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Movies? Returning series? New series? Reunions of Tony-winning Broadway casts of hit musicals? HBO Max has it all in May.
The return of Hacks is the immediate standout here, but it’s not the only promising piece of original programming. Beyond that, May offers a chance to catch up with some great movies you might have missed, starting with a Nineties classic from Hong Kong.
Watch all of these shows and films for free with a subscription to HBO Max. An HBO Max subscription costs just $9.99/month.
Chungking Express (May 1)
Partly thanks to the endorsement of Quentin Tarantino, Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai made his Western breakthrough with this 1993 film about lovelorn cops, criminals, and food stand workers in a pulsing city at the end of the 20th century. Among the director’s best efforts, it’s a quintessential Wong film: yearning, energetic, half made up as the director made the film, yet miraculously cohesive. Faye Wong, Brigitte Lin, and the great Tony Leung (most recently seen as the bad guy in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) star.
The Big Sleep (May 1)
Howard Hawks’ adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s novel of the same name has a plot so convoluted that even Chandler famously isn’t sure who one of the killers is. It doesn’t matter. The combination of Hawks’ snappy direction and the star power of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall (to say nothing of Dorothy Malone in one of the sexiest scenes ever filmed) make this one of the essential films of the noir era.
Devil in a Blue Dress (May 1)
For a more recent essential noir, check out Carl Franklin’s crackling adaptation of the first Walter Mosley novel to feature the reluctant (but gifted) Easy Rawlins, resident of a changing Los Angeles. Set in 1948, the film stars Denzel Washington alongside Don Cheadle as his dangerous friend Mouse. Released in 1995, this should have been the beginning of a long-running series, but the one we got was pretty great.
Early Spring, Early Summer, Floating Weeds, The End of Summer, Equinox Flower, Tokyo Twilight, An Autumn Afternoon (May 1)
One of the best things about the streaming era is the way, seemingly out of nowhere, a chunk of films from one of the greatest directors of all time can show up. A director of tremendous subtlety and bottomless humanity, Yasujirō Ozu made film after film exploring the Japanese family life in the shifting mid-century world. Where to start? There’s no choice among these films, but you can’t go wrong with Early Summer, starring Ozu’s defining stars: Chishū Ryū and Setsuko Hara.
Back to School (May 1)
A veteran comic who found surprising success in middle-age, Rodney Dangerfield became a regular star of Eighties comedies after all but stealing Caddyshack out from under younger stars like Chevy Chase and Bill Murray. This 1986 film, in which Dangerfield decides to head to college alongside his son, is one of his sweetest and best.
The Staircase (May 5)
Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s 2004 documentary miniseries The Staircase revisited the case of novelist Michael Peterson who was convicted of murdering his wife Kathleen in 2001. But did he? Lestrade’s film (and its two follow-ups) raised a bunch of questions about several aspects of the case. This new dramatic miniseries of the same name, co-created by Maggie Cohn (American Crime Story) and Antonio Campos (Christine) revisits it once again, with Colin Firth and Toni Collette playing the Petersons.
Hacks (Season 2 Premiere, May 12)
The first season of this outstanding series found veteran Las Vegas stand-up Deborah (Jean Smart) and Ava (Hannah Einbinder), the millennial comedy writer Deborah hires to punch up her act, developing mutual respect reaching an uneasy accord as Deborah reluctantly agrees to try out a different sort of material. If the first season suggests anything, however, it’s that accord will likely prove short-lived.
Old (May 13)
M. Night Shyamalan continued his comeback last year with this thriller set on a beach that turns those who visit from young to, well, read the title. Vicky Krieps and Gael Garcia Bernal star.
The Time Traveler’s Wife (May 15)
Audrey Niffenegger’s terrific 2003 novel The Time Traveler’s Wife explores the difficulties of love via the story of Henry and Clare, a couple with an unusual problem: a genetic condition sends Harry hurtling through time. Previously adapted into a 2009 film, it’s now getting a more expansive treatment via a show overseen by Stephen Moffatt (who knows a thing or two about time travel thanks to Doctor Who). Rose Leslie and Theo James play the central pair.
Spring Awakening: Those You’ve Known (May 30)
With its frank depiction of sexuality and memorable songs, Spring Awakening took Broadway by storm in 2006. This documentary covers a one-time-only reunion for the show’s 15th anniversary that brings together original stars like Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff.