It Came from Outer Space – WMR

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 1953 movie It Came from Outer Space.

Story

The story was interesting and delivered in a pretty good combination of dialogue and action. It was ridiculously dated, but I liked that it basically came down to the aliens crash landing in a bad neighbourhood and trying to GTFO as soon as possible.

I like the underlying narrative that we as a species are not ready to accept what we can’t understand and that what looks strange isn’t always evil.

Score: 1

Characters

Angry sheriff, writer with an open mind, scream queen, and various others. This was a standard cast for a sci-fi story from the 1940’s and 50’s.

Score: 0

Dialogue

This felt written by two people. The dialogue between the sheriff and the writer was pure Universal horror movie. The dialogue between the writer and the girl was pure Bradbury.

Half of it felt philosophical and high minded and the other half standard horror movie.

Score: 0.5

Visuals and Music

This was a very well shot film. Other than a few odd angles it really did a great job building atmosphere and being pretty.

The music was pretty much a re-hash of other Universal monster movies at the time. I wouldn’t be surprised if everything was from something else.

Score: 0.5

Fun

This was a cerebral science fiction concept that the filmmakers desperately wanted to turn into a creature feature. That being said, I really enjoyed it.

Score: 1

Overall

At 70 years old, it’s a quaint film from a simpler time exploring ideas of what the cosmos might have in store. I love the narration at the beginning.

If this were made today it would either be an indie film or some weird action horror and frankly neither would do it justice.

Final Score: 3 Stars

Sleeping Beauty – WMR

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 1959 film Sleeping Beauty.

Story

This is a classic. It’s now 61 years old and the 16th animated feature by Disney.

The story is pretty standard fairy tale with a little less death, rape, and horror in it than Grimm liked. A lot of the hour and seventeen minutes is spent of the set up to the big song number in the woods.

Other than some cringe-inducing grabbyness on Phillip’s side and some alcohol jokes that haven’t aged well, it held up pretty well.

The major difference with it and the more modern films is how simple the story is. Something that can be said about a lot of 1950 movies, not just the animated ones.

Score: 0.5

Characters

Poor Aurora had little to no choices in the movie. She was literally tossed around by the forces of fate and faerie.

Phillip was a nice strong hero but also felt young and less 1400 more 1950’s, which I suppose was the point.

The fathers, as is usual, were useless; and Aurora’s mother had almost no part.

Maleficent was a lonely, angry witch who could have used more motivation.

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

On average, the dialogue was simple, easy to understand and very forgettable. Maleficent didn’t need to call herself the Mistress of Evil for us to know she was the baddie, but she did.

The narration at the beginning felt over exposition-y and could have been done in dialogue or visually instead.

Score: 0

Visuals and Music

This was an absolutely gorgeous movie. Colourful, clean lines, no choppiness in animation. There are plenty of movies that don’t look half as good that came out in the past 10 years. The change in colour with the change in light source was beautiful, if a little over done.

The music was fantastic and catchy. If you don’t get Once Upon a Dream stuck in your head I’ll be surprised… and a little jealous.

Score: 1

Fun

This movie didn’t drag and if I found myself annoyed at the characters, there was always something visually stunning to look at. I had fun the entire time and wasn’t even tempted to look at my phone.

Score: 1

Conclusion

Overall, the movie was fun and beautiful. Some of the jokes fall flat after 60+ years but I didn’t need to pause and talk to my kids about what terrible thing was going on.

Final Score: 3 Stars

*Update* The Grocer’s Shop / Alimentation L’Epicier Inc. – WORST CUSTOMER SERVICE EVER

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

So last October I wrote a post telling our experiences with The Grocer’s Shop / Alimentation L’Epicier Inc. To say it’s scathing is an understatement.

One of my references that was called, despite our asking differently, signed up with their Quebec branch. They had perfect service and love the product. This tells me that the Ontario side is probably the problem.

