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How to Search for Online Movies

June 8, 2009
Watching Online Movies gets Easier

Watching Online Movies gets Easier

Remember when you used to get to Grandma’s house without the use of a GPS?  How about the days when a meal used to take more than 30 seconds in the microwave?  Oh!  And remember how we used to have to drive to a … STORE to rent a new movie?

Those days are gone.

It was only a few years ago that watching a movie online meant you had to deal with sub-standard quality, player jumps and freezes, and terrible selection.  No more!  Now companies like Netflix and Amazon have joined the party and made a significant jump in movies that are available for instant viewing.  In fact, a large number of movies are actually available online as soon as they’re available on DVD (or Blu-ray).

Quality has gone up significantly as well.  Now movies are available in quality that rivals DVD or better in some cases.  Given the advancements in technologies like H.264 and VC-1, videos can now achieve higher quality at lower data rates.  Where DVD once used MPEG-2, now video streams are often using the higher-quality codecs that you’ll also find in Blu-ray Disc recordings.

The problem, however, is that different movies are available from different sources.  This ain’t your grandma’s Hollywood Video.  Obtaining rights to publish movies online is still undergoing some growing pains.  Videos are often available from some studios, but not others.  In the end, you won’t find all available movies from any one provider.

Enter DVDCorral.

I started getting frustrated browsing different sites looking for a movie to watch on any given night.  We decided to solve the problem by adding all those movies into the DVDCorral database.  Now you can search through just the available online movies using one simple interface.  Currently we support Netflix and Amazon, but we’re looking to add others in the future.  We’re working hard to keep our title lists up-to-date and make sure DVDCorral remains the best place online to search for online movies.

Our search interface currently allows you to search by several different parameters.  On the left side, you will see several text boxes (which will change slightly depending on which set of movies you are searching).  In “Enter keywords…” you may enter a partial title of a movie to search for.  Once you’ve finished searching by keyword, you can always clear it to search through all movies again (and hit <Enter> or click Search to begin search again).

Filter Online Movies

Filter Online Movies

To limit your search to a particular genre, click “All genres” and select a genre from the drop-down.  On some databases, you may also limit your search by rating.  This is the MPAA Rating in the case of movies.  Just leave it set to “All ratings” if you don’t want to limit to a particular rating, say PG-13, for example.

Finally, on the right side you will see a sort option.  Here you can sort movies by Popularity (based on # of collections on DVDCorral.com), Title (of the movie), Genre (primary Genre, sorted alphabetically), Members’ Rating (Voted rating on DVDCorral.com) and Rating (for Netflix, the Netflix Users’ Rating).

Click on any movie in the list to view a quick pop-up of the details.  If you’d like more information, you can follow one of the links in the pop-up or click the movie image itself.  Note that on Amazon Video on Demand titles, when you click the Buy or Rent price, it will actually take you to Amazon to view the preview first.  So, click away, the prices are just for informational purposes so you know what the movies will cost when you later choose to Rent or Buy it.

As always, we’re proud to offer you what we think is a great new feature — but we’re also sure we haven’t thought of everything.  We love to hear your feedback, e-mail us with feature suggestions and comments at webmaster@dvdcorral.com.  Someone will always read your e-mail, check out your ideas, and respond whenever possible.  We’re fortunate to have such a great user-base.  Thanks for helping make DVDCorral.com the best place online to search for online movies!

Will Chuck be renewed for Season 3?

June 2, 2009
Chuck back for Season 3

Chuck back for Season 3

<drum roll please> Yes!  As of May 22nd, NBC has renewed Chuck for a 3rd season.  Today really is the day for “sort of”.  It’s been renewed for 13 episodes starting after the 2010 olympics (probably making the start date March 1st).  It will still air in the normal Monday 9pm (8CST) time slot.  Apparently enough boxes of “Nerds” candy made their way into NBC studios.

NBC made it clear that the reason Chuck was renewed was the overwhelming response by the fans.  There are several popular users on Twitter that have been promoting “Save Chuck!” and a website or two as well.  There’s a podcast. There’s even a blog promoting donations to the American Heart Association in the name of Chuck Bartowski.  The fan response for this show was pretty impressive.

Subway has apparently taken notice of this fan-love and has decided to step up as an even more prominent sponsor for Season 3.  I recently read a blog that was complaining about a reference to “5 dollar footlong” in the middle of a Chuck episode.  Really?  That bothered you?  I’ve never been to a “Buy More” store, but I have been to Best Buy.  It wouldn’t bother me if they worked at a Best Buy.  Turns out, Subway felt the same way.  I’ll go ahead and propigate the rumor that Sara will be working at a Subway as her cover for season 3.

