The Spiders Lair Podcast Episode 6

In this episode I talk about Star Wars Rogue One, the prequels and special editions, Nirvana and the 90’s grunge rock scene, the underappreciated film Ghost World, and some other stuff.

 

Summer movie challenge:60 movies in 60 days

Here is the challenge, to watch 60 movies during the month of May and June. I will have considerable downtime beginning with the end of school so I will try to make use of all the dvd’s I have been buying lately. This is not a one movie a day challenge, that would be impossible as I have no time to watch movies on certain days of the week. Instead I will rely on weekends to make up for lost time, possibly fitting in 3 or 4 on each Saturday and Sunday.

The goal is to get through as many of the films in my DVD collection that I have never seen, or have not seen in a very long time, or have only seen once and have forgotten the majority of. I am going to only count the movies I watch on DVD, including Blu Ray, but not streaming so even if I watch a film on Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, Amazon, etc, it will not count towards my goal. Only feature length, live action films count so if I end up watching a Shrek or Pixar film it won’t count towards the challenge. Exception to this is the TMNT film from 2007 as it is part of the live action set, even though it is animated.

I will keep track of the movies I watch and log them in a note book. I will write a brief summary of the film, my impressions of it from the perspective of this challenge weather it was a waste of time or worthy of my viewing. I am planning on getting through all of, or as many of, the films in my collection that I have never seen. Mostly I have movies in those 4 packs or other boxed sets where I have only seen certain movies in the collection but want to get through the ones I have missed, or a few rare instances where I picked up a movie I was told was good but haven’t gotten around to watching it yet. I will avoid things like Star Wars, Ghostbusters, Pirates of the Caribbean, as much as I can considering I watch them so frequently as it is. Also movies I see in the theater will not count towards this challenge, although I do have quite a few I intend to see this summer.

There are a couple exceptions. First as is tradition I will be watching the Friday the 13th films in the month of June as I do every year. Since I finally have a complete Jason collection now I am hoping to view all 12 Jason films including Jason X and the remake. Hopefully between now and then I can come across a decent copy of Sleepaway camp on DVD to add to the collection as I really want to squeeze that into my summer camp slasher collection this year if I can.

What inspired this challenge? Well partially as a film lover I enjoy watching movies. I collect movies on DVD, VHS, LaserDisc, 8mm (film and tape), CED, Beta Max, iTunes, UltraViolet, Blu Ray, HD-DVD, and I subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime all for the film catalogs. With work and school these last couple of years keeping me busier than ever I haven’t had the time to do much of anything. Well I have shuffled things around, finished with school for now, and am in a job that is very flexible on the hours. So this is the best time for me to pull something like this off. It won’t be easy as many of my Saturday nights are going to be devoted to school functions for the newspaper, but I am okay with that. Inspiration also comes from being a member of the Blu Ray forum community on the film-fan devoted website Blu-Ray.com where the various users there do these sorts of challenges all the time. But I am also doing this because I want to see how many films I haven’t seen I can get through.

It will not be a literal 60 days, I will begin May 1st and end June 30th. But I will keep track of the films I view for the challenge and write my impressions of them and make a report on my progress as I go along. This is also something for me to do to get inspires to write some stuff for the very neglected blog here. Be sure to check back once in a while to keep up with the progress as I go.

So what happens if I complete the challenge? Aside from getting to watch 60, hopefully good movies, I will also be forcing myself to write content for the blog. This aspect is to get me inspiration so I can start doing more with this thing. Also if I do complete the challenge then I also will have written several movie reviews for the site. If I fail to complete the challenge then it isn’t a big deal to me, I might not have the time to make it work so this is more for fun not that I have anything to prove. Especially if I get busy with living then I won’t have the time to waste watching so many movies.

 

A Netflix experiment

Ever since I signed up for Netflix streaming I have been really frustrated with their recommendation system, I know I am a pickyperson and hard to please but they make it impossible to find what I like because my tastes are all over the place and just because I watched a season of some anime with subs off to brush up on my Japanese does not mean I am interested in other shows with similar themes. The show was called Black Butler so what do they recommend? Cake Boss, really? That was just the “Top Pick” which made no sense because they should know by now that I HATE reality TV. Anyways since they introduced accounts I have been experimenting and I found a system that I think mostly works but it has a flaw.

