That John Bell

That John Bell John bell has been a professional web design, developer, and marketer since 2008 and software developer since 2017. Currently serving as an entrepreneur, he currently owns and operates several business serving marketing and analytics services.

05 April 2018 ~ 0 Comments

Best F(r)iends Volume One Review

I’m not at all involved in the movie industry nor claim to be an expert on, well, anything, this is just a layperson review of Best F(r)iends Volume One.

Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero are at it again.  The legendary duo from The Room are back on the big screen with the instant-hit Best F(r)iends.  In this movie, Tommy plays an eccentric mortician with a varied past named Harvey, and Greg a drifter named Jon.  I absolutely loved that Greg’s character was named Jon because it made it feel like Tommy was talking to me, delivering them in his awkward way with my name included, which was really fun for me.

In contrast to The Room, Best F(r)iends is actually very well done.  The edits and cuts are very near technically perfect, the usage of sight lines and composition is very well done, and some of the shots are downright beautiful. This excellent composition has the limited acting abilities of Tommy and Greg layered on top of it.  And it was amazing.  Greg’s acting ability was definitely tested but despite the far fetched plot lines, he delivered a believable (enough) performance.  Tommy absolutely shined in the movie.  His performance was absolute gold.  There are moments where he obviously stepped over the lines or delivered them differently as intended, however they were smart enough to leave it just like that.  Tommy’s quirks and personal character shine through this movie and honestly him misspeaking a line or gesturing absurdly is really what makes him so charming.

Tommy Wiseau is the American Dream personified, a completely self made man with a dream to be an actor, and although there are better actors, he accomplished his goal and has made and helped make two amazing movies.  He had a dream and followed it, and when you see him on screen with all his quirky glory, you really can’t help but feel inspired and motivated.  When he trips over a line or struggles with a word it just reminds you that he is human and just like us, and that really truly we can all achieve our goals if we work hard and love each other.

Tommy aside, the movie is actually very well produced and well done and I personally absolutely loved it.  If you are a fan of Tommy & Greg and aware of their work then you will find the “flaws” as beautiful and charming as other fans do.  If you are not familiar than it may be difficult to overlook some of it, and although it will still be enjoyable, it likely won’t give you the pleasure that it gives people who have followed their work.  The story line itself is dark but there are just enough references to the room that combined with Tommy’s glowing personality keeps everything light and quite fun.

It’s unfortunate that this was such a limited run because I would love to see more people have the opportunity to visit this in the theater, I was very pleased to have been able to do so and have already pre-ordered tickets for Volume Two, which will be in theaters for two days only in very early June.

26 March 2018 ~ 0 Comments

Decided to Try MoviePass

MoviePass has recently announced a discounted plan and after a few days of debate I decided to go for it.  I have not gotten my card yet, and will do a review once I have tried the product, but felt it was worthwhile to combine some of the information I gathered when researching it.

How it Works

It’s pretty simple how the system works, you pay monthly (or in the context of this discount – yearly) to be able to see a movie in a theater once a day (maximum).  To use it, they send you a mastercard that works like a pre-paid gift card.  You have to go to the theater and the app detects your location to see that you are at the theater, you select the movie and show time that you want to see and “check in.”  You have to make the purchase within 30 minutes of checking in, but the ticket can be for any time that day.  Essentially they load the cost of the ticket onto your prepaid mastercard and you use that to make your purchase.

Too Good to be True?

Of course this sounds much too good to be true, as in, how are they making any money on this, since they are not receiving discount tickets or incentives through the theaters directly.  However the company has now been around for six years and continues to lower their price.  They are open in that their models are based in part on people who purchase the card and do not use it (similar model to a gym membership) and also based on advertising.  They have already partnered with some studio releases to market those movies to their customers, also the company has made it clear that they intend to sell data gathered, and have recently sold off a portion of the company to an Analytics firm.  For the privacy conscious consumer, this could be a big red flag.  For me, however, as someone who also sells advertising, the idea of this is not foreign and I personally don’t have concern with it.  It is something though that you must be aware of if you plan on purchasing it, the require usage through an app on a phone and it’s hard to say what all information they are gathering, but I do know that most of us use a lot through or phones.  Just keep that in mind.

My Concerns

Reading through reviews there are a lot of issues concerning account terminations, and card deliveries.  The biggest problem that seems to come up regarding terms of service violations are general exploitation of the card, however there were a few fringe issues with transaction activities that raised flags.  One was a scenario where there was a third party leasing the theater, apparently it is a regular event for Friday nights and is scheduled and priced normal to the theaters regular listings, however the transactions go through a PayPal app on a tablet rather than the theaters POS system, so it comes across through their system as a potential cause of fraud.  The other issue that seemed fairly regular was a common theater practice of something called “split transactions.”  When purchasing tickets, often times theater staff will lump them together and then process the totals on each payment method invidiually.  For the consumer it appears as though they are mutliptle transactions however the theater’s POS (and MoviePass) registers it as one transaction.  MoviePass’s policy is ONLY for standard 2D showings, not special events or 3D or IMAX or whatever else.  The issue comes in here because split transactions can also be used to pay the difference in the special viewings beyond what your MoviePass card gets credited for the 2D showing you may have selected in the App.  Also, since MoviePass is not associated with any of the theaters, some of the lesser informed theater staff have actually recommended this practice to MoviePass users. MoviePass has no way of knowing which kind of split transaction it was, so there have been instances of “false positives” where somebody purchased multiple tickets however were suspended since the MoviePass doesn’t have a way to differentiate between split transactions that should be legitimate, and those that violate the terms of service.

