Kevin C. Wong

Spot Reviews 10/29/21

Netflix Movie - Gunpowder Milkshake (2021) [/] Badass assassin Sam (Karen Gillan) breaks all the rules and finds herself hunted when she decides to help a target's daughter... It has Lena Headey, Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh and Angela Bassett as other assassins and yet the movie lacks. I feel it spends too much time trying to look cool and the characters I guess are supposed to act a bit unreal but it feels a bit too psychedelic dream.

Netflix Movie - Love Wedding Repeat (2020) [-] A British romantic comedy. At his sister's wedding Jack (Sam Claflin) is in charge of keeping the chaos under control while trying to reconnect with Dina (Olivia Munn) after three years and one great weekend together. The twist is we get shown a bad ending then rewind and then shown a seemingly bad ending that ends well. Unfortunately I found the story and characters uninteresting.

Teriyaki Madness, Santa Clara [-] This is a chain restaurant. Go up to counter, order your meal, they bring it to wherever you're sitting. Salmon Teriyaki didn't have much flavor and white rice was a bit mushy. Chicken gyoza was like grocery store quality. And considering the price might as well go to a real Japanese restaurant, unless you want fast food.

TV Series - The Good Place s4 (2019)

Season 1 - The Good Place goes from quirky to out of whack to this is really The Bad Place
Season 2 - Michael (Ted Danson) keeps trying to torture our four protagonists but eventually comes to sympathize with humans
Season 3 - Our protagonists live their what-could-have-been lives on Earth

In season 4 our protagonists -- Michael, Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tahani (Jameela Jamil), Jason (Manny Jacinto), and Janet (D'Arcy Carden) -- get to run the final experiment to see if four awful humans can be improved by being in The Good Place. But if the experiment fails the Universe will be dissolved and restarted from The Big Bang.

Eleanor is now in charge and at least she has Michael for help. Tahani and Jason try to help but are not very good at it. Chidi chose to have his memories erased and is now actually one of the four participants...

Season 1 was great. Seasons 2 and 3 slowly got more boring to me possibly because I binged the first three seasons. After a couple years off I watched season 4 and the magic is mostly back. Overall it's great to have watched this series.

I'm going to spoil the ending because I think it's pretty cool.

Eleanor and the rest manage to convince Judge Gen (Maya Rudolph) that the new system works. Everybody goes to the new Good Place which turns out to be like a living hell where all your wishes come true so there's no challenge or point to going on.

The solution for that is a doorway where you can choose to move on into the universe and the last episode is each character accomplishing their life goals and then, satisfied, going through the door. Meanwhile Michael gets his wish and becomes human and gets to live on Earth.

Finally Eleanor is the last one to say goodbye and she walks through she kind of turns into little lights and we pan to Earth for a final bit with Michael. "Keep it sleazy."

Books - War God Series (1995) [/]

David Weber's War God Series is a fantasy series with five books and I read the first three: Oath of Swords (1995), The War God's Own (1998) and Wind Rider's Oath (2004). The stories center on Bahzell Bahnakson, a hradrani prince. The hradrani are Ogre-types who 1200 years ago were used by the Dark to wage war against the other races. Since then hradrani have been feared by the other races.

Due to his innate honor Bahzell is forced to flee his homeland but in companionship with his best friend, the self-styled hradrani bard Brandark Brandarkson. The two wander the foreign lands overcoming prejudices and showing that not all hradrani are enemies. Eventually Bahzell is recruited by the God of Justice, Tomanāk Orfro, and becomes one of His champions...

Each book stands on its own and doesn't end in a cliffhanger. The characters are ok and the stories are fine. I think aimed at teens because it's a bit more black and white and nothing really bad happens to the Good characters. It's an enjoyable read but not an outstanding series.

Spot Reviews 10/22/21

Garofalo gemelli pasta [+] Pretty good imported pasta. Gemelli is a thicker pasta with two short strands intertwined. When you eat it it's kind of hearty macaroni.

Garofalo Penne Ziti Rigate [/] It's penne and tastes like any other penne pasta I've had.

Movie - Love and Monsters (2020) [/] In a world overrun by monsters nerdy teen Joel (Dylan O'Brien) decides to trek 100 miles from his underground bunker to another survivor bunker where his almost-girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick) ended up. Along the way with the help of Clyde (Michael Rooker) and Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt) he learns the ways of outdoor survival... Not a bad coming-of-age film. Reminds a little bit of Zombieland without the really appealing cast.

The Vintage RPG Podcast [-] I listened to the three first episodes and then a couple of current episodes. The two hosts talk about old RPGs though maybe less old and more retro feel RPGs later on. One problem is they're putting out an episode a week so each episode is really more like 15 minutes talking about their current games and 15 minutes talking about the RPG game or supplement and in a very superficial way. I feel you're getting impressions about old RPGs without getting knowledge.

