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!
July 20, 2019
The Leakers is the name of a group of journalists who want to expose the truth about nefarious corporations. Their first leak is the obvious-to-the-watcher news that a pharmaceutical corporation has both created an outbreak and its cure. But their attempt to actually share this information and the evidence is convoluted and ends up involving a bunch of people in both Malaysia and Hong Kong. This is like the bad guys spending too much time explaining their scheme, causing them to get caught. If the Leakers just uploaded their leak to the internet, they would have saved a movie!
In any case, an interesting set of characters show up to try and solve the puzzle. Maybe it was the couple of previous movies that I saw, but I felt this movie had potential – and I wanted to see how the players would develop. The plot didn’t give them a lot of opportunity to do that though. But at least, it was able to earn The Leakers a three out of five stars.
July 18, 2019
I find that all the Japanese films I end up watching have some sort of philosophical and existential question that they are trying to answer or shed light on, and that is the same way with Colors of the Wind. The question is, what is this movie about?
It starts off with a theory that everyone in the world has a doppleganger, but if one half finds out about the other, then they will be driven to depression and suicide. Then it goes off on a bender about magic. Not real magic, but just show magic. Except that the film creates a situation where it looks like magic has created two dopplegangers. Then it is up to the film to figure out who is real (or not) and what happened to create two sets of intertwined but lost identities.
It’s not as confusing as it sounds. There’s an almost logical explanation for this. But once the mystery building ends and the explanation starts, the premise starts to be ludicrous and all credibility this film has built to ponder an existential question is gone.
I happened to split this film right at that break, so it felt so promising that I wanted to finish the movie. But then I watched the remainder and just thought that it was dumb. So I’ll give Colors Of The Wind an average of 2 stars.
July 14, 2019
This is a Spanish film set in Mexico during the financial crisis they had in the early 80s (?). Instead of focusing on the government though, it followed a group of socialites and specifically one family who started on top, but could no longer sustain their position. What drew me to Las Niñas Bien was that it was supposed to be how the family tried to maintain appearances (social status) under this stress, but the lengths that she went too weren’t as outlandished as I would thought. Given that this movie was classified as a comedy, I thought there would be a lot of hijinks. I think it was misclassified and is more of a drama that gave me a look into how upper class Mexicans lived. Not something I can connect too, so two out of five stars.
July 13, 2019
I watched this cantomovie because I was curious about how it would meld the old historical Chinese era with modern day HK. But apparently, the Iceman in the title referred to the first movie in the series where they “travelled” through time by being frozen solid. Luckily, the beginning of the film played a quick “Last time on Iceman” segment to get me caught up.
This movie is a snooze. The time travel mechanics didn’t make any sense, fighting wasn’t great, and used a last minute Japanese villain to be the final boss in a battle that travelled through a CGI time tunnel. I guess this should be a one star movie even though I never thought about turning it off in the middle. I guess it is “good enough” for TV.
July 9, 2019
It is strange when some random comic that I read in my younger days becomes a blockbuster, especially when it is not a prominent title from an established universe. In fact, I don’t remember why I even read this series. I don’t think it’s by a prominent writer so maybe I just read it because I had access to it! Curious as to the reasons why they made a movie about this, I watched Alita.
From the beginning, I felt this was not a movie that I would enjoy. The world had an anime feel with the Utopia/normal world divide (or maybe just because I knew of its origins). And I didn’t like the coming of age story for Alita. It made it feel like I was watching a kid movie complete with a budding teen romance. Then the fighting started and it was clearly not a kid movie – the bad guys are the basis of nightmares! So, why make the beginning of the movie so juvenile? Alita also looks like a CG creation which is jarring (especially when she is being played by a real actress).
However, once the plot (fighting) started, it ended up being ok. Stylistically, the idea of the battle angel, mechs, and sword fighting is fun. So this movie claws its way back to three stars. In the credits, I was surprised with all the big names tied to this film (James Cameron et al)
July 3, 2019
Hmm, I didn’t realize that I was blogging about each episode of Discovery. Well that died off pretty quickly. None the less, I enjoyed the first season of Discovery as I saw it as GoT meets Star Trek (or Star Trek in the new style of TV). I was excited for Season 2 and waited to “binge” watch it.
