November 24, 2014 12:00 PM



No. 1 The Homesman
Hilary Swank is terrific in a western about women pushed beyond their endurance



Hilary Swank gives a heartbreaking performance in this harsh western, directed by and costarring Tommy Lee Jones. Swank plays Mary Bee Cuddy, an unmarried farmer who has conquered her plot of land with painstaking care while braving solitude under an immense hollow sky. Many other women in the territory in the 1850s, though, have collapsed into violent madness. Cuddy volunteers to escort three of them back to civilization—a prim Iowa town—helped by Jones, as a low rascal who may have retained a drop of humanity in all this dirt and despair. But their journey strays into an ever more harrowing wilderness. This one will haunt you all the way back to the prairie. (R, in limited release)

No. 2 State of Affairs


For her first post-Grey’s Anatomy vehicle, Katherine Heigl probably should have played someone other than a brilliant blonde CIA analyst. We already have Homeland. But Heigl is an actress of underrated resources—there’s that lovely quiver in her voice—and she’s vibrant and fully in charge here. Glad she’s back. (NBC, Nov. 17, 10 p.m.)

No. 3 Garth Brooks Man Against Machine



In an era when “crossover” has become more of a rule than the exception, Brooks debuts music that his faithful fans will largely recognize—and rejoice over. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some non-traditional standouts, like the bluesy “Tacoma.” Other highlights include the tear-inducing “Mom,” the romantic “You Wreck Me,” and “Cowboys Forever,” which will leave anyone wistful for wide plains and simpler times.

No. 4 Miss Meadows
She gardens, she tap-dances, she kills on sight



Katie Holmes goes all out in this twisted fantasy about a sunny suburbanite (and substitute teacher) who fights back when criminals storm her white-picket-fence hamlet. The tale opens with a startling streetside shooting, as Miss Meadows draws a pistol on a creepy dude in a car who won’t stop leering at her sun-dress and patent leather shoes. The cutest criminal you’ll ever meet—just ask the sheriff (James Badge Dale) who can’t stop wooing her—Miss Meadows relishes jumping between her two extreme personae. (Nov. 14, NR)

No. 5 The Missing


A search for a lost child doubles as a journey back into a shattered past for a married couple (James Nesbitt and Frances O’Connor) whose son disappeared in 2006 during a family holiday in France. Now, eight years later, a retired cop (Tchéky Karyo) aids the inconsolable father in working the cold case, tracking clues that revive hope even as they tear open old wounds. (Starz, Nov. 15, 9 p.m.)

No. 6 Beyond the Lights


Sexy English pop star Noni Jean (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) seems to be living the dream: hit records, hot rapper boyfriend. But in reality, stardom feels more like a black hole. Enter good cop Kaz (Nate Parker) to the emotional (and literal) rescue. While Lights’ arc may feel familiar, it converts a smart script and strong performances into a moving rendition. (Nov. 14, PG-13)

No. 7 The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
Here come Lisa Rinna and Lisa Rinna’s lips



Lisa Rinna, joining the tight-gowned, thin-skinned society of ladies, is the Hillary Clinton of reality TV: No woman has ever been better prepared to rise to the heights of Bravo programming. She’s already starred in her own reality series (with husband and Mad Men star Harry Hamlin) and was a game player on the major reality franchises (The Apprentice, Dancing with the Stars). She has luscious lips and a ready laugh. Perfect! As season 5 starts, Kyle Richards is planning a big dress-in-white party, and everyone is ticked off at Lisa Vanderpump—how is that possible!? (Bravo, Nov. 18, 9 p.m.)

