Book of Eli - a demo worthy movie

In the Book of Eli, the gunshot in the gunfight in the village run by Gary Oldman is crisp and does not have a lot of low frequency energy, so it should be a snap like sound. But what is of more interest is how the sound travels as shots ricochet, and you can discern various shooters emanating from various side and rear speakers and hear the path of the bullets whizzing around.

Literally, you are inside Denzel's head, as the bullets fly around you, just as his blind character will hear them. It's easy to hear the shot, but good speaker placement will allow you to experience and trace the bullet path.

Then in the shootout at the home of the old couple with the firearms, you get a wall of gunfire, interspersed with grenades that have a real low bass thud. Then hear the crisp higher frequencies of the woodwork splintering. Then hear the collapse of the house.

Most systems, especially those with good subwoofers will have no issue replicating the low bass, but is it accurate, full of impact, and clean? How about the ability of your front and centre speakers to pick the wall of gunfire, and then have your surround speakers show how the house around them is falling apart? That not only takes good speakers which are good for HT / music, but proper speaker placement.

And when the soundtrack "Panoramic" plays as Denzel continues his walk towards Alcatraz, can you hear the music coming from all your surrounds, enveloping you in a sea of music?

If not, it's time to get down and re-arrange your speakers! Many have the money to buy high quality speakers and subs, not many will arrange their stuff correctly or bother with the proper speaker placement to achieve this...

That IMHO, will make a good HT system beat a theatre, and it doesn't have to cost the earth..



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

Sparrow - movie review


 Sparrow - movie review

 I once owned this on a DVD, but I managed to get this on a Blu Ray disc whilst I was in Hong Kong not too long ago and I decided to re-visit this movie.

When you think of Johnnie To's works, this might not spring to mind, and indeed when you compare it to one of his more sophisticated works, this seems like a distraction, but make no mistake, it is a worthwhile distraction and a definitely solid way to spend an evening viewing. 

My usual practice is to have a short take on the plot, but let's get to the money... Kelly Lin is one very good reason to watch this movie... she is one hot babe and in this movie, she sulks, smokes and just plays a sultry and yet pitiful lady who entices, pleads and cajoles Simon Yam's motley band of 'Sparrows' aka pickpockets to assist her in getting her passport from this old man so she can be reunited with her loved one.

The catch, well, the old man with her passport is no ordinary old man, but a master
'Sparrow' himself. And the finale of the movie sees him pit his skills against the newly recruited bunch led by Simon Yam. 

The plot takes a while to build up, and it's a pleasure seeing Kelly running around the streets of Hong Kong in her lovely shoes and other finery.

This also gives the sound technicians in this movie a chance to re-create a lovely soundfield. If you are looking for big booms, bombs and bangs, you will be disappointed, but this 7.1 channel Blu Ray disc will give your system a fine work out. There is plenty of jazz music with decent bass, and the sounds of Hong Kong will envelop you and caress you as you are immersed in the ambiance, and feel emphatically for the four who helpless fall for the charms of Kelly Lin. 

Did I mention that she is hot? This smoldering beauty is one reason the plot works, adding a touch of sadness to her red hot seductress image. One great camera work scene is how she shares a cigarette with Simon and stains the white filer with her bright red lipstick and time slows down as she returns the stained cigarette to Simon, who relishes the next draw on the cigarette, which he fully realises will have his lips wrapped around the lipstick stained filter tip. If there a greater demonstration of how to use a cigarette to make love, I know not of it...

Of course, a damsel in distress needs a hero or heroes to rescue her and it all leads to the final showdown, where the four protagonists, led by Simon pit their wits and skills against the old man in order to see who can steal her passport and grant her freedom or will the old man keep her passport and also get to chop off Simon's hand. This showdown reminds me of the ancient swordsmen, as they face off with one another, and here, small concealed razor blades replace swords as the weapon of choice as the men seek to outwit and outsteal one another.


This finale goes into style overdrive, using a combination of slow camera work, rain and the charm of Simon Yam and his ability to convey so much emotion with just a little grimace or smile. In fact the cinematography used seems to make Hong Kong look like Paris, and the music along with Simon Yam’s well tailored suits, certainly help. The supporting cast also add to the simple plot, and the solid chemistry amongst the actors that Johnnie To often uses make a big difference. They really show how comfortable they are with one another and that they are truly having fun making this show.

