Computer Vision

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I used some "cutting edge" technology to watch a couple of movies on my computer via Netflix's "Instant Movies". I hadn't tried this out, as movie watching on my computer isn't really at the top of things I like to do, but I noticed where Netflix changed their policy for the Instant Movies in response to Steve Jobs announcement of Apple TV. They used to allow 18 hours per month with the rental package I have (their three movie deal), but now they allow unlimited online viewing. Not that I had used any before, but I figured what the heck.

I was disappointed to find that the Netflix service only supported Windows XP & Vista. Seems pretty shortsighted of them. But it worked okay on my work XP box, especially with the dual monitor set up. I played the movie fullscreen on one monitor while I "worked" on the other. I had to use the headphones, as my Windows box doesn't have the nice speaker setup, but the Plantronics USB headphones did a nice job, sonically speaking.

First up was 2006's The Contract, a Bruce Beresford/John Cusack/Morgan Freeman movie that I had honestly never heard of. Freeman plays the head of a hitman organization who crosses paths with Cusack, a father trying to reconnect with his wayward teenage son. Their wilderness jaunt is rudely interrupted by Freeman trying to escape from the law, and they take him under guard. This proves to be a mistake when Freeman's cronies try to take him back and much mayhem ensues.

I suppose it could have been one of those "Average Joe takes on more than he ever knew he could" kind of movies, but it was surprisingly flat and uninvolving (and I'm pretty sure it wasn't just because of the small screen). There were several very strange characters, and neither Cusack or Freeman seemed to be having much fun or to understand their characters. Not exactly a feather in the cap for Beresford, who was one of the main instigators in my love of all things Australian. His 'Breaker' Morant (a desert island flick for sure), along with Peter Weir's early work, fired my Oz imagination. Tender Mercies is another great, and sadly underrated, Beresford title, and of course there's always Driving Miss Daisy. But I have to admit to not seeing much of his work lately and The Contract isn't all that special.

So I went further back in time for my next Instant Movie and watched The Steel Helmet, a truly excellent war film by Samuel Fuller. Made in 1951, this realistic Korean War film so unnerved the "Red Hysterics" that the FBI investigated Fuller for creating "Communist propaganda"! Starring Gene Evans (who turned in a long and varied career in both movies and television) as Sgt. Zack, the lone survivor of a ambushed patrol who tries to find his way back to friendly lines. He is befriended by a local Korean boy and a medic who also lost his platoon. They help out another patrol in establishing a forward OP (Observation Post) and hold off waves of North Koreans.

A really solid war pic, made on a shoestring budget in ten days. There were pretty basic archetypes and some standard plotlines, but I really enjoyed it and can recommend it to anyone looking for a realistic portrayal of grunts in combat. One death near the end was both predictable yet touching. Evans played the gruff combat sergeant to perfection. A good movie to watch on the computer.

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3 Comments


I was disappointed as well that Netflix only offers the Watch Instantly feature for PCs, too.  I have a Mac and although, like you, watching a movie on my computer isn't my first choice, I'd at least like to have the option.  I'm not sold on the iTunes rentals idea, especially if their library isn't that extensive. 

I use my wife's XP laptop and the S-Video output to my TV..not too bad on my Sony CRT (one of these days I'll get a 21st century TV). Close Encounters was my first Instant but we've also watched a lot of torrented anime with the kids the same way.

Interesting idea about hooking the computer up to the TV. I can connect my PC to my big screen TV, although it is a VGA connection, not SVideo or anything.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on January 23, 2008 7:45 AM.

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