Ant-Man, It’s Fun!

I am a fan of all things Marvel. People around me though, have various reaction to my choice of movies. Like one day, inside an office lift, my colleague and I were chatting about the one topic worth chatting in less than a minute, on a Friday – what’s your plan for weekend? I told him Guardians of the Galaxy. He went huh? I skipped Star-Lord (and avoided who?) and replied Rocket Raccoon? He went … a raccoon?! He clearly doesn’t know his stuff and I had an invisible eye rolling moment.

Anyhow, this time round, inside the lift, I replied Ant-Man. My female colleague went, “Huh? It must be a guy thing.” I said solemnly, “Yes, it is a guy thing.”

Ant-Man, a movie.

The fun doesn’t stop here. When I asked my wife out for an Ant-Man movie, her first reaction was, “Will we be able to see the character?” It was her polite way to decline my date invitation. Too bad. Once you are married, any right to say no to a date has been revoked. As before, I have booked the tickets weeks in advance. Due to some technical glitches, only one theater was available for online booking. And the screen was very tiny and I would prefer a large one. When I told that to Dave and Zep – our two Marvel movie buddies – they had a good laugh on that (ants and small screen, yes?). They still do.

Now, onto the movie, I honestly have no idea what or who Ant-Man was had I not played Marvel Heroes the online game. On that note alone, I would think that it could be a pretty tall order for Marvel Studios to pull this off. Let’s first talk about character development, because it is important for a less well known hero.

We have the comedian Paul Rudd as the main character, the soon-to-be Ant-Man. A likeable actor that suits the overall mood of this movie – fun. Then Michael Douglas, whom I presume is the star power behind this movie, as Hank Pym. It is a bit odd to see him on the good side, although in the realm of Marvel Universe, the line between good and evil is often blurred out. Lastly, the charming Evangeline Lilly from Lost who plays Hope, the daughter of Hank Pym. They have done a good job in unfolding the story, just about.

This trio is definitely not your everyday heroes running around on the street of Manhattan saving civilians. Ant-Man is not one of those superhero movies. If the scriptwriters were to stick to the original comic book plot, this movie would have looked something like this as taken from Marvel Heroes the online game website (this also explained one of the ending scenes in the movie).

Though a brilliant electronics expert, Scott Lang had made his share of bad decisions. Having served time in prison for burglary, Scott would return to his life of crime in order to save his terminally ill daughter, Cassie. Stealing the Ant-Man suit from Hank Pym, Scott would use the suit to save Dr. Erica Sondheim, the only doctor capable of saving Cassie from her heart condition. Once he realized that Scott was only trying to do the right thing, Hank Pym not only let Scott keep the suit, but gave him his blessing as the brand new Ant-Man!

So here lies the real challenge with Ant-Man the movie. Stealing a suit to save one’s daughter doesn’t seem as big as a deal comparing to saving the world. How faithful should the script sticks to the original story? Some fans may be even rooting for Hank Pym as the Ant-Man. Fear not. I reckon there will be a Ant-Man Original one day. Another era, another reboot.

Meanwhile, did we enjoy watching Ant-Man? We do. It is fun and entertaining. Just when the scene becomes serious, one actor would crack some jokes and we laughed, in between tears and what not. The visual effect of Ant-Man shrinking and collaborating with his troop of ants is well made. The fight scene that takes place around children toys is hilarious. Just don’t expect Ant-Man as your usual save-the-world kind of superhero movie.

This Is Why Everyone Needs A Tech Support Buddy

I don’t envy the tech support folks. Everyone has a tech support friend on speed dial. I have a few too. My buddy JP is a cool dude. His girlfriend though, being in the same department as mine, one day gave me a strange look and said to me, “because of you, my boyfriend dropped whatever he was doing with me and texted with you!”

Nah. Just kidding. She is cool too, though I was being threatened to be on her black-list time and time again.

Lots of fans!

As you know, technical issues seldom happen in isolation. Domino effect is part of the game. AMD has recently update Catalyst Center to version 15.20, getting ready for Window 10 – which I care less. My in-game video recorder Action! fails to launch. I read up on the forum and it is due to this new driver. So I downgraded my video driver with an old installation and all of a sudden, my screen would turn black while the computer (and my game) would still be running.

Oops. My graphic card Sapphire R9 270X 4GB is still brand new. I quickly updated my video driver back to the latest version (after making a video on Venom). Problem persisted! That’s no good. Once the screen goes black, I have to cold start my machine. Ugh.

