Idris Elba rides high in the saddle in an unlikely (but true) story about modern urban cowboys, and Octavia Spencer and Melissa McCarthy acquire superpowers in Thunder Force.
We’ve got the inside intel, plus the newest must-watches on Netflix, movies with the biggest plot twists and a heartwarming roundup of the best baseball films to watch now. Pass the remote … no foolin’!
If you loved Idris Elba in Luther (and who didn’t?), you’ll love this
Concrete Cowboy, R
Far more than People’s 2018 sexiest man alive, Idris Elba, 48, mounts a horse as Harp in director Ricky Staub’s uplifting father-son drama. It’s set in the real-life, but little-known, community of Black cowboys at the Fletcher Street Stables on the fringe of a gentrifying Philadelphia neighborhood. Based on Gregory Neri’s bestselling YA novel Ghetto Cowboy, the strongly acted, leisurely-paced family drama costars Stranger Things’ Caleb McLaughlin as Harp’s estranged son Cole, who gradually learns the cowboy way. The film captures a fascinating urban subculture threatened with extinction – and Elba’s fans will follow the Golden-Globe-winning Luther star anywhere, including horseback. —Thelma M. Adams (T.M.A.)
Watch it: Concrete Cowboy, on Netflix
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This beautiful film will open your eyes in unexpected ways
By turns brutal and tender, the BAFTA nominee is an unsentimental South African drama about masculinity and passion in wartime. Set in 1981, when the white-minority apartheid government fought Soviet-backed Angola (more than a decade before Nelson Mandela became president), Moffie follows a fresh teen “scab” doing compulsory service in the South African army. Nicholas, played with a quiet, Merchant Ivory beauty by Kai Luke Brummer, is a grunt with an extra strike against him. He’s a closeted “moffie,” an Afrikaans slur referring to homosexuals. Surrounded by athletic young men in boot camp and on the battlefield, he finds love, both carnal and collegial. Meanwhile, all around him the violent treatment of his brother soldiers, the virulent racism toward Black civilians and the unbridled homophobia constantly bombard him, chewing away at his soul and forcing him even deeper into silence. Sensitively directed by Oliver Hermanus and beautifully shot, Moffie is a powerful tale of survival in the face of senseless prejudice and agonizing loss.
Watch it: Moffie, in theaters and on demand
Your Netflix must-watch of the week is here!
Why watch (yet another) superhero movie? Because this one’s genuinely funny and stars Octavia Spencer and Melissa McCarthy, both 50, as ordinary folks suddenly granted superpowers. And they were super to begin with!
Watch it: Thunder Force, on Netflix April 9
DON’T MISS THIS: The 14 Best Things Coming to (and Leaving) Netflix in April
Love rom-coms but tired of watching millennials have all the fun?
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We hear you. Which is why our critics found the 13 best romantic comedies that feature older actors! From an all-grown-up Spencer and Tracy in 1957’s Desk Set to Angela Bassett in How Stella Got Her Groove Back in the late ’90s to Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland in 2017’s The Leisure Seeker, these are love stories for folks who know a thing or two about love. Grab your favorite rom-com date and get streaming here: Grown-ups In (and Out) of Love: 13 Great Rom-Coms Starring Older Actors
AARP Star of the Week: Guy Pearce in The Last Vermeer
Pearce, 53, (Memento, L.A. Confidential), reunites with his Mildred Pierce sweetheart Kate Winslet as her writing-prof swain in HBO’s April 18 murder mystery miniseries Mare of Easttown. His latest film, The Last Vermeer, is out on digital and DVD. “It’s a true story,” Pearce tells AARP, “about this painter Hans van Meegeren, who really wanted to go down in history, but was reviled by critics. He was a broken man — the humiliation! But he had the skills to carve his own path, and he sold these priceless Vermeers and other rare works of art to high-level Nazis like Göring. After WWII, he was viewed as an absolute villain, Holland’s greatest traitor ever, and then as a bit of a hero.” In the trial finale, the painter reveals a twist. “I kind of chew the scenery,” says Pearce. But Pearce can’t explain the twists in his movie about unreliable memory, Memento. “At the premiere, we were arguing, and I said, ‘Well, if we can’t agree about the plot, and we were the ones who made the film, then what [expletive] chance does anybody else have to figure it out?” But The Last Vermeer, he promises, “is a straightforward, old-fashioned romantic story.”
