Tag Archives: Netflix

A Return to Physical Netflix

For a while I had a post bubbling up in the back of my brain, a post about how, despite all the money I pay every month for cable and HBO and Netflix and Amazon Prime, if I want to watch a movie of any recent vintage the odds are my only option when it comes to streaming is to pay another $6-15 to watch it via pay per view.

If I was serious about just watching movies I could chuck all of those services, take the money down to Target every Tuesday, and just buy every new release on disk and probably end up spending less than I do now.

Of course, we don’t just watch movies at our house.  We watch shows produced on all of those services plus sports plus the news plus… hrmm… mostly re-runs of Big Bang Theory, which appears to be available on some channel on cable 24/7 so simply turning on the TV and hopping to a channel at random is likely to come up with an episode.

But I still want to watch reasonably recent movies when I want to and not for whatever long/short time period one of those services might deign to show it to me.  (There is also the issue with actually finding the movies.  When I use the Comcast search with “free to me,” “HD,” and “English” as search parameters I still end up with over 1,500 choices on a list I can see 9 at a time that won’t sort by “new shit I haven’t watched yet.”)

So my mind has been turning to old school Netflix, the disks in the mail version that we used to use regularly last decade.

I guess, technically, it is DVD.com now.

A Netflix Company

However it is still linked to the Netflix site and my account for the streaming service is also the account for that, so I’m still calling it Netflix.

Anyway, this was how we used to regularly watch recently released movies, not to mention whole TV series.  We could burn through a whole season of 24 muy pronto thanks to chapter setup.  An episode was barely past 40 minutes sans commercials to start with, and when you could chapter skip past “previously on 24…” and the end credits, the whole thing dropped under 30 minutes.  You could get stuck into the hilarity of that show pretty quickly.

My brother-in-law, whose motivations in life beyond living and dying with the Green Bay Packers every NFL season remain a mystery to me, decided to give my wife a $30 gift card to Netflix for Christmas.

It seemed odd.  I mean, we subscribe to the streaming service, so it wouldn’t go to waste or anything, but I just wonder how that sprang to mind.

So in the post-Holiday clean-up I ended up with the gift card sitting on my desk, so I went to Netflix and decided to use it to reactivate the physical disk service.  Going for the two-disks-at-a-time option (I guess three is no longer an option) and Blu-Ray it looked like $30 would cover two months of service.

But I got a third month free.  It has been so long since we had disk delivery that I was eligible for 30 days free.  My old, overloaded queue was gone.  That was probably a good thing however.  So I went to the New Releases section and loaded up on new releases and Netflix started sending disks our way.

One of the good things about Netflix is that we’re very close to one of their distribution centers… and the HQ, which I pass every day… so if I drop a disk return in the mail on Monday we have the replacement on Wednesday.

So we will be on a recent movie binge for a while.  The first on the list was Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, which was visually stunning… I wish we had seen it on the big screen… but the characters were dull, the acting flat, and the plot uninspired, so it really only had graphics and Luc Besson weirdness going for it.  Worth a watch for the latter alone if you’re into it, but it was no Fifth Element.

We will see how long our dalliance with physical Netflix lasts.  I have fond memories of new disks in the mail and quick turn around and all that.  But I also know that from time to time our house would become a remote disk storage facility when we other things kept us from sitting down to watch the items we had waiting.  If it goes well I will be tempted to turn off HBO in favor of disks, if only because the final installment of Game of Thrones is now out in 2019.

Next up is War for the Planet of the Apes and the first season of the Starz series Outlander… so I guess it isn’t all movies.

Also, since we’re on about Netflix, we also watched Bright.  I liked it. But I was also a big fan of Alien Nation back in the day, and it had enough of that vibe to hook me.  I was certainly fine with the “screw any back story, just take it as is and run with it!” plan.  I like to figure things out as we go along and don’t need to be spoon fed everything, so appreciated that aspect of it.  However, I seem to be in a minority on that front.  The reviews are bad, often citing missing details, but Netflix has re-upped for a sequel.  I’m not sure it was that good, but Netflix needs content.

Winter is Coming… And it is About Time!

Oh, Netflix.  I have had the first season of the HBO series Game of Thrones saved in my queue since it was announced.

And finally it arrived.

Granted, I gave up on reading the series at the fourth book, “A Feast for Crows,” because it became clear that the the crows were likely feasting on yet another popular point of view character that was destined to die, along with the remains of my patience with the story.

