Picks and Pans Main: People Picks


No. 1 Bloodline

In this gripping thriller, you can go home again – but it’ll be the mistake of a lifetime



Danny Rayburn (Ben Mendelsohn) is a black sheep who sets the flock baaing in distress: He’s the sort of horrible relative whose name you want left out of notarized wills, erased from the family Bible and blocked in search engines on genealogical websites. But when this paper-thin, shifty-eyed prodigal returns to the idyllic Florida Keys—Ma and Pa (Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard) run a hotel there that looks like a TripAdvisor dream—you sense the rest of the flock are the ones infested with fleas. Why do Ma’s sweet glances at Pa turn into death stares? Why, in flash-forwards, do we see her other son, upstanding John (Kyle Chandler, whose solid middle-aged waist proclaims probity), carrying a limp-limbed Danny in a torrent? And whose corpse is that in the backwater? In the three episodes made available for preview, Bloodline is full of mean, sly potential. (Available for streaming March 20)

No. 2 Cop Show



Colin Quinn plays the arrogant, not very bright star of a low-budget crime show that looks like Law & Order shot on Vine. Disgusted when a script specifies that a victim had eaten blood sausage and brussels sprouts before her murder, he insists on a rewrite. The line becomes: “Stomach contents – delicious s’mores.” (Now streaming at LStudio.com)

No. 3 Danny Collins

Al Pacino and Annette Bening make a fizzy pair



Cross Pacino with Neil Diamond and you’ve got Danny Collins. The singer gets a long-lost letter from John Lennon, stirring him to connect with his son (a great Bobby Cannavale) and try for love with a hotel manager (Bening, channeling Diane Keaton). Danny gets dark, but good times never seemed so good. (March 20, R)

No. 4 Marina and the Diamonds, Froot



Beloved overseas, Welsh singer-songwriter Marina and the Diamonds – yes, she’s both the Marina and the Diamonds – proved a hitmaker with 2012’s “How to Be a Heartbreaker.” Now her third album seems poised to take her to the top stateside. Froot is packed with addictive hooks, but it’s not all glittery disco pop: “Better Than That” is a grimy dismissal, while the ballad “Happy” showcases a softer side. “Good things come to those who wait,” she sings on the title track – and she’s right.

No. 5 Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies



This three-part history of cancer – both our understanding and our treatment of the disease – is essentially an epic medical drama, full of striking moments: The idea of carcinogens was proposed as early as 1775, when Dr. Percivall Pott concluded that soot had caused the cancer in his patients. They were chimney sweeps. (PBS, March 30, check local listings)

No. 6 James Bay, Chaos and the Calm



You’d imagine that indie idol Bay’s life these days must be pretty chaotic: Since 2013 he’s dropped three well-received EPs and has been touring at a furious pace—most recently with “Take Me to Church” star Hozier. But it’s all been the buildup to this debut album, which ranges musically across the spectrum promised in the title: The stripped-down breakup tearjerker “Scars” begins as an acoustic ballad but reaches its crescendo in a wailing finale. “Best Fake Smile,” a kiss-off song punctuated with hand claps, is guitar-driven rock. But whatever mood he’s in, Bay is in control. (March 23)

No. 7 The Gunman



If Sean Penn wants Liam Neeson’s career as an older dude who kicks butt, we won’t quibble. With his I’ve-seen-too-much stare, he’s believably lethal as Jim, a sniper who assassinates a government official, then gets caught up in a global game of dodge the bullets. Javier Bardem and Idris Elba amuse in smaller roles. (March 20, R)

