Hyundai upped its game, again, with the global reveal of the seventh-generation Elantra sedan. The car is truly impressive, but the West Hollywood set for the rollout, called The Lot, was essentially deserted: no journalists, no analysts, no photographers, and no caterers – just Hyundai people, dancers, and videographers for the live-streamed announcement Tuesday night. Since early March, there have been no major auto shows, and as of this week, no more on-location media/analyst introductions of new cars. They’ve all been called off or shifted from in-person to virtual because of coronavirus concerns.
As with the new midsize Hyundai Sonata sedan last fall, Hyundai imbued the Elantra with class-above features, a slew of technologies standard or optional including semi-autonomous driving and a pair of 10.25-inch color displays in the dashboard. There will be regular and performance engines plus a hybrid that will get better than 50 mpg. We expect the trim lines will sell for $ 20,000-$ 28,000 when 2021 Elantra ships in the fall.
At the same time, as buyers are shifting from compact cars to compact SUVs, the quality and desirability of small sedans has never been better, led by the 2020 Mazda3 (which shipped last year). Even old standbys such as the Toyota Corolla have injected a higher level of quality and amenities. Now Hyundai has a chance to raise the bar, as it did with Sonata, our reigning ExtremeTech Car of the Year.
The overall exterior design, with sculpted lines, a sharp crease running along the side, and dominant grille, is what Hyundai describes as “Sensuous Sportiness defined in the Parametrics Dynamics Design.” All we can say is, it looks good, and that is one big-ass grille upfront, which apparently is the parametrics design thing.
Hyundai is taking safety seriously with many standard features …
- Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA) with Pedestrian Detection.
- Lane Keeping Assist (LKA).
- Lane Following Assist (LFA, Hyundai’s term for lane centering assist) that can keep the vehicle centered on highway and city streets.
- High Beam Assist (HBA), or automatic high beams.
- Driver Attention Warning (DAW) system that monitors and warns of drowsiness.
- Rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, which (the camera part) is required in the US
… and offers these as options
- Blind-spot warning (Hyundai calls it Blind-Spot Collision Avoidance Assist) and rear-cross-traffic alert
- Adaptive cruise control (Smart Cruise Control)
- Level 2 self-driving (Highway Driving Assist)
- Safe Exit Warning using blind-spot warning to keep the highway-side doors closed if it spots a car coming up
- Reverse Parking Collision Avoidance Assist (PCA) to detect pedestrians and obstacles in back
The Elantra will come standard with an eight-inch color display in the center stack with HD Radio and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, wireless meaning for the phone to car connection and control. Wireless Qi charging is optional.
An optional feature is a pair of 10.25-inch displays (photo above) bonded under a single sheet of glass, one for a digital instrument panel, one for the infotainment system. It was only a few years ago that the center display was considered big if a 7- or 8-inch LCD was offered. The 10.25-inch display option includes a faster infotainment processor. Also optional is a Bose eight-speaker audio upgrade.
Hyundai continues to offer Blue Link, its telematics system, and with it cloud-based navigation (that or use your phone). The Hyundai smartphone app does the usual remote lock/unlock, find my car, blow the horn/lights features. Additionally, you can get an RFID card called Digital Key that works as a cheap (about $ 20 for extras) remote entry and car-start key via Near Field Communication and Bluetooth Low Energy. If you loan it to a friend, you’re not out hundreds of dollars for a key replacement if it’s lost. It’s for Android only; Apple remains fussy about what it lets its NFC chip be used for.
Hyundai says it has enhanced the onboard voice recognition system (regardless of what your phone offers) for conversational control. It lets you say: Climate on/off; air conditioner on/off; heat on/off; fan high/low; defrost on; set fan to face, feet, or face and feet; defrost on and set fan to feet; warm up/cool down; air intake system on; turn on/off heated seats (driver/passenger); set heated seat levels 1, 2, or 3 (driver/passenger); rear window defroster on/off; and turn on/off the heated steering wheel.
