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Adrienne Shelly’s widower confronts her killer in new film



Adrienne Shelly's widower confronts her killer in new film

Andy Ostroy treasures the photographs he’s taken over the years of his daughter, Sophie. They capture the milestones in her life: first days at school, triumphs in soccer and even her attempts to ride a bicycle without training wheels.

In a heartbreaking scene from “Adrienne,” the documentarypremiering Wednesday on HBO — Ostroy directed about his late wife, actress Adrienne Shelly, he shows some of those pictures to the man who killed Sophie’s mother when the girl was just two.

“Adrienne missed a lot,” Ostroy tells Diego Pillco during an emotionally charged visit to the killer’s prison in upstate New York.

Dropping Sophie’s images onto a table in turn, he describes each one in detail. “This is her first birthday after her mom left her,” Ostroy notes.

The shocking death of rising star Adrienne Shelly was reported on the front page on November 3, 2006.
The shocking death of rising star Adrienne Shelly was reported on the front page of The Post on Nov. 3, 2006.

The next photo he puts in front of the inmate shows Sophie as a teenager, laughing as she eats a slice of cake. “Her most recent birthday — still no mom.”

It’s impossible to tell whether or not Pillco is moved by Ostroy’s commentary since the 34-year-old former construction worker is impassive throughout. Finally, while being led back to his cell, he mumbles the words “I’m sorry” in Spanish.

As Ostroy later admits in the movie: “My life will always be about grief. That will always be the ghost in the room. That love that I had at that time didn’t go anywhere. It froze. It’s like she is frozen in time.”

The documentary finds that Shelly’s personal life and career could not have been happier, busier or more promising when she was killed, at age 40, on Nov. 1, 2006.

The Queens-born actress, writer and director, who married Ostroy 12 years earlier, had starred in more than 20 films. They ranged from indie productions such as 1989’s “The Unbelievable Truth” to more mainstream movies like 2005’s “Factotum” with Matt Dillon, Lili Taylor and Marisa Tomei.

Sadly, Shelly didn’t live to see the runaway success of her passion project, “Waitress” — the quirky drama that she wrote, directed and co-starred in alongside Keri Russell. The movie was released to critical acclaim a year after her murder and has since been adapted as a hit Broadway musical.

Shelly, who lived with Ostroy and Sophie in the West Village, did most of her writing away from the family home, in a nearby Abingdon Square apartment that she rented.

Pillco, then a 19-year-old illegal immigrant from Ecuador, was helping renovate another apartment in the building in November 2006.

Shelly with daughter Sophie, who was just a toddler when the actress was killed.

In the documentary, he tells Ostroy through a translator that he “needed money” and had been roaming the property looking for cash and other things to steal. He snuck into Shelly’s office and rifled through her purse, only to be caught red-handed by the five-foot-two-inch mom.

“The lady came out and she ran after me,” Pillco recalls on camera, sparing none of the gruesome details as Shelly’s widower listens in horror. “And when she started yelling at me, the only word that I heard her say was ‘police.’”

As Shelly went to seize her phone, he says, he grabbed her from behind, covered her mouth and told her not to call the cops.

Shelly in Abingdon Square in the West Village.
Shelly in Abingdon Square in the West Village. She was killed in the nearby apartment she used for an office.
The New York Post

“I lost it and I was choking her with my hand,” continues the killer, who pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to 25 years for his crimes. “At the same time, I was covering her mouth so that she wouldn’t make noise. I took my hand off and I let her go.”

Both Ostroy and the translator look repulsed as Pillco goes on to reveal how he knew the actress was dead: “I saw that her lips were blue so I thought: ‘Oh, I killed her.’”

Pillco explains how he dragged Shelly to the bathroom and fashioned a noose from a bedsheet — then hung her from the shower curtain rail so to make it look “like she had committed suicide.”

After a long pause, Ostroy leans forward and asks: “Did you think you’d gotten away with it?”

“Yes,” Pillco replies.

But he hadn’t. Detectives first claimed that Shelly had taken her own life but that was immediately challenged by Ostroy and other family members who refused to believe it.

