Tag Archives: review

TiVo vs. Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8300HD

Some of you might already be thinking, “This is a no-brainer.” Of course, you might have different answers. I was pretty die hard TiVo before I switched, so I thought I’d give a rundown of the pros and cons of each.

My setup:
+ TiVo Series 1 (but I’ll comment on DIRECTV HD TiVo)
+ Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8300HD
+ Toshiba 57″ HDTV (thanks to Agent Assassin)
+ Time Warner Digital Cable
+ Automator remote by Universal Remote Control

The first issue was cable vs. satellite. Without going into that whole personal battle, it came to this:

+ HD TiVo, but it costs $500
+ No local channels without an antenna; I rent a house, so no aerial, and indoors mostly suck
+ Need DSL for broadband internet, already have cable modem
+ Can get crappy reception when it rains
+ Cost for HD DVR + service + HBO: $500 + $54/mo. (with contract)

TimeWarner Cable:
+ Charging me for an extra tuner, and a we’re-renting-you-an-extra-tuner fee! (Yeah, they’re jerks.)
+ Cable modem is a better deal than DSL, and no changes
+ Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8300HD for $10/mo. So it’ll be over 4 years before I spend on it what the HD TiVo would have cost me (and it was $1,000 when I made my decision).
+ Get local channels, except for UPN and the WB. It’s TimeWARNER, and they don’t carry WARNER Brothers on HD? What’s the conspiracy, man?
+ Cost for HD DVR + service + HBO: $68/mo.

Ok, here’s the comparison:

Series 1 TiVo:
+ Way friendlier interface, but you knew that
+ TV listing data for a week or so out; the 8300HD prefetches only 2-3 days, makes you manually scroll out for more data, and caps at about a week.
+ Can select a TV show (Season Pass) and see all the upcoming showings, on all channels
+ Shows you what it’s not recording due to repeats
+ Better search feature, more options (by actor, director, just show movies, etc.)
+ If you’re willing to hack the box, or pay someone to, you can add more/bigger hard drives for more recording time. Do that to your rental unit, and they will literally kill you.

DIRECTV HD TiVo Advantages:
+ Can record TWO shows simultaneously, in HD
+ 30 hours of HD storage (vs. 20 for the Explorer)
+ Records digital audio
+ HDMI interface

Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8300HD Advantages:
+ Can record TWO shows simultaneously, in HD (which HD TiVo will do, Series)
+ Records digital audio
+ HDMI interface
+ Interface responds much faster than TiVo (at least Series 1, maybe 2 is a lot faster. It better be.)
+ Compared to standard TiVos with cable, doesn’t need an extra tuner for HD viewing (where a standard definition (SD) tuner goes to the TiVo, and an HD one goes directly to the TV and surround system).

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the 8300HD, as I had heard awful things about the previous cable co. DVRs. The interface/features still leave me wanting, but it has more TiVo functionality than I was expecting. That said, now that the HD TiVo is only $500, it’s a tougher decision for those making it now. I’d probably be more displeased if I was switching from a Series 2, which allows you to manage you TiVo from the web.


I saw Closer tonight, which I thought was extremely well written. It’s one of those films I could tell was adapted from a play, which made it better. Of course, I love dialogue films, so I’m biased (but that’s why you’re reading this). I think I was most surprised at how often I laughed, considering the dour themes and crumbling love lives, deceit and verbal evisceration. However… However. Rumors of a topless Natalie Portman have been greatly exaggerated. If I missed them (and believe me, I was looking for them, desperately) I’ll watch it again. Don’t get me wrong, you see quite a bit of her, and she is just so desirable it’ll confirm your faith in God and screenwriters.
     On a related note, I can also see why there’s a ground swell of support for Clive Owen as the new James Bond. While a tremendously different genre, he came across as powerful, sharp, dark. Jude Law has reportedly stated he’s not interested in the role, and just as well. I do like his work, and I think he’d do a fine job, but Clive would do better.

