Kevin C. Wong

December 2022

Spot Reviews 12/30/22

Books - Grantville Gazettes v1-3 (2004-7) [/] This is a series of fiction anthologies based on Eric Flint's 1632 universe. The stories are semi-professional, often written by enthusiasts on the 1632 forums. Each volume ends with several knowledge articles about how present technologies could be used in 1632 and how hard it is to rapidly industrialize a region. I found these sort of interesting but don't really add to the novels since they tend to feature new or secondary characters.

Netflix Movie - Falling for Christmas (2022) [/] Christmas romantic movie. Social media influencer and heiress Sierra Belmont (Lindsay Lohan) gets into a skiing accident and is rescued by small and struggling ski resort owner Jane Russell (Chord Overstreet). She's lost her memory so he offers her a room at his inn where she learns about doing chores and cooking and falling in love... Nothing special here but good enough to watch if you're in the mood.

Movie - Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) [-] Suffering workaholic and overbearing mom Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) is contacted by an alternate universe variant of her husband Waymond (Ky Huy Quan) who tells her the multiverse depends on her. She goes from denial to acceptance to having to actually save the multiverse while patching things up with her lesbian daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) and Waymond, who was intending on filing for divorce... I didn't like the sci fi aspects, more specifically that it's goofy sci fi, which leaves the family drama and I wasn't into that.

Apple TV+ Movie - Spirited (2022) [+]

Spirited is a Christmas movie based on A Christmas Carol but very loosely. Ghost of Christmas Present (Will Ferrell) has been working for a couple of centuries with his team. Once a year they visit a perp and do the past/present/future thing and convince the perp to change their ways. This year GCP wants to take on a challenge, Clint Briggs (Ryan Reynolds), an unreedemable, people who have such a low chance of success it's not worth spending a year prepping.

But Clint is a social media consultant and his strategy is sowing disinformation and hate to get his clients the win. GCP convinces his boss that turning Clint could help millions instead of turning someone who will help hundreds. So the team gets working and on the next Christmas Eve they put their plan in motion.

And the plan starts to fall apart immediately. Clint seduces Ghost of Christmas Past (Sunita Mani) forcing GCP to take over and then Clint starts working his charm on GCP. Turns out GCP is Ebenezer Scrooge and Charles Dickens' story is based on fact. Scrooge was the last unreedemable turned and he has many doubts about whether or not he is actually a good being. Clint works on that doubt and meanwhile GCP tries to get Clint to acknowledge his past failures and potential future ones unless he changes...

I didn't mention that Spirited is also a musical with several numbers. It's also turned out to be a very enjoyable film. The story is familiar and refreshingly different. The characters are nuanced and the challenge is harder than expected. The ending is pretty good and it's a good family film.

Apple Arcade Reviews

Apple Arcade - Exit the Gungeon (2019) [/] 8-bit style twin stick arcade platform shooter. In each dungeon room move (left stick), shoot (automatic), and dodge enemy shots (right stick). Collect coins and gets power-ups or replenish health. Your main gun randomly cycles to different modes and you can pick up regular guns. I like the aesthetics but gameplay a bit too frenetic for me.

Apple Arcade - Fledging Heroes (2019) [/] Kids game. You are a parrot flying from left to right. Tap to flap wings and tap+hold to do a shallow dive speeding up. Collect coins, drop on bad guys, bounce off the ground, avoid bad guys and crashing. Not my kind of game.

Apple Arcade - Grindstone (2019) [/] It's like one of those gem collecting games. You're a barbarian going into the mountain to look for gems. The playing grid is filled with different monster types. Draw a path from your barbarian through one type of monster then go and kill them. If you draw a path of 10+ a gem drops. Now when you draw a path if you go through the gem you can attack a different monster type. I you end up next to an angry monster it attacks you. Sort of push your luck until you leave the mountain. Seems more like a kid's game.

Spot Reviews 12/23/22

Netflix Series - Godless (2017) [/] This is a 7-episode western story centered on the small town of La Belle which due to a mining accident that killed all the men is inhabited by single women, widows and their children. Outlaw Roy Goode (Jack O'Connell) arrives on the run from his former leader Frank Griffin (Jeff Daniels) and his gang. Roy befriends outcast rancher Alice Fletcher (Michelle Dockery) but his remaining there threatens attracting Griffin... There are several subplots to fill out the series and possibly this would have been a better story trimmed down to a two-hour movie. Pretty good climactic gun battle though.