Yesterday at 11am I got a call from their head of Customer Retention. He was extremely nice and very polite and asked what he could do to win us back. He was polite, understanding, and repentant. He offered us some free samples and genuinely tried to win me over (the big telecom companies could learn a thing or two from this guy).

Near the end of the call he did ask if I could take the original blog down. This tells me that it might have been the reason for his call and not the official complaint.

I neither accepted any restitution gifts nor will I take down the original post, but I have to give them credit for trying.

Conclusion

Although I can’t recommended them I have heard good things about their Quebec branch and nothing but fantastic things about their product.

The act of reaching out to me (although 9 months latte), apologizing, and trying to make amends tells me that they are not as bad as I first thought.

 

What are your thoughts?

Éric

Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson– Book Review

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

With a book this large and this filled with… well stuff… I needed a formal way to organize my thoughts. (For more information on how and why I review books read my posts Part 1 and Part 2.)

This will be a spoiler free review.

Characters

I liked

With over 800 pages, this book delivers a staggering amount of characters. Every time I started to get annoyed with a character, the point of view switched.

The characters themselves were fantastically fleshed out. They always felt like they had complex histories and stories. They also felt like a part of their world and invested.

I also have a soft spot of introspective characters that don’t get all angsty.

The character arcs were both beautifully plotted and unpredictable.

I didn’t like

I was really annoyed that the majority of my favourite characters were not in this book. I was really getting to like some of the mains from the first book.

Some of the characters suffer from what I’m calling fantasy race syndrome, in which they are something because their race is that thing.

There’s a lack of diverse women. The women in this book are either there as sensible love interests, broken women, leaders, or background characters.

I really wanted to fall in love with these characters. I knew some would die and I really wanted that feeling of falling in love with a character and didn’t get it.

For characters, I give it 3 out of 5

Writing Style

I liked

The author manages to be both poetic and excruciatingly brief. It’s a style that favours character depth and quick pacing. Every once in a while the author would add a great turn of phrase or a flowery description, but it never turns purple.

All epic fantasy authors have an obsession that shows in their work. Erikson loves history and archeology and it shows in his prose and world.

I didn’t like

There were more than a few times that the author’s love of history and archelogy showed me glimpses of other stories and I wished I was reading that instead.

There are long, walking scenes where the history interested me more than what was going on.

This book’s voice is extremely white, western, academic, and male. It shows the author’s culture and thought process in every description of noble savages and crazed wild men.

For writing style, I give it 4 out of 5.

Story

I liked

I liked the focus on the small punctuated by the grand. The story sticks to characters and not grand concepts. The wars and battles are described in gory detail and not in romantic troop movements.

The world is beautifully crafted and gives a sense of so much history and so many other stories to be told.

I also appreciated that unlike a lot of other epic fantasy, the main stories of this book were wrapped up at the end.

I didn’t like

The gore and horror was a little much for me. I understand that it was needed for the story and for the set up but I’m not a huge fan of babies on pikes and raped bodies. (Aside… why would crazed killers only rape the women?)

If it wasn’t for the author’s wonderful language and compelling style I wouldn’t have read past the 300 page mark.

I give the story 2 out of 5.

Fun

I liked

The magic, history, and engineers were fantastic. The games of gods and ascendants fascinating. Some of the characters were absolutely awesome. The use of language and world building alone are worth the read.

I didn’t like

I’m not a war person. I don’t like the movies, books, or history; it’s not my thing. This book made me uncomfortable at multiple times and not in “out of your comfort zone” way.

I give it 3 out of 5 for fun

Overall

This book is fantastic when it hits all the right notes but when it’s off, you’ll find yourself daydreaming about the history and cultures of that ancient world instead of paying attention to the book.

Like the first in the series it has a huge adaptation period where you’ll WTF all over the place.

Overall I think there’s a lot to love in this book and series but it has some awkward issues and it’s certainly not my style.

If you’d like a shorter and, in my opinion, more balanced writer try S. M. Carrière.

