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The Adventurers

After watching Crazy Rich Asians, this felt like the opposite movement in film. Chinese films have been trying to break into Hollywood forever, but this movie felt like a different strategy. Instead of converting or accommodating a movie for Hollywood, The Adventurers is a film that is fluid and presents itself without explanation. The movie is set entirely in France, half of it is in English (all the “local” French people speak English instead of French) and Chinese people inexplicably are woven into the French population (winery owner, insurance agent, etc). The language goes back and forth – which is OK for me to understand, but could be disconcerting for someone who only understands one. Also, as you can expect, everyone has an accent. Andy Lau does ok, maybe he wants to follow Jackie Chan and Chow Yun Fat.

The story centers around a thief, his final heist and redemption in the eyes of his loved one. As with most Cantonese films, it’s not going to win any awards with its script (although has your typical HK humor). You watch this like a Bond film: car chases, gadgets and action sequences. It is pretty engaging until we get to the plot twist where it then makes no sense. The ending explains how it happens, but not the why – which is the big question and confusion for me when the plot twist happened.

Oh well, I enjoyed this HK cinema situated in some random place in the world. Three out of five stars.

Crazy Rich Asians

I have been exposed to a lot of press about this movie and the underlying themes of what it represents for the Chinese dispora in North America. I don’t know if it is going to be a one-off or lead to a strong sub-culture of Chinese-American films. That’s a topic for someplace other than my blog. But I can tell you what I think about the movie without the pretense that this is a potential society-altering film.

How I see this film is that it takes a culture and brings it to a wider audience, much like the way a Marvel film might bring comics to the mainstream audience. I am versed in the Marvel universe and Chinese culture, and in Crazy Rich Asians I felt like I was beaten over the head about Asian family obligations vs American independence. I think some more subtlety or sophistication in this theme would have helped.

I also thought the film started out slow. When watching the parts with older Chinese folks, I wanted to hear it in Chinese. Also the gratuitous extravagance was grating and the comedy wasn’t funny. I thought that the movie would end up being a 2 out of 5 for me. Fortunately the movie got a lot better once they moved on to real human issues and began dealing with the relationship. That’s the kind of writing that I expect from a movie plot these days.

While cliche, the ending played out satisfying and didn’t feel cheesy. Crazy Rich Asians didn’t have to be stocked with Asian actors to be popular, it stands on its own as a decent movie. Three out of five stars.

November 2018

November was the first month we spent in our new home and things are finally settling in. We still have a bunch of boxes to unpack but all the day-to-day things are sorted and organized. We also did a bunch of home improvement things (fixed stuff and bought some furniture here and there) but it’s safe to say that the Home Depot trips are dying down. We also dealt with a lot of garbage and recycling – each week there were 5+ bags waiting for the waste disposal people!

We had the first snowfall of winter in the middle of the month – it was a pretty big one too (5-10 cm). That kind of freaked everyone out as they expected a heavy winter. But since then, we’ve only had a few dustings. Temperatures dropped below freezing in the middle of month too and haven’t really recovered.

For work, I flew down to SF for the Samsung Developer Conference. I ended up doing part of a talk there. Nothing too exciting but one more thing to put on my LinkedIn profile. We didn’t go anywhere for Black Friday – it was too difficult to plan with our house up in the air, and we wanted to leave that long weekend available in case we had to take care of anything around the house. Turns out we didn’t so we just went around Canadian stores and bought various deals.

Pocket Queue 82

  • Life and death on a superyacht
    The story of how billionaires have super yachts that may employ hundreds of people (I guess they are floating mansions). Sometimes the workers die, but are the billionaires criminally responsible? Even if they are not , then should be morally responsible?

    By the time Robin, Will’s mother Judith and his sister Rosanna, now 37, arrived in Monaco to join the search, the yacht had left. “The captain said: ‘Don’t worry, we threw some flowers over the side and gave his belongings to the police,’” Rosanna says, fighting back tears as she describes “the worst days of our lives”. “I couldn’t comprehend that the boat had gone before Will was found and before we got there,” she says. “How could they just leave a family to deal with the death of one of their crew, and the police and paperwork and everything? I can’t believe that if something goes wrong – if someone dies – they can just raise the anchor and leave.”

  • The Legend of Nintendo
    A high level look at the philosophy of Nintendo. They’ve been around since 1889!

    In the fall of 2012, the company was in one of its periodic slumps. It had just released the Wii U, the sequel to the phenomenally popular six-year-old Wii. The console featured HD graphics and a touchscreen controller, but from the start it felt off-kilter. The branding, for one thing. Wii U sounded so much like Wii, critics said, that it came across as a minor upgrade rather than an enthralling advance. Compelling games were slow to arrive, and sales were sluggish.

    When things click for Nintendo, a new console triggers a slew of good fortune. The metronomic release of exclusive, tantalizing titles draws gamers to buy the console, which in turn increases sales. Then the console achieves critical mass among hardcore fans, and other companies scramble to adapt their most popular titles for Nintendo’s system. Third-party games from major and independent publishers attract new console buyers. Marketers seeking licenses—for apparel, cereal, children’s toothpaste—rush in, desperate to capitalize on the delirium. The resulting surge of revenue pumps up Nintendo’s profits and replenishes its R&D coffers to start the process anew.

