Vivo – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2021 film Vivo.


The beginning was a little predictable in its “Pixar” style twist. The rest was a usual road trip buddy story. It was a fun story.

Score: 0.5


We don’t see a lot of Cuban or Cuban-American culture in animation. It was nice to see the art, music, and accents take centre stage. The characters were all motivated by relatable emotions.

The character of Vivo is sassy, funny, and filled with heart.

Score: 1


The running commentary by Vivo is both adorable and refreshingly funny. I appreciated the music, situational, word, and absurd humour.

I liked that they treated parts of the dialogue like motifs in music. They repeated or altered certain phrases to create more of an emotional impact and to pull the various parts of the movie together.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

The movie was absolutely beautiful. It might not have been up to Pixar or Disney quality but they captured the Cuban art and colour style fantastically. There are a few times that the face and perspective in that art style didn’t translate well to a 3D animation, but over all, it was great.

The music was Broadway with the Lin-Manuel Miranda twist and a large dollop of Cuban influence. It’s a little reminiscent of his other work, but that doesn’t detract from how good it was.

Score: 1


The movie was colourful, never wallowed too much, and had multiple levels of humour. It was poignant and had a pretty good message, plus both kids loved it.

Score: 1


It takes a lot of elements that we’re familiar with in animated and musical movies and mixes them together with a Cuban-American influence making it feel fresh and vibrant. The visuals, music, comedy, and heart warming story make for a wonderful film.

Final Score: 4.5 stars out of 5

Fun is a good enough reason

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

As a parent, I have often been told that a toy or activity promotes something. (Eg: Playing with blocks promotes small motor skills and spacial awareness.)

It feels that our current society is very focused on the end goal. There are extremes where parents will structure and plan every activity towards a specific goal. But even the laid back parents fall into the trap of assuming that their kids will want to do a job because they enjoy an activity.

I’m guilty of this for myself and my kids. It’s a dangerous attitude because it turns everything that you can do as a stress reliever into some form of marketable product.

Even things that were once just hobbies have started to be marketable. There’s an entire new economy for Professional Game Facilitators for table table games. (AKA Dungeon Masters or Games Masters) Video game testers, reviewers, and streamers are huge.

It’s an attitude that made me choose to give up hobbies because I’d never be “good enough” to make money from it and I didn’t want to waste the time it would take to get to that point. Poetry, bass guitar, drawing, soccer, fencing, photography, and I’m sure I’m forgetting something.

When I was in high school, I took music. I had to take it in the English school since mine didn’t have the option. I must have been okay because I made the cut for the band and we won several competitions. I played the tenor saxophone and my first exam the teacher told me I sounded like a tortured cow. Despite that “tough love,” I continued to play and enjoyed it. That was the thing, I enjoyed it. I’d play waiting for the late bus or on Sundays. When I graduated, I had to give back the instrument and a tenor sax is not cheap.

It’s now been 19 years since I touched a sax and I doubt I’d remember how to do a scale. I’ve seen used ones and considered getting one, but it never seemed worth it.

In university, my brother wanted to start a band, so he bought me a bass. I practised, but wasn’t great. After a while, I just decided I wasn’t good enough. Also in university, I was in the residence life choir.

I made some great friends and had lots of fun. I did karaoke with my brother (who was super supportive) and my roommates (who were hyper-critical).

Like the sax, I liked singing and since I was being told I wasn’t that great (I wasn’t), I decided it wasn’t worth doing it anywhere but the shower.

This summer, to avoid copyright infringement, my wife decided to write an original song for a novel she was writing. It turned into her deciding to learn guitar so that she could include the chords in the book. At the same time, we were binge watching High School Musical: The Musical The Series.

I watched the show and my wife learning guitar and something inside me became sad. I wanted to make pretty noises. I wanted to recapture the joy I had at playing the sax or singing.

I struggled with the idea that I would have to dedicate a lot of time, which I didn’t have, to become good enough to perform or join a band. How could I make money or show that the work was worth it if I did decide to learn or continue with music.

That’s when I realized that enjoyment can be enough. I don’t have to be good, I don’t have to make money, I don’t have to do anything with it. So I decided:

Fuck money, fuck side hustles, and fuck society’s need to monetize everything! I’m going to learn the Ukulele.

We bought a used tenor ukulele which will come in the next few weeks and a really cheap soprano uke that I’ve been learning on. It’s fun and frustrating, but when I get into the groove, it’s just as wonderful as I remember.

