By Mike Murphy
It’s time to blow off some steam and watch something stupid.
March marks a full year since we’ve all been cooped up due to the pandemic, leaving many of us tethered to our TVs to an unhealthy degree. So after such a stressful year, consumers deserve to splurge a bit, and treat themselves to some brain sorbets.
March is bringing a lot of programming that may not be thought-provoking or even particularly good, but should at least be dumb fun ( cough cough “Godzilla vs. Kong” ). Because sometimes you just don’t want to think too hard.
As we’ve previously mentioned , consumers can take full advantage of cord-cutting by churning — that’s the strategy of adding and dropping streaming services each month — and all it takes is good planning. Keep in mind that a billing cycle starts when you sign up, not necessarily at the beginning of a month.
And heads up: Disney+ will raise its price by $1, to $7.99 a month, starting in March; meanwhile, Netflix raised the price on its most popular plan by $1 as well, to $13.99, in February. But consumers who dig around can take advantage of free trials and cost-saving bundles, though those deals won’t last forever.
Free and bundled possibilities aside, when it’s time to decide where your subscription dollars should go, What’s Worth Streaming is here to help. We rate each major streaming service every month as a “play,” “pause” or “stop,” similar to investment analysts’ ratings of buy, hold and sell, and pick the best content to help you make your monthly decisions.
Here’s a look at what’s coming to the various streaming services in March 2021, and what’s really worth the monthly subscription fee.
Disney+ ($7.99 a month)
“WandaVision” may be wrapping up (the finale is March 5), but Disney+ has another surefire Marvel hit in the works, with “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” (March 19). For those complaining “WandaVision” was too slow and introspective, though you could try to appreciate a slow burn, the six-episode “Falcon” looks to be a much more straightforward buddy comedy/action series. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan star as the title characters, with the action picking up after the events of “Avengers: Endgame.” What it’s actually about is tightly under wraps, but safe to say, the two heroes will be trying to find their footing and carry on Captain America’s shield in a post-Steve Rogers world.
Disney /zigman2/quotes/203410047/composite DIS -0.75% is also streaming one of its big movies of 2021, “Raya and the Last Dragon” (March 5), starting the same day it hits theaters, for an additional $30 fee (just as they did with “Mulan” last fall). The film, about a girl determined to track down the last living dragon in order to save her kingdom from monsters, looks spectacular. If you have kids, it might be worth a splurge ($30 is probably cheaper than movie tickets and snacks for a family), but keep in mind it’ll almost certainly be available on regular Disney+ for no extra fee within a few months. So if you’re patient you can save that money.
Who’s Disney+ for? Families with kids, and hardcore “Star Wars” and Marvel fans. For those not in those groups, its library can be lacking. Remember, the monthly price will rise to $7.99 in March.
Play, pause or stop? Play. The end of “WandaVision” and the beginning of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” alone are worth the price. Plus “The Muppet Show,” old episodes of “The Simpsons,” and much more? Yeah, worth it.
HBO Max ($14.99 a month)
HBO Max has two movies that will absolutely overshadow everything else it has in March: “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” (March 18) and “Godzilla vs. Kong” (March 31).
The long-rumored recut of 2017’s “Justice League” has fanboys drooling. (TLDR: Snyder, the film’s original director, dropped out following his daughter’s death; Joss Whedon took over production and the movie flopped. Read more about it here .) After an online campaign, HBO Max gave the go-ahead for Snyder to recreate his original dark and gritty vision, reportedly adding about $70 million in new special effects and doubling the length of the film, to four hours. Rarely in Hollywood history has such an ambitious project been pulled off. Snyder has his hardcore fans, as well his share of critical detractors, but whether or not the movie will be any good is almost beside the point: “Justice League” will be an unabashed spectacle and a victory for creative control that will at the very least make it worth a look.
Speaking of bashing and spectacles, two of cinema’s most iconic oversized creatures face off once again in “Godzilla vs. Kong,” streaming on Max the same day it hits theaters. Who’s starring in it? CGI monsters and who cares who else. It looks ridiculous and overblown and completely stupid and completely awesome. Not every movie needs to be important. As long as it causes grown adults to giggle like 8-year-olds, it will have served its purpose.
