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The Best Movies Coming to Screens Big and Small This Week

Absorbing dramas and documentaries rule the roost

En español | Fall is in the air, and our movie watch list this week is full of serious films for grownups that will have you craving cozy nights on the sofa. Whether it’s a new drama about love, caregiving and Alzheimer’s; a fascinating trip through the life of Gloria Steinem (with four, count ’em, actresses portraying the legend); or a revealing portrait of the late, great Oliver Sacks, it’s a great watch week. Let’s mull some cider — and pass the remote!

If you watch one movie this week, watch this one

 The Artist’s Wife, R

Nobody could play a famous artist descending irritably into Alzheimer’s better than Bruce Dern, but Ingmar Bergman protegee and Oscar nominee Lena Olin (Enemies: A Love Story) is even better as his wife, who goes from denial of his condition to horror as he rails irrationally (and spends $94,000 on a clock) to her own midlife rebirth as an artist. Writer-director Tom Dolby, who specializes in films about women in their 60s, based the story a little on painters’ talented wives Elaine de Kooning and Lee Krasner, and mostly on his genius own dad, Thomas Dolby, who invented the sound system used in movie theaters. Olin and Dern, whom Dolby calls “the European and the cowboy,” are perfect together, and this is the rare film about dementia that focuses not just on the patient but also on the distraught caregiver. —Tim Appelo (T.A.)

Watch it here: Coming Sept. 25 to iTunes, Amazon and virtual cinema platforms

RELATED: Find bold new solutions for the world’s brain health crisis on the AARP Disrupt Dementia page

Get an early look at the film everyone’s talking about this week

 The Glorias, R

Oscar-nominated Tony and Emmy winner Julie Taymor (Frida, The Lion King) dramatizes Ms. magazine founder Gloria Steinem’s eight-decade life, with four actresses in the part: Ryan Kiera Armstrong as the child Gloria, besotted by her doting traveling salesman dad (a wild-haired Timothy Hutton); teen Lulu Wilson as Gloria coping with her dad’s irresponsibility and caring for her mom, a thwarted journalist with mental illness; Alicia Vikander as the young writer discovering India and exposing U.S. sexism; and Julianne Moore as the grownup Gloria conquering the world — but heartbreakingly losing the ERA fight. Bette Midler is terrific as feminist firecracker Bella Abzug, Lorraine Toussaint as Gloria’s lawyer mentor Flo Kennedy. The script is clunky, the animated Wizard of Oz tornado fantasy sequence doesn’t work, but it’s still a vivid trip through a fascinating, important American life. —T.A.

Watch it here: Amazon Prime on Sept. 30


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Don’t miss this fascinating documentary about a fascinating doc

 Oliver Sacks: His Own Life

The best-selling neurologist-author Sacks was a bit like the kindly, empathic doc Robin Williams played in Awakenings, but the real guy was far more complex and troubled, as this documentary by Ken Burns’ brother Ric Burns reveals. Before he was canonized by public opinion, Sacks was a tormented gay man whose mother called him an abomination who never should’ve been born. He became a fitness nut, setting a bench-press record (660 pounds), amphetamine addict, reckless motorcyclist and total screwup as a physician. But he turned his life around and made himself great. It’s a tale as wild as any case history he turned into literature. —T.A.

Watch it here: On virtual cinemas via Zeitgeist Films and Kino Marquee

Put this at the top of your Netflix queue right now

Bad Teacher (2011)

A watchable, raunchy comedy by the cowriters of The Office, starring Cameron Diaz as an unapologetically unsympathetic teacher (who’s a much worse person than Billy Bob Thornton’s Bad Santa from 2003). Plus, she wants to do bad things with a hunky substitute teacher (Justin Timberlake, her real-life ex).

RELATED: Make sure you don’t miss the best new things that arrived on Netflix this month! Check our critics’ list, right here: The 12 Best Things Coming to Netflix in September

If you watch one thing on Amazon this week, watch this 

Utopia (2020)

Gone Girl’s Gillian Flynn produced this series about graphic-novel nerds who discover that their favorite comic reveals an actual conspiracy that could destroy the world. Inspired by paranoid 1970s thrillers like The Parallax View, it costars Rainn Wilson and John Cusack, 54, in his first major TV role.

