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Amazon, land of 1 million things you need and 5 million options for each of them, has quickly become the one-stop shop for an insane amount of online purchases. For me, that's because they have a wide selection, carry most of the brands I want, list them at near the lowest or the lowest prices I've seen in price comparison research (with shipping in mind), and, last but absolutely not least, because I'm a Prime member and the internet has made me a glutton for instant gratification — something that 2-Day (or two-hour) shipping panders well to.
“I think, effectively, you have a company that has conspired with about a billion consumers and technology to destroy brands,” argued Scott Galloway, a founder of business research firm now called Gartner L2 and a professor of marketing at New York University Stern School of Business, in a presentation last year. “Their attitude is that brands have, for a long time, earned an unearned price premium that screws consumers.”
If you’ve never heard of the West Memphis Three, do some research before you begin—you’ll want to be prepared. Within only a minute of the film’s opening, as Metallica’s “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” noodles forebodingly over pixelated camcorder videos, intolerable images taken straight from police evidence glance across frame, so quickly and frankly you’ll immediately question if they are, in fact, real. Of course, they are—they are images no person should ever have to see, and yet Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky use them only to expose the unbelievable horror at the heart of the appropriately named Paradise Lost. What unfolds over the following two and a half hours is just as heartbreaking: a trio of teenage boys (one with an IQ of 72) is put on trial for the brutal murders of three prepubescent boys, the only evidence against them a seemingly forced confession by the young kid with the below-average IQ, and laughably circumstantial physical proof. The film explores the context of West Memphis, its blindly devoted Christian population and how the fact that these teenagers dressed in black and listened to Metallica somehow led to their predictable fates at the hands of a comprehensively broken justice system. With surprising access to everyone involved in the trial, as well as a deft eye for the subtle exigencies of any criminal case such as this, Paradise Lost is a thorough, infuriating glimpse of the kind of mundane evil that mounts in some of America’s quietest corners. Welcome home. —Dom Sinacola
It should be ridiculous, this. A buddy comedy built atop the premise of a man (Paul Dano) lugging around, and bonding with, a flatulent talking corpse (Daniel Radcliffe)—but cinema is a medium in which miracles are possible, and one such miracle occurs in Swiss Army Man. A film with such a seemingly unpalatable concept becomes, against all odds, a near-profound existential meditation. And, for all the increasingly absurd gags about the utilities of that talking corpse’s body—not just as a jet-ski propelled by bodily gas, but as a giver of fresh water through projectile vomiting and even as a compass through its erection—there’s not one iota of distancing irony to be found in the film. Directors Daniel Scheinert and Dan Kwan are absolutely serious in their attempts to not only re-examine some of the most universal of human experiences, but also explore the idea of a life lived without limits, casting off the shackles of societal constraints and realizing one’s best self. It’s a freedom that the Daniels project exuberantly into the film itself: Swiss Army Man is a work that feels positively lawless. Witness with amazement what bizarrely heartfelt splendors its creators will come up with next. —Kenji Fujishima
Like Me is an indictment of a life spent “extremely” online: a thriller in which the thrill is the threat of empty transgression; a body horror flick in which the body horror is the way social media and Tumblr and Reddit and YouTube transform us, make us grotesque, perverting basic physical functions into scary, dysmorphic representations of the flesh sacks we carry around with us whenever we’re not online. Early in the film, writer-director Robert Mockler introduces us to the online world of our main character, Kiya (Addison Timlin, terrifying), via a disturbing barrage of hyperreal, gif-like images—close-ups of sugary cereal and milk chewed sloppily, of a viscous tongue mid-slurp, of Kiya doing weird kinesthetics in a dirty motel room while the camera capsizes and arises around her, this Manic Pixie Dream Girl who embodies each of those words as literally as possible. Though Mockler implies that these are all curated posts Kiya’s put online, we believe that this is how she sees the world. Aided by some seriously heady opioids and hallucinogens, she can’t help but digest her lived experiences without mitigating them digitally. As Kiya moves through Mockler’s pink-ish, neon dystopia, DP James Siewert shooting Timlin as if she’s stranded in the middle of a Michael Mann joint, everything seems on the table. Kiya lures a motel manager, Marshall (Larry Fessenden, better than excellent), to her room—another room, another motel, somewhere on this stupid planet—with the possibility of sex. Instead, he finds Kiya’s redecorated her room like an outtake from The Cell, testing the lonely guy’s willingness to go along with whatever insanity’s in store. Of course, some icky gastrointestinal calamity occurs, but Marshall never flinches, so Kiya kidnaps him and takes him with her. Gorgeous and gross in equal measure, Like Me is a visual feast. Mockler conjures setpieces out of practically nothing, crafting each frame with a meticulous symmetry that belies the chaos at the heart of Kiya’s impulsive odyssey. —Dom Sinacola
Promising review: "I've been boiling various pasta noodles at least twice a week for over 25 years. When I first saw the Fasta Pasta microwave cooker demo video, I was a bit skeptical, but interested enough to purchase the product from Amazon. After using the product three times, I can honestly say that it not only cooks pasta very fast, but better, with less mess and energy, than boiling the noodles in a pot. Just follow the simple instructions and you will have perfectly cooked pasta without having to check it while cooking for readiness. I wish that this product had been invented years ago." —George Miller
The service debuted on September 7, 2006 as Amazon Unbox in the United States. On September 4, 2008, the service was renamed Amazon Video on Demand. The Unbox name still refers to the local program, which as of August 2014 is no longer available for downloading purchased instant videos. On February 22, 2011, the service rebranded as Amazon Instant Video and added access to 5,000 movies and TV shows for Amazon Prime members.
For better or for worse, Amazon has some of the most brutally honest reviewers on the internet. If there's something to be said about an item, they'll say it. That's why it's especially impressive when Amazon products have thousands of reviews and the vast majority of them are positive. What does that mean for you? Gone are the days of picking things off the shelves at department stores and hoping they're good.
For handmade-craft platform Etsy (NASDAQ:ETSY), Amazon presented an existential threat. Etsy went public in April 2015 at $16: shares closed the first day at $30, up 88%. From there, the stock simply fell apart. By the time Amazon launched Amazon Handmade in October, ETSY traded below its IPO price; it would close 2015 just above $8. Investors wanted no part of a money-losing business facing Amazon’s unlimited resources.
That said, SHOP stock does have some concerns, and in my opinion it’s not one of the best Amazon-proof stocks to buy on this list. I wrote earlier this month that investors should consider selling SHOP, even though I like the long-term story. Valuation is high, and this market remains uncomfortable in paying up even for high-growth plays. That said, Shopify does have plenty of room for growth, and I don’t expect Amazon to make much of a dent in its market share.
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In 2005, Amazon announced the creation of Amazon Prime, a membership offering free two-day shipping within the contiguous United States on all eligible purchases for a flat annual fee of $79 (equivalent to $99 in 2017), as well as discounted one-day shipping rates. Amazon launched the program in Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom in 2007; in France (as "Amazon Premium") in 2008, in Italy in 2011, in Canada in 2013, and in India on July 26, 2016.