Truth or Dare 2017

truth or dare

Truth or Dare is a 2017 horror movie about a group of college kids caught in a harrowing game of truth or dare.  Whats starts as a fun game in a seemingly haunted house soon takes a turn for the worse.  The game continues to get more intense as otherworldly forces force them into increasingly dangerous acts.

Spoilers

truth or dare

Truth or Dare is a weird, yet entertaining movie.  The plot is just sort of there.  There is no build up or explanation for why things are happening the way they are.  The group starts a game of truth or dare in what local legends say is a haunted house and later on they encounter someone who played years before who just refers to it as “the evil.”  Thats all the explanation the movie gives over whats happening.  The rules of the game change and I can’t tell if its the evil force just messing with them or because of inconsistent writing.  For instance, when given a truth the first girl lies and the evil just calls her a liar and thats it, yet later on when another girl lies just as the first did, shes killed by the evil force.  Another example was a dare in which two girls had to remove seven body parts in seven minutes.  The evil force interrupts them and tells the girls it has to be whole body parts when one of them cuts skin from her elbow, yet counts it when they cut tips from fingers and parts of their ears.  Also, for some reason one of the girls decides to cut off her entire foot, despite fingertips and toes being accepted.  One thing I did like was that one of the kids is smart enough to realize that the dares don’t specify who has to do them, so they can all share the dare to minimize the effects rather than having a single person do it.

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This movie also had one of the most unsatisfying endings ever.  The final dare was for one of the girls to kill the other.  So they both get into a car and speed off and crash into a tree.  There’s a black screen and you can hear them both gasping for breath before the credits roll.  This ending just leaves you with questions and refuses to explain anything.  The only redeeming thing about the movie was some of the kills were pretty entertaining, and the fact that the evil followed them outside of the house and tormented them in their normal lives.  Overall, its a fairly average but ultimately forgettable movie.

5/10

-Andre’

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The Endless

endless

The Endless is a 2017 horror movie following two brothers a decade after they escaped what they described as a UFO death cult.  The two brothers struggle to adjust to a normal life.  Justin, the elder wants to continue to try and fit in while his younger brother Aaron longs to return to the cult where he had a sense of belonging.  Once they return they come to realize that things aren’t all lies and brainwashing as they’d previously believed.

Spoilers

The Endless is a strange movie.  Its portrayed in a realistic way yet manages to portray this otherworldly weirdness at the same time.  The plot is unique, well written, and well paced.  The movie starts with more subtle strangeness, giving you the feeling that things aren’t right here then it escalates the weirdness as the movie progresses.  From the beginning you notice how Justin and Aaron look around the same age as everyone at the camp, despite them having been kids and everyone else adults when they left ten years ago.  We find out that the “leader” of the group rescued the two from a car crash that the boys lost their parents in years ago.  Once the movie hits the midpoint, that’s when whats really going on becomes more clear.  The camp is under watch by an ancient entity that can manipulate space and time.  This entity has trapped everyone in the vicinity in time bubbles that repeat ad nauseum.  Camp Arcadia is trapped in a bubble that repeats every ten years, ending with the entity consuming them only to bring them back to repeat the cycle over again.  As such the camp members don’t actually worship the entity as a cult would, they realize that they’re trapped there and they accept it as they try to live as best as they can, forever.

The acting is done surprisingly well for a low-budget indie film.  None of the actors are even b-listers but they play their roles well.  My favorite was Carl, he provides more of a comedy relief aspect because he’s so over being this entities plaything.  He’s constantly agitated and yelling off in the distance at the entity how much he hates it, only for the entity to make things worse for him.  He was crazy before being trapped by the entity, and hes even worse after, but hes funny.

I really like the portrayal of cosmic horror in this movie.  The characters try their hardest to overcome something they have no idea how to understand.  They’ve been at it for decades yet nothings changed for them.  Everyone struggles to live their lives while realizing that they’re mere playthings for this unknown entity that has them in an eternal prison.  We’re led to believe that the two brothers manage to escape before the time loop resets, trapping them in Camp Arcadia, but there’s subtle things in the film that would lead to other conclusions.

