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Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  3 / 5
Recommendation: Easy romantic comedy film for those lazy days or heavy rainy days.

September 29th is celebrated as National Coffee Day here in United States. To honor that day I am posting a review on this 2011 Telugu (Indian) romantic drama film Kudirithe Kappu Coffee ( = One Coffee, If Possible!) starring Varun Sandesh and Suma Bhattacharya in the lead roles. This movie has become the launchpad for several film professionals - Yogeshwara Sharma - son of famed lyricist Sirivennala Seetha Rama Sastry - debuts as a music composer, Cinematographer Ramana Salva debuts as the director of the film and Suma Bhattacharya made her debut into Telugu film world with this movie.



The year before when I was doing my Magic In Tunes series, I had posted this Coffee Song from the 2014 Telugu comedy horror film Geethanjali. However I was not in a mood to watch a horror movie, albeit a comedy one, all by myself. So I ended up picking this romantic drama instead.

The plot begins with Venu's (portrayed by Varun Sandesh) friend committing suicide because of a failed love affair. He decided that he will not love anyone that will make him take his life and literally hates love. In a parallel line Lasya (portrayed by Suma Bhattacharya) is a student of hotel management and wants to make her granny's - Malathi (portrayed by Sukumari) - coffee shop a famous one. Malathi's coffee shop is at Dakshinagiri Hill Station in Andhra Pradesh. Incidentally the coffee shop is owned by Venu's father Giridhar (portrayed by Bhimaneni Srinivasa Rao). Knowing that it was not her son's but Giridhar's Malathi wants to return the ownership back to him. But she has a loan to pay to Mohan (portrayed by Tanikella Bharani) who also operates Decent Lodge in Dakshinagiri. In the midst of this Giridhar sends Venu to Dakshinagiri to take care of Malathi and the Coffee Shop, but not reveal his true identity. This begins the journey of Coffee between Lasya, Venu, Giridhar and Malathi through this Coffee Shop. Where will it lead them? How does it end? Will they love the Coffee they taste? Will they throw away the Coffee they get? Will Mohan finally take over the Coffee House? Who will end up owning the Coffee House in the end? Will Venu and Lasya fall in love eventually? Well, watch till the end to know it.

Varun Sandesh still looks like Chandu from his first film Happy Days that was released in 2007. His co-star Tamannaah who also had debuted in that film has gone places in the film world, while Varun Sandesh stayed behind. Perhaps his look need to be changed or he need to be more versatile or he may have to stop acting as a college goer anymore. Alas he seems to be stereo-typed into such roles. A budding talent remaining budding forever. Suma Bhattacharya is beautiful and pleasant to look at as long as she starts talking. Most of the times she comes off too loud. Her nature is also shown as very stubborn and childish - not a crowd pleaser nor appealing to watch for two hours on a big screen.

Although the movie starts as a normal family drama it takes on the theme of wedding / event planners, particularly the 2010 hit Hindi romantic comedy movie Band Baaja Baaraat ( = Band Music and Revelry)  that was based on wedding planners and their trials and tribulations - starring Anushka Sharma and Ranveer Singh. (More about that movie here)

The movie has caricatures of the characters with animation within the movie that reminded me of the 2004 hit Hindi romantic drama Hum Tum ( = Me and You) that had the similar presentation - comic characters Hum and Tum having their own animated sequences representing the relationship of the lead characters Karan and Rhea and their lives move. (More about that movie here) In this case however, the caricatures are shown depicting the dreams or thoughts of the characters.

Music is moderate but pleasant. For a beginner Yogeshwara Sharma has given decent music. The opening credits has a pleasant background score. Lyrics are penned by Sirivennala Seetha Rama Sastry and have been Sung by a myriad of singers - S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, Nihal, Ranjith, Balaji, Hamsika Iyer, M. M. Keeravani and Chitra. Among the songs the ones that I liked are - Srikaram (Sung by S. P. Balasubrahmanyam and Nihal) for the way the song was taken; excellent cinematography.



The title took a long while for me to figure out how it is related to with the plot. However there is a scene where the heroine explains how to enjoy coffee. It was created well enough that even a person like me who doesn’t drink coffee would like to pick up a cup at least once.

Simple plot, decent acting by the star cast. Comedy and Romance are melded well and balanced but lacks the impact of Drama. Locations are simply breathtaking. However with so many films plots mixed in the movie became routine and predictable. And the ending seemed a bit rushed up. A one-time watch movie for those boring days as there is nothing special to grip you to it and make it memorable.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Whatever the reason I picked this movie, whenever the word coffee I hear, and relate it to films, the following two always come to my mind. Why do I get them? Well, I have no clue. Perhaps they left a mark somewhere in my brain. :P
a. Anand, a 2004 Telugu drama film. The story is really sweet and so is the music. Just like the tag line says Manchi coffee lanti cinema meaning a movie as good as a cup of coffee. More on the film here
b. And this song Tere Sang Ek Simple Si Coffee from the 2003 Hindi action thriller film Zameen ( = Land). Sung by Hema Sardesi and K.K. the song was picturized on Abishek Bachchan and Bipasha Basu. Lyrics penned by Sameer and Music composed by Himesh Reshammiya. Like I say so many times, as long as Himesh doesn’t act or sing, his songs and movies are superb, over the top. :)

Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: Litigation and Corporate Espionage - a law that is broken so easily disrupting so many innocent lives that Grisham brings to page excellently.

The Associate is the 21st legal thriller by famed author John Grisham. It was published in January 2009. The plot revolves around a supposed rape and a firm that hires a lawyer to work against them. Sounds like a confusing plot or a familiar one? Well, read through the review to know more.



Five years after an alleged rape that was proved didn’t happen, Kyle L. McAvoy, is approached by four FB agents, two from Hartford, CT - Bob Plant and Nelson Edward Ginyard - and two others from Pittsburgh, PA and urge him to meet with Bennie Wright - the chief investigator of sex crimes from Pittsburgh, PA.  Upon meeting Bennie, Kyle is presented with a video taken on the day of the alleged rape that show three of his friends - Baxter F. Tate, Joseph N. Bernardo and Alan B. Strock - having sex with a very unconscious and sleepy Elaine Keenan. Although Kyle was not part of the act, he was sitting a few feet from the event supposedly passed out. Five years ago the case didn’t stick cause polices could not prove the rape - Elaine was supposed to have slept with every one of the Beta brothers; she filed the complaint five days after the incident; no rape-kit and above all no video that proved the rape. Now Wright and the FBI had the video. However, Kyle surmises that this is a shakedown because of Baxter Tate who being from a very rich family, and now Elaine has come up with a plan to shakedown and get profited.

After a gruesome interview with Wright, he reveals that Wright and the four people work for a firm who hire lawyers for their firm but vet out their past thoroughly and go to the extent of blackmail to hire the lawyers. Wright wants Kyle to take up the position at Scully & Pershing in the litigation department and bring him the documents of a certain case that is being fought between two major companies - Plaintiff being Tryon Aeronautics and Defendant being Bartin Dynamics. Despite his best interests, he takes the job to avoid the video to be released to public. Kyle has been working with kids with no dads or from bad homes from past two years as a coach to the Red Knights team, in the 12 and Under division of the winter league of New Haven Youth League. So, his friends, girlfriend Olivia and father John McAvoy are surprised and disappointed that he was not taking up the pro bono offer and turned coat for a bigger firm. This change certainly disrupts his life; alienates himself from his family and friends; under constant surveillance no matter how much he tried to avoid; under immense fear that he would be caught and above all the dread that the video might be leaked.

For Kyle irrespective of what Wright wants him to do, his biggest question was how did they get hold of the video? And who had taped? Was there anything else in it that Wright might have erased? Will any of his friends who were actually seen on the video help him? Or shun him and leave him to the vultures? With so much technology at hands of Wright, how will Kyle out-smart him? A parallel plot involving lives of Joey, Baxter and Elaine follows along. How does this end for Kyle and the others?

The setting is in Connecticut, especially near to the place I live, so the book added an additional charm for me to hold on to. :) The tale grips you till the end only to pale in the last few chapters. I would have loved to see a much more fitting ending for Kyle and some justice for all that he and his friends had to go through. However, this is exactly what might happen in real life compared to reel life. So, it may be indeed a fitting ending.

A fast-paced good read from John Grisham always, giving us insight into a different kind of law - Litigation and Corporate Espionage. Worth reading once or twice if you want.

Spoiler Alerts:
1) While writing about this review, when I googled for the novel, I came across a 1996 American comedy film of the same name (Link to the movie here). It starred Whoopie Goldberg, Dianne West, Eli Wallach and others.
a. Incidentally this 1996 film was a remake of the 1979 French film of the same name.
b. And the French film was based on Jenaro Prieto's 1928 novel The Partner.
c. I hadnt seen neither of the movies nor read the novel. But this is on my list now to read, watch and post review later.

2) Per wiki, John Grisham's novel is based in part on the case of a Las Vegas, Nevada man who as part of his Alcoholics Anonymous program, wrote a letter of apology to the girl whom he had raped at a fraternity party in University of Virginia in 1984. The man was charged for rape and had served six months jail time after the letter was received. Some justice perhaps to the girl even if it came nineteen years later and even if no one had believed her in the first place.
Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: Want to know how a heist is done and almost get away with it, here is a story from history that will turn your heads in million directions. Go for it.

The Great Train Robbery is a 1975 historical novel written by Michael Crichton. It is a fictionalized version of the Great Gold Robbery of 1855 - a massive gold heist that took place on a train during the Victorian-era England on May 22 1855.



The book doesn’t start with the robbery details alone but with an elaborate introduction on why this particular robbery was called "The Great Train Robbery" when the gold stolen was considerably small amount and also other robberies were much efficiently done around the same. A very interesting read it was. The book is split into five parts.

The First Part "Preparation" introduces us to Edward Pierce and his shady past, his reputation as a master cracksman, still posing as a gentleman in his upper-class acquaintances, but clearly showing us that he was well into an elaborate plan to pull off the greatest theft. With his partners in crime - Robert Agar aka The Screwsman (a specialist in keys and safe-breaking), Clean Willy aka The Snakesman (one who is adept at wriggling through small spaces) and Barlow (a thug with a scar across his forehead and serves as Pierce's cabby). Ironically Clean Willy infact dealt with always shady activities and the mysterious Miss Williams - together prep to the finest detail with regards to where the keys are that will help them unlock the safes where the gold bullions are being kept and transported. Mr. Henry Fowler - the general manager of the prosperous banking firm Huddleston & Bradford - becomes an unwitting accomplice in Pierce's plan, without his knowledge.

The Second Part "Keys" deals with Edward Pierce acquiring all the four keys he need to unlock the safes. In this process he courts the daughter of Mr. Edgar Trent - Miss Elizabeth Trent - the president of the bank; provides "fresh" meat to Mr. Henry Fowler; goes to the extent of hiring a skipper; staging a Carriage Fakement; snaffle a leopard; performs a Jolly Gaff and even acts like a drunken sod.

The Third Part "Delays and Difficulties" highlights the hurdles Mr. Pierce faces in executing his plan to steal the gold in the strongboxes - escaping clutches of Miss Elizabeth Trent; figuring our why the strongboxes were removed; avoiding the miltonians that were setup on him because of loud mouth Clean Willy; Give the Scotland Yard a different path to look at; minor hurdles that he resolves with a corpse - albeit undead still.

The Fourth Part "The Great Train Robbery" that takes place on May 1855 covers how Pierce and his associates orchestrate the robbery that they have been planning for a year now. Although the heist was a success, it wasn’t east for Pierce for he ended up looking like a dead-man covered in soot by the time the act was done.

The Fifth Part "Arrest and Trial" gives a finale to the heist with the arrest and trail. One would think that such a well-orchestrated heist would not be caught. Apparently one is wrong to think so. Almost a year and a half after the heist, the robbers get caught and put to trial.

Very interesting to learn so much about the Victorian-era England - the fashion of growing whiskers coming back; introduction of cigarettes; how the Victorian decoration of homes is filled with frills and tassels; traveling using dogcarts, tandems, broughams .and omnibuses; the sporting of dog fights and dog ratting; the beginnings of women not getting marries until very late and being well-educated; high-end prostitution that takes place in open air, formation of the Scotland Yard and its progression; the recognition of "white-collar crimes" although to a lesser extent. In contrast we get the glimpse of the beginnings of the slums in modern London that kept growing and growing.

The author through the narration gives a lot of history beyond every incident happens during the time that leads to the heist or every step that Edward Pierce takes in this elaborate robbery. That filled a lot of gaps and kept one glued to the plot. Amazing to see how Edward Pierce looks for every single detail and step to carry on this heist yet at times he becomes a little lax or neglect that perhaps causes his downfall in the end. Or perhaps from a very low-key link that he ignored against his gut feeling that brought him to trial.

Certainly a very interesting read of a great robbery that would form basis for many fictional stories and movies for years to come.
Spoiler Alerts behind the cut...Collapse )

Movie Critique 2016 – 09/26/2016: Dhund

Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  3.5 / 5
Recommendation: Murder, mystery, revenge, romance along with the drama of a court room - all mixed in one package to make a leisurely entertainment to the viewer.

Dhund ( = Fog) is a 1973 Hindi thriller produced and directed by B.R. Chopra and starring Sanjay Khan, Zeenat Aman, Navin Nischol and Danny Denzongpa in the lead roles. The film is based on Agatha Christie's play The Unexpected Guest - which was novelized by Charles Osbourne in 1999. (Check my review of it here)



On a foggy night Chandrashekhar (portrayed by Navin Nischol) walks into a nearby house to get help as his car hits a tree near to where the house was situated. He finds the dead body of Thakur Ranjit Singh (portrayed by Danny Denzongpa) in a wheelchair and Rani Ranjit Singh (portrayed by Zeenat Aman) is holding a gun in her hand. Rani tells Chandrashekhar that the dead man was her husband and that she had murdered him. Upon his pressure, she reveals how cruel Ranjit Singh was and Chandrashekhar stays to help her cover the crime so she doesn’t get caught, as it was an accidental death. However when the police investigation starts it goes totally in a different direction than what Chandrashekhar or Rani expected. Without their intention their cover-up ends up putting Advocate Suresh Saxena (portrayed by Sanjay Khan) as the prime suspect - who is also the secret lover of Rani. Who has killed Thakur Ranjit Singh for real? Was Rani really the murderer? How does Chandrashekhar happen to be at that same time in that house? Why is Chandrashekhar going all the way to help Rani? What is his hidden motive? What had caused Thakur to become so cruel? The plot continues with putting the viewer into a web of suspense and mystery, gluing them to their chairs, while the story unravels to answer all the questions.

Ashok Kumar, Madan Puri and Jagdish Raj have very important key roles in the film. Although I don’t remember reading any court scene in the book. The director perhaps added it to the movie to create an extension that otherwise is just implied in the story. Also the role of Banke Lal (portrayed by Deven Verma) - butler to Ranjit - is made a bit more comical than calculated as how the play portrays of Henry Angell. Several characters have extended scenes and additional characters are seen too.

The Music is composed by Ravi and Lyrics were penned by Sahir Ludhianvi. Playback Singing provided by Asha Bhosle, Mahendra Kapoor, Manna Dey and Usha Mangeshkar. The movie comes with somewhat good music but not memorable except for the songs "Sansar Ki Har Shae" on the opening credits sung by Mahendra Kappor and "Uljhan Suljhe Na Rasta Sujhe Na" Sung by Asha Bhosle





Although the book had left me with the crave for chase and thrill that wasn’t there, the movie was a bit better. Perhaps the extended scene of the court room added more meat to the hidden text of the play. Not sure if it was a hit back then, but watching on the small screen definitely kept me interesting to see how the case would be solved. It was also such a pleasure to watch a movie that had so much of Hindi and Urdu in it rather than the mixed language that we see now-a-days - more of English and less of Hindi. All in all not a bad movie that was well-made showing all the aspects of an Agatha Christie mystery.