Note 1: “Binge” as in not having to wait a week in between each episode, too old for just watching all the episodes back-to-back
Note 2: I didn’t realize that there were only 14 episodes in the season, and though that they were just doing a mid-season break. So I could have started watching earlier.
I wasn’t overly excited about Captain Pike (although he turned out quite ‘Captain’ly ), the search for Spock (didn’t they make a movie about this already) or any of the Enterprise universe (wasn’t a fan of TOS). And, after about 7 episodes in, haven’t been super impressed with the series.
I felt that the writers have chosen good themes and ideas, but the execution is just lacking. It’s like it is missing some polish and doesn’t leave you with a satisfied feeling once the episode is done. There are a lot of Star Trek type episodes (discovery of new species & etc) but the overall story arc isn’t as exciting. Hopefully it picks up in the latter half of the season!
July 1, 2019
June meant that the school year was finishing. All of the programs that the kids were in were done and they had their weekends back. It was a bit sad for Jovian since he is switching schools next year, but that seemed to be OK for him (I guess he’s not old enough to worry yet). June meant preparing for the summer, but since their camps had been setup several months ago, it wasn’t worrisome. One big change next month is that Katana is going to start daycare.
Summer came this month, and while the weather wasn’t too hot temperature wise, it already feels too hot. I went down to the Bay area in the middle of June and the temperature there was in the 30°Cs, but it felt nice. Not so in Toronto even when the weather was just the high 20s.
On my trip for work, I caught up on most of the movies I wanted to watch and there aren’t a lot of things that interest me on the inflight entertainment system now. I always had to go down a second time for a very short trip, but luckily that got cancelled (it would have been a long commute without any more movies to watch).
June 25, 2019
I’ve watched the pivotal opening scene in Burning a couple of times now, the part that foreshadows and describes the entire movie; and I think I finally figured it out.
First, there is a scene about miming the act of eating a tangerine, but the important tidbit is that in order to be successful; you don’t have to believe that there is a physical tangerine, just that it tastes yummy. I think this describes the relationship that the girl has with the poor guy. She believes that she can rely on him/he is her BF (even if he doesn’t think of it like this), so it makes his later words to her even more hurtful.
Then the discussion quickly changes to little and great hunger. Little hunger is the hunger you feel when you if you haven’t eaten, but great hunger is hunger for life. I think this describes the rich guy and his quest to find meaning in his life when all the basics are taken care of.
Finally, as a bonus, the girl asks the poor guy to take care of her cat, saying a cat shouldn’t be moved from their home. I think this is meant to describe the poor guy who just isn’t able to comprehend the changes that are about to happen around him.
Even with this theory, still a great movie!
June 22, 2019
Well Aquaman started really slow, in the way of many other DC movies (bad plot, dialogue and corny scenarios). In the comics, Aquaman was always a cheesy hero whose powers aren’t that helpful (how many times do heroes fight on water??). So the premise didn’t have a lot of things to make it good. The fact that they portrayed Atlanteans as a futuristic civilization hidden underwater, with amazing submarine craft is just crazy. The only thing holding the film together was Jason Momoa’s stoic charisma.
Secondly, I was confused about the timeline. This movie seemingly happens after Justice League (they mention Steppenwolf), but I thought Aquaman went to Atlantis to protect the Mother Box (wasn’t Mera there too?). The movie also seemed to channel Tomb Raider a bit when they went to the desert.
Things started to get better once they entered the “final dungeon”. Seeing Aquaman in his costume, even though it is corny, was great. I just can’t get behind the idea that the Atlanteans were hidden or can stay hidden for so long even with huge armies amassing and fighting. Two out of five stars
June 19, 2019
I was looking forward to this film since it was part of the X-Men universe, even though the comic series “Logan” wasn’t that good (it was too far fetched). I remember the movie version received good reviews so it didn’t seem like they used the comic book as source material.
