WHAT I AM ABOUT TO tell you actually happened to me, but you will still not believe it. It was going to be our 3rd or 4th date, I cannot remember exactly, and I was being asked to come over for dinner to their place. Not being familiar with the different types of wine I offered to bring a dessert which is more my speed. I can still remember the apartment building; it was two stories tall and “L” shaped, broken up by a couple of courtyards. Finding the name on the directory I rang the bell and waited to be buzzed in past the security door. The hallway had a ceramic tiled floor made up of small black and white tiles that formed mini flower patterns. As I was walking up to the 2nd floor I could hear the creaking of the steps beneath my feet. Waiting at the opened door we greeted and I was ushered into a hallway with ivory painted, stucco walls. The hardwood floor looked recently polished. I did however notice some small thing by the baseboard, but did not have time to get a good look as we walked into the living room. THOUGH THE ROOM LOOKED LOVELY with a big bay window with a classic wooden radiator cover underneath it, there were a few peanut shells on the floor; how odd I thought. The shells were quite visible so I could not understand why they had not been picked up. Well I got my answer no more than a minute after I sat down at one end of the couch. A squirrel appeared at the entrance to the room but stopped and remained still as its gaze locked onto me. I remember whispering there was a squirrel in the house but the reaction I got from them was not what I was expecting. They leaned over to a candy dish on the coffee table in front of us and lifted the cover. Inside, the bowl was full of peanuts in their shells; like the kind you get at a baseball game. I was so taken aback as the squirrel was tossed a peanut that I did not have time to stop myself from uttering an expletive. After apologizing to my date, I listened as they explained the reasons why they fed the squirrels in the neighborhood. As if I needed proof I was shown the kitchen where they kept the back door open so the squirrels could come in. Oh and the floor had broken peanut shells all over it; it was disgusting. I barely ate and as soon as we were done eating I ended the evening. Some animals need to stay out of the house; just look what happened in this adventure comedy. WHEN THE NEW NEIGHBOR THOMAS McGregor, played by Domhnall Gleeson (Goodbye Christopher Robin, About Time), moved in next door Bea, played by Rose Byrne (The Meddler, Insidious franchise), hoped he would get along with her friend Peter Rabbit, voiced by James Corden (Into the Woods, The Lady in the Van). Thomas had other ideas. This adaptation of Beatrix Potter’s classic story had wonderful special effects; it sounds corny but the animals were so animated and real looking. The script however was not as good. At one point I felt I was watching a Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoon because it was somewhat mean spirited. I felt the innocence and mischievousness of the Peter Rabbit character was taken away in this animated film. It is a shame because I really enjoyed James Corden as Peter. And if it means anything, after watching this movie I still had a bad attitude about squirrels.
The far reaching white expanse was marred by deep fissures that revealed touches of crystal blue running water. It almost looked like the ice had tears rolling down due to the frigid temperatures. The brightness reflecting off of all this ice made it difficult to shoot photos from my perch inside the helicopter. Once we landed on the ice I had the opportunity to take pictures but only if I left the warmth, comparatively speaking, from inside the chopper. As I stepped outside the still, frigid air settled on me like a bear hug. I felt my blood reversing course to go back and protect my internal organs, leaving my extremities to stiffen up from the cold. To take pictures I had to remove my gloves and I knew my fingers would quickly turn to rock solid stumps. The only way I cold function was to quickly snap multiple photos at a single time, alternating with the taking off and putting on of my bulky gloves. I grew up in a place that had 4 seasons, so I was used to the winter months; however here in Alaska, the cold seemed more intense. Maybe it was because there were no man made structures around just wide open spaces with the occasional rolled up snow drifts and broken ice chunks. Where I was visiting in Alaska there were no human inhabitants; I could not even imagine human life venturing to this area. Pristine and untouched, yet silently able to extinguish life with its icy breath it was all the more reason why I found this dramatic adventure film something special. CLOSE to death from a bear attack Hugh Glass, played by Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception, The Departed), was determined to stay alive in the unforgiving cold frontier. He had a special reason to reunite with his expedition. Inspired by true events this thriller was a monumental production. Included in the cast was Tom Hardy (Legend, Mad Max: Fury Road) as John Fitzgerald, Will Poulter (We’re the Millers, The Maze Runner) as Bridger and Domhnall Gleeson (About Time, Ex Machina) as Captain Andrew Henry; everyone deserved extra credit for the contribution they made to this incredible film. Both the directing and cinematography were outstanding. I especially admired the camera angles that were used in the shooting of multiple scenes. Honestly I do not know how the cast and crew survived such a long film shoot in such an inhospitable locale. There were a few cringeworthy scenes that included blood; I found myself squirming in my seat. Set in the 1820s this was a raw yet beautiful picture; the original soundtrack was a perfect accompaniment. At one point I had to keep reminding myself that the film studio would not want to lose anyone to the brutal elements so there had to be some protection set up for everyone. I have to tell you watching this film was like a workout for me; bundled up in my seat staring and cringing in disbelief.
