Kevin C. Wong

September 2020

Movie - Seabiscuit (2003) [+]

Seabiscuit (2003) is a film about three people and the legendary racehorse Seabiscuit. Seabiscuit doesn't even appear in the first hour, which is backstory about the three men and the Great Depression. Tom Smith (Chris Cooper) is a horse wrangler who finds himself out of work as the West is settled and horse ranges get smaller and smaller. Actually Tom doesn't get much of a story.

The next major character is John Pollard (Tobey Maguire). He is separated from his family during the Great Depression and grows up a natural horse jockey. But he has a fiery temper and lives almost out-of-control going-to-die-young life. We get a bit more of John's story.

Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges) is a self-made businessman who goes from failing bicycle shop to tuning engines of the new Ford Model T that sweeps through the USA. He builds a performance car business which suffers during the Great Depression but does not bankrupt him.

Unfortunately his son dies in a car accident, wife leaves him because of the grief, and Howard finds himself in Mexico where he meets and marries Marcela Zabala (Elizabeth Banks). She gets him interested in horse and Howard finds a new passion and decides to own a race horse.

That search leads Howard to meet Tom Smith and the two purchase Seabiscuit, a scrawny failed race horse that was about to be put down after a minor leg injury. Seabiscuit is fiery and independent and Smith sees that John Pollard has the same temperament and so Pollard is brought in as Seabiscuit's jockey.

So now the rest of the movie is training, racing in local California races, and trying to challenge the top race horse of the time, War Admiral. Both John Pollard and later Seabiscuit are injured and the two together go trough the recovery process. Once both are ready there is another local California race where both Pollard and Seabiscuit make their triumphant return as the movie ends...

It's a slow movie that somehow kept me interested. It's more about the people than the horse but I guess there's not enough drama about Seabiscuit's life. This movie was nominated for a good number of awards and it seems well deserved. It's a good family film.

Twitch Show - Love or Host [+]

Austin Show is one of the most popular channels on Twitch and he does a few different shows. The only one I've watched is Love or Host because Alexandra and Andrea have been separately on it a few times.

Love or Host is a bachelor/bachelorette type of show. There is one contestant and 10 or so candidates, everybody being a Twitch streamer. In general it's talking and every 20 minutes contestant boots somebody.

Austin moderates the show. Each 20-minute segment is usually themed, e.g. contestant asks a question for everyone, candidates each ask a question of contestant, Austin asks a question for candidates. In general the candidates are quirky and try to play it up for fun, sometimes being more of a character than normal.

Before the show each candidate chooses love or host. At the end of the show if the final candidate chose host they get the raid (last time the show had 100k viewers which is amazingly large). If the final candidate chose love then the contestant gets the raid and the two can do a Twitch date then and there or later.

It's not a serious show but it is a way for Twitch streamers to meet each other and for viewers to see other Twitch streamers. Austin is hilariously dramatic and everyone seems to have fun. Also lots of repeat candidates since it's tough to fill 10 slots every show -- it runs irregularly every couple of weeks or so.

For a tv-show like show Love or Host is pretty good for Twitch.

Spot Reviews 09/25/20

Spectrum Canola Mayonnaise [+] After I ran out of mayo I bought regular mayonnaise and it tastes bland. I realize now that this was pretty tasty mayonnaise

Trader Joe's Real Mayonnaise [/] I guess this is fine for regular mayonnaise but it makes me realize that the canola mayonnaise I had before was much better.

Netflix TV Show - Away #1.01 and 1.02 (2020) [-] Netflix tv show about the first mission to Mars using a 6-person international crew that unfortunately is at odds with each other. It has a bit too much interpersonal drama and not enough competency porn. Hilary Swank stars as the mission commander with Josh Charles as her stay-at-home NASA engineering husband.

Movie - Rio Grande (1950) [+]

Rio Grande (1950) is the third Cavalry Trilogy film. Set in the Old West, Lt Colonel Kirby Yorke (John Wayne) commands the 2nd US Cavalry Regiment patrolling the Texas frontier against marauding Apaches. Yorke gets two surprises, one of the new recruits is his son Trooper Jefferson Yorke (Claude Jarman Jr) who failed out of West Point and enlisted as a lowly trooper. A bit later Yorke's estranged wife Kathleen (Maureen O'Hara) arrives to take Jefferson home. But when Jefferson refuses Kathleen sticks around and the fire between Kirby and Kathleen is reignited...

