May 2021’s Best Streaming Titles: Love Death + Robots, M.O.D.O.K., The Sixth Sense, Star Wars, Tenet

Animation for adults, Patton Oswalt’s superhero shenanigans, dead people, the Bad Batch, Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi spectacle, and more.
Tenet - Christopher Nolan
John David Washington is the nameless Protagonist in Christopher Nolan’s Tenet

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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Netflix

Jupiter’s Legacy, Season 1 (May 7)

Back in 2017, Netflix announced that they had acquired Millarworld, a comic book company owned by Mark Millar, and home to such titles as Wanted, Kick-Ass, and Kingsman: Secret Service. This would give them exclusive adaptation rights to all of Millarworld’s various titles. Jupiter’s Legacy is the first of these adaptations, and chronicles the adventures of a superhero family. But their greatest struggle may be with their own flaws and dysfunctions.

Oxygen (May 12)

In this French sci-fi thriller, a woman wakes up from cryogenic storage with no memories. As she struggles to figure out who and where she is, she faces a more pressing threat: she’s running out of oxygen. Oxygen is directed by Alexandre Aja, who burst on the scene back in 2003 with the controversial horror film Haute Tension. His other films include The Hills Have Eyes, Piranha 3D, and Horns.

The Heroic Legend of Arslan (May 14)

In this adaptation of Hiromu Arakawa’s manga, itself an adaptation of Yoshiki Tanaka’s novel (which was inspired by Persian legends), a young prince finds himself in exile after his father is betrayed. In order to reclaim his throne, Prince Arslan must gather a motley assortment of allies while facing threats from both inside and outside his kingdom. Although it occasionally descends into melodrama and fan service, Arslan boasts an epic scope and a fascinating historical setting, and its young protagonist is impossible not to like. I’ve only seen the first season, so I’m particularly excited to watch the second one.

Love Death + Robots, Volume 2 (May 14)

Netflix’s acclaimed sci-fi anthology series returns with a new bevy of animated sci-fi stories from the likes of John Scalzi, Neal Asher, Joe R. Lansdale, Harlan Ellison, and J.G. Ballard. The first volume of Love Death + Robots was praised for its varying styles and adult approach to animation and storytelling, while also garnering criticism for being gratuitous. I suspect that the second volume with walk that line, as well. A third volume has also been announced for some time in 2022.

Sleight (May 16)

As a wannabe conjurer myself, I love a good movie about magic and magicians. In Sleight, a young street magician finds himself mixed up with the wrong crowd, which leads to his sister getting kidnapped. Now, he has to use his magical talents to save her and defeat the bad guys. Starring Jacob Latimore, Dulé Hill, and Sasheer Zamata, Sleight was an indie hit when it was originally released back in 2016.

Army of the Dead (May 21)

Hot on the heels of the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Netflix releases this follow-up to Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead (2004). A group of mercenaries is hired to plan a heist on a Las Vegas casino, but there’s a catch: they only have a small amount of time to do so before the military destroys Las Vegas. Oh, and Las Vegas is overrun by zombies. Army of the Dead stars Dave Bautista, Hiroyuki Sanada, and Tig Notaro.

Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous, Season 3 (May 21)

My kids have become big fans of this animated extension of the Jurassic World franchise, which follows the adventures of a group of kids who find themselves trapped on Isla Nublar along with a bunch of ferocious dinosaurs. In this latest season, our young heroes find themselves facing a new threat that emerged during the second season’s cliffhanger ending. Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous isn’t afraid to put its young protagonists in tight spots and has featured the voices of Stephanie Beatriz, Jameela Jamil, and Bradley Whitford.

Eden (May 27)

Thousands of years in the future, humanity is long gone and robots now rule the Earth. Until, that is, a group of robots find a human child, which they begin to raise. However, the child’s life is in danger from another robot faction, who considers humanity to be a threat. Eden is directed by Yasuhiro Irie, who has previously worked on Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, RahXephon, and Cowboy Bebop.

Here’s everything arriving on Netflix in May 2021.


