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Farewell to ClearPlay

[UPDATED NOTE: This blog posting continues to receive a lot of traffic from those interested in edited movie content. As of May 2015, here is the status of edited movie choices: 1) VidAngel continues to impress with their edited streaming video business. Not only can you stream to your mobile device, but you can stream directly to your TV using a variety of options. Their pricing model is very attractive as well (just $2 for an HD movie). See one of the founders comments, below, on other details and check out their site! 2) ClearPlay has received a lot of attention as of late as they finally released their long awaited bluray player. Filters can now be downloaded and added to the player automatically which is a nice feature. ClearPlay also has edited streaming content as well, though from what I can tell, VidAngel still trumps them in that area both in content and pricing. 3) You can still purchase edited movies HERE, HERE, and HERE. I have no idea as to the legality of those sites but they’ve been operational for many years now.]

[NOTE: Since originally writing this post, ClearPlay has announced that they’ll be releasing a bluray player later this year (2014) and will also be entering the edited streaming video market. Details on this announcement are scarce at this point. Check their website for updates. If you’re interested in edited streaming video, I’d highly recommend you check out http://vidangel.com for a company who has already released hundreds of filters for streaming video content]

I’ve been a ClearPlay member and supporter for more than 10 years now. I was there when they released their first software that allowed you to watch edited DVDs on a computer; I was there when they released their first actual DVD player under the RCA brand; I was there when they released their first DVD player allowing for filters to be loaded via USB; and I was there when they came out with their upconvert “HD” player. In fact if client loyalty equates to dollars spent with a company, I’m as loyal as they come.  

After 10+ years of support, I’m saying farewell to ClearPlay.

Why you ask? Good question. Yes, I’m still one who enjoys watching quality movies without all of the inappropriate content. That hasn’t changed. But what has changed is technology. And with that change in technology has come different ways to enjoy movies compared to the traditional DVD method. Take bluray and streaming for example.

My wife and I now buy all of our movies in the blu-ray format. Why continue to invest in DVD when it’s clearly on its way out? And why not spend an extra $5 or $10 to own a movie that is clearly superior in video quality?

We are also Netflix subscribers and thus get a lot of our viewing content via streaming video. It’s convenient, it’s cheap, and there are a lot of options. True, they don’t usually have the latest and greatest releases, but we’ve found plenty to watch all the same. Particularly movies that are a bit older but still considered “gems” in anyone’s book. New content is being added all the time including a myriad of television show options.

The problem of course is that ClearPlay has ignored bluray and has ignored streaming. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen comments on their Facebook page from subscribers or interested parties wanting to know when they are going to release a bluray player. Either those comments are ignored or they receive a short reply of “We have no information at this time.” Is one in the works ClearPlay? I fail to understand why you just won’t let us know. You don’t even need to give details or a release date. Just give us HOPE!

On the streaming front, has ClearPlay even approached Netflix or Amazon or Vudu or any of the other streaming movie providers? I put up a petition many months ago asking for ClearPlay and Netflix to work together, and have even sent Netflix letters asking for the possibility of forming a partnership. No replies. And ClearPlay is equally silent on the attempts they have or haven’t made. With over 250 signatures thus far, people are interested!

There are two other things that factored into my decision to drop ClearPlay.

The one has to do with DVD availability. Yes, you can rent DVDs from RedBox to put into your ClearPlay player. But renting from RedBox means you’ll be renting new releases only (and good luck renting those new releases on the weekends). If you want to watch something that’s more than 3-4 months old, you’ll be out of luck. How do you enjoy all of those ClearPlay filters for older titles? Well, you either have to buy the movie, OR, you have to subscribe to a DVD mail plan since the brick and mortar Blockbuster stores are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

There is one other thing which probably doesn’t belong in this particular posting since it doesn’t have much to do with ClearPlay’s failure to keep up with technology shifts. But I mention it only because it’s a factor in my decision to leave ClearPlay.
It has to do with movies themselves.
It dawned on me recently that my family and I haven’t really been using ClearPlay that much. In fact, when I look back to 2012, we probably used it only five times. That would equate to $15/movie to watch it edited (ClearPlay membership divided by 5). But cost analysis aside, I started to think about why I only watched five. And when I thought about it, it’s because I just wasn’t interested in the movies there were filters for, OR because the movies just don’t clean up very well, OR they still aren’t very appropriate even after they are filtered.