And that’s how it is, with plenty of style, a really hot babe and some deft camera work , along with a very nice soundfield, make this a good rental and probably a keeper if you are a fan of Johnnie To’s work and don’t mind some very serious eye candy in the form of a smoldering hot Kelly Lin..


Now did I mention that she is so hot?




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

Some HDMI connection voodoo...


HDMI connection voodoo

Previously...

I had mentioned the strangeness of having to turn on components in your HDMI equipped setup in a particular fashion, so each component can 'talk' to each other properly, otherwise you have to reset the connection for them to recognise one another.

I found the best sequence was TV, Amp, then lastly the Blu Ray player

More HDMI vodoo this past week...

I have been having stuttering on my Oppo on the analogue connection recently, and initially I thought it might be a dirty laser head. However I ruled that out as I could play with no issues via HDMI. It was only through the analogue outputs and I check my amp, the cables, cleaned the laser head etc, and even brought the BR player to the store where I bought it, the people there were very nice and gave it a once over and a clean bill of health.

Then I remembered shifting it during my TV calibration recently and reconnecting the HDMI outputs. I now use HDMI 1 for audio, and HDMI 2 for video, which runs direct from the Oppo to the TV. Somehow this was switched, and the Oppo was "confused" and kept stuttering when I switched on the TV. With the TV turned off, there was no issue. I also lost 5.1 DTS-MA.

After checking my connections, and restoring the right HDMI output, things were back to normal.

So when you add something new, check your connections.






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

Can my budget amp drive 4 ohm speakers?

 Most modern AV Amps can drive simple Home Theatre speakers in an apartment, even if it says 4 ohms on the box. Especially if there is a subwoofer to handle the energy sapping low frequencies.

But for big, loud and dynamic moments, and if you switch out from those budget speakers to more demanding designs, such as Dynaudio speakers, then the amp will shut down.

Why so?


IN THEORY:

A lower impedance speaker i.e. 4 compared to 8 ohms is easier to drive. This is a fact. Less resistance, more current flow.

IN REALITY:

MOST AMPS ARE NOT EQUIPPED TO HANDLE 4ohms.
Why? Because of heat issues. In theory all the energy is channeled to watts, and used to generate sound, but in reality, no amp is that efficient, and especially for Class A amps, it becomes heat energy. This kills amps. So most modern AV Amps, which have poor heat sinks - metal costs $$ and that's where companies scrimp on their designs. As a result, when one switches to the "4 ohm" setting, actually what happens is that the amp throttles the current, REDUCING, not allowing the full current to flow.

This preserves the amp and prevents a meltdown.

So why don't all amps melt down? Well, remember, most times, we Never hit the stipulated power, i/e most times, we only use around 2-10amperes of currrent. Even at 10A, that's plenty. Only a few designs hit 20A (Harmon Kardon and NAD spring to mind amongst the budget designs), and only for seconds.

In a really solid design, with THX Ultra for example, the amps are built with sufficient cooling to handle such heat. Most good amps do not need this switch. But the litmus test is whether they can handle Electrostatic Speakers, which often dip below 2 ohms.

For example, see the heat sinks on this giant hybrid tube amp:


A link to THX certification:
http://www.audioholics.com/education/audio-formats-technology/thx-select-and-thx-ultra2-certification-general-questions

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

A Simple Life (桃姐) - movie review

A Simple Life (桃姐)

I would like to thank my friends for recommending me this movie. And indeed, it's a hard movie to watch if you are post night call, and even harder to watch if you have been exposed to a recent diet of Transformers, Battle LA or even Wong Fei Hong.

Andy Lau outdoes himself and Ann Hui is a brilliant director, but Deanie Ip  is the standout in her role as a domestic "Ah Mah" who has lived in Andy's family for 4 generations spanning 63 years, and in her winter years, gets as stroke and turns from caregiver to patient. Andy shows a wide range of emotions, and Deanie's portrayal of the Jiao Jie is sublime, poignant and heart-warming.  There is a stellar cast of actors, and watching life in the old folks home is quite heart rendering.
This movie should be recommended viewing for all healthcare workers, and also for All Singaporeans, and in particular all those who have dumped their parents or relatives in an old folks home and never visited them.

