OK, so there are three different boxes – an Xbox 360, a PS3, and a Mac mini – hooked up to our TV that all want to rent us movies, and I keep trying to take advantage of them to do so, but the experience so far has been very similar to going to a physical video store at about, oh, 9 PM on a Friday night. They’ve got lots of movies for rent, sure, but not the one you actually want.
I’ve noticed a pattern, really. We’ll be sitting on the couch looking through movie trailers, see a trailer for an upcoming movie – usually a sequel – and decide that we want to see an older movie based on seeing the trailer for the upcoming movie.
At that point, I will get hopelessly ambitious and try to rent the older movie from either Xbox Live, Playstation Network, or iTunes.
After checking all three services, I will have bugger-all luck, give it up as a bad cause, and we’ll watch a DVD we already own instead.
It’s not that I’ve tried to rent brand new movies, either. I understand that there’s some lag between video release and online availability. I’m trying to work with the system here.
As an example: This last weekend, my wife and I saw, in Front Row to be precise, a trailer for the upcoming “Transformers” sequel, which prompted some debate and yet another failed attempt to rent a movie.
See, in the trailer, there’s a Transformer that’s probably supposed to be Ravage, and I will date myself a bit here by pointing out that the only Ravage I’m familiar with is one of Soundwave’s cassette tapes. A brief glance at the wikipedia entry suggests that there have been a gazillion different versions, but let’s stick with the cassette tape version.
Anyway, this led to a discussion about Soundwave, and how a dual cassette boombox wouldn’t exactly fit in with a modern movie, and I thought that they’d actually had a version of Soundwave in the last Transformers movie, only he was a CD player or something, and we couldn’t agree on it, so we decided that we’d just rent the movie and see.
Now, this movie came out in July of 2007, and got a home video release in October of the same year. Even the blu-ray release, delayed as it was due to the HD video wars, has been out for several months.
Still, you can’t rent “Transformers” off Xbox Live, you can’t rent it off of Playstation Network, and it’s not on iTunes. It might be on Netflix’s streaming service, I guess, but we don’t have a Gold live account and don’t have a Netflix subscription. I didn’t even bother checking Amazon, because the last I checked, their Mac support was still a little behind.
We settled on “Eagle Eye”, instead, which I didn’t realize starred The Guy From Transformers, and it turned out to be a reasonably good Saturday night movie. The technology in it was only slightly more far-fetched than a mystical cube capable of endowing nearby technology with life, but what the hell.
It was the video store equivalent of driving all the way to the store, scouring the shelves, finding a copy of a new release mis-shelved in the “Documentary” section, renting it out of desperation, and finding it was actually a good movie. Which is to say, good outcome but still a sense that one is settling.
I will give Apple credit for making the rental process reasonably painless; it took 20 minutes or so to download but that’s a small price to pay for not having to put up with the sorts of buffering issues you see with streaming video.
Still and all, it would have been nice to find the movie we actually wanted. I can’t blame any of the services in particular for that, so consider this a general fuming in the general direction of all three.
PS: And, Apple, it would be nice if you’d let people who buy your computers, as opposed to your “hobbies”, actually rent movies in 720P. Thanks.