Seriously, I am pretty sure George R. R. Martin has a Post-It note on his desk reminding him that any point of view character who is interesting, not a sailor, and over a certain height, must die.

Yes, interesting is a relative term.  You might find the tale of Daenerys Targaryen very interesting.  After three books of her wandering around, I just want somebody to wake me up when she actually does something on the same continent as every other POV character in the book.  Daenerys Storm Born?  More like Daenerys Storm Boring!

And don’t even get me started on the Greyjoys.  They should change their house motto to “We Do Not Suck,” and then trying living up to it.  That is what killed “A Feast for Crows” for me, arriving back on the Iron Islands with another freakin’ Greyjoy as a POV character.

Okay, let me take a deep breath here.  Don’t get all worked up defending the series, it probably isn’t worth the effort.

And I will say that I liked the first book very much, back when the story was fresh, not quite as complicated, and the POV characters had only just started to get killed off.  And I had heard good things about the HBO adaptation, so have been keen to see it.

Not so keen that I would, you know, go out and buy it or anything, but still keen.

So I put it at the top of my Netflix and waited.

Weeks went by and it sat there at the top of my queue with “Very Long Wait” written next to it while Netflix fed me videos from further down my queue.  I didn’t get to the point of immediately returning videos just to see if I could get lucky, but the thought did cross my mind.

Finally though, my number came up and I got an email letting me though that winter, though much delayed, was finally coming.

It arrived and we began watching that night.

The first disappointment was that there were only two episodes on the first disk.  That would last us one night.  One of the strange mysteries of our household is that on a weekday night, a two hour movie after dinner seems like too much of a commitment, but two one hour episodes of a TV show, no problem!

And, all in all, it was pretty good.

I had some trouble adjusting to the actors playing the various characters.

I had seen Sean Bean and Peter Dinklage in their parts early on in the production of the show, back when I was starting on the books, so they had already been inserted into my mental image of the characters.  But the rest, suddenly brought to life after nearly three thousand pages of story.

Jon Snow and Robb Stark both seemed more foppish than I would have imagined in sons of Eddard Stark.  And while I expected Cersei and Jamie to be young and attractive, Jamie Lannister was almost a pretty boy, and I immediately dubber him “Starbuck.” (Original BSG Dirk Benedick version.)  And Khal Drogo looked so much like Richard Kiel that I expected, when he opened his mouth, to see that he had metal teeth.  Not as bad as finding some character you liked and respected being played by Tom Cruise, but it can be jarring and does take a bit to get your mind in sync.

And was I the only one who, on seeing the first establishing shot of Winterfell, thought “Jabba’s other palace?”  It is the towers.

From the temperate zone of Tatooine?

(Picture from the Game of Thrones Wiki.)

The first two episodes also moved pretty quickly through the material of the book.  That was to be expected, of course, as a close examination of everything would require a lot more episodes.  And there was some very good use of the power of being able to show something rather than describe it in words.  But I still had to stop at one point to clear up a few details for my wife, who was completely unfamiliar with the books.

And I am not sure somebody who had not read the books could pick up all the important details that flashed by.  But that is always a hazard as well.  Do you make the show for the people who are already fans and will smile knowingly at little details, or for people new to the material and stop and highlight the important?  Things seemed to waver on that point, though we are only two episodes in now, so there is still plenty of time for certain things to come into focus.

Still, in the end, it was good stuff.  We zipped through the first two episodes and cursed the mail system because the soonest we could get the next disk was Monday.  Ah well.

Meanwhile, Quickster is Losing Its Mind

Or Netflix.  Or whatever they call it these days.

Well, it might just be a database issue, but it is starting to tell me things about movies that do not line up with my memories… like The Wicker Man being about a basketball player’s herion addiction.

And, just in case you were wondering, the Basketball Diaries has the correct synopsis, so I could only go for one humorous screen shot.

Oh, and if looks like I edited that picture, I did.  I have to move the cover art close to the synopsis so it would fit the 450 pixel limitation of this blog theme… I just got a bit carried away and was too lazy to go back and do it right.  Trust me, if I wanted to fake something up, I’d pick something more amusing, like Dora the Explorer and Last Tango in Paris.  Swiper, no swiping the butter!

In case you were wondering, which you probably were not, but we’re on the subject anyway, we gave up on Netflix streaming and went back to their disc delivery service.

