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    ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ Is a Throwback Amid Summer Blockbusters

    Directed by Greg Berlanti, the film amounts to a Hollywood experiment: Is there still room at the multiplexes for original movies aimed at grown-ups.“Fly Me to the Moon” is the kind of movie that isn’t supposed to succeed in theaters anymore, at least if you listen to franchise-obsessed studio executives.The story is a period piece and completely original: In 1968, a government operative (Woody Harrelson) hires a marketing virtuoso (Scarlett Johansson) to convince the public — and Congress — that a troubled NASA can pull off its scheduled Apollo 11 moon landing. Stylish and devious, she clashes with the rigid launch director (Channing Tatum) and secretly — as a backup, to be used only in an emergency — arranges for a fake landing to be filmed on a soundstage. What’s the harm?Hollywood marketers will tell you that ticket buyers eschew movies that mash together genres. And “Fly Me to the Moon” is part drama, part comedic caper, part romance, part fiction and part true story. Particularly in the summer, studios prefer to serve up mindless popcorn movies aimed at teenagers. “Fly Me to the Moon” is entertainment for thinking adults, the kind that Mike Nichols (“Working Girl”) and James L. Brooks (“Broadcast News”) made in the 1980s.So the question must be asked: How on earth did “Fly Me to the Moon” manage to score a wide release in theaters at the height of blockbuster season? The film rolls into 3,300 theaters in the United States and Canada on Friday.Shouldn’t it be going straight to streaming?In many ways, the film’s unexpected journey to multiplexes reflects the degree to which Hollywood runs on the vagaries of chance. “Fly Me to the Moon” started out as a streaming movie — full stop. Apple TV+ paid an estimated $100 million for the project in March 2022, and the contract called for no theatrical release of any kind.But then Greg Berlanti got involved.It was June 2022, and Mr. Berlanti, the wunderkind television producer, had just turned 50. That milestone prompted a degree of uncomfortable self-reflection, compounded by his mother’s recent death. At the same time, the entertainment business was changing — the streaming-driven “peak TV” era was winding down — and Mr. Berlanti wasn’t entirely sure where to focus his professional attention.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    ‘Sunny’ Is a Dreamy Robot Dramedy

    This stylish sci-fi series, on Apple TV+, stars Rashida Jones as a grieving woman with an unexpected new companion.Rashida Jones stars as a grieving, alienated ex-pat in “Sunny,” a quirky new 10-episode dramedy that begins Wednesday on Apple TV+. Suzie is an American woman living in Japan, who is married to a Japanese man but has to rely on an in-ear translator when she is out and about on her own. After her husband and young son disappear in a commercial plane crash, she feels totally untethered, often clashing with her chilly mother-in-law, Noriko (Judy Ongg), and spilling her guts to a friendly bartender, Mixxy (Annie the Clumsy).Her husband’s colleague drops off a homebot for her — a chirpy humanoid named Sunny (voiced by Joanna Sotomura) with a noggin like the Las Vegas Sphere. Suzie’s husband, Masa (Hidetoshi Nishijima), designed and programmed the robot especially for her, the colleague says. How odd! Masa always told Suzie that his job at the big technology company was in the refrigerators division …. (She does indeed have a snazzy refrigerator: buttery yellow with a ridged porthole window on the freezer.)It is also odd because Suzie claims to hate robots. “A robot killed my mother,” she says dryly; it was a self-driving car, explains Noriko. But Suzie isn’t really in a position to turn down help and companionship, and Sunny is awfully persistent. “Robots are expressions of their creators,” the colleague tells her, and any lingering tidbits of her husband are of course quite precious. Especially because, now that you mention it, maybe Masa was lying about a lot of things, including his connections to organized crime. And — eek! They’re after us!Much of the story and plotting in “Sunny” is chasing its own tail, but gosh it’s a fun loop. At a time when many shows have ceded ground to second-screen viewing, “Sunny” has a distinctive visual style. Drab, gray swaths are punctuated by pops of yellow, and scenes of seedy nightlife and packed shopping kiosks burst with neon squiggles and candy-bright outfits. It’s all exceptionally evocative, and the show’s mood and vibe linger like a lover’s perfume.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    ‘Presumed Innocent’ Review: Jake Gyllenhaal Steps In for Harrison Ford