Final score is 60%

 

The Grocer’s Shop / Alimentation L’Epicier Inc. – WORST CUSTOMER SERVICE EVER

***UPDATE: See post here***

Dear Imaginary Friends,

We were approached by a company called The Grocer’s Shop / Alimentation L’Epicier Inc. They effectively deliver meat and dried goods to your house. They said they had local meats that were free from antibiotics and free range etc etc.

The Sales Guy

We thought it sounded like a good idea and decided to hear it out. We made an appointment and a salesguy showed up on time at our house.

I was a little uncomfortable with him to start with. Instead of selling us on his products, he assumed we were getting them and jumped straight into building us a plan.

The References

Next he asked for ten names of people, that he’d call a month after our first delivery, for 20 free steaks. Sounded great, so we gave him the names and he continued to build our package.

Near the end, he looked at the list and said, “You’re missing ten names. I need twenty names.” We told him no and he argued until finally he agreed to give us ten steaks for those names.

The Delivery Date

He then told us a day and time with a 4 hour window for when our meat would be delivered. We shook hands and went on our way.

The day came and we waited. Nothing arrived and no phone call about it.

Head Office

I called the Ottawa Office and found that they were just a message service with no one to answer the phone.

So I called head office. They told me it was terrible and they’d look into it and call me back in a half hour. Two hours later I called and they gave me someone else.

That person apologized and told me that they sales guys don’t have the right to schedule appointments. The date he gave me was the date someone was supposed to call and make the delivery appointment. I asked why I wasn’t called then and they said it was an approximate date.

I asked to cancel.

The Runaround

For the next four hours I called and called and waited on hold. People were at lunch, people were busy, etc. Until finally I got hold of the guy who could cancel. He spent a long time apologizing and saying that it was terrible. Then when I insisted they cancel, he put me on hold for 30 minutes.

The References 2

I made sure to ask them not to call my references. I was pissed with their service. He assured me that they wouldn’t call anyone.

Yesterday I heard from 2 separate people that they had received MULTIPLE calls from them.

Conclusion

If you can avoid this company, do so. They are shady and obviously liars.

If you receive a call from them because of us, I’m really sorry and tell them to F-Off.

I’ve filed a complaint with BBB and reviewed them on both Facebook and Google.

My Review

Terrible service.

Salesperson lied about delivery, lied about the amount of references needed, and then when I tried to cancel, the office gave me the runaround for an entire day. On top of all that, they’re still calling the references we gave despite saying they wouldn’t.

If they can lie about this, who knows about their food.

Later Days,

Éric

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – Book Review

*Edited December 2017* the more I think about it the more I realize how little this book offers other than nostalgia and the less I like it. Fun score brought down from a 4 to a 1.

 

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

It’s been a while since I did a formal structured review and I’d like to work though my thoughts on this book. (For more information on how and why I review books read my posts Part 1 and Part 2.)

I devoured Ready Player One in record speed (for me) and despite being addictive, I’ve got mixed feelings.

**Warning Spoilers**

ready-player-one-book-cover

Characters

I liked

I greatly enjoyed the characters of Halliday and Ogden. They were obviously based off of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, with more than a little Gandalf thrown in for fun.

I liked the over the top villain Sorrento. True mustache twirling baddy, who pulled no punches and didn’t do anything particularly stupid.

I didn’t like

Any of the main characters. The main character was a whiny undereducated obsessive with an extremely unhealthy crush. The love interest was a fantasy geek girl who had similar interests to the main character. She was a wilting flower embarrassed by her appearance and in the end enamoured with the protagonist’s ability to look past it. There was also the token 80’s obsession with the honorable Japanese characters.

The only character that could have been interesting was Aech. Unfortunately what could have been a source of tension and actual character growth was tacked on at the end to show that the main character is an okay guy.

Each character is a stereotype of 80’s movies, tv, and books. I’m not sure if this was intentional but it certainly wasn’t effective at creating well developed or relatable characters. Add in the odd transphobic, sexist, or homophobic comments and I really didn’t like these characters.

