Looks like a good year for Toyota and Borneo

A few months back, if someone asked me what the top ten sellers' list will look like, I might have said that it was going to be pretty similar to the last year's one, some Toyotas, Hondas, plus a Merc or two and some Koreans..

Well since then, the VES now looms, and the models available have also changed. But more importantly, the prices of newly introduced ones threaten to shake up the establishment. Well one big one anyway: The Toyota Harrier.

The mid range SUV choices were going to be either Conti ones from VW, Jap and Thai ones, plus some Koreans, and if you like the Marque, the smaller GLA too.

If you like the Harrier, you had to bring it in yourself, or choose another model. And you only get the 2l NA version, which is by no means fast. Economical perhaps, but it won't give you that spirited drive. For that, you needed to go for the VFM FXT from Subaru. That is one reliable, albeit utilitarian SUV, with a true AWD, and a FC to match. But it was truly cheap, for what it offered, and you will need to be careful of your speed for it can really go.

Now with one fell swop, at 150k or so, the Harrier will make the incoming CRV and CX5 look expensive, and may even be worth a look for those who don't want a Chinese or Malaysian made Volvo XC60. It is also a close relation of the Lexus models, so it does carry some snob appeal and will take sales from the GLA or even X3.

I can't imagine a happier Borneo manager. It now has two sedans: the Corolla and Camry which can take the top ten ranks, And a SUV. Add on sales for the still popular Wish, this is a good year for Toyota. 

Just months back, it was retrenching and despite the good sales volumes, people wondered if the ultra conservative designs and the more wild but expensive CHR could sell. Now you have the answer. People who want conservative cars which are simple to run, even if they do not have all the latest gadgets can buy two sedans. The Camry actually looks decent, in an American kind of way. It won't appeal to me with the long nose and low slung body, but it may persuade the non-towkays to give it a shot.

For the family man, the Corolla still reigns supreme and as the sole sedan with no tax burden after the introduction of the VES, it may be Hobson's choice for many, especially since it will now feature more airbags and safety features.

If you have a bit more cash and aspire to a non-sedan form factor, the Harrier is a sweet ride. It won't make the true petrol heads happy perhaps, but it has that bit of dash, panache and feature set to make you part with your money.

If that still doesn't work, there's always Lexus or the electric car options.

What about the rest?
Well with the VES tax looming, there are stocks to be cleared, new models to come in, and the menu of choices will be dramatically different in the coming year. Some models will exit and yet perhaps, some companies with no cars that fit the new emission standards will also fall by the wayside.

But I for one, and betting on a top five finish for Toyota cars, and the top volume retailer for 2017. 

All in all, the latter half of 2017 is looking pretty fine for Toyota and Borneo. 

____________________________________________________________

 I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

Mercedes Stockists

Gallop Autoparts
3 Pemimpin Drive #02-05, Lip Hing Industrial Building Singapore 576147
Tel : (65) 6258 7203 Fax : (65) 6258 7395
Email : gallop@pacific.net.sg web: http://www.gallopaut.../contactus.aspx
Monday - Friday : 9am - 6pm Saturday : 9am - 1pm (Shop Open Sat but they don’t sell parts as Sat is their days stock take etc) Sunday & Public Holidays : Closed
************************************************************************
Min Ghee Auto Pte Ltd
8, Jalan Lembah Kallang, #01-01 Min Ghee Building, S339564
Tel: (65) 6298 3888 (15 Lines) • Fax:(65) 6297 0863 •
Email: info@minghee.com web: http://www.minghee.com
Mercedes Benz Department
Mr Ong Hai Choon
Tel No.: (65) 6298 9627 Fax No.: (65) 6294 1450
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Goldenlink Auto Oversea enquiries Email : enquiry@goldenlink.com.sg
Kaki Bukit Branch 1 Kaki Bukit Road 1 01-43 Enterprise One S(415394)
Tel: 6749 9323
Waterloo Street Branch
Blk 261 Waterloo Street #01-30 Singapore 180261
Tel:6337 1133 6337 1134
Sin Min Autocare Branch Block 176 Sin Ming Drive #02-19 Sin Ming Autocare Singapore 575721
Tel:6553 1101 6553 1201
**********************************************************************
Surpass Auto Parts Supplies Pte Ltd
Mr Lim
KB Industrial Building #01-33 10 Kaki Bukit Road 1 (S)416175
Tel: 67476016
***********************************************************************
Hup Soon Tat Auto Trading 
Blk 685 RACE COURSE ROAD #01-334 S(210-685) 
Tel:62947100 / 62947600
Email: hupsoontat@pacific.net.sg 

