Kick-Ass is Kick-Ass

Hit-Girl Poster My favorite movie of the year (or maybe decade) is still Inception, but Kick-Ass comes pretty close. I had mean to watch Kick-Ass in the theaters, but never got the chance to before it went off the screen. Then I had to wait a couple months for it to show up in Netflix and even though it’s been #1 on my queue for some time, I finally got it this past week. As the title of this blog post suggests, Kick-Ass is awesome!

The story is pretty straight forward and there aren’t really any surprises. However, they were able to make the movie funny yet serious at the same time. Most movies that try to do that usually fail horribly, however they got it just right for Kick-Ass. The story is based off a graphic novel and the characters are very well developed. My favorite character like many others is Hit-Girl. There’s just something awesome about having a small girl kick ass. Add an awesome soundtrack (composed by John Murphy) and you have a formula for one of the best movies of the year.

There really isn’t much to review about the movie itself. The storyline is pretty straight forward. I did want to talk about a few other things related to the movie. I will try not to spoil (though one of song titles on the score does contain a spoiler).

After watching the movie, I knew I needed to acquire the soundtrack. I found the soundtrack on Amazon and Zune and it really just contains the songs they used in the movie and not the musical pieces that were used to build up tension and so on. Though the soundtrack does contain a couple pieces I really enjoyed:

After a bit more searching, I found out there’s a different album called Kick-Ass: The Score. I found it strange that neither Amazon, iTunes, or Zune carried it. I did find it on Amazon UK and they had the option for MP3 downloads. There are so many pieces that I enjoy off this score!

After a bit battle between Big Daddy Kills, Marshmallows, The Corridor, and Flying Home, I’ve decided Marshmallows is my favorite out of the set. Don’t be deceived by its fluffy and sweet name, Marshmallows really just refers to the scene when they used it. The song is made of pure awesome.

For awhile, the guitar riffs from The Corridor kept reminding me of another song. I finally figured out that it reminded me of 3 Doors Down – Kryptonite, which is why I probably really dig that song too.

One of my favorite lines from the movie is:

Gangster: The fuck is wrong with you, man? You’d rather die for some piece of shit that you don’t even fucking know?
Kick-Ass: The three assholes, laying into one guy while everybody else watches? And you wanna know what’s wrong with me? Yeah, I’d rather die… so bring it on!

Not sure if this is at all related to the movie, but I would like to think the movie has had some impact on me. Just 2 nights ago as I was driving home, there was a car parked in the middle of the street with its hazard lights on. I didn’t see anyone waving for help, so I wasn’t planning to stop. But as I drove past the car, I saw a young boy sitting on the curb with his face buried in his hands. Normally given how late it was (~2am) and the fact he didn’t seem to require immediate assistance, I would’ve just left him alone. But something in me kept telling me I should check on him and make sure he’s alright. I busted a U-turn, lowered my window, and asked if he needed help. He looked up and told me everything was alright and thanked me for asking. We said our farewells and I continued driving home. About a few blocks later, I saw a tow truck and I guess that was what the boy was waiting for.

If you have not seen this movie, I would highly recommend it and I can promise you that you won’t be disappointed.

Back to the Bay

First I’d like to thank Chris for being such a great host. Next I’d like to thank Dave and Lexie for showing us around Monterey Bay.

It looks like I was able to escape part of the Seattle heat wave this weekend. I flew down to the bay area to visit Chris and Dave. I’ve been meaning to visit Chris and the bay area for some time. When I went back to LA in May, Dave had mentioned he had a hapkido tournament in Berkeley sometime in August and I thought it’d be great to meet up then. After some coordination, the trip was set.

I flew into SJC. The airport was really nice and apparently I was in the new terminal because Chris didn’t even know the terminal I was at existed. On my way back, there was also a lady standing in front of my gate telling people getting off the plane that this was the new terminal and they should definitely check out the bathroom. A bit weird, but okay… It was also awesome that SJC had free wi-fi.

Ryowa

The only thing I wanted to check out in Berkeley was Ryowa, a really good ramen place. When Chris mentioned that there was a Ryowa in Mountain View, we knew we had to go there for lunch on Friday. The ramen was awesome as expected, but I was sad that the special fried chicken was only offered during dinner on weekdays. Mmmmm, special fried chicken. Next time!