I think we, as a family, watched everything we were likely to, and new content shows up at a glacial pace.

Furthermore, upon reflection, we decided that one of the reason we had Netflix in the first place was to be able to watch new to video releases that we had no interest in buying while they were still reasonably new to video.  This is not at all possible with Netflix streaming.

Somebody, somewhere will say something like, “Oh, it isn’t Netflix’s fault that their video streaming content is so limited.  It is all the big nasty studios.”

And I can understand that.  But it doesn’t mean I have to give Netflix money while they make their streaming service worthwhile to me.

Finally, I did indeed find one and exactly one movie in my multi-hundred long Netflix queue that was available on streaming but not on disc.  Children of the Revolution.  And I’ve seen it already.

So we’re back to physical media, which, at this rate, has a very long life ahead of it.  I mean, I wanted to put Westworld and Futureworld in my queue, but Futureworld isn’t even available on disc.  Wait… it is available streaming.

Dammit Netflix!

Nnitendo 3DS $170 – DS Lite $100

Well, Nintendo dumped the price of the 3Ds by $80 just four months after its release.

Apparently, sales were not meeting internal estimates according to Nintendo.  And then there is the whole Sony PlayStation Vita thing.  No doubt Nintendo wanted to win on price there early.  But slow sales are registering as the primary concern.

Certainly *I* didn’t run out and buy one.  But for me, the 3Ds has only one compelling feature so far, NetFlix streaming, which did not even go live until last week or so.

3DS and NetFlix

I am tempted by that option, though I am held back when I start thinking about when I would actually use it.  Am I really going to watch that much Star Trek: The Next Generation sitting in bed?

Otherwise, from what I have seen, in person and in the news, there is no killer app for the device quite yet.

Of course, if you own a 3DS already, you might be a little miffed at the drastic price drop.  But Nintendo plans to make it up to you.

Meanwhile, if I were in the market for a DS right now that was just right for what I play most on the handheld gaming device, I would be looking at the DS Lite, which Nintendo has aggressively priced.

DS Lites, While Supplies Last

Sure, the DSi has access to the online Nintendo store and the DSi XL has a larger screen (at the same pixel resolution), but the good old DS Lite has the best battery life of the product line and it is the last of the DS line to have the GameBoy Advance cartridge slot.  That last piece is key for the truly obsessive Pokemon fan, as it gives you access to several more generations of Pokemon games.

So I am not sure what Nintendo marketing thinks they are doing.

They dropped the 3Ds price right on top of the DSi XL price point.  The DSi is sitting not that far behind as well in price.  Meanwhile, they are sending out ads for the DS Lite at a price that pretty much pulls the rug out from underneath everybody.

That is some good work there Nintendo.

Now Playing: PlayStation 3

We decided to go with the PlayStation 3 for our Blu-Ray and HD streaming needs.  Thank you to those who had suggestions on my post on the subject.

I ordered the 160GB model from Amazon.com.

Something Like the Box We Got

Our tradition for buying console games is to collect all of our spare change in a jar, take it to the local CoinStar machine, and turn the change into an Amazon.com gift card.  We had a little over $115 in change in the jar, plus some left over from our last gift card, plus some Amazon.com credit I had received for my birthday, which just about covered the cost of the base system.

Then I ordered a second controller and the Blu-Ray remote control, which is a controller that has the form factor of a TV remote and which makes navigating and watching movies a bit easier.

Elapsed time from opening the box to streaming a Netflix HD movie: 55 minutes.

Putting things together and hooking them up was not a big deal.  I had an HDMI cable ready, since almost nothing comes with that cable.  The cable that came with the system went into the sound system.

Setup was a little annoying.  I would like a few words with the team that designed the data entry UI.  For starters, the button for “I’m done entering data and want to submit this and move on” should be a lot more obvious.  And why not give me the MAC address of the device when I am setting up the wireless connection?  I have our wireless setup to only give out an IP address to a defined list of MAC addresses, so I needed it before the unit could connect.

And getting used to the buttons on the default controller took a bit.  For some reason, in my mind, X should be negative/cancel and O should be affirmative/OK.  However, the opposite seems to be the case in the land of the PlayStation.

And I was also a bit miffed that the second controller did not come with a USB charging cable.  But I will probably want a stand-alone charger in any case, so the controllers aren’t hanging off the front of the unit.

All in all though, it looks quite beautiful on our new TV.  Even the menus look very nice.

