Musings & Thoughts for Friday, June 11, 2021, or: When in Doubt, Shop-with-Points!

My 4K UHD Blu-ray collection. Doesn’t look like much, but keep in mind that several of those packages are multi-disc sets. The Skywalker Saga box set alone has 27 discs and comprises nine Star Wars films.

Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in New Hometown, Florida on Friday, June 11, 2021. Currently the temperature is 84˚F (29˚C) under sunny skies. With humidity at 51% and a southwesterly breeze blowing at 9 MPH (14˚C), the feels-like temperature is 90˚F (32˚C). Today’s forecast calls for possible light rain throughout the day and a high of 92˚F (33˚C). Tonight, skies will be partly cloudy, and the low will be 75˚F (24˚C). Today’s Air Quality Index (AQI) is 51 or Moderate.

One of the benefits of participating in a credit card’s rewards point program, such as that offered by my Chase Amazon Visa card, is that you can enroll in Amazon’s Shop-with-Points program. For every purchase at Amazon you make with the Amazon Visa card, you get 5% back – after you pay your bill, of course – and accrue “points” that you can then apply to the cost of a purchase. Each point is worth one cent, so if you have a balance of, say, 2000 points, that’s $20.00 in virtual cash.

I have four credit cards tied to my Shop with Points account on Amazon, including an Amazon Prime Store card that does not expire, but I use the Amazon Visa card the most. (Even when I don’t buy a physical item like a book, movie, music CD, or Star Wars action figure, I use it to pay my Amazon Prime Music and Disney+ subscriptions, so that card is always active). As a result, that card accrues more points than the others.

Last year I rarely used my points to pay for any of my orders; I wanted my total to at least pass the 20,000-points mark before redeeming any. It took much self-control and patience (two virtues which I admittedly I am often not known for having), but I managed to do it. (I kept on telling myself, Save the points for something you really like but don’t want to use the credit card for!)

(C) 2019 Lionsgate and American Zoetrope

Now that we are nearly halfway through 2021, I decided to use my points to pay for a few items.

First, a caveat. There are times when you can’t use Shop with Points.

I wanted to use my points back in March to pay for my pre-order of Indiana Jones: 4-Movie Collection. This is the sort of item I specifically save points for, right? Alas, no. Amazon said No, this order can’t be fulfilled with Shop with Points.

Oddly, I was allowed to pre-order Star Trek: Discovery – Season Three with Shop-with-Points, even though they are from the same company (Paramount) and distribution company (Paramount Home Media Distribution).

Today I decided to use some of my points (okay, a lot of my points) on two items.

The first item on my Shop-with-Points spree is the 4K UHD Blu-ray set of Apocalypse Now: Final Cut 40th Anniversary Edition, released by Lionsgate two years ago in a six-disc (2 4K UHD discs, 4 1080p HD Blu-ray discs) DigiPack.

I have the earlier Apocalypse Now: Full Disclosure Blu-ray set; I bought it in 2015 while I still lived in Miami. I didn’t get to watch it often while I was still in my house; my mom died a month and two weeks later, and after that, I had to deal with many life changes that culminated in my moving to “New Hometown” in the spring of 2016.

Like Schindler’s List, Francis Ford Coppola’s mashup of Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness and America’s lost crusade in Vietnam is not a movie I watch often. It’s a dark, sardonic, and often disturbing story about how thin the veneer of civilization is and how easily it is for someone brought up in a society such as 20th Century America to lose his (or her) moral compass in a remote, nearly primitive environment. In Conrad’s 1902 novella, that environment was the “Congo Free State,” the private preserve of Belgium’s King Leopold II. Heart of Darkness (which, honestly, I have not read) is an indictment of the cruelty of Belgian colonialism in in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, and it focuses on this theme of corrupted ideals and human morality.

Apocalypse Now also looks at how well-meaning Americans, inspired by JFK’s idealism and fueled by Cold War paranoia and strategic tunnel vision, became brutalized by the war in Vietnam. No one in this story – starting with Martin Sheen’s protagonist, Captain Willard, and ending with Marlon Brando’s tragically fallen Col. Kurtz – is either a complete hero or a complete villain. The Vietnam War has become a cancer of the soul – a heart of darkness, if you will – in all of the film’s major characters, including Robert Duvall’s Lt. Col. Kilgore.

