January 2023’s Best Streaming Titles: Black Dynamite, Star Wars: The Bad Batch, Ghostbusters, Empire Records, The Raid 2

Kung fu treachery, Clone Force 99, Ecto-1, Rex Manning Day, pencak silat, and more.
The Raid 2 - Gareth Evans
Iko Uwais and Cecep Arif Rahman square off in Gareth Evans’ The Raid 2

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.

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Amazon Prime Video

All 4 Indiana Jones Movies (Jan 1)

CInema’s greatest archaeologist arrives on Netflix to take viewers on world-spanning adventures in search of ancient and powerful relics like the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail. And to punch Nazis. Don’t forget about the punching of Nazis.

Black Dynamite (Jan 1)

In this hilarious parody/homage to classic blaxploitation films, Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White) is the baddest mofo in the hood. But in order to defeat The Man who killed his brother, the dealers pumping heroin into the streets, and the fiendish Dr. Wu’s kung fu treachery, Black Dynamite will have to unleash his full martial arts fury… and show the ladies some love, too.

Europa Report (Jan 1)

Proof that sci-fi movies don’t need big budgets to tackle big issues in a thoughtful manner, Europa Report is a low-budget flick about humanity’s potential first contact. Shot with a “found footage” approach that gives the film a documentary-esque feel, and using data from NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory to ensure scientific accuracy, Europa Report is a nice change of pace from effects-filled Hollywood blockbusters.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Jan 1)

George Clooney gives the performance of a lifetime as Ulysses Everett McGill, a fast-talking convict who escapes from chain gang with a couple of dim-witted fellas (John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson, also great) in search of a treasure. But their search takes them all over Great Depression-era Mississippi, where they land in one hilarious, outlandish scrape after another. As well-known for its gorgeous cinematography as its award-winning soundtrack, O Brother, Where Art Thou? is one of the Coen Brothers’ most beloved films.

Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. (Jan 3)

In this mockumentary, Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall play a Southern Baptist couple trying to restart their megachurch after becoming embroiled in scandal. Written and directed by Adamma Ebo, and based on her own 2018 short film of the same name, Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. skewers religious leaders who place their own personal fame and fortune above all else — which feels rather timely given recent scandals (e.g., Jerry Falwell Jr., Ravi Zacharias).

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Jan 15)

Directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne and James Stewart, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is considered one of the great westerns of all time, even as it seems to subvert some of usual tropes and styles associated with the genre. The film’s estimation has only grown since its original release in 1962, and in 2007, it was added to the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Here’s everything arriving on Amazon Prime Video in January 2023.


Disney+

Star Wars: The Bad Batch, Season Two (Jan 4)

Hunter, Wrecker, and the rest of the Bad Batch are back, pulling off mercenary missions that no one else can while doing their best to stay ahead of the Empire — and a traitor from within their own ranks.

Chasing Waves (Jan 11)

This original Disney+ series explores Japan’s surfing culture, especially in light of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where surfing made its debut as an Olympic sport.

Here’s everything arriving on Disney+ in January 2023.


HBO Max

Batman and Superman: Battle of the Super Sons (Jan 1)

The sons of Batman and Superman — Damian Wayne and Jonathan Kent — become an unlikely duo when their famous fathers are taken over by a bizarre alien intelligence, along with most of the world. I’ve been a fan of DC’s various animated titles more so than their live-action ones, and Battle of the Super Sons will be DC’s first all-CG animated feature film.

Ghostbusters (Jan 1)

Peter Venkman and Co. are coming to HBO Max, bringing with them proton packs, ghost traps, and of course, Ecto-1. All of which will come in handy when New York is beset by freaky paranormal activity. The less acclaimed sequel, Ghostbusters 2, will begin streaming on HBO Max, too.

John Wick (Jan 1)

The premise seems really corny: a hitman comes out of retirement after a group of thugs kill the dog that his wife left him before she died. But the John Wick movies take that premise and spin it into some of the best action filmmaking of the last decade. Keanu Reeves stars as the titular hitman, whose unearthly skills allow him to dispatch wave after wave of assassins, goons, and tough guys, with plenty of style to spare.

Here’s everything arriving on HBO Max in January 2023.


Hulu

Empire Records (Jan 1)

Empire Records is the coolest record store in town, but it’s in danger of being sold and going corporate. The store’s ragtag staff must hatch a crazy scheme to save their store while also celebrating Rex Manning Day. The film was a critical and commercial failure when it was released in 1995, but has since become something of a cult it. And it’s soundtrack is peak ’90s, with songs from Cracker, The Cranberries, Gin Blossoms, The Innocence Mission, and Toad the Wet Sprocket.

