What to watch in January, from M3GAN to Poker Face
Who says January is a "dump month?" 2023 starts with a bang thanks to a highly anticipated HBO drama, a brand new Rian Johnson mystery, a fabulous killer doll who's coming for Chucky's throne — and more. Here's everything to watch on the big and small screen in January 2023:
Star Wars: The Bad Batch (Jan. 4)
Ring in the new year with your favorite rogue clones on Disney+. The second season of the Clone Wars spinoff series The Bad Batch revolves around a group of defective clone troopers, many of whom resisted Order 66, Palpatine's command to kill the Jedi in Revenge of the Sith, and who have gone off on their own following the collapse of the Republic. The first season the group take in a young clone child named Omega — essentially this show's Baby Yoda — and it seemed to tease that we could soon see connection to the villains in The Mandalorian wanting Grogu's blood. The second season will also feature Gungi, a rare Wookiee Jedi from The Clone Wars, as well as several familiar faces like Emperor Palpatine and Senator Bail Organa — and even the Star Wars debut of Wanda Sykes. Yet the powers that be still refuse to throw Dexter Jettster a cameo. How come, Chief Willoughby?
M3GAN (Jan. 6)
Sorry, Chucky and Annabelle. We don't want to play with you anymore. Horror's killer doll subgenre is getting a fabulous new addition with Blumhouse's M3GAN, which already became a viral sensation months before release. Allison Williams stars as a roboticist who brings home an advanced doll powered by artificial intelligence named M3GAN for her niece, who has lost her parents. But M3GAN soon develops a mind of her own and goes on a murderous rampage. Clearly, the film owes a lot to the original Child's Play and even its 2019 remake. But the latest installment of the killer doll subgenre became a viral hit in the fall thanks to a totally bonkers trailer that features M3GAN busting out a hilarious, TikTok-ready dance set to an eerie cover of Taylor Swift's "It's Nice to Have a Friend," leading Twitter to dub her "yassified Annabelle" and declare that she is the moment. Whether the movie can provide as much campy ridiculousness as fans are hoping for remains to be seen, though given it's from the screenwriter of Malignant, we have high hopes. If this isn't all leading to a M3GAN vs. Chucky vs. Annabelle crossover, someone in Hollywood is asleep at the wheel.
Mayfair Witches (Jan. 8)
Critics went wild for AMC's Interview with the Vampire show in October, so could another Anne Rice adaptation be similarly well-received? Once again from AMC, Mayfair Witches adapts Rice's trilogy of novels Lives of the Mayfair Witches. The White Lotus' Alexandra Daddario stars as an "intuitive young neurosurgeon" who "discovers that she is the unlikely heir to a family of witches," per AMC. The rest of the cast includes Jack Huston, Tongayi Chirisa, and Harry Hamlin. Michelle Ashford, the creator of Showtime's Masters of Sex, produces the series along with Esta Spalding, and they noted that Rice's depiction of witches "explored something new altogether. Women who are powerful, often brutal, and always committed to subverting our current power structures." AMC clearly has big plans for Rice adaptations, as the network purchased the rights to 14 of her books for what it's dubbing Anne Rice's Immortal Universe — which will hopefully be just a bit more successful than Universal's Dark Universe.
Velma (Jan. 12)
Get ready for Scooby-Doo by way of Harley Quinn. Mindy Kaling voices the title character in this Scooby-Doo origin story centered around Velma — and, from the looks of it, it's about to get quite meta. Velma is a woman of color in this adaptation, but the teaser got ahead of the inevitable backlash to that choice by depicting Velma herself complaining to HBO Max about an upcoming "genre-bending comedic origin story" that makes changes to an iconic character. Yeah, who knew Velma was the Deadpool of the Mystery Gang? Velma's friends are also set to appear, with Sam Richardson voicing Shaggy (who is Black in this version), Constance Wu voicing Daphne, and Glenn Howerton voicing Fred. Weirdly, though, there's one missing ingredient: Scooby-Doo. Yes, Scooby won't be in the show at all, as showrunner Charlie Grandy explained the aim is to make this version more adult — and Velma apparently didn't have permission to use him, anyway. That's right, you've heard of Garfield Minus Garfield, but what about Scooby-Doo Minus Scooby-Doo?
