En español | Ready for the most healing, inspiring film of the year? This week, A Most Beautiful Thing — a remarkable documentary about the first African American high school rowing team in the country — comes to small screens, and you won’t want to miss it. Also this week: some fizzy escapism in — where else? — Tuscany, and our critics’ picks for the most awesome movies from the fizzy 1980s. Make your movie nights (or matinees) the best they can be, with our picks, below.
Critic’s Pick of the Week
A Most Beautiful Thing, Unrated
Uplifting, inspiring, unlikely and true, this is the story we all need right now. It’s a documentary about America’s first Black public high school rowing team, from Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhood, founded in the 1990s by a successful businessman who’d been an Ivy League rower. Rowing is associated with privileged athletes like the Winklevoss twins who helped launch Facebook, not rival gang members from the West Side of Chicago. But after the teens overcame their terror of capsizing the shallow boats, they took to the sport and bonded for life. And after their coach’s funeral in 2018, the older, out-of-shape rowers — some successful, some ex-cons — got back together with a few new teammates: white Chicago cops. It’s like a fairy tale — only real — and healing. —Tim Appelo (T.A.)
Watch it here: Premieres Aug. 7 on Xfinity on Demand, Sept. 1 on Peacock, Oct. 14 on Amazon
Escapist Watch of the Week
Made in Italy, R
Don’t you wish you had a villa in Tuscany to flee to when your life takes a bad turn? Even if it’s decrepit and abandoned for 20 years, with shrubbery growing into the windows and doors that fall inward when you knock? In this schmaltzy yet fun little indie film, Liam Neeson, 68, plays a Lothario-esque English artist who reunites with his long-neglected adult son (Neeson’s real-life son, Micheál Richardson) in their decrepit Tuscan home — the son needs to sell it to save his art gallery after his impending divorce. Could there be an Italian love interest in his future with a fabulous restaurant and a volatile ex-husband? The plot is predictable, the jokes lame, but it’s a satisfying intergenerational story and a virtual vacation under the Tuscan sun. —T.A.
Watch it here: Made in Italy
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It’s a Whole New Month of Programming on Netflix. Here’s What to Watch Right Now
Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection
Moesha (Aug. 1)
Brandy’s 1990s sitcom is the latest addition to Netflix’s wonderful Black Stories page, a one-stop shop featuring its bumper crop of Black shows and movies. Bookmark the collection here: Black Stories
Watch it here: Netflix
RELATED: Ready to dive deeper into the new Netflix drops? So are we. We’ve got your definitive go-to list to save you time and hassle. Get your Netflix chill, right here: The 9 Best Things Coming to Netflix in August
And What to Watch This Week Over on Amazon
Spare Parts (Aug. 1)
Critics were mixed, but audiences loved this true story about four low-income Hispanic teens who designed a robot named Stinky and beat MIT in NASA’s big robotics competition. The 2015 favorite costars Esai Morales, now 57, George Lopez, now 59; and Jamie Lee Curtis, now 61.
Watch it here: Amazon Prime Video
RELATED: There’s a new and really fun batch of movies that just arrived on Amazon Prime, and our critics went to work pulling the films you’re definitely going to want to see. Primed for some summer films and more? We thought so: 13 Great Things Coming to Amazon Prime Video
Our Critics’ Latest Ranking Is Here!
ELVIS BARUKCIC/AFP via Getty Images
Oliver Stone’s movies have been making waves — and winning awards — for the better part of 40 years. So, with the 73-year-old filmmaker now publishing his first memoir, Chasing the Light, AARP takes on the famed director’s body of work and not only names his greatest cinematic achievements, but ranks them! Don’t miss this thought-provoking list.
Get the scoop: The Essential Films of Oliver Stone, Ranked
Bone Up With Biopics!
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
What’s Your Favorite Will Smith Movie?
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Is it Men in Black? Six Degrees of Separation? Shark Tale? The Hollywood superstar who’s owned the screen since the 1990s continues to dominate at the box office heading into yet another decade. It doesn’t seem like summer without a Will Smith movie, so our critics not only rounded up 14 of the actor’s best films, they went ahead and ranked them! See if our list names your faves, discover Will Smith films you may have missed and see if our #1 matches yours!
Watch Will now: The Best Will Smith Movies (So Far), Ranked
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
FREE Movies for Grownups!