Spoiler Alerts:
1) Sanjay Khan's name appears as Sanjay in the opening credits.
2) Note that in the first scene when Rani points out the room in which the locker with the money is in, you can see a picture frame against the door. But the very next scene when Chandrashekhar walks to the door, there is no picture frame. I wonder how it disappeared. :P





3) The end credits left a message not to reveal the plot to anyone. :)

Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: An easy read for a thriller and still charming enough to read it all the way through.

Daddy's Gone A Hunting as a Mary Higgins Clark mystery-thriller published on March 20, 2013. The plot revolves around a fire at one of the antique reproduction store in New York, a disappearance / kidnap that was more than 20 years old and how these two tie in together changing a few lives forever.



One early morning before even sun was up, Kate Connelly - the oldest daughter of Douglas "Doug" Connelly and a glamorous CPA - and Gus Schmidt - the last of the artisans who had been forced to retire from the Connelly Fine Antique Reproductions - meet at the plant. Kate wanted to show something to Gus and confirm her suspicions. However as they climb the stairs the entire plant that consisted of the factory, a showroom and a private museum explodes. Although Kate tries to grab Gus along with her and reaches just outside the backdoor, Gus dies in the explosion while Kate goes into a coma. Hannah Connelly - the youngest daughter of Doug Connelly - was in the process of getting her own designer label when the incident at the plant occurs.

The incident and the investigation brings light into the long ago boating accident in which they lost Doug's wife, his brother Connor and four close friends. Kate was 3 years old and Hannah was just 8 months when this had happened. The plant had been going down in the finances and profits for a while and Kate had been trying to get her father to sell it. However Doug was against it as he felt the land value will increase ten-fold and didn’t want to sell short. Had Kate found a helpful aid in Gus and together they had formulated a plan to blow the plant but were unsuccessful?

The only one who believes in the innocence of the Connelly Sisters was Hannah's best friend Jessica "Jessie" Carlson - a successful defense attorney - and is representing the sisters in case the Fire Marshalls and the Detectives build a case against Kate Connelly for arson and murder. Everyone had something to hide, and many had reasons to blow up the plant. But who did the honors? What was it that Kate had spoken to Doug in her unconscious situation that put a fear in Doug's mind?

In a parallel plot Mark Sloan - a young corporate real estate attorney - moves from Chicago to New York City not only to expand his horizon and try a new place new job, but also to see if the disappearance of his twenty-eight year old sister Tracey Sloan could be re-opened, even it has been twenty-eight years old cold case, and find a closure perhaps. For it was not just his mother - Martha Sloane - who was waiting for the closure, he had been too since he was eight years old. Incidentally he rents an apartment right above where Hannah Connelly lived. How is the fire at the Connelly Plant related to Tracey's disappearance that happened 20 years ago? What will Mark find out about his sister? What will the Detective Nick Greco - the one who was originally assigned to the case unearth now, although he is a retired detective now?

A third parallel story of the murder of Jamie Gordon - a college coed - that was never solved. She was murdered one night while she was working on her paper on street people. However, three weeks after she started the paper she disappeared only to be found a month later dead in East River. She had been strangled. Her father Lawrence Gordon had been keeping in touch with John Cruse - the assigned detective on the case - but it had been two years and the case had slowly gone cold. But was it? How is this murder related to the disappearance that occurred 20 years ago and the recent fire?

The Fire Marshals Frank Ramsey and Nathan Klein were assigned the case to investigate the fire. In the process they don’t hesitate to turn any stone or rattle any person. Some of the characters that the Fire Marshalls as well as retired Detective investigate as the plot proceeds are - Sandra Starling (an upcoming star who hooks up with Douglas Connelly in the hopes of him introducing her to famous directors and producers), Tom King (the owner of the restaurant - Tommy's Bistro - that Tracey had last worked before she had disappeared), Jack Worth (The plant manager), Rosemary "Rosie" Mass (The Connelly Sisters' Nanny when they were kids), Lottie Schmidt (Gus's wife), Gretchen Schmidt (Lottie and Gus's daughter), Dr. Ravi Patel (Kate's attending physician while she is in coma in the hospital), Russ Link (Who ran the plant in place of Doug Connelly until he retired five years ago), Celia Ramsey (Frank Ramsey's wife who becomes a key piece in the investigation), Steve and Annie Carlson (Jessie's parents), Clyde Hotchkins (a decorated Vietnam War Veteran who has been living on the streets since mid-1970s), Veronica Gordon (Jamie's mother), Justin Kramer (From whom Kate had bought the apartment) and Susan Connelly and Connor Connelly (Wife and Brother of Doug).

Uncommon to her previous books, there is a lot of repetition of text and context. Before you even finish the first 100 pages the disappearance of Tracey Sloan and the boating accident that happened so many years ago1 at least three times. I wonder why the author needed such repetition when she had never done so in her previous books. However the author does highlight about the post-traumatic stress disorder that war-veterans face and also the sufferings the street people face - albeit in a smaller scale. Around the time I reached the 45 chapter I kind of guessed who is behind the fire, but couldn't yet figure out what happened to Tracey or who killed Jamie.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) In the acknowledgement section, Mary Higgins Clark talks about her magazine titled "Mary Higgins Clark Mystery Magazine". Somehow I missed this tidbit about the author even though I had read so many books of her. Sadly the magazine had died after seven issues. I will have to find these magazines somewhere and read them for sure despite the failure.

2) For a change the title of this book comes from popular English nursery rhyme and lullaby "Bye, baby Bunting". The rhyme on its own didn’t create any chills but the usage of it in this book caused several chills up my spine and neck. The modern version was this one:

Bye, baby Bunting,
Daddy’s gone a-hunting,
Gone to get a rabbit skin
To wrap the baby Bunting in

However there is more to it and Wiki explains it so well here.

3) There is a 1969 film with the same title and is a thriller too. It starred Carol White, Paul Burke, and Scott Hylands. Having not watched the movie, am not sure if any of the movie's plot seeped through to this book some 44 years later. Adding to my list to watch and post review. :)

4) The character name Mark Sloan and the chemotherapy center, Sloan-Kettering, that Celia Remsey and Lottie Schmidt went to reminded me of the character Mark Sloan in the 90s comedy mystery medical drama on TV titled Diagnosis: Murder. Dick Van Dyke had starred as Dr. Mark Sloan. (More about the show here). I watch a few reruns on Hallmark Channel whenever they play.

5) The author mentions about the book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - a 1943 novel by Betty Smith. Hadn't heard about this book before but the excerpt shared in this book makes me think the book is a sad tale. Yet for some reason I am drawn to that book. Perhaps will read it soon.

6) The  beginning of Chapter 97 has a hospital scene which I distinctly remembering reading in another of Mary Higgins Clark's book. Can't seem to place a finger on it though.
Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: An easy read for a thriller and still charming enough to read it all the way through.

The Shadow of Your Smile is a thriller by Mary Higgins Clark published in April of 2010. This time around the author's plot revolves around a nun getting ready for the Beatification Ceremony and essentially will be titled a Saint herself, her miracle healing powers and a huge secret that could create scandals if revealed.



Olivia Morrow has just been told by her long-time friend and cardiologist Clay Hadley that she had little less than 3 weeks of life left. Her older cousin Sister Catherine has been famed for healing a child of brain tumor and was being considered as a candidate for beatification - essentially will be declared a saint. However Olivia knows her deep and darkest secret - Sister Catherine when was a young woman had given birth to a son in Ireland, then given him up before joining the religious order. Although now deceased, this secret could cause quite a scandal on Sister Catherine, as well as the Morrow family.

The son she had given up was adopted by the Farrells from Boston and named Edward. Now Edward's daughter Monica Farrell is the only one alive in that line - carrying the blood of Morrow family but the name of Farrell family. However Monica doesn’t know this family secret. The father of that child Edward, Alexander Gannon, had become a famous doctor, scientist and philanthropist. If Olivia brings this secret to light it would impact three families putting them in unknown turmoil and in a course of sensational scandal that could perhaps harm more than heal. Yet, Olivia is determined to let the secret out as she thinks that Monica Farrell is the rightful heir to all the legacy that Alex Gannon had left behind.

Monica Farrell is now a doctor at Greenwich Village Hospital. Although she believes in medicine, she doesn’t believe in miracles. However she is being called in to testify at the beatification of Sister Catherine about a patient whose brain cancer was cured after the parents crusaded on prayers to Sister Catherine. Monica was the one who had diagnosed the boy. Reluctantly she agrees to go and speak. In the meanwhile including Clay Hadley quite a few folks are nervous about Olivia revealing the secret. They take all the measures they can to stop her, even if it meant murdering both Olivia and Monica. But who is this "they"? Would they be successful? Will Olivia be able to reveal the secret? Will Sister Catherine get her beatification completed without any issues? Will Monica accept her past? In the meanwhile the SEC is investigating the Gannon Foundation. How will that pan out? What will it mean for the foundation and the dreams of Olivia having all that given to the rightful heir? But the tug of invisible war between Monica and the Gannon brothers doesn’t end just with the inheritance. The Gannon Foundation was reneging on the fund they were to give for children's foundation and now Monica was to face them to convince them. Will it be an opportunity to eliminate her permanently for the villains and blame it on the foundation?

Other characters that we meet as the plot proceeds are: Rita Greenberg (head nurse of the floor that Monica works at), Dr. Ryan Jenner (a neurosurgeon at Greenwich Village Hospital), Nan Rohodes (Monica's receptionist-book keeper), Sammy Barbar(the hitman), Dr. Douglas Langdon (who hires the hitman), Scott Alterman (ex-husband of Joy - Monica's best friend), John Hartman (A retired detective from district attorney's office and neighbor to Nan), Beatrice Tillman (Secretary to Dr. Douglas Langdon), Tony and Rosalie Garcia (The parents whose kid was treated of leukemia by Dr. Monica), Greg Gannon (Alex Gannon's nephew), Peter Gannon (Greg's brother) and Esther Chambers (Greg's secretary).

It frustrated me that Monica was being blind that someone was trying to attack her and foolishly things them as unfortunate accidents. Come on how foolish can someone be. Otherwise the entire plot has been enjoyable. Similar theme that Mary Higgins Clark follows in every book, yet keeps you gripping to the book. A powerful combination the author has picked - miracles and god mixed with sins and scandals.

Spoiler Alerts:
1) As always all of Mary Higgins Clark's book titles are also song titles. And this time it is  a popular song that was first introduced in the 1965 film The Sandpiper with a trumpet solo but later became a somewhat hit song for Tony Bennett. This song was also called as Love Theme from The Sandpiper. This has been sung by many other famous singers later like Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand and others Here is the Tony Bennett version:



Here is the one from the film The Sandpiper:



2) Some of the hot spots in New York and New Jersey that the author takes us through:
a. Neary's Pub on fifty-seventh street. (http://www.nearys.com/)
b. The Pierre Hotel, New York (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pierre)
c. The Hotel Elysee on E 54th Street (http://www.elyseehotel.com/)
d. St. Regis Hotel on 5th Avenue (http://www.stregisnewyork.com/)

3) Very interesting words have been used in the book, some very new for me:
a. Demitasse - meaning a small coffee cup
b. Hassock - meaning an upholstered ottoman or footstool
c. Trestle - an open cross-braced framework used to support an elevated structure such as a bridge
Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  5 / 5
Recommendation: Comedy, Satire, Life Lessons and a Powerful Message - all in one place here. Definite watch.

Trading Places is a 1983 American comedy film starring Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy. The plot line is a modern take on Mark Twain's classing The Prince and the Pauper, only in this version the roles are swapped between an upper-class commodities broker and a street hustler at the whims of two people who own a successful brokerage on a $1 bet. The movie had been nominated for several awards but the winners were Denholm Elliott and Jamie Lee Curtis won the Academy awards for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Actress in a Supporting Role that year.



This movie came into my mind while I was posting reviews of other movies. First one being for the 1940 American screw-ball comedy film His Girl Friday. Ralph Bellamy who plays the role of Randolph Duke in Trading Places played the role of Bruce Baldwin in this movie - fiancé to the lead actress. While Denholm Elliot portrays the role of Marcus Brody - a museum curator - in the Indiana Jones series although he played the butler to Louis Winthorpe III. Being mentioned several times in my reviews, I thought finally it was time to write about the movie in question.  So here it goes. Enjoy!

Brothers Randolph and Mortimer Duke (portrayed by Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche respectively) own a successful brokerage company in Philadelphia. One day they witness an altercation between Louis Winthorpe III (portrayed by Dan Aykroyd) - their managing director and also engaged to their grand-niece Penelope (portrayed by Kristin Holby) - and a street hustler Billy Ray Valentine (portrayed by Eddie Murphy), - who Winthorpe gets arrested for robbery. This incident brings up the long-standing argument between the two brothers - about nature vs nurture. They wage their "usual amount" in testing out their theories by swapping the lives of Winthorpe and Valentine. Overnight Winthorpe becomes a drug dealer, thief and a philanderer while Valentine becomes the managing director of the Dukes' brokerage company. In this conspiracy they are helped by Clarence Beeks (Paul Gleason) who also works for the Dukes in their security company. The rest of the plot revolves around how Winthorpe and Valentine realize the what the Dukes have done and how they take them down. Just like how the Dukes have allies, Winthorpe and Valentine find in Ophelia (portrayed by Jamie Lee Curtis) and Coleman (portrayed by Denholm Elliott).

The opening credits show the contrasting lives of the rich and the poor during the festival season watched over by the myriad of statues and art work around the city of Philadelphia. The basic theme of the plot is shown hidden behind the scenes. A lengthier one if I may say going upto approximately 4 mins. The background played in the background is from the The Marriage of Figaro (More about it here) - the opera's overture is played.



Both Winthorpe and Valentine are arrogant, bossy and self-centered in their own ways despite one coming from an educated upper-class side while the other coming from the streets. The swap in their lives teach them some lessons as well although almost comes at the cost of Winthorpe's life. Also shows the stark difference between how one who comes from everything takes everything from granted and how one comes from nothing appreciates when everything is given; again also shows that when one loses everything also starts appreciating them. Well-chosen cast, impeccable performances and the timing of comedy and drama fits seamlessly in the plot. Hidden behind the mask of comedy, what this movie profoundly shows is that everyone should be judged equally, no matter what race, color or status could be; prejudice is something everyone should put it aside.

All in all a movie filled with humor, satire and a deep-hidden powerful message. Thoroughly enjoyed it watching - time and again. :)
Spoilers behind the cut....Collapse )
Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  5 / 5
Recommendation: Craving for a family drama filled with emotions, humor and that touch of dark shade of humanity. Then this is what you have to watch.

DongaRamudu ( = Thief Named Ramudu) is a 1955 Telugu ( = South Indian Language) family-drama film directed by Kadiri Venkata Reddy. The movie had Akkineni Nageswara Rao aka ANR, Savitri, Januma and Jaggaiah in the lead roles.



This was also the first movie for the production house Annapurna Pictures (P) Ltd and established the production house as a top one. Not only being a blockbuster for that period, the movie is now archived in the curriculum of the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune for its excellence in filmmaking.