TV Series - The Mandalorian s2 (2021) [+]

The Mandalorian season 2 continues from season 1 although this time Mando (Pedro Pascal) has the goal of finding a home for Baby Yoda (who gets a real name later in the season) whilst being pursued by Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) and his Stormtroopers. We still get the high production values and action from season 1 and occasionally does it not seem movie-quality.

We get more cool guest stars including Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison, the series is set after episode 6 so Fett escaped the Sarlacc Pit), Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) a Mandalorian freedom fighter introduced in The Clone Wars animated series, Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) also from The Clone Wars where she was a junior Jedi Knight but now is a veteran, and a surprise Jedi guest in the season finale.

There is no letup and season 2 and The Mandalorian remains an excellent tv series.

Comics - Zenescope - Van Helsing (2013) [+]

Zenescope's Liesel Van Helsing followed in her father's footsteps as a vampire hunter int he Victorian Age. After an inter-dimensional adventure she emerged 100 years later in today's world. Liesel continues her work as a hunter blending her steampunk inventions to modern tech...

Although often working with Robyn Hood Van Helsing has her own comics series with it's own tone. Robyn Hood is more street crime + demons whereas Van Helsing is on the modern day gothic horror side. Van Helsing also has a long-term love interest in the Greek mythology Hades although to counteract she has a crazy powerful Dracula as mortal enemy.

She's an interesting hero fighting Zenescope versions of public-domain monsters.

Spot Reviews 10/15/21

Ling Ling Chicken & Vegetable Potstickers [/] Not as good as dad's but if you follow the pan fry instructions exactly they come out fairly good and crispy. A bit sweet which I'm not a fan of... It also comes with several packets of sauce (which is convenient) though the sauce is a bit sweet so I guess that's the taste they're going for.

Podcast - Save or Die (2010) [-] A podcast about old RPGs, from the mid to late 70's. I don't like it because the I don't like the hosts' humor. The one saving grace is that over their decade of existence they've interviewed a lot of RPG luminaries and those interviews are usually pretty cool.

Movie - Horizon Line (2020) [/] Sara (Allison Williams) and Jackson (Alexander Dreymon) hooked up a year ago and then she vanished. Now she's back to attend an island wedding. For whatever reason she's late to the wedding and has to take a private plane to the next island and Jackson is also tagging along. When the pilot has heart attack Sara and Jackson have to keep the plane flying and somehow find their way to safety... Not a bad thriller.

Movie - Life in a Year (2020) [+]

Life in a Year is a romantic drama. Daryn (Jaden Smith) is a straight-edge honor student preparing for Harvard then he meets Isabelle (Cara Delevingne) a free spirit who doesn't even go to high school. They start dating then he finds out she has cancer and a year to live so he with the help of this friends try to recreate all the big moments in life for her. Meanwhile she teaches him to relax, get wild, express his rap soul but that comes into conflict with his dad (Cuba Gooding Jr)...

I like the setup, meeting, falling in love. The life-in-a-year stuff is a bit up and down. The ending manages to be good. This is a movie about Daryn and he has a good arc, growing from teenager to young man, from doing what his father wants to striking out on his own. I don't think I was expecting much from this movie but it more than delivered.

Challenge Magazine (1986) [+]

GDW's Challenge Magazine replaced JTAS (which ended at issue 24) and started out with #25 running to #77 over 11 years. It was half house organ, covering GDW's RPGs, and half other games all modern/sci-fi (which went along with GDW's lineup as they had no fantasy RPG).

A bit of the content is miscellaneous and typical of a game magazine: foreword, letters, reviews. There's a regular JTAS News 2-pager. Lots of ads of course. Maybe an article or two with rules-type stuff: equipment, optional rules, replacement rules. Maybe an article or two on GM campaign help: NPCs or locations.

But half to 3/4ths of each issue was scenarios, often 2 to 4 pages (and often that included that a full-page cover illustration). Often one longer adventure of up to 10 pages or so. Half the adventures covered GDW RPGs so lots for Traveller/MegaTraveller/TNE, 2300 AD, T2K, Space 1889, Dark Conspiracy. And also lots of adventures for other RPGs such as CoC, Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, Star Wars, even GURPS.

To me Challenge is a scenarios magazine. Lots of the scenarios are brief and basic and leave a lot to the GM but some are fairly detailed and multi-session. In general one to three interesting scenarios per issue. So overall a worthwhile older gaming magazine to pick up, especially if you are into the old GDW RPGs. You can buy a CDROM with all the issues for $45 at Far Future Enterprises.

