Kevin C. Wong

January 2020

Spot Reviews

Netflix Movie - Close (2019) [/] Modern day action thriller. Sam (Noomi Rapace) is a close escort bodyguard assigned to Zoe (Sophie Nélisse) who doesn't want a new bodyguard. While in Morocco a team of mercenaries assaults the compound. Sam and Zoe go on the run and have to find a way out of the country when it seems half the police are in the payroll of the mercs or their boss... It's a better film than I expected.

Movie - My Best Friend's Christmas (2019) [/] Romantic Christmas movie. Ashley (Breanne Hill) visits her folks and ends up pretending to be in a relationship with sort-of co-worker Liam (Colton Little) while secretly pining for high school ex- Grant (Tanner Novlan) who has a girlfriend of his own in Bella (Masiela Lusha)... It actually ends up being kind of charming.

iPhone App - FOX Sports [/] I used this app to watch the Super Bowl. Good quality, didn't have any freezes. For everything else you have to connect to a cable provider so less useful.

Apple TV+ - The Morning Show s1 (2019) [+]

I watched the first season of Apple TV+ The Morning Show. The first episode sets up the season. Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston), co-host of the most popular morning news show in America, woken up by a shocking call: her co-host Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell) has just been fired for sexual misconduct.

As the shock wears off for the whole crew Levy finds out that the network execs were planning to fire her for a younger cohost. Kessler's firing postpone that and to take control of the situation Levy impulsively announces her new cohost, Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon), a local news field reporter who had gone viral and was a guest on the show.

Over the ten episodes there is Kessler wanting to clear his name, Jackson wanting to do "real" news stories, Levy and the execs fighting for control of the network flagship show. There are secrets and plot twists to keep things interesting, not to the level of a soap opera.

Episode 8 is particularly good. Half of it is flashbacks to the Las Vegas shootings and during that time Kessler seduces a junior coworker. Kind of drives home that even if the other person doesn't object it can be still be rape.

It's an entertaining show. Not really the genre of show I'd watch but don't regret taking the time to watch the whole season.

D&D Sapphire Anniversary Dice Set (2019) [/]

I bought the D&D Sapphire Anniversary Dice Set soon after it went on order. Two months later you can still buy them so didn't sell out like hotcakes, but at $300 I wasn't sure it would.

The dice come in a white box with padded interior and holes to put each individual die. There is an attached die tray that you can use for rolling your dice (they're metal so don't necessarily want to roll them on a table and make indentations). There is also a poster of a Sapphire Dragon with D&D stats, a D&D sticker and a certificate of authenticity.

You get 1d4, 4d6, 1d8, 2d10 (10s and 1s), 1d12 and 2d20 (one with an embedded sapphire). It's a set designed for D&D 5th edition (hence the extra d20 for the advantage/disadvantage die). The dice are metal with rounded edges and blue numbers. One die has a synthetic sapphire and all the dice are weighted and tested for fitness (I think). Good rolling feel.

I took a look at other metallic dice sets and this one looks nice. Kind of plain but I like it over weird runes and embellishments.

Overall it's a nice dice set. Without the sapphire and collector's edition probably would sell for half the price so it's not that steep a price. I plan to use this as my regular dice set and hope not to lose any dice.

Spot Reviews

Movie - The Tourist (2010) [/] This never seemed like an interesting movie from the trailers but I finally got around to watching it. In Europe, Elise (Angelina Jolie) leads Scotland Yard and a crime lord to believe that American tourist Frank (Johnny Depp) is the man who stole $1B from the crime lord. Once she realizes the danger she's placed Frank in she tries to keep him safe as Scotland Yard and the crime lord close in... It's not a bad movie but not great.

Movie - Minty: The Assassin (2009) [-] Minty (Elina Madison) has to fight through a tower filled with different henchmen and women, fighting her way to the evil Dr Brain Bender (Chip Joslin) in order to free her friend... It's a B-movie homage to schlocky kung-fu movies but with a female lead and some female villains. You have to like bad movies to appreciate this one.

Sabatino's Paleo Organic Basil & Cracked Black Pepper Smoked Chicken Sausage [/] Well, it's not horrible. It doesn't really taste like it has any spices though. But at least it's pre-cooked meat. Just need to add a third party sauce for flavor.

Movie - On the Basis of Sex (2018) [+]

On the Basis of Sex is a biographical movie about the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) before she became a judge and later Supreme Court Justice. It covers from college to a couple of decades later, I think in three parts with years being skipped in between.

First there's university where she was a brilliant student at Harvard Law School but had to transfer out to the less prestigious Columbia when her husband got a job. After graduating she can't find a job because she's a woman, or a woman and too pretty, so has to settle being a college professor.

