Check out what's new to rent and own this week on the various streaming services such as cable On Demand, Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, Blockbuster and, of course, Netflix.
Cable On Demand
Cable offers VOD programming (same-day-as-disc releases, older titles and pre-theatrical exclusives) for rent, usually for 24- or 48-hour periods at prices from about $2.99 for older titles to $9.99 for new or exclusive releases. Since cable offers a direct connection from your cable provider, its VOD offerings are usually less prone to outside interference and can be streamed with surround sound and 3D when available.
Give thanks to the gods of action for The Expendables 2—the rare sequel that surpasses the original. This time we have Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth and Dolph Lundgren taking an assignment from Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) to retrieve an item from a downed plane. They are ambushed by an opposing group of mercenaries headed up by Jean-Claude Van Damme, prompting the Expendables to set off to Bulgaria on a revenge mission after they lose one of their own. Free from his governator duties, Arnold Schwarzenegger has more than a cameo this time, and Chuck Norris steals scenes as soft-spoken lethal lone operative Booker. The Expendables 2 blasts its way onto cable the same day it is released on DVD and Blu-ray.
The hilarious female-bonding comedy For a Good Time, Call… is about two polar-opposite roommates (Ari Graynor and Lauren Miller) that bond by starting a lucrative phone-sex operation from their apartment. Whereas most chick flicks end up being about chasing down a man, this one is a celebration of female friendship and shouldn't be missed because Graynor is a comedienne to watch. The indie gem costarring Justin Long and Mimi Rogers doesn't phone home on DVD and Blu-ray until January 22, but you can rent it this year on cable On Demand.
Writer-director-actor Edward Burns' latest drama, The Fitzgerald Family Christmas, stars Connie Britton and is about the adult Fitzgerald siblings who prepare for their father to return for Christmas for the first time since he walked out on the family 20 years before. The holiday movie doesn't even open in theaters until December 7, but you can stream it right now on cable On Demand.
These four services stream movies to your TV via computer, Blu-ray player, game console or other compatible connected device. Like cable VOD, they offer new titles for rent from about $3.99 to $6.99, but, unlike cable, they also offer the option of downloading the movie to own from about $14.99 to $19.99. Usually movies presented in HD cost a bit more than streaming a SD version.
Both Amazon and iTunes have all of the movies listed above on cable On Demand available for download and/or rent, while Vudu has them all except The Fitzgerald Family Christmas. Blockbuster currently only offers The Expendables 2 on its digital service.
Josh Brolin injects new life in Men in Black 3 with a spot-on performance of a young Tommy Lee Jones that Will Smith encounters when he travels back in time to the '60s in attempt to save his partner's life. The sci-fi comedy sequel—a serious step up from Men in Black II back in 2002—doesn't arrive on disc until November 30, but you can have the future right now by downloading it to own—not rent—on all four VOD services.
The Apparition is a terrible horror movie about a young couple that moves into a new house only to discover that one of them is being followed by a supernatural presence conjured up during a university paranormal psychology experiment. The creaky story—made worse by wooden acting and a movie poster that gives away the movie's final shot—can be purchased right now on Amazon and iTunes before it is released on disc on November 27.
American Idol contestant Jordin Sparks stars in the musical Sparkle as a young woman torn between her dreams and her family, particularly her overprotective mother (Whitney Houston, in her last role). Sparkle isn't sparkling on disc until November 30, but you can download it to own—not rent—right now on all four VOD services.
Netflix's all-you-can-stream buffet costs $7.99 per month and gives instant access to thousands of movies and television shows via a computer, Blu-ray player, game console or other compatible device. Don't depend on Netflix streaming for same-day-as-disc releases, however. Instead, Netflix offers catalog titles, vintage movies, indie flicks and TV episodes with unlimited access for one monthly price.
The biggest new addition to Netflix's Watch Instantly library this Thanksgiving week is Martin Scorsese's magical homage to filmmaking, Hugo, about a 12-year-old boy living in a Parisian subway station who meets a young girl who holds the key to his destiny. Also new this week is the freaky first season of American Horror Story, the crime thriller Snowman's Land, and the television interview Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview filmed back in 1995.
Since this is a week of giving, not taking, the losses this week won't sting too much. Going into retirement this week are Alien vs. Ninja, Far Cry, Illuminating Angels & Demons and Cracking the Da Vinci Code.