The Box Set

September 7, 2011 ~ 10:42pm

I recently went through the Sopranos Box Set (83 hrs over 30 dvd's). I could write novels on the subject matter, but this post has nothing to do with that. Rather I would like to share a greater frustration: Swapping so many discs is the most annoying experience when watching a full television show.

I would have rather spent a few days ripping all discs to some home networked media server or even paid $$ to have the episodes streamed online (but I can't since I have to subscribe to HBO). Swapping discs at the end of every 2-3 episodes created an artificial boundary to stop or continue watching. If there was 1 more episode on the disc I might continue but if I was at the last one, I would have to flip through the catalog to find it. Furthermore if I ever wanted to go back to an old episode - not even worth the hassle. Worse yet, when I was traveling I had to have the physical discs and managed to lose (and later recover) them on more than one occasion.

Compare this to Lost which is actually worse: 84+ hrs over 38 discs. But I never went that route, instead I watched all 120 episodes via Netflix. Some nights on a binge I could watch 4 or 5 episodes in succession. Other times I might start watching on my PS3 and continue days later on my laptop (if I were still watching now, I can even use my cell phone).

Watching a complete television show after it is complete in my opinion is much more satisfying than waiting till next week after a good episode or next season after a cliff hanger. You can set your pace. If you have all (or almost all) the seasons in front of you it can be pretty easy to just ignore cable and just watch a few episodes a night, like you can do with Netflix.

Currently I am subscribing to Comcast Cable, just so I can subscribe to Showtime, just so I can watch Dexter. I hate the arrangement. I will cancel cable after the season ends (but most likely repeat again next year). However with Comcast, you get "On Demand" where I can watch every past episode of Dexter for free with my Showtime subscription. Sounds great, BUT ... I can only watch it on my single Comcast HD box. I have to scroll through dozens of menus to get to the later episodes, then repeat those steps to get to the next episode. I can only pause for 1 day and fast forward at 1 speed. ALL using an interface that was outdated 5 years ago!

Watching On Demand cable shows are frustrating.

DVD Box Sets are a further relic of the past.

Sadly Netflix Streaming lacks the catalog of DVD's and the new releases of On Demand, but the experience and convenience are leaps and bounds ahead of either alternative. Netflix recently increased prices for customers with both DVD and Streaming subscriptions, but decreased prices for customers with streaming only. As annoying as price change is, it pales in comparison to the yearly price hikes I've endured from Comcast (e.g. "HD Technology Fee: $8.95/mo").

Imperfect as Netflix is, it is the future. I don't see a future in the DVD Box Set or Cable subscriptions. They both are becoming obsolete.

An Avatar For My Credit Card

December 30, 2009 ~ 09:33pm

A few days before Christmas I decided to watch Avatar with my brothers. I don't visit theaters often, so I thought it would be fun to watch it in IMAX 3D (based on great past experience). Considering it was the holiday season with more crowds the box office, I opted to purchase tickets online for a reserved seating show (a first for me). For security, I used a temporary credit card number (like I always do) and printed my confirmation/receipt and went to the theater a few hours later. I didn't think much of it.

At the Showcase Cinemas I waited in line to get my physical tickets and was told that they could not give them to me unless I had the actual credit card with me. So, like any place, I had to talk to the manager. He politely informed me that my confirmation number is inadequate (useless) and he "can't release the tickets from the system". He could not even cancel the seats which were already paid and re-issue them. The system does not provide for that feature. Before he let us pass and get our seats, he asked me to call back later and provide the credit card number. Apparently, that is the only way the theater can actually get paid for the tickets that technically movietickets.com sold me. I agreed and saw the movie.

About the movie, quick synopsis: Attractive blue monkey-tigers in a computer generated paradise world who mind meld their appendages with nature have to fight off stereo-typical technologically advanced civilized people-soldier-strip-miners with the help of a crippled former soldier psychically connected to an artificial monkey-man hybrid which is known as an Avatar. Basically the plot of Furngully: The Last Rainforest redone by the guy who did Terminator 2 and Titanic (with the stuffings). Really good stuff really, however unoriginal. The animation was gorgeous. The only let down was the IMAX 3D did not even come close to exploiting its full potential. Fun and exciting movie nonetheless.

The great irony for me: the movie's theme was clearly anti-technology. I think the blue monkey's mother deity glow stick willow tree was trying to tell me something: pay in cash you moron. I got the message.

When I got back to my computer, I debated whether I should call back. Economically the theater chain should take a hit and fix their broken system they have with their sales and marketing partners. Why should I be punished for being responsible for my online security? But alas, its Christmas dontchaknow, so I called back with the number. On the receiving line the clerk basically said people forget their cards all the time. So no major worry for me. Hmmm.

The moral of the story is: you can't trust the system.

Star Trek

May 23, 2009 ~ 12:18pm

I saw the new Star Trek movie over a week ago, but I was too busy to post a review (or rant).

The movie by itself was an entertaining movie. It opened with a really well-done amazing epic scene and from there it flowed smoothly and didn't have too many dull points or lags in the story. I think as a science fiction movie, it was definitely above average, and in that you had semi-decent actors with countless cheesy lines, massive special effects, plot that almost kinda makes sense and of course a perfect setting for sequels. Perfect for a summer action flick.

