Thursday, December 26, 2013

47 Ronin Movie Review

47 Ronin, a movie with a lot of special effects starring Keanu Reeves.

There is not much plot to this one dimensional movie about Bushido and Samurai honor in a fantasy magical setting.

There are some enjoyable and exciting bits in the movie, and the effects are relatively well done. The cast is pretty good as well, but the choice of using a tale that is some what based on some pseudo Japanese legend, and trying to include some Japanese Culture into the whole story does not do it for me.

Not to be a purist, but everyone speaking English in a bad Japanese accent, and having weird semi-realistic Japanese Seppukku scene, and then an unrealistic one at the end does not do it for me.

I am totally fine if this movie was over the top surreal as there is already magic involved, and having it based on some fantasy story would do ok, but trying to make it like some form of Japan Samurai Spirit worship movie with actors speaking in a bad Japanese accent feels slightly offensive to me.

The movie however was pretty enjoyable although it was pretty straightforward, samurai getting honor back movie.

Not much more to say really... Its Keanu Reeves doing what Keanu Reeves does.

Overall, 5/10

Watch it in a matinee or something with friends to have fun, or not watch it at all....

-- Robin Low

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - Movie Review

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

This movie is the second part of the trilogy. If you have watched the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, this movie has more action than just "trying to get somewhere"

Overall, there are 2 scenes which are memorable. The barrel fight scene is simply amazing. It showed you the coordination between the Dwarves, the plate throwing scene from Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is now an axe throwing scene where the Dwarves use an axe, throwing it to another Dwarf who continue to chop at a log over them as they flow down a river in barrels. The scene was fun, exciting and amazing.

This movie though, more than 161 minutes, did not feel long at all. If you like Lord of the Rings, you will like this movie. Strangely, the relationship between Tauriel and Kili was explored here, which I did not understand. Was there a need for the love interest angle?

I like the way this movie bring you back to the reason why Bilbo was chosen... As a burglar to steal an item... And he will take it... From a Dragon.

And yes! There is a Dragon! The second scene is the meeting with Smaug. Indeed the journey reached the destination when they entered the mountain and met the Dragon, and the set / effects in the undermountain was amazing.

I liked the movie overall, however, I did not expect the movie to end with such a cliffhanger. It felt too much like, "Please give me your money for the third movie" rather than a complete movie. For that, this is not a complete movie for which I will not rate.

-- Robin

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Star Wars - Balance of the Force Review

If you play the Star Wars Living Card Game, then you are familiar with this game.

Basically, the Star Wars LCG - Balance of the Force is a new expansion for multiplayer.

This game has rules that allow for a 3 or 4 player scenario.

Jerjerrod's Task is a dark side challenge that pits a single dark side player against a team of either 2 or 3 light side players. The dark side player uses a pre-constructed Jerjerrod's Task (included in the set) and each light side player plays their own constructed decks.

In this scenario, the dark side player uses the dark side dial as normal, but it is only used to reduce the cost of the card, Death Star II. The dark side player wins by completing the win condition printed on Death Star II card and not just the dial alone.

The hunt for Skywalker is a light side challenge that pits a single light side player against a team of either 2 or 3 dark side players. The light side player uses a pre-constructed Hunt for Skywalker (included in the set) and each dark side player plays their own constructed decks.

In the scenario, there are 3 rows of objective cards for the dark side players to "search for skywalker" and when the "Return to Tatooine" card is revealed, Luke Skywalker comes into play and the dark side wins if Skywalker is destroyed.

There are also multiplayer rules and new cards in this set, however, as all the objective sets are "Limit: 1 per objective deck" There is no reason to get 2 copies of this set.

Overall, this set does include a lot of things, and does not really add a lot to the Single player version of this game.

I would give this set a 7/10 as the multiplayer rules seemed quite interesting and I need to play more to find out.

-- Robin Low

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Microsoft Surface Review (If you are thinking of getting a cheap one)

I bought my Microsoft Surface on Black Friday 2013 (Not Surface 2) because finally, it is at the price I want to pay. If there are more deals coming up and you can pick one up for cheap, here is my review to help you decide.

Firstly - Looks (Exterior)

You can check it out at the Microsoft store, The Microsoft Surface looks like the Surface 2, just that the built in stand has only 1 height. Still, its looks pretty good and functional. It is rather slim and feels well built and solid.

The Specifications.

Here is the low-down that made me buy the 32GB Surface (For $200+ Tax)

1) 64GB MicroSD Card Slot (Turns your Tablet into a 96GB machine for a low cost. (I bought a SanDisk 64GB MicroSD for $35)

2) FULL SIZE USB -- OMG this is useful

3) HD Video Out -- With adapters, you can connect it to a HDMI TV or a computer monitor.

4) Bluetooth 4.0

5) A/B/G/N wireless

6) Resolution: 1366x768 (not too bad but not full HD)

What does it include?

