US-IT-CONSUMER ELECTRONICS SHOW-CES

Samsung and Sony may grab a larger share of the CES fanfare, but don't count LG out. It has quite the annual presence in Las Vegas, too. The Korean company uses the tech industry's January soiree as the backdrop for a wide selection of product reveals -- everything from wearables to smartphones to 4K TVs -- and it has a sizable booth to house it all. It's almost a given that LG will offer up improvements to more of the same at this CES. But before we try to gauge what the company may have in store for 2015, let's first take a look at how far LG's come.

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You know what goes really well together? Christmas and video games. This year we've noticed a bit of a trend: games giving away free stuff in light of the holiday. Weather, err, whether it's snow covering Los Santos in GTA Online, a six-hour trial of Madden or online multiplayer for Killer Instinct Classic, there's no shortage of goodies to keep your console (maybe you recently unwrapped a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One?) busy for the next few days. Let's recap, shall we? In addition to the aforementioned inclement weather southern San Andreas is experiencing, for a limited time you can don a gingerbread mask in GTA Online and start lethal snowball fights in addition to getting a few unspecified gifts for your inventory tomorrow.

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Let's face it, The Interview would have had to be nothing short of a masterpiece to justify all of the drama around its release. Well, it's not -- but it's not a terrible movie either. The comedy about the assassination of Kim Jong-un prompted terrorist attack threats from hackers (and North Korea itself, according to the FBI), which led to a sudden cancellation by Sony Pictures and a response from President Obama. But in the end, it's just another slacker bro-fest entry from Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg (Rogen's writing and directing partner), and James Franco. You'll probably laugh a bit, as I did, if you're a fan of their schtick. But if you can't stand anything by these guys, this movie won't change your mind. At the same time, it's clear that the story around The Interview will continue to be one of the most fascinating media tales well into 2015.

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So you've got a few days off, and you're probably trapped with family to boot -- this calls for some serious binge-watching. Now is the perfect time to catch up on all of those movies and shows you couldn't make time for during the year. To help guide you through the plethora of options, we've compiled a list of the best stuff with a geeky bent you just have to watch. We've avoided some of the more well-known choices (but seriously, Interstellar is worth a shot while it's in theaters), and have instead focused on bringing to light some more obscure choices. They're not all family-friendly, but they're all worth your time.

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If you're unwrapping the inevitable flood of Blu-ray gifts (hopefully no DVDs), it may be worth giving that digital copy code a second look. The movie studios' Ultraviolet scheme has been unwieldy (at best) since launch, but several upgrades have made it easier to use, and the Vudu store specifically is getting better at bringing your movies to whatever device you own. Its latest upgrade is much-needed UI refresh, which launched on many set-top boxes (PlayStation, Roku, Blu-ray players etc.) last month, and has now arrived for the iPhone and iPad.

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Vizio may not be jumping on the curved TV bandwagon anytime soon, but it does have several TVs on the shelf chasing the Ultra HD/4K trend. Those P-Series displays will get some new tweaks soon, including an Amazon app with support for 4K video from its subscription Prime video service or VOD. Also coming soon are apps for UltraFlix and Toon Goggles, and both have 4K content ready for streaming. Netflix already streams 4K to Vizio's TVs, and other apps available include Plex and Spotify. A better upgrade is the one noted by our friend Robert Heron: When the new firmware rolls out, it will fix a bug that overly sharpened the picture on still photos, Blu-ray movies and even 4K video, while also improving the LED backlighting and motion processing. Owners can look out for the v1.1.13 update in the "coming days," which should go over better than another sweater or pair of socks.

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DirecTV satellite dish

If you subscribe to DirecTV, you're about to get a few more ways to tune in online. As part of a renewed deal with Disney, the satellite TV provider will get Watch ABC, Watch Disney and WatchESPN streaming services in early 2015. You'll also see more viewing features on regular channels, and the two companies will "explore new opportunities" for internet-only offerings. There's no question that DirecTV is a bit late to the party when it comes to embracing Disney's more advanced services, but better late than never, right?

[Image credit: Associated Press]

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It's James Franco on a tank

Sure, Sony may be defying hackers' threats by letting independent theaters screen The Interview, but you might not live close enough to watch the flick. What if you want to see it online? You might get that chance. Sources for both CNN and Recode claim that Google has "tentatively agreed" to distribute the movie online in rental form, both through Play Movies and YouTube; Sony would also stream the movie through its own website. There's a possibility that the Google deal will fall apart (this happened with iTunes, apparently), since distributors are reportedly worried that they'll face retaliatory hacks. If an agreement comes together, though, it would represent an important milestone -- it's not often that you see a major studio movie launch both online and in theaters at the same time. We've reached out to Google for details, and we'll let you know if there's anything official.

Update: Yep, it's happening. Sony will make the comedy available through a special page, Google Play, YouTube and Xbox Video starting today at 1PM Eastern. It'll cost $6 to rent, or $15 to own. A PlayStation Network release date, meanwhile, is coming "shortly." We're also gathering tweets from early reactions to the movie right here.

