Netflix: It Doesn’t Suck

Unless you’re the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, you know Netflix Canada is a streaming Video On Demand service, offering a variety of films, TV series and concerts. Just about everyone I know has Netflix these days except me, so I decided to try it for a week to see how the service holds up.

The Netflix one month free trial reveals what is and isn’t on Netflix. This can be a touch confusing. The first thing I searched for was some old school horror movies, ‘cuz that’s exactly what I’d hone in on in the video store when I was eleven and I’m emotionally stunted. Sure enough, I look up one of my favourite films of all time: John Carpenter’s Halloween. It’s not there! You know what is there? 2009’s Halloween 2. Seriously? Wait, you don’t have the rights to a film whose rights are so cheap to acquire that Blockbuster used to give you a copy of it for free every October, but you DO have the rights to the sequel to its big-budget remake? What the hell, Netflix?

Okay, I’ll just try another one of my favourites. Surely Don Coscarelli’s amiably surreal Phantasm is on Netflix…

Nope! Instead, the one film in the entire series that isn’t an independent cheapie, 1988’s Phantasm II, is the only one on Netflix. Now, that doesn’t even make sense. I’m pretty sure I could get the streaming video rights to Phantasm in exchange for a bag of Maltesers. Again, what’s wrong with you, Netflix?

But wait. Hold the phone. In my searching I found out that Chuck Norris vehicle Silent Rage is on there. Silent Rage, like the best and most excessive 80s action movies, demands that you drop everything and watch it as soon as you find it. It almost makes up for the movies I couldn’t find, since the plot more or less boils down to “what if Michael Myers from Halloween fought Chuck Norris instead of Donald Pleasence.”

What’s this? They also have the first 10 Star Trek movies? That means I can watch Star Trek all day, making Netflix SpikeTV circa 2002. AMAZING.

Watching the films, you notice the quality ain’t great. I’m not besmirching the good name of Three Ninjas Kick Back or mocking the cautionary tale that is 1996’s Fear (lesson learned: don’t let Mark Wahlberg give it to you on a rollercoaster or he just might kill your whole family). No, I mean the video quality is pretty grainy on all Netflix titles. This is especially noticeable on any film that has a lot of night scenes. You can fiddle with the settings on your account, but Netflix’s best amounts to “somewhat less blurry” and “reasonable”. At its worst, it’s like watching a Real video file from 1997.

Those concerns fade into the background when you learn the subscription rate is just under eight bucks a month. That’s the attitude you need to appreciate Netflix. Let’s watch a movie about a killer tire. Why not? IT’S EIGHT DOLLARS. My editor gave me a list of films to look at, but who cares? All 600 episodes of The Nanny are on Netflix! That’s a bargain!

Netflix isn’t all hypnotic junk. For every direct-to-video curiosity like Rubber (the aforementioned killer tire flick) and Ping Pong Playa (don’t ask), there’s a fairly interesting selection of documentaries to watch. The excellent Food Inc., Morgan Spurlock’s Greatest Movie Ever Sold, a look at the life of the man behind Elmo the Muppet… these are but a sampling of some of the interesting, quirky fare you get on there.

So, is Netflix worth it? Only in the sense that you get what you pay for. You pay $8 and, while it doesn’t have the high quality video or content that comes as part of the Movie Network or Mpix or an HBO cable package, it also costs a third less. I never complained about the convenience store that offered you seven movies for seven dollars, even when their limited selection guaranteed that one of those seven movies would star Jim Varney as Ernest.

“Eh, eight bucks!” overrules many complaints on my end. It’s also my sole defense for watching all of Sliders in one weekend. Plus, you won’t have to watch Ernest Scared Stupid to enjoy the deal, unless you really, really want to.


StitchUp for Friday, July 15th, 2011

StitchUp for Friday, July 15th, 2011

Nikki and Greg and the bohemian vibe.

15 July 2011

  1. C.H. Monster · July 15, 2011
    “Netflix Canada has ‘more than a third of the content they have (in the U.S.) but we’ve only been operating less than a fifth of the time'”
    “When Torontoist asked Netflix spokesperson Catherine Fisher about the company’s approach to Canadian content, she seemed unaware of the regulations involved in Canadian broadcasting.”
    “What’s worse—though no fault of Netflix’s own—are the reduced bandwidth caps that Rogers and Bell announced when Netflix made it clear, in June, that the service was on its way.”

  2. Darcy Fitzpatrick · July 15, 2011

    The streaming quality is annoying enough for me that if there’s a movie I’m actually excited to see, as opposed to a show like Little Britain or something that I just want to have a laugh at, I’ll rent it off iTunes before watching it for free (/$8) on Netflix.

    Apparently they re-encoded their entire library a year or so ago to put less of a strain on people with monthly bandwidth caps, which had the unfortunate side effect of reducing the image quality (though they claimed people wouldn’t notice). Too bad you can’t choose the higher bandwidth version if caps aren’t an issue for you.

    But yeah, for $8 I can hardly complain. And they’ve got the entire Joss Whedon suite on there, including Dollhouse and Dr. Horrible. I’d pay $8 a month just to have his shows on permanent standby alone.

  3. Murray · July 15, 2011

    The quality settings on the website set the maximum quality. this allows you control your usage for caps.

    the actual quality depends on your internet speed and computer. netflix dynamically changes the quality to keep the stream going.

    In Ottawa I get download speeds of over 1M. on newer shows this gives us high quality. 720 or 1080.

    We love netflix. we’ve cancelled cable.

  4. John Doyle · July 15, 2011

    Picture quality depends on your Internet connection speed. I was getting 1.5 mb/s from Aliant, and Netflix looked pretty bad. Upgraded to FibreOp (30 mb/s), Netflix looks great.

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