Raya and the Last Dragon – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2021 film Raya and the Last Dragon.

Story

The story was a nice combination of fetch quest, found family, and post apocalypse. The message was nice and I like the way they ended it. I feel like there was something missing, but that could just be my love for the Moana twist and complexity of Frozen II.

Score: 1

Characters

Raya and Namaari had really nice character arcs, but the others felt like they were there for merch or to fill space. I know it’s only a single movie but I would have liked more development for the other characters. That said, what they did have was fantastic.

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

The movie was an epic fantasy with elements of westerns and post apocalypse. The dialogue was so modern as to be jarring to start with. I’m not sure why it hit me harder than Emperor’s New Groove, Aladdin or Frozen’s but it felt very new lingo filled (it could also be that I’m getting old). It just really felt out of place.

Score: 0.5

Visuals and Music

Wow. This movie is spectacularly beautiful, the animation is unparalleled. I wanted to rewind just to watch a character walk through a puddle.

The music was wonderfully evocative. It captured the setting and the cultures while still being Disney. I did miss the musical aspects of some of the previous movies, but it wouldn’t have fit.

Score: 1

Fun

The worldbuilding was beautiful and the strong but traumatized hero was a wonderful change. The whole family was riveted and it was absolutely beautiful. I enjoyed the whole thing and look forward to rewatching it.

Score: 1

Overall

A spectacular fantasy movie that deviates enough from Disney that hardcore Princess fans will be upset while not deviating enough to make disney critics like it. Taken on it’s own without it’s studio’s baggage, it is absolutely stunning and a wonderful watch.

Final Score: 4 stars out of 5

Upside-Down Magic – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2020 film Upside-Down Magic.

Story

It’s probably not fair of me, but after Secret Society of Second-Born Royals, I wasn’t too hopeful for this one.

Boy was I surprised. It has the feel and tone of good YA, while also poking subtle fun at the genre’s recent prevalent tropes. The story doesn’t get bogged down by any of the usual annoyances, and despite a pretty predictable plot, it’s a lot of fun with some decent worldbuilding.

Score: 0.5

Characters

There are many tropes and archetypes in YA. This movie takes the most prevalent ones of the insecure super-powerful main character and the quirky super-positive sidekick and switches them places, leaving us with an extremely interesting main character that doesn’t mope. It’s nice.

The rest of the cast are a little underdeveloped, but diverse and entertaining.

I also have to talk about the grumpy teacher turns out to be a softy trope. It’s really one of my favourites and works extremely well here.

Score: 1

Dialogue

The dialogue is young, but not condescending. It has some pretty smart moments and great banter. There are also more than a few lines that are so generic that they could be part of a YA magic school generator.

Score: 0.5

Visuals and Music

The visuals are really well done. The special effects budget was obviously not big, but they used it efficiently. I enjoyed the use of camera angles and colours to guide the viewer.

The music did what it needed and, other than the little singing in the movie, was not extremely noticeable.

Score: 1

Fun

For my four year old this was amazing, for the toddler he was glued to the screen. For me it had enough fresh material and awesome characters. It never really dragged and had a nice little twist. The movie made me want more and add the books to my TBR pile.

Score: 1

Overall

A thoroughly charming, self aware, and fun young adult magic school adventure. The characters, world, and magic are great. Refreshing not have a forced love story and reinforcing the strength of friendship. I look forward to reading the books.

Final Score: 4 stars out of 5

Monster Trucks – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2016 film Monster Trucks.

Story

This felt like a trippy 80’s plotline, however it was much more coherent and actually had some good messages. It’s scientifically ridiculous, but a great parable. I appreciate that they didn’t go into wish fulfilment with the father storyline. I also liked the emotional twist with the stepdad.

Score: 0.5

Character

The main female lead is smart and capable, the male lead isn’t an idiot, the majority of the other characters feel pretty well fleshed out. They’re all a little cartoony, but acted in a believable way.

