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Movie Critique – Phantom Raiders

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: With no mystery it has been a rather fun going along plot where even the villain can be scared; the hero will bumble along; the heroines are simply delightful even if they don’t chose the hero; and the sidekick gets the final say in the end. 

Phantom Raiders is a 1940 film featuring Detective Nick Carter. This is the second of the three movies made with Walter Pidgeon as the famed detective. Pre-World War II jitters inspired Hollywood to create a new genre of film making, spy movies. Detective Nick Carter movies fall into the same category.

Keeping with the World War II tensions, in this film, Nick Carter (portrayed by Walter Pidgeon) comes across a plan to sabotage the Panama Canal while investigating for an insurance company on why their cargo ships were being exploded. With his sidekick, Bartholomew (portrayed by Donald Meek), Nick despite his reluctance to take on the case, he proceeds an investigation that takes him to murder and conspiracy. 

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Movie Critique – The Girl on the Train

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: Brilliantly adapted to film, and equally well-written novel, with superb performances overall, giving a thriller to the viewers that would give them shivers up and down their spine. Ignore all the negative reviews. I would say give this a shot, you will love it.

The Girl on the Train is a 2016 American mystery thriller film directed by Tate Taylor and based on the 2015 debut novel of the same name by British author Paula Hawkins. Emily Blunt plays the titular role and is supported by Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans and Lisa Kudrow among others.

Rachel Watson (portrayed by Emily Blunt), a lonely alcoholic, sees her ex-husband Tom Watson's (portrayed by Justin Theroux) nanny, Megan Hipwell (portrayed by Haley Bennett) in the company of someone else from her train window. Enraged she goes to confront Megan, but blacks out. And when she wakes up she is covered in blood and Megan, goes missing. Now she resorts to find the missing woman unknowingly going down a rabbit hole that may lead to doors that she would rather have them kept closed.

I had not read the book but when the film was aired on TV, the summary of it reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock's 1938 film The Lady Vanishes and Agatha Christie's 1957 Miss Marple novel 4.50 from Paddington. I simply watched it to see if it was a remake of either of them. And it certainly has elements from both and a few other such stories, but a totally different story in itself.

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Movie Critique – The Breaking Point

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: Exceptional adaptation of Hemingway's novel bringing out the best not only in the acting capabilities but also evoking emotions from them making them live their characters. A gripping drama with all the elements of a film noir, definitely deserves a watch.

The Breaking Point is a 1950 American film noir crime drama directed by Michael Curtiz. Starring John Garfield, Patricia Neal and Phyllis Thaxter, this is the second film adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's 1937 novel To Have and Have Not.

Harry Morgan (portrayed by John Garfield) is the captain of a small fishing boat with his marriage on rocks and business on the slide. He makes an illegal deal with a shady lawyer, Duncan (portrayed by Wallace Ford), to aid his financial troubles. But the troubles only mount for Morgan, adding more fissure between him and his wife, Lucy (portrayed by Phyliis Thaxter), and increasing his waywardness towards Leona Charles (portrayed by Patricia Neal), and a path down to murder and deceit. 

The prior adaptation to this film was the 1944 film starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, was titled the same as the novel; and directed by Howard Hawks. Hawks had boasted five years prior to Hemingway that his worst novel, To Have and Have Not, could be converted to a decent movie. A 19 yr old Lauren Bacall was introduced to movie goers with this film.

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Movie Critique – Sadie Thompson

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: A story of a scarlet woman on a road to new life encounters love, hurdles and eventually finds her happy place. Silent film makes it all the more effective with only music in the background and title cards and expressions on face. Beautifully made. 

Sadie Thompson is a 1928 American silent drama film starring Gloria Swanson, Lionel Barrymore and Raoul Walsh. Gloria Swanson also Produced it which was Directed by Raoul Walsh. The film tells a tale about a fallen woman who is attempting to start a new life in a new place. It is based on the 1921 short story Miss Thompson by W. Somerset Maugham and the 1922 play Rain, by John Colton and Clemence Randolph also based on the short story.

This is one of the successful films for Swanson, both financially and critically, even though it deemed a lot of controversy due to the plot line. The only silent, independent film of Swanson that was commercially success. However, she couldn’t reap the profits as she had sold her rights to the movie before it became a success. 

Sadie Thompson (portrayed by Gloria Swanson) is a young prostitute who runs away to Pago Pago in American Samoa, to start a new life. She falls in love with Sergeant Timothy "Tim" O'Hara (portrayed by Raoul Walsh). However missionary couple Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Davidson (portrayed by Lionel Barrymore and Blanche Friderici) hinder her path in the name of redemption. 

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53 Week Journey through the Land of Drapes and Colors: Week #23

For details on all the sarees I have posted so far, go here.

Happy Varalakshmi Vratam!!

Varalakshmi Vratam is a Hindu festival that falls on the Friday before the Full Moon in the month of Shravana - which is usually July or August per the Gregorian Calendar. It is celebrated by people hailing from most of Southern and Central states in India. It is a festival to offer prayers and perform pooja (= act of worship) to Goddess Lakshmi to provide one with vara (= boon).

The pooja is performed by women of the household to for their own well being and their families and friends as well as for health and prosperity. If interested to know more about the festival, read here.

