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August 18, 2016

13 Hours
13 Hours plays more like Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down than Bay's regular fare. more...

Anomalisa is a masterpiece. It says so right on the box. more...

Star Trek in 4K
Paramount has jumped into the 4K disc market with the release of the first two Star Trek reboot titles. more...

M:I Rogue Nation
You could think of the Mission: Impossible movies as candy floss for the brain, in that's it's sweet and fun but there isn't much to them. more...

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Ford Mustang

Nissan adds a famed diesel name to its Titan line

It's big, it's brawny - and, for those who want maximum hauling performance, now you can get it with a torquey and businesslike Cummins diesel engine.

It's the Nissan Titan, and I just spent a week in Nissan Canada's sample 2016 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel Crew Cab 4x4 (one of five versions offered), tooling around the city and environs, cutting a swath through lesser vehicular traffic - which is most vehicular traffic!

If you're a regular reader of my stuff - and thanks, by the way! - you'll know I'm not really a truck guy, so to ensure as much fairness and accuracy as possible I enlisted the help of a couple of friends, one of whom owns a first generation Titan and one of whom owns two big Ram trucks, including a diesel. I defer to their knowledge and experience, though of course I also have my own opinons for whatever they're worth. more...

Panasonic 4K panel offers spectacular picture

The latest generation of 4K televisions is in stores now and if you're in the market for a new TV it's hard not to recommend embracing the new, ultra high definition format. And if you're thinking of doing just that, Panasonic's $2499 TC-55CX850U is well worth a look.

After spending a couple of months with my posterior parked in front of the Panasonic I may be over my devotion to plasma as the best picture you can get with a flat panel TV. Plasmas may have been the best you could get before 4K, but they're effectively dead now anyway - and this Panasonic's 4K picture, even up converted from lower resolution sources, is spectacular enough that I probably won't mourn the passing of the plasma. more...

Ford ups the content ante on 2016 Mustang

It wasn't exactly a mid-life crisis, but it sure may have looked like it to people not inside the car.

I'm referring to my recent week in the 2016 Ford Mustang GT convertible, which just happened to coincide with my 64th birthday and came at a time when the weather cried out for a ragtop.

Mustang has always been my favourite muscle car, sometimes called Pony car - but only because the Mustang is the original pony car, appearing first in 1964 and changing the fun car market ever since then. Well, mostly. There were some Mustangs during the 1970's that weren't fit to carry the horse logo and, I have to admit, none of the Mustangs really turned my crank between 1970 and the car's reboot in the early 2000's.

But that's just me. The Mustang has cantered on all through those years regardless of what I thought of it and now the car exists with its most attractive styling ever; it's also full of modern electronics and gewgaws, yet it retains its pony car demeanour and heart - an interesting balancing act Ford seems to have pulled off with aplomb. more...

Shomi streaming tries to cut into Netflix' business

Netflix may be the several hundred pound gorilla in the world of TV content streaming - and with good reason - but competitor shomi has a lot going for it as well. I don't think it has the depth and breadth of what Netflix offers, but there's still plenty of programming to peruse.

Most people will undoubtedly want to compare content - the amount of stuff you can watch from the particular service - and in that regard shomi comes up short compared to Netflix. more...

Time Sagas

Mercedes-Benz C Class coupe a real coup

Mercedes-Benz certainly seems to be on a roll these days. The German luxury car manufacturer is currently making some of the most attractive vehicles in its history, beauty being in the eye of the beholder of course, and they're integrating the latest technology into their models without making most of it unnecessarily annoying and/or obtrusive.

And that's on top of their long-held reputation as the maker of some of the finest cars on the market - an impression they continue to foster via their slogan "The best, or nothing."

The result of their work can be seen in cars such as the new C 300 coupe, with which I spent a week recently. It's a beautiful car, though its roofline seems a tad Honda Accord Coupe-like to these eyes (which would be a compliment were I not also whining about it being a bit derivative), and it drives very nicely too. Oh, it isn't a "real sport coupe" like a BMW M4, but it doesn't claim to be - and it's undoubtedly easier to live with than a BMW thanks to its easier-to-figure-out interfaces. more...

