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…)
April 9, 2018
I’m about four months too late (The Witchwood is about to be released), but I’m nearing the completion of the “single player mode” for Kobolds and Catacombs. Unlike past adventures and expansions, you don’t have to play any heroic bosses, but rather there is a unique single player mode in KnC. In this mode, you have a rogue-like experience where you start with a few cards in your deck, then build up your deck as you beat the bosses. You also get special treasures until finally you face off on boss #8. The goal is to beat the (random) bosses with all 9 classes.
I’m not there yet, but I only have 2 more classes left (Druid & Priest, although not tackling them in any specific order). I enjoy this mode and actually played a lot of it when this expansion came out. It took awhile before I mastered the mechanic and started clearing the classes, and there is still no perfect/repeatable solution (hence no blogs on each individual class). There’s a lot of RNG involved in getting the right treasures to build a deck that has OP combos – and then some more RNG to pull it off against the final boss.
Overall though, I find it much more fun than fighting heroic bosses. One reason is because the challenge is in piloting the deck, not in creating the deck. There’s a lot of back and forth that you have to do to tweak a deck to fight the heroic bosses and that takes away from gameplay. With this dungeon mode, you just keep making choices and playing!
April 7, 2018
The Last Jedi seemed to pick up immediately where The Force Awakens ends, although my memory is a bit hazy since Rogue One happened in the middle of the two movies. David is still running from the Goliath and Luke Skywalker has some part to play in the whole thing. While I felt a need to watch this movie, I guess I wasn’t excited about knowing more about the universe. Thinking back, this was probably my feeling when I watched the prequel movies (guess who’s not a Star Wars nut).
The one thing I was interested in seeing resolved in this movie was how they would write Carrie Fisher out, or what parts did they use CG to film/post-process after she died. I never found out the answer to that question. What I did realize though, was that these Star Wars movie are the opposite of Pixar movies – I felt like an adult watching a kid movie. There were so many scenes where I felt I was being bludgeoned by plot explanations (Dameron learned his lesson). I can only explain it as being a movie being targeted towards young adults, as I thought the movie industry was moving to plots that required the audience to make inferences.
The one thing that I liked about this movie is that it seemed to move away from the light vs dark cliche, and the formulaic good vs bad story arch that seemed to govern the entire series. The loose ends weren’t tied up when the movie finished (there is still one more movie of course), but I do wonder if it’s going to return to light vs dark or end up a different way.
The Last Jedi had all the visual cues of a Star Wars movie (weird aliens and worlds), but it just wasn’t inspiring. It wasn’t bad though so I can’t give it less than a 3 out of 5 stars.
April 3, 2018
The sequel to Blade Runner is my most anticipated movie in the last few years. I even gave up the chance to watch it on several flights because I wouldn’t finish it in one sitting (it’s almost 3 hours long). I was looking forward to this sequel because of oh so many reasons: 1) I enjoyed the original book by Philip K. Dick, 2) The original movie evoked a technological future and imagery that was appealing, 3) Denis Villeneuve was directing and his work on The Arrival was top notch, and 4) The teaser trailer was tingling and portended good things for the full film.
So with those high expectations, I watched the movie and I think it rated 4 out of 5. However, I don’t think it lived up to my hype. I gave it a 4 because my general criteria is that if the movie is interesting enough to be thought provoking, it deserves a 4. BL2049 is one of those movies that I can imagine English class dissecting in the future. The idea of ‘What is life/sentience?’ is a theme throughout. We already know about the human and replicant divide, but now there are also holograms/AI.
However, it was also disappointing because the mood was too overwhelming. I think the story could be told in 2 hours, except Villeneuve went a little overboard in establishing the tone of the world with minimal dialogue. The story itself is moderately interesting with a little twist but the pacing is too slow.
Finally, watching this movie ended up being depressing. Instead of evoking and inspiring a technological future, it suggested that the future is bleak and dystopian, even in LA proper (I guess all the good stuff is in the outer colonies). Las Vegas is completely bombed out as well. Maybe that was the goal but if so, it just doesn’t leave a good feeling – and in fact the future world of Ghost in the Shell felt more interesting (even if the movie sucked). So an unhappy 4 out of 5 here.
April 1, 2018
This was a hectic month as my travel schedule for March (and April) kept changing. In the end, I did 2 work trips (NYC for 2 days, and MV for 2 days) with March Break in the middle. Aside from that, the weekends were also not routine since the beginning of the month saw the end to the previous season’s classes, then there were a couple of weekends around March break that were empty, and the end of the month saw next season’s programmes start.
The weather was in between Winter and Spring. Warmed up, but not warm enough for Spring. I thought we would have another snow storm this year, but maybe that’ll happen in April (or May). The Daylight Saving Time change passed by smoothly since it happened right before March Break and there was a schedule change anyways. Apollo was in camp that week, but had a later start than his usual school.
Easter happened early this year, at the end of the month. Also finished up my taxes this month. Lots of little things happened but nothing seems to have left an impression.
