Marvel superheroes, begone! It’s grownup season on the big screen, and this weekend’s new films have our critics pounding the table (and hoping you’ll hit the theaters). If you want your movie night on the sofa, check out Amazon’s rollout of 25 James Bond flicks to celebrate the franchise’s 60th anniversary (we’ve got the scoop, below). It’s a stirring weekend at the movies, so do pass the popcorn!
A serious satire with our favorite grownup actors is here
Triangle of Sadness, R
Brace yourself for a scathing comedy that takes aim at the wealthy and the beautiful — and tosses all decorum overboard without a life vest. Set on a yacht captained by a Marxist alcoholic (the wily Woody Harrelson, 61), we encounter a luxury ship of fools, from the Russian capitalist (Zlatko Buric, 69) and the demanding privileged patrons; to the models Carl (rising leading man Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (the late Charlbi Dean), who trade their looks and social media influence for a free ride; to cleaner Abigail (scene-stealer Dolly De Leon) and the below-deck crew. When the inevitable storm hits, a small group washes ashore on a desert island. Wealth and beauty surrender to those with survival skills, and the balance of power radically shifts. From Ruben Östlund, the Swedish genius behind Force Majeure, the English-language satire won the Palme d’Or at Cannes for its outrageous takedown of the lifestyles of the rich and Instagram famous. —Thelma M. Adams (T.M.A.)
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A serious Western with our favorite grownup actors is here
Dead for a Dollar, R
Writer-director Walter Hill, 80, who’s made classic Westerns on film (The Long Riders) and for cable (Broken Trail), recharges the form with a low-budget doozy. Christoph Waltz, 66, leads Hill’s tight ensemble through taut adventure as a bail enforcement agent who tracks a New Mexico oligarch’s wife (Rachel Brosnahan), ostensibly abducted by a Black U.S. soldier (Brandon Scott), deep into Old Mexico. It’s refreshing to meet characters like Waltz’s sly, stoic “bounty man,” or the mordant roughneck played by Willem Dafoe, 67, when they’re a long way into their lives. And when they re-meet, it’s explosive. Benjamin Bratt, 58, is a dashing villain, Hamish Linklater, a skin-crawling cuckold, and Warren Burke, an exuberant sidekick who becomes Waltz’s full partner in a tale that fleshes out Mark Twain’s thought: “Laws control the lesser man. Right conduct controls the greater one.” —Michael Sragow (M.S.)
Is star-studded Amsterdam worth the ticket price?
Christian Bale is ferociously wonderful in Amsterdam. He sings, wisecracks, injects painkillers, has WWI battle scars and is frequently seen adjusting (or chasing) his glass eye. He leads a suitably eye-popping cast: stunning Margot Robbie; John David Washington; Robert De Niro, 79; Mike Myers, 59; Chris Rock, 57; and many more. While Amsterdam flashes back to WWI, it’s largely set in the 1930s, as veterans and compatriots Ben (Bale) and Harold (Washington) witness a socialite’s murder. Under suspicion themselves, they attempt to expose the real culprit. They gradually realize her death isn’t an isolated incident; there’s a fascist cult in lockstep with genocidal European tyrants intent on scrambling domestic democracy. From Oscar-winning showman David O. Russell, 64, there’s so much razzmatazz, artistry and comedic snap — yet the antic pastiche lacks a satisfying mystery plot and, sadly, is less than the sum of its amazing performances. —T.M.A.
Watch it: Amsterdam, coming Oct. 7 theaters
The James Bond franchise turns 60 this year, and Amazon has it all
Talk about stirring the martini: Amazon celebrates James Bond’s 60th anniversary by streaming every Bond flick, from Dr. No to No Time to Die, on Prime Video. There’s also a documentary, The Sound of 007, and a recording of a charity concert of the Bond soundtracks, The Sound of 007: Live From the Royal Albert Hall, with special guests including “Goldfinger” singer Dame Shirley Bassey.
Watch them: On Prime Video
Your Netflix watch of the week is here!
