What to Watch in April: ‘Air: Courting a Legend,’ ‘Beef,’ and ‘Tiny Beautiful Things’
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April’s filled with intriguing entertainment choices sandwiched by a story of sports and business at one end and an ambitious new espionage series at the other. Anyone looking for a pattern in between is going to struggle: The month includes everything from vampires to dangerous AI systems to twin gynecologists.
Television fans will also notice a bunch of well-liked returning series, including Dave, Schmigadoon, Single Drunk Female, Blindspotting, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Barry, Somebody Somewhere, Sweet Tooth, and The Afterparty. But we already know about those. Here’s a look at what’s news.
Air: Courting a Legend (Theaters, April 5)
The art of the deal: The latest film directed by Ben Affleck, Air stars Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro, the Nike exec who had the bright idea to create a shoe line around a rookie phenomenon named Michael Jordan. Affleck co-stars as Phil Knight alongside Jason Bateman and Viola Davis, the lattermost playing Jordan’s skeptical mother Deloris, without whose approval Air Jordans would never have existed.
Beef (Netflix, April 6)
This new seriocomic series created by Lee Sung Jin (whose writing credits include Dave and Tuca & Bertie) traces what happens when a near-miss in a parking lot escalates into road rage that in turn escalates into an ongoing feud. In a promising bit of casting, Ali Wong and Steven Yuen play the two already troubled people at the center of the incident.
Showing Up (Theaters, April 7)
Since first teaming up for Wendy and Lucy in 2008, the team of writer/director Kelly Reichardt and actress Michelle Williams has been one of the most reliably compelling in the world of film. For Reichardt, Williams has played everyone from an aimless drifter to a pioneer on the Oregon Trail. This time around she stars as Lizzy, a sculptor preparing for an exhibition, leading a cast that includes Hong Chau and Andre Benjamin.
The New York Times Presents: The Legacy of J Dilla (FX and Hulu, April 7)
The late, great rapper and producer J Dilla was a cult favorite in his too-short lifetime and that cult has only expanded since his death. That appreciation continued last year with the publication of the terrific Dilla Time and again this year with the new documentary featuring interviews with Dilla’s friends and family. Watch with a Hulu subscription.
Tiny Beautiful Things (Hulu, April 7)
This new series starring Kathryn Hahn has an unusual origin story. For years, Wild author Cheryl Strayed penned the anonymous advice column “Dear Sugar” for The Rumpus, a body of work she collected in her 2012 book Tiny Beautiful Things. An advice column might not seem like it would be easy to adapt to television but this miniseries takes a meta approach. Hahn plays Clare, an author whose sideline giving advice to others doesn’t make her own life any less messy. Watch with a Hulu subscription.
The Portable Door (MGM+, April 8)
In a show based on the first in a series of novels about the firm of J.W. Wells & Co. — a place of business whose dry name doesn’t suggest it deals in magic — Christoph Waltz and Sam Neill star as executives determined to eliminate the competition, even if that means bringing in some shady business practices. Watch on MGM+.
Renfield (Theaters, April 14)
There’s been no shortage of movies about horrible bosses (there’s even one called Horrible Bosses), but this horror comedy puts its own spin on the idea. Nicholas Hoult stars as a put-upon underling who falls in love with a New Orleans cop (Awkwafina) and decides to take a stand against his controlling employer. The only problem: it’s Count Dracula (played, in a fun casting choice, by Nicolas Cage).
The Last Thing He Told Me (Apple TV+, April 14)
Adapted from a twisty thriller by Laura Dave, this miniseries stars Jennifer Garner as Hannah, a woman whose life takes an unexpected turn when her husband Owen (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) disappears under mysterious circumstances. As her life grows increasingly dangerous, Hannah finds herself in the position of protecting a stepdaughter (Angourie Rice) who wants nothing to do with her. Watch with a free trial to Apple TV+.
Personality Crisis: One Night Only (Showtime, April 14)
Martin Scorsese and frequent collaborator David Tedeschi co-direct this documentary performance film that mixes selections from an intimate David Johansen concert with a look at his life and career, from his time as a frontman of New York Dolls through his Buster Poindexter alter ego and beyond. Watch with a Showtime free trial.
Mrs. Davis (Peacock, April 20)
Co-created by Tara Hernandez (The Big Bang Theory) and Damon Lindelof (Lost, Watchmen) this looks like the hardest-to-classify series released in a long time. Betty Gilpin stars as Simone, a nun charged with taking down “Mrs. Davis,” a powerful A.I. used by billions who might actually be up to no good. Watch on Peacock.
Beau Is Afraid (Theaters, April 21)
Details have been sparse about the latest film from Midsommar director Ari Aster and that only makes it more intriguing. Here’s what we know: it’s a “nightmare comedy” (Aster’s words) set across several decades in the life of Beau (Joaquin Phoenix), a man who has an intense relationship with his mother (Patti LuPone). If that’s not enough, it also co-stars Nathan Lane, Amy Ryan, Parker Posey, and Stephen McKinley Henderson and has an almost three-hour running time.
