August 3, 2018
Atomic Blonde was an interesting film based off of original source material (still a comic, but not one that I was familiar with). I liked it for several reasons: 1) it was set in 1989, but a 1989 that had been updated with a modern touch of style (even though it was in Cold War Berlin), 2) It had a great soundtrack, and 3) Charlize Theron was the star. For me, they worked well together, although other people might not enjoy the same aesthetic.
The movie is a spy-vs-spy one, with a lot of fighting and blood (probably a Rated R movie). In retrospect, the story and reasoning for the actions are a muddle, but it made sense and was entertaining while watching it. The movie wasn’t good just because of the music and the style, but its take on the Cold War. It’s also a nice break to get away from Marvel/DC films, or other big blockbusters.
I enjoyed this one – 3 out of 5 stars.
August 1, 2018
Back when I was in public school, I always thought summers were pretty long! Then I went to University with their 4 month “summers” (sometimes Coop) and those were even longer. Well as an adult with kids in school, 2 months is definitely no longer long. I can’t believe we’re halfway through summer already.
We started off July with a trip to Rochester to make good use of our membership at the Strong museum. Then it was off to camp for the kids. Each boy was in a different camp every week so that’s 8 camps in the month! I also ended up in Korea for a week for work.
It was hot everywhere. Above 30°C in Korea, Rochester and Canada. We had a couple of cooler days in the month, but it has been a pretty hot summer around the world. We cooled off by going skating (skating camp for a week) and with our weekly lessons on Saturday. It’s strange and awkward to go from shorts to jackets.
So far this year, we’ve used the “front yard of our house” (e.g., the street) much more than the backyard. The kids are at an age where they want to ride bikes and run around, which doesn’t work well in our backyard. Fortunately, the shadows from our block cover most of the street in the late afternoon and evenings, so even with the hot temperatures, they are able to run around there.
July 29, 2018
I’m not sure why they chose to remake Tomb Raider. I think the Angelina Jolie version was pretty faithful to the video game, and the last one I saw came out in 2003 (15 years ago isn’t that long). I guess the reason was to capture and cash in on GenX nostalgia – is the game even relevant anymore?
Yet I watched it. I think the Tomb Raider games of yesteryear have been replaced with infinite runners, and there was a little of both in this movie. The premise is the same, rich English girl running around in exotic places (Asia – to make money on that side of the world, instead of South America or Africa), looking for stuff based on legendary rumors; but somehow with fewer guns and more fist fighting.
From the view of someone who was never deeply into the series, it seems like an OK movie (I would have missed most references). But the key question for me is, does this movie even need the Tomb Raider brand? It could have been the same adventure story without it. Anyways, 3 out of 5 stars on this enjoyable but meaningless romp.
July 25, 2018
Now that Infinity War is out, I guess it’s a little late but better than never to catch up on the Marvel/Avengers universe. The saving grace is that I still haven’t seen Infinity War yet (it hasn’t shown up on inflight entertainment yet). I missed Age of Ultron and have seen several movies after this in the timeline (Civil War, Spider-Man, Thor and Black Panther) which made reference to it. So I was interested to see what I missed.
I’m not sure if it’s because I knew what was going to happen in the future, or if I’m tired of Marvel movies, or if this one just wasn’t that great; but Age of Ultron felt very plain to me. It had the usual Marvel Movie Formula (comedic sidecracks, fights, Stan Lee cameo, etc) so if you like that stuff, you can’t complain; but it just wasn’t overly interesting. The Ultron character was also off-putting – I’m not sure if his personality is like that in the comics or they just wrote him to be so annoying for the movie.
In the end, it’s a necessary watch to move along in the universe (since it introduces Vision and Scarlet Witch), but it wasn’t that fun. Barely manages a 3 out of 5 stars.
July 22, 2018
Dunkirk is an atmospheric film about 300,000 English soldiers in WWII, trying to retreat from Europe, to save their manpower to protect the U.K. They are marooned on the beaches of Dunkirk while the Germans continue pressing toward them (they don’t actually make much of an appearance but the threat is real).