Watch it: The Last Vermeer
Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk goes wild in a surprise No. 1 hit
Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk, 58, boldly follows Taken’s Liam Neeson, 68, and Charles Bronson — hey, even John Wayne — in Ilya Naishuller’s ultraviolent revenge thriller that’s topping the box office, a surprise number 1 hit. Tapping into some white-hot male rage, Odenkirk plays Hutch Mansell, a former “wet worker” for one of those three-initial secret agencies. This wolf in sheep’s clothing is trying to live quietly — but when armed robbers enter his suburban ranch house, well, this time it’s personal. The fanged canine casts off the shearling and gets down to some nasty business to protect his wife (played by Connie Nielsen, 55) and kids. Meanwhile, Christopher Lloyd, 82, is having a moment. After playing wingman to William Shatner’s late-life Romeo in Senior Moment, the Back to the Future star gets the film’s biggest laughs as Mansell’s Pops, a retired western-obsessed lawman who comes out shooting from under his lap rug when his son’s endangered. —Thelma M. Adams (T.M.A.)
Watch it: Nobody, in theaters only
Love a surprise ending? Have we got the movies for you
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There’s no better place to indulge in some fun April fooling than by watching movies — with their proud tradition of twist endings and final-reel gotchas and neck-snappers. In honor of prankster season, our critics are here with the ultimate list of movies with twists and turns we never saw coming. Get the list and start watching right here: April Fooling: The 12 Best Movie Twist Endings
Batter up! It’s baseball (movie) season!
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It’s time to limber up and get ready for a season of America’s pastime with this all-star collection of great baseball films. They’re all streaming for you with a click of the remote control — which means you’ll have plenty of time to steam some hot dogs, pop open a beer or soda, and get ready to cheer. Root, root, root for the home screen here:12 Great Baseball Movies to Stream Ahead of Opening Day
What’s your favorite George Clooney movie?
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It’s tough, right? The megastar has helmed a long list of terrific movies (and broke out on a beloved TV series), but let’s name names. In honor of Clooney’s being named AARP’s Movies for Grownups Career Achievement Award winner, our critics have not only named his Top 10 roles, but they’ve ranked them! Is our No. 1 your No. 1? Check out the list (and enjoy the watching), right here: The 10 Best George Clooney Roles, Ranked
This one’s for all the jazz buffs out there
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As everyone gets excited for the new Billie Holiday biopic, The United States vs. Billie Holiday, it seemed like the perfect time to get into the jazz mood with some of the best films on the subject. Leave it to our critics to find jewels from 1950 through 2020 (two are even animated)! Turn the lights down low and settle in with our brand new list: Get in the Swing With These 8 Irresistible Jazz Movies
And speaking of stars we love, we talked to Stanley Tucci
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The popular actor takes on a tender role in Supernova, which pairs him with Colin Firth as a gay couple facing down the looming prospect of early dementia. Tucci spoke with AARP about preparing for the role and the joy of reuniting with Firth. Read the whole interview, here: Stanley Tucci Explores the Landscape of Love and Early Dementia
Paging Mr. Ripley fans …
You may already love novelist Patricia Highsmith without knowing it. Did you love the chilling thriller, The Talented Mr. Ripley? How about Strangers on a Train? Or the taut drama of Carol? If any of these movies tickled your fancy, you’re a fan of the prolific novelist whose birthday we celebrate this month. Go deeper with our definitive look at the best film adaptations of her novels you can stream right now, including some scoop on new movies and series coming up soon. Get the list and links, here: The Ultimate Guide to the Films of Novelist Patricia Highsmith
Feeling overwhelmed with all the streaming services on your TV?
