Jim Bray's Car & Tech rants - publishing online exclusively since 1995
Updated: March 26, 2020
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.

Anyway, all I'd known about Jumanji before sitting down with the Blu-ray was that it was about some folks who find themselves inside a game (a video game in this case), much like Mary Poppins and her tagalongs zapped into a cartoon world in the original Disney masterpiece.

That's about where the comparisons to Mary Poppins end, though, and that's okay.

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. Spencer is supposed to meet up with his "team" at a diner, but instead of showing up it turns out he's missing altogether, and no one knows where he went until the team discovers the old Jumanji game in Spencer's basement. They figure he must be in some kind of trouble – else he wouldn't have missed their rendezvous – so they decide to re-enter the Jumanji world to help him get home again.

Naturally, things don't really work out that way – or not until we've sat through a rip snortin' two-hour ride that's not only fun on its own, it's also a hoot if you're a video gamer. I know this latter point because I've been spending several otherwise productive hours over the past couple of months playing with some PS3 classics such as King's Quest (which was also a PC classic many years ago) and a couple of Star Wars games. And Jumanji does hearken back to such games' features and strategies.

One of the first things that throws a monkey wrench into the team's plans is the presence of Spencer's crusty grandfather (Danny DeVito) and his former friend and partner Milo (Danny Glover). They're zapped into the game universe by mistake, while one of the previous adventurers is left behind.

Not only that, but the cast materializes as different avatars from their first visit's, and that gives the writers a terrific opportunity for some comedy. It's very entertaining, for example, to see Dwayne Johnson doing his best Danny DeVito impression (and it's a pretty good one!) while Jack "Black" channels the black guy who suddenly shows up in his body rather than Kevin Hart's. 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.

As mentioned, Ford's sample wore the SEL trim, and it starts at $35,049 Canadian, according to the sample's sticker. That trim level could have come with the optional two litre EcoBoost four-cylinder engine rather the 1.5 litre EcoBoost three banger, and I probably would have enjoyed that even more. Yet this "little engine that could" three banger really, well, did – and I had no trouble keeping up with traffic either on city streets or on the highways around here.

Sure, it didn't leap ahead like a Mustang when I stepped on the gas, but it oozed forward well and I never felt it to be the gutless piece of engine technology that I had feared. 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.

That's why I own a wagon, and undoubtedly why companies such as Audi, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Volvo still offer them. Well, that and profitability, which is undoubtedly why these companies don't offer all their wagons here; Audi, for example, only offers a jacked-up version of its A4 as a wagon in Canada (called Allroad now instead of Avant), while in Europe you can wagon the car right up to the  awesome RS4 Avant variant That's about as hot as a wagon as one could want.  

When Volvo Canada offered me some quality seat time in their new V60 Cross Country I jumped at the chance. Not only do I love wagons, but I was a fan of Volvo's vehicles when I got to review them in the past. Alas, that honour hasn't happened for about a dozen years – other than a half hour or so at AJAC's Canadian Car of the Year TestFest a few times since then – 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... 

Dr. Dabber Switch

Vapourizers offer a real 'pot-pourri' of choices for discerning users

Vapourizers offer a supposedly healthier way to imbibe than smoking the stuff – and there's almost as wide a variety of these devices as there are stars in the sky.

That's probably why the folks at Dr. Dabber, Arizer, Vapor.com,  Cloudious 9 and some others got in touch with me to see if I'd be interested in doing an update to some of the vape columns I wrote a couple of years ago, back in the dark ages when using the stuff in Canada could see you rot in jail, if not burn in Hell.

This column isn't about the legality or morality of legal cannabis, it's about some of the newer vapourizers on the market – and as mentioned there's a bunch. There are big ones, little ones, portable ones, ones designed for use with "oil" or "wax" and – the first one here – big, party-centric ones that will do both. more...

Jeep Gladiator

Jeep Gladiator a serious off-road fun machine

Are you a serious off-roader looking to haul stuff into the outback and have a blast of a time communing with nature while you do it?

The Gladiator is supposedly based on the Wrangler, which is a good place for a serious off-roader to start. It features a four-door cab with a box for hauling your stuff, serious off-road tires, prodigious suspension parts and, of course, it's a 4x4.

Gladiators start at $47,245 CAD (Jeep Canada's Overland sample had a base price of $51,245, however, and there's a Rubicon model that starts at just shy of 55 grand), and are powered by a 3.6 litre "Pentastar" V6 (I think that means they're built by werewolves) that puts out 285 horses and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. That power gets to the wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission that shifts well and seems like a good match here. more...

Ford Mustang GT

Enhanced Mustang offers a lot of performance and a great soundtrack

How do you not have a barrel of laughs driving a Ford Mustang?