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Premier Auto Parts Pte Ltd
Blk 32 Sin Ming Drive #01-335 Singapore 575706
Tel: 6458 7833
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Tye Soon Limited
3C Toh Guan Road East Tye Soon Building S608832
Tel : (65) 6567 8101 (Sales)
Email : tyesoon1@singnet.com.sg
Another Town Office branch at: (Majority Merc Original Parts, not so much OEM parts)
Blk 261, Waterloo Street #01-31/37 Waterloo Centre, Singapore 180261
Tel: 6336 6439
*************************************************************************
Chua Auto Supply
138 Owen Road
Tel: 63920758
Eng Soon Auto Pte Ltd (Only sell OEM parts)
1090,1092,1094 Serangoon Road, Spore 328192
Tel: 6291 7775
Website: www.engsoon.com.sg

*************************************************************************
Min Hoe Auto Supply Co at 

572 Serangoon Road 
Singapore 218187

Tel:+65 62922857

Fax:+65 62956625


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Wonder Woman - movie review

Wonder Woman - movie review

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INLzqh7rZ-U

When you compare the fortunes of the studios that base their movies on Marvel versus DC comics, you see a rather different series of outcomes.

Barring a couple of less than sterling box office outings by the Wolverine / X Men series, the Marvel Universe has been consistently making good money, and they have been garnering some good reviews in the process.

However, on the other side, in the DC Universe, the last movie that had good reviews was the Dark Knight, and that was a long time back in the movie making world.

You would think that Superman and Batman are sure bets, given their popularity with comic readers. So it was a surprise that the movies based on these superheroes fared rather poorly, especially the newer Batman vs Superman outing. The common theme is Zack Snyder. He made 300 and Watchmen, and that made him famous enough for the studios to handle the responsibility of bringing Batman and Superman to life. However his directing has been dark, onerous and it does not help that Ben Affleck is a bulky but slow Batman, and the angst filled stories have been difficult hard to digest.

So it was with a great relief when I read that the studios were going with a different director for Wonder Woman (WW). Patty Jenkins did Monster, and that effort garnered Charlize Theron an Oscar. So we know she can do complex shows with lots of emotion. But can she handle one of the most iconic superheroes, and probably the most popular woman in pop culture?

Firstly the casting has been perfect. Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman. As much as Christopher Reeve was the definitive Superman, Gal has done something which many women could not: she has managed to persuade us that someone other than Lynda Carter could step into that outfit and make us believe a princess of the Amazonian tribe lives amongst us. No doubt, her experiences as an instructor in the Israeli Army made her quite believable as a soldier. She wields the sword and shield with great aplomb, and the physical training has paid off.

Now make no mistake, we do not have a MMA champ trying to look lady-like. Here is a Miss Universe, who can kick ass, whilst looking fabulous in an evening gown, even one with a sword sticking out of the back.

She is at once tough, caring and yet vulnerable and innocent. You can see the guys all watching with great interest as she first steps onto the WWI battlefield and fends off the Krauts, inspiring the Allied forces to win on a battlefield which has been at a stalemate for a year, costing millions of lives. Yet in the final scene, she can look vulnerable, and I am sure there was a tear or two amongst both men and women in the audience during the final farewell.

Not often will a female superstar, who looks good, and fights well, will appeal to both members of the sex in the viewing public.