Hulu

The Assassin (May 1)

Hou Hsiao-hsien has made a name for himself with arthouse films like Millennium Mambo, Café Lumière, and Three Times. But with 2015’s The Assassin, he ventured into the world of martial arts cinema with this slow, meditative film. An assassin (played by the luminous Shu Qi) is sent on a near-impossible mission that tests her loyalties to both her master and her family. The Assassin received widespread critical acclaim, including “Best Director” at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

Burning (May 1)

Lee Chang-dong’s Burning stars Yoo Ah-in as an aspiring novelist who reunites with an old classmate and falls in love — only for that relationship to be challenged by a mysterious new suitor played by Steven Yeun. Burning was one of 2018’s most acclaimed films; it appeared on various year-end “Best of” lists and received numerous awards. Burning was also South Korea’s entry for “Best Foreign Film” at the 91st Academy Awards, and was the first Korean film to make it to the final round.

The Iron Giant (May 1)

Brad Bird — best known for his Incredibles movies — made his directorial debut with this adaptation of Ted Hughes’ The Iron Man. Set during the ’50s, The Iron Giant blends classic sci-fi and Cold War-era paranoia into a charming coming-of-age story about a boy and a gigantic robot. I unashamedly wept the first time I saw the film’s heart-wrenching finale, and I still get chills whenever I think of the word “Superman.” The Iron Giant did poorly during its initial release due to the studio’s poor promotion, but the ensuing years have been very kind to its legacy, and for good reason: it’s a classic in every sense of the word.

The Man From Nowhere (May 1)

In this South Korean action thriller, a pawnshop owner crosses paths with organ traffickers when his young neighbor is kidnapped. Unfortunately for her captors, he happens to be a former government agent with a very particular set of skills. It’s difficult to not compare The Man From Nowhere with Taken, which was released two years earlier. However, The Man From Nowhere is the far superior film, thanks to Won Bin’s lead performance, the film’s urgent tone, and its brutal fight scenes.

Predator (May 1)

In this classic ’80s action flick, Arnold Schwarzenegger leads a group of elite commandos on a rescue mission in Central America, only to discover that they’re being hunted by something inhuman. Directed by John McTiernan, Predator was released during the height of Schwarzenegger’s action cinema dominance during the ’80s, following such films as The Terminator and Commando.

Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. (May 21)

Patton Oswalt leads this animated series about the famous Marvel supervillain. M.O.D.O.K. may have plans for world domination, but those plans are put on hold when he loses his job and must use his superior intellect to deal with his failing marriage and dysfunctional family. The series also features the voices of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Melissa Fumero and Parks and Recreation’s Ben Schwartz.

Here’s everything arriving on Hulu in May 2021.


Amazon Prime

Aliens (May 1)

Although the original Alien was a success, it took nearly a decade for a sequel to be made. The sequel was ultimately given to James Cameron, who was riding high on the success of The Terminator. The resulting movie is a sci-fi action classic, as Ellen Ripley travels with a group of marines to investigate a colony that has gone dark. Sigourney Weaver reprises her iconic role, along with Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Paul Reiser, and Bill Paxton.

The French Connection (May 1)

In this classic action thriller, detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman) is in pursuit of a powerful heroin smuggler. Inspired by a true story, The French Connection is best known for containing one of the greatest car chases of all time. It would later go on to win numerous awards, including Oscars for best picture, actor, director, and film editing.

Reign of Fire (May 1)

In Reign of Fire, Earth has been overrun by dragons, and humanity has been reduced to a post-apocalyptic state. Christian Bale plays the leader of one such bedraggled group who soon finds himself butting heads with an American soldier (Matthew McConaughey) who has plans to fight back against the dragons. Reign of Fire is the perfect example of a “B” movie that handily transcends its own premise and becomes a thoroughly enjoyable popcorn movie.

The Sixth Sense (May 1)

With its story about a young boy who can see dead people, The Sixth Sense is the movie that put writer/director M. Night Shyamalan on the map. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the movie features Haley Joel Osment in one of the best child actor performances of all time, and a solid supporting cast that includes Bruce Willis, Toni Collette, and Olivia Williams. And of course, one heckuva twist ending that blew audiences’ minds back in 1999 — and is still pretty effective even after multiple viewings.

