Review By: Jonathan W. Hickman

Movie theaters are closed! Television and movie production has shut down. Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, have coronavirus. In an honest and informative 17-plus-minute video, Idris Elba, the muscular, talented star of TV’s “Luther,” went public on Twitter about his virus diagnosis. His essential message: this disease does not discriminate.
COVID-19 has people all over the world hunkering down in their homes. Older Americans have to be especially cautious, and through the use of the Internet, can receive necessary services. Video services like Skype and FaceTime can help us keep in touch with loved ones without viral danger.
The local court system, where I serve as the public defender, has postponed court proceedings for over a month, and necessary jail activities involving court personnel rely more on video systems to conduct business. Video technology will be more than just entertainment moving forward. This move could become the norm forever.

Schools have closed. The future of education is moving online. At the University of North Georgia, I’ve taught media law & ethics for many years. Last year, my class went entirely online. I converted my lectures to a podcast format. Replicating the classroom experience is possible using today’s audio and video technology. We can do it; we have the technology.

One concern recently raised was the stability of the Internet itself. Netflix and YouTube have lowered the quality of their streams to prevent overload. Usage of such platforms has skyrocketed and will likely increase with states, such as California, require citizens to remain indoors.

While the online transition is in play and the curve blunts through our collective efforts, it’s an excellent time to explore online entertainment options. You can only stayed glued to the 24-hour news cycle for so long, and a nice respite from the daunting live broadcasts requires escape into the fictitious world that streaming services offer.

Whether you utilize Apple TV’s black boxes, Amazon’s Fire TV sticks, Roku’s classic and pioneering streaming devices, Google’s Chromecast, or if you merely watch YouTube and Instagram on your mobile phone, the hardware is omnipresent and easy to access.
And the good news is that so much of this wonderfully diverting streaming content is FREE!


TUBI
(tubitv.com)

No one would blame you for missing a hot bit of entertainment business news that broke this week. The Fox Corporation purchased the free streaming platform Tubi. Tubi is an ad-supported system that contains many high-end movies and television series.

One thing I always check out on this platform is the category labeled “Not on Netflix” or “Only Free on Tubi.” For example, as of the time of writing this, 2002’s “Minority Report” and 1991’s “New Jack City” are streaming free on Tubi. And my wife’s locally shot horror feature, “Rave Party Massacre,” is available on this platform, as well.

Crackle

(crackle.com)

Owned by Sony Pictures Television, Crackle is a prime source of ad-supported video content, including original programming. Playstation gamers have been familiar with this service for many years. And most Sony blu-ray players that have streaming built-in come with the Crackle app pre-installed.

Content on this platform is wide-ranging. The categories are inventive, helping viewers make informed decisions. Under the “Fandom Channel,” for example, you can watch 2004’s “House of Flying Daggers,” 1997’s great Paul Verhoeven sci-fi “Starship Troopers,” or binge all of the “Star Trek” feature films.
A great category is one titled “Film School for Free.” David Lean’s 1962 winner of 7 Oscars “Lawrence of Arabia” can be seen here along with Billy Wilder’s classic “Sunset Boulevard.” Stuck inside? Get your film education without having to pay a subscription with Crackle.


Vudu

(vudu.com)

Walmart acquired this streaming rental service in 2010. And while rentals continue to be a large part of the Vudu platform, some viewers might not know that Vudu has added free content in the last few years.
Under the category “Free: New This Month” you can watch 1991’s “Point Break” directed by Kathryn Bigelow. The action film stars “John Wick’s” Keanu Reeves and the late, great Patrick Swayze, at his sexy best. The kids can watch 2006 Oscar Winner “Happy Feet” co-directed by “Mad Max: Fury Road’s” George Miller. And while you’re at it, check out Michael Keaton in “The Founder,” which was shot right here in Newnan.


PopcornFlix

(popcornflix.com)

This platform is a product of Screen Media Ventures and is available on most set-top boxes and mobile devices. It’s also available on XBOX.

In addition to many of the same movies that are available on other platforms, PopcornFlix features several projects labeled “originals.” Under this category, it does appear that programs categorized as an “original” might not be PopcornFlix only. However, this platform does contain independently produced content that you can’t see easily anywhere else.

Writer/director Riley Stearns’ 2014 edgy, cult-themed movie “Faults” is available on PopcornFlix. Actor Stuart Townsend’s directing debut, 2007’s star-studded “Battle in Seattle,” could be an interesting, unique diversion and is streaming here. Horror fans might dig the creepy indie 2016’s “The Void.”
In this continuing column, I will monitor free streaming platforms, expanding on my list. Remember that these ad-based services are available on almost every device. Hunkering down at home gives nearly everyone, regardless of their ability to pay, a chance to catch up on great movies and outstanding television programming.

****

A RottenTomatoes.com Tomatometer-approved critic, Jonathan W. Hickman is also an entertainment lawyer, college professor, novelist, and filmmaker. He’s a member of the Atlanta Film Critics Circle, The Southeastern Film Critics Association, and the Georgia Film Critics Association. For more information about Jonathan visit: FilmProductionLaw.com or DailyFIlmFix.com