Jim Bray's Car & Tech rants - publishing online exclusively since 1995
Updated: June 13, 2024

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American Sniper

Are so-called safety nannies endangering your car's value?

Lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, front cross traffic monitors, driver awareness warnings – all of these are bits of technology supposedly designed to help keep you safe when you're behind the wheel. And maybe they do.

But what if they're just expensive add-ons – that you have to pay for anyway – that not only lull drivers into a false sense of security that they're "safe!" but which could also affect your car's value if it's involved in a collision?

According to a recent article by Chris Chilton, as run on MSN's website (I know, I know…), an ugly reality of nanny life is that about 20 per cent of such nanny-equipped cars end up being written off completely after the vehicle was crunched (or crunched someone else's).

It's basically because these ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) are causing insurance companies to throw up their little corporate hands and saying "to heck with it".

Here's how Chilton described it: "The rocketing cost of repairing crashed cars means 21 percent of wrecks now result in a vehicle being totaled by insurance firms, a five-fold increase versus 1980. And some experts think that number could jump to a staggering 30 percent as cars become even more complex.

"Ironically, it's the same ADAS driver aids designed to save us from having an accident in the first place that are being blamed for the rise in write-offs when we do crash. The tech that goes into those systems is so expensive that insurers are finding that it's not worth sanctioning a repair."

I've railed against these "ADAS" things for years. Good drivers don't need them because, well, they're good drivers who pay attention to what's going on around them. And bad drivers shouldn't have them (oops, that's a tad Big Brother of me!) because the stuff can bail them out and there's no incentive to actually improve one's driving skills.  And driving skills these days – anecdotally, from my and others' observations – seem to be disappearing from our roads at a rapid pace.

Chilton again: "Replacing the multitude of sensors and cameras required to make an ADAS kit like automatic braking and lane keeping assistance function, and then calibrating those systems to make them work correctly, can add thousands of dollars to the cost of a repair, a report by Bloomberg citing data from CCC Intelligent Solutions, says. And that's pushing up repair prices that are already elevated as a result of rising labor and material costs affecting even the most basic of car fixes." more...


American Sniper

Kia EV9 a compelling vehicle despite the issues of EV's

If you're looking for a relatively big, three row electric SUV, Kia's EV9 is probably a good place to start.

That said, Kia also makes other very nice three row SUV's such as the Telluride and Sorrento, except that those vehicles have internal combustion engines and therefore won't facilitate smug emissions.

But this piece isn't about fake Eco-lunacy, it's about the captivating EV9, which Kia's Canadian website says starts at $63,166. That's a pretty big chunk of change, about 10 grand more than the Telluride's starting price and more than 20 grand more than the Sorrento's starting price.

Of course this is a bit of apples-to-oranges, especially with the smaller Sorrento, but it does show that "going green" is going to cost you big time.  That said, you can spend a lot more for competing EV's.

Here's how Kia describes the vehicle:

"EV9 embraces SUV form and capability in an enhanced EV package. It's bold, spacious and quiet on city streets; confident, robust and powerful when weather and terrain present a challenge; and able to tow up to 5,000 lb. (2,267 kg) when properly equipped." I assume "properly equipped" means "higher priced".

That base price of 63 large gets you the base model, which is rear wheel drive and offers performance equivalent to 215 hp / 258 lb.-ft..  Kia Canada's sample was the six-seater Land AWD trim level in a gorgeous Ocean Blue colour and with the GT-Line package. That package not only adds performance, but also gives you 21-inch GT-Line Wheels (with aerodynamic wheel covers!), a digital lighting grille GT-Line Pattern and other GT-Line design elements. There are also power leg rests for the front passenger and those in the second row. Steerage, the third row, features power fold/unfold seats.

I passenged back there for about half an hour and it was surprisingly comfortable. more...


American Sniper

Dune part 2 and American Sniper: two 4k films worth owning

Warner Brothers has released two excellent examples of the 4K disc medium and both are so good they're really "must own" discs if you're a movie buff and/or collector. One is brand new, and the other is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

But you may be surprised to find out which one this die-hard sci-fi fan thinks is the better of the two – although I suppose I just gave that away.