The 2021 Elantra is about as big as a compact car can be and still be a compact: 184.1 inches long (+2.2 inches longer than the outgoing 2015-2020 sixth-generation Elantra), 71.9 inches wide (+1.0 inch), 55.7 inches tall (minus 0.8 inches), with a 107.1-inch wheelbase (+0.8 inches). Among the roughly competitive set, it’s bigger than the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic, barely bigger than the Mazda3, and 1.0 inches shorter than the Volkswagen Jetta. This should make the cabin even roomier; we’ll have to see what the lower height does for rear-seat headroom. Specs make the rear seat legroom, 38 inches, on par with some full-size cars.
The 2021 Elantra will be offered in the same SE, SEL and Limited trim lines. As for locomotion, the base car gets the current 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 147 hp and a CVT. Hyundai does hold out hope for performance with an N-Line version with a turbo four. And to keep up with the Toyota Corolla Hybrid and the Honda Insight (a Civic hybrid by a different name), there’s a hybrid version with a 1.6-liter gas engine, a 43-hp electric motor, a combined 139 hp, a six-speed dual clutch transmission, and a combined EPA rating of “more than … 50 mpg.” The Corolla and Insight hybrid editions are rated at 52 mpg.
The features of the Elantra should – could – shore up the sagging market for compact cars, which fell to 1.39 million last year from 1.56 million. The Elantra ranked fourth last year with 175,094 sales, down 13 percent, just behind the Nissan Sentra. The Civic and Corolla sold more than 300,000 units.
Not to diss the small sedan market in the least, but we can only hope the same styling, features set and technology of the Elantra come soon to Hyundai’s compact Tucson SUV, whose third-generation went on sale in 2015 and got a refresh in 2019. Expect it later this year as a 2021 model. Hyundai has been on a roll with excellent rollouts last year, including the midsize Palisade SUV and the Sonata. It’s likely to continue with the Elantra, and then, we hope, with the Tucson.
The release date on Final Fantasy VII Remake is now under two months away, and Sony has decided to release the opening movie early, to build buzz around the title. It’s working. I’m feeling rather buzzed.
As befits a remake (as a reminder, a remaster is usually the exact same game with updated graphics, while a remake has more freedom to depart from the original source), there’s some additional material in the video that sketches out what Midgar is, how it works, and what type of world we’ll be adventuring in. Since some of you might like to refresh yourselves with the original opening, I’ve included it below. If you don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading this story:
The first 40 seconds of the OG opening are absolutely nothing special. You’re looking at blurry, jerkily-animated stars. We don’t actually see Aeris(th) until the 45 second mark. The Midgar pull-away that showcases the city is meant to emphasize the fact that this is a much more modern world than any Final Fantasy had explored before. Earlier FF titles had included various high-tech machines, including airships, the submerging castle of Figaro, or the Drill and Chainsaw Edward could use in the game, but these were presented more like steampunk technology built by mad inventors. FFVI explicitly states there are only two airships in the world, and you own both of them over the course of the game.
The establishing shot of Midgar is intended to emphasize that this entry in the game world is like nothing before. Once that’s done, we zoom in on the train, the Bombing Mission theme kicks in (with clear recalls to the Red Wings theme of FFIV), and Cloud Strife makes his appearance, leaping from the top of the train. Total time elapsed: About 2:30, 45 seconds of which is an ambient starfield.
Now, for comparison, here’s the remake:
No more starfield — we open in the rocky environs outside Midgar, with a narrow canyon to our right and a birds-eye view of the terrain. The land is sere and sterile. We follow a hawk as it glides into and over Midgar, catching a glimpse of a passing train and panning over the city architecture. The first two minutes of the video show us people going about their daily lives — and then, ominiously, a withered patch of dead grass. When you see it, you realize you haven’t seen any living vegetation yet.