This went on for quite some time. Could it be the game Marvel Heroes I am playing? Not compatible with the latest AMD video driver? I switched to Tera Online. Everything seemed fine. I returned to Marvel Heroes, turned all setting to low and it worked. The moment I turned a knot up, black screen came to visit.

Could it be my graphic card then? Running out of options and opinions, I texted my tech support buddy JP. His first response was, “check if anything is loose”.

After 3 hours of going back and forth, testing for all scenarios, it turns out that one of the two power cables has come loose. I secured the connection and everything works beautifully like before.

JP’s girlfriend must be really hating me right now. I am so ready to face her wrath this coming Monday in office.

 

Visiting Singapore River Safari, Again

Recently, my parents from Hong Kong visited my wife and I in Singapore. And I took them to River Safari. I had no idea what the visit would be like and did not want to risk bringing my DSLR camera with me (river safari sounds wet to me).

My wife loves red panda.
My wife loves red panda.

As it turns out, I should have brought along my 70-200mm lens. The pair of red pandas are overwhelming cute. My wife loves them. Next to the red pandas is an area for the pair of giant pandas. To be frank, both of us are more of a red panda fan.

This time round, knowing that my mother-in-law is visiting us, I bought 3 tickets to River Safari using corporate discount. The great thing about River Safari is that there isn’t much walking. While the entire area is pretty compact, it does pack with fish and animals. The presentation is good. The park brings awareness on some of the species of the world that we seldom think of in this urban jungle. I think more people should pay a visit.

These are squirrel monkeys. They move fast!
These are squirrel monkeys. They move fast!

In my last visit, we did not get to drop by the squirrel monkey area. My wife Cynthia is not a big fan of monkeys. In contrary, I am. As I took pictures of these monkeys, through my telescopic lens, I saw these monkeys constantly peeing and pooping. We ought to watch out for where we stand.

Also in my last visit, we were unable to take the boat ride – River Quest – due to raining condition. Prior to today’s visit, I have checked the weather forecast and it is hazy all the way. That’s good news. Without much thinking, we spent S$5 per person for the ride. Today is a working day so the queue was empty. Three of us had the boat for our own. We didn’t get to see many animals. And the ride was a bit too fast, a bit too short. The only good photo we have taken was a selfie using my wife’s wireless phone. Having said that, my mother-in-law said that it was an experience of a lifetime. Good for her!

All in all, a delightful day, visiting Singapore River Safari on my birthday. 24 photos of the day can be seen via this link.

Last attraction, the otters.
Last attraction, the otters.

The Avengers Age of Ultron – More Than Action

My wife and I always look forward to a Marvel movie and catch up with our friends who also play the online game Marvel Heroes. This time round, Dave and Zep showed up. I booked the tickets way before the show, when the duo were still holidaying in Australia.

Avenger Age of Ultron

I must admit, since I am not actually a comic book reader, having played a Marvel game helps a lot in my understanding or rather a glimpse of what Marvel universe is all about. In that sense, this movie makes perfect sense to me. For those who may not have any background on Marvel, I would imagine that the storyline could be slightly confusing at times.

Here is a screenshot taken from the game’s login screen. Those who have watched the movie would immediately be able to relate this to the opening scene. This shows the effort Marvel has put in to promote their movies from all possible channels, including video games.

Age of Ultron login screen from Marvel Heroes

Back to the movie, it is a great follow-up to the first Avenger. Captain America, Ironman, Thor, and Hulk together with Black Widow and Hawkeye forms the Team Avengers. Ultron, the artificial intelligence is the villain. Then, enter the mutant twins Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. I like the black humor Ultron has. What I like most though is the side of vulnerability from all these heroes. Some sort of depth to the movie, and not just action and special effects.

This movie is long. 141 minutes. Each hero has given enough airtime to shine. Never a dull moment. I enjoy watching this thoroughly.

My Marvel Heroes Videos

One of my all time passion is video gaming. I have a wonderful dad who back in the early eighties bought a personal computer for me, played video games with me, and wrote computer programs (more like copy and paste from magazines) with me.

One of the games I often play recently is Marvel Heroes. Here is my playlist. It is a fun game and I have started populating my YouTube channel with content from Marvel Heroes. Now, YouTube does not seem to be that great when it comes to organizing videos. Hence, what I wish to do is to list down my major videos by category. And I will update this page as and when I publish videos. Click a button below to begin.

New Player GuideGame GuideHero GuideMisc

New Player Guide

Back to top

Game Guide

Back to top

Hero & Team-up Guide

Team-Ups

Back to top

Misc

Jupiter Ascending – The Good, The Bad, And Everything In Between

Do The Wachowskis manage to recreate the success they have with The Matrix in Jupiter Ascending? The short answer is no. But if you are a fan of sci-fi, this movie can be pretty entertaining and exciting to watch in parts. Somewhere in the middle though, one dude fell asleep in the cinema and snored very loudly. I don’t blame him. Luckily I had a good night sleep the day before.

