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It’s May, and when it comes to entertainment, that means only one thing: the beginning of the summer movie season. Except maybe not this year. While theaters have started to stir back to life and resume business as usual as more of the moviegoing public gets vaccinated and feels safe returning to theaters, for the second year in a row the summer movie season has been punted a little down the road.
Sure, there are some movies coming out, some compelling-looking ones, too. But it now looks like the sort of explosive thrills usually associated with summer moviegoing will mostly have to wait until June. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of entertainment of both the movie and TV variety. That includes everything from a new Star Wars spin-off, Zack Snyder’s return to the land of the undead, and a couple of series making belated returns. Let’s start with one of those.
The Girlfriend Experience (Starz, May 2)
A kind-of spiritual spin-off of the Steven Soderbergh film about the experiences of a high-end sex worker, The Girlfriend Experience ran for two seasons under the supervision of the writing and directing team of Lodge Kerrigan and Amy Seimetz in 2016 and 2017 then seemed to run have run its course. Now it’s back for a third season, this one written and directed by German filmmaker Anja Marquardt (She’s Lost Control). Set in London’s tech world, it stars Julia Goldani Telles as a neuroscience major who gets in over her head while exploring the escort world. Watch with a free trial to Starz.
Pose (Third Season, FX, May 2)
The pandemic hit FX’s drama about New York’s drag ball culture hard, closing down production last March. That shutdown shortened the show’s third, and final, season, which jumps ahead to 1994 and finds the main characters leading different lives. It’s a bittersweet return for a series that changed the face of trans representation on television, but it’s still nice to have it back. Watch with a free trial to Hulu + Live TV.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch (Disney+, May 4)
Before his work on The Mandalorian, writer and executive producer Dave Filoni served as the driving force behind Star Wars: The Clone Wars and other animated series. That helps explain why so many Clone Wars characters have shown up in The Mandalorian, which proved they could work just as well in liver-action as animation. With Star Wars: The Bad Batch, Filoni crosses back into animation for a series about a band of mutant clone warriors who run afoul of the Empire after the Clone Wars draw to a close. Watch on Disney+ here.
Girls5eva (Peacock, May 6)
Created by Meredith Scardino — a veteran of SNL, The Colbert Report, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt — this new comedy follows a Nineties girl group attempting a ’20s comeback. That’s a promising idea and the cast is even more promising thanks to a mix of funny and tuneful talent that includes Sara Bareilles, Paula Pell, Busy Phillips, and Renée Elise Goldsberry. Watch on Peacock here.
Jupiter’s Legacy (Netflix, May 7)
What if the children of the first generation of superheroes had a hard time living up to the standards of their parents? An adaptation of the comic book written by Mark Millar and drawn by Frank Quietly, Jupiter’s Legacy explores just that question via the story of the Utopian (Josh Duhamel), a hero revered since his emergence in the Thirties who faces new challenges in the 2020s, including some presented by his children. With The Boys and Invincible already airing on Prime Video, there’s no shortage of revisionist takes on superheroes these days, but Millar (who also created Kick-Ass) has a way of finding new angles on the mythos surrounding tights and capes and series creator Steven S. DeKnight, whose past work includes the action-filled Spartacus and Daredevil, should be well-suited to bring it to life. Watch on Netflix here.
Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street (VOD, May 7)
Inspired by the book of the same name by Michael Davis, this documentary takes a look at the early days of Sesame Street, from the quietly revolutionary qualities that made it so groundbreaking to the controversy its vision of ethnic diversity created in parts of the country, to some the difficulties that threatened to undo it even at the heights of its success. Available on VOD in May; pre-order the Blu-ray here.
The Wrath of Man (Theaters, May 7)
Jason Statham first rose to stardom with Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, the first film directed by Guy Ritchie. It’s been awhile since star and director teamed up, but this pairing, in which Statham plays a cash truck driver seeking revenge, seems like a pretty safe bet for anyone looking for a hard-hitting action movie and doesn’t want to watch Nobody for the fourth time.
Ziwe (Showtime, May 9)
A writer for Desus & Mero who turned awkwardness into laughs with her internet series Baited with Ziwe in which she drew co-workers and guests into unsettling (but funny) conversations about race, Ziwe Fumudoh gets the spotlight to herself via a variety show that mixes interviews, sketches — almost certainly — quite a bit of comedic discomfort built around hot-button issues. Watch with free trial to Showtime here.
The Upshaws (Netflix, May 12)
Apart from CBS, where it thrives, the traditional sitcom hasn’t had the best luck on television in recent years. A few series have found space on Netflix, however, which played host to One Day at a Time (for a couple of seasons, anyway), and The Ranch. Wanda Sykes and Mike Epps serve as stars and executive producers on this latest attempt to put a fresh spin on a time-tested formula via the story of a working class Indiana family’s sometimes tumultuous life. They’re not the only comedic old-hands in the cast, either. It also includes sitcom all-star Kim Fields. Watch on Netflix here.
Spiral: From the Book of Saw (Theaters, May 14)
Sykes first attracted attention as a writer and performer on HBO’s The Chris Rock Show back in the Nineties. This May sees her old boss branching out as well via a new entry in the long-running Saw series. Rock plays a cop who, alongside his father (Samuel L. Jackson), gets drawn into a case eerily reminiscent of the work of the Jigsaw killer. Expect elaborate traps and a killer motivated by a strict moral code — it’s a Saw movie, after all — but otherwise this looks like a fresh take on the venerable franchise.