Yes, I had planned on focusing more on Denis Villeneuve's Dune Part 2, yet after having seen Clint Eastwood's American Sniper I found myself so taken, so moved by this masterpiece that I decided to focus more on it because it's not only a better film overall, but a more important one as well.

Not that Dune Part 2 is a slouch. I'm not sure it's better than Part One, though that seems to be the consensus of reviewers, but it's still a darn fine sci-fi epic and the fact that it did its best to stay faithful to Frank Herbert's classic novel is a big bonus.

Yet where did the Mentats go? These human computers played a large role in the book, yet I don't remember seeing them in Part Two at all (and don't remember seeing them in Part One, though it was more than five minutes ago that I saw it).

Anyway, back to American Sniper, though of course I'll return to Dune before this piece is done.

Taking pot shots at war…

I haven't seen nearly all of Clint Eastwood's films, either as actor or director, but I've seen my respect for the man growing over the past several years. I first noticed his skills behind the camera with Unforgiven, the early 1990's film that won him all kinds of accolades, including some important Oscars (back when the Oscars were important!).

American Sniper is better and it deserved to have won all the awards that Unforgiven did. But it didn't. more...

 

Solo IIIExcellent new Arizer vapes up the brand's – and the state of the art – ante

Medical marijuana users – and others who may merely choose to imbibe in cannabis products since Justin Trudeau decided he needed their votes – have some great new (and new-ish) tools from which to choose, thanks to Canadian company Arizer.

So why vape, as opposed to edibles or smoking? Well, I can't really comment on edibles, but my doctor recommended vaping as opposed to smoking because you don't get all the supposedly dangerous stuff created by combustion (vapes don't burn the stuff, they just heat it up until it gives up its "wonders").

And now Arizer has taken my favourite vape – the Solo, which impressed my panel and myself in various versions – and introduced not only an update to an earlier generation but added an entirely new model (the Solo III) as well, one that ups the ante substantially.

The previous version, the Solo II, now has a Max edition as well, and you can also get an even more portable Air Max and an entry level Air SE. Arizer sent me all four of these to reiew and I can happily admit that all deliver excellent performance coupled with wonderful build quality. They're quite a bit different from each other, however, and together they offer a nice range from "entry level portable" to "high end not quite as portable" units.

Let's start with the new kid on the block: the Solo III. At $344.99 (US and Canadian), it's hardly entry level, but you get a really great unit that performs better than any other such vape I or my friends on the panel have tried. It definitely isn't without issues, but the thing works so well we can live with them easily.

It's a bigger unit that the other Solos available now, and feels very substantial in the hand – it almost reminds me of a light sabre hilt – and it also sports a new, colour display. It features a deeper "non-combustion chamber" than the other Solos, as well as higher capacity glass tubes in which you put your herb. There are also two modes, now, "Session Mode" and "On Demand Mode". Session mode is pretty much like Solos have always operated: fire it up, it comes up to temperature (amazingly quickly, though, in this version) and you use it until the preset session time (ours are set to 10 minutes) before it shuts off.

On Demand mode is kind of cool. more...


Mazda CX-5 Suna

Mazda's Suna trim offers engaging variations on a turbocharged theme

Mazda may have retired its "Zoom-Zoom" slogan, but that doesn't mean its products have become stodgy or any less fun to drive.

In fact, as evidenced by my recent time in a CX-5 and a 3 Sport hatchback, both "sporting" Mazda's new Suna trim level, they're as much or more fun than they've ever been.

The Suna edition, also available on the MX-30 EV and the CX-30, "share styling elements with the previously released Kuro Edition lineup, both offering a sense of sportiness blended with upscale styling," according to Mazda's press blurb. And as with the Kuro Edition models, the new Suna Editions feature gloss black exterior flourishes (black metallic aluminum alloy wheels, side mirrors, and front grille, for example), but with its own unique colour scheme to stand out from other models.

