Baywatch, The Mummy, Megan Leavey


Baywatch:

The reboot sees the prerequisite babes, bods and beach, with The Rock taking the lead, and a very pumped up Zac Affron, who is probably meant to attract the younger crowd. Add a few more fresh faces, a rough semblance of a plot that could have been pulled out of a Famous Five novel, spice it up with plenty of smut and foul language, and make sure the beautiful bodies are on full display and that's the movie.
Does it work, well somewhat.. it's worth a worth, especially if the above items appeal to you, but rent first, and see how you feel.


The Mummy

Tom Cruise tries his hand at a fusion of Indiana Jones, with some Dirk Pitt thrown in, and it's spun into a Mummy based plot with elements of Jekyll vs Hyde and some elements of a superhero seasoning on top.
Does it work?
Well... it's a rental.. at best I am afraid. It's a case of not bad, but just not.. not funny enough, not actioned packed enough, and the delivery, chemistry are nice but just not too great when benchmarked against the material from which it copied from.

Certainly the surround action will please and be a good demo track, so one can consider buying it on Black Friday. Otherwise rent first and decide.

Megan Leavey

I wasn't sure what to expect when I heard about this show. Initially I thought it was a war movie, with a war dog thrown in, but it was more about the emotional ride of someone who was caught in a tough situation in Iraq, came through, but not unscathed, and the war dog was part of the story and also part of her recovery.
Those expecting firefight after firefight will be sorely disappointed. It's more of a drama with a war background. Good for those who like the emo ride sort of show.


Do You Really Need To Follow Every Update Issued For Your Gear?

That old adage still applies:

" if it ain't broken, don't fix it .. "
Unless there's something obviously wrong or it's a function you really desire, don't blindly upgrade or update.
That goes for amps, players or even TVs.
If you are really itching to do it, wait a few days, see if someone discovers a glitch or two, then plunge in. That is even more important when you can't easily restore the original firmware.
Safety first.

The Shack – Movie Review




Religion themed movies aren't usually associated with the mainstream, and they usually pop the champagne if they break even. One of the recent ones which defied expectation was the Blind Side, but that was primarily a sport movie with a hint of Christianity as an icing.
Here is a show, with some A-listers and some veterans who aren't some old actors hoping for a quick paycheck. The people involved are certainly heavy hitters and it's overtly religious themes will polarize audiences. So was it damp squib, or a spirited hit on high?
The story isn't new, a man loses his daughter to an awful pedophile murderer. He mets his maker, in three unusual forms and they try to help him find peace and answer that perennial question asked since Job lost his kids and possessions: "Where is God when it hurts?"
Well, the film works simply because the actors really commit to their roles, be it the two Aussies as the husband and wife who lose their youngest, or the trio coming from disparate backgrounds. It's interesting to see an Israeli playing Jesus, a Brazilian playing an angel (I last saw her in Predators in a fearsome role), and of course God has to be someone who isn't the typical White Man With A Beard. In fact, that's an inside joke..
There are themes of forgiveness, redemption and peace, but the added ideas of universalism will cause some frowns amongst the Christians, and of course the Holy Spirit's name happens to be a very spiritual, non Christian one. Now about that actress… I don't think I have seen a more beautiful Holy Spirit.. the Japanese actress who plays the role is a sun-blessed tall, almost statuesque Venus, who will certainly win a few converts with her smile.
The plot hangs together well, although if the editors cut it a tad more, it will feel tighter. There are some very nice shots of the Canadian landscape and the tourist promotion board of BC will certainly be very grateful for the product placement.
All in all, recommended for a rental at least and for me, it's a buy. Amen

Handy woman tips






Car
Turning on: check idiot lamp, see that it's not blue. Don't rev the engine, let it warm up a bit so engine oil can flow through the engine - You can start normally, just don't rev it, by the time you move iff, it should be ok.

