A LEGAL way to be entertained while surfing the web! Update 3/03
Written: Feb 17, 2003 (Updated Apr 18, 2003)
Ive used Netflix and was TERRIBLY unhappy with their delivery schedule (read my review at http://www.epinions.com/content_67897888388) and I like my local movie vendor so I didnt think Id be interested in this service. After reading a review about it and then visiting the site, I thought Id give it a try.
How is MovieLink different from Netflix & Block Busters? Its an electronic home video service for people with a fast internet connection and a great computer--thats what youll need to enjoy this service. These movies are downloaded to your computer for watchingno other media is necessary. No DVDs or VHS tapes to return, just download, watch, and when your subscription for that particular movie expires, its wiped from your computer. With some computers youll even have the option of view it on your TV screensee details below.
Its a joint venture of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Studios, and Warner Bros. and they are looking to offer more than just what youll find currently in the rental storesif its a hit, theyll offer special things from their vaults. They dont give a lot of information on this; I think theyre still waiting to see how the service does with the everyday stuff.
Its an attractive siteblue is my favorite color and its used extensively here. The site and the downloaded software carry the same theme so the branding is done well and you know where you are. With my DSL I had no trouble navigating the site, using all of its features,
They have the usual categories to choose from: New Releases; Coming Soon; and Genres including Action, Classics, Comedy, Drama, Family, Romance, Sci-Fi, Thriller and Western. Theres no Adult Content on the site at this time. Each movie has a short synopsis, rating information, and the cost ($2.99-$4.99) and the amount of time you have to watch after downloading (some are as short as 10 days--but all have a 24-hour viewing restriction).
They have a My Picks section where you can mark movies youre interested in for later downloadinga nice feature as sometimes I hear about a movie but dont have the time to watch it and when Im looking for a movie I cant remember all the great ones Ive heard about.
Theres also a My Rentals section with a complete listing of all of your previous rentalsnice if you dont want to make the mistake of watching one a second time. This also contains your rental details and allows you to check the rental status of your movies. Personal information, billing information and password control is also found here.
REGISTRATION / CHECKOUT / PRICING
Super-simple! Once registered (the usual stuffname, address, telephone, credit card info), you just click to rent and are taken straight to the check out. All along the way youre given hints and tips on how to make it a better experience for you as well as information on when the movie will expire. The only slightly weird thing is you can only rent one title at a time. If you want to download more than one, you have to go through the process twiceits quick and painless, but Im not sure why they havent upgraded the site to allow more than one at a time. If you have a coupon you apply itin my case they offer first-time users a $2.00 off coupon so my download was $2.99. Most movies are $4.99 and include the bonus disks (Netflix charges full price for the additional extras disks).
HOW IT WORKS
Browse the site, many have trailers you can use to help you decide. Once you are ready to rent, you register (one time) and pay for the movie rental with a credit card. Youre given the option of storing your credit card information since its a SSL site I felt comfortable having the information on file so on my next Ill log-in with my user name and password and Im all set to rent again.
You generally have 30 days from the date of download to start watching your video (the amount of time is clearly listed in the rental). Once you start watching the film, you have 24 hours in which you can watch it over and over if you chooseonce those 24 hours are over, the film deletes itself from your hard drive.
Theres a one-time download of their software called the Movie Link Manger (current version is 188.8.131.52 MP). This utility enables you to download movie rentals and gives you the opportunity to auto-resume downloading (in the event you need to pause or interrupt the download, this allows you to pick up where you left off). It also you to organize movies to download in your order of preferenceyou can change the order at any time, even mid-download. Auto-cleanup automatically removes expired movie files. You also view your movies with this managerit has full VCR functionality including pause, rewind and fast-forward.
The Manager software took 13 seconds to download & install to my machineno problems here at all. It auto started and my movie began to download. It gave me an estimate of 2 hours & 26 minutes
By agreeing to accept the software, youre agreeing to the following: Automatic Updating. When connected to the Internet, the Software may communicate, via remote activation or otherwise, with Movielink and/or the firms with which it does business with regard to the need for periodic updates, modifications and/or reinstallations (Updates) to address security, interoperability, and/or performance issues. You consent that Movielink and the firms with which it does business may periodically make such communications remotely and download such Updates to the Software stored on your computer without further notice to you and that such Updates shall be incorporated into this Agreement under the definition of Software and thus subject to the same use restrictions.
This is nearly identical to your AOL licensing agreement, but some people are uncomfortable with a software making changes to their computer.
None of this is a surprisein fact, if you try to accept without even at least scrolling to the bottom of the text, youll get a nice reminder asking you to do that. Of course, you can choose not to accept the agreement, but then you wont be able to download the Manager or use the service.
The service allows you to view the movie only on the computer youve downloaded it to and youre not allowed to copy or distribute the moviesstandard stuff, but Im sure theres somebody out there right now working on software to copy these.