We streamed a couple of National Geographic specials that were in HD.  The streaming over wireless did not seem to have any problems and picture quality was very good.  I have not tried any of the other services yet, though the consensus of opinions I have heard so far is that Netflix is the only company that “gets” streaming and does it well.

I upgraded our Netflix account for Blu-Ray disks.  We kicked that off with the series Rome.  We had seen it before, back when it aired on HBO, but seeing it on a big screen in 1080p adds a lot of depth to the already stunning visuals of the series.

And then there are video games.  I have had a couple of suggestion from people on what to get (Little Big Planet, The Orange Box), but the first game I bought was LEGO Star Wars – The Complete Saga.  It was inexpensive, it plays in 1080p, and I thought it would make a good comparison with the Wii, since we have spent a lot of time with the game.

It looks and plays much better than the Wii version.  It took some time to get used to the new button layout, but visually it is quite good.  One of my gripes about the Wii version was that everything looked oddly shiny.  Things are shiny on the PS3 as well, but it looks right.  There was one point, on the first mission, where I could see the reflections of the characters in the floor on which they were standing.  That sort of shine works.  I would also like to see how the online co-op play works, something that is not an option with the Wii.

I do not want to go backfill all of the LEGO games we’ve played already, though I might consider getting The Clone Wars on the PS3.  But going forward, I’ll be buying for the new system and not the Wii, starting with LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean.

Iwata Speaks and Netflix Comes to the Very Small Screen…

Nintendo was tweeting up a storm yesterday because Satoru Iwata was giving the keynote speech up at GDC.

You can see here, which you’ll no doubt want to do if you are a big Nintendo fan.

And even if you aren’t, his address is interesting for the gaming history he brings up as he talks about things like social networks and gaming. I recommend it.

There was, of course, some mention of Nintendo’s newest hardware, the Nintendo 3Ds.

But of all the bits of information I saw, this one probably surprised me the most:

My initial reaction was to dismiss this, but as I thought about it I had to admit that the concept is interesting.

I want to see what a streamed film would look like on the new 3DS screen, which is much larger than the screens Nintendo uses for their current DS/DS Lite/DSi line of hand helds, and which support 3D, which is where so many of the movie studios are going these days.

We’ll see how it looks this summer.

Berlin Serendipity

I have been a Netflix subscriber for a number of years now.

I like to browse through their selection and add things to our queue that I might like to watch some day.  There are well over 100 titles on our list.

I try to keep at least some of the top of the queue dedicated to things both my wife and I will enjoy, but I do not farm the queue constantly, so once in a while something I put on the list ages ago on a whim will bubble to the top.

And so it was a few weeks back.

At the time I was reading Anthony Beevor’s The Fall of Berlin 1945 (US title), something of the companion to his excellent Stalingrad, when the red envelope from Netflix dropped in through the mail slot.

And inside was Downfall.

You have probably seen at least one scene from Downfall.

It turned out to be perfect timing.  I was about 75% of the way through the book when I sat down to watch the movie.  I had just been reading the details of the events surrounding Berlin and got to take a very personal view into what was going on in and about Hitler’s bunker.  That very scene, which has been re-subtitled so often,  and which was described in detail in the book, played out there before me in our living room and I knew exactly what Hitler was raging about and how self-deluded he was.

Okay, it was hard not to smirk a bit and imagine Hitler going on about grammar or Jay Leno.  But I feel vindicated in that I recently read that the director of Downfall, Oliver Hirschbiegel actually finds these parodies of his work funny.  From an interview in New York Magazine:

I think I’ve seen about 145 of them! Of course, I have to put the sound down when I watch. Many times the lines are so funny, I laugh out loud, and I’m laughing about the scene that I staged myself! You couldn’t get a better compliment as a director.

Of course, he has his own wish in that regard.

If only I got royalties for it, then I’d be even happier.

Such is life.

But I digress.

Seeing the movie after having read most of the book really brought a lot of the central characters alive and gave even more depth to an already well written narrative of events.

So if you happen to pick up Anthony Beevor’s book, I would recommend renting Oliver Hirschbiegel’s movie as well.  After having experienced them together, it seems almost wrong to have one without the other.  Just make sure you get a copy of the movie with the right region set.

“I think I’ve seen about 145 of them! Of course, I have to put the sound down when I watch. Many times the lines are so funny, I laugh out loud, and I’m laughing about the scene that I staged myself! You couldn’t get a better compliment as a director.”