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Customer Reviews: 157
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Helpful Votes: 4548




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Matthew T. Weflen "Matthew Weflen" RSS Feed (Chicago, IL)
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Craig Frames FM74DKW 12 by 16-Inch Rustic Photo Frame, Smooth Grain Finish, 2-Inch Wide, Dark Brown
Craig Frames FM74DKW 12 by 16-Inch Rustic Photo Frame, Smooth Grain Finish, 2-Inch Wide, Dark Brown
Price: $20.99
2 used & new from $13.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Impressive frame for the price, June 17, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is an MDF picture frame with a faux wood finish. If you go in knowing that and adjust your expectations accordingly, you should be quite pleased.

This frame perfectly fit a piece of 12x16 art we purchased. The glass is smooth and even. The rear enclosure used a metal pin style of fastening around the object (see the manufacturer pictures) and the hanger is a hinge piece that maintains a good stickiness (meaning it doesn't fall flat the second you try to hang it). The frame was packaged extremely well and arrived with no damage. From a normal viewing distance, you'd be hard pressed to tell it's not wood, and the "antique" finish is quite convincing.

For the price, I don't think you can do better. Would definitely order again.


The Ascendant: A Garrett Reilly Thriller
The Ascendant: A Garrett Reilly Thriller
by Drew Chapman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.08
126 used & new from $0.14

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good debut, nice topic, a few annoyances, May 15, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The topic of stock and bond manipulation might sound dry, but really it isn't. It's the topic of a new nonfiction piece, "Flash Boys," by "Moneyball" writer Michael Lewis. So the question here is whether this treatment of the topic is a bland, paint-by-numbers thriller in the vein of Dan Brown, or is something more interesting. The answer is sort of in between. Character names have a penchant for sounding like Hollywood scripts ("Garret Reilly" is the protagonist), and the style veers a bit florid at times ("Then Blackness Overtook Avery Bernstein.").

Overall, this was competent and mostly engaging. By the end, however, things sort of jumped the shark and seemed to lack verisimilitude. Perhaps future novels will be more consistent from start to finish.


Death of the Black-Haired Girl
Death of the Black-Haired Girl
by Robert Stone
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $7.12
130 used & new from $1.71

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brisk style, interesting story that defies "Thriller" conventions, May 15, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Robert Stone has written what might be called an "arty" tale of an unexpected death, but he does so admirably free of overly florid descriptions or unbearably twee trickery. Instead, he creates an interesting set of characters surrounding his central victim, Maud. The character description is reminiscent of Richard Russo, though perhaps not quite as adept. The backdrop is a New York college, with the various types of people you might find there, young and old. Maud herself is a student, who gets involved romantically with a professor. Overall this was a very quick read and was entertaining and interesting, throughout. I did not really like the title, it indicated more of a murder mystery (e.g. all the other "Girl with the Insert XYZ" type cash-ins), when really this was more of a story about all the surrounding and contributing aspects of her death and the effects it has on the other characters.


All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood
All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood
by Jennifer Senior
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.18
96 used & new from $11.40

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting journalistic account of American parenting, May 15, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Jennifer Senior's book is immensely readable, which makes sense given her journalistic background. She provides a lot of anecdotal data and individual stories to uncover patterns and trends in American parenting. She leavens this journalistic style with a fair amount of real hard data, though perhaps not enough for someone who is looking for a college classroom-level look at the topic. Nonetheless, highly recommended for thoughtful parents who are interested in national trends in the topic.


Mohu Leaf Paper -Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna - Made in USA - Manufacturer Refurbished
Mohu Leaf Paper -Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna - Made in USA - Manufacturer Refurbished
Offered by Foster Ave.
Price: $29.99
9 used & new from $22.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I know it's science, but it feels like magic, March 18, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I jumped on this at the cheap refurb price, with the hope that it would equal my current amplified Terk antenna. Not only did it equal the Terk, but it bested it.

The Terk had to be constantly adjusted to pick up signals from various locations (I am on the South Side of Chicago, within the city limits, a few blocks from the lake, about 7-10 miles from most broadcast antennas downtown). The Mohu seems to be much better at "omnidirectional" reception, since I have not had to move it from its optimal position. The signal strength across all channels seems equal or up to 10% better than the Terk. Problematic VHF channels come in at 50% and above, and almost everything comes in at 70-plus. CBS, which is really difficult to pull in in Chicago (don't get me started) comes in stably at 30%.

Basically, it equals or betters the performance of the Terk without a wall-wart power source and without sticking out on our mantel. It's a slam dunk upgrade. Your mileage may vary, of course. All I can vouch for is its performance in a large urban area. It has freed me from constantly adjusting my very conspicuous amplified antenna. I just set it and forget it.


Alfred Hitchcock: The Classic Collection Notorious / Rebecca / Spellbound [Blu-ray]
Alfred Hitchcock: The Classic Collection Notorious / Rebecca / Spellbound [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Ingrid Bergman
Offered by King Beardo
Price: $36.45
37 used & new from $24.86

68 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Let's all say it together: GRAIN IS GOOD, December 19, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I'm pretty shocked by the negative reviews of this set. Let's dispel some of the ranker untruths among them.