It includes a full browser, (Can play Flash Video)
Microsoft Office 2013 - Word, Powerpoint, Excel, Outlook, Onenote


Initially, I did not really like the Windows 8, it felt unpolished, and FLAWED. And since the Windows 8.1 update is available, why not go for 8.1?

Here are some instructions to update your poorly made Windows 8 to Windows 8.1
->Microsoft Link<- br="">

I must say, Windows 8.1 is much better.


After testing for a few days and a few charging cycles, here are my thoughts.


- Good enough battery life (played 4 hours of music, 2 hours of surfing and downloads after standby for 2 days)
- Free FULL MS Office 2013!!
- Quick Startup, no wait
- Good size and looks
- Good price
- Very AWESOME Facebook App, better than PC version.
- Plays MP3s (Unlike Apple)

- Downloading Windows 8.1 (2GB) takes Forever!
- Not a lot of apps available for Windows RT (Some work on Windows 8.1 only not RT)
- After getting Windows 8.1, Facebook and a Twitter app, my 32GB Surface has 15GB storage remaining.
- Not really that light, when you carry it and use it, it makes your fingers tired.
- Surface Pro Pen does not work on the Surface RT (disappointed)
- Turning on Tablet is fast, restarting it is not...


I'm rather satisfied with my Windows Surface though, using it for web surfing, doing documents and listening to MP3. For it price, it is worth it.

Overall Rating 9/10 (Value buy)

-- Robin Low

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Paradisus Palma Real Review

Paradisus Palma Real is located at Bavaro, Dominican Republic.

Located close to Punta Cana Airport and the region, Paradisus Palma Realis a very popular tourist spot for Americans, Canadians and Eurpoeans.

Paradisus Palma Real is a relatively nice resort, similar to many other resorts in Punta Cana. It an all inclusive Resort, which means meals, drinks and most things in the resort is free.

The beach is fantastic for sunrise. The weather when I was there was great, warm and not too humid with an occasional rain.

The facilities.

There are lots of pools... Nice pools, shallow pools... All chlorinated though. The beach is pretty, and you cna play volleyball on the beach. The Gym is kinda small, but pretty well maintained. There is a nice spa and a casino as well.

Overall, its a great place to be for 3 days and nice to chill and have fun. The bars may need more work as they do have live music and dancers, but the song selection is not great and there are not a lot of folks in November.

The Room

The room is pretty impressive, Jacuzzi bath tub, spacious areas, big beds. Showers that shoot water at you. It comes with most things you need, except a toothbrush.

7/10 in overall as I've a few light sockets which did not work, but it made up with free beer and drinks in the fridge. Some of the knobs are missing and the room is clean, but maintenance is not really that great.

I guess, its not that new as there us a cassette deck HiFi system. The Wifi in the room works sometimes, and as the room may be located pretty far from the lobby with free WiFi, it can be rather inconvenient.

The Food

Many restaurants to choose from, but food quality is rather mediocre, something you can expect from a cruise. Although you get sushi, great cuts of beef and various other luxurious foods, the taste is just average. What a waste.

Drink are pretty ok, the Pina Colada at the Lobby Bar is tasty. As all the food is free, I can't really complain that much.

The service is not too good either, rather slow and the waiters forget things. However, most tourists do not tip, and I guess there is no incentive to work hard.

Overall, I guess its a place to chill and relax. Do not worry about the cost of meals as its all inclusive. Even room service is free!

Weather, sky and beach -- Fantastic!

-- Robin Low

Overall 8/10

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte PC10 Review

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte caught my attention when I bought and tasted the PC5 years back, and it became my favorite whisky.

Back in 2001, Jim McEwan reopened Bruichladdich, and he visited Taiwan and launched the PC5 which I tasted. I like peated Islay Malt, but I do think Ardbeg Uigeadail 17 is a little over the top on your first sip as it is just filled with so much "Peat".

So when I tried the PC5, I realized that it says heavily peated, but compared to the Ardbeg, it is not so strong. (But you can surely taste it.) Deep rich smoke, multiple layers of peat. This is what I like about the PC5, and was very surprised that this new distillery could have such tasty 5 year old whiskey.

So as they years went by, I got the PC6, PC7, PC8, and they do taste very similar to the PC5. And I just got my bottles of PC10 and I've tried it together with a friend with an open bottle. Firstly, I must say, this is a limited run with 6000 bottles. Right from my first sip, I could actually taste sherry (unlike the other Port Charlotte) and quickly followed by the peat. The sherry wood gives another dimension of richness and weight to this typically light and piercing single malt.

"Citrus, hot pepper, cocoa." Very intriguing nose sets up high levels of anticipation for the first sip, and I was not disappointed. However, I had a bigger than usual gulp, which sets of the strong alcohol alert which makes me realize what you are drinking. Adding a ball to the whiskey allows the flavor to mellow out a little, allowing you to taste the lemon or orange (and toffee?) sweetness inside.