Anyway, I was on Blu-ray.com this morning and saw that Apocalypse Now: Final Cut was available for $17.99 (half what I paid for the Full Disclosure set six years ago), so I decided to use some of my points to get it. (My credit card bill is already high as it is, so why make it higher, right?)

This will be the 47th 4K UHD title and the 400th Blu-ray overall in my collection.

(C) 2020 Oxford University Press

The other purchase I made with Shop-with-Points (and the last for a while, since I tend to husband these points for unexpected purchases that I don’t want to use my Visa card for) was a book titled The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History by Alexander Mikaberidze. Mikaberidze is a historian who specializes in Napoleon Bonaparte and his campaigns, and since it’s been a long time – since sixth grade, which is an eternity ago- since I read anything about that topic, I decided to get this book.

Here is the publisher’s synopsis:

Austerlitz, Wagram, Borodino, Trafalgar, Leipzig, Waterloo: these are the places most closely associated with the era of the Napoleonic Wars. But how did this period of nearly continuous conflict affect the world beyond Europe? The immensity of the fighting waged by France against England, Prussia, Austria, and Russia, and the immediate consequences of the tremors that spread throughout the world.

In this ambitious and far-ranging work, Alexander Mikaberidze argues that the Napoleonic Wars can only be fully understood in an international perspective. France struggled for dominance not only on the plains of Europe but also in the Americas, West and South Africa, Ottoman Empire, Iran, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Mediterranean Sea, and the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Taking specific regions in turn, Mikaberidze discusses major political-military events around the world and situates geopolitical decision-making within its long- and short-term contexts. From the British expeditions to Argentina and South Africa to the Franco-Russian maneuvering in the Ottoman Empire, the effects of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars would shape international affairs well into the next century. In Egypt, the wars led to the rise of Mehmed Ali and the emergence of a powerful state; in North America, the period transformed and enlarged the newly established United States; and in South America, the Spanish colonial empire witnessed the start of national-liberation movements that ultimately ended imperial control.

Skillfully narrated and deeply researched, here at last is the global history of the period, one that expands our view of the Napoleonic Wars and their role in laying the foundations of the modern world.

If all goes well, Apocalypse Now: Final Cut will arrive tomorrow, and The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History will arrive on Sunday.

Regarding Indiana Jones: 4-Movie Collection:

So far, the delivery window for that order is still fixed at being between June 19 and June 23. That hasn’t changed since I received the email with the update on Wednesday morning. It could, of course, change (either for better or worse) between now and next week, depending on how fast the replication plants can catch up to consumer demand.

(C) 2021 Paramount Home Media Distribution and Lucasfilm Ltd.

Here’s the thing, folks. Technicolor and the other companies that manufacture disc media products – and this covers the spectrum from ancient DVD to 4K UHD and Playstation game discs – do not have manufacturing plants in the U.S. All of those discs are made in Mexico, and my rudimentary research shows that only one or two plants make them. The main tasks handled by, say, Paramount Home Media Distribution are packaging and distribution. And – based, again, on quick and admittedly superficial research – there are only two or three facilities in the U.S. for those jobs.

I don’t work for Paramount, so I can’t tell you why its Home Media Distribution division failed to account for the issues with maxed out replication capacity. Other studios are finding that the surge in demand for physical media (which was decreasing as streaming became more normalized) has strained the supply chain. Indiana Jones is not the only 4K UHD release that is having “street release” issues, but it’s the most prominent, mainly because PHMD prioritized shipping the pricier steelbook version at the expense of the “normal” one with pressboard slipcovers.

I could, of course, cancel my order and order the steelbook at Best Buy. Heck, if I were desperate, I’d ask the Caregiver to send one of her three adult kids – each has a car – to pick up a set for me at the closest Best Buy store. But I would have to pay $20 more (plus taxes) for the damn thing. I’m 58, not 18, so I’ll just wait. I’ve seen the Indy movies countless times, and I have them in two formats.

I can wait two weeks more for the new 4K set.

And on this note, Dear Reader, this is where you and I must part. I need to take my midday break – yes, it’s now noon; fast typing is not my strong suit – and I am still in my pajamas, so  I need to shower, shave, and pick out an outfit for the day. So, as always, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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