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Mad Max: Fury Road

I watched Mad Max because I remembered that Charlize Theron was supposed to play a villainess in this film. However, after watching the movie, I think I might have gotten a little confused between her movies. She is bad in the sense that she is a rebel against the established leader but she is actually one of the protagonists of the movie.

Her goal is to try and free a couple of “breeders” (woman slaves) from the grasp of the same evil leader. He is joined, by who I assume is Mad Max. I’ve never consumed any other media about Mad Max so I’m not sure of any of his (or the universe’s) backstory. However, it all seems crazy and non-sensical. Like, how do the people survive if there is no or so little water? What do they eat? How are they so impulsive and carefree about death (especially the leaders)? I suppose the universe is a caricature but this feels off now that there have been so many comic book movies that are grounded in reality.

Overall, I didn’t enjoy my introduction to the Mad Max universe, I didn’t get it and it just wasn’t an interesting universe to watch. Sure if you like car crashes, explosions, and scantily-clad woman in the desert/mud, there might be some appeal, but for me this is a 2 out of 5 star movie.

Hearthstone Request

In terms of TCG/CCGs, I’m a Johnny-type. So I play Hearthstone for two reasons:

  1. To finish quests, get gold, and collect the cards
  2. Johnny-mode – to win in weird circumstances

That’s why for me, I like playing the Heroic mode and the Dungeon mode. However, one thing that is holding me back is that it takes a long time to play Heroic (lots of deck tweaking).

It would be great if the Hearthstone single player modes can be played offline. I’m happy to spend my time on a plane clicking and playing by myself. But it’s too bad that it still requires a network connection to play (I understand why they would want a network connection…)

Hearthstone Solo: Kobolds and Catacombs

I’m about four months too late (The Witchwood is about to be released), but I’m nearing the completion of the “single player mode” for Kobolds and Catacombs. Unlike past adventures and expansions, you don’t have to play any heroic bosses, but rather there is a unique single player mode in KnC. In this mode, you have a rogue-like experience where you start with a few cards in your deck, then build up your deck as you beat the bosses. You also get special treasures until finally you face off on boss #8. The goal is to beat the (random) bosses with all 9 classes.

I’m not there yet, but I only have 2 more classes left (Druid & Priest, although not tackling them in any specific order). I enjoy this mode and actually played a lot of it when this expansion came out. It took awhile before I mastered the mechanic and started clearing the classes, and there is still no perfect/repeatable solution (hence no blogs on each individual class). There’s a lot of RNG involved in getting the right treasures to build a deck that has OP combos – and then some more RNG to pull it off against the final boss.

Overall though, I find it much more fun than fighting heroic bosses. One reason is because the challenge is in piloting the deck, not in creating the deck. There’s a lot of back and forth that you have to do to tweak a deck to fight the heroic bosses and that takes away from gameplay. With this dungeon mode, you just keep making choices and playing!

Star Wars 8: The Last Jedi

The Last Jedi seemed to pick up immediately where The Force Awakens ends, although my memory is a bit hazy since Rogue One happened in the middle of the two movies. David is still running from the Goliath and Luke Skywalker has some part to play in the whole thing. While I felt a need to watch this movie, I guess I wasn’t excited about knowing more about the universe. Thinking back, this was probably my feeling when I watched the prequel movies (guess who’s not a Star Wars nut).

The one thing I was interested in seeing resolved in this movie was how they would write Carrie Fisher out, or what parts did they use CG to film/post-process after she died. I never found out the answer to that question. What I did realize though, was that these Star Wars movie are the opposite of Pixar movies – I felt like an adult watching a kid movie. There were so many scenes where I felt I was being bludgeoned by plot explanations (Dameron learned his lesson). I can only explain it as being a movie being targeted towards young adults, as I thought the movie industry was moving to plots that required the audience to make inferences.

The one thing that I liked about this movie is that it seemed to move away from the light vs dark cliche, and the formulaic good vs bad story arch that seemed to govern the entire series. The loose ends weren’t tied up when the movie finished (there is still one more movie of course), but I do wonder if it’s going to return to light vs dark or end up a different way.

The Last Jedi had all the visual cues of a Star Wars movie (weird aliens and worlds), but it just wasn’t inspiring. It wasn’t bad though so I can’t give it less than a 3 out of 5 stars.

Blade Runner 2049

The sequel to Blade Runner is my most anticipated movie in the last few years. I even gave up the chance to watch it on several flights because I wouldn’t finish it in one sitting (it’s almost 3 hours long). I was looking forward to this sequel because of oh so many reasons: 1) I enjoyed the original book by Philip K. Dick, 2) The original movie evoked a technological future and imagery that was appealing, 3) Denis Villeneuve was directing and his work on The Arrival was top notch, and 4) The teaser trailer was tingling and portended good things for the full film.

So with those high expectations, I watched the movie and I think it rated 4 out of 5. However, I don’t think it lived up to my hype. I gave it a 4 because my general criteria is that if the movie is interesting enough to be thought provoking, it deserves a 4. BL2049 is one of those movies that I can imagine English class dissecting in the future. The idea of ‘What is life/sentience?’ is a theme throughout. We already know about the human and replicant divide, but now there are also holograms/AI.