    Jake Gyllenhaal steps in for Harrison Ford in a new, highly strung adaptation of Scott Turow’s legal thriller for Apple TV+.Scott Turow’s first novel, the 1987 best seller “Presumed Innocent,” is a clever murder mystery and courtroom drama with an 11th-hour twist. Before that denouement, it throws out red herrings to distract us, paralleling the strategy of its protagonist, Rusty Sabich, a prosecutor accused of killing the female colleague with whom he was having an affair. The 1990 film adaptation starring Harrison Ford necessarily condensed Turow’s plot but stayed true to its outlines and to the identity of the killer, a closely guarded secret through most of the story.It’s possible that the new “Presumed Innocent,” premiering Wednesday on Apple TV+ and starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Sabich, ends up at the same place, with the same killer. But after watching seven of its eight episodes, I didn’t really care. The claustrophobic atmosphere, the emphasis on psychology and trite family drama over well-made mystery and, especially, the crescendoing melodrama that makes a mockery of Turow’s courtroom credibility (even though he is credited as a co-executive producer) had done me in.The book is narrated in the first person by Sabich, and its most striking stylistic feature is his continual, detailed analyses of his professional and personal lives. Those passages are not there just for their own sake — Turow uses them to ground us in the milieus and the motivations of the courtroom and the prosecutors’ office. He cares about the inner life of Sabich, but he cares just as much about providing the framework for a page-turning mystery.Onscreen, the emphases have been different. Alan J. Pakula’s film was a chilly affair, elegantly assembled (with cinematography by the great Gordon Willis) but lacking the juice of a real thriller. It was more interested in the ethical and philosophical ramifications of Sabich’s situation, favoring judgment over action. (It was fun to watch once the case got into the courtroom, though, thanks to the performances of Raul Julia and Paul Winfield as defense lawyer and judge.)David E. Kelley, the veteran television writer who created the “Presumed Innocent” series, has the opposite temperament from Pakula — he’s all about the juice. He’s a master of taking material with a lurid or sensational edge and slickly packaging it for a mainstream TV audience. When he’s in his relaxed mode, on “The Lincoln Lawyer” for Netflix or the risibly pulpy “Big Sky” for ABC, the results can be entertaining, summoning distant memories of his days as chief writer on “L.A. Law.”When he takes things more seriously, though, he gets in trouble (though it doesn’t necessarily affect his success, as “Big Little Lies” demonstrated). Like Pakula, he makes “Presumed Innocent” more about Sabich than about the presumably less interesting question of whether Sabich is guilty of murder. But all he has to offer are tortured psychology and transgression, presented slickly and repetitively, with head-scratching surprises in place of new ideas. Meant to be provocative, it’s just wearying.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    In ‘The Big Cigar,’ a Black Panther Stars in a Fake Movie

    This new series is based on the unlikely true story of a Hollywood producer who used a bogus film production to help Huey Newton flee to Cuba in 1974.When the movie producer Bert Schneider met the Black Panther Party leader Huey P. Newton, he swooned.Schneider, who had helped revolutionize the movie industry (and made a lot of money) as a producer of films like “Easy Rider,” wanted to shake up things off the screen as well. He saw Newton, who had already done a prison stint for the killing of a police officer — Newton denied that he shot the officer, and the conviction was eventually overturned — as the real deal, a star on the front lines of the actual revolution.Their unlikely partnership is now the heart of the new limited series “The Big Cigar,” premiering April 17 on Apple TV+. It’s a caper about how Newton (played by André Holland) fled to Cuba in 1974 after he was arrested and charged with the murder of a prostitute (also a crime he claimed he didn’t commit). Schneider (Alessandro Nivola) ponied up cash and logistical assistance, including a fake film production, to help Newton escape.Holland and Alessandro Nivola, as Bert Schneider, in “The Big Cigar,” which is based on a true story.Brendan Adam-Zwelling/Apple TV+“Cigar” tells a wild tale with shootouts and chases and a couple of strange bedfellows: a Black revolutionary on the run and a well-coiffed Hollywood power player looking to bankroll him. Even as it takes some liberties with the facts, the series reflects the ties that existed between some counterculture entertainment figures and radical organizations of the ’60s and ’70s.“We didn’t see it as a story of Hollywood patting itself on the back,” Jim Hecht, the writer and an executive producer, said in a video interview. “There was a time when people actually did put their bodies on the line and do things for a cause that they believed in. They took personal risks to do things that were political.”We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    ‘Dark Matter,’ Sci-Fi Thriller, Explores Alternative Realities

