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.
WHAT I AM ABOUT TO tell you is not written in any rule books. It is observational, helpful guidelines I have made over the years while riding trains in different cities. There is something about trains that has always attracted me. They are not as fast as planes but sitting back and literally seeing the countryside pass by is a thrill for me. I remember on one vacation a friend had told me to make sure I sat on the left side of the train car for a better view on a scenic train ride through the mountains and they were absolutely right. This train was geared more towards tourists so all the train cars were clean inside and out. On public transportation systems I have sat in seats where the windows were smeared with something I preferred not knowing what it could be; so make a note to yourself, you never want to lean your head against the window even if you should happen to doze off. When you are sitting in a train car where there is an agitated passenger talking nonsense it is best to exit the train car and go to another one. IF YOU ARE CURIOUS to learn about the local cuisine of a new city, I suggest you never sit next to a passenger who is eating. Chances are you will have crumbs or liquids spilled on you; it is best to sit across from the person if you want to ask about the food balanced on their lap. I have walked onto some train cars where there was such a strong stench of stale food that I immediately turned around and found a different car. On one trip I was sitting in my seat trying to listen to the conductor calling out each train stop. After some time I found the conductor to ask him how much longer to the stop I needed. They looked at me with concern as they told me I missed my stop and I better stay with him for the rest of the trip, until he could put me on another train to take me back to where I needed to belong. It was an odd exchange at the time but I soon realized what the conductor was implying as the neighborhood we were traveling through was changing. From what I have told you now, do you want to take a chance by riding on the train in this dramatic, crime drama? BY RIDING THE SAME train to work every day Michael MacCauley, played Liam Neeson (Run All Night, The Grey), was familiar with most of the passengers in his train car. However when the stranger Joanna, played by Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air, Orphan), sat next to him she struck up a conversation that would change his life. Along with Liam and Vera the cast included Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring franchise, The Phantom of the Opera) as Alex Murphy, Sam Neill (Tommy’s Honour, The Piano) as Captain Hawthorne and Jonathan Banks (Gremlins, Breaking Bed) as Walt. As this passenger train rolled down the tracks the story and script got loonier and loonier. Liam played the exact same character he has portrayed in most of his recent films. The beginning of the story interested me but soon scenes were becoming farfetched and not making much sense. I did not connect to any of the characters. In a way this film was a cross between Liam’s Taken film franchise with Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. One would have been better off to have taken a different train all together.
1 ¾ stars
MINIATURE golf covers my experience with playing the game of golf. For those of you who know my love of travel, you will especially appreciate when I tell you about a miniature golf course I used to play at when I was a small boy. The majority of the holes each had a replica of a national or world landmark that you would have to negotiate, to get your colored golf ball to the cup. For a kid who had not yet seen the actual structures, this was a big deal. I remember one hole that had a tall skyscraper which would light up at night. The goal was to hit your ball between the elevator doors so you could watch your ball rise up to the top of the building where it would be dropped off and disappear for a moment. By the time you ran to the back of the skyscraper you would just see the ball coming out of an exit door right by the cup. My favorite was a reproduction of a famous amusement park roller coaster. If you could get the ball up the entrance ramp, you could watch your ball take a ride on the coaster before it was dropped off at the cup. This was the extent of my golfing prowess. FROM the different comments I have heard about the game of golf, there are a lot of people who consider it a rich man’s sport or a gentleman’s game. Whether it is or not does not make a difference to me. I can appreciate the dedication, raw talent and competitiveness on display; but because I have a hard time justifying the amount of money given to professional athletes compared to school teachers, I find the large sums going into prize money, advertising and betting very odd, troubling. I know this is not exclusive to golfing by any means; at almost any given time I will hear about someone betting on such and such game or being a part of an office pool. Little did I know that this practice has been going on for a long time. SCOTSMAN Tom Morris, played by Peter Mullan (War Horse, Tyrannosaur), had been the groundskeeper and golf club maker of the St. Andrews golf course for many years. The club members assumed his son Tommy, played by Jack Lowden (A United Kingdom, Denial), would take over the family business; however, Tommy had something different in mind. This film festival winning drama based on a true story also starred Sam Neill (Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Jurassic Park franchise) as Alexander Boothby and Ophelia Lovibond (Guardians of the Galaxy, No Strings Attached) as Meg Drinnen. The story was the fascinating part for me in this biography; watching how the game of golf was originally played truly was a trip back in time. Unfortunately the script caused this movie to be a bogey instead of a hole in one. For such a game changing story, this script really needed to get gritty and make the characters more than one dimensional. The thing that kept me interested was the historical value the events had in this picture. I may not have any interest in playing golf, but at least I now know how it came to be.
