Thursday, February 24, 2011

Buying Blu-rays is a science.

When I upgraded to an HDTV, I went out and bought Kill Bill, Volumes 1 and 2, and Planet Earth on Blu-ray. Since then, I've become somewhat expert at pricing Blu-rays and ferreting out the deals. I have a... pretty respectable library, now.

The problem being, these things are bloody expensive. A new-release Blu-ray is never cheaper than thirty bucks - and sometimes more. Experience is required, to find reasonable prices - although sometimes, titles are worth the premiums asked (I did pay day-one prices for How To Train Your Dragon and Despicable Me).

These tips may not apply to your town - but still, try to think of buying cheap movies as a game. A game you can win. Here's my top spots:

Blockbuster is a good place to check for two reasons. First off, their previously-viewed section - where they sell off rental copies of BRs that folks aren't renting enough of - is a good place to find new(ish) movies for much less than their standard sticker price. The downside of this is that you're always getting only the movie disc. If the package originally came with a movie and a special features disc, you won't be getting that second disc.

They also have a bin full of old "crappy" Blu-rays, priced to move, sometimes as low as five dollars. That is the lowest I have ever found a new, sealed Blu-ray for, and how I got my copies of Blade, Run Lola Run and The English Patient (which, yes, I actually like.)

Word to the wise: never, ever buy your Blu-rays from their "new" rack. They have the worst prices for the premium stuff.

If you're looking to buy new, Best Buy and Wal-Mart are the places to do it. Yeah, yeah, I hate Wal-Mart too - but... it's so cheap. That said, I rarely purchase movies there - except when I find a significant deal. It's often a better use of time to check out Best Buy, as their selection is far superior, they have generally reasonable prices for their premium releases, a few animes on Blu-ray and a wide assortment of cheap ones - and sometimes we're talkin' about really good movies.
"...if I don't buy Casablanca for ten bucks, I'm going to regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow - but soon, and for the rest of my life."

I'm not taking any bets that my readership lives in The Shitty Part Of Town - but if you do, these places can be a gold mine. I've found one place that occasionally gets new stuff in, and their running deal is two-for-fifteen. That's good-as-new Blu-rays for $7.50 each, often when they'd cost you $40 new - that's a score. Finding Tekkonkinkreet there was an absolute thrill.

If you can find a pawn shop that's a clean, friendly place with nice staff? Put it on your rotation of places to check out, when you're hunting for movies.

...but that's a big "if."

HMV has become my new go-to store. You can browse every title they have in their system online, and check to see if the store nearest you (or in the nearest town, or province, or country) has any in stock. If they do have it, you can reserve it with the click of a mouse and they'll hang on to it for you until you can pick it up. Handy!

They also carry some rather nicely obscure stuff. They're the only brick-and-mortar retailer in Canada that actually has Paranoia Agent in their system (strangely, they have volumes 1, 2 and 4 - but not 3). I can't tell you that they're particularly quick, when it comes to delivery - but they've yet to screw me - and they let me order Azumanga Daioh, which puts them miles ahead of, well, anyone else.

Seriously. Go into Best Buy or Future Shop or Wal-Mart and ask them if you can order in an item that exists in their system, but is not currently in stock. The answer is no.

HMV's answer is yes, so they have secured a great deal of my custom. They have constant deals on Blu-rays they're trying to liquidate, but the roster for the 2-for-20, 2-for-30 deals doesn't rotate with any great regularity. Once you've cherry-picked the ones you want, you'll find there's not much purpose in checking for the cheap ones there.

Still, their prices are reasonable, the 2-for-whatever deal sometimes results in a score, and they're the only brick-and-mortar retailer that actually lets you order stuff. Good on ya, HMV.

...but lately, it seems, I have exhausted the potential for finding great stuff in the physical realm. Or rather, some stuff just can't be found in stores, and it's only then that I turn to the internet.

My first, trepidatious toe-dip in these heady waters was back in 2008, with the Asian disc release of Siren: Blood Curse. I certainly wasn't dissatisfied with the experience, but it's taken me until this new year to re-enter the world of online shopping.

It started with the art book for Valkyria Chronicles, and then when I discovered I couldn't get the third disc of Paranoia Agent from HMV, I turned again to the virtual sundry.

I currently have another... two pending orders, I think - but two came today, and they perfectly illustrate the inarguable strength of the service offered. Amazon's price is nearly always excellent, but it's the stunning selection that makes it such a resource.

As I was writing that article about Lindqvist, I discovered my Blu-ray copy of one of my all-time favorite films had wrong subtitles. I'd never noticed, because after watching the totally legal format I first viewed the film in a half-dozen times, I bought the BR out of love and never actually watched it.

After confirming the subtitles were, indeed, wrong, I set to tracking down the right ones. HMV had a copy of Let The Right One In on Blu-ray, but it was an initial-run copy with the wrongness. The only place I could turn to guarantee a copy with the correct text was - only the PAL release of the film had the theatrical subtitles (though new-print NA copies do too) - and after a mere nine days, it arrived.

Pulp Fiction, on Blu-ray, doesn't seem to be in print in North America. The copy you see above is the Hong Kong release. It has the option for English or Chinese subtitles, and half of the text on the box is kanji. Hah! This is the miracle of the internet!

Now, I have the definitive version of Let The Right One In and, finally, my Blu-ray collection of Tarantino's films is complete.

Thanks, Amazon. You are a retail juggernaut with good reason.


  1. I got lucky the other week while at one of my local grocery stores, (Well, it's sort of like Wal-Mart, but much smaller) as I just happened to walk by one of the stands with movies and notice a sale ticket. They were selling Blu-Ray two packs which were, quite literally, two Blu-ray cases put back to back with a cardboard band around them and shrink-wrapped.

    Now, most of the selection was bunk (Click/50 First Dates was the one that stood out to me, not that they're bad movies, just movies I don't care to actively see) but there was one pack that had The One and Kung-Fu Hustle together. Not only were they selling these bundles for $20, but they actually had a $5 discount for that week. It was wonderful. You know how I love me some Kung-Fu movies.

  2. I am a chump. I almost always pay full or close to full price. But I also don't buy a great deal of BRs, so it could be much worse.

  3. (Checks.) Ohhh you guys don't have HMV in the States. That sucks! They've got The Legend of Drunken Master as a 2-for-20 deal, and Shogun Assassin for a straight $20.

    Burn. I'd love to find the original Drunken Master on blu-ray... I wonder if that exists? (Checks.) Nope.

  4. Have you seen Iron Monkey? It's like a Kung-Fu Captain Marvel!

  5. That's in with the 2-for-20 deals at HMV too. Or maybe it was 2-for-30, I forget.