Overall, The Endless albeit a low-budget indie film is actually a pretty good horror movie.  I find myself enjoying the indie horror movies a lot more than the big studio productions.  The Endless does its own thing and builds off of its own ideas to make it a unique film.  It’s a weird movie, but in a good way.  I can’t wait to see what the director puts out for the third installation of this series.

8/10

-Andre

Gale Courses – Speed Spanish I

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If you have ever thought about picking up a language, Gale offers a number of courses to quickly get you up to speed and ready to converse. Speed Spanish, the first of three such courses, is a more active alternative to our Mango Languages service and one of the most popular courses offered by Gale. This 6-week lesson provides a crash course on functional Spanish, teaching six simple recipes to quickly glue words together over 24 hours of course time. It is ideal for upcoming vacationers to Spanish-speaking countries and learners eager to jump into conversations.

The course is broken down into twelves lessons. Lessons usually contain several chapters of instruction and drills, a post chapter FAQ answering most of the common problem or exceptions present in the material, a short five question quiz, and an open forum to discuss the contents with students and the instructor. After going through orientation, lessons unlock every Wednesday and Friday that you are free to complete at your own pace. Each is designed to teach one of the six recipes along with an increasing amount of vocabulary words.

  • The Magic Circle (A mix of useful words that form the basis of later lessons)
  • Hay (There is/are)
  • Donde Esta (Where is/are)
  • Tengo/Tiene (I have/you have)
  • Quiero/Quiere (I want/you want)
  • Me gusta/Le gusta (I like/you like)

Interspersed with the lessons are numerous conversation examples that tell the story of Daniel Smith and his misadventures in Mexico, most notably his escape from police on a donkey. A welcomed addition that provides a fun way to review the phrases and vocabulary picked up during the lessons. His story ends on a cliffhanger, but continues in Speed Spanish II and III.

There is no graded homework and the final exam will determine the entirety of your grade. That said, you get what you put in. Do not think about the grade; think about what you are gaining from the course. The instructor is more than happy to comment in the discussion boards on any questions you may have on the lesson and engaging with the other students can go a long way to boosting your fluency. Just be sure to be up to date in your studies if you want a response as everyone else will already be on to the new lesson. The full syllabus can be found through the Gale Courses portal at:

https://fountaindale.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://education.gale.com/l-boli79588

Outside of using your library card, this course would cost nearly $150 through the general Ed2Go portal. Take advantage of the most valuable card in your wallet. I highly recommend this class to anyone with an interest in learning and especially using the language. Feel free to check out the other courses offered by the service, such as Beginning Conversational French or Instant Italian. The instructor, Dan Mikels, teaches several other language courses through Gale and has helped authored more than 20 other similar classes. The next session begins October 17, sign up now! ¡Que te diviertas!

-Jay

Mandy Review

mandy

Mandy is a 2018 action/horror film starring Nic Cage and Andrea Riseborough.  Nic Cage is Red, a logger living in the wilderness with Riseborough who plays Mandy.  They live a good life until one day Mandy catches the eye of a psychotic cult leader, setting in motion a gruesome revenge story as Red rampages through the cult.

Spoilers

The acting in Mandy is excellent.  There are no cheesy or over the top performances in this one.  My favorite performances are those of Cage and Roache, who plays the cult leader Jeremiah Sand.  Cage delivers a solid performance as he portrays a broken man consumed by a hunger for revenge as he slaughters hellish demon bikers and crazed cult members to avenge his wife Mandy.  There was one scene that takes place in a bathroom that can best be summed up as “classic cage.”  Roache on the opposite end portrays Sand as a manipulative, psychotic fanatic who I’m pretty sure is on LSD the entire time.  He manages to control everyone under him through intense psychological manipulation to the point where they would die for him or sacrifice each other at his will.  He’s also a failed musician who doesn’t take too kindly to criticism, hence his reaction to Mandy laughing when he plays his music as he tries to impress her.

