5 Great Blu-ray Deals

Kingdom

Kingdom of Heaven

I recently wrote about how to find the best blu-ray deals and build a great collection. Here are a few movies that are currently at ridiculously low prices that should be in everyone’s collection:

  1. Dark City: $4.99
  2. Zodiac: $4.99
  3. Kingdom of Heaven: $5
  4. The Princess Bride: $5
  5. La Femme Nikita: $6.49

How To Build An Awesome Blu-Ray Collection

aliens

I’m a film geek. I love movies of all eras and all genres. This doesn’t mean I love all movies, of course. For me, a movie has to try to do something interesting or offer something unique, regardless of its subject.

“It’s not what a movie is about, it’s how it is about it.”
-Roger Ebert

Let’s face it, there are a lot of bad movies out there, most of them clogging up the streaming services. If you want to watch a high-quality presentation of the true classics of cinema, good luck. Hulu has the Criterion collection, which is a treasure trove of foreign films and influential, if obscure, art films but otherwise you’re probably out of luck.

The other two major streaming services, Amazon and Netflix, are pretty tough on major movies. The big blockbuster movies are by and large missing from streaming services, unless you rent them from Amazon. For instance, Jaws, Alien, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Jurassic Park, The Matrix and other iconic films are not available for subscription streaming. These are movies that are absolutely made for repeat viewing on a nice home system.

Why Buy Blu-Ray? 

  1. It’s cheap. The price of blu-ray movies is astonishingly cheap today. I’ve been building out my collection for $5-7 per movie, sometimes even less. Most of the time, you can buy a pristine blu-ray presentation cheaper than you can rent the movie even one time.
  2. Extra features. Blu-ray movies usually come with a wealth of extra features, including director commentaries, deleted scenes, documentaries, and more.
  3. Amazing picture quality. I’ve been amazed to find a huge difference between the quality of dvd and blu-ray. I used to marvel at the picture quality of dvd on an old box tv. Now I sometimes find the dvd quality unwatchable in comparison. This is truly the golden age for home movie watching.

A few tips for building your blu-ray collection: 

  1. Know what you want.
    1. Have a wishlist of movies that you know you want to collect. It’s much easier to spend hard-earned money on a movie that you know you want and will watch repeatedly then just randomly picking movies off the shelf. Your collection in general will also be much higher quality and fun for you personally to own if you curate it carefully.
    2. At the same time, always keep an eye out for deals that are too good to pass up. It’s much easier to take a chance on a movie that’s $5 than one that’s $25.
  2.  Know the price of movies you want.
    1. Check the price history graph at bluray.com so you can see the movie’s most frequent price.
    2. Blu-ray movies go on sale often, usually for no apparent reason. If you know what a good price is, you can maximize your movie collecting dollar.
    3. If it’s a deal, buy it.
    4. If it’s not a deal, don’t buy it. Be patient and wait for the deal!
  3. Set up a price tracker on bluray.com or Amazon so that you are notified when the price of a movie on your collection list drops.
    1. This can allow you to purchase a lot of movies at vastly reduced prices. If you just purchase the same movies randomly at their ‘regular price’ it can cost you several times more than if you had tracked the price.

Here are just a few examples of movies from my collection, what I paid, and their current price:

You can see from just these three examples that it can be easy to save a lot of money easily. Unless you must own a movie immediately, it pays to have a system in place to watch prices and be patient. I’ve been building a nice collection that suits my taste and provides a nice variety of my favorite movies to watch whenever I want at extremely high quality.

Sure, streaming quality is getting better and better all the time. Unfortunately, the quality of movie selection available on streaming services remains pretty hit or miss. The best way to be sure you’ll always be able to see your favorite movies when you want (and share them with others) is to purchase the blu-ray disc. Fortunately, current prices make it easier than ever to build your collection.