This post is dedicated to a friend who is an ardent fan of the veteran South Indian actress Savitri. :) I remember that while watching the movie, he could not control his anxiety and forwarded to the next scenes - especially those that Savitri was in dire situations - and then rewinded so we could all watch again. I probably watched this movie more than once at the same time - if that even makes sense to you. :P Yet, thoroughly enjoyed it.

The basic plot revolves around Ramudu (portrayed by ANR) and his sister Lakshmi (portrayed by Jamuna). As a child Ramudu is famous for telling lies, doing petty thieveries, and small scale gambling - all to take care of his sister and his mother. Their mother Subbamma (portrayed by Hemalatha) has a wak heart and dies of heart-attack when Ramudu gets arrested for pick-pocketing in the attempt to get money for his mother's medicines. Their school teacher, Mastaru, (portrayed by Vangara Venkata Subbaiah) takes Lakshmi into an orphanage while Ramudu is put in jail as a child criminal (juvenile delinquent). Ramudu gets released from jail as an adult but when he comes to know that his mom had died and sister is in an orphanage the details of which no one knows, dejected he goes back to city for a job. He lands a job as a servant to the local money lender, Veerabhadraiah’s (portrayed by Relangi Venkata Ramaiah). He eventually gets reunited with his sister Lakshmi. However his passion to get everything what his sister wants lands him into troubles more than he could imagine.

As the plot proceeds, we get introduced to Savitri - who becomes Ramudu's lead heroine Seeta - Jaggaiah - who becomes the lead actor Dr.Mohan for Jamuna - and Rajanala Nageswara Rao - who is the anti-hero Babulu and covets to have Seeta for himself. The story continues with all these give lives intertwined, pushing and pulling them through the whirlpool of human emotions and actions.

Finger flute Donga Ramudu garu - The nickname that his teacher gives me for a young Ramudu for his nature to tell tales, do ill-deeds and also do minor thievery, also to keep playing the harmonica. The narration through the story in the background is given by Jaggaiah at key places in the story. Suryakantam, Allu Ramalingaiah and Relangi are all equal aged to ANR, Savitri, Jaggiah and Jamuna. Yet they portray the roles of older men and women seamlessly. The movie created several catchy phrases that even live today. For instance, usage of "gas" meaning speaking nonsense; dialogue by R. Nageswara Rao "Babulu gaadi debba ante Golconda abba anali"; have become quite famous.

Every character had played their part to the T, with the timing of comedy, romance and thrills perfectly tuned. The movie also has a memorable Sound Track composed by Pendyala Nageshwara Rao and Sung by Ghantasala, Jikki and P. Susheela. Lyrics were all penned by Samudrala Raghavacharya. Popular songs being - Chigurakulalo Chilakamma Chinnamata Vinaravayya, Bhale Tatha Mana Bapuji Balala Tatha Bapuji, Anuragamu Virisena O Re Raja and Raroyi Maa Intiki Maatunnadi Manchi Maatunnadi.



The movies of that era shows so much reality to the scenes or characters. For instance a poor class family is shown exactly how they live. This is so not in the movie industry now. Even a poor class family can afford amenities that are way beyond their paychecks. Perhaps the black and white picturing made it easier to depict the poorness or richness of the character aptly. Yet, I feel that difference very stark as the era of films progress.

The story of a brother who goes to any extent to fulfill the dreams of his sister is pictured beautifully. However, how one's actions change life's course or face repercussions are also depicted. A well-made movie with human morals and ethics blended in with romance, humor and a dash of mystery.  Every minute entertaining and enjoyable yet striking a chord that resonates deep inside one's heart and mind.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) This film was remade in Tamil (another South Indian Language) as Thiruttu Raman around the same time. Couldn’t find much about this on Wiki but only few songs on You Tube. Savitri and ANR retained their roles. The sound track had the same tunes and singers as the Telugu version, but Lyrics were penned by two different lyricists - Kannadasan and Kanaga Surabhi.
2) Per Wiki: The story plot was based on the American short story Loving Brothers that the Producer D. Madhusudhana Rao recollected reading it in an anthology. Although I could not find any story of this title so far in my searches.
3) ANR is shown smoking a cigarette but in real-life he never smoke nor drank even socially.



4) Suryakantam for a change has a very softer role as Relangi's wife.

Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a TV Show review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: A court room drama that not only entertains you but also gets you justice - so far.

Season 13 of NCIS - hit CBS series NCIS based on a fictional team of special agents working for Naval Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) investigating crimes involving U.S. Navy and Marine Corps from Washington, D.C. location - saw us Special Agent Anthony Dinozzo leaving the show. Michael Weatherly who played this role had been on from the first episode on that show. And he had made the character Tony Dinozzo his alter-ego so perfectly that when his new show Bull was announced, I wasn’t sure if I would like it or not. Well, here is my take on the new CBS show Bull.

Bull is a TV show on CBS network that premiered on September 20, 2016 starring Michael Weatherly. The show is a comedy-drama based on the early days of the talk show host Phil McGraw when he was a trial consultant. I am not a huge fan of Phil McGraw, especially his egotistic show Dr. Phil. However, for the sake of Michael Weatherly I watched this show. The plot revolves around the employees of Trial Analysis Corporation - a jury consulting firm - headed by Dr. Jason Bull, a psychologist and "trial science" expert. The expertise of this firm and Bull is to select the right juror for his clients and also to use the type of arguments that will win jurors on his client's side.



Although the show is based on early life of Dr. Phil, they are set in current era with all kinds of modern technology and equipment. I wonder if any of the cases had any bearing on the real cases that Dr. Phil had been part of back then. The first episode opens with the public opinion that how rich and influential people manipulate the law and justice to their benefit. How true is this quote by one of the persons "Rich People don’t play by the same rules".

The opening credits aren't show until after the first break and they aren't very dramatic either. Very simple and plain making us to focus more on the star cast rather than their actual names. Interesting theme. Also a lot of the story plot around the victims and the culprits are shown as bits and pieces if news and social media entries and pictures overlapping the actual scene. That is a different kind of depiction that I didn’t see in many TV shows either.

Michael Weatherly is introduced rather in a very simple way than a big bang. Low-key perhaps is the key to get him noticed. :P



The first episode has been really interesting and ended well. Made me happy that Bull not only got the suspect acquitted but also caught the actual culprit of the crime. I would definitely watch the remaining series and hope this gets renewed. Not because of Dr. Phil but just for the sake of watching Michael Weatherly on the small screen. :)

Spoiler Alerts:

1) NCIS had Gibb's Rules all the time. Michael perhaps couldn’t get out of Tony's characters cause he has Bull's Rules for his character Dr. Jason Bull. And the way he asks "How do I get invited to a high school party?" reminds me of Tony too.

2) Frederick Weller portrays the role of Pete Peters - the father of Brandon Peters the suspect. But I remember him as Deputy U.S. Marshall Marshall Mann from USA TV show In Plain Sight. (The left-most guy in the pic).

Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a TV Show review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 5 / 5
Recommendation: Absolutely if you are a fan of Armed Forces and solving crimes. This is a packaged deal that gives you best of both worlds.

A while ago I posted about the thirteenth season of the hit CBS series NCIS based on a fictional team of special agents working for Naval Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) investigating crimes involving U.S. Navy and Marine Corps from Washington, D.C. location. I had mentioned then that the Season ended with Special Agent Anthony Dinozzo saying good bye to the show.

On September 20th 2016, Season 14 of this show started and without having Michael Weatherly as the Anthony Dinozzo in it. I was skeptical to watch it for so long that I had recorded the episodes and watched them after. Frankly the first few episodes was hard to watch without Tony, felt like something was being missed. However the new cast slowly started fitting in perfectly like a puzzle finished.



Senior Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs gets two agents this time in place of one to replace Tony - clearly shows how big of shoes had Tony left that it needed two agents to fill the shoes. Jennifer Esposito and Wilmer Valderrama join the cast as Special Agents Alexandra "Alex" Quinn and Nicholas "Nick" Torres.





Mcgee gets finally promoted to Senior Special Agent. And the rest of the cast from the previous seasons continue although Duane Henry gets promoted to main cast with this season. He had played the role of MI6 Senior Officer Clayton Reeves in Season 13 and worked with NCIS in cases that crossed borders between US and England.

Pauley Perrette as Abby Sciuto, Forensic Specialist attached to NCIS
Emily Wickersham as Ellie Bishop, Special Agent
Brian Dietzen as Jimmy Palmer, Assistant Medical Examiner
Rocky Carroll as Leon Vance, Director of NCIS
David McCallum as Donald "Ducky" Mallard, Chief Medical Examiner

The team grows to 7 as opposed to 4 from this season. For the first few episodes the movie references and quotes that Tony used to give seems like the job has been taken up by Mcgee and Bishop now. Perhaps the director of the show wanted to keep the transition of not having Tony on the show smoother and yet not to completely showing a void.

All in all the show came along pretty good with the new cast. Yet I do miss Tony still.

Spoiler Alerts:
1) Captain Roberts from JAG TV show reprises the role here in the first episode.



2) Timothy McGee shows a paperback - a mystery nogel - that he currently carries when Agent Quinn talks about what she remembers from his training days -she is the training instructor for all probies at FLETC. He is incidentally carrying a book titled The Burning Soul by John Connoly. If Mcgee likes it then I guess I have to read it then. :P
Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here
For review of all books in this series: Go here

Stars: 3 / 5
Recommendation: If you want an easy and quick murder mystery pick it up and you will enjoy it.

Madison Avenue Shoot is the 31st book in the Murder, She Wrote series by Donald Bain and fictional writer Jessica Fletcher based on the popular TV Show of the same name. The book was published in March of 2010. The time around the plot is set in New York but with the added pleasure to see Grady Fletcher and his family along with Jessica.



Jessica Fletcher arrives in New York City from her book tour in Chicago for a bit of business and a bit of pleasure. Business being with regards to her upcoming book while pleasure being meeting her nephew Grady Fletcher, his wife Donna Fletcher and their son and Jessica's grandnephew Frank - named after Jessica's long-ago passed away husband. Grady is now working for a company that deals with accounting for production companies as well. One of the company is Eye Screen is shooting a commercial in a week. And Grady ropes in to have Jessica be in on their shoot for the international credit card Permezzo - despite Jessica's protests. And then Jessica comes to know that Matt Miller, her literary agent, was getting a new client - Anne Tripper - who was one of the other celebrities in the commercial. Was Matt spearheading this commercial? Or was he just having two of his authors in that? What is he hiding or gaining by this? Anne is using the commercial to promote her new book which even Matt doesn’t have an idea about it. What is that plot based on? Another expose?

As everyone was settling in the making of the commercial, Grady finds out that his company has not been paying Mindbenders their paychecks as it should be. He is trying to dig through it and sort it out, but Jessica worries that something bad was going to happen to Grady - like as always. While everything seems to be going well despite the pressure Grady was in, and Frank having fun at the set, surprisingly Jessica too, Jessica and Grady find the body of Betsy Archibald - who was rather rude and loud with everyone. In the midst Frank goes missing and Grady is taken to the police station suspected of murdering Betsy Archibald. Jessica is again in thick of it - this time not only to solve the murder but to find her grand-nephew Frank and free Grady of the suspicion. Quite a set has Jessica landed into - literally. Detective Chesny along with Officer Rubins and Officer Lasker are assigned on the case. But that doesn't deter Jessica one bit.

Some of the fun characters we get to meet as the plot proceeds along are - Michele (Italian neighbor and friend to Frank), Carl (Grady's boss), Anne Tripper (Author of industry exposes), Stella Bedford aka Cookie (who hosts a cooking show on TV as well as has her own cookbooks), Lance Sevenson (a TV mystic who hosts his own show as well), Matt Miller (Jessica's literary agent), Betsy Archibald (Chief Creating Officer for Mindbenders company who are doing the commercial for Permezzo), Kip (one of the creative artist at Mindbender), Antonio Tedeschi (Permezzo's President and Chief Marketing Officer), Jimbo Barnes (Stella's manager), Daniel Howerstein (Producer of the show), Jason and Lucy (Production Assistants), Lena (Lance's assistant), Kevin Prendergast (one of the principals of Mindbenders), Alice Evans (another production assistant), Dave Fitzpatrick (Second assistant director) and Adam Akmanian (The director of the commercial). As always Jessica is supported by her friendly Cabot Cove neighbors - Dr. Seth Hazlitt and Robin Stockdale (drama teacher at the high school).

Who killed Betsy Archibald? What was the expose Anne Tripper going to reveal in her new book? Has that any bearings with the murder? Where did Frank disappear off to? Had he witnessed any murder? Was the killer his kidnapper? The rest of the plot continues on how Jessica unravels the mystery.

The author has cleverly extended the Fletcher family by introducing to the son of Grady Fletcher. In the TV Series we see Grady getting married and also has a child but the series ends with Frank being a months baby. Nice to see the next generation with this plot. I also liked the fact that the author through Jessica talks about changing in what the norm is. For instance - Putting the phone on vibrating mode at dinner table is the preferable choice by Jessica as opposed to what the folks are doing now.

Another successful mystery by Jessica with the right elements to keep you interested and hooked to the book.

Spoiler Alerts:


1) I wonder in which book Jessica no longer had a residence in New York. This book claims that she doesn’t live in NYC any more.
2) Interesting to see an actual script in the plot, albeit it is for the show only. :)
3) Jessica wonders if children screamed for ice cream with this little rhyme "I Scream, You Scream, We all scream, for Ice cream". Not to worry Jessica, my nephews do that now so it’s a legend being passed down. :)
4) Jessica mentions about a time when she was in France on an extended holiday but ended up being a working holiday as she tries to solve the murder of the chef of the cooking school. The plot is covered in the 17th book Provence - To Die For, which I am yet to read.
5) Jessica also talks about her trip to British Columbia and ended up solving a case. This plot is covered in the 20th book Destination Murder which I am yet to read.
Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all movies in this series: Go here

Stars:  5 / 5
Recommendation: Wanna go an adventure. Well, hop on aboard and strap your belts, for this is going to be a fun-ride.

The last installment in the Indiana Jones series of movies was this 2008 blockbuster Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, release 19 years after the third installment - Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. Harrison Ford reprises the role and so does Karen Allen as Marian Ravenwood - Indie's former lover. Shia LaBeouf joins the cast as Indie and Raven's son Mutt Williams, while Cate Blanchett plays the enemy as Irina Spalko.



The plot is set in 1957, nineteen years after Indie's escapades in The Last Crusade, and begins with Indie and his partner George "Mac" McHale kidnapped and taken to "Warehouse 51" aka Area 51 by the Soviet agents under Colonel Dr. Irina Spalko, to locate an alien mummified corpse that US had recovered 10 years earlier. Mac reveals then that he was a double agent working for the Soviets. He escapes but fails to retrieve the corpse that Dr. Spalko gets away with. He escapes into Doomtown - a model town in Nevada Test Site - just before an atomic bomb test occurs. He escapes that in a lead-lined refrigerator but is taken by FBI. General Ross however vouches for him and gets him freed from FBI but is put on an indefinite Leave of Absence from Marshall College. What was in that steel box that Dr. Spalko had taken? Why were the Russians after it?

As Indie is ready to leave America to London, Mutt Williams approaches him with information that Harold Oxley had found a crystal skull in Peru and has suffered a mental breakdown but was kidnapped along with his mother who had sent him a letter with the details and tasked him to take help of Indie in finding them. Indie explains that the legend of crystal skulls is found in Akator and that if that crystal skull is returned by anyone to Akator they would gain powers. Mutt and Indie are interrupted by KGB and they escape from the Marshall College and reach Peru where Oxley had been in a psychiatric ward. Oxley's ramblings on the walls lead them to the grave of Francisco de Orellana - a Conquistador who was lost searching for Akator. They are kidnapped by Mac and the Soviets and taken to their camp in Amazon where they meet with Oxley and Mutt's mother Marion Ravenwood. Indie comes to know that Mutt is his and Marian's son Henry Jones III. Thus continues the quest of the Jones family along with Oxley, Mac and the Soviets in search of this city of Crystal Skulls.

