'The Underground Railroad'
Barry Jenkins, who directed "Moonlight" and "If Beale Street Could Talk," isn't about to take it easy. "The Underground Railroad" is just as thought-provoking and soul rattling as his film work. Adapted from Colson Whitehead's award-winning bestseller, the 10-episode series takes place in an alternate universe in the 1800s where slaves can board an actual freedom train rumbling below Deep South plantations and creepy carnivals. Initially it's quite confusing — and conductor Jenkins rarely slows down to let you catch up. But those who get on board will be rewarded by what's certain to be one of the most discussed series of the year. Begins streaming Friday on Amazon Prime (Neal Justin)
'Those Who Wish Me Dead'
An impressive child actor is the key to this taut, Montana-set (but New Mexico-filmed) melodrama. Expressive Finn Little plays an orphan whose dying dad entrusts him with a document that — well, it's a MacGuffin, so it doesn't matter what the document says. All that matters is that the kid is in a world of hurt: alone, banged up, in the middle of a forest fire, with two hired killers on his tail, and an aunt and uncle who may have been murdered by his dad's killers. Luckily, he happens upon a firefighter (Angelina Jolie, appealingly understated) who can get him to safety. In theaters and streaming on HBO Max starting Friday (Chris Hewitt)
'Samantha Brown's Places to Love'
Anthony Bourdain used to affectionately poke fun at this fellow Travel Channel alum's squareness, but the fourth season of Brown's PBS series has a comforting quaintness that seems fitting as we ease into post-pandemic travel. Episodes so far have included a wintry, maple-syrup-soaked trip to Quebec City and a breezy spin around Florida's Sanibel Island — nothing very adventurous, but escapist nonetheless. PBS (Neal Justin)
'Sisters With Transistors'
This fascinating documentary feels like both an art film and a manifesto. Directed by Lisa Rovner, it highlights the women who shaped electronic music's early days. With archival audio and footage, the film introduces us to 10 radical players and composers, including theremin virtuoso Clara Rockmore. In place of the typical talking heads, it makes the most of montage, a perfect complement to the trippy, beautiful noise these women were coaxing out of thin air. (Jenna Ross) Metrograph, via Sound Unseen
Three weeks before he died unexpectedly of a heart attack April 9, influential rapper DMX gave an interview to TV One for its "Uncensored" series. DMX remains the only artist in history to enter both the Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop charts with No. 1 debuts for his first five consecutive albums in his career. With an album entitled "Exodus" due May 28 — his first in nine years — DMX can be heard in his final interview. 7 p.m. Sun., TV One (Jon Bream)
'La Vie en Rhodes'
Erica Rhodes is best known in these parts as Garrison Keillor's niece, but she's making a name for herself as a rising star on the national comedy scene. In this stand-up special, filmed in the Rose Bowl parking lot, Rhodes rails against tattoos, juice bars and Taylor Swift, but she's at her best when she spills the beans on her dating life, using language that would make never make the cut on "A Prairie Home Companion." On demand via various platforms (Neal Justin)
At 31, Cecile McLorin Salvant is the best young jazz singer to emerge in this generation. Her last three albums have earned Grammys. During the pandemic, the innovative vocal stylist got intimate, recently recording a performance in her Brooklyn loft with superb pianist Sullivan Fortner. With a name-your-price ticket, 100% of the donations will go to GHESKIO, a public health organization serving people in Haiti. May 10-31, gheskio.org (Jon Bream)
If you enjoyed watching Gary Oldman in "Mank," how about seeing the equally incomparable John Malkovich playing the same real-life character? This 1999 film about the making of "Citizen Kane" — which also stars Liev Schreiber as Orson Welles and James Cromwell as William Randolph Hearst — is more black-and-white figuratively than last year's Oscar nominee (and nowhere near as dazzling visually), but the actor playing screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz is a big reason to revisit it. HBO Max and other streaming services (Chris Riemenschneider)
Like so many sitcoms before it, "The Upshaws" relies a lot on a frustrated husband trading insults with an in-law. But when those characters are played by Mike Epps and Wanda Sykes, you may be convinced they came up with the idea. Besides the clever barbs, there are lots of nice touches that make you feel like you're spending time with a genuine working-class family, warts and all. Netflix (Neal Justin)
The Minnesota Lynx don't get much love in "144," but the entire WNBA organization ends up looking like champions in this inspirational documentary about how the league used this past season to both play games and protest police brutality. The sight of competitive players bonding in the name of Breonna Taylor is more thrilling than any buzzer-beating shot. 8 p.m. Thursday, ESPN, then streaming on ESPN Plus (Neal Justin)