October 27, 2017
The only reason I watched Incendies is because it was directed by Denis Villeneuve. I enjoyed Arrival and am anticipating Blade Runner 2049 (which is out, but I won’t get to watch until it appears on flights). In truth, this film is a test to see whether I think he is a cut above or just hyped and lucky on previous films.
The film is about a pair of French-speaking twins who live in Canada, who, upon their mother’s death, have to deliver letters to their (long lost) father and (previously unknown) brother. They go on a journey to the Middle East to complete their mission and to learn about their mother’s history. It turns out that her mother lived through and took part in a civil war before coming to Canada.
The story was compelling to me because I didn’t have a lot of background on middle east countries and the fighting that happened in the last half of the 20th century. The film is rated R so the events that occur are graphic and abrupt. The mystery of the father and brother is also interesting and the ending that wraps up the mother’s will is unexpected.
The problem is that I think the source material of the film is very good. The film is based off a theatre play, but on further research, Villeneuve rewrote all of the dialog. So it’s difficult for me to determine whether how much the film making makes the story better. I guess I’ll have to watch more films by Villeneuve to find out. The rating for this movie is also a bit borderline. The topic is new to me, which makes the film better, but I don’t think it’s something I would want to watch multiple times. However, I’ll be generous and give it a four out of five stars.
October 24, 2017
Oh great, yet another Spider-man movie. Even though this is based off his cameo in Captain America: Civil War, I am a bit weary of this. I never liked the character but he is just so popular that you can’t avoid his books and stories. And another reboot in his movie series, isn’t this the third time?
So this movie didn’t start off well for me. It got worse when the plot followed a teenager’s life. I’m just not interested in watching teen struggles anymore. And his wisecracking is too much. The story isn’t much better as we get to see some B-list Spider-Man villains (Vulture and Shocker). The best part are the cameos but it feels like a crutch for both Spider-Man and the movie.
I don’t think this movie advances the Marvel Universe storyline so it can easily be skipped. Two out of five stars.
October 22, 2017
When I started using a FitBit, I thought it was indispensable and really cool. Even though it only tracked steps and sometimes flights, I could have raw data on how I was moving! I didn’t have any real use for this information, but it appealed to the compulsive data nerd in me. I tried a bunch of alternatives to Fitbit but navigated back to the FitBit brand. Ostensibly, it was because the web and app interface was superior, but I think it was a whole bunch of little things that just made it easier to use.
This is a FitBit is good and FitBit is bad post. As with most things, the newness of the service wore off. I’ve been wearing a FitBit on my wrist for probably five years now. The data tracking is still there but I don’t really care for it anymore. The most useful feature is the slim profile that lets me see the time on my wrist. That’s not underselling it though, that feature really is useful.
I’ve gone through many FitBits. Started with the Force and then returned that for full credit as part of a product recall. Then I bought a first generation Flex and used it for awhile. The battery died (couldn’t hold a charge) and their support team replaced it with another Flex. Then the battery on that died the same way. Recently I bought a Charge for cheap on eBay (was new) and after three months, the band broke. Support replaced it once again, but because the product was so old, I received an Alta instead.
Their support is great but I wonder if there are just quality and design issues in their product line. When I owned the Flex, I probably bought and went through 20 different bands. They would just break after a few months of use. Luckily I bought them for cheap from China ($2-3 a pop) instead of the full retail price ($20+??). I can’t imagine the cost of ownership would be worth it otherwise. I also spent a bunch on chargers because different models had different connections.
The Alta I just received is the new hotness but I’m not sure I get enough benefit from it to deal with the accessories, charging (only 5 days of battery life) and the slow but eventual death of the hardware. Maybe I should just get a nice watch instead.
October 18, 2017
On my flight back home, I was surprised to find new movies in the inflight entertainment system! The movie I was most excited about was Wonder Woman. Ever since her introduction in Batman vs Superman, I’ve been waiting for her feature movie to come out. I’m not even a big fan of the character, I had tried reading some of her comics in the past but always ended up dropping them because the stories were boring (Amazonian stuff), or the supporting characters were lame, or the issues she had to deal with (e.g., her weaknesses) were not compelling. So I only saw her in Justice League adventures, or when there is a universe-level crisis.
But her appearance in BvS was amazing. This is a career-defining role for Gal Gadot and I don’t think I can ever envision her as any other character. I’m not sure what it is, but she is both what I imagined Wonder Woman to look like, yet also not what she looks like. What I mean is that when she is in costume, there is no one else that I can imagine as being Wonder Woman but her face is not at all what Wonder Woman would look like in my mind (I guess due to her heritage). This is more apparent when she is in plain clothes, and she doesn’t look at all like how I imagine Diana Prince would be.
