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What to Watch on Amazon Prime: Pink, J Balvin Docs, Barry Jenkins' 'Underground Railroad'

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It’s a pretty common experience: sometimes you’ll read a great book and conclude there’s no way it could ever be turned into a film or TV series. It was easy to feel that way after reading Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, but the right choice of a director can make a difference and it’s hard to think of anyone better suited to tackle such tricky material than Barry Jenkins, who took on the project on the heels of his triumphant work on Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk.

Jenkins’ adaptation looks to be one of May’s highlights on Prime in a month that includes an intriguing mix of old favorites arriving on the service and originals.

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Alien / Aliens / Aliens 3 / Alien: Resurrection (May 1)

For all its convenience, the streaming era’s challenges include knowing where to find favorite movies that tend to migrate from one service to the next. For now at least, Prime is home to Ridley Scott’s Sigourney Weaver-starring 1979 sci-fi horror classic and its sequels. James Cameron’s Aliens — which reworked the concept into a fresh take on the war movie — is the other must-see, but every entry has its own intriguing elements.

Bound (May 1)

If the Wachowskis hadn’t revolutionized the world of action movie filmmaking with The Matrix in 1999, they might have had a fine career directing modestly-budgeted genre films like Bound, their 1996 directorial debut. Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly co-star as lovers trying to escape the mob with some ill-gotten money.

Flight (May 1)

Robert Zemeckis returned to live-action filmmaking after a decade experimenting in animation with this intense story of a hard-living pilot (Denzel Washington) whose habits fall under scrutiny after he miraculously rescues a doomed flight from certain disaster. Come for the crazily intense crash scene, stick around for one of Washington’s best performances as a man forced to reexamine every aspect of his life.

Skyfall (May 1)

This third outing for Daniel Craig was immediately declared one of the best entries in the James Bond series when it debuted and rightly so: it gives Bond a formidable foe in the form of Javier Bardem and director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins use the globetrotting story to create one stunning set piece after another. Bond fans have been waiting (and waiting and waiting) for the pandemic-delayed release of No Time to Die, but revisiting this highlight should help make the wait more tolerable.

The Boy From Medellin (May 7)

Shot in the fall of 2020, this documentary follows reggaeton superstar J Balvin as he prepares for a concert in his Colombian hometown of Medellin. But it’s not just about the music: as the concert looms, Balvin finds himself reluctantly getting drawn into Colombia’s combustible politics. Matthew Heineman (Cartel Land) directs.

The Underground Railroad (Prime, May 14)

In the alternate universe of Colson Whitehead’s powerful 2016 novel, The Underground Railroad, slaves escaped the South by a literal subterranean rail line that ran north to freedom — but not without some difficulty along the way. A way of talking about the reality of the past through the lens fantasy, the book has been adapted for television by Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk), an extremely promising pairing. Thuso Mbdedu, a South African television star, heads a cast that includes Joel Edgerton, William Jackson Harper, and Peter Mullan.

Saint Maud (May 13)

Rose Glass’s acclaimed horror film about the intense relationship between an intensely Catholic hospice nurse (Marfydd Clark) and the former dancer (Jennifer Ehle) in her care, was set to debut last spring only to lose its release date to the Covid-19 outbreak. Still, that doesn’t mean what might have been one of 2020’s most talked-about films can’t be one of 2021’s most talked about films now that it’s available to a wider audience.

P!nk: All I Know So Far (May 21)

J Balvin’s not the only musician getting an intimate behind-the-scenes doc in May. This documentary by Michael Gracey (The Greatest Showman) follows P1nk on her 2019 tour, an outing that finds her trying to balance professional obligations with motherhood. Expect a mix of candid backstage footage and the on-stage acrobatics P1nk’s fans have come to expect.

Solos (May 21)

Prime and Solos creator David Weil (Hunters) have provided only vague descriptions of this new anthology series, but the cast is intriguing enough that it may not matter. Its seven episodes star Anthony Mackie, Anne Hathaway, Constance Wu, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman. That’s probably reason enough to give it a look.

Panic (May 28)

In this adaptation of a 2014 novel by Lauren Oliver (Before I Fall), a group of high school seniors compete in a dangerous game that allows the winner to escape their impoverished Texas hometown. (That the series drops just in time for graduation season is a nice touch.)

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