Team America: Puppet Police

The genre where Roger Ebert and I have our rare disagreements is what I call “pure comedy”. These are movies designed to make you laugh the whole way through, plot and character development be damned. I love a well crafted film as much as the next guy, but if I’m laughing hysterically throughout the whole film, that’s good enough. For him, not so much.
     Team America falls into that category. It’s being billed as an equal opportunity offender, and that’s about right. It attacks the whiney liberal actors and the at-all-costs right wingers with equal aplomb. As well as formula action movies. It’s pretty hilarious throughout.
     The whole thing is done with puppets, inspired by the series The Thunderbirds, and some of the humor is from puppets trying to show drama (or walking, or having sex). They thought it would be a great way to make fun of formula action flicks, especially 80’s Bruckheimer films. Actually, their original plan was to do an all-puppet version of The Day After Tomorrow, which they thought was already very funny. Without the “benefit” of having seen that film, I think this was probably the right way to go.

Directing 101

I was just watching the “making of” featurette of The Girl Next Door. The producer (I think) said “the studio” thought Elisha Cuthbert was good enough to play a girl next door, but might not be sexy enough to be portray a porn star.


You get a girl as hot as Elisha, and make her convince you she can play sexy. This was a great bargaining tactic, as she said on the commentary she didn’t want to do full-nude like “the studio” wanted. So they tell her, “actually, we’re not even sure you’re sexy enough the play the part.”


So still no full-nude, but way closer, and a fantastic performance that made me think, “Wow, it looks like she’s actually had sex before.” For those never blessed by her visage, I got some great wallpaper here. Ah, what the heck, this blog could use some eye candy…

Welcome To The Garden State

I saw Garden State tonight. It was definitely good, but I got myself psyched up for brilliance, or at least something that spoke to me on a very personal level. There it fell short. Oh, as a hopeful screenwriter, it spoke to me, mainly as a guy who would love to write a screenplay that attracted Natalie Portman, then cast myself as the guy who gets to kiss her. That connection was made, wide and deep.
     But as a guy who spent his formative years in Jersey (2/3 of my life, really), I felt there was very little to connect to. We are taught in screenwriting to come up with a great title, something that tells you what the film is about. When you’re stuck, or feel off course, you can go back to it like a compass. Garden State, however, is about its main character, Andrew Largeman. (Perhaps Largeman didn’t test as well.) Even though we both left Jersey for SoCal about 9 years ago, I didn’t feel we shared the same background. I felt Clerks “got” Jersey far better. This could’ve been set in many other states.
     It’s a charming movie, though, and a great freshman effort. While the writing could have been tightened, the directing was solid. He had some strong, memorable visuals, and a soundtrack so good I was pissed I couldn’t buy it immediately. The performances were great, albeit from a fantastic cast. I’m not sure why I like Peter Sarsgaard so much, maybe it’s the credibility he lends to scenes. He’s also exudes a certain intensity.

My favorite line from Ebert’s review:

She is Sam (Natalie Portman), a local girl who is one of those creatures you sometimes find in the movies, a girl who is completely available, absolutely desirable and really likes you.

A Passion for Christ

The film “The Passion of the Christ” has become an event-movie, much
like a hot Hollywood franchise (eg: Star Wars, The Matrix, Lord of the
Rings). As such, I can’t wait for the sequel (I’ll explain in a second).

Many viewers at the showing I attended last week were the devout, like the
elderly ladies in wheelchairs with oxygen tanks and masks. They probably
don’t go to the movies as much as I do, and this movie was an event that they could not resist. Other viewers were the curious, people that are trying to
measure their strong stomachs against 2 hours of purported blood-letting and
torture. Finally, there were the skeptics. It’s all over the news that this movie
is a piece of anti-semitic propaganda, made injudiciously at best, or maliciously
at worst. That final group of viewers were here to verify for themselves
the truth of these charges.

Continue reading A Passion for Christ