The House with a Clock in Its Walls – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2018 film The House with a Clock in Its Walls.

Story

I was very impressed. The movie had the right level of intrigue and excitement and the pace was a great balance between Gothic horror and kids horror. The plot was relatively simple and gave space for the characters’ backstories and the world building.

Score: 1

Characters

A lot of times, stories like this will neglect character development for the adults or the kids, but this one did a great job balancing it. The villain was surprisingly sympathetic for a corpse.

Cate Blanchett was amazing in her role and really made me feel for the character.

Jack Black managed to do what he does best and make a loud, arrogant, character who is both sympathetic and likeable.

Owen Vaccaro was wonderful as the quirky kid. I am a little sad they cut the fat-phobia story, but it’s probably for the best.

Score: 1

Dialogue

Quirky, weird, and definitely memorable. The skills of the writer (who wrote for the first five seasons of Supernatural) were definitely well used.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

The visuals were beautiful and creepy. I wasn’t a fan of the abundant poop jokes however.

The music was atmospheric and fun.

Score: 0.5

Fun

I watched this with my 2 year old and he loved it. Kept saying “scary… fun!” In the actually scary parts he hugged me. I think my 4 year old would have yelled at the screen when the cabinet was opened and flailed like an angry octopus.

Its exactly the kind of kid’s horror that I grew up with and it felt like something I would have watched in the 90’s, but better in almost every way.

Score: 1

Overall

Fun, exciting, and scary with more heart and better acting then expected. This is a movie made by horror fans for future fans. It’s a great introduction for those kids that can handle and enjoy the scary moments. It’s also a great nostalgic feel for those of us that grew up with this style of storytelling.

Final Score: 4.5 Stars out of 5

Monsters University – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2013 film Monsters University.

Story

The story is a great subversion of the traditional college movie. I like how much it plays with our expectations from knowing the first movie. The messages of “it’s okay to change your dream” and “there are many paths” are more poignant to me now than they were when the movie came out, making me enjoy it a lot more.

Score: 1

Characters

As much as I like the story and the movie itself is very consistent with it’s characters, I find Sulley feels off. His greatest character trait from the first movie was how much he cared for people and monsters. His empathy and genuine niceness was impressive and played at odds with his scaring. Making him an entitled rich kid works for this movie, but we don’t see any hint of it in the original and his turn around feels a little unmotivated.

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

The writing is extremely well done and the dialogue really reflects the lived experience of a lot of animators and writers. Especially the parts where someone says, “You just don’t have it.”

The humour is clever and delivered perfectly.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

The original was spectacular for it’s time and is starting to look a little dated. After almost a decade, this movie still looks better than a lot of other animations that came out this year. It’s spectacular and beautiful in all its detail.

The music takes a shift away from jazzy to more orchestral which works extremely well both for the plot and the location.

Score: 1

Fun

Once I let go of my precious nostalgia, this movie was fantastic. I laughed and cheered throughout. My kids both loved it with the two year old laughing at everything Mike did.

Score: 1

Overall

This is a prequel and as such suffers a little at having to fit in the world and story of the first movie. It is, however, a fantastic watch and worth every moment. It’s a beautiful and poignant movie with lots of laughs.

Final Score: 4.5 Stars out of 5

Charlie’s Angels (2019) – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2019 film Charlie’s Angels.

*I reviewed the 2000 Charlie’s Angels here.*

Story

In a lot of ways it’s a by the numbers spy / action movie. The twists and turns are moderately predictable but that doesn’t affect the enjoyability. The story is pushed forward by the mystery / mcguffin, but is held up by the interactions of the characters.

Score: 0.5

Characters

The core three characters are well defined and have decent development, but it’s the growth of their friendship that makes the movie so much fun.

The villain and the rest of the cast are well chosen and happily alternate between cheesy and serious dialogue.

Score: 1

Dialogue

The dialogue is very well done with the actors delivering lines that could have been terrible in a way that makes sense and is pretty endearing.

There’s a lot of very well thought out subtext in the movie and some very pointed social commentary.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

The cinematography is designed to show you the discomfort of the characters and is extremely well thought out. Never does it cheat the action with shaky cam or too many quick cuts. The locations are gorgeous and the clothes are fantastic.

Very rarely do I see action characters pause to switch into sensible shoes and it added a level of realism that I enjoyed.

The score was perfectly set to the action and the songs were catchy but didn’t detract from what was happening.

Score: 1

Fun

The movie is action-packed with a great found family and lots of action. It was fun and exciting and definitely re-watchable.

Score: 1

Overall

An extremely entertaining spy movie with a hint of nostalgia. The action, dialogue, and character interactions make a movie that could have been cookie cutter into something with heart. Lots of fun and worth a watch.

Final Score: 4.5 Stars out of 5

A Week Away – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2021 film A Week Away.

Story

I’m sure someone thought the name of the camp was a clever joke, but in 2021 we should be beyond to the inherent racism of mocking native languages.

This is a camp movie musical first and a christian movie second, but that doesn’t mean that God isn’t all over the place. They at least have the grace to use it for some jokes.

The basic story is as cliched as possible and adds nothing new to the musical, romance, or teen genres. That being said, the movie is obviously paying respect to many of the previous movies that it takes inspiration.

The overall story is mildly pedantic, but overall heartwarming.

Score: 0

Characters

The movie has all the traditional characters from movies in the past; the awkward geek who’s in love, the Troy Bolton bad boy with a heart of gold, and the good Christian girl.

It would have been easy to make these characters bad copies, but instead, through the writing and acting, they made them likeable. The main girl is hyper competitive and still dealing with the death of her mom, the geek is funny and a good musician. The bad guy admits his faults and actually apologizes.

I greatly appreciate that the movie spent time building the brotherly relationship between the two main men.