Instead of focusing on all the troops, the story follows a few individuals. One soldier on the ground, trying to escape; an airmen, protecting the ships from German bombers; and a civilian whose boat has been commandeered by the Navy to assist rescue efforts. They each have their own perspective and their fates interwine as the plot advances.
This film is special because it paints the scene of desperation through sound and minimal dialogue. The English are sitting ducks on the beach and in their boats, and the effort to leave is slow. It doesn’t go into the why, but you know that there is urgency. Like many of his previous films; Christopher Nolan does a great job with the material.
After watching this, I read up about Dunkirk. The Hollywood version may be glorified but it is still a good look at history. This movie is 4 out of 5 stars.
July 15, 2018
There were a bunch of other interesting movies on this flight but I chose to watch Pacific Rim first because I was able to combo this with Pacific Rim Uprising (the sequel). I remember when this movie came out and they said it was basically robots vs monsters. Well that is pretty much right!
Like all action movies, they tried to put some story, comedic and relationship fluff around it. It is admirable, but obviously not very good. What you come to watch is fighting mechs. And truthfully, mechs fight pretty slowly. You can’t do any Kung Fu hijinks so it is mostly clutching and punching. Yet, it is strangely fulfilling to watch giants beat down on each other while our society looks like ants. I guess this movie just lives out all those adventures we had as a kid.
Pacific Rim Uprising is a little better, I guess the first was a success so there was more money. Even from the start, the script and dialogue were noticeably better (although still cliche). Instead of focusing merely on mech vs creature, they mixed it up a bit and did some mech vs mech! How creative. The fighting was still pretty lame, no matter how much the pilots were jostled in their cockpits. They also had various other little Easter eggs for Otaku (Gundam statue, mega-boss).
These movies are ones that I think you only need to see once. I give the original a 2 out of 5 and Uprising a 3 out of 5.
July 1, 2018
June was another awkward month where lots of random things happened. This is mainly because the school year is ending and schedules are no longer static. What’s worse is that Jovian and Apollo’s schools end at different times, with Jovian ending around the middle of the month, and Apollo’s going to the end. Jovian is also switching schools so he had a graduation ceremony.
Classes & programs were also ending, or have ended already – there was yet another graduation ceremony for Chinese school (everyone graduated to the next level), so the weekends were also not structured. We did make it out to a Jr. Jays Blue Jays game one Saturday, before the summer weekends get filled up.
Summer started this month, but right at the turnover, the weather was pretty cool. The weather heated up at the end of the month though, and its pretty much unbearable. I didn’t travel this month but we all made a trip out to Ottawa for a couple of days for Hermione’s graduation. I also started playing a new game (Disney Heroes) as the ones that I was playing (STT and Hearthstone) were getting stale.
June 20, 2018
Disney Heroes is almost exactly the same game as Star Trek Timelines except it’s featuring Disney heroes. I didn’t pick the game because I liked Disney, but because I had heard good things about the game and it seemed time to try something new (I always knew that Star Wars: Galaxy Of Heroes was a similar game, but that universe never appealed to me enough to try it).
The game has only been out 2 months (another factor in starting it) but surprisingly, it is already a more full-featured and polished game than STT is after 2.5 years. I wouldn’t be surprised if STT is just poorly designed, but it looks like Battle Mode has put thought into the IAP, ramping and balance (or they copied other successful games in this genre).
Like most of these games, the first couple of days is intense with a lot of gameplay. I expect that to level out as I get into a rhythm of what needs to be done at what time. However, the fact that it is a lot more fun than STT (even at the beginning) is promising.
While I will continue to play STT (e.g., keep up my collection); my goal is to play Battle Mode as a pure F2P and slowly build up my hero roster here. Let’s see if that plan continues!
