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Familyhood

Familyhood is a Korean film about an aging, (approaching middle age), but still relevant, actress who fakes a pregnancy in order to find meaning in life. Naturally, being pregnant increases her stature but also, she is found out and her bubble burst. The tragic, fallen hero must then deal with the consequences and redeem herself.

It’s kind of a cliche, and actually given the hype of K-Dramas, a pretty disappointing movie. Perhaps I’m not the target audience for this film. The parts I enjoyed about this movie are the ones that show or satirize the management/agency nature of being a Korean celebrity. Aside from that, there isn’t much redeeming about the movie, and it is a sorry state of the film releases on my flights in January that I had to watch this movie instead of a better one.

Familyhood gets a 2 out of 5 stars from me.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

I watched this oldie (from 1982) because I’ve been playing a Star Trek game and one of my Legendary characters is “Wrathful Khan”. I actually had also read the synopsis a few months ago too, and I think at some point I saw this movie on TV. Yet somehow I was still surprised at the plot and it wasn’t the movie I was expecting – for some reason I expected the Augments to take over a Klingon Bird of Prey.

In any case, I enjoy Star Trek but didn’t enjoy Wrath of Khan that much. The plot was fine but I think the pacing is too old fashioned – too many grandiose shots of the ship and people walking around the hallways. I don’t have an affinity to the Original Series so perhaps the nostalgia of finally seeing the ship again after the series was off the air for many years is lost on me. I also think that the villain Khan just wasn’t that imposing, scary or believable. He was actually a bit cartoon-y because he was so vengeful.

Overall, I would rate this movie 2 out of 5 stars. I would have preferred to watch an episode or two of The Next Generation or one of their movies instead.

Morgan

Morgan is the story of a bioengineered being which has had an “incident” which causes the parent company to send out a risk management consultant to assess the situation and the program. However, it turns out that the team, which has worked in seclusion for many years to birth and develop the being as their own child, has grown emotional attached to it.

You can see where this is heading as the team fights to show how Morgan is special; but this is a rated R thriller so the story ends up having a lot of unexpected action following the initial drama-esque start. I wasn’t expecting it and it turned out to be much better than I thought it would be (given that I originally picked it because it had a short, 90 minute, running time).

After watching the movie, the themes remind me a lot of Bladerunner (and that’s always a good thing). It turned out to be the most enjoyable movie of the last several I’ve seen. I give Morgan a 4 out of 5.

January 2017

I started January with a lot of travelling. First, I went to Las Vegas to attend CES for the first time! That was exciting, but I only ended up breezing through the trade floor once, and didn’t attend any of the talks at all – it was all work meetings! Plus I was originally planning to go for 4 days to have time for the conference and maybe go to some buffets or shows, but I had to readjust my travel schedule and was only there for 1 night…because…

My trip to Korea that was original scheduled for last December was rescheduled for the week immediately after CES. So I cut short my stay, returned home for the weekend, and flew out again on Monday for the week. This was my first time in Korea in the winter, and it’s pretty boring. I had some time on my last day to go around but it started snowing a little, my running shoes were slippery, and I didn’t want the trip to the airport to be stuck in traffic; so I didn’t do much.

After that, January passed by quickly and was pretty calm. The weather warmed up significantly in January – no real snowfall and temperatures above freezing most days. There was more rain than snow in the month.

League of Gods

This is a completely fantasy Chinese movie that is half CG. That might sound a lot like Monster Hunt but I actually enjoyed this a significantly more. The reason is because League of Gods doesn’t treat itself as anything other than a vehicle for superhuman Kung Fu/Chinese movie fights.

The premise is that there is an evil & bad King who uses an oracle’s eyes to see how he will rule the world, except he sees his own ruin. A renegade faction/city also sees this and sends a young apprentice to seek out the Sword of Light that can defeat the Black Dragon King. The protagonist has some special powers, but he finds a couple of additional warrior buddies to help him complete his quest.

All sorts of battles break out, but its mostly magical and martial arts against straw men and paper swords. Once that is over with, the heroes even have to fight an enchanted troll that is similar to the one in Lord of the Rings. After all of that fighting, the heroes get the sword and some guy who looks like Jet Li (but isn’t, as he plays someone else) turns into the Golden Dragon in order to battle the Black Dragon King.

