Tag Archives: Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime Deals

24 Apr

Today only (4/24) rent “What’s Your Number?” for $.99.

A woman looks back at the past twenty men she’s had relationships with in her life and wonders if one of them might be her one true love.
 

  • Starring: Anna Faris, Chris Evans
  • Directed by: Mark Mylod
  • Runtime: 1 hour 47 minutes
  • Release year: 2011
  • Studio: Fox
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Rating the streaming services

30 Mar

Consumers are faced with a growing number of technological conundrums: Mac vs. Pc, Kindle Fire vs. iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy Nexus vs. Droid Razr, just to name a few. One of the recurring dilemmas in the new tech-age is how to best watch movies and television shows. As standard cable packages become obsolete, users have turned to online streaming to access everything from classic films to last-night’s episode of Gossip Girl. If you’re in the market for a new online streaming package, what is the best deal for you?

Amazon Prime ($79 per year)

Amazon Prime offers access to over 10,000 instant videos, including NBC and CBS television shows. The service is $79 for one year of access. Amazon’s Instant Video services also allow users to rent individual films or episodes of television shows, which extends users’ access to over 90,000 films.

Selection: Amazon Prime offers over 10,000 instant videos, including popular TV shows such as Lost, Arrested Development, 24, the Tudors and Grey’s Anatomy and hot movies, like Ip Man, Notting Hill, The Shawshank Redemption, among others.

Price: The service costs $79 per year. If you use Amazon to purchase gifts and books, the service will be especially useful because a Prime subscription comes with unlimited free two-day shipping with no minimum size order and, for Kindle users, a Kindle book to borrow free each month from the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. While Amazon Prime only offers a year-long subscription, for comparison’s sake, a month of Prime would cost users approximately $6.59, which is the cheapest of all the packages we have reviewed.

User Friendly: The Amazon store has a lot to offer, but Prime’s selection of television shows and film is difficult to navigate. It is easy to confuse which films are eligible with a Prime membership and which films will require you to pay extra to rent or buy them.

Our Verdict: While Amazon Prime is one of the cheaper options available, compared to Hulu+ and Netflix the selection leaves much to be desired. You might be better off spending a little more for a wider selection of videos.

Netflix ($8 per month)

Netflix is one of the few services that offers both an online video collection set for streaming and a wider collection of films and TV shows that can be ordered by DVD. While Netflix has been widely popular since it first debuted, price increases over the summer lead many consumers to switch companies. For the instant video option, Netflix costs $8 a month and gives access to an enormous selection of TV and film options.

Selection: Netflix has a large and promising selection of television shows and movies for users to watch instantly. Popular television shows, like How I Met Your Mother, Futurama, Mad Men and Gossip Girl can be streamed within seconds on your computer, Television, Kindle Fire or tablet computer. The service also gives access to thousands of popular films, like Iron Man, Shutter Island, The Fighter, Elizabeth and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. For an additional fee, you can subscribe to have one DVD at a time sent to your home, which will allow you to gain even further access to Netflix’s enormous selection of films, television shows and documentaries.

Price: Netflix has different packages depending on your interests. For $7.99 per month, users can access unlimited movies and television shows instantly on your computer or television. There are no commercials and you can watch any film or episode as many times as you would like. Netflix offers a one-month free trial so you can get a taste of what films, television shows and other offerings an “instant” subscription will give you. For $15.98 per month, users can access unlimited material streaming online and get one DVD shipped to their home at a time.

User Friendly: Netflix’s store is incredibly easy and accessible. After signing onto the site, Netflix distinguishes clearly between videos you can watch instantly and those you will need to order on DVD. You can rate videos for future recommendations and the store will also offer you suggestions based on your past viewing patterns. You can keep track of the videos you have already seen and also keep track of videos you would like to see in the future.

Our Verdict: Netflix is accessible, easy to use and offers one of the largest selections of instant online streaming. While a subscription might be pricier than other alternatives, you will find yourself impressed by Netflix’s growing online collection.

Hulu Plus  ($7.99 per month)

Hulu Plus costs the same as a Netflix instant subscription, but offers both classic movies and television shows as well as the most recent episodes and seasons of your favorite shows.