We see children playing on some jungle gym equipment as the day wanes. A Mako reactor catches fire, spewing green flame into the darkling sky. This additional few minutes of footage establishes Midgar as a large city much more effectively than the 1997 game, though part of that can be chalked up to the tremendous increase in storage capacity and processing power available to game designers now. At roughly the two minute mark, the remake’s version of the original intro — starfield and all — comes into play. Aerith doesn’t just turn and walk out into the street — she gets a few moments of character building, when we see her gathering her flowers after dropping some. When a busy man walks past and tramples one of her dropped flowers, Aerith pauses, pulling back her hand, before gathering the blossom tenderly, as opposed to leaving the trampled flower where it fell. In the OG intro, the camera sweeps out independently. In the remake, we specifically depart the scene along Aerith’s field of view.
The Bombing Mission intro is more-or-less the same, but once the train arrives on the platform we follow the view of one guard, who hears his opponent being taken out, goes to investigate, and winds up waylaid himself. Jessie, Wedge, and Biggs have never looked better. The intro ends in the same place the original did — with Cloud leaping off the train and on to the platform.
If I’m being honest, everything I’ve seen of the remake thus far has made it look amazing. The question is whether the revamped gameplay, story expansion, and Sony’s decision to focus the first game entirely on Midgar will leave this version of the title feeling like the expanded, authoritative look at FFVII that fans always wanted, or if it’s going to turn the already hard-to-follow story into a turgid trainwreck.
“Turgid trainwreck” seems like a fair description for a lot of the post-FFVII that SquareEnix tried to create around FFVII once upon a time. Generally speaking, none of the various efforts made to expand the FFVII story around side characters and prequels were considered to match the main game. Think of it as the difference between Aladdin, and Aladdin II. There’s an argument, therefore, that FFVII could be exactly what the game community has long wanted — an expanded, extended version of Final Fantasy VII that clarifies the story and improves the gameplay. Making a little bigger and making it more focused is a difficult trick to pull off, but SquareEnix has had years to work on this project — and splitting the game into multiple segments may have given them more room to fill out the backstory without turning the entire thing into an encyclopedia you read as opposed to a game you play.
The flip side to this, of course, is the risk that FF7 will be enormously expanded, but not to any clear purpose or point, or in ways that fans flatly don’t like. The Star Wars prequels are an excellent example of how this desire can backfire. Fans wanted to learn more about the Jedi and their role in the Old Republic before its fall, but they didn’t like the answers George Lucas actually came up with. Whether FFVII will deliver what fans have wanted or be the latest disappointment, I don’t know. But I know which one I’m hoping it is.
The Hollywood adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats opened in theaters last week to a bewildered cacophony of yowls and hisses from critics, some of whom objected to a two-hour unexpected staging of The Unbearable Horniness of Feline Being. No, I haven’t seen the movie, but a lot — a lot — of people have been remarking on this particular aspect of the film. Now, in a completely unprecedented move (but after an abysmal opening weekend), Cats is receiving an update… while still in theaters.
The staging and effects of Cats was apparently rough — there’s been a lot of reviewers commenting on the oddness of, well, everything. I don’t typically write about issues with choreography and the difficulties of putting human-sized cats in scale with their surroundings according to a baffling artistic vision and am much more comfortable describing things in terms of which CPU is beating the other in an objectively measurable test. I’m going to allow Vulture’s Alison Willmore to handle this, because a couple of paragraphs in her review seem to capture the experience of seeing Cats best.
Onstage they are played by actors in tufty leotards and makeup; in the movie the actors have been given computer-generated fur, expressive ears, and highly mobile tails, effects that look unfailingly disturbing. Sometimes they walk and talk like humans, and other times they crawl around and nuzzle each other like felines. I know what you’re thinking — is this a sex thing? Look, it is not not a sex thing. Mostly, though, it’s like an acting exercise allowed to grow to an incomprehensible scale, and then given lyrics drawn from a selection of light poems by T.S. Eliot. (Emphasis original)
To assess Cats as good or bad feels like the entirely wrong axis on which to see it. It is, with all affection, a monstrosity. Hooper devoted his 2012 take on Les Misérables to the proposition that movie musicals are best experienced through handheld camerawork, uvula-friendly close-ups, and live singing for greater realism (or something). He repeats this approach in Cats, a property designed to repel realism with every fiber of its being, with the added complication of dance numbers. These he shoots from various angles while only every once in a while settling on one that allows the audience to appreciate the choreography by seeing whole bodies in motion.
