Jim Bray


Jim publishes TechnoFile Magazine. Jim is an affiliate with the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada and his careers have included journalist, technology retailer, video store pioneer, and syndicated columnist; he does a biweekly column on CBC Radio One's The Business Network.

Jim can be reached at: [email protected]Older articles by Jim Bray

Most Recent Articles by Jim Bray:

Justice League 4K - doing justice to the DC comics universe?

Mar 17, 2018 — Jim Bray

Justice League 4K - doing justice to the DC comics universe?
Warner Brothers’ ongoing attempts to play catch-up with the Marvel cinematic universe continues with Justice League, their version of The Avengers, in which a group of superheroes teams up to fight a super villain bent on mayhem, conquest and destruction.

The question is, is it any good, and how does it stack up to the Marvel movies? And in the case of this sparkling new 4K version of last year’s Justice League film, the answer is a decidedly firm “meh.”


Thor Ragna-rocks in its 4K disc incarnation

Mar 17, 2018 — Jim Bray

Thor Ragna-rocks in its 4K disc incarnationMarvel’s third Thor outing is one “Val-helluva” way to get into the 4K disc market, and it’s also the best of the Thor outings to date.

And it’s a movie that doesn’t take itself seriously and even imparted quite a few laughs on its audience.

I was never a Thor comic book reader and thought Kenneth Branagh’s first Thor movie was visually lovely but nearly as forgettable as the second Thor movie (“the Dark World”). The best thing about both movies (and this one, too) is Chris Hemsworth as the title God. Whether he’s being tossed out of Asgard or driving a star ship or Formula 1 car, the Aussie is a very good actor and he inhabits the Thor character very well, indeed.


Hyundai Elantra GT Sport – a bargain hot hatch?

Mar 17, 2018 — Jim Bray

Hyundai Elantra GT Sport – a bargain hot hatch?
South Korean carmakers have come a long way in a relatively short time. And they’ve earned their current success by offering cars that are built well, competitive in price and even more competitive in features.

Hyundai, the subject of this particular rant, has developed from the old and unloved Pony and Stellar of the 1980’s, and their later and rather bizarre “relax, you’ll get there someday” jingle I took to mean that, undoubtedly unconsciously, Hyundai was admitting their cars were lacking in oomph. Yes, Hyundai used to be a joke, automotively speaking.


Home theatre not rumbling enough? Here are some ways to tweak your system

Feb 28, 2018 — Jim Bray

Home theatre not rumbling enough? Here are some ways to tweak your system
You’ve shelled out good, after tax disposable income on a home theatre setup but instead of that room-rattling bass you’ve been promised you’re only getting a thin gruel oozing its way to your ears. Did you get ripped off?

That’s always a possibility, but even an inexpensive “home theatre in a box” can deliver good, room filling sound with chest thumping low frequency effects, so before you box it up again and toss it back across the counter at the retailer from whom you purchased it, take a while to do some tweaking to ensure it’s performing to the best of its capabilities.


‘Electric-ish’ BMW X5 is a fine ride that could save you some premium fuel

Feb 28, 2018 — Jim Bray

'Electric-ish' BMW X5 is a fine ride that could save you some premium fuel
BMW’s first SUV - though they refer to it as an SAV - has been given the plug-in hybrid treatment and the result is a large utility (er, Activity, in BMW-speak) vehicle that might even save you some gas money.

The X5 xDrive40e is the first plug-in hybrid production model from BMW’s core lineup. Starting at an estimated MSRP of $74,950 CAD, before options, it’s a darn fine vehicle and equipped well even at that trim level (it’s a premium vehicle, after all). And BMW seems to be listening to some of the folks who’ve whined about its interfaces in recent years. That would include me, who has muttered maledictions about the iDrive system, the complexity of merely storing a radio station preset and the annoying folly of having to pull door handles twice to get out of the vehicle and the start/stop button twice to get the thing to actually shut down.


The 2018 Canadian Car of the Year is a Honda - and the Best Utility Vehicle is a minivan

Feb 18, 2018 — Jim Bray

Honda's all-new Accord sedan
Looks like Honda might be wise to buy a bigger display case to hold all the international awards its new Accord is receiving.

That’s because, after being named 2018 North American Car of the Year at the car show in Detroit, as well as scoring its way onto the Car & Driver 10 Best Cars list yet again (for about the 1,000th time) Honda’s all-new Accord sedan has won the 2018 Canadian Car of the Year award, presented under the auspices of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).


Replay software suite lets you replay, record, re-use audio and video from the Web

Feb 11, 2018 — Jim Bray

Applian Technology's Replay Capture Suite
What happens when you watch a particularly hot - or controversial - video on YouTube and just have to have it for yourself, forever? Or what happens when you want to listen to your favourite streaming talk show but have to be away from the computer while it’s on?

That’s the rationale behind Applian Technology’s Replay Capture Suite, a series of interacting apps that will do all that and much more. It’s a pretty impressive set of tools and it appears to work well.