I’m terrible and I have a lot to learn, but I’m having fun. I’m still struggling with the idea that doing something for just me isn’t selfish or silly. It’s stress relieving and fun.

And you know what? To paraphrase Dragon’s current catchphrase, “I’m allowed to have fun.”

Stay safe and be kind,


Music playlist 2002

One of the first things we did when writing this book was build a 2002 playlist.

I had already started writing my first chapter, and Kennedy had entered a bakery. I thought, shouldn’t there be music playing? What music would have been popular in September 2002?

Cue a post on Facebook asking about our friends’ favourite artists from twenty years ago. (Twenty? What?)

We bought a bunch of CDs to supplement what we already owned, and built an epic playlist to listen to while we wrote to add atmosphere. An entire scene in chapter 5 wouldn’t have been there without this playlist.

Songs used in the book (in order of appearance):

Ordinary Day by Vanessa Carlton

Lapdance by N.E.R.D. (not safe for children)

Lovers in a Dangerous Time by Barenaked Ladies

I Want You by Savage Garden

Let me Entertain You by Robbie Williams

The Nearness of You by Norah Jones

Bumble Bees by Aqua

Beautiful by Christina Aguilera

Ballroom Blitz by Sweet

Cartoon Heroes by Aqua

Deep Enough by Live

A New Day Has Come by Celine Dion

If The World Crashes Down by Enrique Iglesias

Bands and artists we listened to, in alphabetical order:

Alanis Morissette, Alicia Keys, Aqua, Avril Lavigne, Barenaked Ladies, Bloodhound Gang, Britney Spears, Bryan Adams, Cake, Celine Dion, Cher, Christina Aguilera, Chumbawumba, Coldplay, Creed, Daniel Bélanger, Dave Matthews Band, David Usher, Destiny’s Child, Enrique Iglesias, Enya, Éric Lapointe, Evanescence, Faith Hill, Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack, Flogging Molly, Foo Fighters, Garou, Goo Goo Dolls, Great Big Sea, Green Day, Jagged Edge, Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Page, Jewel, Kevin Parent, Len, Live, Macy Gray, Meatloaf, Midday Blackout, Natasha St-Pierre, Nelly, Nelly Furtado, Nickelback, Nightwish, Nine Inch Nails, Norah Jones, Pearl Jam, Phil Collins, P!nk, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Reel Big Fish, REM, Remy Shand, Ricky Martin, Robbie Williams, Rush, S Club 7, Sarah McLachlan, Savage Garden, Seal, Shakira, Sheryl Crow, Sky, Smashmouth, Spice Girls, Sum 41, Tea Party, Third Eye Blind, U2, Vanessa Carlton

Damien Robitaille or How the future is stranger than I expected

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

I had a surreal moment yesterday. It takes a little setup so check the full story after the picture.

First let me shout out Damien Robitaille who had a concert yesterday and it was awesome. If you enjoy music check out his webpage and facebook, he posts new covers almost every day.

Pegasus and I watching a live concert on the Google nest hub while I make snacks.

A lifetime ago, I worked at a little radio station CFRH Radio Penetanguishene. I was a student radio host, and honestly was way out of my depth. The people I worked with were fantastic at their jobs.

One of the people was Damien; he was in his last year of university or college and he was a lot of fun to work with. A really down to earth and friendly guy. At a party, I mentioned that I was feeling like I wasn’t good enough for the job. Damien told me that I was doing fine and then said something that stuck with me since. He said that the next few years (meaning university) would be a big adventure and that I’d grow a lot. It was good advice and helped me relax and not worry so much about feeling less mature than my coworkers or later those older than me.

Fast forward fifteen years, and I see his face in an ad for his fourth album on amazon. I wasn’t sure it was him so I checked his wikipedia page and yeah, it was. (I have 5 published books, when do I get a wikipedia page?)

Yesterday was a hard day, my stomach was upset and the toddler was getting super restless, so I checked facebook and saw Damien was playing a concert. So I sent the stream to my kitchen hub and we watched while I made us toast to snack on.

The whole situation was mildly surreal for me. First, that I’m of the age to have met people twenty years ago who are now famous (wikipedia page famous anyway).

Second was that I could watch a live concert that was being streamed by almost a thousand people around the world and share that with my son while making toast, while the musician was in his home studio. How cool is that? It was a surreal moment for me.

I’m sure he doesn’t remember me and it really doesn’t matter. I think the whole situation was something special. I am extremely jealous that he can play drums, piano, and sing all at the same time. I have trouble walking and talking at the same time.