There’s a huge lack of diversity and I’m not very comfortable with the “Wise Mentor” trope being a black disabled person.

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

The movie is worth it just for the dialogue and the way the actors deliver it. Jane Levy and Lucas Till are brilliant as are the rest of the cast.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

To balance off the heavy use of special effects, the film makers gave us beautiful nature shots and vistas. Every shot is thought out in advance and works really well.

The music is used perfectly, as a movie where the monster isn’t supposed to be scary, the use of music makes all the difference in the early scenes. Had they used more dramatic music it would have been terrifying, had they used lighter it would have been ridiculous.

Score: 1

Fun

This movie was designed to be fun and slip in some environmental and emotional messages. It succeeds and has more than one awesome moment. Both kids were glued to the screen and my wife and I laughed a lot.

Score: 1

Overall

This movie is much better than it has any right to be considering the premise. It’s an exciting and wholesome movie with great comedic moments and awesome action sequences. The moral and environmental questions are subtle, but present and the movie values intelligent characters. Plus the monsters are really cute.

Score: 4 Stars out of 5

Ever After – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 1998 film Ever After.

Story

An interesting twist on the Cinderella story that concentrates more on the meeting and courting before the ball of the lovers. It makes the love story feel slightly more real.

One of the few “realistic” takes on a classic fairy-tale that manages to work.

Score: 1

Characters

The evil stepmother was evil, the prince was handsome, and the Cinderella was spunky and kicked ass. I like that one of the stepsisters was nice.

I’m not super comfortable with the portrayal of the Romani in the movie. Showing them as brigands and thieves with a sense of honour and humour is very cliché and borders on racist.

I adore Da Vinci as an artist, inventor, and plot device but it made me sad that they had to remove a positive female role from the story to have him in there. Couldn’t they have made Gustave’s patron a famous female artist?

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

This is a movie with a lot of dialogue and a lot of subtext. It might be a Cinderella story but it takes a lot from modern romantic comedy banter and Much Ado About Nothing.

I’m not sure how quotable it is, but listening to the banter and dialogue is like listening to a good musical piece.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

This movie includes some beautiful locations and clothing. It was beautifully shot but everything was marred by a weird blue-green filter. It darkened the movie and made everything look wrong rather than stylish.

The music was lovely and unobtrusive but nothing special.

Score: 0.5

Fun

Watching a movie this long with a three year old and a fourteen month old isn’t very conducive to fun. The three year old liked the colours and movement but lost interest in the long conversations that were the heart of the movie.

Despite that, I enjoyed myself and look forward to watching it with them when they’re older.

Score: 1

Overall

The movie manages to strike the perfect balance between love story, fairy tale, and alternate history. It’s romantic and lovely without much to cringe at.

Final Score: 4 Stars out of 5

The Christmas Setup – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2020 film The Christmas Setup.

Story

Borrowing partly from indie slice of life and partly from Christmas romances, this is an easy to watch mix of the two. There’s a mystery and a little angst, but overall wasn’t too bad. There are two parts that I didn’t like. I hate the trope of forcing a character to go on stage and then they rock it. If someone doesn’t want to do it, they shouldn’t be pressured. The second time it happened the character didn’t even do what they were supposed to.

I did however love the mirroring in the story of the train station and the main characters. That was cute and awesome.

Score: 0.5

Characters

Fran Drescher plays the perfect meddling mother. She’s never hurtful and she’s somehow always respectful. A nice change of pace for this character archetype. The rest of the cast is both pretty and easy to watch. The characters are believable and overall pretty authentic. I really liked the dynamic of the brothers and how they had to work at understanding each other.

I also like that the main couple being gay didn’t add to the drama but still influenced the character’s stories and conversations.

Score: 1

Dialogue

This movie had an interesting effect. I laughed and loved the clever dialogue… but I don’t remember any of it. It was fast and clever and never took itself seriously.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

The movie was well shot, the clothes were fantastic, and locations were stunning. That being said, I wasn’t a fan of the “Northern Lights” scene that looked pretty fake.