But a great Wonder Woman also needs a man who can match her on screen. Honestly I thought George Clooney in his younger days or a Gregory Peck might have made a good match, and I wonder if Chris 'Star Trek' Pine could do the same. But he surprised me and did well as the romantic interest, who only locked lips with Miss Israel, but added a certain dimension to the show, making us think about what we think of war and mankind. Not bad for a superhero flick.

As for the plot, well it could have been tighter, and the 141 minute runtime was a tad long if you ask me. There is plenty of action, with humor interspersed in between, giving a certain lightness missing from the past DC outings. The leads have excellent chemistry and the setting helps.

Are there things I didn't like? YES! Firstly the CGI was disappointing for such an expensive production. Come one, the CGI from the 1996 Jurassic Park looked better. It didn't help that there was a trailer from the latest Transformer just before the show began. That movie franchise showcases how good CGI can make the interaction between humans and CGI objects look seamless, even in daylight. Here, in the fight sequences, especially those at night at the airport, look really fake, especially the movements of Wonder Woman. Certain scenes felt forced, like the attempt at her cuddling a baby, the woman's rights parts and the fish out of water stuff.

Surround and action fans will be pleased. The surrounds and bass are active throughout the movie and this should be a solid demo disc when the Blu Ray comes out.

But all in all, a solid outing and I hope this effort persuades DC to ditch Zack.

3.5/5


Air Force One - movie review



I have been following the aftermath of the US elections and I decided to pop this old movie into the player. The feel of the movie totally a 90s one with the music, the acting and even the dialogue. There's a certain "Die Hard in the Sky" feel about it, and Harrison Ford was a young and handsome man back then.

Gary Oldman was a tour de force - playing the villain great alacrity and yet, between takes, he was a riot of fun, resulting in the crew calling the movie "Air Force Fun".
This movie had the elements of the best actioners - good plot, tight  editing, and chemistry between the actors. The action was well executed and despite the music and dialogue, it's still a riot of fun. 
Incidentally Harrison Ford was regarded as the guy who most movie goers want as the next president, and that sort of contrast with the current POTUS. In the movie, you see a whole bunch of people throwing themselves in harm's way to protect the president, and some of them sacrificing their lives in the process. I really wonder if the very same officers and other men will do the same for Trump..
There have been other films where the president is under attack, in peril, etc, but this one gives the most food for thought. I wonder if we can remain objective if our family is being threatened, and do we really expect our leaders to fight back in such conflicts.
The recent movies like "Olympus Has Fallen" has cool action scenes, but the acting leaves a lot to be desired. Even now, Harrison looks the part. 

The soundfield isn't as good as the latest releases, but it does quite well and stands up to the test of time. Recommended as a rental at least or if you like the Die Hard genre or Harrison Ford, this is a keeper. 

Intouchable – movie review




I have always had an affinity for French movies. The French language lends itself to humor, most often dosed with a bit of sarcasm. If it’s served with great wit and timing, by actors with a good chemistry, that’s the recipe for a great movie.

True stories are often a good basis for a movie, and this one actually has a pretty standard plot, borrowing elements from “Scent of a Woman”, Bucket List and other such movies. But the part which elevates this movie to greater heights is the cast. The two protagonists play off each other very well.

They couldn’t be any more different. The rich white man, tetraplegic after a sporting accident, eccentric, and demanding. The black man, with a poor background, an immigrant from Africa, fresh out of the prison, on welfare and bitter about society and everything else.

He turns up for an interview to be the helper for this man and they strike it off enough for the tetraplegic to give this man a trial of one month, despite the better advice of his lawyer, who has the black man all figured out.

There are a few standard vignettes and scenes of two men getting to know each other. A bit of Pretty Woman as the black man is introduced to a ridiculously large mansion and the trapping of wealth. But I can’t tell you how much difference a good pairing makes to the success of a movie and the two certainly hit it off. You even get some romance thrown in, and well, you do want to pick up a pen and write a nice good old styled letter to someone after the show.