For characters, I give it 1 out of 5

Writing Style

I liked

The book suffered from the biggest strength and weakness of the first person narrative. It’s biggest strength is urgency and quick pacing.

The author was great at referencing nostalgia without needing to explain it. The world building was well executed.

The word and sentence construction was perfectly balanced in the exciting bits.

I didn’t like

The biggest weakness of a first person narrative is the narrator. If a reader doesn’t like the main character, it hurts the book, which leads authors to give their characters super-powers that either make no sense or are too convenient. In this case the character had perfect luck and the ability to play any classic video game at an expert level.

For writing style, I give it 4 out of 5.

Story

I liked

I absolutely loved the puzzles and the quest. It was a perfect combination of trivia and classic MacGuffin hunt. The nostalgia was pretty well done and it actually informed the story instead of controlling it.

I didn’t like

It was predictable. It was a classic MacGuffin quest. I could tell you all the notes it would hit and how it would end by the end of the first act.

The nostalgia was awesome but at some parts I wanted to move on with the story not hear more about John Hugh.

I give the story 3 out of 5

Fun

I liked

The world and puzzles were fantastic. Both of them drove the plot and the interest. The author did a great job of capturing and referencing the feel and excitement of 80’s nostalgia. The excitement of the hunt was expressed in such a way to make me feel the same need to continue. It’s the mark of an author who really knows how to excite their audience.

I didn’t like

The characters and plot were predictable. The love story was painfully bad and partially toxic. I hate the “demure woman who is obsessed with her appearance” trope. As in all 80’s media where they tried to have a love interest that was the equal to the character, she was better qualified then he was in every way to win the contest.

I give it 1 out of 5 for fun

Overall

This is a fun and quick book with quite a few problems. Its thick slathering of nostalgia, exciting puzzle game, and interesting world are the only things that saves it from a weak 80’s quest with weaker 80’s character tropes.

Final score is 45%

Stranger Things – A Review

Hello My Imaginary Friends,
Since July of last year people have been recommending to me a TV show called Stranger Things.

If I were to describe the show, I’d say it was an homage to 1980’s YA movies with more than a little supernatural horror thrown in. It has D&D, Monsters, Psychic/Magic abilities, Conspiracies, Eighties Rock, and lots of kids on bikes.

It’s eight episodes on Netflix and although the first episode is a little slow, it builds quickly. The special effects are amazing, the locations are great, the music is wonderful, but most of all the acting is fantastic. The actors in this each play stereotypes from eighties movies, but managed to pull those characters out of cliché and make them believable.20161201_stranger_things_node

The one thing that I found lacking in the show was complexity and surprise. After two episodes I could have given you an outline of the entire season. I wasn’t surprised and was actually a little underwhelmed by the story.

It was a fun watch and the acting alone made it worth it, but this show was too close to my own influences, likes, and writing style for comfort. Seriously, after the last episode, I went to IMDB to make sure I hadn’t written it. I’ll let you decide if that’s a compliment or a condemnation.

In short, if you like Horror, YA, Eighties movies, and/or my writing; you’ll enjoy Stranger Things.

I give it 85% or 4.25/5

Later Days,

Éric

Give Me a Gift for my 34th Birthday… please

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

On Monday I’ll be turning 34. It’s not old for our modern world but it’s kinda terrifying for someone who has had both parents die before they reached sixty. I’m considering a midlife crisis… maybe buying a couple of DVD boxsets or some more books.

Since I’m turning 34, I’d like you all to give me a gift. Please!

This is my begging face...
This is my begging face…

I’d like you to review my book! If you haven’t read it you can get it on Amazon Canada, Renaissance Press, or even from the public Library.

Once you’ve read it please go review it on Goodreads and/or Amazon (You can even copy paste your review from one to the other)

Reviews on those sites help bring the profile of the book up and have both sites recommend it to others. It helps with sales, name recognition, and building a readership.