Conversations With a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes
If Ryan Murphy’s new Netflix series about the Milwaukee cannibal, Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, doesn’t slake your taste for psychological horror, try this three-part documentary, which explores the serial killer’s warped mind through his newly unearthed recorded interviews with his legal team, revealing the ways that race, sexuality, class and policing allowed him to prey on marginalized communities.
Watch it: Conversations With a Killer, on Netflix
Don’t miss this: The 23 Best Things Coming to (and Leaving) Netflix in October
Your Prime Video watch of the week is here!
Catherine Called Birdy (Amazon Original)
We haven’t heard a whole lot from Girls creator Lena Dunham lately. But her adaptation of this 1994 best-selling novel, a medieval coming-of-age story about a young girl dodging her parents’ plans for her to marry, was well received at the Toronto Film Festival, so maybe all she needed to get her creative mojo back was a new setting (like, say, the 12th century).
Watch it: Catherine Called Birdy, on Prime Video
Don’t miss this: The Best Things Coming to Prime Video in October
Get ready to bookmark this ultimate movie watchlist
Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images; Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images; Miramax Films/Courtesy Everett Collection
Our critics scanned the entire film catalog from the 1930s to now to handpick just 30 films that you must — must — see. We’re not talking about the best films (everyone does that list) but rather the films that are essential. You want to have seen these movies not just because they’re great (they are), but because they ensure you’re tuned into their cultural moments, the power of their time. So when someone makes a Philadelphia Story reference or deadpans, “the Dude abides,” you know exactly what they mean.
Get the list here: The 30 Movies Every Grownup Should Know
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 Good House, R
Sigourney Weaver, 72, is staggeringly good: as in Hildy Good, a driven divorcée, mother of two grown daughters, and Realtor who survives from house sale to house sale. With a stiff upper lip, she puts on a brave and perfectly polished face. Snappy responses shoot out with a deflecting charm. But once her family stages an intervention, Good gradually realizes — after one blackout too many — that she doesn’t control the bottle; it controls her. Together with charmer Kevin Kline, 74, as her rustic high school sweetheart, the pair generate heat and heart connection in a mature sleeper that’s ultimately about the struggle to live an authentic life. The Good House dramatizes how alcohol, that demon brew, can take possession of a hardworking woman, her family and their collective future. There’s got to be a morning after, and Good ultimately confronts it with Yankee fortitude, lobster dinners and a front-row seat at A.A. —Thelma M. Adams (T.M.A.)
Watch it: The Good House, in theaters
Don’t Worry Darling, R
Ok, maybe it’s time to worry, darling. High on her directorial debut, the delightful Booksmart, Olivia Wilde turned to Stepford Wives dystopian sci-fi. 1950s housewife Alice (magnificent Florence Pugh) makes a mean pot roast and a stiff martini. She shares a mid-century modern with husband Jack (pretty but bland teen idol Harry Styles), who returns daily from his workplace beneath a mysterious mountain and ravishes her in conjugal bliss. But there’s a crack in the dream: The next-door neighbor (KiKi Layne) freaks out; the big boss (a dapper Chris Pine) has messianic tendencies; and Alice starts to snoop at the fringes of the utopian community with dire consequences. The glossy, beautifully shot movie, swamped by incidental gossip about Wilde and Styles coupling on set and tension between her and Pugh, arrives with plenty of baggage; it’s a lot of buildup for a modest payoff. —T.M.A.
Watch it: Don’t Worry Darling, in theaters
A Jazzman’s Blues, R
Around 1995, filmmaker Tyler Perry, now 53, was a stone-broke nobody. He chanced to meet the legendary playwright August Wilson, who inspired him to write his own first screenplay, now at last a movie. It’s an August Wilson-ish melodrama about a shy 1930s Georgia musician (Joshua Boone) who falls for a beauty (Solea Pfeiffer) who passes for white. He becomes a hot Chicago musician, she marries a white racist. When they reunite in their small hometown in the 1940s, murder occurs. The movie is a mess, but ambitious and interesting, and less messy than the shambolic Madea comedies that made Perry a billionaire. The music scenes, from jumpin’ juke joint to ritzy nightclub, boasting tunes by Terence Blanchard and dances by Debbie Allen, are dazzling. —Tim Appelo (T.A.)