And they sure do! My samples of the Suna editions wore the edition's Zircon Sand Metallic exterior paint colour and, while it certainly isn't my particular cup of tea, it's reminiscent of that interesting glossy grey finish that's cropping up all over the place – except that there's more green in it. And the interiors feature stuff like terracotta upholstery with black suede inserts and gunmetal accents to, as Mazda claims, "give these models a timeless feel that still appeals to the modern world."

I dunno about that, but I know I loved both the CX-5 and 3 Sport. I'd just prefer a different colour – and a butt tuck on the 3 Sport's plus sized bum, which is by far this great car's weakest part. That has nothing to do with the Suna trim level, of course, just a brain fart on the part of the designers who took the last generation's gorgeous hatchback and shot mucho botox into it.

That said, as I've noted many times, beauty is in the eye of the keyholder.

Both of Mazda's samples came with basically the same underpinnings, and they're lovely. Both feature Mazda's great four-cylinder turbo engine, all wheel drive, and a nicely shifting six speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and a manual mode that lets you play right up to the red line. That's the standard engine for the Suna edition, but it's also available on some other trim levels. If you can afford it, this is the most interesting engine choice for either the 3 or the CX-5. more...

Replay Capture Suite

Applian's Replay Capture Suite 24 lets you record, re-use web-based media

Streaming media, whether via Netflix, YouTube or whatever, is the hot commodity in consumers' choices these days. And thanks to products such as Replay Capture Suite, you can exploit it yourself, over and over again.

It's quite empowering!

It's pretty cheap, too, all things considered. As of this writing, the suite is on sale via Applian's website for $49.95USD, down from its already reasonable regular price of $79USD.

Traditional networks and broadcasters are finding their ratings crashing these days, not only because they spew mostly crap and/or propaganda into our homes, but also because people are deciding to cut the cord – getting rid of the cable, satellite or whatever – in favour of content they can choose to watch at their convenience rather than that of the broadcaster, PVR's notwithstanding. Streaming is also a good way to find stuff you want to see, rather than what they're pushing on you to see.

This is why there are so many streaming services vying for your time and money (well, they probably don't care a whit about your time…).

The download process for the whole Applian suite is a bit of a pain, in that you have to download each app separately even if you're doing the whole Suite, but it works fine and once you're done, the "central app" called Applian Director (which is included) lets you see which sections you have that are current and which have upgrades available for – again, separate – download.

And on the other hand, if you don't want to purchase the entire suite, you can just download the parts you want. Cheaper to get 'em all, though. more...


Toyota Grand Highlander

Toyota Grand Highlander is indeed a Grand Highlander

Toyota's enhanced Highlander SUV is not only a really nice three row vehicle, it's also snagging honours including the prestigious "2024 Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year" from the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada.

It's quite flexible, too. Toyota Canada will let you have a 2024 Grand Highlander with one of three different powertrain setups. Toyota's sample, the Hybrid MAX, generates a most lovely 362 combined horsepower and boasts a 5,000-pound towing rating for high-performance adventures. The other hybrid option offers 243 "system horsepower", while the base non-hybrid comes with a turbocharged gas engine that cranks out 265 peak horsepower.

I've only tried the Hybrid MAX and its power is really nice – and the engine sounds almost as if you're standing on the gas pedal of an old fashioned V8. I loved it!

Part of that love comes from the fact that the Hybrid Max comes with a very nice six-speed automatic transmission. The others get either an Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (hybrid) or an eight-speed auto (non-hybrid). I think six speeds – okay, maybe seven – is optimal because it doesn't require the excessive hunting and pecking to find the optimal gear for the circumstance that other, more "gear laden" automatics.

I can live with an eight-speed, but find that the nine and 10 speed trannies I've driven upshift too quickly (in the name of fuel economy, not driving pleasure) and then, when you want to pull out to pass someone, they have to downshift a bunch of gears to get where you want.

Every Grand Highlander in Canada comes with all-wheel-drive and a bunch of driving modes including a sport mode that isn't particularly sporty but which does make the Grand Highlander wallow a tad less, not that its inherent wallow is really off-putting. more...

Aquaman 2

Momoa's Aquaman 2 in 4K a mesmerizing but meandering mishmash

What is it with the DC comics universe? What should arguably be a comic franchise that's at least as compelling and fun as Marvel's seems to have a real problem making compelling and fun movies based on their comics.

Meanwhile, Marvel has had a, well, Marvelous track record, at least until Avengers End Game (to be honest, I haven't seen a Marvel film since then).

I was always a DC comics guy when I was growing up and only gave Marvel a passing nod occasionally, so it continues to disappoint me that DC seems unable to shine Marvel's shoes – mostly – when it comes to making great movies from their vast universe.

It's a question that has always bothered me, at least as much as such a trivial thing could. I mean, if it weren't for Richard Donner's Superman, released in 1978, and the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight trilogy, there have only been a smattering of DC titles I've seen that are really worth it.

Exceptions included the first Wonder Woman – though not the second – and the first Aquaman. Now we have the second Aquaman film, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, and unfortunately it has to be considered with the majority of the DC films as a failure. And it didn't have to be.

There's sure a lot to like here, especially if you're a nerd and/or a fan of the type of movie Ray Harryhausen used to make (not that "nerd" and "Harryhausen fan" are mutually exclusive!).

AquaPerson and the Lost Kingdom is definitely a visual feast, mostly, especially on this new 4K disc release from Warners, which is full of wondrous shots and locations (some of which are even real!) and it sounds great to boot. Performances are also fine, and the production values are a joy to behold. more...


Continental Tires' Event

Continental Tire previews new winter model at Mirabel event

Tires are a very competitive business, with an abundance of brands vying for your hard-earned dollars, so when you're introducing a new model, it helps if you can get as much attention as possible.

To this end, Continental Tire, the European-based multinational company that has been around for 150 years or so, threw a winter driving bash at the ICAR facility at what used to be (and may still be, for all I know) Canada's largest aviation white elephant, Mirabel airport near Montreal.

The new tire, which will be available this autumn at Canadian Tire outlets exclusively (though Continental also sells tires at just about any such outlet you can imagine), is called the Ultimate Contact Winter which the company says boasts "a directional tread pattern with advanced siping technology (that) ensures optimal grip on ice and snow by creating additional biting edges."

The Ultimate Contact Winters take advantage of what Continental calls "Polar Plus Technology", and they're also engineered with electric vehicles in mind, for those folks who heed the siren song of the eco-warriors. This means they offer low noise, as well as low rolling resistance for "improved efficiency and extended range" (if only they'd also recharge the EV's batteries to extend the range!). They also sport a special "EV" badge, to indicate their EV friendliness, as well as the winter tire "three peak mountain" logo, which Continental says means you get up to 10 per cent more traction on snow than a regular winter tire. more...

The Swiss Conspiracy

The Swiss Conspiracy shows off Switzerland's beauty – and Roku reaches a milestone

Film Masters' latest release is kind of an espionage tale, except it's more about Swiss banking intrigue than it is kind of James Bond adventure.

Meanwhile, Roku, the streaming platform and service, has announced it's now being used by 80 million people worldwide. That's quite the thing!

As far as the Swiss Conspiracy is concerned, the 1976 movie stars David Janssen as a retired DOJ officer who's hired to be a "security consultant" to solve a blackmail conspiracy involving some very high rollers and their Swiss bank accounts.

Five of these rollers have been "doxed" (a term that didn't exist back then, I daresay), something Swiss banks try to prevent from happening lest their credibility and reputation for discretion go up in smoke. One of the doxees is also a Chicago mob dude who has other problems of his own: he's being chased by American gangsters.

The Swiss Conspiracy also stars Elke Sommer, John Saxon, John Ireland, Senta Berger, David Hess and Ray Milland. more...


Some Oaf

Beware Governments help in regulating cars and traffic, part two

a special TechnoFile rant

Do our governments work for us, or rule us?

Like "to be, or not to be," that is the question. Indeed, we're constantly told that our governments are there to serve us, to represent us – yet increasingly we're seeing governments who are clearly working to modify our behaviour in the service of their increasingly illogical and annoying ideology, often supposedly in service of the "green" agenda that posits we can stop the world from doing anything bad merely by sending them increasing amounts of our already overtaxed income and giving up more and more of the freedoms our ancestors fought to obtain and preserve.