You will find funny scenes; some moving ones, and the tight plot keeps it moving nicely.

Now the interesting thing about the show is that despite not having a single explosion or bomb, it manages to impress soundwise too. The surround channels get well used as the two go around Paris, and the bass does get some workout when they drive around. Finally the dialogue is great, and the music used will test your front channels. I decided to get an album of Earth, Wind and Fire after the show.


Highly recommended.

Summer Wars - movie review





Summer Wars Review



How can one place Summer Wars?


Think of a movie that allows elements of a hacking nerd vs a huge virus, with a sprinkling of romance and plenty of a motley family naturally imbibed with lots of quirks. I guess that you have elements of  The Royal Tenenbaums mixed with some Ghost in the Shell to make one of the finest anime ever made, I kid not. 

Kenji is a super maths nerdy wizard who gets roped into impersonating his crush’ boyfriend and gets dragged to meet her great grandmother for her 90th birthday. Along the way, he meets all the quirky members of her extended family, each with their own hang-ups, and foibles, some small and others larger than you expect.

In his spare time, he manages part of a virtual world known as Oz, and he inadvertently helps to facilitate the spread of a AI program which threatens to take down the entire internet, and send a wayward asteroid probe on top of the family home.

When I first bought the disc, I figured I had acquired some disc on summer battles ala the bloody classroom brawls found in Battle Royale, but I guess I should have done more homework first. Yet, I emerged from watching it with a great warm feeling, that my time was well spent.

This was a movie about family first, the ties, and the energy of the matriarch, who held the family together, and always had the right concept to handling difficult situations. This was the most important theme, and the hacking wars, good versus evil, plus the tinge of romance were the supporting story lines. 

Sure, there were elements borrowed from a variety of movies, and director Mamoru Hosoda unabashed borrowed heavily from many movies about hacking, viruses and the pervasiveness of the internet. Yet the story becomes totally his, and he infuses each of the characters with strong traits. In particular, the main characters work well, not because they are perfect, or that they are total losers, but each has redeeming qualities, and we can see ourselves in them. 

It might be an anime, and one that was Japanese, but the elements of flaws and strengths make the theme universal. The pacing is also spot on despite it’s length, and you are brought from the first act, where the internet and Oz is introduced, into the second where the two young protagonists meet, then onto the family setting, leading into how the Oz melts down and finally the big battle.

Surround fans will also get a good workout, but this movie has little of the blockbuster bass, and instead uses the surrounds to paint that image of a rural Ueda setting. You will hear crickets and lots of ambient noises which help to bring you into the movie.

Most fans will be familiar with the Ghost in the Shell series, and of course the work of the director of Spirited Away, but with this effort, Mamoru Hosoda, who also made The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, will now join the heralded ranks of the top anime makers of all time.

Highly recommended. 

Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 2 – movie review

Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 2 – movie review



Ensemble movies are all the rage now, and so are comic book based ones.
If you look at the top ten movies of last year, you will see that short list dominated by movies that combine these elements.

The first franchise was also the movie that propelled Chris Pratt from a relatively unknown and rather pudgy TV actor into an A list action actor, who is moving from one blockbuster to the next.

Guardians Of The Galaxy (GOTG) itself was itself a sleeper super hit. Coming out of nowhere to blast into the stratosphere of awesomeness in the middle of much larger comic franchises, which were also hitting their stride. So what does the second movie in this franchise have to offer?

Well it does subscribe to the bigger, badder and louder style that bears some similarity to the Fast and Furious series, but one big difference is how you can tease out a reasonable story amidst the mayhem and like the best of the action movies it has humor and romance thrown in. My gold standard of this genre is “Raiders Of the Lost Ark”, and a swashbuckling, devil may care Harrison Ford whipped, swished, kissed and leapt onto the big screen and into our hearts.

Here Chris Pratt isn’t Harrison, but he does try hard and manages to combine that magical concoction of being a superhero of sorts with the right added amount of comic relief, and a little sizzle with Zoe Saldana thrown in. There is genuine chemistry between the cast members, and they look like they are really having fun whilst blasting away the space monsters and villains.