Movie - Mobile Suit Gundam I (1981) [-] MSG is a 43-episode half hour anime series which was condensed into three movies and I watched the first half of the first movie. Solar system war, giant robots, kids having to become warriors because the adults all got killed. I forgot how bad animation was back then and our hero kid is more angsty than Robotech's Rick Hunter. Guess I've way aged out for this fare.

Apple Arcade - Frogger in Toy Town (2019) [-] Frogger with 3D semi-realistic graphics. Wander through a house avoiding a few lanes of traffic, interacting with toys, avoiding bad guys, using power-ups and rescuing froglets. It's kind of kids skill level and not interesting. Was hoping there would be a classic Frogger mode but alas.

TV Special - The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (2022) [+]

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is a 35 minute live action story wherein Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Drax (Dave Bautista) take it upon themselves to bring Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) the greatest Christmas present ever: action hero Kevin Bacon (himself) of Earth.

The main story is a fairly hilarious one with two powerful aliens romping through Bacon's house and tangling with the local police trying not to kill anyone. There's a beginning section where the Old 97's play an alien band singing a "traditional" Christmas song with an all-powerful Santa Claus vaporizing evildoers and oppressing his sweatshop elves. Once Bacon arrives he also sings a Christmas song.

It's a very entertaining holiday story with all the Guardians making appearances except Gamora.

Apple Arcade Reviews

Apple Arcade - Hot Lava (2019) [/] The concept is the kids game "the floor is laval". Run your character through a FPS-style obstacle course where you need to jump and swing on stuff and avoid the lave floor (which merely resets you back a bit but these are timed courses for extra points). Fairly good graphics and response. You can just use the iPad and it has virtual "move the iPad to look around" which is neat but inefficient. I used a game controller and it works fine. As with most FPS type games after a while I do get a bit nauseous. Overall an interesting game and at least an original idea.

Apple Arcade - Hyperbrawl Tournament (2019) [/] Futuristics sports. Recruit and train players who then play 2v2 matches where each team tries to get the ball into the opponent's goal and attacks are allowed. Arcade action and you can play vs pool or friends though I don't think two players on one team. Nice graphics and gameplay though not really my thing.

Apple Arcade - King's League II (2019) [/] Recruit a fantasy arena team then fight battles, either league games or outside quests. Battles are simple linear fights: your guys on the left, bad guys on the right, they run at each other and your only tactic is wait for magic to build up then activate one special ability (each fighter has one special ability). You collect gold and gems which are used to train your fighters, improve your training area, buy equipment and level up your fighters. It's a free-to-play model even though Apple Arcade games are not allowed to sell you packs. It's not a bad game but kind of limited though with an interesting story line (there are three PCs, the one I picked had a music-based storyline so I assume the other two PCs have fairly unique storylines).

Apple Arcade - Hexaflip: The Action Puzzler (2019) [/] Hex-based puzzle game. You have two controls, left and right which flips your hexagonal forward left and right. Navigate the level collecting three glowing orbs and getting to the exit tile. It's timed and the glowing orbs go away so if you have to do the level quickly to get three stars. Obstacles start showing up like spikes and hammers, both with set interval of activation. There are also arrow tiles that throw you in that direction so to get to an orb tile might mean using the arrows to navigate backwards, for example. Interesting combination of puzzle plus action.

Spot Reviews 12/16/22

Salt Yard Restaurant and Bar, Burlingame [/] A standard American upscale restaurant. Maybe a bit pricey but not excessively and food is good. I had the Risotto and it was good, very buttery.

Movie - Black Adam (2022) [/] This is a DC Universe movie about Black Adam (Dwayne Johnson) who is normally a villain to Captain Marvel. In the middle-eastern country of Kahndaq the government has been taken over by Intergang. Professor Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) resurrects Teth-Adam/Black Adam to free her people but he knows he's not really a hero. The Justice Society -- Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Cylone (Quintessa Swindell) and Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) -- is sent to stop Black Adam... Kind of a mixed movie. I like introducing the Justice Society as another super-hero group.