Pride (FX, May 14)
Via six installments, each dedicated to a different era from the 1950s through the 21st century and each directed by a different filmmaking team, this docuseries attempts to recount the story of LGBTQ+ rights in America. It should prove both enlightening — since LGBTQ+ history was forced to the margins for so long — and maddening, given the legal restrictions and cultural conflicts of the past and their persistence in the presence. Watch with a free trial to Hulu + Live TV.
Those Who Wish Me Dead (Theaters / HBO Max, May 14)
Taylor Sheridan — the writer of Hell or High Water, writer/director of Wind River, and co-creator of Yellowstone — has developed a speciality in tales set in a modern American West that’s never quite shed the danger and violence of its frontier days. His latest as writer and director stars Nicole Kidman as a former smokejumper whose isolated existence in a fire tower gets interrupted when she encounters a boy on the run from assassins determined to kill him. Watch on HBO Max here.
The Woman in the Window (Netflix, May 14)
Amy Adams stars in this adaptation of A.J. Finch’s bestseller about a psychologist whose agoraphobia gets tested after she watches her neighbor across the way fall victim to foul play. Or does she? It’s a Hitchockian set-up populated by an all-star cast that includes Jennifer Jason Leigh, Julianne Moore, Anthony Mackie, and Gary Oldman and directed by Joe Wright (Hanna). Watch on Netflix here.
The Underground Railroad (Prime, May 14)
In the alternate universe of Colson Whitehead’s powerful 2016 novel, The Underground Railroad, slaves escaped the South by a literal subterranean rail line that ran north to freedom — but not without some difficulty along the way. A way of talking about the ugly realities of the past through the lens of fantasy, the book has been adapted for television by Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk), an extremely promising pairing. Thuso Mbdedu, a South African television star, heads a cast that includes Joel Edgerton, William Jackson Harper, and Peter Mullan. Watch with a 30-day free trial on Amazon Prime.
Army of the Dead (Theaters / Netflix, May 21)
Zack Snyder hasn’t only been spending his time reassembling his version of Justice League. With Army of the Dead, he’s not just releasing a new film but launching a franchise. The film stars Dave Bautista as one of a group of mercenaries who treat a zombie outbreak as an opportunity to make a big score in Las Vegas. Whatever the outcome of their venture, the film will be followed by an anime-style series and a live-action prequel, directed by Matthias Schweighöfer, that’s already wrapped filming. Watch on Netflix here.
Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. (Hulu, May 21)
In the surest sign yet that every character ever to appear in the pages of Marvel Comics will eventually get a movie or TV show, this stop-motion animation series concerns the struggles of the eponymous M.O.D.O.K., who’s essentially an angry floating head, as he simultaneously tries to take over the world and deal with marital drama in suburban New Jersey. If that premise didn’t already suggest the show didn’t take itself too seriously, Patton Oswalt provides the voice of M.O.D.O.K. Watch with a free trial to Hulu here.
In Treatment (HBO, May 23)
As with The Girlfriend Experience, viewers could be forgiven for thinking they’d seen the last of In Treatment, which ran for three seasons between 2008 and 2010. This revival brings in new star Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black) as the central character, a therapist who sees a parade of patients while dealing with problems of her own. But instead of the five-nights-a-week format of the original run it will air two half-hour episodes each on Sunday and Monday. Watch on HBO Max here.
Cruella (Theaters / Disney+, May 28)
Everyone clamoring for an origin story of Cruella de Vil, the fur-coveting villain of 101 Dalmatians, can relax: You’ve been heard. Emma Stone plays Cruella as a young fashion designer with a rebellious streak that, since the film’s rated PG-13, presumably does not extend to dog slaughter. Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya) directs. Watch on Disney+ here.
Plan B (May 28)
Natalie Morales (Dead to Me, The Little Things) has spent part of the pandemic branching out into directing. She’s helmed both Language Lessons, which had a well-received premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, and this comedy in which a pair of South Dakota teenagers (Kuhoo Verma and Victoria Moroles) desperately search for the day-after pill following an unfortunate first sexual experience. With last year’s Palm Springs, Hulu established itself as an outlet to watch for original comedies and this looks like it might carry on that trend. Watch with a free trial to Hulu here.
A Quiet Place, Part II (Theaters, May 28)
One of the first films pushed from the release schedule by Covid-19 last year, John Kransinski’s sequel to his stylish and effective horror hit makes its debut just over a year after originally planned. Emily Blunt returns as a mother determined to survive a world devastated by alien invaders who hunt by sound (and maybe some unexpected new threats). She’s joined by returning co-star Millicent Simmonds and newcomer Cillian Murphy.
Housebroken (Fox, May 31)
It’s a big month for TV therapists of all varieties: in addition to the return of In Treatment we’re getting a new animated series starring the voice of Lisa Kudrow as Honey, a therapy dog who also runs group therapy sessions for the dogs in her neighborhood. (Get it?) Kudrow’s always a welcome presence and a supporting cast that includes Will Forte, Sharon Horgan, Jason Mantzoukas, and Sharon Horgan bodes well.