The Last of Us (Jan. 15)
The last of us without PlayStations are about to learn what all the fuss is about with this adaptation of one of the most acclaimed video games of all time. Based on the PlayStation game of the same name, The Last of Us takes place in a post-apocalyptic United States, where an infection has caused humans to horrifically mutate. A smuggler, Joel, must escort a young girl, Ellie, across the country after it's discovered that she's apparently immune to the infection, raising hopes that she could help create a vaccine. In this HBO adaptation, Pedro Pascal plays Joel — making this his second series after The Mandalorian where he has to take care of a child — and Bella Ramsey (Lyanna Mormont on Game of Thrones) plays Ellie. The games are already quite cinematic, and fans can rest easy knowing the adaptation should be faithful to them given Neil Druckmann, creative director of the games, produces alongside Chernobyl's Craig Mazin. Can this be the latest project to break the video game adaptation curse? Without any sort of "Sonic's horrific human teeth" controversy so far, it's looking promising.
That '90s Show (Jan. 19)
Want to feel old? The classic sitcom That '70s Show is getting a sequel series on Netflix set almost two decades later titled, well, That '90s Show. The original stars — or at least the original stars who haven't been accused of rape — are returning, including Topher Grace, Laura Prepon, Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, and Wilmer Valderrama — though they're all billed as "special guests." The series regulars are instead Callie Haverda as Leia Forman, the daughter of Grace and Prepon's characters, and Mace Coronel as Jay Kelso, son of Kutcher and Kunis' characters. Debra Jo Rupp and Kurtwood Smith also have main roles reprising Kitty and Red Forman. Hopefully, this nostalgia-driven series goes over better for Netflix than Blockbuster, though it already seems to have one critic: Kunis herself. "My husband and I are together in [the new show], which is weird 'cause we shouldn't have been," she told Access Hollywood. "You know what, I called B.S." The reviews are in!
Missing (Jan. 20)
One of the most underrated movies of 2018 was Aneesh Chaganty's Searching, a tense, inventive little thriller starring John Cho that took place entirely on computer screens as a father attempted to find his missing daughter. Five years later, we're getting a standalone sequel with new characters, but this time, the roles are reversed. Storm Reid plays June, a young girl whose mother disappears in Colombia while on vacation with her boyfriend. The film once again takes place entirely on screens, but now with the child seeking to find the parent. Chaganty didn't return to direct the sequel, but he does have a story and producing credit. The original Searching was able to communicate a surprising amount about its characters using only screens, to the point that the filmmaking style never felt like a limitation. So Missing will hopefully follow suit, but this time, presumably, with many more scenes of June scrolling through Minions memes on her mom's Facebook page before finding anything useful.
When You Finish Saving the World (Jan. 20)
It's been nearly a year since Jesse Eisenberg's When You Finish Saving the World debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, but the rest of us are finally about to get a look at it. The actor makes his feature directorial debut with this coming-of-age dramedy starring Julianne Moore and Finn Wolfhard. Evelyn, played by Moore, "has devoted herself to helping people in hard times, but she struggles to connect with her son Ziggy," played by Wolfhard, "an aspiring internet star oblivious to the problems of the world," per the official synopsis. Reviews were generally positive out of Sundance, and Thrillist's Esther Zuckerman said the film "operates on pure uncomfortable tension with a dash of mid-2000s indie-throwback quirk for good measure." This also marks a sneaky Zombieland reunion considering Emma Stone is producing, and Eisenberg wrote the screenplay in addition to directing. When You Finish Saving the World is being distributed by A24, which is only appropriate considering Wolfhard looks like a 24-year-old on Stranger Things at this point.
Alice, Darling (Jan. 20)
It's been a big few months for "darling" movies, but unlike Don't Worry Darling, grammar sticklers can rejoice that Alice, Darling actually does have a comma in its title. Anna Kendrick stars as the title character in this psychological thriller from Mary Nighy, which revolves around a woman trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship. Kendrick is an executive producer on the film — which technically opened in very limited release on Dec. 30, but will expand in January — and the actress has said her own experience in an emotionally abusive relationship informed her performance. "I really related to Alice's obsessive mind," she told the Los Angeles Times. The film received mostly positive reviews when it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, with The Hollywood Reporter's Lovia Gyarkye writing that "in Mary Nighy's emotionally disquieting debut Alice, Darling, Kendrick transfixes, affirming that she has always had depth and range." The urge for every critic to dub her performance "pitch perfect" must have been almost irresistible.
Poker Face (Jan. 26)
Fans of Knives Out and Glass Onion don't have to wait long for another Rian Johnson mystery. The writer and director created this new Peacock series starring Natasha Lyonne, which he has described as "an old-school case-of-the-week mystery." Lyonne plays Charlie Cale, a woman with the ability to tell when people are lying, who investigates a different mystery every episode. According to Vanity Fair, though, it's not a whodunit like Knives Out and Glass Onion, but rather a "howcatchem" like Columbo, meaning the crime is shown at the start of the episode and we then have to see how the detective solves the mystery. This allows for many guest stars to pop in and out during the season, and the cast for season one includes Stephanie Hsu, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Adrien Brody, Ellen Barkin, Chloë Sevigny, Jameela Jamil, and many more. If you're sick of streaming shows that structure themselves like "10-hour movies," it sounds like Poker Face will be the perfect antidote. It's real, honest-to-God TV, which is ready to embrace an episodic format and not pretend like it's a film. Imagine that!