Engine oil
Change engine oil 6 months or 10,000km whichever comes first - Conti cars about 15 000km between changes or one year
Some people say the more often you change engine oil the better
Specifications of engine oil: 
W - stands for winter
10 - viscosity (slipperiness) of the oil
The higher the second number, the more viscous for warm climates. Follow engine manufacturers. If too thick, more difficult for engine. Viscosity breaks down when engine is overheated (car may stop) 
When engine is overheated, send car to mechanic and ask if engine oil needs to be changed as oil may have broken down
Radiator pressure cap: DO NOT OPEN when engine is hot. Do it first thing in the morning. Radiator should always be full of water. If car is 5 years old, you may want to drain radiator (look for white cap at the front bottom, drain twice). Water may be brown and rusty. Some mechanics may recommend coolant which has a higher boiling point (150 degrees)
Only add coolant when you've drained the radiator.
Try not to use ordinary water (which contains minerals to prevent mineral build up), use distilled water 
When car is hot, overflow of coolant goes into the gauge (F and E). Check once every two months.
To check if engine oil is enough, check dipstick. Should be a caramel colour, if darker need to check. 
Check tires every month or so, until you have a tire pressure monitoring system.. TPMS

Battery 🔋
Change battery every 18-24 months 
Amaron is a good brand (taxis use it)
Need to be maintained, if you have a in car battery, use car every day. If travelling, pull out the camera as it drains battery 
If you drive automatic car, you cannot push car to start 
User jump start cables, get another car with battery in good condition and attach cables. Other car engine should be turned on.
Positive charge (big red part)
Negative charge connected to body of car 
Connect negative charges (black wire) FIRST
Then TAP dead car positive charge, then connect to the live car positive charge so that the alternator of the dead car will start charging 
Keep engine idling for a while 
Then go for a long drive to charge battery (12 months or less), maybe it can still be used 
When parked, don't leave hazard lights turned on 
Try to turn on car every 2-3 days 
Alternatively you can buy a USB battery (Amazon sells for about USD 30) like a power bank, jump start cables, needs to be charged every 2 months like a power bank - Some are just battery packs for charging - these cost $40 or less. Those with 'jump start' function will cost about $80 or so. Comes with cables.

Tyres 
Thread is ok if you can feel the groove
Look for arrow, if rubber has reached that point, it's v thin
Tyres should be replaced every 40,000km 
Every 10,000km to rotate tyres
Pressure - follow tyre size and car door label
165 -  
Always pump when tyre is cold (e.g. morning), but if you are driving, add 10 PSI cos tyre is hot - The fuel pump door will also advice how much more do you pump when the car has more passengers 



Don't under or over inflate
If wet road, under inflate so there's more grip 
Tyres now are tubeless, so if you have a puncture, it will stop the leakage - Run flat tires
If puncture is on the surface, you might be able to repair the tyre (maybe add a tube inside)
If you rarely drive, change tyres every 4 years otherwise The rubber compound becomes hard, and has no grip 
Some cars come with tyre sealant 
Tyre flat - car feels sluggish and lists to one side 
Check tyre pressure gauge at least once a month

Toilets
Sink trap / P trap 
The smaller diameter goes under basin 
Sink or basin
U shape is to trap water to prevent bad smells, if not used often, may dry up a and can be smelly (and cockroaches can come up)
PVC pipes should not be corroded
If there's oil, pour hot water into the sink (not basin)

Taps
Open/close taps maybe can't be fixed like in the past (put new rubber ring)
Cheap ones are $20 but might spoil in 2 years
Invest in good tap like Grohe that can last a long time
O ring - if there's a leak, remove the ring and wash (may be minerals), but if broken, buy new O ring or put petroleum jelly (but destroys rubber), or silica grease (but hard to find)
Oil breaks down rubber
Don't put white tape / teflon tape cos it will tighten the tap then you can't move it
24x2 wrench to tighten tap 
Tape should be applied clockwise (so you don't take out the tape when unscrewing)
Flexible hoses come in different lengths (don't buy too long or short)
Remove existing flexible hose by unscrewing at each end 

Bidet spray
Make sure tap is properly turned off
Not meant to contain pressure
Vibrating pipes - tap is turned on partially
When you go on vacation, turn off main water pipe or riser (in case it bursts or leaks when you're away)

Toilet bowl
Cover can be removed for cleaning 
Can be unscrewed
Bring screw to hardware store if you break it to get the right diameter
Toto is a good Japanese brand 
If problems with flushing, old type is the balloon