Typically when a show is renewed for 13 episodes the network will have the option of extending the show for another 9 episodes to complete the season.  Since Chuck will be starting in the spring, that probably won’t be happening.  Next year will be a short season for Chuck, but it’s an opportunity for the show to increase its ratings for a shot at a 4th season.

In the meanwhile, time to catch up and Watch  Chuck Season 1 and Watch Chuck Season 2.  They’re even available for instant download!

Conan O’Brien Tonight Show Review

Jay Leno is out.  Well, sort of.  Conan O’Brien is in.  Now come the questions.

Can Conan hold the late night crown?

Can Conan stay #1?

Can Conan hold the late night crown?  Will Conan be able to adjust his humor to fit the earlier time slot?  How funny can Conan be without Triumph the Insult Dog?  (You know you were asking that one.)  One show down, was it funny?

The show opens with the old NBC logo and the formerly ubiquitous “Brought to you in living color” slogan.  Conan has a new set, a new desk, and a new theme song.  The song is a nice update to Conan’s original Late Night theme.  The questions continue to roll in.

Will Conan continue the nipple-pulling, puppet-pantomime, spin-jump-point intro?  Mostly no.  It was definitely strange to watch Conan walk out without antics, jumping, swaggering, or adding bathroom-spackle to the hair.  The show in general can really be summed up by what happened next.  Conan turned the n-p,p-p,s-j-p (see above) into jump-point.  The show in general was definitely toned down from the previous Late Night drunk test humor into a Tonight Show version that contains less slapstick elements.

Conan really got his start in Hollywood as a writer for the Simpsons.  To be a successful writer on a show that has been that funny and well-known for so long has got to be a credit to his sense of humor.  It showed in his performance last night.  He altered his humor — not to make it less funny, but to make it more relevant to an earlier crowd.

The show was grandiose and it was funny.  If — for one minute — you’re led to believe that the first night had to be funny because NBC wouldn’t let it not be funny… well, just watch Jimmy Fallon’s first show on Late Night.  That was certainly not funny.  Not even a little bit.  The fact that Conan was able to come out big and have an entertaining and relevant first show is a good sign.

To watch, see Conan’s First Show on Hulu.com.

Fireproof Review

June 1, 2009
Fireproof the Movie

Fireproof the Movie

This movie sat atop the Amazon best seller’s list for quite some time and I was curious to find out why. I have watched several of the “Left Behind” series and they were fine, but certainly not outstanding.  So, what made this movie so different that it was a best-seller.  In fact, it was produced on a budget of $500k and yet yielded over $33 Million at the box office.  Interested?  I was.

Since Sunday night is my time to stop working and watch a movie, I figured out what Online Movie to Watch with our browsing interface.  I found Fireproof and a few minutes later was watching it on my XBox / Home theatre gig.  As I kind of expected, the acting was a bit shoddy.  What I was really surpised by is how bad the directing was.  Finally, the script was sometimes tedious (to act/read), sometimes bulky and clunky, and sometimes so unnatural that it felt like the Anakin / Padme “Love Scene” in StarWars Episode II.  Despite all of that, I really enjoyed the movie.

I know, I know.  You’re not supposed to enjoy a movie with bad acting — especially for a former actor myself (nothing noteworthy).  Same goes for directing.  So what gives?  Honestly, the storyline in this movie was strong enough to carry it.  There have been a lot of plot-less movies coming out lately, and it was nice to finally watch something with a storyline that held my attention.

The movie centers around Caleb (Kirk Cameron) who is a firefighter in a failing marriage.  Cameron actually did a decent job in the movie, as did his character’s wife Catherine (Erin Bethea).  As you may have gathered from the press material, Fireproof draws a lot of similarities out of the firefighting career of Caleb and his marriage.  The process he takes to get there is what really draws you into the storyline.  Especially if you’re married, this movie has a good chance of hitting close to home.

While it wasn’t Ladder 49, it was definitely a movie that the whole family could safely enjoy.  Once you get past some of the finer points of producing a movie, the story line is enough to carry this one home.

Movies You Own + Movies You Netflix

May 12, 2009

We’re very excited about this feature — DVDCorral can now integrate with your Netflix account.  That means you can now Add movies to your Netflix queue while you browse the site.  It also means you can use Netflix’s “Watch Instantly” to watch any movie in the Netflix “Watch Instantly” catalog.  As you click-through to see titles on the viewmovies page, you can now see if they are available from Netflix.

To add support for this to your existing account, just go to the Settings page.  At the bottom of the page there is a link to integrate your account with your Netflix account.  It’s a simple, 3-click process that will have your accounts integrated in no time.

