Port Call - Movie review

This is an effort by Philip Yung, and stars a rather different looking Aaron Kwok, who even got thinner, dyed his hair to complete the look. Very different from the slick cops seen in the recent cop shows. No Mainland money in this one. 
He investigates a murder of a young prostitute, played by a newcomer Jessie Li.

Whilst I commend the acting efforts of everyone, in particular Micheal Ning, who plays the murderer that confesses to the crime, I can't understand the plot or follow the story. It isn't the gore, or even the sex scenes, I don't find them particularly distasteful or anything like that, it's just that I don't get the plot :(

It's a talkie, so there's minimal surround use. The dialogue is clear, the picture quality is excellent, but it's no demo disc..

Can't wrap my head around this ... even though it was well received at the Golden Horse Awards 2015. 

Watch it for yourself and decide. 

State of Play - Blu Ray review

So, some of us liked Pelican Brief. And some of us have new kick ass Atmos or DTS-X 11 channel surround systems. Now how about a movie that meets the same thrill and has that pulsating story, and on top of that, has a soundtrack that ensconces you in surround sound, and adds tension, drama and impact to it?

State of Play is actually adapted from a British production, and the Brits know how to make a terrific plot. Add a whole host of marquee actors, increased the production values and you have a gripping thriller.

You have the likes of a few Academy award winners here, including Helen Mirren, Russel Crowe, backed up by some very solid acting from Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams and Batman Affleck, along with a few more supporting acts that work well together in a political drama that started with a murder under a bridge, an affair, a suicide and the only odd thing that stuck out was that the reporter played by a lion maned Crowe, smelt a rat.

Now you may think that this is no movie for bass heads and yes, I do concede that it won't be a continuous pummelling of your senses, but the bass is used to provide solid tension, and when the sniper fires, there's a solid thump too.

The money is in the surround effects, with all the speakers being involved. Despite being 'only' a DTS-MA 5.1 production, those with the more advanced surround systems can add Neural X to the mix and you definitely feel the helicopter flybys, the rain effects and more coming from on top. Each street scene is filled with sound, and you feel right in the middle of things.

When it does get rough, the bass does come in and there are very precise placement effects and the sound is crisp. When spent rounds drop onto the floor, there's a nice ring, and you will get lots of details.

This is also a good disc to test the noise floor in your system, as you don't really need to turn it up very loudly, especially if you have a really quiet room for your setup.

Plot: 4/5
Action: 3/5

Recommended for a viewing at least, and for those into political thrillers it's a keeper. The disc itself is a beauty of a demo on how to elicit solid ambience.

Things to look out for when doing your Audyssey calibration

So there was a recent firmware update for my Marantz SR 7010  (http://peteswrite.blogspot.sg/2015/10/marantz-sr7010-review.html). I after doing this, I decided to take the opportunity to re-do the Audyssey calibration, and see how things sound. I have also recently reduced the toe-in on my Dynaudio C1s and moved the rear surround Usher on the right side to a more central position so the two rears are more equal in distance.

So I went through the pre-cal checklist:

- using the stock mic
- get a mic stand
(this is easier to use than a tripod, and you are free from the vibrations that may affect readings if the tripod rests on the sofa, plus it's easier to move too)
- keep the room quiet - turn off the aircon, do it on a quiet day
- keep the front three speaker tweeters as close as possible
- check the other speaker positions
- place the mic stand at the right height: ear level when seated
(if you recline that chair, make sure the stand is at the height of your ears when reclined) - more on this later
- turn both subs on

So once the mic is plugged in, and things are set up I walk quietly with my remote to the adjacent room and start the process. This usually takes 10-20 mins, and you have to walk back to shift the mic around.

I usually do it in a tight grid around the main listening position. Some websites have even advocated moving the mic up and down a little, but I did not.
Remember the first position is the all important position, which not only assess the volumes, but also the speaker positions, phase, delay, crossover and more.

So it proceeds quite smoothly, and I check my settings.

As usual, the Audyssey sets my main and centre speaker to 'large' but it's better to use them as 'small' and direct the bass to my E112s. I set the crossover at 60 Hz for all three, and the rest of the surrounds are crossed at 80, whilst my ceiling Atmos speakers cross at 110Hz.

Now some members leave things as they are, which is ok for those who simply want a no brainer solution, but for the proper immersion experience, this is when the legwork starts.

It's not a good idea to test the internal test tones for more then a test of whether your speakers are all hooked up, instead get a test tones CD / DVD and run that.