June 18, 2018
I’ve been playing Star Trek Timelines for almost 2 and a half years now, and spent about $200 on the game (sunk cost). I still enjoy it from a collection/completist POV, and play through it every day because of that. The game itself isn’t very fun, but it strikes a balance between the collection and other aspects that other games couldn’t achieve for me (looking at Pokemon Go).
Because I’ve been playing for so long, I am at a point where progress is minimal. I don’t have a complete collection, but I have a large collection that one could reasonable achieve without being a whale on the game. The gameplay every day is more maintenance than anything else, continuing to climb really tall mountains.
In a way, it’s a lot like Hearthstone, where there is a continual maintenance to complete quests -> farm gold -> save for expansions. Farming is easy, especially because you can complete quests by playing “friends”. However, it ends up being a drag because the rewards are minimal compared to the effort required.
I actually pulled back on Hearthstone this month. I stopped trying to maximize my quest/gold farming and maybe I will just focus on getting the season card back for the next little while (I did the same thing when the Goblin vs Gnomes expansion came out). I’m also trying to compress my STT gameplay into shorter bursts because I picked up a new game to play now – Disney Heroes: Battle Mode.
June 4, 2018
This was a movie with no expectations that I watched while the kids were beside me. I picked it because I had seen most of the movies on the flight and I was always interested in the
world planet where the apes ruled – although not so interested that I saw all the movies in this franchise (I’m pretty sure I’ve seen at least one of the remakes, but I can’t find a blog for it).
Reading the title and preview, I expected War for the Planet of the Apes to be a full-out war between the apes and mankind. The movie started off with a guerilla campaign by the humans against the apes (although the humans were subsequently slaughtered). That seemed like the movie I chose to watch. But then, it started going on a different, and surprising track.
In fact, this movie was not about an all-out-war. The apes’ numbers weren’t huge (they had a healthy number, but it was more like a refugee camp than an army) and the humans was a single battalion under a leader that was more cult than colonel. The movie actually spent a lot of time showing scenes of family – I don’t know if the scenes were more believable because they were trying to humanize the chimps (if it were real humans acting the scenes, they may be corny), or if they were actually effective. The movie also introduced an idea that a mutated Simian Flu virus was changing humans into primates – a role reversal of what the apes have become.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised that this movie was not simply a slaughter fest. It’s not good enough to get four stars, but I thought it was better than 3 out of 5 stars.
June 1, 2018
After a long month in April, May started out pretty calm. I didn’t have work travel (for the most part) so the first weeks was spent at home. For Victoria Day, we headed out to a family vacation to SoCal, staying at the Legoland Resort (and visiting Legoland) for a few days, then up to Los Angeles for Disney and some children’s museums. It turned out that the entire trip was basically one long theme park/museum visit so the kids sure loved it!
Katana grew up a lot during that trip, I guess she had one of her Wonder Weeks. She now knows how to say a couple of words to refer to different things (her feet, brothers, food, etc) in addition to the usual nodding and shaking of her head. She’s also finally out of her infant car seat (we left our infant stuff behind on vacation) – so she’s officially a toddler now!
SoCal was surprisingly cold (sweaters almost every day), but when we came back, Toronto turned surprisingly hot! Summer seemed to have hit while we were gone. I had to make a short trip down to NY to close out the month.
May 27, 2018
I saw Black Panther with high expectations, after hearing rave reviews about how it had a narrative that reflected and discussed world issues. While that was somewhat true, because there was an overarching theme about leveling the playing field for oppressed cultures (whether the right way to do this is by arming them, is a sub point), that was the only world issue that was prominently discussed.
In fact, I would say that Black Panther is your typical action hero movie. The cast is almost all black (makes sense for a movie situated in Africa), but of course the American roles are played by whites. There is a jaunt to Asia to make the film more exotic (how many films feature Africa as the locale?), and the fight involves two superheros in similar suits (otherwise how would it be a fair fight?). Women have empowering roles, but they also hang around as eye candy.
I just don’t see Black Panther as a progressive film, or one the is remarkable beyond the seasonal Marvel fare. It’s not bad – I enjoyed it as much as Man Of Steel, but it’s only a 3 out of 5 movie.