Despite being part of the franchise, I was a little disappointed with the routine and boredom in the plot at places. However Harrison Ford definitely made me glued to the chair. Shia may not be the right choice for the role as he reminds me so much of Sam Witwicky from the Transformers series - the first in that series being released a year prior to this film. He still carried the shadow of Sam into the role of Mutt.

Jim Broadbent plays the role of Charles Stanforth - the dean of Marshall College - as a stand-in for Marcus Brody's character. Denholm Elliot who originally had played the role of Marcus Brody had passed away in 1992. We see a picture of Marchus and Indie's father on Indie's desk.







Psychic Research, Treasure Hunt, Paranormal Military Application, Ancient Skulls and Legends, like father like son in Indie and Mutt and finally the on and off romance between Indie and Marion - all ingredients for a perfect formula of an Indiana Jones film. The age doesn’t count at all when Harrison Ford is playing the role of Indiana Jones. He keeps up with Shia equally. True to his quote he uses in the first film Raider of the Lost Ark, "it's not the years, it's the mileage".

Spoiler Alerts behind the cut...Collapse )
Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all movies in this series: Go here

Stars:  5 / 5
Recommendation: Wanna go an adventure. Well, hop on aboard and strap your belts, for this is going to be a fun-ride.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is a 1989 American action-adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg. This is the third film of the four movies produced under the Indiana Jones film franchise, albeit this forms the sequel to the first movie Raiders of the Lost Ark that was released in 1981. Sean Connery plays Indiana's father - Henry Jones Sr. - in this movie. The plot revolves around Indiana Jones trying to rescue his father Henry Jones Sr. from the clutches of Nazis who are looking for a Holy Grail that his father has been researching on. Beginning of the plot is set in 1912 with a young Indiana Jones and the rest of the plot is set in 1938 - two years after the first movie was set in.



The plot opens with a teenager Indiana Jones doing horseback riding with his Boy Scout troop in Arches National Park, Utah in 1912. He comes across some diggers who find a golden crucifix belonging to Coronado. He steals it and takes it back to his town to give it to his Sherriff traveling through a Circus Train. But the Sherriff hands over the crucifix to the owner who had commanded the dig. However that experience gives Jones his fascination to bullwhips, scar underneath his chin, aversion to snakes and also a fedora from the diggers leader who encourages him to continue the adventures.

The movie fast forwards to 1938 where Indiana Jones is taking the crucifix again back from that person and barely escaping with it. Back at home, is approached by Walter Donovan - an American businessman - to search for the Holy Grail, the expedition that his father Henry Jones Sr. was leading but has disappeared now. In the meanwhile Indiana receives a journal from his father with all his research about Holy Grail - which leads Indiana to think that his father was in danger else he would not have parted with it. Indy agrees to Walter's proposal and taking Marcus and the half tablet that had inscription of the whereabouts of the Holy Grail with him he travels to Venice. There he meets with Dr. Elsa Schneider. Together they go into the catacombs under the library and discover the tomb of a First Crusade knight, which also contains a complete version of the inscription revealing the location of the Grail. However the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword, a secret society that protects the Grail from evildoers, set the catacombs on fire. Indy and Elsa barely escape the fire. Thus the adventure to find his father and the Holy Grail.

During this adventure, Indiana Jones encounters his share of trials and troubles some by his enemies and some by his allies, and also faces some historical moments - Kazim (one of the member of the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword who helps him in the search for his father), Sallah (his old friend who had helped him in Cairo in the first movie), be part of the book burning rally by the Nazis to save the diary, accidentally meets Adolf Hitler and gets his signature on his dad's journal,



ride aboard a Zeppelin, escape a dogfight with the Luffwaffe (aerial warfare of Germany), Sultan of Hatay (who allow the Nazis free reign in his area in exchange for a Rolls Royce Phantom II), SS Colonel Ernst Vovel (working for Nazis).

Interestingly enough Sean Connery is shown briefly as a partial profile in the beginning of the film, then as a snapshot photograph a little while after.



However he doesn’t really come on screen until at least an hour into the film.





And this movie does not have a love interest for Indy - albeit Elsa manages to seduce him briefly. This makes a lot sense when one sees the fourth episode of this franchise where Indy gets reunited with his love / wife Marion Ravenwood. It was pretty funny to see the goofy side of Sean Connery after seeing the tough side as a James Bond.

What a treat to one's eye - Harrison Ford and Sean Connery sharing screen space is definitely one. I feel this was better than the first two of this series and I had much fun watching it. The chemistry between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery is superb. A very thoroughly enjoyed adventure this time along.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Denholm Elliot reprises the role of Dr. Marcus Brody - Indiana's colleague - similar to what he was in the first film Raiders of the Lost Ark.

2) River Phoenix - older brother of  Rain Phoenix, Joaquin Phoenix, Liberty Phoenix and Summer Phoenix - plays the role of young Indiana Jones. He also portrayed the son of Harrison Ford in the 1986 film The Mosquito Cast. Sad that he died at a very young age of 23 with drug overdose. Fame and fortune at a young age always brings bad company closer unless you are smart and have good help around. Nonetheless another movie that I have for a future blog post.

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all movies in this series: Go here

Stars:  3 / 5
Recommendation: Certainly an adventure but not a fun one to watch human depravity and violence.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a 1984 American action-adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg. This is the second film of the four movies produced under the Indiana Jones film franchise, albeit this forms the prequel to the first movie Raiders of the Lost Ark that was released in 1981. The film created a lot of controversy mainly because of its projection of Hinduism and India. It was also criticized for the amount of violence shown for an action-adventure film.



A year before Indiana Jones was recruited by the Army intelligence agents to hunt for the Ark of Covenant, Jones meets with Lao Che in Shanghai, China. He narrowly escapes from his clutches  along with the Diamond he had come to retrieve, his 11-year old Chinese sidekick Short Round and the nightclub singer Willie Scott in Lao Che's plane but loses his friend to Lao Che's bullet. However, the pilots dump its fuel and parachute out letting it crash into the Himalayas. Jones again narrowly escape the crash along with Short Round and Willie on an inflatable float and float ashore a desolate village, Mayapore, in northern India.

The Shaman of the village and the people think that Lord Siva sent Indiana Jones and his two friends to the village to help them in retrieving their Sivalinga which is currently being held in the Pankot Palace. Along with the stone, the village's children are also stolen by the evil forces residing in the Palace. Being an adventurer and also an empath, Indiana Jones takes it upon his shoulders to bring back the sacred stone as well as children to the villagers, despite Willie and Short Round's objections. Thus continue Jones's adventures along with its share of hurdles and villains.

Their adventures introduce them to Chattar Lal - Prime Minister of Pankot Palace, Maharajah Zalim Singh - a young boy crowned King and Mola Ram - Thugee priest who practices the rituals of human sacrifice as part of the Thugee cult. Wilhelmina "Willie" Scott is a spoiled American night club dancer stuck in Shanghai, China. She poses as a damsel in distress to Indiana Jones as she gets forced to get tagged along with him from China to the Himalayas. Kate Capshaw has played it to the mark. However, no matter how much I research I could not find which other film I saw her in.

Although a well-made plot with it's comic relief and appropriate villains, this particularly did not show my birth country in a positive light. The country I come from has thousands and thousands of centuries of history, tradition and culture that one cannot explain in one's lifetime. What one calls superstition was perhaps the only way to make common man listen to and follow the unknown and unexplainable in the past when education was only spread mouth to mouth rather than through script. And yes there have been those evil folks who have twisted these to their benefits. It pained to see my country projected thus. Yet to be fair there are cities in that state even now where beliefs and customs are twisted. So also has every country in the world - both rich and poor side-by-side. The banquet served to Jones and company by the Maharajah has weird and bordering on grotesque with all kinds of animal meats and insects on the table. I believe the director mistook the Indian culture with African tribal culture. Definitely the food served would not be a common palate in India as far as I know. That is the only negative side of the film I could write about. If not that it is a thoroughly enjoyable movie.

A bold movie with the dark side of humanity along with fun depicted so seamlessly that it glues me to my sofa no matter how many times I watch it. Indeed a lesser likeable than the first one, yet it has the adventure that makes you watch. The CGIs are also not so effective as the first film had. All in all a good enough movie to watch at your leisure.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) The screenplay for this film is loosely based on the 1939 American action-adventure film Gunga Din.
2) Amrish Puri portrays the role of Mola Ram. Although his character is named after a 17th century Indian Painter (More about that painter here), his getup reminds me so much of Mogembo - his role from the 1987 hit Indian film Mr. India.



3) Roshan Seth who portrayed the role of Chattar Lal in this movie also portrayed as Jawahar Lal Nehru in the 1982 hit biographical film Gandhi. But I remember him mostly as Jawahar Lal Nehru in the 1988 53-episode Doordarshan (Indian TV Channel) Series Bharat Ek Khoj. I used to watch these episodes as it would show history, heritage and culture of India. (More about the show here)
4) Although the movie was about India, it was shot mostly in Sri Lanka and London as India had not agreed to be shot for such a violent and dark script.
Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all movies in this series: Go here.

Stars:  5 / 5
Recommendation: Wanna go an adventure. Well, hop on aboard and strap your belts, for this is going to be a fun-ride.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is a 1981 American action-adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg. This is the first film of the four movies produced under the Indiana Jones film franchise. The plot is about Indiana Jones - an archeologist, a professor and an adventurer - fighting the Nazis in the search of the Ark of Covenant, which Adolf Hitler is also looking for as he thinks it would make his army invincible. The movie is set in 1936.



The plot opens with Indiana Jones acquiring a golden idol in Peru but gets confronted by his rival archeologist Rene Belloq, hands over the idol and escapes him and the Hovito people in a floatplane. Later he is approached by the two Army intelligence agents that the Nazis are searching for his old professor Abner Ravenwood as he is the expert on the ancient city of Tanis in Egypt and also that he has the head piece of the Staff of Ra. Jones deduces that the Nazis are looking for the Ark of Covenant and they need the Staff of Ra to get the location of the Well of Souls below which is the Ark hidden. The agents commission Jones to intercept the Nazis in finding the Ark.

However Jones need help of Marion Ravenwood, daughter to Abner Ravenwood as he discovers that Abner is dead and the headpiece is in her possession. Marion thwarts his attempts to acquire the headpiece and shuns him away. A little while later Arnold Toht, Nazi commander, arrives and threatens her to give the headpiece. Jones comes in time to rescue her, the headpiece but burns down her tavern. Jones and Marion escape with the headpiece to Cairo while Toht leaves with the impression of one side of the headpiece on his hand as he tried to hold a heated piece.

Thus the adventure of Marion and Jones along with their friend Sallah continues in Cairo, where they find the Ark, seize it from under the noses of Nazis and take it back to America. Of course the adventures are not without troubles and perils. What a wonderful adventure it is that takes us all through it along-side Indiana Jones, making you part of it albeit you are only just a viewer. Steven Spielberg was and is a master of imagination and creation.

I always wondered why Harrison Ford was never casted as James Bond. After watching this series again plus the Star Wars series (the reviews of which will be coming up soon), made me wonder if he was too much famed as Han Solo and Indiana Jones that he didn’t have space for a James Bond in himself. I wish there was a real answer for this rather than me guessing.

There are scenes that show adventure and romance in a subtle way in the movie that captures the hearts of romantics and the adventurers at the same time.






All in all a well-made movie that takes one on an unforgettable adventure.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) The made-to TV movie series "The Librarian and…" and the TV show based on these movies The Librarians must have been based on this Indiana Jones franchise too. That series and movies reminded me of these movies so much. There are so many parallels.
2) Denholm Elliot portrays the role of Marcus Brody - a museum curator - in here. When I saw this movie it reminded me of his role in Trading Places (the review of which is coming soon too).
3) Remember the scene where Indiana Jones goes into the secret chamber where Ark is kept and where there are thousands and hundreds of snakes littered on the floor. That very exact scene is used in one of Chiranjeevi's - Telugu film actor (Indian) - old movies. I fail to remember the movie though. It could be the 1986 Veta ( = Hunt) but I have to watch to confirm.



4) Snake is my element and I have always been wary of them. Seeing so many definitely creeped me out.
5) John Rhys-Davies portrays as Sallah, "the best digger in Egypt" in this movie. However I remember his role as General Leonid Pushkin in quite a few of James Bond movies.
6) A TV series titled The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles aired on ABC from 1992 thru 1996 - some as episodes and some as made-to-TV movies. (More about it here). I havent watched this one, but something on my list to watch for and post about in future.
7) Alfred Molina stars as Satipo - Jones' guide through South American jungle - in this film in his debut role. I remember him best for his role as  Dr. Otto Octavius (Doctor Octopus) in the 2004 American superhero film Spider-Man 2.
Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here
For review of all books in this series: Go here

Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: So you like the Gods and Wars, the underworlds and aboveworlds, then this is another trilogy that you don’t want to miss.

The Serpent's Shadow is a 2012 fantasy adventure novel by Rick Riordan. It is the third and final installment in The Kane Chronicles trilogy. The series is in a narrative format recorded on a tape by two siblings Carter Kane and Sadie Kane chronicling their adventures. The narration continues in the third part too. As with the first part the author does have a disclaimer at the beginning of the book about this being a transcript of the second audio recording sent by the Kane siblings.



From the first two books we know that 14-year old Carter Kane and his 12-year old sister Sadie Kane are descended from the powerful ancient Egyptian pharaohs  Narmer and Ramesses the Great. They are also hosts to Egyptian Gods Horus (by Carter) and Isis (by Sadie). The other three Gods - Osiris (hosted by Julian Kane, the siblings father), Nephthys (Zia Rashid hosts her) and Set are also out now. Apophis - The Serpent of Chaos - tries twice to get out of his prison and unleash Chaos in this world unbalancing the Ma'at causing the destruction of world and worlds alike. They have awaken Ra - the Sun God - and made him the leader of gods dethroning Horus. Not all gods were pleased about it nor the magicians agree that Amos will be the Chief Lector now. No matter how good the change is and the path taken by Kane Family is the right one, they have a long road ahead before they can unify the Gods and Magicians. In the meanwhile Apophis is working on coming back again. Let's see where the third book takes these brave siblings.

Ever since Apophis has escaped from the Underworld prison, even though he had been execrated by Desjardins, he has been attacking the peaceful Nomes all-over the world and gradually causing Chaos. Although everyone expected him to do a full-blown attack. Now the Kane siblings, Walt Stone, Alyssa, Felix, and Khufu reach the Fifty-first Nome in Dallas, Texas ruled by JD Grissom. They are trying to save the Nome by taking away the copy of The Book Of Overcoming Apophis whose copies Apophis has been systematically destroying while demolishing those Nomes. At the very last minute when they try to take the book, Apophis attacks. Although Sadie manages to create Ma'at to counterbalance the Chaos he is creating, Apophis doesn’t leave before he completely demolishes that Nome as well and burns away the copy leaving the Kane siblings and their team with a Golden Box. The box contains the Shadow of King Tut, but how is that helpful in their quest? How can they find a way to defeat Apophis? Meanwhile Zia is babysitting the senile an demented recently awaken Ra and also Amos is fighting off the attack on them through the hoard of magicians who have considered the Kanes and anyone supporting them as traitors. They get unexpected help from Leonid - the Russian magician who had helped them at the Hermitage Museum in the previous episode - although they trust him a bit less as he belonged to Vladimir Menshikov's nome. Yet, they take his help who tells them that Sarah Jacobi and her followers are looking to attack the First Nome in Egypt.

