December 1, 2019
We bought a new car! Our old car was bought in 2007, so 12 years ago, and has over 200k KM on it. That’s actually not a lot considering there were many years during its lifetime where we didn’t drive it to work. Anyways, the transmission was dying so it was time for a new one.
It started snowing early in November this year. At least I thought it was early, but the news broadcast reminded me that it actually snowed in October last year. The first snow was just a sprinkling and melted during the day. But the week after that, we had a real storm with 15cm dumped on us. We had to hurry to rake all the leaves before they were covered by the snow! Then there was a week of warmish weather, and we are back to leaves being blown around in the wind with no snow at all on the ground.
I played a lot of Hearthstone with Battlegrounds being released. Actually I played it for about 2 weeks non-stop, then just kinda stopped as there was no more variety. I also started a new LEGO gatcha game, which may take the place of the Disney game I am playing (almost finished collecting everything worthwhile).
November 12, 2019
Hearthstone announced a new mode of gameplay at Blizzconn this year called Battlegrounds. I’m glad they announced something new, because while dungeon runs are still challenging and good for time killing, it wasn’t novel or interesting – you can only go so crazy in the powerlevel of the treasures.
Battlegrounds is an autochess clone. From a business perspective, it makes sense for Hearthstone to add a mode that is the same as the game that they are losing players too. I’ve tried playing autochess before, but the learning curve investment was just to steep. However, I watched a bunch of people stream Battlegrounds (trying to get an early access drop for it) and it seems pretty straightforward. In fact, I’ve watched so much Battlegrounds that I feel bored with the mode already. I’ll see what happens when the mode is launched live today, maybe it is different when you’re actually playing.
November 1, 2019
October saw several events:
- Apollo’s Birthday – we combined it with Thanksgiving at home this year
- Election – we did advance voting and beat the rush
- Started soccer classes – all three kids are going, although 1 hr is a bit long for Katana
- Samsung Developer conference – I was down in San Jose for a couple of days
- Hallowe’en – We did some stuff the Saturday before, the day of, and also went to Wonderland earlier in the month
Fall arrived this month. The leaves were a nice variety of colors throughout the month, and our backyard is pretty full of them now (gotta rake next month).
Hockey season started and the Leafs are pretty mediocre. I started playing a gatcha hockey game, but it wasn’t very deep so stopped that as well.
October 31, 2019
Another Godzilla movie, I thought I had seen the previous ones, but a quick read on Wikipedia indicated I hadn’t. Anyways, no prior knowledge was needed. Godzilla: King Of The Monsters is about big giant monsters fighting (kind of like the Pacific Rim series).
In this one, all of the old Titans are awakened but it turns out their leader is an alien. It is up to Godzilla to fix the problem. Humans are confused, but eventually they realize Godzilla is on their side. For once, the bad guy story is interesting and complex; although ultimately the true villain is Godzilla’s nemesis rather than humans.
Like the previous movie I saw, the ending of this seemed to be setting up for continuation of the series, seemingly King Kong vs Godzilla. Unfortunately only a three out of five stars film.
October 29, 2019
Kingdom is a movie about historic China, but the strange thing is that it is a Japanese movie. They speak Japanese thoughout the movie, and all the actors are Japanese. I’m used to historical films from China so I was curious what the Japanese take will be like , and also why they would make a movie about Chinese history without mentioning Japan at all.
The story is set in the Qin dynasty, and is about two slave boys who dream of being the greatest general in the world. They spend their time swordfighting after they’ve done their chores, and eventually become quite proficient. A chance encounter causes (only) one of them to enter the royal court, but his death causes the other to go on the journey that this movie is about.
Apparently, the story is from a manga, so a lot of the fighting and rhythm of the action feels like it came out of a comic (e.g., it is not real at all). And I had a real feeling that this movie was a setup for a video game/movie series. Each of the generals and other main characters felt like they were being introduced; and each had a single, unique ultimate move. There are factions, each with different attributes, and a grand quest to set out on. I’ve never read about the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” series, and I’ll do that later when I have more time; but I can’t help but wonder whether this is the first chapter of that.
There was a distinct non-Chinese flavour about the movie, but it was enjoyable and I want to see more in this style, within the same universe. Four out of five stars.
October 11, 2019
Last Spider-Man movie in the MCU! Well, we shall see. Far From Home happens after Endgame and it starts off with some reflection on the events (no real spoilers though, I think this movie may have come out before Endgame?). In any case, there are no more Avengers and Spider-man is one of the higher profile heroes left.