Then she gets an opportunity to represent a case, Moritz v. Commissioner, about a single man denied IRS tax break for hiring a nurse to take care of his mom part time while he works. It's because the tax law was written specifically for stay at home moms.

The second half of the movie is this case and a related case, whether or not Ginsburg gets to do arguments, and then finally doing opening arguments in front of the appeals court. Nicely done scene though seemed to be made more dramatic than needed.

It's an interesting movie and maybe a bit more about Ginsburg than the cases, which I guess is fair but I was more interested in the court case.

[ Wikipedia: On the Basis of Sex ]

Apple Arcade - What the Golf (2019) [/]

What the Golf? is a golf-themed puzzle game. You are a golf ball trapped in a mad scientist's laboratory. To get out you have to complete various puzzles.

Every puzzle has something that is putted towards something else. You could be hitting a ball, or a couch, or a car towards a hole, or a flag, or a tree. Things move around and it's physics based so surprising things can happen.

Other levels are side-view and many levels are homages to other video games such as Super Mario Bros. and Flappy Bird. Every level has three stars, which means beating the level three times and for stars two and three there are variations that make the level harder.

Not sure how far I got through the game. A couple dozen levels before I realized you can replay them for more stars. I sort of got bored with the game and stopped. But it is a different and interesting game so worth a look.

[ Apple Arcade: What the Golf ]

Spot Reviews

Movie - Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019) [/] In a world where people and pokémon live in peace, teenager Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) investigates his detective father's disappearance with the help of his father's pokémon, Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds). Turns out Tim and Pikachu are the only human-pokémon pair that can talk to each other, giving them an advantage negotiating the two worlds... Better movie than I expected. It's got a substantive plot and good story beats.

Movie - Starship Troopers: Invasion (2012) [/] A platoon is stuck on the John A Warden after it's been infested by bugs who can control the ship, which is now heading to Earth! This is a CGI film with cheap Poser-level graphics but the story is not bad and the you can follow the battle scenes. Lots of characters introduced who die later on but people get different deaths. With Luci Christian as Carmen Ibanez, Justin Doran as Carl Jenkins and David Matranga as Johnny Rico.

New Thai Elephant, San Francisco [+] Thai restaurant and we went here with a 7 person group, mostly Indians. Food is good. They also have a location in downtown San Mateo.

Movie - Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (2019) [+]

Small time weed dealers and never-do-wells Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) lose the rights to their names because of the new Bluntman and Chronic reboot movie. To get their names back they're going to Chronic-Con Los Angeles to ruin a key scene filming there.

On the way they run into a bunch of unusual characters and Jay is told he has a teen daughter Millennium Faulken (Harley Quinn Smith) from that one time he did it with Justice (Shannon Elizabeth) in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)...

Watched this at the Fox Theater (Oakland) with my friend. Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes came out to introduce the movie and did Q&A afterwards. Laughed a lot along with the crowd.

There are a huge amount of previous characters making cameo appearances. Often they don't really add to the plot but are great for fans. I love the Chasing Amy scene with Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck), Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams) and daughter Amy (Jason Mewes' daughter Logan).

For fans of View Askew this is a great movie. For people who haven't seen previous films this is not where to start. Overall I'm quite happy to have seen this movie.

[ Wikipedia: Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (2019) ]

Restaurant - Duende! (Oakland) [+]

A Spanish restaurant and bar across the street from the Fox Theatre in Oakland. Dave and I came here Friday night about 17:45 (they open at 17:30) and were quickly seated.

Half the menu is paella, which you can get in a size for 2 or 4 people. We had:

  • Patatas Bravas ($9) - fried, diced potatoes (about tater tot size) with spicy allioli sauce. Fairly good.
  • Toasted bread with a pate (I don't see it on the menu) ($12?). Also good.
  • Paella de Carne for 2 ($52) - clams, brussel sprouts and beans in the paella with a slice of lamb on top. This was greatly delicious!
  • Flan with berries ($10?) - Good, though small.
  • Latte ($4) - standard.
  • Dave had a couple beers ($5? each)

Total with tip was $160.

The paella is totally worth it and I'd come back here again if I'm in the area.

[ Duende! home page ]

Spot Reviews

Movie - Me Before You (2016) [/] Working-class woman Louisa (Emilia Clarke) is hired to help take care of recent quadriplegic Will (Sam Claflin). Romance develops as she desperately tries to give him a reason to live... It's an ok romantic movie with a sad ending.

Movie - Christmas Scavenger Hunt (2019) [-] Hallmark movie. Visiting her small home town for Christmas, Belinda (Kim Shaw) participates in the annual scavenger hunt and is forced to team with ex-boyfriend Dustin (Kevin McGarry). Their adventures around town rekindle the romance as they also try to save the historic mill and museum... Uninteresting and no chemistry.

