Yes, we know Thanksgiving is only three weeks away, but it’s important to break up your preparation with some self-care. With this in mind, here’s this week’s super enriching On the Beat.
1. WHAT TO LISTEN TO IF YOU LIKE A SAD LOVE SONG
Sam Smith‘s debut album, 2014’s In the Midnight Hour, sold 12 million copies worldwide and won a clutch of Grammys. So this follow-up, dropping Friday, has a lot to live up to. Fortunately, the soulful Englishman hasn’t forgotten what makes him so appealing. The Thrill of It All is filled with richly emotional ballads which will strike a chord with anyone whose love life has had its fair share of ups and downs. The single “Too Good at Goodbyes” is already a radio hit; expect classy pop songs like “Say It First” and “Baby, You Make Me Crazy” to follow it onto the charts.
2. WHAT TO WATCH FOR A REMINDER OF YOUR OWN AWKWARD ADOLESCENCE
After co-writing Frances Ha and Mistress America, two indie hits she starred in, Greta Gerwig makes her directorial debut with this fine coming-of-age film. Saoirse Ronan stars as Christine or “Lady Bird,” a daydreaming teenager from Sacramento whose lofty life goals cause clashes with her more grounded mother (Laurie Metcalf). Opening in select theaters Friday, this is a beautifully-observed movie whose dialogue and plot developments feel completely authentic. Expect to see Ronan and Metcalf, both excellent here, racking up nominations throughout awards season.
3. WHAT TO BINGE-WATCH IF YOU’RE PLANNING A LAZY WEEKEND
This year’s second Margaret Atwood adaptation tells a less expansive story than The Handmaid’s Tale, but it’s just as gripping. Debuting Friday on Netflix, Alias Grace centers on an Irish-Canadian maid (Sarah Gadon) who’s been imprisoned, perhaps wrongly, for allegedly murdering her employer. London Spy‘s Edward Holcroft co-stars as a mental health expert sent to investigate her motives and determine whether she’s really guilty. Driven by Gadon’s brilliantly layered performance and some cleverly ambiguous writing from Oscar nominee Sarah Polley, this is a tense and engrossing six-parter.
4. WHAT TO TRY IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A CHALLENGING NEW SHOW
Where season one of Starz’s anthology series centered on an unlikely New York City escort, this second season, debuting Sunday, follows two parallel storylines. Pushing Daisies‘ Anna Friel plays a Republican super PAC finance director who enters into a relationship with a man who’s helping her to commit blackmail; Selma’s Carmen Ejogo portrays a woman adjusting to life after the death of her sugar daddy. With creators Lodge Kerrigan and Amy Seimetz writing and directing every episode, and Steven Soderbergh back as executive producer, expect The Girlfriend Experience to offer more prickly and provocative relationship drama.
5. WHAT TO READ EVEN IF YOU AREN’T A HUGE HEAVY METAL FAN
Though he’s best known as the frontman of Iron Maiden, one of history’s most successful heavy metal bands, Bruce Dickinson‘s memoir doesn’t feel like “just another rock biog.” Sure, the multi-talented Englishman recalls his recording and touring days, but he also writes candidly about his difficult upbringing, battles with cancer and incredible list of side hustles. This is a guy who flies planes, brews his own beer and even competes as a world-class fencer. Published Tuesday, his book offers a brisk and entertaining insight into a pretty remarkable life.
6. WHAT TO WATCH IF YOU ENJOY SEEING A BIG STAR IN AN UNUSUAL ROLE
Opening in select theaters Friday, this legal thriller from Nightcrawler director Dan Gilroy pivots on a surprising performance from Denzel Washington. He plays the title character, a socially awkward and morally righteous lawyer who’s forced to question his principles when his less honest partner dies of a heart attack. Roman J. Israel, Esq. isn’t a flawless film — there are some under-developed subplots and a couple too many wordy monologues — but it’s a pleasure seeing Washington get under the skin of such a strange and complicated character.
7. WHAT TO LISTEN TO WHEN YOU’RE FEELING REFLECTIVE
Stateside, this British singer-actress is probably best known for hosting America’s Next Top Model and ABC’s Boy Band. But in the U.K., she’s a fully-fledged pop star with a string of hits to her name. New single “Anywhere” is one of her very best efforts: an elegant midtempo pop song whose glorious, wistful chorus glides in unexpected melodic directions. It’s a perfect addition to the playlist for your next long car or train journey.
8. WHAT TO GO SEE IF YOU FANCY CATCHING SOMETHING UNDER-THE-RADAR
Spanish TV actress Ana Asensio makes her directorial debut with this tiny-budget indie film, which won the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s SXSW festival. She plays Luciana, an undocumented immigrant struggling to evade the authorities and make a living after moving to New York City. Most Beautiful Island has a modest scope, covering just a day in Luciana’s life, but it still offers a sensitive and memorable insight into the immigrant experience. Opening in select theaters Friday, it has all the makings of a cult hit.
9. WHAT TO WATCH IF YOU’RE A SUCKER FOR A HISTORICAL DRAMA
Helped by heavy prosthetics, Woody Harrelson delivers an impressive performance as Lyndon B. Johnson in this biopic of the 36th President. Director Rob Reiner‘s approach is less flashy than Pablo Larraín‘s brilliantly intense, Natalie Portman-led film about Jackie Kennedy, but his insight into ’60s politics is equally intriguing. Harrelson’s LBJ knows he lacks glamour compared to John F. Kennedy, his tragic predecessor, but still believes he can bring the country together. Opening Friday, this is a smart movie featuring strong support from Bill Pullman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Richard Jenkins.
10. AND FINALLY, WHAT TO TRY IF YOU LIKE COMEDY WITH AN EDGE
The fiercely talented Frankie Shaw writes, directs and stars in this promising new comedy series based on her award-winning short film of the same name. She plays Bridgette, a Boston single mom struggling to balance parenthood with her career aspirations, possible new relationships, and appeasing her own mother, who’s played appealingly by Rosie O’Donnell. Premiering Sunday on Showtime, SMILF is being touted by the network as “raw” and “honest,” so brace yourself for a few risqué moments along the way.
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