Like the best blockbusters, despite a plethora of action to keep the fans appetite for blasts and booms happy, there is also a good plot, and we find out more about each character, both the bright as well as the dark side. And it’s often the latter which pulls the fans in. Movie goers enjoy seeing that these action heroes are not perfect and have little secrets beneath the veneer of superhero-ness. Kurt Russell adds a new dimension as Peter Quill’s father ego, whilst the turn of Mickey Rooker also adds more depth to his arrow whistling personality.


Little Groot is a hoot, and each character gets more meat in turn, which giving plenty of space (pun intended) for further development. 

We also see a few faces turning up near the end, which suggests that the ensemble will be expanded ala The Expendables. This series is destined for even more greatness.

For those home theatre fans, I would say that this one is a no brainer when the Blu Ray disc comes out. Run out and pre-book yours. The surround action, as well as the bass are all demo quality.

Finally the standout of the movie is often not the action, not the acting, nor the CGI, but the soundtrack. And this is what makes GOTG what it is. Volume 2.

GOTG would have been just another action movie in space based on a comic book, but it was significantly elevated to the status of stardom by the awesome 60&70s soundtrack, and that wonderful Sony Walkman. In GOTG 2, the music again adds that extra bit which makes it just that bit more wonderful and propels this movie into one of the best of the year. No doubt it’s early days yet in 2017, but I will put my money where my mouth is and venture to vote that this movie will be one of the biggest hits and most enjoyable movies of 2017. It’s no Oscar award contender, but it will certainly be one of the movies that I will take out of my collection and watch over and over again. I will certainly take out my old cassettes and play that funky music many times over.

Highly recommended.  




Car options from 100 to 140k

I have grouped my suggestions into four price ranges.
These are just some ideas, covering sedans, MPVs, SUVs and hatchbacks that you want.



100k

The new Kia K3 will come in under 100k and has a solid conti feel.
The Mazda 3 is a fine car, although the outgoing Corolla is the epitome of reliability. However you may feel that after the Volvo it will be very hard to return to a Jap or Thai made car. The interior feel, the level of safety etc is quite different.

110-120k
The Honda HRV from Kah Motors is a very dependable, spacious car, and being made in Japan, it offers a lot for not too much money. 5 star safety rating too. However it's still a Jap car and once more the feel is different.
You can also wait for the 2017 Corolla.
Only the Mazda brand offers a conti feel, and likewise, Kia actually feels very solid too. 

120-130k

Now at this budget, there are much more choices of cars with a nicer feel. The outgoing Camry is spacious and dependable. The Mazda 6 will carry your family and more. Solid feel, and drives well too. Plus it's pretty fuel economical and has a conti feel. 
You could opt for another Volvo V40, it is a safe car, and as an outgoing model, they are more likely to offer discounts on it. 
But do check on things like the loan quantum, how hard is it to get a service booking, etc

130-140k

Now this is where it gets really interesting. 

My choices will be either a Parallel Import Toyota Harrier SUV or the Mercedes B180.
For reliability, luxury and decent fuel consumption, the Harrier is very impressive. Plus it's spacious, and there are many on the road, so getting spares isn't hard. The main issue is that it's a PI car, so you need to do some homework. Thankfully, one of our friends is a PI and can sort this out without the perils.

The B180 offers a lot for the money.
It's safe, has been around since 2011 without much fuss, good fuel economy too, and has more space than a Merc E class! So putting the entire family in is easy. If someone is less mobile or you need to transport kids or parents, it's a piece of cake. There are many functions and other reasons which make it attractive, so read on for more info:



Read The Manual Of Your New Ride

In days gone by, one could truly hope into a new car, gun the motor, and make tire tracks into the sunset. 
However in the modern day and age, even the most basic cars come with some electronics, some form of gadgets and even the most haughty salesman from Toyota will need to spend a few minutes tell you about the basic functions.
( I recall going to the yard to pick up my Corolla myself, the man tossed me my keys, and that was it - good luck and good bye) 

However that would be missing out on a significant part of the car driving experience. Yes, you can put the car into auto, press on the pedal and go, but these days there are so many more functions, and you will get a lot more out of the car if you spend a little time to learn some of these functions. 

