The movie star who made a difference
In Reginald Hudlin’s Oprah Winfrey-produced documentary, Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Robert Redford, Lenny Kravitz, Barbra Streisand, Spike Lee and Sidney Poitier (his own bad self) tell you the unlikely life story of one of the greatest actors of our lifetime — from dodging the KKK in his youth to becoming the first Black Oscar winner for best actor and delivering the slap heard round the world in the masterpiece In the Heat of the Night.
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Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik stepped in as Jeopardy! cohost after beloved Alex Trebek died in 2020, and now she hosts her own spin-off quiz show, with celeb guests including Michael Cera, Ray Romano, Aisha Tyler and Patton Oswalt. But can it ever top Saturday Night Live’s fictional version of the show?
Watch it: Celebrity Jeopardy!, ABC, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET (and the next day on Hulu)
Celebrity Wheel of Fortune
Pat Sajak and Vanna White host while guests like Snoop Dogg, Jenifer Lewis (Black-ish), Kevin McKidd (Grey’s Anatomy) and Lauren Ash (Superstore) vie to spin the wheel and possibly win a cool million for charity.
Marcia Gay Harden rules this week
So Help Me Todd
Oscar and Emmy-honored Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock, The Morning Show) is in the week’s best new movie, the Jon Hamm detective comedy Confess, Fletch, plus she debuts this partly comic new intergenerational TV show. She plays a straight-arrow attorney who joins forces with her corner-cutting private detective son, Todd (Skylar Astin), whose mildly (Better Call) Saul Goodman-ish behavior cost him his license and livelihood. Her other kids are an ER doctor and a governor’s chief of staff — what’s his problem? But his tech smarts help her solve big problems.
Don’t miss this: The Best TV Legal Dramas of All Time
Tyler Perry's first movie hits the screen — 27 years later
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 a movie at last. It’s a 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, and 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.
Your Netflix watch of the week is here!
The notoriously over-the-top film of Joyce Carol Oates’ Marilyn Monroe novel is arty, tarty, dumb, grim, overlong, far-fetched and worth seeing for its ravishing visual imagination and the sharp performances of Ana de Armas as breathy, endlessly tormented MM, Julianne Nicholson as her scarily mentally ill mom, and Bobby Cannavale and Adrien Brody as her jerky husbands (Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller, billed as The Ex-Athlete and The Playwright). It misses the fact that the real Norma Jeane was smart and in on the joke of her persona, but hey, it’s not a biopic. Though it’s rather static and episodic, it’s got nice evocations of The Seven Year Itch, Some Like It Hot and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, as well as nifty transitions, like when the heroine’s orgy orgasm morphs into the waterfall in her 1953 potboiler Niagara (better than Blonde, but Blonde is OK).
Watch it: Blonde, in limited theaters now, on Netflix starting Sept. 28
Don’t miss this: The 24 Best Things Coming to (and Leaving) Netflix in September
Don’t miss this: Will the Best Marilyn Monroe Please Stand Up?
Your Prime Video watch of the week is here!
Gorky Park (1983)
Few mysteries are addictively twistier than this adaptation of the Martin Cruz Smith novel about a dogged Russian detective, Arkady Renko (the late William Hurt), who investigates a Moscow triple homicide and uncovers an international political conspiracy.
Watch it: Gorky Park, on Prime Video
Don’t miss this: The 22 Best Things Coming to Prime Video in September
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House of the Dragon
Targaryens and sea snakes and dragons, oh my! In a prequel set 200 years before Game of Thrones, families more squabblesome than Succession’s Roy clan fight to sit on the Iron Throne. The sex and violence may be toned down a bit, but the epic aspects that made us fall in love with the original show are all there, and some think the dragons look even cooler this time. Amazon’s wildly pricey Lord of the Rings prequel debuting Sept. 2 had better be good, or it’s about to get flash-roasted by dragon breath.
Watch it: House of the Dragon on HBO
Running With the Devil: The Wild World of John McAfee
Tiger King’s Joe Exotic is a boring pussycat compared to John McAfee, the booze-guzzling, hooker-marrying, $100 million antivirus-software mogul, NASA scientist, presidential candidate and accused cryptocurrency criminal who went from luxury to a lice-infested bed in the Central American jungle, where he fled after being fingered for the murder of a neighbor. After the neighbor possibly killed his nasty guard dogs, McAfee he did what anyone would: went on the lam, buried himself in sand with a cardboard box over his head so he could breathe, faked two heart attacks to delay his court date, then fled to Barcelona, where he was arrested for tax evasion and committed suicide — just like his dad had. Oh, and he invited a film crew to document his life. His story almost became a movie starring Johnny Depp, then Michael Keaton, then Seth Rogen, but how could fiction top the real thing?
Watch it: Running With the Devil on Netflix
Don’t Miss This: 5 Insane Things You Don’t Know About John McAfee
Legacy: The True Story of the LA Lakers
How did Jerry Buss turn an ordinary basketball team into a $5 billion behemoth that nabbed 11 titles, attracted hordes of celebrities and made celebs of the players? Find out in this 10-part Hulu original docuseries, a wild tale directed by Antoine Fuqua that’s at least as dramatic as his movies The Equalizer and The Magnificent Seven.
