It’s the start of a new month, and that means that most of the streaming services have seen a vast influx of new titles over the past few days – a total well into three digits. You can certainly scroll past my comments about streaming in order to get to the sites you frequent.
A couple of weeks ago, I went into detail on a few things that Netflix could do in order to promote their exclusive independent films, but Netflix and its treatment of their original content is just one of many complexities in need of some discussion as streaming moves past its wild west infancy and into something that starts to solidify in terms of format, interface, promotion and price range. So I’d like to use this column as a way to examine the way streaming services work or, in some cases, don’t really work to their (and our) best advantage.
The first thing I’d like to address is the “Free Trial Period” given by most subscription-based streaming platforms. The “Free Trial Period” is a remnant of Netflix’s DVD days, when a user, unfamiliar with how the process worked, could sign up for 2 weeks free before getting charged. It was a great introductory idea, and while plenty of users gamed the system with multiple e-mail addresses, it, no doubt, brought a lot of users to the company.
However, it’s now several years later, and the “Free Trial Period” is more of a curse than a blessing. It’s still offered by most subscription-based platforms, and consumers are certainly inclined to hand over their credit card information in order to test the service, but who among us can honestly say that we’ve never run over our “free trial” time and found our credit card charged for the next month of service? Granted, this is our own fault – we knew the risks and our own likelihood to forget to cancel when we took the trial – but it’s hard not to feel, deep inside, that the streaming company wasn’t just using the “free trial” as a way to play the odds on getting at least a month’s worth of actual subscription dues out of us.
The worst part of it is that the “free trial period” is relatively useless at this point in time. The purpose of a free trial isn’t to sample the actual contents of the service – for most streaming platforms, we can see the content they have without having to log in – it’s to make sure that we’ll be comfortable enough with their interface in order to use it often enough to justify the subscription costs.
Ideally, then, there should be no reason to have a “Free Trial Period” at all, but instead, allow the user to create a “basic” account without any type of credit card. This account would be able to log into the system and play a selection of 1-2 movies in order to test out the system on their technology, and do little else. The end goal of the free trial – testing out the system and having an understanding of its quality and functional use – would then be reached without any commitment on the part of the customer and with no potential backlash toward the company. Heck, signing up for an account, even sans credit card, would allow the platform to send e-mail updates on the service even if the client never paid for a subscription. (Midnight Pulp, covered below, uses something close to this sort of technique, but with a larger volume of free content.)
I state this as an option under the assumption that a potential customer’s use of the “Free Trial Period” for a subscription service is used in order to try out the system rather than to stream as much as possible within a short period of time (which, while perfectly doable, seems like a lot of effort), but I’d be curious to see what others think. Feel free to respond to me in the comments below, or on Twitter or Facebook!
Anyway, enough of my jibber-jabber. On to the movies!
New titles on Netflix include the animated film NERDLAND with the voices of Patton Oswalt and Paul Rudd, Mike Birbiglia’s comedy/drama about an improv group DON’T THINK TWICE with Birbiglia, Gillian Jacobs, and Keegan-Michael Key, the crime thriller DRIFTER from short film director Chis von Hoffman, the Hitchcockian French thriller IN THE SHADOW OF IRIS, the ‘60s set thriller A KIND OF MURDER starring Patrick Wilson and Jessica Biel and based on Patricia Highsmith’s “The Blunderer,” and NIGHT OF THE WILD BOAR, a Chilean horror film about a woman investigating the background of her newly-deceased boyfriend. Season 2 of Sense8 is also available.
Also new to the site are Wes Craven’s SCREAM, the documentaries ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL, BLONDIE’S NEW YORK, THE MARS GENERATION, AFTER PORN ENDS 2 and BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION.
New cult titles on Hulu include REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA, Eli Roth’s CABIN FEVER and its first sequel, Irene Cara in 1990s women’s prison flick MAXIMUM SECURITY (aka CAGED IN PARADISO), Tim Burton’s BIG FISH, George Romero’s MONKEY SHINES, John Waters’ CECIL B. DEMENTED, and Charles Band’s THE DEAD WANT WOMEN.
