Diving for Treasure in Less Traveled Seas: Offerings From Boutique Streaming Services
Admit it: These days, nothing says “long holiday weekend” like Netflix. Or Amazon, Hulu, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play or Xbox Video.
But what if there were more interesting ways to avoid talking to your relatives than bingeing on “Breaking Bad” or catching up on “Transformers” movies? Beyond the online-streaming behemoths, with their largely overlapping selections, is a world of smaller sites with more unusual, less commercial fare.
For this weekend, we’ve chosen six sites (from among the hundreds of possibilities) and highlighted one current offering from each — a Scottish mystery, a Korean reality show, a movie by a Japanese cult director, an American TV classic, the new Hal Hartley film — that isn’t available from any other streaming service in the United States. If water cooler currency is your goal, stick with “Orange Is the New Black.” But if you like the idea of discovering something the rest of America isn’t already talking about, you can find it here.
ACORN TV (“The Field of Blood”) Most of the major outlets have generous selections of British television series, but no hard-core fan of British mysteries should be without a subscription to Acorn’s streamingservice. Its most recent batch of exclusives includes the 1989 reboot of “The Saint”; Season 2 of “The Broker’s Man,” starring Kevin Whately of “Inspector Morse” and “Inspector Lewis” as an insurance investigator; and the first season of this atmospheric BBC series, set in Glasgow in the Thatcher years. The story is a fairly standard missing-child case, but Jayd Johnson is appealing as the heroine, a tough young journalist battling unbridled sexism and family disapproval, and the cast includes David Morrissey (“The Walking Dead”) as a stern editor, and Peter Capaldi (“Doctor Who”) as a boozing, sympathetic reporter.
Peter Capaldi in “The Field of Blood” on Acorn TV. CreditAcorn TV
DRAMAFEVER (“Roommate”) South Korea may be in the vanguard of international pop culture, but it’s just catching up to “Big Brother.” The producers of “Roommate” even felt the need to explain the concept in the premiere episode: “These days, people are living with people that they don’t know. This is what you call a ‘house share.’ ” Among the 11 celebrities sharing a house in Seoul are three who normally bunk in barracks with the members of their singing groups, and the popular actor Lee Dong Wook, who’s in his early 30s and normally lives with his parents.
The house’s 60 cameras capture comedy, inspiration and fellowship rather than the American routine of catfights, drinking and sex, and a comment that a housemate is cute is enough to draw blushes and screams from the rest of the cast. Nine episodes are available so far atDramaFever, a bountiful source of Asian- and Spanish-language television. (After three days, episodes also become available on Hulu.)
“Himizu” on Vyer Films. CreditVyer Films
FANDOR (“My America”) The Baltimore theater company Center Stage commissioned 50 short monologues on the subject of “What is my America?” and asked Hal Hartley (“The Unbelievable Truth,” “Trust”) to film them. This feature-length movie, which collects 21 of the monologues, is being presented by the indie-film site Fandor.
Mr. Hartley’s intervention is minimal: The scenes are filmed with little or no costuming and props in a bare loft space. Brian Tyree Henry is an inmate in the prison library in Kia Corthron’s “Nate’s America”; Jefferson Mays is a director pitching his film about a Coney Island disaster in Rinne Groff’s “Fire in Dreamland”; Kathleen Chalfant recounts a life’s worth of bad jobs in Naomi Iizuka’s “Still.”
“Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure” on Crunchyroll. CreditHirohiko Araki/SHUEISHA, JoJo’s Animation Project
VYER FILMS (“Himizu”) Vyer proudly uses the word “curated,” and its small collection of films includes some notoriously challenging work, like Isild Le Besco’s “Bas-Fonds” and Nicolas Provost’s “Invader.” The Japanese director Sion Sono is a known provocateur, but his 2011 “Himizu,” while jarringly violent and subject to wild shifts of tone, is more straightforward than earlier works like “Cold Fish” and “Love Exposure.” Quickly rewritten after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, it’s a pitch-black comedy that juxtaposes Japan’s attempt to dig itself out of physical and psychological ruin with a middle-school boy’s attempt to survive the pathologies forced on him by violent deadbeat parents.
The film’s stars, Shota Sometani as the boy, and Fumi Nikaido as the girl who’s cheerfully obsessed with him, even though he consistently slaps her around, won awards for best new actors at the Venice Film Festival.
In “Roommate,” from DramaFever, 60 cameras track the antics of 11 South Korean celebrities as they share a house in Seoul. CreditSeoul Broadcasting System
WARNER ARCHIVE INSTANT (“Dr. Kildare”) Talk about bingeing — in 1961, when this pioneering medical drama started its five-year run on NBC, the initial season lasted 33 episodes. Its first season is among the recent offerings on Warner Bros.’ vintage-movie-and-TV site. With Richard Chamberlain as the crusading young intern James Kildare and Raymond Massey as his mentor, Dr. Gillespie, the show was a prototype for the soap-operatic sensibilities of contemporary hospital shows. But it also demonstrates how crisply and inventively filmed television could be in the ’60s, and how much prime-time drama of the era borrowed from the style and frankness of noir and pulp movies.
The pilot, “Twenty-Four Hours,” looks as if it could have been filmed by Sam Fuller. (It was actually made by the veteran journeyman Boris Sagal, who directed episodes of “Twilight Zone” and “Naked City” the same year.)
CRUNCHYROLL (“JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure”) The JoJo franchise, as it’s known, is a comics phenomenon, one of the top-selling manga in Japanese history (with more than 80 million copies sold of its more than 100 volumes). A multigenerational, globe-spanning, mystical adventure about the exploits of the Joestar family, it’s spawned films, novels, video games and this anime TV series.
The second season, “Stardust Crusaders” (corresponding to the third story arc of the comic books), takes place in the 1980s and features Jotaro, grandson and great-great-grandson of the earlier story arcs’ protagonists. As he battles an evil ancestor and tries to save his mother’s life, the story combines rollicking, sentimental action with incessant references to Western pop music and other cultural streams. (Among Jotaro’s superpower feats: transporting into his jail cell a copy of Shonen Jump, the manga magazine in which “JoJo” initially appeared.) The anime site Crunchyroll simulcasts new episodes on Fridays, minutes after they appear on Japanese TV.