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January is traditionally a slower month for movies and television, but while this January is a bit sleepy compared to the rush of December, there’s still a lot that looks promising in the month to come.
For starters, the usual flood of horror movies includes a new killer doll movie that looks like a lot of fun; HBO has a major new series adapting a classic video game; and Netflix is getting experimental with a series that invites viewers to shape the order of the story they’re watching. In the spirit of the show we’ll choose that as our starting point.
Kaleidoscope (Netflix, January 1)
A few years ago Netflix rolled out a few projects, like Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend, designed to let viewers interact and guide the story themselves via a Choose Your Own Adventure-style branching narrative. Now Kaleidoscope offers a different sort of interactivity via a heist story starring Giancarlo Esposito and Rufus Sewell whose episodes can be watched in (almost) any order. One episode is designed as the finale but it’s a finale that can be reached by any combination of episodes that combine to tell a decades-spanning story. Watch it on Netflix here.
Paul T. Goldman (Peacock, January 1)
This one takes a little set-up: a few years back director Jason Woliner (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm) was contacted by a man named Paul T. Goldman about a screenplay Goldman had written about his failed marriage and his attempts to fight crime tied to his ex-wife. Taken with Goldman, Woliner decided to turn his life into a series that mixes documentary footage with dramatizations of Goldman’s screenplay that includes appearances from Rosanna Arquette, Dennis Haysbert, and others. (Three episodes premiere today then the show begins rolling out weekly.) Watch it on Peacock here.
The Lying Life of Adults (Netflix, January 4)
After finishing her quartet of Neapolitan novels, Elena Ferrante released The Lying Life of Adults, a 2019 novel about Giovanna, a 12-year-old girl who seeks out her aunt Vittoria and uncovers some family secrets in the process. Ferrante’s books have already been fodder for rich adaptations — the quartet is currently being adapted via the HBO series My Brilliant Friend and the Maggie Gylenhaal-directed The Lost Daughter was one of 2021’s best films— and this Italian miniseries, which co-stars Valeria Golino (Rain Man, Portrait of a Lady on Fire) as Vittoria, appears likely to continue the trend. Watch on Netflix here.
Will Trent (ABC, January 3)
Adapted from a popular series by Karin Slaughter, this new crime series stars Ramón Rodríguez as Will Trent, an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation who’s become a top investigator despite struggles with a rough childhood and dyslexia. Erika Christensen co-stars as Angie, Will’s partner and a woman with a troubled past of her own. Watch ABC online with Vidgo.
Copenhagen Cowboy (Netflix, January 5)
Director Nicholas Winding Refn (Drive) extends his excursion into television after the completion of Too Old to Die Young with a return to his native Denmark. Will this new series showcase a gentler side of Refn? Don’t count on it: Angela Bundalovic stars as Miu, a woman who enters the seamy side of the Danish capital on a mission of vengeance. Watch on Netflix here.
M3GAN (Theaters, January 6)
What could go wrong when Gemma (Allison Williams) develops a lifelike doll for a cutting edge toy company and decides to beta test it with her recently orphaned niece Cady (Violet McGraw)? Given that this is a new horror movie from Blumhouse directed by Akela Cooper, co-writer of Malignant, we’re going to guess a lot.
Koala Man (Hulu, January 9)
Sure, big-name superheroes look after major cities like Gotham and Metropolis. But who will protect the streets of Dapto, a seemingly sleepy Australian suburb? In this new animated series those duties fall to the middle-aged Kevin (Michael Cusack), a.k.a. Koala Man. The show’s first season has lined up an impressive array of guest stars, including Hugh Jackman (as the host of Australia’s third most popular fishing show) and Jemaine Clement. Watch with a free trial to Hulu here.
The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House (Netflix, January 12)
The great Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters) has a new film named Broker that will be rolling out in North American theaters a little later this year after an extremely limited December release. Fans of his work (and curious newcomers) won’t have to wait long, however, to catch Kore-eda’s new TV project, which follows two teens whose paths diverge after they enter a stringent school for aspiring geishas. Watch on Netflix here.
Velma (HBO Max, January 12)
A Scooby-less series focusing on the bespectacled Velma, this new Mindy Ealing-produced animated series revisits the origins of Mystery Inc. before Scoob joined the gang. Kaling voices Velma, a teen caught in a web of complicated relationships with Fred (Glenn Howerton), Daphne (Constance Wu), and Shaggy (Sam Richardson). Expect mystery, irreverence, and hijinks (but no Great Danes). Watch on HBO Max here.