    In this new Apple TV+ techno-thriller, a portal to parallel realities allows people to visit new worlds and revisit their own past decisions.In the new series “Dark Matter,” a physics professor (Joel Edgerton) is abducted off the streets of Chicago and replaced by an alternative version of himself. This version, instead of toiling away teaching distracted undergrads, is a prize-winning scientist who, among his various accomplishments, has invented a box that can superposition people into parallel worlds.This alternative Jason, despite his riches and renown in his own universe, covets the humbler Jason’s life and family — his loving wife (Jennifer Connelly) and son (Oakes Fegley). So he steals them, leaving the original Jason to negotiate a limbo of parallel realities, hopping from one to another as he tries to find his way home, like a sci-fi Odysseus.“Dark Matter,” which premieres May 8 on Apple TV+, was created by Blake Crouch, adapting his own 2016 novel of the same title. The series is part thriller, part family drama and part physics primer, enlisting heady concepts like quantum mechanics, superposition and, well, dark matter, to tell a story about longing, regret and desire.It is the latest project to depict physics as a vital, fraught and even sexy subject, joining the Oscar giant biopic “Oppenheimer” and the Netflix alien invasion series “3 Body Problem,” which is named for a classical mechanics problem. In these stories, physicists wrestle with matters of life and death that, as in reality, are intertwined with matters of love.They’re human tales about human dilemmas. But they’re also happy to throw some science into the equation.“More than anything, Blake and I wanted people to be excited in every episode, learn something in every episode, but also maybe cry in every episode,” Jacquelyn Ben-Zekry said in a video interview. She is a writer and producer on the series and has been Crouch’s developmental story editor since the publication of his 2012 novel “Pines” — she is also married to him.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    What to Watch This Weekend: A Supernatural Dramedy

    “The Big Door Prize” returns for another season of charming small-town folks grappling with their fates.Chris O’Dowd in a scene from Season 2 of “The Big Door Prize.”Apple TV+“The Big Door Prize,” on Apple TV+, is set among humble, fragile people, and it cradles them with gentle care. But the show itself is full of moxie — not defiant but confident that yes, it can blend “Gilmore Girls” with “The Leftovers.” Quirk and ache, baby! Come and get it.The show is set in the sweet small town of Deerfield, where everyone attends elaborate local festivals and enjoys the garish Italian restaurant where you can sit in a gondola. Then one day a fortunetelling machine called the Morpho appears in the general store, promising to reveal one’s true potential. In Season 1, the cards it spit out seemingly told characters what their true fate was: magician, royalty, or in the case of Chris O’Dowd’s repressed family man, “teacher/whistler.” In Season 2, the next level awaits. When the Deerfield denizens put their cards back into the machine’s slot, each sees a unique, personal 32-bit videogame on the screen, though one absorbs it more than plays it. For some, the interlude resolves their greatest regrets; for others, the action is too cryptic to understand at first glance.“Door” uses plenty of tricks from mystery-box shows and from, of course, its own literal mystery box. Little overlapping connections abound, and throwaway objects become significant totems. Like lots of high-end shows, it has departure episodes that focus more on side characters — but because the show features such a broad cast, almost every episode has that feel. “Door” avoids many of the frustrating aspects of its various predecessors by only glancingly investigating the Morpho’s origins. The show’s central question is not “Where did this come from?” but “What should I do?”Despite the woo-woo goings on, the folks here are not at much of an advantage. Being told exactly who they were didn’t liberate anyone per se, and living out one’s own little Greek myth is no great treat. Does being told you’re a liar make you more truthful? If a big ego is authentic, earned self-love and not just a cover for insecurity, might it be wonderful? If you regret one big life decision, does that mean you regret all the decisions that followed it?All 10 episodes from Season 1 of “The Big Door Prize” are available along with the first four from Season 2, with new episodes arriving Wednesdays. Because they are each a blissful half-hour, they make for a superb binge. More