No. 8 Miley Cyrus: Bangerz Tour

Try to forget her silly antics – the pop star has real talent



Like the album of the same name, Cyrus’s Bangerz show is consistent in just one way: It’s all over the place. She delivers on the expected frenzied spectacle – flying above the crowd on an inflatable hot dog, simulating sexual acts atop a golden car. And yes, she twerks. Still, regardless of how you feel about the Cirque de Cyrus, the former Hannah Montana‘s voice is no gimmick. Her party anthems are infectious fun, but Cyrus shines brightest during the pull-out-your-lighters portion of the show, with songs like “Wrecking Ball” and “Maybe You’re Right” and well-chosen covers – the Dolly Parton classic “Jolene” and a countrified version of Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” – anything, really, that shows off her pipes. She’ll be filling arenas for years to come. (March 23)

No. 9 Barely Famous



In this faux-reality series, Sara and Erin Foster, whose dad is music producer David Foster, try to conquer Hollywood by flagrantly promoting themselves. “I’ve never wanted to sell my soul,” says Sara. “I’m open now to selling a piece of my soul.” They’re cute – more Cat Deeley than Chelsea Handler – and this is an ideal little vehicle. (VH1, Wednesdays, 9:30 p.m.)

No. 10 The Divergent Series: Insurgent

Shailene Woodley is back, making love and war



Get ready to run. The second of four films about a dystopic society split into factions based on personality types barely gets going before lovers Tris (Woodley) and Four (Theo James) are hurled back into a war zone. They have two options: Stop a coup by Erudite boss Jeanine (icy Kate Winslet) or die trying. If Insurgent can’t entirely shake off the familiarity that’s perhaps inevitable in the crowded young-Orwellian field, Woodley and James have more chemistry than any pair in The Hunger Games. Plus, Miles Teller (Whiplash) is fun as Peter, the guy you can’t quite trust. (March 20, PG-13)

No. 11 Into the Woods



Love Cinderella but still have doubts about “happily ever after”? Then take a detour into the Woods. The big-screen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s beloved Broadway musical is funny, yes, but thorny and dark, like a patch of forest. It’s also filled with great performances from Emily Blunt as the canny Baker’s Wife, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella and Meryl Streep in an Oscar-nominated turn as the Witch. The DVD is packed with extras, including making-of docs, featurettes on the cast and costumes and a commentary track with director Rob Marshall. But the rarest treat is seeing Streep sing “She’ll Be Back,” an original Sondheim song cut from the theatrical release. On that score, at least, some wishes do come true. (March 24)

No. 12 The Best New Books

A keenly observed memoir, a ’50s coming-of-age tale and a writer’s search for her family’s famous ghost

Hannah Nordhaus

American Ghost


Julia Schuster Staab died in 1896; it’s said that her ghost still haunts the Santa Fe hotel that was once her troubled family’s mansion. In this intriguing book, Staab’s great-great-granddaughter shares her journey to discover who her immigrant ancestor really was – and what strange alchemy made the idea of her linger long after she was gone.

Amy Scheibe

A Fireproof Home for the Bride

novel Fleeing an abusive fiancé, Emmy leaves her strict Lutheran community and finds work at a paper in Fargo, N.D. There she uncovers an ugly secret that sheds new light on her family’s past. Set at the dawn of the civil rights movement, Scheibe’s tale captures both the heartache and the liberation of finding one’s own path.


Abigail Thomas What Comes Next and How to Like It


It’s no wonder Abigail Thomas is leery of what lies ahead. The accident that left her husband brain-damaged was the starting point for A Three Dog Life (2006); in her new book, she experiences a romantic betrayal that will leave you gasping. Mostly, though, she writes of the changes aging brings us all and of coping through love: of family, dogs, a well-turned phrase. She is superb company.


Bonner Paddock

One More Step

Determined not to let his cerebral palsy define him, this inspiring author tested his limits by climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and competing in the grueling Ironman race.

Julie Holland

Moody Bitches

A psychiatrist argues that women are overmedicated because our culture views emotionality as a “condition” to be treated. Provocative and entertaining.

Erik Larson

Dead Wake

The story of the Lusitania’s sinking by a German U-boat has been told before, but Larson’s version features new details and the gripping immediacy he’s famous for.

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