Get Out – Movie Review




Once in a while, you get a new movie, directed by a someone who is just venturing out, and his first effort really hits the spot.

This is Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, but you never get a sense that he has not been around for a while. On a budget more skimpy than Halle Barry’s Perle, he has manufactured a solid thriller, and that’s coming from someone who is not that fond of shock and horror movies.

It’s part Sidney Poiter’s In the Heat of the Night, mixed in with some Saw and Stepford Wives, but it feels very original, as it deals with a young black man going to meet his white girlfriend’s parents and the extended family. Things gradually begin to get creepy and feel strange as his girlfriend’s family are not really what they appear to be. He soon has to use all his wit to get out, and that’s what the plot is basically about.

It has some racial apartheid kind of humor mixed in with the strangeness and the levity it lends adds to the flow nicely. The lead is a new actor too, but after you watch him, you soon realized why he was chosen to be the lead for the Marvel adventure Panther.

The editing is tight, the action, shock and horror are all nicely timed. Rest assured, there is no gore, but you get enough scary scenes to keep you gripping the armrests of your seats.

Together the cast work well to weave the story, and the length is just right.

For home theatre fans, this is a real keeper. Even with ‘only’ 5.1 DTS-MA on the Blu Ray, it’s amazing. If you bought the UHD, you will get a full sonic workout from the DTS-X soundtrack. Every creak, ambient sound in the home plays a role, and the sound helps to build up the tension. Fantastic.


3.5/5 for the movie. 4.5/5 for the sound and disc.

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle movie review



It was 1995, and Jumanji was a very interesting movie, that had a rather unique plot, that made use of cutting edge computer graphics. I recall a scene where a car is run over by a horde of elephants and was totally amazed by how real it looked.

So two decades later, is there a need for a remake/reboot and how did it fare?

Well, this second movie serves almost as a sequel, with homage to the original, but the plot does try to differentiate itself, with a much brighter outlook and positive tempo. The original had one of the top comedians around, but Robin Williams did have a darker side and it showed in the show, with a few rather scary scenes which I felt would have disqualified it as a family movie.

The premise is similar, but you will not need to watch the original to understand or follow this instalment. Once again, four people, all kids this time get trapped in the game and need to finish it to escape. However they are transformed into different personas, and this is where the magic and laughs begin.

The body swop concept is used to good effect here, and the timid geek gets the body of a wrestling champion, whilst the jock becomes his small sidekick. The unpopular quiet girl is transformed into a hot Lara Croft persona, whilst the school flower becomes a fat tubby middle age dude, and they also have a lot of fun whilst she explores the male bits of her body.


So there are thrills and spills along the way, but the key is how well the cast connect, and milk each scene for laughs in a very kinetic and energetic way, which was very entertaining, both for adults as well as kids. My godson was laughing as loudly as his mother, and everyone had their own laugh out loud scene. 

Action fans will not be disappointed either, with plenty of action, but there's no gore, although the kill rate is quite high for a PG13 movie. Bass fans will also have no complaints.

Babe factor was actually quite high. The Lara Croft like persona was played by the same actress that played Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy, and she was game for all the action sequences. The Rock has proven that he can not only do action, but also get the guffaws with ease. Jack Black manages to play a teenage girl with aplomb, and gets his fair share of laughs. Kevin Hart worked with The Rock recently in Central Intelligence and the two have a certain chemistry that certainly shows.

I think this movie is a keeper, for the family as well as the action fan and will be a real demo disc in time to come. 

4/5 



Sony UBP-X800 4K Blu-ray Player Review



Sony website link


 Test gear:

Important tech info:

Two HDMI outputs: one HDMI 2.0b output, one HDMI 1.4 for audio only
Coaxial output
Ethernet LAN, USB
Audio format support with Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus and DTS Decoding, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
Plays almost all formats, even SACD & DVD-A
Wifi built in, DNLA and streaming capability, Bluetooth
Frame-and-beam chassis offers a rigid structure to eliminate micro-vibrations, as well as effective electrical shielding
Supports many master-quality 24-bit audio formats, from AAC and WAV, to DSD 11.2 MHz and more
Internet apps, eg Netflix and Youtube
NO Dolby Vision



Sony was the last to join the 4k player revolution, and even though they have taken their time, we are grateful for their first few offerings. The X800 is the more budget offering, and it removes the analogue audio section and display in order to lower the selling price, but they have kept most of the important bits that make this a very interesting player.