I guess you can see where this is going!

I've been driving for a long time and have noticed that more and more governments are bringing in ludicrous rules for the road, rules that defy common sense and fly in the face of the "we're here to represent you" platitudes from a political class that doesn't seem to care a whit about the folks who put them in their positions of power and influence.

I see it every day when I drive.

Here's an example: left turn lanes that have an advanced green but which, once the advanced green is over, force you to sit at the intersection until the next cycle, even if there's no traffic coming the other way and it's perfectly safe to turn left. There are innumerable intersections like this here in Calgary – which is run currently by a cabal of commie kooks who think they know better than the great unwashed.

Meanwhile, these Klimate Kooks bemoan emissions from vehicles and tell us not to idle them excessively. Isn't that why they build bike lanes, so people can park those evil cars and – even worse – pickup trucks, and sweat their way across the city and then have to shower at their destination, thereby using up precious water? more...

The Rantor

Beware Governments' help in regulating cars and traffic

a special TechnoFile rant

What happens when a government mandates things for drivers and carmakers, supposedly to help ensure our safety behind the wheels of our vehicles?

Well, sometimes it could be a good thing – the use of seat belts come to mind, though I would argue that they shouldn't be mandated by law – but sometimes what I like to think of as "the law of unintended consequences" rears its ugly head.

The latter appears to be the case with the mandating of daytime running lights on vehicles in Canada. This law has been on the books for ages and is theoretically aimed at helping eliminating head on collisions in the daytime, because stupid people might notice an illuminated front end approaching them whereas they might not notice a non-illuminated front end approaching them.

So much for letting Darwin play itself out…

Of course, this meant carmakers in Canada had to go to the expense and hassle of rejigging their models to comply with this regulation. Do you think they did it for free, out of the goodness of their hearts? Or do you think the Canadian car buying public ended up paying more for their vehicles than before?

The issue I have, other than freedom of choice (as with seat belts) is that, in typical government fashion, they created a worse problem than the one they were trying to solve. I mean, do we still have head on collisions or have daytime running lights eliminated them?

Worse, the mandate only ensured that the front of a vehicle is lit up – usually by some kind of running light arrangement separate from – or a separate setting to – the regular headlights. So, guess what happened? more...


iFly

iFly's flying leaps a real soar spot for wannabe sky divers

I had a skydiving experience just after the new year's celebration, and I didn't even have to get in a plane to do it!

Nope, thanks to my dear wife (as opposed to the rest of them…), I got a gift certificate to iFly, an indoor skydiving adventure thingy that set up in my home town of Calgary a couple of years ago. It was an intriguing notion, and one with which I've been very familiar for decades, though I'd never tried it.

Though they're actually competitors, iFly is kind of an adaptation of the Aerodium concept, a vertical wind tunnel technology that was invented by Quebec inventor Jean Saint-Germain. He opened the first outlet in Saint Simon de Bagot, 50 miles east of Montreal, in 1979 and since then I've passed by the Aerodium in Las Vegas many times. I always thought about going in, but never did.

Then came Christmas 2023, and under the tree was a gift pack for five flights at our local iFly outlet, which is at a local mall not far from where I live. Now I had to go, and no excuses!

So, I did, and I had a blast! And I'd do it again. And I may.

It isn't cheap, but it sure is a fabulous experience.

iFly lets the Walter Mitty in you come out, in increments of about a minute per "flight". more...

The Terror/Little Shop

Film Masters scores with two Roger Corman classics in a fun Blu-ray package

Two new Blu-ray titles may not have a lot of thrills and chills, but there's some creepiness coupled with laughs in the two-disc package.

Film Masters, to mark the 60th anniversary of Roger Corman's The Terror, has paired it with one his most famous other flicks, a horror comedy that also inspired a classic musical.

The Terror, which isn't particularly terror-inducing, is a relatively spooky tale about 18th century French Lieutenant Andre Duvalier (Jack Nicholson) who comes across the ghostly figure of a woman (Sandra Knight), a vision that leads him to the castle of one Baron von Leppe (the great Boris Karloff), where he discovers an old portrait of the Baron's long-dead wife, Ilsa.