Yep, it is Jupiter Ascending.

The story is very promising. Three alien siblings together they own the galaxy through capitalism. They populate the planet with species and once the planet is overpopulated, they harvest the entire local inhabitants in order to manufacture an essence that restores youth for profit. Time is the currency most sought after at the pinnacle of technology. These enterprises are to be blamed for the extinction of dinosaurs in Earth. Who am I to complain?

The mother of the siblings – the queen of the galaxy – was murdered by one of her children long, long time ago. Millenniums later, she is reincarnated as an earthling named Jupiter Jones played by Mila Kunis. One sibling sends in agents to assassinate this new queen-to-be. Another sibling sends in a hunter played by Channing Tatum to protect or capture Jupiter, depending on how you see it. The third sibling sends in agents to kidnap her. In the mist of all these chaos, Earth is due for harvesting. Can Jupiter Jones who cleans wealthy households for a living save the world?

The movie started off OK with Jupiter Jones going about with her chores, very much like Neo in The Matrix. Very soon, audience are bombarded by over the top CGI effect that is very nice to look at, but with little soul in it. There isn’t much character development at that point. And when it does, without the CGI, the drama between each siblings and the main characters seems dull and low key. Audience are on the fence waiting for the next bang to arrive.

The last part of the movie is in fact pretty good. Now that the context is established, the CGI strikes an emotional core. This movie does end in a high note.

Onto the acting, Channing Tatum is doing well (also one of the reasons why I catch this movie). It is hard to fall in love with Mila Kunis’s acting though. Side by side with Channing, Mila doesn’t seem to be at the same level. Then again, it is relatively hard to fall in love with a character that starts off cleaning houses and there isn’t really a moment in the story for her to transform into someone great. She inherits the title of the queen of galaxy in a rather unceremonious fashion. Not to mention the character doesn’t have new-found ‘power’ (they should have expanded on the bee controlling thing). Jupiter Jones suppose to be witty. But the way she foils the evil plots of the siblings is just … elemental. It doesn’t demonstrate how smart she is. So, what is there to love Jupiter Jones the character besides those big beautiful eyes?

For what it is worth, the movies does tell me one thing. Capitalism is bad, for the galaxy.

Fifty Shades of Grey: Movie Better Than The Book?

You know that odd creepy feeling whereby as the film rolls, each scene reminds you vividly pages from a book that you have read long time ago? Down to the dialogues, the expression, and everything in between? I just had that odd creepy feeling tonight. Oh, that lip biting.

Yep, that much talked about movie.

Many years ago, I was curious. So I picked up Fifty Shades and wanted to know what the hype was about. I didn’t quite enjoy it. As an erotic novel, it is not that steamy. As a literature, it is not that classy. I don’t recall being able to even finish one book.

I didn’t plan to watch Fifty Shades in cinema. I wouldn’t know of its opening if not for an article from CNN I’ve read today. Something to do with the fire department reminding the people to keep the keys handy when using handcuffs. Each ‘rescue’ costs around $500 and it could become costly to the taxpayers.

But I love the soundtrack of this movie. Ellie Goulding’s Love Me Like You Do is easily my favorite. Then there are Annie Lennox, Beyoncé, Sia, Skylar Grey, and The Rolling Stones – just to name a few. That is one of my motivation to watch this film.

I had pretty low expectation when I walked into the cinema this evening, with my wife. Many things could have gone wrong with sadomasochism. It could have been at best awkward to watch, at worst I could have been disgusted by the content. Fortunately, it is nothing of that sort.

It is artistic to me. I can sense the chemistry between Christian and Anastasia. I can also relate – or rather observe – the emotional complexity of the both. A dominant figure like Christian could invoke hate from the audience. A submissive figure like Ana could invoke disdain. But I don’t end up disliking the characters. I get why the characters are doing what they are doing. I am convinced. That is most important I guess, though I am not agreeable with the topic of sadomasochism.

I enjoy its authenticity to the book. I enjoy the film better because I can better visualize the glamour and beauty. The film also makes use of clever transition when dealing with some rather boring stuffs from the book. Like that contract.

Both main characters have great body and the filming is artistic. I have no idea how long the actors have practiced on the S&M scenes. I certainly would have no clue how to use those ‘toys’ with such fluidity. Make no mistakes though. This is not porn. If you are looking for the eroticism within, you are likely to be utterly bored.

