It’s a relatively sedate month on HBO Max for new series after last month’s big House of the Dragon premiere. (That series continues to roll out new episodes this month). But there’s still a lot to look forward to, including the return of a one-of-a-kind comedy, this summer’s biggest biopic, and the HBO Max premieres of some classic films. A Kirk Douglas classic is one of the new old movies kicking off the month.
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The Bad and the Beautiful (September 1)
Kirk Douglas delivers one of his most powerful performances in this Vincent Minelli-directed melodrama about a difficult movie producer (Douglas) trying to launch a new project only to be reminded of his past wrongs by his would-be collaborators.
Beau Travail (September 1)
Claire Denis directs this mysterious 1999 film about the ambiguous, destructive relationship between a French Foreign Legion commander (Denis Lavant) and a beautiful new recruit (Grégoire Colin). Inspired by Billy Budd, it features one of the most peculiar endings you’ll ever see in a film.
Cat People (September 1)
Producer Val Lewton made a virtue out of his limited budgets by making tense, suggestive psychological thrillers that relied on darkness, claustrophobia, and mounting fear to be effective. Directed by Jacques Tourneur, Cat People is among the best to bear Lewton’s name, an eerie story of sexual desire and transformation.
Topsy Turvy (September 1)
This Mike Leigh film depicts the collaboration between Gilbert (Jim Broadbent) and Sullivan (Allan Corduner) as they create The Mikado, an operetta inspired by the late-Victorian era’s interest in all things Japanese. Filled with stars and Leigh regulars like Leslie Manville, Timothy Spall, and Andy Serkis, it’s a winning tribute to the creative process and the art of pleasing crowds that doesn’t flinch in depicting the difficulties along the way.
We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (September 1)
Jane Schoenbrunn’s tough-to-describe film depicts the slow unraveling of a teenage girl named Casey (Anna Cobb) who, left alone for hours on end, becomes obsessed with an online community. Stark and daring in its approach, it features a haunting depiction of loneliness and isolation made all the more intense by its opaque narrative.
Elvis (September 2)
Baz Lurhmann goes full Luhrmann for this Elvis Presley biopic filled with songs, flashy camera work, and Tom Hanks (as Elvis manager Tom Parker) under a lot of make-up. It doesn’t always work, but Austin Butler delivers a remarkable performance as Presley, capturing his incendiary charisma and his vulnerability. Originally only available on VOD, Elvis makes its streaming debut this month on HBO Max.
Los Espookys (Season 2, September 16)
A one-of-a-kind series about a group of friends who, somehow, run a business staging horror movie-inspired situations in the real world returns for a long-overdue second season. Created by Bernardo Velasco, Ana Fabrega, and Fred Armisen (all of whom play roles on the show), the series mixes absurdity and silliness in ways that are tough to describe. It’s easiest just to tune in and see for yourself.
Escape from Kabul (September 21)
A ripped-from-very-recent-headlines doc, Escape from Kabul explores the 18-day withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and the chaos that trailed it. The film mixes footage from the scene of the events with interviews with those who were there.
The Hype (Season 2, September 22)
HBO’s streetwear competition series returns for a second season in which aspiring designers try to win the approval of rapper Offset (who serves his producers) and a panel of judges and guests. (Last year saw a host of stars stopping by so expect more of that this season.)
Hostages (September 28)
Featuring interviewers from both the hostages and the hostage takers, this four-part documentary looks at the Iranian Hostage Crisis in which 52 American diplomats were held hostage for over a year by Iranian revolutionaries from late 1979 through early 1981.
Magnolia Spotlight Page (September 30)
It’s not exactly clear what the final result of the marriage between Discovery and HBO will look like, but here’s one early sign: an area dedicated to the programming of the Magnolia Network. That makes HBO Max a new destination for fans of shows like Fixer Upper, Restoration Road, and Magnolia Table. That’s a change but maybe one for the better? Perhaps viewers need some kind of palate cleanser after all the bloodshed and mayhem.
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