Let’s examine some of the comments of our very own ClearPlay movie reviewers taken from the blog or the weekly newsletters:

While ClearPlay does what it can, there is no moral center as it concerns teen sexuality or substance abuse, portraying these as natural and even desirable parts of high school life. Though offending elements are trimmed, the ClearPlayed version still isn’t appropriate for kids.The plain fact is, not all movies are cut out for ClearPlay. Occasionally, a movie’s content may be so extreme that, ClearPlayed or not, a ClearPlay audience will find the end result too distracting to be enjoyed.ClearPlay trims several trysts, a few scenes of immodest dress, and more than 20 profanities, including one F-word. As many of the tales revolve around infidelity, the movie is best suited for more mature audiences.

There is plenty of violence and disturbing images to deal with, too, and with filters on full there will be some gaps. While the violent, disturbing nature of the film may turn some off (even with ClearPlay), for sci–fi fans this is a must see. 

With filters on full, prepare for a mute fest that will be a bit jarring to watch. 

The [movie] is probably not worth watching with violence filters on as you will be left with stretches of bad dialog…

With violence and disturbing filters on, you will have to fill in a few blanks for yourself. 

With filters on full, there will be one major continuity gap.

If you have the filters set for violence, bloodshed, and disturbing at all, you will miss major chunks of the film.

Does anyone think that watching a film containing 30, 50, or 100+ swear words is going to be that enjoyable given that entire conversations will be muted?
Does anyone think that watching an inherent violent and disturbing film is really going to be enjoyable even when ClearPlay is trying to cut all of it out? (talk about a very choppy viewing experience)
Does anyone think that watching a romantic comedy that portrays casual sex as an acceptable practice will be cleaned up enough to where that theme still isn’t apparent?

No doubt there are exceptions and sometimes there are occasional movies that clean up VERY well. I would argue those are far and few between. And for those movies, it might just be worth purchasing them edited instead of spending your money on an infrequently used ClearPlay membership.  Just a thought. (And a thought for you ClearPlay–would you consider a “per-movie” membership plan?)

Despite ClearPlay’s technological lag, I do, and will always, applaud them for what they do: clean up, the best they can, the awfulness in movies these days. My hope for them is two fold: one, that they adapt their product to the increasingly popular ways people are watching movies (bluray & streaming); and two, that they simply continue to stay in business–seeing as how amoral Hollywood and movie studios continue to push boundaries, resulting in ClearPlay finding it increasingly challenging to provide still-enjoyable-to-watch movie filters.

It’s Their Time

Sometimes I find myself amazed at the youth in this church. Doctrinally, I realize they were reserved to come to earth at this time because of their valiant nature and because the church really needs rock solid youth who are fully converted. Youth who will one day be the leaders in this world of moral decay who the Lord can rely upon to establish Zion. In practice, I see amazing things going on within the youth. My children continually amaze me with the seriousness in which they take their responsibilities. And the youth in my ward are amazing too.

I was sitting in fast and testimony meeting this past Sunday and was in awe at the youth coming up to share their thoughts. Gone are the days when youth just get up out of duty and give some canned, standard testimony which they’ve heard rehearsed from others. Instead, they get up and share their feelings; they share their struggles; they tearfully speak of trials and triumphs; and they speak of truly coming unto Christ in the process. 

This scripture is one that often describes them: 

“And they were all young men [and women], and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men [and women] who were true at all times.”  (Alma 53:20)

Yes, the youth mess up. Sometimes they forget their high standards. Sometimes they temporarily step out of line. ALL youth do. It’s part of growing up and getting the hang of things. But what matters the most is how they get back up and continue on the journey to eternal life.

And they are doing just that.

Ah. . .the Sun

It’s been a very long winter already. Almost three feet of snow, freezing rain, humongous icicles, and back breaking shoveling. Add to that gutters falling off and no more places to push the snow to get it out of the way and you can see why this winter has been rough. And it’s only January!

Along with the snow there’s been an absence of direct sunshine. With days on end of cloudy skies, you really start to feel a bit gloomy. Some people are more susceptible to this than others, resulting in depression, sadness, and overall gloominess. It’s enough to make anyone shout “Where is the sun!” 

So yesterday, as I was preparing dinner and some of my kids were working on homework, the sun decided to show itself before retiring behind the western mountains. I quickly called all of the kids to the window where the sun’s glorious rays were streaming in and told them to mimic Timothy Green. So we all stood there in a row, with arms outstretched, drinking in the sunlight and letting it enliven our spirits. 

Sure, it only lasted about 2 minutes. But those 2 minutes were priceless. 

I’m thankful for the sun that not only keeps us from freezing to death, but provides light and hope as well.

Spring can’t come too soon.