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Disney, HBO, Peacock … it seems like every time you turn around (or turn on the TV), another streaming service is vying for your attention (and subscription dollars). Which streaming services out there are really worth the money? How do you decide what to pick? Here’s what you need to know about your options on Apple, BET, CBS, Disney, HBO and NBC: Too Many TV Streaming Service Choices? Here’s What You Need to Know
Geena Davis has something to say, and we all need to listen up
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You may know the actress best for her star-making turn in 1991’s Thelma and Louise, but you may not know that her experience on that film inspired her to found an institute focused on gender bias in the media. AARP caught up with Davis this week to discuss her latest research — a sobering look at how women over 50 are portrayed in film. Read more (and get riled up), here: Geena Davis Calls Hollywood’s Age Bias ‘Dismal’
If you loved Da 5 Bloods, or BlacKkKlansman, or Do the Right Thing, or…
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Then you know that Spike Lee is one of America’s most influential filmmakers working today. But what you might not know is the full scope of his work, including these five critic-picked Spike Lee Joints that you should put to the top of your streaming list pronto. Get the list and catch up, right here: The 5 Best Spike Lee Films You Haven’t (Yet) Seen
Backward AND in High Heels Department
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(Left to right) Lulu Wang, Greta Gerwig and Ava DuVernay.
Women directors — long sidelined — are tearing it up in movies right now. And to celebrate their achievements, we’ve rounded up the 13 essential female filmmakers you need to be following — from Ava DuVernay to Kathryn Bigelow (plus links to their films available online).
Get the list: 13 Female Directors You Should Discover Right Now
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.
- The 10 best Tom Cruise movies (ranked)
- Where to watch the 12 best 1960s movies
- Where to watch all 11 Star Wars movies (ranked)
- Where to watch the 17 best baseball movies ever made
- Where to watch the 11 best World War II movies
Other movies to watch
Senior Moment, Unrated
Star Trek’s William Shatner, 90, taps his easygoing charm while plausibly playing a “young” (72-year-old) former NASA test pilot who gets his license revoked for reckless driving when a new district attorney wants to get dangerous senior drivers off the very clean streets of Palm Springs. Without his wheels, Victor meets Caroline (a delightful Jean Smart, 69) on the bus, and their romance runs its bumpy course, with loopy Christopher Lloyd, 82, as his wingman and handsome Esai Morales, 58, as Caroline’s gay best friend. —T.M.A.
Watch it: Senior Moment, in select theaters and on Apple TV
DON’T MISS THIS: Need a little more Shatner in your life? We thought so, which is why we caught up with the iconic star to discuss his new movie and life at 90. Read all about it, here: At 90, William Shatner Hits Warp Speed
The Courier, PG-13
“Do stay out of the gulag, darling,” Mrs. Greville Wynne (Jessie Buckley) tells her husband (Benedict Cumberbatch). Little does Sheila know that the boozy British businessman has become a courier and spy, shuttling Soviet nuclear secrets nicked by GRU agent Oleg Penkovsky (Homeland’s Merab Ninidze, 55) from Moscow to London. Recalling John le Carré, the fact-based thriller unfolds in the run-up to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) steps up in chic pumps and matchy-matchy outfits as American spymaster Emily Donovan, who joins MI6 to manage this “asset” and deflect war. Cumberbatch returns to fine BBC period form with only a belated scenery chewing outburst. Despite this, and a fleet of disastrous wigs, this is still a heroic story of an ordinary citizen who took extraordinary risks to protect not only his wife and son, but all families in the West, from nuclear threat. —T.M.A.
