Jim Bray's Car & Tech rants - publishing online exclusively since 1995
Updated: May 28, 2020

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The Invisible Man

Classic horror movie remake's 4K disc features a transparent plot

Universal Studios' latest attempt to bring new life to its catalogue of classic horror movies is an interesting take on an old story and how to make it new again. Oh, it's not nearly as good as some of the movies it remakes, but it's probably worth a look if you're into the genre.

It's the Invisible Man, a title/franchise that can be traced right back to the original golden age of Hollywood horror, an era that brought us Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's monster, Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula, Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolf Man and, of course the great Claude Rains as the Invisible Man.

There've been invisible man movies since then, of course, including such films as John Carpenter's Memoirs of an Invisible Man and Paul Verhoeven's Hollow Man. Neither was as good as the James Whale original, but both were decent trips through the home theatre.

The leads of both the original version and Hollow Man were both driven scientists whose discovery led to all heck being unleashed on an unsuspecting world. They had discovered the secret to invisibility, but it ended up wreaking havoc on them as well as those around them.

Not here. In this Invisible Man, we barely see the scientist (okay, the pun is intended) whose creation proves so problematic – and instead the focus is on our distaff lead, Elisabeth Moss, who isn't invisible but who is stalked by her former main squeeze, who she thinks is invisible.

Moss plays Cecilia Kass, who at film's opening is sneaking out of her and her man's (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) bedroom. She's making herself scarce from what we're told (and which becomes quite obvious later) is an abusive relationship. So, yeah, it's yet another girl power movie from Hollowwood, and who could have forecast that?

It isn't quite as simple as this just being yet another tiresome "men bad" flick, though, which is nice, but in many ways it isn't really like an invisible man movie at all, other than the fact that there's an invisible man in it (which I suppose does make quite a difference!). In fact, it's more like a conventional slasher movie, except that instead of the bad guy being a scary, shadowy figure with a big knife, we have an invisible figure with a big knife.

No invisibility potion to cause the incredible vanishing act, either. Instead, Adrian Griffin's (Jackson-Cohen) invisibility comes from a nifty, high tech suit that makes him "virtually" disappear in a manner reminiscent of how they "disappeared" James Bond's Aston Martin in Die Another Day. Interesting, yes, cool, yes, but innovative – well, Bond did it back in the Brosnan days…

Anyway, the movie is basically a stalker/slasher film in which the only one who knows the truth – that see-through Adrian is making her life a frightening Hell – is Cecilia, and of course no one else will believe her. That does change later, as the victims start to pile up and people can "see" clearly that there's some weird, transparent stuff going down, but for the first part of the movie she's basically written off as a whacko, thanks to her outrageous story of an invisible man stalking her when everyone else thinks the guy killed himself a couple of minutes into the story and therefore can't be stalking anyone. more...

Top Gun

Classic Tom Cruise trio's 4K treatment takes our breath away

Paramount Pictures has just unleashed three new – well, old – Tom Cruise movies on 4K disc and they're all good examples of the species.

Not necessarily the greatest movies, but in my experience a Tom Cruise film is almost always worth watching and these three – well, two of them anyway – are no exceptions to the rule.

The three are Top Gun (the original, just in time to help promote the sequel that's coming out later this year and isn't that an interesting coincidence?), Days of Thunder (aka "Top Gun at NASCAR") and War of the Worlds. Of the three, Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds is the best (though I didn't like it much the first time I watched it), with Top Gun close behind and Days of Thunder (which doesn't even have an upgraded audio track for those who have Dolby Atmos systems) bringing up the rear.

All are worth watching, and all really benefit from the 4K treatment, so if you haven't bought any of these discs for your library yet, but want to, these are definitely the ones to get.

Danger Zone…

Cruise was already a movie star when he did Top Gun back in 1986, with such leading roles as in Risky Business and Ridley Scott's Legend, but it was Scott's brother Tony's Top Gun that really saw his career, well, take off and soar.

It was a "lightning in a bottle" phenomenon where everything just came together: a likeable young star, a fun tale of American exceptionalism, plenty of neat military aviation footage and stunts, a cool romance and a musical score that spawned some big hits on the radio (Take my breath away, Danger Zone…).

