Country superstar Chris Stapleton’s fifth studio album and a documentary about Albert Brooks that includes Steven Spielberg, David Letterman, Ben Stiller, Larry David, Chris Rock and Wanda Sykes are some of the new television, movies, music and games available on a device near you.
Also among the offerings worth your time as selected by The Associated Press’ entertainment journalists are Michael Fassbender playing a hitman in David Fincher’s “The Killer,” Tim Allen putting on his Santa suit for season two of “The Santa Clauses” and “The Buccaneers,” Apple TV+’s eight-episode series answer to “Bridgerton.”
NEW MOVIES TO STREAM
— Michael Fassbender plays an unnamed hitman in David Fincher’s “The Killer,” debuting on Netflix on Friday. It’s based on a French graphic novel and adapted by Andrew Kevin Walker, who also wrote the screenplay for “Seven” (or “Se7en” for the purists), this nameless assassin has some very specific rules for his chosen profession which he monologues to the audience. But of course, things go very wrong on this particular job in Paris, and he’s left to deal with the consequences in a globetrotting race. While it might not rank among Fincher’s stone-cold classics, reviews have been largely positive. ( Read AP’s review.)
— Rob Reiner enlists the likes of Steven Spielberg, David Letterman, Ben Stiller, Larry David, Chris Rock and Wanda Sykes to take stock the impact of Albert Brooks in the new documentary “Albert Brooks: Defending My Life,” streaming on Max on Saturday. Reiner and Brooks, who have been friends for “almost 60 years,” also have a one-on-one chat about his career, from stand-up to generation-defining writer and filmmaker with classics like “Lost in America” and “Modern Romance,” in a cozy restaurant with plush red leather booths. “It took this to finally hear a compliment,” Brooks laughs. “Can’t wait till I’m dead.”
— “Dumb Money,” the enjoyable film about the GameStop stock frenzy got a little unfairly buried in its theatrical release — perhaps lost in the post-Barbenheimer, early strike haze. Paul Dano plays Keith Gill, otherwise known as Roaring Kitty, an amateur investor whose endorsement of GameStock on Reddit in 2021 created a viral frenzy that shook Wall Street power players. Two former Wall Street Journal Reporters, Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo, wrote the script and Craig Gillespie (“I, Tonya”) directed a starry cast that includes America Ferrera, Seth Rogen, Anthony Ramos, Pete Davidson, Sebastian Stan, Shailene Woodley and Nick Offerman. In his AP review, Mark Kennedy wrote that “Dumb Money,” whose title comes from “the derisory term institutional investors call regular folk, wears its love of the little guy on its sleeve” and that it’s a sort of corrective to “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “The Big Short.” It’s nowavailable on video-on-demand.
NEW MUSIC TO STREAM
— Country superstar Chris Stapleton ’s enigmatic voice – known for its raw versatility, so anchored in his chosen musical genre with an unusual ability to transcend it – is as present as ever on his fifth studio album, “Higher,” out Friday. Recorded at Nashville’s famed RCA Studio A with an a-list crew of producer Dave Cobb, bassist J.T. Cure, pedal steel player Paul Franklin, drummer Derek Mixon, and multi-instrumentalists Morgane Stapleton (Stapleton’s wife) and Lee Pardini, the release is a rich collection of up-tempo rock-stompers like “White Horse” and stripped-down soulful harmonies of “It Takes a Woman” — sung with Morgane, of course. No one is immune when Stapleton’s textured, bellowing ballads play.
— Once, aespa were best known as the K-pop group that had their own AI avatars – a quartet that was actually an octet with digital twins who performed alongside them, in an effort to develop innovative transmedia storytelling to match a futuristic pop sound. Of course, sometimes that meant the conversation surrounding aespa distracted from the music itself. That shouldn’t have ever been the case, and they continue to prove their distinction on the high-octane “Drama,” the group’s fourth mini album. That’s evident from the English-language lead single, “Better Things,” which its cheery, hand-clap production and kiss-off chorus. “I’ve got better things to do with my time / Than you,” they sing.
NEW SERIES TO STREAM
— “The Buccaneers” is Apple TV+’s answer to “Bridgerton,” featuring attractive young people in London in the late 1800’s with contemporary dialogue and corsets. The eight-episode series is inspired by an unfinished novel by Edith Wharton with the same name. It’s about a group of American girls who travel to London for the social season, to hopefully find husbands. They’re regarded as loud, brash, and far too independent-minded. The series stars Kristine Froseth who ends up in a love triangle, along with Alisha Boe (“13 Reasons Why”), Mia Threapleton (daughter of Kate Winslet), Imogen Waterhouse and Christina Hendricks. “The Buccaneers” debuted Wednesday.
— Octavia Spencer executive produces the new series “FEDS” for ID which goes inside the FBI to reveal details of some of their most unusual and high-profile cases. “We had unparalleled access to the FBI,” Spencer told The Associated Press. “These agents are still active and tell their stories in their own voice. They are also unsung heroes. it was a way for us to demonstrate exactly what they go through on a on a daily basis.” “FEDS” premiered Wednesday on ID and will also stream on Max.
— Tim Allen puts on his Santa suit for season two of “The Santa Clauses,” on Disney+. The series is a continuation of the films starring Tim Allen as Scott Calvin, an everyman who also happens to be Santa Clause. Calvin is ready to retire but hasn’t found the right replacement. Elizabeth Mitchell also reprises her film role as Mrs. Clause for the series. Eric Stonestreet of “Modern Family” and Gabriel Iglesias also join the second season with Tracy Morgan making a special guest appearance.
— In a new Showtime series called “The Curse,” Emma Stone and Nathan Fielder play Whitney and Asher, a married couple with their own home improvement show whose shiny, happy lives on camera aren’t so perfect behind-the-scenes. Their lives unravel even more after a young girl curses them with bad fortune. The series is created by Fielder and Benny Safdie, who plays their producer. “The Curse” premieres Friday on Paramount+ and Sunday on Showtime.
— After playing shrewd billionaire Logan Roy in HBO’s “Succession,” Brian Cox will next serve as a mastermind in the new game show “007: Road to a Million” for Prime Video. The competition features nine pairs who take part in James Bond-inspired challenges across the globe, testing them physically and mentally, to answer questions hidden by Cox. Cox is “The Controller” who instructs the contestants where to go, what the exercise is, and monitors their progress. The winning team gets $1 million pounds. All eight episodes drop Friday on Prime Video.
NEW VIDEO GAMES TO PLAY
— When Call of Duty premiered in 2003, reviewers raved about it but few predicted what a monster it would become. But here it is 20 years and 20 games later, racking up blockbuster sales figures even if most of us critics have long since moved on. The latest chapter, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III, welcomes back iconic villain Vladimir Makarov, architect of the most heinous terrorist attack in the franchise’s history. Can the good ol’ boys of Task Force 141 once again stop him from starting World War III? Hope so. Will most CoD diehards zip through the campaign so they can dive back into multiplayer combat? Yes. Will publisher Activision keep raking in billions of dollars? Don’t bet against it. The bullets start flying Friday on PlayStation 5/4, Xbox X/S/One and PC.
— Sega’s Yakuza/Like a Dragon series has been around almost as long as CoD, but while it’s huge in Japan, it’s more of a cult favorite in the West. The latest chapter, Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, picks up the story of Kazuma Kiryu, who faked his own death and went into hiding before being dragged back into the gangster life. Kiryu has two ways to fight back: He can be an aggressive brawler or use high-tech gadgets for precision takedowns. Or he can just relax and sing karaoke or race slot cars. The Yakuza mythology can be overwhelming to newcomers, but if you’re in the mood for unpredictable, sometimes loopy storytelling, you should give it a shot. The drama resumed Thursday on PlayStation 5/4, Xbox X/S/One and PC.