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

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Game Guide

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Hero Guide

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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

HK 2014 Day 5 – Playground And We Had A Small Pig And A Giant Fish For Dinner

Playground has once left a bitter aftertaste to my childhood so much so that my prior fond memories have been thoroughly wiped off leaving that one scene I vividly recall. I was on a swing. I went higher and higher, faster and faster thinking I could reach the moon if I tried hard enough. How? I do not remember. But I flew off from the seat and landed badly onto the concrete ground. My mother was in shock.
My legs were covered with so much blood. There was so much pain. In my mother’s arms I kept crying till I reached home. Or was I on my dad’s? No doubt I had tons of playground related fond memories before that incident. But that painful and bloody accident was the very last thing I associate playground with. Since then, my scar has long faded. But memory remains.

The Peak, Hong Kong

Today, the entire family has decided to visit the peak. In the old days we were used to take the cable car. Now we take bus number 15 – the only bus that reaches the peak. Initially I thought we would hike up and go around the peak. Instead, we stopped at the new Mount Austin Road Playground. The decoration is pretty. Beautiful backdrop of fountains and buildings and this playground has attracted even couples for their wedding photo shoot.

One of the backdrops

My dad has decided that this is a good place for the kids to play. Hooray! I thought I could take a back seat at the bench and enjoy the fresh air and scenery. Hong Kong has been cloudy since we landed and at times drizzles. In a rare moment, it was sunny. The sky was blue. The weather was much warmer. At the bench I took out my bottle of water and my tablet ready to …

My younger niece Lydia just over a year old kept asking for me. That smile of hers melt my heart. Her sister Bethany three years of her senior kept asking me to be an alien and chase down young girls. The two girls went up the slide and down the slide, running all over the playground nonstop. The moment I tried catching my breath, they called for me. I had no idea that having kids can be so exhausting. I hope the two girls remember that once upon a time in Hong Kong, this uncle of theirs has spent time playing with them. That they have a much better memory of the playgrounds compared to mine.

Mount Austin Road Playground

In the evening, my family had dinner with my uncle’s. My uncle is my mother’s younger brother and he has two sons. I do not recall when was the last time the two families have dinner together, with everyone presents. We are closer to this uncle than another uncle of mine. The elder cousin was raised by my mother and with my sister and I. My uncle has sponsored my overseas education and now, my mother has helped to fund his business.

In short, the two families are very much intertwined in a good way.

Barbaric as it sounds, between ten adults and two children, we had one young pig, a huge live fish in excess of five kilograms in weight cooked in three styles, and a large clay pot rice with preserved meat. Plus fruit and dessert. Man, I am stuffed and am still feeling so as I type this journal.

HK 2014 Day 4 – The Rhythmic Moaning That Rocked My Dream And A Visit To Grandma’s Resting Place

I was in a deep sleep with my arm wrapped around my wife when the loud rhythmic moaning sound from one of the hotel rooms nearby woke me up. The dream up until its immature end was nothing short of epic. It bettered the Korean drama Doctor Jin when a male doctor incidentally went back in time and attempted to change or rather preserve the history. It bettered another Korean drama that I adore called either The Great Doctor or Faith depending on who translated the title. A stunningly beautiful female plastic surgeon was kidnapped by an equally handsome male warrior from the past so as to treat a soon to be dead princess, and a series of adventure that follows. In my dream, a group of doctors – myself included – were put into another time line so as to – wait for it – save ourselves! But no. I did not get to dream the ending because our neighbors moaned so hard.

She went on and on. When the sound died down, I thought it was over only to hear the accelerated rhythm with more intense moaning sound. I could even tell the position the couple was in by the sound of it. Anyway, eventually, all came to an end. There was sound of the showering and then, the door was opened. Someone left the room. That was odd of course. A few scenarios came into my mind. Something is best left as imagination. With effort, I went back to sleep and seemed to have lost contact with my fellow doctors from another timeline. I hope the operation without me has gone well.

You can almost guess what my family had for breakfast. Dim sum. It was a rather late breakfast. By the time we called the bill, it was past noon. My sister has planned to meet her friend Amy because today is her birthday. The kids stayed home with daddy. My dad was being assigned to do grocery shopping. That left my wife, my mother, and I to stick with the original plan – to pay respect to my departed grandma.

It was twenty years ago when my grandma left us. I did not have much bonding with her mainly because the traditional side of her flavored the boys from her sons and not from her only daughter. As I get older, I also realize that my grandma is still my mother’s mom. The love my mother has for my grandma is no less than my love for my mother. Hence, in a way, I can relate.

Sha Tin has a mixture of old and modern buildings

The three of us bought some flowers from the wet market. I insisted on paying as a good gesture though technically speaking, my mother’s money partially comes from me. The temple is located in Sha Tin, a satellite city in Hong Kong. Back in the old days, it was a pain to travel to Sha Tin from where we live. Now, we took the subway and changed at Admiralty. Then headed north and changed at Mongkok. Thereafter, made another change at Kowloon Tong. There, we switched to the train, which very much looks like the underground version and aligned at Sha Tin. Sha Tin seems far from the city.

It was a pleasant hike up the stairs and into the temple. The main attraction are the Buddha statues at the main hall. Devoted ones burn joss sticks. Tourists take pictures. Further up, there are a number of open halls with three walls and no door. From the high ceiling to the ground, the walls are covered with rectangular jade plates of different sizes. Most belong to the standard size. Some are doubled, horizontally so. A few are quadrupled. Each plate has one or two photos in the center. In the midsection of three walls is a divider in the form of a small platform. My mother arranged the flowers and placed the vase on the platform underneath my grandma’s resting place, together with some food offerings. It was an emotional moment. I felt tears at the back of my eyes. I saw my mother’s eyes have grown red too. Today was my first visit to my grandma’s resting place.

A mall near the Sha Tin station

There are malls in Sha Tin. My mother took a bus back to home while Cynthia and I stayed for some shopping. There are so many shops in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is indeed shoppers’ paradise. I dislike shopping. But still, the atmosphere here got me excited. It takes a ton of willpower not to spend too much in Hong Kong.

Oh. There is a home for Snoopy in Sha Tin too.

Snoopy lives in Sha Tin, apparently

HK 2014 Day 3 – Hotel Free Wi-Fi That Follows Wherever You Go And Shopping in Hong Kong

When I think of free Wi-Fi that comes with a hotel room, I imagine being able to access the Internet from inside the room. So when the young female receptionist on our first day of visit getting all excited to demonstrate how to set up a Wi-Fi hotspot using an Android device (that resembles a smartphone) provided by the hotel, the only thing that came into my mind was why go through all the trouble to connect to the Internet?

This morning I examined the hotel smartphone again. It looks like an ordinary phone, with a 3G connection. What if I am to bring this hotel phone out with me? That was when I discovered that this free Wi-Fi that comes with the room actually follows me whenever I go here in Hong Kong! Not only that, local call through this phone is free. Overseas call to seven countries including US, Singapore, and Malaysia is also free. Calling my room through the main line would have the call forwarded to this smartphone. Now, that’s pretty neat. The hotel does charge for high speed wireless Internet from within the room though. I think that is fair.

Today is Sunday. My sister has planned to meet some of her friends who also have kids. My wife and I then met with my parents and have lunch in Tsim Sha Tsui instead.

This landscape remains despite the changes in HK.

Tsim Sha Tsui is in Kowloon. There is a ferry service that connects my home district to Tsim Sha Tsui. The old pier was demolished with the new one built merely a couple of hundred meters to the right. If it was another country, whatever construction planned would have built around the old pier. But here in Hong Kong, where people are rich and land is scarce, relocating a pier by a stone throw is very much like playing the SimCity game – demolish and build it on the next block.

Tsim Sha Tsui has changed a little bit. There is a ex-marine police headquarter being repurposed as an upclass shopping area. Tourists love the shops. Kids love the Christmas decorations on the ground floor. There was a Christmas market in the backyard selling all sorts of food and drinks and more – from exotic cheese to champagne to handicrafts. I have spotted a turret on the high ground. Before I could check out its authenticity, we were shooed away by a young man wanting to take a selfie. In fact, so many people are into selfie these days. What happens to the good old days of asking someone to take a photograph for you? I love to be asked. There was a couple having their wedding photo professionally taken as well.

An ex-marine police HQ

It was not the first time we dined in that Macau restaurant. My mother is a big fan of Macau food, probably because she was once brought up in Macau. Between the four of us, we have ordered curry beef, baked pork chop rice, two roasted young pigeons, and two pork chop buns. To wrap up our meal, we have Portuguese egg tarts and coffee. It was a delicious lunch with a real good price. Throughout our meal, I was eyeing on the Boston lobster noodle for two promotion selling at a special price of HK$198. That is like S$34 or US$26. I thought the price is really good.

Shopping in Tsim Sha Tsui – the area for the ‘common people’ like my wife and I – is fun. In fact, shopping in Hong Kong is more fun than in Singapore. The variety is mind-blowing. I have checked some of the pricing against the online outlets, the retail price is fair. Unlike in Singapore whereby the markup is horrible.

There was an Audi roadshow in the middle of a mall. I was captivated by R18 e-tron quattro. That was the only car that no one was allowed to get in.

Audi R18 e-tron quattro