Apart from the folks that we are introduced to by Carter and Sadie in the first and second part, a few more that we get to see with this installment - Anne (wife of JD Grissom, another magician herself), Julian (one of the trainees under the Kane Siblings), Paul (one of the trainees under the Kane Siblings), Shelby (one of the ankle-biters - youngest trainees), Setne (The legendary magician and author of The Book of Overcoming Apophis), Sarah Jacobi (One of the Magicians against the path the Kanes have taken), Kwai (One of the Magicians against the path the Kanes have taken), Petrovich (One of the Magicians against the path the Kanes have taken), Drew Tanaka (one of the three mean girls at Sadie Kane's school), Shu (Anubis's great-grandfather and the God of Air), Khaemwaset aka Uncle Vinnie (the ghostly image that had given the clue about the Golden Box), Distruber (right-hand man of Osiris aka Julius Kane), Hapi (God of the Nile), Apis Bull (a form of Osiris that used to only come out on special occasions) and Neith (The warrior goddess and goddess of bees).

Finally the character of Sadie remediated a bit for me. She still comes off very selfish and impulsive but she has matured quite a bit along the journey. I do empathize with her in her confused situation between Walt and Anubis, but she still grates under my skin sometimes.

The series overall was rather slow and repetitive for me as its similar to Rick's books on Greek and Roman gods. Frankly speaking I couldn’t wait for the ending while I read the first two books. However the third and final installment grabbed all my attention. It was worth going through the slow ride of the first two books. There are some really stunning scenes and plots in this book that leave you reeling.

A very good ending to the journey and quest the two Kane siblings have been on for months together. Loved this leg of the journey better than the first two. As always enjoyable none the less.

Spoiler Alerts:

1. Mid-way through this book I finally figured out what god that Walt Stone was going to invoke and how the only option can keep him alive but with a huge risk.
2. Grammatical Errors:
a. Pg. 207, para 4, missing "to" in line 3 at "He wants pull"
b. Pg. 244, para 2, last line phrasing is all incorrect. It should be "They would've to be quite insane…."
3. Zia Rashid - Finally there is a proper closer for Zia / Ra in this book.
Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  3.5 / 5
Recommendation: It's easy to be in a relationship but very hard to keep it together. What happens when one waivers and how it impacts several lives is beautifully depicted in the musical romantic drama that gives you tons of tears, hoards of laughter and kick in your gut.

Last year when my parents were here, one day I come home and find my mom watching this movie. I could not resist to sit and watch with her, mainly because it has all the big faces in Hindi film world that I admire either for their acting or charm. However beyond that it was much pleasure to watch with my mom and hear her opinions on the movie. It had been a while we had that debate and conversation while watching a movie. Moments that I would cherish forever.

Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna ( = Never Say Good Bye), is a 2006 Hindi (Indian Language) musical romantic drama loosely based on the 2004 American film Closer. The basic plot revolves around the theme of adultery and extra-marital affairs which actually did not sit well with a lot of Indian audience. Despite that the film gained success - especially overseas, a good many awards and nominations and an entry the be included in the library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Directed by Karan Johar and produced under Dharma Productions banner, the movie had very good music as expected.



The plot is set in New York city mostly but we see glimpses of East Hartford and New Haven in Connecticut. Now that I live here it was a pleasure to see the familiar places. It stars Shah Rukh Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Rani Mukherji and Preity Zinta in the primary roles with Amitabh Bachchan and Kirron Kher in critical supporting roles. Arjun Rampal and John Abraham have special appearances along with Karan Johar and Kajol.



The movie was promoted with a tag line tag-line, "A Love.... That Broke All Relationships". Incidentally the movie ends with a similar line by Shah Rukh Khan:

Kehte Hai Ki Shaadi Ki Buniyaad Sirf Beimtehaan Mohabbat Honi Chaahiye Aur Kuch Nahin. Kyun Ki Agar Buniyaad Galat Ho, Tho Rishtey Toot Jaatey Hain. Jaise Hamare Saath Hua. Saalon Baad Khushiyan Hamein Mili, Mohabbat Ki Manzil Bhi Mili. Par Aksar Yeh Khayal Aate Hai KI Kaash Yeh Manzil Ki Raastein Toote Hue Dilon Se Na Guzare Hote..

But I am getting way ahead in my review. First the basic plot.

The introduction of the four characters sets them in the plot so perfectly without even showing their faces. Brilliant approach giving the viewers a feel of what they will see about them in the next 22 reels of the movie.



The plot revolves around Dev Saran (portrayed by Shah Rukh Khan) - a bitter and selfish husband as he cannot play soccer anymore, resents his wife's career and be the man of the house he want to be, Rhea Saran (portrayed by Preity Zinta) - married to Dev, bread-winner of the family with a very successful career, Rishi Talwar (portrayed Abhishek Bachchan) - totally in love with his wife with a happy-lucky-go attitude without caring for the serious matters, and Maya Talwar (portrayed by Rani Mukherji) - married to Rishi, her childhood friend, but feels he is selfish, has no satisfaction in her marriage life and also finds out that she is infertile. Rishi's father Samarjeet "Sam" Talwar (portrayed by Amitabh Bachchan) and Dev's mom Kamaljeet "Kamal" Saran (portrayed by Kirron Kher) form the elderly heads in the two families that see the marriages for their sons failing gradually.

Dev meets Maya first on the day she is getting married to Rishi - her childhood friend. When she is on the edge of her decision to go for the wedding or not, a timely talk with Dev makes her take the step. Shortly after Dev meets with an accident and loses his successful soccer career. Four years later, Dev and Maya meet again accidentally - literally - and realize that they both are in unhappy marriages. Dev is bitter because he cannot have a soccer career and resents his wife Rhea's successful career as a fashion magazine editor. While Maya knowing she is infertile is unhappy and feels Rishi as a very selfish and spoiled brat. Dev and Maya get closer as friends at first and gradually fall for each other even though they are married to others. While Sam and Kamal seeing the failed marriages introduce Rhea and Rishi together so they each can teach each other on how to better their marriages. Rhea and Rishi realize that they have to take a step back and reach out to their partners with love. But Dev and Maya secretly start their affair. The rest of the plot continues on how the affair comes out, how it blows up on both the families, how it tears everyone and who pays in the end. A love, that certainly breaks all relationships and costs lives in the mix.

Dev and Maya are two bitter and selfish characters who fail to see what they have in their life and instead search outside. They know they are the cause for the unhappiness in their lives but instead of admitting they blame it on their partners. While Rhea and Rishi are so surrounded by themselves that they forget that the world does not revolve around them. They may be truly in love with their partners but they fail to realize the need of their partners. No person comes perfect and faults are the wrinkles that fold seamlessly between two partners to make a successful life. Yet these four players make decisions and take chances in the name of love that cost them gravely.

Music composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Lyrics penned by Javed Akhtar have left a lasting impact in our minds and memories. Even today these songs spring me to a quick dance or I hum along whenever I hear them. It’s a mix of ballad (Tumhi Dekho Na), 60's rock n roll (Rock N Roll Soniye), sufi rock (Mitwa), soft tear-jerker (Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna title song) and club song (Where's The Party Tonight?). Farewell Trance is the trance version - a form of electronic dance music from Germany - of the title track. (Credits: Wiki)



Well-made plot with good actors and very good music but comes with a lengthier plot giving some real tears at times and angry taunts at other times. It left me definitely drained at the end, but I still loved it despite what everyone had opined about it. I would however have liked to see a few reels less though.
Spoiler Alerts behind the cut...Collapse )
Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here
For review of all books in this series: Go here

Stars: 3 / 5
Recommendation: So you like the Gods and Wars, the underworlds and aboveworlds, then this is another trilogy that you don’t want to miss.

The Throne Of Fire is a 2011 fantasy adventure novel by Rick Riordan. It is the second installment in The Kane Chronicles trilogy. The series is in a narrative format recorded on a tape by two siblings Carter Kane and Sadie Kane chronicling their adventures. The narration continues in the second part too. As with the first part the author does have a disclaimer at the beginning of the book about this being a transcript of the second audio recording sent by the Kane siblings.



From the first part we know that 14-year old Carter Kane and his 12-year old sister Sadie Kane are descended from the powerful ancient Egyptian pharaohs  Narmer and Ramesses the Great. They are also hosts to Egyptian Gods Horus (by Carter) and Isis (by Sadie). The other three Gods - Osiris (hosted by Julian Kane, the siblings father), Nephthys (Zia Rashid hosts her) and Set (originally hosted by Amos Kane, the siblings Uncle and then sent to the Duat to prevent further chaos) - are also out now. However the biggest threat is Apophis - The Serpent of Chaos - who had been trying to control Set and cause an apocalypse across the world - perhaps worlds. And the siblings work together in harmony with the Gods to send Apophis deep somewhere in a prison for now. And the Demon Days (last five days of the year) pass through with less than expected damage to the world and several lives. But the siblings could not rescue their father nor find where Zia is nor get Amos to normal. And the House of Life - consisting of powerful magicians - are about to fight the Gods and stop what the siblings are set out to do. The second part in the series takes us through another journey by the Kane siblings and perhaps get some answers to these questions and also closer to defeating Apophis.

The plot in this part opens with Sadie, Carter, Jaz and Walt in Brooklyn Museum, NY stealing - rather borrowing - the statue of Khnum (ram-headed God) who can help them in finding the Book of Ra. They find the first piece of the book in the part of a scroll but in the process stir all the curses that were in and around the museum protecting every artifact, set the museum on fire, set free a hummingbird-Griffin and release seven evil spirits called bau - The Arrows of Sekhmet. However according to the vision Carter had they have only five days to wake up Ra - The Sun God - before Apophis rises and eats up the Sun creating total Chaos. Sadie however goes to London the following day to celebrate her birthday with her Grandpa and Grandma - against the wishes of Carter or Amos - while they prepare for the upcoming battle with Apophis as well as Desjardins - The Chief Lector of House of Life. Spring Equinox and days coming up to it are very powerful, and also the time when Chaos and Ma'at could be tipped easily and the scales imbalanced. Apophis would make every attempt to come out at that time from his prison when it is at its weakest state. The Kanes and the trainees with Bast (the Cat Goddess) and Khufu (the Baboon) are all they have to each other to plan, prepare and fight against this evil god and save the world and worlds alike.

Will Carter and Amos successfully prepare for the coming battle? Will Bast be successful in ensuring that the prison that Apophis is held in is still intact? Carter had never stopped searching for Zia Rashid - the girl who had been on their side in the bringing Set down. She had been kept hidden away by Iskandar - the previous Chief Lector - somewhere in Place of Red Sands and is in deep sleep. Now the Arrows of Sekhmet and the scarab serpent form that attacked on Brooklyn House - the twenty first nome in New York - hinted to Carter that Zia would be in mortal danger if he didn’t stop his quest. Are they talking about Zia? Where is Zia? Is she hosting Nephtys - another god? Sadie and her friends - Liz and Emma - are pursued by Nekhbet - the Vulture Goddess - who takes over her grandma and Babi - the god of baboons - who took over her grandfather, when she goes to visit them for her birthday. Will they escape them and find help? Will the Kanes meet together again? Will they find the remaining two sections? Will they wake up Ra? How does this journey end for the Kane family? What is the story of Walt? How does he tie in with this journey? Set, Isis, Horus, Orisis and Nepthys have their roles too in this part.

Apart from the folks that we are introduced to by Carter and Sadie in the first part, a few more that we get to see with this installment - Jasmine AKA Jaz (one of the two trainees under Carter and Sadie), Walt Stone (one of the two trainees under Carter and Sadie, can do magic with any of his amulets), Julian (Another trainee from Boston and taking the path of Horus -the falcon god - in earning magic), Alyssa (a trainee from California and taking the path of Geb- the earth god - in learning magic), Sean (a trainee from Dublin), Felix (Another trainee who loves penguins), Cleo (another trainee from Rio de Janeiro), Vladimir Menshikov (Third most powerful magician ruling the Eighteenth Nome in Russia and right hand man to Desjardins), Bes (The God of all Dwarves - and he is indeed a dwarf, a pretty ugly dwarf), tjesu heru (a snake that Vlad summons to kill the Kane siblings), Appius Claudius Iratus aka Mad Claude (a Russian ghost in the Golden Mummies), Ptah (the patron God of craftsmen and artisans), Khnum (protector of the Fourth Gate in Duat),  Tawaret (a goddess shaped as a hippo who takes care of old gods at Sunny Acres and a at one-time sweetheart to Bes), Khepri the beetle (the last scarab from Ra), Khonsu the moon god, Freak (the humming-bird griffin).

Sadie still irritates me with her impulsive nature. One would think with so much at stake one would learn to act after considerable thinking. And she comes off very selfish. I wonder why the author created such a character. Of course I agree that she is just a 12-year old kid with a huge responsibility. But with one war already faced shouldn’t the character have matured a bit. Aargh!

A decent sequel for a hit writer but like I said in my previous book's review, it seems so similar to his other books on Greek and Roman gods. It was enjoyable at some places, and I dosed off in some chapters.

Spoiler Alerts:

1. Places that we travel along with Carter Kane and Sadie Kane:
a. Brooklyn Museum in New York City, NY that has the largest collection of Egyptian exhibits. More about it here
b. Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia - another location of largest Egyptian collection in Russia. More about it here
c. Dvortsovyy Bridge aka Palace Bridge that spans the Neva river in Saint Petersburg, Russia. More about it here.
2. Khnum - ram-headed god - was one aspect of Ra, the Sun God. The other two aspects were Khepri - the scarab god - in the morning and Ra during the day. Khnum was his aspect at sunset.
3. Grammatical Errors:
a. Pg. 110, para 4 (big one in the center of the page), line 4 - there is a missing "you" in the line "But if want the scroll…"
4. Zia Rashid - In the end I am still left a little clueless as to who Zia Rashid was? Perhaps we will get to know in the final chapter about her role in all of this.
5. A board game called Senet is played by several of the characters in various chapters in the book. It is a board game from ancient Egypt. Would love to see if it is still played now. More about it here
6. A place of old gods called Sunny Acres is shown in the plot. It is so similar to how home for old ages are in mortal world including the syringes and IV bag. Except it was for older gods or forgotten gods. A very unique concept but does make one think of all those gods that were worshipped at one time but no one remembers now in the modern world.
7. Khonsu, the moon god, is depicted vicious and cunning making one hate the moon. I wonder why he was depicted evil when I did not see that in any other legends from Roman, Greek or Indian.
Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here
For review of all books in this series: Go here.

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: So you like the Gods and Wars, the underworlds and aboveworlds, then this is another trilogy that you don’t want to miss.

The Red Pyramid is a 2010 fantasy adventure novel by Rick Riordan. It is the first installment in The Kane Chronicles trilogy. The series is in a narrative format recorded on a tape by two siblings Carter Kane and Sadie Kane chronicling their adventures. The author does post a warning at the beginning of the book with a disclaimer that this is a transcript of a digital recording. :)



The plot opens with Carter Kane and his father Julius Kane picking up his sister Sadie Kane from their maternal grandparents and head towards the British Museum in London. Carter and Sadie although siblings have been separated after their mom died mysteriously. In the custody battle Julius could win Carter and Sadie was taken over by their maternal grandparents as they could only afford one child. Not that either of the child were neglected. Both had their own adventures in their life. But they are about to be on the biggest adventure or quest of their life.