There’s also an onslaught of ‘80s and ‘90s comedy, including CLUE, THE NAKED GUN (1, 2 ½ and 33 1/3), 1993’s FATAL INSTINCT, SOAPDISH, COMING TO AMERICA, Joe Dante’s SMALL SOLDIERS, Ivan Reitman’s MULTIPLICITY, SO I MARRIED AN AXE MURDERER, JAWBREAKER, MAJOR LEAGUE II and III (BACK TO THE MINORS) and THE BAD NEWS BEARS. Action flicks include Arnold Schwarzenegger in THE 6TH DAY, both 48 HRS. and ANOTHER 48 HRS., Wesley Snipes in DROP ZONE, Brendan Gleeson in the British dark comedy I WENT DOWN, a bunch of Bond films (FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, MOONRAKER), and Kurt Russell in Ron Shelton’s DARK BLUE.
Plus RACE FOR YOUR LIFE, CHARLIE BROWN, ANATOMY OF A MURDER, WINTERS BONE, NICK OF TIME, SCHOOL TIES, Barry Sonnenfeld’s Elmore Leonard adaptation GET SHORTY, Glenn Close making some bunny friends in FATAL ATTRACTION, Warren Beatty in BUGSY, Jeff Bridges, Glenn Close, Peter Coyote, and Lance Henriksen in JAGGED EDGE, Anthony Hopkins returning in HANNIBAL, the darkly comic thriller CHUCK & BUCK, Kevin Costner and Gene Hackman in NO WAY OUT and a kid and his space suit in STAR KID.
If you’ve got Showtime, add Hitchcock’s TO CATCH A THIEF, Michael Mann’s THE INSIDER, the horror pic PET, the biopic JIMI: ALL IS BY MY SIDE and the first-person action pic HARDCORE HENRY to the list.
The library-supplied streaming service’s newest titles include the Korean rescue film TUNNEL, 2013’s CANNIBAL: A LOVE STORY, the Asylum film KING ARTHUR AND THE KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE, and the documentary CATCHING HELL IN THE CITY OF ANGELS.
New on the streaming service is Pam Grier in Quentin Tarantino’s classic JACKIE BROWN, Fred Williamson and Teresa Graves in Jack Arnold’s 1974 BLACK EYE, the ever-welcome BLACK SHAMPOO, Lorenzo Lamas, Rae Dawn Chong and Billy Dee Williams in MASK OF DEATH, Ray Liotta, LL Cool J, Mekhi Phifer and Taye Diggs in 2005’s SLOW BURN, Ben Affleck’s GONE BABY GONE, DMX and Nas in Hype Williams’ completely bonkers BELLY, RICHARD PRYOR LIVE ON SUNSET STRIP and RICHARD PRYOR HERE AND NOW, and Master P’s HOT BOYZ featuring Snoop Dogg, Jeff Speakman, Silkk Tha Shocker, Gary Busey, C. Thomas Howell and Dick Anthony Williams.
The latest additions to the curated services include CLUE, the prophetic THE RUNNING MAN, the excellent KID WITH A BIKE, TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY, Jet Li and Jason Statham in WAR, the documentary FACING ALI and Phillip Noyce’s RABBIT-PROOF FENCE.
I’d been missing mentioning HBO GO the last few weeks, but that’s mostly because they only add content on a monthly basis, save for weekly premieres. This week’s new release is VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN, but new catalog titles include SCREAM 2 and 3, SIN CITY, NOTHING BUT TROUBLE, Vin Diesel in BABYLON A.D., Ed Harris in the western APPALOOSA, John Carpenter’s VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED remake, Steven Seagal getting environmental in ON DEADLY GROUND, Steve Martin in THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS, the musical biopic NOTORIOUS, Bill Murray’s underrated QUICK CHANGE, the horror pic PERKINS’ 14, Laurence Fishburne in BIKER BOYZ, Jeffrey Jones and Teri Garr in MOM AND DAD SAVE THE WORLD and a number of Clint Eastwood classics, including THE EIGER SANCTION, JOE KIDD, HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, and THE BEGUILED.
New titles on Shudder include the A.D. Calvos’ gothic horror pic SWEET, SWEET LONELY GIRL, Ben Wheatley’s A FIELD IN ENGLAND, Owen Edgerton’s psychothriller FOLLOW, and the bizarre Dutch Drafthouse films pick-up BORGMAN.
Eiichi Yamamoto’s recently-restored 1973 animated film BELLADONNA OF SADNESS is new to the service, and highly recommended.
Another service that I’m covering for the first time comes from Troma, which allows you all the ridiculous debauchery you desire for a mere $4.99 a month. (And Troma’s picked up a lot more than TOXIC AVENGER flicks, so you’re bound to find something of note.) Check them out here.
Among their latest titles are MOONSHINE MEAT MARKET MAYHEM (a recent post-apocalypse film shot under the title CANCER DANCER), the paranormal adventure ARC OF METHUL (told via still images, LA JETEE style), the iPad-shot STANDARDS OF LIVING, 2003’s Japanese pink Eiga film NINJA PUSSYCAT, Joseph Merhi’s 1988 THE GLASS JUNGLE and L.A. CRACKDOWN, the erotic thriller CAUSE OF DEATH from TIME BARBARIANS director Philip J. Jones, the 1930 family drama SINS OF OUR CHILDREN, Ross Hagen’s 1993 flick TIME WARS, FEROCIOUS FEMALE FREEDOM FIGHTERS PART 2, WITCHCRAFT III: THE KISS OF DEATH, the animated pilot for a potential Sgt. Kabukiman television series, and the mysterious STREET BEAT, which is promoted on the site with the description, “I’ll level with you, I can’t find a damn thing on this movie.” Neither could I. Someone watch it and report back.
New to the service is another film from “Lawrence Talbot,” the 1984 hardcore “instructional” flick TURN ON WITH KELLY NICHOLS. Kelly Nichols stars. As herself.
Night Flight Plus
New to Night Flight are the 1986 episode of Night Flight’s “New Sounds” featuring Sigue Sigue Sputnik and the 1966 Italian superhero movie THE THREE FANTASTIC SUPERMEN.
New titles on Screambox include Lucio Fulci’s CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD and the Sweden-lensed 2010 hotel horror flick INSANE.
FilmStruck still needs to get its Chromecast capability sorted out (please!), but in the meantime, they’ve added a number of Albert Finney films, including 1963’s TOM JONES, 1960’s SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING, 1994’s A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE and John Huston’s 1984 UNDER THE VOLCANO with Jacqueline Bisset. They’ve also added De Palma’s 1981 thriller BLOW OUT with John Travolta and Nancy Allen, and 1973’s SISTERS with Margot Kidder, along with both seasons of the Italian crime series Romanzo Criminale.
This month the service is promoting a number of films for Mother’s Day, including Ellen Burstyn in ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE, Raquel Welch as a roller derby mom in KANSAS CITY BOMBER, Lucille Ball trying to sing in MAME, Barbara Hershey as a surrogate in 1970’s THE BABY MAKER and 1957’s Wisconsin-set child giveaway melodrama ALL MINE TO GIVE with Cameron Mitchell and Patty McCormack.
Okay, buckle in. There’s a lot to cover here.
First up, let’s get the notable new releases out of the way: AMERICAN HONEY, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, the time anomaly thriller DISPLACEMENT with Sarah Douglas and Bruce Davison, the horror pic THE GATEKEEPER, the action pic AWOL-72 with Luke Goss and RZA, the big-budget Russian sci-fi invasion flick ATTRACTION, and Meryl Streep in FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS are now on Prime.