Other Intelligence and Our Responsibility

Ex Machina is a thought-provoking new film centering on the near-future possibilities of artificial intelligence. It’s a terrific film that asks difficult questions and doesn’t flinch from providing answers or at least giving them serious consideration. Among these questions are the following:

  • What does it mean to be human?
  • What is our responsibility to other sentient beings?
  • If we develop the ability to create a form capable of independent thought, does that being have the right to self-determination? Or does it still function solely to serve our needs, regardless of its own ‘feelings’?
  • Do we have a responsibility to honor that intelligence in some way?

These questions are being explored in increasingly complex ways, through science fiction films like Ex Machina, Moon, and Her. Netflix is currently streaming an amazing series called Black Mirror. The episode Be Right Back deals explicitly with artificial intelligence, coincidentally starring Domhnall Gleeson of Ex Machina.

Machines are one thing. What about animals? I was struck while watching Ex Machina by the similarities to some of the questions raised in Blackfish, the documentary about orca whales held in captivity by Seaworld. That film raises some disturbing arguments about the treatment of whales in captivity and how it affects their mental, physical, and emotional health.

One position asserted by the filmmakers that is not in dispute, however, is the uncommon intelligence and highly developed brain structures of killer whales. What right do we have to enslave these highly intelligent beings? What right do we have to hold them in sterile swimming pools too small for their nature?

Movies have always done an excellent job of questioning man’s responsibility to those with artificial intelligence. From Metropolis to Blade Runner to Ex Machina, films have regularly give us an opportunity to conduct compelling thought experiments about intelligent beings different from us, whether they are made of organic or synthetic materials.

I know artificial intelligence is coming soon and we’ll be faced with these new and difficult questions, many without clear answers. However, let’s not forget that we are faced with these questions right now as they relate to natural intelligence (is that what it’s called?) and I often feel we are failing. If our treatment of intelligent, capable creatures like orcas is any indication, I don’t think future androids will be pleased. Assuming they have the capacity for emotion in addition to intelligence, that is.

Short Term 12: A Movie About Superheroes You Probably Won’t Watch (But Should)

short-term-12

We’re in the age of the superhero movie. Batman, Superman, Batman vs. Superman, Wonder Woman, The Avengers, Deadpool, Fantastic Four, Thor, Spiderman, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, the list goes on and on… and on.

Short Term 12 is also a movie about superheroes but they don’t wear capes or tights. The group home staff in Short Term 12 are true heroes, seeking neither fame nor fortune. They work with those who have been discarded by society, those who have been rejected by their own families or maybe even never had a family in the first place.

While this story doesn’t feature explosions or aliens, it is nevertheless a story worthy of your attention. It does have villains. Some might even say it has monsters, who are the all more terrifying because they are real.

I’ve worked in a group home like this in the past. I served a role very similar to the staff in this movie. Not as a trained counselor or therapist, but someone there to spend positive time with the kids and be sure they are safe. My experiences were similar to those depicted in the movie, although not as severe. In fact, the moments that resonated most with me were the quieter moments, the conversations where you try to convince someone to do their homework or get out of bed.

There were also the conversations I still remember clearly today, the ones where the kids were ready to give up, where they saw no way out. I can remember the pain in a young boy’s voice as he opened up about being abandoned and how alone he felt. I remember the desperate attempts to connect from one girl who craved positive attention of any kind. I remember the physical destruction from growing young men who struggled to cope with the collision of their situation and the anger of adolescence.

Short Term 12 demonstrates all of this and more without a false note. We are so quick to identify teachers and veterans as heroes in society (even if we’re not willing to actually support them with adequate resources). However, it’s important to remember that there are other heroes, too. Some of them are young people barely holding it together themselves, but who get up every day and try to connect with those who make it almost impossible no matter how desperately they desire or need it. They are every bit as worthy of appreciation and respect as teachers, veterans, firefighters, and police.

You can watch Short Term 12 on Netflix now. It’s terrific and you should give it a chance even if you have to imagine the superhero costumes.