The Woman King, PG-13
Muscular and well oiled, Oscar winner Viola Davis, 57, vanquishes and vanquishes again as the emotionally and physically scarred General Nanisca, who cuts through rival tribes and European slavers in a war epic from Gina Prince-Bythewood, 53. Set in the 19th-century West African kingdom of Dahomey, this violent, female-driven history centers on the triumph of Nanisca’s women-only army, loyal to King Ghezo (an underused John Boyega). It’s also the tale of new recruit Nawi (The Underground Railroad’s outstanding Thuso Mbedu) and her journey under Nanisca’s critical eye from abused daughter to machete-wielding warrior. While the movie’s treatment is surprisingly conventional, the tale of women empowered to own their own bodies couldn’t be timelier. —T.M.A.
Watch it: The Woman King, in theaters
Don’t miss this: Viola Davis’ 10 Fiercest Roles (So Far!)
Confess, Fletch, R
Charming, happy-go-lucky and loose with the truth, Fletch, the title character of the late Gregory McDonald’s easily digestible crime series, has found joyous casting in Jon Hamm, 51. Opting not to pursue the slapstick route of the role’s previous star, Chevy Chase, 78, in Fletch (1985), Hamm’s Irwin M. “Fletch” Fletcher is easy on the eyes as the journalist-turned-sleuth. While investigating a kidnapping and art heist, Fletch is framed (pun intended) for a murder he couldn’t bother to have committed. Colorful characters abound: Kyle MacLachlan, 63, as a germaphobe art dealer; Roy Wood Jr., as a slow-but-steady barking police inspector; and Marcia Gay Harden, 63, going full Anna Magnani as a seductive countess intent on regaining her abducted husband’s priceless paintings. The result is a delightful Gordian knot of a mystery solved by a nutty guy who never breaks a sweat as he wisecracks through life while tripping over corpses. —T.M.A.
Moonage Daydream, PG-13
No conventional music documentary could capture an artist as mercurial as David Bowie. So it’s good that director Brett Morgen, 53, banished the usual parade of talking head blowhards to, instead, turn his doc into a psychedelic swirl of sound and vision. The only voice you hear belongs to the artist himself, swiped from scores of vintage interviews. The quotes float over a dense collage of images from Bowie’s career that, once projected onto the looming screens of IMAX (it’s also in regular theaters), sweeps the viewer into an immersive dream. Contrary to the cliché of Bowie as the alien who fell to earth, his words present him as a man of urgent flesh who brought creativity, insight and awe to every living moment. —Jim Farber (J.F.)
Watch it: Moonage Daydream, in theaters
Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul, R
Loosely inspired by Bentley-driving Georgia prosperity-gospel preacher Eddie Long, sued by congregants for sexual misconduct, this dark semicomic mockumentary stars Sterling K. Brown as disgraced Pastor Childs, battling to revive his megachurch alongside his increasingly exasperated wife, Trinitie (Regina Hall). The plot is aimless, the writing clunky, but what carries the film is the incandescent performance of the supernal Hall as Trinitie, who covets a beaded spider-silk white hat, props up her errant man (“I would sooner kill him than leave him”), half-conceals eruptive emotions beneath a sweet façade, and whitens her face to do “praise mime” (which is a thing!). Brown is solid, but his character is muddled, and it’s Hall who shines, as does the vivid cast of parishioners and rival preachers. The arch, jokey fantasy is richly rooted in writer-director Adamma Ebo’s ambivalent love of Southern Baptist folkways: the wonderful church ladies’ outfits with serious hats, the troubled lives even a scamming pastor can inspire, the use of Bible verses as proof texts for self-serving purposes, the way “Bless your heart!” can convey seething contempt. It’s a messy film but a lively slice of life. —T.A.