2 ½ stars
It takes more than blood to make a family. Love, support and care would be some other elements needed for a family unit. I am aware the word family had a more traditional minded definition years ago, but it has evolved along with the times. I wanted to see how it is presently defined and this is what I found online: “A social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group.” Another definition I read stated it this way: “A group of persons who form a household under one head.” If I were to define the word “family” I would also add the option “persons of equal status.” The reason I say this is because after I recently left a lunch date with a close friend I was driving home, thinking about how similarly minded the two of us were in our ideas and beliefs. I not only felt comfortable with her, but easily saw her as the sister I never had. We have each shared such personal details about our life that I simply consider her family. There is some type of saying that goes something like this, “You can choose your friends but you cannot choose your family.” Another one is, “Friends are the family you choose.” Both of these sayings have validity; family starts with the heart and mind. Now when it comes to children and the things I have seen and heard, I believe children come into this world with a clean slate, totally innocent. The individuals who bring them in may not always qualify to be a parent. This film festival winning adventure movie will show you an example of what I have been saying. GOING from foster home to foster home Ricky, played by Julian Dennison (Paper Planes, Shopping), had one chance left to make it work when he arrived at the home of Bella and Hec, played by Rima Te Wiata (Housebound, Full Frontal-TV) and Sam Neill (Jurassic Park franchise, Event Horizon). Not everyone was on board with this arrangement. The story line in this comedic drama may seem familiar to many viewers; however, I am guessing very few of you have experienced a movie of this caliber. First the setting was so incredibly beautiful I just wanted to be there. Secondly, with the inclusion of Rachel House (Whale Rider, Boy) as Paula, the acting was excellent. I thought the script did a wonderful job in the mixing of humor and drama. There were laugh out loud parts, scary parts, touching parts; I absolutely was drawn into this picture for it was the complete package of what a good movie should be. Only for the briefest of moments I had a hard time understanding what Ricky was saying, but once I had a sense of his lingo I did not have any type of issue. Another thing that stood out for me was the direction. I enjoyed the way the story was filmed, giving actors the opportunity to express real emotions without having to say anything. Watching this movie was a joyous experience for me and I would not mind if some of the characters became part of my family.
There are some things we think we have let go of but they have only settled somewhere in the still pools of our mind. They live submerged, below the surface while consciousness sails above it. A person cannot say their life is unaffected by it taking up residence inside of them because while it lives in the unconscious depths, it asserts its presence onto random decisions that one makes in life. Not only have I seen the results of this arrangement but I have experienced it myself. There was a person I knew who was in an abusive relationship. Once they were able to disentangle themselves from the abuser I noticed several decisions they made came from a weak position. In other words, they never gave enough credit to their true abilities; as if they were not worthy or good enough for something better. I had to point it out and encouraged them to seek out help since their psyche had been beaten down for so long. As for myself there was a period of time where I had to endure emotional trauma. The way it affected me was through migraine headaches. I would get these at the same period of time like clockwork. Now I know other individuals who suffered from re-occurring nightmares, where they could not understand why they were getting them. I shared the information I got from my schooling, where we were taught that the main character of a dream is a representation of ourselves. It really is amazing what the mind can do to a person. PSYCHOLOGIST Peter Bower, played by Adrien Brody (The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Pianist), stumbled onto an odd discovery about his patients; they all had something in common. Written and directed by Michael Petroni (The Book Thief, Queen of the Damned), this mystery thriller had the good fortune of having Adrien in the lead role. I thought he brought intensity to the story that was at best average. The reason I say this is due to the idea of it; this picture felt like a light version of a theme that had been done several times before. Included in the cast was Sam Neill (Jurassic Park franchise, Event Horizon) as Duncan Stewart and Robin McLeavy (The Loved Ones, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) as Barbara Henning. The movie as a whole had a good look to it that matched the emotional darkness on display. However, I felt drama was lacking in the scenes; there could have been a heightened level of it given to the characters. This movie kept my interest for the most part, even though it started out slow. I also was surprised with the turn of events in the story. I would have to say this is not a film that one needs to run out and see; instead, it would work just as well waiting to see it in the comfort of your home.
There is a game a friend of mine likes to play whenever we get together. Wherever we may be, he will point out different people and ask me if I think they are beautiful. I always reply with the same answer that I guess so, but I do not know what they are like on the inside. He will try to force me to make a judgement based on these people’s outside appearance, though I have explained to him that the surface is only a covering for the real person inside. Numerous times I have told him that making a quick judgement on a person’s looks is not what I am about. A beautiful covering over an evil soul is like putting a fresh coat of paint on a dilapidated house. You may love the color of the paint but the falling roof can kill you. This movie based on a true story showed the harsh reality of a person being judged by the color of their skin. Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda, The Secret Life of Bees) played Sandra Laing, a dark skinned girl born to white Afrikaner parents in South Africa during the time of apartheid. With her curly hair and richly colored skin, Sandra fought to find her place despite society’s restrictions. Alice Krige (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The Contract) and Sam Neill (Jurrassic Park franchise, The Vow) were wonderful playing Sandra’s parents Alice and Abraham Laing. Sophia did an incredible job of acting and in a way, I could relate to her feeling like an outsider. This film festival winner was a bit hard to watch for me, since I am uncomfortable when I witness prejudice. To see how Sandra and the black inhabitants of the country were treated solely on the color of their skin was distressing. Sandra and her parents truly were brave souls. I think I will suggest to my friend that he watch this amazing movie.
3 1/4 stars — DVD