Shelly was born on June 24, 1996, in Queens, and raised with two brothers. Her father, Sheldon Levine, died suddenly when she was 12. A gifted singer and dancer, she began performing around the age of 10 — and later dropped out of Boston University to pursue acting in Manhattan. Shelly’s breakthrough role came in 1989 in independent filmmaker Hal Hartley’s “The Unbelievable Truth,” which led to other ingenue roles in indie movies.

Elaine Langbaum, Shelly’s mom, remembers in the documentary not being being able to accept that her daughter had committed suicide.

Shelly's passion project was writing, directing and starring in "Waitress."
Shelly’s passion project was writing, directing and starring in “Waitress.”
Fox Searchlight

“This was the time of her life,” Langbaum says, referring to Shelly’s devotion to Sophie, whom she’d given birth to at age 38. “This was it — the time she’d wanted her whole life. And she wanted to kill herself?”

But Pillco was quickly fingered for the murder. Detectives found a shoe print in Shelly’s bathtub that was identical to one discovered in the dust of the downstairs apartment being renovated — and the tread matched Pillco’s sneakers. After being arrested, and he was arrested, he confessed within hours.

Retired NYPD homicide detective Irma Rivera-Duffy, who became a friend of Shelly’s family and appears in the documentary, reveals that Pillco admitted his guilt after she told him the victim’s toddler was the same age as his own niece.

“After I got the confession, driving in my car, I got a nice cold chill in the back of my neck and the hairs stood up,” Rivera-Duffy tells Ostroy in the documentary. “I felt it was your wife thanking me for having had this guy confess so that your daughter didn’t have to go through life thinking it was a suicide.”

Ostroy, a producer and director who previously owned a marketing company for 20 years, recalls in the film how he “lost control of my body and dropped to the floor and started crying” when the lead detective told him of Pillco’s confession.

“It was everything I wanted to hear,” he says. “There was no way Adrienne killed herself. Suicide simply wasn’t possible. She was the happiest that I’d ever seen her.”

Diego Pillco admitted to killing Adrienne Shelly after she threatened to call police after catching him going through her belongings.
Diego Pillco pled guilty to first-degree manslaughter in the death of Adrienne Shelly and is now serving 25 years in prison.

The documentary opens with a home video recorded at a low-key Halloween party with friends on Oct. 31, 2006. It shows two-year-old Sophie in a princess dress and Shelly noting that the toddler’s favorite song is “Twist And Shout.”

“Every horrible day in history has a much happier day before,” Ostroy theorizes in the film. “This [Halloween] was ours. I went to bed that night the luckiest guy alive. By the next night, I was living the worst nightmare imaginable.”

Now 62, he has instant recall of both the dramatic and seemingly trivial details of Nov. 1, 2006. He was grateful that he left home later than usual for the office and got to spend a little more time with his family. Then he dropped off Shelly at Abingdon Square before driving to his own place of work.

“I just watched her walk away into the building and that was the last time I saw her,” he says in the movie.

Widowed husband XXXX and daughter XXX look through a high school yearbook with Shelly.
Widower Andy Ostroy and daughter Sophie look through Shelly’s high school yearbook.

Ostroy had a busy day at work but says there was unusual “radio silence” from his wife, whom he couldn’t reach on email, cell or landline. Their nanny hadn’t heard from her either. “It was incredibly atypical,” he recalls. “[I had] this intuition that something really awful has happened.”

A close friend drove him to Adrienne’s building in the late afternoon. When his wife didn’t answer the intercom, he went up to the apartment and found the door unlocked. “It just popped open, and that’s when the real panic set in,” Ostroy says. “It was just palpable. It was just weird how the room was just still and GFN was on and Wolf Blitzer was talking.”

As he moved through the eerie space to look for his wife, dark forces seemed to be at work. “It was like there was evil in that room,” he remembers. “Really, that’s how I felt. I felt there had been a monster in the room.”

Then he found her body in the bathroom.

Andy Ostroy and Adrienne Shelly while visiting Paris.
Ostroy and Shelly in Paris.

