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Monday, June 20, 2016

DISH Network Hopper 3 Whole-Home DVR Review

The Hopper 3 has 16 tuners and storage for up to 2,000 hours of programming. Photo: DISH Network.

Jumping for Joy (and New Features)

Ever since DISH Network first introduced the Hopper Whole-House DVR back in 2012, they've been working on ways to improve it. If you had asked me back then what they could do to make it better, I probably would have said not to change a thing. I thought it was perfect. Boy, was I wrong.

Okay, it was wonderful, but the newly launched Hopper 3 Whole-Home DVR is so much better. It has a new interface, a new remote, new insides, and pretty much a new everything else -- and it's absolutely wonderful.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Denon AVR-X1200W 7.2-channel A/V Receiver Review

I Want to Take You Higher

For more than a year, we've been talking about how and why you'd want to have Dolby Atmos in your home. (Find out more about Dolby Atmos here.) So how many of you have actually added that feature into your home theater setup? (A show of hands is not necessary.) If price has been keeping you back  -- and really, what else would be? -- Denon Electronics is making it a whole lot easier to upgrade to immersive "3D sound" with the AVR-X1200W.

The AVR-X1200W is an entry-level "7.2-channel" receiver with Dolby Atmos and is upgradeable to DTS:X. They call it "7.2" because it offers seven channels for various speakers plus two subwoofer outputs. Technically calling it "7.2" may be a stretch as the two subwoofer outputs are not independently adjustable in set-up, but for simplicity, we'll go along with the 7.2 nomenclature.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Samsung NX500 Interchangeable Lens Camera Review

Samsung's NX500 comes in black, white and brown.

He Points, He Shoots, He Scores!

I take a lot of pictures. But I'm not a photographer. Whether it's the kids' sports activities, family vacations or press events such as CES, I take thousands of pictures a year. But to be honest, I've never been all that driven to learn the details of the craft, to become a "photographer." I have a basic understanding of photography concepts such as exposure times, focal length, depth of field, bokeh and such. But more often than not, I'm setting my camera to "auto" mode, pointing, clicking and hoping for the best.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Curse of Sleeping Beauty Review

The Curse of Sleeping Beauty Review

"The Curse of Sleeping Beauty" is, in a word, beautiful. It's a multi-genre film that takes basic elements from the classic fairy tale and weaves them into a story about a haunted house, an ancient curse, and a young man who dreams each night of a captive maiden who waits for his kiss to awaken her from her enchanted sleep. In addition to being released as a film, "Beauty" was simultaneously conceived as a graphic novel, and the parallels between the mediums are easy to see: scenes are composed like paintings, with artful attention to symmetry and balance, and light and color are used very intentionally to accent story elements, or to evoke eerie or ethereal moods.

Equally noteworthy is "Beauty"'s sonorous score and striking sound design; the eerie chants and dissonant choral notes woven throughout help to immerse the viewer in the supernatural story while reinforcing the film's sensual aesthetics. The tale itself isn't particularly groundbreaking, but the production is lovely enough that the occasionally pedestrian story beats can be forgiven.

Money Monster Review

A Solid Investment

The financial crisis has been on abundant display at the movies lately. Just last year, "The Big Short" and the underseen "99 Homes" focused on the housing crisis and economic collapse. Who knew such a dark time would provide so many movies.

Director Jodie Foster's "Money Monster" is an entertaining thriller with some things to say about the world today. While it never looks at the widespread effects of the crumbling economy, there are points to be made. Wisely, she doesn't emphasize them but sticks to making a solid B-movie thriller.


George Clooney stars as Lee Gates, an obnoxious but charismatic television personality. His show, "Money Monster", analyzes stock options and he gives his advice on what people should invest in. He dances, wears costumes and uses props, while trying to grab his viewers' attention. He is guided by director Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts), through each episode. Patty has the thankless task of trying to keep Lee on course.     
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