Update: Forgot to mention that while eating ramen, I get an unexpected call from Derek C. Apparently he’ll be in town the same weekend Darryl and Heang are coming up. Sweet!

Santana Row

Dave and I hung out at the Valley Fair mall and Santana Row while we waited for Chris to get off work. Santana Row looked very familiar and when I saw the Maggiano’s, memories of eating there came back. It wasn’t until I saw the Ramada Inn next to Mercado that I began to piece things together. The memory is still a bit fuzzy, but Carol, Dave, and I apparently took a trip to visit the Monterey Bay aquarium a few years ago. Along the way, we thought it’d be nice to visit Chris, but it turned out he was out of town. Apparently the hotel we stayed at is literally just ~5 mins from Chris’ current apartment.

Getting Chris Drunk

The highlight of this trip was getting Chris drunk.

We had dinner at this really good Indian place in Santana Row called Amber India. After dinner, we tried looking for a quiet bar where we could sit and chat, but was unsuccessful in locating one. We opted to pick up some stuff at the supermarket and chill at Chris’ place. We picked up some rum and coke and went back to watch Role Models on Dave’s laptop. It was like back in our old college days.

Halfway through the movie, we got the munchies. Since none of us were in the condition to drive, we decided to walk to Safeway. We all took another shot before leaving. The stuff was pretty gross. I believe it was Southern Comfort. Turns out Chris is also a happy drunk and the walk to Safeway and back was filled with very fun stories. After getting back, we decided to do another round of shots. Apparently I suck at measuring shots, which turned out more like 2 shots each. I guess it didn’t help that we took shots out of mugs. ;p

I don’t think we ever finished the movie, as chatting and catching up was so much more fun. Dave passed out on the couch and after a bit more chatting, we all hit the sack.

Monterey Bay

There were originally plans to drive up to San Francisco, but being unable to decide what we wanted to do in the city, we opted instead to go down to Monterey Bay and check out Point Lobos and the Purple Beach. We met up with Lexie and she was an awesome guide! We learnt really interesting tidbits about the area, why there were currently so many seals and sea lions around the area, how to spot whales from land, what the difference between a seal and sea lion was, and so on.

Seals

Did you know that seal’s pectoral fins (flippers) are less developed compared to a sea lion? As Dave would say, seals are like sausages in the sea, flopping around. Also apparently seals don’t make much noise if any, and if you hear barking, it’s most likely from a sea lion.

Lexie’s also about to begin training sea lions and dolphins to tag sea mines which sounds so cool!

China Beach

I didn’t take any pictures on this trip so I’ve decided to steal a couple from Dave. Plus he has the nicer camera. ;p

I was sad I wasn’t able to try out Lexie’s Banana Chocolate Chip Walnut bread that Chris and Dave praised so highly about.

Before leaving Monterey, Lexie and Dave recommended Turtle Bay Taqueria for dinner. They had some really good Mexican seafood dishes. Their salsa was awesome too. They had this really hot salsa called X’nipec (meaning dog’s nose or something like that) and you just can’t stop eating that salsa, because it’ll burn like crazy.

Inception

We didn’t get back to San Jose till later in the evening. Since neither Chris nor I could ever decide on anything, I suggested watching Inception. Chris hasn’t seen it yet and I had wanted to rewatch it for some time. I also got Chris to invite his friend who had also wanted to see Inception and she joined us on the adventure.

It was just as awesome as the first time and this time I picked up on the several new parts which I had missed. I still couldn’t make out what Mal said during the train scene. I swear to god I still hear her shout, “You’re the devil.” Guess I’ll have to wait for the DVD/Blu-ray.

Things definitely close way too early in San Jose. We were trying to find a coffee shop or boba place after the movie, since how can you not have discussions about the movie after something this epic. Both Yelp and Urbanspoon failed us. Everything close by appears to be closed by 10, even on a Saturday night. Unfortunately, we had to part ways after the movie.

Half-Moon Bay

On my last day down in the bay area, I requested we go to In-n-Out for lunch. Mmmmm. It’s been years since I had In-n-Out and the burger was awesome. Zagat just released that Five Guys beat In-n-Out, taking the crown for the best fast food burger. There’s actually a couple Five Guys here in Seattle. Should definitely check them out sometime.