“I remember thinking in that moment: ‘Is this really happening?’ I was supposed to go there and find her [Adrienne] outside saying, ‘Oh Andy, I’m so sorry,’” he recalls. “I wasn’t supposed to find her dead.”

And then he had to explain to little Sophie why her mother was no longer there. “I mean what do you say to a kid who can’t handle much?” he asks. In the end, he told the toddler: “Mommy died. Her body stopped working. She’s not coming home anymore.”

Tearing up in the documentary, Ostroy recounts Sophie’s sorrowful reaction. “She walked to the window and turned to me and said: ‘Mommy died. She’s not coming back.’ And I said, ‘No, she is not coming back.’ And she just started out of the window and that was it.”

Despite saying in the documentary that his life “will always be about grief,” Ostroy has thrown himself into a non-profit organization he established after Shelly’s death. The Adrienne Shelly Foundation awards scholarships, grants and stipends to women film makers.

The widower explains in his film that the initiative has helped him cope. “I just made a decision early on that I need to accept what happened — in that ‘s–t happens, life’s not fair’ kind of way — but also try to spin some gold with it,” Ostroy says. “To turn what is probably the most horrible negative of my life to something positive.”

Ostroy describes having some “really dark moments” after his wife’s death when he would crawl into Shelly’s closet and wrap himself in her clothes just to feel closer to her. But he knew he had to keep it together for the sake of their daughter.

Shelly poses for a photo. Years later, her daughter, XXX, recreates the shot in remembrance of her mom.
Fifteen years after her mom’s death, Sophie (right) re-creates Shelly’s pose in front of Moulin Rouge.
HBO (2)

“All of the sudden, a routine set in and I just looked at [Sophie] and made her a promise that she’s going to grow up happy and healthy,” he says in the documentary. “We’re a team and we’re going to be okay.”

Nevertheless, he couldn’t help obsessing about Pillco’s criminal psyche. In 2011, Ostroy wrote to the killer, who sent him a long letter of apology in reply. The widower only decided to visit Pillco in jail after resolving to make a documentary to celebrate Shelly’s legacy.

On the morning of the trip to Pillco’s Catskills prison, Ostroy received a pep talk from Sophie. Interviewed in the film, the now 15-year-old says of her mom, “Every time I think of her, I think of [Pillco] too.” Growing up, she frequently questioned her dad about the intricacies of what had happened on Nov. 1, 2006, as they tried to come to terms with their loss.

“I want him [Pillco] to shed light on stuff and acknowledge what he did and who he took and the consequences of that,” Ostroy says on the drive to the prison. Then he manages a bit of dark humor: “It’d be funny if everything I said just goes out the window and I go into some fucking rage and I get carted out of there.”

Shelly was killed at her apartment in the West Village. After killing her, Pillco tried to make it look like a suicide. Neighbors left flowers at her door.
Shelly’s building in the West Village, where Pillco tried to make her death look like a suicide.
Robert Miller; William Farrington

That didn’t happen. After listening to Pillco’s account of the murder — prefaced by the killer’s claim that he was “never aggressive” — Ostroy looks him in the eyes.

“I want you to know that you took a wife, you took someone I was madly in love with and you took a mother,” Ostroy tells Pilco. Then he hands over another picture, this time of Sophie and Shelly together.

“That’s my daughter with her mom,” he says. “They don’t have anything any more. And they had everything.”


Twin Cities Issue Vaccine Mandates for Restaurants, Bars, and Entertainment Venues



Twin Cities Issue Vaccine Mandates for Restaurants, Bars, and Entertainment Venues

On January 12, 2022, just one week after issuing mask mandates, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter issued executive orders mandating that places of public accommodation serving food and drinks indoors require persons to furnish proof of vaccination or negative PCR or antigen tests. Then, on January 13, 2022, and January 14, 2022, respectively, Mayor Carter and Mayor Frey each issued additional emergency regulations amending their January 12, 2022, orders.

