Virtual watch parties

And the best new movies this week on streaming

It's no surprise that virtual watch party tools and platforms exploded in popularity over the past year. With limited things to go out and do to spend time together, watching movies and shows together virtually was an easy activity to do with friends. These tools aren't new. Teleparty (previously NetflixParty) has been around for some years now and we've seen a myriad of other similar apps that do the same thing in different flavors. One that stands out is Scener which brilliantly brings a Twitch-esque broadcasting angle to the concept. Prime Video and Hulu eventually jumped into the fray offering their own built-in watch party tools which shrunk the space and shuttered upstarts like WatchWithFriends as they saw the writing on the wall that third party tools aren't likely to survive in this space. Still, only one of these tools from the streaming platforms gets it right.

Disney+ is the only streaming platform that offers native synchronized streaming with friends via their Group Watch feature. What does this mean? Unlike all the other watch party tools that forces you to use a web browser on a laptop or desktop, Disney+ is the only platform that has the feature built natively into their app across all devices so you can watch virtually with friends directly on your TV. And it doesn't add chat (video or text) to the screen you're using to watch the movie or show - my pet peeve. Simply, it focuses on one thing - synchronizing the stream so you can have the shared experience of watching a movie or show with other people virtually.

Now, I totally support third party extensions adding all the bells and whistles...superfluous they may be but the streaming platforms do themselves a disservice by not investing properly in their virtual watch party offerings. This will continue to be a growing space and watching from a browser on a 13 inch laptop just doesn't cut it. Kudos to Disney+ for being the first to approach it in a thoughtful way.

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Here are the best new movies available this week on streaming video

In The Heights (2021)

Available Friday, June 11 on HBO Max

The scent of a cafecito caliente hangs in the air just outside of the 181st Street subway stop. The likeable, magnetic bodega owner Usnavi saves every penny from his daily grind as he hopes, imagines and sings about a better life.

Awake (2021)

Available Wednesday, June 9 on Netflix

After a devastating global event wipes out all electronics and eliminated people's ability to sleep, a former soldier may have found a solution with her daughter.

Come True (2020)

Available Thursday, June 3 on Hulu

A teenage runaway takes part in a sleep study that becomes a nightmarish descent into the depths of her mind and a frightening examination of the power of dreams.

Best foreign language films to watch this week on streaming video

Skater Girl (2021)

Available Friday, June 11 on HBO Max

When a teen in rural India discovers a life-changing passion for skateboarding, she faces a rough road as she follows her dream to compete.

Camellia Sisters (2021)

Available Thursday, June 10 on Netflix

Three sisters reunite in the wealthy palace they grew up in, as the secrets in their family begin to unravel.

Other movies available this week

Netflix

  • Vampire Academy (2014)

  • Tragic Jungle (2020)

  • A Haunted House 2 (2014)

  • Wish Dragon (2021)

Hulu

  • Legion of Brothers (2017)

  • The Croods 2 (2020)

  • Trust (2021)

  • Two of Us (2019)

  • Dragonheart 3: The Sorcerer's Curse (2015)

  • Not Fade Away (2012)

  • Willy's Wonderland (2021)

  • DragonHeart: A New Beginning (2000)

  • DragonHeart (1996)

  • Dragonheart: Battle for the Heartfire (2017)

Prime Video

  • Pinocchio (2019)

Disney+

  • The Happiest Millionaire (1967)

HBO Max

  • Killerman (2019)

  • Young Hearts (2020

  • The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)

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Movie descriptions from IMDB.