Don’t have a Netflix account?  No problem, clicking on the link and signing up for one helps support DVDCorral.  They have plans as cheap as $4.99 / month and they offer a free 2-week trial period.  Most (but not all) plans, come with unlimited online viewing — so now you can browse DVDCorral and watch movies instantly (based on Netflix “Watch Instantly” availability).

Currently, you can Add movies to your queue and Play movies that are on the “Watch Instantly” list.  In the future, we plan on adding many additions to this great new feature of DVDCorral.  If you have any suggestions on how we can make your DVDCorral + Netflix integration work even better, don’t hesitate to comment on this post or e-mail webmaster@dvdcorral.com.  We always listen to your suggestions!

Now, what to watch… what to watch…

Scanning Movies Quickly into Your Database

May 6, 2009
Cuecat Barcode Scanner

Cuecat Barcode Scanner

There are two very fast ways to scan DVDs into your catalog.  For users who are importing their collection directly from another online database (such as DVDSpot) or a software program, you can use our import function.  The method this article will concentrate on is for users making a new database of their movies.  In order to do this quickly, DVDCorral supports an ultra-fast barcode scanning option.

Obviously, you’ll want to start with a barcode scanner.  We recommend the Cuecat because they’re cheap, easy to find, and work fairly effectively.  You can usually find them on ebay for under $10 from trustworthy sellers.  You’re welcome to use any barcode scanner you may have access to.  The main perk of the Cuecat is that they’re rather inexpensive.  Click on this link to Buy a CueCat today from our recommended sellers.

NOTE: You may see some sites talk about “neutering” your Cuecat.  If you’re going to use it with DVDCorral.com it doesn’t matter.  Cuecats use a special encryption for their barcodes, but we’re able to decrypt it with software.  Any Cuecat you buy that works, is a Cuecat that will work with DVDCorral.com.

Sign up for a free account and then go to “Add” where you’ll be prompted to enter your UPC.  Now just start scanning.  You’ll notice our ultra-fast scanner doesn’t require clicking, typing, or anything else.  Just scan your movies one after another until you have populated your collection.

That’s it.  Once you’re done scanning your collection, you can start customizing your catalog.  Check out some of the other articles on what features and functionality you’ll find here to help organize and share your new DVD Catalog!

Custom Genres, Numbers and unique fields

You asked.  We answered.  DVDCorral now supports 4 new custom fields.  The first two are completely arbitrary — you name them what you want and use them for what you want.  This is DVDs your way baby!  The 3rd field is a genre field.  We’ve heard a lot of requests for this, so we’ve added it.  We have made it separate from the first two fields because we may do something in the future like use the DVDs genre unless you’ve specified a custom genre.  Then you’d have the option of overriding in the case where you’ve specified a genre.

Finally, we added a number field.  At first glance, this might seem a little odd, but we think it will be very useful for some users.  The first three fields are always treated as text, which means if you sort them 100 comes before 11.  Number field to the rescue!  In the case that you need to assign each of your DVDs a unique number, you can now use this field and sort them as numbers.  Why?  Well, for example, if you have a 500-disc DVD player, you might want to track which slot number each DVD was stored in.  Now, no more plunking through pages of notebook paper, just pick the DVD you want to watch from DVDCorral and whala!  Now you know what slot # it’s in.

To enable these new fields, simply go to the “Settings” page once you’re logged in.  At the very bottom of the page you can choose which custom fields you’d like to enable and what you would like to label them (yes, you can even re-label the custom genre or number fields).  To enable them in your “Detail” view, just select the appropriate option directly above the custom field settings in the display list.

That should have you up and running with custom fields.  As always, if you’ve got questions, comments, or suggestions we’d love to hear them!

Thanks!

DVDCorral: The Online DVD Catalog

So, what is DVDCorral?  Well, in short, it’s an Online DVD Catalog system for organizing your DVD collection.  Some call it a Personal DVD Library, My DVD Collection, or DVD/Blu-ray Organizer.  Whatever you call it, we’re here to help you catalog and organize your DVD collection.

You may want to check out the FAQ and AboutUs pages for more details, but here’s a short list of our features.  Of course you can catalog your DVDs, but now what?  Well, you can track who may have borrowed a particular DVD so you can be sure to get it back.  Or, perhaps you need a way to pick a movie off the shelf when you’re sitting at home.  Sort your list by Genre, filter only ‘G’ movies for the kiddies to watch, or list them according to your personal rating and pick one of your favorite movies tonight.