The lack of Queer characters was glaring and awkward.

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

Clever quotes and quippy dialogue with lots of double meanings made me happy. There’s a few cringe dialogue moments, but most of it is well done.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

The visuals were unique. They used a lot of surreal shots that are reminiscent of music videos. I liked it, but it felt jarring when it wasn’t at the beginning of a song.

The movie also used a lot of scenes from movies both in the genre and not (the Mr. and Mrs. Smith scene was a lot of fun.)

The music was okay, I liked it while it was on, but it didn’t make me dash out to buy the soundtrack. I’m particularly annoyed at the use of autotune for a campfire song. (Mostly, the music made me want to rewatch Julie and the Phantoms.)

Score: 0.5

Fun

This was a fun movie, but as a queer man with lots of queer friends, I had trouble settling into the fun of it. The complete lack of any form of queer character made me uncomfortable.

It did remind me of some great memories from high school franco camps and I greatly appreciate the lack of massive angst.

Score: 0.5

Overall

The movie has great respect for other films and treats us to some great non-romance relationships as a bonus, but the casual racism towards native people and lack of queer characters make it hard to believe in 2021.

That being said, it’s a warm and fuzzy camp musical with a talented young cast.

Final Score: 2.5 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

Work It – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2020 film Work It.

Story

Someone found an old 90’s sports movie script and decided to gender-swap the cast and make it about dancing. You’ve got all the usual stereotypes, the slightly goofy sex-obsessed best friend, the nerdy driven main character, the beautiful love interest, the parent who pushes too hard, and the forgettable background characters.

Despite being predictable, it still pulled it off pretty well, no huge loose ends or glaring issues.

Score: 0.5

Characters

The characters were a little stereotypical, but they still felt unique for the most part.

I don’t like that the diva villain is queer-coded. The only remotely queer character being the villain is pretty crappy.

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

For a sports movie selling itself as a romance, this had a lot of very clever humour. I doubt it’ll make it’s way into my daily quoting, but it was believable and funny.

Score: 0.5

Visuals and Music

Visually the movie was very well shot. The dancing wasn’t always the best, but cinematography was good. Several scenes I could have told you were from a dance movie without having seen the movie.

The music was good. I enjoyed the pop heavy soundtrack and my youngest felt compelled to get up and dance more than once.

Score: 0.5

Fun

The angsty bits weren’t too long and other than the terrible relationship between the mom and daughter, I enjoyed this movie. It’s one of the few I’ve reviewed that had the entire family laughing.

Score: 1

Overall

This is a typical sports movie with a romance. The dancing isn’t exceptional, but the story is a lot a fun and quite funny.

Final Score: 3 Stars out of 5

Build your own crustless quiche

Hello Food loving people,

Some of my favourite memories from being a kid were meals that I got to build with my family but were just for me. Tacos, nachos, and pizza were event meals where we each got to make our own.

I’ve been coming up with other options to do with my kids and even guests. It makes them feel more connected to their meal. I guess it’s an IKEA effect for food.

Quiche is great for this, it can handle almost any extra ingredients, it’s filling, and most people like it.

Recipe-ish

What you need to make it is:

  • Eggs;
  • Milk, cream, Half and Half;
  • Muffin tins;
  • Oil spray; and
  • Fillings.

The important thing to remember is the ratio:

1 Egg + 1/2 cup of cream = 3 muffins with stuff

One caveat I’d have is if you’re using watery veggies like zucchini or mushrooms, you should lower the cream to 1/3.

Cook at 375 for 20-30 minutes.

As far as filling goes, my family’s favourites are: Shrimp, chicken, ham, bacon, onions, garlic, jalapeno, brie cheese, sharp cheddar, mushrooms, zucchini, and broccoli.

There’s no rule as to what you can put in, but all meats should be pre-cooked and I’d recommend cooking the watery veggies too.

The rest is up to you.

Enjoy,

Éric

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

Romancing the Stone – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 1984 movie Romancing the Stone.

Story

This is pretty standard 80’s adventure movie stuff but has a few stand out moments. The story never takes itself seriously and does a great job at giving the female lead the agency in the story. There are a few seriously dated tropes, meek girl becomes fierce, no makeup until romance, etc.

There’s a moment that’s so dated my wife and I burst into laughter. After the main female lead sees a dead body she screams, drops the machete, and the male lead pulls her into a hug to comfort her. Anyone I know in the same frightened or surprised situation wouldn’t have taken being pulled into a hug that well. But it’s an old Hollywood tradition.

Score: 0.5

Characters

The characters all start out really stereotypical but find nice nuances along the way. It’s hard to tell if the character journeys are predictable because they’re cliché, satire, or because it influenced a lot of adventure romance movies over the past thirty some years.

They are however unique and interesting in their motives and personalities. I really enjoyed the drug runner who was a fan of her books.

Score: 1

Dialogue

The dialogue in this movie spanned the entire gamut from pure cheese to deep character development. I wouldn’t say it was ground breaking but it was entertaining.

Score: 0.5

Visuals and Music

The movie was obviously shot on locations, although not Colombia. It’s beautiful and pretty well shot. There are some camera angles that must have been a pain to film at the time.

The music was epic enough but very 80’s synth.

Score: 0.5

Fun

This movie was fun. It’s nice to see movies with writers where they aren’t tortured artists, bastards, or lusting after teenagers.

The adventure part of the story was grand and small and had everything I love. Including a sexy/fun dance scene. We need to bring those back for adventure movies.

Score: 1

Overall

This was a funny, interesting, and overall fun movie. It explored some interesting themes of feminism and romance. It had a “bad guy” that didn’t want to be and a lot of good twists. If you enjoy slightly more adult adventure movies and can handle the 80’s, this is a fun movie.

Final Score: 3.5 Stars

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