1. These are not 480p "DVD scans." These are 1080p scans of original film elements. These transfers look like film on your HD television. Each movie shows detail that a DVD simply could not. They have their problems, yes, but these are problems like print damage, contrast pulsing, or dated wipes and dissolves that degrade detail - problems that dog a lot of movies of this vintage. None of the problems are related to these transfers not being high definition.

2. These movies were shot in the 1.37:1 "Academy Ratio." It is simply not a valid criticism to complain that they are not widescreen. There is nothing to show on the sides of the frame. Would you prefer that the top and bottom of the frame be cut off so you can have a "zoomed" image on your television? I wouldn't.

3. Grain is a good thing. Grain is detail. Grain is what the emulsion layer of film stock creates when it is exposed. For a high definition scan of a piece of film to show the grain structure of said film is a mark of excellence and nothing else. If you want to watch movies that have been scrubbed free of natural film grain, pick up "Spartacus" or "Dark City." Watch them real closely, then come back here to discuss whether grain is something to be complained about when you witness the waxy faces and lack of fine detail that artificial grain reduction creates.

4. Each of these discs contains several extras. I don't know where the claim they don't comes from. Maybe someone doesn't know how to use the "Pop Up Menu" button on their remote? Each film contains at least one commentary, as well as an hour-plus of documentary material per disc. Several include screen tests and interviews with Hitchcock himself. One even includes a radio adaptation of the movie.

OK. All that said, you are getting 3 Hitchcock classics for a low price. These movies represent (but by no means exhaust) Hitchcock's early Hollywood efforts, in collaboration with producer David O. Selznick. They don't generally show the technique of Hitchcock's "masterpiece" period in the 50s and early 60s, but they are all excellent movies (Rebecca won best picture in 1940) with strong stories and interesting psychological elements. They feature some big stars of Hollywood's "golden age," including Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Laurence Olivier, Ingrid Bergman, and Joan Fontaine.

For this price, they are an easy recommendation for fans of Hitchcock or of classic films. They represent a solid upgrade over DVD editions of the same films.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 28, 2014 6:38 AM PDT


Alfred Hitchcock: The Essentials Collection - Limited Edition [Blu-ray]
Alfred Hitchcock: The Essentials Collection - Limited Edition [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ James Stewart
Price: $37.49
49 used & new from $24.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blu-Ray Review: Superb Movies, Variable A/V Quality, Mediocre Packaging, December 17, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The Movies:

It doesn't get much better than these five, at least when it comes to the suspense/thriller genre. What is particularly notable about Hitchcock is how he transcends the boundaries of just this genre, though, and creates movies that say interesting things about humanity.

Rear Window and North By Northwest are perhaps the most "standard" entries in that genre, which is not to say they are pedestrian in any way. They both display Hitchcock's mastery of pacing and tone, and are among the most entertaining movies ever made as a result.

Vertigo is the odd duck, in that it is much slower and more introspective, showing us one man's journey into his own fears and desires. Not that this is a bad thing - it is a mesmerizing melding of visual and story elements.

Psycho and The Birds may be the most interesting from a film appreciation perspective - they take very standard genres - the slasher and the disaster movie, and completely subvert viewer expectations of them. Psycho starts off as a typical "average person in extraordinary situation" plot, but then goes off the rails in its violent middle act. The Birds starts as a romantic comedy and then introduces the chaos of nature.

In summary: they are each classics, and if a director had been responsible for just one of them, he or she would be celebrated. Hitchcock was responsible for all five. I envy the budding film buff who gets to watch these for the first time, basking in the glow of legitimate genius.

The Blu-Ray:

The video transfers on display here are varied. Vertigo and North By Northwest look by far the best, which is probably predictable given that they were filmed in VistaVision, a format noted for its detail and color fidelity. They show vibrant color, strong detail, good contrast levels, and little or no visible post-production tinkering. Psycho looks good but its middle third is rather soft. Rear Window looks nice, but was pretty clearly subjected to some computer tricks in restoration, which lends a bit of a digital veneer to things. The Birds is somewhat problematic, veering wildly between beautiful HD imagery, strange digital monkeying, and visual problems that are the result of the plethora of period optical process shots used to create the effects. All in all, the set as a whole is not bad. You get 2 beauties, 2 average looking Blu-Rays, and 1 dud.

The audio is excellent, with DTS-MA soundtracks that range from 5.1 to 2.0 channel mixes (North by NW has a Dolby TrueHD mix). The dialogue is crystal clear, there is no hiss or crackle, and the music, especially the Bernard Hermann soundtracks on Vertigo, N by NW and Psycho, is totally immersive (the title sequence to Vertigo blew me away - turn it up!).