Selection: Hulu offers a number of shows for free, but the Plus service offers a much wider selection with over 43,000 TV episodes from more than 1,650 current and classic television shows. Hulu Plus also offers over 2,500 films including exclusives from the Criterion Collection. Hulu Plus’ television selection includes: The Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girl, Nikita, America’s Next Top Model, 90210, Ringer, Hart of Dixie, Family Guy, Saturday Night Live, The Office, Parks & Recreations, South Park, New Girl, Modern Family, The Daily Show, Desperate Housewives, Glee, Bones, and many more.

Price: Hulu Plus costs $7.99 per month, which is approximately $96 per year. The service offers a one-week free trial.

User Friendly: Hulu Plus is streamlined and very easy for users to navigate. Unlike Netflix, however, Hulu Plus is ad-supported to keep the cost of a subscription down and users might find the commercial interruptions bothersome.

Our Verdict: If you’re a die-hard television fan, Hulu Plus is the best option for you. The service offers access to the most popular shows with new episodes uploaded the day after the show airs on television.

Vudu ($1 to $5.99 per video)

Vudu.com is a new video-streaming service offered by Wal-Mart Stores. Unlike Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu Plus, Vudu is pay-per-view and does not offer a subscription package. Users can stream films directly to their PlayStation 2, Blu-ray Player, HDTV, Computer or tablet.

Selection: Vudu offers a wide range of popular films and television shows. While TV options are not as good as Hulu Plus, the movie selection is impressive. The company claims to offer new releases the same day they come out on DVD, which is significant as Netflix sometimes takes weeks before offering a DVD and months before offering an instant option for a new film.

Price: Some might find Vudu’s pay-per-view option relaxing, while heavy movie goers will find that costs quickly add up. While users can watch unlimited material on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus, five or six videos will quickly add up to $20, more than any of the other packages cost per month.

User Friendly: Vudu is not as clean looking as its older alternatives, Netflix and Hulu Plus, but it is more streamlined than Amazon Prime. Users can easily navigate between collections of films and TV shows. Vudu also clearly indicates new releases and popular films. Each video is rated with stars, so users can quickly see whether a show or film has been popularly received.

Our Verdict: For those looking to watch under five movies a month, Vudu is for you. The on-demand option will be more cost-efficient than a subscription and you will have wider access to movies and TV shows.

Round-Up

Penny Pinchers: Amazon Prime is the cheapest subscription though it offers a smaller selection of films and TV shows. The added bonuses of free two-day shipping and a free book from the Kindle lender’s library makes Amazon Prime the cheapest option.

TV Fanatics: Hulu Plus offers the widest selection of current television shows and offers full seasons of current and classic shows. For those looking to keep up and catch up with current and classic episodes, Hulu Plus will be your best best.

DVD Desired: For those looking for the widest selection of films and TV shows, but don’t mind paying a bit more, Netflix’s package including unlimited online streaming and one DVD will give you everything you want and more.

Occasionally Viewers: Vudu is the best deal for those looking to occasionally stream a movie or TV show, but who do not want the cost and commitment of a subscription. Vudu allows you to pay for what you want and the selection will not disappoint you on a Friday night.

 

The 25 best independent films on Amazon Prime

30 Mar

1. Mysterious Skin. Gregg Araki’s adaptation of Scott Heim’s book stars Brady Corbet and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as teenagers who have found different ways of coping with childhood abuse by their Little League coach. Wrote Peter Bowen in Filmmaker, “To avoid the sensationalistic and cloying aesthetic that marks films of abuse, Araki worked with d.p. Steve Gainer and production designer Devorah Herbert to create a mysterious candy-colored view of childhood, a world that is at times dark and scary and at others magical and filled with wonderment. Ironically, Araki, in moving past the punk adolescents of his earlier films to this drama of childhood, has created his most mature film to date.”

2. Helvetica. What’s in a font? In Gary Hustwit’s Helvetica, the mid-20th century typeface is a postmodern every-symbol, inflecting an aura of cool modernity on everything from artist works to corporate messaging.

3. Half Nelson. Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden’s Half Nelson, starring Ryan Gosling, is one of the ‘aughts’ essential indies, a character-based drama that connects to the decade’s important political dialogues. Wrote Matthew Ross in Filmmaker, “Half Nelson is a withering indictment of life in Bush’s America (never have the ’60s seemed such a distant memory) as well as a sensitive character study of a troubled soul at war with himself.”