This seems like an easy enough problem to solve, however, just by simply making sure to check in at the theater as the App instructs, and make sure your transaction is completed separately from any others, I plan to ensure this by processing it myself at the self-service kiosk.

The second concern seems to be wildly varying accounts of card delivery times.  They claim 7 days, however reports go from one week to 3 months, all at different times of year too so it’s difficult to know how long to expect the card to arrive, or when to start being worried.  I honestly expect there to be a significant growth period during this discount, and am hoping to receive it in two weeks but estimating it may be closer to four.  I’ll post an update again when I have received it.  Thankfully, however, your subscription time period does not begin until you activate the card.

UPDATE: The card arrived on Monday after ordering it the previous Sunday, so about 5-6 business days depending on how you count.  The ship notification was received on the tuesday after ordering it however from what I understand it is an automated email that sends 48 hours after you order, regardless of actual status.

My last worry, frankly, is if this company will even exist in a year.  I plan to of course get more than I paid for it, and I’m sure that many of the other subscribers have that same thought.  It’s of course normal to think that they would certainly go bankrupt by reimbursing full ticket costs where in some markets a single ticket is more than twice the current monthly rate of MoviePass, some users only need to see 5 movies in a year for them to lose money.  To me it feels like a risk, however it is one I decided I am willing to take.  The company has been around for more than half a decade, and seems to be scaling at a very thoughtful pace, acquiring an average of nearly 250k subscribers a year.  It is also ran by Netflix Co-Founder Mitch Lowe.  Granted Netflix is having it’s own share of financial troubles, Mitch Lowe is absolutely no stranger to this business model, and pulls a lot of weight through his time at Netflix.  I decided to take the risk because I know that Mitch Lowe and MoviePass consistently growing and public data collection models would be very attractive for future investors, while still holding a small enough market share to be able to continue to run specials and generate influxes of cash through growth.  Between these two factors alone I don’t have any doubts that they will survive for at least the year that I purchased, adding that they have already existed for more than half a decade with an even higher priced model, it seems as though there may be a lot more subscribers who don’t use the service; or value in the data collected, than most critics anticipate.

Why I Decided to Buy

I decided to give it a shot, I’m not in one of those markets where the monthly cost is less than a movie ticket, in fact a Matinee in the newly remodeled (and now very comfortable) Cinemark located just 2 miles from my home sells weekday Matinee showings for just $5.25, with standard tickets at $7.25.  For me to “Break Even” I would need to see 17 matinees or about 12 standard priced films.  I think it is important to do this calculation because at first glance the $6.95 a month seems like a steal, however about 80% of movie-goers go less than 4 times a year, and if that is you then this is really a horrible deal, and likely where they are generating their revenue.  For me, however, I just joined Cinemark Rewards program about six months ago and have already accumulated $160 worth of purchases of movie tickets in that time, so using that information alone it because easy to see that I would be able to reach that.  Especially now that I actually have the card, and Fridays off, I plan to visit weekly.  That won’t always happen, of course, but even if I missed half the weeks I’d still be coming out about $60 ahead if I only saw matinees, or $100 if I saw them at standard price.

There are actually a lot of movies I’d considered seeing but skipped out on because nobody wanted to go with me.  While I have absolutely no problem seeing a movie by myself (what kind of social activity is sitting at the dark staring at a screen, anyway?), however I have some kind of internal switch that seeks the validation of someone else being willing to spend their money on it as well, and I know that by taking that out of the equation and just being able to go 2 miles up the street and see the movie without any increased incremental costs will lead me to seeing significantly more movies that I would likely have otherwise ditched.

One of the last things I am looking forward to is that it covers virtually every theater in my city.  This includes the major chains, a smaller local theater, an art cinema, and even a 21+ theater that serves meals and alcoholic beverages.  I’ve been to the smaller independent theaters before and they always have trailers for movies I’ve never heard of that look interesting, so being able to just jot it down to keep in mind to check out next time I have a free couple of hours is very appealing.  My only concern now is getting ahead of myself and seeing too many movies, getting burned out, and never using the thing again.  That being said, I think if I stick to my weekly schedule I’ll be able to get a great value, a constantly rotating selection between the theaters, a great variety of movie experiences, and not get burned out.


I’ll certainly be adding more reviews to the product as I use it, and will likely be posting reviews of the movies I see too once I do (Why not?) but hopefully this is a useful piece of information to pile on to the others about MoviePass.  If there’s anything else that I didn’t mention please feel free to comment about it below to help myself as well as people who will come across this post in the years to come 🙂