Watch it here: Amazon Prime

RELATED: Leaves are dropping, and so are great movies on Amazon! Get the list of what’s new and worth your sofa time, right here: 11 Great Things Coming to Amazon Prime Video in September

Yes, way! Renting the surprise No. 1 streaming hit just went from $19.99 to $14.99

 Bill & Ted Face the Music, PG-13

Watch the reunion of Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter in the third episode of their time-tripping fantasy comedy. The music they face this time is aging, but assigned by stern Holland Taylor, they’ll write a song to save the universe, see their future selves in a retirement community, and find reassurance that friendship and rock will never die.

Watch it here: In theaters and video on demand

RELATED: The most important woman in Bill & Ted’s universe — Holland Taylor — tells AARP about her latest hit, and her excellent career.

Calling All Goodfellas Fans!

Ray Liotta Robert De Niro Paul Sorvino and Joe Pesci star in Goodfellas

Entertainment Pictures/Alamy Stock Photo

Can you believe Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning gangster film turns 30 this year? If you love this movie as much as we do, you’re going to love matching wits with our latest quiz, which tests your Goodfellas trivia chops. Come on and play, because it’d be a shame if something had to happen to your family: 30 Years Later, How Well Do You Know Goodfellas?

If it’s fall, it must be biopic season!

Tilda Cobham Hervey stars as Helen Reddy in the film I Am Woman and Ethan Hawke as John Brown in the miniseries The Good Lord Bird

Kino Lorber; William Gray/Showtime

Forget the pumpkin spice lattes, it’s time for Oscar-seeking films about famous people, and we are here for it. And so will you be, when you check out our critics’ roundup of the best biopics coming to screens big and small (mostly small). Mark you calendars and cozy in for some fascinating films, here: 10 New Biopic Movies and TV Shows to Watch This Fall

Got a case of cabin fever? Have we got the movies for you

Diane Lane and Raoul Bova star in the film Under the Tuscan Sun

Touchstone Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

We know, we know. All those incredible vacations have likely been put on the back burner for now, so our critics went into movieland and brought back a list of glorious films that take place in all your favorite vacation spots. It’s double-fisted escape, and no TSA lines! Get the whole list (and start your escape right now), here: 15 Movies to Ease Your Postponed Vacation Blues

If you loved Da 5 Bloods, or BlacKkKlansman, or Do the Right Thing, or…

Director Spike Lee poses for photo in Sydney Australia

Jaimi Chisholm/Getty Images

Then you know that Spike Lee is one of America’s most influential filmmakers working today. But what you might not know is the full scope of his work, including these five critic-picked Spike Lee Joints that you should put to the top of your streaming list pronto. Get the list and catch up, right here: The 5 Best Spike Lee Films You Haven't (Yet) Seen

Backward AND in High Heels Department

Directors Lulu Wang Greta Gerwig and Ava DuVernay

Matteo Nardone/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images; Lia Toby/PA Images via Getty Images; Amy Sussman/Getty Images

(Left to right) Lulu Wang, Greta Gerwig and Ava DuVernay.

Women directors — long sidelined — are tearing it up in movies right now. And to celebrate their achievements, we’ve rounded up the 13 essential female filmmakers you need to be following — from Ava DuVernay to Kathryn Bigelow (plus links to their films available online).

Get the list: 13 Female Directors You Should Discover Right Now

Bone up with biopics!

Sally Field stars in the film Norma Rae and Helen Mirren in The Queen

20th Century Fox Film Corp./Courtesy Everett Collection; Miramax/Courtesy Everett Collection

If your summer reading list leans more to beach reads than big biographies, you can still get that history fix with a great biopic — those movies that elevate a well-known life (or bring to light a lesser-known but equally deserving one), in what’s usually a star (and Oscar-worthy) turn. We’re talking Gandhi, Churchill and Queen Elizabeth, not to mention Loretta Lynn, Harvey Milk, Ray Charles and many more. Use our brand-new list of 17 amazing biopics streaming right now to dig in. And don’t worry: Those doorstop biographies will be right there on the bedside table when you’re ready to read them again.

Get the list: 17 Entertaining Biopic Movies to Watch Now

RELATED: Want the best beach reads this year? We’ve got a tote bag full, right here: 2020 Summer Book Preview: 12 Unique Novels to Choose From

You won’t believe which movies turned 50 this year

Does it feel like you saw M*A*S*H only yesterday? How about Love Story? These are just two of a big batch of memorable films that were all released in 1970 — yep, 50 years ago. Our critics have chosen 11 that are really worth a rewatch — so join the fun and see which ones you think have stood the test of time. Get the list and where to stream them here: You Won’t Believe The Movies That Are Turning 50 in 2020

More of the very best movies online

It’s truly amazing how many incredible movies there are available on mainstream platforms like Amazon, Netflix and others. Our critics round up the very best for you, no matter what your interest. Check out the latest “Best of” lists from AARP critics. There’s never been a better time to catch up on movies you always intended to watch.

