Taken 2 & Frankenweenie – Are they any good?

Friday, 5 October, 2012

taken 2 - Frankenweenie

Taken 2 and Frankenweenie are two of the movies opening in Calgary theatres today. So are they any good? In a weekly Fox LA hangout with Rotten Tomatoes’ Editor-in-Chief Matt Atchity, I got some insight from Matt and will share with you here.

*** Taken 2 ***

Many people, this reporter included, LOVE the great action thriller Taken (2008) starring Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace and Famke Janssen. In the first Taken, “Neeson plays a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative who sets about tracking down his daughter after she is kidnapped by human traffickers while traveling in France.” To me, Liam Neeson is a great dramatic actor but I had never been him so ass-kicking and believable as a lean-mean-killing-machine before Taken. So naturally, I’ve been eagerly waiting for Taken 2 over the years since I watched Taken the DVD borrowed from Calgary Public Library. Unfortunately, I’m quite disappointed to see a 17% Rotten rating (88 Rotten out of 104 reviews so far) for Taken 2. Yikes! Rotten Tomatoes’ Editor-in-Chief Matt Atchity described Taken 2 as weak. We all had a good laugh when Matt mentioned someone had fun with the title of Taken 2 and changing it to “Look Who’s Taken 2″, I presume, reference the unfunny comedy “Look Who’s Talking“.

So set your expectation of Taken 2 really really low if you have to watch it. And do share what you think about it. Leave a comment. Given what I heard and read now, I think I would rather re-watch Taken if I want to see Neeson kick-ass.

*** Frankenweenie ***

Frankenweenie has a 84% Fresh Rotten Tomatoes rating (76 fresh out of 91 reviews). The film is an extended version of a short film by Tim Burton years ago. Rotten Tomatoes’ Matt thinks the stop motion is really well done. While Matt really likes the film but he suggested may be the film isn’t for kids too young (younger than 8). It should be noted that Frankenweenie is written, directed & produced by Tim Burton himself whereas The Nightmare Before Christmas (a great film I love) was only written & produced by Burton but not directed by Burton.

This article cross-posted by me in examiner.com

Ricky Gervais’ jokes at Golden Globes 2012

Sunday, 15 January, 2012

Ricky Gervais hosting 2012 Golden Globes

Jan 18, 2012 update: Ricky Gervais on David Letterman 2012.01.17 talking about his Golden Globes performance, etc

Live Blogging/tweeting Golden Globes in reverse order of posting (latest posting first).

* Ricky linked to these two show reviews, New York Post “Irreverent Ricky keeps party zinging” and USA Today “For Globe openers, Gervais is up to his old quips”.

* THR, “TV Ratings: Golden Globes Steady in 2012

“Though most time zone adjusted numbers aren’t yet available, the 2012 Golden Globes look likely to retain much of its audience from last year’s show. Sunday’s Globes were broadcast live across the country, with a 8:00 p.m. encore in the Pacific Time Zone, so current stats on total viewers and adults 18-49 are subject to likely revision and are expected to go up.”

* Post-show comments: Check out, very good show reviews from

– UK Daily Mail, “Golden Globes 2012: He’s back and naughtier than ever! Beer-swilling Ricky Gervais drops the F-word, jokes about the size of his penis and Jodie Foster’s ‘Beaver'”

– The Atlantic, “The Insufferable Self-Seriousness of the Golden Globes”

– Macleans, “Oh, Ricky, You’ll Say Anything

And I think the best review is by THR Chief TV Critic Tim Goodman, “Golden Globes 2012 Review: Ricky Gervais a ‘Letdown,’ ‘Punk’d’ the Awards“. I like Tim’s “‘Punk’d'” theory but I don’t know if it is true and we will find out from Ricky soon. Here is an excerpt from Tim’s Review (emphasis added),

“The trouble with the Golden Globes telecast this year was simple — it was egregiously boring. The Oscars and Emmys can’t get here fast enough to erase this three-hour dud.
Does Gervais deserve some of the blame? Well, in so much that he led a lot of people to believe he was going to be a very naughty boy, then yes. Otherwise, he was funny enough. He did his bit. And let’s remember that the host at the Globes is often absent for vast stretches of time — last year’s running internet joke was that the Globes had fired Gervais mid-show and he’d never return. But it was just how the show has evolved. The host is, essentially, a minimal presence.
No, the Globes were boring all on their own.

