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Finally: Netflix streaming on PlayStation 3 begins in November

October 26th, 2009 by Maxim · No Comments · 17,033 Views

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Netflix today announced a real with Sony that will allow streaming Netflix movies to PS3 consoles. Support for streaming Netflix has already been implemented in XBox 360, Netflix-branded Roku media player, some TV-sets and some LG and Samsung Blu-Ray players, and recently, TiVo. As I previously wrote, it was already possible to stream Netflix onto PS3 using 3rd-party software such as PlayOn media server from MediaMall.

According to the public announcement, starting November Netflix clients with $9/month subscription will be able to stream Netflix movies into their PS3 consoles for free. No PC necessary. However, until Sony releases a free update that includes Netflix into the menu structure of PS3, the users will have to use a special Blu-Ray disc to chose a movie from their Netflix “Watch Instantly” queue. It’s merely a hack – for now, until Netflix support is fully integrated into PlayStation 3’s firmware.

Netflix members and PS3 system owners can now reserve a free instant streaming disc for PS3 systems by going to www.netflix.com/ps3. Upon availability, the instant streaming disc will be delivered for free by first-class mail, generally one business day after members request it.

So in a month or so, PlayOn media server software will become obsolete. Save $40 and wait for firmware update. You can still use PlayOn for streaming photos, music and videos from your PC, but there are better media servers out there for doing just that.

Considering the recent $100 price drop on all PS3 consoles, the latest move should better position Sony in competition with Microsoft’s XBox 360.

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Sony PlayStation 3 Slim has arrived

August 31st, 2009 by Maxim · 3 Comments · 37,947 Views

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Shipments of Sony PlayStation 3 Slim console began today, August 31. I had mine pre-ordered on Amazon.com, so I received mine today. I could have received it three days earlier if Amazon printed address label more clearly – the postal office was ready to ship it back to sender because of “incomplete address”.

PS3 Slim Box

The new version of the console is called “Slim” for several good reasons: it’s 33% thinner and 36% lighter then all the previous PlayStation 3 models. It uses less energy, offers 50% more hard drive space (120GB) then the latest 80GB model, and costs only $299 after recent $100 price cut by Sony across all models. After the price cut, I figured it’s finally worth the money, given it’s both gaming console and a Blu-Ray player. Visually the major differences are, obviously, in size; also the case is no longer glossy-black and has cheaper look. The console still has two USB ports in the front. The power toggle button is no longer touch-sensitive – it was replaced with an actual pressable button.

PS3 Slim top view with accessories

Two years ago I had a bad experience with PS3 60GB model, so I was waiting for this price cut and a thinner model for a long time. Alas, it arrived. The box it arrived in is also thinner then the original 60GB model’s box. The box included a USB cable, a component video cable and the new Dualshock 3 controller. HDMI cable was not included.

Set up about 30 minutes. It included taking away my D-Link media server and Toshiba HD-DVD player out, plugging in PS3 and Logitech PS3 adapter for Harmony remote, downloading and installing latest firmware 3.0, and registering for PlayStation(R) Network. Most of the time was spent trying to enter user data for a new PlayStation(R) Network account one letter at a time.

PS3 Slim front panelI didn’t plan to play any games. I just wanted a Blu-Ray player and a powerful media player.

I didn’t try to play any games yet except for a demo of some game I downloaded and it seemed to work, but I deleted it immediately. I haven’t played any DVD or Blu-Ray disks yet. But I did try to stream a movie from my Netflix WatchInstantly queue: Guy Ritchy’s “Revolver”. For those interested how I do it – I use PlayOn media server. Playback started within 5 seconds, was smooth – no jitters, great quality of sounds and good video quality.PS3 Slim back panel

Oh, I forgot to mention that I spent at least half an hour reconfiguring Harmony universal remote to use with PlayStation 3. Those who are familiar with Logitech Harmony remotes know that this process is quite simple: remove all devices and activities, add a new device and the software programs the remote with the necessary infra-red commands to turn your TV, amplifier and game console on and swicth the TV and amplifier to proper inputs automatically when you want to start a certain activity on the remote, such as “Watch TV”, “Play a game”, “Watch a digital movie” etc. Overall, the process worked, but I feel I’ll need to spend another hour customizing the on-screen menu on Harmony remote to match the convenience of the Sony’s PlayStation 3 remote for Blu-Ray.

