DVD shopping tips for the easily overwhelmed

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Renting videos doesn’t have to be an overwhelming and time-consuming task, or a crash and grab session with you yanking movies from the shelf based on how cute the DVD cover is.

A little bit of thought and planning goes a long way when you’re shopping for your latest DVD rental or purchase. If you’re renting, and you just want to enjoy some movies without committing them to your collection, you might find that the classic trip to the video store is the optimal choice over internet based services.

Assuming you trust your local video store to stay ahead of the curve and stay fully stocked with the newest releases, the in-store retail experience with all the titles at your finger tips and only a few steps away always trumps searching for movies online. Once the steps for DVD hunting are mastered, you’ll be speed shopping down the isles, through the checkout line, and back home enjoying the movies in the time it takes to pop popcorn on the stove. Don’t worry about how you look, just throw on a hat and some athletic getup, and be on your way:

1. Before you go, set a limit for the number of videos you’ll allow yourself to walk out with. Either based on funds or the time you have to watch them, setting a limit is the most important weapon against being overwhelmed by all the choices. You can always come back for the others later. 

2.  Don’t think it ridiculous to make a video list. Just like a grocery list, a video list will help you stay focused and not distracted by all the promotional posters and giant cardboard cutouts in the store. If you have the titles in mind that you’d like to see, you’re two-thirds done already. 

3. If you don’t have any titles in mind, center your movie search around the mood that you’re in. In the same way that people most enjoy music when it reflects their current mood, the same goes for movies. Drama, Action, Comedy, Thriller, Horror, Fantasy, or Romance, all these genres are separated in the video store for your convenience. 

4. Now that you know what you’re in the mood for, take a look at the DVD covers as you walk the isle. Movie makers take great care in designing the DVD covers to convey the premise and tone of the film with one snapshot. In this case, a picture is truly worth a thousand words. 

5. Don’t stop at the DVD cover though, that’s a big mistake. Flip that puppy over and scan the synopsis (summary of the plot). You’re also likely to find a few snapshots from scenes in the movie, which tell you even more about whether or you want to see it. 

6. Take a look at the rating, not to censor yourself, but to gauge whether it has what you expect from a movie of the genre. For example, just because it’s an Action flick and rated “R” doesn’t mean it has all the violence, nudity, and profanity that you might be in the mood for. The rating could just be due to drug use in the movie. 

7. Take a look at the runtime. How long or short is the movie? This is a sure sign of the believability of the film, and the level of satisfaction you’ll have after watching it. The movie makers should have found the right balance, allowing just enough time to help us understand and relate to the characters, while keeping the story moving forward at a normal pace. If you find a three hour long Action movie, keep moving, unless it’s of “Independence Day” quality. If you find a coming-of-age story that’s only an hour long, keep moving, because the best ones are always at least 90 minutes long.  

8. Look for familiar faces. Actors often seek out projects that are in line with, though not identical to, characters they’ve played before that were successful for them. So if you enjoyed their last movie, chances are you’ll enjoy their new one, more or less. The same logic goes for the company that made the movie (e.g. TLA Releasing, Wolf Releasing).

9. Once you’ve made all your choices based on the process of elimination, choose one at random. Step out of your comfort zone and choose something that you normally wouldn’t, like a documentary, musical, or old classic movie. A sort of wild card choice to rely on should all your other choices fall flat. You’re also more likely to be familiar when obscure references to lesser known titles are made.

If you follow these DVD hunting steps, you’re sure to walk away with at least three titles that suit your taste and your time. Here are some of the newest and best titles you’ll find if you’re headed to the video store soon. Try the DVD shopping tips to dwindle these down to the best of the best–for you.

Trapped, here! films
Computer scientist Samantha (Alexandra Paul) and her teenaged daughter’s vacation is halted when the car breaks down. The two are kidnapped, and their survival now depends on whether Samantha can and will decrypt classified government information.
80 minutes, Not Rated

Going Shopping, mti home video
Holly G. (Victoria Foyt) is a successful clothing designer with her own boutique who, in the course of a tumultuous Mother’s Day weekend, is confronted with deceit, desperation, kleptomania, addiction, and passion while under pressure to pull off the biggest sale of the year.
106 minutes, PG-13 for brief strong language

Meltdown, mti home video
Earth is shifted off its orbit and sent spiraling closer to the sun when a massive asteroid grazes the edge of its atmosphere. A chain reaction begins to destroy the ozone layer, causing world temperatures to soar with deadly consequences. Tom Bracket, an LAPD officer, and a team of scientists fight against time to save the planet from solar devastation.
90 minutes, R for some violence

My Sister Marie, tla releasing
Maximilian Schell, brother and confidant of renowned actress and media darling Maria Schell, blends interviews with staged scenes in this examination of the German speaking actress’ loneliness, debt, suicide attempts, and unwillingness to grow old gracefully.
91 minutes, Not Rated

Always Will, mti home video
After uncovering an old relic from his elementary school, Will (Andrew Baglini), a high school senior, discovers he can change his past mistakes. But when his unhappy mom shares regrets of her own, Will is faced with his toughest decision yet.
95 minutes, Not Rated