But this movie feels like a teenage movie. It follows Peter Parker on a high school trip to Europe. In practice, it is a lot better written and appropriate for adults than Detective Pikachu. I am not even biased towards Spider-Man like I am the X-Men. The first half of the movie was pretty good and fun. In fact, it felt like it was parodying itself. Nick Fury was delivering canned lines and everyone was riffing off that. The circumstances around the school trip was ridiculous. But I thought all of this was in good taste.
It started getting a bit slow after the plot twist but still enjoyable. Strangely, I think the biggest appeal of this movie is the development of the characters and relationships; the action is just eye candy. Also, I felt it was a bit forced to visit so many European cities. But nonetheless I think this was a quality movie, four out of five stars.
October 9, 2019
Living in Canada, I think we’re pretty lucky to take Air Canada. Recently I had to fly on United metal and the experience is not great.
First, I was a bit confused by how their inflight entertainment system worked. They have a partnership with DIRECTV and everything was organized into channels rather than a VOD service. If you missed the start of a movie, well it’s like catching a movie playing on TV. Not having the control to watch when you want seems backwards in this day and age.
The flight attendants also seem different. They say the same courtesy words but there’s a hint of haughty attitude. AC agents are not all great, but they seem to be more laid back.
AC also spends money in a better way in their lounge. I don’t drink but I notice the magazines. AC has a wide selection of Canadian magazines that you can take with you. The United lounge only has copies of their own magazine.
Also, the AC Signature Lounge dining service at YYZ is amazing. I’ve never been to a Polaris lounge but the Signature Lounge seems without peer at least in North America.
October 6, 2019
I don’t have a strong desire to see Detective Pikachu but I thought it would be interesting to leverage all the knowledge I learned from my kids in understanding this movie. Even from the previews, it was amazing to see Pokemon in the real world! Also, unlike Dark Phoenix, the CG was done well and made it feel like the Pokemon belonged in the world (maybe we’re just used to what they look like).
Much like Zootopia, the best thing about this movie is how they created the world. I like the idea where all the animals have been replaced by pokemon (although the balance is wrong as you don’t see that many animals in the city normally). And this idea isn’t a stretch because we live in the world of Pokemon Go where pokemon coexist in the world as long as you look through a screen.
The story itself is not that great. I had a little bit of struggle trying to decide whether the film is for kids, or adults who were kids when pokemon came out. I guess the right audience is a young teen. I hope this movie spawns a series where we can explore the world more, but hope that future movies are written for older audiences. Four out of five stars due to establishing the world and the promise of seeing more pokemon in movies
October 4, 2019
Well it’s been a long time since MIB was in theaters. I guess they brought it back for the retro crowd. The original was an action comedy with Will Smith’s banter and Tommy Lee Jones being the straight man. MIB International doesn’t fall very far from the original. It has the same setup but updated to the new century – Tessa Thompson plays the straight woman to Chris Hemsworth. Side note: I can’t picture him as anyone but Thor, so it felt like Thor joined the MIB.
The same futuristic view of the world and aliens blending in is still there. Kind of how all Star Wars movies feel like the same movie with different characters and setup, this is how this movie felt like. Not a terrible thing since I haven’t seen MIB in many, many years. A fun three out of five movie.
October 1, 2019
The school year started early this year, with Labour day on the 2nd of September. The school routine is actually easier this year as all three kids are at the same school, but it was still something that I had to get used to because the timing is different now (as Katana is in daycare and not actual school).
We have a good routine now, and I tried avoid travel this month to prevent further complications. It didn’t work out as I had a last minute trip to the Bay area at the end of the month. It was a short trip though, so served as practice/trial for the drop off routine when I am away.
Extracurriculars eventually started this month. This year, we tried to put them in more year-long programs so we didn’t have to change schedules every term.
Hockey also came back (preseasons at least). To celebrate, I started playing some more hockey-based video games.
September 30, 2019
This movie was supposed to be a clunker based on reviews, but I didn’t think Dark Phoenix was that bad. The film delivered a lot of fan service where you got to see a lot of the characters do their trademark talents. And really, that’s all I expected out of this movie. I saw past all the stuff that doesn’t make sense, like how they can run around in space (and I think they were self aware, including a scene where they duct tape a helmet on). There was also a lot of CG which could’ve been a reason why reviewers disliked it. Hard to film a phoenix in real life though.
I did have a little problem because I saw the films out of order. When Jean and the team appeared for the first time, I thought back to my recent viewings and didn’t remember how they got together. They definitely were not the First Class. Jean was also familiar (not Famke Janssen) and I guess I remember from her cameo in Days of Future Past or Age of Apocalypse.
The story was a little different from the Dark Phoenix origin that I remembered so that was a little fresh. But I think my X-Men bias pushes this to a three star out of five.
