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.
Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks do the middle-aged romantic comedy tango in Larry Crowne. Hanks plays a Navy veteran who gets fired from his job due to his lack of a college education and enrolls at a community college to study economics during which time he meets an unhappily married teacher, played by Roberts.
Also available the same day as disc is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—Part 2, the final chapter of the magical franchise that features Harry's duel-to-the-death with Lord Voldemort. To see Deathly Hallows—Part 2 at home in 3D like it was presented in theaters, you need to buy the Blu-ray 3D, which is currently a Best Buy exclusive. You can, however, stream a 3D version of the latest Jack Sparrow adventure, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, 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.
Amazon, iTunes, Vudu and Blockbuster all have Deathly Hallows—Part 2 and Larry Crowne available, but only the first three services will let you look for the Fountain of Youth with Johnny Depp in On Stranger Tides. What's more, you can rent or download to own the 3D version of On Stranger Tides on Vudu, but keeping it will cost you $21.99—a couple bucks more than the 2D version.
You can start streaming the action-comedy 30 Minutes or Less right now on iTunes, Vudu and Blockbuster in less time than it takes to call for takeout. Jesse Eisenberg stars as a pizza-delivery guy forced to participate in a bank robbery in 30 Minutes or Less, which is available to rent or own now—a full two weeks before the movie is released on DVD and Blu-ray.
Twilight fans who can't wait until Friday when Breaking Dawn—Part 1 opens might curb their cravings by streaming Arena, which stars Twilight's Kellan Lutz as a firefighter who is kidnapped and forced to fight in a slew of death matches for a worldwide Internet audience. Arena is available to rent on Hulu, Blockbuster and Amazon but is not yet available to purchase on iTunes.
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 excitement prompted by the debut of the upcoming Snow White and the Huntsman trailer starring Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron probably prompted Netflix to add Snow White: A Tale of Terror to its streaming library. This 1997 Gothic retelling of the classic fable is no Disney movie and features a deliciously wicked performance by Sigourney Weaver as Snow White's vain stepmother.
Several documentaries make their streaming debut on Netflix, too. Winnebago Man explores the life of Jack Rebney, who became an Internet sensation after a video of him ranting went viral. Carbon Nation zeroes in on enterprising individuals like a wind farmer and solar-panel retrofitter in an attempt to avert the looming climate crisis. William Shatner directs and serves as interviewer in The Captains, in which he interviews the actors who have played Star Trek captains, including Patrick Stewart. In Ed Hardy: Tattoo the World, the cultural icon and questionable fashion designer discusses his inking approach.
Some catalog titles also now available to stream with the click of a button include the Oscar-nominated drama Downfall about Hitler's stenographer, the docudrama Lonely Hearts starring John Travolta and James Gandolfini, the 2008 Uma Thurman comedy The Accidental Husband, Drew Barrymore in Riding in Cars With Boys, the 1997 action thriller The Peacemaker starring Nicole Kidman and George Clooney, and the wonderfully whacky 1992 comedy classic Death Becomes Her starring Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis.