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.
Watch it: Confess, Fletch, in theaters, on Showtime and on demand
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.
Watch it: Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul on Peacock
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.
Watch it: Top Gun: Maverick, in theaters and on Prime Video, Google, iTunes, Vudu, and YouTube.
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.
Watch it: Rogue Agent, in limited theaters and on demand
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.
Watch it: Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, in theaters and on demand
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.
Watch it: Elvis, in theaters and on HBO
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.
Watch it: Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, on demand
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.
Watch it: Everything Everywhere All at Once, on demand