The portrayal of the all suffering old lady is such an accurate view, with her self-sacrificing nature, is realistic, and the environment in the old folks home and their plight is so true to life, it's almost too painful to watch. I have seen for myself how it is there, and this movie with all the big stars, allows a bigger outreach and hopefully change our attitude to our old folks.
The scene where the daughter yells at her mother, who has given her flat to the son, only for the son to dump the old at the home, is something I have seen for myself so many times. Then the old lady who keeps wanting to go home, that is something we have seen so many times, that it digs into your heart..
However, Ann Hui, like many great directors, manages to add an element of humor, and through this, allows a message of how to treat our old folk well to come through nicely and yet retain the thrust of the message well. Andy secures the services of many big Hong Kong stars who add a sense of both levity and balance of humor and seriousness.
When Andy Lau gets mistaken for an air con repairman, that's priceless.
Combined with the elements of cooking, you become hungry, and hungry for a sense of grace, humanness, and immediately you feel like reaching out for your father and mother right there.
I seldom give full marks for the plot, but this comes close to perfection, and deserves all the accolades.
The minus is the rather shaky camera work, which pretends to add realism but actually detracts from the movie.
Chick Factor: Deanie Ip compensates for the lack of action, the usual hottie and in her simple portrayal of Ah Jie, she scores on all fronts. 


In a world where money talks, and wealth is prized more than human relationship, this is a show which says so much with so little..
What can I can say, run out, rent this, and then buy it and share it with anyone who has parents.


Footnote:
I have spent some time in orphanages, and the start of the show, where one old man bullies the other, and the other tries not to let others steal his food, are so typical. And the scene of the helper going from old person to old person, feeding each one is classic stuff.

TV - buying advice for a limited budget


With a limited budget, one's choices will be limited. That means lower expectations on quality too.
Or go for a smaller size and get a better picture quality (PQ).

One very important factor to consider is what is your viewing diet? High Definition, like Blu Ray, or Standard Definition, like free to air TV channels.

If you are watching TV channels mainly, then see what they look like at the store and understand the quality of reception will influence the quality more than the TV image quality itself.

Also consider your viewing distance, and the rule of thumb is to sit 3 times the diagonal width of the TV. If you sit too far away, you won't be able to appreciate the PQ as much. You can even get away with a lesser quality set.

Buying the run out older models will save some money especially if you do not need the latest features. But if the newer TV offers significantly better PQ, that's worth paying for.

Also consider that the TV will last for a few years, so spend wisely, and avoid scrimping every penny only to regret that you bought a TV which is too small and of poor quality.

Buying at fairs allows you to get display sets, or get good deals, but do your homework, and also remember:

YOUR EYES ARE THE FINAL JUDGE OF QUALITY.

Prime Minister's National Day Message 2012

Prime Minister's National Day Message 2012

My Fellow Singaporeans,

We celebrate National Day amidst an unsettled world. Europe and the US face serious economic problems. Asia is doing better than other regions, but China and India are slowing down and tensions are simmering in the South China Sea.

Against this backdrop, Singapore is doing quite well. Our economy grew 1.7% in the first half of 2012 and we are on track for 1.5-2.5% growth for the year. Internationally, Singapore's standing is high, whether with emerging countries like India and China or advanced nations like the US. Domestically, we are clearing the backlog of applicants for HDB flats, building more MRT lines and upgrading our bus services. Our GST Vouchers and U-Save rebates will help lower-income households cope with inflation.

Today Singapore is a success story, but the world is not standing still. The next two decades will be very different. The emerging economies in Asia are advancing rapidly. Breakthroughs in science and technology will transform our lives. Singapore will encounter many new challenges and opportunities.

We must ask ourselves some fundamental questions: What future do we see for Singapore? What kind of home do we want for our children? I believe all of us want to be proud to be Singaporeans, and to live in a successful country that meets our aspirations. What does this mean?

First, Singapore must always offer hope of a better future. We must always be a fair and just society which creates opportunities for all. A nurturing and open environment which gives every citizen the chance to pursue his dreams. A forward-looking community where each generation improves on what they have inherited and hands a better Singapore over to their children. This is the way to root able and enterprising Singaporeans here, and inspire all of us to keep on improving Singapore.