Electricals 
Switch off the main power or circuit breaker when doing any repairs 
Macs are not earthed and have an aluminium body 
Universal colours 
Blue or black - neutral (N)
Green or yellow - earthed 
Brown or red - live (L)
Wear rubber shoes so you'll be cut off from the earth 
Electricity travels along path of least resistance 
All appliances in Singapore must have a fuse (not other countries like UK and Australia)
13A plugs have fuse
Fuse is where the live wire is
Use a scissors to take off some of the rubber insulation, make sure inner cables are not cut
White powder is fire retardant
Take off a bit of the inner rubber with scissors to expose wire, twist and tuck into hole, then screw it in 
Once copper is exposed, there's a chance for sparking
So exposed wire shouldn't be too long
Don't worry about over-tightening screws 
Inner wires come out (fray) quite easily 
Usually 2 circuit breakers for 1 room
Lights and power sockets separated 
Can spend a day to test and label circuit breakers 

Water is one of the best conductors for electricity, so any exposed wiring is a danger 
Or for short term, tape it up
Buy electricals with a safety mark (don't stinge or buy from Taobao)
Extensions can be purchased for about $30

Fire safety - Smoke detector 
Usually electrical fires, can only smell, cannot see
Fix smoke detector near charging stations
Rubber burns with a lot of smoke 
Only way to turn off smoke detector is to remove battery 
ELCB - technically the ELCB (electrical circuit breaker) should trip. But even if power is off, once a fire is sparked, though no more electricity, fire may be started and will continue to burn 
Once there is a fire, run out of the house with all persons in the house 
If calm and collected, turn off main electrical circuit, then try to extinguish with fire extinguisher 
Smoke always rises, so fire detector should be placed on the ceiling 
Fire detectors powered with battery, usually lasts about a year, when low battery it will beep 
Can put fire detector outside kitchen (so it doesn't always beep when you're cooking)
** Don't throw water on cooking/grease fires **
You can try to smother with a tight fitting lid (but if not airtight, will burn more)
Throw whole pack of baking soda on fire (generates carbon dioxide) packaging will burn but after that it will absorb oil and smother fire
Stop drop and roll if your clothes catch fire
There should be a green light flashing to show that it's turned on
Some have a test button to press and test the beep 

Fire extinguisher
Get one which says "ABC dry powder" 
Look for indicator to see that it's in the green zone 
Shoot at the thing burning, not at the fire 
SCDF runs a course (MCST can arrange)

Lights
Most people changing to LED
But if your light flickers, test the starter. If light comes on, it might be the tube which is faulty (not the starter)
If the light doesn't come on, it could be the starter which is faulty (30c for new one) not the tube 
Starter is like a switch, it turns on the light by triggering a chemical reaction
If ballast (box with electricals) is spoilt, whole light may need to be changed

Drill
Red plastic is 5.5mm which is ideal for most purposes
5 mm is v tight
Green rubber is 6mm for larger screws 
Cordless screwdrivers available now can screw 50 screws on 1 charge 

L-R: Wood mason (concrete) metal (aluminium) bits 
Drill v good for tiles (rotating)
Sewing machine oil (Singer oil) is v good for the drill bit (try not to use WD 40)
Mason drills have carbide tips  

Get The Gringo - movie review

Another day with the Neural X, and DTS-X, and I took out a disc from the not too distant past: Get The Gringo




A relatively simple plot, with a fish out of water concept, but set within a Mexican prison, Mel is a man with skills and a loot to find. There's action, humor, both served with latte and bitter black noir style. Mel shows some of the form that brought him fame in the past, and the supporting cast do well too.

But the sound is where the money is. Watched on a BR disc with DTS-X upmixing of the sound, it was a nice way to spend an evening. 

I am not too sure who did the mix, but this movie that brought a second wind to Mr Gibson's career also gave it a very nice sound mix. It's one of those 'only' 5.1 DTS-MA mixes, but the scenes within the Mexican prison lends itself to a very claustrophobic mix, and you are able to utilise all the channels, both at the base surround level, and the soundstage extends itself nicely to the heights too.

The dialogue is crystal clear, and when the proverbial stuff hits the fan, well so does the sonic envelop. You get some nice gunfights, in the middle when the hitmen come for Mel, and later on in the final showdown. A very satisfying application of the Neural-X onto a 5.1 track.