The $79USD suite, individual modules of which are also available separately, includes tools for capturing video or music from any website, as well as conversion and editing tools you can use to file the serial numbers off your purloined programming. And that still isn’t all the suite can let you do!


Canadian Car of the Year gets down to the best of the best

Feb 11, 2018 — Jim Bray

Mazda CX-9
The Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s Best Car award is now down to three finalists.

Well, six, technically - but that’s a pretty steep winnowing from the 182 vehicles that were eligible for this year’s Canadian Car of the Year Awards. And it means there are now only three contenders (or a contender and two pretenders?) for the titles of Canadian Car of the Year and the Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year.

Mazda leads the way with three vehicles that are still in the running - and as a Mazda fan I’d be happy with any of them taking their categories. Alas, the prevailing “wisdom” seems to be aimed elsewhere, at least in the “car” of the year category.


What can you get in a great sports car for under $35,000?  Quite a lot!

Feb 1, 2018 — Jim Bray

What can you get in a great sports car for under $35,000?  Quite a lot!
What would you do if you found yourself with an extra $35,000 burning a hole in your pocket? Would you give it to charity, buy stocks or other investments, or maybe just blow it on a four wheeled toy?

A good friend of mine, Blair, posed that query to me a couple of days ago and it got me thinking about what I’d do in such a situation if I didn’t have to consult with anyone about how (or if…) it should be spent.

I don’t know if Blair has an extra 35 grand burning a hole in his pocket or if he was merely "goal setting," but his challenge was: "you have $35K and want to buy a sports car for occasional use. What would you choose?" He also mentioned I didn’t have to use the full 35 grand of "play money" but I imagine that by the time all is said and done I’d have spent that amount and maybe a little more.


Panasonic combo oven worth getting steamed over

Feb 1, 2018 — Jim Bray

Panasonic combo oven worth getting steamed over,
Don’t tell my wife, but I’ve just spent a couple of weeks with a new “grill friend.” It’s a kitchen appliance that could clean up some precious shelf space because it blends the duties of disparate appliances into one unit.

Panasonic’s Combination Oven NN-DS58HB, despite its $699.99 CAD retail price, is a pretty compelling piece of equipment, though it isn’t without its issues. Heck, depending on your lifestyle and food habits, it could do a lot, if not most, of your cooking all by itself.


Bad Beatles musical looks and sounds great in 4K - while Geostorm blows

Jan 29, 2018 — Jim Bray

Bad Beatles musical looks and sounds great in 4K - while Geostorm blows
Somewhere, Ken Russell looks down (or is it up?) and smiles.

That’s because director Julie Taymor’s “Across the Universe” is arguably as much a tribute to the late Mr. Russell’s visually excessive style of filmmaking than it is a tribute to the Beatles. To me, the film felt like they took Ken Russell’s interpretation of The Who’s Tommy and put it into a blender with Milos Forman’s Hair, but the result - other than looking and sounding fantastic in its 4K incarnation - was less satisfying to me than either of those other films.


Americans’ most reliable cars are mostly Japanese - and Canada’s best new car gets a step closer

Jan 29, 2018 — Jim Bray

Americans' most reliable cars are mostly Japanese - and Canada's  best new car gets a step closer
What do Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Subaru and Volkswagen all have in common? They were named to the list of the 15 cars that American consumers keep the longest before putting them out to pasture.

The news comes courtesy of iseecars.com,  which bills itself as "an automotive data and research company that helps consumers find the best car deals by providing key insights and guidance."  I’d never heard of them before learning about this study, but after checking out their site they seem to be kind of like AutoTrader in their focus.


Blade Runner sequel was meant for 4K -  and ‘IT’ isn’t too bad if given a chance

Jan 21, 2018 — Jim Bray

Blade Runner sequel
Warner Brothers may have pulled off the impossible with Blade Runner 2049. They’ve taken a movie for which no sequel or remake was needed, and given it a sequel/remake that’s worth seeing and owning. Heck, it’s much better than I expected going into it.

It’s much the same with IT, a remake of a Stephen King story about a clown that terrorizes innocent people in a manner reminiscent of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Two D’oh! 

It’s a 4K twofer!


Hot on the heels of new Star Wars comes the return of the Jetta

Jan 21, 2018 — Jim Bray

Hot on the heels of new Star Wars comes the return of the Jetta
One of my favourite sedans is about to be reborn and if initial pictures are any indication it will be an interesting step forward.

That car is the Volkswagen Jetta, which until this new generation basically resembled a Golf with a trunk (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The new generation is not only redesigned, but VW says it also features a transferrable six year, 72,000 mile New Vehicle Limited Warranty.

Alas, that new warranty is only from VW USA; VW Canada will continue with its four year, 80,000 km warranty, but this probably isn’t a big deal in this day and age of vehicle dependability.


Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is a fabulous foray onto 4K

Jan 13, 2018 — Jim Bray

Christopher Nolan's Interstellar is a fabulous foray onto 4K
Hot on the heels of his tour de force from 2017, Dunkirk,  Christopher Nolan’s previous film has also arrived on 4K disc now and it’s well worth your time and/or money.