The first thing that strikes you about the player is that it is quite sleek. Without a display screen, and a cover that opens to expose the tray when you press the open button, it has a very low profile. It also reminds you that it’s a more budget model when you start looking for the play, pause or other buttons. The player only has an open and power button. You have to rely on the remote control for everything else.

The remote is a simple but reasonably solid one, with no back-lit illumination, the basic buttons are well labeled and the space between the buttons is decent. You also get quick access buttons to Netflix, plus some controls for Sony TVs. I reckon apart from the lack of self illumination, it’s actually a decent job, especially if you take into account the USD 399 SRP.

The other surprise comes when you try to lift up the player. I owned some recent model Sony players such as the 6500, and they barely weighed more than a kilo. Here you have a player which weighs almost four times that. This is mostly due to the solid chassis construct, and when you open up the player, you see it’s very well put together.



Now, make no mistake, this is a disc transport built for video playback. It has no analogue outputs, so we will not be talking about DACs, audio playback much, since it’s primary role is in the playback of movies.

However it does play almost all formats and I did put some SACDs in, and it is up to the task. The playback quality for these will be very much dependant on your amp’s internal audio playback quality.

As for the picture, I compared it to the Oppo UDP 203 (http://peteswrite.blogspot.sg/2016/12/oppo-udp-203-review.htmland on a 65” screen, I could not detect very much difference in quality for 4k discs. The Oppo did somewhat better for Blu Ray and DVD upscaling, but both of them were no match for the upscaling qualities of an earlier Oppo BDP 83 Nuforce I had on hand.

The player was very quiet in operation, and did not get very hot in operation. It was responsive, just a tad slower than the Oppo 203, but not really noticeable in general operation. It was slowest when you pop in a 4k disc, but it was not too bad.

One big deficit for some will be the lack of Dolby Vision support. This might be a deal breaker for some. Other than that, it does well in supporting many internet apps that offer streaming of many kinds of media. It can also playback many formats over wireless streaming, which puts it one up against the far more expensive Oppo.

Out of curiosity, I also pressed it into service as a disc transport, and here is where things got a little interesting. My present gold standard for Blu Ray players which did well as a disc transport was the older Oppo BDP 101CI, which had a very solid transport. (http://peteswrite.blogspot.sg/2015/12/oppo-bdt-101ci-review.htmlNow, this Sony was really solid too, and at it’s price, it acquitted itself very well in this role, feeding my Marantz NA 11S1 to playback Redbook CDs.

So how does it measure up? Well in video playback of 4k discs, it keeps up with the other 4k players, and for upscaling of other discs such as Blu Ray or DVDs, it’s fine, although if you are willing to pay much more, you can get better quality. The key is how much more..
At it’s current street price, it is a fascinating bargain for those who only want a video playback player, and do not need an all in one all singing player with a great audio section, which will cost them money anyway. I think it’s a great player and if the lack of Dolby Vision does not deter you, it’s highly recommended.















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

Short reviews : Dark Tower, Baby Boss, The Finest Hour, Valerian and Cars 3

Another series of flights and some quick notes

I saw a brace of shows with ideas and concepts not dissimilar to earlier works, here we see a triumph of CGI and technology over a lynchpin or pillar of a good movie - the plot.

Baby boss

Not bad and it follows the tried and tested mix of humor with some adult sensitivity but this movie about sibling rivalry and a subplot of conspiracy doesn't hit the same highs as the other older big cartoon hits.

Valerian

You must admire Luc Besson for his imagination and creativity but when you compare this space adventure to his earlier Fifth Element, it doesn't not hit the spot. The plot moves along too quickly makes too many assumptions on what the audience knows or needs to know before stepping into the movie.

Dark Tower

A story about good versus evil and there's plenty of potential but again the production values are great but a credible storyline is lacking. The good guy has a puny pistol and a young apprentice and he is expected to face overwhelming odds. How he overcomes it is a major plot hole and disappointment.

Cars 3

Well essentially it's the same plot as the original so it's better than the middle sequel but not as great as the first. Which isn't saying much.

