December 13, 2018
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.
December 11, 2018
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.
December 1, 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.
November 12, 2018
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.
November 9, 2018
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.
November 1, 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.
October 12, 2018
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.
October 1, 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.
September 19, 2018
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.
September 11, 2018
I heard that Solo didn’t do as well as expected at the box office, although I didn’t know if it was because it was bad, had tough competition, or people were just tired of Star Wars. I certainly came in with low expectations since it wasn’t a must watch movie for me. I was pleasantly surprised with it. It brought back the classic characters (Han, Chewbacca, Lando) and explained Han’s back story in an entertaining manner.
The characterizations of these classic characters were extremely well done. They felt like how we had always known them. Even the new characters (Kira) were likeable and seemed to fit their roles. However, throughout the movie, I kept wondering who were Force-active. I suppose all the heroes were since they could do amazing things. I guess that’s what happens in a movie with no Jedi.
Overall a fun film which elaborates on history we know. Three out of five stars.
September 7, 2018
With 10 years of movies to build up to this monumental event, there were a lot of expectations riding on this movie to provide closure, or at least a starting point for a new string of movies. Hold that thought, this event is a two-parter, so in actuality, we don’t get to conclude anything here.
However, this movie is still important to tell the story of this massive event. Assembling more than the Avengers, there are a lot of plotlines that have to come together, and many parts of the story to tell. In comics world, you can just have multiple books handling it (the TPB will still be scatterbrained though). In movie world, there is no good way to do it. Given the limited time, all team ups still felt forced. And then there is still the need to put in set pieces for comedic relief. All that ends up doing is make things feel disjointed and rushed. The premise of the story may have been grand but the execution sucks.
Sure, after seeing this movie, I know how Thanos assembled the Infinity Gauntlet, and what happened to the universe. It wasn’t enjoyable though and I could have just read a synopsis. Maybe we have just had enough of Marvel movies. 2 out of 5 stars.
September 3, 2018
I never ended up reading this monumental book while in school, so I figured I should watch the movie to catch up. I knew the gist of Fahrenheit 451 (firemen burn books instead of putting out fires), but didn’t know the story. The movie modernizes the idea and, although it never states it, frames it in a world of fake news, online 24/7, and emojis.
The unfortunate thing about this movie is that the script is not very good. The character development is not believable. The dystopian world is hard to believe because it’s ingrained in our current society (maybe that’s what it is trying to say?). I did notice that the movie was filmed in Toronto – there are several scenes from Finch subway station which are unmistakable.
After the movie, I guess I know the general plot of Farenheit 451. However, I would say it is just a 2 out of 5 movie.
September 1, 2018
And with that, summer was over. The boys were in the same camp for most of the month, so routine was pretty static. Now it’s back to school, with Jovian starting junior kindergarten. August started out hot (continuation of July) so we didn’t spend too much time outdoors, but we did do some biking on the bike paths (they’ve graduated from the front of the house). Also because of the heat; this summer, we only went fruit picking once (for peaches). Maybe we’ll go more in September.
I had planned to go to NYC for work in the last week of August, but plans changed and I ended up in Korea instead. Luckily, it was not as hot as when I went in July, but I also didn’t have time for my own adventures (plus it was rainy every day I was there).
Last month, I had been putting more emphasis on Disney Heroes, but I found myself keeping a more steady diet of that and Timelines. This is partially because the honeymoon phase of Disney Heroes is done, and I’ve realized that it is an endless hamster wheel (even worse than Star Trek). I have already a big investment in Timelines and I’m not at a stage that I want to give that up yet. So I rebalanced a bit and made sure I’m still successful in STT. Hearthstone also released an expansion this month. I bought a few packs, but it’s more of the same, and not that fun still (first player puzzles don’t appeal to me that much).
August 30, 2018
Ready Player One happens in 2045, which is a near enough future to be interesting. While not a focus of the film, I did like seeing glimpses of how things will look like then. This movie felt like a movie I saw when I was younger, where a kid enters a video game tournament and has to play Super Mario Bros in the championship game.
Ready Player One is an adult version of that film, with themes that resonant with now and recent history. You could imagine that in an alternate history, Second Life kept going and became OASIS. Although, I don’t think users would actually zero out – no matter how tied to our daily lives and finances an online account is (e.g. Google account), if there is a chance you will die and lose everything, you would just use a second account for any death-defying stuff (like raid against major corporations).
The story itself is kid-friendly, although with plenty of fan-service cameos to make the Otaku happy. It has a polished story, although I am not sure how believable it actually is that an Easter egg didn’t get solved after 5 years. Given the Spielberg connection, I could see this movie being this generation’s ET. Although I am not sure how old you should be to see this movie (I saw ET when I was young and remember being scared of it – not of the alien but his behaviour). Ready Player One is a solid 4 out of 5 for its portrayal of future society.
August 27, 2018
Rampage was one of the earliest video games I played, I think I actually played it first on an arcade machine. But beyond that little memory, I have no attachment to the franchise. When I saw that there was a movie about it, first thing I thought was surprise as it has been a long time since the game was popular (although it makes sense as it is about the same time frame as Voltron and He-Man).
Second, I saw The Rock was in it and he seems perfect for this type of role. Honestly, I expected this movie to be just like Pacific Rim with a mix of Jumanji – that was pretty close, although it skewed more on the Pacific Rim side. The script is what you would expect of a b-movie, although I feel as though big budget scripts in general are a lot better these days. Also, The Rock can say any cheesy line and make it sound real.
Like most summer blockbusters, it is a light affair that has a bunch of destruction. They do climb and bust down a building like in the game, but I wouldn’t say they level a building. Unlike all the troops, the hero has supreme luck and a supernatural ability to stay alive against caricature villains and the beasts.
At the end of the day, Rampage didn’t need its source material, I think it is an interesting story on its own (reminiscent of The Host). I would give it 3 out of 5 but wouldn’t expect a sequel.
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!