Skyfall (May 5)

The 23rd entry in the James Bond franchise finds 007 (Daniel Craig) matching wits with a former MI6 operative (Javier Bardem) who has gone rogue and become a cyberterrorist. Craig, as always, acquits himself well as the world’s most famous spy, and Skyfall is filled with the blend of exotic locales, stylish decor, and crazy set pieces that we’ve come to expect from the Daniel Craig-starring Bond movies.

Underground Railroad (May 14)

In this adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s award-winning novel, the “underground railroad” that helps slaves escape to the North is just that, an actual underground railroad. The series follows a pair of slaves who are on the run from a vicious slave catcher. Underground Railroad is directed by Barry Jenkins, who previously directed If Beale Street Could Talk and Moonlight (which won the “Best Picture” Oscar in 2016).

Here’s everything arriving on Amazon in May 2021. As usual, there’s a lot of overlap between Hulu and Amazon’s offerings.


Disney+

Star Wars: The Bad Batch, Season 1 (May 4)

Clone troopers were supposed to be disposable and interchangeable. But The Clone Wars proved that wasn’t necessarily the case. This spin-off series takes that premise even further by following the adventures of “The Bad Batch,” a group of clone troopers whose genetic mutations allow them to take on extremely dangerous missions. The Bad Batch was created by Dave Filoni and features the voices of Dee Bradley Baker and Ming-Na Wen.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (May 7)

I was torn on including this one or not in my list of “best streaming titles.” On the one hand, the Silver Surfer is my favorite superhero of all time. On the other hand, the Fantastic Four movies were… not very good. Which is a shame, because how can you go wrong with Doug Jones and Laurence Fishburne bringing the Surfer to life? I continue to hold out hope that a real and proper Silver Surfer movie will be released at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Here’s everything arriving on Disney+ in May 2021.


HBO Max

Jackie Brown (May 1)

Coming after the brilliance that was Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown seemed pretty reserved, even underwhelming. Tarantino’s adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch is arguably his most understated film, but it features the absolutely dynamite pairing of Robert Forster as a world weary bail bondsman and blaxploitation queen Pam Grier as the titular stewardess who sets out to double-cross a violent gun runner.

Rush Hour (May 1)

On paper, the combination of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker seems terrible, or at the very least, terribly annoying. But in Rush Hour, the two became a surprisingly effective comedic duo as they race to save the kidnapped daughter of a Chinese dignitary with a combination of fast talking and martial arts mayhem.

Tenet (May 1)

Christopher Nolan’s most recent film is a trippy blend of time travel sci-fi and espionage intrigue, with a nameless hero who finds himself in the middle of a secret conflict with forces from the future. Tenet doesn’t always make the most sense, even in hindsight, and its storyline often feels opaque and needlessly convoluted. But Nolan’s sense of ambition and mastery of big screen spectacle is unparalleled, including a massive set-piece involving a crashing Boeing 747.

When Harry Met Sally (May 1)

One of the all-time great romantic comedies, When Harry Met Sally follows its titular couple over the course of several years as they grow up, get careers, fall in and out of love, and make terrible mistakes. Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan give classic performances as the two leads, a pair of unlikely friends in a “will they or won’t they” relationship. The film also stars Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby, and was written by Nora Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (May 1)

It doesn’t feel quite right to call Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory a “children’s movie” given how dark and disturbing it can get (e.g., the tunnel ride). And yet, the movie overflows with charm and delight thanks to Gene Wilder’s charismatic performance as Willy Wonka himself, who invites the lucky winners of his golden ticket contest to tour his magical candy factory. The film was a critical and commercial success when it was originally released in 1971, and in 2014, it was added to the United States National Film Registry.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (May 1)

There are few public figures as beloved and respected as Fred Rogers, the creator and host of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. This documentary by Morgan Neville explores Rogers’ life and philosophy, and received multiple awards as one of 2018’s best documentaries.

Here’s everything arriving on HBO Max in May 2021.