Secret Life of Pets – Box Office Review

This film had so much positive press and word of mouth before it even released in theaters. I heard children, teens and adults sharing their enthusiasm for this film and it felt like this film was going to perform well in theaters. The voice casting for this film is remarkable and that can only help raise the bar of excitement. So let’s dive in and take a look at my thoughts on “Secret Life of Pets” in this box office review…

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If I could summarize this film with two words they would be, adorable & humorous. About twenty minutes into this animated movie and I was disappointed that I couldn’t be watching this with my dog, Austin the Dog. It’s the first time ever I have felt compelled to watch a movie with my dog. I’m fairly certain that means the writers and creative team behind this movie did their job well to make me think about my dog while watching their depictions of animals on screen. The captured essence of the animals was fabulous. When you see this film you’ll notice how each animal (dog, cat, bird, snake, gerbil, etc.) all have specific mannerisms particular to their animal. It was fun watching how the smaller animals maneuvered versus the larger ones. How the snake and birds moved around the downtown versus the dogs and cats.

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The cast in this film seem to have a background in comedy. Since there are so many talented actors lending their voices for this film I’ll recommend you follow the hyperlink to the IMDB page and see there. If they aren’t stand up comedians, they’re television actors who were part of successful sitcoms or comedy movie actors, primarily. It’s a great cast that all know how to work their voices to create feelings of excitement, curiosity, anger, fear, adoration and more. I find myself laughing along with everyone else in the theater so often. It was such a great moment to share with so many strangers who all just wanted a fun movie to laugh along too.

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The story is layered pretty well, considering it’s a film about animals. The driving motivations behind each character is unique to that pet and while the movie has several it never felt crowded. Each one stands on their own and adds something fresh to the story and actually feels appropriate and not forced. Wether it’s a squirrel who exists simply to torment a dog or a hawk who is trying to befriend smaller pets instead of eating them, it all works.

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Secret Life of Pets” is in theaters now. If you have kids or not, this is a fun film to see in theaters. There’s a magic that occurs when you sit in a room with people and share laughter. You’ll feel that magic while watching this movie. If you love your pets, you’ll also appreciate this film. I walked out of the theaters smiling and felt a warmth in my heart from how good I felt after seeing this film and laughing so much. It’s definitely worth a big screen ticket price and could potentially be a fun date movie too if you both still maintain some level of child-like amusement towards the world at large. If not, just go find some kids and treat them to a movie. I’m kidding! Do not kidnap children to see a movie.

Zootopia – Box Office Review

Disney Pictures takes us on an entertaining “whodunnit” crime drama that teaches us that life is more fulfilled when you follow your heart and chase your dreams. Believe in yourself against all the odds and you too can become all your heart desires. The story was cleverly and creatively told. There is also an element of getting to know others and not judging them based on their appearance or preconceived notions. It’s a fun time in the theater with enough jokes for adults and children alike. Let’s look at what made “Zootopia” such a delight…

The attention to detail was incredible. Tiny animals living in tiny cities that were placed within the larger city designed specifically for their abilities and that was such a treat to see. The chase scene where Hopps is chasing Weaselton and they have to venture into the tiny city where mice live was so much fun. Street vendors having options for the taller customers, giraffes, as well as the normal sized animals that frequent their carts was also enjoyable. There was so much thought put into the design of this film and I loved it.

The characters are divided in two groupings within the city but they all live harmoniously together. The predators and the prey. This is important because as the story evolves we realize that simply being a larger, more terrifying animal doesn’t mean you’re a predator. This film exposes how even the quietest, more gentle, animals can be predators as well with potentially more dangerous results. This is at the heart of things the story that drives this animated adventure. Do not judge without first investigating because you never really know someone until you get to know them.

The voice acting talent in this movie was also spot on. There’s so much talent I won’t be mentioning them all individually but if you follow the link for “Zootopia” you’ll be able to see exactly what I mean. I didn’t feel the voice actors just delivered their lines and that was it. It felt like I was listening to characters who had real emotions and were fully formed and not two dimensional. We are treated to characters who are believable in the way that only Disney can deliver.

“Zootopia” is in theaters now! I give this film all the carrots and ice pops requested. It’s a fun family film that will entertain all the ages. This film might not be remembered for the same charming qualities of other Disney Picture films like “Tangled” but it won’t disappoint either. If you have kids, this is an opportunity to spend family time together at the theater sharing some popcorn and laughs. If you have seen the film comment below and if you plan to see this film, come back and comment after you’ve enjoyed it.