After lunch, we drove to Half-Moon Bay and hung out at the beach for some time. In retrospect, it would’ve been awesome to have brought a football with us or anything to throw around.

Finally it was time for me to go home. I wasn’t looking forward to returning to 90F+ weather after being in the bay area which was 78F and sunny. Look what happened to the soda can I left in my car! When I got back to my house, my thermostat registered 89F (this was at 9PM). After opening all my windows and waiting half an hour, it dropped back down to ~80F.

Final Thoughts

Listening to the Inception soundtrack and falling asleep on the plane is awesome, especially when there’s a screaming kid sitting across the aisle. According to my Zune, I’ve listened to the entire album 50+ times already.

After switching to my messenger bag, I had opt to leave out a bunch of things since there was less space compared to my backpack. However, during this trip, I realized I needed to add the following back:

  • Zune charger
  • Ethernet cable
  • USB Jump Drive

I got a bit sunburnt again, but not too bad, just a reddish hint.

It looks like I found some new travel buddies. One of the many conversations we had that night was about traveling. There’s a lot of places I would like to visit, but I hate traveling alone. Traveling with companion(s) is so much more fun as you get to share the experience. So Chris, Dave and I were talking over places we’d like to visit. (Side note: For some reason I thought Dubai was in Africa, but it’s really in the Middle East.) Anyway, we decided to start small, with places in the US (New York, D.C., Chicago, Boston, etc.) and then move onto far away lands (Australia, Asia, Europe, etc.). On a similar but unrelated note, we’re trying to plan a snowboarding trip up to Whistler in December or January.

Alice in Wonderland – Review

Alice in Wonderland Poster So I finally got to watch Alice in Wonderland this past weekend. It’s been in my Netflix queue for who knows how long (at least a couple months). I guess the Blu-ray version was much more popular than the DVD version since Chad got to watch his pretty much immediately after adding to his queue. Anyway, I’ve been hearing bad reviews about this movie, but it’s a Tim Burton film and I’m a big Tim Burton fan, so I had to watch it.

I LOVED IT! The movie was really fun. My memory of the original film is a bit fuzzy, but it looks like a retelling of the story with Alice grown up as a teenager now. Some of the names were familiar, but I did not recall that the caterpillar’s name was Absolutem nor that there was a dragon named Jabberwocky. Was there even a dragon in the original? I just remember the Red Queen’s soldiers were like playing cards and they fell down like dominoes. And you’ve gotta love the Futterwacken dancing, despite the fact I learnt that it wasn’t Johnny Depp who actually did it.

Anyway, there’s no real surprises in the movie, but just a retelling of a very similar story in a very beautiful and imaginative world.

White Queen What I wanted to talk about now is the Red Queen vs White Queen. In this movie, they made the White Queen seem a bit evil. She seems nice and pretty on the outside, but you could tell she has an evil heart. In an interview, Anne Hathaway says she portrayed the White Queen as if there were desires to be repressed, but when I was watching the movie, I took it in a different way. They were desires that she did not reveal in public. I wonder if anyone’s ever retold this story from the Red Queen’s point of view. It would definitely make for a very interesting story in my opinion.

Since the original story puts the White Queen in the good light, I’m going to assume that certain details could’ve been added/removed to put her in a better light.

Early on, you find out that the Red Queen is the eldest of the 2 siblings and that she had killed her parents and stolen the crown which they were planning on passing to the White Queen (her younger sister). However, what if the White Queen had tricked the parents into passing her the crown by acting all nice and proper? The default rule was that the eldest would become the next ruler, but the White Queen was able to use deception and trick her parents into passing the kingdom to her. The Red Queen couldn’t bear the fact that her parents were deceived by her younger sister and got into a big argument with them. In moment of passion and anger, she killed them. It could also be the fact that the parents were actually killed by the White Queen and the blame was put on the Red Queen, but that’s a much more twisted scenario.

One thing about the Red Queen is even though she is evil, she’s honest about it. Everyone knows she’s evil. She doesn’t try to hide it or wrap it up in pure white goodness. What you see is what you get. On the other hand, the White Queen may seem nice and good on the outside, but she definitely has some dark secrets repressed. The fact that she can come up with such a evil plan to chain both the Red Queen and the Red Queen’s servant (that had just tried to kill the Red Queen) and ban them for life shows you that she’s not that simple.