4. Jesus Camp. Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing directed this complex documentary about an Evangelical children’s camp. Wrote Annie Nocenti in Filmmaker, “Beautifully shot and edited, at times unintentionally funny, Jesus Camp is ultimately as chilling as a horror film. One mom points out, ‘There are only two kinds of people in the world. Those that love Jesus, and those that don’t.’ Or, as one child puts it, ‘Whenever I am around non-Christians it makes my spirit feel yucky.’”

5. Old Boy. Park Chan-Wook became an international superstar with this wildly inventive tale of revenge, obsession and, unexpectedly, romance. Wrote Nick Twemlow in Filmmaker, “Though Dae-su and his captor, Lee Woo-jin (Yu Ji-tae), are nominally the film’s main characters, Park’s complex narrative structure and bold stylistics, which mix intense bursts of violence, odd animation and hallucinatory flashbacks, steals the show. ‘Time is very important to this film,’ Park says. ‘Playing with non-linear time can be a cliché, but in Oldboy the characters are haunted by the issue of vengeance, which has hindered their emotional development. They are obsessed with something that happened years ago.’”

6. Me and You and Everyone We Know. A single dad, played by Winter’s Bone‘s John Hawkes, and an artist/Eldercare driver (writer/director Miranda July) are the idiosyncratic would-be romantics in artist July’s playful and wholly successful transition to long-form narrative.

7. No End in Sight. This is the essential documentary about the Bush administration in the Iraq War — perhaps because it concentrates less on combat operations and more on the aftermath of the war, crony capitalism, and the flawed decision making that has led to prolonged and violent civil conflict. Read my interview with director Charles Ferguson here.

8. A Good Day to Be Black and Sexy. Writer/director Dennis Dortch describes his film: “Black love and sexuality with European sensibilities told through six vignettes.” Wrote Filmmaker‘s Brandon Harris at his blog, “Mr. Dortch’s film is as earnest and consistently amusing about the sexual behavior of post millennial Los Angelenos, black or not, as any filmmaker has been in a long time. Full of jump cuts, naturalistic camera work, and situations never before glimpsed in narrative films, A Good Day To Be Black and Sexy exorcises the demons of Toms, Coons, Mammies and Bucks that honest black cinematic representation is constantly attempting to dislodge from the American psyche. Never salacious or mean spirited, the vignettes don’t shy away from the uncomfortable aspects of modern sexuality and maintain a healthy irreverence in their sexual politics.”

9. Hunger. Artist Steve McQueens’ debut feature about Irish hunger striker Bobby Sands is a flat-out masterpiece. Wrote Peter Bowen, “McQueen captures in painstaking detail the physicality of life within the prison walls (the stench, the maggots, the numbing cold), but the larger emotional hunger that fuels this tragedy remains purposefully enigmatic.” This is an emotionally grueling film, but I can’t recommend it highly enough.

10. Following. Before Inception, The Dark Knight, Memento… there was Following, Christopher Nolan’s debut feature. Another narratively nifty thriller, Nolan made the film for a tiny budget over the course of a year.

11. Humpday. Two straight guys decide to make a porn film together. Wrote Nick Dawson for Filmmaker, “Humpday is a true crowdpleaser, and certainly fulfills the rich comic potential of its outrageous premise, but it is more than simply an absurd tale of one-upmanship. Whereas the Apatow model for such movies might have settled for superficial laughs, Shelton delves deeper into the unease behind the laughs and dares to ask more serious questions about her characters’ lives and their motivations for pursuing this folly to its illogical conclusion. As on her previous films, Shelton uses an improvisational approach that blurs the line between the role of actor and writer, demonstrating a rare ability to elicit from her cast naturalistic performances within rich and interesting narratives.”

12. Afterschool. Nick Dawson from Filmmaker about Antonio Campos’s debut feature: “It tells the story of Rob (Ezra Miller), an introverted teenager at a prep school in upstate New York who witnesses the tragic death of two female classmates one day in a hallway at school. A frequent watcher of internet videos, Rob is a member of the school’s A.V. club and is asked to create a video tribute to the deceased girls, however his unconventional approach to the project causes problems. Afterschool is a dark and damning examination of the YouTube generation, with Campos presenting a socially withdrawn protagonist who is more emotionally engaged by the funny, violent or sexual videos he watches online than by real life. The film has a cold, stark quality reminiscent of Michael Haneke’s work and is remarkably assured, both stylistically and in its tackling of the themes of voyeurism and violence in a post-Columbine world. Indeed Afterschool is so accomplished and powerful a piece of filmmaking that it stands out not only among recent debut features, but also among all American films of the past few years.”