Nolan, who before Dunkirk was probably most famous for his excellent "Dark Knight" trilogy (also available in 4K), really pulled out all the stops when he followed up "The Dark Knight Rises." "Interstellar"  is a science fiction tale of hope for the future of Mankind (oops, Personkind,  for all you in the ranks of the perpetually offended) that begins on a dying earth that’s threatening to starve its billions of residents and ends up with a re-energized human (or huperson, if you will) race reaching for the stars.


Looking for a good minivan? You Odyssey Honda’s entry

Jan 13, 2018 — Jim Bray

Looking for a good minivan? You Odyssey Honda's entry
It may be a bad pun, but the headline above is a good piece of advice if you’re one of the people thinking about making the move to a new minivan.

I’m not a minivan guy at all - my wife wanted one when our kids were sized and had lifestyles that were "minivan friendly" but I always managed to stave it off, until now they’re long-married and on their own and a minivan is even less of a necessity for empty nesters. But I understand and laud the minivan as perhaps the ultimate in family-and-their-stuff hauling (at least until the three row SUV came along) and I’ve driven enough of them over the years to appreciate their utility, if not their fun.


Meet Roku’s new entry level unit - and a high tech backpack that can charge your phone

Dec 21, 2017 — Jim Bray

Roku Express, Lifepack Solar Powered & Anti-Theft Backpack
Cord cutter wannabes,  also known as folks who want to pull the plug on conventional television delivery systems such as cable and satellite, have a new low cost reason to make that move thanks to Roku’s new entry level Express.

This $40 CAD unit is the latest in the Roku line of streaming devices that all offer similar programming but with different capabilities - from "entry level" HD to 4K with HDR.

And if you’re using your cord cutting experience as a way to get out into the supposedly great outdoors, Lifepack has created a backpack that not only carries your stuff, it helps keep your tunes close and charges your electronics at the same time.

But let’s talk about the Roku first, because I need to screw up my courage to actually go outdoors to use the Lifepack before I can write about  it.


Dunkirk soars onto 4K disc - while LEGO’s ninja flick plummets

Dec 20, 2017 — Jim Bray

Dunkirk soars onto 4K disc - while LEGO's ninja flick plummets
Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is a marvelous cinematic achievement, and the best way to experience it is not only on the biggest screen you can find, with the biggest sound, but also via Warner Brother’s new 4K HDR disc version of the 2017 hit.

Dunkirk, of course, was a terrible defeat for the Allies at the beginning of World War II. The German forces’ invasion of western Europe had stranded hundreds of thousands of soldiers, the lion’s share of whom were British, between the Axis advance and the English Channel. There they waited either for rescue, or death - depending who got to them first.

That’s where Nolan’s film begins, literally with a bang as one soldier (well, he wasn’t alone originally, but such is war) flees the invaders, climbing a fence and running down narrow streets until he emerges onto the Dunkirk beach to find he’s no longer alone: he’s just one of those hundreds of thousands of souls with nowhere to go.


All-new Camry aims to please everyone - and it just may!

Dec 20, 2017 — Jim Bray

All-new Camry aims to please everyone - and it just may!
Toyota’s all-new 2018 Camry is quite a revelation. It’s not only a great mainstream "bread and butter" car, it’s also a car an enthusiastic driver could - well, if not exactly "lust after" then "learn to love and not be ashamed."

Sure, it’ll never go head to head with such sporty sedans as the Audi A6 or BMW 5 series, but those are also higher end vehicles and the Camry doesn’t pretend to be in their league (that’s why Toyota has Lexus). In its own market niche it faces such worthy competitors as the all-new Honda Accord (which is pretty tough competition on its own), Nissan’s Maxima, the Mazda 6,  Volkswagen Passat, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima, and others such as the domestic competitors from the once-Big Three (i.e. Ford Fusion, etc.).


Paramount Transforms giant alien robots into 4K

Dec 11, 2017 — Jim Bray

Paramount Transforms giant alien robots into 4K
If you’re looking for a home theatre experience that’s state-of-the-art, but won’t tax the little grey cells excessively, Paramount Home Video has just the new titles for you: Transformers!

I’m usually up for suspending my disbelief when it comes to a good yarn, whether sci-fi, fantasy or whatever, but I must say the Transformers movies really, really challenge that. It isn’t just that the screenplays of the sequels I’ve seen are incoherent, but I find the whole concept of a race of giant living robots that can change into a variety of cars, trucks, aircraft and the like kind of, well, silly. But if you can get past that, like I got past it in the first movie, you’re in for a typically Michael Bay action shoot ‘em up.

Paramount is releasing four of the five Transformers movies on 4K disc, with HDR, in Canada - though a shortage of review samples led to them sending only the second and fourth outings in the profitable franchise: Revenge of the Fallen and Age of Extinction. And as much as I enjoyed the 4K versions for their excellent audio and video, I was more than ready to stop watching after sitting through this pair and grateful that I’d dodged a bullet by not having to watch the others as well.