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October 30, 2014

White Christmas 60th
It doesn't appear to sport a new set of remastered and restored clothes, but it's still a darn fine presentation. more...

Transformers: Age of Extinction
One doesn't go into a Transformers movie expecting high art; and with that in mind, this movie delivers in spades.. more...

Ghostbusters 30th
With a clean 4K mastered transfer, a new audio codec, and a few new extras peppered among the old stuff. more...

Star Trek - Compendium
Parmount's new boxed set of the two Star Trek "reboot" movies offers at least some new stuff for fans to enjoy. more...


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Canadian Car of the Year TestFest discovers the best of the best

Canadian Car of the Year TestFest (photo courtesy of AJAC)

NIAGARA FALLS, ONTARIO - They came from Canada, the United States, Europe, Japan and South Korea, all duking it out for the titles of the 2015 Canadian Car, Truck and SUV/CUV of the Year.

Some 49 worthies showed up and strutted their best new stuff before an assembled multitude of Automobile Journalists Association of Canada members who were there to put them through their paces.

Well, that may overstate things. We put them through their paces as much as we could when there are half a hundred entries and we have to drive as many of them as we can over TestFest's few days. I managed to drive 42 cars, trucks and SUV/Crossovers, and in that time all you can really get is a reasonable first impression.

Think of it like a series of short test drives similar to what you'd get at a dealer, except that TestFest also has a more scientific part to it as well, where all the vehicles are put through a series of measured tests. That objective data is put into a blender with all of our subjective opinions, of which there's an abundance, and the results will be tabulated by KMPG so the 15 individual category winners can be announced on December 2, with the overall winners proclaimed at Toronto's "Centre of the Universe" auto show next February. more...

Porsche Panamera e-hybrid offers amazing frugality for a big sports sedan

The words "Porsche" and "fuel efficiency" may not be the closest of kissing cousins in many peoples' minds, especially when you're talking about a big, four door sports sedan. You may be surprised, however, to find that you can get better gas mileage with the Panamera e-hybrid than with many smaller, supposedly more efficient gas-only cars.

How good? My dear wife and I took the mighty Panamera into the Rocky mountains, heading west from Calgary to Lake Louise, and we managed not only to travel about 20 miles on electrical power alone, but once the juice ran out and the car switched back to the gas-powered engine a quick press of the "e-charge" button on the center console charged it back up again about as quickly as I depleted it, which let us switch back to e-power and run the battery down again. more...

A timeless musical classic re-released in special edition Blu-ray

Paramount, one of the champions at finding new ways to exploit old titles, has re-released the 1954 movie "White Christmas," a wonderful holiday classic that over the years has become one of my "desert island" discs. It doesn't appear to sport a new set of remastered and restored clothes, but it's still a darn fine presentation, and the new, diamond anniversary version includes some stuff never released before.

The Michael Curtiz-helmed film stars Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, with the possibly even more important talents of Irving Berlin providing the musical score. It's a song and dance extravaganza that may not be as much about Christmas as its title may hint, but which is a fantastic and heartwarming movie that gets better with subsequent viewings. more... 

Subaru enhances its Legacy and upgrades its Outback for 2015

Love 'em or hate 'em, Subarus have earned a loyal following for their tradition of offering all wheel drive vehicles that can take you virtually anywhere at any time. And for 2015, two of the company's top models have been tweaked to make them an even better choice for those susceptible to the brand's charms.

That has never really included me - though I like the Forester quite a bit - but I can certainly see why people love their Subarus. They're built well, offer most - if not all - of the technology a modern car should, and they'll probably perform yeoman's service for their owners virtually forever. more...

Bose celebrates 50 years of innovation with NYC bash

New York, NY - "Never lose your imagination. Always dream of things that are better and think about ways to reach those things." Those words came from the late Dr. Amar Bose, the visionary and long time MIT professor who started what is now known worldwide as a company with a dizzying array of products that push the state-of-the-art in a variety of directions.

I have no idea when he said that, but it certainly seems appropriate that he did, considering what Bose has accomplished over the 50 year life of the company. And that golden anniversary was the excuse for Bose to throw a big party in Manhattan, inviting journalists and writers like me to enjoy the festivities while learning more about the company itself. more...

Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4Matic a fine sedan

It isn't the smallest car Mercedes-Benz sells in North America, but the CLA-class "four door coupe" is a very nice vehicle that, despite big time turbo lag, moves its passengers along smartly and in great comfort.

Designed to compete with such worthy cars as the Audi A3, Acura TLX, Lexus IS and the like, the CLA wears the "four door coupe" look the company pioneered with its original CLS a few years back. And while I think the four door coupe concept is silly - why not just call it a sedan and be done with it, since there's nothing wrong with having four doors? - it's a handsome car inside and out. And it starts at a reasonable (for a Benz, anyway) $34,300. more...

Panasonic TC-58AX800U Ultra High Definition Smart TV sports a great picture

Panasonic's latest 58 inch UHD TV is a real treat for the eyes, though it's probably still too early to think about moving to the new 4k standard if you aren't an early adopter or in need of a new TV anyway.

That said, if you do want to jump into 4K now, you'll probably find this particular TV a good, albeit expensive, investment as long as you have help unpacking it and setting it up. That's because it comes with a bizarre stand that's ultra heavy and difficult to attach, and which weighs down one end of the box - so pick the light end to lift and leave your buddy the heavy end! more...

Second generation Genesis ups Hyundai's luxury ante offerings

It's big, bold and equipped very well, but is Hyundai's new Genesis sedan enough to lure customers away from the established European and Japanese competition?

Time will tell, but this second-from-the-top line Hyundai is, if nothing else, a big and bold attempt at elevating the South Korean carmaker's profile in higher echelons of the marketplace than it has been known for traditionally. And why not? Hyundai makes good cars and has come a long way in a relatively short time - and don't forget what Toyota and Nissan did some 25 years ago when they stunned the market with their first kicks at the luxury car can: the Lexus LS 400 and Infiniti Q45.

The new Genesis is also a tad derivative, though that's hardly a sin unique to Hyundai. Besides, it's said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, in which case the good folks at Audi should be feeling plenty flattered.

But not necessarily worried. more...

Paramount's Star Trek - the Compendium - offers a bit of new and a lot of old

While it could be viewed as merely yet another dip into Trekkies' wallets, Parmount's new boxed set of the two Star Trek "reboot" movies at least offers some new stuff for fans to enjoy.

Okay, that's probably more true for the new treatment of the second film, "Star Trek Into Darkness," which offers the IMAX version of the film for the first time on video - but the four disk set also offers abundant extras that are actually pretty neat - if you haven't seen them already in the previous releases. more...

Jaguar F-Type Coupe

Jaguar knocks it out of the park with F-Type Coupe

Welcome home, Jaguar! Your new F-Type coupe is a real tour de force, a luxury sports car to lust after and a legitimate competitor to mighty Porsche.

Comparing the Jag to a Porsche isn't exactly an apples-to-apples thing, considering the former is more a luxury car that's sporty as opposed to the latter's penchant for making sports cars that are luxurious (and yes, there's a difference), but I would be remiss in not putting the two marques side by side since Jag - via some of its initial advertising for the F-Type - is aiming the car directly at people who might otherwise look to the 911.

It's about time, too. more...

Panasonic DECT phone works with your cell

Panasonic has an interesting line of DECT phones that try to bridge the gap between land line and cells. In the process, they're giving you a chance to save some energy by not having to run madly to the opposite end of the house if a cell call comes in when the phone isn't handy.

Sure, you could let the call go to voice mail, but if your voice mail is anything like mine, you might not get the message for days. Or, if your memory is like mine, you might forget all about that missed call entirely until that delayed message shows up.

But the $250 Panasonic KXPRD262 (KXPRL262 for Apple phones) actually pairs with your Bluetooth-equipped smart phone so if a call comes in on the cell, you can pick it up on the landline-based Panasonic. How's that for a great idea? more...

Ford Fusion hybrid

Ford Fusion hybrid wears its green colors proudly - and well

It may look like a James Bond-mobile when you first see it coming at you on the road, but don't confuse Ford's Fusion with high end sports cars. Fusion, in all of its guises, is a decidedly mainstream vehicle - almost pedestrian, if you can say that about a car.

