Entertainment: Movies and Music

09 Apr 2024

Denise K. James reviews new films and music



Starring Nicole Kidman, Ji-young Yoo, Brian Tee, Sarayu Blue, Jack Huston

Amazon Prime Video

Four Stars

We’ve had more streaming content than we’ve known what to do with for quite some time now. Because of this, I’ve started treating TV like books—relying on recommendations and what I’ve enjoyed in the past. So, when a friend mentioned Expats, we agreed we’d probably check it out just for Nicole Kidman. Who didn’t love the star in HBO’s Big Little Lies or Hulu’s Nine Perfect Strangers? I settled in after dinner in early February to watch Expats, Kidman’s latest, on Prime Video.

The show takes place in Hong Kong, and I eagerly prepared myself to learn more about Chinese culture. Well, a few episodes in, that goal had not panned out. Instead, I realized this is more of what I’ve seen from Kidman—the sad, skin-and-bones, mother-and-wife type and more of what I’ve seen from the United States—dinner parties, licentious affairs and ostentatious apartments.

But while the urge was strong to snub Expats early on, I soon discovered I was hooked. The show’s primary mystery, the whereabouts of 3–year-old Gus, is weighing down not only his mother, Margaret (Kidman) but also his former Korean-American nanny, Mercy (Yoo), who was babysitting when Gus went missing. Mercy is also sleeping with Margaret’s neighbor, David.

As I kept watching, I realized that the strengths I had expected from this show—Kidman showing some versatility, intriguing moments of Chinese culture—had morphed into different strengths. We see how lost and melancholy Mercy is, and even if we’ve encountered sympathetic villains before, the young woman draws unexpected emotion from the viewer. I also applaud the way Expats offers perspective on how everyone acts in ways completely unrelated to their feelings; the woman smiling across from you at a party she’s hosting might, in fact, be suffering.

Expats does an above-average job of illustrating how people process trauma without therapy, meds or any sort of tempering and the shocking, raw truth of how difficult it is to cope with loss while pretending everything is fine.

Perhaps in reading this, you’re wondering how Expats could teach you anything new…aren’t these regular life lessons after all? But to that I would argue that all human stories are about either love, death, or both, in one of its billion forms. Yes, Expats might seem, at first blush, to be a too-familiar tune, but look again. You might understand something deeper about your neighbors…or about yourself.


Sheryl Crow


Big Machine

Another artist I loved in the 1990s, Sheryl Crow, has returned for a fresh round, but in a better way than our friend Usher. Evolution is Crow’s 12th studio album, and I’m here for these throwback-friendly jams. “Alarm Clock” features the catchy, tongue-in-cheek lyrics we loved back when Crow sang “All I Wanna Do,” and the title song, “Evolution,” is another sing-a-long gem. Pop this one in the car and pretend the last two decades were a dream.



Coming Home


My all-time favorite dance club song is Yeah! – I cannot hear without busting out a little boogie. So of course I fervently hoped that Usher’s newest, Coming Home, would get me up and out of my office chair. First, I checked out “Risk it All,” a sexy ballad featuring the artist H.E.R. Not bad for a romantic night in, but definitely not the mood I wanted. Similarly, “Ruin,’ another collaboration featuring the artist Pheelz, didn’t give me the self-centered Usher that I’d been pining for. I guess he grew up. And it’s not exactly my thing.

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