15 Best Blurays in the age of Roku and NetFlix

The way I view streaming and on-demand and Roku and Netflix is very much as a great vehicle to try shows, and to find great shows and movies to love. But once you have found something that wows you, there is no substitute for owning that movie or tv show in the highest quality available; and for all the talk of HD quality picture, streaming and broadcast models, the highest consumer quality available is Bluray followed by DVD.

Streaming and Broadcast delivery methods inherently suffer from throttling, a bandwidth and cost-savings measure, that makes the quality at any given moment variable and uncertain; that adds another level of degradation and compression, onto an already compressed source. Add to the uncertain quality aspect the fact that the duration of these shows is likewise variable, shows and movies subject to disappearing as licensing deals demand, and owning your own physical copy of your favorite show or movie remains the best way to make sure you can view that show when and how you would like.

The above is why there remains no substitute for watching that first season of THE HUMAN TARGET in its reference quality Bluyray mastering, or METROPOLIS the Fritz Lang opus, or that first elegiac season of SPACE 1999 or any of the following. Without further ado I present you today’s 15 best Blu-rays in the age of streaming, Enjoy!

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Human Target: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray] – One of the most action packed and enjoyable tv shows, with some of the best fight choreography, looks jaw dropping stunning in this superb quality Blu-ray

Space: 1999: The Complete Season One [Blu-ray]

Metropolis (Masters of Cinema Series) [Dual Format Limited Edition SteelBook] – One of the greatest films of all time, and one of the greatest Blu-rays

Keoni Waxman’s MAXIMUM CONVICTION Netflix Movie Review

The first 30 minutes of MAXIMUM CONVICTION, another Keoni Waxman Steven Seagal vehicle, are interminable. As a rule I give a movie 20 minutes, if a filmmaker doesn’t care enough, or is incapable of making the first 20 minutes of his movie interesting, then I don’t care enough to finish the movie.

MAXIMUM CONVICTION falls into this category, which makes me actually finishing it, more happenstance than quality. After I had written it off, and was about to remove it from my Netflix rotation, some quirk, on a slow movie morning, spurred me to fast forward it past that boring first half hour, and doing so I found myself in a decent, engaging film.

Michael Pare is always a solid screen presence, and the other actors sell their various roles. And the procedural aspects, the detail paid to how soldiers move and soldier in the 21st century, also make this film better than its initial 30 minutes would lead you to believe. This story of an attempt by trained forces to extract a prisoner from a blackops prison, becomes by the end, a journey worth taking. Grade: Fast Forward the first 30 minutes and it is worth a watch.

Netflix Movie of the Day : FORCE OF EXECUTION

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Keoni Waxman’s latest Steven Seagal vehicle, FORCE OF EXECUTION is an odd duck.

It suffers from confusing, even muddy story telling, but despite that there is an uncomfortable but riveting modern gangster story being told. With an awkward unnerving schizophrenic melange of violence, martial arts, gun-play, sexuality, histrionics, and even a bit of humor, and sporting surprisingly solid performances; the film transcends its initial shortcomings to be an enjoyable and entertaining and purchase worthy film.

Joining the short (but growing) list of films I saw free on NetFlix, and thought enough of to own in a quality DVD or Bluray format.

FORCE OF EXECUTION is a film you will return to. Grade: B. Purchase your copy Here!

Movie Review : Kevin Smith’s RED STATE

Today’s FAVORITE Direct on Demand Movie!

RED STATE – Who would believe that the director who brought us the justifiably derided COP OUT could make something as surprisingly masterful and powerful and thought provoking and challenging as RED STATE. The premise of high-school kids and internet sex and cults, seemingly sounds like expoitation in all the cringeworthy ways or sophomoric humor ways that most of us would choose to avoid. The Kevin Smith slacker humor/films… not my cup of tea.

However the hope of RED STATE being Kevin Smith trying something a bit different and darker inticed me to give this film a try. Glad I did. From an easy beginning it goes to places that are surprisingly and jaw droppingly harrowing and inexplicable.

It is not a highschool, or slacker, or juvenile film. It is primarily a film about messed up adults, faith, anger, and the places dire and dark that belief in our own rightousness, can take us. The dialog and performances, the writing and direction, the feast and the famine… marks this film as something… new under the sun.

It is a fantastic film all the way to that great ending. Grade : Excellent. Not just a must watch, a must own. Highly Recommended!

Roku On-Demand Watching Guide NETFLIX Edition

This Week’s (Sunday 19 Jan 2014 to Saturday 25 Jan 2014) On-Demand Recommended watching Guide for NetFlix!