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Wedding Travels: There & Back

Round 1: I guess we’ll start back 20 years, it was 1995 & 7th grade home room was a new adventure. That’s where Scott and I met. Little did we know that over the next 20 years we’d grow into a friendship that would eventually lead us both to Africa. In the past two decades we’ve performed more music together in a theater setting, choral groups & rock bands than most friends, I feel, have an opportunity to. Personally, I had always imagined the two of us traveling the world together performing music to sold out arenas and small coffee shops because we both enjoy performing music so much the venue didn’t concern us all too much. If we could play a few songs for folks we did and everyone seemed to enjoy it. As it goes in life, eventually everyone takes a path to call their own and Scott’s road led him to California, mine stayed in Arizona & eventually Florida. We never lost that bond we developed as friends and when he called me several months ago to tell me he found a lady he wanted to marry I couldn’t have been happier for him. Then he asked me if I’d be in his wedding and of course I said yes. It was after this agreement he informed me that the wedding wouldn’t be in California or Arizona. His bride was from Africa, South Africa actually, and her family & friends reside primarily there & so the wedding would be overseas. So as I sit in JFK International in New York enjoying a cup of coffee in a small diner awaiting my flight to be close enough to board I can’t help but smile. I always knew we’d travel the world together, I just never knew it would be for his wedding. (I’m sure there will be music there as well folks, it just won’t be ours… this time.)    Round 2: JFK to Johannesburg  My flight experience has been limited to only a few hours at a time but this time the flight took almost 16 hours. So, yeah, it gets an entry/update. Hanging out in JFK for a few hours wasn’t awful. I was able to enjoy some coffee & charge the iPhone 6 so I’d have tunes & games for the overseas flight to J-Burg (or The Burg, I’m still work shopping names). I have two books I’m reading also but I wasn’t sure what the situation would be on the flight, comfort wise, so I wanted to make sure my iPhone was at 100% before departure. Mission accomplished.  Fortunately I was able to catch a few winks on the flight. I would nap on and off over the duration of the flight. It felt like I’d knock out for 2 hours & be awake for 2 hours & then repeat. So it worked to make sure I’d get some sleep before my layover in J-Town (still work shopping). The waking up portion was always a startled wake up. If you’ve ever flown you know the feeling the plane makes when the landing gears lower. Well, each time I woke up its because it felt like we were about to land, which was never the case. So I’d wake up happy that I slept the entirety of the flight only to discover, nope we’re still airborne.   I slept through the food portion of the flight which wasn’t a big deal. I brought some snacks in my carry on so I didn’t turn into an angry starving American. So that’s positive. I did find it curious that 12-13 hours into the flight the flight attendants weren’t walking around asking people what they wanted to drink from their drink carts. After 13 hours I decided to pop the question to a flight attendant walking by…

Me: Pardon me, but how much would a beer cost & what types are available?

Her: They cost nothing and we serve South African pilsners.

Having never travelled overseas before I wasn’t sure what the cost would be and free is the single greatest price point ever. I mean, ask anyone who’s been to Las Vegas. Free drinks are always the best drinks. So, with only a few hours to go I was able to enjoy some free libations courtesy of South African beer companies & the airlines I was still on. There was a split second where I felt like the Angels started singing and a glorious light was shining on me to celebrate the fact beer is free. (Turns out the shining light was just my overhead light I had on for reading and forgot about.) Fortunately, I never had to divulge this information to the flight attendant so I just looked like a thirsty American traveller…. which I’m perfectly fine with.  So after almost 16 hours of air travel I’ve finally landed in The J (yup, still work shopping) and I need to find some breakfast. I’m here for about 12 hours and then I’m on another flight to another city where I’ll be able shower and sleep before departing to meet Scott & everyone else for the wedding ceremonies (which is approximately a 2.5 hour drive through what appears to be undeveloped’ish Africa). I’m ready for breakfast… or brunch…     Round 3: Johannesburg to Durban

The flight from Johannesburg to Durban wasn’t all too long. It was in fact the shortest flight of the entire trip. I was beyond tired however and did not remember much from departing the airport to arriving at the Bed and Breakfast I was staying that evening. When I woke up the following morning I was greeted by a splendid view of the Indian Ocean which was quite refreshing after so long a trip in airplane after airplane.   

After I had time to gather collect my things and make myself presentable I had the pleasure of meeting three lovely girls who I would be seeing at the wedding later that day. Two girls were from Germany and one from Italy and as it goes amongst friends, old and new, nicknames will begin and they were so dubbed, collectively, “The Europeans”. We had a splendid time sharing some Mimosa’s that morning before departing for the game preserve where the wedding was held and fortunately they were fluent in English. Shortly after we were on the road with additional members from the brides family who were incredibly charming and endearing. I had the pleasure of riding up with the brides great grandmother who, in my opinion, was such a genuine and witty character she instantly won me over. She might still be my favorite of the brides family. She was such a fun women to talk with and what a fabulous sense of humor she has. Just a pure delight.

