How Netflix Could Improve

I'll have to give Caleb credit for this one. We were scrolling through the new Netflix streaming releases the other night. I've seldom seen such a collection of one- and two-star movies, especially in the 'Comedy' genre. Caleb's suggestion was simple: why isn't there a setting in Netflix that says 'Don't waste my time by suggesting movies to me that you think I'd rate below two stars'? Ta-Da! That'd vastly upgrade my Netflix experience, and they don't even have to us a million dollars. Heck, Caleb and I would probably settle for half that.

Amazon Prime Streaming Video Review

I have an Amazon Prime account, which costs $79 per year and gives free 2nd-day shipping. They gave it to me a year ago, and I renewed last month. I figure it pays for itself by my not adding another book to my order from my wishlist to get over the $25 threshold for free shipping. Anyway, this week Amazon turned on unlimited video streaming to all Amazon Prime members. This is what follows:

I configured my Roku box, which we usually view Netflix on, to do Amazon. Relatively painless configuration. The catalog's a bit thin, with 5,000 titles, as opposed to several times that many from Netflix. I watched some Charade and some Doctor Who. All went well. One can browse by Top Movies, Top TV, Recent Movies, Recent TV, Movie Genres, and TV Genres. For Sci-Fi, they had some season 1 Doctor Who (the REAL season 1: 1965) and a more recent favorite: Farscape. The streaming went well. There are some things Amazon needs to add to get closer to the Netflix experience, such as a queue of programs you're interested in that you can come back to watch later. A list of 'recently viewed' movies for those that you started watching but were interrupted before you finished watching.

All in all, a good start, but they need to add both titles and user experience elements before it's a serious Netflix contender.

3-D Followup: I'm not the only one

In followup to my previous ranting about 3-D movies looking like ViewMasters. Roger's Ebert's blog has a letter from an Oscar-winning film editor about why 3-D won't work. The argument boils down to parallax vs. focus. In 3-D movies our eyes have to aim near of far depending on the action, but all the while focusing on the screen at a fixed distance. Our brains don't work like that.

My Idea for the Zombie Apocalypse

I got the guys a stocking stuffer at Costco: a DVD set of 4 'classic sci-fi movies' for only $9.99: 2001, Forbidden Planet. The Time Machine and Soylent Green. Any collection that pairs 2001 with Soylent Green has such delectable lack of taste I had to buy it. Anyway, I was thinking the other day that my idea of the origin of the coming zombie apocalypse would be for there to be a food-processing contamination in the soylent green plant, which introduces a virus which lives in the wafers. Since *Spoiler Alert* 'Soylent Green is people', the virus would then infect everyone who ate a wafer from that lot. I think it could work, since the movie's already set in an extreme dystopian future.

A side note: IMDB has a listing that they're remaking Soylent Green for release next year, and remaking Forbidden Planet for 2013. Say it isn't so!!! After all, the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still was such a success. Gort! Neo Annihilate!

The Video Viewmaster

I was in my favorite store the other day and saw the new 3-D HDTVs on display. They had a DVD looping with all kinds of 3-D stuff on it: concert clips, etc. What struck me was the not-quite-3d experience. It looked to me like flat people standing out in front of a flat background. Then I remembered where I'd seen this effect before. Way back in my childhood, I loved to look at photos of far-off places with my ViewMaster. Yes, it's the same flat-foreground standing in 3-D in front of a flat background. So welcome to the world of the Video Viewmaster. So what do you think? Have you seen the demos? Is it worth the money?