How to watch
Directed by Tsai Ming-liang, this unconventional story follows the lives of two neighbors who share a crumbling apartment in the midst of a strange, inexplicable epidemic. Blending a quiet drama with exciting musical numbers, the characters’ lives intertwine in unexpected ways, blurring the line between reality and fantasy. With its masterful use of long takes and minimal dialogue, there is a haunting atmosphere that lingers in every shot. In hindsight, this film perfectly captures our recent pandemic-stricken world; the effects of cabin fever condensed in absurd trippy sequences. As with many Tsai Ming-liang films, it is a must-watch for fans of simpler, yet mesmerizing, art-house cinema.
Paramount Plus Essential is a video-on-demand service that replaces its predecessor, CBS All Access, and is currently available in the US, Canada, and parts of Latin America. This ad-supported tier costs $5.99, while Paramount’s premium, ad-free tier costs $11.99 per month or $119.99 per year, with an optional 7-day free trial.
Essential subscribers used to have the option to bundle the service with Showtime, but ever since the Paramount-Showtime merger in June 2023, the latter is now only available to Premium subscribers. But to its credit, Essential still has 40,000 episodes and movies to its name, plus live feeds on NFL on CBS and the UEFA Champions League.
You can access Paramount Plus Essential via web browser, while the app is supported on a wide range of TV and mobile devices.
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.
Hoopla is a digital library that partners with public libraries across the US to grant their patrons free access to the wealth of media they have online and on the go. This includes movies and television shows, but Hoopla also has a vast collection of ebooks, audiobooks, podcasts, and albums it offers members. You can check their website to see if your library card is valid, and if it is, you can continue on to registration (with no extra fees) and start viewing their available titles. Hoopla rotates its selection every week or so, but generally, it has a good mix of old films, cult classics, past hits, and foreign movies. Occasionally, it will also have the latest blockbusters. For television, it’s recently partnered with the BBC and a couple of manga publishers to deliver content from around the world.
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.
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.