Sylvester Stallone, 76, can’t stop, won’t stop. If the legendary action star’s run with The Expendables franchise proved anything, it was that the actor still knew how to entertain audiences and demolish rivals unrestrained by age. OK, he may be creakier than in his Rocky days and, thankfully, those painful romantic subplots are a thing of the past. Here, he dips his toe into the world of superheroes as one of two mighty twins: Samaritan and Nemesis. Two decades after an explosion that allegedly eviscerated both, his character is recognized by a young boy who idolizes him (Javon “Wanna” Walton, Euphoria). Samaritan stomps out of retirement to protect the fan from bullies, and good old Red City from rampaging villains, led by the gleefully evil Cyrus (Pilou Asbaek, Game of Thrones). If you like a Stallone action pic, and giggling bad guys driving old muscle cars, this one’s for you. —T.M.A.
Watch it: Samaritan on Prime Video
Top Gun: Maverick, PG
The jet-fueled sequel to the 1986 flyboy classic has charisma to burn, soaring airplane indulgences and a narrative that honors the past while breaking the sound barrier as it shifts to the future. Tom Cruise, 60, returns to play fighter pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a rebel who refuses to be promoted out of the cockpit. Retirement? That’s not in the cards for this ace, who resists a desk job and bristles under his new boss (Jon Hamm, 51). Maverick tries to mentor the resentful hotshot son of his late colleague Goose, Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), and leads a team of hotshot Top Gun grads to attack an unnamed enemy in an all-but-impossible aerial mission. In fine form, Jennifer Connelly, 51, provides an age-appropriate romantic interest, and throat cancer survivor Val Kilmer, 62, returns for an emotional reunion as Tom “Iceman” Kazansky. If an adrenalized and often shirtless Cruise can’t lure the over-50 crowd back into theaters, who can? —T.M.A.
Don’t miss this: Now You Can Watch ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ at Home
Idris Elba is noted for arty fare (The Wire, Beasts of No Nation), but he’s terrific in this popcorn thriller about a widowed doctor who takes his realistically squabbling young daughters (Iyana Halley and Leah Sava Jeffries) to their late mom’s South African village for a safari, to connect them with her past. A lion enraged by poachers attacks their jeep, attempting to prevent their future. Director Baltasar Kormákur (Everest) consulted with the director of the superb The Revenant, which featured Leonardo DiCaprio’s hand-to-paw combat with a CG bear, to make his CG lion realistically menacing. Though The Revenant is a lot better — and this lion has a terrible sense of smell, unable to detect the doctor clinging to a limb right over its head — Beast delivers its jolts effectively. It’s 90 minutes well spent.
Watch it: Beast, on demand
Rogue Agent, Unrated
Rogue Agent is a cunning, creepy fact-based thriller about a Ted Bundy–like serial con man. Played by the charming English actor James Norton, best known for his hot priest on PBS’s Grantchester, Robert Freegard is a sweet-faced devil — but make no mistake: He is a devil. The first bizarre act we see is Freegard’s convincing three college students that he’s an MI5 member, uprooting the trio in the middle of the night and deploying them on an undercover “mission” — really an act of kidnapping and extreme manipulation. He then seduces sharp-witted Alice Archer (ex-Bond girl Gemma Arterton). The lonely but chic-as-hell lawyer should know better but finds him irresistible enough to ignore his story’s inconsistencies, until she begins to dig into his past and gets dirt under her manicure. The true-crime tale, anchored by Norton and Arterton, is both classy and chilling on the windy road to the fiend’s comeuppance. —T.M.A.
Thirteen Lives, PG-13
The payoff is worth the wait in Ron Howard’s 147-minute docudrama about the rescue of 12 members of a Thai boys soccer team and their coach from a flooded mountain cave — the basis of the terrific 2021 documentary The Rescue. This movie doesn’t tell us enough about the lads: Netflix secured their story rights for a miniseries. This Amazon Original film hopscotches among pressured public servants, frustrated families and heroic volunteers. But Howard pulls everything together when British cave divers (Colin Farrell and Viggo Mortensen) reach the kids and an Australian colleague (Joel Edgerton) hatches bold plans for their extraction. Legions of saviors, including Thai Navy SEALS, demonstrate the right stuff in scenes that are simultaneously spooky, poignant and thrilling. —Michael Sragow (M.S.)
