At the time of this writing, Disney and Apple's new streaming services have both just launched, and seven or eight new ones will probably exist by the time you read this. Other articles have pointed out that at any moment, some company is going to bundle all of these platforms in one place and call it "cable." But in all of the noise, it's easy to overlook that if you have any niche or nerdy interests, streaming is making all your wildest dreams come true. You just have to know where to look ...
If I seem down on the MCU, it's not because I think I'm too good for it. I'm just way more interested in another, earlier attempt to have Marvel characters share a screen universe: The early '90s Saturday morning cartoon series. Sadly, these shows haven't gotten much love. Hell, the '90s Spider-Man never even got official full-season DVD sets. Fans of that show had to make do with whatever bundle of four episodes they decided to cram together to promote the 2003 Daredevil movie. Truly the worst of times.
But now, while the rest of your friends argue on Reddit about the timeline errors in The Mandalorian, you can watch the '90s Spider-Man and X-Men series, along with about a half dozen other '90s animated series, on Disney+. Being able to hear that iconic X-Men theme song again will surely help you forget for a second that Disney will inevitably consume all fiction. And speaking of services that appeal to people who had my exact childhood ...
This year sees the release of Sword and Shield, the first Pokemon main series games on a home console, and Detective Pikachu, a Pokemon movie which my mom called, in her review over the phone, "Ain't Pikachu cute? He's just tryin' to be a person." But they could've at least warned us all that they'd recently unleashed Pokemon TV too. It's a free streaming service that lets you download episodes to watch if you're going somewhere with minimal WiFi but a maximum love of Bulbasaur.
Now, it doesn't have every single episode (though it's been slowly adding them over time), but they do have the original series, many sequel series, and a lot of episodes from the latest series, Sun & Moon, which is the best the anime has ever been. You'll soon be able to see eternal ten-year-old Ash Ketchum finally become a champion while you sit comfortably weeping in front of your computer, like God intended.
Historically, horror fans haven't had the easiest time finding their favorite movies, especially if those titles are old and/or weird. With the exception of the inarguable classics which get new covers every year around Halloween at Walmart, distribution companies have usually operated under the logic that if Japan released a DVD of it back in 1999, you should be happy with what you have. Today we do have companies like Scream Factory and Arrow Video releasing gems like Night Of The Creeps and The Cat O' Nine Tails. But if discs aren't your thing, you have Shudder, a streaming service that knows what horror fans want.
And I don't just mean that they have a ton of cult and popular horror films in their catalog (though they do), but also that they've also been reviving fan-favorites with stuff like a new Creepshow series and Joe Bob Briggs' MonsterVision. Remember that, from TNT in the late '90s, wherein an eloquent redneck in a lawn chair proved that he knew more about Texas Chainsaw Massacre than every other film scholar combined? Yeah, that dude's been brought back for multiple specials. Look, no matter what else is going on in the world, you have to admit this is the golden age of nostalgia.
If you've been a fan of Japanese comics in the United States within the last few centuries, you know that many people would much rather download them illegally than wait for the official translations or buckle their shelves with copious paperback volumes. And that's not great. As someone who only wishes to die via being crushed to death by a toppling tower of his own manga, I say wait for the official release, nerds. However, to sweeten the deal, publisher Shueishia and Manga Plus have created a service with which you can read the likes of Weekly Shonen Jump ON THE SAME DAY that it releases in Japan, for free.
Yes, it only gives you the most recent three chapters (along with the first three). "But how will I care about the latest chapter of One Piece when there's 20 years' worth that I can't read, you unbridled dork?" Well, for $1.99 a month, you can access tens of thousands of manga chapters at the Shonen Jump Vault. You'll never have to worry about shelf space or hanging out with friends and family ever again.
For years, the closest many got to the Criterion Collection was wondering why their DVDs in the back of Barnes & Noble cost $40. And while I appreciate them (The transfers are beautiful! The sounds are transcendent! The special features? I'd do terrible, terrible things for some Criterion special features), I can also understand why many wouldn't want to drop a month's internet bill on a random Bergman or Cassavetes. Especially if you're playing the risky game of "Well maybe I'll like this hard-to-find foreign movie."