So was everything only so so?

Well there was one good yarn and it was something I didn't have much expectation of actually. Thinking along the lines of a recent Coen Brothers comedy called Hail Caesar, I figured this to be a British facsimile of it.
Instead it was a sly comedy and a heart felt romance set as a making of a propaganda movie during WWII under difficult circumstances.
Definitely worth a watch


What can you do to keep your car battery in good shape?



These days there are a lot more things in your average car that requires power.
Daylight running lights, USB ports, GPS, Car Cameras etc etc
Even the start stop function uses up battery and if there's only one battery, that puts a lot of stress on it.
x

So in order to avoid a dead battery on the road, do consider:
Avoid charging a lot of stuff in the car, especially with the engine turned off.
Do not to use the aircon/radio/usb after turning off the engine
Use a separate battery if you use a Park Mode camera
Do try to drive long distances once in a while to charge the battery
What do you do to keep your car battery in good shape?

Battle of the Masters Singapore


Hmm... how should I start this?
I actually had a different story in my mind, and right up to the last five minutes, I was already thinking of a lovely story of some masters of the game of football, pitting their skills on Singapore turf. There was certainly talent on show, but the end was a little sore and had a bit of a bitter after taste.
It was my first time, in the new stadium, watching an exhibition match, and more importantly, my first time seeing my childhood hero Robbie and his team mates in action live. 

So when my better half scored some tickets, I was over the moon. I packed my telephoto lens, teleconverter, and my DSLR, looked around for my old Liverpool tee shirt from the 90s, and merrily drove down to watch the game. 

The stadium was immerse, and with the indoor roof in place, we would not have to worry about rain or other elements. It's actually quite cool inside, even with the roof up. Air conditioning perhaps?

The pitch was great and I also saw some football greats from Arsenal, as well as the local team. Fans streamed in, wearing jerseys from varies vintages, and some had their kids in tow, perhaps hoping that they will also come to love the teams that their fathers followed. There was certainly a festive atmosphere in the air.

Now some tips:

- try and eat before you come, there is a limited choice of burgers, pizzas and hotdogs, at rather expensive prices
- you can't bring water in, but you can bring your empty water bottle
- the ushers are not too sure where the Kallang Mall is, so use your Google maps instead
- there is plenty of parking, but the Circle Line stops right at the stadium, so it's quite convenient
- it's not too stuffy, but it's best to leave the jacket or thick tee shirt at home and wear a dry fit one
- for those with kids, there are plenty of toilets and a few water coolers, but if your kids is not old enough to sit through two hours of football, think twice about bringing them, or you may spend more time baby-sitting them than watching your football heroes

Onto the game then..

There were three games, play in two halves of 20 minutes, first between Singapore and Arsenal, then Singapore against Liverpool and finally the grand game was Arsenal versus Liverpool. You are allowed as many substitutes as you like and that was fine, given that some of the players were in their forties or even fifties.

It started out well enough, with the foreign players really going for it, and not holding back. Arsenal for example, hit the bar thrice, and they certainly kept the local goalie busy.
In the end, they only managed one goal, despite dominating most of the proceedings. Rezal Hassan was in fine form, and he threw himself at the ball, did many acrobatic saves to deny the Gunners. 

The single goal lead was tenuous, and allowed Aleksandar Duric to take on the Arsenal defence and he showed that he still had the moves, putting one away for Singapore, to allow the game to end as a draw. 

With that, I think the local fans had some hope that the second game will also be competitive, especially when Rezal saved a penalty early on. However Liverpool came out with all cylinders firing, and the game became increasingly one sided as Liverpool dominated the proceedings. Fandi Ahmad did come on in the last ten minutes to loud cheers all round, but he could not make an impressive as the game squarely in favor of the Reds. Even David James got in on the score sheet as he stepped up to take the last penalty with a might kick into the top corner of the net.

I think the foreign players were quite professional, and sought to entertain, giving the fans their money's worth, and despite their age, they played gamely, pressing on to keep scoring and apply pressure on the locals.


In between, you saw players from opposing sides catch up, and even hug one another, as they caught up. There were plenty of smiles, and it seemed that everyone had put the days of intense rivalry behind them.