Similar to the mask mandates, the Twin Cities’ respective vaccine mandates describe the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus as the reason for the new measures. The key provisions of the cities’ vaccine mandates are summarized below.

Minneapolis Emergency Regulations No. 2022-4 and No. 2022-5

The Minneapolis vaccine mandate provides, in relevant part, the following:

[A]ny space of public accommodation in the City of Minneapolis where food and/or drink is sold or served indoors for consumption onsite shall admit only those persons who furnish proof of a Completed Vaccination Series against COVID-19 occurring at least two weeks prior to entry, or proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test conducted by a medical professional from a sample that was collected from such person within three calendar days prior to the person’s entry.

The regulations also reaffirm the previous mask mandate by stating that “[a]ll individuals, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a Medical-Grade Mask or Cloth Face Covering while not actively engaged in eating and/or drinking onsite.” The regulations also reiterate the requirement that employers operating businesses subject to the regulations must require their employees to wear masks “whenever such employees have face-to-face contact with the public,” regardless of an employee’s vaccination status.

Interestingly, the regulatory framework also previously included language regarding OSHA’s COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), which was stayed by the Supreme Court of the United States on January 13, 2022. That language was rescinded by way of Minneapolis Emergency Regulation 2022-5 on January 14, 2022. The language previously stated the following:

All employers of businesses that are spaces [of] public accommodation subject to this Regulation shall comply with OSHA standards OSHA standards 1910.501(e) and (g), as existing on the date of issuance of this Emergency Regulation, relating to employee vaccination status and testing at covered locations, regardless of the number of their employees. (Emphasis added.)

OSHA Standard 1910.501(e) concerns a vaccine mandate for employees, while 1910.501(g) concerns a testing mandate (if an employee is not vaccinated). Previously, it was unknown whether this language would remain in effect after the Supreme Court’s decision, but that question was answered strongly in Minneapolis’s new emergency regulation. Nevertheless, employers may want to keep their eyes on this because the language may be back depending on the ultimate resolution of the OSHA ETS litigation.

The emergency regulations define “space of public accommodation” as “a business, or an educational, refreshment, entertainment, or recreation facility, or an institution of any kind, whether licensed or not, whose goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations are extended, offered, sold, or otherwise made available to the public.” The regulations also provide various examples of spaces of public accommodation subject to the proof of vaccination or negative test requirement, including:

  • “indoor restaurant spaces or coffee shops;

  • cafes within larger spaces (e.g., museum cafes);

  • bars;

  • sports venues that serve food or drink for onsite consumption;

  • movie theaters;

  • bowling alleys;

  • other entertainment venues that serve food or drink for onsite consumption;

  • conventions (if food is being served);

  • catering halls; and

  • food court seating areas, if exclusive to specific establishments.”

Places and establishments expressly excluded from the regulation’s vaccine mandate include:

  • “K-12 and early childcare settings;

  • hospitals;

  • congregate care facilities or other residential or healthcare facilities;

  • shared consumption areas not exclusive to an individual space of public accommodation;

  • establishments and/or food service locations that provide take out only for off-site consumption;

  • any location where food or drink is consumed as part of a religious practice;

  • any portion of a location that is outdoors, meaning the area is fully open to the outside on two or more sides;

  • grocery stores, convenience stores, bookstores or other establishments that primarily sell packaged food and other articles for offsite use, except in seated dining areas within those stores; and

  • soup kitchens or other similar sites serving vulnerable populations.”

The regulations identify what “completed vaccination series” means, which is defined as two weeks “after an individual has received the second dose in a two-dose series of an Approved COVID-19 Vaccine or a single dose in a one-dose Approved COVID-19 Vaccine.” In addition, “approved COVID-19 vaccine” is defined as “a vaccine that has been authorized or approved by either the Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization to prevent COVID-19, whether for emergency use or otherwise.”

the new regulation issued on January 14, 2022, further described what proof of vaccination may consist of, including: “presentation of a [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)]-provided card, [a] photograph of [the] card, other government-approved record of vaccination, or an application approved by a governmental entity (e.g. Docket) to hold immunization information. A photo identification is not required unless otherwise required by law or by policy of the space of public accommodation.”

