Happy Thanksgiving from the Ipes

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Dining Room Renovation Project – Week 1

What’s one or two more home improvement projects for 2017?

Since we moved in, the dining room has received the least of any updates. That’s not entirely true as we paid for brand new carpeting back in July 2014 after we moved in. We had to do that as the previous owners hid the damaged carpet areas. Surprise!

Anyway, time for a quick update. We had one of our contractors spend a week painting the walls & ceiling, resurfacing our existing dining table. We put in a new chandelier. We replaced the old seating with new fabric chairs.

So far…


After a week, we’re almost there. What’s left to complete in the next few weeks:

  • Hang up new window treatments
  • Put in a bench for additional seating on the window side of the table
  • Hanging up new artwork on one wall
  • Decorating another wall with family pictures
  • Put in a new sideboard for all of china, utensils, napkins, and to serve food

We’re gonna stick with the carpeting for a few more months, but then we plan to install new hardwood flooring in Q1 or Q2 2018, and put in a rug.

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Joel’s review of Wonder (2017)

On Friday night, I found myself rushing home, an hour late, to meet up with family and other local friends. I had planned to get home around 6:45 pm, change my clothes, and meet up at town movie theater to see Wonder at 7:15 pm. Instead, I was late, and didn’t get to the theater until 8 pm, and Namita had to meet me in the lobby to hand me my ticket.

After settling into my seat, I was pretty impressed my the child actors in the film. Most of the story is shared between August Pullman (a young boy with facial deformities played by Jacob Tremblay) and Via (his 16 year old sister played by Izabela Vidovic.) At other times, the film focused on the point-of-view of a key supporting character in the form of flashback, and some narration. It was different and interesting.

Coming into the film late, I learned that “Auggie” had been home schooled his entire life, but was now attending a private school on scholarship. Being a kid with facial deformity, the film primarily centers on his attempts to fit in. At the same time, the story is also very much about Via, who has been somewhat forgotten, feeling left out due to all of the attention placed on her brother. She’s in high school, her best friend has seemingly ditched her in the new school year.

Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson play Auggie and Via’s parents, but I found them to be almost non-entities. Julia Roberts has a very light role (from what I saw) as “the mother” but very little time is spent with her character. I felt that Owen Wilson is barely in the film. During one flashback to Via’s birthday, Owen Wilson wasn’t even seen.

Then again, the story is about the worlda of both of these kids, not the adults. The child actors are pretty darn good.

Overall, it’s a good heartwarming family movie, and comes with a definite recommendation from me.

Wonder (2017)

Wonder (2017)

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Business Trip to Houston Texas

My last business trip of 2017 was a one day trip to Houston for meetings. I don’t personally like one day trips, because it’s so short you can’t get a full audit done right. Luckily I got some of my meetings completed in NYC the week prior, but still, not a fan. Also, you arrive late at night, and then you’re on the way home in 24 hours. I stayed at the Doubletree Hilton Houston by the Galleria. Nice enough, but I was only there for a few hours.

Not a lot to say, except my luggage didn’t get lost, my meetings went well, and I had some pretty good BBQ for lunch at Goode Company while traveling between meeting sites. Oh, I gotta talk about my two flight experiences. On the inbound flight, we had free tv (which was malfunctioning, but you could use the United iPad app to watch movies. I watched Kong: Skull Island.) On the way home, I was a new United plane DirectTV. How nice, except there was nothing free. They wanted to charge for every tv or movie channel.  I ended up paying $12 for WiFi, and I read the news the entire flight. You’re better off on the older plane!

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Joel’s review of Kong: Skull Island (2017)

This was not a bad monster movie. On a recent flight down to Houston Texas, I watched Kong: Skull Island (2017). Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts (a guy I’ve never heard of), I was struck by it was somewhat an homage to Francis Ford Coppola’s film Apocalypse Now (1979). In fact, the film takes place in 1973 immediately after the U.S. announces its withdrawal from South Vietnam.

The film stars:

  • Tom Hiddleston
  • Samuel L. Jackson
  • Brie Larson
  • John C. Reilly
  • John Goodman
  • Toby Kebbell

Researchers / “company men” from Monarch (played by Goodman and Kebbell) make a successful request to the U.S. government to make an expedition with a U.S. Army escort to Skull Island for the purposes of a mapping exercise. Keep in mind that Monarch was the name of the same mysterious organization that knew all about Godzilla in Legendary Picture’s 2014 film Godzilla.

A “mapping exercise” on a place called Skull Island? (“Sure, Jan.”)

Monarch also picks up a British explorer / jungle guide (Hiddleston) and a war photographer (Larson) to join the expedition. Soon enough, they run into Kong. At 104 feet (31.6992 meters), this incarnation of Kong is the biggest out of all the American versions (and possibly the 1962 version licensed to Toho Films for King Kong vs Godzilla.) I assume that he’s so much larger in this film so that he’ll have a fighting chance to take on Godzilla again in the 2020 version Godzilla vs Kong.

Having been shot down, the expedition explores the island in separate groups, in hopes of reaching the rendezvous point on the northeastern shore in three days. Unfortunately, Kong is not the only living thing that resides on Skull Island. Plenty of other strange and dangerous fauna make the island their home. In addition, Lieutenant Colonel Packard (Jackson) is hell-bent on revenge against Kong.

There’s more but that’s basically the film. It’s an interesting film to pass the time, but I thought it was ultimately a popcorn film. I would like to ask how this island is able to sustain all of these ginormous animals – there’s simply not enough food for them to eat.