I have four accounts out of five, one is my main account that I messed up and will never get fixed, I call it the junk account but I am trying to train it to like comedies and such but not having any luck it keeps bringing up that crap I accidentally clicked on and didn’t stop in time so it still thinks I liked it among other flaws. Seriously it is getting annoying. My other three accounts are mostly trained perfectly to match their intended moods, I have an animation and family account for the cartoons, anime, super hero, and occasional Transformers relapses I might have from time to time. This lets me have an account where I don’t mind it suggesting Hanna Montana as long as it also shows me some X-Men and some good anime from time to time. It also has learned me pretty well and has gotten good at knowing what to recommend and what to hide.

My third account is dedicated strictly to science fiction stuff, that one is harder to train because some science fiction, well most in fact, can also be classified elsewhere like Ghostbusters is also horror and comedy, which gets difficult especially with Event Horizon also being horror and dark so it keeps suggesting off the wall stuff like American Psycho or Hell Raiser IV because it takes place in space apparently. I am making progress but it has a long ways to go. The fourth account is dedicated to horror movies and slasher films and that one can literally read my mind, which is not hard to do because its hard to make a bad horror movie, they are all b movies to begin with.

That leaves one account open to play with. I have tried action movies but realized that is redundant because most of the ones I would like show up in one of my other accounts, action comedies under my comedy account, sci-fi action in the sci-fi, the super hero stuff under my super hero account and the darker stuff in sometimes in the horror account, so I was never getting anything I didn’t already have elsewhere. I tried a second theme that also did not work out because it wasn’t one I was in the mood for enough to want to see more than occasional movies which also showed up elsewhere. And it quickly devolved into late night comedies anyways.

So I tried a new experiment, this was the one I was working on this week, no manipulating the system just being honest and letting it recommend me movies based on viewing habits only. This was going to be hard because I opted NOT to fill out the taste profile period and opted NOT to rate movies I already have seen. Just watch a movie rate it and see what happens. I am hoping that it will just learn my tastes without me trying to interpret their hard to crack vague code words they use in their taste profile.

They let you rate individual movies on a five star rating system but you can only rate a TV show as a whole, what if I ONLY liked season one of Heroes? Or what if I only liked seasons 2-7 of Everybody loves Raymond? Or better yet what if I only like certain episodes of a show like Doctor Who where it is very hit and miss? Also Netflix should have a better taste rating system, Never, Sometimes, Often are too narrow. I would not like five options that is too hard to keep track of so I suppose it is the best they could do but I think four could be okay, like Never, Rarely, Sometimes (or occasionally might be better), and Often (or almost always for some)

The rating system is not perfect but I can say it is not too terrible. It isn’t as smart as Pandora is about finding exactly what I am in the mood for but if you take the time to train it just right and don’t over think it, eventually the ratings start to get better. Of course if their BROWSE feature and SEARCH feature were not so broken then it wouldn’t matter as much but as it currently is when you browse it HIDES the stuff it thinks you won’t like already and when you search it can get stupid at times, I searched for Home Improvement and it didn’t even register their is a sitcom by that name it was all reality home building, home repair shows.

I searched for King Of the Hill a show I used to watch regularly on Netflix, it took me straight to the page of this movie, it bypassed the normal landing page where it says “not available to stream, here is other stuff you might like” and then show that other movie, nope it just took me right to that movie. I hate that because it used to take you to a search page with similar stuff, so when I typed in Star Trek it brought up ALL their different offerings, instead now it just takes me to the original series page and stays there, what about that 2009 film? It was JUST called Star Trek and that was the one I was looking for, it didn’t even show me it for DVD anymore which it used to do.

