Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Blockbuster, Ramblings and the Blu-Ray Dossier

This particular Blu-Ray Dossier marks a milestone for this ole article here at Chicken Scratch. You see, Gentle Reader, in order to write about movies on Blu-ray one must either purchase them or rent them. The lion’s share of the movies on Blu-ray here that I’ve reviewed I have rented from Blockbuster; the corporate Juggernaut that rolled over all of the “ma & pa” video rental places during the last decade and made them vanish into the sepia images of memory. The corporation grew and grew and blotted out the sun from the other small businesses that peddled the film industries wares. They’re all extinct now. They fell victim to the future; they could not compete with the idea that one store could have so many copies of the movies that people wanted to see. Our hunger for instant gratification only fueled “ma & pa’s” demise. Why should we wait to see the movie we want to see when we can just go to Blockbuster and they’ll have a copy? Hey, I want to “go home happy”.

Where was I? …Oh yes, this blog marks the end of my / our Blockbuster exclusivity. Tonight we canceled our Blockbuster plan.

During the last three years we have rented 225 movies on DVD & Blu-ray; that’s on average 75 movies a year. We had the deal where you could receive up to three movies in the mail, swap ‘em at the local Blockbuster and get two coupons for ‘free’ movies a month. All this brought our total to $21.19 a month. Now let’s see here… that comes out to a total of $762.84 that we have spent to date – that’s about $3.39 per movie. Not too shabby in the long run and we have been running with them a long while. We stayed with Blockbuster not only because they were the only game in town (‘in town’ not via Netflix or cable) but because of a handful of true & dedicated movie fans who used to work there. These guys were Great – with a capitol G. They were not just ‘managers’ they were Movie Geeks and something that Blockbuster truly needed; a human face that actually gave two shakes of a Raisinets Box about film. They cared about movies and story and they bent over backwards for their customers and for their staff. These gentlemen are no longer there and now that the human factor is gone, so am I.

Not to sound too melodramatic but now it is Blockbuster’s turn on the endangered list. You see our hunger for instant gratification is fueling Blockbuster’s demise; and make no mistake; ‘demise’ is the right word. Why should we waste all that time to go to a brick and mortar Blockbuster when we can ‘rent’ a movie cheaper from Comcast or Netflix (which is MUCH cheaper than Comcast) and not even have to be concerned about returning it in the next day or two? Come to think of it with Netflix you can watch the movies / TV shows you want to watch wherever you wish be it in your living room you’re your laptop or on your smart phone. Some TV’s come with wireless connections just for downloading movies from Netflix these days. Do you have a Nintendo Wii or a Xbox 360? Yeah, you can download Netflix movies from these game systems too. Then there is Red Box. Red Box machines have popped up everywhere. You can rent a DVD for $1.00. “What about Blu-ray?” you may ask. Well, for $1.50 you can rent a Blu-ray from a Red Box. You can also return it to ANY Red Box kiosk. Blockbuster can not compete with that; nor can they compete with the future – downloadable content. Blockbuster has been trying to rearrange the furniture on the first class deck of the Titanic but no matter how neat & orderly the deck looks the ship is still sinking. It is hard to fight an idea whose time has come.

Let’s gaze into my crystal ball… into the future. What will it look like? DLC is the future. Downloadable Content for the distribution of media (movies, music, video games, information) will be the business standard in the coming years. And no matter how much I love my Blu-ray movies they too will give way to DLC in 1080p. No matter how much I may love my Xbox 360, my Sony PSIII, or even my Nintendo Wii video games there will simply be no reason why I will have to own a physical disk anymore. Blockbuster is hemorrhaging now, when the next – next generation game consoles hit Gamestop (a store that specializes in used video games) will fall as well. It’s the way of things and it is hard to fight against the future. I’m sure that there will be some sort of occasional effort from companies to have “Special Editions” of movies and games that are packaged with cool doodads, souvenirs, toys and statues but when you sit down to watch that movie or play that game you’ll enter a code from a card or you’ll simply click a button on a remote. It will be a world without discs. Theoretically, this should drive prices down since you will no longer have a physical Blu-ray or video game to take up space on your shelf but the price of this future is something that is still cloudy from the vision from my crystal ball.

Here’s to the hunger of instant gratification; the engine of society’s progress!

Now that I’ve said that and in that vein… I can move forward to actually reviewing some Blu-rays. At the Blu-Ray Dossier I review Blu-ray movies on a 5 star (5 is the best), two tiered system; the first rating is for the story and the second is for the jaw dropping Blu-ray quality. Here’s what I’ve been watching…

Despicable Me, 3 Stars / 4 Stars. I did not go into this one with high expectations but I was pleasantly surprised. The animation glistens and gleams in 1080p. The story is about a man who happens to be an evil genius who, through a series of misadventures becomes a dad. Good for the family. Go rent if for ‘em.

Knight & Day, 2.5 Stars / 3 Stars. A romantic comedy with explosions. I liked it and it is worth the rental. Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz are the couple and they are fun to watch. Pop some popcorn; you’ll have a good time and YES this can be considered a “Date Movie”.

The A-Team, 3 Stars / 3 Stars. This is another one I was pleasantly surprised by. I LOVED watching original A-Team back in the day. This oozes nostalgia and seeing these characters in action again just had me grinning the whole picture through. There’s a bit of a breakdown in act III but it still delivers. If memory serves the movie didn’t break bank at the box office; still this is one franchise that I would love to see continue. Rent it, you’ll have a good time.

Resident Evil: Afterlife, 2.5 Stars / 3 Stars. The Resident Evil movies have always been loosely based on Sony’s Resident Evil video game franchise and this one is no different. It was originally released in 3D and shot with real 3D cameras instead of that horrid 2D to 3D process that some companies strain their new releases through. One thing I’ve noticed after 4 movies thus far, Paul W. S. Anderson is having a good time playing in the playground that he has created and I’ve got to give him kudos for that. He has written and directed each of the movies and they have been successful enough for Sony to keep asking him back. What can I say, I was entertained. Lots of ‘splosions and Anderson sets it up for part 5 which I will probably rent as well.

Grown Ups, 3 Stars / 3 Stars. A lot of reviewers have given this film a lot of flack and not all of it is deserved. I’ve heard, “It’s too crude” or “It’s not good for children!” Well that may be the case and it may not be for everyone but I’ll say this, it’s one of the most accurate portrayals of a group of men of a certain age that I’ve seen in a long time. Men are boys whose toys are more expensive; you may deny it but you know deep down that it rings true. Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, Rob Schneider and David Spade play the adult versions of their younger selves and I, for one, enjoyed the heck out of it. Rent it but beware you may see yourself in this film; if you don’t or worse, you can’t; then you have my pity.

So there it is.

I wonder what I should call this article once Blu-ray discs become obsolete? I’ll have to ponder that one.

Until next time, Gentle Reader, I’ll see you at the Red Box.