The Best of What’s New in Streaming: May 2021

From Emmy-worthy limited series to family-friendly animated action shows to a Star Wars spin-off, May is bringing a wide range of worthy titles across the streaming services — the ones not named Netflix (you can view for our Netflix picks here).  There’s even the return of a show that was gone for a decade that I can’t even describe as long-awaited, because no one had any idea it was going to come back!

In addition to new titles, there are plenty of great licensed shows and movies coming online, as well as on-demand hits making their subscription streaming debuts. In the latter category, the most notable arrival is the HBO Max debut of Christopher Nolan’s head-trip action flick Tenet, which just won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. If you didn’t want to shell out for the rental and were waiting for it to hit a streaming service, May 1 is your lucky day.

Without further ado, here are your two best picks for what to watch this month on Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, and Hulu.

Amazon 

The Underground Railroad

May 14 | Trailer

Moonlight director Barry Jenkins helms every episode of this limited series adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning novel. It follows two escaped enslaved people, Cora (Thuso Mbedu) and Caesar (Aaron Pierre), as they flee a brutal plantation in Georgia and head north. In this telling, the Underground Railroad isn’t just a network of people helping escapees, it’s a literal underground railroad. They’re pursued by a slavecatcher named Ridgeway (Joel Edgerton), who also pursued Cora’s mother, the only runaway he never caught. Cora resents her mother for leaving her. It’s Barry Jenkins, so you can expect beautiful images, spare and purposeful dialogue, and deep wells of emotion.

Solos 

May 21

I couldn’t tell you what Solos is actually about — a Hollywood Reporter story announcing the drama anthology series describes it as “character-driven stories set at different moments in time, [which aim] to showcase that during people’s most isolated moments, and in disparate circumstances, the human experience connects everyone,” which is one of the vaguest descriptions of a show I’ve ever read — but I can tell you who’s in it, and that might be enough to get you to watch it. The remarkably star-studded cast includes Uzo Aduba, Nicole Beharie, Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway, Anthony Mackie, Helen Mirren, Dan Stevens, and Constance Wu. It’s written by Hunters creator David Weil. Based on its cast and its title and the pandemic era of it all, it might be a series of monologues? There’s no trailer yet, and we probably won’t know much more about what it is until one is out, but Amazon’s last star-studded anthology series, Modern Love, was very satisfying.

Disney+

Star Wars: The Bad Batch

May 4 | Trailer

This animated Star Wars series comes from Clone Wars and The Mandalorian executive producer Dave Filoni. It’s a spin-off of the highly regarded Clone Wars series, which ended last year. It follows Clone Force 99, aka “the Bad Batch,” an elite team of five clone troopers that are all voiced by voice actor extraordinaire Dee Bradley Baker. Ming-Na Wen reprises her role as The Mandalorian’s fox-like sniper Fennec Shand. If you’re missing Mando, this may help tide you over until the next live-action Star Wars series, The Book of Boba Fett, arrives later this year.

Cruella 

May 28 | Trailer

101 Dalmatians’ fashionable dog-snatcher Cruella de Vil gets the Joker treatment in this origin story movie. Emma Stone plays a young, ambitious version of the iconic Disney villain, following her as she learns how to be a wicked lady from her boss at the fashion house where she works, Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson). Cruella is so heavily indebted to The Devil Wears Prada that that film’s screenwriter, Aline Brosh McKenna, wrote an early draft of the screenplay. Both Emmas look like they’re having a great time, as always, and if they’re having fun, we’ll probably have fun, too. Note that Cruella will be released on Disney+’s “Premier Access” tier, which costs an extra $29.99.

HBO Max 

Those Who Wish Me Dead 

May 14 | Trailer

It’s been over a decade since Angelina Jolie has starred in an action movie, but she’s back and working with one of the best thriller filmmakers to emerge in the past decade, Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan. Jolie stars as Hannah Faber, a traumatized smokejumper (forest firefighter) who, while on fire watch deep in the wilderness of a national forest, rescues a wounded 12-year-old boy named Connor — who witnessed his father being murdered and is being pursued by father-and-son assassins (Game of Thrones’ Aidan Gillen and Mad Max: Fury Road’s Nicholas Hoult). They set a forest fire to try to force them into the open. So Hannah and Connor have to try to survive a lot of tough stuff. The cast also includes Jon Bernthal and Tyler Perry. Those Who Wish Me Dead is getting a simultaneous streaming and theatrical release, and will be on HBO Max for a month.

In Treatment

May 23 | Trailer

If this title sounds familiar to you, but you remember it looking a little different, you’re right! This HBO drama series ran for three seasons between 2008 and 2010 and starred Gabriel Byrne as Paul Weston, a psychotherapist, and had a unique conceit where each episode was a session with one of his patients — or with his own therapist. Now, the show is getting a rebooted fourth season, with Orange Is the New Black’s Uzo Aduba stepping into the lead role as Dr. Brooke Taylor, who helps her patients (Anthony Ramos, John Benjamin Hickey, and Quintessa Swindell) navigate the pandemic and the ongoing social and cultural shifts while dealing with personal issues of her own. The season will consist of 24 half-hour episodes and will air on HBO with two back-to-back, half-hour episodes each Sunday and Monday night and also stream on HBO Max.

Hulu 

Supernova

May 18 | Trailer

Have your tissues at the ready. Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci star in this indie drama about love and loss as partners who have been together for 20 years when Tucci’s character begins to experience early onset dementia. They take a trip across England to make some memories before their time together comes to an end. Both actors give beautiful performances and were sadly overlooked for Oscar nominations. It feels like Stanley Tucci must have already won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, but he hasn’t!

Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. 

May 21 | Trailer

The great Patton Oswalt–the comedian and actor you’ve seen and heard in a borderline unfathomable number of projects, from The King of Queens to Ratatouille to A.P. Bio–co-created, writes, and provides the voice of the titular Marvel villain, the Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing, in this stop-motion animated comedy series. It has some unique qualities for a Marvel show, both in terms of content as an adult animated comedy series and in form as stop-motion, which was provided by Robot Chicken producer Stoopid Buddy Studios, and takes the cool factor up a notch. The show follows M.O.D.O.K. as he goes through the supervillain version of a mid-life crisis, much to the chagrin of his family and his colleagues in evil-doing. The voice cast also includes Aimee Garcia, Ben Schwartz, Melissa Fumero, and Jon Hamm as Iron Man.

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