May 10, 2018
The promise of this Chinese movie was good, lifelong gambler and escort need a big night to pay off debts. However, the story and acting are just bad. I felt like turning this off 10 mins in, but stuck with it out of laziness. There is a contrived story that explains why the pair were thrown together but that doesn’t redeem the film. One Night Only is a 1 out of 5 movie.
May 8, 2018
Compared to Kobolds & Catacombs’ Dungeon Runs, I completed Monster Hunt pretty quickly. In part, it’s because I understand the game mechanic pretty well now (lots of practice) but I also think that this solo adventure was easier. Maybe they made it easier so you would spend less time in this mode, and more playing multiplayer!
In any case, it was still fun. Mostly because each hero had unique powers that you don’t get in the normal game. I think the key to completing this adventure is to build up the various hero power skills. I completed the Houndmaster with 3/3 Wolfs, Cannoneer with 3 DMG canons. Grabbing bundles that complement those powers are also useful – although for the Cannoneer, I went all-in on canons one time (with Lowly Squire) only to find that that strategy doesn’t work against the final boss. Some of the treasures are also extremely powerful. The Time-Tinker boss fight is a mirror match, but if you have the treasure which casts the first spell twice, that can be the difference.
I beat Hagatha on my second attempt, but I think there was a lot of RNG involved. Picking strong treasures is important (+2 heal every round), and I went through my heroes pretty quickly. Tess was last, and her treasure was the half-cost/double hero power, and I just had too much value. The cards and heroes are so varied that I think it is tough to beat this one with a formula.
Well I guess I can sit around until August until the next expansion comes out (still can’t beat Lich King though!)
May 6, 2018
Being a game centered around IAP, the new single-player modes in the last two Hearthstone expansions (Dungeon Run and Monster Hunt) don’t seem to make a lot of sense. You can play those modes indefinitely without a need to pay. So why did Blizzard add these modes to the game?
Well I had a think about it, and the reason is most likely to allow us to try all sorts of cards from the expansion that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to play (unless they came up on the weekly Tavern Brawl). Letting us play with those cards would help us discover cool and powerful cards from the set (if you’re not already aware of them), which should incite us to either buy packs to get those cards (fool’s errand) or use dust to craft them. Eventually we’ll run out of dust though, so it seems like there should be a way to buy dust (aside from packs?)
May 3, 2018
This is a remake and modernization of the movie with the same name that I saw way back in 1995. At that time, it was a toss-up between going to watch Toy Story or Jumanji. We ended up deciding to watch Jumanji since it was less cartoon-y (not a kids movie). That one had Robin Williams and a young Kirsten Dunst as part of the 2 adult/2 kids pair that was trying to escape Jumanji.
The original was not the best movie and the thing that I remember the most about it was that it was original material (not a franchise that I was aware of). I was curious to see the remake to see what has changed. Well, the big thing is that it has been modernized into a video game! Instead of being sucked into the board, the players are digitized as avatars. As part of this, there are a bunch of role reversals, like the geeks now become the jocks.
It’s stuff like this that make it a movie targeted for teens – the role reversals serve as opportunity for character development and to learn life lessons. I must say that the avatar actors (e.g. The Rock) played believable teenagers. The action and plot in the movie are forgettable and serve as a vehicle for these discussions and presenting the world like a game.
This movie may have substance if you’re growing up but now, aside from some entertainment and time-killing value, is missable. 3 out of 5 stars.
May 1, 2018
There was a lot of travel this month. It actually started in March with a trip to the west coast. Then, the first week of April, I flew down to Dallas for a few days. After that, we were planning to head over to Rochester for a long weekend (work had a politically correct “Good Friday” holiday in the middle of the month, 2 weeks after the actual thing), but didn’t end up going as the boys had a Chinese art competition that weekend. But the next week, I was off to Korea for a week and then the last week in April, I was in NYC for a couple of days. Essentially this month turned into a rotation of travel and laundry. Plus some activities on the weekend.