Spot Reviews 10/08/21

Movie - The Vault (2021) [/] Spanish heist film where a team of underwater salvagers attempt breaking into the most secure vault in Madrid in order to retrieve an artifact they salvaged and then was stolen by the Spanish government... The story was entertaining.

Anime - High-Rise Invasion (2021) [-] A group of teens find themselves in a virtual city full of skyscrapers connected by rope bridges where all routes to ground level are blocked off. Masked people try to kill the teens or force them to commit suicide by jumping... I didn't really like the concept and the main protagonist is rather frustrating. Maybe it gets better but I only watched the first three episodes of twelve.

Porn Director's Podcast (2013) [/] I forgot I tried it out six years ago and found the two hosts annoying. I think I tried listening to more episodes this time (almost 30). The hosts are still annoying and so are the sound effects. The guests are ok but very variable since sometimes the guests are high or just not that interesting and there's too much trying to be naughty when I just want to hear talk and stories.

Movie - The Hunger Games (2012) [+]

I finally watched The Hunger Games and it's actually a pretty good film. I've watched the Divergent series which was ok and the first Maze Runner film which was not as ok and the Twilight series which was ok. The Hunger Games is at least as good as those other films.

In a dystopian future it's been almost 100 years since the outlying 12 districts rebelled against the central government. That rebellion was crushed and since then there has been an annual battle royale-type where each district sends a male and female teen to compete in a kill-or-be-killed multi-day outdoors death match.

In the 74th games Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers for the games in order to protect her younger sister. She is thrown in with random draw Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), kid from the better part of town (very relative since district 12 is poor coal miners -- all the districts seem to be lower-income resource producers and professionals for central gov) who has a secret crush on Katniss.

The two are thrown into a whole new glittery world at the capital city where they train with fellow contestants and try to garner sponsors (it's reality tv style where the contestants lives' are filmed and later on during the games sponsors can provide little gifts to help out their favorites). Then halfway through the film the game starts.

Battle Royale I think was the groundbreaking film that had teens battling each other to the death. That film was graphic and showed lots of individual kills in various ways. Although Hunger Games has that same central concept it's really a character drama centered on Katniss and most deaths you don't actually see and the ones you do see are tame, though at least varied. I think Katniss herself only kills a couple of contestants in self-defense.

The action as not as action-y as BR and the ending not as dramatic either, but HG does have a satisfying ending and sets up a bit for the next film in the series. There is Katniss' boyfriend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) who stayed behind and watched the televised "romance" between Katniss and Peeta. There is also central gov President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland) who sees Katniss as a possible focal point that might spark a new rebellion.

Overall I found the film entertaining and look forward to watching the next film.

Apple Arcade - Speed Demons (2019) [/]

Speed Demons is an overhead-view arcade highway racing game with controller support. You drive generic sort of cars that can be upgraded for speed and handling. There are several different race types spanning 150 levels.

  • Checkpoint - pass the five checkpoints before your timer runs out.
  • Race - race against 31 other cars.
  • Pursuit - chase and knock out other racers.
  • Rally - try to pass as many other racers as possible.
  • Rampage - destroy every vehicle you can, civilian or racers.
  • Escape - drive away from a pack of blue police cars trying to ram you off the road.
  • Slalom - race while passing flags, missing a flag is a time penalty.

And there are other race types.

There is lots of traffic which are various white vehicles. Other racers are red so easy to pick out. But you are also red with a different shade and occasionally you might lose track of your car in a pack of red.

Control with my XBox controller was fairly good. You just have turn left and right with the stick (a bit too sensitive for me) and a brake button.

It's a somewhat entertaining game, perhaps a bit too arcade-y for me.

Spot Reviews 10/01/21

Podcast - Byte-Sized Ethereum (2021) [/] Ethereum developer Topher Benson and enthusiast Alexandra Botez discuss crypto with a focus on Ethereum. Mostly trying to educate people rather than promote. A bit dense and I have to pay attention otherwise I get lost.

Apple Arcade - Spidersaurs (2019) [/] This is a side-scrolling platform shooter with a cartoony theme. You play a police officer trainee or a punk rocker girl (and you can play two-player simultaneous). Shoot various spider-dinosaur hybrids, collect powerups for your two weapon slots and collect extra abilities, defeat boss monsters. Controller support is good but not optimal and unfortunately you can configure the buttons making that first boss encounter too hard -- I just couldn't jump-aim-shoot well enough with the default controller bindings.

Movie - Air Force One (1997) [-] Kazakhstan terrorists hijack Air Force One but they didn't count on President James Marshall (Harrison Ford), former Vietnam helicopter pilot and Medal of Honor recipient... I guess the movie was not that great back then and watching it now it seems dated.