Recommended, and although Mel messed up in the past, he can still be a solid actor, and I wish him well on his road to recovery and hope to see more good shows from him, both in front and behind the camera. 

Recommended

Dynaudio Special Forty Speaker review







Every now and then, Dynaudio will issue some special edition speakers, and this time they are taking some of their best bits and making a pocket rocket, in the form of the “Special Forty”, a standmount speaker conceived to celebrate their fortieth anniversary.


The technical specs off their website:



Oppo BDP 83 Nuforce Edition

So what are the special bits?

I found this video which explains the components of the S40:

https://vimeo.com/218428210

The cabinet looks like it came off the Focus 110, and the tweeter is an Esotar but it is not the same as the one used in the Confidence C1, a speaker that costs twice more. The woofer is based on Dynaudio’s classic 17W75 MSP model, which is also used in the Evidence and Confidence speakers. So in effect you have much of what costs a lot more, for a lot less.


You get two choices of wood, a Red Birch or a Grey version. There is a plate at the back, with the 40th anniversary printed on it. The cabinet may be derived from the Focus series, but it’s a nice gloss, and will not look out of place in a fancy apartment. Pity that there’s no matching centre though. It’s not a big cabinet, and the rear porting will mean that it’s best to keep them a bit further from the wall, which might not help in the WAF situation. At least the gloss finish will help you convince that missus that they are a keeper.







So how do they sound?

Firstly they aren’t too hard to drive, and there is a nice scale to them, with good dynamics, but make no mistake, they will not replace a floorstander. There is a good sense of scale, and the soundstage created is marvellously deep, with a strong sense of image, with good localization of details.
This is what the speaker is all about, details, but never in a purely analytical way. In fact, the speaker is neutral to smooth, and even with awful mp3 recordings, it tries it’s best to make them sound musical. So unlike some high end speakers, it works well with a variety of music tastes and file types.
So they will go well with neutral sources and amps, but do give them some amps with the ability to double down on the current. They do not need a lot of watts, but like a good grip. This is a characteristic of the Dynaudio drivers.
With some power to drive it, it has good PRAT, and will catch onto any beat in the track nicely.

I must say, the Marantz PM 11 S3 complements them very well. Those who like a bit more bit can use a less warm amp, but in my opinion, this is a nice combination.

I had recently got acquainted with Cassandra Wilson (well her music anyway..) and her “Harvest Moon” song was very captivating. I also used Diana Krall’s “I Am Through With Love” which I listened first on Spiderman 3 (wished MJ aka Kirsten Dunst did a recording of it). There was a real air and space, and the vocals were liquid, never jarring, always just listenable. I then put on “Same To You” from Melody Gardot, and there was a deep beat which the speaker caught onto, and it had grip and some meat. The interesting thing is how well they can make the same song in compressed mp3 sound and if you use Airplay, it still sounds pretty ok.

So is it a world-beater then? Shall we sell our Platinums, Contours and Evidence speakers?


Well no…

The main issue is scale and dynamics. These are relatively small speakers after all, and will not fill a large hall. I believe they are designed for the small European or Hong Kong apartment where space is a premium. I can see them taking the position of pride in a small living room or a study, powered by a stereo amp, with a simple source and they will give you a reasonable impression of a concert, and with some reinforcement by the room, their bass and loudness levels will be sweet. No doubt they are capable of some very decent bass, the issue is that they will not plunge to the depths offered by Dynaudio’s floorstanders. There is no chest thumping bass here, and you should not expect it anyway.

They are best with vocals and will happily showcase their mids well.

And there’s the Confidence 1. I don’t own the Contour, so those of you who are asking about a comparison between the Contour 20 and the Special Forty are out of luck.

If I did not have the C1s around, that would have been it. Perhaps I will wax lyrically about how good the Special Forty speakers are, bar none. But the Confidence speakers do sound better, but they cost more than two times more. They also go down just a bit more. The C1s can be used in small to medium sized rooms, but the Special Forty is a good match for a study, or a modestly sized living room. Like mine… in my room, it was in it’s element, and since I prefer a good soundstage, and great mids, the lack of the final octave did not bother me. You would not miss that last bit that the C1s can churn out if you do not have them for comparison in the same room. You also would not miss the extra air in the higher frequencies until you have the C1s play the same song. The C1s convey music like a pair of electrostatics. They are that good.