When I was a kid, The Little Shop of Horrors really disappointed me. Not because it's a lousy film: I didn't like it because I saw it on my local TV station's late night horror movie show, where I spent many an otherwise productive hour grooving to whatever scary story they were showing that week. And when The Little Shop of Horrors unspooled in front of my teenaged eyes, I was appalled that it was funny, not scary at all! The nerve of the TV programmer! more...


LG Gram

Slim LG Gram laptop is light and capable

LG's new Gram line of laptop computers is very light, very easy on the eyes, and offers good battery life.

Laptop computers have certainly come a long way since the days of Kaypro and Osborn, PC's that were slightly more portable than the desktops of their time but still were a pain to pack around and had tiny little monitors I remember squinting at back in the day. That may be why I need reading glasses now!

Now, the South Korean tech giant LG, which has come a really, really long way from when I first got to know "Lucky Goldstar" as a maker of cheap audio systems you'd find in places such as Canadian Tire, has a line of laptops they call Grams and the company offered me one of their 16 inch 2-in-1's to try out.

It's pretty neat, too, though if I were buying, I'd probably eschew the 2-in-1 aspect and just keep my tablet for the times I don't need a full PC on my lap. more...

Titanic

James Cameron's Big Boat Blub-blub gets a fantastic set of new visual clothes for its 4K disc incarnation

Titanic at the box office, titanic in its scope and in the honours it has earned, James Cameron's epic tragedy comes to 4K disc looking absolutely magnificent.

I expected this, since the film looked great in every other video version since its original theatrical debut 25 years ago. It was a fantastic DVD, and an even better Blu-ray, but with this 4K with HDR disc – just in time for Christmas! –it almost seems as if I were watching it for the first time. And that's something, since I've seen this cinematic masterpiece enough times to practically know the lines word for word.

Yes, this new version is that good. more...


Ford Mach E

Are cars a good investment? We look at the top and bottom models and types for depreciation

Do you look at your car purchase as a way to get from Point A to Point B? Do you look at it as a way to make money on your automotive investment? Or do you just want a vehicle that won't depreciate ridiculously the moment you drive it home?

However you slice it, it seems the only way you're going to not lose much moolah on a car purchase is to drive it long enough – while keeping it in pristine condition – to have it qualify as a classic suitable for auction. And that's a crap shoot anyway.

That said, some vehicles depreciate worse than others. more...

Gran Turismo

Scrooged makes it to 4K disc in time for Christmas – while Roll Ranger unsticks tape

A modern, well 1980's, take on Dickens' A Christmas Carol debuts on 4K disc this week, and it's a pretty good package of a pretty good movie.

And in a different vein, I've been trying an interesting new gadget that promises to help take the frustration out of finding the end on a roll of tape.

Scrooged updates the classic tale – while simultaneously kind of ripping it off thanks to a TV production in which Murray is in charge. more...


Gran Turismo

Gran Turismo is a Walter Mitty-like fantasy in 4K; Blue Beetle bombs big time

Movies based on video games are nothing new, and some work well on the silver screen.

One that works particularly well is Columbia Pictures' new 4K disc release of Gran Turismo, which is based on a "driving simulator" that has been around for years now. More than just a game, GT truly can give you a head's up on fast driving on a dizzying variety of race tracks and other circuits.

I've been a GT fan for years, and I currently am on version 6, which has been out forever but which is upstaged now by its new, 4K version for the PlayStation 5 platform. And though I didn't expect much going in, I loved the Gran Turismo movie. This isn't just a game ported over to a different medium, it's actually a true-life story of a gamer (well, "simulator") who was able to take the driving skills he honed in front of a video screen and port them over to real life racing.

Very cool indeed. And I'm extremely jealous! more...

Mission Impossible

Mission Impossible delivers predictable thrills in 4K

Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning part 1 is a rollicking ride in the home theatre.

It's also very much like cotton candy – fun to consume but with little nutritional value – not that that's necessarily a bad thing. And, as is traditional in this series, it's a lot of fun to watch and full of really nifty action, stunts, and locations.