Then get a SPL meter and see if the levels match. Now I personally run the centre about 1.5 db hotter, and tone down the surrounds, otherwise they will sound too prominent, which is a problem with the Audyssey idea of a good surround experience.

The distances indicated aren't the actual ones, and sometimes you find one speaker distance to be quite different from the measured one, usually the sub. Don't fret, this is the calculated distance and takes into account the delay that Audyssey sets.

It does not stop here. The final litmus test is to use a familiar sound track, and see if the surround experience cooked up is to your taste. I like to use the "Band of Brothers", which has a nice bullets whizzing by scene in Episode Two. The flight path of the bullets should go from back to front and side to side. The grenade tossed should trace a path from back to the centre.

I recently also added the demo disc of 2016: "13 Hours".
I think most of us will be familiar with the second assault scene, beginning with the shepherd slinging his weapon and the car that appears with someone attempting to throw a home made bomb - Chap 15.
In the build up of tension towards the free for all fight, you can hear ambient sounds from all the surrounds, with the subs adding a low growl of bass that adds to the mood.
During this fight, one of the DS guys is seen running towards the wall, when a "Tango" tosses a bomb over the wall, and you can trace the flight of bomb/grenade from the left surround moving up between the Top Front and Top Rears, progressing towards the centre of the ceiling then dropping down onto the centre speaker. A nice blast follows, but it's the flight path that is amazing.
Then "Oz" cops one round on his helmet and you can trace the bullet flying across, from left to right, utilising the side surrounds, across the centre.
With each round from the M5 and M60, there's a nice thud, and when the "Tangoes" fire their RPGs, the rounds go off with a solid thump that hits your chest and quakes your sofa.

So if it sounds ok, save your settings on the PC too!

The Way - movie review

This is a small budget production by the Sheen aka Estavez family and stars the patriarch Martin and his son Emilio who also directed it.
It covers martin's journey on the Camino way.
It's a quiet yet meaning way, with almost Hallmark kind of feel and will leave you with two feelings:
One you will feel warm and fuzzy;
Second you will feel like slinging on your backpack and rush to Europe and do this 800 km walk. Apart from a warm story it also takes you through a beautiful tour of this walk, almost like a Discovery channel or Japan Hour documentary.
If you don't mind the slow pace, it's definitely worth a rental at least.

Sent from my iPhone
Sorry for brevity of message

Shipping to Singapore thread - options and tips, read this before you order

These days, many shops in SG have closed so ordering from overseas gives you variety, value and goes right to your door step!

Some general notes:

- check the cost differences, vpost not always better or cheaper
- if time is important, go direct
- for those shipping other items, check that they can be shipping, eg vpost does not ship speakers

- check with your credit card, some have an additional discount

Firstly, the pro of a local dealer:
- service
- warranty
- technical expertise
- product less likely to run the risk of being damaged, and if it is DOA, an exchange is easily sorted out

The cons:
- the local dealer may charge a much higher price
- service may be only half decent

The pros of doing it yourself, or via a professional shipper:

- price = the difference in price can be quite significant (will list some examples later and others can chip in)
- better features
- not available locally

- the risk of damage
- voltage issues (more on this later)
- claiming warranty or this may be non-exisitent
- the product may not work locally (tuner channels, NTSC TV sets only)
- complicated shipping
- non-existent shipping
- high tax / cost of shipping
- lousy shipping (more on the choices of shipping)

Now amazon offers free shipping: http://www.xtremeplace.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=139117.msg900202#msg900202

BUT do note the conditions:

- only items by Amazon, not third party sales
- look for the checkbox on the side and tick Shipping to Singapore AND Free International Shipping

Note that sometimes the first item that appears isn't the amazon listed one with free shipping. It can appear on the side as an alternative. This sometimes happens if there's another seller which is cheaper or has current stock

There are also size limitations and pre-orders don't qualify.

Add it up to USD 125 and viola!

I have even found that colgate is cheaper in USA than in SG!

Other Amazon tricks:

- put the items in your cart

Use websites like Camelcamelcamel or price tracker to get the lowest price

What other sites can you buy from?

Especially if the item in question does not ship over?

Well, vpost is one, but it has been lambasted by many. Comgateway is another. There are also other concierge shippers in play now.

Taobao is another site and now there are also shippers that cater to the growing number of people who buy from TB or Alibaba

Finally some notes on using your credit cards.


The summary of this article is:

Pay in the currency you order from, NOT the SG$.