I’m not asking you to give it a good review, be honest and write what you feel.

authors-are-small-businesses

Thank you!

Éric

Revenge of Bumkins

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

A few weeks ago I complained to Bumkins about their product. I received an email two days later asking for pictures of the defective products, our address, and receipts. I sent all the information and have yet to receive an email reply.

What I did get instead was a facebook comment:

Capture

Now, I expected they were going to send a refund. I was wrong; instead they sent a “Gift Package.”

IMG_20170503_155354-01

I complained that, “…they are not one size fits all. Although our six month old daughter is long and thin, it seems ridiculous that we should choose between deep red indentations that irritate her skin or changing her clothing three times a day.”

So who over at Bumkins thought that sending more diapers that don’t work was a good idea?

On top of that, because it was a “gift” and came from the US, we had to pay $47 of taxes and duty for the package.

Here’s my reply to Bumpkins:

Hello,

I sent an email complaining about the quality and poor fit of your diapers and was asked to send my address, images, and receipts.
Today I picked up your package, which cost us $47 in taxes and duty. I’m not sure why you thought, after our complaint, that we’d want more diapers that do not fit and fall apart. We didn’t request the package and if you’d asked we would have said it wasn’t what we wanted.
We have now spent over $300 on your products and packages. Your gesture, although well meaning, is both insulting and useless.
The Wonder woman bib is cute though.
Regretfully
Éric and Jen Desmarais

There’s a lesson in customer service that we can all learn here. Don’t assume that people are complaining just to get random free stuff. Talk to your customers and don’t assume.

The Wonder Woman bib is cute, but not $47 worth.

Later Days,

Éric

Bumkins Cloth Diapers Review and Complaint

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

When we were expecting little Dragon, we knew diapers were going to be expensive. We decided that an upfront cost was worth it for an overall cheaper price. So we went with cloth diapers. I did countless hours of research that ended in total and complete confusion.

We finally decided on Bumkins Two Piece Diaper System. It seemed like the perfect choice. We loved the idea of shells that could be reused and inserts / soakers that would let us control the amount of absorption. The clincher was the idea that she could use them for her entire diapered life.

They were terrible. Quite possibly one of the most disappointing purchases I’ve ever made. They seriously suck. I’m sure part of my issues are due to the complexity of cloth diapering but most were due to the shoddy quality of the diapers.

bumkins

See the letter I sent the company below.

Later Days,
Éric

Dear Bumkins,

I’m writing to express my extreme disappointment with your Two Piece Diaper System.

My wife and I decided on your system because of the flexibility of your one size fits all, your price, and because of the softness of your materials.

We purchased a dozen your shells in various patterns, thirty of your soakers, and twenty inserts. It was a rough start, but with the help of other parents that swore by cloth diapers and your product we came to get the hang of them.

Over the past five months we’ve had countless problems with the quality of your product.

First, the shells were so poorly sewn together that we needed to repair more than half of them, some multiple times. After a few months of use, the shells’ waterproof material thinned and let liquid through.

Second, the seams on the soakers are just as terribly put together. For a few nights, I needed to trim the loose threads every time before putting them in the diaper.

Third, even with the inserts, our daughter couldn’t go several hours of napping without wetting her clothing and soaking through your diapers. It became such a problem that we worried she was peeing an abnormal amount. The problem completely disappeared when we started using regular disposables at night.

Fourth, they are not one size fits all. Although our six month old daughter is long and thin, it seems ridiculous that we should choose between deep red indentations that irritate her skin or changing her clothing three times a day.

Fifth, the soakers and inserts do not draw the liquid away from her body. They will soak in one location and stay there instead of being absorbed. This means even a small amount of urine will rest against her skin and cause a rash.

My wife and I had high hopes for your product, but its poor-quality construction and worse design mean we will certainly dissuade our friends and family from using your diapers.

Sincerely,
Éric and Jen Desmarais