The film takes 163 minutes to set up Part 2, and it succeeded in making me anxious to see how it all ends.
Hopefully, the second section of the flick will be even more interesting, though that's a pretty high bar.

The movie not only delivers exactly what you expect going in: big action, big stunts, big excitement, but it also appears (assuming Part 2 doesn't change everything, which is a distinct possibility) to be a bit of a cautionary tale about the dangers of artificial intelligence. more...


Barbie

Blockbuster Barbie 4K disc is better than expected

The good news is, it's safe to watch Barbie even if you aren't a chick, or a raving lefty.

Okay, now that I've pissed off the usual suspects, I can get down to reviewing the new 4K disc release I received from Warner Brothers. Barbie was 2023's biggest blockbuster in theatres, and apparently Warners' biggest movie ever. Doesn't that seem a bit weird?

Yet I did enjoy it, far more than I expected to.

Barbie is one of those movies that I really, really didn't want to see – believing "without evidence" (as the lying left-wing media would say) that it would be a feminist circle jerk (if there can be such a thing). And while there is some of that, Barbie is also much more than just that. Barbie is funny (I laughed several times), sweet in places, with a really great look and even some darn good production numbers that kind of hearken back to the classic movie musicals of days gone by. more...

Ford Mach E

Are Canadians really ready for Electric Vehicles?

Electric vehicles are supposedly languishing on dealers' lots, as the great unwashed masses apparently eschew electrified autos in favour of the evil gas-powered ones.

Why do you think this may be?

Well, according to a survey done for BrokerLink, a subsidiary of Intact Financial Corporation – which claims to be one of "Canada's largest property and casualty insurance brokerages" – it's because those great unwashed don't know what's good for them.

That may not quite be fair, but the survey does suggest that Canadians "need more education around EV ownership, insurance and infrastructure requirements." In other words, we're just not trying hard enough!

Actually, having read the press release touting the survey, it seems to these eyes that the Canadian people may just be a little smarter than those trying to usher them into the supposedly wonderful world of EV ownership. more...


Transformers

New on 4K disc: Beastly Transformers makes for nonsensical fun – while Rosemary's Baby never looked scarier

Paramount Pictures' latest kick at the Transformers cat, er can, is more fun than I expected, and it's an interesting counterpoint to the studio's other major release for this week: Rosemary's Baby.

As with Bumblebee before it, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts is a throwback in time, this time to the 1990's, before the Michael Bay-driven original set of movies were supposed to have happened. This time, the Autobots are tasked with saving the earth from some new threat that could wipe out the entire planet, taking the hero Transformers out as well as the human race these Autobots have yet to discover can be allies.

It's also a nifty globetrotter, with some particularly beautiful and spectacular scenes shot in Peru, including the ancient Inca site of Machu Picchu – and if you thought these places looked lovely before, wait until you see them in glorious 4K with HDR! There's also some very neat scenes set in New York City (a lot of which was apparently shot in Montreal). more...

Winter Edge Tire

New MotoMaster winter tires promise an affordable and safe snowy drive

My son has just retired.

Not from his job, mind you (though I'm willing to bet he'd love that as well!), but from his aging winter tires to a brand new – and surprisingly affordable to these eyes – set of full winter tires from Canadian Tire. The new rubber appears to be a sequel to an earlier model because the folks at Canadian Tire have named them "MotoMasterWinter Edge II" so I assume these are an upgrade to an earlier version.

The new MotoMaster Winter Edge II "builds on the success of MotoMaster's original Winter Edge tire by maintaining its excellent snow performance and improving its ice performance." Ice performance is really important to Calgarians because our City Idiots have a policy of snow removal by Chinook, which means they wait until one of our famous Chinook winds raises the temperature around here to above freezing, thereby allowing the snow to melt by itself and allowing them to spend the money they save on bike lanes and "Pride" crosswalks, etc. more...


Giant Gila Monster

Obscure giant critters get a new lease on life thanks to new film restoration and distribution company

Talk about a couple of monster hits!

