There was a time when HBO carefully picked and chose its shows, releasing a handful of excellent programs a year and riding a prideful wave of quality over quantity. But then streaming happened. HBO and HBO Max are now opening up the spigots, joining the streaming era strategy of MORE IS BETTER. But somehow even with many more releases, the quality has still remained above the competition.
That trend continues in April, which has plenty of new releases from HBO and HBO Max that will keep me more than happy, including the home release of the big-budget Mortal Kombat movie, a couple of new original sci-fi series, and a four-part miniseries that will make you think hard about everything you learned in history class.
Made for Love
Available April 1 (HBO Max exclusive)
Trying to get out of a bad relationship gets the sci-fi, dark comedy metaphor it's always deserved in Made for Love, written by Maniac's Patrick Somerville. Cristin Milioti stars as a woman married to (and sort of imprisoned by) a tech billionaire (Billy Magnussen), who decides she's had enough and bounces. The problem is her ex implanted her with a tracking chip that not only identifies her location, but also her emotional state. The eight-episode miniseries is essentially a four-hour Black Mirror episode, both cheeky and terrifying at the same time.
Exterminate All the Brutes
Limited series premieres April 7 on HBO, HBO Max at 9/8c
Sure anyone can roll a camera, scream "cut," and call themselves a filmmaker, but Raoul Peck is a FILMMAKER. Peck (I Am Not Your Negro) re-edits the history books in this stunning four-episode series that dances between dramatized history and documentary, exploring colonialism, racism, and exploitation in ways that spotlight the truth that America and the world has largely chosen to ignore. It's going to make you uncomfortable, and it should; growth and progress isn't always easy, but it is necessary.
Genndy Tartakovsky's Primal
Season 1B Available April 6 on HBO Max
Genndy Tartakovsky is one of the best storytellers in any medium, taking the classic writing advice of "show don't tell" to the next level by using hardly any dialogue in his animated projects, which include Samurai Jack and the original Star Wars: Clone Wars series (which remains the greatest Star Wars product ever produced). His current series for Adult Swim is the critically acclaimed Primal -- one of my favorite shows of 2019-2020 -- which follows a caveman named Spear and a Tyrannosaurus named Fang who form a beautiful bond after they both experience severe tragedy. It's positively gorgeous and extremely violent (this is NOT for kids), but appropriately so as an emotional exploration of two beings trying to survive a harsh prehistoric world. The final five episodes of Season 1 -- which aired last year on Adult Swim -- finally come to HBO Max this month, and they're all spectacular.
Series premiere April 11 at 9/8c on HBO, HBO Max
Joss Whedon emerged from hiding (temporarily) with this new series set in 1896 England, depicting what happens when an unusual event grants several women supernatural powers, which naturally upsets the authorities who decide to take them on. It's like X-Men, or, in this case, X-Women? If you choose to ignore the swirl of controversy around Whedon, who HBO "parted ways with" in November, you'll find a great-looking series with some steampunk elements thrown in for good measure.
Mare of Easttown
Miniseries premiere April 18 at 10/9c on HBO, HBO Max
Kate Winslet! That should be enough to get you to watch HBO's latest high-profile miniseries, which stars Winslet as Mare, a detective who returns to her hometown in blue-collar Pennsylvania to investigate a murder. Returning home means mixing it up with the family again, including her mother (played by Jean Smart), with whom she has many bridges to rebuild from the ashes. The seven-episode miniseries will trickle out weekly.
Premieres April 23 (HBO Max exclusive; delayed one week from April 16)
The latest Warner Bros. film to get a simultaneous release in theaters and on HBO Max is Mortal Kombat, a reboot of the film franchise that was an adaptation of the popular arcade fighting game. All you really need to know is that people punch and kick each other to violent, grisly deaths. But for fans of the franchise, there's good news and bad news. The good news is the movie is rated R (the two '90s films were a weaksauce PG-13), meaning we'll get the on-screen fatalities that we've been longing to see for decades. The bad news is there's no Johnny Cage.