Board Game - The Game of Life Junior (2014) [-] Players visit theme park attractions collecting stars with two complications: you start with three tickets which give you an extra star if you go to that ride, most rides cost $1 (you start with $4 and get $1 for going all the way around the board). Other than a car you move around the board this game has no relation to Life and definitely too uninteresting for an adult to play.

Movie - Anna (2019) [+]

White-trashy Russian woman Anna (Sasha Luss) is recruited by the KGB to be an international assassin posing as a fashion model. After a couple of years the CIA finally catches up and Special Agent Miller (Cillian Murphy) makes her a double agent. But her final CIA mission means betraying the KGB agent she likes (loves?), Alexander (Luke Evans).

A Luc Besson film so the action is good and the characters are beautiful. There's a lot of flashbacking to introduce plot twists and get her out of various jams. It's an entertaining action film.

[ Wikipedia: Anna (2019 film) ]

Ghostbusters: The Board Game (2015) [/]

Ghostbusters: The Board Game is a 4-player cooperative game based on the movies. You play Peter, Egon, Winston and Ray cruising in Ecto-1 hunting ghosts and closing gates. Each player gets two actions, one of which can be driving Ecto-1 up to 6 squares (which is useful to move your group quickly and it has the ghost containment unit). Getting in and out of Ecto-1 is a free action. Moving is 2 squares, though can be diagonal unlike Ecto-1. Dropping ghosts in Ecto-1 is an action. Wiping off slime is an action. Shooting a ghost is an action.

Roll a d6 to shoot a ghost (up to 3 squares away). If you hit you get a stream on it and tougher ghosts require more streams. If you hit the ghost does something and if you miss the ghost does something more. Each time you're slimed you lose an action and it takes a turn to de-slime yourself by a level. Nabbing ghosts is XP and each character has their own special powers as they level up.

We played two scenarios and in both the objective was to close all the gates. At the end of the turn there is random roll to see if ghosts come out a gate, or if it lands chaos then nearby ghosts move. If you run out of ghosts to place on the map (there is a set reserve which gets replenished when you put ghosts in Ecto-1) then you lose the game.

We might have been playing it wrong. In both scenarios it's quickly apparent that you have plenty of time to close the games (and if in a hurry can avoid ghosts and make for each gate). In the second scenario we took it slowly and nabbed all the ghosts, getting lots of XP. There is a balance issue there but I'm sure it can be house rules to be more challenging.

Components are pretty good with lots of plastic miniatures and sturdy geomorphic tiles, PC and ghost cards. There is possibly a good game here but not one OOTB. (I was thinking maybe this is for younger players but the recommended is age 15+).

[ BoardGameGeek: Ghostbusters the Board Game ]

Spot Reviews

Battleship Shots [/] A game reminiscent of Battleship by Hasbro. You set up your two-space ships x3 and one-space life raft x1. Players take turns tossing balls over a divider and land on a ship space. I they do they get one more shot. Fill all 6 ship spaces or the life raft space and you win. It's kind of fun.

Netflix Movie - The Knight Before Christmas (2019) [/] Christmas romance movie. A young Middle Ages knight, Sir Cole (Josh Whitehouse) is transported to the present to fulfill his quest. There he meets Brooke (Vanessa Hudgens) who first mistakes him for a very method actor and then believes him and tries to help him accomplish his quest. And they fall in love along the way... I liked it.

Movie - Juliet, Naked (2018) [-] British middle-aged Annie (Rose Byrne) finds her boyfriend (Chris O'Dowd) cheating and kicks him out. Then starts an email romance with obscure American musician Tucker (Ethan Hawke) whom her ex idolizes... It is a very uninteresting film.

Movie - Doom: Annihilation (2019) [/]

This is a low budget direct-to-video reboot (ignoring the previous Doom movie).

A research base on Phobos goes silent just as a transport arrives with replacement marines. They are quickly re-tasked to discover what went wrong and restart the nuclear reactor before it explodes. There are nine marines and a tag-along scientist.

  • Captain Savage (James Weber Brown) - an old-timer who has decided to retire after this tour.
  • Lt Joan Dark (Amy Manson) - second-in-command, just escaped a court-martial after a disastrous mission.
  • Dr Bennet Stone (Luke Allen-Gale) - the scientist who dated Dark a decade ago.

As they explore the research base they find dead and mutilated bodies, surviving scientists, transformed killer scientists, and alien monsters. I like that you can tell what's going on as the characters split up and then are slowly killed off throughout the film. There are the usual homages to Doom such as big primary-colored keycards and plasma weapons.

Special effects are not great but serviceable. The creatures are practical effects though fireballs are not and the climactic scene with Dark fighting a horde of aliens is very obvious CGI. The ending is satisfying enough and sets up a sequel that can pick up exactly when this movie ends.

It's a low-expectations film and I think does all right.

[ Wikipedia: Doom Annihilation ]