Coffee Table Movie Reference
Hands-down the best offline resource for movie information is Videohound's Golden Movie Retriever
This book is amazing; it has:
- Movie descriptions and ratings that you can believe
- Cross-reference by actor
- Cross-reference by director, writer, cinematographer and composer
- Movies listed by subject (hundreds of subjects. In the mood for Suspended animation? Swashbucklers, Swimming, Swingers, Sword & Sandal, Sydney Australia?
- Awards and their winners
- Alternate title index
- "Kibbles" which are adaptations, recurring characters and successful screen partnerships.
So, if you don't know if a movie is worth seeing, or you want to be inspired to see a movie, this is the book
Shopping for Movies
My all-time favorite site for buying movies is Amazon.com. Their prices are very good, they offer used movies
for films that I want to see just a couple of times, they have very good prices on new DVDs and Blu-rays.
The other big advantages are:
Another very nice thing is AmazonSmile. Sign up on this site (here) and you can
choose from a long list of charities to benefit from your normal shopping on the site. It doesn't cost you a thing
but a charity gets a slice of your purchase. My purchases are benefiting the Santa Clara Chapter of the Daughters of
the American Revolution.
- They keep track of what you've purchased so you don't accidentally buy a DVD again
- They list what people actually purchase
- Their suggested movies are very good (go to a movie you liked and they have a list of others you might like).
- Many people have posted lists of movies to fit a genre or a mood
- Two words: FREE SHIPING. If you spend $49 in new merchandise, they will ship to you for free, that saves a good $10 on each order
The clear winner for web sites that provide great background information on movies is IMDB
The Internet Movie DataBase.
The site offers:
- By far the best movie scoring on the Internet. A movie rated 7 or better is likely a winner.
- A complete list of hyper-linked stars and the movie makers behind the film
- Memorable quotes from the film
- Technical information about the movie
A friend turned me onto Plex, a media server.
- On-the-fly transcoding of a bajillion video formats
- Support for Music and Photos
- Support for TV show episodes and Movies
- Keeps track of what you've watched
- Serializes TV shows to keep the next episode on the home screen
- Puts new content on the home screen
- Allows you to share your media collection with friends
- Native player apps for Roku, Google TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, Android, Windows,
XBox One, PS/3 & PS/4, HTPC and some Smart TVs
- Server support on Windows, Ubuntu (desktop), Mac, FreeBSD, NAS, NVIDIA Shield
- HD Support up to 1080p (and 4K on some platforms)
- DLNA Server for non-plex clients
Plex Pass (Premium) features:
- Multiple users/Access controls
- Mobile sync
- Content restrictions
- Cloud sync
- Trailers and extras
- Free apps
- Early access to updates
- Camera uploads
- Gracenote music magic
- Vevo music videos
Native/Direct streaming of HD (MP4/H.264/AAC) and 4K (MP4/H.265).
Plex server is free, some apps are free or $5 and the Plex Pass costs $5 monthly, $40 annually and
for a lifetime subscription. I recently got a special offer of a Lifetime PlexPass for $75 as
a long-time customer, so I've subscribed even though I don't need the PlexPass features, just
to support this product.
I have an extensive video collection ripped to Plex and it keeps it organized well. Plex scans
directories that you enable and looks up the movie/TV show based on filenames. It automatically
downloads the program description, cast, director, date of release, rating and genre(s).
I watch my movie collection on a Roku 3 at home and over the Internet when I'm on the road,
plus I have friends who can connect and watch at home.
Plex is very stable and I highly recommend it as an entertainment platform.
VLC Movie Player
A very capable movie player is VideoLAN/VLC Media Player. It supports subtitles and playback of DVDs
and Blu-rays (although I've had some trouble with blu-rays).
I back up all of my movies and TV shows to hard drive and stream them to my
Roku from a server. To back up DVDs I use DVDFab.
DVDFab tries to do it all, rip/copy/create/convert Blu-ray/DVD and more, but I only use it
to rip DVDs since the program is pretty pricey.
I've tried other programs but this one does the best job, including the best
at sound sync, which is a problem with other programs.
It will rip subtitle files as well as hard-code subtitles onto the ripped
video. It supports a large number of video formats but I use it for DIVX/AVI.
This program costs $49 for one year, $75
for a lifetime subscription. (The Blu-ray
ripper costs $60/$109 which is a lower price than when I was shopping for the product.) Recently
the site had a 35% off special and I picked up the Blu-ray ripper. It is nicer than Leawo
since it auto-crops and rips subtitle files.