However, it was also disappointing because the mood was too overwhelming. I think the story could be told in 2 hours, except Villeneuve went a little overboard in establishing the tone of the world with minimal dialogue. The story itself is moderately interesting with a little twist but the pacing is too slow.

Finally, watching this movie ended up being depressing. Instead of evoking and inspiring a technological future, it suggested that the future is bleak and dystopian, even in LA proper (I guess all the good stuff is in the outer colonies). Las Vegas is completely bombed out as well. Maybe that was the goal but if so, it just doesn’t leave a good feeling – and in fact the future world of Ghost in the Shell felt more interesting (even if the movie sucked). So an unhappy 4 out of 5 here.

March 2018

This was a hectic month as my travel schedule for March (and April) kept changing. In the end, I did 2 work trips (NYC for 2 days, and MV for 2 days) with March Break in the middle. Aside from that, the weekends were also not routine since the beginning of the month saw the end to the previous season’s classes, then there were a couple of weekends around March break that were empty, and the end of the month saw next season’s programmes start.

The weather was in between Winter and Spring. Warmed up, but not warm enough for Spring. I thought we would have another snow storm this year, but maybe that’ll happen in April (or May). The Daylight Saving Time change passed by smoothly since it happened right before March Break and there was a schedule change anyways. Apollo was in camp that week, but had a later start than his usual school.

Easter happened early this year, at the end of the month. Also finished up my taxes this month. Lots of little things happened but nothing seems to have left an impression.

Justice League

Growing up, I enjoyed reading more about the Justice League of America than the Avengers, even though I liked the Marvel universe more. But with movies, the quality and quantity is so skewed towards the Avengers, that it is hard to put together a coherent feeling about Justice League. I approached the first JLA film with some trepidation since I don’t know if it was going to be great like WW, or OK like Batman v Superman, or just disinterested like the Superman movies. What spurred me to watch it was that it was a short film (although I still had to split it across two flights).

I haven’t watched any of the DC TV series so I don’t know if characters like the Flash translated through, or whether it is a new backstory. Being the first film, there had to be some time devoted to creating the characters and the team. I am fine how that happened, and like Spider-man in Captain America: Civil War, it’s actually a good teaser for their solo films. But once the team was together, their nemesis and mission seemed lame. Steppenwolf is at most a B-list villain and his character, minions and plan seemed cartoon-y. I guess they didn’t have the time to put together a stronger villain or nefarious scheme.

Justice League is a 3 out of 5 movie. There are some good things about the DC movie empire but there’s also a lot of boring stuff. This movie didn’t stink and I would be interested in seeing what the JLA tackles next (a real bad guy please).

Star Trek Discovery Episode 3

The one thing that caught my attention with Star Trek Discovery, even from the first episode, were the credits at the start of the show. Instead of showing the universe or the ship, the credits rely on an artistic rendering. There’s also various shots of scientific models and diagrams. In a way, this is what a James Bond title credits might look like if James Bond was all about scientific discovery. I like this a lot, and it is also a stark contrast to the universe, ship, and feeling of the series.

Star Trek Discovery Episode 2

Last time on my blog, I talked about how I felt about the other Trek series, and wondered how Star Trek Discovery compares to them.

It is difficult to compare, but as with all things I think there needs to be a frame of reference. TV has changed a lot since Enterprise (what was that, 10-15 years ago?). While I don’t follow other shows, from casual reading it sounds like current shows have much better story writing, production quality and overall drama. I haven’t watched Game of Thrones, and have only heard about the sex and death in the show. But I guess that Discovery is a lot like Star Trek of Thrones.

While there are still scifi/tech elements, and everyone is wearing a uniform. There’s a lot more death. Also I feel the camera angles are a lot more intimate (vs TNG where you see the characters in the scene, as well as a large portion of the room/starship). Discovery needs to be this way to survive, but it’s not the Trek that I grew up with.

There are also a lot of dramatic swells in the plot. Sure, all Trek episodes have moments of conflict where the protaganists have to do something heroic. But on Discovery, it seems like every episode is the climatic scene at the end of a movie. While it’s exciting now, I think it’s too much too often and sets up an expectation that they can’t possible keep up with.

February 2018

February is usually the coldest month of the winter, and this year I thought it would be especially bad – the weather folks have been saying that this winter would be a tough one. Remember, winter started early and strong so it seemed like February would be extra rough.

Of course, it turned out February was pretty mild. Even the groundhog was fooled. About halfway through the month, the temperatures decided they had enough and fluttered around 0°C. It got even warmer towards the end of the month with highs in the teens (that’s the positive teens). I suspect that winter’s not done. We’ll probably get a snowstorm in April or May.

Chinese New Year synced up with Family Day this year so that was a weekend of busy-ness. It was actually like a mini-Christmas with all the family gatherings. We also did a lot of activities during that weekend to celebrate both Family Day and the New Year (Joyride, CNY at ROM, and Auto Show). CNY actually lasted 3 weeks with events the week before Family Day and some school stuff the week after. Earlier in the month, I had an almost-day trip to NYC for work. Aside from that, the month went by pretty quickly without any major events.