Netflix Instant5 (Oct6)

What is the Instant5?  It’s five recommendations I make for wasting time and more importantly getting your money’s worth out of your Netflix subscription.  Let’s be honest: the way Netflix has it set up now is only “sorta kinda” helpful in finding something to view.  So without further ado:

THIS WEEK’S Instant5

1. Inspector Gadget

No, fortunately not the Disney film of the same name with Matthew Broderick.  This is the original animated series, which should please nostalgic ’80s cartoon fans such as myself.  This is volume one of the series which includes all 22 episodes of that volume for your instant viewing pleasure.  There is no volume two in the US as of yet, although there are rumors of a 25th anniversary collection set, nothing is confirmed, but at least you can watch a better-than-youtube quality version of the first 22 eps.

2. The TV Set

Mac reviewed this movie not too long ago.  From Wiki: The plot follows an idealistic writer (David Duchovny) as he tries to navigate his TV pilot down the mine-laden path from script to production to the madness of prime-time scheduling – all while trying to stay true to his vision. Along the way he has to juggle the agendas of a headstrong network president (Weaver), volatile young stars, a pregnant wife and an ever-optimistic personal manager/agent (Greer).  I have not as of yet watched this, but now that it’s on Instant, it’s on the list.

3. Shut Up & Sing

Remember the Dixie Chicks?  I’m sure most think of their bigger-than-Jesus comment that flushed their career for a time.  To be honest, I don’t like the Dixie Chicks, still don’t, but I did enjoy the documentary because I felt like it was mostly honest about the event and how it did get blown out of proportion.  So love them or hate them, if you truly like to be informed this is worth a look.

4. The Shadow

The superhero from the old time radio comes to life via Alec Baldwin pre-annoying days.  It’s not like this is the epic superhero movie, but there was always something about The Shadow that appealed to me, and I love the Dick Tracy-like production design of the film.  I think it’s worth seeing once and now that it’s in instant I’ll probably see it a few times.

5. James and the Giant Peach

Ok, so it isn’t the Nightmare Before Christmas, but there’s still something about this show that I love.  Probably the stop-motion animation, probably Roald Dahl, I love this movie and I’m glad to see it on Instaview.  Good for kids, but there’s just some kind of magic in there that holds my appeal.

Under “genres” they have a new section called Starz Play which has added to the selection of Netflix instaview library tremendously.  I recommend looking under there for newer movies to see.  Until next time!

Netflix Instaview: What to Watch (Instant 5)

Sometimes when the candy store has a lot of candy, some of which you don’t care for, but a lot you do, it’s hard to decide what to grab while you’re there. I’ve found the same problem with the Netflix Instaview store. Recommendations are only slightly helpful, but hardly where I’d like them to be. It’s like the clerk knows where the names are stored, but has no idea what kind of taste goes with the name.

So, rather than continue on with cryptic analogies, I thought I would bring you five recommendations, hopefully weekly (depending on Netflix’s continued ability to acquire good/adequate films). I’ll call them the Instant5. Since I have reviewed some series that are available on the Instaview, we’ll start there.

THIS WEEK’S Instant5

1. SeaQuest DSV sn1-3

Basically the aquatic version of Star Trek TNG, a fun TV show from the ’90s, and since you’re paying for this Instaview service whether you watch it or not, I’d say a fine way to spend your viewing hours. I was really only interested up to season two, since we changed directions and command, but they are all available instantly.

2. Doctor Who 2005: Series One

Unless you’ve got a super media friendly local library or a buddy with it, count on spending $70+ to see this in any better quality than a chinese streaming rip. If you’re a fan of sci-fi, this series is a must. Unfortunately the other seasons are not available per Instaview yet, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Eccleston does a fabulous job playing the tenth doctor, and I’m a fan of time travel, so it works.

3. Sliders sn1-5

OK, so I’ve come into more sci-fi shows, but this one was fantastic. The idea is that a genius kid figures out how to “slide” to different dimensions, and shows his friend and film professor. The only problem? They can’t find their way back to their own dimension. It’s kind of like Doctor Who in its weekly encounter, but basically a show I loved as a kid, and all four season are for the most part available (a couple episodes here and there haven’t been converted).

4. Strange Brew

As far as I’m concerned a movie-lovers cult classic. The McKenzie brothers take on an evil brewer on a sort of mishap in this strange version of Hamlet (No, seriously. Compare events and characters to the play). Not to worry, all the iambic pantameter is out. This is one of those quotable movies, like Napoleon Dynamite or Dumb and Dumber (though I would rate this movie above D&D). If you love Rick Moranis or basically silly humor, you’ll love this movie.

5. Knight Rider sn1-4

The new series on TV? ‘Fraid not. The old one with your buddy and mine David Hasslehoff. I was a bit weary of this one, not being a huge fan of Hasslehoff, but I put my skepticism aside for a minute and gave it a chance. It’s got the ’80s campiness of most shows from that day and age, but it works for the show, and I still want a KITT. And anyways, it’s practically free. 😉

So that’s it for this week. That doesn’t mean that’s it for what Netflix has by any means. I plan to let you know about other worthwhile watching so you’re not stuck watching whatever is on the front page (which is usually the crumbs of the bread).

If you have a series/movie to suggest, let me know and I’ll take a look (if I haven’t seen it) and include it in the next Instant5 installment. For now, enjoy!

Netflix Instant View: Instant Visual Crack?