“Ah, but there’s something clever afoot when you think about Gervais’ underwhelming performance. Think about it. Think still more. And now consider this: Ricky Gervais just Punk’d the Globes. He exacted revenge for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association making such a stink last year and taking the moral high ground, lambasting him for being cruel and petty, a bitter outcast comic among real actors and stars. It could be that Gervais’ skin really is that thick and he didn’t suffer their angry arrows. Or it could be that when the Globes realized it really did need Gervais because controversy breeds ratings and ratings keep you viable, that Gervais plotted his revenge.
And Sunday night he took it. He wasn’t merciless. He wasn’t outraged. Hell, he didn’t even seem very involved or even committed. It’s as if he said, “You hired me last year knowing what you’d get, then you fired me when you got it. Well, this year you get what you truly wanted. And you definitely get what you deserve.
Cheeky, that. Oh, you clever, clever bastard. Well played, Ricky Gervais. You got the Globes but good.

And some “ok” reviews from LA Times and Reuters, and see THR for “Golden Globes 2012: The Winners List

Golden Globes 2012 – Ricky Gervais Opening Monologue

* In answer to VanityFair’s Tweet question, “Who wants to guess what Ricky Gervais said that required a 4-second bleep at the #goldenglobes?Read the rest of this entry »

Drive Different – How Steve Jobs Legally Drove Without a License Plate

Thursday, 27 October, 2011

Mystery solved - Here's how Steve Jobs drove without licence plates

Love this Steve Jobs drove without License Plate story for a Friday. See CA DMV law section 4456 (c) (1) &(2) at the bottom of the page.

Drive/Think Different

See also my Steve Jobs biography review/”best of” series.

HT these articles which gave partial answers (without the legal reference).

Final Cut Pro X – Impulse purchase halted by negative reviews

Wednesday, 22 June, 2011

June 27 Update: Excellent reviews/comments here, here (dvcreators review, long but very insightful), here, here (MacWorld), and here (PC Magazine).


Final Cut Pro X - USA (avg 2.78 stars by 183 users)

I was hoping to simply buy Final Cut Pro X as an impulse item because it is relatively cheap ($299) given I expect a full suite of powerful features plus more! So it is unfortunate to read the really “mixed reviews” (less diplomatic wording: shitty reviews) of the buggy FCP X is getting since it came out yesterday. Check out the mixed FCPX articles/reviews by Philip Hodgetts and Larry Jordan. And App store comments like: “2 hours of use: 3 crashes” and then “As a new, more sophisticated version of iMovie? Sure. As a “pro” app marketed to professionals to replace aging FCP7? Not ready for prime-time.” )

If Final Cut Pro X had received universal glowing reviews, I would have bought it myself and playing with it now. Instead, my perfect little impulse item has turned into an item that needs to be justified. And a buggy/crashed prone (according to some users’ experiences) software doesn’t deserve three of my crisp $100 bills (paper or polymer)!

Update: Looks like FCP X can’t import Panasonic AVCHD MTS files directly. No good!

Quoting Larry, who works closely with Apple in creating FCP X training, has not surprisingly an overall positive review despite the following complains,

“There’s no multicam support.

[…] Worse, there’s no native way to export a project to send it to either Soundtrack Pro or ProTools for sound mixing.

I’ve already mentioned there is no native ability to layback to tape using timecode control.”