Ubin Island 2015 – A Journal

Today is one of those miraculous days whereby I was able to have a decent sleep. Our Filipino neighbors upstairs still banging doors early in the morning, like every morning. Except perhaps when the Pope was in Philippines. They must have flown back for a religious pilgrimage. I was briefly awoken this morning and promptly went back to sleep.

By nine plus, my wife was bored of being my bolster and has started playing with her phone, on our bed. Shortly after she got out of the bed, I followed suit.

We woke up to a beautiful Saturday morning. It was sunny, yet the breeze was gentle to the skin. I had an idea. Why don’t we have dim sum in the east and then take a ferry to Ubin island? It was so impromptu, so spontaneous. Cynthia did not see it coming. Just like that, I have successfully postponed our housecleaning chore to tomorrow.

We were lucky. We didn’t take too long to find a parking space, didn’t have to wait long for a ferry to Ubin island, in fact, didn’t need to wait for a ferry back. It was as though all our stars are aligned, on this very day.

I had no idea that we have an oil rig in Singapore!
I had no idea that we have an oil rig in Singapore!

The boat ride to Ubin island was short, S$2.50 per person. We passed by an oil rig, or what appears as one. I had no idea that Singapore is sitting on top of an oil field. Back in our Tasmania holiday 2013, I vowed to teach Cynthia how to ride a bicycle with gear. Today was the day.

The rental bikes in Ubin island are not great. We paid S$15 for two, which retrospectively speaking, it was a rip off. As someone who was capable in taking the bike apart and assemble the parts back, as someone who once cycled from Oxford to Edinburgh in UK many years ago, I would say: these bikes are crap. The alignment is off. The gear component is badly maintained. Having said that, throw Arthur a butcher’s knife and I reckon he can still slay a dragon (Merlin!). I rode the life out of my crappy rental bike. And I got to see a wild boar, as my reward.

A wildlife in Singapore, wild boar.
A wildlife in Singapore, wild boar.

Cycling in Ubin could be challenging, especially for the untrained or in my case, the unfit. But I have always enjoyed overcoming an up-slope. It is all about rhythm, breathing, and will power. A lot of will power in fact when my bike refused to switch gear at that crucial moment.

I have no idea if my wife enjoyed the experience because it is kind of physically demanding. She seems to cope pretty well. I am so proud of her.

A beach or a sandy shoreline near the jetty pier.
A beach or a sandy shoreline near the jetty pier.

We cycled all the way to the east until we have reached wetland, where we met the wild boars and large monkeys. These monkeys are much bigger than the ones we have in the mainland. We then cycled back to town and rested near a sandy shoreline, by a police post. We could go west. Or we could go north. I picked north because I wanted to see how close we are to Malaysia.

Unfortunately, the shoreline was out of bound due to erosion. I took a picture in the area nonetheless.

If the shoreline is to erode further, this building could be at risk!
If the shoreline is to erode further, this building could be at risk!

I thought of cycling to the west. But we could save that for another day. By the time we reached the mainland, it was dinner time. We picked a Thai restaurant nearby. The food was sort of salty and spicy. But we were too hungry to be of concern.

Our cycling route in Ubin island.
Our cycling route in Ubin island.

HK 2014 Day 7 – My Family And Last Day Of Our Holiday

My four-year-old niece Bethany is extremely competitive. As it turns out, I do have a thing or two to learn from her.

Ever since she is aware of the concept of gender (one day she returned from a child care center saying boys have long long things), her instinct has taken over. When she was at her younger sister’s age, she was very much attached to me. Right now? It is all about girls power. She forms a team with my wife so as to beat me in all front. If I were at her age, I would have met her head on. Now I play along. It is a win-win.

Today was all about racing. So Bethany and my wife ran ahead of me as the group was heading towards the train station. Whenever she looked back at me, I always pretend to make an effort to race. When she was not looking, I casually chatted with my mother in walking pace. My dad, as always, was miles ahead of us reaching the station way before we did.

Then we made a wrong turn and having to make a u-turn. Which means all of a sudden I was way ahead of the girls power duo! At that very moment I was curious on how Bethany would react. That sense of wasted effort, so much disadvantaged when she was leading the race all the time. She did not think. Instinct has taken over. I could sense that fire of determination written all over her face. Without missing a single beat, she grabbed my wife’s hand and screamed, “Run!” even as I turned away and pretended to capitalize on this very advantage. I let the duo ran past me, of course. I hope Bethany has learned an important lesson in life to never give up. I too am very much inspired by her. She would enjoy watching Formula One with me when she has grown older.