Now, as a "Trekkie", who has watched every show and movie since the mid-80's, I was greatly disappointed. Anyone who has watched as much as I have is completely knowledgeable that none of the history really makes sense. Each show and movie was made in such different times that none of the time lines really make any sense and there are countless inconsistencies about how the "future" is supposed to play out. So in all fairness anyone trying to make such a movie would run in to these problems. So I ask: "Why bother?" Can we please stop with the prequels?

The story itself from the "Star Trek" universe essentially is a "fork" from the original story. So basically employing the most over used technique: time travel, a new "time line" was created, thus allowing the writers to do what ever they wanted. For 2 basic reasons: 1. bring in a new generation of fans and 2. make it more sexy. Or maybe they want sexy new fans? Hmmm, I don't know but in any event, I think this is the perfect formula for failure.

So what happens in the movie? I don't want to spoil it, but I will spoil one thing: my impression of the main characters.

  • Sulu - had no real role, a Japanese character played by a Chinese actor? ("Harold" nonetheless)
  • Checkov - what a terribly annoying fake accent and goofy acting as well, also did I mention the bad accent?
  • Uhura - the slight romantic subplot was quite disconcerting
  • Scotty - quite entertaining and great comic relief, but I don't see how he could end up to be our loveable "Mr. Scott"
  • McCoy - well done and really fit nicely

Which brings us to our final two: Kirk and Spock. I personally think Spock was the most annoying role. There was a bit too much emphasis on him and the acting was so flat and his wannabe Vulcan Voice was very vexing to my ears. And our man Kirk. I must admit he was the only redeeming aspect. He was totally refreshing and still completely believable. I liked his dynamic with probably everyone except Spock. Overall mixed casting for the whole crew, but I guess acceptable.

Anyways, I think I was a bit more satisfied with my older Star Trek, warps and all (laugh its a joke). I don't have very positive view of seeing "Star Trek Action Figures" or "Star Trek Happy Meals" at McDonald's. If this is the resurrection of the Star Trek franchise, I think I might just check out here. When the obvious sequels come out, I don't think I will care to watch them. ... Unless maybe, just maybe, if someone forces me into a theater and pays for my ticket.

Blockbuster Movies and DVD Rentals

March 17, 2009 ~ 07:24pm

I can count on one hand how many times I went to see a movie on opening weekend. Although it was fun, I never did so because I was eagerly anticipating the movie. It was always because of the situation or the company I was keeping at the moment. In the eyes of the movie industry I'm a bust - I don't succumb to paying $9.50 right away and add to what makes a movie a "blockbuster".

I don't mind waiting to see a movie. I find watching a DVD on a regular 30inch screen with normal 5.1 sound perfectly enjoyable. And renting is a fraction of the theater price (especially for a group). Previously I preferred to rent movies at Hollywood Video (which was previously "Video Watch"). The DVD rental there would only cost $3.00. However too many stores closed or were re-located, and I ended up going to Blockbuster. I found the more expensive rental fee of $3.99 acceptable since the alternative was incredibly inconvenient, and it was something I did rather infrequently.

However over the past 2 years the rental price at Blockbuster where I live went to $4.29 and now is at $4.69! This is getting to be too much. It has reached the tipping point that buying a used DVD maybe only marginally more expensive than renting a used DVD, and in the case of a slightly older movie, buying will be cheaper than renting!

What are the alternatives? Many cities and college campuses now have DVD "kiosks" which you can get a rental for as cheap as $1. The only downside is that it is typically 1 day only and the selection is incredibly limited. Netflix offers rentals in the mail. However their plans aren't that much cheaper if you watch DVD's as slow as I do. If you have Digital Cable you can use "On-Demand", but often neither the price nor the qaulity is worth a 24 hour rental.

Or do what I do: Buy used! You can go to Ebay and sometimes walk away with a $5 used DVD. Or if you don't like bidding, use Amazon. For Amazon just make sure you select "Buy used" and it can be as low as $1.99 (sometimes cheaper). For both sites shipping is max $3.00 (never buy if it is more than that). Understandably the $3 shipping may seem like a waste, but since you own the movie you can recover a large portion of the cost by easily reselling it on Ebay, Amazon or Craigslist. (Please be careful when using Craiglist as there is no protection for buying or selling).

Right now I keep a list of older movies (within the past 5yrs) that I would like to watch. If I see them cheap on any of the above sites, I will snatch them up. I have a stack that I haven't watched yet. The best part is that they are always there whenever I want to watch them - no need to run out and get something. When I'm done, I will keep the good ones and sell the rest. The money lost will still be cheaper than renting. It sounds time consuming but if you "queue up" and do it every few months, you'll find it can be fun.

Looking back, I will admit there were a few movies that I wish I had seen earlier and even fewer that I wish I had actually seen in the theater. But it's just a movie, and I am really glad I don't put that much value into it. If I were asked: "What's a movie worth to me?", my response would be "maybe $4 bucks - give or take".

End of the World

June 6, 2006 ~ 06:02pm

Apparently today should be the end of the world or something like that. Seeing as the 666 is the mark of the beast or something like that and today is 06/06/06 based on some gregorian calendar or something like that. To that effect the remake of the 1976 classic horror movie The Omen was released today. I just thought it would be funny to note that I watched the original movie for the first time exactly 66 + 6 days ago. Imagine that. And if I am so lame, I could also wait a few minutes or so and post this at 6:06 Central Time! But I think I made my point.