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K. Harris "Film aficionado" RSS Feed (StudioCityGuy33 at Yahoo dot com)

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Pioneer SE-MJ522-K Fully Enclosed Dynamic Headphone
Pioneer SE-MJ522-K Fully Enclosed Dynamic Headphone
Offered by Goodios
Price: $27.99
4 used & new from $15.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A Low-End Price Point That Should Provide A Satisfactory Sound Experience For More Casual Listeners, December 14, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The price range on headphones is such an incredibly large field when you include variable aspects such as sound quality, construction and durability, comfort and even brand recognition. The Pioneer SE-MJ522-K Fully Enclosed Dynamic Headphone doesn't have aspirations to revolutionize your listening experience. It is not a luxury product, nor is it at a high end price point. If you are an audiophile looking for an incredible sound system, this isn't going to be the model you are shopping. They seek only to be a reliable low cost alternative to meet your most basic needs. And to my estimation, that's exactly the experience that they serve. The sound quality is solid if not spectacular, but perfectly serviceable for a unit at this price point. I experimented with the levels provided and thought this performed within a decent range. The treble was fine and the bass was a bit better than expected. From a purely sound component, these certainly fell within acceptable limits.

The bigger drawback, to me anyway, was in the comfort and design. These are incredibly lightweight and even have a fold-up design. I'm afraid that frequent use, however, might start to compromise the functionality as the device itself doesn't seem particularly sturdy. In addition, the wide band that connects the cans isn't particularly comfortable and I found myself fidgeting with the unit if used for prolonged periods.

In the end, I would grudgingly recommend The Pioneer SE-MJ522-K Fully Enclosed Dynamic Headphone to users looking for a cheaper and more casual pair of headphones that won't break the bank. If you use headphones all the time, though, or are a sound snob--these will perform below expected levels. KGHarris, 12/14.

Coffee-mate Coffee Creamer, French Vanilla Table-Top Pump Bottle, 625ml, 21.1-Ounce
Coffee-mate Coffee Creamer, French Vanilla Table-Top Pump Bottle, 625ml, 21.1-Ounce
Price: $14.73
29 used & new from $7.88

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Non-Refrigerated Coffee Creamer Ideal For Small Offices, December 4, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
At home, I have regularly used Coffee Mate creamer options from the refrigerated dairy case. It is my go-to brand. When I have opted for some of the generic supermarket choices, I have noticed a distinct drop in taste and quality. I was intrigued to see this table top pump selection in some of my favorite flavors. It can stay out for 30 days after being tapped without being refrigerated. First, I do NOT think that this is as nice as the traditional Coffee Mate. This concentrated squirt of liquid (one pump equals one serving) is decidedly less appetizing when you think about it. But the taste is still better than most comparable brands. I've sampled the French Vanilla.

The table top pump is available in several flavors well known to regular buyers of Coffee Mate:
Sweetened Original
French Vanilla
Pumpkin Spice (I'm guessing this is a seasonal choice)

I think the ideal market for the table top dispenser is undoubtedly a small workplace environment where this can be kept in a communal space. I'd hesitate to recommend this for one person as it has approximately 125 servings to be consumed within a month. I'm an average coffee drinker, so I don't think I'd put this away on my own!

It's a pretty cool design. The pump comes separately from the bottle. Once it's inserted on first use, it is not meant to be removed to prevent contamination. And overall the pump remained easy enough to use, it didn't clog over time. Again, I wouldn't buy this for home use, but it would be handy in the right place. KGHarris, 12/14.

Sterling Silver White and Montana Blue Swarovski Elements Crystal Open Teardrop Pendant Necklace, 18"
Sterling Silver White and Montana Blue Swarovski Elements Crystal Open Teardrop Pendant Necklace, 18"
Price: $29.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Teardrop Design Is Both Simple And Rather Unique, But The Unfinished Back Feels Inexpensive, November 28, 2014
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While I purchase almost everything online, jewelry is typically one of the items I want to see in person before selecting it. It's hard to determine quality from pictures alone! But I rather liked this small pendant. It isn't overly fussy and feels a little smaller than you might imagine from the listing, but that's why it appealed to me. The teardrop pendant loop has one layer of blue crystals as well as one of white/clear type crystals and the layers sort of wrap around one another. It's an interesting design, and the jewelry elements look quite sophisticated and really pick up the light. So many necklaces are rather interchangeable, this one definitely looks a bit more unique which is great for something at such a moderate price.

