Watching: ‘Last Chance U’ Is Back.

One of TV's great sports shows.

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By Margaret Lyons

Television Critic

Dear Watchers,

Emmy nominations come out tomorrow morning, and you can watch them here at 11:30 a.m. Eastern. I’m torn between wanting to cling to aspects of normalcy and deeply resenting the idea that such a thing is desirable, let alone possible.

See you Wednesday. Be safe.

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I want something real (and not just nonfiction)

John Beam, left, and Rejzohn Wright in a scene from the new season of “Last Chance U.”Netflix

‘Last Chance U’

When to watch: Season 5 arrives Tuesday, on Netflix. (Seasons 1 to 4 are streaming now.)

“Last Chance U,” the documentary series about community college football teams, returns for its fifth season this week, and it remains one of my absolute favorite shows on TV. I always recommend it to fans of “Friday Night Lights,” and I spent my pre-quar 2020 recommending it to fans of “Cheer,” which isn’t exactly a spinoff but comes from the same creative team. If you have ever enjoyed a sports documentary, you will enjoy this one. But the shape and style of this season reminded me less of those other shows than of probing, human-scale dramas like “The Sopranos” — shows invested in how much the past is the present.

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Is every story about football a story about fathers? This season it is, as the show turns its attention to the football team at Laney College in Oakland, Calif., a team that won the state championship last year and is now attempting to live up to its potential. But like anything interesting, this season is about more than it’s about, in this case the burdens of generational trauma — particularly of not having a father who supported you. Of somehow never catching a break. Of always wondering: Is it supposed to be this hard? Is it this hard for everyone else?

“Football is about family,” the head coach says early in the first episode. “So every year, everything starts all over again, a whole new family.” For some that’s a lovely idea. For others, that’s the exact opposite of what a family is, and the whole issue — for better or worse — is that you cannot start anew and certainly not every year.

Sports, of course, lend themselves to allegory, but this season of “Last Chance U” also leans heavily on the history and present crises in Oakland, particularly around racism and gentrification, to tease out ideas about legacy, inheritance and how to reconcile incompatible understandings of what people “deserve.” There’s a push-pull between improvement and abandonment, consistency and change, of who benefits from whose toil.

I don’t want to make this show sound like a bummer, though it is at least sometimes a bummer; it will break your heart but patch it back up, too. It’s also TV’s most potent snapshot of what it means to become a man right now in America.

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Your newly available online movies

Laura Tobón and David Escallón in “Days of the Whale.”Outsider Pictures

Two actors try the horror genre for their directorial debuts: Romola Garai with “Amulet,” a dark fairy tale about a figurine that conjures the supernatural, and Dave Franco with “The Rental,” a paranoid thriller set at a spooky seaside villa. “Radioactive” hails the innovations of the scientist Marie Curie (Rosamund Pike), but it doesn’t reinvent the biopic. And a Netflix rom-com sequel, “The Kissing Booth 2,” packs in over two hours of complications.

Some independent films are available via “virtual cinemas,” which share the rental fee between the distributor and the art-house theater of your choice.

Other titles can generally be rented on the usual platforms — Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube — unless otherwise noted. — Scott Tobias

‘Amulet’

This is Garai’s feature directing debut, and it is as satisfying as it is promising, despite an unfortunate wind down. She has a great eye — and a real feel for the power of silence and visual textures — but she stumbles when she explains too much. — Manohla Dargis (Read the full review here.)

‘Days of the Whale’ (A Critic’s Pick; Outsider Pictures virtual cinema)

The film, written and directed by Catalina Arroyave Restrepo, is mostly an account of the pleasures and pains of adolescent days at liberty, in a not dissimilar mode to that of the excellent 2018 film “Skate Kitchen.” The cast is appealingly natural, the cinematography subtly seductive, and the Colombian pop songs on the soundtrack establish a sinuous groove. — Glenn Kenny (Read the full review here)

‘The Kissing Booth 2’ (Netflix only)

If “The Kissing Booth,” stacked with regressive relationship dynamics, is Victorian in its views, “The Kissing Booth 2” progresses to the midcentury. Elle is no longer an object for men to possess and protect, and though true love is still paramount, the story comes to prize personal growth. — Natalia Winkelman (Read the full review here.)

‘Radioactive’ (Amazon Prime Video only)

“Radioactive” is more provocative and satisfying than the average waxworks, but [Marjane] Satrapi’s visual strategies also point to the even more fully adventurous movie that could have been. Even so, it pulls you in and sometimes knocks you sideways, most notably with the scenes illustrating the terrors that Curie’s discoveries led to, a reminder that this isn’t just about one life but many. — Manohla Dargis (Read the full review here.)

‘The Rental’

Whether “The Rental” will injure the Airbnb industry is debatable, but its impact on moviegoers will otherwise barely be noticed. Featuring one of the most dissatisfying, anticlimactic endings in genre memory, this paranoid thriller (the directing debut of Dave Franco) turns an isolated seaside villa into a slaughterhouse. — Jeannette Catsoulis (Read the full review here.)

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