 

13. Paranoid Park. This recent film from Gus Van Sant is one of my favorites. When I interviewed Gus for the magazine, I wrote: “Based on the young-adult novel of the same name by Portland-based writer Blake Nelson, the film tells the story of Alex (Gabe Nevins), a quiet, gentle teen skateboarder who, after slipping away from home one night to visit the downtown Portland skate spot Paranoid Park, becomes involved with the accidental death of a security guard. Even without a police investigation adolescence is a turbulent time, and with a cool yet sensitive eye the film captures Alex’s jumbled and conflicting emotions as he grapples with guilt while shielding his feelings from his parents and friends, including his cheerleader girlfriend who has decided that she finally wants to sleep with him…. Paranoid Park belies the oft-stated and lazy screenwriter’s assumption that it’s near impossible to adapt a book that’s heavy into a character’s interior life without cluttering it up with more things that “happen” and which “can be seen.” Through its own exquisite and delicate rhythms and textures, Paranoid Park opens a door into a set of feelings, thoughts and reckonings that have rarely been captured so beautifully on film.”

14. Ellie Parker. For Naomi Watts, before Mulholland Drive and Fair Game, The Ring and We Don’t Live Here Anymore, there was Ellie Parker. A series of no-budget shorts by filmmaker Scott Coffey, Ellie Parker stars Watts as a struggling L.A. actress, an Aussie import hilariously navigating the city’s film and social scenes. Said Coffey when we selected him as a “25 New Face of 2001,” “”Modern identity is so fractured in L.A. that no one can really be themselves here. Ellie is one thing in therapy, one thing in auditions, another thing with her boyfriend. The only time she is truly herself is when she’s alone, in her car.” The feature version unites and extends the story and is a fantastic showcase for this great actress.

15. Nobody Knows. Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Nobody Knows is one of the best movies ever made about childhood. It’s based on the true story of three young children who survived in their house for 200 days after being abandoned by their mother.

16. Okie Noodling. This short doc examines the world of “noodling,” a form of catfish-fishing involving bare hands and fingers as bait. Wrote Hazel Dawn-Dumpert when we selected director Bradley Beesley to be one of our “25 New Faces of 2001, ” A true-blue chunk of Americana, Okie Noodling is at once a thorough document of noodling itself — its history, its contemporary manifestations — and a portrait of a group of men fiercely devoted to their hobby. It’s also a bit of a love story, as Beesley moves from a position of ironic detachment to fascination to out-and-out ardor (Beesley has himself become an avid noodler).”

17. Cavite. Wrote Jason Sanders when we selected directors Neil Dela Llana and Ian Gamazon for our “25 New Faces of 2005,” “[Cavite is an] ingenious cell-phone-centric thriller about a young Muslim Filipino American forced through the slums of Manila by a terrorist organization. Made with a crew of two and a cast of basically one, Cavite fashions its one-camera, one-actor motif into a surprisingly entertaining, highly unnerving action film as suspenseful as any blockbuster.”

18. Mutual Appreciation. It was director Andrew Bujalski’s soundman who, as legend has, coined the term “mumblecore,” and any chronicler of aughts indie cinema owes it to himself to revisit this early classic set in the world of indie rock clubs.

19. Murder Party. Jeremy Saulnier’s Murder Party was a big hit at SXSW a few years ago. It’s an After Hours-ish horror comedy about a lonely single guy who accepts an invite to a costume party only to find he’s the sacrificial object of a group of murderous conceptual artists. Both the gore and the production values are high in this anarchic low-budget picture.

20. Crush. In Alison Maclean’s cool, complex debut feature, Crush, Marcia Gay Harden stars as a woman who, after causing the car crash that hospitalizes her literary critic friend, winds up infiltrating the life of her novelist subject and his teen daughter. The film was the cover of the third issue of Filmmaker.

21. Keane. Damian Lewis stars as a schizophrenic father trolling Port Authority for his lost daughter in Lodge Kerrigan’s riveting portrait of a man on the edge.

 

22. Great World of Sound. About one of the best indies of recent years, Nick Dawson wrote in Filmmaker,Great World of Sound focuses on a pair of hapless salesmen, straight-laced Martin (Pat Healy) and his streetsmart partner Clarence (Kene Holliday), who unwittingly find themselves working as “talent scouts” for Great World of Sound, a company that scams wannabe musicians out of their savings. A well-written and thought-provoking film, Great World of Sound is even more impressive given the technical demands of the shoot: Zobel shot all the audition material in a hidden camera set-up with real auditioners, placing extreme demands on both his crew and two leads in order to get the realism and immediacy he wanted.”