However, thanks to the Criterion Channel, you can experience nearly their entire library for $10.99 a month. And it isn't just stuffy auteur exercises that your freshman film professor wept openly over. You can also watch some classic Godzilla films which, up until now, have been the victim of never quite being distributed by the same company, at the same high quality, at once. So if you're not quite feeling The 400 Blows or L'amore, flip to some Destroy All Monsters.
Being a wrestling fan for the past few decades wasn't a whole lot easier than being a manga fan (yes, some of us are both). You were either force-fed RAW and paid $50 a month for pay-per-view or you just hoped that your friend had a decent collection of DVDs with titles like HARDCORE HULLABALOO and BEST OF THE INDIES VOLUME 24. But no longer, as the WWE allows you to binge 30+ years of its history with the WWE Network.
And if watching Triple H win over and over and over isn't your thing, you can instead follow a company that's often called the best in the world, New Japan Pro Wrestling, on their own streaming service. You no longer have to have that one friend who knows a way to watch streams online. And if neither of these climb your turnbuckles (Flip off your top rope? Drive you into the mat?), tons of lesser-known wrestling companies are getting into the streaming game. Then, if you need something more cultured that you can quickly switch to if your boss drops by ...
In high school, my friends and I were what you may call "theatre kids," and yes, that's how we spelled it. We watched plays, tried out for plays, got roles we were remarkably unfit for, and dreamed of one day being on Broadway and also maybe writing jokes about Pokemon on the internet. And we would've loved to have a wider exposure to theater than our annual class trips to NYC and lone DVD of Phantom Of The Opera which we passed around like a sacred object.
We would've killed for Broadway HD. Collecting everything from Patrick Stewart's Macbeth to Kiss Me, Kate to The Toxic Avenger to Sweeney Todd, the site has its genres covered. And what's best is that you can either buy a subscription or rent on a play-by-play basis, in case your love for theatrics rivals your distrust for monthly account withdrawals.
We're told that streaming has been huge for documentaries, but it often feels like the offerings from major services are all trying to imitate Making A Murderer in a bid to see how long humans can physically care about a possibly misleading whodunit. Thankfully we have stuff like CuriosityStream and Docsville, which offer a much wider breadth of fare than "This man did a murder ... MAYBE. And you'll find out for sure after 13 badly paced episodes."
CuriosityStream is devoted mostly to science-based stuff, which is perfect if you're like me and judge streaming services solely based on whether or not they have over a dozen dinosaur documentaries. Docsville is full of social issue stuff; highlights include Rats, about NYC sewer rats, and The Benefits Of A Toilet, which documents why having access to a clean toilet can (and often will) save your life. Look, Docsville has way more than just shit-based content, but I've been on a real toilet kick lately. You understand.
If there's any fanbase that's been more ignored than horror over the years, it's martial arts. Despite the fact that they can be masterclasses in choreography, pacing, and what it looks like when someone takes a dozen elbows to the skull, these films are often treated with only slightly more respect than Instagram stories. Luckily we now have Hi-Yah!, an Amazon Prime add-on for those who love the sound of human meat getting smacked.
Aside from a cavalcade of modern films, the real treat here are the '70s movies. Before Rush Hour, Police Story, or even Drunken Master, Jackie Chan was an actor and stunt coordinator in a bunch of films like Shaolin Wooden Men and To Kill With Intrigue, and you'll find some of those here. They also have a ton of Shaw Brothers productions, which is basically the gold standard for fun movies about kicks to the throat.
For many, the Wayback Machine is mostly useful for revealing every awful post that pop culture websites made in 2002. That 3,000-word manifesto you wrote declaring that Shrek was the new Toy Story? You can't escape it. However, up until recently, I never knew that they were also in charge of Archive.org, which is a home for everything in the public domain. And I do mean everything. Do you want to host your own MST3K with Voyage To The Planet Of Prehistoric Women, and then, in the span of a few clicks, read History Of The U.S.S. Leviathan? Go for it.
It also has a collection of 1,746 free-to-play arcade games, like Pulsar, Space Dungeon, Wheel Of Fortune, and Batman. I would have more stuff to write about this, but I have to play Wheel Of Fortune for free on the internet while watching a silent film version of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, because I can apparently do that now.
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