The music was good if not memorable.

Score: 0.5

Fun

The movie was fun to watch. It kept my 18 month old completely enthralled. I’m thinking it was the banter, but it could have been my popcorn. The entire family liked it and I hope there will be more like it in the future.

Score: 1

Overall

This is an adorable Christmas love story that is made all the better by wonderful dialogue and authentic representation. I liked this one and look forward to buying a copy for annual watching.

Final Score: 4 Stars out of 5

A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2020 film A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting.

Story

A by the numbers spy/secret society/urban fantasy first episode. This is an example of not just playing into the tropes but embracing them fully.

The story isn’t new, but it is well executed with extremely good set up. Predictable but fun.

Score: 0.5

Characters

The main genre team tropes are all there: the science nerd, the tech nerd, the bad-ass with a tragic backstory, and of course the special kid who was destined to be the hero with a special power. (I like that the power is math.)

Overall, these characters should be flat and boring, copies of copies, but somehow through writing and acting the characters are likeable and unique.

Tom Felton chewed up the scenery, relishing the role, as a weird cross between Jude Law as Pitch in Rise of the Guardians and Michael Keaton’s Beetlejuice.

Score: 1

Dialogue

The dialogue was standard YA and with the exception of Tom Felton and the kidnapped kid there wasn’t much good dialogue. Nothing cringe, just bland.

Score: 0.5

Visuals and Music

Surprisingly pretty and wonderfully shot. The movie uses every horror trick except the expanding corridor and uses them well. When the movie wasn’t in full horror mode it was bright colours and beautiful sets.

The music was subtle but effective. A lot of half used pop songs but they were effective and pushed the urban fantasy feel.

Score: 1

Fun

I think this was just the perfect scary level for my daughter but she’s a horror fan. It was a little scary for my Mother In-Law though. I found it a lot of fun but it did suffer from the need to set everything up for this movie and the next 2. (Assuming they’re doing all 3 books.)

It was definitely handled better than Society for Second born Royals but not as well as Enola Holmes. That being said, I look forward to re-watching this one.

Score: 1

Overall

A fun movie with a few flaws. Easily a new favourite Halloween movie and I’m excited for the next ones in the series. Not perfect, but a lot of fun.

Final Score: 4 stars out of 5

Bill & Ted Series – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 1989 movie Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the 1991 movie Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, and the 2020 movie Bill & Ted Face the Music.

Story

Excellent Adventure

This story is dated in so many ways but still manages to be fantastic at the end. I’m torn between the poor pacing, homophobia, and sexism; and the fantastic message of love and peace.

Score: 0.5

Bogus Journey

The same message resounds through the second movie as in the first, but again there’s more sexism, homophobia, and transphobia to make things awkward. Again the ending is fantastic.

Score: 0.5

Face the Music

The same message of unity and love are sown throughout this movie like the others but with a little more maturity. The twist is predictable but getting there wasn’t. There was none of the previous movies’ sexism, homophobia, or transphobia, but there was a little bit of an awkward fat joke. (nothing compared to Avengers Endgame)

Score: 0.5

Characters

Excellent Adventure

Bill and Ted are well meaning, mostly kind, but so foolish. They have fantastic vocabularies but they really don’t seem to follow everything going on. They are the personification of the slacker. There was an extremely homophobic joke that was out of character and pretty jarring.

The rest of the characters are a wonderful mix of what-if historical characters showed up in 1988.

Unfortunately the women are all pretty useless.

Score: 0.5

Bogus Journey

Once again we get Bill and Ted as sweet, mostly, caring, and pretty fools. They graduated high school and got jobs at the mall.

The evil people are all very much evil and totalitarian. It’s an interesting switch to see the rebels be the ones who want to be controlled.

Score: 0.5

Face the Music

This is the saddest and the most relatable version of Bill and Ted. They are broken by the weight of their own destiny but still trying anyway.