March 26, 2018
Growing up, I enjoyed reading more about the Justice League of America than the Avengers, even though I liked the Marvel universe more. But with movies, the quality and quantity is so skewed towards the Avengers, that it is hard to put together a coherent feeling about Justice League. I approached the first JLA film with some trepidation since I don’t know if it was going to be great like WW, or OK like Batman v Superman, or just disinterested like the Superman movies. What spurred me to watch it was that it was a short film (although I still had to split it across two flights).
I haven’t watched any of the DC TV series so I don’t know if characters like the Flash translated through, or whether it is a new backstory. Being the first film, there had to be some time devoted to creating the characters and the team. I am fine how that happened, and like Spider-man in Captain America: Civil War, it’s actually a good teaser for their solo films. But once the team was together, their nemesis and mission seemed lame. Steppenwolf is at most a B-list villain and his character, minions and plan seemed cartoon-y. I guess they didn’t have the time to put together a stronger villain or nefarious scheme.
Justice League is a 3 out of 5 movie. There are some good things about the DC movie empire but there’s also a lot of boring stuff. This movie didn’t stink and I would be interested in seeing what the JLA tackles next (a real bad guy please).
March 13, 2018
The one thing that caught my attention with Star Trek Discovery, even from the first episode, were the credits at the start of the show. Instead of showing the universe or the ship, the credits rely on an artistic rendering. There’s also various shots of scientific models and diagrams. In a way, this is what a James Bond title credits might look like if James Bond was all about scientific discovery. I like this a lot, and it is also a stark contrast to the universe, ship, and feeling of the series.
March 3, 2018
Last time on my blog, I talked about how I felt about the other Trek series, and wondered how Star Trek Discovery compares to them.
It is difficult to compare, but as with all things I think there needs to be a frame of reference. TV has changed a lot since Enterprise (what was that, 10-15 years ago?). While I don’t follow other shows, from casual reading it sounds like current shows have much better story writing, production quality and overall drama. I haven’t watched Game of Thrones, and have only heard about the sex and death in the show. But I guess that Discovery is a lot like Star Trek of Thrones.
While there are still scifi/tech elements, and everyone is wearing a uniform. There’s a lot more death. Also I feel the camera angles are a lot more intimate (vs TNG where you see the characters in the scene, as well as a large portion of the room/starship). Discovery needs to be this way to survive, but it’s not the Trek that I grew up with.
There are also a lot of dramatic swells in the plot. Sure, all Trek episodes have moments of conflict where the protaganists have to do something heroic. But on Discovery, it seems like every episode is the climatic scene at the end of a movie. While it’s exciting now, I think it’s too much too often and sets up an expectation that they can’t possible keep up with.
March 1, 2018
February is usually the coldest month of the winter, and this year I thought it would be especially bad – the weather folks have been saying that this winter would be a tough one. Remember, winter started early and strong so it seemed like February would be extra rough.
Of course, it turned out February was pretty mild. Even the groundhog was fooled. About halfway through the month, the temperatures decided they had enough and fluttered around 0°C. It got even warmer towards the end of the month with highs in the teens (that’s the positive teens). I suspect that winter’s not done. We’ll probably get a snowstorm in April or May.
Chinese New Year synced up with Family Day this year so that was a weekend of busy-ness. It was actually like a mini-Christmas with all the family gatherings. We also did a lot of activities during that weekend to celebrate both Family Day and the New Year (Joyride, CNY at ROM, and Auto Show). CNY actually lasted 3 weeks with events the week before Family Day and some school stuff the week after. Earlier in the month, I had an almost-day trip to NYC for work. Aside from that, the month went by pretty quickly without any major events.
February 27, 2018
I’ve been doing a slow watch of the newest Star Trek series. I’ve actually been pretty exposed to the series because of the game that I play, there are a lot of product/character tie-ins to the series. However, since I don’t have a regular TV diet, I’ve been saving the episodes for plane rides (when there’s no inflight entertainment).
The first couple of episodes I watched were great. It is definitely not the same Trek as TNG, DS9, VOY or even ENT. I watched every episode of Enterprise, even though I don’t remember much from it anymore. I was lukewarm on it – I didn’t like the characters that much and the story arcs seemed a bit silly (temporal war, Xindi, etc). I also watched a lot (maybe all) of Voyager and DS9. Voyager seems to get a lot of bad reviews on the internet, but I actually have the opposite opinion of the masses. I felt like the episodes were faithful to the style of TNG and that the crew complement was decent (although not as interesting as TNG). I didn’t like the addition of 7of9 onto the show, but apparently many thought the story was a lot better after she came on board. DS9 I actually didn’t like as much, and I never really got into it until the Dominion war was in full swing. Upon reflection, it sounds like DS9 is a deep series that would be much better on a repeat watching. Finally TNG is the benchmark that I measure other Treks, so in order for me to like Discovery, it has to measure up in some ways to TNG.
But does it? To be continued…