As of right now, Cats has a 17 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, a 34 percent on Metacritic, and a 2.6/10 rating on IMDB. The Metacritic audience score is a 5.8, with 87 positive, 7 mixed, and 64 negative reactions. The director, Tom Hooper, has made no secret of the fact that he was editing the movie until the 11th hour, having finished mere hours before the movie went to premiere.
Nobody Tell George Lucas
Updating movies is, of course, nothing new. I’m not sure what the first movie was to ever receive a round of edits between releases, but Wikipedia notes that The Wild Bunch was the first film to use the concept of a “director’s cut,” in 1974, after having been originally released in 1969. Back before the home video market boomed, it was common to release films — Gone With The Wind has been rereleased seven times in US history. Charlie Chaplin may be the first person to release a “director’s cut” in film, with his 1942 re-release of The Gold Rush, which added a recorded musical score, narration (done by Chaplin), removed plot points, and increased the running speed to 24fps.
But while Hollywood has been making various changes to films for nearly 80 years, these edits were always performed in-between major theatrical releases. The fact that this latest update is being pushed the theaters via satellite download is something new and unusual indeed. Theaters that aren’t equipped for satellite downloads will receive hard drives via post bearing the updated film.
What, precisely, has been updated? Nobody seems to have that information, beyond “updated special effects.” This kind of decision has interesting implications for the movie industry and indeed, for film preservation. In the past, we’ve always known which version of a movie we were dealing with. While Disney may never officially re-release the original Star Wars films, the various changes to each have been catalogued (and something close to the originals recovered, by diligent fan work). If films are updated while in theaters, the question of what version of the movie represents the “official” release is a good deal muckier, and “both” isn’t likely to satisfy cinephiles.
The other major question is whether a few additional days of work is going to be enough to make a meaningful difference in any movie. A movie like Cats is the product of entire teams of VFX producers and editors in addition to the director (and directors rarely have final say over what constitutes the finished cut of a film). It would be one thing to fix an outright mistake or accidental omission of an already-finished scene, but it seems unlikely that any changes made post-launch are going to be enough to save the final product. Movies may be patchable now, but games are still far more amenable to being reinvented once they’re already in the wild.
This update is at Tom Hooper’s request and contains “improved visual effects.” Whether they meaningfully improve the film remains to be seen. At least one critic believes the movie isn’t nearly horny or queer enough. I saw the musical at roughly the same age as the author, but appear to have taken much less away from exposure to the show (save for Memory, which I’ve always loved).
Donovan Bailey awoke on the morning of July 27, 1996 with two items on his personal to-do list.
The first was to set a world record in the men’s 100-metre Olympic final. The second was to claim Olympic gold as the world’s fastest man.
“My coach, Dan Pfaff, felt I was going to break the world record,” says a reflective Bailey, now 52. “So the time really was not going to matter to me. I knew I was going to run faster than I had ever run before.”
Initially, Bailey thought Pfaff was playing a mind game when he told him a bomb had exploded at 1:25 a.m. in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park, the free concert zone with no metal detectors, no scanners and no controlled access
Without another word, Pfaff left the room.
“That’s just the relationship between Dan and myself,” Bailey says. “Dan is always trying to test me.”
WATCH | News coverage of Atlanta 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing:
So Bailey sat down to eat his omelette, fresh fruit and toast, while sipping his English breakfast tea with milk and honey. The house manager flipped the television on and the mind game became real.