THE MOVIE MANGER
The look and feel of the Manager is a file/folder type system which is extremely user-friendly. There are four tabs to choose fromDownload Queue, Play Movies, Notifications (order information), About (general information about the company).
In the bottom left-hand corner of the Download Queue window is an Available Space boxmine showed that my huge hard rive had room for 58 more moviesI dont think Id ever need to have that many ready at any one time, but its nice to know ahead of time if theres room.
Once downloaded, you no longer need to be connected to the Internet to watch your movie. There are some special requirements for Laptop computerstheyre covered very well on the site and have to do with some security issues. The site helps you work through any technical difficulties in a very concise and user-friendly manner. All terms were spelled out and drawings added to the understanding.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE
That depends on your Internet connection (see more about that below), how many people are using the Internet and the site (opt for late night downloading to improve your performance), what else you have your processor doing, and the size of the file. My movie took 2 hours at DSL, but could have been as fast as 40-minutes on a T1. All along the way, the Manager tells you how much time is estimated to be left, and what percentage of completion youve already accomplished. Again, all this can be done in the background as I didhad I left the computer on its own it would have downloaded faster, but I had to write this review!
The files range in size, but the average is 550MB. Make sure your hard drive has adequate space (see requirements below).
This will depend on your monitor and expectations. On mine it's great! I use Real Player, but you can also use Windows player. My screen is about 6" x 4" and I keep it on top of open screens so the pictures is always available. Since I'm the only viewer, this is perfect for me! You can opt for full-screen but the quality depends on your monitor and you will notice that there is compression (the larger the picture the worse the quality). Now I can surf the web, write reviews (as I'm doing now), and finally watch the movies I've been dying to see! Today is was "Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood". I've been trying to see it since it came out in the theatre and this was the first opporunity to download and watch it.
PC TO TV CONNECTION
Youre not limited to your computer screenthere are several ways to connect your PC to your TV. They describe all of the methods well and give additional technical information so that youll be successful. The key is that you MUST have a video card and sound card on your computer.
Movielink checks your computer settings when you enter the site to make certain that you meet the minimum system requirements:
Windows 98, ME, 2000, or XP
Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher with Cookies enabled (default setting) and Scripting enabled (default setting)
RealPlayer 8.0 or higher (RealOne Player) OR Windows Media Player 7.1 or higher
Connection speed of 128kbps or higher
300 MHz Intel Pentium III processor or higher
128 MB of RAM
Full duplex sound card and speakers
65,000-color video display card set to display at 800x600 or higher (video)
WHO WOULD ENJOY IT?
Teenagers, people living in dorm rooms or other small spaces that dont have a lot of room for media, or people who like to watch a movie while they work/play on the computer. Its inexpensive and with a little forethought (downloading takes hours) could be a great way to see some of the newly released videos quickly without the wait at the video store. People with a great computer and the technical know-how to link it to their TV or people like me who seem to only have time to watch movies when theyre home sick from work and dont feel up to making a trip to the video store. Or, think about all those people in the mid-west and east coast who are snowed in right now but have electricity & a computertheyre watching movies while everyone else is shoveling the drive!
FOOTNOTE: My computer runs the movie BEAUTIFULLY even while running memory intensive programs like FrontPage and EXCEL at the same time--your performance will depend on your computer and what you have running. I LOVE THIS SERVICE but there is room for improvement. They need more titles!!!
Darn, I had to rate it one less star...I've used it a few more times and found a few more problems. Most notable is that you cannot search for a movie. Most sites allow you to search by star, title, director, etc., this one has no search capability whatsoever. Also, the titles are more limited than I first noticed. Armed with a list of 10 movies I wanted to see, none of them are available on this site but are new releases available everywhere.
I still enjoy the site for what it is--a small-screen version of the movie on my computer screen while I work and play online.
I've just watched my third movie ("Thirteen Conversations about One Thing" which I loved!). I prefer the option of using RealPlayer rather than Windows Media Player - you have to chose one to download the movie in. The WMP crashed my machine several times-I'm a major Micrsoft lover, but the performance issues were too great.
My RealPlayer needed to be upgraded and it was all done through the "Play" process of the movie.
I have nothing but wonderful things to say about Movielink--it's been a perfect fit for me while web browsing!
They've added a search function! They've also upgraded the site and added a few more ways to locate movies. They still need to improve the selection before I move the rating to 5 stars.
Try it for free! They're offering a free trial - go to http://www.movielink.com/commerce/tos/TOSDetail.jhtml?id=prod300016&sid=s1.s.mge and enjoy "The ChubbChubbs!" - this year's Academy AwardŽ Winner for Best Animated Short Film. A great way to see if this service is for you.
I just finished downloading and watching "Igby Goes Down" and LOVED it. I'm watching 1-2 movies a week this way--time spent on Epinons is now spent reading, rating & watching! As soon as the selection improves I'll move it up to 5 Stars!