Finally, the new regulation also sheds light on what a negative COVID-19 test means. The regulation states that the following is sufficient: “an email, printout or screen shot with the name of the individual and the test result showing the date of the test. A photo identification is not required unless otherwise required by law or by policy of the space of public accommodation.”

The window for employers to comply is longer than the one-day period the mask mandate provided, with the regulation taking effect on January 19, 2022, at 8:00 a.m., and remaining in effect for 40 days following, “or at the end of the declared local public health emergency to which it relates, whichever occurs first.”

Emergency Executive Orders 2022-4 and 2022-5

The St. Paul vaccine mandate is similar in many respects to the Minneapolis one. The emergency executive order provides the following:

[A]ny licensed business that is a space of public accommodation in the City of Saint Paul during any time that food and/or drink is sold or served indoors for consumption onsite shall limit admission of patrons to the area of the licensed premises where food and/or drink is being consumed, to only those persons who furnish proof of a completed vaccination series against COVID-19 or a negative COVID-19 test obtained within seventy-two (72) hours of entry.

Not all restaurants will be subject to this requirement because they are not licensed by the City of St. Paul—only restaurants specifically licensed will be subject to the requirement. This typically means only those places with alcohol licenses.

In addition, the St. Paul mandate also requires that:

any licensed business, during any time that a ticketed event is being held, that is a space of public accommodation in the City of Saint Paul during any time that food and/or drink is sold or served indoors for consumption onsite shall limit admission of patrons to the area of the licensed premises where food and/or drink is being consumed, to only those persons who furnish proof of a completed vaccination series against COVID-19 or a negative COVID-19 test obtained within seventy-two (72) hours of entry.

Like the Minneapolis mandate, the St. Paul mandate includes language regarding OSHA’s COVID-19 ETS setting forth a vaccination and testing mandate that was stayed by the Supreme Court of the United States on January 13, 2022. In response to the Supreme Court’s decision, St. Paul revised the executive order to remove the implicated language. Previously, the executive order provided as follows:

All employers of businesses that are spaces public accommodation subject to this Regulation shall comply with OSHA standards 1910.501(e) and (g), as existing on the date of issuance of this Emergency Regulation, relating to employee vaccination status and testing at covered locations, regardless of the number of their employees. (Emphasis added.)

As stated above, this language largely resembles the Minneapolis regulation.

Employers may want to keep their eyes on this because the language may be back depending on the resolution of the OSHA ETS litigation.

The executive order defines “a licensed business that is a space of public accommodation” as “an entity that holds a City license that is a business, or an educational, refreshment, entertainment, or recreation facility, or an institution of any kind, whose goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations are extended, offered, sold, or otherwise made available to the public.” A “ticketed event” is defined as “an event where all patrons must obtain a ticket to attend the event and tickets were available for purchase at least 14 days in advance of the event.”

With respect to terms specific to vaccination, the executive order defines “proof of a completed vaccination series against COVID-19” as “presentation of a CDC-provided card, photograph of card, other government-approved record of vaccination, or an application approved by a governmental entity (e.g. Docket) to hold immunization information in conjunction with any photo identification that includes a photograph and name of the individual. A photo identification is not required for individuals under the age of 18.” A “completed vaccination series” is defined by the executive order as “two weeks following completion of any CDC-approved vaccination series, including: a 2-dose series of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), or a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine (Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine).”

The St. Paul order also specifies what constitutes a “negative COVID-19 test,” defining it as “an email, printout or screen shot with the name of the individual and the test result showing the date of the test in conjunction with any photo identification that includes a photograph and name of the individual.” (The executive order states that “photo identification is not required for individuals under the age of 18.”) Similar to the Minneapolis mandate, the St. Paul one also does not allow at home tests as proof of a negative COVID-19 text.