What about Alice? Why would she help the White Queen if she isn’t good? That comes down to the fact that Alice came into the story neutral, but were persuaded/tricked by the Mad Hatter and the White Queen herself into helping them. If you recall correctly, the Red Queen actually showed some really good hospitality to Alice, and it wasn’t until Alice tried stealing from her that she got angry and sent the dogs after her. Also the White Queen keeps telling her she doesn’t have to fight, but that’s just her trying to use reverse psychology. The Red Queen would never used such underhanded methods.

Do note, despite the fact that the Red Queen was ruler and in power for so long, she let her sister live in peace in her White Palace. Once the White Queen came into power, she banned her sister from the kingdom. Who’s the evil one here?

White Queen

Bite of Seattle + Inception

The password for the following post is: inception

Felt a bit weird to just have a post telling you the password of the following post, so I’ll talk a bit about Bite of Seattle.

Bite of Seattle was fun as usual, though also very crowded as usual. The worst part was getting off the freeway on Mercer. Finding parking wasn’t too bad once you got past the Seattle Center.

All of us got the sampling plate from The Alley which consists of a samples from 7 different restaurants in Seattle for $10:
The Alley Plate
This samples were surprisingly delicious, though I wasn’t too fond of the chilled soup.

When I first saw the Dungeness crab and Berkshire pork sausage, I thought they were cinnamon buns. The sausage was really good!
Dungeness crab and Berkshire pork sausage

We walked around a bit more and checked out some more stands. We then went to the Pacific Science Center IMAX where our movie was going to start at 8. Surprisingly the line wasn’t as long as when they were airing The Dark Knight, though it was sold out several days ago. Guess word of Inception hasn’t gotten around yet, but this movie was definitely amazingly awesome!!! It was not only really fun, but very thought provoking. Don’t want to spoil anything here, but you can check out the trailers. I’ll be making a follow-up post for discussion, and the password for the following post is: inception

2 Very Cute 3D Animation Movies

The quote “你好嗎,警察?” has been stuck in my head for over a week, but didn’t feel like it deserved it’s own post. Wonder if anyone else can immediately pick up which movie it’s from.

How to Train Your Dragon Poster I mentioned VonLobster and I went to see How to Train Your Dragon last weekend. We were originally planning to catch the 3D showing, but shopping ran a bit late and it was a good thing the 2D showing started 20 minutes later than the 3D showing. I’ve been hearing very good things about this movie and was excited to see it. And it did not disappoint!

How to Train Your Dragon is about a young Viking boy named Hiccup trying to prove himself to be a real Viking. The step into Viking manhood is to capture and kill your first dragon. However being weak and scrawny has put him at a disadvantage against the rest of the kids his age, always requiring others to save his butt. But Hiccup is an inventor and he builds a contraption that helps him captured a Night Fury, a dragon that flies so fast, no one has ever seen one or lived to tell so. The story continues on with the journey of how Hiccup develops a bond with Toothless (name he gave to the dragon). This is very much a coming of age story, yet also a story about how misunderstandings between 2 groups has led to conflict.

When I first saw the trailer, I wasn’t too impressed with Toothless as he looked nothing like a dragon that I’d imagine. However, after watching the movie, and how he moves and acts, I fell in love. He’s just so adorable and cute! When he regurgitated the fish to share with Hiccup, the first thing that popped into my head was sushi!

The story was very well told, much better than I had expected from Dreamworks. Usually good storytelling like this is what I expect from Pixar. The overall soundtrack also fitted really well with the movie. The animation was just spectacular. When Hiccup and Astrid flew on Toothless through the mountains and over the ocean, it was just breathtaking. I rated this 5/5 on Netflix.

<SPOILERS>
You’ve been warned… Reading anything between the spoilers tag may spoil the movie for you.

I thought the little romantic side story was a bit rushed, but I also felt it added a nice touch to the story. One of the reasons Hiccup wanted to capture/kill his own dragon was for the ladies, and who can blame him. I also love the fact that Toothless played a big part of getting Astrid to fall for him. It just reinforces the bond that Hiccup and Toothless share.

