As Netflix et al. add more content, it’s difficult to know what to look for amidst all of the newly added titles. So at the start of every month, I publish a list of particularly noteworthy and interesting movies and TV shows to add to your streaming queues.
If you’d like to receive my streaming recommendations even sooner, become an Opus subscriber today.
Kung Fu Panda (Jan 1)
The casting of Jack Black as the voice of Po, a panda who dreams of being a martial arts legend, was clearly a stroke of genius. Set in an version of medieval China populated with anthropomorphized animals, Kung Fu Panda is a thoroughly entertaining action/comedy for the whole family that also packs some delightful depth beneath the martial arts hijinks. (And for what it’s worth, I contend that Tai Lung’s prison escape is one of the great cinematic action scenes of all time.)
The Lost Boys (Jan 1)
When two brothers arrive in the small beach town of Santa Carla, California with their recently divorced mother, the last thing they expect is to battle vampires. But their new home is rife with the undead creatures, and their family is drawn into a battle with the forces of darkness. Starring Corey Feldman, Jami Gertz, Corey Haim, and Kiefer Sutherland, The Lost Boys is a true ’80s cult classic film.
The NeverEnding Story (Jan 1)
What better way to kick off the new year than with a journey through the Swamps of Sadness? If you’re of a certain age, then just the mention of that place is bound to give you some trauma. But that’s exactly why The NeverEnding Story remains a classic after all this time, blending darkness with magic and whimsy. And it doesn’t hurt to have a flying luck dragon on your side, either.
Taxi Driver (Jan 1)
Martin Scorsese’s dark tale about a mentally unstable cab driver who slowly succumbs to insanity as he drives through New York City’s slimy underbelly is one of the all-time great films, thanks to an iconic performance by Robert De Niro, Scorsese’s assured direction, and Bernard Herrmann’s harrowing soundtrack (his final composition before he died).
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Jan 1)
True story: When I was in high school, a friend let me borrow a copy of Terminator 2 that he’d recorded off HBO. Not only was the movie mind-blowing in terms of special effects and action, but it was one of my first brushes with fan obsession. I must’ve watched the movie ten times in a single week. (I’m surprised that VHS tape survived the ordeal.) 26 years later, the movie still holds up as an action masterpiece, and the unstoppable liquid metal T-1000 — played excellently by Robert Patrick — remains one of movie sci-fi’s best and most cleverly devised antagonists.
True Grit (Jan 1)
After a young girl’s father is murdered, she sets out to hire someone with “true grit” to help her track down those responsible and bring them to justice. She eventually settles on Rooster Cogburn (played with irascibility to spare by Jeff Bridges) and the unlikely pair sets off into the wilderness. Directed by the Coen Brothers, True Grit is an excellent modern western, filled with as much gallows humor as it is gunfights.
The Orbital Children (Jan 28)
Fifteen years ago, Mitsuo Iso created Dennou Coil, a highly acclaimed anime series that, sadly, has yet to be released here in the States. But Netflix is releasing his latest series, The Orbital Children. Set in the year 2045, where AI and space travel are commonplace, this six-episode series follows a group of children who must survive being stranded in space. Originally intended as a feature-length film, The Orbital Children was split into two parts. Part two will be released later in 2022.
Here’s everything arriving on Netflix in January 2022.
The Year of the Everlasting Storm (Jan 3)
This film anthology features contributions from some of the world’s most acclaimed filmmakers, including Iran’s Jafar Panahi, Singapore’s Anthony Chen, and Thailand’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul. The film’s stories range from pandemic-inspired dramas to a documentary on Israeli spyware.
Here’s everything arriving on Hulu in January 2022.
Amazon Prime Video
Enemy at the Gates (Jan 1)
This World War 2 film is based on the life of famous Russian sniper Vasily Zaitsev, who must battle the encroaching German army during the infamous Battle of Stalingrad. But as his reputation increases, he finds himself being used by the Russian government for propaganda purposes and caught in a cat-and-mouse game with a legendary German sniper. As with most war films, Enemy at the Gates plays fast and loose with history, but the drama between the two opposing snipers is often riveting.
Judge Dredd (Jan 1)
In the 22nd century, most of Earth is a wasteland. Most of the population lives in vast mega cities which are policed by Judges, brutal and efficient officers of the law. The most famous of these is Judge Dredd (Sylvester Stallone). But when he’a accused of murder, he finds that the law he has upheld is now being used against him. To be clear, Judge Dredd is not a good movie, but it’s a prime slice of ’90s sci-fi action cheese à la another Stallone film, Demolition Man. The film also stars Armand Assante, Diane Lane, Max von Sydow, and Rob Schneider.
