Kevin C. Wong

September 2021

Netflix Series - The Liberator (2020) [/]

The Liberator is an animated 4-episode drama following the 157th Infantry Regiment and one of it's officer's Felix Sparks (Bradley James) as he goes from leading Easy Company -- composed of Native Americans, Mexican Americans, and Redneck Texans -- to battalion command in the same regiment.

Episode 1 - Formation, Italy
Episode 2 - Anzio (western Italy)
Episode 3 - Operation Anvil (southern France) to the West Wall (Germany's border)
Episode 4 - Germany and Dachau

By the end only Sparks and two or three other people from Easy Company live to VE Day.

The episodes tend to be two vignettes. Characters come and go while the main plot remains on Sparks. Animation is sort of hand-drawn realism and not cartoony. Action is good without being gory and minimal shock scares (e.g. nothing is going on then suddenly someone gets shot in the head by a sniper).

Overall it's an interesting series though not engrossing enough to be a [+].

iOS Game - Missile Command: Recharged (2020) [+]

Missile Command: Recharged is an official Missile Command retro-clone adding power-ups. You have three anti-missile launchers and are shooting down enemy missiles as they rain down trying to destroy your six cities. Unlike the original you don't have a set number of anti-missiles, instead each launcher has a recharge timer before it can launch another anti-missile. Also if a launcher is destroyed it will start to be rebuilt after a pause and complete a few seconds later.


  • Normal missile
  • Small fast missile
  • Big slow missile that splits into multiple missiles
  • Smart missile that can move a bit left and right to avoid anti-missile explosions
  • Horizontally moving boxcars that launch missiles and smart missiles

Power-Ups - move horizontally, changing type every few seconds. Once you shoot one it activates and lasts for a few seconds (shield lasts longer but still fairly short)

  • Bomb which is a very large explosion that almost covers the playing area from side to side
  • Chain which is like a drone that goes around destroying enemies
  • Fast makes your anti-missiles almost instantly move to the target point and explode
  • Homing which makes your anti-missiles target nearest enemy
  • Rebuild which triggers rebuild of all launchers (but also means you can't launch anything for a few seconds)
  • Shield which adds an overhead shield over your cities
  • Time stop which freezes all bad guys for a few seconds

Graphics are vector-style and a bit more abstract than the original. Sounds effects and background music are well done. Gameplay is pretty smooth and great since you just tap to shoot an anti-missile to that spot.

Like the arcade game this version doesn't have variants. You're pretty much just playing it over and over trying to bet your high score. It is free and you can play about three to six games per day ($3 for infinite coins). It's a really enjoyable old-school arcade game.

Spot Reviews 09/24/21

Apple Arcade - Super Impossible Road (2019) [/] Downhill marble racing game on a narrow winding track where the key is knowing the shortcuts -- all requiring jumping off the track and leaping down and if you miss you go back to a checkpoint. Nice graphics, smooth gameplay, good controller support but ultimately a bit dry. I'd rather race cars than marbles.

Movie - All My Life (2020) [/] A funny then sad romantic drama based on a true story. Jennifer (Jessica Rothe) and Solomon (Harry Shum Jr) meet and fall in love but in the second half they find out he has cancer which turns out to be terminal and their friends manage to put together a memorable wedding for the two... Didn't hit the teary-eyed button for me but otherwise it's a nice movie.

Movie - Sentinelle (2021) [-] French film. Klara (Olga Kurylenko) returns to Nice from a tour in Syria where her squad was decimated by a suicide bomber. Suffering PTSD she's assigned to an urban Sentinelle unit that walks around securing the city from possible terrorists. After her sister is raped and left in the hospital Klara goes a bit rogue looking for the perpetrator... A slow broody drama that is rather boring outside the three or four action sequences.

Anime - Your Lie in April (2014) [/]

Your Lie in April is a 22-episode high school light romance anime. Kōsei (Max Mittelman) is a former child prodigy pianist who lost his ability to play after his mom died. He meets Kaori (Erica Lindbeck) an aspiring violinist with passion and Kōsei falls for Kaori, but secretly because she's dating his friend Ryōta (Kyle McCarley). Or not so secret because Kōsei best friend Tsubaki (Erica Mendez) can tell, and with that knowledge Tsubaki realizes that she herself is attracted to Kōsei.

That's the romantic subplot. The main plot is that Kaori convinces Kōsei to be her accompanist in a violinist competition and later convinces him to enter a pianist competition. Her intention is to bring out the great pianist that Kōsei used to be. Meanwhile we also have episodes about Kōsei's two rivals, though Kōsei never really noticed them. Things get more dramatic once Kōsei and friends discover that Kaori is terminally ill so now Kōsei battles the memory of his dead mother (who also died of a terminal illness) and his desire to help Kaori perform one more time...

Good animation and voice acting. Great musical performances. Parts of the story are good and some episodes are good, but overall the series kind of dragged and the whole romantic/terminal illness plots just lose their impact. So at 10 or 12 episodes would have been good but at 22 episodes more like average.