Be kind and stay safe,


Changing tastes

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Little Dragon is going through a phase of discovering what she likes. It’s quite frustrating since it changes ALL-THE-TIME but I understand it’s because she’s trying to figure out what she likes and who she is.

“I really don’t like spicy,” she’ll say and then turn around and ask for Jalapeno cheese or extra hot sauce on her meal.

It’s as adorable as it’s frustrating. I know it’ll even out, but it’s hard to guess what she’ll eat. Sometimes when I ask her she changes her mind by the time it’s in front of her.

In the same vein, I’ve noticed that my tastes have changed in music at least. The Mystery Book Project is set in 2002 and we made a music playlist appropriate for the time.

There’s a lot of music from the time that I really enjoy and then there’s some others. At the time I enjoyed Eminem and Nine Inch Nails. They spoke to a part of me back then. Now not so much, it’s either a lot of whining and noise that sounds either entitled, pretentious, or both.

It’s interesting how tastes change over time, some over a couple of decades and some over a couple of minutes.

Ok. I have a lot of writing to do.

Be safe and be kind,


Abominable – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2019 movie Abominable.

*This was my favourite movie of 2019*


This feels like a modern fairy tale. A YA adventure story set in modern day. The story is cleverly simple and avoids so many of the traditional pitfalls. No forced love story, no double crossing from one of the kids, no parents that disbelieve. It’s about helping preserve magic and finding yourself along the way.

There are a few political issues but nothing truly problematic as far as I can tell.

Score: 1


Each of the characters, except the goons and the snakes, have a journey and growth. It’s sort of a mini found family that only exists in adventures (mundane ones like trips etc or magical one).

I like the twist with the bad guys and goon Dave is the best.

Score: 1


The movie has plenty of funny lines but the ones that are most memorable are the ones tied to emotions. The little conversations and moments that show both character and move the story forward.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

From the little details like the various wood grains to the big nature shots, this movie is truly stunning. Absolutely beautiful. The animation quality isn’t quite up to Disney/Pixar levels but they created some fantastic visuals.

The music is utterly fantastic. The humming and violin are suitably epic and magical.

The scene at the Leshan Giant Buddha is so beautiful and reflects Yi’s emotional journey perfectly.

Score: 1


The action always has a reason and everything is strung together in a surprising and coherent way. The movie made me smile and almost cry multiple times.

Score: 1


This is an adventure story with likeable characters that are trying to help a magical creature. It’s exactly my style of story. The few calmer moments weren’t lulls but one on one conversations that moved the emotional plot forward.

Final Score: 5 Stars*

*A 5 star review doesn’t mean the movie was perfect nor that it is perfect for everyone but it is a movie I believe is as close to perfect as possible.

Steam Powered Giraffe

Hello Imaginary Friends,

There’s a lots of negative things going on (understatement I know). I was having a very hard time finding a topic for a post until I remembered that it was Pride and that we should be talking about fantastic LGBT+ creators.

Steam Powered Giraffe is a a fantastic musical group featuring some wonderful LGBT+ members.

Steam Powered Giraffe is a musical project from San Diego, California. It was formed in 2008 by twin siblings David Michael Bennett and Isabella “Bunny” Bennett. Together, along with a cast and crew filled with theatrical backgrounds, the group takes on the guise of singing antique automatons and the fictional robotics company that made them.

The quirky act combines comedic sketches, improvised android banter, and original music fused with multimedia visuals, billowing steam effects, and robot pantomime.

From their heartwarming nostalgic melodies to their funky cabaret rock, Steam Powered Giraffe’s songs are memorable, infectious, and as unique as the robots themselves.

More than just a band, Steam Powered Giraffe is an experience that must be seen and heard by the entire family.

Keladry used to break into smiles and dance every time their songs were played. (She still loves them.)

They are fantastically geeky, inclusive, and positive. All qualities that are comforting in these interesting times.

Be kind to each other,


Recommendation Thursday – Scary Bear Soundtrack Indiegogo Campaign

Hello Imaginary Friends,

There’s an awesome band from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut called Scary Bear Soundtrack. They have a great mix of synth, guitar, and awesome vocals. They reached CBC’s top 4 for its Music’s Searchlight Contest. That’s 4rth out of over 3000 other indie bands.

They’re crowdfunding their next album on Indiegogo (which seems appropriate for an indie band). They’ve already been funded and you can get a signed CD for $12 or a digital download of the album for $6.

Check out their Indiegogo Campaign!

Go support a great band and encourage a couple of great Canadian artists!