LG G PAD III a nice and handy little tablet

Tablets are everywhere these days, so much so that it can be hard to decide between them. Do you want Apple or Android, big or small, cell/data service built in or not, whatever?

Into this crowd LG has released the G Pad III 8.0 FHD, a nice little unit that falls into the marketplace as a smaller tablet, yet one that has plenty of features going for it. more...

Ford's 2017 Fusion offers something for nearly everyone

Ford's top selling Fusion has a new look and new capabilities for 2017, and if my all-too-brief experience with the car on its introduction in British Columbia last week is any indication, it should continue to be a popular choice with consumers.

Ford of Canada invited me, and a gaggle of other car writers, to sample the 2017 Fusion, which isn't a complete redesign but is still a major rethink of what was a pretty decent car already. Ford has made a number of tweaks they think - and they're probably right - will help keep the car competitive in this bread-and-butter market niche that also features such great vehicles as the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Mazda6, VW Passat, Kia Optima, Hyundai Sonata etc. etc. etc. more...

Panasonic projector gives truly big screen home theatre action

It may be getting a bit long in the tooth, but Panasonic's PT-AE8000 3D 1080p front projector can still be a great way to get truly huge pictures in your home theatre.

Introduced a few years ago, the unit goes head to head with such other home theatre projectors by Epson, JVC, Sony and the like - there's plenty of competition - and just because it isn't a brand new model doesn't mean it doesn't offer compelling features. Indeed, it does. more...

Mercedes Benz Driving Academy helps you learn the physics of driving

Mercedes-Benz just taught me how to drive like Jackie Stewart!

Okay, maybe not - few people can drive like the legendary "wee Scot" who won the Formula 1 championship three times in the late 1960's and early 1970's.

But thanks to Mercedes-Benz's Driving Academy and their recent "Mastering Performance" course at Castrol Raceway near Edmonton, I learned some great techniques aimed at making me a better driver - and one of those techniques was pioneered by Sir Jackie himself.

It's called "trail braking," and if you can drive a manual transmission you'll find it quite similar to using the clutch.

The Driving Academy's "Mastering Performance" course is one of a few put on by the German manufacturer (they also offer ones for new drivers, for winter driving, and there's one geared for owners of the brand's AMG performance division). Prices and availability differs, but you can find out all about the courses at their website. I've taken a few of these over the years and every time I learn something new that I can apply to my real world driving. more...

CHANGEdesk helps your computer monitor rise to the occasion

Do you get tired of sitting all day and would like a desk that raises and lowers to help facilitate your working while standing? There are many such desks on the market, including the subject of this rant, Uncaged Ergonomics' CHANGEdesk.

According to the press materials accompanying the desk's announcement, a report from the American Journal of Preventative Medicine claims that sitting for more than three hours per day is responsible for 3.8 per cent of all-cause mortality deaths (I wonder what a non-mortality death is). Also according to the release, researchers estimate that reducing sitting time to less than three hours per day would increase life expectancy.

I guess that means I'll be dead before nightfall… more...

Range Rover a classy suit of diesel-powered clothes

Range Rover has a solution for buyers of big, luxury sports utes who don't want to pay through the nose at the gas pump to get their big and heavy luxury vehicles around: get a diesel!

When Jaguar Land Rover Canada offered me the use of a new Range Rover HSE during part of my recent trip to Ontario and Indiana, I jumped at the chance, though with reservations. I was worried about the cost of the gasoline I'd have to put into the big and heavy vehicle because I figured I'd be driving the version with the lovely five litre supercharged V8.

But it was not to be! The V8 comes on the Supercharged Range Rover and my sample this time was a deliciously all black HSE diesel, and it was a fine choice; if I were shopping for a Range Rover, I'd probably choose this one because it cost me a LOT less to keep on the road than I expected. I didn't actually track my mileage religiously, but my out of pocket fuel purchases were substantially lower than I expected to pay. Range Rover claims just shy of a 25 per cent increase in mileage over the gas engine, and that's probably not too far off. more...

