Usher’s first new solo album in eight years and the “Abbott Elementary” debuting its third season on ABC are some of the new television, movies, music and games headed to a device near you.
Also among the streaming offerings worth your time as selected by The Associated Press’ entertainment journalists: Justin Hartley of “This is Us” debuts his new CBS series “Tracker,” Sony’s new multiplayer military shooter Helldivers 2 and Celine Song’s “Past Lives,” an achingly tender film about making peace with the choices that shape our lives.
— Celine Song’s “Past Lives” is an achingly tender film about making peace with the choices that shape our lives. Song’s directorial debut, which is nominated for best picture and best screenplay at the Academy Awards, is about a woman named Nora (Greta Lee) who, while married and living in New York, reconnects with a childhood friend (Teo Yoo) from Seoul. Though modest in scale, “Past Lives” gently reckons with existential quandaries that stretch across time and continents. In her review, AP’s Jocelyn Noveck called it “a gorgeous, achingly wistful feature debut.” Streaming on Paramount+ with Showtime.
— The mind of Charlie Kaufman has produced some of the most memorable films (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Synecdoch, New York”) of the last few decades. But even when Kaufman last scripted an animated film, (“Anomalisa”), you wouldn’t call the results child-friendly. But in “Orion and the Dark,” Kaufman adapts Emma Yarlett’s illustrated children’s book about a fifth-grader (voiced by Jacob Tremblay) who’s afraid of the dark, among other things. He’s forced to confront his fears when visited the actual Dark (voiced by Paul Walter Hauser). In his review, AP’s Mark Kennedy said director Sean Charmatz’s film “is about fear and overcoming … but has too much junk clogging up the vision.” Streaming on Netflix.
— Laura Chinn’s directorial debut “Suncoast,” which recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, draws from Chinn’s own experience growing up in Florida and caring for her ill brother. With a cast including Laura Linney and Woody Harrelson, newcomer Nico Parker stars as the high-schooler Doris in this coming-of-age drama. “Suncoast” streams Feb. 9 on Hulu.
— AP Film Writer Jake Coyle
— It may very well be Usher’s world, and we’re just living in it. From an incredibly successful Las Vegas residency to scoring the 2024 Super Bowl halftime show, the “Confessions” singer is experiencing a well-deserved influx of attention — from a new and curious audience as well as those filled with nostalgia for his smooth ’00s R&B. There’s more great news: on Friday, Feb. 9, just two days before he appears at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas for Sin City’s inaugural Super Bowl, Usher will release “Coming Home,” his first new solo album in eight years. He hasn’t missed a beat — “Good Good,” the single with Summer Walker and 21 Savage — is silky summertime R&B with some Atlanta bounce — a winning combination. Elsewhere on the album, Usher joins forces with Burna Boy, Latto, The-Dream, H.E.R., BTS member Jungkook and Pheelz. “Stacked” is the word.
— Swedish pop singer Zara Larsson will release her fourth studio album, “Venus,” on Feb. 9 — an album full of shimmery synth-pop and Euro dance-pop that burns bright, hot and fast like a Saturday night. “On My Love” with EDM giant David Guetta proves it, but Larsson’s commitment to feel-good club bangers exists throughout: like on the strings of “End of Time,” which she said was inspired by Rihanna and ABBA in equal parts. Now that’s a combination.
— If you frequent indie music corners of the internet, you might’ve seen the shirts released by Helado Negro, the musical moniker of Roberto Carlos Lange, before you heard his music: “Young and Latin and Proud,” they read, a celebration of the South Florida native born to Ecuadorian immigrants’ identity, but also the identity of many of his listeners. It’s a great framework to consider Helado Negro’s latest album, “Phasor,” a day-dreamy collection of experimental pop (like on “Best For You and Me”), psych rock (“LFO (Lupe Finds Oliveros)”) and alternative rhythms and flutes (“I Just Want To Wake Up With You.”) It is a celebration of an incredible diversity of Latin music, including one that gets lost when listeners focus too closely on geography: atmospheric sounds.
— AP Music Writer Maria Sherman
— “Abbott Elementary” aired its season two finale last April and there are lingering questions that need answers. Can Janine and Gregory (series creator Quinta Brunson and Tyler James Williams) remain platonic after almost stepping outside the friend-zone on the field trip to the science museum? Did a summer at Harvard prompt Ava (Janelle James) to finally take her job as principal seriously? And will Mrs. Howard (Sheryl Lee Ralph) finally learn that Brian Tyree Henry’s name is not Brian Austin Green? Answers may be revealed Wednesday when school is back in session and “Abbott Elementary” debuts season three on ABC. Episodes also stream on Hulu.
— Revisit popular Super Bowl ads from years past on “Super Bowl Greatest Commercials XXIII: The Ultimate Countdown,” on Wednesday on CBS. The show presents top commercials from over the years from brands including Budweiser, E-Trade and Coke. Hosts Boomer Esiason, the former NFL quarterback, and actor Danielle Ruah narrow down the competition to two finalists, and viewers can pick a winner by scanning a QR code on screen to vote live. The special will also stream on Paramount+.
— There’s a four-legged alternative to Super Bowl Sunday: Puppy Bowl XX. This year marks the Bowl’s 20th year and 131 adoptable pups have been drafted from shelters and rescues across the U.S. to compete. Teams Ruff and Fluff square off for the coveted “Lombarky” trophy while also encouraging people to adopt and not shop for pets. Puppy Bowl XX will simulcast on Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, Discovery+, TBS, TRUTV, and MAX before the big human game on Sunday, Feb. 11.
— Great American Family also wants in on the call-to-adoption programming. Year two of the Great American Rescue Bowl will feature both dogs and cats — all who have already been adopted — to highlight the kinds of pets you can find at a shelter or rescue instead of a store or breeder. The paw-some game between teams The Adorables and The Cuddlers begin at 12 p.m. also on Sunday, Feb. 11.
— Justin Hartley of “This is Us” debuts his new CBS series “Tracker” in the prime spot after Super Bowl LVIII. Based on the book “The Never Game” by Jeffery Deaver, Hartley plays Colter Shaw, a guy with a skill for tracking down the missing and all he asks for in return is reward money. In an interview, Hartley says he was itching to roam around outside after years of being in kitchens and living rooms for “This Is Us.”
— Alicia Rancilio
— Sony’s new multiplayer military shooter Helldivers 2 invites you to “wage war for peace” and “die for democracy.” If those slogans sound like something out of the 1997 satire “Starship Troopers,” wait until you see the enemy, a species of giant insects called terminids. You can join forces with up to three friends as elite soldiers defending “Super Earth” from the aliens — which, of course, is best accomplished by attacking the monsters on their home planets with a spectacular assortment of high-tech weaponry, from your basic laser rifle to massive bombs. If you find yourself cornered by an alien “bile spewer,” well, that’s your problem. The invasion launches Thursday on PlayStation 5 and PC.
— Lou Kesten
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