“I didn’t know how many people had died,” Bailey says of the carnage he saw on the screen. “I didn’t know if they were going to cancel the Olympic Games. I didn’t know what was happening.”
That same morning, Marnie McBean woke up and saw a yellow Post-it note slipped under her door by her coach, Al Morrow.
The note read: Last night, a bomb went off at Centennial Olympic Park. People were injured and/or killed. Expect security delays and/or cancellations. You might want to get an earlier bus.
“Personally, I had 30 family members come down to Atlanta,” McBean says. “And my family, they’re all precarious adventurers. People barely had cell phones, so I couldn’t call them up and make sure everyone was okay.
“So we got on an earlier bus. We didn’t know what was going on, and we’re on the bus that’s supposed to go to our Olympic final.”
Bailey and McBean are among scores of Canadians who remember the terror depicted in the new Clint Eastwood movie, Richard Jewell. The film is based on the true story of Jewell, the Atlanta security guard wrongly suspected in the Centennial Park bombing.
Jewell likely saved many lives that night when he discovered an unattended backpack containing three pipe bombs during a rock concert attended by about 50,000 people. He helped clear the immediate area before a bomb exploded, killing a woman and injuring 111. (A Turkish television camera operator also died when he suffered a fatal heart attack as he rushed to the scene.)
I didn’t know if they were going to cancel the Olympic Games. I didn’t know what was happening.– Donovan Bailey, 1996 100-metre champion
Initially hailed as a hero, Jewell’s life fell apart on July 30 when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran the headline: ‘FBI suspects hero guard may have planted bomb’.
Though police never charged him, many people still thought Jewell — who died in 2007 from complications of diabetes — was responsible for the bombing. It wasn’t until 1998 that authorities charged Eric Rudolph, who pleaded guilty to the bombings in 2005 and is serving a life sentence.
“I think most of us still had the feeling in Atlanta that Olympic security would keep everybody safe and sound and that nothing like this could happen,” says Mark Lee, a broadcaster who worked the 1996 Games for CBC. “It was pre-9/11. You still thought with all the security, you would be safe.”
After a long day of calling volleyball, Lee and commentator Charlie Parkinson arrived back at the International Broadcast Centre. In a scene familiar to every Olympics, they stood outside waiting for a bus that never came.
They managed to arrange a ride, and at around 1 a.m., less than half an hour before the bomb would explode, the pair found themselves about 100 metres from the sound tower at Centennial Olympic Park waiting to be picked up.
At 3:30 a.m., Lee’s phone rang.
“Are you okay?” a CBC manager asked.
“Yeah, I’m asleep,” Lee replied. “What’s going on?”
The manager told Lee he was listed as last being seen leaving the broadcast centre around the time of the explosion.
We started chasing people down. We were trying to find everybody.– Dave Bedford, Canadian Olympic Committee media attache at 1996 Olympics
It was also where Canadian Olympic Committee media attaché Dave Bedford had trudged through Centennial Olympic Park at around the same time before heading back to his sleeping quarters at Clark Atlanta University.
The ringing phone interrupted his slumber with an order to report to the Main Press Centre as soon as possible.
Half asleep, Bedford rushed back but shortly after arriving, the facility received a bomb threat and went into lock-down.
“That kind of scares the hell out of you,” he says. “You’re in there by yourself and none of the other COC staffers can get in or out. It’s a little disconcerting.”
The phone in the COC office rang constantly, with panicked parents calling to check on their loved ones.
“We started chasing people down,” he says. “We were trying to find everybody.”
Olympic security protocols are much more sophisticated these days, but back in Atlanta, Bedford and his colleagues connected with the manager assigned to each team. The manager then physically went out and found each team member.
No injuries to Canadian team members
“Once we determined everyone was accounted for then the messaging was really simple,” he says. “It was just, ‘hey, you, everyone’s accounted for and there are no injuries with Canadian team members.’
“Parents and family members were very happy to hear that.”