PS3 Slim setupWhich bring up a good point: is it worth paying for Harmony remote plus Logitech adapter for Harmony and PlayStation Blu-Ray player remote, when the remote for Blu-Ray from Sony costs only $19? The answer is: depends. If you have as many components as I have that you want to control with a single remote – yes. If all you have is a TV, amplifier and PS3 – you can learn to use one remote for TV+amp, and one $19 remote for PS3’s Blu-Ray player. I had quite a bit of gift certificates for Amazon – enough to pay for the adapter and cover half of the price of the console, so I was able to keep the setup affordable. Others made decide differently.

When playing back streaming media, the unit stays quiet and cool – so the major complaint I had two years ago about PS3 60Gb model has now been eliminated. Whether it will become loud and hot when playing games – I will let you know on this blog.

PlayStation 3 Slim streams Netflix and Hulu movies very happily, and what makes me even more happy is the ability to use my Harmony universal remote with it.

A new 250GB model of PlayStation3 Slim comes out on November 3, 2009, and its suggested retail price is $349.99

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Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009) PG 94min

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July 6th, 2009 by Maxim · No Comments · 25,462 Views

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4/5

This is the third installment of the “Ice Age” animated trilogy from 20th Century Fox Studios.

The plot: After mammoth Manny (Ray Romano) met Ellie (Queen Latifah) in “Ice Age: The Meltdown”, the previous episode, the couple now expects their first baby-mammoth. Manny is anxious to make sure for the arrival of the baby. Saber-tooth tiger Diego (Denis Leary) is tempted to leave the pack, and sloth Sid (John Leguizamo) also decides to form a family, and steals some dinosaur eggs. Sid hides them in the under-ground world he accidentally discovered, but the mother-dinosaur wants her eggs back, and “the herd” has to rescue Sid. While dodging other dinosaurus-predators, “the pack” meats a dinosaur-hunter — one-eyed weasel known as Buck, who becomes their guide.

10-point review:

1. Many laugh-outloud moments, mostly thanks to the new Scrat’s adventures.
2. Some dialogs and jokes were for adults only. For example, Manny’s “I thought you are the one with hormonal dis-balance” was rather off-putting. Milking of the bull joke is so old it’s not funny anymore.
3. The movie has a lot of heart, but the first movie had more. All baby-animals are adorable. Even the scary dinosaurs are not particularly scary and deserve compassion – they are so unlucky to be predators, but with a little understanding they too deserve a place on the planet :)
4. A whole different world, a tropical paradise - under ice? I think it’s the only way to explain the presence of dinosaurs, because they were extinct a long time before mammoth walked the Earth
5. Kids, even very little ones, I mean 3-4 year-olds, also laughed and followed the movie up until Buck character was introduced.
6. Buck was so weird he felt so out-of-place. It seemed like he was from a completely different movie, and so were a few pop-culture references and jokes, such as parody of “red-wire or blue-wire” time-bomb scenario.
7. Buck (voiced by Simon Pegg) didn’t look like a weasel. He was more like a upright-walking hyena that behaves like a pirate.
8. Nobody ever gets seriously hurt – they bounce back (just like little kids), and nobody gets eaten – even if they are swallowed they are immediately regurgitated.
9. The animation is not exactly state-of-the-art, but it’s good and lively, just like in the previous two movies.
10. Song choice was not that great. The first movie had the best songs.

It’s a very pleasant and entertaining film. Scrat is the best!

Memorable quotes:

Manny: [From Trailer] “After we rescue Sid, I’m going to kill him.”

Sid: [from trailer] “I’m too young to be eaten!”

Crash: Dude, You’re awesome! You’re like the brother I never had!