Here’s the good news: The streaming site Tubi costs you nothing to watch — just like TV in days gone by. But like TV in days gone by, you’ll need to watch about a minute of ads every hour or so. Perhaps a small price to pay for free films. Check out Tubi’s top 10 list of films for viewers over 50:
- Ali (2001)
- Foxcatcher (2014)
- Fury (2014)
- Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)
- Concussion (2015)
- Draft Day (2014)
- Solace (2015)
- The Gambler (2014)
- The Hours (2002)
- Frankie & Alice (2010)
Watch these and all Tubi movies, right here.
Pretend You’re at the Drive-In This Weekend
Missing those summer action films? We know the feeling, so our critics rounded up an incredible list of the best action movies to stream online. From the comic genius of Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop to Bruce Willis’ pyrotechnics in Die Hard, we’ve got the thrills for your summer nights. So buckle up.
Get the list here: 13 Great Action Movies to Heat Up Your Summer
Our Summer Movie Preview Is Here!
Skip Bolden/Solstice Studios; Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions; Netflix
Yes, there will be a movie season this summer (drive-in theaters are even opening back up), but some of the hits will be on streaming services instead of — or also in — movie theaters. Get our critics’ inside picks on what to watch for, and get the latest on what to expect as actual movie theaters begin to turn on the lights this summer.
Hit the Road (on Your Home Screen) With These Classic Road Trip Movies
MGM/Courtesy Everett Collection; Courtesy Everett Collection
Is there anything more summer-fun than a road trip? While you work out whether you feel comfortable with the real thing, we’ve got just the scratch for that itch. Fill the cooler with cold drinks, buckle up and hit the road from your sofa with Thelma, Louise, the Griswolds and many more classic characters in any (or all!) of these dozen great road trip movies handpicked by our critics.
Get the list: 12 Great Road Trip Movies to Satisfy Your Wanderlust
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 Go-Go’s, Unrated
Like the Beatles and Elvis, the sparkly, effervescent 1980s band the Go-Go’s hit No. 1 with their debut album. The five band members recall their dizzying rise and fall in this Showtime documentary by Allison Ellwood, whose film Laurel Canyon is a must-see about the 1960s rock scene. The first band ever comprising women who wrote and played their own chart toppers (“Our Lips Are Sealed,” “Head Over Heels”), they wanted to call themselves the Misfits but wound up fitting their era perfectly. Their first hit, “We Got the Beat,” was composed by lead guitarist and songwriter Charlotte Caffey while watching The Twilight Zone, and soon she became such a hot rock ’n’ roll mess in the twilit junkie world that Ozzy Osbourne kicked her out of his dressing room. A fine tribute to an immortal band. —T.A.
Watch it here: Showtime
If you like veddy British period dramas set in spectacularly charming seaside locales (in this case the cliffs of southern England), this one’s for you. It’s the movie writing-directing debut of feminist playwright Jessica Swale, an Olivier Award winner, and the layered plot’s a winner, too. It stars Gemma Atherton and starts in the 1970s, focusing on a woman who is so reclusive that locals think she may be a witch; she is preoccupied with the idea of “summerland,” an ancient, pre-Christian notion of heaven. In a flashback to the 1940s, she’s forced to take in a lad (Lucas Bond) sent to the village to avoid Hitler’s London bombardment. She tells him about her own personal heaven, flashing further back to the 1920s and her ill-starred love affair with a woman (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). A sweet, poignant little film about big issues. —T.A.
Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind, Unrated
Immortal folkie Lightfoot, 81, the author of classics such as “Carefree Highway” and “Sundown” (about his affair with Cathy Smith, who killed John Belushi), shows the wisdom of age in this must-see documentary. When his daughter complained that “If You Could Read My Mind,” about his divorce, was one-sided, he changed the lyric from the self-pitying “the feelings that you [his ex] lack” to the more fair-minded “the feelings that we lack.” And he won’t even sing the boastful adulterer’s tune “That’s What You Get for Loving Me” anymore. His rise from preteen choirboy to Bob Dylan’s mutually admired Greenwich Village pal to alcoholic chart-topper who survived a coma in 2000 is fascinating, and it’s fun to hear his fans extol him: Sarah McLachlan, Anne Murray, Randy Bachman and Alec Baldwin, who says, “This is a guy who sang poems.” —T.A.