So with the search and browse features so broken it is very important to get the taste profile just right otherwise I will never know when they DO finally add that movie or TV show I keep waiting for. I did stumble into the Walking Dead by a recommendation and actually enjoyed it so I know it does work from time to time I just hate how I search for something and it gets so stupid because other titles might have the same or similar name and it doesn’t even try to sell me on the DVD’s anymore, which I guess is a good thing because the DVD side is going downhill anyways.

I will keep trying for now but I am still looking for a replacement. For the money the amount of shows they have alone makes it work it, I added it up it would cost me ten years of Netflix to get all the shows I watch on DVD and that is just what they have right now. I used to be all for owning stuff on DVD but those days are gone, DVD is a waste of space and I am all in to digital only mode now. I went all digital before and then relapsed into physical when Blu Ray came out, which lead me right back to DVD when blu rays became too expensive and their offerings were not worth it and the DVD collections were often better than the Blu Ray sets.

Then I realized I was back into an endless cycle of spending all my money on stuff I will never watch, for $8 dollars a month I don’t mind all the piles of crap as long as the few good shows and movies they do have outweigh the cost of buying DVD anyways. Take Psych, that show now has 8 Seasons at roughly $25 a season, used is slightly less but not much. That 70’s Show also had eight Seasons and Doctor Who and Star Trek ALONE make Netflix a STEAL. ONE Season of Doctor Who, 13 Episodes, is usually $60 or more. The Christmas Specials usually run $30 on their own.

Netflix doesn’t have anything past season 6 but still that’s a lot of money to get just those six on DVD, plus the classic Doctor Who specials go for a lot more and are much harder to find. ONE Season of Star Trek TNG goes for almost $100 on Blu Ray and the DVD set goes for $75 per season, you can get them slightly cheaper used IF you want the bare bones discs no packaging because Star Trek sets are collectors items so if you just want to watch the show your options are pay a small fortune for the damn discs, pay a smaller fortune for cable to watch them once a week with commercial interruptions or just pay the eight bucks to get them ALL.

That price above was JUST for one show. Netflix has Buffy, Angel, all the Star Treks, The Walking Dead, Psych, Bones, Transformers G1 (another collectors nightmare to get on DVD), Doctor Who, Last Man Standing, Melissa and Joey, Everybody Loves Raymond, How I Met Your Mother, Family Guy, and Futurama. Try getting ALL of those for the same price as one YEAR of Netflix I dare you. That alone makes it a bargain Add to that all those obscure but still great horror classics or a whole bunch of really cool but not worth paying for cult sci-fi films and anyone who thinks Netflix is not a good deal is blind.

Will it ever have everything ever released no and sure they lose shows from time to time but they tend to get them back eventually, no different than TBS or other cable channels which also rotate their shows but then bog them down with endless commercials. Now I admit I would be willing to pay more for the service if it allowed them to get more content, especially more shows from the 80’s and 90’s that they are neglecting, but until then I will stick with it and enjoy my endless sea of content for next to nothing while those who can’t see a good deal spend their life savings on DVD’s because somehow that’s supposed to be better? Also Netflix still offers the DVD by mail option for that stuff they don’t stream, so there is always the temptation to just add DVD’s to the plan. My other thought has always been to add Hulu Plus but for now money is tight so I will keep that on reserve.

Right now I will conduct my experiment of just watching and rating without filling in the taste profile to see how that works, I will report back my results once I have enough data to make a reasonable conclusion. I tried the totally honest approach with ratings and it didn’t find me anything I DIDN’T already have in my list so that was a bust. Stay Cool.

The Nerd Rising- or Return of the Geek?

A couple of semesters ago I wrote a paper for English called the nerd rising, where I chronicled how the geeks and nerds were taking over the world. It was a lame assignment that naturally I didn’t take too seriously, but still I did get an A so I must have done something right. Anyways I wanted to re-evaluate some of my conclusions not from the paper itself, it was a home work assignment I really didn’t bother to save. But mostly my own observations that I have noticed since the time I wrote the paper, which was a time I happened to do a lot of research. So here are some of my conclusions.

First Geeks are not Nerds.