Final Cut Pro X - Canada (avg 2.72 stars by 50 users)

June 24 update: TechCrunch, “Conan Wastes No Time Lampooning “Final Cut Pro Ex”

iPad app review: Jibbigo English to Chinese speech-to-speech translation app

Saturday, 5 March, 2011

iPad app review: Jibbigo English to Chinese translation - Pix 2

What is Jibbigo?

Jibbigo is a “speech-to-speech translation app for your mobile device. You talk in one language, it talks back in the other. […] No data charges required–just your voice. Jibbigo is available in eight different language pairs on iTunes and the Android Market.

Apple iPad app:  “Jibbigo ” (link to iTune)

Price: US$ 24.99

Star rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

*** Background ***

Machine translation is a very difficult problem even for desktop/large computers. I see translation in three levels of difficulties, beginning with the hard problem of text-to-text translation, then speech-to-text translation, and the toughest one is speech-to-speech translation (the one Jibbigo tries to do). Why? Because speech-to-speech translation requires,

1) the original (e.g. English/Chinese) human voice be recognized and converted correctly into (English/Chinese) text;

2) the translation of recognized text into target language text (Chinese/English) be performed correctly (very hard in itself); and

3) the translated target text being read out in the target language correctly (should be easier but not always as you will see here).

I’ve spent days and many hours testing and exploring the Jibbigo iPad app (feeling like testing software in one of my previous jobs). The following is my review plus an edited video highlighting some of the tests I’ve conducted.

*** The Good/OK ***

* Translation of simple greetings (“Good morning.”, “Good Afternoon.” etc) were done correctly most of the time.

* Some simple English sentences were picked up and translated to Chinese correctly.

(e.g. “How much?” ==> “多少钱?”; “How about two million five hundred thousand dollars?” was translated to “2500000美元怎样?” (note: ; 2500000 was read as 2 million, 500 thousands); “Do you have orange juice?” ==> “有橙汁吗?”; “I live in Canada.” ==> “我住在加拿大。”)

* Jibbigo allows user to enter names and their Chinese translations. For example, I entered my name Kempton and my name in Chinese. Jibbigo was able to recognize my name “Kempton” in English and translated it to Chinese. Unfortunately, Jibbigo failed to pronounce my Chinese name correctly. More on this in the next section.

* Some simple sentences were translated somewhat correctly.

(e.g. “What time do I need to get up in the morning?” was translated to “我想要什么时候起床?” The translation missed the word “morning” “早晨/早上” and confused “need to” with “想要” (the word for “wish to”).

“Where can I rent a car?” was translated to “我在哪能租车吗?” . This Chinese translation is understandable but a better one may be “我在哪里可以租到车?” since the “吗” at the end is not really necessary. And being the picky me, I think “哪里可以” is stylistically better than “哪能”.

* To “protect” the user :), Jibbigo won’t display or translate profanities. So if you said “F*ck off!”, the Jibbigo will show it detected/picked up “<beep> off.” and actually create a beep and display “<beep>.” instead of doing any Chinese translation!

*** The Bad/Not-so-good ***

* The simple sentence of “Do you have steak?” was translated to the non-sensical “你有排怎么做?” instead of the correct one of “你有牛排吗?”.

“I am having steak for dinner.” was incorrectly translated to “我的牛排吗。”, missing the word/idea of “dinner” and adding the question word “吗” for no good reason. A better translation may be “我的晚餐是牛排。” or  “我吃牛排晚餐。”

* “The machine part number is 123456789.” was translated to “这个机器号码是123456789分。” The last word “分” is not needed and indeed confusing and misleading.

* “How much is your machine?” was badly translated to “你是多少钱?” meaning “How much are YOU?” Jibbigo missed the important word of “machine”. A better translation is “你的机器是多少钱?”

* “I need it next month.” was incorrectly translated to “我需要它。” missing the translation for “next month”. A better translation may be “我下个月需要它。”

* I think this one may be tough but important to crack. Jibbigo has problems with proper nouns. e.g. “China Airlines.” was translated to “中国航空公司。” when the proper Chinese name for this Taiwan-based airline is “中華航空公司”. Imagine, someone at the airport trying to fly “中国航空公司” and being told there is no such airline!