In addition to all the ways you can organize your movies, you also have some cool options for watching movies.  DVDCorral is now integrated with Amazon Digital Downloads, so now you can watch movies instantly instead of waiting for them to ship.  Digital Downloads are a great way to watch a flick you may have found in someone else’s collection or while browsing movies on our site.  For any movie, just click on it to see if we have a Digital rental or purchase available.  Rentals typically range from $0.99 to $3.99 for a 24-hour viwing period and purchases can range from $6.99 (or less) to about $14.99.  Check some of our other articles to see how to watch from your TV using Tivo, Xbox, or a PC.

If that’s not enough, how about creating a wishlist for a birthday or Christmas.  As you browse our site, just add movies to your collection and then mark them as “Wish”.  You can then give friends a link to your “wishlist” so they know what DVDs to buy you.  Even without using the wishlist, DVDCorral is a great way to make sure you don’t keep buying the same DVD!

The Reader Review – On Xbox via Amazon

May 4, 2009
The Reader Review

The Reader

With all the great reviews I had been hearing about The Reader, I thought it was time to watch for myself.  I try to keep Sunday nights chill and so I decided to buy a digital copy of the movie from Amazon.  Re-heating some Chinese food combined with a near-frozen bottle of IBC Rootbeer put me in the perfect place to watch The Reader, or so I thought.

It turns out, the best part of the whole night was watching an Amazon Digital Download from my Xbox360.  My primary PC is nowhere near my home theatre and I very much prefer to watch my movies in a room with over 1000 watts of Subwoofer and a 100″ screen.  That’s just me.  Thankfully after some simple instructions on the Amazon page, I was able to download it to my PC and stream it to my Xbox in the theatre.

Windows Media Player reports the file uses a resolution of 704×396, which seems a little odd since DVD quality is generally 720×480 (NTSC).  However, I watched the film without knowing this and judged it to be roughly DVD quality.  Given the resolution, it seems that was an accurate assessment.  For reference,  Star Trek VII: Generations which I also bought from Amazon, uses a resolution of 720×408.

As for the movie itself, it was somewhat of a deep movie, but with fewer twists and turns than I was expecting.  The timeline is what gives the movie intrigue.  It’s the first movie I know of that depicts Germany — from a simple citizen’s perspective — beginning pre-WWII and ending back in present time.

The character development was phenomenal and helped by the writing as well as the acting.  It is rare that a movie does such a good job of developing a character before revealing the intricacies of their role.  Developing the characters here was essential for the rest of the plot to unfold and to take the intended emotional grasp.  Unfortunately, the first 30 or 40 minutes of character development involved a lot of nudity.

That was probably the most disappointing part of the movie for me.  The movie was rated R by the MPAA “for some scenes of sexuality and nudity.”  It should have read “since everyone is naked for the first 45 minutes.”  Really, was that necessary?

It’s unfortunate, because it’s not every day that a movie has such solid character development with acting to go with it.  On top of that, it was set pre and post WWII and even tackled literacy as an issue.  Tackling big issues without being an after-school special is enough of a feat on its own these days.  The story did revolve around some bizarre character traits (I’ll use that to avoid any spoilers) and coupled with the nudity it really just detracted from the movie for me.

Overall, I’d have to give the movie a C-.  It’s too bad there were too many bits detracting from what otherwise could have been a great story.  If you’re looking for a family night flick, this is definitely not the one.

Has Chuck been Canceled?

April 22, 2009

Update: Chuck has been renewed for a 3rd season.

Is Chuck Cancelled

Has Chuck been Canceled?

Alright, so it’s moved to the point of addiction.  Admission is the first step right?  Admit one.

I watched the final episode today on hulu.com.  Between this episode and the previous (it was a two-parter), the writers really hit one out of the park.  Hopefully it won’t be a walk-off home run.

Chuck has always impressed me with their ability to combine super-sleuth with action-packed and still effectively mix it with ultra-nerd.  Josh Schwartz, the creator and executive producer of Chuck did a nice job of creating the show with such a mix of otherwise incompatible genres.  Unfortunately, he’s not even sure where Chuck sits right now.  When asked by the New York Times, “As of this moment, do you know where ‘Chuck’ stands?”, Josh responded “Sitting here today, I do not know. Which is a tricky place to be, emotionally. The last two episodes are certainly the best that we’ve done, and I feel like the whole season has been building. To feel this coalescing of the inter-Web forces, in support of the show, has been really remarkable.”

So, Chuck or no Chuck?  Looks like NBC has yet to make that decision.  In the meanwhile, it looks like I’ve got some time to get off of TV and back to movies.  Anyone seen any good movies lately?  I’ll be taking that ticket now.

Admit one.

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