Other movies to watch

 The Nest, R

Intoxicated by the greed-is-good rush of the go-go 1980s, Britain-born broker Rory (Jude Law) uproots his American family to make a killing in London, their fourth move in 10 years. “It’s not your job to worry — leave that to your husband!” he tells wife Allison (The Leftovers star Carrie Coon). She worries, with good reason. To pay for their new, Downton Abbey-like English mansion, he must persuade his rather untrustworthy boss (Michael Culkin, The Crown) to take a buyout that would earn Rory a bundle. The future’s so bright, he’s got to wear shades — but she’s not blind. Law and Coon have never been better, depicting a marriage that’s hot in bed yet fissioning before our eyes, and about to go nuclear. —T.A.

Where to watch: In 350 theaters nationwide

 Blackbird, R

In a truly moving movie by Roger Michell (who got Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant Golden Globe nominations in Notting Hill and Peter O’Toole his last Oscar nom in the must-see Venus), a successful architect (Susan Sarandon) stricken with ALS gathers her family at their Dwell magazine-worthy oceanfront villa for a last Christmas celebration before she ends her life. Her husband (Sam Neill) is as supportive as the rock of Gibraltar, but her grown daughters can’t stop feuding. The older (Kate Winslet) is uptight, as controlling as her mom and not half as nice, the younger (Mia Wasikowska) a flaky screwup who resists her mom’s end-of-life plan. There’s a last-act revelation or two that ring false, but mostly, this is a sensitive, superbly acted film about an important topic. —T.A.

Watch it here: Amazon Prime

 I Am Woman, Unrated

The most uplifting music biopic since Bohemian Rhapsody stars the winsome Tina Cobham-Hervey as Helen Reddy, the Aussie single mom who improbably conquered Hollywood, scoring 14 Top 10 and four No. 1 hits. She wrote, “I am strong, I am invincible,” and women responded. It’s a love story about her marriage to fellow nobody Jeff Wald, who managed her career and then with increasing success those of Tiny Tim, George Carlin, David Crosby, Sylvester Stallone, and Barbra Streisand’s husbands Jim Brolin and Elliott Gould. —T.A.

Watch it here: Virtual cinemas

 Mulan, PG-13

Disney’s new live-action remake of its popular 1999 animated saga of the girl warrior (Yifei Liu) who became her empire’s  greatest warrior may not best its predecessor, but director Niki Caro does offer oodles of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon energy. Pretty soon you feel as if you, too, could run straight up fortress walls and conquer, if you only had her chi (life force). But Liu is an emotional blank — whenever her witch antagonist (Gong Li, 54) is onscreen, the latter steals the scene — and between rip-roaring action scenes, sometimes the film feels like a glum slog. Still, it’s a stylish war film with a marvelous sense of place. —T.A.

Watch it here: Disney+

RELATED: Did you know that Mulan’s director, Niki Caro, also directed another memorable film about a very plucky young heroine — Whale Rider? Discover more about this director, along with 12 more of her powerful female counterparts, right here: 13 Female Directors You Should Discover Right Now

The Devil All the Time, R

Robert Pattinson (Twilight) plays a mysterious preacher in a Gothic saga about a troubled family in small-town Ohio, from World War II to the Vietnam era. With Spider-Man’s Tom Holland as a nice Christian boy gone wrong and Jason Clarke (51) and Elvis Presley’s granddaughter Riley Keough as killers you don’t want to pick you up while hitchhiking.

Watch it here: Netflix

 The Mole Agent, Unrated

In Maite Alberdi’s charming documentary, Chilean detective Romulo Aitken, hired by the daughter of an assisted-living resident to find out who’s taking advantage of her mother, hires recent widower Sergio, 83, to nose around, equipped with spectacles and a pen — each containing a video camera. The octogenarian takes to his role with diligence, fumbles with spy gear notwithstanding. There’s humor and intrigue, but it’s Sergio’s blossoming friendships with a number of the women in the nursing home that make this covert operation brim with grace. He’s companion, confessor, caretaker. The Mole Agent — alongside recent Aussie comedy Never Too Late — makes clear that where folks grow older is a universal source of anxiety. —Lisa Kennedy (L.K.)