13 Hours and Anomalisa - two very different tales of humanity

One is a big and brash look at some American heroes left out to dry by their government and the other is an animated take on one man's bittersweet attempt to feel like he belongs. And though they don't have a lot in common, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi and Anomalisa kind of bookend the movie business: a larger than life action movie and a smaller than life artsy fartsy "think piece."

Of the two, I preferred 13 Hours, not so much because it's a better movie or a better story, but because it's a more important film, a whistleblowing on a corrupt political regime for whom the military are pawns to be used and abused. I had hoped for more from Anomalisa, being a sucker for stop motion animation, but came away wondering why they bothered making it that way; about the only thing that made stop motion necessary was an explicit sex scene the filmmakers probably couldn't have gotten away with and maintained their 14A rating using real actors. more...

Toyota Sienna a very nice family hauler

Once the mainstay of so-called soccer moms, the minivan seems to have fallen somewhat out of favour in recent years, judging by the few models still on the market.

But if you have a bunch of folk and gear to carry around often, it's hard to argue with the utility of the typical minivan, with its big sliding doors and three rows of seats that can configured in a variety of ways.

So it was that the 2016 Toyota Sienna minivan arrived outside Chateau Bray for a week, timed perfectly for a couple of grandparents to take the kids and grandkid on some amazing journeys through southern Alberta. And while I'd rather be torn apart by wild dogs than actually own a minivan, I came away from my time with the Sienna liking it for what it is - a good family vehicle, albeit a bit of a wallower. more...

Paramount blasts off into 4K - and offers a 'new' version of Wrath of Khan

Ultra High Definition, a.k.a. 4K, programming is finally oozing its way into the consumer marketplace, and Paramount has jumped into the 4K disc market with the release of the first two Star Trek reboot titles - just in time to cross promote this year's new entry, Star Trek Beyond.

I love 4K, but the dearth of software has meant there's been little incentive (other than the "gee whiz, look what I have" factor) for anyone to upgrade to the new video standard unless they're buying a new TV anyway. This is typical of any new format, of course. more...

Jaguar's XF S sports sedan goes to the Indy 500

History, tradition, innovation. Three words that apply not only to the Indianapolis 500, the greatest spectacle in racing, but also to the British brand Jaguar, whose history includes plenty of racing as well as such fantastic designs as the historic E Type sports car that was arguably the most beautiful vehicle ever made till then - and long after then.

And though it appears Jaguar never actually competed in the iconic Indy 500, Jaguar Racing did contest the Indy road course from 2000 - 2004. That was during its Formula 1 days, when the company was owned by Ford (who bought the team from another legend: Sir Jackie Stewart, who has competed in the 500) and before it evolved into team Red Bull. But for a few years, it was Jaguar. That's my hook and I'm sticking with it!

However you slice it, and whether you talk about the 2.5 mile oval or the 2.6 mile road course that also occupies the huge facility in Speedway, Indiana, there's a lot of tradition there. And what better way to honour such tradition than to take one of Jaguar's current offerings to the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at the end of May? more...

Going topless in 2016 without getting arrested

Top down motoring continues to be a popular pastime for Canadians and others, especially at this time of year. It's a niche that was nearly dead some 20 years ago, yet now it flourishes. And that's great! It's always nice to have choices.

I'm not the right guy to be prattling on about convertibles despite the sunshine beckoning. Fortunately, the folks at have a handle on what Canadians are looking for when it's time to go topless in a car - regardless of what you're wearing. more...

Lexus RX 350 ups its popular ante, but is it better to drive?

Lexus' top selling model has a new set of clothes for 2016, as well as some new toys and capabilities. But has the redesign done anything to make the SUV/crossover a more interesting and/or fun vehicle to drive than before?

Not really, alas, though it's still a very fine vehicle and will undoubtedly please its owners over the short and long terms.