Well like the Confidence 1s, I did find out that they can be quite fussy with speaker position. Even so, they withstand a closer boundary placement better than the C1.

I do not have an ultra high end setup, so I wonder if the differences will be more obvious in a better setup? As it stands, there is a difference, and for those who want a Home Theatre setup, there are no matching centre speakers for the Special Forty, so you have to step up to the Contours at least.

Now that will be interesting, seeing how the Specials compare with the Contours. The components are pretty similar, although the Contour 20 has a larger cabinet and is meant to please the bass heads more.

But given it’s pricing, it’s actually interesting that someone with deep pockets may consider using them as rear speakers in a Confidence or Contour based setup.

My final thoughts?

If you can only afford the Special Forty, you will be pretty pleased with them. The C1s have long been the bookshelf speaker that many aspire to own but now we have another two speakers jostling for the position of king of the bookshelf speakers from Dynaudio. The king should be worried, but it has just that much more, but it’s close enough to make them feel a little threatened... just a little.. 

I can safely say, if you have the 3000 Euros, it’s a very solid proposition, and there are some very sweet components inside. Run out and get a pair, or get two and hide one under your mattress for prosperity.. 

Pros:

Very forgiving nature
Not too hard to drive
Real scale and wonderful soundstage
Solid value for money

Cons:

Will not play to it’s best in a large room
No matching centre for expansion into a home theatre system
Limited color choices






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

Spiderman Homecoming – movie review



Spiderman has always been a fan favorite. He has superpowers, but he is also vulnerable, with bills to pay, school issues, and a lot of angst from his guilt about Uncle Ben.
Yet, he is also the one of the few superheroes who lives in a real city,  and is a funny, positive guy. If Batman was the night, you could say Spidey was a nice sunny day.
In recent times, we have already seen about 5 Spiderman movies starring two other actors, that have given this franchise their own interpretation of how he should be, and personally, Toby and Sam Raimi’s version was the better of two, and I must say, I shed tears when Spidey fought to the point of exhaustion to keep the runaway train from crashing into the river in Spiderman 2.  So now there’s a new reboot.

However this is more than simply another chap donning the outfit, and sharing a new version. It’s the first time Sony has allowed their golden goose to work with other studios, thus allowing Spiderman to enter the MCU or the Marvel Comic Universe. This is unprecedented in the movie world and we first saw a glimpse of Tom Holland’s Spidey in the Civil War and he gave as good as he took and did not look out of his league bouncing around with the best.

So he gets his own movie now, with cameos by other MCU heroes and an absent father figure in the form of Downey’s Ironman. Thankfully the plot does not spend too much time on the origins, and let’s a 2-minute conversation between Spidey and his sidekick Ned do the explanation. Instead it focuses on a version of Spiderman that is younger, more naïve and nascent than the previous two outings.

Here, he is still wearing his L plates, and whilst he has a new suit given by Tony Stark, he is shown to be new and still feeling his way around his powers. This gives a different take to the other shows, and of course, the fact that his aunt is now the super hot Marisa Tomei helps steer things from the usual interpretation.

Does it work? Well to a certain extent. I must say, the best superhero movie in recent memory was the Avengers Civil War. That is hard to top and this show has it’s moments, but it’s a bit too long and a bit too angsty to get the same top scores. Nevertheless it’s a solid outing, and there is enough action, humor and even a sprinkling of romance to keep it in the good category.

Michael Keaton is an excellent choice as the vulture, and it plays into the second rate kind of feel here. The stage is smaller, the villains are in your neighborhood, the hero is some guy or kid next door and the impact more localized. It does prevent a certain staleness that a larger scale movie may run into, given the recent rash of superhero outings with large ensemble casts which have even gone into the galaxies.

Here, it’s a borough in New York, with the setting of a school as the main stage, some action in the streets of NYC and many close ups of New York. I delight in knowing that Tom Holland actually attended a school there incognito so he could get a feel of it, and surprisingly no one there recognized him or believed him when he revealed who he was. Tom Holland is the youngest actor to play this hero, and he cuts a slim figure and balances being Peter Parker and Spiderman well.

This is what Spiderman is about, like 7-11, he is close but never closed, our friendly neighbourhood superhero. I look forward to the next installation and seeing him in future Marvel outings.