The necklace comes in a cloth pouch and inside a nondescript jewelry box. While not particularly fancy or impressive from a packaging standpoint, it certainly would make an acceptable gift. But it doesn't feel like luxury packaging.

The pendant itself is only about an inch long and the chain is 18 inches, so it will hit you right around the base of your neck (give or take). This is a perfect size as I'm not a huge fan of dangling jewelry. With the focus directed at the teardrop, the chain is pretty small and delicate. And as others have mentioned, the clasp is pretty tiny as a result. I don't mind the thinness of the chain, it would concern me more only if it were longer. I won't exactly rave about this piece, but I do think it's both simple and striking.

Con: While the front of the piece is small but distinctive, the back looks unfinished. As the pendant might move on your neck, it is easy for the jeweled side to turn over revealing a plain metal back that looks pretty darn cheap. For the price, it's an OK addition to any collection (especially if you love blue) but it could easily have been much nicer. KGHarris, 11/14.

Little Kids Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shell Water Blaster Toy, Kids, Play, Children
Little Kids Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shell Water Blaster Toy, Kids, Play, Children

3.0 out of 5 stars A Relatively Simple Concept Makes For A Decent Pump Action Water Blaster, November 25, 2014
Note: Beware of secondhand pricing. This toy retails regularly for less than $20 and it's not worth more than that.

As they say, everything old becomes new again. I'm sure a lot of parents are feeling a sense of deja vu as the Ninja Turtle phenomena has recycled around to a new generation. Truthfully, I'm not a big fan of movie tie-in toys. In general, I find that you overpay for toys that under-perform and nothing is more disappointing than that! When your kids are psyched about something like this, it's terrible when it turns out to be a dud (we've had many experiences recently with Spiderman toys). I guess that the greatest compliment that I can give the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shell Water Blaster is that it has kept its concept very simple. This really benefits the toy in the long run and doesn't make you feel ripped off by the experience.

The shell operates like a backpack of sorts. Your child straps it onto his/her back and it is filled with water (a pretty decent amount, so there's not a continual reloading process). So the look approximates an actual turtle with the pack in place. A simple hose connects from the shell to a pump action wand. You operate the contraption by priming the wand back and forth causing a stream to issue forth. It's not a perfect system, to be sure, and there can be leakage issues throughout. But as this is extremely portable and ready to go into action, I don't think the holder will have too much of a problem with getting a little wet while using it.

If the kids are big fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I can see how this would be a hit. It is user friendly even for small children and that is also a bonus.

Nice Reservoir of Water
Simple To Use

Some leakage issue.

Overall, the Shell Water Blaster is not extravagant in build or in pricing. Although not perfect, I think that it is affordable enough to be a winner in most households. About 3 1/2 stars. KGHarris, 9/14.

Linksys AC1750 Wi-Fi Wireless Dual-Band+ Router with Gigabit, Smart Wi-Fi App Enabled to Control Your Network from Anywhere (EA6500)
Linksys AC1750 Wi-Fi Wireless Dual-Band+ Router with Gigabit, Smart Wi-Fi App Enabled to Control Your Network from Anywhere (EA6500)
Price: Click here to see our price
79 used & new from $59.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Spotty Connections Caused More Frustration When This Was Supposed To Enhance My Internet Experience, November 25, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I was actually in the market for a wireless router about a year ago and I investigated and researched the Linksys AC1750 (EA6500). Ultimately, I went another route as it seems that the release of the product was accompanied by any number of issues. Now it appears that Linksys has applied the appropriate firmware updates to their product and are ready for it to be reevaluated. I have a general rule of thumb when it comes to technology. Once something is set up, I don't want to constantly think about it or maintain it. I'd also prefer that it be intuitive to connect and initiate, but that is a secondary consideration for a great device. I don't mind the extra time expended on the front end if the back end performance is seamless. Alas, I'm still finding my experience with the EA6500 a bit of a mixed bag.

You can certainly read the specifications for the product in full detail in the description, so I will only discuss the performance of the device as it relates to my experience. In the installation phase, it didn't appear that this was going to be complicated at all. But I must admit, I found the unit to be a bit fussy! I spent a great deal of time getting the Linksys AC1750 (EA6500) to communicate effectively with my modem. While I was expecting a boosted performance level, I have been disappointed by a spotty track record in the wireless settings. It works fine through Ethernet, the wireless service is rather hit-or-miss and an occasional dropping of service has accompanied this device. It does manage a few specific devices that NetGear won't, but that doesn't weigh highly enough for me to recommend it over that brand.

