HBO Max, for as much confusion and controversy it’s generated in its short life, might secretly be the best streaming service around, considering its vast library of HBO shows and movies, Warner Bros. blockbusters, Studio Ghibli masterpieces, canonical films from the Turner Classic Movies archives, and lots more. Debuting to generally positive reviews (albeit disorienting plenty of potential users with residual HBO Go and HBO Now branding, and annoying others for not being initially available on platforms like the Amazon Fire and Roku) in spring 2020, launch-era HBO Max feels like it was just a preview for what’s to come.
Most notably, the company shook the movie industry when it announced that Wonder Woman 1984and all of Warner Bros.’ subsequent 2021 movie releases will land on HBO Max at the same time they debut in theatres for the foreseeable future as the pandemic mandates restrictions on group gatherings indoors. Even though we’ll most likely be relegated to watching movies we yearn to see in a dark theatre, like Dune and Matrix 4, on our home TVs, at least we won’t have to hold out another year or two to see them.
On top of that, and HBO proper’s already solid TV slate, the list of HBO Max original shows and movies is growing fast, with 50 all-new titles set to arrive in 2021, along with returning favourites. Here’s what to look out for this year. Note: Only HBO Max Originals and the previously mentioned Warner Bros. theatrical films are covered here; for new and returning HBO series (like Succession), check out our 2021 TV preview, and read our 2021 movie preview and 2021 Netflix calendar while you’re at it.
Movie. January 29.
Denzel Washington is inching back into Training Day mode with this cop thriller about catching a serial killer. And, let’s just face it, we’re always excited to see Denzel on screen.
Drama series. February 4.
Time to play detective. This six-part thriller hailing from Spain is set at an isolated research centre at the South Pole-during winter when it’s dark 24/7, for ultra-creepiness. The mystery starts to unfold, though, when a new researcher gets stationed at the camp in springtime and finds the entire team either murdered or missing when he arrives.
Documentary. February 11.
New Zealand-based filmmaker Jan Oliver Lucks is the director and subject, along with his partner, in this documentary. As the title suggests, it follows their journey in opening up their relationship to a third partner to explore love in the modern age.
Movie. February 12.
Directed by Shaka King, this essential film centres on one of the most influential Black organizers for the Black Panther Party in Chicago during the tumultuous late ’60s, but its story is one that most probably haven’t heard yet: How a petty criminal-turned-FBI informant (LaKeith Stanfield), as part of the agency’s illegal surveillance sting called COINTELPRO, became the lynchpin for the assassination of Chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) at point-blank during a police raid when he was just 21 years old.
Comedy series. February 18.
What’s the German word for “planning to murder your wife for the life insurance”? That’s what a down-on-his-luck man does in this Fargo-sounding dark comedy imported from Germany, setting off a disastrous chain of events.
Limited series. February 18.
A co-production between HBO Max and Channel 4, It’s a Sin sees indie-pop group Years and Years’ frontman Olly Alexander in a leading TV role, playing a young gay man who moves to London with his friends during the AIDS pandemic in the ’80s.
Movie. February 26.
The Hanna-Barbera characters are back in this hybrid live action-animated adventure with a surprisingly stacked cast (Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael Peña, Rob Delaney, etc.). We’re not saying this game of cat-and-mouse is going to speak to the existential pain of our era, but, hey, it might be fun.
The Many Saints of Newark
Movie. March 12. The Many Saints of Newark is the long-awaited Sopranos prequel movie from creator David Chase, and it reportedly focuses on Dickie Moltisant (Nivola), the father of Michael Imperioli’s character Christopher. It’s always a little dicey when a writer or director returns to a beloved set of characters many years later, but, come on, we can’t wait to see this. Plus, it gives us an excuse to mention that Chase’s last movie, 2012’s Not Fade Away, remains an underrated gem.
Movie. March 18.
Finally, it’s time to #ReleasetheSnyderCut! The one true edit of Justice League that fans have demanded since 2017, basically, after director Zack Snyder had to step away from the movie when it was in post-production for personal reasons, and the end result was a horrible mess. In 2020, it was confirmed that Zack Snyder’s Justice League is no longer a hashtag of a pipe dream but will appear on HBO Max as a four-part miniseries, featuring one-hour instalments of the team-up between Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Aquaman, Cyborg, and Flash in line with Snyder’s original vision.
