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
THE SET OF DOORS was still massive looking under the prominent archway sticking out from the building’s façade. Crossing over the threshold the first open area available was a huge lobby. The floor was well worn; the once polished tile was now tired and dull. The ceiling was made up with an elaborate maze of wooden beams that crisscrossed in such a way to form star shapes. Some of the stars had long chandeliers hanging down that threw off just enough light to barely encompass the lobby. There was a grand staircase that started in the middle of the area then swept up like a curl of blonde hair to the 2nd floor. At the top of the staircase just beyond was a wall of stained glass that looked like it was covered in a dark veil; the light coming from behind was no longer strong enough to shine through completely. Behind the staircase on the main floor was a row of doors, each one numbered. NO MATTER WHICH DOOR one walked through, there were railroad tracks waiting on the other side. The platforms were for the most part clear of debris; but there were splotches of dirtiness looking like broken shadows that died on the floor. The lighting was weak, needing the assistance of any light source coming through the glass ceiling above. Not every track had a train unloading or waiting for passengers. As for the train cars that were present, there was not one that did not look like it had gone through some type of battle. With bruises, scrapes and nicks; the cars were so old they would always squeal their aches and pains when leaving the station. Inside the cars one would be challenged to find a seat that did not have a rip in its fabric or graffiti displayed somewhere on the front or back. A passenger’s comfort was not taken into consideration when the cars were manufactured; the main focus was determining how many seats could be stuffed into each car. Seeing the passenger train in this dramatic, crime mystery made me wish I would have had an opportunity to experience such an elegant ride. WHEN ONE PASSENGER WAS found dead in their cabin it was up to Detective Hercule Poirot, played by Kenneth Branagh (Dunkirk, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) to find the killer before another passenger wound meet the same fate. Based on Agatha Christie’s novel this movie directed by Kenneth Branagh was a beautiful representation of a time long passed. With Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Silent Witness-TV) as Miss Mary Debenham, Leslie Odom Jr. (Red Tails, Person of Interest-TV) as Dr. Arbuthnot, Penelope Cruz (The Counsellor, Head in the Clouds) as Pilar Estravados and Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, Marshall) as Hector MacQueen; the cast was filled with heavy hitting actors. I truly enjoyed the way this movie was filmed because it was beautiful to watch. However with the script being so lifeless I had to wonder why the studio hired such a talented cast only to have them do nothing. There were some actors that I cannot recall if they had more than 4 lines; it was silly especially since Kenneth was in almost every scene and in the viewers’ faces. Drama and intensity were missing from this picture. Considering the circumstances taking place there needed to be tension, thrills and excitement; none of that was present in this film. I felt this remake took the story and put it in a pretty package to entice viewers, only to have them open it up and realize they already had seen a better version sometime before.
A good way to feel the heartbeat of a city is to take a ride on its commuter train. It is an easy way to not only see the city but to watch how its citizens mingle throughout the city’s arteries. When I used to take public transportation to work I would find myself getting lost into the brief visual vignettes all around me. There were the train’s adult babies who would quickly be lulled to sleep by the swaying of the train car as it rolled down the tracks. Among the passengers there was the group that always had a hardcover or paperback book to read, while another group used their electronic devices. The thing I liked to do was look out the windows. From my train car I could watch a parade taking place that had citizens carrying a long paper dragon down a street in a neighborhood with a large population of Asian Americans. In another part of the city I could see people sitting outside at a café having an afternoon coffee with shopping bags lying at their feet like trusted pets. After a few times on the same route I would know which train stops some of the passengers would get off at; business attired people would step out in the downtown area of the city and passengers with book bags or textbooks in their laps would get off at one of two stops that was close to a city college. For a different type of experience taking the train at night brings in a more intimate experience; at least it does for me. Apartment buildings would reveal a grid of lit windows where each one told a different story. With one blink of the eye I could see someone cooking up a storm of a meal or two people studiously peering down at a table full of jigsaw pieces. Each day would be a different scene and you would never know what you could witness. CATCHING the same train everyday Rachel, played by Emily Blunt (Into the Woods, Sicario), would come up with an internal story for the people she would see. But what if a person was not following her script? This mystery thriller based on the bestselling book also included Haley Bennett (The Magnificent Seven, The Equalizer) as Megan and Justin Theroux (American Psycho, Wanderlust) as Tom. Since I did not read the book I was confused for the 1st half of the movie, though Emily was excellent as Rachel. The issue for me was the script. I did not care for the scenes jumping back and forth in time along with several scenes that did not come across as authentic. All this did for me was to slow the pace down of telling the story. It was not until the last half of the picture where things picked up and it started to actually be a mystery thriller for me. An interesting side note; when I mentioned this to one of my classes 5 out of 6 people who read the book said they did not like it and felt the same about the book as I did about the film. Too bad the train ride I took did not reveal much excitement for me.
2 ¼ stars
I used to have a love/hate relationship with trains growing up. As a little kid I never wanted to sit by the windows when the train was above ground. I thought my weight would tip the train over, so I always tried to stay close to the center of the train car. Talk about having a poor self image as a little overweight child. Only when the train would go below ground would I finally relax, since I felt the dark tunnels we traveled would always keep us upright. At least that is how I rationalized it. These days when I travel to a new city I make a point of always using their public transportation; it makes me feel like an adventurer. Seeing a trailer for this action film, I thought I could easily roll with the story. I still get a kick out of the train rides at amusement parks, so this movie looked like it would be an exciting thrill ride. Inspired by true events, human error caused an unmanned freight train to leave the yard, with its cargo of toxic chemicals. With no air brakes the train would continue to pick up speed until it derailed, causing a life threatening disaster. If seasoned engineer Frank, played by Denzel Washington (The Great Debaters, American Gangster), along with young conductor Will, played by Chris Pine (Star Trek, People Like Us), had any chance to stop a tragedy from occurring, they would have to work together in a race against time. At the start I enjoyed the no nonsense approach the director took in setting up the basis of the story. I was curious to see how the action would be sustained, since in my mind a train seemed like it would have less exciting options than if the story was about a hijacked or crippled airplane. It was a false concern; the action kept a steady pace as the tension grew incrementally. The acting was nothing special to me. Denzel was doing his Denzel method, being on autopilot while Chris did not bring anything new to the table. I thought Rosario Dawson (Seven Pounds, Sin City) did a good job as Connie who worked at the train operating center. This film is fine for those who want to experience the thrill of an amusement park ride without waiting in line.
2 2/3 stars — DVD
I have mentioned in previous reviews, that I spent a good portion of my life trying to fit in. My goal was not to stand out and once I had my weight loss, I felt my chances became better at being just average. You can see I was not known as an overachiever. At least in my world I had the option to change myself, but what if a person had no opportunity to blend in with the majority. That is exactly why Finbar McBride, played by Peter Dinklage (Death at a Funeral, Game of Thrones-TV), decided to leave the life he knew behind after his only friend had died. Having been stared and talked about due to his dwarfism, Finbar moved into an abandoned train station on a plot of land that his friend had left him, to begin a reclusive life. But that did not turn out to be the case when he encountered Olivia Harris, played by Patricia Clarkson (Easy A, Larts and the Real Girl) and Joe Aramas, played by Bobby Cannavale (Win Win, The Other Guys). This charming movie was a joy to watch as Peter, Patricia and Bobby were wonderful in their roles. What I appreciated most about this story was the affirmation it gave me, regarding my belief that people should not be judged by how they look. This indie flavored movie came with a big heart.
3 stars — DVD