Heat (Jan 1)

When Heat was released in 1995, much was made of the fact that it was the first time Al Pacino and Robert De Niro appeared together in the same scene. And yeah, it’s great to see the two actors square off as an LA detective and an elite thief, respectively, who develop a grudging respect for one another even as they try out outwit each other. But Heat is first and foremost a Michael Mann film, which means it’s chock full of amazing style and brilliant moments, including one of cinema’s greatest heists and shootouts.

The Mummy (Jan 1)

The Mummy is a thrilling throwback to classic Hollywood adventure films of the ’30s and ’40s, with Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz delivering plenty of thrills, derring do, and even a little romance. Although dated in places, the film still holds well where it counts, i.e., delivering an entertaining blend of action and adventure. The film was successful enough to spawn a couple of sequels and even an animated series, and helped to launch the Scorpion King franchise.

The Prestige (Jan 1)

Christopher Nolan may be best known for the “Dark Knight” trilogy — which is arguably the definitive film version of Batman — but in 2006, he directed this entertaining little suspense thriller about the escalating rivalry between two magicians in the late 19th century. As is Nolan’s wont, The Prestige is full of clever little visuals, twists, and turns. Oh, and it features a David Bowie cameo as the legendary inventor Nikola Tesla.

Zombieland (Jan 1)

Along with Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland is proof that the best zombie movies are those that blend their undead gore with comedy. Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin as a ragtag group of survivors of the zombie apocalypse — oh, and Bill Murray in an inspired cameo — Zombieland is proof that you can find plenty to laugh about while watching the end of civilization.

Here’s everything arriving on Hulu in January 2023.


Netflix

Fletch (Jan 1)

One of Chevy Chase’s signature roles, Fletch follows the exploits of an unorthodox undercover reporter who gets caught up in a twisted plan to kill a terminally ill millionaire. Adapted from Gregory Mcdonald’s popular novels, Fletch was one of 1985’s biggest movies, and was followed several years later by a sequel, Fletch Lives.

Kaleidoscope (Jan 1)

You can never go wrong with a good heist, but Netflix is switching things up a bit with Kaleidoscope. The series — which stars Giancarlo Esposito, Paz Vega, and Rufus Sewell — follows a gang of thieves as they plan the biggest heist of their career. But Kaleidoscope spans 25 years, with each episode set at a different point in time. And if that weren’t enough, Netflix will stream Kaleidoscope’s eight episodes in a different order for each viewer, so different viewers will get different viewing experiences. Which sounds as gimmicky as it does mind-bending, but if the end result is entertaining and thrilling, that’s all that matters, right?

The Raid 2 (Jan 1)

Welsh director Gareth Evans set the action movie world on fire with the release of the original Raid movie in 2011. Released in 2014, The Raid 2 ups the ante, sending officer Rama (Iko Uwais) undercover to track down corrupt police official and expose the underground of Jakarta. Which he proceeds to do with brutal and thrilling displays of pencak silat.

Reservoir Dogs (Jan 1)

Quentin Tarantino’s directorial debut is a stylish and bloody film about a group of thieves trying to find the mole in their midst after a heist goes wrong. Reservoir Dogs features all of the usual Tarantino-isms — whip-smart (and profane) dialog, pop culture references, non-linear storylines — and has been called the “greatest independent film of all time” by some.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Jan 1)

Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim is an awesome comic book about a slacker who must defeat his new love’s evil ex-boyfriends. So it only made sense that it was adapted by Edgar Wright, one of the most interesting visual directors working today. The result is a film that is pure hyper-stylized fun (read my review).

Copenhagen Cowboy (Jan 5)

Thanks to films like Drive, Only God Forgives, and the Pusher trilogy, Nicolas Winding Refn’s name has become synonymous with cinema that’s both ultra-violent and ultra-stylized. Copenhagen Cowboy looks to be more of the same, as a young woman travels through Copenhagen’s underground on a mission of vengeance while experiencing surreal and otherworldly occurrences. I think it’s pretty safe to say that you know whether you’re in or out based on the trailer alone. Me? I’m definitely intrigued.

Vinland Saga, Season Two (Jan 9)

Based on Makoto Yukimura’s acclaimed historical manga about 11th century vikings, Vinland Saga’s first season was called one of 2019’s best anime titles. The second season continues young Thorfinn’s quest to prove himself as a man and a warrior, and to explore the wider world — even potentially finding the mythical Vinland that he’s dreamed about.

Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales of the Macabre (Jan 17)

Junji Ito is one of Japan’s most famous horror authors, having created such acclaimed and terrifying manga series as Tomie and Uzumaki. While several of his manga have been adapted into live-action movies, Junji Ito Maniac represents the first time that several of his titles — including Tomie — have been turned into anime.

Here’s everything arriving on Netflix in January 2023.