The presentation of the movie is excellent.  Sound is slowed down, distorted and manipulated to help lend to the sinister feel of the person speaking or the events taking place.  For some characters their speech comes off as though they were underwater or as if it were coming from all around you.  The cinematography of this movie is amazing.  Scenes look like something painted by a skilled artist.  The use of color and combined with blackness in certain scenes gives more of a feel for whats going on rather than the actual spoken lines.  The movie also uses good-looking psychedelic animation when showing what a character is dreaming about.  This movie is all over the place artistically but in a good way.

The story is a fairly predictable revenge movie.  Red violently carves his way though all obstacles to get revenge on the man responsible for Mandys death.  There were a couple of more unique parts to the story though.  For instance, the biker gang that kidnapped them for the Sand.  They were supposed to be demons I guess.  They looked like cenobites from Hellraiser and I wish there had been a bit more focus on them as they were pretty interesting.  The movie also had an amazing fight scene with two guys battling it out with chainsaws of all things.  Also towards the end we see imagery indicating that the events occurring aren’t taking place on earth.  Perhaps Red died or he’s hallucinating everything taking place, we did see him use LSD earlier in the movie.

Overall Mandy is a great movie, for certain people.  Its one of those rare really artsy horror films that’s an homage to eighties b-movies.  The story is a predictable revenge flick, there’s nothing surprising about it but the way its told is what makes it special.  The unoriginal story is more than made up for by excellent production and great acting.  Mandy is one of the best horror movies released this year and it’s definitely worth a watch.

9/10

-Andre

As Above, So Below Review

as above so below

As Above, So Below is a a 2014 horror/thriller movie about a group of explorers that venture into the catacombs of Paris in search of treasures.  The group is led by Dr. Scarlett Marlowe, who’s quest for Flamels legendary Philosophers Stone, leads the group to hell and back.

The story is unique and well executed.  The film takes place in a universe where Dante’s Divine Comedy, specifically the Inferno is proven to be real.  Hell exists and the entrance lies far within the catacombs beneath Paris.  Scarlett and her ragtag crew of explorers descend through several layers of hell in pursuit of treasure and their eventual freedom.  There hasn’t been a modern adaption of Dantes Inferno to my knowledge so I was really excited to see this film give its interpretation of Dantes Hell and I wasn’t disappointed, yet I wasn’t wowed by it.  Aside from the overlay of Dante’s Hell and the lore surrounding it over the overall story its kind of dragged down by the bland characters.  Scarlett is basically a Mary Sue, she has like three PhD’s, she knows everything about everything, and always comes out on top to the point where you never feel there’s any real danger to her character.  The rest of the crew are basically forgettable cannon fodder that don’t make an impression.  That’s not to say that it wasn’t well acted, just that the characters were generic.

The setting primarily takes place underground in the catacombs.  The cool thing about this movie was that it was actually filmed in the real catacombs, so everything around them is real for the most part.  As the group progressed deeper and deeper into the catacombs I liked how the atmosphere changes.  Things get darker and more tense among them as they’re forced to go deeper as they believe its the only way to reach freedom.  Down there they’re faced with their individual demons and must conquer them in order to absolve themselves and escape.  My favorite part was when they reached the final level and they see this figure in a black robe sitting in a chair with its back to them.  They take their eyes off of it and when they turn back it silently starts to approach them, leaving a smokey mist behind it as it moves, while similar creatures appear around it.

Overall, As Above, So Below is an average movie.  I tend to like it more because I’m a fan of Dantes Inferno and love seeing the lore of that story in a modern setting.  The story was good and unique, yet dragged down by the generic characters.  The setting was one of my favorite things about it.  Its worth a watch.