Singaporeans all want the best education, to fulfill their potential and be better people. We will equip them with skills and knowledge to thrive in an uncertain world. We must work with parents to bring their children to more equal starting points for primary school, through good and affordable childcare and kindergartens. We will open up more pathways in our education system, to fulfill the diverse aspirations of our young. Let us prepare every child for the test of life, not just a life of tests.

Second, Singapore must be an inclusive society with a heart. We uphold meritocracy, to motivate everyone to try their best. But individual achievement must be tempered with a mutual obligation. The successful ones have a duty to contribute back more to society. We need to treat one another with dignity and respect, and to share the fruits of success widely, so that no Singaporean is left out.

We have strived for such an inclusive Singapore for many years. Our home ownership programme gives every citizen, rich or poor, a stake in our nation. Our universal and almost free education system equips every child with the tools to succeed in life. Our healthcare system provides every Singaporean with good quality and affordable care.

But as new needs have emerged over time, we have enhanced our social safety nets. We introduced ComCare to help the needy, and Workfare for low-income workers. Low- and middle-income couples now get Additional Housing Grants to buy HDB flats. In schools, Opportunity Funds enable less well-off students to participate fully in enrichment programmes and study trips.

This year's Budget was a further major step. We introduced new programmes. The Silver Housing Bonus is benefiting our ageing population. Increased subsidies for home-based care are helping more families with elderly parents. These are not one-off gestures, but a carefully designed package which lays the basis for stronger safety nets for the future.

We will build on these initiatives in a sustainable way. The Government will do more but it cannot do everything. Every Singaporean must play his part in creating an inclusive Singapore. This is how we can nurture a united community, and do the best for ourselves and one another.

Third, Singapore must be a home that all of us love. We have built a unique home on our little island, striking a balance between preserving the old and embracing the new. Let us make it even better. A beautiful home with green spaces, blue skies and clear waters, just like here in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park. A cherished home where we build treasured memories and lifelong friendships. A safe home which we will defend.

This feeling of belonging and identity is especially important for an open society in a globalised world. But it is also harder to nurture when we have new immigrants and foreign workers. We are managing the inflow to minimise the strains on our infrastructure and society. But Singaporeans must remain confident and open, and welcome those who will strengthen our team and help us and our children do better. For their part, new immigrants must make the effort to integrate into our community. They must acquire our social values, our cultural values, adopt our social norms and commit their loyalty and love to Singapore.

Even as we keep our society open to immigrants, we will bring up our own next generation. Singaporeans do want to grow their own families. Many couples do wish to have children, and we will do more to support their family life and parenthood. I am happy that we expect more Dragon babies this year, but our fertility trend is still declining. We must go beyond the Chinese zodiac and tackle the underlying causes of our low birth rates. If we can create more supportive social attitudes and work environments, and lighten the burdens of parenthood, we will help couples to have more kids.

Beyond specific issues like immigration and procreation, we need to review our policies more broadly, particularly social and education policies. To still be a shining red dot twenty years from now, we must rethink our approaches, and reinvent ourselves. We must anticipate changes and prepare for what lies ahead. Singaporeans will remain at the heart of all that we do, as we update our policies to best serve our people. Core values such as meritocracy, multi-racialism and financial prudence cannot change. But within these broad principles, we should review what needs to change and where we should act more boldly.

I have asked Minister Heng Swee Keat to chair a committee of younger ministers to take a fresh look at what we are doing. We will engage Singaporeans in this review, and build a broad consensus on the way forward. I ask for your support in this exercise.

Singapore is our shared home. What Singapore becomes depends on what we make of it. With our resources, our resolve, and our imagination, Singapore is well placed to thrive in a changing world. Let us all work together so that our children can always find here hope of a better future, an inclusive society with a heart, and the best home for ourselves and our families.

Happy National Day!

The death of common sense

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

- Knowing when to come in out of the rain
- Why the early bird gets the worm
- Life isn't always fair
- And maybe it was my fault

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge). His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, launched a lawsuit and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death by:

- his parents, Truth and Trust
- his wife, Discretion
- his daughter, Responsibility
- and his son, Reason

He is survived by his 5 stepbrothers:

- I Know My Rights
- I Want It Now
- Someone Else Is To Blame
- I'm A Victim
- Pay me for Doing Nothing

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.

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 plo...