Men in uniform, horses, personal drama, fighting Indians. It's still a great old (black and white!) movie and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it.

Web Site - Poker Now [/]

Poker Now is a free web site where you can play poker with friends. I don't think they do actual gambling. I have played on this a couple of times with friends.

You can have 10 people. Texas Hold'em or Pot Limit Omaha. The game creator confirms people who want to join and can change the small/big blinds. Strangely when you join you request a stack size so the creator has to tell people what the starting stack size is.

The interface is kind of basic but it works. The chat window is pretty bad though. Very small or covers the whole board. It's easier to chat on Discord (and btw I think there is no voice chat support so Discord for voice chat).

It's functional and it's free and good enough for casual games. I guess that's all you can ask for.

Spot Reviews 09/18/20

TV Show - Agents of SHIELD s7 (2020) [+] Actually this was a pretty fun season. The agents travel through time trying to stop the Chronotons from changing Earth history so we get 1931 NYC during Prohibition, 1955 Area 51, 1973 big bell bottoms, 1982 bright colors and big hair. The second half of the season is more tight though perhaps less entertaining. But the final episode with all the reveals and then a sort of "where are they now" scene is quite a fine ending to the series.

Movie - Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017) [-] Alice wakes up alone (removing all the characters that survived to the end of Retribution) then is given a final mission by Red Queen to get the cure hidden in the first underground lab from the original movie. It does not feel original any more but at least Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) is a supporting character and we get all of Alice's back story and conclusion to her story arc.

Podcast - Save for Half (2017) [-] A podcast where a group of grognard friends revisit classic RPGs. It's not a review show because they don't really bother to review the RPGs. It's a top 5 list show: each person picks five things they liked about the RPG and then 5 things that did or did not make the save (so could be more things they like or things they didn't like). And there is a disconcerting amount of making fun of each RPG. So not only is this not the old school RPG show I want to hear but it makes me hesitant to try Save or Die (a podcast for the first editions of D&D) which has the same hosts.

Movie - Resident Evil Series (2004-16) [/]

I rewatched the Resident Evil film series all of which I have on iTunes. I've seen them all at least twice now except for The Final Chapter which was my first time.

  • Resident Evil (2002) [+]
  • Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) [/]
  • Resident Evil: Extinction (2007) [/]
  • Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) [/]
  • Resident Evil: Retribution (2012) [/]
  • Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017) [-]

Resident Evil is great because it's the first film and is the most original both in story -- it's a prequel to the Resident Evil video games and introduces Alice (Milla Jovovich) -- and in various elements that are repeated throughout the series.

Apocalypse moves the location from underground lab to the city above and adds Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) who is unfortunately rarely used in the rest of the series. There was a setup at the end of Retribution but in The Final Chapter jumped ahead a bit and started Alice off alone again.

Extinction went from typical zombie horror setting to desert and the desert-reclaimed city of Las Vegas. We add Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) who also appears in two future films making her the closest thing to a reliable ally for Alice.

Afterlife is set in a Los Angeles prison and an offshore tanker. Neither location really works well. The prison is too indoors claustrophobic like the first film and the tanker is a bit too white-lab-perfection.

Retribution at least has an original settings because it's set in a big Umbrella Corp simulator. I kind of like that it brings back some dead characters for cameos and not as zombies.

The Final Chapter I found kind of boring. The above ground scenes are not interesting and going back the original underground lab of the first movie is barely paid off, basically just the one laser corridor. More of the hero characters showing up for an epic climactic battle would have been cool though I guess way out of budget.

So I think in the end the first three movies are good and the last three are a definite decline.

Still, I guess the other thing is Alice, who goes from unknown woman with various hints of her story revealed until The Final Chapter spells it all out for us. That part at least was nice as a wrap up to her arc. So watching everyone once is worthwhile for that.

I like the commentary tracks though on iTunes implementation is not good. First off you can't download the extras so have to have an Internet connection to view. Second is that commentary viewing does not remember where you left off, next time it starts from the beginning. So if you like commentary tracks I'd get a DVD and rip it with both normal and commentary audio tracks.