“How about two million Canadian dollars?” was badly translated to “加2500000美元吗?”, misplacing the word “加” (for Canada?) and missing the fact that it is “Canadian dollars” and not US dollars “美元”. The correct translation should be “2500000加元怎样?”

* When the Chinese tester said hello and her Chinese name (which was entered into Jibbigo), the app picked up, “你好。我交换怀孕。” and translated the words to, “Hello. I am exchange.” Jibbigo goofed badly because “交换” and “怀孕” are the words for “exchange” and “pregnant”, very far off from her name!

* “Bee” was translated as “啤酒”, the words for “beer”! The correct Chinese words for bee are “蜜蜂”.

* And for some strange reason, Jibbigo failed to translate the following list of words when they were said individually. “Talk, Speak, Speaking, Love, Month,

*** Software stability problems and errors ***

* When iPad went into sleep/auto-lock mode (I set my iPad to go to sleep in 5 minutes) while Jibbigo is running, it will crash and will fail to record voice/function properly when the iPad is woken up.

*** Concluding comments ***

As a computer geek and someone who wants to see Jibbigo‘s technology working, I am disappointed to find Jibbigo failed to work as advertised. Based on my extensive testing, I cannot recommend Jibbigo. And as one Jibbigo user commented in his review, “I wouldn’t dare use this on a trip for fear of getting laughed at or smacked!“. To be truthful, I don’t think he was being excessively harsh.

I think the Jibbigo English to Chinese translation app development team needs to spend some time in resolving the various translation and stability problems in the current version of the software (Jan 21, 2011, Version 1.12226). I wish the Jibbigo team the best of luck.

iPad app review: Jibbigo English to Chinese translation - Pix 3

iPad app review: Jibbigo English to Chinese translation - Pix 4

iPad app review: Jibbigo English to Chinese translation - Pix 5

P.S. The user can choose one of two language pairs, “English International <==> Chinese” or “English USA/Canada <==> Chinese”, I picked Canadian English.

iPad app review: Jibbigo English to Chinese translation

iPad app review: Moving Tales’ Unwanted Guest

Thursday, 3 March, 2011

Moving Tales' Unwanted Guest - pix 1Moving Tales' Unwanted Guest - pix 2

Apple iPad app:  ”Unwanted Guest

Price: US$ 4.99

Star rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Unwanted Guest“ is great story and wonderfully designed app by the creative people at Moving Tales. The story about a poor old man, down on his luck and living in a tumbledown house, is visited by an unwelcome house guest was very engaging that I ended up finishing the app/book in one reading! The animations are beautifully imagined, stunningly designed and rendered. The English, French, and Spanish voice-over all sounded very engaging and worked great with the story. I can imagine some parents using the foreign languages option to teach their children one or more of the languages. I highly recommend you check out ”Unwanted Guest“.

By the way, if you haven’t seen Moving Tales‘s first story app ”The Pedlar Lady of Gushing Cross“, have a look of my 2010 August app review and you may want to get that app too. By now, I have seen and reviewed producer/director/animator Matthew Talbot-Kelly’s Moving Tales team of creative people’s last two out of three story apps and they are setting very high standard for the industry!

The following is a promotional clip of the app from Moving Tales.

Joe Weber FlyingWord CEO interview – “Treasure Island” iPad app

Tuesday, 9 November, 2010

FlyingWord - Treasure Island - pix 2

The following are video clips of my Skype video interview with Joe Weber, CEO and co-founder of FlyingWord, to talk about their Treasure Island iPad app based on the classic Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. (beautifully narrated for about 7 hours)

Also check out my FlyingWord “Treasure Island” iPad app review.

Here are part 1 of my interview with Joe.

Part 2

Part 3

Here is a promotional clip of FlyingWord’s Treasure Island,


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