My niece Lydia

My one-year-old niece – Lydia – is a natural charmer. It is impossible not to fall in love with her in first sight. She would all of a sudden gesture a flying kiss to a lady nearby. The stranger would first be taken aback (how cold real life is, come to think on it) and then reciprocate with a big smile. Lydia would then wave and say bye bye. Those who are briefly touched by her good gesture would agree with me that she is indeed a little angel on earth.

Inspiration Lake, Hong Kong

Because the police was clearing the areas where protesters had camped, we headed to Lantau Island and have avoided town. We did not enter Disneyland. That would have cost a bomb. Instead, we have visited the Inspiration Lake nearby that comes with a pretty decent playground. In fact, all the playgrounds I have seen in Hong Kong are pretty decent, built for kids of various ages in mind. Unlike the basic tiny ones we have in Singapore.

A playground near Inspiration Lake

In the evening, we popped by an Indian / Western restaurant at Tong Chong – a town next to Disneyland and a stone throw to the airport. My cousin works there as a bartender. It is hard to describe this cousin of mine. He is the youngest in our generation. While he may not have done particularly well in school, he has inherited his father’s trait of being extremely sociable. He holds his liquor well. He smokes like his father does. He says the right thing to make everybody happy. He cracks jokes. In short, he is a party man.

Today I get to see another side of his. He came all the way out from his restaurant duty to meet us at the station. The walk took a quarter of an hour. He handled the kids extremely well. Knowing nothing in the menu would suit a one-year-old, before he started work at four, he bought fish porridge from a shop nearby and has it heated up once Lydia was awake while we were having our dinner. He carried Bethany to the bar area and took her for a short tour of the kitchen. He even offered to pick up the bill, which we politely declined. I wish I have more time and opportunity to bond with this cousin of mine. But our paths seldom cross. Such is life.

Tomorrow my wife and I will return to Singapore. My sister and her family will stay on till next Wednesday. Cynthia and I both think it is a brilliant idea to have a family holiday like this one. Since my mother will be the only one to send us off from the hotel, at the station, we bid our goodbye to my dad. My dad seldom talks these days because he is too old to hear properly. But words are not necessary. His teary-eyed expression said it all.

Another view from Inspiration Lake

HK 2014 Day 6 – Rather Pointless Gossips That I’ve Picked Up

Perhaps Singaporeans prefer to be alone and communicate quietly using our electronic devices. Or maybe Singapore just doesn’t have that many gossips. In contrary, you can quite easily pick up gossips or news simply by being out there here in Hong Kong.

Like this 15 years old girl found inside a rubbish bin, dead. She was with a man in his mid thirty, inside a hotel room likely to be in some sorts of S&M sex game while being paid for the whole ordeal. Or was supposed to. That is the gist of the story I got from a short escalator ride at Times Square. What was amusing to me turns out to be the insightful debate between the two women behind me. Was the young girl being rapped after she was dead (the quick correction came from the other woman saying that it was consensual)? And that the man was having sex with a corpse? What kind of man does that?

The other day while waiting for our Chinese medicine to be assembled for what seemed an eternity, a young man was gossiping about his younger brother to an older woman. The gist of the story is that his younger brother is in love with a girl who is rather successful in her career. So her criteria of a partner turn out to be pretty high. Like someone with a reputable profession such as a doctor or a lawyer. Or in a commercial world, director rank and above. On top of that, other criteria on housing and car. What happens to the notion of building a future together, the young man exclaimed. At that point, I really wanted to turn around, chip in and say, “Perhaps quite simply put, the girl is not that into your younger brother?”

I did not offer my thought. However I could not help but think, what if I were a girl, with a successful career, would I not set some criteria looking for my partner? I know as a guy, I did not. Then again, it is not a fair comparison I suppose. What do you think?

HK protesters occupying Causeway Bay

Occupy Central or the umbrella movement is still very much alive in Hong Kong. Some main roads are still closed with protesters peacefully camping in the open. I was in Causeway Bay and have witnessed the situation firsthand. According to the news, all may come to an end tomorrow. The authority this time is using law as the leverage since these protesters are being sued by the public. I will be in Hong Kong when this happens. No, I do not plan to dive into ground zero and take some pictures. My family plans to avoid the city center and head to Lantau Island for sightseeing instead. I seconded that in a heartbeat.

If I am to describe my holiday in three words, that would be eat, shop, and walk. We eat till we drop, shop till we drop, and quite literally so, walk till we drop. Today is no difference. Our luggage is getting fatter by the day while our wallets, thinner.

Cynthia and I at Lee Gardens HK