Anyway, Resident Evil series starts out strong and slowly fades but at least it has strong heroine characters and often good practical action.

iOS Game - Among Us (2018) [+]

Among Us (2018) is the current hot Twitch streamer game which is weird since it was released two years ago. It is cross platform Windows ($5), Android (free), iOS (free + $2 no ads) science fiction mafia/werewolf type game with up to ten players.

When the game starts one (1-6 players) or two (7-10 players) players are Imposters. Everyone else is Crew. Each Crew has a task list of todo items and they have to travel to various control station to do the tasks (which are short mini-games). Meanwhile Imposters can murder crew (though there is a cool down so don't murder with witnesses), cause various emergencies (e.g. turn off the lights, break O2 generator, or start a reactor meltdown, and there is a cool down here too so timing when to do an emergency can be significant), lock doors and travel through vents.

Anyone can call a meeting at any time or declare a found body, but it must be done at a switch so even if someone finds a body they might get killed before they can pull the emergency switch. Once in a meeting everybody can talk (Among Us has text chat but not voice chat so you need a third party tool and everyone on Twitch uses Discord voice chat) and you have a couple of minutes to talk, decided and vote on someone to eject (or skip vote). You can't tell if you've ejected a Crew or Imposter until the game is over.

Etiquette is key. Streamers can't read chat (many put chat in emote-only mode) to avoid spoilers. You can only talk during meetings. If you die you can't talk, though you do become a ghost and can complete your task list (if enough tasks are done Crew wins).

Among Us is a fun chaotic game with lots of arguing. On Twitch it's cool to see popular streamers playing in the same game.

Two criticisms:

  • Right now it's so popular that 4-letter codes get repeated so often you try to join a game and join the wrong one. EU servers seem better I guess because everyone plays on NA and Asia.
  • On iPad the UI is a bit harder to use. In particular with the map open you can barely see anything else since it takes almost the whole screen. On Windows the map is still big but you can see more of the regular UI.

Still, it's a fun game to play with friends.

Spot Reviews 09/11/20

Movie - Red Riding Hood (2011) [+] A man-kliling wolf stalks an isolated village. Two village youths vie for the affections of Valerie (Amanda Seyfried). Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) and his men-at-arms arrive, declaring that the wolf is not an outside enemy, but a werewolf and most probably someone in the village. Suspicions abound... This movie combines elements of Little Red Riding Hood with Werewolf the mafia-like game and with hints of supernatural romance. In the end it does kind of work.

Movie - The Good Dinosaur (2015) [/] Pixar animated film. In an alternate Earth where intelligent dinosaurs roam, young Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) falls in the river and is washed down far from home. Trying to make his way back home his only companion turns out to be the dog-like creature that had been raiding the family barn, a human boy called Spot by Arlo... I found the first half boring and stopped watching. A couple of weeks later I managed to finish watching the rest of the film and the second half is significantly better.

Juanita's Tortilla Chips [-] Safeway had Mission, Tostitos, Juanita's and one other. I usually get Casa Chicas which are pretty good and Mission is a good standard chip. Tostitos is not to my preference though good quality, so it's Casa Chicas, Mission, Tostitos and all three are good choices. But I wanted to try a new brand and this was a bad choice. It does not quite taste like tortilla chips, like a missing ingredient or an extra bad-flavor ingredient is in there.

Movie - Train to Busan (2016) [+]

Train to Busan is a South Korean zombie apocalypse film. It mostly centers on businessman Seok-woo (Gong Yoo) who is taking his daughter Su-an (Kim Su-an) to her mother's and they're taking a commuter train to do so. A zombie outbreak has occurred overnight and as the train leaves the station the passengers see zombies attacking people. And there is an infected on board who soon spreads the zombie diseases to passengers.

During most of the trip the train heads to Busan, the last known safe city on the line. Meanwhile passengers struggle to contain the zombie outbreak. Midway through the film there is a scene where the train stops at a "safe" city. Passengers debark and are attacked by zombies. As they rush back they are split up into two groups with zombies in between. Seok-woo and some fellow survivors have to travel through four zombie-filled cars to reach their loved ones.