I sort of addressed this in my paper and I am one who is generally offended by the intermixing of the terms, they both began as insults to different classes of people so there is an understandable amount of apprehension when a term is used incorrectly. I feel it is no different than when you call a Korean a Chinaman or an immigrant from South America a Mexican, it is offensive to mix up the cultures. Now everybody knows nerds, jocks, geeks, rednecks, hillbillies, etc are stereotypes and they all have their own cultures.

So before I get any further let me just end this with saying I distinguish between nerds and geeks as follows, a nerd is more into math and science, they may or may not be into technology as an extension of that and they are probably attracted to video games, maybe even comic books and the like but they are mostly into science and knowledge. Geeks are often considered wannabe nerds, or they are seen as nerds who are not smart. WRONG, geeks are into technology first and foremost, not so much the knowledge behind the technology but more the applications of it.

They are more likely to be into video games as those are technology driven and they tend to be geared towards the tech more than the games themselves. (Gamers are a subset which I will tackle latter) Geeks also are more likely to be into comic books than nerds because geeks are into the superficial sciences and comic books are not very scientifically accurate. They like stories that involve super heroes and giant robots more than anything else but are flexible. There are also comic book fans, they do not have their own word as far as I am concerned but they are not nerds or geeks they are just people who read comic books, a nerd, geek, or gamer may also be into comic books but that again is no different than a redneck who lives for hunting and fishing also being into Football, sports fans are an entirely different breed all their own.

So with that said, the paper I wrote focused on how Nerds are taking over the world, and that the power shift has gone from the strongest of society to the smartest, how politicians are now in control where historically it was Lords and Kings (who usually started out as knights or warriors) who ruled. The world has changed so I wanted to highlight that. But then I realized that to the mass society we are all people who enjoy different freedoms at different levels and some of us have interests that are not as widely appreciated as others.

Anyways I never identified as a nerd I am just not smart enough and I hate being called a geek because although I am into technology it is not what I live for. I always preferred the term techie but even that is stretching it. My interests lie mainly in politics to some extend, Astronomy and Space exploration mostly Mars and NASA but not too much, computers but more so as video games than as tools or whatever, and of course video games. I have on occasion dabbled into comic books but to be honest they tend to lose my interest rather quickly. So I don’t mind being called a gamer because I do at least from a percentage stand point, game more than anything else. But I also watch a lot of television, mostly sitcoms but some science fiction from time to time, and some dramas if they are good, I like the Walking Dead currently, I used to watch Buffy from time to time, and Bones before it turned into a soap.

Recent trends in Hollywood have been to shift their big budget special effects films away from generic save the world blockbusters and more towards the real of comic books and video games, Marvel has especially been successful at turning their comic book characters into a media empire. Still to me this is no different than Star Wars which to many is just a film, or a series of films depending on where you stand on the quality of the series. But it is also a media empire, there are books, comic books, video games, toys, everything else you can think of. At its core Star Wars is still a story, not tied to just a movie. And yes I am a Star WARS fan not so much a Star TREK fan, so there is that.

Why am I bringing any of this up? Because there is a new Robocop movie out that I will be watching either tonight or tomorrow depending on how things go, and I am actually looking forward to it even considering how much I really enjoyed the, clearly outdated original despite what some long time fans might tell you. The original does not hold up well at all, it is supposed to take place in the future but is blatantly stuck in the 80’s, so there is that. Hey I was a kid in the 80s too but guess what, that does not automatically make everything from that decade suddenly good just because.

Robocop was a violent movie about a robot who killed bad guys, I call BS on all the social commentary because first none of what was predicted to occur did occur, second the movies director might have had that in mind but the AVERAGE move goer never picks up on that crap anyways to the average consumer Night of the Living Dead is a Zombie movie it is NOT making fun or American consumerism, To most American viewers, Robocop is an action movie about a dead guy put into a robot body who goes on a shooting spree splattering bad guys all over the wall nothing more.