Apart from a nice plot, there was solid action and enough bass, activity the surrounds, to satisfy the home theatre fans. This will make a nice demo disc in future.  

SPOILER:

I am glad he turned down the chance to be an Avenger. It doesn’t close the door, and depending on how things are polled, he can star in his next standalone movie or join as a member of the ensemble in a MCU matchup. But the fact that he refused initially makes him stand tall and not just become another cog in the wheel when the next Marvel / Avenger movie comes around. Right now, each Avenger movie has become rather busy and is in danger of being overwhelmed with too many stars.


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XXX Return Of the Xandar movie review




For a real no brainer, where you can let your brainer relax, comes to the Xandar land. This is a movie where the plot is a mere excuse to move from one action piece to another. Bombs, babes and blasts in a Bond wannabe movie. 
The line between Vin Diesel's Fast and Furious and this franchise is blurring as the brings over the fast cars, action, and incredible stunts seamlessly across. I wonder if he used the same stunt team?
Not bad, but one will buy the disc for it's demo worthy action scenes more than the story. 

A long flight and some loud movies.. short reviews of Kong, Gifted, Kung fu Yoga, Rogue One, Resident Evil and XXX

Went for a long trip and I had a chance to check out a few movies:


Gifted:
Chris Evans aka Captain America sheds mask and shield to take on a more emotional role that shows off more of his acting chops. Think of it as a modern Kramer vs Kramer Lite.. not bad and worth a rental at least. No really effects.


Kung Fu Yoga:
So is that what an older and less energetic Jackie Chan does when he tries to replicate his big hit Armor of God? It's not bad, and there is genuine chemistry in this cross cultural treasure hunt. But if one is expecting breakneck pacing and action, then this is not for you.
But if you are looking for some classic slapstick plus some really nice/hot eye candy thrown in, you get two Indian superstars, plus one very flexible and hot Chinese actress who is skill in Yoga too.
Disha Patani is a really dish... 


Kong: Skull Island


A remake or a reboot? Well for action fans, this is not important and you get plenty of action, thrills and spills, copious use of bass. The plot is not too bad, and tries it's best to look original despite the many previous iterations. Worth a rental or a buy when it comes onto UHD.


Rogue One:
I had to skip this as I was busy and it's a nice movie, but for those who have not seen it, it's very important to go in without the baggage of watching the other Star Wars hits. Think of it like a Dirty Dozen in space instead. Nice plot, pacing and chemistry. Pity we can't see more of Felicity Jones. A buy for fans and also action demo hits.


XXX Return Of the Xandar:


For a real no brainer, forget Kong, this is a movie where the plot is a mere excuse to move from one action piece to another. Bombs, babes and blasts in a Bond wannabe movie. 
The line between Vin Diesel's Fast and Furious and this franchise is blurring as the brings over the fast cars, action, and incredible stunts seamlessly across. I wonder if he used the same stunt team?
Not bad, but one will buy the disc for it's demo worthy action scenes more than the story. 


Resident Evil Final Chapter:


The boom fest continues with this. The plot is thin than almost any other resident evil instalment or most other zombie movies, but if you have already invested time watching the rest, you might as well finish it. At least, it rewards you with plenty of action but I don't know if UHD will be kind, as our Zombie Action Queen, Ms Milla Jov has certainly aged.. rent or buy for a low price during the Good Friday sales and complete that collection.

Chips - movie review



In the 70s, you had two buddy cop TV shows that captured the audiences for many years: Starsky and Hutch, which became a semi-hit a few years back, and the motorbike equivalent: Chips.

So Dax Shepard decides that he should do the remake and promptly decides to be one of the leads too. Micheal Pena is his partner and he is usually a reliable character actor, but they can't really save this. There is plenty of action, some humor, mostly of the sexual innuendo sort and a few more that would have made Jim Carrey blush. That kind of sums up the movie and unless you are a true blue Chips fan, and the disc is cheap, I would stay away. In fact if you Are a Chips fan, you will want to avoid this to blemish the memory. 

Baywatch, The Mummy, Megan Leavey

Baywatch: The reboot sees the prerequisite babes, bods and beach, with The Rock taking the lead, and a very pumped up Zac Affron, who is pro...