Don’t miss this: 6 Ways Magic Johnson Changed Basketball — and So Much More
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 subject of the terrific 2021 documentary called The Rescue. This movie doesn’t tell us enough about the lads (Netflix secured their story rights for a miniseries). Instead, the Amazon Prime 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
Watch it: Thirteen Lives on Prime Video
Reservation Dogs, Season 2
There’s a Native American renaissance of prestige TV going on, with Peacock’s Rutherford Falls, AMC+’s Dark Wind and this excellent series in its second season about Oklahoma kids scheming to escape reservation life and cope with the death of their best friend. Gary Farmer, 69 (Johnny Depp’s adviser in Dead Man), and Wes Studi, 74 (Dances With Wolves, A Love Song), play elders who address their old feud. Megan Mullally, 63 (Will & Grace), and Marc Maron, 58, guest star.
Watch it: Reservation Dogs on Hulu
The Last Movie Stars
George Clooney and Laura Linney play the voices of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in a six-part documentary about their 50-year marriage that’s directed by Ethan Hawke and produced by Martin Scorsese. It’s based on the tapes Newman recorded for his memoir (that he ended up not writing) and later burned. But the transcripts remain, and their kids convinced Hawke to hire Clooney and Linney to bring their words to life.
Watch it: The Last Movie Stars on HBO Max
Don’t miss this: 7 Things We Love About Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward
Only Murders in the Building, Season 2
Steve Martin, Martin Short, Selena Gomez and Nathan Lane are back in the hit comedy about true-crime podcasters investigating a killing in their fancy Manhattan apartment building, the Arconia. Last season, they nabbed a murderer, but now they’re the suspects in the death of the Arconia’s owner (Jayne Houdyshell). A rival (Tina Fey) accuses them in her podcast, Only Murderers in the Building, and guest stars Shirley MacLaine, Andrea Martin, Amy Ryan and Amy Schumer (playing herself) complicate the plot.
Watch it: Only Murders in the Building on Hulu
The Old Man
In his first lead TV role, Jeff Bridges, 72, plays a CIA agent who went off the grid after Russia’s 1980s Afghanistan invasion and is now being sought by his old partner (John Lithgow, 76). “Our chickens have come home to roost — the consequences of our earlier behavior,” says Bridges, who’s glad to be back at work after an almost two-year battle with cancer and COVID. “I feel terrific!”
Watch it: The Old Man on FX and Hulu
The Lincoln Lawyer
Matthew McConaughey gave his career a big boost with the 2011 movie adapted from Michael Connelly’s first best-selling novel about Mickey Haller, a clever Los Angeles lawyer whose office is his car. Now überproducer David E. Kelley (The Practice, Big Little Lies, L.A. Law) makes a series from the second Haller novel, starring Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, who’s less flashy but grows on you. Neve Campbell is good as his first ex-wife and Becki Newton is bubbly as his second ex-wife, helping him get his career back on track. It’s not quite as rich as the other new Connelly show Bosch: Legacy, but it’s a solid courtroom drama/detective show — the closest thing streaming has to Law & Order.
Watch it: The Lincoln Lawyer on Netflix
Don’t miss this: Inside the Criminal Mind of Michael Connelly
The seven-season Amazon hit series Bosch gets a spinoff on Freevee (which used to be IMDb TV), this one with ads so it’s free to watch. It’s pretty much an eighth season of the original, only now irritable, admirable Harry Bosch (Titus Welliver, 60) has quit LAPD to be a PI, and he has a new tech sidekick named Mo (Stephen Chang), who’s like James Bond’s Q, except that Bond understands Q’s gizmos and Bosch is a luddite. His doting daughter Maddie (Madison Lintz) is an LAPD rookie cop, and Bosch’s frienemy, lawyer Honey “Money” Chandler (Mimi Rogers, 66), is now his ally. Legendary William Devane, 82, plays a zillionaire client who wants Bosch to find the lost love of his youth.
Watch it: Bosch: Legacy on Freevee
Hacks, Season 2
Could the 2022 Hacks possibly be as clever, funny and touching as its triumphant, Emmy-gobbling first season? Yes! Seasoned Vegas standup Deborah (Jean Smart, 70) and her entitled young cowriter Ava (Hannah Einbinder) go on the road in an RV for a comedy tour. Their inseparable bickering only bonds them ever more tightly — but Ava gets plastered and trashes her boss in emails she wishes she could unsend. New this season: guest stars Laurie Metcalf, 66, and Margaret Cho, 53.
Watch it: Hacks on HBO Max
DON’T MISS THIS: Getting Smart: Jean Smart shares her secrets
Netflix’s Black Lives Matter Collection
Netflix unveils a useful, intelligently curated menu of 48 or so top titles including When They See Us, Moonlight, Malcolm X and the current must-see, Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods (which could win star Delroy Lindo the Oscar he’s deserved for some time, and maybe the Emmy, too).
Watch it: Netflix
Tim Appelo covers entertainment and is the film and TV critic for AARP. Previously, he was the entertainment editor at Amazon, video critic at Entertainment Weekly, and a critic and writer for The Hollywood Reporter, People, MTV, The Village Voice and LA Weekly.