May feels uncharacteristically quiet this year. There are some huge mainstream blockbusters dropping into theaters at both ends of the month, but not that much else. There are no big games coming out, and most of the streaming services are pretty quiet, with the exception of Netflix and Disney+. May is a great opportunity to decompress after the busy semester, catch up on backlogs and revel in a surprising quantity of 80s nostalgia. Some of the biggest releases include “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” “Stranger Things 4, and “Obi-Wan Kenobi.”
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is the twenty-eighth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not counting the growing number of Disney+ series. The film follows the titular sorcerer as he explores the multiverse and all its dangers with the help of the new Puerto Rican superhero America Chavez and the deeply troubled Scarlet Witch. It is chiefly the long-awaited sequel to Doctor Strange’s first cinematic outing in 2016, but also picks up threads from the growing narrative surrounding the multiverse, a part of a story that began in “Avengers: Endgame,” then flowed into “Wandavision,” “Loki” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Taking advantage of the multiversal story, much of the advertising has highlighted the possibility for outrageous cameo appearances from actors and characters from other franchises that I dare not spoil here. Reviews have highlighted the influence of director Sam Raimi, who has infused his horror sensibilities into the film. All signs point to this being a standout entry in this endlessly expanding franchise when it releases in theaters on May 6.
“Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers” is a hybrid live-action and animated film that serves as a follow-up to the classic 80s animated series, set in a contemporary world where animated characters are actors, much in the vein of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” Chip and Dale are washed up, have fallen out, and aren’t the iconic rescue rangers they once were. When animated characters like Flounder from “The Little Mermaid” start going missing, the two gumshoes have to reunite to once again pick up the slack. I’m a little nervous that the film could just be a parade of cameos and characters from everything Disney owns, but the trailers leave me hopeful that this nostalgia-fueled adventure can have a little more substance to it. We’ll find out when the film comes to Disney+ on May 20.
“Men” is another film distributed by A24, a publishing company with a great track record, but more importantly, directed by Alex Garland, a director with a short filmography of deeply unsettling and intriguing films like “Ex Machina” and “Annihilation.” Even having watched the trailer, I couldn’t really say what Garland’s latest is actually about. A woman travels to the countryside after the death of her husband and just has a really bad time there, haunted by a man who appears everywhere. Garland’s previous films were captivating and A24 clearly has a great eye for innovative films, that’s enough to get me to the theater when this film comes out on May 20.
“Top Gun: Maverick” puts Tom Cruise back into a jet as the titular character in this latest sequel to a 1980s action film. Cruise’s Maverick is brought back to train recruits by an old friend, and one of those recruits happens to be the son of another old friend. Having not seen the original, I don’t quite understand all of the excitement this film is seeing from some audiences, but it seems like fans of planes, the military and Tom Cruise are going to be very well fed when this film comes to theaters on May 27.
Netflix brings back one of its most popular original series, Stranger Things, for its fourth season. The fun, nerdy kids who first battled the monsters of the Upside Down in 2016 now have a much bigger challenge to face: high school. But also more monsters. The series has been ramping up rapidly in scale, as it barrels towards what is stated to be a real ending in season 5. Each episode of this season reportedly cost Netflix 30 million dollars, as much as some theatrical films. The trailer shows off a killer remix of Journey’s “Separate Ways,” new monsters, new set-pieces, and even more 80s nostalgia to capitalize on when the first half of season four comes to the service on May 27.
Netflix also has a drama based on the historical World War II-era British “Operation Mincemeat.” Colin Firth, Jason Issacs, Penelope Wilton and a large ensemble cast play British agents who disguise a dead man as a British officer and plant false documents on him, floating him onto the shores of Spain to deliver faulty information to the German military. The film is receiving fairly good reviews and comes to the service on May 11.
Disney+ brings one of its most anticipated series to streaming this month with “Obi-Wan Kenobi.” Set between “Star Wars” III and IV, with Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen returning as Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker for the first time since 2005. The series is directed by Deborah Chow and also integrates many of the characters and concepts introduced in the wider world of animated shows and novels like the Sith Inquisitors. Seeing McGregor back in the robes and beard of his iconic character from the “Star Wars” films is all I need to commit to the series, but I’m also excited to see the teased reunion of master and apprentice. The first two episodes premiere on May 27.
Also coming to Disney+ this month is “Sneakerella,” a musical retelling of the recognizable “Cinderella” story from an earnestly delivered angle of contemporary sneaker culture targeted at younger audiences. The film will be available on May 13.
Paramount+ debuts its latest “Star Trek” spinoff this month with “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.” This latest entry in the canon is a prequel to the original series, following the starship enterprise prior to Captain Kirk’s command, with Captain Pike, Number One and Spock leading the charge, after being (re)introduced in Paramount+ flagship “Star Trek Discovery.” Reviews have praised it as feeling authentically like the original Star Trek series, for all of the good and bad that brings. The series premiered on May 5.