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

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Boy Scout Troop 59 – Quail Hill Camping Trip

Joshua went camping with his fellow Boy Scouts last weekend in the bitter cold. The Ipes are generally fair weather people, and we’re not about cold weather activities. However, Josh needs 20 nights of camping as a Boy Scout in order to earn his BSA Camping merit badge, which is Eagle Scout required. The good news is Josh has obtained 15/20 in the past almost two years. So off he went to go camping out at the Quail Hill Troop Reservation in Manalapan NJ. The plan was two nights of camping (Friday night & Saturday night), plus a Saturday hike through Manalapan and Freehold.

The wrinkle this weekend was the weather forecast – bitter cold! Seriously, down to less than 20 degrees. At some point, the Troop leaders decided Friday night would be too cold, so they decided to cancel the Friday night start. Instead, they would go hiking Saturday as planned, then set up camp and sleep over one night only. The Ipes had a free night together, so went to see Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express, then get some dinner at Panera, and frozen yogurt down in Hamilton.

We picked up one semi-frozen boy on Sunday after lunch. He said the camping trip was good overall, but it was seriously cold. He helped cook bacon for Sunday morning’s breakfast and said his hands were frozen.

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Joel’s review of Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

On an unexpectedly quiet Friday night, we decided to go see Murder on the Orient Express, a remake of the 1974 film, which are all based on the original Agatha Christie novel. Kenneth Branagh directed this film with an all-star cast:

  • Kenneth Branagh
  • Daisy Ridley
  • Leslie Odom, Jr
  • Penélope Cruz
  • Josh Gad
  • Johnny Depp
  • Derek Jacobi
  • Michelle Pfeiffer
    Judi Dench
    Willem Dafoe

Big cast, right?

If you not familiar with the story (and I was not), Hercule Poirot (Branagh) is quickly introduced as a celebrated (albeit borderline OCD) detective. On his way home via the famed Orient Express (Istanbul to… somewhere in Europe – I missed that part), one of the passengers is murdered. Hercule Poirot begins investigating the crime scene, interviewing the shady passengers who all appear to have something to hide, and tries to solve the murder.

It’s an interested movie, but the pace is… measured and there are no big typical action scenes found in Hollywood movies. I was worried the kids might be a little bored, but they liked the film. It’s a good looking movie so the production is top notch for early 20th century period story.

I wouldn’t say I was wowed by it overall. It’s a decent story to pass the time on a cold Friday night when you want to get out of the house. We did go out for dinner at Panera, then enjoyed some frozen yogurt afterwards.

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

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Joel’s review of X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

I had meant to see X-Men: Apocalypse in the theaters, but some of the mediocre reviews threw me off. The film is the 3rd in the series that started with X-Men: First Class in 2011. The film brings back most of the same major cast members, but adds new ones for young Scott Summers, young Jean Grey, young Kurt Wagner, and young Ororo Munroe.

The film takes place in the 1980s with the resurrection of Apocalypse, the first mutant bent on wiping out most life on the planet, and leaving only the strongest.  When Apocalypse comes back, he sets up his new Four Horsemen to help make this happen: Psylocke, Magneto, Storm, and Archangel.

The film is okay. It’s not as bad as you may have heard, but I found Apocalypse (played by Oscar Isaac) to be underwhelming. It wasn’t the acting per se, but Apocalypse is a big imposing character in the comics. To have him look like Ivan Ooze from the from Power Rangers 90’s tv show didn’t help

I was okay watching the film on HBO this week, but I would have been underwhelmed and unhappy if I had to pay full price to watch this in the theater.  I like Oscar Isaac as an actor, but this representation of Apocalypse was extremely unimpressive.

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

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And now for random photos of cats

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Joel’s review of Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

The Ipes went to see Thor: Ragnarok on opening night. I’m still not sure how that happened exactly — I mean it’s opening night. I went through Fandango, found some reserved seats at an AMC theater on Rt 1, and booked them. Unexpected good luck, but take it when you can get it.

This is the third Thor film, and directed by Taika Waititi, an indie filmmaker. The story combines some of the Planet Hulk comics storyline with a little of the current state of Asgard at the moment, and that’s all I can really say about that without giving too much away. As you can gather from the various trailers, Thor loses much going up against Hela, and has to find his way back to save Asgard. He’ll meet various supporting characters along the way, like Loki, Valkyrie, and Bruce Banner (semi-stuck in Hulk form.) The villain in the film is primarily Hela, played by vampy Cate Blanchett who spends much of the film chewing the scenery.

In my opinion, the theme of the film is change. The film beats had to change, because it can’t be the same as what has come before. Thor was stranded on Earth and had to prove himself worthy to get Mjolnir back and be Thor again. We’ve had buddy Marvel films before, and nothing really changes or experienced meaningful big stakes that won’t be reset later.

** Minor Spoilers **

In the trailers, we’ve seen that Odin is stranded on Earth. Hela destroys Mjolnir. Thor loses his hair. There’s more, but generally nothing lasts forever. There’s a scene where Thor and Loki are talking about how Thor is always trusting his brother, and Loki is always betraying him. It’s this cycle, and Thor acknowledges that he can’t keep doing that.

** End of Minor Spoilers **

What I liked about the film was Waititi not being afraid to make a different sort of Marvel MCU film. To be free to let go of expectations, and to lose the reset button. No one, and no thing, was the same by the end of the film. Everyone was forced to change. That’s life, and it’s important to talk about it, because expecting things to NOT change is not realistic.

There was a lot of comedy elements in the film, which made it pretty enjoyable. I did find that the comedy at times undercut the serious of the situation, so I think it wasn’t all a homerun. Overall, very good film, and enjoyable.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

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