But I remember when the RX was a tad more fun, when I drove the customer shuttle for the local Lexus dealer some 10 or so years ago. I'd do one day a week, to get me out of the home office and get some real human contact, and the shuttle then was an RX 330 Sport model, which even had a decent manual shifting mode. On the other hand, Lexus dealers have a better vehicle to use as a shuttle now - the new RX is roomier and, thanks to its lack of driver involvement, it can undoubtedly be a little more relaxing for the passengers being shuttled by lead-footed drivers. more...

Canadians rate automakers' websites and find many lacking: J.D. Power

Carmakers who want to convince consumers their creations are the champs need a compelling website with which to do it, according to the 2016 Canadian Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study released last week by J. D. Power.

Their websites need to actually facilitate consumers finding the info presented on the site, too, and that's something that doesn't necessarily happen. Unfortunately, carmakers' site are by no means unique in this criticism, which is mine and not J. D. Power's. After all, what's the point in spending money on a website if your visitors leave in frustration? more...

Mercedes-Benz Metris van brings driving pleasure to utility

If your company is looking for a utility van that rewards the person behind the wheel, look no farther than Mercedes-Benz new Metris.

It's a work van that takes a lot of the work out of driving, offering a more compelling experience behind the steering wheel than I expected out of a utility vehicle. And it starts at a reasonable $33,900 CAD ($37,900 when you configure it as a passenger van).

My recent week of Metris seat time was actually my second time behind the wheel of the van, though it was also my first opportunity to drive it for more than a few minutes. The Mercedes-Benz folk invited me to the model introduction in southwest Colorado last year, where we got to sally forth through and around the Rocky mountains in a high altitude adventure that convinced me the van would be a pretty nifty vehicle for those contemplating such a product. more...

WeKast sends your presentations to TV's wirelessly

Think of it more like a strongest link, rather than the "wekast" one.

WeKast is a new hardware and software solution for people who make presentations on the go, whether in corporate boardrooms or wherever. It's a way to leave the cables at home and just carry along with you your smart device and the little WeKast dongle.

And it appears to work, if my rather quick and limited tests of the system are any indication.

Here's how the company positions the product on its Kickstarter page: "We have all been there. You have an awesome presentation, you're dressed to kill and then the technology fails. The Wi-Fi is down, you have the wrong plug or it is plain taking forever. Now, you're stressed and the clients that you are supposed to impress are…staring at their watches, or worse -- glaring at you. Not a good way to make a first impression. Even if you get it to work - you've lost your edge." more...

Honda Civic Coupe nearly a really great ride

"Half the doors. Twice the fun." That's how Honda Canada's website describes the new Civic Coupe and it's a pretty decent description of the newest version of the award-winning Civic.

It's still over styled and has annoying interfaces, but I agree with Honda that the coupe provides a lovely helping of the fun to drive factor that can make small cars such a blast - and which the new sedan version lacks. It's a Honda that feels more like Hondas of old, and that's great.

According to Honda Canada, virtually everything about the 2016 Civic Coupe is new. It "sports" a new architecture, a new interior (though it's pretty much like the new sedan's) and new exterior styling. It looks better from inside than out, thanks to Honda's decision to add creases and stuff to the exterior. Its bum looks particular chubby, but that seems to be a common thing in today's society, and I'm not talking about cars… more...

Toyota Prius moves from merely pious to pretty nifty

Don't sit too close to this column lest you become collateral damage from the lightning strike it may prompt.

Why? Because for the first time ever, I spent a week driving a Toyota Prius and I didn't hate every second behind the wheel. And I have to be honest enough to tell you that.

What's going on here?

What's going on is a new generation of Prius. Oh, it's hardly the perfect vehicle, and it has undergone an appalling uglification process in the creation of this fourth generation of Toyota's world-beating hybrid (what's with this current trend among some Japanese manufacturers to over style their vehicles with excess pleats, wrinkles and the like?), but I have to admit that I had a comparative blast in this car compared to my usual problem of staying awake while behind the wheel of previous generation Prii.

I still wouldn't buy one, but for once I liked the car. Mostly. more...

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