Amex has the highest commissions and now some banks cards give rebates for online shopping from overseas, like the UOB ONE card. Shop around, it pays. Literally!

LG OLED TV E6 review

The gold standard of TVs has been the plasma thus far, even though they have been out of production for more than 4 years.
The best LED or LCD TVs can only approximate the blacks and film like qualities of the best plasma TVs and the videophiles around the world have been waiting eagerly for the real replacement for the plasmas.

From wiki : organic light-emitting diode (OLED) is a light-emitting diode (LED) in which the emissive electroluminescent layer is a film of organic compound that emits light in response to an electric current.

OLED has been around for a few years, but now it's coming into real commercial production, moving from astronomical prices to merely high prices that are just that bit more expensive than the best LED TVs. I think that if if they were the same price, we won't have any LED TVs to sell, the OLED TVs will swarm the market. But that's the way it is, the makers need to milk the market for the tech costs first, then bring the prices down.

But oh... when you see the blacks, it becomes a real object of envy. The form factor is super slim, even more so than the slimmest LED TVs. LG has wisely let the base be thick enough to support a decent soundbar type speaker system, which has enough meat in it to sound proper, in case you aren't planning to use a real sound system.

The interface is not too shabby, and is very responsive, and if you tinker with it, and use VPN, you can actually get apps off the US or Euro market. Add a high speed internet connection, and it's an entertainment centre in itself.

There are two remotes, one traditional long one and a smaller one. Needs to be backlit since the room will be pretty dark with this TV.. and onto that awesome picture..

Most of all it's picture is superb. Deeper blacks than plasma, yes, I said it, finally the king of the hill is not the Pioneer Kuro plasma TV. Add good motion control, which whilst not as film like as the old plasmas, is far better than the LED TVs and you don't get any of that "Soap Opera Effect", which most videophiles hate.

There is also good 3D reproduction, which is passive by the way, with light glasses and even clip ons which work fine. The quality for 3D is also equally good and will impress those who like this.

One thing to note, is that the VESA mount sits lower than normal, since only the bottom section is thicker. The upper 2 thirds is all thin glass with means of mounting.

Oh yes, can you see the difference between FHD and UHD? A definitely yes. There is so much detail, but you need good content. Those who complain that 4k TVs look bad with standard def and youtube videos are simply not using the right content. You need to buy UHD discs and watch them on this TV. The resolution and detail is breathtaking.

So what are we waiting for? Let's all go buy one right? Well the major deterrent, is price. The street price for a 'mere' 65" is around 8 grand, and if you want the 77" version, it's a princely 40 grand. Not small change at all..

So I will remain happy with my 3 plasma TVs, and hope they last until the OLED tech becomes affordable and jump in with a 80" one. For those with biggest wallets, don't wait, the best TVs are in town.

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

Finding Dory - movie review

I brought some kids to see this, and I didn't have a high expectation, believing that it will just be another money making sequel, out to milk the original for a few more dollars, kind of like Independence Day II.. but boy was I wrong!

To put it simply, I found this story to be more interesting, with greater depth, more food for thought, and yet, it was just as entertaining, if not more than the original. Now that I have let the cat out of the bag, allow me to explain why.

This will be consider one of Pixar's best, in my opinion, with the right magical mix of fun, adventure, humor and depth that marks all the hall of fame Pixar productions. Sure, it's another journey that involves fish finding someone and something, but the story writers manage to add the right mix of originality, coupled with elements of the original road trip so those who have seen it have something they can remember, yet there are many more elements of new characters and storylines that will draw in new fans. Both kids and adults will have something for them. My kids were at the edge of their seats, urging the fish on when they faced the odds, laughing at the jokes with their parents, and the parents will have many scenes that will give them much to ponder on especially if they have or know someone with a child of special needs.

A special mention must be given to the traditional 5 minute pre-show snippet, called "Piper" which agains shows how one can let a kid learn to do what he needs to do, but letting him achieve the task in his own way. I believe the snipped alone deserves and Oscar, and speaking of that, I believe with great confidence that we are looking at Oscar material, right now in this show.

As for the surround effects, your surround speakers will get a good workout, dialogue is crisp and clear. There isn't as much bass, so this won't be that kind of demo track, but it's still a solid showing and with such a sweet story, I think this one will be a keeper, just like it's predecessor, Finding Nemo.


Not just another Sydney trip - food and more

So who has not been to Oz and in particular Sydney? Blue mountains? Harbor bridge? Koalas? I think most of us have seen them all .. How a...