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Here’s the thing…

I’ve a few points about the change.

1) This is going to save us money.

Right now, we have the one DVD at a time and unlimited streaming. We’ve watched one of those DVDs in probably three or four months. We’re not getting value out of the DVD. Worse, it’s an object we have to manage when it’s here.

Pure streaming is us.

2) No one should be surprised.

I can remember in February or March of last year Netflix saying that they were going to aggressively pursue streaming licenses over DVDs. What that tells everyone is “streaming is more important to us than DVDs.” Thus, it was only a matter of time before they started to price things to make streaming more attractive than DVDs. Probably a little at first. Then, a lot.

Right now, it’s a little.

This is not a surprise. It’s wildly more expensive for Netflix to store, organize, handle, and mail DVDs than it is to serve the same movie on a stream. It only makes sense that they would want to encourage more people to stream than DVD.

3) Netflix is offering what we want.

This is where we want to go: a-la-carte instant delivery of content we want, how we want it, on the devices we want.  I can watch Netflix on via my TiVo, Xbox, Wii, iPad, iPhone, computer, and who all knows what else.

As far as I know, no other service offers all of that at once.

So I’m supporting the thing I want to have happen. Getting good product at a good price. I have every reason to continue with Netflix.

4) Availability.

I watch Netflix every single day for one thing or another. (I really should GetGlue more often for that, come to think of it.) I encounter “not available” for both DVD and streaming at the same time far more often than I encounter “disc only” availability.

YMMV, but for how I use the service, it’s really not very often that I find something not available.

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Valhalla Rising movie posterTrailer.

Saw this on Netflix Streaming in HD. It’s a movie with as much to dislike as like. It’s an interesting film worth talking about.

First

The Netflix description of the film is flat wrong. Rather than quote it and continue the misinformation, here’s a proper description:

Enslaved gladitorial fighter, owned by a pagan Viking tribe, escapes then through happenstance joins Christian Vikings en route to Jerusalem on a crusade. Their longboat is lost and ends up on an island populated by savage natives.

Look

This is the most beautifully shot film I’ve seen in a long time. You must watch it in HD because the landscape and photography are art pieces in and of themselves and the framing is excellent—in needs widescreen format. One could almost just pick random frames from the movie and call it an art piece. It’s rich and lush despite the bleakness of the actual landscape.

In particular I have to call out the extraordinarily good lighting. It couples both on-set and post-production work to create showpieces of striking visual impact. Good, professional, eyes made this film.

Speaking of eyes

Valhalla Rising One-EyeThe lead character, named One-Eye, has no speaking lines. In fact, not more than a few sentences are spoken at all by anyone for the first 12 minutes of the film despite clear initiation and progress of the film’s plot, and that trend continues with not much said by anyone for (comparatively) long stretches of time.

Bold move, to be sure, and it works. The actor is good and a lot is portrayed visually, and well. It may seem like a deficiency that the plot is simple enough that the lead doesn’t need to speak but that’s not the case. The beginning of the movie tells a good story very well with the minimum possible dialogue even from supporting characters.

Fight!

The fighting in the movie is brutal. One-Eye is a brutally efficient, vicious killer. So when violence busts out, it’s horrific and memorable.

Escape

After his escape the film sets up an interesting premise: A ship full of Vikings on a crusade who become lost in a fog and end up…where? They don’t know, but they do know that it’s hostile.

And here’s where the film begins to unravel. Worse, it takes forever to do so because the film moves at such a terribly glacial pace that it feels like a grind. I must hastily point out that I’m a fan of slow burn movies. Let the Right One In is a recent example of a film that takes sweet, delicious time.

But that film is worth it. This film is not.

I read later that the director originally intended the film to be kind of an acid trip. It shows. It shows hard. I was often left wondering what exactly was going on. The main character has visions, but is One-Eye remembering something, dreaming something, or predicting something? It’s not too much of a spoiler for me to briefly mention that the Christian Vikings begin behaving…oddly. Why? There was no explanation—but more important there was no reason for it either. None of it needed to happen, and when it did it didn’t have to happen to that degree in order to get whatever point it was trying to make. I think?

I ask because, honestly, I’m not sure the movie had a point to make. That’s fine, not all do of course, but those that don’t (say, an action film or a rom-com) fill that gap with the sweet cotton candy of gratuitous entertainments.

Alas, Valhalla Rising lacks both leaving…pretty pictures and a compelling main character with nothing to do, I guess.