Update 2: And now The Interview has its first international premiere, as Google Canada just announced the movie is available on its outlets there too.

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We didn't expect Disney Research to have one of the more inventive uses of YouTube's crazy frame-rate capabilities, but here we are. The outfit's released its trippy Lucid Dreams of Gabriel short via Google's video wing and, despite it being around four months late, the filmmaking techniques are impressive in their finished form. As a quick refresher, the clip combines novel computational shutters, multiple frame rates within the same shot and high-dynamic range tone mapping to achieve its surreal look. But, in the context of a short film they distract from the story (however hippie-dippy it may be) and make Gabriel seem more like a tech demo than an actual, structured narrative; the tricks do more to call attention to themselves than they do support the action onscreen.

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Google's Chromecast makes it easy to stream pretty much anything to your TV. Movies, TV shows, music, games, photos -- whatever you're interested in, there are plenty of smartphone and tablet apps equipped with Google's little Cast button. So, whether you have one hooked up to the main TV in your living room, or a second screen somewhere else in the house, Chromecast could be a useful tool to have on hand this Christmas. For our UK readers, here's a quick rundown for maxing out the tiny dongle over the next few days.

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Sony isn't afraid to partner with competitors if it means getting PlayStation Now in more homes, apparently. The outfit just announced that it's teaming with Samsung to bake the PlayStation game-streaming service into some of the rival electronics giant's smart TVs starting next year. Sony says some 200 PlayStation 3 games will be available to stream, and that the service runs at full functionality, specifically mentioning things like trophies, online multiplayer and cloud-saves for game-progress. Sound familiar? It should because that's how the service works on Bravia TVs and PlayStation game consoles. What's more, all you'll need is one of Sony's DualShock 4 gamepads to control the action.

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Vizio is cracking jokes about fellow TV manufacturers like LG and Samsung with this new ad for anti-curved glasses. While we weren't bothered by it in our observations, we also haven't seen a ton of benefit from the approach yet. As usual, Vizio is separating itself from the pack by promising tech customers want, at a lower price, something it claimed when the others were pushing expensive 3D glasses or charging a ton for WiFi-equipped smart TVs. The tagline for 2015? "Beautifully flat Ultra HD." Vizio won't be showing off its TVs in Las Vegas this year, but the ad will give us something to consider while we're checking out what all the others have to offer.

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Sony Pictures claimed it couldn't premiere The Interview after major theater chains pulled out due to threats, but independent operators (and the president) have successfully called it out. Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League tweeted that Sony has authorized screenings of the now must-see film, and you can expect to see Christmas Day shows available within the hour. The Hollywood Reporter notes that the Plaza Atlanta theater has also stated it will have showings on Thursday, although Sony Pictures has yet to comment publicly. According to LA Times reporter Joe Bel Bruno Sony Pictures has confirmed the plan, and indie theaters "are lining up" to show North Korea's least-favorite movie while CEO Michael Lynton is trying to get the widest release possible. Citing anonymous sources, several outlets have reported the plans include a video-on-demand release, and will be announced publicly later today.

Update: Sony Pictures has released a statement confirming a "limited theatrical release" on Thursday, but so far has not provided a list of theaters where the movie will be shown, or if any video-on-demand release is a part of the plan. According to Lynton the studio never gave up on releasing the movie, and "we are continuing our efforts to secure more platforms and more theaters so that this movie reaches the largest possible audience." President Barack Obama has chimed in again, with a statement applauding the decision. Now we're faced with the toughest question of all: Did we actually want to see this movie?

Update 2: The movie will be released online! At 1PM ET today on YouTube, Xbox and Sony's website. You can get all the details here, but if you prefer the theatrical experience a list of theaters is posted right here.

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When Engadget unveiled its new and improved buyer's guides earlier this year, we started out with just a handful of categories: smartphones, tablets, laptops and wearables. You know, the stuff we're most likely to give the full review treatment. Still, a few of our readers wondered why we didn't include a wider range of products. To all you who were craving a little more, the answer is: We were already on it. Today we're adding two new guides to the mix, including one for gaming gear and another for portable audio gadgets. As always, when deciding what to include, we asked the people who know best: the Engadget writers who are already testing this stuff. In the case of gaming, that includes our resident game writers Ben Gilbert, Sean Buckley and Tim Seppala. Likewise, we consulted our biggest audiophiles on staff, Billy Steele and James Trew, who in a previous life wrote about music for a living. Have a peek at our gaming and audio guides, and check back over the coming months -- you never know when we'll add a hot new item to the list.

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2011 Winter TCA Tour - Day 3

A new movie about the adventures of beloved eccentric Pee-wee Herman now has a distributor, according to the Wrap: Netflix. The director and storyline still aren't known, but the former Universal property will be produced by Judd Apatow, who has other projects in the works with the streaming company. Netflix hasn't confirmed the news yet, but star Paul Reubens recently told AV Club that the incoming film has "such an amazing company involved" and there would be a "really big announcement" about it soon. To see him talking about it (out of character) with Jimmy Fallon, check the video below.

[Image credit: Getty Images]

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