And now, after at least a couple of other high definition releases, we have the picture quality for which we'd waited.

As for the movie itself, it's a fine guilty pleasure, especially if you're a pilot. It follows Cruise as Maverick, a cocky Navy jet pilot who brings enough baggage with him to fill the cargo storage section of an A-380. It came out a couple of years after my own flying "career," about 100 hours of single engine, fixed wing aircraft (Cessna 150 and 172) flying for pleasure in the mountains of British Columbia. As an aviation buff, I dragged my family to a theater when the movie came out because I wanted to experience those F-14 Tomcats on the biggest screen with the biggest sound I could find. more...

Overdrive City

Overdrive City brings sim gaming to car nuts

Are you a car nut who's tired of being locked down and not able to drive anywhere any more? If so, I have a pastime for you that might make your house arrest a little more palatable.

It's called Overdrive City, a "free" sim-style game for iOS and/or Android operating systems, and according to the press release I received announcing the game, it'll be available on the Microsoft store, too. It is, indeed, a free download but as with so many other free games you'll have to beat off with a stick the many offers that'll pop up as you play, offering you game resources you'll either have to purchase via their offers, or to earn a lot more slowly by playing the game itself over time, rather than opting for the cash outlay.

I don't opt for such cash outlays, which slows down the game's progress substantially, and that tends to make me play rather spottily – I'll go gung-ho until I run out of resources, then slow down dramatically until the resources are available.

According to Gameloft, the company behind the game, Overdrive City provides "a fresh take on city-building while delighting car aficionados with licensed brands and racing gameplay. Car enthusiasts become automotive visionaries and celebrate their passion from the factory floor to the fast lane."

The Montreal-based creator of Overdrive City has indeed unleashed an attractive and fun way to build your "Motor City" (I called my city Animoscity, just because I could), in which you buy and "build" (you place them on the game surface, then they "build" themselves) car parts and other factories and, eventually, factories that build brands of cars – Ford, Mitsubishi, Chevrolet, Volkswagen, etc. You can also perform service on a variety of "other peoples'" cars (if you have the resources), export shipments, and do other stuff such as upgrading your own vehicles (if you have the resources) to make them racier. more...

Mazda CX-30

Mazda joins the mini-ute fray with its CX-30

Take Mazda's award-winning, and terrific, 3 hatchback, raise it a bit and add some plastic cladding and what do you have?

Well, if you've read the title to this piece, you're already a step ahead and know I'm talking about the new for 2020 CX-30, a compact SUV/Crossover that's based on the 3 – and that's a heckuva great place to start!

I love the Mazda 3, though I think this current generation's hatchback model has a rear end only a Kardashian fan could love. But the car is terrific and arguably the nicest and most fun compact coming from Japan these days. Zoom-Zoom, even though I've heard that Mazda is apparently not using it any more, is not just a slogan; it's a fact.

But it appears the marketplace is moving more toward SUV/Crossovers and though Mazda already has a terrific lineup in its CX-3, CX-5 and CX-9, they apparently felt there was a hole in their inventory where such vehicles as Toyota's C-HR, Honda's HR-V, Hyundai's Venue or Kona and Kia's Seltos and Niro live.

Hence the CX-30. And judging from my week with it, just as winter was trying to end and the Coronavirus was trying to begin, it's a fine entry. And as a car guy as opposed to an SUV/Crossover aficionado, I actually think it's nicer looking than the 3 hatchback, from the B pillar (between the front and rear doors) back.

Oh, I could do without the plastic cladding, but it seems to be a common affliction for this type of vehicle.

It's probably fair to look upon the CX-30 as a tall 3, kind of like the Audi A4 Allroad is basically an A4 wagon raised a bit from the regular model. So, you get a little taller view of the road, which apparently is one of the selling points for SUV/Crossovers compared to cars, and perhaps better off road performance (especially if you opt for the all wheel drive version). more...

Honda CR-V

Honda CR-V Sport – a pretty nice vehicle, but Sport?

Honda's CR-V has been around nearly as long as the so-called "cute ute" market niche and, as is Honda's wont, there's a lot to like about it.

But is the Sport version really sporty?

Nope. And that's a shame because, other than the "sportiness gap" it's a pretty nice vehicle in its own right, Honda-isms notwithstanding.

The good stuff starts with a 1.5 litre turbocharged four banger Honda says puts 190 horsepower @ 5600 rpm and 179 @ 2000-5000 lb.-ft. of torque @ rpm. Hardly world-shattering figures, but competitive in this niche: the current Toyota RAV4's 2.5 litre "non-turbo" four-cylinder engine is rated at 203 HP, while Mazda's CX-5 puts out 187/186 hp/torque, for example.

Alas, Honda has chosen to inflict a continuously variable transmission onto the CR-V and it's enough to suck any potential sportiness out of the equation. It's typical of the species, in that it's loud and whiny and tends to make it feel as if you're driving a vehicle powered by an elastic band rather than a real, live (well, not really alive…) automatic transmission, of which there are many good examples these days.

Making it worse is the lack of paddle shifters to help at least make the CR-V's CVT pretend to be a conventional manual like some other CVT's do. In fact, there's no sport or manual mode at all other than a "S" setting on the shift selector, which does little (if anything) to impart a sporty feel.

Okay, no one in his/her/its right mind buys a CR-V thinking it's a Porsche Macan, and there's plenty of other reasons to like the vehicle anyway – but why call it a "sport" model when it's clearly not a case of truth in advertising? more...

Lincoln Aviator

Lincoln reaches for new heights in luxury SUV performance

Ford's upscale division has kind of been missing in action for a while, but with its new, aviation-inspired naming regimen it's aiming to come back with a vengeance. And judging by the first two new models I've driven, they've done a pretty nice job of it.

The Aviator, which is based on Ford's popular Explorer SUV that's also offering a brand-new generation this year, is a "mid-size" model with three rows of seats (in this case, the third row raises and folds via power, too, a nice touch). It rides on a new, rear drive platform but all-wheel drive is standard in Canadian trim and, according to Lincoln "gives you the propulsion-like feel of rear-wheel drive, and the confident grip of standard all-wheel drive."

Can't argue that. As much as I love rear wheel drive, there's something to be said for all-wheel drive when the roads get to be a tad more challenging than standard summer driving. Heck, full-time awd can even tighten up a vehicle's handling on dry roads, as evidenced by awd sport wagons such as those by Audi and Subaru, vehicles that stick to the road like, well, like the dickens.

Naturally, a vehicle the size of the Aviator isn't going to handle like a Porsche 911, but judging from my week in the Lincoln Canada's sample Aviator Reserve it does a pretty decent job of its duties. And if the base model's apex-carving (which includes an adaptive suspension) isn't good enough for you, you can opt for the optional Air Glide Suspension, which Lincoln says "replaces traditional hard coil springs with air bladders that can be inflated and deflated to help soften your ride-creating the sensation of riding on air." This system can also make the Aviator "kneel-down to greet you as you approach and to raise and lower based on specific drive modes", Lincoln says. That's mighty subservient of it!

It's also hardly unique in this type of vehicle, but that doesn't mean it isn't welcome. I'm not sure it's really necessary – I thought the "base" suspension was just fine, but it's there if you want it. more...

Lincoln Corsair

Lincoln takes flight with new Corsair

Lincoln is out with a set of new SUV models that updates its line with a decidedly airplane-like – or tech-like anyway – mien, and judging from my couple of weeks in a pair of them they've done a very nice job of it.

The two I drove are the new Corsair, which replaces the Escape-based MKC, and the Explorer-related Aviator that sent the horrid-looking MKT to the showers. Between them there's also the Nautilus, which has no aviation connection in its name at all and fits in the product line like the Edge fits into Ford's (between the Escape and the Explorer).

Hopefully, the Nautilus won't lead to Ford shareholders getting a "sinking feeling"…

Anyway, my first experience with the new line was with the Corsair, which if I were looking to purchase or lease a Lincoln would be my choice, because it's small and I like small. And I liked it a lot. It's handsome, has a beautiful interior and it drives very well.

