HBO Max is lowkey the greatest streaming service out there, and each month they unleash a flood of great new content, both stuff from the vast Warner Bros. library and also new titles made exclusively for the streamer.
With “The Matrix Resurrections” released at the end of December, most of what is arriving to HBO Max in January are library titles, but that’s okay (because they’re really, really good). So without further ado check out our picks for the best new movies on HBO Max this month.
2001: A Space Odyssey
How about we kick things off with one of the greatest movies ever made? Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction masterpiece “2001: A Space Odyssey” (about, amongst other things, evolutionary leaps in technology, a spiritual voyage to the edge of space, and killer computers) makes its way to HBO Max this month, so why not watch one more time? The movie that initially befuddled audiences but made an impact with more open-minded views and (let’s be real) stoners, don’t pack quite the same wallop when viewed on your 55” Samsung, but a great movie is a great movie on any format and in any size. “2001: A Space Odyssey” awes however you watch it.
The beginning of what might be the greatest superhero saga of the modern era is still arguably, is back on the platform. There’s a strong argument to be made that Christopher Nolan’s inaugural outing with Christian Bale as Batman is the best of the bunch, too. It’s sleek and funny in ways that the other two (also available on HBO Max) can get bulky and self-serious and the last act, with the runaway monorail, is a pure thrill ride in ways that the latter two refused to become.
Gremlins 2: The New Batch
Perhaps the most meta studio sequel until at least last month’s “Matrix Resurrections” (which is still on HBO Max until Jan. 21), “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” took the formula of the original Joe Dante classic (basically that Mogwai can’t get wet, be exposed to sunlight, or eat after midnight) and turns it into an orgiastic pop spectacle. The gremlins take over a New York skyrise (run by a very Trumpian character played by the great John Glover), which is really an excuse for Dante and his collaborators to send up 90s culture, everything from the colorization of classic old movies to yogurt. It’s a nonstop blast.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Another stone-cold masterpiece for the list, “Mad Max: Fury Road” is a blow-your-hair-back classic, following the titular road warrior (now played by Tom Hardy, taking over for Mel Gibson) as he joins with Furiosa (Charlize Theron) to save humanity from the brink. If you’ve never seen “Mad Max: Fury Road,” get ready. It’s almost indescribably wonderful, the type of bold artistic vision that studios seldom fund. Might be a great time to re-watch, too, if you’re a fan, ahead of New York Times writer Kyle Buchanan’s chronicle of the movie’s production, out next month. Grab your warboys and let’s go!
This one is for the ladies. The conclusion of the “Magic Mike” saga, once again starring Channing Tatum and directed by the brilliant Steven Soderbergh, is expected to drop later this year on HBO Max, so why not go back to the beginning? Soderbergh’s film is so funny and full of life (and also happens to be one of the best movies made about the economic crash of 2008), it should have been heralded even more than it was. (“Magic Mike XXL,” which Soderbergh didn’t direct but produced, edited and shot; and “Finding Magic Mike,” a recent reality show spin-off, are also both available.) Hope you brought some singles.
Ready Player One
Guess what? “Ready Player One” is one of Steven Spielberg’s most underrated, most out-and-out fun movies of the past decade. Set in a futuristic world where humanity is largely housebound and addicted to a VR world called the Oasis (this is a world that looks more and more like our own), a kid named Wade (Tye Sheridan) is on the quest for a series of magical eggs that will give him dominion over this synthetic landscape. It sounds goofy, for sure, but it is also Spielberg working at the height of his blockbuster, crowd-pleasing powers, committing some of his very best set pieces to film (aided by dazzling visual effects by Industrial Light & Magic). What, are you going to re-watch “Lincoln” instead?
Teen Titans Go! to the Movies
Maybe the best of the recent crop of DC movies is actually this incredibly silly animated feature, where younger versions of your favorite heroes (led by a bratty Robin) attempt to get their own movie made about them. “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” is irreverent and oftentimes laugh-out-loud funny, particularly in a sequence (set to Huey Lewis’ song from “Back to the Future”) where they travel through time to insure that the other superheroes don’t actually become superheroes. What a film. Also, somewhat relatedly: “The LEGO Batman Movie,” another terrific animated take on the DC characters, is new to HBO Max this month too. Why not make it a double feature?