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No. 1 Grace and Frankie
Comedy’s new old dynamic duo
Finally! Thirty-five years after they costarred in the movie classic 9 to 5, Jane Fonda, 77, and Lily Tomlin, 75, are back drawing laughs. They play Grace (Fonda) and Frankie (Tomlin) in Netflix’s new comedy about two women nearing 70 who find out their husbands are gay—and in love. The stars talk drugs, Ryan Gosling and their mutual love of Empire.
There’s a scene in which your characters both do peyote. So did you actually try out any hallucinogens as research?
We had to so that we would know what to do, like needing to yawn all of the time.
I was injecting it.
We were both really zonked.
And Ryan Gosling makes a cameo, of sorts, as a chair (with his picture on it). You pee on his face, Jane?
I’ve been waiting for him to get in touch, because I know Ryan, but I never heard from him.
So what did you think when you first heard of the project?
I thought, “Huzzah!” I was happy it was about older women because I didn’t want to go through the trauma of trying to look like I was 40 every morning.
I’ve wanted to do a television series about older women for a long time. There is a stereotype of what an older woman is, but older women become very feisty and fun and brave, and I wanted to explore that.
Netflix is at the forefront of this age of binge-watching. Do you binge?
We both watch Homeland, Masters of Sex—and we love Empire.
Love Empire! It’s so funky!
No. 2 The D Train
There are dark comedies, and then there’s The D Train, a twisted bromance that dares you not to squirm. Jack Black taps into his inner dweeb as Dan Landsman, the bane of his flailing high school reunion committee. Dan’s idea to save the sinking soiree is to fly to Los Angeles and persuade actor and former Mr. Popular Oliver Lawless (James Marsden) to come. Oliver and Dan’s subsequent wild night on the town seems born of The Hangover, but The D Train won’t let its psychologically flawed characters get away without consequences. Obsession, lies and cruelty mount, with Marsden and Black giving deeply layered performances. It’s just too bad Kathryn Hahn, as Dan’s wife, Stacey, gets such a peripheral role in the madness. A woman’s perspective would be even more fascinating. (May 8, R)
No. 3 Charlie Puth, Some Type of Love
After breaking out this spring (he sang the hook on Wiz Khalifa’s Furious 7 track “See You Again”), Puth jumps from featured artist to star on this EP. His voice—think Michael Bublé velvet meets Justin Timberlake swagger—blends perfectly with Meghan Trainor’s on the duet “Marvin Gaye,” which has the charm of the jukebox era.
No. 4 Still Alice
Julianne Moore’s Oscar-winning performance as linguistics professor Alice Howland, battling early-onset Alzheimer’s, is even better upon second viewing. At home you can catch the flicker of eyes that no longer recognize where they are, a wrinkled brow betraying that Alice can’t quite place her family. Her bond with daughter Lydia (Kristen Stewart, proving she’s quite a capable actress) adds unsentimental depth, but some of the most indelible moments are when Alice is all alone with herself. (Available May 12)
No. 5 Ciara, Jackie
The new mom’s latest LP is packed with sonic ‘Goodies’
Ciara has had plenty of real-life experience to inspire this album, her first in two years. She welcomed her first child—a boy, Future Zahir—last May, then split from his father, rapper Future, just months later. Jackie, which happens to be the name of Ciara’s own mom, draws on both the breakup (she opts for empowerment over bitterness on anthems “Fly” and “I Bet”) and the baby (young Future Zahir makes his recording debut, cooing on “I Got You”). But the hot mama’s bold anthems are the real standouts: After bragging on the album’s title track about giving birth to a 9-lb. 10-oz. baby, she gets her freak on with Missy Elliott and Pitbull on the party-starter “That’s How I’m Feelin’.”
No. 6 Melissa Rivers, The Book of Joan
A devoted daughter shows us the Nice Jewish Mother behind the sharp-tongued icon
A groundbreaking comic to the end of her life, Joan Rivers was also a warm, doting and conventional (in the best sense of the term) Jewish mother—and her daughter Melissa Rivers was the loved and loving beneficiary. From the time she was a tot, Melissa traveled the world with her famous mother, even memorizing her act (“You haven’t lived until you’ve heard a four-year-old do 12 minutes on going to the gynecologist”). Eight months after Joan’s death at 81 from complications following an endoscopic procedure, Melissa, 47, has written a book, cleverly weaving Mom’s material into a bittersweet biography of their life together. Included is Mom’s take on everything from plane etiquette (“To get bumped up to first class, don’t hesitate to play the widow card”) to finding a man (“Melissa, always wear full makeup when you go to the gym; you never know who you’re going to meet. They can’t all be gay”) to that very great Joan Rivers quality, schadenfreude. “Is there anything better,” she said, “than seeing a really good-looking couple pushing a baby that looks like a Sasquatch who got caught in a house fire? I think not.” She was a fascinating mass of contradictions, a stickler for politeness who “spoke like the whore of Babylon,” a woman who shone in a man’s business but who nevertheless, in her private life, believed being pretty and worshipful were the qualities a man most wanted, and that you should save being smart and funny for your girlfriends. Joan Rivers was brilliant, she was kind, and she was irreplaceable. And not just to her daughter.
