Watching: Your Labor Day Options

On Netflix, Hulu and more

By The Watching Team

The long holiday weekend is here. Maybe you’ll spend some time outside, maybe you’ll hole up and watch a movie or TV series. Regardless of what streaming service you subscribe to, we’re here to help. We’ve gone through Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ to find the best movies and TV shows on each service.

Here’s one of the 50 best movies on Netflix

Jo Lawry, Judith Hill and Lisa Fischer in “20 Feet From Stardom.”Radius-TWC

‘20 Feet From Stardom’

This joyful, exuberant musical celebration, winner of the 2014 Oscar for Best Documentary, introduces us to the backup singers behind the voices we’ve heard on dozens — if not hundreds — of classic records, giving these women long-overdue credit for their work. Priceless archival clips and timeless recordings accompany their beautifully spun stories. Still, “20 Feet” is more than a nostalgia trip; it values the hard work these women spent their lives doing, and raises important questions about why so much of it was relegated to semi-anonymity. Our critic called it a “generous, fascinating documentary.”

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Here is one of the best TV shows on Netflix

Bob Odenkirk in “Better Call Saul.”Ursula Coyote/AMC

‘Better Call Saul’

The “Breaking Bad” prequel series, “Better Call Saul,” covers the early days of the can-do lawyer Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) as he evolves into the ethically challenged criminal attorney “Saul Goodman.” Throughout the show, Jimmy crosses paths with another “Breaking Bad” regular, the ex-cop Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), during Mike’s first forays into the Albuquerque drug-trafficking business. In this frequently surprising and incredibly entertaining crime saga, these two very different men discover the rewards and the perils of skirting the law. Our critic wrote, “Cutting against the desperation and violence that frame it, ‘Saul,’ in its dark, straight-faced way, is one of the funniest dramas on television.”

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Have a Hulu subscription? It’s a lot to wade through. We can help!

KiKi Layne and Stephan James in “If Beale Street Could Talk.”Annapurna Pictures

‘If Beale Street Could Talk’

Barry Jenkins followed up the triumph of his Oscar-winning “Moonlight” with this “anguished and mournful” adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel. It is, first and foremost, a love story, and the warmth and electricity Jenkins captures and conveys between stars KiKi Layne and Stephan James is overwhelming. But it’s also a love story between two African-Americans in 1960s Harlem, and the delicacy with which the filmmaker threads in the troubles of that time, and the injustice that ultimately tears his main characters apart, is heart-wrenching. Masterly performances abound — particularly from Regina King, who won an Oscar for her complex, layered portrayal of a mother on a mission.

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Amazon Prime Video doesn’t make it easy to find stuff. Luckily, we have done the work for you.

Leonardo DiCaprio in “Inception.”Melissa Moseley/Warner Bros. Pictures

‘Inception’

Between his second and third Batman outings, the director and co-writer Christopher Nolan crafted one of his twistiest and most satisfying entertainments, a mystery/thriller that delves into nothing less ambitious than the human dreamscape. Leonardo DiCaprio is in fine, tortured form as a high-tech dream manipulator on a high-stakes caper inside the head of a slumbering CEO; Tom Hardy, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Marion Cotillard are among the stacked supporting cast. Our critic praised “Mr. Nolan’s virtuosity as a conjurer of brilliant scenes and stunning set-pieces.”

Disney+ is full of older classics. But there are a lot of newer things to watch as well.

Meep meep meep meep “Muppets Now” on Disney+ meep meep.Disney+

‘Muppets Now’

The latest attempt to revive the vaudevillian magic of “The Muppet Show” tries to ingratiate itself with the tech-savvy, screen-addicted modern kid, losing some of the backstage camaraderie that made it feel like puppet friends putting on a show. But the new episodes are tightly constructed and mostly clever, with segments casting Miss Piggy as a temperamental influencer, the Swedish Chef as an inept cooking-show host and Kermit the Frog as a celebrity interviewer. Even when a bit falls flat, “Muppets Now” whisks along efficiently into the next one.

Correction: Sept. 4, 2020 A picture caption in the Watching newsletter from Sept. 4 misidentified an actor from the series “Power Book II: Ghost.” He is Lovell Adams-Gray, not Michael Rainey Jr.

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