Other newish (post-2000) horror and genre titles include 2015’s plane contagion film THE CARRIER, Dolph Lundgren in 2005’s THE MECHANIK (aka THE RUSSIAN SPECIALIST), Ron Shelton’s 2001 DARK BLUE with Kurt Russell, Eli Roth’s CABIN FEVER, Tom Savini and Andrew Divoff in 2012’s THE DEAD MATTER, the Icelandic horror film GRAFIR & BEIN, 2016’s ALICE: THE DARKER SIDE OF THE MIRROR, 2012’s VAMPIRELAND (aka THE 6TH EXTINCTION), 2008’s IN SEARCH OF LOVECRAFT, 2002’s THE UNTOLD with Lance Henriksen (previously released as SASQUACH), Zach Snyder’s SUCKER PUNCH, 2010’s excellent dramatic thriller WINTER’S BONE, and the 2001 thriller KILL ME LATER with Selma Blair. The most intriguing, however, is the Edward L. Plumb’s THE BONEYARD CONNECTION, which includes his short films featuring George Kennedy, Susan Tyrrell, Robert Loggia, Kevin McCarthy, Tippi Hedren, Barbara Steele, William Smith, Brinke Stevens, Ken Foree, and Brad Dourif. Forrest Ackerman acts as host Dr. Acula, so it’s at least a curiosity.
They’ve also added a number of titles from Blue Underground, including Michele Soavi’s THE CHURCH, Fulci’s ZOMBIE, Romero and Argento’s TWO EVIL EYES, Luigi Cozzi’s CONTAMINATION, the giallos THE BLACK BELLY OF THE TARANTULA and THE BLOODSTAINED SHADOW, crime thrillers THE FIFTH CORD and HEROIN BUSTERS, Mattei and Fragrasso’s RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR, the four BLIND DEAD films (TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD, RETURN OF THE EVIL DEAD, NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS, THE GHOST GALLEON ), Bob Clark’s DEATHDREAM, Nazi zombies in SHOCK WAVES, CANNIBAL MAN, the sci-fi THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME, Lambero Bava’s MACABRE, Jess Franco’s BLOOD OF FU MANCHU, the shockumentary MONDO PAZZO (aka MONDO CANE 2) and Cronenberg’s FAST COMPANY.
Direct-to-video stuff from the ‘90s includes Olivier Gunner in two Avi Nesher films, 1996’s SAVAGE and 1997’s MERCENARY, Dolph Lundgren in the supernatural 1997 action pic THE MINION, Greydon Clark’s 1994 DARK FUTURE, Amos Poe’s 1995 DEAD WEEKEND with David Rasche, Alexis Arquette, Bai Ling, Tom Kenny and Nicholas Worth, 1994’s entertaining SOV sci-fi flick PHOBE: THE XENOPHOBIC EXPERIMENTS, the British murder comedy DEADLY ADVICE with Jane Horrocks, Brenda Fricker, Jonathan Pryce and Edward Woodward, Doug Jeffrey in the 1996 erotic thriller MISCHIEVOUS, Fred Williamson directing himself, Bubba Smith, Gary Busey, Tony Lo Biano, David Carradine and Charles Napier in 2001’s DOWN’N DIRTY and just acting with Cynthia Rothrock and Robert Forster in 1997’s NIGHT VISION, and Maryam d’Abo, Jeff Speakman and Arye Gross in TIMELOCK.
Larger profile ‘90s flicks include Oliver Stone’s THE DOORS, the NAKED GUN trilogy, the drama SCHOOL TIES, Johnny Depp in John Badham’s NICK OF TIME, John Waters’ CECIL B. DEMENTED, the animated flick BATMAN: SUBZERO, and the stalker dark comedy CHUCK & BUCK.
Moving back to the ‘80s, in terms of lesser-known genre films, we’ve got Lee Van Cleef and Margaux Hemingway in 1984’s KILLING MACHINE, Reb Brown in Bruno Mattei’s 1987 STRIKE COMMANDO, the 1981 Christian “one world” conspiracy thriller EARLY WARNING with Alvy Moore and George “Buck” Flower (!), Fred Williamson in WARRIORS OF THE WASTELAND and THE MESSENGER (the latter directed by Williamson), Julie Hagerty in Amos Kollek’s 1985 GOODBYE NEW YORK, Lamberto Bava’s DEVILFISH, Shannon Tweed and Karen Mistal in 1989’s CANNIBAL WOMEN IN THE AVOCADO JUNGLE OF DEATH, Andrew Stevens and John Rhys-Davies in the Zimbabwe-shot TUSKS, Cirio Santiago’s 1988 THE EXPENDABLES and Karen Young in the obscure 1984 rape/revenge film HANDGUN.