The bad news is the Blu-ray ripper won't decrypt AACS 2.0. This is, however, only on 4K disks
that I'm not buying.
For Blu-rays, I used to use Leawo.
The Leawo ripper rips both DVDs and Blu-rays, which is good because I have a couple of DVDs that
don't rip correctly in DVDFab.
It will rip hard-coded subtitles onto the video, but it won't create SUB files like DVDFab.
It supports a large number of video formats but I use it for MP4 files for Blu-ray and DIVX/AVI for DVDs.
This program costs $45 for a year, $100
for a lifetime license. You no longer have to wait until
the first year expires to receive a lifetime license offer. Yay!
It looks like version 126.96.36.199 has been pulled by the publisher. I had problems encoding with that
version. Look for version 188.8.131.52 or 184.108.40.206 those work for me.
Leawo specifically says it supports decryption of AACS. We'll see if that means version 2.0 as well.
From what I can find, version 2.0 will be applied to 4K Blu-rays, which should be a non-issue for me
since I won't be buying UHD titles.
I give this product mixed reviews. On the one hand, it will rip videos chapter by chapter which is
good for cartoon collections. But, and I used this exclusively for my original rip of my DVDs, ImToo
doesn't always get the sound synch right. It also only rips full-frame so black bars aren't cropped
off so Plex doesn't know how to go full-screen (See DVDFab above).
I'm still using version 5 of the software so I don't know it version 7 has fixed these deficiencies,
but there are complaints that only version 5 works (specifically Platinum version 5.0.44 build-9025).
The product comes in three flavors: Standard, Platinum and Ultimate ranging in price from
$40 to $60. Ultimate is currently on sale for $42
so there's no reason to buy anything else if ImToo is your choice.
This is a shareware DVD/Blu-ray ripper. It has a 30 day trial period and decrypts
disks. It is free while in Beta, just download a new version when the trial period
The full/lifetime purchase price is $50 which is less than the Leawo MKV ripper which is $90
(and is supposed to be a stolen copy of MakeMKV). Right now, they aren't charging for the
program and require you to update regularly and use a key posted in their forums.
The output format is MKV which supports multiple audio tracks and multiple
subtitles. The file size for a movie is huge (30Gb) so this isn't a way
to save on disk space.
This program ripped "Room" which Leawo had trouble with (without AnyDVD).
To transcode my AVIs/MP4s to a phone-compatible 768kbps MP4 format, I use
Any Video Converter
The program is free but nag-ware. I went originally paid for a year since it
is so good. I'd "buy" more programs if they offered more than a free and a uber-expensive
This Pro program costs $10 for a year. Note that the $10 version is not AVC Ultimate which
is $50. You don't need either version to transcode in batch. I just bought it because
I'm a swell guy.
Just a note, if you queue more than about 10 titles, the program will crash
transcoding movies before it can get to the end of the queue. So far it has
always properly encoded 5 at a time. Sometimes it thinks it has converted the movie,
but something goes wrong and the result is only about 20% of the size of a properly
More bad news is: recent updates (as share-ware) contain adware and malware detection
software that are difficult to de-install. I stopped updating the software until I re-upped
the registration. So, to get started, download this version
of the software, convert a movie, sign up for Pro, enter the credentials, update the software and you
won't have the troublesome software. I like this product, but you really need to pay the ten bucks
to make it work well.
SlySoft may be out of business, but out of the ashes has risen a new company that has
taken over the excellent work of producing AnyDVD(HD). RedFox now has the purchase
page up, the cost for AnyDVD HD is from 59 Euros for one year to 109 Euros for a
lifetime license. To start with they are offering a 20% discount (that's the
good news, the bad news is there is a 4% fee for using an Asian country to bill
So for $100-ish
you can get a lifetime license for the cost of about a 4-year license.
This means they have to stay in business and not get shut down by the MPAA for 4 years.
I was doing without it for a while, but Leawo wasn't always up to date for Blu-ray
decrypting (I had trouble with The Revenant).
The bad news is this new version doesn't always keep disks mounted so ripping fails.
The good news is you can copy the decrypted disk to your hard drive and convert it
from those files.
Some of my DVDs are actually DVD-Rs which will develop errors in 5-10
years. So, to preserve them I generate ISO image copies of the disks
and store the ISOs on a RAID-5 array and back them up on USB disks.
The program I use is ISODisk. It is free and provides not only ripping
functionality, but mounting functionality as well. This is a good all-round
tool for ISOs and is simple to use.
From ISO, the standard Windows 7/10 ISO burner is fine.