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Beyond Netflix and Hulu: 4 worthwhile movie streaming services

Lincoln Spector | May 20, 2014
The four services featured here don't offer the huge libraries you get from the big players. But they do provide something else: they're curated.

The bad news: These films come with advertising. But if you use the Roku app, you'll get an option to pay $1 for the movie and skip the commercials.

More bad news: prepare for mediocre image quality. Nothing is in HD, and the standard definition is far from DVD quality. It's watchable, but everything is a bit soft.

Mubi
Mubi takes the concept of curating very seriously. Every day, it adds one film, and removes the one it added 30 days ago. For $5 a month, you get an ever-changing selection of 30 films.

As I write this, the selection includes vintage noir, four silents, and a great many relatively-recent foreign films that I hadn't yet heard of. They people programming Mubi aren't shy about the personal nature of these choices. Each film comes with an explanation of why it's there, such as "The Cannes Film Festival starts tomorrow, and we're celebrating with a series of our past Cannes favorites!"

Clearly, with such a small selection, there's no point in browsing by genre, country, or decade. Once logged on, the home page shows all of titles currently available. Many of the films are in HD, although you'll have to click the resolution option in the lower-right corner and select 720 to get it.

Mubi has one very serious shortcoming: It lacks most of the apps needed to easily stream to an HDTV. It doesn't support Roku, Chromecast, or any American-sold smart TVs (though it's on some Samsung models in the UK). The current Android app supports tablets but not phones. The iOS app supports AirPlay, so it can be used with the Apple TV. But if you don't have an Apple TV and either an iPad or iPhone, your only option is to plug a computer into your HDTV.

Or you can wait. Mubi is working on Chromecast support and hopes to have it by the third quarter. The company is discussing, but not yet developing, a Roku app.

Of the 30 movies playing as I write this, I'd recommend Lech Majewski's visually stunning The Mill and the Cross (which I've reviewed). You definitely want to watch this one in HD. Broken Blossoms is a real tearjerker.

 

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