September 1, 2019
While back to school sales started in July, we didn’t really do much until August. The kids have most of what they need already, they don’t need new clothes and we have a ton of stationary supplies. We ended up just buying them some new backpacks and lunchboxes.
The weather in August let up a bit, there was a week and a bit where it wasn’t too hot and we could actually spend time outdoors. Lots of summer thunderstorms though. By the end of the month, it was TOO cold. We could no longer wear shorts everyday and could have needed a jacket in the morning. Boy that switched quickly.
I played a bit more Hearthstone this month as there was a new expansion, and I started winding back some of my Disney Heroes playing – I’ve been playing a year and it’s starting to lose the novelty (just endless levelling again). Instead of looking for new mobile games, I am trying out DS emulation. Tired of micropayments and the game design that funds it.
August 29, 2019
As a child, I was not interested in Shazam and I’m still not. The Shazam! movie didn’t actually interest me that much either but I ran out of things to watch. I guess it may pay off to keep up to date on DC universe movies.
Like many DC movies, it wasn’t very good. The script just wasn’t refined enough. It tried a little too hard to be funny, had cardboard cutout villains, and tried to make it novel to discover super powers. But I think everyone has seen enough comic book-based stories to know what that is like now. I also didn’t like that it was a story targeted to kids, where the lead characters act like how you would expect kids to be of they learned that they had powers. That went on for like 20 minutes, who actually finds that funny??
Only two redeeming factors in this movie: 1) It is shot in Toronto and 2) Shazam can now participate in the DC universe. Maybe they will take on infinite crisis as a crossover? But by itself, this is a two out of five stars movie.
August 27, 2019
The Second Winter is a short Korean film (only an hour long, and could be even shorter as there was a lot of silence used for dramatic effect) about the millennial struggle between doing something you’re passionate about versus a job to survive. The story focuses on two newlyweds that are 30 (Millennials, or is it asians? Marry late) who can’t hold down a steady job. The man wants to be an actor (historically a job that is notoriously difficult to get started in) and is auditioning for Don Quixote. The woman can’t get a full time job because she has no children and companies don’t want to hire her in case she goes on maternity. The struggle is characterized through a search for a new place to live. They identify a larger apartment that is nicely decorated but seems out of their league (there’s a running joke that you have to live like “North Europeans” there) and think about what it would be like to be someone that can live there.
I’m not sure what the title refers to, nor the recurring theme of a broken heater in their current apartment. Maybe it is a plot device that justifies their apartment search. Beyond that, it is pretty clear what the movie is about. Not a great movie but not a big time investment either. Three out of five stars.
August 25, 2019
I saw this on inflight entertainment, and thought they just added the original Hellboy to their catalogue (as they do from time to time with older movies). But turns out there was a 3rd movie/reboot of the franchise.
I’m not sure if Hellboy #3 is a serious film. It felt like I was watching a satire of the horror film genre – but maybe that was the point. And there was so much blood. I kind of kept watching to try and understand why I thought the first Hellboy movie was worth watching.
Beyond the grotesque monsters and the overuse of blood, the movie gets a little better. It weaves in a lot of historical mythology which I am not clear whether it was made up for this movie or part of his back story. The movie also serves to build up a supporting cast of “heroes” for Hellboy in case it becomes a series. I’m not sure I want to watch anymore though as the blood is just too much. Two out of five stars.
August 23, 2019
This was a movie I never expected to see. I had heard about how The Wandering Earth broke Chinese box office records, and was supposed to usher a new age for China sci-fi. I read about how the Chinese author toured the US and explained how a movie like this would never work in the US/be understood by a western audience. But still, I was surprised that this movie made it to the World selection in the inflight entertainment.
The Wandering Earth tells the tale of a near future where the sun will supernova in 30 years. Earth decides that the best way to save itself is to move itself (the physical planet, not the civilization) out of the solar system. That’s a ludicrous proposition if you think about it. Gravity won’t work properly for one, the Earth would freeze being so far away and well you can find a lot of thing that don’t make sense if you start thinking too hard.
The story focuses on one family, the father who works on board a space station, and the son/daughter who lives on Earth. The story is driven by the family on Earth as the planet undergoes tectonic disturbances as it approaches Jupiter’s gravimetric field. Jupiter is the main protagonist in this story as it threatens to swallow up our planet.
Through a lot of struggles, we see how the strong Chinese spirit and ingenuity prevails while all sorts of other nations turn their tails and run. There are a lot of cliched scenes that stresses family and sacrifice for the greater good. In a way, this movie is a heavy China propaganda piece, but it is also interesting to see how a China-first blockbuster would work. Great for the insight, four out of five stars.
August 20, 2019
Finally! After how many movies? the finale of this epoch in the Marvel Universe is finally complete. I think I also accomplished the monumental task of seeing all the relevant movies before this one came out – thanks to a lot of flights. No surprise, I saw Avengers: Engame on a flight as well.
There was a lot to like about this movie and it was a deserved ending to this epoch. While time travel is an overused mechanic, I liked how they visited their previous movies and expanded on the stories around them. I also liked how they brought basically everyone who has been involved in the universe back, even if the cameos are pretty short. The humor was light although some bits got long in the tooth (e.g., Thor’s beer belly). I liked how it paved the way for the next generation, and I did not fail to notice the one scene where all the women characters showed up at once.
This movie felt worthy, and was four out of five stars in my book. Now to see what is next for MCU.
August 11, 2019
I received Gravity as a promo from Movies Anywhere at some point and so saw it at home on my TV. I also recall there was a VR version of this movie, and it make sense because there are amazing visuals that you want to see as large as possible (e.g., IMAX).
The movie is set in space, and about astronauts who get stranded after an international incident. Unlike the Apollo movies, the astronauts are truly alone, and do not have a team to support them. The cast is essentially George Clooney, Sandra Bullock and the view of the earth. It is an interesting take that really shows the loneliness of space.
I’d imagine that space exploration in our day and age would be similar to sailing in the olden days. Your boat (and crew) was your lifeline and if you went overboard and ended up adrift, you were in for a lonely death.
While space is the unknown and thus exciting, Gravity is a story about perseverance through adversity and human survival. That story + the amazing visuals make this a four out of five stars movie.
August 1, 2019
Usually at the beginning of July, we try and go on a road trip to take advantage of the Canada Day/Independence Day long weekend. We didn’t do that this year but I ended up having some travel in the second week of July. It started with a work trip to Korea, then I spend ~6 hours in Japan for a layover. My plan was to visit a festival in Sawara which is near the airport (although getting there via local trains took 1.5h) but like a lot of the Japanese festivals that I’ve been too; it just wasn’t that great. Probably not a great use of time but it is one of those things that if I didn’t try to go, I would never go again (had to be near Narita on a certain weekend of the year).
After that, I flew to Vancouver and spent a day there. I had a lot of relatives who were congregating there so I dropped in for a quick visit and meal. Then it was finally home. I spent a very long Saturday on an extended trip (slept two “nights” on airplanes).
Back home, the weather was hot and humid. We tried to do outdoor activities in the mornings on the weekends, because the afternoons were unbearable and had to be spent indoors. It makes it difficult to take advantage of our Wonderland season’s pass or go to farms and parks. Unfortunately, with summer half over, I don’t think it’s going to get any better in August.
July 26, 2019
I’ve been playing a lot of dungeon run-type games in Hearthstone, but decided to take a break and go back to the traditional PVE. Still stuck on Blackrock Mountain, so decided to work on Lich King some more. The Hunter battle penalizes you if you have minions in your deck, so guess it’s time for spell hunter. Here’s my deck:
- Arcane Shot
- Bear Trap
- Cat Trick
- Explosive Trap
- Grievous Bite x 2
- Misdirection x 2
- Quick Shot
- Animal Companion x 2
- Deadly Shot x 2
- Eaglehorn Bow
- Powershot x 2
- Flanking Strike x 2
- Marked Shot x 2
- Multi-Shot x 2
- Wing Blast
- Explosive Shot
- Deathstalker Rexxar
- Lesser Emerald Spellstone x 2
- To My Side!
- Unleash the Beast
Deck code: AAEBAR8MigPJBK4G7Qb+DNQR0RT4sQKG0wLq4wLc7gL5lgMJpAK1A8MIxQjOFIbDAt3SAuPSAuaWAwA=
This deck took a bit of finessing and adjustment. Most of the spells are AOE to take care of the small minions at the start of the game and then the Frostbourne phase. I had to play it through about 20 times to get the right matchup. Deathstalker Rexxar is almost mandatory for the Frostbourne phase (although the time I won, I had it in hand, but didn’t play it until right after Frostbourne was destroyed). One or two powered up spellstones are also critical as the 2/6 lost souls end up fighting your 4 3/3 wolfs instead of hitting face.
If you didn’t play DK Rexxar in the 2nd phase, you’ll need it in the third. The ability to create lifestealing zom-beasts is necessary to overcome the Lich King’s hero power. In my winning game, he ended up doing 10+ damage per turn! Here’s a screenshot as I was winning the game:
I’m not sure how you’re supposed to beat the Lich King as Hunter without the DK or the spellstones!