C.R.A.Z.Y., here! films
Part of the pop-culture saturated middle class of the seventies, Zachary Beaulieu (Marc-Andre Grondin), a sexually confused teenager with an affinity for David Bowie tries to survive four rough-and-tumble brothers and win the affection of his loving but old-fashioned father.
127 minutes, Not Rated

Bowser Make a Movie, ariztical entertainment
Bowser cannot hold down a job, so he announces his plan to make his own adult film, much to the chagrin of his father and his loving and supportive mother. Bowser disguises himself as his father and re-mortgages the house in order to finance his film.
90 minutes, Not Rated 

Shock to the System, here! films
When private eye Donald Strachey (Chad Allen) finds his latest client dead, his investigation leads him on a trail into the world of "gay conversion therapy," a twisted mix of psychology and religion designed to turn homosexuals straight.
91 minutes, R for some sexual content, nudity, language and a violent image

Evil, tla releasing
It’s up to a group of random strangers, including a wise-cracking cab driver, a teenaged girl who just lost her parents, a tough-guy soldier, and a tougher young woman to save the day as flesh-eating hordes of zombies sink their teeth into fresh meat.
83 minutes, Not Rated

I Am Guilty, tla releasing
Armin (Constantin von Jascheroff) is fresh out of college and unemployed. He sends an anonymous confession to the local newspaper taking blame for a charred car wreck he saw on his way home, then quickly spins into further acts of rebellion. Is it really all fantasy and lies, or is there evil lurking below Armin’s innocent surface?
94 minutes, Not Rated

Here! Comedy Presents Kate Clinton, here! films
Comedienne Kate Clinton offers her viewpoint on feminism, lesbianism, and life in this one-woman stand-up performance. Clinton takes on the burning issues of the day–politics, marriage, sex, pop culture and more.
90 minutes, Not Rated

In Her Line of Fire, here! films
It’s up to Sergeant Major Lynn Delaney (Mariel Hemingway), a Secret Service agent, and a press secretary to save the Vice President when he is kidnapped by rebel forces after his plane goes down near a remote South American island.
88 minutes, R for violence and brief language

The Longing, tla releasing
Erik (Hendrik Scheider) and his two German friends spend their days snorkeling, watching Brazilian soaps, and making love in front of a live webcam. A sexual rendezvous at the beach that turned violent may haunt Erik’s carefree life and his new relationship with Miguel.
80 minutes, Not Rated

Stephanie Daley, regent releasing
16 year old Stephanie Daley (Amber Tamblyn) is charged with murdering her newborn baby and forensic psychologist Lydie Crane (Tilda Swinton) is hired to determine whether Stephanie’s explanation of the baby’s death is fact or fiction.
90 minutes, rated R for disturbing material, sexual content and language

Poster Boy, regent releasing
The fact that Henry Kray (Matt Newton) is the gay son of a local conservative U.S Senator is an open secret on his college campus. That is, until a late night hook-up with Anthony (Jack Noseworthy), after which Anthony uses Henry’s sexuality as ammunition against the Senator.
98 minutes, R for language and some sexual content/nudity

Girl King, ariztical entertainment
When a naïve baby Butch is taken prisoner by the pirate Captain Candy, a hunt begins to find the Queen’s stolen “treasure.” A gender bending adventure where tops are bottomed, pirate captains are seduced by tranny sailors and cross-dressing femmes pack a wallop.
83 minutes, Not Rated

ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway, regent releasing
Over the course of one Broadway musical season (2003-2004), follow four high profile productions that would eventually become Tony nominees for Best Musical, including the Rosie O’Donnell/Boy George collaboration “Wicked.”
102 minutes, Not Rated

Say Uncle, tla releasing
A young artist (Peter Paige), desperate to replace the relationship he had with his recently relocated godson, pursues every opportunity that might afford him contact with children. He’s soon targeted by a neighborhood mom (Kathy Najimy) as a potential threat to the community.
91 minutes, R for language

You Are Not Alone, tla releasing
12-year-old Kim’s (Peter Bjerg) father is the headmaster of the Danish boy’s boarding school which he lives next door to. Kim forms friendships with most of the boarders, and a special relationship with 15 year old Bo (Anders Agensø).
90 minutes, Not Rated

Vanilla, tla releasing
When Jeff (Ryan A. Allen), an aspiring st1:city w:st="on">st1:place w:st="on">San Francisco photographer, discovers the body of the Bay Side Strangler, he is inspired to create an art project based on the killer and his victims. When he begins his project the ghosts of the victims begin to appear to him.
86 minutes, Not Rated

Chicken Tikka Masala, tla releasing
Jimi arrives home from medical school and is surprised to find himself in the middle of his own arranged engagement party. What his family doesn’t know is that Jimi is gay, and his boyfriend is furious.
90 minutes, Not Rated

Night Watch, tla releasing
Victor (Gonzalo Heredia) is a street hustler in Buenos Aires whose odyssey from All Saints Day to All Souls Day (the next morning) takes him from clients, to friends, to a gay gym, then on to an all-night café.
81 minutes, Not Rated

Unconscious, regent releasing
In 1913 Barcelona, Alma (Leonor Watling) is abandoned inexplicably by her husband. Pregnant and alone, Alma enlists the help of her brother-in-law Salvador (Luis Tosar) to track down her husband using clues from her husband’s manuscript.
104 minutes, R for sexual content including dialogue, and some drug material