  • How Fortnite Captured Teens’ Hearts and Minds
    Fortnite is really big now, but I haven’t played it yet. So it is useful to see what the game is about, why there is so much hype, and how teens are actually playing it.

    He saw on his find-your-friends bar that a bunch of schoolmates were playing, so he FaceTimed one who goes by ism64. They teamed up and hit Lucky Landing. Gizzard Lizard wore an earbud under a set of earphones, so that he could talk with ism64 while listening for the sound of approaching enemies. From a distance, it appeared that he was talking to himself: “Let’s just build. Watch out, you’re gonna be trapped under my ramp. I’m hitting this John Wick. Oh my God, he just pumped me. Come revive me. Build around me and come revive me. Wait, can I have that chug jug? Thank you.”

    I’d been struck, watching Gizzard Lizard’s games for a few days, by how the spirit of collaboration, amid the urgency of mission and threat, seemed to bring out something approaching gentleness. He and his friends did favors for one another, watched one another’s backs, offered encouragement. This was something that I hadn’t seen much of, say, down at the rink. One could argue that the old arcade, with the ever-present threat of bullying and harassment and the challenge of claiming dibs, exposed a kid to the world—it’s character-building!—but there was something to be said for such a refuge, even if it did involve assault rifles and grenades.

  • The man who has eaten at more than 7,300 Chinese restaurants, but can’t use chopsticks and doesn’t care for food
    Well I’m not one the chastise another for OCD data tracking, but I guess it is a bit weird to visit thousands of Chinese restaurants without knowing Chinese. The actual number of restaurants (maybe 120 a year) and not going to one more than once* is not too crazy.

    “In 1978, people in LA started talking about this great new Hong Kong-style restaurant that had opened up in San Francisco,” Chan says. “It was called Kam Lok. People from LA would fly up there just to eat. My wife and I flew up in the morning, ate there for lunch, ate there for dinner, then flew back in the evening. It was so much better than anything we’d had here.”

    Two years later, Chan made his first trip to Hong Kong.

    “We saw all these restaurants selling seafood. It was something we’d never seen before,” he says. “Then, we came back to LA and, six months later, all of these seafood places started opening up. Within two or three years in LA’s China­town, San Francisco’s Chinatown, New York’s Chinatown, every new Chinese restaurant had seafood, or ocean, or something like that in its name.”

  • A Company Built on a Bluff
    I thought I had read another article about the history of Vice but I can’t find it now. This one gets into more details about how it’s essentially a company of scams, which a lot of reputable companies have invested money into. Unfortunately, they’re not delivering on that optimism.

    According to multiple employees who worked at Vice at the time, Smith went to the architecture firm across the hall from Vice’s Williamsburg office and asked how much it would cost to get them to move out ASAP. Vice’s 50 employees then worked around the clock for several days setting up the new space to look like it had been Vice’s all along. Vice constructed a glass-enclosed conference room to host the Intel meeting, and late one night, an employee answered a buzz at the door to find a plumber who’d come to install a fancy Japanese toilet.

    On the morning of the Intel meeting, Vice employees were instructed to get to the office early, to bring friends with laptops to circulate in and out of the new space, and to “be yourselves, but 40 percent less yourselves,” which meant looking like the hip 20-somethings they were but in a way that wouldn’t scare off a marketing executive. A few employees put on a photo shoot in a ground-floor studio as the Intel executives walked by. “Shane’s strategy was, ‘I’m not gonna tell them we own the studio, but I’m not gonna tell them we don’t,’ ” one former employee says. That night, Smith took the marketers to dinner, then to a bar where Vice employees had been told to assemble for a party. When Smith arrived, just ahead of the Intel employees, he walked up behind multiple Vice employees and whispered into their ears, “Dance.”

Dr Strange

After Dr Strange’s appearance in Infinity War, I wanted to see what the movie version of his origin story would be like. Although, I may have read his backstory in the past, I don’t really remember it so I didn’t have much to reference against. The movie version seemed relatively believable though.

I think Dr Strange is a little different than other Marvel films. While the other superheros have physical skills, Dr Strange’s powers are mystical so it’s not easy to predict what he can and can’t do. It’s like magic, but different than what Thor/Loki uses. That elevates the usual rote Marvel fare into unknown territory. Some of the fights are really intense because the world becomes an Escher playground when in the mirror dimension.

There was some Astral plane stuff too which was interesting to see how they would represent that in a movie setting. And of course, there was a big infinity stone preview – although I watched the movies in the wrong order so it wasn’t that surprising. The post credit scene was just a preview of Thor: Ragnarok. I guess this movie is a 3 out of 5 stars too.

The Incredibles II

It’s been many years since I watched The Incredibles, and I hardly remember the story. However the characters are relevant because of the marketing campaign for The Incredibles II (plus I was at Disney) as well as the fact that I have been playing a Disney game that includes the heroes.