Extras include commentaries by experts (some involved in production) for 4 of the 5 movies (The Birds excepted). Each disc contains copious making-of features, many running over an hour in length. Unfortunately, all are in SD, and have been repurposed from previous DVD releases. Oh, well. They are still quite informative and are a great option for those who will want to dive deeper into the movies. There is a commendable lack of EPK fluff pieces that plague many modern discs (e.g. stars in front of a poster, talking about how happy they were to work on Project X with Director Y).

The packaging is pretty mediocre. The art looks nice, but the slipcase is thin paperboard and picks up dings quite easily. The interior is a folding (ugh) plastic tray (ugh) affair that really fails to impress. This is not the sturdy cardboard of, say, the Indiana Jones or Alien Anthology sets. Nor is it the durable blue plastic casing on many 5 disc sets (such as Star Trek TNG or Blade Runner). It feels cheap, and it is cheap. I guess this is what we get when we buy the smaller set and not the 15-disc mega set for much more money.

Conclusion:

Packaging aside and variable video quality aside, I basically don't think it is possible to beat the five discs here for average quality of content. 4 of these 5 movies are in AFI's Top 100 list regardless of genre, and *all* of them are in the Top 20 of AFI's Thriller list. It's the cream of the cream, there are no duds as in many collections. At its current price it is absolute highway robbery. Anybody who likes Hitchcock, suspense/thriller, or classic movies would be a fool to pass this up.


JFK, Conservative
JFK, Conservative
by Ira Stoll
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $4.03
80 used & new from $0.25

5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some interesting tidbits for JFK/history aficionados, but the scholarship is a bit thin, November 15, 2013
This review is from: JFK, Conservative (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
JFK Conservative tries to build a case regarding Kennedy's inherent conservatism by mining speeches, interviews and historical documents. At first blush, some of these tidbits can be eyebrow-raising, and they are certainly of interest to an aficionado of Kennedy studies. But at the end of the day, most or all can be explained by a few factors:

1. Cold War anticommunism is an easy source for quotes that sound strident and harshly conservative, but it isn't a particularly good source for quotes that really reflect deeply held beliefs about domestic politics. It's kind of like listening to a conversation during a football game in order to glean a person's intellectual positions on both the home and opposing cities.

2. Kennedy cobbled together a coalition of fading Democratic political bastions. His election in 1960 was the second to last election in which the Democrats could rely on the South. He had to temper his rhetoric on civil rights in order to eke out a slender win. By 1968, Nixon completely smashed the old Democratic coalition with his racial code-words and wedge issue politics.

3. Stoll himself avers that the labels "liberal" and "conservative" have shifted so much as to nearly lose their meanings. As such, the enterprise of labeling Kennedy with one or the other seems flawed in concept. Perhaps it would have been better to try and place him on the more descriptive 4-part 2-axis chart (collectivist<--->free market on the left-right axis, authoritarian<--->libertarian on the up-down axis), which, by most measures, would place Kennedy pretty squarely in the middle.

At the end of the day, this tends a bit too much towards cherry-picking in order to prove a point, rather than a sober, measured analysis of all factors with a useful descriptive metric. The writing is crisp and entertaining, and it is not ponderous or slow by any means. But it is a trifle, and leaves the mind soon after it is finished.


Stanley Bostitch Super Pro Glow Commercial Pencil Sharpener (EPS14HC)
Stanley Bostitch Super Pro Glow Commercial Pencil Sharpener (EPS14HC)
Price: $100.50
8 used & new from $34.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent sharpener, too darned big, November 12, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This sharpener certainly does the job. It sharpens to a fine point, and has an auto-stop feature when it senses the pencil has been sharpened completely. I think this is a neat way to prevent waste, but I will say that I think it stops a tad short at times, and inserting the pencil a few more times will get things sharper still. The machine itself is quite large and heavy, which may be a drawback for someone whose desk space is at a premium. The machine was powerful enough to take anything I threw at it, whether a number 2 or colored pencils with heavy wax content. I think this is a product well suited for either a professional environment with heavy use, or an artist who will be sharpening a variety of media.


Green Toys Rocket with 2 Astronauts Toy Vehicle Playset, Red/Blue
Green Toys Rocket with 2 Astronauts Toy Vehicle Playset, Red/Blue
Price: $19.99
10 used & new from $19.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Our 2 year-old ADORES it, November 1, 2013
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:3.0 out of 5 stars 
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
If you have a son or daughter who likes spaceships, this toy will very likely be a big hit. Our son immediately took to it and enjoyed it. It is very durable and sturdy, and though it has opening doors and a removable command module, there aren't a ton of moving parts that would either confuse a toddler or be in danger of breaking.

Our son enjoys removing the two astronauts, having them climb the stairs on the inside of the door hatches, and making the rocket "blast off." I think there is enough interactivity here to really encourage imaginative play. It's been a lot of fun to see him make the astronauts "talk" to him and to each other, to have them kiss (?), and to have them climb all over.

The basic message here is that this toy is well suited to 2-3 year-olds for its durability, and will be a huge hit if you have a little space fan.


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