Sunday, June 23, 2024

First Impressions Of HBO Max

By Daniel Howat 

The past year has seen the launch of numerous high profile streaming services: Disney+, Apple TV+, and even Quibi. While each has its bright spots (okay, except for Quibi), HBO Max may be the best streaming service for film lovers. Let’s dive into the elements that separate HBO Max from the rest of the pack, and why you should subscribe.

​While the Max Originals available at launch aren’t terribly impressive, they’ve got a wide variety of projects in production. If you’re looking for your “Looney Tunes” fix, the new “Looney Tunes Cartoons” are definitely worth the watch. “Love Life” is also a charming, simple, romantic comedy series starring Anna Kendrick. Additionally, kids can enjoy “Craftopia” and “The Not Too Late Show with Elmo”.
Of course, HBO Max is still, you know, HBO, so you’ll have access to all of the classic HBO content like “Game of Thrones,” “The Wire,” “Veep,” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” in addition to all upcoming HBO projects. The service is also home to “Friends,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” and “The Big Bang Theory”.
For now, it’s not Max Originals that make HBO Max a vital streaming service: it’s the vast film catalog. This is the greatest and most diverse film catalog of any streaming service. Yes, I’m including The Criterion Channel in that statement. While The Criterion Channel has the market cornered on deep cuts and curated cinephile content, its library isn’t nearly as deep as HBO Max. From blockbuster hits to Academy Award winners, Criterion Collection to Turner Classic Movies, Studio Ghibli, documentaries, and so much more, there are thousands of films available now. To be clear, the library is so vast that I can only try to give you a picture of the variety in this article, but it’s excellent.
TCM has curated a library specifically for HBO Max. Classics you might want to revisit are available like “Casablanca,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and “Rebel Without a Cause”. Much of Charlie Chaplin’s library is here, including “City Lights” and “Modern Times”. Looking to catch up on Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy’s collaborations? Find six of their nine films together here, including “Adam’s Rib,” “The Sea of Grass,” and “Woman of the Year”. There are plenty of classic musicals as well: “An American in Paris,” “Gold Diggers of 1933,” and “A Hard Day’s Night” to name a few.

​Looking for franchises? HBO Max has most of the DC film library. While it’s notably missing Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” trilogy, it has “Shazam!,” “Aquaman,” and “Joker,” along with Tim Burton’s two “Batman” films. (It even has “Jonah Hex” if you’re feeling weird.) Next year, HBO will be adding “Justice League: Snyder Cut” to that list. Other franchises you can find on the service are: All eight “Harry Potter” films, “Fantastic Beasts,” “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Hobbit,” “The Conjuring,” “Alien,” “Die Hard,” and more.
Dozens upon dozens of Criterion releases have found a home on HBO Max as well. “In The Mood for Love,” “Paris, Texas,” “Punch-Drunk Love,” “Eraserhead,” “Cleo From 5 to 7,” and so, so many more. Granted, the notable difference from The Criterion Channel is the lack of special features. A few films across the platform have limited special features (helpful if you want a making-of documentary on “Bohemian Rhapsody“), but they’re few and far between. Still, if it’s the films you’re looking for, HBO Max is hard to top.
HBO Max is also the exclusive streaming home of Studio Ghibli, where you can find classics like “Spirited Away,” “My Neighbor Totoro,” and “Princess Mononoke”. It also has recent critical hits like “A Star Is Born,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” and “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum”. If it’s documentaries you’re looking for, you’ll find “Grey Gardens,” “They Shall Not Grow Old,” “Buena Vista Social Club,” and “March of the Penguins”. Honestly, I could just keep listing films, but I think you get the idea.
Apple TV+ may have a few high profile original projects, but the service is underwhelmed by lacking any sort of existing content library. Disney+ has crushed the family space to be sure, but can’t compete with HBO Max in the adult demographic. With HBO’s undeniable content, the massive library, and promising Max Originals in the months to come, HBO Max will be a force to reckon with.

What do you think of HBO Max? Have you subscribed to it? Let us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter account.

You can follow Daniel and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @howatdk

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Daniel Howat
Daniel Howat
Movie and awards season obsessed. Hollywood Critics Association Member.

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