23. Choking Man. A delicate character study inflected with bits of magic realism, Choking Man was the winner of Filmmaker‘s Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You Gotham Award. Wrote Nick Dawson, “An inventive, understated New York indie, it tells the tale of Jorge (Octavio Gómez), an Ecuadorian dishwasher working in a diner in Jamaica, Queens, said to be the most cosmopolitan place in the world. Crippled by shyness, Jorge is almost incapable of communication and spends most of his time staring at the poster of the Heimlich maneuver that hangs above his work station, but sees hope of redemption in cheery Chinese waitress Amy (Eugenia Yuan) who owner Rick (Mandy Patinkin) has recently hired.”

24. Manito. Eric Eason’s debut feature Manito crackles with visual energy. Set in the Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights, it’s the story of two brothers and their estranged dad over one long and ultimately tragic weekend. Manito, which won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance, came out amidst the wave of Dogma ’95-inspired DV-shot indies, and it remains one of the best.

25. A Walk into the Sea. “25 New Face” filmmaker Esther Robinson’s uncle, Danny Williams, was a boyfriend of Andy Warhol and, with his Super 8 camera, chronicler of the Warhol’s Factory. Williams vanished one day and is presumed drowned, and Robinson’s doc is equal parts personal journey, art criticism and cultural archaeology. Appropriately, it’s a film that began when some of Williams’ films were found in an archive. Told Robinson to Nick Dawson, “When I saw Danny’s films, it’s impossible to describe… I love them, I love them like a person. They’re so singular, they really have this very specific cinema vision. His directorial sensibility is really idiosyncratic, and I was elated by it, and that immediate connection to the work meant that I needed to know what happened. I had to know what happened, and that became the fuel for making it. Movies are like that — they get you deep.”

Technology I’m using

28 Mar

Streaming Players

I already have a DVD player with streaming capability.  I am using it downstairs in my living room.

I am streaming in my bedroom thru the Roku LT – cost, $50 ( I used my Amazon Visa rewards points, so did not actually cost me anything).  The Roku is newer and is my preferred device – I just like the content options better.  It is amazing to me how small it is – not much bigger than my mobile phone.

CNET reviewed the Roku 5 days ago and here is their summary:

The Roku LT earned our Editors’ Choice Award for two major reasons: price and content. Roku’s $50 streaming box has a truly impressive lineup of content, including Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus, Pandora, HBO Go, MLB.TV, NHL GameCenter, Epix, Crackle, Picasa, Flicker, Mog, Rdio, TED Talks, Revision3, TWiT.TV, NASA, and CNET. You can see a full list on Roku’s site, and the company has been aggressive about continually adding more content sources. YouTube is strangely missing from that list.

All of the content sources are great, but the Roku LT also gets many of the little things right that competing products don’t. The user interface may be a little bland, but it’s simple and easy to navigate, plus you can customize the layout of the channels. The same goes for the remote, which keeps only the essential buttons. (Roku’s remote now includes direct-access buttons for Netflix, Pandora, and Crackle.) The separate Channel Store is also a great way to offer a ton of content from partners without cluttering the main home screen.

Roku also offers several pricier models, but we think the Roku LT is easily the best value. The core streaming functionality is what makes Roku great, so most buyers don’t need to pay extra for a Bluetooth remote, microSD card slot, or USB port.If your main goal is to stream video and music from a ton of high-quality content sources, there’s no better value than the Roku LT.

Roku LT interface

Subscriptions

I have a subscription to Hulu Plus (less than $9 a month) and to Amazon Prime ($79 per year; includes streaming TV/movies & some free ebooks; also provides free 2-day shipping on Amazon purchases).

Other equipment

I bought a HDTV indoor TV antenna – Terk HDTVa Indoor Amplified High-Definition Antenna for Off-Air HDTV Reception.  It’s $38.79 on Amazon (I used my Amazon Visa reward points for this too) and it ships free with 2-day delivery … another perk of the Amazon Prime membership.  It has received 1582 reviews and a 4-star rating.

It will allow me to view all local TV free.  To see what stations you should be able to get with the antenna in your area, go to http://transition.fcc.gov/mb/engineering/maps.