Watch it: Thirteen Lives on Amazon Prime
Bullet Train, R
As Brad Pitt, 58, globe-trots promoting his latest action comedy, he’s breaking the male movie-star mold by wearing funky fashions: skirt sets (nice knees!) and shamrock-green suits. He’s equally loose and alive as “Ladybug,” an unlucky hired gun struggling to achieve work-life balance while pursuing a recon mission amidst four other assassins on Japan’s express train. Pitt’s surrounded by a dazzling cast of villains played by Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, 61, Zazie Beetz, Michael Shannon and a sliver of Sandra Bullock, 58, all in fine form. The well-written movie hurtles along, bouncing between zingers and stingers, a runaway train of entertainment. Among the few summer blockbusters that demand theatrical viewing, leave it to Pitt (alongside Cruise, 60) to ensure that movie stars still have the potential to rule the box office — with the right vehicle, like a Bullet Train. —T.M.A.
Watch it: Bullet Train, in theaters
Jordan Peele owns the summer. Amid heat waves, he lures audiences back to air-conditioned theaters with a big, glossy, funny, gross, scary horror movie. A little bit Close Encounters, a little North by Northwest, Nope is nonstop entertainment. Working with Oscar winner Daniel Kaluuya (his version of Cary Grant), Peele weaves a wild Western UFO tale. It follows a brother-of-few-words struggling to maintain the family’s Hollywood horse-wrangling business while a suspicious disc cruises above their inland California ranch. Joined by his fast-talking sister (a delightful Keke Palmer), an alien-obsessed techie (Brandon Perea), and a traumatized former child star (Steven Yeun), they battle to survive and capture the wily alien — on film. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard veteran character actor Michael Wincott, 64, as the dour cinematographer delivering the lyrics to Sheb Wooley’s 1958 “The Purple People Eater” in his gravelly voice. —T.M.A.
Watch it: Nope, on demand
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, PG
Cinderella’s got nothing on Mrs. Harris (Lesley Manville, 66), a widowed British housecleaner of a certain age with a dream: to own a fab frock by Dior. Though there’s a potential Prince Charming in her future, she’s the one who makes the dream happen, saving up to invade France’s haughtiest haute couture salon, guarded by formidable Mme. Colbert (Isabelle Huppert, 69, portraying a nicer version of the scary fashionista Manville got an Oscar nomination for playing in Phantom Thread). Once there, she charms all, befriends and advises young lovers, calms class warfare, wins the best dress, and overcomes heartbreak. It’s wispy fantasy, but lovable Manville and a winsome cast make it feel real. Need a mood boost right now? This is it. —T.A.
Where the Crawdads Sing, PG-13
A giant of women’s fiction (12 million copies sold), Delia Owens’ novel Where the Crawdads Sing was plucked by Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club, and produced by her as a film. Naturalist Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones) raises herself from wild child to womanhood in the North Carolina wetland, earning her the derogatory nickname Marsh Girl. Dumped by college-bound Tate (Taylor John Smith), she’s seduced by Chase (rising star Harris Dickinson). When Chase tumbles from a fire tower, Kya becomes the prime suspect. A cross between The Notebook, Fried Green Tomatoes and To Kill a Mockingbird (David Strathairn, 73, stars as Kya’s defense lawyer), the romance will satisfy fans of the book but suffers from abuse overload. Abandoned by her mother, siblings and drunken father, beaten and sexually assaulted, Kya’s defiance is admirable. But why create such a dynamic character only to make them fate’s piñata? —T.M.A.
Watch it: Where the Crawdads Sing, in theaters
Don’t miss this: Members can watch an interview with Delia Owens about ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ on Members Only Access.