At the British Museum, Julius invokes the Rosette Stone in the museum with some words that Sadie seem to understand although she had never been to this side. Instead of the intended ones, Julius releases five fiery men with two superimposed images - one of a human with pale skin and cruel glowing red eyes; and another of a somekind of animal resembling a dog or wolf or lion - Red Lord aka Demon God Set, one of whom currently traps Julius in a tomb and had it sunk into the ground. The only thing that was left of Julius was his toolbox - a bag actually - that Carter had never peeked into it, but apparently contained quite a lot of stuff - magical and otherwise - inside. Then two people appear before Carter and Sadie go unconscious - a creepy frenchman and a girl with knife. Where did their father go off to? Was he dead? Who was the fiery man? Who were the two people who wanted to kill Carter and Sadie too? Or were they wanted to kill?

They, along with their cat Muffin, are taken with their Uncle Amos to Manhattan - the Twenty First Nome - to harness their powers and learn magic. The evil fiery man is making his base on Camelback Mountains in Phoenix and is preparing to unleash the greatest storm ever on his birthday. Sadie and Carter Kane are the most powerful children according to Amos, as they are a culmination of both Kane (Julius Kane's family) and Faust (Ruby, kids' mom) families - two powerful families of magicians since the beginning of time. Now who is after them? Why is Set bent on acquiring them? Will their powers be awaken? Can they be trained to be magicians? Where does this journey lead Carter and Sadie Kane?

Siblings Carter and Sadie meet quite a few interesting folks and mythical / magical creatures along the way - Amos (one of the men who had warned Julius and infact tried to stop), Dr. Martin (The British Museum curator), Khufu (Uncle Amos's Monkey Butler), Philip of Macedonia (an albino pet alligator at Amos's palace), Serpent Leopords aka Serpopards, Bast (the Goddess of Cats), Serqet (scorpion goddess), Zia Rashid (the girl with the knife), Michel Desjardins (French man with a forked beard), Chief Lector Iskandar (Chief of House of Life in the First Nome in Egypt), Anubis (The Boy from Hall of Ages, the God of Funerals), Nut (The Sky Goddess), Set Animal (one of the minions of Set God that is sent to kill the Kane siblings), Face of Horror (Another demon working for Set), Thoth (The Egyptian God of Writing and Knowledge),  Bloodstained Blade (the Captain who steers their boat to the Land of Death), Shezmu (bloody lion-man demon in the Land of Death - Lord of Blood and Wine), Ammit the Devourer, Mel (a Magician working for Desjardins), Sobek (God of Water and Rivers), Geb (The God of Earth), Sekhmet (Eye of Ra) and Apophis (The Serpent of Chaos that Bast had been fighting for eons)

After wading through the Roman and Greek Gods and their offspring, this time around Rick Riordan takes us through the Egyptian Gods. And his main character is an African - American opposed to his other books. A string of artifacts related to Egyptian Gods are shown to us in this journey.  Sadie sounds so irritating often-times and with a lot of defiance even when she is wrong. She started to grate under my skin. Carter proves worthy of the character. A journey that starts at one places takes us to so many distinct locations between Earth and Sky and everything in middle and under, keeps us glued to the book. It was a slow start but as the story progressed it did pushed through fast. I did feel though that it was keeping with the same format as the Percy Jackson Books and the Heroes of Olympus books. Nothing new, same pattern.

Even then another hit from Rick Riordan that only gets better as the plot progresses. A definite pick if you have already dug into the Percy Jackson books and the Heroes of Olympus books.

Spoiler Alerts:

1. Carter and Sadie's journey takes us through quite a few interesting places.
a. Cleopatra's Needle in London - Looks like there are a few of these all over the world like in New York, Alexandria and London. More about it here. This is definitely something to add to my travel list.
b. Another pair of Obelisk (similar to Cleopatra's Needle) also in Paris and Egypt.
c. Rosette Stone at British Museum - Apparently has three scripts that connect the ancient languages to the modern. More about it here.
d. Pyramid Arena in Memphis, TN (More about it here.
2.  The fiery man calls Julius as Osiris - the same word that was being written by Julius on the Rosette Stone when he was invoking it. This should have given the first clue to the reader about who Julius aka Osiris would have been. :P
3. The original Egyptian calendar had only 360 days in a year. The author shows a legend on how the Sky God - Nut - added the five days at the end of the year. They are called as Demon Days per the Egyptians lore. The Earth God, Nut's husband, was called Geb. In those extra five days Nut gives birth to five kids - Osiris, Horus, Set, Isis and Nephthys.
4. Iskandar in one of the chapters explains that Gods have power but need hosts to use them. So they host in humans, animals, birds, insects, statues and other stuff. However they prefer humans / people as they can not only use power but be creative. Very rarely they are in pure form. This explains the theory of so many powerful people in every history and legend, so many idols and stones considered filled with power and so many legends repeating again and again in different forms and lore but still remain the same plot.
5. Carter Kane is apparently a fan of L. A. Lakers. He uses the numbers of three retired Lakers - 13/32/33 - for his locker combination. They belong to Chamberlain, Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar respectively.
6. The history and myths surrounding Ra (The Sun God) and the Egyptian setting reminded me of the 1994 American Sci-Fi Adventure film Stargate. That was the first film I had seen when I had come to United States in 2001, albeit it's on TV. Left a mark so distinct in my memory that I can still hear the dialogues and see the scenes of the movie playing by. Perhaps should add this to my blog of reviews. :P
7. Zia Rashid - In the end I am still left clueless as to who Zia Rashid is? Why Iskandar was protecting her? What is her story? Perhaps we will get to know in the next two installments.
8. On Pg. 435, Para 4 the last line "I didn't want to ruin my new plaything quite so soon" touched some string in my memory related to another book. I read the same line somewhere but I am unable to point it.
Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  3 / 5
Recommendation: A good animated film with some morals in the mix for those easy and lazy days.

Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast is the 2014 American computer-animated fantasy film. It is the seventh and the last film in the Disney Toon Studios' Tinker Bell film series based on the character Tinker Bell from J. M. Barrie's Peter and Wendy. This movie however primarily revolves around Fawn -  fairy who always want to rescue the hurt even though they may be dangerous and harmful.  Two new characters Nyx - the leader of scout fairies - and Fury - another scout fairy who works under Nyx.



I love Tinker Bell. She is a tinker who mends pots and kettles, and anything is needed to be mended for the fairy folk. She is sometimes jealous, spoiled and ill-tempered, but she always is the first one to come to aid of anyone. However this particular movie doesn’t revolve around Tinker Bell although she plays a key role.

Fawn, a fairy who always wants to rescue everyone, finds an injured baby hawk and nourishes her back to health. However the baby hawk's parents attack the fairy land to reclaim their baby. Nyx, Fury and her team of scout fairies come in to the rescue of the fairies by driving the hawks away along with the baby hawk, thus saving Pixie Hollow from further damage. Fawn however gets reprimanded by Queen Clarion for only following her heart and not her mind. The same night Fawn hears a roar and explores that sound and finds strange creature who is building rocks. She calls him Gruff.





Nyx also follows the roar and finds about Gruff. Fawn has strong belief that Gruff is nor harmful but Nyx interprets that legend that Gruff brings disaster to Pixie Hollow. The plot continues with Fawn trying to keep Nyx from capturing Gruff and at the same time trying to understand if Gruff was indeed harmful.

A good plot for the Tinker Bell series. However I was disappointed that the role of Tinker Bell was less than in her usual movies. I would have still loved to have her be the focus of the plot. Other than that it’s a decent movie to watch for those lazy days and have some fun.
Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here

Stars: 4.5 / 5
Recommendation: A medley of natural and supernatural elements mixed with human emotions, all twined together into a thick thread here. Definite pick.

My mom's birthday is on September 9th. So for that day I wanted to post review of a book by one of her favorite authors. We had a semi-library kind that my parents had filled with novels that they read in weekly magazines. Every week they used to buy magazines like Andhra Bhoomi, Andhra Prabha, etc. and follow the novels printed as episodes by famous authors like Yaddanapudi Sulochanarani, Yandamuri Veerendranath and others. They would cut the pages from the magazine and once the novel was finished, get all the pages bound into a book. Apart from these they would buy paperbacks and get them bound too to protect them. I remember reading a few when I was living with them. All of these were in Indian language Telugu - my mother tongue. Knowing their tastes, it was natural for me to lean towards Yandamuri Veerendranath. Hence this book and thus the review.

Duppatlo Minnagu ( = A Serpent inside a Bedsheet) is a 2004 Telugu novel by Yandamuri Veerendranath. The plot is a reunion of five friends who are stranded at an airport and tell stories to pass the time. It doesn’t seem so simple as the plot proceeds.



The plot is written in a narrative mode, the narration being done by one of the five friends. The five friends in question are Venku, Shiva, Sheshu, Vijji and the narrator (whose name is not revealed in the beginning). Venku and Shiva are forest officers. These five friends are what they call typical drinking buddies and haven't had been in touch with each other in a long time, which is the reason for the reunion.
The narrator is primarily residing in the city of Dibrugarh in state of Assam, India. The narrator had recently lost someone close to him by name Arundhati. So the reunion came as a refreshing break for him. The friends decide to have their reunion in Shillong - city in the state of Meghalaya, India - but get stuck in the Gauhati (another city in Assam) airport. They havent met each other in a year, so they had a lot to catchup on. Once that was finished, they decide to swap tales. But Vijji challenges everyone that the stories should be suspense thrillers, closely resembling real-life experiences and whose ever story is with the weakest plot will have to pay the bill for that night. Challenge accepted the stories begin.

First tale is from Shiva and titled Duppatlo Minnagu (incidentally the title of this book is the same). His story is set in Bhadrachalam - city in the state of Telangana, India. Shiva being a forest officer, his plot is also set in the forests surrounding Bhadrachalam. Six of the forest officers have been stationed in those forests. One day they decide to go to the city to watch a movie - second-show since it was Sunday the day after. However when Shiva goes to get hold of one the officers, Ramabhadram aka Bhadram, he comes to know that a serpent has crawled on to his stomach under his bedsheet and is sleeping there now, and he has been lying like that for almost an hour. Rest of the plot continues in how Shiva tries to rescue Bhadram, and the suspense hangs with the finding of the snake.

Second tale is from Vijji and titled Oda Prayanam ( = Journey by Ship). His tale is about Daivadheenam who took the ship from Europe to Madras, India and filled with incidents that Daivadheenam faced aboard. The suspense is not how he finds a solution for his problem. It is in how the solution is implemented and if he would be successful.

Third tale is from Venku and titled Manavateeta Vyakti ( = A Human Beyond Human). The plot is a dinner setting where five folks are attending - the narrator assuming its Venku, Rammoorthy (the host), Rammoorthy's wife, his 16 yr old daughter Aruna and the guest of honor Venkatesh. Venkatesh is supposed to possess with skills beyond human and an excel as a magician, unmarried and a very self-conceited person. The key reason for Rammoorthy to invite Venkatesh was to smash his magical abilities with facts and make him feel nothing. The suspense is not if Rammoorthy wins or Venkatesh wins in the debate, it's whether Venkatesh gets beat at his own game or if Rammoorthy finally meets his match.

Fourth tale is from Sheshu titled Verandah Kurrodu ( = Boy in the Verandah). It's about a housewife Radha who is apprehensive about the new tenant Ravi Shankar that her husband Vishwanatham approves. The suspense is not what the tenant would do, it's the suspense of how Radha's wild imagination goes haywire playing double time.

Fifth and the last tale is from the narrator titled Antarnetram ( = Inner Eye). The plot follows the final moments of Rangarao who was suffering from blood cancer and the lengthy letter he writes to his wife Arundhati before his death. The suspense is not what is in the letter but what measures they take in those final days.

Once the tales end, the plot continues with the five friends discussing on whose story had more suspense, who won the bet, who lost the bet and also analyzing their tales. But none of them are aware of the final showdown that awaits them at the end.  So, who won the bet? Who lost? Who got the more shocking revelation? What is the fate of these five friends at the end? How will they face the showdown? All in good time you will know once you read this interesting novel.

I haven't read a Telugu novel in a long time so the beginning of the reading went a bit slower for me - more because I was trying to grasp meaning of some words that sounded complicated for me and also getting to read it fluently. But as the novel progressed, I picked it up faster than I thought I would. It's been a long time I read something in my language - clearly I need to improve on that.

Bordering on horror but still keeping the suspense element and bringing in the beyond human skills and abilities constitute the plot. Grips you to the edge of your chair / sofa, keeping you in the element and springing twists that you can't imagine. There is mixture of science, parapsychology, medical field, crime fighting and above all abilities that human mind can't detect in the plot. Well written by the author as usual and certainly an easy read for not so weak minds. :) If you get to come across the book, do pick it up for a unique adventure.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Quite a few novels of Yandamuri have been made into movies. And interestingly enough most had Chiranjeevi in the lead role and some had others like Venkatesh and Nagarjuna in the lead roles. Check here for the list. However most popular ones are Aakhari Poratam, Abhilasha, Challenge, Oka Radha Iddaru Krishnulu and others.
2) Second-show is a late night show for movies in India that starts at 9:00pm.
3) In one of the stories, the author talks about a parapsychology based book Behind The Iron Curtain. I could not find anything about it. Perhaps it’s a fictious book for this ficiton.
4) Factual Errors: On Pg 76 the author talks about the arteries that send blood to brain and he mentions one of them as Carotic Artery, but it is Carotid Artery.
5) The author brings the characters from his previous novel Abhilasha ( = Desire). One of the characters Vaijayanthi goes to meet Chiranjeevi - the lead character from that plot - at his home for an interview. She meets there his wife Dr. Archana - again the lead character from that plot. Abilasha was made into a super hit Telugu film in 1983 starring Chiranjeevi and Radhika on the lead roles. More about the film here.. A look into the life of these characters after the book / movie ended is shown here.
Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  5 / 5
Recommendation: A very enjoyable movie with sports, romance and college in the mix.

September 8 2016 was when NFL kicked off this past year. Normally the kick-off day I have my friend over to my place or me at my friend's place watching the kick--off. However since my friend has moved away it had been a solo watch. A Packers fan through and through I always had fun watching the kick-off.

Football is a tough game with all grunts, shoves, passes and touchdowns. However, I am picking this 1925 American silent comedy film titled The Freshman that tells the story of a college freshman who tries to become popular by joining the college football team. The movie stars Harold Lloyd in the title role.



Harold Lamb (portrayed by Harold Lloyd) enrolls to Tate University and emulates his movie idol Speedy to get popular as well as the girl Peggy (portrayed by Jobyna Ralston) that he has eye for. He specifically used the jig that Speedy had used in the movie as part of his ploy to become popular. However he lands into quite a few troubles courtesy of the seniors at the college as well as the College Cad (portrayed by Brooks Benedict). Unknowingly he becomes the butt of everyone's jokes. Then the College Cad tells him that no matter what he does he cannot be as famous and popular as Chet Trask (portrayed by James Anderson) - who is the football captain - unless he joins football. Thus enters Harold into the college football team. The rest of the movie follows how Harold tries to become popular, only to become more and more the college joke. Even he doesn’t realize that. Only Peggy sees how Harold is being treated and feels sad and hurt for him.

Will Harold realize the follies? Will he and Peggy be together finally? Will his career with the football team pick up? How does Harold where at the college? Well, one will know only when one will watch this fun film.