I do like my peated flavor, and for those who think its too strong, adding an ice ball and waiting for it to chill the drink, then drinking it and letting your mouth warm up the whiskey can open up new flavors which you can enjoy.

I am pleasantly surprised and I really enjoy my PC10 Port Charlotte. Would love to get more!

-- Robin Low

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Nexus 5 Review.

GENERAL2G NetworkGSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 - all versions
CDMA 800 / 1900 - North America version
3G NetworkHSDPA 800 / 850 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100 / 900 - North America version
HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100
4G NetworkLTE 700 / 800 / 850 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100 / 2600 - North America version
LTE 800 / 850 / 900 / 1800 / 2100 / 2600
Announced2013, October
StatusAvailable. Released 2013, November
BODYDimensions137.9 x 69.2 x 8.6 mm (5.43 x 2.72 x 0.34 in)
Weight130 g (4.59 oz)
DISPLAYTypeTrue HD IPS Plus capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size1080 x 1920 pixels, 4.95 inches (~445 ppi pixel density)
ProtectionCorning Gorilla Glass 3
SOUNDAlert typesVibration; MP3, WAV ringtones
3.5mm jackYes
MEMORYCard slotNo
Internal16/32 GB, 2 GB RAM
DATAGPRSClass 12 (4+1/3+2/2+3/1+4 slots), 32 - 48 kbps
EDGEClass 12
SpeedDC-HSDPA, 42 Mbps; HSDPA, 21 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps; LTE, Cat3, 50 Mbps UL, 100 Mbps DL
WLANWi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi hotspot
BluetoothYes, v4.0 with A2DP
USBYes, microUSB (SlimPort) v2.0
CAMERAPrimary8 MP, 3264 x 2448 pixels, autofocus, optical image stabilization, LED flash
FeaturesGeo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, photo sphere
VideoYes, 1080p@30fps
SecondaryYes, 1.3 MP
FEATURESOSAndroid OS, v4.4 (KitKat)
ChipsetQualcomm MSM8974 Snapdragon 800
CPUQuad-core 2.3 GHz Krait 400
GPUAdreno 330
SensorsAccelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer
MessagingSMS(threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Mail, IM, RSS
GPSYes, with A-GPS support and GLONASS
JavaYes, via Java MIDP emulator
ColorsBlack, White
- Wireless charging
- SNS integration
- Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
- MP4/H.264/H.263 player
- MP3/WAV/eAAC+/AC3 player
- Organizer
- Image/video editor
- Document editor
- Google Search, Maps, Gmail,
YouTube, Calendar, Google Talk, Picasa
- Voice memo/dial/commands
- Predictive text input
BATTERYNon-removable Li-Po 2300 mAh battery
Stand-by(2G) / Up to 300 h (3G)
Talk time(2G) / Up to 17 h (3G)

The phone just arrived in the mail today. the 32GB version costs $399 from the Google play store.

It runs on the new Google OS, KitKat, and has an IPS 5" screen.

Out of the Box. 

The Nexus 5 is not too big. Compared to my Xperia, it has a bigger screen, but still comfortable to hold and use. The Nexus 5 looks pretty plan and simple. However, it does feel very slippery. Even though it feels well built and not as plastic as it looks, the phone feels a little slippery, but not as bad that it will fall out of your hands easily. I've placed the phone on a slightly sloped surface and the phone slides around more than my Xperia.

On the left, there is a rocker for volume, on the right, there is a power button and the MicroSim Slot. On the top, there is a regular headphone jack and the bottom there is a Nano-USB slot.

I was quite disappointed that the Nexus 5 does not have a Micro-SD Card slot. So getting the 32GB seems essential, as I have quite a bit of music which I want to access without downloading constantly.

Nexus 5 seems to have all bells and whistles all modern phones should have.

1) Wireless Charging
2) Bluetooth 4.0
3) LTE
4) Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac


The IPS full HD screen is simply beautiful. 1080 x 1920 pixels, very sharp, very beautiful.

KitKat Android 4.4

Android 4.4 on Nexus 5 is smooth and fast. "Ok Google" is a phrase to use to get Nexus 5 to search Google, however, this does not work when the screen is off or phone is locked or in the middle of an app. I've tried using the voice recognition, and it works very well, but

Overall, Android 4.4 is like a better Jellybean, some minor improvements, and on Nexus 5, it seems to work well.


The 8MP camera is ok. The camera interface is like the one on Android 4.3, but with an added feature -- HDR.

I've used the camera but not as impressed as the one on Nokia 925 or 1020.

For its price, Nexus 5 is really value for money.

Rating 8/10 (Would be better if it had micro-SD slot and a better camera system)

-- Robin Low