Thursday, December 27, 2012

Why Does Hollywood Hate Their Customers?

Just before Christmas I was looking for some stocking stuffers and I came across a movie my wife and I had missed when it was in theaters: the remake of Total Recall. I went ahead and picked it up and placed it in her Christmas stocking. We planned to watch it on the 26th, after attending Jack Reacher in the theater and getting some dinner.


We had a lot of trouble simply watching Total Recall. I’ll detail it below. First though let me cover a couple of things:

  • We’ve never pirated movies. We actually like big budget Hollywood movies and think the people working on the films should be compensated and that folks should not be violating copyright.
  • The current copyright term lengths are absolutely ridiculous and get more ludicrous every time that Steamboat Willie gets close to going public domain. Copyright is definitely no longer what it was intended to be and is now a tax on society instead of a boon.

OK, that said, on to why Hollywood seems to hate us.

We open the box so we can watch the movie. Inside are two disks. This box is supposed to contain both the “Director’s Cut” and the “Theatrical Version”. At first glance, we can’t figure out which disk to put in.


One says just “Original Film” and “Unrated”. The other says all of this: “Original Film”, “Theatrical Version”, “PG-13”, “Extended Director’s Cut”, and “Unrated”. I make what I thought was a solid guess and go for the second one with all the words on it since neither disk says anything like “bonus content” or “behind the scenes” or “gag reel”. I put it in and it defaults to “Theatrical Version”. There doesn’t appear to be a way to change the little “dot” that tells you which one is selected. The “Director’s Cut” seems to be a different color, and although we can change the color back and forth, the “dot” won’t move. We give up and try the other disk. Nope, bogus bonus content that nobody wants.

Back to the original disk. I change the color again with the right arrow and press enter. Only THEN does the dot move over to show the selection changed. That’s right: it moves when you actually tell it to play – and of course only shows for a half second. It is very hard to tell which version you have selected.

We thought we were home free. We were enjoying the movie up until it got to 1:45:03. At that point the picture froze for about 5 seconds and the Blu-Ray player rebooted. What the heck? How can a disk be so defective right out of the box that it reboots the damn player? So, we fire it up again and get as close as we can to 1:45:03 by using the scene select. We start it up and sure enough, the player reboots at the same place. Boy these devices with an operating system and DRM are crazy. I never had this happen with old DVDs. If you got a problem one, you fast forwarded through any bad spots. But this one reboots reliably right at this same point. By the way, we had one outstanding software update on the player so we ran that and got up to date. Same problem. We ended up having to go past the area with scene select that back up until 1:46:00 so we could watch the rest of the movie.

All in all, between getting the right disk in there, getting the Director’s Cut selected properly, having the player reboot multiple times and having to get everything back to the right place we wasted about 30 minutes just trying to watch the damn movie.

Wait, what? Yes, 30 minutes wasted due to just stupid stuff like:

  • Improperly labeled disks
  • Poor implementation of DVD Menu
  • Section on the disk capable of rebooting Blu-Ray players (probably something with the DRM scheme; who knows)

Now – how about the pirated version? From what I hear, you just search for it, download it and play it. No stupid unskippable region calling me a pirate and trying to claim that copyright violation is equivalent to theft (per the law, it isn’t). No preview trailers that I have to fast forward, no reboots, no problems.

Why does Hollywood insist on delivering a product that is inferior to that delivered by the folks pirating Hollywood videos? My only conclusion is that they hate their customers.