Anxious Load

Music–particularly music that inspires and enlightens–is one of the greatest things about life. I’m constantly amazed at how it helps, encourages, and uplifts me. Despite all of the music that does not fit into that category, there is still plenty of great music out there to truly feed the soul. The hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are certainly classified in that “great music.”

As I was sitting in Sacrament Meeting today after hearing some wonderful and inspiring talks, we turned to the closing hymn which was “How Gentle God’s Commands“.  I think this is becoming one of my favorites. The verse that particularly impacted me today was the third one which says:

Why should this anxious load
Press down your weary mind?
Haste to your Heav’nly Father’s throne
And sweet refreshment find.

My wife and I have been anxious as of late regarding our uncertain future. We’re not sure where we’ll end up living; not sure if the house we’re renting will sell; not sure if our kids will be in the same school boundaries; and not sure if we’ll ever rise above our budget woes we try so hard to improve upon. But as I sang this verse, it became somewhat clear that we just need to focus on keeping the commandments and being as Christ would have us be (or, in other words, more quickly and earnestly come unto the Father). By so doing, we’d be taken care of in the end.

I’m grateful for the hymns; the truths they contain and they peace and understanding they bring.

What To Do When Life Happens

It’s amazing the consequences that Mother Nature can cause, both directly and indirectly.

This past week we had a snowstorm that dumped about 30 inches of snow. As you can imagine, most folks, at some point, were out in their driveways with snow shovels, snow blowers, and snow plows trying to remove all of the white stuff so they could use their cars and get from their doors to the mailbox. 

I started thinking of all of the consequences this event brought with it. You have the retailers who see a spike in sales of snow shovels, snow blowers, salt, ice melt, snow clothing, snow tires, and heck–maybe even hot chocolate. They are happy. On the flip side, you see people suffering from more accidents (which may even cause loss of life), delayed traffic, canceled outings, and higher electrical or gas bills. They are not happy. 

Amidst it all is always an opportunity to help, to serve, and uplift. I’m always impressed with people’s willingness to serve. Not only does it make them feel good inside, it blesses the recipient as well. I saw and heard of many such incidents last week. Once people got done with their own driveways, they moved on to clear someone else’s. My family and I were recipients of such kindness ourselves by a good brother who had probably spent most of the day engaged in bigger snow removal tasks, but who took the time to help us with our driveway (which is rather large and windy and often too big a task for a small blade-equipped 4-wheeler). Just as I personally got done doing as much as I could do before my arms and back were about to breakdown, up came this good man who finished the job with his more than capable tractor. 

And so life is in general. Things happen. They always do. And usually they have both positive and negative consequences. What a blessing to see the positive! To get involved, to help, to feel good, and be a positive force for good. As King Mosiah of old once said “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God.”

The Eagles of Grace

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I went to see THE HOBBIT a few weeks ago with my wife. As the three Lord of the Rings films are my all time favorite, I was anxious to see and experience this new film. While I enjoyed it, one of my favorite parts was scene with the eagles. (spoiler alert)

There’s a standing joke among some that Frodo getting the ring to Mount Doom could have happened much quicker and with a lot less pain and grief if the eagles would just have carried Frodo and Sam the entire way. But that is not what the role of the eagles is.

Just as in the RETURN OF THE KING, the eagles played a pivotal role of grace in THE HOBBIT. Right before Bilbo, Gandolf and the dwarfs were about to be destroyed by the orc chieftan Bolg, just as they had done all they could to survive but couldn’t do any more, and just as they had given their very best effort to stay alive, the eagles swooped down and saved them.

And so it is in our lives. Our loving Heavenly Father extends His grace to us in those times when we need it the most. Whether it be during an extremely difficult trial or during those times we feel we’ve given it our all but it just doesn’t seem to be good enough, grace swoops down and blesses our lives just enough that we can make it through whatever trial we’ve been asked to bear. It’s important to note that God doesn’t take away the trial through His grace. He simply gives us enough blessings to help us through. Afterall, in the scene described above, the eagles don’t end up flying them to their overall destination. In fact, they place Gandolf, Bilbo and the others on top of a large precipice overlooking the land (which, by the way, they would  have needed to climb down from). This is symbolic too I believe. Being dropped off at such a high place, they were able to gain a new perspective. They were able to see more clearly where they were needing to go. God’s grace is the same. It blesses us with a new perspective; sets us upon a higher place so we can get our bearings and continue our journey in life.

I end this post with a scripture about grace that I enjoy. May we all look for the eagles. They likely help us more than we know in our quest to be better and find joy and hope amidst our afflictions.

2 Corinthians 12:9  And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.