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The Best Movies Coming to Screens Big and Small This Week

A Pulitzer-honored hit about the Constitution and Helen Mirren’s anti-extinction documentary

Amazon’s best movie of the week

 What the Constitution Means to Me

Already seen Hamilton!? Try this rousing Pulitzer Prize finalist by Heidi Schreck, rated the number 5 best play on Broadway by Time. It’s filmed by Marielle Heller, the incandescent director of must-see films A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Can You Ever Forgive Me? and The Diary of a Teenage Girl. As a teen, Schreck paid for college by winning speech contests at American Legion halls, and then got obsessed with her topic: the U.S. Constitution. Her funny, searing monologue is eye- and mind-opening, and deeply personal. She notes how the Constitution might better serve women, like her own $75 mail-order bride great-grandma, who died in a mental institution. This is the most inspired dramatization of history on stage and film since Hamilton! Tim Appelo (T.A.)

Watch it here: Amazon Prime

Helen Mirren rules the animal kingdom

 Escape From Extinction, Unrated

With golden-throated eloquence, Helen Mirren narrates a documentary that sounds the alarm over a billion animals dying in Australia’s fires, a football field’s worth of Amazon rain forest vanishing every 20 seconds, a million species going extinct in our lifetime — and also the enlightened zoos that serve as a Noah’s ark to save them. It’s the first doc from American Humane, the animal protection organization. —T.A.

Watch it here: In theaters


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Art-house hit of the week

 Martin Eden, Unrated

Jack London is having a great year in Hollywood: first Harrison Ford in his The Call of the Wild, and now Luca Marinelli (from Charlize Theron’s grownup-friendly superhero flick The Old Guard) stars in his autobiographical novel about a writer. Martin is a poor sailor who saves a nobleman from a thug in Naples. So the rich kid invites him home, and uneducated Martin gets besotted by a rich girl (Jessica Cressy), who gets him reading and thinking. His hifalutin ideas about society, individualism, class and Herbert Spencer’s wildly popular distortion of science, social Darwinism, grow him into a bona fide writer — yet one who’s tormented and misunderstood. Intellectually, the book and film are a muddle, but a beguiling one. —T.A.

Watch it here: Virtual cinemas

Put this at the top of your Netflix queue right now

 The Trial of the Chicago 7, R

An utterly wonderful, vivid dramatization of the trial of Chicago’s 1968 demonstrators, with bravura performances by Frank Langella as Judge Julius Hoffman, Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman, Michael Keaton as Ramsey Clark and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Seale. —T.A.

Watch it here: Netflix

RELATED: It’s a whole new month, and you know what that means: a whole new bunch of great things to watch on Netflix! Check for our short list of the best of the best, here: The Best Things Coming to Netflix

Hike! These movies put you right on the gridiron

Denzel Washington in the film Remember the Titans

Getty Images

Football fans, rejoice. The NFL is back (sort of), and we’re back with a critic-picked list of the best football movies to stream right now. This means you can have game night, well, every night. Get the whole list here (foot-long franks and beers optional): 15 Great Football Movies to Stream Between NFL Games

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 War With Grandpa, PG

Robert De Niro is both a towering icon of Scorsese gangster flicks and high-art tragedy and the king of blockbusters about the Focker family. In his latest silly featherweight comedy, he’s an irascible guy who moves into his grandson’s bedroom, so they conduct a prank-war over its possession. Grandpa’s shaving cream gets switched with foam sealant. The conflict is somewhat Home Alone-like, but more illogical, as when De Niro, Christopher Walken, Jane Seymour and Cheech Marin challenge the kids to a trampoline volleyball match and the ref rules on the first round: “Age-appropriate team 1; AARP team none.” —T.A.

Watch it here: In theaters

RELATED: Find out what Jane Seymour thought about playing for laughs with Robert De Niro, in her new interview with AARP: Jane Seymour Shares Her Special View of England’s Royal Family

 Herb Alpert Is…

In the ’60s, John Lennon said the Beatles were more popular than Jesus — but Herb Alpert sold more albums than the Beatles in 1965–66, and his Tijuana Brass cover of “A Taste of Honey” puts the Fab Four’s to shame. You likely remember the Whipped Cream … and Other Delights cover, and hits like “Tijuana Taxi,” which Questlove in this documentary calls “the happiest music in existence.” Like the TJB, this movie is apt to make you happier. —T.A.

Watch it here: In theaters and streaming online

 The Dark Divide, Unrated

Dorothy’s voyage to Oz was no trippier than real-life nature writer Robert Pyle’s risky excursion through Sasquatch country in Washington state: Gifford Pinchot National Forest, which is called the Dark Divide. Pyle (impeccably played by Arrested Development’s David Cross) is a world expert on novelist Vladimir Nabokov and butterflies, a Yale intellectual who lives in a Washington ghost town. When his witty wife (Debra Messing, extremely good in a dramatic role) dies of cancer, he makes a perilous trek in quest of fluttering wonders. It’s a loping, droll shaggy-dog story — mostly true, but too slow for some — about the dark divide between love and loss, rural and urban America, science and belief. The soundtrack by the Avett Brothers and Krist Novoselic (Kurt Cobain’s best friend and Nirvana cofounder and Pyle’s neighbor, who cut an album with Pyle) is terrific. —T.A.

Watch it here: Screening virtually

 Kajillionaire, R

Grifters Debra Winger, 65, and Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water), 73, raised their daughter Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) right, teaching her the con-artist game. But when they recruit new protegee Melanie (Gina Rodriguez), things go awry. Not your run-of-the-mill grifter picture, it’s by indie cinema’s Queen of Quirk, Miranda July (Me and You and Everyone We Know). It’s one eccentric comedy, cult heroine July’s best movie yet, and there’s real moral tension in Melanie’s campaign to save Old Dolio from her self-serving parents. —T.A.

Watch it here: In select theaters

Before going to a theater, check the coronavirus safety recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and keep up with the news on the AARP Coronavirus page.

 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. Olin and Dern are perfect together, and this is the rare film about dementia that focuses not just on the patient but also on the distraught caregiver. —T.A.

Watch it here: iTunes, Amazon and virtual cinema platforms

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

 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. —T.A.

Watch it here: Amazon Prime

 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.

 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

 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

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