The executive order provides an exemption for certain St. Paul businesses; the Minneapolis mandate does not include a comparable exemption. Namely, the executive order provides that “any facility hosting an event or activity (on a one-time or ongoing basis) that holds a license issued by the City of Saint Paul is not subject to these requirements for a specific event if no food or beverages will be consumed at the event and the facility follows all supplemental COVID-19 safety measures” is exempt from implementing the required vaccine and testing requirements. As defined by the executive order, such supplemental COVID-19 safety measures include:

  • “requiring face coverings be worn by all individuals, regardless of vaccine status, except young children at risk of suffocation and persons who cannot medically tolerate wearing a face covering.

  • mak[ing] masks available for staff and attendees.

  • providing sufficient hand sanitizer and hand washing facilities.

  • following CDC-recommended cleaning protocols.

  • maintaining as much social distancing as possible.

  • maximiz[ing] indoor air ventilation.”

Like the Minneapolis window of compliance, the St. Paul compliance window remains open a relatively long time. The executive order will take effect on January 19, 2022 (generally) and on January 26, 2022 (for ticketed events). While the window of compliance is longer than the mask mandate, businesses may want to begin preparations immediately.

© 2022, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 16

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Omicron options: Chronicle critics share their picks for entertainment if you’re stuck at home



Omicron options: Chronicle critics share their picks for entertainment if you're stuck at home
Watching television is a good way to kill time when under the weather or trying to avoid getting people sick. Photo: Nico De Pasquale Photography / Getty Images

With the omicron variant on the rise, many people are finding themselves back behind closed doors, isolating in an attempt to keep the coronavirus from spreading. And they’re going to need something to while away the long, lonesome hours.

With that in mind, The Chronicle offers this list of recommendations of entertaining ways to stay occupied in isolation.

The Chronicle’s top 10 movies of 2021

6 exciting offerings coming to Netflix, Hulu and more in January 2022

‘Search Party’

If the thrill of solving a mystery is strong enough to get you out of the COVID funk, “Search Party” delivers that thrill in excess, while adding gripping humor into the mix.

The Comedy Central/HBO Max comedy series stars Alia Shawkat (“Arrested Development”) as Dory Sief, a Millennial woman living in New York City who steps out of the monotony of her life to investigate the sudden disappearance of her college acquaintance Chantal Witherbottom. With the help of her boyfriend Drew (John Reynolds) and best friends Elliott (John Early) and Portia (Meredith Hagner), Dory solves the initial puzzle and finds herself at the center of its bombastic aftermath, taking viewers through police investigations, media frenzies, courtroom drama and the horrors of captivity, among other surprising plot developments.

With the show’s fifth and final season set to premiere Friday, Jan. 7, now’s the time to sit back and catch up on this hidden gem of a show before it unveils its final chapter.

Stream it: Available on HBO Max. Season five premieres Friday, Jan. 7.

— Jose Alejandro Bastidas


There’s something satisfying about watching stories of survival when faced with a difficult personal moment. As I hunkered down for my own COVID-19 isolation, catching up on Showtime’s new mystery thriller “Yellowjackets” proved to be an entrancing pastime.

Many shows have tried to mimic the pop-culture sensation of ABC’s “Lost,” which followed the survivors of a plane crash on a mysterious island. More than a decade after the end of that iconic series, Showtime’s new drama elevates the premise with two alternating timelines and a focus on the female gaze.

“Yellowjackets” follows the members of a high school girls soccer team after a plane crash leaves them fighting to survive in the wilderness in 1996, with little to no hope of being rescued. Then in 2021, the series catches up with four of the surviving members as their seemingly ordinary lives are plagued by the trauma they lived through, and a looming threat that may bring the secrets of their survival to the surface.

With a few episodes left to premiere in season one, “Yellowjackets” may inspire the conspiracy theorist in you long after your quarantine period ends.

Stream it: Available on Showtime. New episodes released Sundays through Jan. 16.

— Jose Alejandro Bastidas

​​’Yellowstone’ and ‘1883’

Stuck at home and can’t travel? Sometimes the best remedy is to watch a show that brings the great outdoors right to your living room. But, to be clear, this is no “Planet Earth.”