Watch it: The Courier, in theaters
The Father, PG-13
AARP Movies for Grownups Awards best-actor winner Anthony Hopkins scores the performance of a lifetime as a man afflicted with dementia. The film takes you inside his disintegrating reality — and also inside the experience of his daughter, Anne (The Favourite Oscar winner Olivia Colman), who looks after him and faces terrifying decisions about his treatment. Like Memento or A Beautiful Mind, the movie is a Rubik’s Cube of shifting memories and moments. Hopkins’ London octogenarian character alternately rails against his caregiver and flirts with the new one (Imogen Poots), who resembles his younger daughter, Lucy. He’s furious that Anne plans to run off to Paris with her beau — but that guy seems to be two people (sometimes played by Mark Gatiss, sometimes by Rufus Sewell). More disconcertingly, sometimes his daughter, Anne, seems to be another person (Olivia Williams). It’s a head-spinning masterpiece, and Hopkins tops himself as an actor. —Tim Appelo (T.A.)
Watch it: The Father, in theaters and on video on demand
DON’T MISS THIS: Anthony Hopkins’s Life Has Never Been Better
Coming 2 America, PG-13
Fun is back at the movies with Eddie Murphy’s Coming 2 America! The hilarious, big-hearted sequel three decades in the making has a fairy-tail plot. Happily married Prince Akeem (Murphy, 59, who also plays multiple supporting characters) ascends the Zamundan throne after the death of King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones, 90). The rules of succession demand a male heir. So Akeem and wingman Semmi (Arsenio Hall, 65) go back to Queens – and the illegitimate son (Jermaine Fowler) he unwittingly left behind. The cast is so delicious – charismatic Wesley Snipes, 58, as the evil general from Nextdoria, brassy baby mama Leslie Jones, 53, and funky Tracy Morgan, 52, as the lad’s uncle, to name a few. —T.M.A.
Watch it: Coming 2 America, on Amazon Prime Video
DON’T MISS THIS: Eddie Murphy’s 10 Best Movies, Ranked
The Truffle Hunters, PG-13
In the waning days of a longstanding rural Italian tradition — hunting truffles with hounds — this documentary charmer from Greg Kershaw and Michael Dweck, 63, offers an authentic picture of mature men passionately dedicated to the hunt of the ridiculously expensive delicacy. Bracing and joyous, the film unearths complex, canine-loving characters who bicker and haggle their way into the audience’s hearts. In the process, the film unpacks a fascinating indigenous subculture — and reveals a group of individualistic men at one with nature living a traditional life on the very fringe of the big-money global food economy. —T.M.A.
Watch it: The Truffle Hunters, in select theaters and on demand
If you liked Frances McDormand in Fargo and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, you’ll love what’s likely her third Oscar-honored performance as the no-nonsense heroine Fern, a prickly widow who loses her job in Empire, Nevada. She hits the road in an RV, picking up work wherever she can: drugstores, restaurants, grim Amazon warehouses. When somebody calls her homeless, she says she’s just “houseless” — no victim, but a self-reliant pilgrim who genuinely likes work and cherishes her rolling residence. Her trek is grittily realistic, and some of the folks she meets at the occasional urban-nomad gatherings at Arizona’s La Paz fairgrounds — called the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous — are real people telling their own stories. McDormand, 63, makes Fern a symbol of stubborn persistence, and a very particular person — solitary yet also social, deeply responsive to nature, too independent to yield to the courtship of a wonderful fellow nomad (genius actor David Strathairn, 72) or her sister’s wish to live a settled conventional life. Fern is living proof that not all who wander are lost. —T.A.
Judas and the Black Messiah, R
Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield co-starred in Get Out. Now they own top billing in a very different American horror story, one that underscores systemic racism in sorely too timely a fashion. It recounts the FBI’s targeting of Chicago Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton. Kaluuya portrays the firebrand socialist who was building the first multiracial “Rainbow Coalition” to fight poverty, substandard housing and police corruption. That rattled FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who infiltrated Hampton’s group with an informant named Michael O’Neal (Stanfield). Director Shaka King’s retelling is raw when it needs to be (there is gunplay) and stylish from start to brutal conclusion. Hampton was killed on Dec. 4, 1969, in a pre-dawn raid by a contingent of the Chicago police. Was Hampton the savior of the title? The film is sure to ignite conversations. But Stanfield nails the role of the betrayer whose actions are tinged with greed, fear and, yes, love. Judas is a late but commanding entry to the award season. —Lisa Kennedy (L.K.)