I don't have great reception to begin with, that's why I was looking to enhance my wireless performance. Here, I believe I've invested time in this new router without seeing much in the way of pay back. It looks like some have experienced satisfactory service from the Linksys AC1750 (EA6500). Unfortunately, in my case, I haven't had a great deal of luck. I truly feel that it works well only when it wants to work well. I'd like a device to perform consistently. I've also been less than impressed on my extended chat sessions with tech support. They took forever and didn't offer much new insight. KGHarris, 11/14.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 26, 2014 5:28 PM PST

The Genome: A Novel
The Genome: A Novel
by Sergei Lukyanenko,
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.29
9 used & new from $10.39

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beware Of Spoilers As A Science Fiction Epic Takes An Unexpected Turn In Its Second Half, November 25, 2014
This review is from: The Genome: A Novel (Paperback)
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Although I was aware of author Sergei Lukyanenko due to the film adaptations based on his work (2004's Night Watch and 2006's Day Watch), I had not actually read one of his books until "The Genome." And as I dug into the first pages of this odyssey, I was absolutely hooked by this portrait of intergalactic intrigue. How much did I love it? Before I was even half finished, I ordered the entire five book "Night Watch" series (you're welcome Amazon). The book tells of a time and space populated by normal humans, alien races, clones and, perhaps most significantly, genetically modified career specialists. One such spesh, as they are called, is a pilot named Alex Romanov. After a fateful accident, Romanov finds himself isolated on a space travel hub. After emerging from an extended hospital stay, he meets an enigmatic young woman that is just about to undergo a metamorphosis into her own career specialty. But the girl seems shrouded in mystery, unable to understand her own calling or fate.

This, however, serves simply as an introduction. Romanov secures a too-good-to-be-true captain's assignment aboard a vessel soon to be departing. As he assembles an unorthodox crew (including his new-found friend), we're never quite sure where this tale is headed. When it is uncovered that the ship will be ferrying a couple of controversial alien passengers, it is up to Romanov to keep the peace with some of his more volatile staff who aren't fond of this precious cargo. I can't really divulge much more about "The Genome" without doing the novel a disservice. I will say that Lukyanenko populates this story with any number of colorful characters, and I felt like the dynamics on the ship were expertly choreographed. The depiction of the divided world and the culture clash atmosphere that created new prejudices and social hierarchies is really fascinating. And I loved the cadence of the prose, the writing felt quite poetic at times.

As you can see, though, I didn't rate the book with five stars. After this terrific set-up, the novel takes an unexpected turn. What starts as a sci-fi epic inexplicably turns into a chamber room mystery. As I said, I won't reveal any of this twist, but I'm not sure if I loved it or hated it. It's clever and amusing, to be sure, but not at all where I expected the story to go. The novel also poses a number of intriguing ethical questions about scientific advancement and about individual freedoms. But not all of these are explored in as much depth as I might have hoped due to the more conventional mystery that takes center stage. In the end, I loved much of "The Genome." In particular, the setting and characters help to distinguish the book. "The Genome" also has a wry and unexpected sense of humor. But in many ways, I think the novel ended up missing out on some of its potential. The first half is stellar while the second half is amusing. I'm glad I read it, I was entertained by it, but I think the potential for creating something truly epic was lost as the narrative scope was scaled down in later chapters. Still, though, a talented writer and I look forward to diving into the Night Watch series as soon as possible! KGHarris, 11/14.

The Blonde
The Blonde
by Anna Godbersen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.06
94 used & new from $0.41

4.0 out of 5 stars A Vivid Portrait Of A Surprisingly Complex Marilyn: Dishy, Fun, And Even Moving Until A Far-Fetched Finale, November 25, 2014
This review is from: The Blonde (Hardcover)
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Our enduring fascination with Marilyn Monroe continues to provide dramatic inspiration even fifty years after her death! Anna Godbersen's "The Blonde" takes the iconic star down a road that poses an intriguing what-if scenario. This alternate history novel shuffles the deck on everything you thought you knew about Marilyn and suggests that a darker motivation pushed her into the orbit of John F. Kennedy. Is it believable? Let's just say that I've heard more far fetched theories about the principles over the years. Of course, believing the central conceit is not really the point of "The Blonde." Godberseon, instead, wants to present Marilyn in a new private light while still maintaining the notorious public persona that accompanied the star. And that's what I found so effective about the book. Regardless of the plot developments (and some push a little too far past credulity), the novel is grounded by a very realistic portrait of Miss Monroe. Her unorthodox mixture of strength and fragility, her provocation combined with her innocence, her innate common sense contrasted with her dumb blonde allure--Godberseon taps into a full fledged character as she writes about her lead. And that, more than anything else, makes "The Blonde" worth a look.