You’ll need ideally a Roku device Roku 3 Streaming Media Player
and a Netflix account: NETFLIX

For the young and young at heart I recommend the following cartoons:

DEXTER’S LABORATORY
BATMAN THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD
THE SUPERHERO SQUAD

For the action fans:

ip_man_ver3_xlgIP MAN (all three movies are available, I’ve seen the first two so far and they are great. Director Wilson Yip and star Donnie Yen crafting a dramatic biopic anchored with brutal and impressive martial arts scenes. That one man could have lived such an influential and pivotal life is truly inspiring)

SOLOMON KANE – this disappeared out of the theaters quickly, but once you get past the weak opening, it is an enjoyable fantasy, action film, led by the always solid James Purefoy.

arrow_ver11 arrow_ver7 arrow_ver10ARROW- probably my favorite television show discovery in a while, nearly every episode of the ARROW has been outstanding (I tend to like my heroes, to not be killers, so the later episodes, are getting a bit bloody and hypocritical for my liking. I’m starting to root for anyone except the titular hero. The series creators will need to watch that) .

Who knew the CW could make a show I actually like. The first season is on NetFlix, and sports fun stories, a strong lead, and perhaps a particular selling point for me, a large and diverse cast with multiple actors and actresses of color. I personally just can’t be bothered with shows that sport no characters of color or only the one token character of color. ARROW is a well acted, directed, and written show and provides lots of diverse actors in non-stereotypical roles. It’s a gem in a sea of sameness. Loving that first season enough to pick up the Bluray.

For the SciFi and Horror Fans out there I recommend:

EUROPA REPORT, THE FRANKENSTEIN THEORY and TROLL HUNTER are all three, enjoyable examples of the found footage film.
RIPPER STREET
THE WALKING DEAD – I’m not a Darabont fan, typically because he doesn’t have a subtle bone in his body, and his usage of characters of color shows a pattern of being unflattering at best. I understand the Walking Dead TV show is going to be a different animal from the Walking Dead book, that said changes when they happen should improve upon the source material, not diminish it. And I feel the first few episodes of THE WALKING DEAD unnecessarily takes a dumbed down approach, to very innovative material.

On the Drama/Thriller side I recommend:

hummingbird_ver7_xlrgREDEMPTION (aka by the less intriguing title HUMMINGBIRD)- starring Jason Statham, is a surprisingly well acted film from the typically taciturn action star. Along with SAFE and THE EXPENDABLES it is one of his best films.

LIE TO ME- Based on an Israeli TV show, this is one of the few police procedurals I enjoy.  Incredibly engrossing and informative.

BURN NOTICE- is another enjoyable series. I like to describe it as, Macgyver if it was good. :).

For the gastronomically inclined among you I recommend:

MARCEL’S QUANTUM KITCHEN
KITCHEN NIGHTMARES US Version

Those are the ones to seek out, some to avoid on Netflix are:

KILL ‘EM ALL
TACTICAL FORCE- interesting cast, but the directing, writing is subpar
THE FROZEN – couple stranded in the cold and hunted, sounds like an intriguing premise. But is a recipe for boredom in this film.
THE INNKEEPERS- I was and am a huge fan of Ti West’s HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, so was very much looking forward to watching THE INNKEEPERS, but unfortunately while it sports the wonderful Ti West use of Framing and Camera angles, the movie has no real substance or interest. The writing, plot is a major failing, with dumb and annoying characters choosing to do dumb things which immediately takes me out of a movie. Plus the scare scenes are poorly done and edited, the movie lacks any real power, and end of day is both predictable and empty. Rating is: Avoid.

As far as the ones to own:

Arrow: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray]

Ip Man [Blu-ray]

Favorite Films discovered on Streaming On-Demand in 2013!

Favorite Films discovered on Streaming On-Demand in 2013!

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2013′s most interesting films for me weren’t found in the theater, or backed by major studios. They were small, even intimate, Independent films found courtesy of the new distribution opportunities that venues such as Amazon Prime and Netflix have opened up.

HALO 4 FORWARD ONTO DAWN, BOY WONDER, ANOTHER ZERO IN THE SYSTEM, and HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN are films seen in 2013, that here in 2014 still stand tall as memorable and commanding viewing experiences. The last three being some of the most haunting examples of existential angst meets neo noir meets anti-hero you are likely to find. And HALO 4 FORWARD ONTO DAWN on a shoestring budget, creates a scifi epic with more heart and style than any ten STARSHIP TROOPERS.

These are films so good that having seen them for free courtesy of streaming, I had to purchase them on DVD/Blu-Ray. After viewing them you may agree. You can price them at the links below.

Boy Wonder

Another Zero in the System

Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn [Blu-ray]

House of the Rising Sun

Movies on my to Rent and/or to Purchase List!

Movies on my to Rent and/or to Purchase List!

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On FCC vs Comcast vs AT&T vs TimeWarner vs NetFlix vs Hulu vs DVD vs Bluray!

I’m someone who is not enamored of the godawful mess the FCC has made of the airwaves.

By this I refer to the FCC basically giving away the Analog spectrum, previously allocated to the people, to big business and government interests, and saddling the American people with a shoddy and crippled digital delivery method, that necessitates paying a cable provider if you want anything approaching viewable service.