3 1/2 stars
At some point in time you come to the realization that you want to spend the rest of your life with that person. Was it after you went through your checklist of pluses and minuses, it fit into your time frame or it fulfills a desire? It is interesting, I recently read a survey that listed the top deal breakers in a relationship. The top four reasons were disheveled/unclean appearance, lazy, too needy or lack of humor. Any one of these would be what I call one of my red flags; I tend to pay close attention to the cleanliness of someone’s teeth and fingernails. The way I tend to define whether a relationship has potential or not to be long term is to look at the things that bother or annoy me. I just ask myself if this is something I can live with and if it is then I remain engaged in the relationship. Here is an example: being a credit manager, I do not know if I could be with someone who was not financially conscientious. If they had little regard to paying their bills or bouncing checks, I think over time it would build up and bother me too much. Since love is an all encompassing thing, one cannot choose the parts they like and discard the rest. So I understand where the act of committing may take time. The only time I can see where this will turn into a problem is when the person is making a commitment based only on the positive attributes of a loved one. MOVING from Ireland to America was the hardest thing Eilis, played by Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones, Hanna), ever had to do in her young life. That was until she settled in Brooklyn, New York where she met Tony, played by Emory Cohen (The Place Beyond the Pines, Beneath the Harvest Sky). This film festival winning drama was a perfect throwback to those old fashioned dialog driven movies Hollywood use to make. The romantic story was exquisite in the way it simply laid out the story of a young Irish immigrant finding her own in a foreign country, besides her journey growing into a mature woman. I thought the acting was outstanding from the main characters and supporting ones such as Julie Walters (Driving Lessons, Harry Potter franchise) as Mrs. Kehoe and Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina, Unbroken) as Jim Farrell. The scenery and costumes especially stood out for me in this 1950s period piece. Another aspect I particularly admired was the strength of the main character. I think many of us are used to having some type of trauma move the story and it really was not the case in this film. If I were to go through my checklist of things that create an Oscar worthy film, this one would certainly fit the bill.
3 2/3 stars
It drives me crazy when a computer function does not work. On the monitor a small warning pops up and tells me the procedure failed; then has the nerve to make me press the “okay” button like I have a choice. I want to say no, it is not okay now fix it. The way I look at it I want computers to correct themselves if they are so smart. Now intelligently I understand they cannot think for themselves, but it certainly seems we are going in that direction. With the variety of electronic devices we use these days, some of our computers know more about ourselves than our family or friends. Instead of typing we can talk to our computers, use sign language and maybe soon facial recognition. Just this morning on the news I saw a report of a robot with a human face that has over 40+ pulleys underneath so the robot can provide visual facial cues besides verbal ones. I have to tell you it creeped me out a bit. Maybe it is because of all the science fiction movies I have seen; but the smarter computers are becoming the more concerned I am of their power. There is all this talk about artificial intelligence; do you ever think there will be a time where a computer will refuse one of our requests? It is a frightening thought and this dramatic science fiction film does not make me feel any better about it. WINNING a company contest computer programmer Caleb, played by Domhnall Gleeson (Unbroken, About Time), won a week at the company CEO’s remote private residence. Upon his arrival he discovered he would be testing a new form of artificial intelligence never seen before and her name was Ava, played by Alicia Vikander (Seventh Son, A Royal Affair). This film festival winning movie quickly drew me in with its crisp sleek look. I enjoyed how the scenes blended in with the soundtrack to create a buildup of tension. The acting was excellent from everyone, particularly by Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year, Robin Hood) as Nathan. He had a commanding presence on screen. For the majority of the film the script kept my interest; there were only a few parts that seemed to deflate and slow down. For such a modern and relevant story, there was an exciting old fashioned type of cat and mouse mystery game going on which was captivating. This picture had the type of science fiction story that could be considered closer to reality than fiction, which was a scary thought to me. I kept thinking about this movie after it was over. After you see this film you may get a better understanding about my fears when it comes to smart computers. There were a couple of brief scenes with blood.