The Drop (Hulu, January 13)
In a new dark comedy directed by Sarah Adina Smith, Anna Konkle (Pen15) and Jermaine Fowler (Coming 2 America) play a couple on the verge of starting a family. But when they drop a friend’s baby at a wedding, they’re forced to confront their choices and address some long-simmering tensions. Aparna Nancherla, Joshua Leonard, and Jillian Bell round out the cast. Watch with a free trial to Hulu here.
House Party (Theaters, January 13)
A 1990 hit starring the rap duo Kid ’n Play, House Party used a simple premise to introduce comedic chaos: What if a pair of teens’ party got out of control? Can a remake work just as well? Music video veteran Calmatic and Atlanta writers Jamal Lori and Stephen Glover seem to think so. This new version casts Tosin Cole (Doctor Who) and Jacob Latimore (The Chi) as the teens in a film whose many cameos from the music and sports worlds include an appearance by producer LeBron James.
Skinamarink (Theaters, January 13)
From Canada comes this much buzzed-about low-budget horror film from first-time director Kyle Edward Bell with a chilling premise: two boys wake up alone in their house to find that all the windows and doors have vanished. If that sounds like a nightmare, there’s a reason: Ball based the film at least in part on common nightmares submitted to a YouTube channel where he recreated others’ nightmares.
The Last of Us (HBO, January 15)
One of the most revered titles in gaming history gets a sprawling adaptation via this new post-apocalyptic series starring Pedro Pascal as Joel, a hardened survivor, and Bella Rasmey (Game of Thrones) as Ellie, a teenage girl who might hold the secret to defeating the plague of zombie-like creatures that’s overrun the Earth. Video game adaptations don’t have a great track record, but the source material’s strong narrative, a strong cast that also includes Anna Torv and Nick Offerman, and the presence of original writer Neil Druckerman, who serves as co-creator alongside Craig Mazin (Chernobyl), all suggest this is highly likely to be an exception. Watch on HBO Max here.
Night Court (NBC/Peacock, January 17)
The classic Eighties sitcom returns via a series that brings in a new generation of characters alongside a veteran of the old series. Melissa Rauch (How I Met Your Mother) stars as Abby Stone, the daughter of Harry Stone (originally played by the late Harry Anderson) who takes over his old job as the judge of an after-hours court filled with criminal eccentrics. John Larroquette reprises the role that won him many Emmys in the series original run, Assistant DA Dan Fielding. Watch it on Peacock here.
The 1619 Project (Hulu, January 26)
Launched in 2019 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans to arrive in what’s now the United States, the 1619 Project has turned into a continuing effort to revisit American history with a new emphasis on the institution of slavery, its lasting impact on the country, and the unheralded contributions of Black Americans. Orchestrated by historian Nikole Hannah-Jones, the project has now been adapted into a six-part series focusing on everything from the justice system to American music. Watch with a free trial to Hulu here.
Poker Face (Peacock, January 26)
Seemingly not content with reviving the whodunnit with Knives Out, director Rian Johnson now seeks to breathe new life into the eccentric-sleuth-solves-a-new-case-each-week TV series made popular in decades past by shows like Columbo. Natasha Lyonne stars as Charlie Cale, a woman traveling cross-country whose gift for being able to tell when someone is lying turned her into an accidental detective. Watch it on Peacock here.
Shotgun Wedding (Prime Video, January 27)
Arriving a few months after its scheduled theatrical release last summer, this action/rom-com hybrid stars Jennifer Lopez and Josh Duhamel as a soon-to-be-married couple who consider calling it all off just before their families get kidnapped. Watch with 30-day free trial to Amazon Prime here.
Infinity Pool (Theaters and VOD, January 27)
It’s been hard to sniff out too many plot details about the latest film from Brandon Cronenberg (Possessor), which will hit theaters not long after premiering at Sundance. But we do know that it stars Mia Goth and Alexander Skarsgård as a couple whose trip to an all-inclusive resort goes horribly awry and, based on Cronenberg’s past work, it’s going to be memorably disturbing.
You People (Netflix, January 27)
Black–ish creator Kenya Barris makes his directorial debut with this comedy starring Jonah Hill (who scripted the film with Barris) as Ezra, a Jewish Los Angeleno who wants to marry a woman named Amira (Lauren London). Possibly getting in the way: their parents, played by Eddie Murphy, Nia Long, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and David Duchovny. Watch on Netflix here.
Shrinking (Apple TV+, January 27)
In a new comedy co-created by Bill Lawrence, Brett Goldstein and Jason Segel, Segel plays a therapist whose grief leads him to stop mincing words with his patients. The behind-the-scenes talent, which includes director James Ponsoldt (The End of the Tour) is impressive, and so is the cast, which includes Harrison Ford and Jessica Williams. Watch with a free trial to Apple TV+ here.