7/10

-Andre

Kanopy

Kanopy Logo

Announced last month here, the library now offers Kanopy as one of our streaming options! Today I will be taking a look at this new and exciting service along with a few recommendations. Kanopy is a video streaming service specifically for both university and public libraries. Unlike Netflix and Hulu that focus on popular titles, Kanopy is geared towards Independent, foreign, and foreign films as well documentaries.  The service supports desktop and mobile viewing through its free application. Similar to Hoopla, users are only allowed to watch a certain number of movies per month (8). While this may be unfair to shorter titles (like the highly acclaimed animated short Coda which is only 9 minutes), the breath of options available more than makes up for it. Just learn to spend your monthly credits wisely. One notable highlight is that it carries much of the Criterion Collection, filled with such classics as Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai and Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’avventura. Here are a few films that are currently popular and show off the options available across many genre:

 

Loving Vincent Poster

Independent – Loving Vincent

“In the first fully painted feature film, 2018 Oscar-nominated LOVING VINCENT tells the story of the mysterious and tragic death of the world’s most famous artist, Vincent van Gogh. Featuring the voices of Saoirse Ronan and Chris O’Dowd.

Nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the 2018 Academy Awards, the Golden Globe Awards, and the BAFTA Awards.”

 

 

My Friend Dahmer poster

Horror – My Friend Dahmer

“Former Disney star Ross Lynch stars as the awkward, adolescent Jeffrey Dahmer – before he became one of America’s most infamous serial killers. Based on the acclaimed graphic novel, this is the haunting, sad, funny, true story of Dahmer in high school. Also featuring Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men) and Anne Heche (Psycho, Wag the Dog).

Official Selection at the Tribeca Film Festival. Winner of Best Picture at Austin Fantastic Fest.”

 

oldboy poster

 War & Action – Oldboy

“Oh Dae-su is an ordinary Seoul businessman with a wife and young daughter who, after a drunken night on the town, is locked up in a strange, private “prison” for 15 years. No one tells him why he’s there or who his jailer is but he is kept in reasonably comfortable quarters and has a T.V. to keep him company.

While watching T.V., he discovers that he has been framed for his wife’s murder, and during one of the occasions when he’s knocked out by gas, someone has drawn blood from him and left it at the scene of the crime. The imprisonment lasts for 15 years until one day, when Dae-su finds himself unexpectedly deposited on a grass-covered high-rise roof. He’s determined to discover the mysterious enemy who had him locked up for all those years. While he’s eating in a Japanese restaurant, his cell phone rings and a voice dares him to figure out why he was imprisoned…

Winner of the Grand Prize of the Jury and Nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival 2004”

I chose to watch They Call Me Jeeg (Lo chiamavano Jeeg Robot) from director Gabriele Mainetti.

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“Enzo, an ex-con from the poor outskirts of Rome, puts his newfound superpowers to use furthering his career as a delinquent, a fact which makes the local crime bosses far from happy.

When he falls in love with Alessia, an unstable girl who brightens her dark world with elements from a Japanese anime, Jeeg, Enzo learns the value of helping others. But what price must he pay to become a hero?

Nominated for Best European Feature at the Fantasia Film Festival. Official Selection at Fantastic Fest.”

Released in 2016, this Italian black comedy/superhero film portrays a “man of steel” who is a far cry from Superman as he bashes, breaks, and steals his way to fortune and accidental fame on Youtube.  Similar to Kick-ass, the the main character is a sorry excuse of a hero (there is one scene that may make you lose sympathy for him completely) and he doesn’t earn his mask until the last half hour of the film when he faces off against a similarly powered villain in a cliché, but appropriate final conflict. Still, the deeply flawed but enjoyable cast leads to many very entertaining scenes of suffering, personal growth, and comic ultra violence. Unless you grew up in Italy in the 70s, most references to the eponymous show will go over your head, but the contrast to the general idea of a superhero is used to great effect. If you liked Deadpool or Super, check this film out on Kanopy.