Note how the football dress was back then. And this particular get-up Harold has, is exactly what Adam Sandler had in the 1998 American comedy film The Waterboy. Although there has been controversy that some elements from this film have been copied into the 1998 film per Harold's grand-daughter Suzanne Lloyd Hayes.



Note the car back then. They had extra seating right by the door over the wheels on the side. Truly well-accommodating cars back then.



Peggy has such a simple and beautiful look. No wonder one of the title cards in the film describes her as "the kind of girl your mother must have been".



Although a silent film, this remained one of the successful films of Harold Lloyd. A pair of horn-rimmed glasses gives a new persona to Harold Lloyd. The plot is simple - a freshman to win the heart of the girl he likes, dreams about big man on the campus and eventually joins the football team to prove it. The movie has all the elements of the life of a collegiate on a campus with romance and comedy mixed in. Even after 92 years it's a thoroughly enjoyable film at any time of the day.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) There is a 1990 film with the same name starring Marlon Brando and Matthew Broderick but has no connection to this film. I havent watched the 1990 version though.
2) One of the heroes that Harold in the film emulates is Speedy (portrayed by Laurel Lester) in the film The College Hero. For the sake of this movie, the film The College Hero didn’t exist in 1925. However two years later a silent film by the name The College Hero was indeed released. Another to add to my list. (More about that 1927 film here)



3) May Wallace portrayed the role of Harold's mother in the film. But nowhere I could find who portrayed the role of his father. Even the titles in the film didn’t give that. However he looks close to present Christopher Lee



4) Oscar Smith portrays the role of The Dean's Chauffeur.



5) Check out the rent for living quarters - $3 per week. Wow money had quite a value back then. We don’t get much for $3 now.

Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  5 / 5
Recommendation: A tale with both dark and light shades told with hints of innocence, comedy, song and much needed slap in the face with life lessons.

In the year 2015 I had blogged one song a day as the theme. As part of that one of the post was about the song Cotton Candy Land by Elvis Presley. (Check my review here. That song then had reminded me of two movies - first the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and second the 2005 remake of the same film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Review for the 1971 film can be found here. And now the review of the 2005 film.



Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the 2005 British-American musical fantasy film. This is the second film adaptation of the 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory written by Roald Dahl. The first one was the 1971 film titled Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. There are quite a few differences between both the films - not in the story line-up but in the added contexts, the dark depiction of the plot removing the flim-flam, keeping it raw as the book went and also closing some of the loops that the first one had. This film has been pretty close to the book. The title of this film is also kept the same as the original title of the book as opposed to the 1971 film. As with the original movie's review, for this as well, my review focuses on factors that made this movie a hit and differences that it made stand-out from its predecessor.

You would remember Helena Bonham Carter as  Bellatrix Lestrange in The Harry Potter series and as Red Queen in the Alice in Wonderland movies. She has done an excellent job as Charlie's mom in this movie. Grandpa Joe worked for Willy Wonka before it had closed out and everyone were terminated. A much more deeper history about Willy Wonka is shown in the flash back that Grandpa shares. Willy Wonka closes the factory one day when he was tired of the deceptions and thievery of this recipes for his candies and ice creams. He terminates all the employees. However a few years later he opens the factory but does not hire anyone. No one knows how he runs it but the chocolates keep coming out.

Willy Wonka appears in the film from the very beginning of the story as opposed to the first part.



Charlie has a father in this version and works for a toothpaste factory - down the street . He is the sole provider of the family.



Prince Pondicherry - This story is not in the first part that was made. A Prince in India who wanted a chocolate palace made which Willy Wonka does so. However, despite the warnings provided by Willy Wonka, the Prince ignores and loses his palace to one very hot day.


Charlie Bucket's father loses the job due to the advancement in the technology and profits the company was making in the new technology. Charlie wishes to get the fifth golden ticket so he could help his family.



The welcome song that the five winners are shown to with the toys dressed as workers at Willy Wonka's factory ends with a rather macabre twist to it - with the fireworks causing a fire and burning everything down including the dolls giving them a sinister and grotesque appearance. For some reason those dolls reminded me of Chucky horror movies.

An elaborate history of who the Oompa-Loompas are, their history and how they end up coming to stay with Willy Wonka. Their food habits are really gross and the portrayal in the film eeked me out a lot. The plot also shows why Willy Wonka is so eccentric bordering on pyscho looking, why he doesn’t utter the word "parents" and his history with his parents, and reasons for his odd behavior.

In this film instead of having an egg-sorting room and decide which one is a good egg or bad egg, we see squirrels breaking the walnut shells and deciding which one is a good nut or a bad nut. This is what the original story has too.



Wonkavator - Willy Wonka's glass elevator that he uses to travel everywhere in hi factory, upwards, downwards, sideways, across and over - is shown in the middle of the film itself. Although in the book and in the first movie the elevator was shown only at the end of the film. This is different for this film.

Again another successful movie re-made based on the book and also from its predecessor, keeping the light and dark shades as exposed as possible. Equally enjoyed this version as well. Haven't watched it yet? Well, it's time to switch on your DVDs or click on the link online to enjoy a feast.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Willy Wonka greets his visitors with the statement "Good Morning Sunshine, The Earth says Hello!" It made me wonder if this was a line from a sci-fi movie like E.T. or something. Turns out to be it is from a pop song from the 1967 musical Hair. And later was released as a single by the singer Olver in 1969 (More about it here. Here is however, the shot from the movie. More for my future blog posts. :)




2) Oompa-Loompa is portrayed by Indian actor Deep Roy and his image was replicated for all men, women and children of the Oompa-Loompas so everyone looked alike. In the 1971 film though they were portrayed by dwarfed actors who were orange skinned, green haired men in striped clothing.

3) Christopher Lee portrays the role of Dr. Wilbur Wonka - the city's most famous dentist. He was the reason Willy Wonka has so many weird behaviors.



Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  5 / 5
Recommendation: A tale with both dark and light shades told with hints of innocence, comedy, song and much needed slap in the face with life lessons.

In the year 2015 I had blogged one song a day as the theme. As part of that one of the post was about the song Cotton Candy Land by Elvis Presley. (Check my review here: http://inspirethoughts.livejournal.com/496756.html). That song then had reminded me of two movies - first the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and second the 2005 remake of the same film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Thus first the review of the 1971 film.



Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is a 1971 American musical film starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. It is an adaptation of the 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory written by Roald Dahl. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score and Gene Wilder was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy, but both awards were lost to Fiddler on the Roof movie. Despite that the film was a nominal one going on to become a popular hit later due to repeat telecasts in television and finally considered a culturally, aesthetically and historically significant one. My review would be highlighting the key factors that made the movie a popular one rather than the plot - which is well-known.

The first thing that anyone remembers of this movie is the song The Candy Man that was pictured on Bill (portrayed by Aubrey Woods), the Candy Shop owner. The song perhaps could be said pivotal in making the movie popular too.



And the famous Golden Ticket.



In this movie, Charlie doesn't have a father.



Willy Wonka doesn’t show-up until an hour into the movie. Considering that he is the title role, I wonder if Gene Wilder was okay with this back then.



Willy Wonka is a chocolate master-maker who is so crazy that he casually disposes off kids - even though the kids were obnoxious - although they don’t really die but come out with irreversible changes - a lesson they learn the hard way to live with forever. If not for the musical elements and charming surroundings, one would think Willy Wonka is a child murderer. Such a dark aspect underneath the comedy and song that Roland Dahl excellently wrote. Gives me shivers just thinking about it.

Willy Wonka talks about fruit-flavored wallpaper that you can lick and get the flavor of that exact fruit. He talks about Snozberries. Except for Roald Dahl no one knows what kind of fruit are these Snozberries, although Cracked.com has explained it well based on Roald Dahl's 1979 adult novel My Uncle Oswald (Link to the explanation). Basically Snozberries are dicks - not sure if Roald thought of them as them same when he added it to the children's novel or later changed it in the later novel to mean something different. I wonder!!



Slugworth has only a namely mention in the actual book, but becomes a full character in the movie. The movie has such fun and interesting words, ofcourse taken from the book - Educated Eggdicator (A device to determine if the egg is a good or bad), Hsaw Aknow (Wonka Wash  spelled backwards that cleans everything that goes through it)





Wonkavision (a Television with invented by Wonka but instead of photographs, it does with live objects - transmits the live objects into television) and Wonkavator (An elevator that can go anywhere and created by Willy Wonka).

Whether it was a hit or not when it was released becomes a moot point now, since that anytime it is aired, it does garner quite an audience. Not to forget the beautiful songs. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable movie with all its dark and light shades, giving some well-meaning lessons to child or adult alike. Haven't watched it yet? Well, it's time to switch on your DVDs or click on the link online to enjoy a feast.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Havent read the book 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory written by Roald Dahl, but someday I will and perhaps post a blog too.
2) Diane Sowle plays the role of Charlie Bucket's mother in the film. She has a song that she performs on as well - Cheer Up Charlie. She has not done many movies - three to be specific (the other two being Clear and Present Danger, Guarding Tess). Yet, she looks so familiar to me. Per Wiki she is the last living surviving last main adult character from the movie. Here is her song from the movie



3) Oompa Loompas sing a song about "What do you get from a lot of TV". It is so appropriate for this generation surrounded by gadgets. Everyone is missing out on so much in real world while living in the virtual world.

Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  3.5 / 5
Recommendation: A fitting movie depicting the key event of this festival, rounded up well with good acting, songs and script.

Ganesh Chathurthi, the festival celebrating the birth and life of Lord Ganesha fell on September 5th in 2016. I was blessed to have my parents with me last year to celebrate the festival. To honor this day, I picked the 1957 Indian Telugu hit musical film Vinayaka Chaviti (named after the festival itself) directed by Samudrala Raghavacharya. The story is based on the Syamantakopakhyanam - one of the stories read during the festivities of this day.



More about the festival can be found here. However the festival falls in the month of Bhaadrapada in the Hindu calendar, usually in August or September in the Gregorian Calendar. Although every month the fourth day of the second fortnight is also known as Vinayaka Chathurthi for that month. The annual festival is however the biggest celebration. Anyway here is the review of the movie in question.

The plot is in narrative mode being told for the viewers by one of the priest in a temple where the festival of Ganesh Chathurthi is being celebrated. The story covers on the aspects of how the birth of Lord Ganesha happens - not to forget the slaying of the Asura ( = Demon) Gajasura - the curse that Goddess Parvathi (portrayed by Suryakala) puts on Chandra (Moon God), the suspicion that Lord Krishna (portrayed by Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao aka NTR) falls into after he had seen the reflection of moon and being blamed for the loss of the jewel Syamantaka, his fight with Jambavanta in retrieving the jewel, killing of Sathadhanva by Lord Krishna following his wedding to Satyabhama (daugher of Satrajit) and Jambavati (daughter of Jambavanta). Parallel tales of how Jambavanta comes into possession of Syamantaka Jewel, Why Sathadhanva is killed, why Gajasura is killed and why Jambavanta fights with Lord Krishna is also explained.

Krishnakumari portrays the role of Rukmini, Jamuna as Satyabhama aka Satrajiti aka Satyadevi, A. Prakash Rao as Narada, Gummadi as Satrajit, Rajanala as Prasena - brother of Satrajit and Nageshwar Rao as Satadhanva.

The movie comes with 24 songs and poems. Music composed by Ghantasala. Lyrics penned by Samudrala Raghavacharya. Playback Singing was provided by a myriad of singers - Ghantasala, Madhavapeddi, M. S. Ramarao, P. Susheela, P. Leela, Rani, Pudatha Sarojini, Jamuana Rani, Satyavathi and Vaidehi. Pretty much all the songs have become famous and some are sung in day to day lives by folks as devotional songs.

I always thought that Goddess Parvathi had cursed Lord Moon for laughing at Ganesha. However, the movie shows the curse being given by Ganesha and then on advice of his parents Lord Siva and Parvathi, Ganesha amends the curse to be effective on Ganesh Chathurthi day and also gives a remedy for the curse. Interesting twist. Again surprised to see Rajanala in a less important role in the movie when he was an established actor already.



Introduction of Jamuna as Satyabhama is very interesting. For a whole song Kaliki Ne Krishnudane Palkaveme Bhama Nato she is not shown in the entire song until at the end. Sung by P. Susheela and A. P. Komala is a teasing tune between Satyabhama and her lead confidant and companion, although the clip below shows it incomplete.





But the ultimate hit song from the movie is Dinakara Shubhakara Deva Deenadhara Timira Samhara pictured on Gummadi as Satrajit who is giving an ode to Lord Surya (Sun God) for a boon. Sung by Ghantasala this has become a hosuehold song to wake up to.





Satyabhama is supposed to be strong and arrogant with a tinge of courage and lots of love. However she is shown weak and helpless with a tinge of craziness. The portrayal is different from what everyone knows about her. Wonder where did the director get this from.

All in all a well-made movie with very good acting, timing of every flavor and sticking to the event from the epic as close as possible.


Spoiler Alerts:

1) If you remember when I was posting the review of the 1967 film Sri Krishnavataram (Check my link here), I mentioned that NTR played the role of Lord Krishna 17 times in movies. This is one of those 17 movies. :) He is so young and bit leaner in this film considering it was filmed a full ten years before the 1967 film.



2) If you remember in the film Sri Krishnavataram, Krishna Kumar portrayed the role of Lakshana Devi - one of the eight wives of Lord Krishna, while in this movie she plays the role of Rukmini - another one of the eight wives of Lord Krishna.



3) Samudrala Raghavacharya was the Director, Lyricist and Writer for the movie.
4) Krishna Kumari is so young in this movie, it being the initial movies of her career.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here

In April of 2016 I had opportunity to meet one of my favorite author Christine Feehan while I was visiting family in California. The year before when the Romance Writers America met in New York, I had gone to see a few of my favorite authors there and came to know that Christine Feehan hadn't made it to the meet. So I wrote to her and she obliged me with giving me a few of her hours to meet her in-person if I could go where she lives. So when I went to CA last year, I took the opportunity and met her. Incidentally C. L. Wilson happened to be there too so got a chance to meet her too.



Christine Feehan is the author of the well-read Ghostwalker Series, Sea Haven Series, Sister of the Heart Series, Dark Series (involving Carpathians) and the new Shadow Series. I have written reviews of quite a few of her books in this "366 Critiques by Amateur" project that I started in Jan 2016. Check them out here: Ghostwalker Series, Sisters of the Heart / Sea Haven Series, Carpathian Books and the Shadow Series.

I went with my parents to meet Christine. She was very generous and had been patient to answer all my questions. A few pics from the day.







We also got to meet Shaila, one of her granddaughter, who wants to have a story based on her name. :). My mom thought that she looked like a snow white.



And here is the excerpt of the interview:
Interview behind the cut...Collapse )


I had a fun time with Christine and hopefully will get to see her again. Only regret was I wasn’t prepared for a whole lot of questions for C. L. Wilson. Perhaps next time I will remedy that. Hope you all liked the interview. :)
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  5 / 5
Recommendation: Breathtaking Scenes, Spectacular Colors, Romance, Martial Arts and Imperial Palace Politics - all culminated into this beautiful movie.

It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

A few years ago I had posted about a 2009 hit Indian Telugu movie Arundhati ( = Name of a girl, also means fidelity and to restrain) and had mentioned a dance sequence that was an exact copy of a scene from the 2004 Chinese Martial Hero (Wuxia) Romantic film House of Flying Daggers. Recently I saw that movie being played on television that reminded me that old post that I did some 6 years ago. Well, here's the review of the Chinese film now.