One thing I never did quite get was why there was only 1 Night Fury. How do they create more Night Furys? I want to see some baby Night Furys!
</SPOILERS>

Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror Poster I saw ホッタラケの島 〜遥と魔法の鏡〜 (Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror) while eating dinner last night. I first saw the trailer on Apple’s Japanese trailer site and thought it looked rather fun. This is a Japanese 3D animation if you haven’t guessed from the poster and the title of the movie. I’m generally not a big fan of Japanese 3D animation. I tend to like 2D Japanese anime more since I find 3D animation limits the style of art. However, this movie mixes both 2D drawings with 3D animation. The beautiful background and sceneries were mostly drawn in 2D, while the characters and the world were done in 3D. The 3D animation itself wasn’t shabby either. Whoever created the world did an amazing job as it was just so imaginative and fun! I understand that not everyone here understands Japanese, so here’s the trailer with English subtitles.

This is very much a kids movie. It’s about a girl named Haruka who lost her mom when she was really young. One of the things that Haruka said she’d always treasure was a mirror given to her by her mom. However like most things we treasure, we eventually forget about them. Story has it that when you forget about something, these foxes come and take it away. And that’s how we meet Teo, a fox that accidentally leads Haruka into his world, built with things that humans have forgotten about. The journey begins where Haruka decides to find the mirror her mom had given her.

So what makes this movie cute? COTTON! Cotton is a stuff animal (lamb I think) that Haruka had forgotten and abandoned awhile back. Most of my childhood stuff animals were donated by my mom, and it was so sad to see them leave. Did you ever wished your stuff animal was alive and can move and do everything your imagination said it could? Well, Cotton can!

cotton takes off his hat cotton upside down cotton sleeping cotton climbs up teo cotton sitting on bucket cotton on horse

I definitely shed some tears at different parts of the movie. The story was very well told and I enjoyed the movie a lot. Unfortunately Netflix doesn’t have this movie in their listing yet, but if they did, I would’ve given it 4/5 stars.

Netflix Customer Support

Yet another blog post?! My god…

When I first learnt that the only way to contact Netflix customer support was through phone support, I felt a bit annoyed. There’s plenty of things I would like to report/suggest via a short email or contact form, rather than wait on the phone and having to explain it in person.

So initially, I had tried to contact them through Twitter via @netflix and @Netflixhelps. Sometimes I’d get a reply within 24-48 hours. Other times my tweet would disappear into the oblivion. It wasn’t the most reliable way of contacting their support, but I wasn’t going to call just to make a suggestion.

Anyway, I made my first call to Netflix yesterday. I’m not sure what their peak hours are like, but when I called around 2-3am, the wait time was pretty much non-existent. As I mentioned yesterday, they had sent me the wrong DVD and I had reported it via their website. I also selected to have a replacement sent immediately. Unfortunately, I forgot Dexter season 3 was going to be released on Tuesday and personally would rather get Dexter first before Death Note part 1. I saw that the replacement wasn’t planned to be shipped out until Tuesday. I called in and got someone on the other end within 15 seconds. I asked him if he could cancel the replacement order as I’d like something else on my queue before it.

He said unfortunately the order’s been locked and is shipping directly from a different service center. I felt a bit disappointed, but that’s when he said, he’d give me a courtesy bonus DVD for my troubles. I said, “Awesome!” +1 for Netflix.

Tonight, after I found out that the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex feature films were just shortened versions of the TV series, I decided to watch Ghost In the Shell: Sold State Society. Unfortunately the audio/video was so out of sync, at least a few seconds. There’s been several reviews mentioning the audio/video sync issue already. Once again, the only way to report this issue was by calling in.

I called in again, once again in the middle of the night around 2am, so no waiting time involved. I mentioned the audio sync issue and the title of the film I was trying to watch and she mentions that it had been reported earlier and the technicians are already working on it. Unfortunately she couldn’t give me an ETA on when it would be fixed, but thanked me for reporting the issue.

All in all, I’m unexpectedly satisfied with Netflix customer service through the phone. The phone operators are well trained and there’s no automated phone system to navigate through. You call, enter your 6 digit code, and you get an operator. I’m a happy camper.