If you’re feeling ‘80s, but not quite as adventurous, Prime also now offers A CHRISTMAS STORY, RACE FOR YOUR LIFE, CHARLIE BROWN, Rob Lowe and James Spader in the underrated thriller BAD INFLUENCE, Kevin Costner and Gene Hackman in NO WAY OUT, and John Candy and Steve Martin in PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES.
Oddities from the ‘70s include Charles B. Pierce’s 1974 moonshiner comedy BOOTLEGGERS with Paul Koslo, the 1979 Cleopatra Wong sequel DEVIL’S THREE (aka MEAN BUSINESS) from the Philippines, Dennis Christopher as a fantastic psycho in 1980’s FADE TO BLACK, John Daniels in the Mike White-recommended BLACK SHAMPOO, Harvey Keitel in Bertrand Tavernier’s 1980 sci-fi film DEATH WATCH, the 1978 prison drama ON THE YARD with John Heard, 1975’s crime pic DIAMOND HUNTERS (aka THE KINGFISHER CAPER) with David McCallum and Hayley Mills, Hy Pyke and some other actors in 1978’s SLITHIS, black Vietnam vets facing off against the Klan in 1976’s BROTHERHOOD OF DEATH, Don Johnson in L.Q. Jones’ 1975 highly recommended adaptation of Harlan Ellison’s A BOY AND HIS DOG, the Italian war flick THE SEVEN RED BERETS with Ivan Rassimov, Bruce Davison in the excellent prison drama SHORT EYES, and Robert Downey’s 1972 oddball Christ allegory GREASER’S PALACE.
Plus, there’s a whole batch of martial arts mayhem (CRIPPLED MASTERS, CRAZY HORSE AND INTELLIGENT MONKEY, KUNG FU THE INVISIBLE FIST, MANTIS UNDER FALCON CLAWS, TIGER AT TOP, DYNAMITE SHAOLIN HEROES, CRANE FIGHTER, RAGE OF THE MASTER, BRUCE LEE WE MISS YOU) as well as James Bond flicks (GOLDENEYE, DR. NO, LICENSE TO KILL, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, TOMORROW NEVER DIES, THUNDERBALL, A VIEW TO A KILL, MOONRAKER) and new Rifftrax titles (COOL AS ICE, CAT WOMEN ON THE MOON). Plus, the, er, holocaust-as-comedy documentary (that sounds terrible, but it looks interesting) THE LAST LAUGH featuring Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Gilbert Gottfried and Sarah Silverman.
Lastly, but by no means leastly, there are a few classic titles as well: GONE WITH THE WIND, THE WIZARD OF OZ, 1953’s ARROWHEAD with Charlton Heston and Jack Palance, 1958’s flesh-eating tree flick THE WOMAN EATER, 1940’s THE HOUSE ACROSS THE BAY with George Raft and Joan Bennett, Clint Eastwood in A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, Mickey Spillane as Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer in 1963’s THE GIRL HUNTERS, and the 1964 western LAW OF THE LAWLESS.
Basically, if you can’t find anything worth watching, you may be a bit picky.
Midnight Pulp is a Roku channel that has both free and subscription-based content, depending on whether or not you have the “Plus” option. You can check them out here. Among their notable new titles are Ted V. Mikels’s CORPSE GRINDERS series, Jack Hill’s SPIDER BABY, Hal Holbrook in RITUALS, Cameron Mitchell in NIGHTMARE IN WAX, the giallos WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE and YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY, Radley Metzger’s THE IMAGE (aka THE PUNISHMENT OF ANNE) and ILSA, HAREM KEEPER OF THE OIL SHEIKS.
Shout Factory TV
New to Shout Factory’s streaming service this month are MST3K titles RADAR SECRET SERVICE and ROBOT HOLOCAUST along with Werner Herzog’s STROSZEK.