The film directed by Zhang Yimou and stars Andy Lau, Zhang Ziyi and Takeshi Kaneshiro, the plot leaning more towards a love story than a complete martial arts one as the theme is based on a story that tells about a beautiful girl who brings woe to two men. Director also uses strong color scheme that blows your mind. It did for me on the small screen itself I wonder how it was on a big screen.




The plot is set in AD 859 when the Tsang dynasty declines and number of rebel groups rise, the largest of which being the House of Flying Daggers. They steal from rich and help the poor but are feared at hated by the local deputies. The local police had successfully killed the old leader of the House of Flying Daggers, Now, Jin and Leo - two officers and best friends - are given 10 days to apprehend and kill the new leader. They get wind of a new girl in the Peony Pavilion - a house of entertainment - who is bling but their top showgirl. Her name is Mei. Jin goes undercover to apprehend her but gets arrested by Leo as he tries to assault on Mei. Leo also want to arrest Mei but the Madam convinces him of her rare skills. Leo asks her to perform the Echo Game and if she did he would let her go. At the end of the amazing dance, Mei tries to kill Leo by snatching his sword, but Leo escapes ensuing a fierce sword fight between Mei and Leo resulting in the arrest of Mei. She is identified as one of the member of the House of Flying Daggers. Their interrogation of her to find who the new leader is where can he be found fails. So Jin and Leo device a plan. Later that night Jin attacks the jail, pretending to be a rebel sympathizer and frees her. Mei trusting him, takes Jin along with her to the headquarters of the House of Flying Daggers not knowing that Leo is following them closely.

Now the meat of the plot begins. Who is Jin? Why did he rescue Mei? Is he falling for her beauty for real or acting the part that Leo set for him? Who is the new leader of House of Flying Daggers? Who and what is Mei's past? Where does Leo fit in all this? The beauty of knowing the answers is for you to watch the movie and appreciate it.
Picture heavy review behind the cut..Collapse )

Breathtaking locations, Spectacular colors, Extreme sword and martial art skills almost like a dance, Tinge of romance with the Intrigue of politics constitute the entire plot.






Three soldiers in a battle between the Imperial Palace and the House of Flying Daggers get played like a chessboard between love and war. The mystery remains to the end of the fate of these three soldiers and of the House of Daggers. Well-written well-made movie that I regret having not watched on a big screen.

Go for it if you get a chance and I would say you will enjoy every second of it.
Spoiler Alerts behind the cut....Collapse )
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all books in this series: Go here.

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: Want a thriller? You will get one with this…not bone-deep as usual but nonetheless a good one. If you are into murders and especially dig on solving cold cases, this is one series you do not want to miss.

The Cinderella Murder is a thriller by Mary Higgins Clark published in November of 2014. This is the second book in the Under Suspicion Series continuing to follow the lives of Laurie Moran, Timmy Moran, Alex Buckley and Leo Farley. Mary Higgins Clark collaborated with Alafair Bruke for this series forming another strong set of books from this bond.



Laurie Moran's reality drama Under Suspicion has become a super-hit after the first episode that solved a twenty year old murder. (Check my review of I've Got You Under My Skin, the first book in the series here: <post link>). This show unlike a news episode or a crime series, brings in the real people of the crime, interviewing them in the hopes to find clues that may or may not solve the case. With Alex Buckley, who is closely becoming her romantic interest, as the host of the series, Laurie is taking up another cold case for her next episode. This time it is the shocking murder of beautiful and brilliant Susan Dempsey, a UCLA student and belonging to an elite family in California. The murder was dubbed as The Cinderella Murder because of the missing shoe at the crime scene. Will Laurie and Alex together solve this case through the episode like before or will it be just another episode as in the famed TV show Unsolved Mysteries - we have to wait and read the book to get the answers. :P

Susan Dempsey was 19 year old, aspiring artist, UCLA student and  daughter of Jack and Rosemary Dempsey - Jack being head of legal department for Valley Tech one of the top research companies in the country - when she was murdered 20 years ago. She was supposed to come home to her parent's home in Northern California for Jack's sixtieth birthday party but called in last minute to tell her mother that she was going in for an audition for one of Frank Parker's upcoming movie. Only that she turned up dead in Laurel Canyon Park, south of Mulholland Drive in  Hollywood Hills, the following morning appeared to be strangled. And the case went cold very fast and now it has come to Laurie for her Under Suspicion series. Jack Dempsey had passed away three years ago, and Susan has given her agreement to have the case brought into the reality show if they promised to treat Susan's memory with respect. The press had dubbed the murder as The Cinderella Murder as Susan was wearing only one show when her body was discovered. Who had murdered Susan? What was the reason for it?

As Laurie and her team geared up to call up the family and friends closes to Susan at the time of murder, she does have a problems with getting them ready. For instance, Frank Parker, now famous Hollywood director, was the last person to see Susan alive, has his own reservations to be on the show. Susan's agent Edwin Lange had passed away so the connection between Susan and Frank weakens a bit. The other folks she wanted on the show were - Keith Ratner (Susan's boyfriend then and who had been despised by Rosemary) and Madison Meyer and Nicole Melling aka Nicole Hunter (Susan's college roommates).

A few persons of interest for Laurie were - Lydia Lewitt (nosey but helpful neighbor of Rosemary), Gavin Melling (Nicole's husband), Talia Parker (Frank Parker's wife of ten years), Martin Collins (Founder of Advocates of God aka AG, a freedom church), Steve Roman (one of the associates of AG looking over the Bay Area region), Dwight Cook (founder of REACH, an online search engine, and a friend of Susan in college) and Richard Hathaway (professor at Susan's college when she was studying then). Other key folks in Laurie's life that are part of her life both in professional and personal bases - Grace Garcia (Laurie's assistant), Jerry Klein (Laurie's assistant producer) and Brett Young (Laurie's boss).

There are histories beyond these each of the characters that they don’t want to come out into light, especially for the time period that Susan was murdered. What is Nicole hiding? What is it that would come out if dug deep? Was the alibi that Madison provided for Frank landed her the role that Susan was supposed to get? What is history between Frank and Madison? Keith and Madison had dallied together while Keith was dating Susan. Had that come out? Had Madison hurt Susan impulsively because of that? Or did Keith do the honors because Susan did not want to be with him anymore?

As the program preparation progresses with initial interviews setup and ready for the Summit Meeting, things don’t seem as simple as just solving a murder. Dealing with the family and friends of Susan, uncovering their secrets and hidden agendas, tapping into Advocate of Gods mission and finally getting all facts right from fiction, it's a lot more than what Laurie had originally planned for. But is she and her crew safe? Was Leo right about his apprehensions? How will all this finally end at the Summit meeting? Who killed Susan Dempsey?

Another well written plot by the famed author, albeit it’s a collaboration that definitely proved successful. As always her plots are woven well and tied in neatly without revealing the culprit until the last few chapters. Sometimes I am able to figure out. But this time around there were so many possibilities that it was hard to determine for me. Interesting plot, and ending with a happy feeling of solving the murder. Although I would have wished to see a bit more romance between Laurie and Alex, also a little more role for Alex. I always wondered what happens to the main characters after the novel ends. So it was a nice to see the continuation of the characters' lives through a series. Although not all books in a series I like or sometimes the series itself I may not like, this one in particular was certainly appealing enough for me to continue.

If you are into murders and especially dig on solving cold cases, this is one series you do not want to miss.  Looking forward to read the remaining books in the series.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Unsolved Mysteries was a reality TV show hosted by Robert Stack and aired during 1987 and 2002 and later by Dennis Farina between 2008 and 2010. It aired real cold cases of missing persons or murders and asked viewers to help for any information in solving them. More about the show here.
2) Sights in NYC that I didn’t know about and adding to my list to see: Channel Gardens near Rockefeller Center
3) One of the character in the book, Nicole Melling, talks about a song "Little Boxes on the hillside" when she passes small houses on the hillside of I-280 in Bay Area. The lines sounded interesting so I searched for it and lo and behold, that song indeed exists. It was a song written and composed by Malvina Reynolds in 1962, and was a hit for Pete Seeger in 1963 and a theme song for the 2005 Showtime TV Series Weeds. (More about it here) Lyrics can be found here. Here is a video of him singing on a TV show



4) The author mentions about a tech company called REACH that is basically a search engine used to search information on internet. I thought she was talking about Google but not using the name as such. However, she does mentions some of the characters using Google for their work. I wonder if REACH is a search engine or just a search website similar to all those real estate or travel or ticketing websites.

5) I didn’t think there is a website for real named "Who's Dated Who". Surprise Surprise there is indeed such a site. Check it out here.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars:  4 / 5
Recommendation: A definite pick for those lonely days to fill your time and mind with imagination beyond.

September 1st marked the 37th anniversary of the book The Neverending Story. It is a German fantasy novel by Michael Ende first published in German in 1979 and later its English translation by Ralph Manheim in 1983. In 1984 this book was made into a West German produced English epic fantasy film and was produced by  Bernd Eichinger and Dieter Giessler, directed and co-written by Wolfgang Petersen. This is the first film in the film series too - two sequels were made later.



This film adapts the first half of the book and thus the subsequent movies to justify the title. Although the author had not liked the film version and even went on to sue the producers (albeit lost), the movie since has become a super hit. The basic plot is about a boy who reads a magical book that tells a story of a young boy who is to stop the dark storm called Nothing from engulfing the fantasy world. For this day I am posting the review of the movie to mark the special day.

The plot begins with Bastian Balthazar Bux, a 12-year old bibliophile, being harassed by three bullies from his school. To escape them he hides in a bookstore owned by Mr. Coreander who has been interrupted reading a book. When Bastian asks about it, Mr. Coreander advices against it. However Bastian steals the book with a note that he will return it, runs to his school, hides in his school's attic to read it. The book takes Bastian to land of Fantasia that is being invaded by a storm called Nothing that devours everything on its way. When the people seek the aid of their ruler, the Childlike Empress, they find that she is ill. A boy warrior named Atreyu is tasked to find a cure to her sickness and is given a medallion named AURYN that will guide him in the quest. He rides on his horse Artax in search of the cure. Simultaneously a vicous and intelligent wolf-like creature named Gmork is summoned by Nothing to kill Atreyu. Thus the quest begins. Will Atreyu find a cure? Will Gmork attack Atreyu? What is this Nothing? Will the empress get better and fight the Nothing? How does the story in the book tie to the Bastian? Are the two worlds connected somehow? That's what we get to see in the rest of the story.

The author had vivid imaginations about how the people of Fantasia looked like - rock creatures who ate only rock, tiny people, fast running snails, flying pigs, giant turtle almost the size of a small island, a dog-faced dragon called as luckdragon and many others.







The graphics matching to the author's imagination are excellent, however some look amateurish if compared to current era graphics. Certainly took me into a different world, some a bit more than what I can imagine. Surprised to have such a dark theme underneath all the beautiful surroundings for a children's book. Again, doesn't every story come with a dark inside? Except for the kids speaking in screaming voices, it's a definite pick for those lonely days to fill your time and mind with imagination beyond.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) The plot of the film and the book reminds me of the recent novels by Chris Colfer. His Land of Stories books (My review on those books: http://inspirethoughts.livejournal.com/tag/land%20of%20stories) also deal with a pair of twins from this world who transport to the Fairy-tale land to save both the worlds from the evil son of the Fairy Godmother.
2) I haven't read the book this movie is based on but I am adding it to my list to read on.
Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here
For review of all books in this series: Go here

Stars: 3 / 5
Recommendation: If you want an easy and quick murder mystery pick it up and you will enjoy it.

Murder On Parade is the 29th book in the Murder, She Wrote series by Donald Bain and fictional writer Jessica Fletcher based on the popular TV Show of the same name. The book was published in March of 2009. The time around the plot is set again in Jessica's home town of Cabot Cove, Maine.



The people of Cabot Cove are geared up to their annual Fourth of July Celebrations. However the entire planning has been usurped by the town's newest resident and corporate mogul Joseph "Joe" Lennon of Lennon-Diversified, Ltd. And he is funding the entire celebrations. Although in the beginning the town planning committee had welcomed his offer, as days proceeded, Lennon has been becoming more condescending, dictatorial than being part of the planning, much to the disappointment and angst of the committee. There have been voices raised against Lennon's involvement, in particular by Chester Carlisle although everyone have been thinking that Chester is slowly losing it lately. And the new Dr. Warren Boyle and his constant advertising of the new medical methods is causing Seth to lose his patients and also be branded as a bit senile. Jessica hurts for Seth and tries her best to cheer him up.

One evening when Seth, Jessica and FBI agent Rick Alcott were coming out of a restaurant after dinner, they are attacked by a mugger and Seth gets injured in the process. But, was it a mugging gone bad? Or an attempt on one of their lives gone bad? And then the night of fourth of July, they find Joe Lennon shot to death in the back of the Lennon-Diversified. Who had killed him? What is the motive? He did not make many friends in Cabot Cove either. But then his homefront didn’t have any friend either. Was his son Paul had a motive, for he was constantly rubbed at by Joe? What about Cynthia? She chose a lot to lose with the decisions Joe made recently. Or the loud mouth and strong opponent Chester? Did he kill Joe in the spur of the moment, unable to control his rage? What a timely arrival of both Amos and Rick, both retired law enforcement officers, in town when the murder of a high-profile person occurs. Coincidence? Or a hidden purpose behind?

As the plot proceeds we get introduced to a myriad of characters just like in other plots - Dr. Warren Boyle (physician at Lennon-Diversified, Ltd. Who had a penchant to get his patients go through all kinds of tests f necessary or not), Kathy and Wilimena Copeland (You might remember them from the previous book "Panning for Murder" where Jessica and Katy embark on a cruise to find Willie. My review of the book here), Cynthia Welch (Vice-president of strategic planning and marketing at Lennon-Diversified), Dante (one of the executives from Lennon-Diversified working with Cynthia Welch), Robin Stockdale (drama teacher at the high school), Josie Lennon (24-year old daughter of Joseph Lennon and an aspiring actress), Paul Lennon (Joseph Lennon's son), Richard "Rick" Alcott (Retired FBI agent visiting Cabot Cove) and Denise Lennon (Joe Lennon's wife).

Not to forget the regulars - Mayor Jim Shevlin and his wife Susan Shevlin, Dr. Seth Hazlitt, Sheriff Mort Metzger and his wife Maureen Metzger, Tim Purdy (Cabot Cove historian) and his wife Ellen Purdy (always won the annual quilting bee contest) and others.

Another decent mystery that keeps you on the edge and definitely makes you want to know who the killer is.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Amos Tupper, the retired Sherriff of Cabot Cove makes an appearance in this book. I always wondered if the author would bring back old characters from the TV series that don’t occur in books anymore. There you go, he brought in one now. :)
2) Jessica laments about communication through emails distorting the language and the method. How so true. I felt the same when communication through texting started, what with the abbreviated words, emojis and mis-spelt words. It used to irritate the heck out of me. I totally get her sentiment.
3) Grucci Fireworks are planned to be used by Joseph Lennon in the book. They are told to be the ones used for Olympics, White House events and other bigger ones. Whoa!
4) Grammatical Errors Seen - Pg 15 Para 2 last but one line a missing "to" right before "left" in the statement "allegedly left her by...".
5) There is a mention of Twelve Angry Men movie in the book. I had been meaning to watch this movie for quite some time. I might as well do it now for these reviews. :)
6) Cabot Cove's lobsterfest is also mentioned in the book. The author had written a murder mystery around that festival in the 23rd Book Maine Mutiny. Check my review of hat book here
7) Another novel Catch-22 is mentioned in the plot. It is written by Joseph Heller and seems to be a military plot. Havent read it before…Must try to get to it sometime in future. :)

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