After several bad experiences with Blockbuster's "No Late Fees!" policy (translation: we'll sock you for the whole cost of the movie if we feel like it), I signed up for Netflix. In case you've been living under a rock or in Communist China and aren't familiar with the Netflix service, you sign up to receive DVDs mailed to you as often as you like. Pricing runs from $9.99/month for 1 DVD at a time, as many as you like per month, to $17.99 for 3 DVDs at a time. Netflix pays all shipping costs.

After evaluating how much I want to spend on movies each month, I signed up for the $11.99 plan. I get two movies at a time, exchanged whenever I want, but with a maximum of 4 movies mailed to me in any given month. At first I thought 4 wouldn't be enough, but I realize there's usually about a 4-8 day gap between when I finish watching something and when I actually return it (hence my problems with Blockbuster), so the restriction hasn't caused me to have any delays yet.

My first priority was TV shows. The Simpsons Season 5 and Firefly were my "tests." Netflix shipped the first disc from both series the day after I signed up, and I received them two days later. The envelope is reusable - pull the front flap off (that had my address on it), and inside is a second flap with the return information and a "no postage necessary" stamp. It worried me a bit that a DVD would crack or something, since the envelope doesn't offer much support, but I suspect that (actual price of a physical DVD) x (% chance the DVD will break) < (cost of sturdier packaging). I've had no issues with scratched or broken discs yet.

Rated 5/5


The selection ROCKS. Obscure Swedish volcano film I saw on TV once? Check. Every Japanese anime ever made legally for the US? Check. Every season of every TV show put on DVD? Check. So far, the only films I have looked for that they don't have are Howl's Moving Castle (which isn't out yet), and Paper Clips (an independent documentary about a school which filled a boxcar with 6 million paperclips, one for each person exterminated in WWII).

Rated 5/5

Ease of Use

I won't say you never need to leave your house, since you do need to go to the mailbox, but you do never need to leave your yard. On the Netflix site, you can make a list of movies or TV shows you'd like to see, and Netflix will send you the next one on the list each time you send one back. Every time I see a new movie that looks interesting, I can add it to my list, and if the movie isn't on DVD yet the list will skip it until it comes out.

Rated 5/5


The Netflix website is really easy to navigate. You can seach for movies and shows by title, actors' names, category, or date, and it offers selections similar to Amazon's system - but this time, they're actually suggestions I *want* instead of "buy this other thing too!" It can also show you what other movies the main actors have appeared in, or what other movies the director made.

Rated 4/5


The whole "not leaving your house" thing more than makes up for the waiting, in my opinion. Your corner video store is still better if you suddenly realize you have a free night that night and you *really really really* have to watch a particular movie, but you do have the freedom to go do that too, if you want. I like having two or three DVDs sitting in my house at any given time, so if I only have half an hour, I can sit down and watch an episode of something and then get on with my life. However, if there is something you're dying to see, expect it to take about four days to get it (two for your returned DVD to get to them, they process it pretty much overnight, and two more to get the new DVD back). I have also heard rumors that if you're really taking advantage of the "unlimited" DVD plan, and getting 20+ DVDs a month, you get a lower processing priority, which can slow things down a day or so occasionally. Since I have no more than 4 DVDs per month, I've been really impressed with their turnaround.

Rated 5/5


Overall, Netflix is amazing. I particularly recommend it for lazy people like myself who never get movies returned on time, people who have a good idea what they will want to watch in the next week, and people who want to watch things their local video store never carries. It costs less than I would normally pay at the video store anyway, and I save a lot of time by not having to drive there every time I want to watch something. I can also hold onto a DVD as long as I want, until I'm ready to watch it - if you want to watch all the Firefly DVDs in one sitting, you can order then whenever and hang onto them until you have a free 18 hours (or whatever). In conclusion, Netflix rocks.