Watch it: Judas and the Black Messiah, in theaters and on HBO Max
In a sweet, funny, poignant tale inspired by director/writer Lee Isaac Chung’s own family, the squabbling Korean American family of Jacob Yi (The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun) flees a soul-crushing life as California chicken factory workers to chase the American dream to a farm in the Ozarks. They’re shunned by some, but another outsider, a local extreme Christian (a brilliant Will Patton, 66), pitches in on the planting. A good story gets great when the kids’ immigrant grandma (Yuh-Jung Youn, 73, Korea’s Meryl Streep) moves in, puzzling kids with her love of swearing, gambling, TV wrestling and funny foods like the wild crop minari. “Grandma smells like Korea!” complains one kid — who then bonds with her. A film that’s a trip to the heartland in more ways than one. —T.A.
Watch it: Minari, in theaters and on demand via A24 Films
Hot Money, R
As this lively documentary produced by Jeff Bridges, 71, and directed by Susan Kucera argues, we could all lose more than our life savings thanks to our ever-riskier, unthinkably complex, debt-saturated, utterly terrifying global financial system. The film’s father-son Virgils, Gen. Wesley Clark and his son Wesley Clark Jr., take the viewer on a one-of-a-kind road trip into the existential world of climate change and global finance, discussing the Armageddon that lurks just beyond the horizon with a raft of experts. Hot Money is an eye-opening trip to the Wild West of finance — and we could all be goners. —T.A.
Watch it: Hot Money, on demand
Malcolm & Marie, R
A movie star is born in Zendaya. The 24-year-old Emmy-winning Euphoria star plays the titular actress-model haunted by addiction. In a slinky, shimmery gown, Marie returns from the movie premiere of her director partner Malcolm (an assured John David Washington). And, after removing her stilettos, she picks up her verbal knives for a relationship fight over slights big (she alleges he stole her life for his movie and withheld credit) and small. Recalling the fierce scenes between Elizabeth Taylor and husband Richard Burton in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, the pair rip off the Band-Aid, revealing all that is bad and good about each other in a nightlong act of emotional carnage. —T.M.A.
Watch it: Malcolm & Marie, on Netflix
In their third and best film together, Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci, both 60, play a couple coping with one man’s early-stage dementia on a sentimental journey through England’s Lake District in a cozy RV. It’s an understated yet amazing movie, not so much about the depredations of the disease but how it affects a relationship, and how love does and doesn’t conquer all. Firth plays a well-known pianist about to do a concert; Tucci is racing to finish writing his latest novel before his memory starts playing too many tricks on him. He’s still witty, razzing his man in ways that illuminate their lifetime together. As they take in the spectacular sights and visit relatives touting miracle cures, their lives sink downward to darkness on extended wings, making the most of each moment, exulting in the treasure of each other. —T.A.
Watch it: Supernova, in theaters now and on streaming
One Night in Miami, R
Oscar- and Emmy-winning powerhouse actress Regina King, 49, flexes her muscles behind the camera as a feature film director — and it’s clear it will be the first of many. For her debut, she opts for a talky screen adaptation of Kemp Powers’ 2013 play, which imagines a fictional February night in Miami. That 1964 evening, boxer Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), activist Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), athlete Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and crooner Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom, Jr.) gather, party and discuss what it meant, and what the obligations were, to be a successful Black man in ‘60s America. —T.M.A.
