Times are tough. With financial resources dwindling by the minute, the movie-viewing public recoils in horror as Hollywood asks them to pay $39.99 for a film on Blu-ray disc. But there are ways to watch those flicks that are more economical. Just in time for cash-strapped film buffs to snap them up, increased bandwidth and processor power are making it practical to stream or download HD movies to living rooms and home theaters.
Sounds good, but there’s a catch. Those production studios are holding out on us. Look at the Netflix HD service on the Xbox 360, the super-sharp HDX movies on the Vudu set-top box, HD movies via Apple TV, and you see the same story every time: thousands of movies and nothing on.
The best movies aren’t available for download in HD. The studios are protecting their lucrative Blu-ray sales. Doesn’t this sound a lot like the record companies when they tried to stop the online digital music juggernaut just so they could keep selling CDs for $16.99?
Follow the Continue link for more.
Movie studios are throttling the online release of their best and newest titles, just at the same moment that broadband connections and PCs can handle HD streaming and downloads. We took a look at the best-selling Blu-ray discs on Amazon, and noticed that only one of the top 10 sellers is available on any download/streaming service in HD. That one movie is Iron Man, pretty much the studios’ poster child for online sales, holding it out and figuratively saying, “See, we’re offering good movies online.” No, you’re not. One new blockbuster overshadowing hundreds of third-tier flops (Get Smart, I’m looking at you) and moldy oldies does not an online library make.
Why Are They Doing This?
Content purveyors would like to protect their old business models. They want to keep that Blu-ray and DVD gravy train rolling. Some consumers are enabling this. For reasons I don’t really understand, a sizable portion of movie buffs want to collect discs to watch again and again, or to just see their boxes lined up on a shelf. For that, many are willing to pay upwards of $25.99 (or a crazy $39.99 retail price) for Iron Man or Hancock or Dark Knight or Wall-E on Blu-ray, because they can’t get those movies in HD quality any other way.
Or Can They?
A peek at one of the many torrent tracking sites shows that every movie that’s released on Blu-ray is available for illegal peer-to-peer (a.k.a. BitTorrent) download in pristine 1080p, sometimes weeks before the physical Blu-ray disc ships. And those copyright-infringing downloaders are not the worst problem for 2009, according to Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey. He says websites such as megavideo.com and watch-movies.net are an even bigger threat to movie studio revenue in the coming year.
Worn-out Business Models
It’s not just the movie studios that are trying to protect worn-out business models. TV networks are holding back full episodes of series for online viewing or download, protecting syndication revenues that garner billion-dollar profits. At the same time, heavy downloaders are being throttled by service providers such as Time Warner, struggling to conserve bandwidth while also protecting their own pay-per-view movie and pay-channel revenues.
Past is Prologue
Clinging to tired old business models … standing in the way of technology: Doesn’t this sound a lot like the record companies in the early part of this century? They tried to protect sales of their overpriced CDs while the world discovered the lubricated ease of downloading every song ever recorded. For free. Eight years later, record stores have almost disappeared from the landscape, and Americans download twice as many singles as they buy in CD form. Digital downloads of music just surpassed overall CD sales at Atlantic Records. Apple’s iTunes continues to sell music for $0.99 a song, an almost-reasonable price that’s helping record companies salvage some profit in this new way of doing things.
Downloads on the Upswing
Likewise, HD movie downloads will eventually surpass sales of Blu-ray discs. In the meantime, movie studios can’t foot-drag this technology just so they can continue supporting their traditional business model. They must make HD offerings plentiful and reasonably priced; the current fantasy of retailing movies at $40 will not fly. Downloads will happen either way — with studios receiving a fair profit, or left out in the cold while consumers find a free way to do the same thing.
With nary an explanation, most of the Sony-owned movies that were mysteriously pulled from Xbox’s Netflix Watch Instantly streaming service last week have been put back up again. Ghostbusters, the Karate Kid series and other Columbia Pictures luminaries can now be downloaded for watching. However, anything tagged with an “available through Starz Play” logo, such as Walk Hard or Bad Boys, are still absentia.
Video rental-by-mail company Netflix decided to do the only thing needed to make its “watch instantly” service perfect: stream the video in HD. First up is the Xbox 360, where the Netflix HD streaming service will begin in three weeks — November 19th. That coincides with the overhaul of the Xbox 360’s user interface, featuring cartoonish avatars and a revised menu system.
The sketchy details of the breakthrough upgrade put 300 HD streaming titles available on the Xbox 360 at the “soft launch,” but there was no word about their resolution or quality, which movies would be offered, pricing, or anything else.
We have to think (hope) that soon we’ll be enjoying Netflix HD streaming movies on the excellent Roku Netflix box (which is HD-ready), Samsung and LG Netflix-ready Blu-ray players, and the Netflix “watch instantly” service viewed through Internet Explorer.
Via Engadget HD
Wall-E might be the most sympathetic, lovable robot ever created on film. While R2-D2 was hilarious and endearing, he had the benefit of C3PO to translate for him and a cast of human characters to carry the weight of the story. At the end of the day, R2-D2 was simply comic relief, but his descendant, whose voice was also created by Ben Burtt, is so full of humanity that you feel like your heart might just burst. Simply put, Wall-E is a masterpiece.
The first 40 minutes or so of Wall-E are almost completely without dialogue. Instead, the story is told visually, as we see Wall-E, the abandoned garbage bot, puttering around a staggeringly rendered post-apocalyptic Earth. He goes around doing his job, as he has for the past 700 years, compacting trash into cubes and stacking them into immense towers. On the side, he collects remnants of humanity to keep for his own amusement. Zippo lighters, Rubik’s Cubes, Christmas lights: these are what Wall-E surrounds himself with. Because he’s so alone (except for a little cockroach), these dirty, abandoned objects are his companions, his contact with humanity.
He watches Hello, Dolly! on an iPod that he somehow hooked up to a VCR, emulating the dancing and learning about love. (That’s not the only Apple reference in the movie: he makes the classic Mac bootup sound when he turns on, and his love interest EVE was designed by Jonathan Ive). When you see Wall-E try to imitate the dancing using a hub cap he collected just for that purpose, you know that this is more than a piece of machinery. Proving Pixar’s raison d’etre, this little silent robot has more humanity in him than most movie characters played by actual humans.
Immediately, we realize this isn’t your typical kiddie cartoon. No pop culture jokes? No instantly-recognizable celebrity voices? A decimated, humanless landscape full of towers of garbage and decrepit buildings? A lonely robot trying to learn about love and humanity through centuries of its trash? This looks more like a beautiful, haunting sci-fi movie than a children’s movie, because that’s exactly what it is.
Wall-E features loving nods to everything from Brave New World to 2001 to Star Wars without ever feeling derivative. Instead, it builds on them, making what has the potential to be an almost relentlessly bleak world into one full of complete joy and levity. It always has that undercurrent of melancholy just under the surface, as we never really forget that humanity has utterly destroyed the planet and turned itself into a race of pudgy, helpless babies, but heart of the story is Wall-E and his longing for love.
And isn’t that the sign of great science fiction? While on the surface it’s a movie about robots and spaceships set centuries in the future, deep down it’s about humanity and its place on Earth and in the universe. It uses its out-of-this-world settings and characters as a lens to reflect our own world back at us, showing us both the beauty and the ugliness of our existence through the eyes of a guileless, trash-compacting robot.
In a movie season that’s overpopulated with tired superhero movies, remakes and sequels, it’s incredibly refreshing to see a movie that stands on its own as a completely new and unique creation. It’s safe to say you’ve never seen anything like Wall-E, and you might not see anything like it again. Go. Go see it as soon as you can.