Well, they may not have been huge box office successes, though the supplements accompanying this two-disc Blu-ray set say the producer made his investment back multiple times over, but The Giant Gila Monster and The Killer Shrews are well worth your "guilty pleasure" time even though they have never gained the kind of adoration of such contemporaries as Forbidden Planet, or even Them!

Still, if you have a short attention span (the longer of the two films is only 74 minutes!) or just enjoy slumming in the home theatre with a couple of "better than you might think" titles, this new release from Film Masters could be right up your alley.

Both films came out in 1959, and were made outside the traditional Hollywood studio system.

Of the two, I preferred The Giant Gila Monster the best, but both have their moments – quite a few of them, actually. more...

TechnoFile drives the 2023 Lexus RX 350

Lexus downsizes its RX 350's power and upsides its annoyances

Lexus' top-selling mid-size SUV has received a new set of clothes, a new engine, and new interfaces for its current generation. I only wish I could say they're all good things.

I've always liked the RX 350 and the 300 and 330 that preceded it. It's luxurious, comfortable and will probably outlast its owners. But it has never been particularly fun or sporty, despite some versions wearing Lexus' "F Sport" badging that's usually more extra trim and toys than extra oomph and enjoyment.

In fact, in about the mid-2000's I drove a RX 330 while I was working part time as a Lexus customer shuttle driver, and I liked it a lot. It had an automatic transmission that featured a good manual mode and, for sitting in eight hours a day, you couldn't really beat it.

That was then.

Lexus still uses the 350 designation, which once meant it came with the company's really nice, really smooth and really torquey 3.5 litre V6. The mad stampede to save Parent Earth, however, regardless or whether or not it's really warranted, is causing many, if not most, carmakers to downsize their engines, with turbo fours displacing (no pun intended – well, not much of one, anyway) the V6's of the world. And that's the case here. more...


Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Top Hughes and Wyler films make their way onto 4K disc

Paramount has released another round of popular titles to their growing library of 4K discs and, while they may not be the most spectacular examples of the 4K disc medium, they both shine on the ultra high-definition discs and are well worth seeing and/or owning.

Ferris Bueller's Day off was a bit of a change of pace for writer/director John Hughes. He spent a lot of the 1980's making teen flicks from "The Breakfast Club" to "Sixteen Candles," but "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" is bit of an anomaly, in that rather than featuring an ensemble cast telling their own stories, it concentrates on one fellow – Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) – a smart and popular kid who goes through life as if it's set to music.

Roman Holiday, meanwhile, is yet another great film from the great William Wyler, who had already made a number of classics, from Wuthering Heights to The Best Years of Our Lives, and would go on to make even more, including the 1959 masterpiece Ben-Hur. Roman Holiday is a 1953 romantic comedy starring Gregory Peck and a young up and comer named Audrey Hepburn, whose performance ended up winning her an Oscar, one of three such statuettes the classic "fish out of water/star-crossed lovers" tale took home that year. more..

Ford F-150 Raptor R

Ford Raptor R – R stands for Reality-challenging!

Forgive me if I write this column while hunkering down under my desk, because I'm afraid I might get struck by lightning for actually liking a full-sized pickup truck.

Of course, Ford's F-150 Raptor R isn't your garden variety pickup truck. No, indeed. It's an outrageously in your face vehicle that lets you cut a swath through traffic while also waking the neighbourhood with its outrageous exhaust bellow.

And it's an absolute blast!

And all this truck goodness and fun – all 700 horsepower of it – can be yours for a paltry $150,000 CDN, if you can find one for that price. Apparently, there's a waiting list and the trucks are selling for much more than list. I haven't heard that officially, but I was told that by someone who would know.

Anyway, Ford's Raptor has been around for several years now, but to compare that original Raptor with this one isn't really fair. This is an "UberRaptor" that eschews the regular Raptor's EcoBoost V6 (which works very well) with a big, supercharged V8 – the sort of engine you might imagine in a high-end Mustang (and where I imagine it would be even more of a blast!). As Ford says, it's "the fastest, most powerful, most extreme high-performance off-road desert Raptor yet." more...


TechnoFile publisher Jim Bray's print columns are available through the
TechnoFile Syndicate.
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