News of the World, PG-13
Tom Hanks plays a Civil War veteran whomakes his living riding from town to town to bedazzle locals by reading aloud thrilling newspaper stories from all over America — they don’t get papers and most can’t read. He winds up stuck with the last thing he needs: a feral 10-year-old who lost her white parents in a Native American raid, and then her adoptive family. His job is to take her back to her family, whom she doesn’t remember — she wants to escape back to Kiowa country. Director Paul Greengrass’s Jason Bourne movies are jittery, but this one’s a stately, old-fashioned epic. There’s action, but what drives the story is the deep emotion. —T.A.
Watch it: News of the World,in theaters
Promising Young Woman, R
The dazzling Carey Mulligan plays Cassie, a once-stellar med student in this smart, stylish revenge flick for the #MeToo era. To the consternation of her baffled parents (Jennifer Coolidge and Clancy Brown), Cassie is working at a coffee shop, turning 30 and living with them. She’s also spending nights at bars pretending to be blotto to lure men to assault her so she can avenge her childhood friend and med school classmate Nina, whose life was ruined by a sex scandal. (Everyone involved in her downfall got off scot-free.) Alison Brie (Mad Men), Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) and Alfred Molina (Spider-Man) are terrific as Nina’s victimized victimizers. —T.A.
Watch it: Promising Young Woman, in theaters
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, R
Viola Davis and, in his last role, the late Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther) star in Pulitzer Prize-winner August Wilson’s illustrious tale of Ma Rainey, the 1920s Mother of the Blues. It’s hard to say which actor scores the more towering performance. It’s like a duet between geniuses — or, since they’re fighting bitterly over how Ma should record her music, old-dirty-blues-tent-show style or hepcat modern jazz style — an acting duel. Both win, as do all of us. —T.A.
Watch it: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, in theaters and on Netflix
RELATED: Viola Davis tells AARP about Ma Rainey, August Wilson, aging, her big break and what happens when you get everything you always wanted. Read it here: Viola Davis Finds a Powerful Voice
ALSO RELATED: Get the full story on August Wilson’s remarkable Pittsburgh Cycle — 10 plays that explore the American Black experience in every decade of the 20th century — and discover how to get a taste (or more) of each play, including Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, here: The Essential Guide to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Playwright August Wilson
The Life Ahead, PG-13
At 86, Sophia Loren is back! In her terrific new tearjerker, directed by her son Edoardo Ponti, she heartwarmingly plays a former prostitute, Holocaust survivor and caretaker for streetwalkers’ children. She looks after an orphaned African street kid (Ibrahima Gueye), grudgingly at first, and develops a deep bond with him.
Watch it: The Life Ahead, on Netflix
RELATED: Sophia Loren tells AARP about her comeback and her six life lessonsPlay Video
The War With Grandpa, PG
Robert De Niro is both a towering icon of Scorsese gangster flicks and high-art tragedy and the king of blockbusters about the Focker family. In his latest silly featherweight comedy, he’s an irascible guy who moves into his grandson’s bedroom, so they conduct a prank-war over its possession. The conflict is somewhat Home Alone-like, but more illogical, as when De Niro, Christopher Walken, Jane Seymour and Cheech Marin challenge the kids to a trampoline volleyball match and the ref rules on the first round: “Age-appropriate team 1; AARP team none.” —T.A.
Watch it: The War With Grandpa, in theaters
RELATED: Find out what Jane Seymour thought about playing for laughs with Robert De Niro, in her new interview with AARP: Jane Seymour Shares Her Special View of England’s Royal Family
The Trial of the Chicago 7, R
An utterly wonderful, vivid dramatization of the trial of Chicago’s 1968 demonstrators, with bravura performances by Frank Langella as Judge Julius Hoffman, Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman, Michael Keaton as Ramsey Clark and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Seale. —T.A.
Watch it: The Trial of the Chicago 7,on Netflix
RELATED: Frank Langella tells AARP about The Trial of the Chicago 7, his string of history-based hits and the best time of his life — his 80s, here: All Rise for Frank Langella
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.