Logan is well deserving of its R rating (very bloody) and it is also very dark. It is one of those stories that comic books writers go to when they run out of present day stories to tell (a What-If from the future). However, this one is only 10 years down the road with a Wolverine that is incognito, with a limo, and a limp (which was what I was trying to type before autocorrect took over), as well as literally carrying around a 90-year old Professor X wherever he has to go. This is not a dystopia (society seems OK with self driving tractor trailers), but it is pretty grim for good guys. It’s not a movie where the heroes get beat up, then miraculously climb off the floor, find their cosmic second wind, and take over; in this one, they just get beat up more and more. If anything, this is a realistic comic book film.
Like most future Wolverine films, it is a character study of him and how he behaves when he’s not killing. However, unlike Days of Future Past; he’s not being a hero. He’s just a guy who wants to mind his own business but gets pulled into being a caretaker, driver, babysitter, and finally a hero.
The pacing in the film is great. Being a dark film, there isn’t really comedy. Instead the scenes of despair, dementia and death are contrasted with plain normal life. I’m not sure if the film itself is great, or if it’s because they’ve taken the characters that we know through many X-Men films and truly given them a new angle. In any case, I thought this movie deserved a four out of five star rating.
June 17, 2019
If Captain Marvel came out in any other year, it might have been considered a B-list Marvel movie. Maybe not at the level of Ant Man, but not as hyped as Guardians of the Galaxy. But because everyone knew she would play a pivotal role in Avengers: Endgame, this ended up being a must see movie.
Maybe the producers saw it that way too because I think it is a quality and balanced film. It didn’t try too hard to be funny (compared to Guardians of the Galaxy, where I remember that the “comedy” from Rocket was just annoying), and brought in the retro early 90s without beating us up about it (better than Bumblebee). It fit the times (many women in key roles) and was almost a film about the real international man of mystery, Nick Fury. There was a lot of thing going for it even if the source material wasn’t the most famous.
I liked the focus on the Kree/Skrull war. I don’t remember all the facts, but portraying the Skrulls as the good guys doesn’t seem right (why about the FF’s beef with Super Skrull?). I liked how there were cameos from Guardians of the Galaxy, although I don’t remember what those characters did in those movies anymore (the Kree, Korath). I’m also not sure that Captain Marvel had cosmic powers either? In any case, these didn’t detract from the story. Captain Marvel is a solid three out of five stars, and the Marvel version of Wonder Woman.
June 10, 2019
What attracted me to Vox Lux was the cast (Jude Law, Natalie Portman), given their track record and the non-blockbuster nature of this film; I thought there was a decent chance that this would be good even if the description didn’t sound like something I would enjoy much.
The film was broken into 2 parts. The first tells the story of how “Celeste” went from a 14 y/o high school student to a pop star via a school shooting. That was moderately interesting because it showed how the music entertainment process worked (most likely sanitized already). The second part jumped 15 years later when Celeste is now in her 30s (still a pop star) and honestly the movie got lost there. In the first half, there was a direction to the film, but the second half follows Celeste around for an afternoon. Was the point to see her reaction (or non-reaction) to a shooting much like the one that launched her career? Was it a social commentary on how stardom can change an individual? Was it a behind-the-scenes look at what super stardom is like? I couldn’t tell because whatever it was trying to do wasn’t conveyed.
Even the final little nugget of narration doesn’t really explain why or what is happening. Because the movie left its rails, this only gets two out of five stars.
June 1, 2019
It’s June already and the school year is almost done. The weeks past by quickly if not the days. A lot of stuff happened this month in real life; but not a lot of blogging (well no movies at least).
The month revolved around our planned vacation. We knew we were going to go somewhere the week of Victoria Day, but it took a few months to figure out where. Finally we decided to take a cruise to the Bahamas from Orlando, and then bookend a couple of days there. We avoid Disney World theme parks this time because we’ve done them so many times in the past years, but it’s hard to avoid Disney (or theme parks) in general when you’re in Orlando. We did end up going to Seaworld for one day though, and caught a couple of their animal shows.
I didn’t do any traveling for work in May but the few weeks before vacation was still hectic. As Spring is critical real estate season, we wanted to make a quick change to make sure our house was on the market properly. So we had a week and a half of interviewing the right agent, deciding, and setting up the property again.
Weather is heating up in Toronto. Not as bad as it was in Florida and the Caribbean but it’s almost time for the AC to get started.