Did you hear that?

Sometimes the soundtrack is wonderful. Other times, particularly post-escape, the music is horribly wrong, anachronistic, and singularly awful. It’s not often that my attention is particularly drawn to the soundtrack—I’m content to enjoy it in the background where it’s usually found. But Valhalla Rising‘s soundtrack pulled me right out of the film and seemed to out of its way to annoy and be specifically inappropriate.

Final Recommendation

The film is conveniently divided into discrete parts—complete with full-screen title cards announcing each piece. I strongly recommend viewing the first two parts of this film. You won’t regret the decision. Beautiful, brutish, engaging, and interesting with a silent character. Hardly any dialogue to the film at all.

Then stop. Leave with a positive impression of the film before it ruins itself. 🙂

I’ve seen it twice in the theater and I can say it holds up on a second viewing.

No spoilers! You may feel free to read all of this prior to seeing the movie.

The trailer does not convey what the film is actually about. Here’s what I got out of trailer:

  • Leonardo DeCaprio goes into dreams and steals secrets.
  • It’s a tour-de-force of the latest in CGI—as one would expect in a movie about dreams.

What I didn’t get from the trailer is what the source of dramatic tension would be. What, does Leonardo battle dream tigers or something? Well, that’s fine by me I guess—I’m going to see the CGI anyway. That folding over of Paris was ultra-cool so sign me up.

I discovered what the film was about when I saw a stand-up in the theater. It was a triangular affair and on one side Leonardo was there and it was labeled “extractor” on the bottom. That’s cool, got that from the trailer. But on another side was someone not shown in the trailer and his label said “forger.” Ah ha! There’s someone opposing him inside the dreams! That’s the tension!

But that stand-up was misleading, which you will understand if you see the film.

What the film actually is a caper film (Leonardo plus a team of friends) mixed with a very mind-wrapping plot concerning an age-old dilemma of differentiating between dreams and reality. That plot has been done lots and lots before, so what makes Inception so good? It’s how it mixes the caper film with other elements. It’s almost 50/50 in that every time you turn around you’re looking at either the drama and tension of a caper or the wonder, drama, and tension of being inside dreams.

The movie works very well in setting up the physics. How do the characters enter dreams? How do they get out? Why would they do something like this in the real world? It all makes sense within its framework. Nicely done.

Inception is smooth, the best edited film I’ve ever seen—better than Memento—has great action, great tension, and the best is saved for last. By that I mean, having seen the film twice both audiences have let out audible gasps at the very last second of the film. I guarantee you will too or your popcorn back.

And best of all you’ll think about Inception after you see it. I don’t think a thinking person could help but do so. It’s not one you’ll easily forget.

For those who have already seen it…

This site has MAJOR SPOILERS that discusses events in the film in minute detail but if you’ve seen the film I think you’ll find it an interesting read. Don’t click that link until you’ve seen the movie. Because—seriously—the impact of this movie depends on you seeing fresh the first time. As well, the things they discuss are nonsensical without seeing the film first so you’ll be spoiled without understanding what the movie’s about.

Come back and click after you’ve seen Inception. You’ll be glad you did… 🙂

Splice is an example of a predictable thriller that’s interesting to watch because of the character study it emphasizes. Some things in the plot are proposed from almost the first scene and other things are telegraphed a mere half hour ahead, and by the end of Splice you’ll not have felt any of it was a particular surprise—but the film doesn’t suffer from it.

I enjoyed the film despite the predictability because I looked at Splice not as a horror film (it isn’t) but as a character study with a sci-fi McGuffin.

The story, as I saw it, is about two scientists and the lengths that they would go to for science’s sake. Of particular interest, to me, was how they kept re-drawing “the line” of how far it was for them to go in their experiments, and also how the characters traded being the line cop. One would draw the line while the other crossed it, and vice versa. I found this switching interesting and all the while we, the audience, could see that the line was slipping far from its original point.

I also liked how it felt small but had a Hollywood budget. There were, what, six sets to the film? Seven? And a small cast. The producers put all their money into special effects and it showed—they were fabulous indeed without being flashy or showy. Very well done and elegant.

As a bonus they don’t spend too much time on the McGuffin, meaning the genetic triple talk behind Dren (who you see in the movie poster above). Dren is another character in the film, sort of, but anyway the film dispenses with how Dren came about early on and then leaves all that behind, and rightfully so. Splice is about crossing lines.