I’ve been a member of Netflix for 5 years now, and I’ve found it very much a sufficient way to “feed the need” so to speak. The DVD turn around isn’t so bad, and I’ve zipped through series and movies quickly without forking out the $$$. So, yeah, I’m pretty satisfied. :

netflix01For those who are unfamiliar with Netflix, let me give you a quick rundown: Netflix is an online DVD rental service (with Instant View service described below). You can get anywhere from 2 DVDs a month to 8 out at a time unlimited from $4.99 to $47.99. The selection is basically if it’s on DVD, odds are Netflix has got it (they boast 100,000+ DVDs). And yes, blu-ray is included in the mix.

Why is that better than Blockbuster Online? It really depends on the one renting. If all you are interested in is Hollywood Blockbuster movies, then Blockbuster is probably the one for you and will satisfy you just fine. My tastes, however, include independents, foreign, and of course, anime and animation. If you’ve taken a good look at the “shelf” that Blockbuster has dedicated to its foreign section, you could see why one would search elsewhere.

What is the turn around on DVDs? For me it works like this: I get a DVD on Monday, watch it that night, send it back Tuesday, they receive it and ship a new one Wednesday, I get my new one Thursday.

I also like being able to get recommendations based on my interests so I can discover new movies. There’s also the option of seeing what your friends thought of a movie (Netflix friends) and see if it’s worth it or not.

Basically, Netflix makes filling my Visual Crack needs easy.

And then, of course, Netflix had to go and introduce its instant view, which is basically like free access to the candy store (some strings attached). The quality is 480p (with Higher Def in the works) and looks at least as good as a regular DVD on your HDTV (provided your Internet connection is good). All you need is an unlimited plan and you’re good to go.

Unlimited plans start at $8.99 (which is the 1 DVD at-a-time unlimited plan + unlimited watching).

The Pros: Instant viewing. No waiting for the DVD to arrive, no going to the video store, and no additional rental fee (see Amazon and iTunes). I love it for being able to watch The Office whenever I want, plus I’ve got something to watch in between DVD snail mail arrivals. Netflix also makes it easy to spot which DVDs in your queue have been converted for Instant View.

I’ve been watching SeaQuest DSV via Instant View and while normally it probably would have had to wait somewhere in the depths of the queue before I got to it, but now it’s something fun to have on while waiting on video renders at work, or to keep me company Photoshopping or Illustrating.

The Cons: The library is growing, but it’s still small. Don’t expect everything you could possibly want to be in there. Aside from the time-consuming task of converting 100,000+ DVDs, there are copyrights issues slowing down selection additions.

It *used to only* run on Internet Explorer. 😦 What? Not a Con you say? I won’t go into the security issues around IE, and although Netflix has promised future Firefox compatibility, it hasn’t happened yet. According to Netflix you can watch it on Firefox without any add-ons, but this is always useful for whatever reason some places do IE only:  LUCKILY, Firefox took the initiative, or at least someone who built an add-on and gave us the option to use Firefox instead. (command delete IE7.exe check!)

It *sort of* only runs on PC. Sorry Mac friends, unless you’ve got Bootcamp or the like to run Windoze, you’re generally excluded (Netflix has started its beta testing, see here).   😦 There is a sort of solution to that problem, depending on how much you care about instant view, and if you don’t want to spend a grand or so on a PC you’d only use for media playing.

Introducing: The Roku Netflix Player

netflix02This nifty little gadget lists at $99 ($110 with cheapest shipping) from Roku.com. You don’t have to pay any extra monthly fees–aside from your account–the $99 is it, like buying a DVD player. It has multiple hookup options for your TV (including HDMI!!) and while Netflix doesn’t have HD standard stuff yet, when it does the Roku player is ready for it. It hooks up to the internet wirelessly or by ethernet, comes with a simple remote and can take care of your Netflix-hates-Macs blues (which is actually more like Apple-hates-Netflix, since it’s Apple holding up the delivery. BTW, I have a Mac, so I understand the frustration).

So why didn’t you run out to the site and pick one up already? Believe me, the day I knew it existed, I had my credit card in hand ready to go. But since I have access to a PC in my apartment and at work, I paused.

Let me tell you why you may want to do the same: 1) While the player is cheap, its features are at best limited. The remote is simplistic and according to what I’ve read, fast forwarding has regressed to VHS style. 2) You can only browse movies in your queue. In other words, if you’re interested in watching a movie that’s not in your queue, you’ll have to add it first to watch it. 3) Netflix has encouraged/given plans/comissioned other companies to make their instant viewing available. This includes a blu-ray player in the near future (end of 2008).

It is the first and probably will be the cheapest device you can buy, but I’m waiting for better options since I have access. You may or may not want to.

**UPDATE**

There are more devices available to you Instaview fans out there.  According to Netflix you’ve got the following additional options:

1)  LG BD300 Network Blu-ray Player $349 MSRP

2) Samsung BD-P2500/BD-P2550 $399 MSRP

3) TiVo HD DVR $299 MSRP

4) Xbox 360 $199 MSRP

The Roku player remains the cheapest, but I’m still hoping the addition of the XBox might mean Wii support in the future, and I don’t see why not PS3 support as well.  At least if you have a PC/Mac you can do it that way.

If I didn’t say it enough, I love Netflix, and I’ve saved quite a lot of money watching first and not having to try and find or buy copies elsewhere. If you haven’t tried it, do it. You get two weeks free your during a first time trial and hey! Who doesn’t love seeing a big red envelope waiting for them in the mailbox or instant visual crack online? 😉

The verdict:

Netflix: A
Netflix Instant View: B+
Roku Player: B-
Additional Player Options: B