The introduction of the daughters was great. They are the generation that grew up with music-obsessed slackers. They were both believable and perfect. Both actors managed to mimic the original Bill and Ted’s movements and mannerisms better than the original actors did.

I’m happy they gave the princesses both more story and more screen time.

Score: 1

Dialogue

Excellent Adventure

The dialogue is actually impressively clever. They bypass time travel confusion really well and do really well with making their characters sound unique. It’s endlessly quotable in the way only 80’s movies can be.

Score: 0.5

Bogus Journey

Station! The dialogue doesn’t seem quite as special the second time, but there are some fantastic lines. The time travel battle at the end and speech is fantastic.

Score: 0.5

Face the Music

It’s hard to judge the dialogue of this one compared to the others. It’s a lot of self-referential jokes and quips but there’s some interesting bit in there too. I like the consistency in speech patterns and then impressive impersonations of famous musicians.

Score: 0.5

Visuals and Music

Excellent Adventure

The production value on this was fantastic, making each time period look authentic (in an 80’s high school curriculum sort of way).

The music was perfect for the movie and really enjoyable.

Score: 1

Bogus Journey

The nature of them going to hell and heaven make so that everything in this movie is more stylized and a little darker.

The music was okay but not excellent.

Score: 0.5

Face the Music

The special effects were updated and beautiful, the makeup work was fantastic, and everything worked towards the story. The locations were authentic and the shots were well thought out.

The nature of the final twist means that the music is less important than the message, but despite that there’s some fantastic pieces. Especially between the historical figures.

Score: 1

Fun

Excellent Adventure

Despite a little cringe and a few really awkward moments the movie is pure fun.

Score: 1

Bogus Journey

There’s some cringe and a few parts that I think drag but overall the movie is a lot of fun.

Score: 1

Face the Music

For both nostalgic reasons and because it was well written with little to no cringe, this was a lot of fun. It kept the entire family entertained and watching.

Score: 1

Overall

Excellent Adventure

The movie is dated but still really heartwarming. They really want to push the love and peace message and like Bill and Ted themselves they stumble a few times along the way.

Final Score: 3.5 Stars out of 5

Bogus Journey

Like the first movie, it is dated but overall positive. It manages to capture the optimism of the first despite the darker tone.

Final Score: 3 Stars out of 5

Face the Music

The movie manages to pay homage to the first two while surpassing them in fun and quality. Definitely my favourite of the series.

Final Score: 4 Stars out of 5

Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2020 movie Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe.

Story

The story was very well crafted to appeal to both old and new fans. It’s set in the middle-ish of the series and managed to balance character growth without affecting continuity. The humour is the wonderful mix of absurd and heartwarming that we come to expect from Phineas and Ferb. For a movie that has “Against the Universe” in the title, it didn’t feel quite as epic as it could have, more like a really long episode.

Score: 0.5

Characters

These are all the stock P&F characters – there’s little really new. I enjoyed the Isabella vs Doof and the development for Candace is pretty good, but being stuck in the middle means nothing too big or important could happen. (They can’t really wipe their memory again.)

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

This is the distilled power of writers who know their characters and world extremely well, but haven’t lost the love of them. The jokes are sharp and quick. There’s a lot to love from a canoe, to the absurd idea that the aliens explode, to a specific funny noise.

Score: 1

Visuals and music

Beautifully animated, if in a simple style, and fantastic music. The animators know how to use camera angles better than most directors.

The songs are peak P&F and absolutely awesome.

Score: 1

Fun

This series has been around for 13 years and the writers have only improved. It’s a fitting continuation to the show. I laughed and my daughter was glued to the screen.

Score: 1

Overall

A wonderful movie for old fans and great introduction to the show. It’s fun and funny, worth seeing but doesn’t really add anything new.

Final Score: 4 stars out of 5

The Road to El Dorado – JenEric Movie Review

Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2000 movie The Road to El Dorado.