But do they defeat the Black Dragon King? Nope! Because that’s the end of the movie. I guess League of Gods is a series of movies – and its really frustrating when they only put one episode on the inflight entertainment system. Overall, this is a fun romp so it is a 3 out of 5 rating from me.

Jason Bourne

I think I missed a few Bourne movies in the middle because this is the fourth one. In this one, Bourne takes a nod from Spectre and revisits his past – although now that I think about it, I think all of his movies have something to do with his past, and finding out who he is, and why he is an agent. Well, this one is no different and looks at the role his father played.

I get the plot and there are a lot of action scenes that push the Jason Bourne ahead, but nothing is new or overly different between this movie and any other action blockbuster. The exception might be an up and coming CIA analyst (well she is already pretty senior, unless you compare her to the director) who plays a political game for her own gain. She is the Julia Stiles 2.0 in the Bourne movies so I guess we will see more of her (although unlike Bond movies, these happen in sequential time order so at some point Bourne might just die of old age).

The comparisons to Bond are many, but I just don’t feel the excitement, style or mystique in the Bourne series as I do the Bond ones. This is just your average summer blockbuster, so a 3 out of 5 star rating.

Pocket Queue 72

  • The chilling stories behind Japan’s ‘evaporating people’
    I didn’t know about this, but now that I know, it’s not too surprising. There are certain people in Japan who, after suffering to much shame, ‘evaporate’. What that means is that they just disappear and go somewhere else (instead of committing suicide), leaving their family and friends to wonder where they are.

    Whatever shame motivates a Japanese citizen to vanish, it’s no less painful than the boomerang effect on their families — who, in turn, are so shamed by having a missing relative that they usually won’t report it to the police.

    Those families who do search turn to a private group called Support of Families of Missing People, which keeps all clients and details private. Its address is hard to find, and its headquarters consist of one small room with one desk and walls sooty with cigarette smoke.

    The organization is staffed with detectives — often with evaporations or suicides in their own family histories — who take on these cases pro bono. They average 300 cases a year, and their work is difficult: Unlike the United States, there is no national database for missing people in Japan. There are no documents or identifiers — such as our Social Security numbers — that can be used to track a person once they begin traveling within the country. It is against the law for police to access ATM transactions or financial records.

  • The Great A.I. Awakening
    The efficacy of Google Translate improved greatly since last November, and the reason behind it is that Google started using AI to power the translations. This article talks about why and how they did that, but most importantly, how the use of AI in this feed can affect AI in general

    In the 1980s, a robotics researcher at Carnegie Mellon pointed out that it was easy to get computers to do adult things but nearly impossible to get them to do things a 1-year-old could do, like hold a ball or identify a cat. By the 1990s, despite punishing advancements in computer chess, we still weren’t remotely close to artificial general intelligence.

    There has always been another vision for A.I. — a dissenting view — in which the computers would learn from the ground up (from data) rather than from the top down (from rules). This notion dates to the early 1940s, when it occurred to researchers that the best model for flexible automated intelligence was the brain itself. A brain, after all, is just a bunch of widgets, called neurons, that either pass along an electrical charge to their neighbors or don’t. What’s important are less the individual neurons themselves than the manifold connections among them. This structure, in its simplicity, has afforded the brain a wealth of adaptive advantages. The brain can operate in circumstances in which information is poor or missing; it can withstand significant damage without total loss of control; it can store a huge amount of knowledge in a very efficient way; it can isolate distinct patterns but retain the messiness necessary to handle ambiguity.

  • Meet the husbands who fly first class – while their wives travel in economy
    An almost incredulous article where various men and women justify why spouses travel in different classes of the plane.

    “We left home as a couple, checked in our luggage together and went hand-in-hand to departures. When we boarded the plane, we parted, saying: ‘I’ll see you when we get there.’ We had a lovely fortnight together in Barbados. John was especially attentive — perhaps he was a little guilty.”

    Since then, Michelle has preferred to travel as far away from her husband as possible. And John couldn’t be happier: “Do I feel guilty? Not at all! I get treated very well in business class. And if, one day, we can afford it then I’d love for the whole family to join me there.”

