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Saturday, 29 December 2012


I always tell you when I discover new ways to consume movies. Don't I?

Well, I've got one.

The thrust of my Friday night movie watching took several unexpected twists and turns. At one point I was going to go see Django Unchained, but I called an audible and decided I was in no physical shape -- the indulgences of the holiday had caught up with me in the form of consistent heartburn and general exhaustion. If I hadn't been going to do that, the plan was to watch The Duplass brothers' The Do-Deca-Pentathlon with my wife. But before we had a chance to start that, we decided that its 76-minute length made it the perfect choice for one of our son's naps. That left us with a half-dozen other choices of 2012 movies on Netflix streaming, all of which were serious documentaries or impenetrable foreign films -- not "Friday night viewing," anyway.

So we decided to check among our BluRay player's other internet-based choices in its Netcast section, specifically the literally named service CinemaNow.

We'd used CinemaNow previously to watch the last couple episodes of The Walking Dead, which became necessary when our DirecTV tuner crapped out and we lost the episodes we had saved. For a minimal fee (something like $2.99 each), we were able to easily catch up with those episodes -- which was especially key given that The Walking Dead is not available to watch online for free, and without this, we might have been forced to wait until the show was available on DVD. (Or itunes, but we'd still have to watch it on one of our computers.) My wife had also used this service to catch a couple episodes of Bones.

Anyway, quite obviously, CinemaNow is not for TV only. And last night represented our first perusal of the movie options. At first I didn't notice anything special, except that the choices are organized in a very easy-to-digest single row that moves along the middle of the screen. (That's the same way Netflix is set up on our old BluRay player, but sadly, not our new one.) But then I noticed something that did qualify it as special: For a Good Time, Call ..., which I'd given up as inaccessible to me before the deadline for my list (it won't debut on DVD until January 22nd).

If I were staying in a hotel, I'm sure I could have gotten FAGTC back in October. But in all non-magical non-hotel environments, I figured it wouldn't be possible to see before my January 10th ranking deadline. Along comes CinemaNow. After all, it's called "CinemaNow," not "CinemaJanuary22nd."

And since my wife had already registered her credit card for the purchases of Walking Dead and Bones, all we had to do was click a single button to rent it for $3.99. 

If I were 15 years younger or 15 years more technically savvy, I wouldn't be impressed by the fact that there are any number of alternatives for affordable instant movies at my fingertips, CinemaNow probably being neither the coolest nor the most significant among them. After all, DirecTV has plenty of on-demand movies as well, which are probably around the same price -- we just haven't availed ourselves of that option very much because the interface for choosing them is significantly clunkier.

But I am and can only be me, and as me, I was pretty impressed.

One of the best things this reminds me is that even if I haven't made what's becoming my daily visit to Redbox, I still have plenty of options for not getting stuck with a serious documentary or an impenetrable foreign film. And the advantage it has over Redbox is that I don't have to commit to a choice. (Of course, Redbox has the advantage of costing a third of the price.)

I wouldn't be surprised if CinemaNow rears its head again sometime before January 10th.

The movie? Three stars out of five. It's the very definition of uneven, but its good moments are pretty delightful.

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