Ties giving him exposure. Fox was on the cover of Tiger Beat as the poster boy for the teens eye (suck it, Jake Ryan). The schedule for shooting Back to the Future along with working on Family Ties would proceed to begin a hectic work life for Fox as he would work on the shot during the day and the film at night. This lead to exhaustion and having a meltdown on the set of Family Ties looking for Doc. Replacing Stolz was a hell of a risk and they took it as it delayed production a tad. To add to this, production was already getting tight as they had to release it by July of 1985.

When it came time to test the film, the effects were not complete and Zemeckis, Gale and Spielberg were in panic mode. The test screening results came back in. The audience was in love. The taxing days of shooting, unfinished effects and a major shakeup in casting paid off. The film opened a few months later and became a hit. Teens loved the idea of someone their age on screen. Adults enjoyed the nostalgic trip back to their childhood. Universal had a hit to capitalize on.

The film itself is the very essence of a pop culture phenomenon in the best ways. Back to the Future takes a hold of the time-travel subgenre and becomes something in its own right.

PART TWO: THE FINISHED FILM

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The film itself is something quite unique. Set in 1985, the same year as release, Marty McFly (Fox) is a young slacker in high school with a boring life and  beautiful girlfriend. He wants more out of life while wishing everything was not drab. He works alongside the scientist Doc Brown (Lloyd), which Doc gave him the gig as a means to stay out of trouble. One night before Marty was scheduled to go camping with his girlfriend, Doc calls Marty to see a new experiment.

During the experiment demonstration, Marty becomes shocked that the Doc built a time machine…out of a Delorean. Both are ecstatic as it could bring about traveling through various points of history until terrorists killed Doc. Doc had screwed them out of high grade plutonium for the machine to work by replacing the plutonium case with bombshells filled with pinball machine parts. Marty flees in horror and begins to gets away, but fails to remember time travel is possible at 88 MPH in this machine. Marty is blasted into the past to November 5th, 1955.

From here, Marty meets young Lorraine and George under his pseudonym name of Calvin Klein while coming face to face with a young and pompous Biff. This begins to complicate the future of Marty as Lorraine starts to fall for her future son as Marty will fade from history. There is also the matter of having to find a way to go back to 1985 with the help of a younger and slightly paranoid Doc. Marty must make George and Lorraine become one before going back to the future.

Without spoiling anything (which, considering the film being discussed, is a bit odd), the film is a absolute master class in how to get a science fiction comedy done right. It’s a marvel of brilliant young performances and spectacular effects. Glover and Thompson are believable as the naive and awkward selves of the past with Wilson being a delightful villain that is beyond the point of being off the deep end. Fox and Lloyd have a unique father and son chemistry that is admirable and stands the test of time. These two are the best when together as they would crumble without one another. Fox’s performance is especially a delight as he is a teen just wanting to understand his parents. He gets the ultimate experience of being back with them. He grows from his experience to become a greater son. He becomes more understanding while maintaining his slacker personality. Lloyd seems to warm up to Marty and realizes he isn’t a complete idiot, but a kid with untapped potential.

The story, simplistic on the surface, is a actually complex when tying it with the later films. On its own, it’s a great piece of fiction with a kid determined to head back home, but must save his future. It’s a combination of the race against time with the fight for the future concept. It works brilliantly. The humor is also subtle as it is the classic trope of the time traveler not knowing what world they are in. It’s not over the top or obnoxious, but simple and light hearted. The direction by Zemeckis is top notch with terrific shots during the action scenes and in the climaxes. Both the high school dance and clock tower are insanely good. There’s a rhythm of tension, suspense and concern. The light-hearted comedy just became a thriller and the audience cannot hold on any longer. It’s a sight to behold.

The film is certainly one of the greatest films ever made and arguably the greatest film of the 80’s. It ranks in my personal top five favorites of all time, earning a lucrative ten out of ten. Back to the Future is nothing short of a science fiction classic.

Back to the Future 10/10

The series just got started as audiences began to wonder what happened to Doc and Marty. What would become of their friendship and of the infamous flying car ending? When The Franchise Runner returns, we travel to this year in Back to the Future Part II to see what happens to the beloved duo. This Wednesday here at TheNewSergBeret.com

Lyrics: “Passion House”

Take me down
Take me down
Take me down
Today

Broke the silence, created violence
Madcap menace of frustration of malice
Break the chalice over the others who interfered
In your past as I’m now the one they feared
Got knocked down, but I’ll be back reborn, a man to a Phoenix
Splash onto you like Rollins onto Cena
And please excuse my awkward demeanor
It’s a mask to cover up the truth
A mystery you can’t be a sleuth
Sherlock to Watson, Doc to Marty
Let’s go back to my place, become a two person party