GREAT NEW FICTION
The House of Hawthorne
You may not have heard of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s artistically frustrated wife, Sophia Peabody, but this reimagining of her life will have you transfixed.
Disconcerting and suspenseful, Frankel’s debut offers insights into the pressures of adolescence, the cruelty of society—and how little we know our children.
The Wonder Garden
In 13 sharply drawn, linked stories, Acampora reveals the complexities beneath the polish and privilege of a prosperous Connecticut town.
No. 7 Britney Spears & Iggy Azalea, ‘Pretty Girls’
They’re on a wild ride into summer
With apologies to Beyoncé, “Pretty Girls” currently run the world. In their long-awaited girl-power anthem, Spears and Azalea sing about getting exactly what they want, which includes the ability to “jump the line” at the club, where they “wipe the floor with all the boys.” The pop princess has some delicious fun as she raps—yep, Brit Brit raps—over an ’80s-inspired electro/hip-hop beat. Azalea shows off her singing on the chorus. With a can’t-get-it-out-of-your-head hook from Spears, Azalea is set for her second song of the summer, after 2014’s “Fancy.”
No. 8 Smosh
Psst—kids! Young persons with a funny bone! Forget aping Andy Samberg. You wanna study these two dudes, Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla. As Smosh, they’ve got 20 million-plus YouTube subscribers—and even a movie in the can! And it’s all fun, cheap, supersilly skits (saying words backward, bad-luck fortune cookies). Smosh: They’re a smash. (www.youtube.com/smosh)
No. 9 Bessie
Leave it to a Queen to be bold enough to embody an Empress. Jazz Age great Bessie Smith (a.k.a. the Empress of Blues) gets the biopic treatment in this HBO film that’s equal parts melodrama and character study. As the title character, Queen Latifah easily exudes the brass and sass of her inspiration. But the hip-hop pioneer’s performance really sings during the TV movie’s quieter moments with Scandal’s Khandi Alexander, as Bessie’s estranged older sister. That said, Mo’Nique may be in only about 15 minutes of the two-hour film, but she steals the show as Bessie’s mentor-turned-rival Ma Rainey. (HBO, May 16, 8 p.m.)
No. 10 Mad Men
How to sum up the ’60s? With one name: Don Draper
The most daring way to cap this culturally influential series, ending after seven seasons, would be for 1960s ad exec Don Draper (Jon Hamm) to smile just once as if he meant it—as if he were happy because the sun was shining. He’ll land the flying-pig account before that happens: No other series has ever examined the American dream with such confidently unwavering pessimism. That peculiar integrity is both Mad Men’s strength and, arguably, its weakness. It’s as if a classic John Cheever short story were teased out to the length of Lost. But the acting was wonderful and made stars not only of Hamm but also of Elisabeth Moss as humorless go-getter Peggy Olson. And if the phrases “Fat Betty” and “Zou Bisou Bisou” mean nothing to you, binge-watch the whole series after the wrap-up. You’ll realize there’s a reason so many people were mad about Mad Men. (AMC, May 17, 10 p.m.)
No. 11 Wayward Pines
A Secret Service agent (Matt Dillon), coming to after a car crash, finds himself stranded in an unnerving little place called Wayward Pines. The lulling chirp of crickets is piped in from microspeakers, and the townspeople, when not urging him to stay, hint that leaving is a fate much worse than having to drink their non-Starbucks coffee forever. Director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) is an executive producer on Wayward, which may explain its nicely executed corkscrew turns. (FOX, May 14, 9 p.m.)
No. 12 5 Flights Up
Ruth (Diane Keaton) and Alex (Morgan Freeman) could make a mint if they sold their Brooklyn walk-up (spacious, fine views, call your Realtor). But do they want to? Tender and warm, 5 Flights is a timely take on real estate frenzy, but it’s also a lovely peek into a 40-year marriage. Keaton plows ahead with verve, while Freeman plays the fuddy-duddy. They make aging seem surmountable with a fresh coat of paint. (May 8, PG-13)