Watch it here: Amazon Prime, Google Play, YouTube

 Critical Thinking, Unrated

Besides starring in billion-dollar-grossing movies, John Leguizamo, 56, is also a born teacher (don’t miss his hilariously inspirational lecture-movie Latin History for Morons). How ideal, then, is his latest outing — as director and star — in this highly entertaining true tale of the Miami Black and Latino students who became the first inner-city team to win the U.S. National Chess Championship. Matched up against 1988’s Stand and Deliver — another inspiring true story with a brainy underdog motif — Leguizamo’s performance may play Edward James Olmos’ to a draw, but he runs the board when it comes to his work in the director’s chair. The kids fizz with Leguizamo’s infectious spontaneous energy. It’s the kind of movie that gives you hope for America. —T.A.

Watch it here: Apple TV, Vimeo

RELATED: 12 Latinx Directors You Need to Know

Tenet, PG-13

In a much-awaited mind-bender epic by Christopher Nolan (Memento, Inception), John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman) globe-trots to prevent World War III by confronting bad guys like a Russian arms merchant (Kenneth Branagh) who make time flow backwards and bullets zoom back into guns. Check this page for a review when the film is screened for critics online. On Rotten Tomatoes, critics rated it 75 percent (good), and audiences rated it 90 percent (better yet). If you choose to visit a theater to see a film, read the CDC’s coronavirus health and safety guidelines, and consult AARP’s latest news on the coronavirus.

Watch it here: In theaters

 Robin’s Wish, Unrated

It may move you to tears — you’ll also bust a gut laughing at his dialogue-recording scenes from Aladdin and stage-show improvs — but this important documentary about the last days of actor Robin Williams is must viewing. Everyone needs to know about the illness that led to his death, Lewy body dementia, the second-leading cause of progressive dementia (after Alzheimer’s). And the film corrects erroneous reports that his 2014 suicide involved depression, money woes or substance abuse (he was sober). In fact, as his widow, friends and directors explain for the first time, his invaded brain was erasing his memory, giving him tremors and causing paranoid delusions. Despite it all, he heroically continued to film his show The Crazy Ones and movie Night at the Museum III. (He also spent lots of time comforting disabled people and entertaining American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.) He never knew what he had — his autopsy revealed it. “I’m not me,” he said. The film will clarify who he really was and why he’s immortal. —T.A.

Watch it here: Available on video on demand and Apple TV, iTunes, Amazon, VUDU, Google Play, Microsoft Movies & TV, FandangoNow and Redbox On Demand.

RELATED:  Find the latest news and resources for caregivers on AARP’s Disrupt Dementia page.

 Fatima

The producer of Mel Gibson’s blockbuster The Passion of the Christ brings you another faith-based film, about the Virgin Mary’s 1917 apparition before a 10-year-old Portuguese girl, who gets visions of World War I and hell itself. Harvey Keitel, 81, plays a skeptical professor interviewing the girl, now a grownup modern nun (Sonia Braga, 70), and ER’s Goran Višnjic plays an atheist mayor who throws kids in jail for claiming to have visions. —T.A.

Watch it here: In theaters and video on demand

 The 24th, Unrated

Oscar-winning screenwriter Kevin Willmott (BlacKkKlansman, Da 5 Bloods) directed and cowrote this saga of the 1917 Houston riot that sparked the biggest murder trial in U.S. history. The 24th Infantry’s all-Black battalion was stationed in Houston the summer that murderous white mobs attacked thousands of Blacks in East St. Louis and Chester, Pennsylvania. Racist Houston cops dragged a Black woman from her home, GIs defended her, the cops beat and shot them, and more than 100 mutinous soldiers shot it out with the cops. A kangaroo court hanged 13 soldiers, some or most likely innocent. Empire’s Trai Byers is inspiring as the soldiers’ leader, a Paris-educated intellectual resented both by whites and lower-class Black soldiers (Mykelti Williamson, 63; and Mo McRae) who bitterly dismiss his dreams of racial equity. It’s a grim, important tale rich with historical detail. —T.A.

Watch it here: Available on video on demand

 Tesla, PG-13

Kyle MacLachlan, 61, has a ball portraying electricity entrepreneur Thomas Edison while Ethan Hawke, 49, broods as Edison’s thwarted rival Nikola Tesla, who dreamed of a wirelessly connected world. It’s a high-IQ, Drunk History-like romp, alternating between low-lit 1890s scenes that look like daguerreotype photos and jaunty modern touches: Google searches, a karaoke rendition of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” and an ice-cream-cone duel between the inventors. The film is an inventive mess, but way more lively than Benedict Cumberbatch’s 2017 flick about Edison called The Current War. —T.A.

Watch it here: In theaters and on demand

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