Movie. April 16. Mortal Kombat, one of the most popular video games ever made, has been adapted into feature films before, but it’s been a while, and the people are clamouring to return to the 18 realms in which citizens must duel in martial arts tournaments to conquer each other.
Godzilla vs. Kong
Movie. May 21.
The long-hyped matchup between Earth’s Mightiest Kaiju is finally arriving in 2021, when two iconic film monsters go toe-to-toe while the fate of humanity hangs in the balance. Expect lots of roaring, stomping, and atomic breath.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
Movie. June 4.
First of all, you have to respect the third Conjuring movie for ditching the classier numbered titling of its first sequel and going with the much more fun Devil Made Me Do It subtitle. James Wan won’t be handling directing duties here, but series stars Vera Farminga and Patrick Wilson are back to do some more creepy sleuthing as real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.
Movie. June 18.
Lin-Manuel Miranda made his mark before Hamilton with this musical ode to the Manhattan neighbourhood where he was raised. Now it comes to the screen with rising star Anthony Ramos as protagonist Usnavi, the character Miranda played on Broadway. We’re most excited to see what Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu back in Step Up mode, filming intricately choreographed, massive dance sequences on New York City streets.
Space Jam: A New Legacy
Movie. July 16.
While we’re not getting the version of a Space Jam sequel directed by avant-garde filmmaker Terence Nance, which sounded very cool, we’re still ready to slam with this new saga of basketball starring LeBron James and the Looney Tunes. Welcome to the jam, indeed.
The Suicide Squad
Movie. August 6.
No, you’re not experiencing superhero movie déjà vu. There was a movie from 2016 called Suicide Squad, which starred Will Smith, Margot Robbie, and Jared Leto as the Joker. Robbie returns as Harley Quinn, who she played in the recent Birds of Prey movie, but most of the rest of the cast is gone and writer/director David Ayer has been replaced with James Gunn, who will hopefully find a take on these characters that doesn’t require another “soft reboot” in five years.
Movie. September 10.
Details are scarce on this upcoming film from horror maestro James Wan (The Conjuring, Saw, Aquaman), but one thing’s for sure, and it’s that this movie will probably scare the shit out of you. Malignant is said to be an all-new original idea from Wan, screenwriter Akela Cooper, and Ingrid Bisu-so don’t expect it to tie into any of Wan’s existing properties-and Annabelle Wallis will lead the cast.
Movie. October 1.
One of the greatest space operas ever written is being adapted into a movie (again), and from what we’ve seen, it looks pretty cool-especially if you like space worms. Timothée Chalamet plays Paul Atreides, the son of a noble house ruling in the far future over the spice planet Arrakis, also known as Dune, where, after a catastrophe shakes his family, he must journey out into the sand to find his destiny. Oscar Isaac, sporting an impressive beard, plays Paul’s dad, Rebecca Ferguson plays his mother, and pretty much every supporting role is filled by a famous face.
Movie. November 19.
Beloved Hollywood dad Will Smith is playing another famous father in this biographical film. He’ll be portraying Richard Williams, father and coach to tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams in this sports movie about how his training influenced their professional success.
Movie. December 22.
How could we NOT be excited to return to the Matrix after all these years? We have no idea what the plot of this movie is going to be, but, with Keanu Reeves on board, we suspect it may have something to do with a guy nicknamed “The One,” and perhaps an evil computer program, and perhaps a lot of fight scenes where people lean really, really far backwards.
Animated series. TBA 2021.
Aaron MacGruder’s hilarious Adult Swim anime-inspired staple is getting rebooted for HBO’s streaming service on a two-season order and a 50-minute special. Details are light, but we do know that Granddad and his grandsons, Riley and Huey, will have to deal with the neo-Nazis that have established a tyrannical regime in their comfortable suburb. The Boondocks never tiptoed around its bold leftist and racial politics, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store with MacGruder back as showrunner after stepping away from Season 4
Friends Reunion Special
Unscripted special. TBA 2021. Friends-they’ll be there for you! The long-talked-about, confirmed, and then delayed reunion special of the beloved ’90s sitcom is finally coming in 2021. While the special was supposed to air with HBO Max’s launch in May 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic squashed those plans-but come March 2021, the whole cast will return to finally shoot the special. Unlike the many other reboots floating around HBO Max, this one isn’t a revival or even a new episode: Expect the cast to revisit the set, share memories, and unseen footage to reminisce on the show.