Of course, you could pick up the phone call or text your rep, or ask in a forum and get some replies, but IMO, part of the joy of owning a car is to explore the functions and pick up one nice surprise after another. Perhaps it's because I am new to Merc, so each function is new, and also my last car was from a different era, where the only thing auto was the gearbox. But it has been part of my joy to learn stuff like the different driving modes, try them out and store the settings. Even the budget entry models have learning functions, and a capacity to store your settings under the "I" mode. There are also other surprises like the air filter, which is capable of filtering out PM 2.5 particles, and you can drive in the fresh air mode without sucking in fumes from the nearby cars (of course if there's a huge truck in front of you spewing black fumes, be smart and switch to recirculating air). 

On the other hand, a repeat buyer, or a busy businessman buying a three point star could want to go on with his/her new ride and bark orders at his rep whenever he finds something wrong, or just drive into the workshop and demand instant solutions for a car which he/her paid a lot for. 

So the answer I feel is somewhere in between. You don't not need to be a geek or techie, and pore over the manual many times, nor do we want to drive 'blind'. If we regard learning the functions as a chore, it will be so. If not it can be a whole lot of fun. I recall the day I got my ride, and we took pics, had a laugh and of course paid scant attention to the rep, who was valiantly trying to explain the functions. So yes, the Merc rep does have a checklist of functions he has to go through, and I have posted about that car collection process before. I am pretty sure the rep would have touched on this "I" mode, but I think I might have lost focus then.

In the same vein, I do spend some time reading the manual of my new hifi or oven, just enough to make sure it doesn't blow up and I get to enjoy all the various functions. I guess you could say I am a geek / techie at heart.

As always YMMV - your mileage may vary. But since it's already our ride, why not enjoy it to the fullest. 


____________________________________________________________
 I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.

It's all about speaker positioning in getting the best sound for your home theatre system

A little reminder on the balance we have to face in our domestic settings.
The best surround effects we can achieve is dependant on the balance between WAF at one end of the spectrum, and the best position / speakers that money can buy.
So once we have decided on what our wallets can afford, followed by what our wives can tolerate, (especially those using living rooms as a HT setup), then we work within those parameters. We will then need to understand that the sound will be compromised, and that we can live with that, and no Audyssey or other auto-eq magic can fix that.
So for example, if a sofa MUST be located dead centre or right against the wall, we need to understand what we can achieve.
Or if the rear surround speaker Must be in the ceiling, then again, the sound will travel from the top to the sides to the fronts in an uneven fashion.

In planning for a new system, either spend money hiring a pro, or save and plan on some elbow grease.
Which means that you need to do the calibration manually, or at least buy an AVR with the latest auto-EQ, eg Denon and Marantz use the latest Audyssey XT32, which isn't found on some of the other brands.

So for a start, understand the ideal speaker positions, and see how your domestic settings allows you to get as close to this as possible. Then see how you can run those cables. If you are doing some major reno, you can cut into the ceiling, or run some trunking, which is cheaper but not as aesthetically pleasing.
Or use the reflective speakers.


Where you site the sub is again a compromise between the best position obtained via the sub crawl and calibration, or the spot your wife dictates.

Once we have understood the paradigm, then we can plan to improve what we can, within the parameters that our wives and renovation allows.


Finally, in any HT, the centre channel is the most important, and even if you use satellites, if you can get a bigger centre, it will reward your movie experience as much as, if not more than buying the biggest baddest sub in town.

Just posting a summary of some discussions with a few readers.


I wish you all the best in your renovations for your new HT setup, cheers.

Looks like a good year for Toyota and Borneo

A few months back, if someone asked me what the top ten sellers' list will look like, I might have said that it was going to be pretty ...