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    The Comfortable Problem of Mid TV

    A few years ago, “Atlanta” and “PEN15” were teaching TV new tricks.In “Atlanta,” Donald Glover sketched a funhouse-mirror image of Black experience in America (and outside it), telling stories set in and around the hip-hop business with an unsettling, comic-surreal language. In “PEN15,” Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle created a minutely observed, universal-yet-specific picture of adolescent awkwardness.In February, Glover and Erskine returned in the action thriller “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” on Amazon Prime Video. It’s … fine? A takeoff on the 2005 film, it updates the story of a married duo of spies by imagining the espionage business as gig work. The stars have chemistry and charisma; the series avails itself of an impressive cast of guest stars and delectable Italian shooting locations. It’s breezy and goes down easy. I watched several episodes on a recent long-haul flight and they helped the hours pass.But I would never have wasted an episode of “Atlanta” or “PEN15” on in-flight entertainment. The work was too good, the nuances too fine, to lose a line of dialogue to engine noise.I do not mean to single out Glover and Erskine here. They are not alone — far from it. Keri Russell, a ruthless and complicated Russian spy in “The Americans,” is now in “The Diplomat,” a forgettably fun dramedy. Natasha Lyonne, of the provocative “Orange Is the New Black” and the psychotropic “Russian Doll,” now plays a retro-revamped Columbo figure in “Poker Face.” Idris Elba, once the macroeconomics-student gangster Stringer Bell in “The Wire,” more recently starred in “Hijack,” a by-the-numbers airplane thriller.I’ve watched all of these shows. They’re not bad. They’re simply … mid. Which is what makes them, frustratingly, as emblematic of the current moment in TV as their stars’ previous shows were of the ambitions of the past.What we have now is a profusion of well-cast, sleekly produced competence. We have tasteful remakes of familiar titles. We have the evidence of healthy budgets spent on impressive locations. We have good-enough new shows that resemble great old ones.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    In ‘Franklin,’ Michael Douglas Uses His Charm to Bankroll America

    A new Apple TV+ series dramatizes the years Benjamin Franklin spent in France, leveraging diplomacy and guile to secure his nascent country’s future.Sailing across the Atlantic to France in October 1776, Benjamin Franklin had 38 days to contemplate his near-impossible mission: persuading the absolute French monarchy of Louis XVI to bankroll a nascent American republic.His democracy in the making had just declared independence from another monarchy, the British, and had done so with “no gunpowder, no engineers, ships, munitions, money and no army fit to fight a war,” said Stacy Schiff, the author of the 2005 book “A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France and the Birth of America.”Communication with the revolutionary colonies was erratic and his authority in France tenuous, but Franklin had one significant card up his sleeve: The French hatred of the British, fortified by recurrent war. Franklin, oozing charm at 70, deploying creative ambiguity, leavening wisdom with humor, aware of French fascination with this strange new creature called an “American,” had the guile — as well as the ironclad patriotic conviction — to exploit this diplomatic opportunity.This is the backdrop to a new eight-part Apple TV+ series, “Franklin,” that began airing this month. Based on Schiff’s book and filmed in France, it stars Michael Douglas, in his first period picture, as the most worldly of America’s founders.The series has premiered as another war-torn young democracy, Ukraine, scrambles for arms and funds to defend its freedom, and as the American democracy whose fragility Franklin always feared confronts the January 2021 storming of the Capitol by a mob intent on overturning an election. This timing gives the drama a powerful added resonance.Douglas’s Franklin captures the birth of an enduring American impatience with honorifics and formality. Apple TV+We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More