No. 8 The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack



You might think Lorde would call it a day after providing the lead single for the soundtrack of one of the most anticipated films of the season, but the “Royals” singer actually curated this entire compilation. Her efforts are equal parts haunting and fun thanks to an intriguing cornucopia of artists including Ariana Grande, Miguel, Duran Duran and Grace Jones. (Nov. 17)

No. 9 Getting On


All would live long but none would be old. Getting On, just starting season 2, is the Ben Franklin proverb acted out with uneasy but sympathetic laughter. Set in a hospital ward for elderly women, it focuses on the doctors, nurses and aides who would help these patients if only they could first heal themselves of vanity and incompetence. The funniest is Alex Borstein (Family Guy’s Lois Griffin) as a button-eyed nurse who appears to be too stunned to blink, let alone think. (HBO, Sundays, 10:30 p.m.)

No. 10 The Best New Books

A fresh adrenaline rush of terror from Stephen King, Anne Lamott’s insights into the heart and the dark tale of a girl with a gift

MB Caschetta Miracle Girls


Something extraordinary is happening in upstate New York, where 10-year-old Cee-Cee has visions of angels and missing children. But after Cee-Cee performs a miracle, she’s placed under the care of a radical group of nuns. Darkly beautiful, Girls examines how forgiveness and wisdom take hold in the most unexpected places.

Stephen King Revival


When tragedy hits a charismatic preacher, his grief curdles into an obsession with the world beyond. Pulling at the curtain between life and death, he raises hell for a drifting musician-junkie and the other hapless souls he meets. Maine, rock and roll, engaging characters and a pounding build to a grisly end—this is vintage King.


Anne Lamott Small Victories


Lamott (Operating Instructions) is beloved by legions for her smart, irreverent take on the human condition, filtered through her unique brand of compassionate Christianity and delivered with delicious, self-deprecating wit. Lamott goes even deeper in these essays. “You can change the world with a hot bath,” she writes, “if you sink into it from a place of knowing that you are worth profound care, even when you’re dirty and rattled. Who knew?”


George W. Bush 41

What this George H.W. Bush bio lacks in critical distance, it makes up for with a son’s access and warmth. Few shocks, save a blind date Poppy set up for W and Tricia Nixon.

Christopher Andersen The Good Son

A juicy Kennedy tell-all in which John Jr.’s string of celebrity girlfriends is eclipsed only by the antics of Jackie and a cross-dressing Aristotle Onassis.

David Ritz Respect

Ritz, who cowrote Aretha Franklin’s autobiography From These Roots, offers up a candid, far less sanitized look at the enormously gifted but demanding diva.

No. 11 Rosewater

Gael García Bernal plays a reporter who’s wrongfully imprisoned in Jon Stewart’s excellent directorial debut



When Jon Stewart took a hiatus from The Daily Show last year to direct a film based on journalist Maziar Bahari’s memoir Then They Came for Me, many wondered whether the comedian had the chops to bring the political drama to life. Turns out Stewart, who also wrote the film, is the right man for the job. Rosewater finds the heart, horror and, yes, humor in the brutal story of Bahari’s 118-day imprisonment and torture by the Iranian government. Stewart’s never been much of an actor (see: Death to Smoochy—or, better yet, don’t), but he has a bright future behind the camera. (Nov. 14, R)

No. 12 Fifth Harmony, ‘Sledgehammer’



If One Direction were a girl group, they’d be Fifth Harmony. Consider: Both are made up of singers who auditioned for The X Factor as individuals (1D in the U.K. and 5H in the States) and found musical magic by joining forces. And while neither won the competition, they captured the hearts of tween girls everywhere. With their latest single, off their new album Reflection, 5H will get even adults singing into their hairbrushes.

Skip It!




Myth, history and fantasy trip over one another in this chaotic, hyper-serious epic that’s caught somewhere between swashbuckling action and political intrigue. (BBC America, Saturdays, 9 p.m.)

The One I Love


Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss and The League’s Mark Duplass go on a weekend retreat to revive their relationship—but it all turns creepy and surreal, which is a turnoff.

The McCarthys


Tyler Ritter is sweetly endearing as the gay son in a squabbly Boston family, but this sitcom feels like a visiting relative parked on your sofa. (CBS, Thursdays, 9:30 p.m.)

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