Drama series. TBA 2021. Generation is a teen series co-created by a teen, Zelda Barnz, daughter of showrunners Daniel and Ben Barnz-so this coming-of-age series might just be an accurate portrayal of Gen Z. (Lena Dunham is also on as producer.) The show follows a group of high schoolers discovering their sexualities in a conservative, status-obsessed Orange County community.
Gossip Girl reboot
Drama series. TBA 2021.
The new reboot of the 2007 CW series isn’t another chronicle in the scandalous lives of Serena van der Woodsen and Blair Waldorf, but it will introduce a new crop of the Manhattan (and possibly even Brooklyn) teen elite and air all of their dirty little secrets in blog (Twitter? TikTok?) form. Original co-producers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage are running the show.
The Other Two, Season 2
It’s been a long wait for the second season of this still underrated show, which first premiered on Comedy Central in early 2019. Hopefully the story of the two 30-something aimless siblings of a tween pop star will gain more of an audience on HBO Max where its amazing songs can be fully appreciated.
Animated series. TBA 2021
One of the best meme accounts on all of Instagram is TV producer Gary Janetti’s (Family Guy, Will and Grace) page making fun of the British royals. With The Prince, he’s turning his long-running joke that Prince George is a scheming snob into an animated comedy where he’ll voice George. The rest of the cast is filled out by Orlando Bloom, Sophie Turner, Alan Cumming, and others.
Movie. TBA 2021. Westworld co-creator Lisa Joy’s directorial film debut is about another form of freaky technology. Reminiscence stars Hugh Jackman as a scientist who discovers a technology to relive the past, and uses it to reconnect with a long-lost lover.
The Sex Lives of College Girls
Comedy series. TBA 2021.
Mindy Kaling is among the writers/producers of this coming-of-age comedy about four roommates from different backgrounds exploring their sexualities during their freshman year at a college in Vermont.
Drama series. TBA 2021.
This adaptation of Emily St. John Mandel’s 2014 speculative novel, which followed a troupe of actors and musicians as they traveled an America ravaged by a flu pandemic, doesn’t exactly sound like frothy post-2020 escapism. But, given the source material, it should be different from many of the more brutal dystopian tales of recent years. With Mackenzie Davis of Halt and Catch Fire in the lead role, Patrick Somerville (The Leftovers) serving as showrunner, and Hiro Murai (Atlanta) behind the camera, this should be a special one.
Those Who Wish Me Dead
Movie. TBA 2021.
Angelina Jolie, action star, had a nice ring to it back in her run as an over-sexualized Lara Croft in several Tomb Raiders (followed by less memorable movies), and now she’s stepping back into a similar action-packed role in this adaptation of Michael Koryta’s popular thriller novel of the same name. The neo-western follows a teenage boy who witnessed a brutal crime and the survivalist (Jolie) sent to protect him as he’s being pursued by a pair of assassins and a wildfire rages around all of them.
Drama series. TBA 2021.
The pitch for this HBO Max original, which was delayed by the pandemic but should debut next year, is pretty simple: Michael Mann crime drama. Following an American journalist (Ansel Elgort) as he reports on corruption in Tokyo’s elite vice squad in the late ’90s, with help from a detective played by Ken Watanabe, Tokyo Vice sounds like a potentially captivating mix of The Insider and another famous Mann production with the word “Vice” in the title. Sign us up!
Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.
What is special about the year of the Rabbit?
As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.
What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?
There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.
New South Wales
Darling Harbour Fireworks When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.
Dragon Boat Races When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.
Lion Dances When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.
Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.
Auntie Philter When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.
Lunar New Year Festival When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.
BriAsia Festival When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.
Chinatown Adelaide Street Party When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.
Crown Perth When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.