A lot happened in the news. The Leafs made the playoffs, went down 3-1, tied it up but lost to Boston in the 7th game. The Raptors made it through their first round series. The Royals had another baby boy, and Toronto had a van attack that made headlines around the world. Although, the impact was much more local since it happened right in our neighborhood. And of this was just in the last week of the month!
In the middle of the month we had an ice storm followed by freezing rain. This caused ice to stay on the ground for a week and caused havoc on the roads (the city didn’t clear it, citing concerns that the melt will overwhelm the storm drains and cause flooding – I guess because it would block the drains). A lot of drivers had already switched out their winter tires so it was a bit hairy. Other than that, the weather has been rainy and warmer.
April 29, 2018
With almost as many remakes and reboots as Batman, and a less interesting catalogue of stories, I wondered if Man Of Steel was going to be good. Even the name is weird, imagine going to see a movie called Web Slinger.
Anyways, the movie focused on some lesser seen aspects of the backstory – an extended sequence of what it was like on Krypton and how the new “fortress of solitude” was discovered. I liked that because we had seen the rest of his childhood many times before. I felt the “superhero discovery moment” (when they discover or use their powers for the first time) was weak. Superman learning to fly is just not as fun to watch as Spider-man’s excitement when web slinging.
The arrival of General Zod and ensuing battles were not that interesting. It was actually unbelievable because, as Zod himself said, a farm boy was fighting a team of trained combat veterans that had the same powers he did. Furthermore, they basically levelled Metropolis (which is a precursor to Batman v Superman), but I think those buildings need to be stronger against human-sized bullets.
I didn’t think it was a terrible movie, which I was afraid of based on how press and reviews shun DC movies. It’s not a movie I’m interested in seeing again though, so that gives it a 3 out of 5.
April 25, 2018
Another Chinese movie, but unfortunately not a Cantonese one. Coincidently though, it features 2 of the same supporting actors as the previous Cantonese one I saw. Cook Up A Storm is not a direct sequel, but I guess it is somewhat related to the God of Cookery series. Which meant, a lot of food shots and probably a bad idea to watch when the time zones are messed up and you’re on a plane where they are not serving food yet.
This movie is a little different than the usual God of Cookery series in that instead of focusing on the final competition (there still is one), it’s positioned as multiple battles between different styles. West vs East, gastronomy vs tradition, Michelin vs street, New civilization vs the village, etc. There is also the unique element of having a Korean actor play the antagonist (which is why the movie is in Mandarin). Also, there’s the concept of growing up in the shadow of their father. Man, this film just barfed out themes.
But overall, it’s a fun an entertaining film. There’s no magic and all the cooking is “real”, but boy does thinking and watching this movie make me hungry – although not in a 4 star sense. This movie is just a 3 out of 5 star.
April 20, 2018
Taking an international flight is my chance to catch up on Cantonese or HK movies that I otherwise don’t have an opportunity to watch. The first one I saw was 77 Heartbreaks, which is about a female divorce lawyer who endures 77 lies/wrongs by her BF before she finally decides to break up with him. The breakup happens early on in the film, and the rest of the time is spent on a choice selection of vignettes of those 77 moments of heartbreaks.
This is a cultural-focused millennial film. The boyfriend is clearly someone trying to “find their path”. He graduated with a law degree but has floated around and is now a kickboxing teacher. Parts of the story are told using Facebook, with the through-the-Facebook-screen filter technique. And of course, being a romantic drama, there are the clichés – including the grandiose gesture by the BF near the end of the film.
This type of movie is not what I am used to watching, but it was interesting to see how HK millennials live their life. The movie wasn’t bad and was enjoyable to watch so it gets a 3 out of 5 from me.
April 17, 2018
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.
April 15, 2018
In terms of TCG/CCGs, I’m a Johnny-type. So I play Hearthstone for two reasons:
- To finish quests, get gold, and collect the cards
- 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…)