Wolf Pack (Jan. 26)
Sarah Michelle Gellar slayed vampires, but she's moving on to werewolves next. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer alum stars in the new Paramount+ young adult supernatural series Wolf Pack, which is based on the 2004 book. It "follows a teenage boy and girl whose lives are forever changed when a California wildfire awakens a terrifying supernatural creature," and they and two others "come together to unravel the secret that connects them — the bite and blood of a werewolf," per Paramount. No, Wolf Pack won't try to get away with having Gellar play one of the teens; her character is instead a chief arson investigator, and the main teen leads are Armani Jackson, Bella Shepard, Chloe Rose Robertson, and Tyler Lawrence Gray. Wolf Pack comes from the creator of Teen Wolf, but it isn't a spinoff of that or directly connected to it. What can he say? The guy really loves his wolves.
Shotgun Wedding (Jan. 27)
If you don't know the premise of Shotgun Wedding, we'd recommend checking out the trailer before reading anything else, as it includes a truly wild twist. The teaser begins like any typical romantic comedy starring Jennifer Lopez and Josh Duhamel as a couple having a destination wedding — until it abruptly becomes an action movie as pirates randomly take the guests hostage, allowing Lopez to get a scene where she zip-lines through the air while throwing a grenade. Yeah, think of this as J.Lo's The Lost City. Jennifer Coolidge, Lenny Kravitz, and D'Arcy Carden also star in the Amazon Prime Video film, which comes from the director of Pitch Perfect. This was also the movie Lopez was shooting in the Dominican Republic when she called off her engagement to Alex Rodriguez, meaning the entire Bennifer reunion saga happened since shooting wrapped. The movie's male lead was originally set to be Armie Hammer, though — so it's safe to say Lopez dodged a bullet there.
Shrinking (Jan. 27)
Harrison Ford's newfound love of television is set to continue in January. The actor just had his first regular role on a TV show ever with 1923, and he's following it up with a part opposite Jason Segel in the new Apple TV+ comedy Shrinking — which, despite how it might sound, is not part of the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids expanded universe. Segal plays a grieving therapist who "starts to break the rules and tell his clients exactly what he thinks," per Apple. "Ignoring his training and ethics, he finds himself making huge, tumultuous changes to people's lives … including his own." The Daily Show's Jessica Williams also stars. Apple is presumably hoping some Ted Lasso juice can rub off on this new series while waiting for that show's delayed third season, as Shrinking is produced by Ted Lasso executive producer Bill Lawrence and star Brett Goldstein, who plays Roy Kent. He really is here, he's there, he's everywhere.
You People (Jan. 27)
Eddie Murphy made a comeback in a big way with 2019's Dolemite Is My Name, and he aims to keep it going by sticking within the Netflix ecosystem for this new comedy from the creator of Black-ish. The film pairs Murphy with Jonah Hill, who's hoping to marry his daughter, played by Lauren London — so the entire teaser trailer is just Murphy's character looking unmoved as Hill's character awkwardly struggles to impress him. "Families and cultures clash when two L.A. millennials from different backgrounds fall in love and face the ultimate relationship test: meeting the parents," the plot synopsis says. Hill co-wrote the movie with Black-ish creator Kenya Barris, who also directs, and the rest of the ensemble cast includes Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mike Epps, Nia Long, Deon Cole, Rhea Perlman, and David Duchovny. Get ready for an entire film of the "Schmidt had sex with the captain's daughter" subplot from 22 Jump Street.
Infinity Pool (Jan. 27)
Mia Goth delivered not one, but two unhinged performances in 2022 between X and Pearl — technically three, given her dual roles in the former — and she's getting an early start on topping herself in 2023. The actress continues her reign as scream queen with the sci-fi thriller Infinity Pool, in which a rich couple, played by Alexander Skarsgård and Cleopatra Coleman, go on vacation to an island resort. There, they accidentally hit someone while driving, only to discover the punishment for committing any crime on this island is death — except for the wealthy, who can pay to have a "double" of themselves built so it can be executed instead. From there, the trailer suggests things get even more deranged and go full Eyes Wide Shut, which makes sense coming from Brandon Cronenberg, son of David Cronenberg and director of Possessor. But for those who are newfound fans of Goth thanks to X and Pearl, there may be nothing more startling in the film than discovering what her real voice sounds like.
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