That’s probably why I was surprised when Elastigirl had a Southern drawl to her character – I didn’t remember that at all! Violet also looked a lot droopier than I expected. I guess her cartoon in the game was photoshopped. Aside from that, I’m not too sure what to think of the movie. It didn’t feel like a kid film (except that no one died) and they certainly dealt with a lot of adult themes. I guess I can relate to the daddy daycare, but that just felt like comedic relief and killing time (it was great that Jack Jack had a variety of cool superpowers, but he didn’t do anything with it!)

I did like the retro, silver-age theme (although I don’t remember if the first was set in that time frame too). Overall, this just felt like a normal superhero movie wrapped in a Pixar skin. It didn’t feel special but I suppose it wasn’t bad. 3 out of 5 stars.

October 2018

This October was very busy because we had to move. We bought a new house in September so it we had been starting to pack, but October was when things really got busy as we had to finalize the packing, close on the new house and actually move in! Plus there was Apollo’s birthday, Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en.

For Apollo’s birthday, we had our usual family gatherings and then went to Wonderland for the day with a couple of friends. It was rainy so they didn’t get to wear their costumes, but they were still able to trick or treat. We didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving this year as our house was filled with boxes and it would be difficult to prepare and have a large meal.

The closing of the house went OK, although not smoothly. I took 2 days off to see this through, but lost a day due to a banking snafu. Prior to closing, we also had to run around for last minute paperwork due to another banking issue. Not sure who to blame between the bank, our lawyer and us, because there are a lot of steps in the process and I’m not sure who is responsible for the communication.

Anyways, the house closed. We started moving some stuff over and cleaned it up. We had a week, and then moved the remainder on the last Friday of the month (furniture, books, etc). I guess by the end of the month we were setup as we had to eat, work and sleep in the new house.

We didn’t do a lot of Hallowe’en activities. Aside from Wonderland earlier in the month, we did one community trick or treat on the weekend prior and then went to an indoor party on the day of. Maybe next year we will have time to decorate our house and give out candy.

Ocean’s 8

I’m a fan of heist movies, it stimulates my how-things-work mentality. And I’ve always liked the style of the Ocean’s series of movies. This one is not set in a casino (and apparently Danny Ocean is dead so I must have missed a movie). It in fact follows his sister, who has recently been freed from her incarceration (for suprise, surprise, fraud). Upon getting out, she has a new plan for a masterful heist.

This time, there are only 8 people in the crew; and the twist is that they are all female. Some of the old friends show up, but they’re not pivotal in the heist. The casting is a little bit odd, with Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett as the stars, and a cast of cultural icons du jour (Rihanna as a hacker?? And Awkwafina as a thief with quick hands). No superstars, but I guess the draw was the plot itself.

A second thing that was different was that after showing the con (which, would you believe, was successful); they showed the aftermath – who took the fall and how they got away with it. That was interesting, but I wonder if it was just filler material. The movie was already short (finished in one leg of flight to NYC) so there wasn’t a lot of substance.

Overall, can’t complain – it was fun and what you expect from these types of movies. Ocean’s 8 gets a 3 out of 5.

September 2018

School started back up in September, but the kids are not old enough that it is a huge deal (having to buy a lot of new binders or other supplies). For the first time in his life, Apollo went to the same school as the previous year (although the entrances & etc are different now that he is not in kindergarten anymore). Jovian switched to a “new” school too, but it’s not really new as he has been there many times while dropping Apollo off in the morning. All-in-all, things went pretty smoothly and we got into the routine pretty easily.

No extra curricular activities have started yet so weekends are still fairly free. Went to a farm, safari (zoo) and slept in to take advantage of that this month. Went on a quick trip to NYC for work but no other travel otherwise. We actually spent a lot of time packing and organizing the house after the kids went to bed so not a lot of time to do any other things.

The Lies She Loved

When browsing the selection of World movies on the flight, I find that a lot of Japanese movies are relationship movies (not comedic like their Western counterparts). I suspected that The Lies She Loved might be too, but then it turned out to a couple of different things.

The movie starts by showing an “older” relationship. Usually movies are about teens or 20-somethings? This movie is about established people with stable jobs. Quickly though, the boyfriend suffers an accident and the girlfriend is left with a mystery. Apparently, the person she knew didn’t exist (in government records)! The movie then becomes a mystery film, trying to figure out who the boyfriend is.

I liked the mystery portion of the film as trying to figure out a person’s roots or history is something I am interested in. Trying to figure the boyfriend’s past also tied into a recent article I read about how DNA tests may tell you more than you want to know. Eventually they solve the mystery and ended the most interesting part of the movie.

There’s a lot of build up in this film and I was constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. How does the café girl tie into things? How are they going to wrap up the PI wife’s story line? Why did the boyfriend decide to hide his identity? Unfortunately, the director either doesn’t answer the questions or does it in a simplistic way. I guess I was fooled by the mystery part of the film and thought that there would be more surprises towards the end of the film. That would have earned this movie a four, but unfortunately the last 30 minutes bring it back to a 3 out of 5.