  • Silicon Valley’s Culture, Not Its Companies, Dominates in China
    This makes a lot of sense. Who wants to work a rigid and long schedule when you can just work flex hours?

    Last year, Facebook fired an enterprising Chinese employee who played to the unmet demand and charged one group of tourists $20 each to tour the campus and eat in the company’s cafeteria. Now, the only thing notable for tourists to see is its thumbs-up sign.

  • “Architecture saved my life”: Pablo Escobar’s son is a good architect now
    I like stories like these where there is a juxtaposition between lifestyles within two generations. In this case, the architect seems to be making a career for himself, although I don’t know how much of this is actually a puff piece.

    I believe that in a way my father was also an architect, he was very clever. He was just an architect for his own convenience. There was a Sunday my father took me to airplane fields and in the middle of the jungle, we were standing on the airfield and he asked me, “where is the airfield?” I couldn’t see it, and he said, “You are standing in it.” I couldn’t see it because I was looking at a house in the middle of the runway and there was no way the plane could land because it would crash against the house. He took a walkie-talkie and told one of his friends to move the house. It was on wheels. When the airplanes from the DEA (US Drug Enforcement Agency) were searching with satellites looking for hideouts, they couldn’t find anything because there was a house in the middle of what was a possible airfield. The planes can use it—just move the house.

Suicide Squad

I don’t know the backstory of Suicide Squad but I think this is required watching as DC continues to build up its movie universe to the Justice League movie. But after watching it, there doesn’t to be a big need for this movie.

It’s basically a self-contained movie similar to Guardians of the Galaxy where a rag tag band of shadowy figures save the world. There are some cameos from Batman and The Joker but its just to fill in the backstory. There are some character introductions and the after credits scene is important (for the universe) but I think those can be shared without tagging an entire movie along with it.

The plot is formulaic. Bad guys get together to help (read: are forced) the good guys, but the good guys suffer a setback and then bad guys develop a conscience and volunteer to beat the big bad guy. Its not boring but it is forgettable. I remember reading some press saying the atmosphere or music was great, but neither impressed me. This is a quite average three out of five stars.

シン ゴジラ (Shin Godzilla)

I have never watched any Godzilla movie and everything I know about Godzilla comes from Rampage. In fact, I would have ignored this film, because I was on an Air Canada Rouge flight (with no seat back screen), if not for just coming across a thread on this movie on Reddit as I was waiting for my flight to Vegas. It was actually interesting and not what I thought a Godzilla movie would be about.

Sure, you saw the beast and it laid waste to Tokyo, but that is really a side-bar and raison d’être for the underlying commentary – namely a satire about how politics and government operates. The film begins with Godzilla causing mass (but minimal, only flying cars and boats) destruction while the government paralyzes and sends orders up and down the chain of command. I enjoyed that various politicians would inject with comments on how decisions would affect their own political career or the economy.

Eventually the film settles down into more familiar territory where they actually have to get rid of Godzilla, and work with foreign governments to do so. That made the film weaker as the plot just kept being driven forward without a lot of rationale. The first half of the film gets a 4 out of 5 but the latter half only a 3. I’ll be generous and give it 4 out of 5 overall.

Android Games 34

Cardstone is a deck building and dungeon game, where you start with a basic deck and a hero (Warrior, Mage, Paladin or Vampire) and then build and improve your deck as you go through the dungeon. After each battle, you have the opportunity to swap one card in your deck with 4 random cards in your card pool. Through this you’ll strengthen your deck to fight stronger dungeon dwellers, but there gameplay is deep because the RNG prevents you from building the same deck every time (although you can make them thematically the same). It is a good premise and I played it daily for awhile. The problem is that the IAP scales really quick – the cost to buy new cards for your card pool with in-game currency grows exponentially. You’ll get a bunch of rare and legendary cards, and a few is better than 0, but the chances you’ll build a deck of strong cards is rare without spending.

The Battle of Polytopia is free and has distilled Civilization down to its core elements, so it’s great if you’re looking to play Civ (assuming you’re OK with isomorphic graphics). The problem for me is that after playing it for a little while, I remembered why I don’t like Civ (troop management and battles). Plus, in this age of mobile games, playing Civ is just too long.