Lee woke up around 7:30 a.m. — he had willed himself back to sleep for fear of not being at his best on air — and immediately called his wife.
“I needed to let her know I was okay,” he says. “The Olympics are such a huge undertaking. When you have your loved ones away from an Olympics and they hear something has happened — like a bombing or shooting — everyone thinks you’re right in the middle of it even though it was nowhere near you.”
Except in this case, Lee was way too close for comfort.
That morning, all was quiet when the bus pulled up to the Olympic rowing venue at Lake Lanier. At the entrance, the driver killed the engine and crews conducted their routine bomb sweep before granting the vehicle entrance.
McBean looked over and saw actual spectators in the grandstand — which she saw as a good sign. After all, they wouldn’t let people in if the event was cancelled.
Once inside, McBean huddled with her coach and found out the band Jack Mack and the Heart Attack was performing the night before at Centennial Park.
“[The band] was nobody my family had ever heard of,” McBean says. “So I was like, ‘Odds are super high that my family never went.’ It was just a guess that my family was fine and then we went on with the race day.”
In Lane 4 for the women’s double sculls final, McBean and her partner, Kathleen Heddle, sat in their boat with gold in their sights. Heavy favourites, the Canadians lived up to the hype.
‘Huge chunk of perspective’
Holding off the Chinese and Dutch at the finish, McBean leaned over and kissed her oars in sweet celebration of Canada’s first gold of the Atlanta Games.
Around 2 p.m., McBean and Heddle walked into the lounge in the athlete’s village and saw Olympians from around the world glued to the TV in hopes of learning more about the bombing.
“Kathleen and I were staring at real life,” McBean says. “We had just done this sporting thing, but there was this huge chunk of perspective that came into that moment.”
Already guarded by the RCMP at a safe house in the upscale district of Buckhead, Donovan Bailey received word mid-morning that his 100-metre race was on. From that moment, he intentionally banished any thought of the bombing.
“The 100 metres is the biggest event of every Olympic games since 1896,” he says. “So, for me, coming in being the reigning world champion, and obviously, being a favourite to win, my responsibility was to stay focused and compartmentalize as best as I could the events of that day so that I could really get the job done.”
WATCH | Donovan Bailey reacts to news of Atlanta bombing
Competing in spite of a torn left adductor, Bailey concentrated on his game plan.
“I felt that the semifinals and obviously the finals would kind of undo the negativity and the clouds around the Olympics,” he said. “And I’m no stranger to that because I did compete for Canada.”
On Bailey’s ample shoulders rested the hopes of Canadians still scarred by memories of 1988 when Ben Johnson was stripped of his Olympic gold after testing positive for steroids at the Games in Seoul, South Korea.
That night, Bailey rode to the stadium in a motorcade with police vehicles both in front and behind him.
“I was the king of the world.” he says with a chuckle.
In the final, the king was the second last man to burst out of the blocks.
“I realized I had a terrible start,” he says. “What I had to do was step back, breathe a little bit and get into my drive phase knowing that when I hit top speed, I would pass everybody.”
And pass everybody he did. Knowing he would win at 70 metres, Bailey glided over the finish line and saw a sea of Canadian flags to his right.
He looked at the clock: 9.84 seconds — a new Olympic and world record.
“I opened my mouth,” he says. “It was a reactionary thing. I got it done. Let me take my flag and take my place in history.”
Standing to the right of that historical moment was an exhausted Dave Bedford, still working after the terrifying experience at the Main Press Centre.
“Donovan ran right by me with both his arms down going at his side and his mouth gaping open,” says Bedford, now the chief executive officer of Athletics Canada. “It was wild for sure. Highs and lows to the extremes.”
All these years later, Bailey hopes people will look back at the highs of Atlanta even when reliving the lows while watching Richard Jewell at the local movie theatre.
“The Olympic Games should never be about politics — about somebody with some sort of agenda,” Bailey says. “The Olympic Games are all about sports and celebrating the greatest athletes on the planet.”