Every year since past six years I have been doing this pooja as well. Last two years though I had my parents with me. As always this year also I did the pooja with a bit more decorations that I normally do (inspired by my cousin Vinni who is superb with the decorations). Not as elaborate as hers but I did more than what I normally.

For this festival I wore this Blue-Grey Banarasi Kora Organza Saree with Zari and Silk. It has an orange border that runs through the length of the saree. There are beautiful brocades woven through the rich fabric in various designs; silver and gold threads are woven along with Zari within. The brocades are usually made of warp and weft. 

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Movie Critique – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: Considered a failure, and a comical mockery of the classic, I still found in revolting at places as it should be, and charmed at places as expected. Ironically it carries a dose of philosophy too.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a 1941 American horror film based on the 1886 gothic novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson; and aptly set in 1887.  Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner are the lead star cast of this 1941 version directed by Victor Fleming and produced by Victor Saville. Jack Dawn created the Mr. Hyde make-up in the film for Tracy.

Dr. Henry "Harry" Jekyll (portrayed by Spencer Tracy), who believes in good and evil residing in everyone, inadvertently releases his evil side, Mr. Edward Hyde, during one of his experiments. And quickly Dr. Jekyll starts losing control to Mr. Hyde who commits crimes without remorse, and continues to abuse being evil. 

I have to confess though. Having already read the novella once before, for some reason the roles of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde got interchanged in my mind. For so long Jekyll was the "evil" and Hyde was the "good" in my brain. I am not sure so why since the title of the novella or film should have corrected me. 

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Movie Critique – Point Blank

Stars: 3 / 5

Recommendation: A box office failure, but leaves the viewers with a good thriller no doubt engaging with a new way of presenting a simple heist and revenge tale. Worth one watch!

Point Blank is a 1967 American crime drama film starring Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, Sharon Acker and John Vernon. Adapted from the 1963 crime noir pulp novel The Hunter by Donald E. Westlake, the film was directed by John Boorman.

After a heist, Walker (portrayed by Lee Marvin) is shot and left to die by his partner Mal Reese (portrayed by John Vernon), who then leaves with the money and Walker's wife, Lynne Walker (portrayed by Sharon Acker). However, Walker recovers. Now he sets on a path of revenge to take down his wife, his partner, and get his half of the heist that sums upto $93K.

Westlake was writing as Richard Stark then. His book was converted to screenplay for this film by Alexander Jacobs, David Newhouse and Rafe Newhouse. The original script from the novel had been considerably rearranged per se when it finally became the film, including changing the lead characters name from Parker to Walker. 

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Movie Critique – Star of Midnight

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: William Powell and Ginger Rogers make an excellent pair of amateur detectives - Dalzell and Martin - giving Nick and Nora Charles run for their money; only we don’t see any more of Dalzell and Martin movies, sadly.

Star of Midnight is a 1935 American mystery-comedy starring William Powell and Ginger Rogers. Directed by Stephen Roberts and James Anderson, this was released by RKO pictures. The plot involves a missing persons case that soon turns into much more. 

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Movie Critique – Three Strangers

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: Three desperate characters crazy about a statue and the fortune it may or may note bestow - a recipe perfectly executed by Negulesco to Huston's screenplay, full of deceit and marked absence of emotions, leaving a chill in the viewer's mind no matter whose fate they pick. 

Three Strangers is a 1946 American film noir crime drama starring Sydney Greenstreet, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Peter Lorre, Joan Lorring and Alan Napier in the lead cast. Directed by Jean Negulesco, the screenplay was written by John Huston and Howard Koch. The film is set in 1938.

When I was posting about the 1941 film noir The Maltese Falcon, I mentioned that Huston had written a sequel to that film and released in 1946. Little did I know then that Turner Classic Movies (TCM) would air the sequel, Three Strangers. And I didn’t lose an opportunity to watch it.

Three strangers - Crystal Shackelford (portrayed by Geraldine Fitzgerald), solicitor Jeromy K. Arbutny (portrayed by Sydney Greenstreet) and drunkard Johnny West (portrayed by Peter Lorre - are lured into the mythology of wishing to an idol of Chinese goddess of fortune and destiny, Kwan Yin, on the eve of Chinese New Year then the wish will be granted. And their wishes to make their lives better only cause more trouble leading upto murder, mystery and heartache.

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Book Critique: Verity

Stars: 4 / 5

Recommendation: Suddenly chilling, suddenly happy, with creepy hidden underneath, this thriller would make one question your own feelings; be scared of your own moves; worry you on which memory is real and which is a fantasy.

Verity is a stand-alone romantic psychological thriller by Colleen Hoover published in December of 2018. The tale revolves around the Crawford family and Lowen Ashleigh, who comes to live with them to co-author for a series of books. 

This is the first time I am reading a book by Hoover, again being loaned by my dear friend (Patty). Most of Hoover's books are categorized under New Adult or Young Adult fiction. This definitely comes under New Adult. 

Lowen Ashleigh is on the brink of going to poverty when she gets a writing gig - to be a co-author to Verity Crawford, complete her books in her stead. However, she is drawn towards Jeremy Crawford, Verity's husband, and finds some secrets of the Crawford family that might crumble their world further into a dark chasm. Only she is not prepared to have fallen into the chasm along with them.

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