Movie - 47 Ronin (2013) [-] A retelling of the Japanese 47 ronin tale adding Keanu Reeves as Kai, mixed-race outcast adopted by the Lord Asano (who is later murdered and his samurai go on revenge as the 47 ronin + Kai). I watched about 45 minutes and it's kind of boring.

Netflix Series - Cyberpunk: Edgerunners (2022) [+]

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is a 10-episode half-hour animated series set in the Cyberpunk 2077 setting (which is based on the computer game which is based on the Cyberpunk RPG).

It's the story of David Martinez (Zach Aguilar), a smart teen and a bit of a hoodlum whose mom dies in an accident. With no income he is desperate and after finding an illegal military-grade cyberwear he first tries to sell it but eventually has it installed so he can do bigger crimes. He meets netrunner Lucy (Emi Lo) who introduces her boss Maine (William C Stephens). David hooks up with the crew and the do missions (I'm not familiar with the character types but the crew has like three cyberwear guys, a gunbunny, a solo and a couple of netrunners plus later a driver).

The crew gets caught up in the warfare between two big corporations. Eventually they get party wiped and David takes the remnants and continues on as head of his crew. But the two big corps both kind of target David and Lucy for different reasons and they'll have to fight to survive in Night City...

It's very thematic and very gory and has bits of nudity. It does read like an RPG campaign with better plot points. This is a sort of everybody dies universe and by the end very few characters survive (which they could do since this is intended as a standalone series).

Overall I found it fairly entertaining. Not sure I'd stand watching multiple season of this but 3-1/2 hours of content is just fine.

Casa Sanchez Foods p2 [+]

Casa Sanchez Real Guacamole [+] This is kind of like home made guacamole and fairly thick. $9.

Casa Sanchez Avocado Salsa [+] Like the Real Guacamole but much smoother. I guess more tomatoes than avocados. $7. I think I like this one better than the Real Guacamole.

Casa Sanchez Hot Salsa Roja [+] A salsa that is kind of chunky like restaurant salsa. Not as good as the Pico de Gallo salsa. It is fairly spicy though not excessively so.

All three of the above are excellent and better than any other grocery salsa or guacamole I've had before. Maybe not quite as good as freshly made salsa/guacamole but fairly close.

Spot Reviews 12/09/22

Movie - Morbius (2022) [-] Stricken with a rare disease since childhood Dr Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) develops an experimental vampire bat serum that saves him but turns him into vampire. As he struggles with the monster he's become he also has to stop his best friend Lucien (Matt Smith), also afflicted with the same rare disease, who takes the cure but wants to use his newfound powers to rule the world... This is a Spider-Man character so not quite MCU and not that entertaining a film.

Movie - The Feels (2017) [-] Small independent LGBTQ+ film about a lesbian couple (played by Constance Wu and Angela Trimbur) hosting a bachelorette weekend and the various characters interacting... It's kind of talky and dull though, only able to watch the first third.

Movie - The Greatest Beer Run Ever (2022) [-] During the Vietnam war John "Chickie" Donohue (Zac Efron), feeling a bit guilty about managing to skip the war, decides to bring some local beers to his friends in country. In his journeys he learns more about the war and his mistaken impressions... I got bored after half an hour and didn't finish.

TV Series - She-Hulk: Attorney at Law s1 (2022) [+]

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is a half hour comedy Marvel Cinematic Universe series. Tatiana Maslany plays attorney Jennifer Walters who in the first episode is accidentally infected by cousin Bruce Banner's (Mark Ruffalo) blood and becomes She-Hulk. She is then hired to head a super-powered attorney services team at a high-profile law firm and has to juggle her personal Jen Walters life with her public She-Hulk life. There is no real season long plot like previous MCU tv series and the theme seems to be Jen Walters coming to accept her She-Hulk part of life.

In addition to The Hulk other guest stars include Emil "Abomination" Blonsky (Tim Roth) who hires Jen to argue his case for early parole, the Sorcerer Supreme (Benedict Wong) as a witness, and a cool one with Matt "Daredevil" Murdock (Charlie Cox) as an opposing attorney. Mary "Titania" MacPherran (Jameela Jamil) is a classic Marvel villain introduced in this series and also introduced are The Wrecking Crew though it took me until their next appearance to figure it out with help of a big hint.