The novel opens with Marilyn already being established career-wise. She has just finished "Some Like It Hot" and is navigating her marriage to Arthur Miller. We get a little back story but, wisely, Godbersen doesn't try to present a point-by-point timeline of Marilyn's life before this juncture. In fact, the author never talks down to the reader. She supposes you know enough about Marilyn to fill in the gaps and place this story into context. But don't worry, you don't have to be an expert on the subject to enjoy the unfolding tale. The more you do know, however, the better you will understand the novel's cleverness in constructing this iteration of Marilyn. She will meet two men who will irrevocably change her life. One is an up-and-coming politician from a prominent and well connected Catholic family. One is the enigmatic stranger that helped to jumpstart her career and then resurfaces just in time to take advantage of this new alliance. Marilyn is eager to assist this cagey character who promises to reunite her with her absentee father, but things become complicated as she is drawn ever closer emotionally to the president-to-be.

I really admired the set-up of "The Blonde." In addition to making this a fascinatingly complex Marilyn, the story puts a new spin on other familiar characters. Clark Gable, Frank Sinatra, and Bobby Kennedy are all great, but the real surprise is JFK himself. The Marilyn and JFK tryst is painted as a true love affair even though both characters are prisoners to their own fate. In many ways, the book is a complicated and occasionally heartbreaking portrait of two superstars who had to set aside personal concerns for more important missions. And make no mistake, Marilyn is on a mission and that mission is JFK. And she can't extricate herself from this nefarious plot without causing irreparable collateral harm. I won't reveal any more. Suffice it to say, "The Blonde" is terrific up to a point--smart and savvy about stardom, movies, and even politics. As it reaches its inevitable conclusion, however, it takes a bold leap that is perhaps too big for its own good. Although I didn't love all the final resolutions, most of the book was a rousing and entertaining success. KGHarris, 11/14.

Carlos the Jackal
Carlos the Jackal
Offered by out of this world
Price: $14.99
9 used & new from $10.54

4.0 out of 5 stars A Mini-Series, A Long Form Movie, A Two Part Movie, Or An Abridged Version--Criterion Serves Up The Full 339 Minute Mini-Series, November 24, 2014
This review is from: Carlos the Jackal (DVD)
More than any other film in 2010, Olivier Assayas "Carlos" has made the rounds. This comprehensive biopic about renowned Venezuelan terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (also known as Carlos) has swept the globe in various editions at various lengths. Shown on the film festival circuit (Cannes, Telluride, New York) largely intact and running over 5 hours, there is also an international film version (or more than one) clocking in at about 3 hours, a U.S. film presentation in two parts, and there is the U.S. television mini-series presentation (by Sundance Channel) that came with three distinct parts and ran about 5 and a half hours. For the purposes of this discussion, I will be referencing the 5.5 hour version in this Limited Release, which is one of the more comprehensive releases (you can also get a Criterion version which is about six minutes longer). We in the U.S. still seem to be confused about whether we call this a film or a TV event with Golden Globe and Screen Actor Guild nominations in the TV categories but the Los Angeles and New York film critics distinguishing "Carlos" in the film classification. In the end, however, it's all really semantics. I just wanted to make a big deal as there are many different versions of the film floating on the international DVD market. I would recommend this or Criterion for bringing forth the full length film that Assayas envisioned.

Telling the story of Carlos, better known as "The Jackal" (even though the screenplay never acknowledges this nickname), the film has much to say about the rise of terrorism and its evolution into the modern political structure. I really do think "Carlos" is well served by the separation in the three part presentation. Part One chronicles the birth of a legend, so to speak, as Carlos works in London and Paris under the auspices of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Having been raised by a communist father and trained in guerilla warfare tactics, Part One really covers a lot of ground as Carlos tackles many big operations and bombings to make a name for himself. But as authorities get too close, Carlos soon flees Paris after murdering several policemen. Part Two is focused on the daring 1975 OPEC raid that is perhaps the most notorious of Carlos' well-documented exploits. His mercenary life begins as a result of his new found notoriety, and he starts taking assignments on contract. Part Three focuses more on the wind-down of Carlos' career. As the world climate changes, it becomes increasingly unclear whether Carlos will be able to navigate these new challenges.