Watch it here: Virtual Cinema
The Painted Bird, Unrated
Lots of American movies (like Joker) are more explicitly violent, but this adaptation of Jerzy Kosinski’s novel about a boy fleeing Nazis in Eastern Europe in World War II is more upsetting. Anti-Semitic thugs set his pet on fire, crows peck at his head, he witnesses or suffers appalling abuse by crazy, murderous peasants. It’s understandable that people walked out on it at film festivals, which is rare. So why did most viewers stay and watch, and it won nine Czech Oscars and raves from more than 90 percent of critics? Because it’s as amazingly beautiful as it is grueling, full of haunting performances by superb actors (Harvey Keitel as a priest, Stellan Skarsgård as a kindly German soldier, Udo Kier as a maniacally jealous husband, Barry Pepper as a Russian sniper). —T.A.
Tom Hanks is great at playing morally upright officers, and he’s never been more biblically correct than he is as the Christian commander of an Allied convoy in the early days of World War II, conveying crucial supplies to Europe. But in the middle of the Atlantic, the Air Force can’t protect his ships from marauding Nazi U-boats. Though Hanks’ self-doubting, prayerful hero is masterfully rendered, the movie is mostly a big battle scene, a cat-and-mouse drama of pinging sonar, relentless torpedoes and high-stakes maneuvers at sea. The human drama is muted, but the movie makes you feel like a World War II veteran. —T.A.
Watch it here: Apple TV
RELATED: If you love war films, you’ll love this list! Check out the Best World War II Movies Ever Made.
Palm Springs, Unrated
If you liked Groundhog Day and Russian Doll, you’ll love this version of the every-day-is-the-same-day fantasy. Niles (Andy Samberg) is the guest at a wedding who wakes up every day to the same events, and cannot escape, even by stealing a plane with the boozy maid of honor (Cristin Milioti) and crashing it. J.K. Simmons is a growling delight as a guy who keeps shooting arrows at our hero, peeved that Niles got him stuck in the Groundhog Day-like time prison, and Meredith Hagner is hilarious as Niles’ ghastly, faithless girlfriend. This is a fresh, funny and original take on a time-honored trope. —T.A.
Watch it here: Hulu
First Cow, PG-13
In 1820s Fort Tillicum, a cook (John Magaro) and an ambitious Chinese immigrant (Orion Lee) on the run from Russian ruffians hatch a plan to get rich by making tasty cakes using milk they filch furtively by night, milking the first cow brought into the Oregon Territory. If the braggadocious owner (Toby Jones) finds out, there will be hell to pay. It’s a gripping tale that takes its time, and the beautifully shot film makes it feel as if history were slowly unfolding before your eyes. —T.A.
It appears to be a standard low-budget, high-IQ horror film about a haunted house, but really it’s a scary, poetical metaphor for the experience of dementia — for the sufferer (Robyn Nevin), her distraught daughter (Emily Mortimer) and her granddaughter (Bella Heathcote). Daughter and granddaughter try to help her, but they only get deeper into the mazelike trance world of the haunted house, in scenes with a refined creepiness worthy of David Cronenberg. Director Natalie Erika James was inspired by her own grandma’s Alzheimer’s experience, which she has translated into a film of uncanny power. Disturbing and not for everybody, but art-film fans will love it. —T.A.
Watch it here: relicthemovie.com
Sure, seeing it on your home screen might make you want to see it again onstage. But the hotly awaited film of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony- and Pulitzer-winning feuding-Founding-Fathers musical with the original cast is better in some ways on screen. It doesn’t cost $849 per ticket, you can rewind to catch rapid-fire lyrics you missed (or better yet, opt in for subtitles), and you get better closeup views of actors nonpareil: Miranda as the man on the $10 bill, Christopher Jackson as George Washington, Daveed Diggs as two showboats, Thomas Jefferson and Lafayette, and Leslie Odom Jr. as Hamilton’s fatal friend and rival Aaron Burr. Hilarious Jonathan Groff almost steals the show as King George III. The whirligig staging is cinematic, and this movie makes you feel like you’re in the room where it happened. —T.A.
Watch it here: Disney Plus
The Outpost, R
Rod Lurie, 58, the only West Point-trained film critic turned director, delivers the best war film since 1917. Sadly, it’s a true story, based on Jake Tapper’s best seller about Combat Outpost Keating, a U.S. base in Afghanistan so dangerously located below three mountains that a military analyst dubbed it “Camp Custer.” On Oct. 3, 2009, 400 Taliban attacked the 53 GIs there, and you’ll feel like one of them. Orlando Bloom soars as the commander, and Clint Eastwood’s son Scott, Mel Gibson’s son Milo, Mick Jagger’s son James, Richard Attenborough’s grandson Will and Alan Alda’s grandson Scott Alda Coffey excel as soldiers. The last hour is more tense than Zero Dark Thirty. At the end, you’ll meet the actual survivors, including Daniel Rodriguez, who plays himself in the film. —T.A.