It's a good action film that remains suspenseful throughout. The characters are fairly distinct. I like one of the zombie weaknesses which I haven't seen before in zombie movies. I liked the ending with a callback to an earlier scene where dad missed his daughter's recital. Overall a good film.

Computer Game - Into the Breach (2018) [+]

Into the Breach is a turn-based tactical combat game. You control three units -- the starting three are a Mech that punches, a tank with ranged attack, and an artillery that can shoot over obstacles. Enemy insect Kaiju erupt from the Earth and proceed to attack you and buildings. Protect the buildings and kill the Kaiju for experience.

The map is an 8x8 grid where each square has one terrain (buildings being a terrain). A turn consists of:

  1. Kaiju move and declare their attacks
  2. You move and do your attacks
  3. Kaiju do their attacks

The main part is step 2. Units can move in any order and attack in any order but attacking ends a unit's turn. All attacks can push Kaiju (punch and shoot push the Kaiju away, artillery pushes adjacent Kaiju away from the artillery strike) which is the primary way of making Kaiju miss their targets. You can't move past Kaiju and can't shoot past other units, Kaiju and buildings.

So your turn is calculating the optimum attack pattern. There is no randomness during this part but it's easy to make mistakes. You can undo moves but not after an attack. You can reset your turn once per battle. Otherwise you live with the results and try not to tilt if you calculated wrong.

Each battle you collect reputation and cores. Reputation is used after you complete an island (about six missions) to buy improvements. Cores give your units more energy to power improvements. Every unit has two weapon slots so you can add a weapon or switch out the default weapon. You can also get more pilots and switch them out. Pilots get experience and can level up twice with each level giving the pilot a random ability (e.g. +2 unit HP, +1 reactor, unit can move after attacking, unit can move through enemy units).

When Kaiju damages a building people die and usually you lose a power unit from the grid. If the power grid goes to zero you lose otherwise there is no other effect from having a good or bad power grid.

Eventually you clear as many islands as you want (there are four islands) and go to the final island to destroy the Kaiju homeland. You can go early and the final battle is easier. If you do all the islands the campaign is about 10 hours. There are three difficulty levels. It's a rogue-like: each map and mission is randomly generated and if a unit is killed it still comes back intact next mission but the pilot is dead.

Overall Into the Breach is a neat little tactical game with a bit of replay ability.

Spot Reviews 09/04/20

Signature Select Brownie Moose Tracks Ice Cream [/] The picture looks nice but the ice cream was a little disappointing. It's still ice cream so it's good but not quite what I expected. I just looked and realized it's the Safeway store brand so maybe that's why it's an average ice cream.

Tillamook Oregon Dark Cherry Ice Cream [+] On the other hand this tasted better than I expected. It's very creamy cherry ice cream with delicious cherry chunks. I should try other Tillamook ice cream flavors.

TV Show - Little Voice #1.01 to #1.04 (2020) [-] Half-hour Apple TV+ drama. Aspiring singer/songwriter Bess (Brittany O'Grady) struggles with overcoming stage fright while developing a relationship with next-door storage space neighbor Ethan (Sean Teale). The first couple episodes were ok and then episodes three and four I tuned out and afterwards couldn't remember what I watched.

Movie - Top Gun (2016) [+]

I watched Top Gun again and I guess the last time was 2014 when I wrote a review. The movie is still awesome from the opening theme playing while carrier operations are going on to the ending. Soundtrack is great. Fighter jet sequences are very cool (filmed in cooperation of the US Navy). F-14 is such an iconic fighter even though retired from service almost 15 years ago.

There are not many fighter jet movies that come to mind. For example, this Top 10 Fighter Jets Movies List, has way too many movies that feature pre-jet fighters and maybe only Stealth (2005) also features fighter jet vs fighter jet combats. And actually one that came to mind that's not in that list is Firefox (1982) with Clint Eastwood.

Here's another list from IMDB and it's cool that you can click on keywords to narrow down the list. And now I believe that Top Gun is the only good fighter jet combat movie. Maybe Top Gun: Maverick will also have good sequences though I'm afraid they'll be heavy CGI. It's amazing what Top Gun did using real jets and real military pilots.