Don’t forget, first-run Warner Bros. movies are only available to stream for a month, so “Judas and the Black Messiah” will be leaving March 14 and “Tom & Jerry” departs March 28, while “Godzilla” will be gone at the end of April.
AT&T’s /zigman2/quotes/203165245/composite T -0.27% HBO Max doesn’t have a ton of other new stuff in March, with highlights being the sexually-fluid teen dramedy “Genera+ion” (March 11); “Tina” (March 27), a documentary about the legendary singer Tina Turner, featuring interviews and little-seen archive footage; and another doc, “Persona: The Dark Truth Behind Personality Tests” (March 4), about the history behind the famous MBTI tests.
But the single best new thing to watch on Max could be “The Knick,” the brilliant two-season series about a drug-addicted doctor in 1900s New York City, starring Clive Owen and directed by Steven Soderberg. It joined Max in February, along with fellow Cinemax alum “Banshee” (a brilliant celebration of gratuitous violence in its own right). They’re both bloody, cringe-inducing fun, in very different ways.
Who’s HBO Max for? HBO fans and movie lovers.
Play, pause or stop? Play. Treat yourself to some seriously over-the-top entertainment. And if explosions, superpowers and blood-and-guts aren’t your speed, there’s still HBO’s deep library of excellent shows. Among newcomers, try the addictive Swedish drama “Beartown,” the critically praised AIDS drama “It’s a Sin” or the whimsical dark comedy “Pushing Daisies,” which were all recently added to Max.
Netflix ($7.99 a month for basic, $13.99 standard or $17.99 premium)
Make no mistake, a year of pandemic-related production delays are finally catching up with Netflix /zigman2/quotes/202353025/composite NFLX -0.46% . But with a dearth of original scripted series ready to go in its pipeline, the streaming giant is filling in the gaps with docuseries and foreign-language series. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (see: January’s surprise French hit, “Lupin”).
March’s lineup has a plethora of docuseries on tap, including “Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell” (March 1), which examines the career of the late rapper The Notorious B.I.G.; “Murder Among the Mormons” (March 3), about a string of Salt Lake City bombings in the 1980s; and “Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal” (March 17), featuring dialogue from FBI wiretaps and sure-to-be-cheesy reenactments of the celebrity-laden scandal.
On the less salacious side, there’s “Last Chance U: Basketball” (March 10), which delves into players battling adversity at East Los Angeles College, as the Emmy-winning series shifts its focus from high-stakes junior-college football to basketball.
There’s also “Moxie” ( March 3), an appealing-looking movie directed by Amy Poehler about a teenage girl who’s inspired by her mom’s “riot grrrl” past to publish a ‘zine exposing sexism at her school; “Yes Day” (March 12), a family comedy where the kids get to make the rules for a day, starring Jennifer Garner; “Waffles + Mochi” (March 16), a kids cooking show from Michelle Obama; and “Marriage or Mortgage” (March 10), a reality series that sounds like a TLC/HGTV mashup, where couples choose between splurging on a fairy-tale wedding or a dream home.
Among foreign-language series and movies, there’s “Bombay Begums” (March 8), a soapy drama about a diverse group of ambitious women in India; “Sky Rojo” (March 19), a drama about a trio of women on the run in Spain, from the creators of “Money Heist”; “Cabras de Peste” (March 18), a Brazilian action/comedy about two mismatched cops who join forces to fight a gang; and “Caught By a Wave” (March 25), an Italian teen romance.
On the sillier side, there’s also “Bad Trip” (March 26), a gross-out prank movie from Eric Andre; the supernatural mystery series “The Irregulars” (March 26), about Sherlock Holmes’ young proteges; and “Nailed It! Double Trouble” (March 26), as the baking-disaster show highlights teams of hapless bakers.
Also getting a lot of recent buzz is the bonkers erotic thriller “Behind Her Eyes,” which dropped in February. It’s…well, let’s just say the ending will leave you asking “WTF,” for better or worse.
Who’s Netflix for? Fans of buzz-worthy original shows and movies.
Play, pause or stop? Play. While Netflix suddenly doesn’t seem so essential, it still has a vast supply of shows that are juuust good enough. In a volume game, Netflix is gonna win every time.