How to watch
After experimenting with multiple storylines in The French Dispatch, the inimitable Wes Anderson goes one step further with the mind-bendingly meta Asteroid City. Framed as a TV documentary about the making of a play, Asteroid City’s Russian doll setup reflects the neurosis of its period (the Cold War-struck ‘50s), art-making, and the intimidating vastness of outer space.
The play takes place in a tiny desert town where atom bomb tests routinely rattle the doorframes and where a convention for young geniuses is being held, attended by a host of typically idiosyncratic characters (played by Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Tom Hanks, and many, many more). Still, it retains a central focus: the grief of new widower Augie (Jason Schwartzman) and his kids, and the connections he and his son (Jake Ryan) forge with a visiting actress (Scarlett Johansson) and her daughter (Dinah Campbell). Asteroid City draws much of its poignancy from this story (and its behind-the-scenes goings-on), as these people stare into the cosmic wilderness and a future without their loved one. Shot in gorgeous bleached postcard tones and full of the imaginative flourishes we’ve come to expect from Anderson, this is a profound rumination on existential angst that miraculously finds hope amidst all its characters’ nihilism.
You can buy nearly everything on Amazon, including movies and TV shows. Amazon’s video storefront (not to be confused with its on-demand streaming service Amazon Prime) allows you to either rent or buy thousands of titles, including new releases, blockbuster hits, niche indies, and international gems.
You’ll have to sign in using your Amazon account to start renting or purchasing, and Amazon allows you to redeem gift cards, promo codes, and points if you have them upon checkout. Like most video stores, Amazon gives you 30 days to start watching a rental and 48 hours to finish it, while unlimited access is granted to purchased titles. Lastly, you should know that a rented title is only viewable on one device, so sharing options will be limited.
If you’re subscribed to DirecTV’s satellite or internet plans, you can choose to rent and buy from the platform’s wide library of titles. Here, you’ll find the latest blockbusters, indies, cult favorites, and even beloved TV shows and previous hits that might be difficult to view elsewhere. Prices can range from $3 to $20 per title, but that will depend on its popularity and how recently it was released. You’re free to watch them on the go via the DirecTV app, but do note that you can’t transact on the app itself. And while concurrent streams for purchases (which are yours for as long as you remain a DirecTV customer) are limited to three devices, the limit for rented titles is two.
FlixFling is a flexible video on-demand streaming platform available in the US.
A subscription costs $7.99 per month (or $95 per year) and includes streaming access across 5 different devices and access to movies and shows on the on-demand library.
Without a subscription, you can still access on-demand rentals/purchases that range from $0.99 to $7.99. Meanwhile, on-demand subscribers have to pay for some titles that are available only as premium rentals.
FlixFling works across devices, smart TVs and media services.
iTunes is one of the oldest media apps currently in use. While many people know it as a music player, iTunes has since evolved to offer digital movies and TV shows for rent or sale. The bigger and newer releases can cost up to $20 to purchase, but iTunes also has past hits, modern classics, award-winning pictures, and even local films you can rent for as low as $2. Purchased films and TV shows are available for as long as the studio allows them to be, but rentals are a different story. Once you’ve rented a particular title, you have up to 30 days to start watching it. And after you start watching it, you’ll then have 48 hours before it expires. iTunes comes pre-installed on Apple devices, but it’s also available on Windows PCs and Android Smart TVs.
Microsoft is most known for its computer and gaming services, but the tech corporation also has a streaming service under its belt. Microsoft’s media store allows you to rent or purchase a host of films and TV shows, many of which are still up in theaters or being broadcast on network TV. The good news is that Microsoft often puts up sales and specials that slash prices up to half, and the even better news is that Xbox Game Pass holders are entitled to many of these discounts. So for instance, a Game Pass holder can pay just $7 for a film that costs $20 to rent. Now, the not-so-good news is that Microsoft’s rental store is only available for Xbox and PCs and mobile devices that run on Windows. Anything outside of these devices, unfortunately, won’t be able to access the store.
Despite its wobbly start in the streaming sphere, Peacock now has a growing and respectable catalog of titles to its name. It’s home to critically acclaimed shows like Poker Face and movies like Tar, not to mention a whole host of reality shows and sports events. But perhaps the greatest edge Peacock has over its competitors is that along with its on-demand content, it also features a solid lineup of live TV channels, many of them for free.
Peacock’s premium tier, often referred to as Peacock Premium, has channels like Hallmark, Fallon Tonight, SNL Vault, NBC News, Premier League TV, WWE, Dateline 24/7, and Below Deck.
Google Play Movies & TV, or simply Play, is a video-on-demand store that allows you to rent or purchase various films and TV shows online. A rental can cost as low as $1 (these are usually TV movies and old films) while purchases can cost up to $20 (these are often blockbusters that are fresh from theaters). Play lets you watch on most major streaming devices, but you have to remember to log in with the same account you used to purchase the titles. On your smartphone, you can access the titles via the Google TV or YouTube app, while on your smart TV, you can use access them via the Play, YouTube, or Movies Anywhere apps. You can also watch them via the Play website but do take note that Play doesn’t offer HD and 4k viewing on PCs.
No longer just a physical DVD kiosk, Redbox has expanded to become an online space where you can rent and purchase films and TV shows as well as watch live channels for free. Like Vudu and Amazon Prime, Redbox gives you access to a plethora of movies, including fan favorites and indie gems (these can cost anywhere from $2 to $5) and movies currently screening in cinemas (these usually cost more, around $20). Redbox also has a live TV streaming feature that you can access even without a registered account. Although most of the channels are not that notable, they cover the essential categories: news, sports, and entertainment.
Suppose you’re subscribed to one of Spectrum’s many TV plans. In that case, you’re automatically eligible for Spectrum on Demand, the platform’s streaming service that gives you access to thousands of on-demand movies and TV shows. Now, in case you can’t find your favorite title on the free service, you’ll likely find it on Spectrume’s pay-per-view store. Here you’ll find the latest movie releases and network TV shows available to rent or buy. Like most TVOD platforms, Spectrum charges around $1 to $20 for each title (the price usually depends on their popularity and recency), and you can watch it as many times as you watch within a 24-hour period.
Vudu is an on-demand streaming service that allows users to rent or purchase more than 200,000 new releases. Founded in 2007, it’s one of the first companies to offer digital films in HD. Vudu’s main strength is its ease of access and jam-packed catalog of movies and TV shows, but it also boasts free content, which they run on ads. In 2020, media and ticketing firm Fandango acquired Vudu and merged both companies’ streamers into one. They decided to keep the Vudu name because of its large and loyal customer base.
YouTube’s Movies & TV storefront (not to be mistaken with YouTube TV) allows you to rent and purchase thousands of films and TV shows. You can pick from the latest blockbuster releases, foreign films, award-winning staples, beloved classics, and even pre-order titles that have yet to be available elsewhere. A big draw here is that YouTube is already everywhere—it’s a tab on your browser, an app on your phone, a channel on your smart TV—so renting, purchasing, and later on accessing a title is as easy as entering your credit card or PayPal details. And as a bonus, YouTube also has a lineup of free movies it lets you watch with ads. Granted, they’re not as big or new as their rentable titles, but there are gems like Moonstruck and Cooley High hidden in there somewhere.
Now, some things to note before heading to the storefront: you must be 18 years or older to watch these titles, and while buying a movie or TV episode allows you to access them indefinitely, you have only 30 days to start viewing a rental. Once you’ve started watching it, you usually have about 48 hours until it expires, but this can vary per title. YouTube also allows playback in HD and 4k, but these features are currently unavailable on web browsers.