Corsairs' new bodywork differentiates itself from the more mainstream Escape very well; if I didn't know they were related under the skin I probably wouldn't have realized it. It's cool and classy inside and out, drives very well, and coddles you very nicely. more...

Jumanji 2

Jumanji sequel a better-than-expected frolic in the home theatre

Sony Pictures' sequel to its Jumanji remake is a surprisingly enjoyable and entertaining couple of hours in the home theatre and you don't need to have seen the "original" to appreciate it.

That was my case, anyway. I never saw the original remake (how's that for an oxymoron?), nor did I see the original original with Robin Williams. But I've enjoyed the Dwayne Johnson movies I've seen and I've liked Karen Gillan since her days as Amy Pond in Doctor Who. That, plus the promised exquisite picture quality possible from the 4K UHD HDR disc version made me interested in this latest bit of escapist entertainment, interested in seeing it, and in reviewing it.

Alas, Sony Canada only sent the conventional, 1080p Blu-ray, so the closest I could get to UDH's 2160p was to up convert the Blu-ray via my Oppo UDP-205 player – and if you have to do an up conversion like that, the Oppo is probably the best way to do it. Too bad it's no longer available.

The movie follows the adventures of Spencer (Alex Wolff), Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain), Martha (Morgan Turner) and Bethany (Madison Iseman) three years after their first trip to Jumanji's virtual world. more...

Ford Escape

Ford's Escape sports a nice new suit of clothes for 2020

The new, mostly carless era at Ford is beginning and one of the newest salvos in the company's battle for market success is personified by the latest version of its popular SUV, the Escape.

And it's a pretty nice item for the most part. I like its looks compared to the also-handsome outgoing model, and I was even happy with the performance obtained by Ford Canada's sample SEL trim level's 1.5 litre turbo three. Sure, it doesn't offer a huge amount of horsepower or torque, but in my week driving it in various winter road conditions – from bare and dry to awful – it performed just fine.

Well, there were a couple of electrical gremlins, which in my experience isn't unusual in Ford products, but they were pretty minor and would hopefully be taken care of under warranty. more...

Volvo V60 CC

Volvo V60 a very nice wagon that claims off-road strength

It almost seems as if station wagons are an endangered species in North America. Oh sure, there are hatchbacks, and "crossovers" but honest to goodness wagons seem limited to European manufacturers these days and even those are hard to find on Canadian streets.

I love wagons. They give you everything good that you can find in a sedan (such as the convenience of four doors) and add a lot of the storage you can get from an SUV. And because they're (mostly) still as low as a car they can offer sports car handling and fun.

When Volvo Canada offered me some quality seat time in their new V60 Cross Country I jumped at the chance. I was a fan of Volvo's vehicles when I got to review them in the past, which hasn't happened for about a dozen years, so I was doubly excited to pick up the V60 to see if the ghost of Volvos past were still Volvos to be enjoyed in the present. more...

The Hunt for Red October 4K

The Hunt for Red October gets the 4K disc treatment in honour of its 30th anniversary

John McTiernan's The Hunt for Red October is a perfect kick off to the films based on Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan stories. And now it's available in an anniversary steelbook edition that brings it into the ultra high definition world of 4K discs.

That's a good thing, though not as great as I'd hoped because so much of the film is dark (inside submarines, nighttime scenes, etc.) and so the 4K treatment isn't the eye-opener I'd hoped it would be. Still, the High Dynamic Range does add some depth and "pop" to the movie and that's better than a kick in the teeth. more...

Subaru Outback

Award-winning Subarus bring Big Brother to some otherwise nice vehicles

Subaru, the Japanese car company, has won two Automobile Journalists Association of Canada "Best Car in Canada" awards, for its new Legacy and Outback, and on the whole they're very nice vehicles.

Though neither won the Best Car in Canada award for 2020 (that went to Mazda's terrific 3 sedan/hatchback), the Legacy took its category as Best Large Car in Canada for 2020, while the Outback was named Best Mid-Size Utility Vehicle in Canada for 2020. That's pretty good!

And then they went all Big Brother. more...

Mazda CX-5 Diesel

Mazda CX-5 adds diesel power to its lineup

How do you make a great SUV even more stimulating? Well, you could give it more oomph, or better fuel mileage – or, better still, both.