Mission: Impossible IV — Ghost Protocol (Jan 1)
Who knew that a movie franchise inspired by a spy TV series from the ’60s and ’70s would become our best modern action movie franchise? Led by Tom Cruise, the Mission: Impossible films deliver time and again with elaborate and mind-blowing action set pieces. Case in point: Ghost Protocol features Cruise climbing the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building) in pursuit of terrorists trying to start a nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia.
Napoleon Dynamite (Jan 1)
Napoleon Dynamite was one of those films that just seemed to capture the zeitgeist with its shambling, episodic tale of a high school misfit who loves ligers, tater tots, and tetherball, and knows some sweet dance moves. Even now, I still can’t quite explain how or why Napoleon Dynamite became such a cult hit but personally, I found it hilarious and strangely nostalgic.
Predator (Jan 1)
In this sci-fi action classic, Arnold Schwarzenegger leads a team of crack commandoes on a rescue mission somewhere in Central America. But it soon becomes apparent that they’re far from alone in the jungle, and are being hunted down by a mysterious, um, predator. Directed by John McTiernan, Predator came at the height of Schwarzenegger’s ’80s stardom, following such films as The Terminator and Commando. Predator also stars Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, and Jesse Ventura.
Here’s everything arriving on Amazon Prime Video in January 2022.
X‑Men: First Class (Jan 1)
Directed by Matthew Vaughn, X-Men: First Class served as something of a reboot/prequel for the X-Men movie franchise. Set primarily during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, it delves into the complicated history — and competing worldviews — of Professor Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr (aka, Magneto), and the formation of their respective mutant teams: the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants.
Eternals (Jan 12)
To say that Chloé Zhao’s Eternals is the most divisive MCU film to date would be an understatement. It’s the worst reviewed MCU movie to date, though it’s still managed to find an audience (and become one of 2021’s top ten highest grossing films). The film follows a group of ancient super-powered beings who’ve watched over Earth for millennia from the shadows, but must come together to face an equally ancient threat after the Avengers’ successfully undid Thanos’ devastation.
Here’s everything arriving on Disney+ in January 2022.
2001: A Space Odyssey (Jan 1)
Adapted from a story by Arthur C. Clarke, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of the great sci-fi films of all time. Even now, more than five decades after its release, the film’s visuals still dazzle and its themes about man’s place in the cosmos still challenge — and “HAL” remains one of cinema’s great villains. 2001’s influence transcends sci-fi, though, to leave an indelible mark across all of pop culture.
The Animatrix (Jan 1)
Anime’s influence on the Matrix movies is undeniable, so it only made sense for the Wachowskis to produce this animated anthology of short films set in the Matrix universe. Some of the films detail the history of the Matrix itself. Others set up events in the live-action movies. And still others explore various facets of the Matrix universe in a variety of tones, from lighthearted and whimsical to noir-ish and dystopic. The Animatrix features work from several celebrated anime filmmakers including Mahiro Maeda, Shinichirō Watanabe, and Yoshiaki Kawajiri.
Aquaman (Jan 1)
A slew of DC Comics-related titles are coming to HBO Max this month, starting with 2018’s Aquaman. Starring Jason Momoa in the titular role (arguably the role he was born to play), Aquaman follows the adventures of the wayward heir to a vast underwater kingdom as he struggles to maintain peace between the surface world and the ocean. Aquaman might be the most visually dazzling DC movie to date, with its majestic underwater vistas and action sequences. But Momoa’s charisma is the movie’s ultimate special effect.
Blade Runner: The Final Cut (Jan 1)
What else can I say about Blade Runner that hasn’t already been said? Without a doubt one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time, its sense of atmosphere and gritty vision of the future has influenced countless films since its release in 1982. The “Final Cut” was released in 2007 with additional footage (including a complete version of the unicorn dream scene), and is considered by Ridley Scott to be the definitive version of the film.
Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts (Jan 1)
To mark the 20th anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the cast members of the Harry Potter films — including Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, plus many more — reunite to reflect on the magical film series and its impact.
Justice League Dark: Apokolips War (Jan 1)
Released in 2020, Apokolips War brought the DC Animated Movie Universe to an end in spectacular and, as the title suggests, apocalyptic fashion. Darkseid has finally conquered Earth and captured many of its heroes. The few remaining heroes, led by John Constantine and a depowered Superman, find themselves in increasingly desperate straits, especially when Darkseid turns their former comrades against them. Apokolips War ends on a suitably bittersweet note that proves more satisfying than most of the DC live action films combined.
Paddington 2 (Jan 1)
The original Paddington film was a delight, but Paddington 2 outdoes it in almost every possible way. The sequel’s art direction and aesthetic are immensely clever and visually striking, the storyline is full of heart, and the film’s cast is clearly having a blast, especially Hugh Grant. He practically steals the movie as a narcissistic actor who frames Paddington for a theft.
Here’s everything arriving on HBO Max in January 2022.