Season 4 of The CW’s hot, heavy, and heavy-handed melodrama is now on Netflix, bringing you all of Archie and the gang’s antics just in time for season 5 talk (get ready for a time jump next year!). The beginning of the fourth season deals with the death of Luke Perry, who played Archie’s dad on the series, then gets back to the usual heightened plotlines full of murder and canoodling.
9. UNCUT GEMS
From our list of the best movies of 2019:
The clock ticks, the sweat drips, the diamonds shimmer, and the chaos reigns in every frenetic frame of Josh and Benny Safdie’s wheeling-and-dealing thriller. “Adam Sandler movies” traditionally build off the actor’s hot-tempered goofball energy (even in a peak work like Punch-Drunk Love), but in Uncut Gems, Sandler buckles up into the sleazy Diamond District dealer Howard like he’s a walking, talking Tilt-a-Whirl. Running to and fro across fluorescent-washed New York, Howard has 800 tasks to accomplish — Retrieve an African jewel from the New Age-obsessed Kevin Garnett! Outrun a loan shark’s heavies before they bash his nose in! Get to his kid’s school play on time! — and maybe enough fuel to cross the finish line. The hurdles come from plot and craft. The Safdies suffocate their antihero in close-ups; a synthy soundscape from Oneohtrix Point Never keeps the down moments boiling; and Sandler wrestles with the anarchy of life, delivering the best Joker performance of the year. Grime has never felt this good.
Lose yourself in the gem by reading our interview with Josh and Benny Safdie.
Amy Heckerling’s reworking of Emma may not be the most faithful Jane Austen adaptation (see: Emma.) but it’s one of the funniest. Alicia Silverstone stars as Cher Horowitz, a Beverly Hills socialite navigating high school and teen drama with utter confidence. Boys ruin everything. Heckerling’s dark sense of humor from Fast Times at Ridgemont HIgh and National Lampoon’s European Vacation clicks with the frilly pinkness of Cher’s life as she satirizes the high school high life of Los Angeles.
7. THE HEALER
This faith-based drama stars Oliver Jackson-Cohen of The Invisible Man and Netflix’s own Haunting of Hill House as vice-indulging electrician who discovers a supernatural gift to heal others. With 11% on Rotten Tomatoes, it’d be a hard recommendation, but if you need a film full of hugging and characters looking inward…
6. THE HELP
Amidst protests and calls to action begging U.S. citizens to finally recognize that Black Lives Matter, Disney’s 2011 adaptation of The Help has shot up into the Netflix top 10. I think we could all do a little better than this, but Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis are powerful enough here that the movie’s fluffy tone still has something to say about race in America.
5. AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER
Before creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko return to the world of Airbender for a live-action “remake,” Netflix acquired the license for original three season (er, book) animated series from Nickelodeon. If you’re an A:TLA fan, you know the joys of rewatching Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Toph navigate the four kingdoms in a journey to take down the Fire Lord. If you’ve never watched the show, good news: we wrote out seven reasons why it’s absolutely perfect. Here’s one:
Avatar: The Last Airbender’s core premise simultaneously spans a hundred years of fictional history and is simple enough to be summed up in the first 40 seconds of its opening sequence. The show’s structure follows that fractal quality, beginning with a simply explained but narratively expansive goal: A young boy named Aang who has mastered the elemental control of air through a martial art called “airbending” must complete his training in waterbending, earthbending, and firebending so that he can bring balance to his war-torn world and stop the rampaging Fire Nation from conquering the entire planet.
But that plot launches in the first season in a way that seems childish and familiar. Aang is a chipper Chosen One type with a funny animal sidekick. In the first episode, he encounters the young waterbender Katara, who comes across as a Hermione Granger-style tryhard girl boss sidekick, and her arrogant brother Sokka, an impulsive wannabe warrior and comic-relief butt-monkey. Everything about their first encounter feels like standard-issue kids’-show stuff. But a lot of the joys of Last Airbender is the ways it upends these simple, familiar tropes, and finds the deeper ambitions and character conflicts behind all three basic archetypes. And the show gives them a challenge on a Wagnerian scale — they aren’t just trying to save the world, they’re trying to break a cycle that began generations before most of them were born.
4. SWEET MAGNOLIAS
Based on prolific romance and mystery novel writer Sherryl Woods’ series of the same name, Sweet Magnolias stars JoAnna Garcia (Once Upon a Time) as a recently divorced woman who retreats to the comfort of her high school best friends to open her own spa and learn to love again. The series packs serious Nicholas Sparks Movie energy, but sometimes that’s just the cure…
3. FULLER HOUSE
The final batch of episodes of Netflix’s Full House sequel series have arrived, and cast DJ, Stephanie, and Kimmy into the unknown. OK, not quite: the final season delivers a triple wedding and lots of sisterhood feels.
2. Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich
Hoo, boy. Hoping to cut through the conspiracy theories and get back to the vile actions at hand, the latest Netflix docuseries tracks the life of Epstein and gives voice to the women he abused. Per Netflix:
Leading up to his 2019 arrest, mysterious tycoon Jeffrey Epstein was accused of abusing women and underage girls for decades, assembling a network of enablers to help carry out and cover up his crimes. Epstein came from humble beginnings yet managed to lie and manipulate his way to the top of the financial world. He eventually gained tremendous wealth and power while running an international sex trafficking ring. The serial sex abuser made a secret plea deal with the government in 2008 avoiding a potential life sentence and continued to abuse women. With their frightening firsthand accounts, Epstein’s accusers are the leading voices in director Lisa Bryant’s four-part docuseries Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich. By revealing their emotional scars, some for the very first time, the sisterhood of survivors intend to stop predators — and the American justice system — from silencing the next generation
1. SPACE FORCE
Space Force, the latest show from Steve Carell and The Office creator Greg Daniels, landed on Netflix with maximum fanfare. The show was highly anticpated by nostalgic sitcom fans hoping for some escapism. What they got was a little trickier. From our full review:
With The Office headed to NBC’s upcoming Peacock streaming service next year, Space Force arrives with the aura of a casual, background-watching sitcom replacement. But while the sitcom is (mostly) enjoyable, it shares little in common with Daniels and Carell’s previous team up aside from the duo’s involvement. In this first season, the stakes are too high and the references too political for the series to become a universally beloved comfort food show like The Office (and other NBC sitcoms like Friends or Parks and Recreation.)
That’s not to say that Space Force isn’t funny or compelling. After a rocky premiere episode, Space Force settles into an offbeat rhythm: Naird is faced with a situation that he’s unequipped to handle, Dr. Mallory disagrees with his solution, conflict ensues. (To be fair, it’s rare for a sitcom to have a great pilot — it’s hard to introduce characters, set up plotlines, and establish a tone while also landing jokes.)