-Jay

Working With Upset Customers – LYNDA.COM

lydna

 

Here at the Fountaindale Public Library we have a vast selection of databases and eresources in which one can choose from.  These include ones that fall under specific categories of research as pertaining to such topics as Articles & Research; Career & Consumer Information;  Education & Homework Help; Genealogy, History, & Culture; Home & Lifestyle; Lifelong Learning; Movies, Music, & Entertainment; Reading, Writing, & Publishing; and Servicios En Español…just to name a few.

Today I will be looking at those that fall under the category of “Education & Homework Help” as well as “Lifelong Learning”.  These include Universal Class, Mango Languages, Lynda.com, and Gale Courses.  Specifically, I will be discussing Lynda.com and my experience with it and using it.

Lynda.com is an online subscription library we offer here at the Fountaindale Public Library that teaches the latest software tools and skills through high-quality instructional videos taught by recognized industry experts.

To begin with, you have to create an account.  Once you have done that, you are now ready to be exposed to a plethora of various subjects and topics to examine and purse.

 

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The course I took and will be discussing is “Working With Upset Customers”. “Working With Upset Customers” is taught by Jeff Toister.  Presented in five parts of video instruction, Jeff examines the various facets of what you need to know and what you need to do to effectively serve angry and upset customers. He does this through proven techniques for effectively neutralizing negative situations.  He also shares specific actions employees can take before and after encounters with upset customers that will reduce the likelihood of problems occurring in the future.

He begins with a brief introduction of the course overview.  From there, he dives right in and examines customers two basic needs.  The first need customers have are they’re rational needs.  Rational needs can be defined as what a customer needs us to do for them.  And then there is the second need, their emotional needs, this is how a customer wants to feel about the service they’re receiving. Pointedly, he states that when someone is working with an angry or upset customer taking care of their emotional needs is and must be the absolute top priority in the given situation.

He first looks at Serving Angry Customers.  In doing so, he examines understanding our natural instincts.  Then he focuses on listening with empathy, helping the customer be right, and using the Acknowledge and Refocus technique.   The Acknowledge and Refocus technique is made up of two steps.  The first step is to acknowledge the customer’s feelings. The second step is to refocus the conversation on solving the problem. By doing so, it steels away from blame or confrontation and allows working with a customer to find a resolution. It can also help a customer cool down since they are no longer focusing on the thing that made them angry.  However, one thing he is very adamant about is that a line needs to be drawn when it comes to abusive behavior by an angry customer and that no matter what such behavior should never be tolerated.

Next, he addresses Learning from Angry Customers.  This includes preserving the relationship, conducting an after action interview, finding room for improvement, and passing along complaints.

Finally, he discusses Preventing Customer Anger.  This includes creating personal connections, avoiding unpleasant surprises,  replacing trigger words, and using the Pre-emptive Acknowledgement technique.  The key to the Pre-emptive Acknowledgement technique is spotting situations where a customer is likely to get angry. You prevent their anger from boiling over by acknowledging their feelings before they actually get mad. When customers get angry, it’s often because they have an unmet emotional need. It feels like nobody cares about their problem. The Pre-emptive Acknowledgement works because it acknowledges the situation and the customer’s negative emotions before they boil over.

With that he concludes the course, with a brief summary of all the topics that were discussed.

As you proceed through the course, it tracks your progress.  Finally, once the course is completed, you are then able to print up a certificate of completion.

I found the course to be very informative, easy to follow, and well presented.  You can tell Jeff is well versed in all the intricacies of working with upset customers and all that it entails.

I really enjoyed my experience with Lynda.com.  It makes learning very easy and hands on.  It allows you to learn at your own pace.  If there is a certain section or any material that you aren’t too sure or familiar with, Lynda.com lets you go back to those parts and/or sections and replay them.

If you get a chance to check out Lynda.com, do so.  Learning has never been easier, more user friendly, or convenient. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

 

– Brian S