As long as there is an indestructible robot pretending to be a copy shooting up bad guys then I am okay with this new movie, I do not care if they altered or removed the supposedly social commentary that was NOT blatantly obvious because NOBODY figured it out until years latter on the DVD commentary in the first place. So where do I stand on this issue? For me it is JUST a movie, if you try to make it more than that well you are a nerd, geek, whatever, but if you are just a regular person who just happens to enjoy a mindless action flick with maybe some good special effects to help keep you entertained, they good for you. Like what you like and do not worry about what others think.

I have a part two for this that I will write up latter but I also have other topics I want to get to first so I will also talk more about my thoughts on the movie AFTER I actually watch it. Stay Cool.

The solution to the Netflix problem- themed Accounts

Recently I re-instated my Netflix account after finally getting things in my life settled down to a point where I could just sit back and watch some stuff. I have had Netflix streaming off and on for a couple of years now and the biggest problem for me was not so much the lack of content but the broken suggestions system, it would recommend me the most useless crap no matter how hard I tried I just could not get it to adjust to my tastes. Then last summer they launched a new account based system where each person can have their own taste preferences and if one person watches say Doctor Who it does not clutter my list up with Downton Abby and other british crap because it labels Doctor Who “british” instead of “sci-fi”. Anyways I finally discovered a solution that works for me, of course this won’t work so much if you have other people on your account like friends or family so this is more for single people or couples without kids.

First I signed up for all five accounts, it doesn’t cost anything extra and it saves me a lot of hassle sorting out all my recommendations. Here is how I do it,

Primary account, leave this as the catch all account, use it for anything you no matter how random it might be, or set it aside as the “Guest” account if you have company or a cheap ass roommate. The idea is to have one throw away account that Netflix will never get right because you need a place to watch that crap you might like because Scarlett Johanson is in it but don’t want it thinking you like Woody Allen. So this is your junk account do what you want and forget about it.

Then set up the other four accounts as follows,

Pick four categories you are a BIG fan of and set up each account to be tailored to that specific type of viewing. Try to keep it specific enough that you only watch shows or movies from that style of show or movie no matter what. For instance if you use that as your comedies account do NOT watch anything but comedies, do the whole rating game as if you ONLY like comedies, so tell it always on comedies and never on everything that is not comedies. Then you vote hated it on everything it suggests that is NOT a comedy, now it can be campy sci-fi or those cheesy Army of Darkness movies, its okay as long as it is well known to be more on the laughs.

Then rate everything that is comedy, even if you personally hate it, 4 and 5 stars, 3 is the minimum here. Use 3 stars for the stuff you DO hate but if it is comedy make sure it is 3 stars, 4 for the stuff you would normally rate 3 and 5 is well anything you would rate 4 or higher. This will seed your Netflix account with nothing but comedies, sure it will suggest comedies you hate but as you watch movies and shows it will learn your tastes much better. Do this for your next three favorites, say have one for childrens stuff or anime and seed it for that, maybe have one that is devoted only to Westerns and ONLY use it for westerns and rate movies as if you are John Wayne’s biggest fan. This will give you four accounts that will help you find the more obscure stuff without burying you in tons of crap you hate.

Remember if something catches your eye that does NOT fit that category you are on, immediately switch to the proper account, after rating it appopriately for that account. To do this, say you are in your Comedies only account but you get a recommendation for Sharknado,  funny film but if you watch it you will be flooded with 2 headed shark attack, Croczilla, and the like. So say you have a campy sci-fi or a monster movies account, rate it as 1 star (hated it) OR not interested in your comedies account, switch over to your Monster movies account and rate it 3 stars right now, re-rated it 4 or 5 ONLY if it was something you really liked, keeping in mind everything in that account that is remotely similar to the stuff you might like is always a 3 and up.

So say you like Comedies but HATE Adam Sandler, okay in all your accounts rate Adam Sandler movies 1 star or not interested but in your Comedies account rate it a 3, not that you want more Adam sandler but you MIGHT just get that really goofy spoof movie you never knew the name of to show up some day. This system works much better than just having to remember to search for movies once a month in the hopes they got something new or spending time trying to browse the categories as that never works. Or if you do not want to chance ruining one of your accounts, remember you set back that junk account earlier in those rare moments you might find yourself watching Sharknado but not wanting endless sharkmovie suggestions in all your accounts.