Round 4: Durban to Bonamanzi

The drive from Durban to Bonamanzi was a shorter drive of approximately 2 upto 2.5 hours. Along the interstate there was several small living areas where the people would build their own huts to live in. I was fortunate enough to be able to capture one larger dwelling that a group was living in, however, there were several designs all crafted by the family or families living along the road. 

Upon arrival all I could think was, “this looks like Jurassic Park!” So when I sent the below photo to my family back home my brother said the same thing immediately so I knew I wasn’t too far off.  Bonamanzi is a wildlife preserve which means the animals roam (mostly) free among the visitors. (It’s probably the closest thing I’ll experience similar to the biblical “Garden of Eden” where man walks along side wild animals.)  Round 5: Bonamanzi & the Wedding 

Yes, as I stated above, the animals roam (mostly) free which includes the crocodiles. It also includes monkeys that will rummage through your belongings if you leave the windows and doors ajar while you’re away from your room. I did not have the pleasure of such an encounter with monkeys unfortunately. I very much was hoping for a monkey story to write about, but alas, they found me very unappealing apparently. The below image was captured on the drive around the park.

  

See… even the grounds keepers want to make sure you’re always aware…

The wedding was a beautiful experience. I have never before seen Scott so happy in all our years as friends. After the “I Do” portion completed the bride and groom were off for a brief mingle with friends and family and then we (the bridal party) took off for a photography adventure!

    

The next day, after all the wedding and reception revelry I was able to spot a crocodile devouring another animal. It was pretty sweet to see the Nature Channel come to life in front of your eyes.

On our way out of the park we spotted these guys, so I had to snap a picture of this! Real giraffes people… real freaking giraffes! So cool.

Round 6: Durban to Johannasburg to JFK 

So after departing Bonamanzi we headed back to Durban and stayed in a quaint little hostile that was full of youthful enthusiasm and character. Being that this was my first time in a hostile I wasn’t sure what to expect but it had a certain charm and the people from around the globe who were staying there were fun to chat up and laugh with. Below is a picture of the aforementioned “Europeans” and I in the back of a car cruising around Durban. Wonderful girls who, thanks to the internet, I’m able to stay in contact with.

Here’s us walking to lunch and some downtown Durban action.

Heres a picture of  “Moses Mabhida Stadium” in Durban that hosted World Cup games. Pictures from atop the stadium are below…

  

Here’s all of us taking the always appropriate “Selfie” in the cars that take you to the top of the stadium and back down.

In Durban South Africa the monkeys like to also hang out near the beach.

So do the humans as well…

Before departing South Africa, the airport decided it was important to remind me one last time… No glove, no love.

I’ve never had to walk on a tarmac before to board a plane. So obviously I had to document this historic event.

And that’s it for Africa folks.

Now… lets take a journey through my stay in New York City! This was the last leg of the trip.

My friend Jocelyn lives near NYC so we made plans to meet up for a late lunch while I was enjoying my layover in the Big Apple. So while she was working, I decided to rent a car and cruise around and sight see. This was my third time in New York and it’s always a fun adventure.

I didn’t drive the entire time. What fun is sight seeing if you’re in the car the whole time!?So I parked and walked around abit, enjoying Central Park and other parts of Manhattan.

For example, The Tavern of the Green.

Originally built in 1870 as a place to house sheep, yes the barn yard animals, it was renovated in 1934 to eventually became one of the most infamous restaurants in America!

I had to make the pilgrimage towards Columbia University as well so I could enjoy (what in real life is Toms Restauarant on 2880 Broadway NY, NY) the sign made popular by the television series “Seinfeld”. It’s a personal favorite television show of mine, so I always try and make a visit…. call me sentimental.

Then I did some more sight seeing before meeting Jocelyn and did in fact get on the wrong subway. I didn’t pay attention to see it was an express so it took me way off course. Rookie mistake people, rookie mistake. Don’t be that guy when you’re visiting New York, please.

  

Lunch was brief but enjoyable. I had a plane to catch and JFK wasn’t near the restaurant lunch was at (which didn’t really matter because it was more important to spend time with an old friend than the location). We shared some laughs and caught up the best we could with the time allowed and then it was time to go. She said the drive would take about an hour to get back to the airport and map quest confirmed her timeline so I was off. I wish I could write that I returned the rental car, boarded the plane and was off with much ease, but I cannot. Traffic was a nightmare and it took almost 3 hours to get back to the airport. I missed my flight, ended up sleeping on the airport floor and was then able to board a flight home first thing the next morning. This was one hell of an adventure folks.  No regrets, just smiles and memories. I’m honored to have been part of Scotts wedding and I was happy to see Jocelyn after a few years of her being back East.

I arrived home safely and then almost immediately after getting home I fell into a heavy sleep. Quite the adventure everyone. Thanks for reading along and I hope you enjoyed the story and images as much as I enjoyed sharing them with you.

Until next time…