The third game was the highlight of the evening and fans sat on the edge of their chairs as the two giants played a more cautious game, appreciative of the abilities of their foes. There was more defence as players did not throw caution to the wind and sought to control the mid-field. 
As the evening wore on, fatigue set in, and some of them were barely walking whereas some of them were also indefatigable, running circles around the others, even the local players.





The game was quite evenly matched, and it stayed at one one until the middle of the second half, when David Thompson drove in a fierce pile driver, and it looked like it was going to end as a Liverpool victory.







Then sadly in the last five minutes, things began to unwind..

There was a particularly fierce tackle from Lauren on Robbie Fowler, and he reacted, leading to a shoving session that threatened to turn into a melee..

Thankfully saner minds prevailed but strangely at this point, the referee allowed play to go on, and then on the final minute of the game, Arsenal took advantage of the confusion and sent in a deep punt forward and Robert Pires put in his third goal of the night.

It was all a little shocking, to see how the ambassadors of the great game rather spoilt the evening with the melee, and how the game ended with such a goal.


I think Fowler could have reacted better, and be the gentleman, since he has been the subject of fierce tackles all his life. The way he stuck out was not how someone as famous as he should be remembered.



A great pity indeed and not the best way to end a game.



As for the Man of the Match, it was a hard fight between the great offensive skills and industry of Robert Pires, who scored thrice, ran his heart out during the game, and the local custodian of the goal Rezal Hassan. Without him, the scoreline would have been worse, and he made the score far more respectable than what you see on the scoreboard at the final whistle.

All in all, a nice way to spend an evening, but it's a real pity about the scuffle at the end.

Given the advancing age of the players, I think this could be the last time we see some of the greats who came here to play, perform on the pitch and I wish all of them well as I got to relive some of my childhood memories of watching them play once more.



Liverpool emerged as winners of the night, but I wished it could have been less acrimonious. 
































































Sent from my iPhone
Sorry for brevity of message


Sent from my iPhone
Sorry for brevity of message


Sent from my iPhone
Sorry for brevity of message

Thor Ragnarok – Movie Review




Thor – what do you think of when someone mentions this particular superhero?
Perhaps a good analogy will be what the kind of weather we associated with him?
Brooding, powerful, slightly unpredictable, prone to flashes of anger and quick to act, with more brawn than brain?
The past two installments of Thor as well as his character in the previous Avenger movies have only reinforced this stereotype, and a third outing with the same sort of outlook will probably draw less of the ticket buying public than a re-issue of some old show like Superman from 1979.

So Marvel takes a chance with a new director, who takes a totally new turn, and viola, you basically get a bit of Alice in Wonderland, mixed in with some Guardians of the Galaxy, and a bit of the Brothers and Sisters TV series thrown in too. Mix that up with a mega dose of humor and plenty of slapstick, and not forgetting to add the prerequisite amount of over the top action sequences, and now you have Thor Ragnarok.

That might be an oversimplification, but you get it. It’s a reboot of the character, with the same actor, but with a lighter footing, a massive tickle of the funny bone and an almost insane pace, that even the MTV crowd may have trouble following. It adheres to the YouTube rule..
That no scene should be loiter for longer than five minutes and you are constantly moving from one twist to the next, and in lesser hands, you could drown in the manifold subplots but here, the director does very well, and Chris H does well to swop out the brooding style for a much lighter almost Spiderman like gaiety.

And it works well. Although I cannot stand that a Valkyrie is now not a blonde Scandinavian statuesque Amazon like warrier, the casting is pretty good.

There is good chemistry, although Anthony Hopkins doesn’t really get to do much, Loki aka Tommy does go from bad to good and back in his many turns, and of course Chris gets to do more than just pout. You do miss Jane Foster the love interest, but a warrior lady like Tessa Thomson might be the more appropriate love interest.. Jeff Goldblum is way over the top for me, and he reminds me of Jack Sparrow actually. Cate does Hela in a very diabolical way, but there’s too much of her Lord of the Rings channeling going on here.. 


So great plot, with plenty of potential for a new Thor IV, lovely babe factor, and of course, a whole lot of laughs.


4/5 for me, and I didn’t like the deafening bass, but it should make a good demo disc. Earplugs are advised..

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...