This Season's Best TV, Music and Movies

Our guide to must-see, must-hear entertainment

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12 Years a Slave

Director Steve McQueen's latest is the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C., in 1841 and sold into Louisiana slavery. Rescued in 1853, Northup published a memoir of those unforgivable years, providing a basis for this heart-wrenching film. Chiwetel Ejiofor (center) stars as Northup, Michael Fassbender as his most brutal master, and one of the movie's producers, Brad Pitt, briefly appears as an abolitionist.

 

In theaters October 18.

Jaap Buitendijk

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

Carole King’s evolution from teen composer to superstar is winningly told in a new Broadway show. With a strong story and cast (Jessie Mueller, center, plays King), it looks like a solid-gold hit.

 

Previews start November 21.

Joan Marcus

Nebraska

In Alexander Payne's latest dark comedy, bleak farmlands pass by car windows in luscious black and white. Bruce Dern (pictured) won a Best Actor awards at Cannes for his turn as an alcohol-addled dad convinced he is the winner of a million dollars in a postal sweepstakes.

 

In theaters November 22.

Breaking Bad: The Complete Series

A mild-mannered chemistry teacher (Bryan Cranston, far left) becomes a meth chef, then a drug lord, in AMC’s riveting study of evil and self-deception, now available in a deluxe Blu-ray edition.

 

Available on Blu-ray November 26.

Ben Leuner/AMC

Mandela: A Slow Walk to Freedom

Idris Elba, far left, stars as the antiapartheid crusader in a film ending with his 1994 election as president of South Africa. Naomie Harris is a force as Mandela’s strong-willed wife Winnie.

 

In theaters November 29.

Keith Bernstein © 2013 The Weinstein Company. All Rights Reserved

Live from Stratford-Upon-Avon: Richard II

The Royal Shakespeare Company sends its production, starring David Tennant (Broadchurch), left, from its Stratford-upon-Avon stage to U.S. movie theaters. For local information, go to onscreen.rsc.org.uk.

 

In theaters December 3 through January 2.

Kwame Lestrade

Kirstie

When the son she surrendered for adoption shows up as an oafish adult, a Broadway diva (Kirstie Alley, far left) turns to hooch and her handlers for help. This brash, amusing TV Land sitcom reunites Alley with her former Cheers costar Rhea Perlman. 

 

Premieres December 4.

Courtesy Of TV Land

Six by Sondheim

In this HBO documentary, Stephen Sondheim reviews his life while America Ferrera, left, and other stars artfully frame his insights with six of his songs.

 

Airs December 6.

Matthu Placek/HBO

August: Osage County

Meryl Streep scorches the screen as a pill-popping, poisonous mom clashing with her daughter, a startlingly good Julia Roberts (with Streep, left), in an adaptation of the ­Pulitzer Prize–winning play.

 

In theaters December 25.

Claire Folger © 2013 The Weinstein Company. All Rights Reserved

Labor Day

Sexual tension explodes between an escaped con (Josh Brolin) and the emotionally damaged woman he kidnaps (Kate Winslet, with Brolin, left) in a thriller adapted from Joyce Maynard’s novel.

 

In theaters December 25. 

Dale Robinette

The Invisible Woman

Ralph Fiennes bursts with energy as Charles Dickens while Felicity Jones (with Fiennes, left) brings understated eroticism to the role of his young lover in a film Fiennes also directs. 

 

In theaters December 25.

David Appleby, Courtesy Of Sony Pictures Classics

Rosanne Cash: The River & the Thread

Roaming from Colonial Virginia to the Depression-era South and beyond on her new album, Cash, left, offers 11 exquisite character studies, such as the folk rocker “Etta’s Tune,” an intimate portrait of an enduring marriage.

 

Album comes out January 14.

 

Next: Gifts to Entertain: DVDs, Books and More

 

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Clay Patrick McBride
First published in the November 2013 and December 2013/January 2014 issues

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