Evil Dead Rise (Theaters, April 21)
Is 2023 the year horror came to the city? First Scream VI took Ghostface to Manhattan, and now this latest entry in the Evil Dead franchise brings the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis to a Los Angeles high-rise. Also making an L.A. trek: a bunch of those menacing Deadites. This is the first Evil Dead film in a decade and, as 2013’s Evil Dead did with Fede Álvarez, it found a director abroad, in this case Ireland’s Lee Cronin.
Dead Ringers (Prime Video, April 21)
A new take on the great David Cronenberg film from 1988 about twin gynecologists locked into a destructive, identity-blurring relationship, this series flips the genders of its main characters. Where Jeremy Irons played Eliot and Beverly Mantle in the original now Rachel Weisz assumes the role. Weisz is incapable of delivering an uninteresting performance, so the thought of her delivering two suggests this will definitely be worth a look. Watch with a Prime Video free trial.
Dear Mama (FX, April 21 / Hulu, April 22)
Allen Hughes directs this five-part docuseries about the lives of Tupac Shakur and his mother, the activist Afeni Shakur. That may sound like a well-covered topic, but Hughes promises an abundance of audio and video that even the most hardcore fans don’t know existed. Watch on Hulu.
Ghosted (Apple TV+, April 21)
A romantic spy thriller that reunites two stars of Knives Out, this Dexter Fletcher (Rocketman) film stars Chris Evans as Cole, an ordinary guy whose attraction to a woman named Sadie (Ana de Armas) takes an unexpected turn when he discovers she’s a spy — and she might need him to help save the world. Watch with a free trial to Apple TV+.
John Mulaney: Baby J (Netflix, April 25)
A new John Mulaney stand-up special is always a big deal but this one’s a little bigger than usual. It’s Mulaney’s first since making headlines thanks to a return to rehab and some changes in his personal life. Drawing from material Mulaney performed on the tour following that tumult, expect Baby J to address the elephants in the room.
Saint X (Hulu, April 26)
Adapted from Alexis Schaitkin’s bestselling 2020 novel, Saint X tells the story of a woman (Alycia Debnam-Carey) trying get to the bottom of her sister’s disappearance in the Caribbean years earlier. But, also like the novel, its scope is wider, drawing in a host of other characters and following the story on multiple timelines. Handmaid’s Tale veteran Leila Gerstein serves as showrunner and the cast includes Breaking Bad’s Betsy Brandt. Watch on Hulu.
Love & Death (HBO Max, April 27)
Murder’s also at the heart of this fact-based miniseries written by David E. Kelley and directed by Lesli Linka Glatter (whose impressive TV resumé stretches back to Twin Peaks). Elizabeth Olsen stars as Candy Montgomery, a woman accused of killing Betty Gore (Lily Rabe) after discovering Gore was having an affair with her husband (Jesse Plemons). If that sounds familiar for reasons beyond old headlines, there’s a reason: The same story served as the basis for the 2022 Hulu miniseries Candy. But with a crime this lurid, there’s surely room enough for two different tellings. Watch on HBO Max.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (Theaters, April 28)
There haven’t been that many film adaptations of books by Judy Blume, a titan of the young adult fiction world for decades, in part because Blume has been particular about signing away the rights. Blume must have been impressed with writer/director’s (terrific) debut film The Edge of Seventeen, however. Fremon helms this adaptation of Blume’s classic coming-of-age novel about a girl named Margaret’s (Abby Ryder Fortson) search for a higher power. Rachel McAdams and Benny Safdie co-star as Margaret’s parents alongside Kathy Bates as her grandmother. Blume fans can also check out the documentary Judy Blume Forever, which premieres on Prime Video on April 21.
Polite Society (Theaters, April 28)
Judy Blume Forever received a warm reception at Sundance this year, as did Polite Society, the genre-bending action comedy that serves as the feature debut of We Are Lady Parts creator Nida Manzoor. Priya Kansara (Bridgerton) stars as Ria, a London teen with dreams of becoming a stuntwoman. Ria grows concerned when her sister Lena (The Umbrella Academy’s Ritu Arya) becomes engaged to a wealthy man that Ria suspects is up to no good.
Citadel (Prime Video, April 28)
You can’t accuse Joe and Anthony Russo, the executive producers of this new spy series starring Richard Madden and Priyanka Chopra Jonas as agents of an organization named Citadel, of dreaming small. Not only is Citadel the second most expensive television in history it’s been conceived as the “mothership” series for spin-offs set around the globe starring an international cast and set in locales like India and Italy. All that starts here but, if all goes according to plan, it won’t anytime soon. Watch with a Prime Video free trial.
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