Apple Arcade - Stellar Commanders (2019) [/]

Stellar Commanders is a real-time area-based futuristic conquest game. You and your opponent are on a small asteroid. You each have Uridium that builds up automatically. You each have a deck of cards with your units, have four cards in your hand and can see the next card. When you have enough Uridium you can activate a card to build a unit then draw to go back to four cards.

Activate a card then choose an area. Most cards build something in that area:

  • support to increase Uridium production for a while
  • defense to protect against missile attacks
  • ground or air units to attack nearby neutral and enemy areas
  • missiles that destroy an area
  • satellites are not buildable but used to instantly attack an enemy unit anywhere on the world

A unit will take a few seconds to build (there's a countdown and you can activate more cards or activate a unit). Once an attack unit is built you can select it then select a target and it will move there. Support and defense work automatically.

Cheap ground units have shorter range and can only take neutral territories. Likewise cheap missiles and defenses have less range. Helicopters take territory and can attack anywhere.

Everything is happening in real time. If you pay attention you can see an incoming missile and build a defense to protect the target (you can see the destination area of each attacking unit).

The game lasts 7 minutes and goes in three phases. A quick build phase where you can't attack each other. Halfway through or so a cataclysm phase where all neutral territories are destroyed (and if you don't have a path to enemy territory you can use missiles). When the game ends the winner is the side with the most controlled territories.

You can play three campaigns against the three different factions (each faction has different units). You can play online globally or versus your friends. You can play AI games where you can set the faction, AI strength, and world.

I did not find the game fun enough to play more than a bit because it goes too fast. I'm not an RTS player and I freeze up when too much is going on. There is no pause or way to change the game speed. But otherwise it's a nice small and fast strategy conquest game.

Spot Reviews 09/17/21

Dough Zone, San Mateo [/] We had some take-out from Dough Zone. They missed giving us sauces. All the food was fine except the soup was quite salty and some of the dishes were bland without the sauces. Dumplings good, gyoza good, green onion pancakes slightly chalky. Might have been a busy day and I'm willing to give them another chance.

Apple Arcade - The Get Out Kids (2019) [-] Two kids sneak out to go to the movies and end up in a haunted house. A 2.5D puzzle game though the puzzles are rather simplistic. I guess this game is aimed at younger players. Fairly involved backstory because this is an "interactive adventure novel".

Disney Movie - Raya and the Last Dragon (2021) [/] Animated film. Young Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) manages to lose the last Dragon Gem which ushers in the return of the Druun, spirits that turn people into statues. Six years later an older Raya searches through a devastated world for the give remnants of the last Dragon Gem. Raya also manages to resurrect Sisu (Awkwafina), the last dragon who is less of a wise and ancient creature and more of an ADHD clumsy teenager... It's a good story but perhaps too typical Disney Princess film.

Netflix Movie - Kate (2021) [/]

Kate is an action film set in Osaka, Japan. Our eponymous protagonist (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is an assassin who wants to leave and have a normal life. Unfortunately she is poisoned with Plutonium-204 and now has about 24 hours to enact her revenge before succumbing to acute radiation poisoning.

Her target is the Yakuza boss who put out a hit on her and to get to him she kidnaps Ani (Miku Martineau), the boss' niece who is in danger herself. Kate ends up saving Ani's life and now that the Yakuza also want Ani dead she decides to help Kate. They form a sort of friendship as Kate continues her journey...

A lot of gun-fu action, cool Japanese urban locations and music, and not a bad of a story for an action film. Certainly better than Gunpowder Milkshake which I watched last month. That movie wanted cool location esthetics but came out a bit too surreal, whereas Kate has cool location esthetics that fit with the movie.

Apple Arcade - Tangle Tower (2019) [+]

In Tangle Tower you play Detective Grimoire and his assistant Sally as they investigate the murder of Freya Fellow. Tangle Tower is a manor with two towers, all sitting on a volcanic lake. Two families, the Fellows and Pointers, live there and each of the ten characters has their stories and secrets.

Each area is a static picture. Tap on objects to examine with Grimoire and Sally providing comments, and they do talk a huge amount throughout the adventure. Some objects become clues which you use to answer questions (there is a clue page so you don't have to remember things and even things that you'd think would be clues you probably don't have to remember). Other objects are puzzles that if you solve reveal a clue or open an area.

Then there are the inhabitants. Interview each one and get their statements. Ask them about each of the other suspects. Ask them about each clue you find. Each suspect has their own story and distinctive talking style (the voice acting is top notch). Once you ask the right things a suspect gets tagged. Then you talk to that suspect and figure out their secret, most of which of course have little to do with the murder.

It's not a hard game. When you get a puzzle wrong Sally provides a clue then more clues to help you solve it. If you get stuck there is a help button that tells you a next step (go to this room to find a clue). The ending is a bit long and scripted as the bad guy reveals the history of the tower and why they murdered Freya.