Baz Luhrmann’s best movie since his masterpiece Romeo + Juliet (1996) is brilliant but overlong, and Tom Hanks (65) masterfully wrestles with a flubbed role as con-man manager Colonel Tom Parker. But Austin Butler is an utter wonder as Elvis, and Baz is even better, frenetic yet nimbly precise, the camera leaping from Elvis belting the first rock hit, “That’s All Right,” to the child Elvis peeking at a Black singer performing the blues original in a wicked juke joint. Quick as a cricket, Baz’s dazzling cinematography conveys his subject’s roots in Black blues and gospel, and Gary Clark Jr., Kevin Harrison Jr., Yola, Shonka Dukureh and Alton Mason are superb as influencers Arthur Crudup, B.B. King, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Big Mama Thornton and Little Richard. Hanks does his best as Parker, narrating the King’s heroic, tragic arc while robbing and ruining him with carny marketing and god-awful films. Elvis balks when Parker tries to make him sing songs like “What Child Is This?” — Parker calls it “Whose Child Is This?” — in a cheesy Christmas special. But he permits Parker to imprison him in Vegas, doped up, instead of touring the world. Baz makes Parker almost nice, vague when the movie (and authenticity) need him to be vividly villainous. Still, you likely won’t see a more original film this year. —T.A.
Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, PG
The charming YouTube-sensation short about a brave, inch-tall seashell (voiced by Jenny Slate) gets the full feature treatment, demonstrating a gigantic heart and an easygoing humor. The animated and live-action film follows the bighearted shell-on-sneakers as he navigates the disappearance in the night of a huge portion of his extended family, the diminishing abilities of his beloved immigrant Nana (the sly, moving vocal talent of Isabella Rossellini, 70) and a quest to recover his community with a little help from a heartbroken documentarian (the film’s director Dean Fleischer-Camp). Like wisehearted early Pixar films (Up), Marcel the Shell With Shoes On is a treat for the whole family, and a welcome respite from cynicism, sentimentality and anything-for-a-buck-ism. —T.M.A.
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, R
Sometimes hard to watch but impossible to turn away from, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande tells the story of uptight, self-conscious widow Nancy Stokes (pitch-perfect Emma Thompson, 63), who hires smooth escort Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack, 29), hoping to find the adventurous sexual fulfillment lacking in her 31-year marriage. Nancy seems as if she’ll never be able let go of her fussbudget, retired teacher persona, even presenting Leo with a list of the sex acts she wants to tick off. But just when you think the film will end with Nancy abandoning herself to Leo’s confident charms, their antiseptic meetups take an abrupt, earthy turn. Nancy pries too much, and Leo’s self-assurance proves a mask concealing an interior as messy and sad as hers. Nancy has never had an orgasm, with herself or others. But their inauspicious coupling — however temporary — results in a happy ending for both. —Dana Kennedy (D.K.)
Watch it: Good Luck to You, Leo Grande on Hulu
Everything Everywhere All at Once, R
Michelle Yeoh, 59, and Jamie Lee Curtis, 63, make beautiful movies together — and I hope to see them joined in everything from Westerns to crime thrillers. In this whacked-out, exuberant, multiple-timeline sci-fi actioner, Yeoh plays Evelyn Wang, a bedraggled Chinese immigrant living above the family laundromat with her husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan, 50). While sandwiched between her cranky father, Gong Gong (James Hong, 93), and moody daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), she finds herself on the wrong side of IRS auditor Deirdre (Curtis in a crowd-pleasing, physically comic performance). In other words, she’s doing the everywoman juggle, except that in an outrageous series of multiverses, Evelyn has to dig deep, find her inner kung fu fighter, make peace with Joy (who often appears in outrageous costumes as her mother’s multiverse antagonist), Waymond and Gong Gong, and save the world. Spoiler alert: She succeeds — and global audiences will emerge feeling like winners, too. —T.M.A.
Tim Appelo is AARP’s film and TV critic. Previously, he was Amazon’s entertainment editor, Entertainment Weekly’s video critic, and a writer for The Hollywood Reporter, People, MTV, LA Weekly and The Village Voice.