Besides the sort of zany situations for Jen Walters she also does a lot of talking to the audience. This culminates in going meta in the last episode where She-Hulk breaks out of Disney+ into the real world. Unfortunately it does lead to a sort of anti-climactic season ending so that's probably the only let-down in the series.

Overall though it's a pretty good series and fairly different than previous series.

AirPods Max (2020) [/]

AirPods Max are high-end over-ear wireless headphones from Apple. The first version was released in Dec 2020 for $550 and I bought mine four months ago.

Build quality is pretty good. Metal earphones and arms attached to the central bar which is more of a mesh and hard plastic which allows your head to breathe more. Two controls on the right cup, a button/dial (for volume control) and a rectangular button (for noise cancellation mode). Each ear cup has its own processor.

With the latest OS updates you can connect the headphones to all your Apple devices, I have Mac, iPhone and iPad. Audio automatically switches -- when I start a video or audio on one device the headphones switch and the previous device pauses whatever you were watching or listening to.

For auto switching I think it needs to be an app where you focus your attention like video or web video or music. Don't think background audio affects it and games don't necessarily cause a switch if you're still watching a video or listening to music but does switch if you're not. It's actually a bit confusing at times and I don't have all the cases down.

Audio is very good. By themselves the ear cups muffle outside sounds well. Actually noise cancellation is excellent and really was able to cut down nearby construction noise from a level that's probably dangerous to fairly quiet though still there. For fans and such it pretty much silences them. There is also a transparency mode that makes external sounds louder (I was thinking it would just make it sound as if you didn't have the headphones on but no the sounds are quite loud even fan noises).

Fairly comfortable, not as much as the Beats Studio Pro. I can wear the headphone for a three or four hours or most of the day if I take like a ten minute break every hour. Battery life is claimed to be 20 hours with noise cancellation on and it does seem to be all day.

There's a built in mic and as far as I can tell everybody else hears me fine. I've asked and my friends didn't really notice a difference. And other people I've Zoomed with didn't seem to complain.

When it works they are great headphones and probably worth the price. But as the version one product I've had problems.

Sometimes the noise cancellation button activates randomly (not sure if this is the headphones doing it or the Mac/iOS device thinking it's being triggered). You set it to toggle between two of the three modes (off, noise cancellation, transparency) and I use the first two which are both usable (transparency is way loud as I mentioned) but whenever it switches there's a loud alert tone and sometimes it's switching back and forth every couple of seconds for like a minute.

The other annoying thing is sometimes the headphones refuse to connect to any device. Or they might connect but not play sounds. There is a way to power cycle the headphones which doesn't trigger when this happens. There is also a way to factory reset the headphones which also doesn't trigger. I have to leave them in their case charging for a day or more and then I can take them out and factory reset.

I do have a backup ear bud and a Beats Studio Pro wired headphones so it's not intolerably bad. Maybe the next version of AirPods Max will work better (and I tend to think it's the Max rather than the three devices it connects to). For now I'd have a hard time recommending them.

Spot Reviews 12/02/22

Movie - Draft Day (2014) [+] The behind the scenes maneuvering on NFL draft day as Cleveland Browns GM Sonny Weaver Jr (Kevin Costner) makes a big splash trade that might end up ruining the franchise... I previously watched this and reviewed it seven years ago and this is still a great film as I do love the NFL.

Movie - The Italian Job (2003) [/] Five years after being betrayed during a big gold heist, Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg) reassembles his old team to take down betrayer Steve Frazelli (Edward Norton). Included in the team is newcomer Stella Bridger (Charlize Theron) whose father died during the first heist. There's a couple of cool scenes when the team drives three mini coopers like getaway cars which I think made mini coopers popular for a bit. It's an ok film maybe a bit too subdued compared to the many over-the-top heist films in the last couple decades.

Movie - Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) [-] Airmand second class Adrian Cronauer (Robin Williams) arrives in Vietnam to host a radio show and improve troop morale. But his humor and honesty rankles his superiors and he starts becoming embroiled in the politics of Saigon... At base this is a story about a naive guy who doesn't understand the internal conflicts in Vietnam and is surprised when things go badly. Not an interesting story and I guess the movie is remarkable because Robin Williams gets to ad-lib so much humor especially in Cronauer's radio show. But the humor is kind of dated and not really funny today. Overall disappointed with this movie.