Story

It’s rare to get a good buddy comedy where the two main characters are good friends and work well together. A lot of films concentrate on the building of that friendship instead of what happens after.

The story isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s well paced and has some interesting things to think about. I like that they mixed up cultures to make it a unique place that can’t be tied to one group of people.

I was not impressed with the angst between the main characters; it felt forced and overdone.

Score: 0.5

Characters

It was all very simple stock characters but the dynamic between the main two is superb. I would have expected that adding the girl would destroy the dynamic but instead it added a new dimension that worked.

The bad guy is a walking fantasy stereotype and not all that interesting. Same with Cortes.

The chief played being the dumb fat leader and ended up being the smart wise leader. In both roles he was always kind which makes me happy.

Score: 1

Dialogue

There are so many quotable parts of this movie. Wonderful dialogue and quips. It’s the gold standard for this sort of movie along with Emperor’s New Groove.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

This was a stunningly animated movie. Beautiful scenery, action, and detail.

The music was okay. It felt very bland and a little overly similar. I kept wondering why I thought of the Lion King. Beyond Elton John (who is always fantastic) it was a very derivative score.

Score: 0.5

Fun

The movie made me want more. Two kind hearted grifters trying to make a score and quipping the whole way. Lots of laughs and lot of beautiful scenery.

Score: 1

Overall

The movie is fun, non-offensive (except maybe a few sex jokes), and keeps you entertained the whole time. It’s something I’d re-watch without hesitation. The dynamic between the three mains is something I hope to be able to emulate in some of my own writing.

Final Score: 4 Stars

Meet the Robinsons – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2007 movie Meet the Robinsons.

Story

The story follows the usual time travel tropes. I like that the main character isn’t the main time traveller. The story is happy, uplifting, and something I’ve needed lately, hopeful. It’s a bubble filled retro-futuristic happy future.

This is an incredibly easy movie to watch and it’s one of my comfort films. It was one of the first movies I saw in theatres with my wife.

All that being said, there are parts that haven’t aged well. Mostly little humour things. They use a lot of ableist language when it comes to mental illness, the whole thing with the future wife saying “I’m always right, even when I’m wrong” is weird, and the puppet aunt who beats her husband is a sad reminder that even now male spousal abuse is played for laughs. There’s also a few fat jokes. All of these come off as dated rather than purposefully hateful, but it’s still cringy.

Score: 0.5

Characters

The characters are lovable and relatable, mostly. I have a soft spot for Bowler Hat Guy, I too so love checklists. DOR-15 is one of the most terrifying villains in Disney. The interactions between Lewis and Wilbur are excellent.

I’m not a fan of some of the secondary characters. Both for what I said in the previous section and because they feel weird and cooky just to be weird and cooky. That’s not a good character motivation and makes them irrelevant to the plot. You can replace each of of them with any other similar family and you’d get little difference but the bit-gags.

I did enjoy that the lady taking care of the orphanage was a nice person who genuinely cared for her charges. It’s a nice break from the “Evil Orphanage” trope.

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

From, “Keep Moving Forward!” to, “I can’t take you seriously in that hat” this movie has a lot of quotable dialogue that just hits the perfect tone between silly and insightful.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

This movie was pretty. The animation was okay for the time but not great. We watched the blu-ray edition and it did some upgrades to the rendering that make it stand up pretty well. Overall it’s a pretty and colourful movie.

The music in this is fantastic. Danny Elfman did a great job with the music. It’s a blend of 50’s sci-fi and Disney that works. The soundtrack includes a great list of late 2000’s bands doing great songs.

Score: 1

Fun

This is an immensely fun movie. It’s never too cringy, and is funny. I can watch this one over and over without getting bored or annoyed.

Score: 1

Overall

This a movie I really enjoy. Even more so for the nostalgia of having seen it with my wife when we were first dating. It’s a time travel story plot with a great, hopeful message. Some aspects didn’t age well but they’re secondary to the main story and message.

Final Score: 4 Stars