“Yellowstone” stars Kevin Costner as the Dutton family patriarch in the Paramount+ drama series, which just wrapped up its fourth season, created by Taylor Sheridan and John Linson. It’s an intense, modern-day cowboy tale that ropes you into the story of the Duttons’ Montana cattle ranch and all the dirty work it takes to protect its borders, including conflicts with neighboring Native American reservations and land developers.

If you were a fan of FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” or BBC’s “Peaky Blinders,” this is a must-watch.

And once you’re done bingeing “Yellowstone,” check out the series’ spin-off “1883,” which premiered last month. Starring Sam Elliott, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, it’s the origin story of the Dutton family and it brings audiences along on their journey from Texas to a better life in Montana.

Stream it: Available to stream on Paramount+ and Amazon Prime Video.

— Mariecar Mendoza


This is a miniseries from Denmark, which I’d heard about for years but never had the time to watch until the pandemic. It’s the story of a Danish prime minister (Sidse Babett Knudsen), with a very shaky majority in Parliament, doing her best to do good and stay in power. The show follows the press, the political strategists and the jockeying among the politicians. Who ever thought that Danish politics could be so fascinating?

Knudsen, one of the best actresses in Scandinavia, is just terrific, and the series is brilliantly written — with the first two seasons off the charts. And here’s the amazingly good news: The fourth season, the first in nine years, premieres on Feb. 22.

Stream it: Available on Netflix.

— Mick LaSalle

‘Money Heist’

If you’re a devotee of crime caper movies, you already know the pleasures of the genre — in particular, watching a meticulous plan unfold with clockwork precision, or adapting to meet unexpected obstacles. But you also know the drawbacks. There’s a limit to how many plot twists can be compressed into a couple of hours of screen time. There’s rarely room for character development. They’re male-dominated. Most of all, there’s a tension between filling viewers in on the heist plans ahead of time and letting us watch them unfold in action, a tension that almost no caper films get quite right. (Looking at you, “Ocean’s Eleven”!)

“Money Heist,” the magnificent Spanish miniseries that became an unexpected global sensation, nimbly solves all those problems. It’s stylish, sexy, funny, elaborate and tender. The characters are fully rounded, making space for emotional plotlines along with the caper mechanics, and the female characters are central. The heist unfolds with plenty of surprises, but the audience always has enough information. And at 41 hour-long episodes, there’s enough material to keep you happily bingeing as long as you want.

— Joshua Kosman

‘The Great British Baking Show’

You don’t have to be interested in baking to get lost in this British series. What’s appealing here is the human drama of people, from every possible background in Great Britain, competing against each other for the approval of two celebrity judges.

Paul Hollywood has been one of the judges from the beginning. For the first seven seasons, his partner in judging was Mary Berry. Now it’s Prue Leith. There are also comedian presenters, the latest of whom are the best, in my GFN — Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas.

It’s a lovely, warmhearted show, and the beauty of it is that there are 12 seasons, so you’re not likely to completely exhaust it before the pandemic is officially over. Let’s hope.

Stream it: Available on Netflix.

— Mick LaSalle 

‘Hollywood: A Celebration of American Silent Film’

This is one of the greatest documentary series about movies ever made, and it couldn’t be made today. It’s a 13-part BBC documentary, narrated by James Mason and directed by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill, about the entire silent film era. And because they made it in the 1970s, they were able to interview the actual stars and directors from that era, who were all in their late 70s, 80s or 90s.

It’s incredibly entertaining, as well as poignant, featuring a brilliant score by Carl Davis, the world’s premier composer for silent film. It’s the best education about silent movies you will ever receive. There’s no source, either in film or print, that gives you such an overview of the period, as well as a sampling of what you might want to investigate further. I’ve rewatched this series, from beginning to end, at least 10 times.

Stream it: Available on Amazon Prime.

— Mick LaSalle

The Chronicle’s 15 best books of 2021

2021’s best books for young adults

A guide to new books that promise to be great in the first half of 2022

Olivia Colman stars in “The Lost Daughter.” Photo: Netflix

‘The Lost Daughter’

If Maggie Gyllenhaal and Olivia Colman’s partnership on the Netflix adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s novel has left you thirsting for more, the source material, first published in 2006 and translated into English in 2008, might conjure a strange state in your mind. It’s almost unbearably painful, and yet you can’t stop reading.