Anyways, so how was the movie? I didn’t think it was as good as people said it would be. It’s nowhere near Ghost In The Shell bad, but it’s still polarizing. The story is clunky and I hate the origin story where they kept stressing her naivete and social awkwardness. The romance is unbelievable, but not as bad as sailing to London in one night (even if they got a lift). Also the motley crew of supporting characters adds nothing to the story (I only recognize Etta, are the others even from the comic?)
But once the fighting starts, it is glorious. Wonder Woman is magnificent in battle, especially the close quarters fighting (on the beach and before Act 2). Some people hate Zach Snyder slowing down the camera for certain scenes, but I like it and think it was effective. Act 2 was expected and cliché but I still thought it was a great twist. Honestly this whole movie can just be Wonder Woman jumping and fighting and it would still be three out of five stars.
October 15, 2017
The best comparison to La La Land would be Moulin Rouge – both are oscar-calibre musicals. However, I much preferred La La Land over Moulin Rouge. My problem with Moulin Rouge is that the concept is too much of a fantasy and the music just isn’t that great, but La La Land deals with real life (Millennial) issues and has a better soundtrack (mostly original music).
It often felt like a showcase of theatre and the arts. It featured instrument playing, tap dancing, plays, singing, etc. I also noticed the extensive use of theatre stage lighting (thanks to the recent Apple keynote which highlighted this). The ensemble pieces were great and the two leads performed well too (even though they probably didn’t have those specific skills of piano, singing, tapping etc). I can see how this movie could easily transition to Broadway.
As the story progressed, I got a little disappointed that there were fewer ensemble dance numbers, but I guess those were expensive to produce (I saw that Mandy Moore choreographed it?). The story was decent and believable and the ending leaves you with a decision to consider. This is a solid four out of five stars from me!
October 10, 2017
This is a giant in HK cinema which I had never watched, even though I watched the referential 2046 many years ago. I’ve heard it mentioned over and over with regards to its cinematography and after watching it, I think it lives up to its billing.
I think a comparable to this movie is The Godfather. The pacing is slow but not boring, and there are so many music and scenery shots. I can’t imagine them making a movie that can convey mood in the same way nowadays. Not only that, the dialogue is smart and complements the camera. Not everything is mentioned but the careful watcher can see the subtle hints in the story.
I also enjoyed the look at 60s Hong Kong which is near my parents’ era. Watching the film now, it doesn’t feel dated but more like a period piece.
I came with high expectations, and have probably seen Wong Kar-Wai’s influence in countless movies but was still impressed by In The Mood For Love. This deserves four out of five stars.
October 5, 2017
Ghost in the Shell was all around me when I was in my teens. I was never interested in anime, but this was one of the names I recognized. I might have even watched an anime movie version of it. And I definitely read an entire comic book series about it. Yet I don’t remember any details, the back story, or the potential psychological conflict of being part human-part machine.
This recognition is part of the reason why I watched the movie. Another is because I read some complaints when it was released about being white-washed (specifically Scarlett Jo instead of a Japanese lead). I don’t think the lead was the issue, but rather than a lot of it just wasn’t Japanese. The robotics company was completely staffed by Caucasians, the local police was a conglomerate of mixed cultures, and the entire thing was filmed in Hong Kong! I recognized Mong Kok in the beginning and it just became more and more obvious as I watched. I guess filming in HK made sense since a lot of the production companies at the beginning of the movie were Chinese.
The other issue with this movie is that it sucked. The decisions characters made made no sense and the dialogue was horrible. I hope Scarlett Johansson made a lot of money on this one because it is an embarrassment to have on your resume. It’s like Black Widow had a feature film and dyed her hair black.
A lot of the times the movie is just there to show off action sequences or body shots or the futuristic environment. I guess that is slightly cool and elevates this movie to 2 out of 5 stars.
October 1, 2017
We started this month by taking one last road trip in the summer, and across the border to Rochester to visit the Museum of Play and some shopping. This is the third time/year that we’ve went so we also decided to spring for a membership. It takes 3 visits (days) to make the pass worth it, and we already did two days on this trip. So one more visit and we’ll be in the black! By going “later” in the year, it gives us a lot of time to plan a trip next spring or summer.
Apollo started his fourth new school in as many years this year and with that a new route/timetable for dropoff. His school starts earlier than last year so we’ve moved up his sleep schedule to accommodate, and surprisingly the night and morning adjustments have been pretty straightforward. Jovian also started a new school, and it actually feels like a regression because he’s only in his nursery school three days in a week! Fall programs had the first two weeks off (I guess to give everyone time to adjust to the day school routine first) but they kicked off in the latter half of the month.
After an August that felt like fall, we had nice weather (including a couple of days of Indian Summer) during September. Most days were t-shirts and pants, with an optional coat in the morning. Leaves are starting to turn yellow, which feels a bit early, but we’ve already gone Apple picking and farm season is most likely finished for us this year (unless we have a pumpkin trip in October, but I doubt it).
To cap off the month, I went over to Korea for a week. It’s only my second visit this year due to Katana being born and some other weird scheduling/cancellations.