And even then you are still not guaranteed against occasional picture dropouts or pixelation, as the provider continually adjusts bandwidth to maximize profit.

Yes, most people had cable prior to the forced digital switch-over (land-grab), but not all. Some of us were content with our rabbit ears.

Now, post the forced digital march to our new digital reservations, try and look at TV without a cable provider and just using your digital converter. Go ahead… try. I’ll wait.

Hum,,,, hummmm.

See? Atrocious isn’t it? It is a national embarrassment.

If I stop in, anywhere where they have TV without cable (homes, auto shops, waiting rooms, you name it) and you look at what has become of ‘free’ tv, in the wake of this governmental stickup… it makes me… angry.

Really, really not happy.

As I said, I didn’t have cable before the FCC sold America’s airwaves to the highest bidder, and I don’t have cable now. And no I don’t do Hulu, or online viewing of mainstream shows, because that’s poised to be as big a rip-off as the cable companies.

Because just as it’s nonsense, that you are getting DVD (much less HDTV) quality service with the cable companies, it is even more of a fallacy with the online providers. Because those companies are not trying to offer you the 4GB of Data that constitutes a DVD, or 10+GB of Data that constitutes the bandwidth for a Bluray disc, they particularly are not trying to offer this bandwidth per program/per customer. You are talking easily hundreds, if not thousands, of GBs of Data per month, per customer, if they were trying to offer you real disc quality (DVD/HDTV) programs.

In an age when broadcast providers are trying to limit service past 5GB a month?

Heck no.

They are cutting costs, which means cutting bandwidth, which means they have to compress whatever programs they send you well below the levels you’ll find on the physical media. Which is why even with HDTV, the quality varies wildly, not just from channel to channel, or program to program, but from moment to moment as the bitrate is adjusted on the fly, and that bandwidth steals from Peter to pay Paul.

And worse comes to worse, you even get drop outs, which is horrible on ‘free’ digital, but is inexcusable when you’re paying for the service.

So watching anything on cable… is a crapshoot at best.

And online, be it Hulu, Netflix, whatever is the same. And with the few major broadband providers all talking about capping traffic/bandwidth limits, it’s only going to get worse, particularly as the number of users increase.

So sure, watch your movie or television series via cable or online if that’s your cup of tea, and you’re not bothered by paying for spotty and sporadic quality.

It bothers me though.

DVD and HDTV/Bluray being a bastardization of film, is a compromise which I can live with. But online and cable, by the time they reach the end user, is like stated, variable and unreliable, numerous compression and toggling tricks imposed to the point it becomes something I refuse to pay for.

That and not being a TV guy to begin with, for years I’ve just done DVDs, and recently Blurays.

But that said, I’m not a fan of Blurays.

I find Blurays , which I find quality-wise to be a very minor improvement over a well mastered DVD (examples being ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and CLIMATES), to be not worth paying more for.

The only reason I pick up a Bluray over a DVD, is if they are the same price, AND the Bluray offers more features (recent examples being WATCHMEN DIRECTOR’S CUT [this is the version to go with, not the Ultimate cut], Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS dual format limited edition steelbook, and SPIRITS OF THE DEAD… all three on most reviewers 2010 Best Bluray list).

Don’t get me wrong. Bluray is an improvement, mostly in clarity over DVD, but it is a minor jump, compared to the major leap in quality from VHS to DVD.

It’s just not big enough of a difference, for me to really get excited about or pay more for. But I acknowledge it’s an improvement.

Now, what is not a Bluray improvement over DVD, and something I really hate about Blurays, is the slip-shod packing.

Even the so-called high-end SteelBook cases for Blurays, to put not to fine a point on it, are garbage; such as the aforementioned METROPOLIS Steelbook.

And regular Bluray packaging is even worse. It’s a shoddy, inconsistent form factor, with garish ugly colors (yes, I know you call yourself Bluray, but take it from me… lose the garish blue color on the packing ), and cheap, damage prone slipcovers/materials (SPIRITS OF THE DEAD anyone?), and pithy non-existent back cover description.

Package wise it lacks the aesthetic strengths, elegance and simplicity, and to an extent beauty of the 13+ year old medium of the DVD (the year 1998 generally regarded as DVDs wide-release on the world stage).

And by the time that is ready to change, we (the whole entertainment/electronic market) will be onto our next media storage format. So yeah, I generally say no to cable, and will be sticking with DVDs to catch up on tv shows people are recommending.

And as far as Blurays, as it currently stands I don’t see them making up more than 1% of my DVD purchases, anytime soon. They need to be at least the same price as a DVD, and offer more features, otherwise I’ll stick to the DVD, a tested and versatile medium, that doesn’t suffer from idiocies such as zone lockdowns, and “so-called” digital copies(nothing more than a way to erode fair use, and get you to install nothing more than a glorified rootkit virus on your computer).

Did I mention I dislike Blurays? :).

But on a serious note, make technology yours. Use it and don’t let it… own you.

Here endeth the rant. :).