And in its hybrid suit of clothes it's even less sporty, but could save you some money at the gas pump.

That saving, of course, is after you pay the initial "hybrid tax" in the way of a higher sticker price than its gas siblings, but it may pay for itself if you keep the Fusion long enough. more...

Tablift makes tablets standup and be noticed - while Belkin and Nomad do their bit for flexibility

Three products designed to make life with your i or Android device even more rewarding than usual offer solutions to very different problems. But do they all pull it off well?

Yes, and no. Read on! more...

Big Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel performs with panache

Jeep's new Grand Cherokee is a real competitor in the higher end SUV market, big and imposing and comfortable, and with about as much stuff as one could want stuffed into it.

It even features interesting little trim touches that highlight Jeep's long heritage, hearkening back to the days when the brand began by providing the famed little "general purpose" vehicle for the military.

Available with a trio of engine choices, Jeep Canada's "Summit" trim level test vehicle was of the diesel persuasion. more...

New Bose headphones sound True and don't weigh you down

A trio of new headphone lines from Bose promises to bring great sound and comfort to consumers, and judging from one of the trio it appears that the company has pulled it off again.

This should surprise no one. Bose has made a reputation for itself as a manufacturer of premium audio equipment, kind of the analogous to the position Apple occupies in the computer world. This means the stuff is not only good, it's also a tad pricey compared to some of the competition, but in both Apple's and Bose's case, that premium means (at least so far!) you can be confident you're buying something good, and that will last.

So it is for these new headphones. more...

Nissan Micra

Nissan Micra-sizes and Micro-prices its entry level car

The smallest Nissan in Canada has been reborn after a several year hiatus, and its new incarnation is a fun little vehicle that packs a lot of punch - as long as you don't mean "horsepower" - into an affordable package.

And all for an advertised entry level price of under 10 grand! How can this be?

Well, it probably can't. But if you pony up a few thousand dollars extra you can have a pretty decent car that's actually quite a bit of fun to drive. more...

BACtrack portable breathalyzer could be a life - or career - saver

Tablets and smartphones continue to be platforms of choice for millions of people on the go, and the hardware has spawned an entire industry of apps and products designed to make life with the device even more pleasant, productive - or even safe.

The BACtrack mobile breathalyzer is one of these devices, a small handheld unit that can fit in your pocket easily, and which interacts via Bluetooth with a free app to let you know when you've had enough liquid fun. more...

Camry hybrid: a good car that's green

The Toyota Camry, a car I've seen referred to in the past as "an appliance," is a world class family sedan that's comfortable and efficient and undoubtedly as reliable as a wood burning stove. And this current version is even quite attractive and decent to drive. For what more could anyone ask?

Well, if you're trying to assuage your eco guilt enough to put a few grand extra of your hard-earned after-tax income to get a gosh darn Gaia greener hybrid, the Camry is a darn fine choice there, too - and unlike some of the other hybrids in Toyota's large stable, it's still a pretty darn fine car to drive, too.

It's a fine vehicle, in fact, and while I might not buy one if I were looking in this niche, it's not because the Camry's a snoozefest; it isn't. It's surprisingly nice - as if Toyota has heard the whining about their cars being boring and are hitting back with vehicles that continue the company's tradition of offering excellent vehicles, but which now up the smiles per gallon ante as well. This doesn't only apply to the current Camry, either; the new Corolla and Avalon also exhibit this phenomenon and it's very welcome. more...

Hollywood looks at Heaven - and doesn't make fun of it!

It may be quite surprising considering Hollywood's well-known liberal and secular bent, but there's a pretty mainstream movie out on Blu-ray now that not only sets itself in the middle of a Christian community, it doesn't make Christians out to be violent, knuckle-dragging wackos worthy of fear and derision.

And that alone makes "Heaven is for Real" worth mentioning. It's not only a real change of pace for today's Hollywood but, even better than that, it's a darn good film that just might make you ask some pointed questions about your own beliefs. more...

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