And that's what Mazda has done with the CX-5 Diesel, a new model in the company's SUV line, and it's a pretty compelling piece of automotive stuff.

Mazda's famous "Zoom-Zoom" slogan isn't just advertising hype; it's actually true. In fact, over the past decade or so I've gotten more speeding tickets while behind the wheel of a Mazda than I have any other brand, including supposedly higher end sports vehicles. Can't blame Mazda for self-inflicted wounds, but such is the effect Mazda vehicles have on me. It isn't horsepower or torque, it's just an overall feel – and I love it! more...

Terminator: Dark FateNew Terminator more remake than reboot and not the best 4K disc

Paramount's reboot of James Cameron's Terminator franchise is a wasted opportunity to breathe new life into a classic sci-fi concept that should have been left terminated.

That means it joins such movies as Star Wars: The Force Awakens as a reasonable tale that could have been a contender, but instead is basically just a rehash.

That said, there's plenty of nifty stuff here, and at the beginning there's also the best example I've seen to date of special effects being used to recreate younger versions of the now-older main characters. more..

Ford Ranger

Ford Ranger a solid mid-sized truck in the vein of big brother F-150

Are you looking for a pickup truck that'll haul your stuff and get you where you want to go, yet not take up your entire driveway the way a full-sized truck might?

If so, you might be a prime target of Ford's new Ranger. It's a pickup that, like the legendary F-150, offers a lot of truck goodness, but which is aimed at those in the market for a smaller pickup.

In my last vehicle-related column I looked at the Jeep Gladiator, which is arguably a more serious off-road fun machine, but the Ranger will also take you off of the asphalt and undoubtedly do a fine job – though if you're looking for a more "civilized" ride on paved roads, you might find the Ranger ticks your boxes better. more...

Joker 4K

Gemini Man is an incredible video feast – and a decent movie, too

A funny thing happened on the way to reviewing director Ang Lee's Gemini Man: I went in looking specifically to experience and review the high frame rate video presentation, but found to my delight that it's actually a pretty good movie in its own right.

What an unexpected bonus!

Gemini Man pits Will Smith against a digitally "youthed" Will Smith in this tale of intrigue in United States' intelligence circles. He, the elder, is a professional hit man – er, hit person – who's the best in the business. But he's had enough of that life and wants to retire in peace – kind of like Bruce Willis' character begins the movie RED. more...

Joker 4K

Joker movie is no laughing matter – but it looks and sounds great on 4K disc

So, can we now expect a loving, forgiving fawning "origin story" of Jeffrey Dahmer?

Todd Phillips' Joker turns old fashioned storytelling on its head to give us the back story to one of the DC comics universe's most infamous villains – probably the most infamous. While most comic book-based movies deal with the heroes, because that only makes sense, this film takes the other tack, giving us a backstory for the Clown Prince of Crime, trying to make him a sympathetic character and basically glorifying his victimhood.

Guess that's what happens when you cast the charisma-less Ben Affleck as Batman; there's a void to fill in the Batman universe…

Hmm. Is there a Lex Luthor "biopic" in the offing, too? more...

Roku Premiere

New Rokus update the product's line with better performance and prices

If you're looking to turn your dumb TV into a "smart" one, without having to throw out a perfectly good TV that's serving you well, maybe you should take a gander at what Roku is offering this Christmas season.

Roku isn't the only such device out there, of course, but the Rokus are my favourites because they're so flexible, affordable, and cool.

You can get into a Roku for as little as 40 Canadian dollars! Now, for that price you're not going to get 4K performance, but you will get 1080p and that's probably all an older TV is capable of showing anyway. But if you do want 4K, you only have to spend 50 bucks for a Roku Premiere with HDR or $70 for the Streaming Stick+, which also offers 4K HDR performance.

It's a cheap way to not only open up a world of high def (or Ultra high def) free streaming, it's also a kind of "one stop shopping" place to get other premium streaming services. more... 

TechnoFile publisher Jim Bray's print columns are available through the
TechnoFile Syndicate.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, prices in this publication are quoted in US dollars.

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