Watch it here: Theater screenings
John Lewis: Good Trouble, PG
Critic Eric Kohn calls the late John Lewis “the real movie star of the summer.” A sharecropper’s son who practiced oratory to the chickens as a child, Lewis was brutally assaulted by police in Selma alongside Martin Luther King Jr., was arrested 45 times for the cause and served 17 terms in Congress (so far). Director Dawn Porter (Bobby Kennedy for President) captures the civil rights giant in verite footage and archival clips plus interviews with the late Elijah Cummings, Hillary Clinton, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nancy Pelosi. Says Lewis: “Whatever we do we must do it in an orderly, peaceful, nonviolent fashion, and I believe in a biracial or interracial movement — that’s the only way we’re going to succeed. I never chanted Black Power. I think we all have power.” —T.A.
Watch it here: Theater screenings
The Truth, PG
French screen goddess Catherine Deneuve, 76, has a big comeback role as a movie star whose memoir upsets her daughter (Juliette Binoche, 56) and son-in-law (Ethan Hawke, 49), who return from New York to Paris for a feud-filled reunion. All three stars and director Hirokazu Kore-Eda are widely acclaimed, and art-film fans are eager to see this.
Watch it here: https://www.thetruth.movie/
Miss Juneteenth, Unrated
The best-timed film debut of the year is first-time director Channing Godfrey Peoples’ Sundance and SXSW film fest hit about a former Fort Worth, Texas, Miss Juneteenth beauty pageant winner (Nicole Beharie, Little Fires Everywhere) who wants her teen daughter to win the crown, too — because it comes with a college scholarship. Which the mom wishes she’d had instead of becoming a single mom and bartender moonlighting in a mortuary. Peoples is from Fort Worth, and her movie makes you feel like you’re from there, too, in the way that Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird made you feel like you were from Sacramento. It’s a comparably touching mother-daughter coming-of-age film. —T.A.
Watch it here: Apple TV
The King of Staten Island, R
Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin) cowrote and directs Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson’s semiautobiographical comedy-drama about a slow-to-grow-up young man coping with his fireman dad’s 9/11 death and the new boyfriend of his mom (Marisa Tomei, 55), with help from an avuncular guy named Papa (Steve Buscemi, 62). —T.A.
The High Note, PG-13
You think you’re terrified to sing in public? Try being the daughter of Diana Ross. Tracee Ellis Ross, 47, makes her music debut crooning six tunes in this comedy about a big-time Hollywood singer and her ambitious assistant and piano accompanist (Dakota Johnson). Ice Cube, 50, plays her manager, and it costars Eddie Izzard, 58, and Bill Pullman, 66. —T.A.
Lucky Grandma, Unrated
What a find! Tsai Chin, 86, who costarred with Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery and Daniel Craig’s Bonds, and Tamlyn Tomita in The Joy Luck Club, plays a gruff, chain-smoking widow who wants to avoid moving in with her son’s family. So she bets her skimpy life savings at a casino, loses, heists some gangster’s loot, defies thugs named Pock-Mark and Little Handsome, and hires a rival gang’s tallest guy as a bodyguard. A movie that might have caught on in theaters works just fine on the home screen. It’s got some of the snap of Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but it’s sweet and funny too. Part of the fun? You can stream it via Kino Marquee, a wonderful site that hosts films that would be showing currently in independent theaters, and Alamo Drafthouse, an Austin-based independent theater that hosts streaming now as well. —T.A.
Bad Boys for Life, R
Will Smith, 51, and Martin Lawrence, 54, return as Miami cops who battle a ruthless Mexican cartel assassin, as well as deal with aging. It’s fun and silly, and the digital release has 50-plus minutes of new material, including an alternate ending. —T.A.
Doe-eyed Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) spins an enchanting web as Emma Woodhouse, the rich, spoiled queen bee of her sleepy village, who lives with her hypochondriac father (Love Actually’s Bill Nighy, 70). Emma believes she can find the perfect husband for sweet, naive Harriet Smith (a refreshing Mia Goth). It’s akin to a delicious crumpet smothered in lemon curd with the perfect cup of Earl Grey tea. —Susan King (S.K.)