The centerpiece of "Carlos" is the charismatic Edgar Ramirez. Ramirez turns in a star making performance as the passionate, aloof, tempestuous, and charming Carlos. Through the years of his life, Ramirez expertly captures the change in tone and well as the psychological and physical shifts within Carlos' life. It's a big responsibility, but Ramirez never misses a beat. The mini-series event itself is a bit uneven, for me. Part One has so little exposition about what is happening that if you don't come into the film with some pre-existing knowledge of the world's political climate circa 1970, you may be a bit lost. You go quickly from assignment to assignment without much look at a bigger picture, and this held me at a distance from the goings-on. Part two, however, is an extremely focused look at one event and, as such, is one of the most riveting docu-dramas I've seen this year. With the Part Three wind-down, we're still emotionally connected to Carlos but the fever-pitch momentum of Part Two is missing (by necessity).

Overall, this is a serious and rewarding film especially for those with an interest in the topic. Charting the life of terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sánchez for over twenty years in such detail is an ambitious goal, and Assayas is up to the task. But almost as interesting as Carlos' life is to see the landscape of terrorism evolve through those years. In truth, I didn't love every bit of "Carlos" as an entertainment, for the above stated reasons, but Part Two and the raid of the OPEC offices is easily one of the most memorable films I've seen this year! KGHarris, 12/10.

Assassin's Creed Unity - Xbox One
Assassin's Creed Unity - Xbox One
Price: $39.99
90 used & new from $35.98

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Difficult To Evaluate As A Game With The Established Technical Issues, November 24, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Ubisoft has become public enemy number one with the newest release in the Assassin's Creed franchise. I had looked forward to the addition of Unity to my AC collection, but have become increasingly frustrated when companies release games for sale (at quite a hefty price tag, I might add) that don't seem to have been quality controlled. I think it's fair to say that Assassin's Creed Unity may be one of the buggiest, most infuriating new games ever released. It looks cool, to be sure, but I can't really evaluate the game. Why? It can't really be played as it was intended.

Ubisoft has been quick to react to problems and are apparently working to resolve issues (a no-face graphic, for example, has been addressed). I'd like to give them credit for this immediate response, but perhaps more attention should be paid in pre-release trial mode.

Ubisoft has identified one issues causing game play crashes and has put out this suggestion taken directly from the help board for Unity:

"You can take the following steps to prevent a crash:

If you already have GAME CONTACTS, perform the following to remove them: My Brotherhood > My Contacts > Game Contacts (using RB/R1) > Focus on a Contact (LS) > More Actions (Y/Triangle) > Remove from contacts."

In the end, I've got to say that this kind of massive failure is unacceptable. The game is gorgeous, to be sure, but the game play is too problematic to even offer a fair review. Let's hope they do better next time. KGHarris, 11/14.

Canon Office Products LiDE120 Color Image Scanner
Canon Office Products LiDE120 Color Image Scanner
Offered by A GR8 DEAL 4U
Price: $60.29
55 used & new from $59.56

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Creates A Quality Image Scan, This No-Frills Scanner Will Meet Most Casual Needs, November 24, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
With so many printers having perfectly serviceable scanning capabilities, there isn't quite the demand for flatbed scanners that there used to be. So why would you need the Canon CanoScan LiDE 120 Color Image Scanner? The qualified answer is "you may not." What Canon has created is a nicely priced scanner for those who don't need to bundle the service up with other features they may not want to use. The quality of the photographic scans is pretty crisp in its standard settings, but more experienced users can tweak image quality in an advanced mode. But truthfully, this will be largely intimidating to the more casual users. The quality of images is certainly above average and impressive. Using the 120 color capturing details, I found remarkable similarities between the originals and the copies it generates.

Scanning itself is quite easy with a four button touch screen. The buttons on the front panel let you copy, email, scan to PDF, or run the AutoScan feature, which analyzes the image and saves the file in either JPG image format or searchable PDF format. The setup program installs Twain and WIA drivers, which will let you scan from most Windows software that includes a scan command, so the equipment is pretty universal.

While I liked the scanner overall, it isn't overly sophisticated if you have special needs like filming film or slides. It doesn't really have photo editing, but can easily be associated with programs that do. And unlike some machines, it won't send an image directly to the Cloud, but it can use an intermediary app to do so for you. As this is an old school flatbed scanner, it does require each page to be positioned by hand, so if you're looking for a device more capable of bulk production, this may not suit your needs.

So while there are a few limitations, this does accomplish its primary goal of producing excellent scans. For that reason alone, I'll give it four stars as a no-frills home scanner. KGHarris, 11/14.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 10, 2014 9:02 PM PST

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