As we take a much-needed breath after the holiday season and attempt some resolutions, our 2022 New Year also kickstarts an exciting new season of movie and TV series releases.
Some you perhaps already got a gander at during their theatrical runs, such as the MCU film Eternals (coming to Disney+ on January 12). Others slated for streaming platforms have more of a niche audience, like Ricky Gervais’ third season in the Netflix series After Life (returning to Netflix on January 14) – but assurances have been made that his dog does not die. (I repeat, the dog will not die.)
For our purposes here at Watercooler, we’ve compiled a list for fans to check out this January that ranges from widely anticipated productions to obscure but heavily praised titles, including for your Date Night, Family “Watch Together,” International Night (for your Binge Viewers Club), Hidden Gem finds, and, of course, the watercooler show everyone will be talking about.
Seriously, there is a little something for everyone in our January picks. All genres: horror, drama, comedy, and period pieces. All demographics: Ben Affleck stans, millennial parents, and contemporary Shakespeare lovers. With a few surprises as well. Check out our picks for the best of January films and television shows below.
The Show Everyone Will be Talking About: The Gilded Age
Jan. 24 (HBO Max)
HBO Max started the 2022 year off right with the premiere of the Harry Potter: 20th Anniversary special – and no, I’m not crying, you’re crying. But what everyone will soon be talking more about is HBO Max’s upcoming release of The Gilded Age. The series created by Julian Fellowes is slated to be his next great successor to Downton Abbey, but instead of small town England, it focuses on a small-town girl in 1882 New York City, with all the promises of any good period piece: an upstairs/downstairs dynamic, soaring instrumentals, a little romance, and a bygone culture in flux. If the hype is true that the show will be our new Downton Abbey obsession, methinks we’re in store for another epic Mary/Matthew love story.
Pairings (After-Watch Recommendation) Archive 81 | Peacemaker
Archive 81 Jan. 14 (Netflix) Peacemaker, Jan. 13 (HBO Max)
The found footage horror subgenre often gets a lot of flak for being either too predictable or perhaps too nauseating. When it’s done well, though, as it is in the V/H/S films, they have some of the best jump scares you can ask for. Add in the notorious horror film producer James Wan (The Conjuring), and you have Archive 81. Not much beyond the bare bones is known about the 8-episode series coming soon to Netflix, only that it follows an archivist (played by Underwater star Mamoudou Athie) reconstructing old tapes that have something to do with a demonic cult. The great secrecy surrounding the new series is certainly adding to its intrigue.
If you won’t be able to sleep after watching something like the demonic Archive 81, though, the hearty superhero series Peacemaker, which arrives on HBO Max the night before, might be a good antidote. In this spinoff of The Suicide Squad, John Cena stretches out his ultra-macho comedic talents again as the titular DC Comics character. He’s a douchebag, but a douchebag trying to save the day – with a newer and seemingly more grounded squad at his back. It’ll be fun to see where creator/director/writer James Gunn takes Peacemaker’s part in the pantheon next. From the looks of it so far, DC is matching the MCU’s fervor for singular television spinoffs of crucial sideline characters, such as in Hawkeye or Loki.
Hidden Gem: The Tragedy of Macbeth
Jan. 14 (Apple+)
Director/writer Joel Coen’s cinematic interpretation of one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays in The Tragedy of Macbeth flew right under the nose of major audiences, thanks in large part to its limited release on Christmas Day. Critics, however, have been lauding the production with praise for months since its world premiere at the 2021 New York Film Festival. As a result, it’s already won big at the prestigious National Board of Review and is continuing to make its way through the awards circuit. Which is all to say, film buffs should be excited to catch up on the indie film’s momentum when it drops worldwide on Apple+ in the middle of the month. A few of the beautiful, austere visuals have already circulated online, and mark me, the commanding presence of Denzel Washington in the lead role will likely earn him another Oscar.
Date Night Watch: The Tender Bar
Jan. 7 (Amazon Prime)
The real-life, coming-of-age drama The Tender Bar has all the fixins for a perfect night in for two. 1) Ben Affleck leaning into his northeastern accent. 2) Ben Affleck as a gentle, inspiring uncle teaching his nephew how to be a man. 3) Directed by George Clooney, enough said. And 4) A little romance with family issues on the side. In other words, it seems a vehicle built for Ben Affleck to shine, which might explain why he has already been nominated by the Golden Globes for Best Supporting Actor for his role. The film had an initial limited theatrical release in early December but will be streaming on Amazon Prime on January 7.
Family Watch: Ice Age: Adventures of Buck Wild
Jan. 28 (Disney+)
For families with youngsters (or those like myself who have a lot of nostalgia for the early aughts), the next big kids movie to premiere in January is the Disney+ spinoff, Ice Age: Adventures of Buck Wild. Simon Pegg voices the main character, a weasel named Buck who rescues two possum brothers. Together, the trio go on an adventure in the dinosaur-dominated underground cavern called the Lost World. (So it’s doesn’t much take place in the actual Ice Age as it does in the Jurassic period.) Our old pals Manny, Sid, and Diego make appearances in what will surely be a silly, fun addition to the beloved franchise.
International Find: A Hero
Jan. 21 (Amazon Prime)
Two-time Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi makes his mark in the world of cinema yet again with A Hero. Much like his previous films A Separation (2011) and The Salesman (2016), A Hero digs deep into the themes of family conflict and Iranian tradition. The main character, Rahim, is seemingly torn between doing what is necessary and what is right while facing down prison time for a bad debt. And let’s just say, no one quite does fractured interpersonal dynamics quite like Farhadi. The filmmaker’s latest endeavor received the Cannes Film Festival’s Grand Prix in 2021 and is currently on the shortlist for Best International Feature film at the forthcoming 94th Oscars. Meanwhile, U.S. cinephiles can check out the emotional tale when it premieres in American theaters on January 7 or on Amazon Prime on January 21.