Five things to watch this week
Edgar Allan Poe, Tupac and John Kani feature among this week’s selections
The Fall of the House of Usher — Netflix
Creator of The Haunting of Hill House Mike Flanagan takes on the work of gothic master Edgar Allan Poe in this broody, atmospheric and enjoyably campy horror series. The overarching story follows the Usher siblings, Roderick and Madeline, who have built a powerful pharmaceutical empire but soon face supernatural challenges when members of the dynasty begin to die in gory circumstances. Each episode uses one of Poe’s works as a basis to expand the author’s visions into terrifying meditations on the evils of men in the modern world. Starring Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood and Mary McDonnell, it’s a satisfying bit of creepy entertainment to kick off your Halloween season.
Dear Mama — Disney Plus
Allen Hughes takes a refreshingly new look at the much covered life of rapper Tupac Shakur in this documentary that links the rapper’s outspoken activism and political symbolism to the influence and teachings of his Black Panther Party revolutionary mother, Afeni. With singular visual style and empathy, Hughes makes a convincing argument for the Shakurs as important revolutionary actors whose influence continues to be felt across the generations since Tupac’s death in 1996 both through his music and the messages it conveyed.
Beyond the Light Barrier — Prime Video
Directed by Uga Carlini and narrated by John Kani, this energetic documentary tells the weird and wonderful tale of South African Elizabeth Klarer who in 1980 published a book in which she detailed her decades-long relationship with Akon, an alien astrophysicist from the planet Meton. Taking a humorous but also serious look at one of the more eccentric characters from 20th-century SA public life, the film tries to come to an understanding of who Klarer was and why she told the tale she became so famous for telling.
Lessons in Chemistry — Apple TV +
Brie Larson gives an endearing performance in this series adaptation of the novel by Bonnie Garmus. Larson plays Elizabeth Zott, a budding chemist whose talents and dreams of success are stymied by the patriarchal prejudice of 1950s America, until she hits on the idea of using her scientific talents to create a singular, and soon very popular, cooking show that she uses to teach American housewives far more than just a few recipes.
Mending the Line — Rent or buy from Apple TV +
An affecting, solidly made-for-TV film with strong performances from leads Brian Cox and Sinqua Walls that offers an ode to the silent but bonding powers of fly fishing. When a soldier wounded in Afghanistan finds himself in a Veterans Association hospital in Montana, he strikes up a relationship with an older Vietnam vet who teaches him the quiet arts of fly-fishing and gradually helps him overcome the emotional and physical trauma of his war experiences. It’s not bold new dramatic material but stands above similar dramas thanks to its performances and a strong sense of the deep pain of its subject matter.
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