3 1/4 stars
Appearing not so dissimilar from the uniqueness of an individual’s fingerprints is a person’s pain threshold. I am curious to know what determines someone’s tolerance to pain. Is it genetic, environmental or mind over matter; I have seen people’s reactions go from one extreme to the other. One friend of mine is hypersensitive to any type of discomfort; a pinprick will cause them to let out a loud wail. Another friend could be in pain but one would never know by looking at them. If anything they may not walk as fast as they normally do; but if you did not know, they would appear to be having an average day. Though I am not comfortable comparing one person’s reactions to pain to another, I can appreciate those individuals who overcome intense suffering. One of the places where I have witnessed a person’s courage on display has been at the health and fitness centers where I have classes. Seeing people battle back from serious health issues, some involving major surgery and/or artificial limb replacement, has been humbling. I have watched with awe as I have watched them struggling to walk a single lap around the indoor track or try to lift a 2 pound weight to their chest. Every single one of them is a hero to me. INCREDIBLE and heroic would not have been terms used to describe Louis Zamperini, played by Jack O’Connell (Starred Up, 300: Rise of an Empire), if he had not transformed himself from a wild hooligan into an Olympic athlete and U.S. Air Force bombardier. However, it was because of those earlier experiences that enabled him to survive not only the sea but a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp during World War II. This film festival winning biographical drama was directed by Angelina Jolie (Maleficent, Salt). Based on Louis’ life, his story was bigger than this movie. I felt Angelina had a good eye for blocking scenes and I understood she worked at getting a PG-13 rating for this film. However, I believe she was too reserved in bringing Louis’ story to life. For what he endured I thought there would have been more emotional intensity to the scenes. There were times where I felt things were dragged out longer than necessary; I was starting to get bored. This may have been part of the reason I did not connect with Jack or newcomer Takamasa Ishihara who played Watanabe a/k/a The Bird; they could have been pushed harder to deliver a stronger performance. I recently saw a television special about Louis and from it I knew his story would have been challenging for any director to do it justice. Angelina gave it a good try but I felt this movie needed more of everything.
2 1/2 stars
The conversation seemed to be going well. There was a rhythm established where we started to volley thoughts and questions back and forth. I have always considered the absence of questions being asked as a red flag. In conversations I am a stickler for making eye contact, for I gain added insight when I can look into their eyes while we are talking to each other. The dinner date was going well but there was a voice in the back of my head that was critiquing my performance. There was an onslaught of questions chipping away at my confidence. Why did I immediately say indoors without asking their opinion, when the host asked if we wanted to dine indoors or out? I detest eating outdoors; having to fight bugs, car exhaust and pedestrians walking by. Why didn’t I order a plain entree instead of something that I had to tell the waiter to either remove or exchange parts for something different? If I could have only gone back in time like they did in this comedic drama I know I could have made a better impression. When Tim, played by Domhnall Gleeson (True Grit, Dredd), was told by his father, played by Bill Nighy (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Love Actually), that all the men in their family had the ability to travel back in time, he had to find out for himself. Discovering it was true, Tim set out on a journey to find himself a girlfriend. He would also discover things change when one goes back in time. This fantasy film had a sweet and sentimental story; I was thoroughly entertained by it. I thought everyone did a wonderful job with their characters, especially Rachel McAdams (Midnight in Paris, The Vow) as Mary. The role was perfect for her style of acting. Since this film festival winning movie was a fantasy, I was not so concerned with the way Tim traveled in time or if it was hokey. They were easily forgivable because I found the entire story had an easy flow and kept me engaged. Imagine if we could go back and do things over from our past; it would make life easier. But since it is make-believe, I have to remember to embrace and live in the moment.