Like many mystery stories I'm not sure if there is enough information to finger the killer before the reveal scene. But it's an engrossing story and there are so many little plots going on. It's on the order of a 10 to 20 hour game and fun throughout, mostly because even if you don't seem to be progressing Grimoire and Sally have great banter.

Overall one of the great Apple Arcade games.

Spot Reviews 09/10/21

Annie's Rice Pasta & Classic Cheddar [/] I do like rice pasta -- I'm used to it because a lot of dim sum and Chinese chow fun use rice pasta. Annie's has a rice pasta & white cheddar dish which I liked but rice pasta with yellow cheddar is not as quite as good.

Apple Arcade - tint. (2019) [/] Watercolor puzzle game. Trace from a watercolor drop to a colored flower and you can trace through one other color to change your color. Gets complicated when there are multiple drops and flowers as it also becomes a pathing game. Nice execution, lots of puzzles.

Movie - Fort Bowie (1958) [/] American West film. While Captain Thomas Thompson (Ben Johnson) tries to negotiate peace with the local Indians his rival convinces Colonel James Garrett (Kent Taylor) to launch a punitive expedition. Garrett's judgment is clouded after his wife Alison (Jan Harrison) accuses Thompson of making advances on her... Fairly typical US Army vs Indians movie and I liked it.

Documentary - 9/11: Inside the President's War Room (2021) [+]

9/11: Inside the President's War Room is an Apple TV+ documentary, narrated by Jeff Daniels, of 9/11 as seen from President George W Bush's perspective, who was in Florida at an event and then on Air Force One for much of the day, and from his cabinet and Vice President Dick Cheney who were in Washington DC. Reporters and official camera people (e.g. there are White House photographers taking pictures all the time for posterity) were around so lots of footage and pictures. Also recent interviews with Bush, Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and others.

This was a really powerful documentary for me. 9/11 is sort of a blank day. Dave P woke me up with the news and that maybe I shouldn't go in to work. But I still went to work and there a few people there and not much was done. And I kind of avoided the news during the day and afterwards. I've seen a couple of other documentaries but this one seems more immediate, more like you're living through the day, and some of the footage made me teary-eyed.

For some reason I started watching this at 0100 and couldn't put it down until it was done. Great documentary.

Apple Arcade - Operator 41 (2019) [/]

Operator 41 is a grid-based real-time simple stealth game. In each level you are trying to get past the guards and cameras to the end phone. You hide behind furniture, in shrubbery, and can throw some objects to distract a guard.

The game is really short, about 15 levels and most levels take a minute or two to solve. Also slight UI issues as you tap to move to a square but the camera has set positions and moves automatically depending on where you are.

It's more of a prototype game than anything really involved and apparently made by a single 13-year old kid. Unfortunately hasn't been updated so remains an early release stage game. But it's a genre I like and I had fun playing it.

Spot Reviews 09/03/21

Trader Joe's Baby Spinach and Greens Salad [+] It's a good sized salad with bleu cheese, candied pecans and a raspberry vinaigrette. The vinaigrette is what makes this tasty but it adds 330 calories (more than doubles). I've eaten it without the vinaigrette but the bleu cheese and pecans are a bit too sparse for the amount of salad.

Apple Arcade - Various Daylife (2019) [/] A Square Enix adventure game where you try out different jobs, do daily work, build up your party and go on quests to explore a new continent. I'm not really into the tap/controller-based UI as it's a lot of clicks to do fights and there are a lot of random encounter fights when you do explorations.

Movie - Gemini Man (2019) [/] Henry Brogan (Will Smith) is a DIA sniper assassinating bad guys but his last target was a bit fishy and when he starts to question Clayton Varris (Clive Owen) of the DIA decides to permanently retire Brogan using a clone of Brogan... Not a bad action movie.

Netflix Movie - The Wolf's Call (2019) [/] A French film of submarine operations. Chanteraide (François Civil) is an exceptional sonar man who fails a crucial drug test and misses going out with his new ship, the French ballistic missile submarine Formidable. When a "Russian" missile attack is discovered to be a ruse it's up to Chanteraide and the crew of the French attack submarine Titan to find and stop Formidable before she launches her retaliatory nuclear strike and starts World War 3... For a smallish budget submarine movie I found this story pretty interesting.

Movie - The Bodyguard (1992) [+]

Former Secret Service agent turned professional bodyguard Frank Farmer (Kevin Costner) is convinced to be head of security for diva Rachel Marron (Whitney Houston) because she's been receiving elaborate death threats. At first she distrusts him but after saving her life she begins to respect his work and they start to fall for each other. But emotional attachment gets in the way of the job and might let the killer get to Rachel...

I know I've seen The Bodyguard once, probably in the theaters when it came out, but that was almost 3 decades ago. Naturally I forgot many plot elements like who is the real assassin. This is Costner at his leading-man height in popularity. Houston is not great (this was her first film role) but she sings a couple of songs and I remember what a great singer she was. The plot is fine, romance a bit fast and more action than I remember.

The Bodyguard still kind of stands the test of time and is an entertaining movie.