The cast: Manny - Ray Romano | Ellie - Queen Latifah | Diego - Dennis Leary | Sid - John Leguizamo | Eddie - Josh Peck | Crash - Seann William Scott | Scrat - Chris Wedge | Scratte - Karen Disher | Buck – Simon Pegg

The crew: Director – Carlos Saldanha & Mike Thurmeier | Producers – John C. Donkin, Lori Forte | Original music – John Powell | Art Direction – Mike Knapp | 20th Century Fox Studios | Blue Sky Studios

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Rated 4/5 on Jul 6 2009
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Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) PG-13 150min

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June 30th, 2009 by Maxim · 1 Comment · 22,810 Views

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3/5

Michael Bay continued working on the sequel, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen“, a.k.a. “Transformers 2” in association with Hasbro written by Ehren Kruger, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman.

The plot: After Optimus Prime destroyed the Cube in the previous movie, the Decepticons have no choice to keep their race alive and dominant but to piece it together again. The information about the location of the vital piece of this energy source is in Sam Witwicky’s head, and Decepticons would have to kidnap him to get this information. Surviving Decepticon leader Skorpinox steals Megatron’s dead body from a secret US base and revives him using his own spark. Now Megatron and Starscream are coming back to Earth with force for another epic battle with humans, who forged an alliance with Optimus Prime and his friends. The whole universe is at stake.

The good: Beautiful photography. Fantastic landscapes and space-scapes, and just like in the first movie, CGI robots perfectly integrated into the environment. Obviously, a lot of thought and R&D budget went into figuring out how these robots are going to look and move and interact with surroundings. This episode also has not one, but two hot chicks.

The bad: Yes, I know, “IMAX Experience”. But don’t watch it from the front row. I don’t know how much this movie looked from the back of the theater, but from the 3rd row it looked like there wasn’t much going on in the movie except transformers changing shape and rolling over each other in the dust in a ball of metal parts. It’s like watching someone play an arcade game. The Decepticon that looked like a hot chick and had a very long tongue was quite freaky, and in one of the shots reminded me of “Terminator 3″. The Skorpinox’s spaceship looked like a rip-off from “Aliens”. The Autobots had more toy-like qualities then in the first movie – so much so that it seemed that this episode was targeting an audience of smaller children. So were the dialogs. It was nice to see John Torturro again as the obsessed Agent Simmons (except for episode where he shows off his ass), but the other new character, Leo Spitz (Ramon Rodriguez), was a lousy comical relief. It’s not clear why he had to be dragged along on the adventures of Sam and Mikaela, because he served no purpose whatsoever. What’s with robots humping humans and dogs humping each other? Is that what passes for epic these days? Just admit that this movie has no plot. All you get to see is robots fighting and a lot of stuff falling and breaking with loud bangs. There are no characters to care about. I kinda wish the Decepticons did destroy the solar system.

The summary: Great visuals replace substance, plot and acting.

The cast: Sam Witwicky – Shia LaBeouf | Mikaela Banes – Megan Fox | Major Lennox – Josh Duhamel | USAF Master Sergeant Epps – Tyrese Gibson | Agent Simmons – John Turturro | Leo Spitz – Ramon Rodriguez | Ron Witwicky – Kevin Dunn | Judy Witwicky – Julie White | Alice – Isabel Lucas | General Morshower – Glenn Morshower | Optimus Prime (voice) – Peter Cullen | Jetfire (voice) – Mark Ryan | Mudflap (voice) – Reno Wilson | Ratchet (voice) – Robert Foxworth | Megatron (voice) – Hugo Weaving | Fallen (voice) – Tony Todd | Starscream (voice) – Charles Adler

The crew: Director – Michael Bay | Writers – Ehren Kruger, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman | Producers – Michael Bay, Steven Spielberg, Ian Bryce, Allegra Clegg, Matthew Cohan, Tom DeSanto, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Brian Goldner, Mohammed Hassan (Egypt), Don Murphy, Mark Vahradian | Original Music – Steve Jablonsky | Photography/Cinematography – Ben Seresin | DreamWorks SKG | Hasbro | Paramount Pictures | Di Bonaventura Pictures

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Rated 3/5 on Jun 30 2009
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