Ocean’s Eleven – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2001 film Ocean’s Eleven.

Story

This movie was fascinating. The heist was extremely well done (cinematographically) and the characters, although a lot of them, felt very distinct. The love story felt trite and forced and there were a few borderline racist casting choices.

The heist is great if you don’t think about the details and how much could have gone wrong. And should have gone wrong.

Score: 0.5

Characters

When I watch a reality show it takes me more than half it’s run before I start telling the people apart. That didn’t happen here and I’m going to credit that each character is distinct and could in theory lead their own movie.

That being said, the movie was ridiculously male heavy, where the only women were strippers or love interests needing to be saved from themselves.

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

The banter and friendship of the main two characters is fantastic. The overall back and forth between characters and even with the “villain” is pretty good too. The nature of the movie means that you never get too long dialogue pieces which works for this movie, but makes it feel like we’re constantly missing something.

Score: 0.5

Visuals and Music

This movie was washed out, with a weird reddish-orange filter. It’s shot well to keep the plot’s secrets and surprises, but it’s not a pretty movie.

The music is okay but there are some weird choices and I’m sad they didn’t use the a modern version of the original’s theme in the credits.

Score: 0.5

Fun

I had a lot of fun laughing at how old the tech looks in this movie. It’s clearly trying really hard to look like all the security is cutting edge tech. It’s certainly dated now.

It’s still a lot of fun to watch the whole thing unfold and see all the moving pieces in the plot.

Score: 0.5

Overall

There’s something particularly satisfying about watching a heist go off so well. I also appreciate that they didn’t use the original’s depressing ending. But for me, there’s too many characters, the love story is terrible, and I have trouble not nit-picking the details of the plan.

This is a good movie but not my favourite.

Final Score: 2.5 Stars

Over the Moon – JenEric Movie Review

Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2020 film Over the Moon.

Story

This has all the elements of a wonderful Doorway-style story. (Doorways stories are about youths that find a method of travelling to a fantastic world. Think Alice or Dorothy.) The near-Pixar style sadness at the beginning and the Olaf clone are well done and don’t feel trope-y.

Unfortunately the concept is prettier than the story, and once they reach the moon, the story is disjointed and thin, giving too much room to world building and action.

The ending and the moral are heavy handed and uninspired.

Score: 0

Characters

The kids were interesting and realistic for an animation. It’s great to show a character that is into myth and STEM equally, something that isn’t explored enough. I didn’t really like the whole, “I have a super power” story line, since it was done for cheap laughs and a non-funny gag.

The animal sidekicks are plenty and cute, never detracting from the story or getting too annoying.

The woman on the moon was supposed to feel mythological, like dealing with a god or magic power. She came off more as whiny, entitled, and not too bright. Less like a force of nature and more like a toddler.

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

The dialogue was okay. It served its purpose but compared to the complexity of other animated movies I felt like it was a little simplistic. The word humour was well done and the sassyness of the kids was a mirror of reality.

Score: 0.5

Visuals and Music

Pearl has now, after two movies, established itself as a studio that can do quality animation. This movie is stunningly beautiful. The detail, lighting, and cinematography are all beyond anything anyone else is doing outside of top tier Disney and Pixar.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think making this a musical was the wrong choice. I think it detracted from the emotion and story. The music was however very good, catchy, and insightful.

Score: 1

Fun

This movie was a lot of fun to watch. My kids were enthralled, my wife and I cried, and I still have some of the songs stuck in my head.

Score: 1

Overall

Stunningly beautiful with a mediocre story. The movie could have been so much better, but is still a lot of fun to watch.

Final Score: 3 stars out of 5

The Princess Bride – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 1987 film Princess Bride.

Story

There are two stories going on in the movie. The boy and his grand father and then the main story. Both are extremely simple. Simplicity in this movie isn’t a bad thing; it’s used to shift the focus away from the plot and towards the characters and dialogue.

The movie has aged well in almost every way except the complete lack of diversity and failing the Bechdel test on all counts.

Score: 0.5

Characters

The movie has some of the most iconic characters and the movie is really about them and their journey. Other than Buttercup and Humperdinck, the major characters see growth and resolution.

Score: 1

Dialogue

The dialogue is quite possibly the most iconic in American cinema. It’s definitely one of the most quoted movies and in my D&D group it competes with Monty Python for quote time.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

The scenery is gorgeous as are the costumes. The sets are purposefully simple but still beautiful. The movie has a look that is just borderline cheesy while still being ageless. The sword fighting is exceptional.

The music is lovely, simple but definitely fantasy inspired. It’s very well used in the fight scenes and “Kissing” moments. I was glad it didn’t follow the synth trend of the 80’s.

Score: 1

Fun

I saw this movie for the first time in my twenties and have watched it a handful of times since. It’s extremely fun to watch and easy to enjoy. It really has a little bit of everything.

Score: 1

Overall

The movie isn’t perfect but it’s pretty and a lot of fun. The dialogue is iconic and if you don’t find yourself quoting something from it, I’d be surprised.

Final Score: 4.5 Stars

ParaNorman – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2012 film ParaNorman.

Story

The story is a pretty standard middle-grade mixed with zombie elements. It has a strong message and a great twist. I’m not a fan of the fat jokes but other than a few of those it was a very positive film.

Score: 1

Characters

All the characters were horror stereotypes but done with lots of heart. It’s great characterization that I ended up liking the zombies better than the townspeople.

Norman and his family are extremely believable and I have a soft spot for Neil. I definitely relate to him.

Also big props for Gay representation in 2012. Onward was banned in multiple countries for the same type of thing 8 years later.

Score: 1

Dialogue

The movie is utterly hilarious, balancing horror, humour, and heart, but it’s dialogue is forgotten as soon as it’s said.

Score: 0.5

Visuals and Music

The level of visual detail in the movie is utterly stunning. It’s beautiful even when it’s gross and grimy. The work and effect they managed is just fantastic. The blocking and camera work is so much better then most movies.

The music is suitably epic and well used.

Score: 1

Fun

My daughter loved it even though it was, “Kinda Scary”. I found that they created a great rhythm between scares and gags that helped her go from terrified to giggling. I enjoyed the adult jokes, the references to other movies, and the message that was well delivered.

Score: 1

Overall

A wonderful homage to horror movies with lots of heart and a great message. All that with some of the most impressive animation. It’s a perfect movie for October.

Final Score: 4.5

It Came from Outer Space – JenEric Movie Review

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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 – JenEric Movie Review

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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%