Take me down now
Take it all the way
Take control of me
Take it all the way
Today

Get closer, got to get a mental photograph
Hear your laugh, see a smile
Pulling you in is always in style
Make love and sweating, sex is our new mile
Run from your fantasy that proceeded
These meetings with passion and oral greetings
Memories rush through your head
Gondry directing emotions in the bed
With our Spotless Mind, back to back bodies now in the grind
When you’re alone, have this on rewind
To repeat a POV of this moment so sublime

Take me down now
Take it all the way
Take control of me
Take it all the way
Today

Take a break, relax and think about me
Is this all that you can see?
Two alike beings bonded in a trance
To justify the means
Can I cling on a little stronger or is this moment one and done like the others?
Never mind that question, it just bothers
Bottled up emotions
Crushed heart aches exploded
Out the wick of TNT onto your gracious face
I now you hated the aftermath collected in your face
It’s no problem to be with you
You’re just a one time moment
I can never own you

Take me down now
Take it all the way
Take control of me
Take it all the way
Today

Poetry: “1451.4 m/s”

I. A multi-layered woman concerned about her life
Suffering, alone, constantly in strife
She’s beauty complete
A relic of time gone
Yet the honesty is too much
And her words broken
Because she is broken
She makes up for it in
Conversations with others, company of strangers
Because loneliness kills
Her self-worth
There is a love loss in her
A victim of circumstance
A multi-layered woman concerned about her life
Trying to cope with suffering
And strife

II. Chrome melts in this pot
Silver spreads, parts boils
Chrome shines in this pot
Bubbles burst and burns the hands
Dangerous and chrome blasts in this pot
Intense, slow, distracting
Controlling, patient, interrupted
Chrome starts to destroy the pot

III. Pictures of her being show a sense
of pride and security
Yet reveal a trapped beauty
Ready to escape
To raise the next girl in line
To build a true sense
Of responsibility and independence
To create the next one
To carry a legacy of elegance
Picture of her being show a true version
Of her worth and value
Greatness lives in her

IV. Care and comfort, I wish to provide
Safe and sound silence, I want to give
Perfection and chaos, I long to send
Compassion and compromise, I can deliver
Seduction and satisfaction, I shall gather
A multi-layered woman concerned about her life
If only, I can end her strife

Poetry: “She Had a Way”

She had a way about her.

The smile that haunts the bravest of men,
A voice, lisp-y but brilliant,
Eyes, through basic brown, sparkled in the night.
She had a way about her.

Her hands, soft to the touch,
Hair, a burnt brown autumn envied.
She had a way about her.

Dreams about her being…
Dances that never happened…
Star-filled nights that cease to exist…
Cherry blossom-filled kisses of falsehood…
Crashing waves in our feet that were created in imagination…
She had a way about her.

The way was never reciprocated.
She never dreamed of those dances,
Those star-filled nights,
Those cherry blossom-filled kisses,
Those crashing waves,
Those were my way about myself.

A selfish dreamer, a one-sided man
Infatuated by my own happiness
That is the way about myself.

A smile that never haunts her
A voice she never find brilliant
Eyes just a normal shade
Hands too rough to hold
Hair, burnt to a crisp no one envied
That is my way to her.

Her way went to someone else.

A leader of a promised land,
A leader that towers her,
A leader much better than I.
And her way seems permanent.

My way went to a guardian of heaven.

A warrior of intellect,
A warrior of courage,
A warrior much better than she.
And my way seems permanent.

She had a way about her.
And that way is separate.

Never will I see her
Under the command of the ladder
And never will she see me
Under the protection of my guardian.

These ways must remain permanent.

She had a way about her.

Poetry: “The Contingency of Romance”

Los Angeles gleams with the whites of the buildings
Stars of manual power in the distance
Clouds begin to bring down light drops of waste evaporated from the sea.
The city is alive with the sounds
Of couples conversing, walking, fighting,
Crying and in deep loving.
Sounds of laughter, sounds of silence.
Noises of footsteps in the rain,
Noises of two lovers in pain.
Moans and groans of those
Enjoying the mood of an upcoming holiday.
Yet beneath the universe of L.A.
During the lover’s week is us in
A miniscule moment in the major station of united trains.
Eyes that stun, hair so curled and long,
A beauty from head to toe stands before me.
I look at her, she stares at me
The tears of past lives fall on our gave
As we lean in close to finally embrace.
A cosmo kind of feeling as lips meet
Soft and subtle, long yet sweet.
You fell in love and I now swept away
By your charm, your style, your grace.
A man of awkward persona; of untapped potential; of zero confidence was smitten
By a woman of charisma, talent and proud independence.
“I love her…and she loves me,” I thought as the city stars shined bright in our reality creating a lifelong dream.
A contingency of romance that was simply meant to be.