New titles on the commercial-supported free streaming service include CLUE, BILL & TED’S BOGUS JOURNEY, Ben Affleck in John Woo’s PAYCHECK, the Coen Brothers’ remake of TRUE GRIT, THE DESCENT PART 2 and Sarah Adina Smith’s mystery drama THE MIDNIGHT SWIM.
TubiTV is another ad-supported service, funded partly by studios like MGM, Paramount and Lion’s Gate, and it does offer Chromecast support. I’ve tried it out, and it seems pretty reliable, though I really wish the commercial breaks were more organic rather than suddenly happening in the middle of a scene. Check out their complete section here.
Among their more vintage psychotronic releases are Kim Delaney and Timothy Bottoms in Larry Brand’s 1988 THE DRIFTER, Willem Dafoe and Judge Reinhold in 1985’s ROADHOUSE 66, David Carradine and Stockard Channing in 1982’s SAFARI 3000, the 1991 martial arts flick BLOODMATCH, Lynn Redgrave as Xaviera Hollander in 1975’s THE HAPPY HOOKER, Gary Busey in 1988’s BULLETPROOF, Chuck Norris in 1977’s trucker action pic BREAKER! BREAKER!, Anthony Perkins in 1989’s sleazy EDGE OF SANITY, Joel Bender’s 1979 drive-in favorite GAS PUMP GIRLS, and 1986’s British-made FOREIGN BODY.
Less late night on Cinemax-oriented titles include Don McKellar’s great 2001 apocalypse film LAST NIGHT, the slasher throwback HATCHET, the Viking sci-fi flick OUTLANDER, Laurence Fishburne and Tim Roth in the gangster pic HOODLUM, BILL & TED’S BOGUS JOURNEY, the black comedy horror pic EXCISION, P.T. Anderson’s THE MASTER, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jason Patric get hooked in 1991’s RUSH, the Zucker Brothers’ TOP SECRET!, John Sayles’ EIGHT MEN OUT, Schwarzenegger in THE RUNNING MAN, William Friedkin’s BLUE CHIPS and Jean-Claude Van Damme in DEATH WARRANT.
New titles on Sony’s ad-supported service include 4 SCORPION KING movies, both THE RAID: REDEMPTION and THE RAID 2, Kubrick’s FULL METAL JACKET, Luc Besson’s LOCK OUT, Schwarzenegger in LAST ACTION HERO, the horror pics INSIDIOUS, VACANCY, THE BREED and [REC], Stallone in CLIFFHANGER, Rob Reiner’s STAND BY ME, David Mamet’s HEIST, Oliver Stone’s U-TURN, Neil LaBute’s NURSE BETTY, the original KARATE KID, Woody Harrelson in the superhero comedy DEFENDOR, Samuel L. Jackson in MEETING EVIL, Ken Marshall spinning blades in KRULL, the recommended batshit high school horror pic DETENTION, Wes Anderson’s BOTTLE ROCKET, John Carpenter’s GHOSTS OF MARS, Matthew Lillard in SLC PUNK, John Travolta in BATTLEFIELD EARTH, Bill Paxton and Cynda Williams in Carl Franklin’s highly recommended 1992 thriller ONE FALSE MOVE, Richard Kelly’s bizarro SOUTHLAND TALES, and Jean-Claude Van Damme in THE SHEPHERD: BORDER PATROL.
The Walmart-owned service is mostly known for movies on demand, but they do offer some films for free with ad content. You can see the full list here, but this month’s noteworthy titles include THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, THE RUNNING MAN, FX2, Gene Hackman in THE PACKAGE, TEEN WOLF TOO, THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN, CURSE OF THE PINK PANTHER, TRAIL OF THE PINK PANTER, C.H.U.D. II, Larry Cohen’s Blaxploitation homage ORIGINAL GANGSTAS, Terry Moore’s ERIK THE VIKING, THE SECRET OF NIMH, Doug McClure and Peter Cushing in AT THE EARTH’S CORE, Hal Hartlet’s monster movie NO SUCH THING, Lou Ferrigno in THE ADVENTURES OF HERCULES, MORONS FROM OUTER SPACE, SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK, and 1991’s action pic PURSUIT.
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