My accounts are pretty focused, I have my junk account for all the normal crap but I maintain my favorite sitcoms and comedies and dramas in there too just in case, if I see something interesting I put it in the list and watch it latter.

My second account is set up to be geared towards cartoons and anime, specifically super hero cartoons and anything anime. I also seed it with some sci-fi stuff like Power Rangers and Heroes but keep it mostly for animated and comic book related stuff. So far the recommendations are pretty tight and spot on, I occasionally get a Disney flick, if it is one I like say Lady and the Tramp or Alice in Wonderland, I rate it 3 stars and be on my way, if it is something like Mickey Mouse and the Beanstalk I click 1 star, Be sure to be very careful in these content accounts to rarely use Not interested as it might confuse your distate for Adam Sandler for a hatred of whatever his style of comedy is supposed to be when you like other comedians just not him.

My second “content themed” account is general science fiction, this one i try to be strict with, anything that is sci-fi, fantasy or monster movies, if it has aliens, magic, or even radioactive mutants it is ok, but I mostly seed it with robots and space travel, time travel and futuristic stuff. I down vote all anime, cartoons, and anything that is NOT blatantly sci-fi or sci-fi related, I use the anime account for the cartoons so this one I rate all animated stuff as 1 star or 2 stars if it is something I personally really like but don’t want it seeding my account. I try to leave the horror movies, even the sci-fi themed horror movies for another account because while to me Event Horizon is science fiction to Netflix is is a thriller and thinks I like Hellraiser because of the one set in space.

My third themed account is just that, horror movies, this is anything that is gory, bloody, and scary. NOT violent stuff like Kill Bill but gory stuff like Human centipede or Saw, etc. I try to keep it very specific and I let it suggest anything meant to send chills down your spine. I especially like the early splatter and slasher films and netflix has a really good selection despite not having the super stars of Jason and Freddy to fill in their ranks at least they have the good stuff like Sleepaway camp or Children of the Corn. I also reserve this one for thrillers but only those that feature actual serial killers and are high on suspense, Hide and Seek is NOT for this account but Silence of the Lambs would be.

The fourth themed account I deleted. I was using it for action films but that became too cumbersome and I tried to narrow it down to martial arts and commando style movies but it kept suggesting me crime thrillers and detective movies, not that those are bad or anything but it was not getting that I liked guns and explosions and asskicking not Sherlock Holmes. I might try to reinstate it and be more focused but I also have to keep in mind what my personal tastes are and remember Terminator is Sci-Fi and Avengers is Comic book and keep those in the right account.

Now obviously this is a lot of hard work and most people won’t even bother but if you are like me and it really annoys you to no end that it keeps recommending “Top picks for you” and there is Breakfast at Tiffany’s all because I watched Planet of the Apes and they are both “classics” apparently. I also got tired of telling it how much I HATE westerns but I watched Avengers and all those westerns I gave 1 and 0 stars to suddenly came back because they were somehow related in some alternate reality that Netflix appears to exist in. So there you have it a way to keep your taste profiles organized.

Keep in mind if you watch one movie that does not belong your hard work will be for nothing so make sure you keep your junk account no matter what, even if you mostly seed it with a genre you like. I use my junk account for sitcoms mostly but I also just let it recommend whatever it wants because it just can’t win, one night I watched Hell Raiser one and 2, followed by Thor, followed by Great Outdoors and then down rated every Western they had in their catalog and as soon as I watched Men In Black it thought Tommy Lee Jones was in some western, Will Smith was in Wild Wild West, hey I lied before i really do like westerns and there you go, flood gates opened. It is not for everybody but again if you really do want to use Netflix to discover interesting new movies then it is well worth the effort, I am still waiting for Hackers but it did find me a couple of good alternatives to keep me entertained in the mean time. Stay Cool.