Well, you could get one that's souped up nicely, even to Recaro seats, then stick ultra wide and slickish race track tires on it that are quite impractical on chilly autumn roads in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

That's what I spent a week doing recently, and even though the road and weather conditions made it virtually impossible for me to enjoy the 'Stang as much as I'd have liked to, I still managed to come away with a big, muscle car smile on my face – as well as many stares from onlookers who heard me coming and undoubtedly were wondering at the ancient oaf and his mid-life crisis. more...

Ford EcoSport

As its name suggests: Ford EcoSport displays a split personality

Ford's entry-level SUV – or crossover, if you prefer such a designation – is an interesting beast. It's small, can be equipped very well in its upper trim level(s), and offers some of the stuff I appreciate most about Ford, such as its Sync 3 touch screen interface.

Yet it also leaves quite a bit to be desired. It doesn't "sport" a lot of power, its fuel mileage (during my week of relatively lead-footed driving, so I could review it "apples to apples" compared with other such vehicles in this class that I've driven) is unremarkable, and it had one of the worst conventional automatic transmissions I've ever sampled – and since I generally hate CVT's (and this isn't one) that says something! more...

Infiniti QX60

Infiniti QX60 tries gamely to keep up with the competition

Folks looking for a three-row luxury SUV have plenty of choices, so many in fact that, regardless of its many virtues, Infiniti's QX60 may be getting lost in the shuffle.

That's because Nissan's 30-year-old luxury division has kind of been dwarfed by the roaring success of Lexus and, to a lesser extent, Acura over the three decades in which the "Big Japanese Three" went head to head with the best from around the world. It's too bad, because Infiniti has made some very nice vehicles over the years - though, alas, they've also made some pretty forgettable ones.

I give the QX60 three row SUV/Crossover as evidence of both the nice and the forgettable. There's nothing really wrong with it, and it's quite comfortable and decent to drive, but there's so much else out there that's either newer or nicer (this, of course, being my never humble opinion) that I'm not sure it's keeping up – though to be fair this QX60 has been out for a few years and is due for an upgrade. more...

Hyundai Palisade

Hyundai Palisade makes a big and bold statement

If you're looking for a large, three row SUV, you really owe it to yourself to check out Hyundai's new big SUV, the Palisade.

And, as it did when I reviewed its "kind of stablemate", the Kia Telluride, this advice is also aimed at people who are looking for a big (well, some call it "midsized") luxury SUV. That's because, in my never humble opinion, the South Korean siblings are at least as compelling to drive and tricked out very nearly as luxuriously as supposedly higher end machines such as Lexus' RX 350L, the Acura MDX and many more. 

Methinks Hyundai may be taking a page from Mazda's playbook, with its terrific CX-9.  

It's pretty difficult to argue about its pricing, too. more...

It's a Wonderful Life

It's a Wonderful Life gets a new lease on life in 4K

Frank Capra's classic It's a Wonderful Life is back on disc yet again, but this time it sports a new 4K restoration and remastering that has this movie masterpiece looking and sounding better than it ever has on home video.

The film has earned a well-deserved place in the hearts of millions and has become a Christmas season staple, even though only a small part of it is actually set at Christmas, and this new package not only contains the new, 4K version, there's also a colourized Blu-ray in the package for those who just can't bear to see the movie the way it should be seen.

As you undoubtedly know by now, it's the story of George Bailey, a bright young man with lots of potential and ambition whose life keeps getting sidetracked by reality. It's a tale that takes its many characters – and the audience – on a journey that goes from the heights of joy to the depths of despair and back again. more...

Mazda 3 Sport AWD

Mazda's new 3 offers all wheel drive for the first time

Mazda's 3 series not only has a new generation for 2019, it has also added a new, all-wheel drive option of its popular compact car. But no matter how you configure it, the new 3 is a wonderful car that offers fun, technology and refinement in a package that belies its mainstream market niche.

And it still offers plenty of Mazda's special "Zoom-Zoom."

I love Mazdas for their wonderful driving feel and I loved the 3 even back when it was the Protégé. This fourth generation of the 3, however, is not only a terrific upgrade, it (obviously, in my never humble opinion) sits atop its market niche when compared with the other mainstream compacts I've driven.

And as with other recent Mazdas, the company has done such a great job of equipping it (in its higher trim levels, anyway), that I think it can compete head to head with more luxurious models such as the Acura ILX or Infiniti Q50. 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.

TechnoFile is copyright and a registered trademark © ® of
Pandemonium Productions. All rights reserved.
E-mail us Here!
Our Privacy Policy
Contact Us | About Us | Privacy Policy | Copyright 2020 Pandemonium Productions