Leda, an academic, is supposed to be escaping her daily life for a seaside town, but she makes a couple of dark, impulsive decisions that deeply entangle her with a chaotic Neapolitan family.

Fans of Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet might recall the profound significance the author gives to dolls; here the toy becomes not just totem or charm or avatar but something grotesque, a receptacle for our most inexplicable urges.

The Lost Daughter
By Elena Ferrante
(Europa Editions, 125 pages, $16)

Stream it: The film adaptation is available now on Netflix.

— Lily Janiak

The podcast “You Must Remember This” recently charted the careers of Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin, pictured here flanking fellow Rat Packer Frank Sinatra in “Robin and the 7 Hoods.” Photo: Warner Bros. 1964

‘You Must Remember This’

Karina Longworth’s classic Hollywood podcast has been a delight since its debut in 2014, tackling subjects as varied as movie stars’ experiences during World War II, the racist legacy of the Disney film “Song of the South,” the overlooked filmmaker Polly Platt and Charles Manson’s ties to show business.

The podcast’s most recent season, “Sammy and Dino,” explores Rat Pack performers Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin with a unique central thesis. At the beginning of their careers in the 1930s and ’40s, Davis, who was Black, and Martin, who was Italian American, were both members of communities marginalized by the dominant white, Protestant culture of the time. But as the 20th century progressed, Italian Americans gained wider societal acceptance much faster than Black Americans, making their journeys to the Las Vegas stages of the 1950s and ’60s very different. As Longworth charts Davis and Martin’s careers, the specter of Rat Pack “Chairman of the Board” Frank Sinatra is ever-present, as are booze, drugs and a steady stream of sexual partners.

With almost 200 episodes from its various seasons, there’s a Hollywood story for almost every taste narrated in Longworth’s crisply enunciated yet slightly cooing voice.

Stream it: Available to stream on podcast apps or via

— Tony Bravo

This combination photo shows cover art for “Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of An American Dynasty,” left, and co-author Anderson Cooper at the 13th annual “GFN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute” in New York on Dec. 8, 2019. Photo: Harper / Associated Press

‘Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty’

Television newsman Anderson Cooper has spent much of his life and career downplaying his famous Gilded Age ancestors, but in his third book (written with novelist Katherine Howe) he confronts the Vanderbilt history with few reservations.

Cooper’s maternal great-great-great grandfather Cornelius Vanderbilt, known as “The Commodore,” built the family fortune in the New York ferry business and railroad industry. His statue stands at Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal to this day, which led Cooper to believe as a child that all grandparents turned into statues when they died. Since then, various descendants have been, in Cooper’s words, more interested in spending money than making it, depleting the fortune in most branches.

The book is not an exhaustive encyclopedia of the family, but rather highlights members and events in a way that places the Vanderbilts and their privilege in the context of their times. Chapters dedicated to the complicated Alva Vanderbilt, who was both a pioneering suffragette and a Southern-born racist, and to the last Vanderbilt descendants to live in the mansion-turned-museum the Breakers in Newport, R.I., are entertaining and enlightening beyond previous reporting on the family. But it is the final chapters of the book, dedicated to Cooper’s mother, celebrity denim designer and artist Gloria Vanderbilt, that are the most affecting. Cooper chronicles not only the 1930s custody case that made “Little Gloria” tabloid famous but also her role as a muse to author Truman Capote. The book also shares honest appraisals about how the Vanderbilt wealth and tragedies colored her life, as well as his own.

Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty
By Anderson Cooper and Katherine Howe
(Harper, 336 pages, $18)

— Tony Bravo

“Beautiful World, Where Are You” by Sally Rooney Photo: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’

Millennial readers will likely feel seen in a new way by this blockbuster novel by Irish author Sally Rooney. She acknowledges and takes seriously the tics of contemporary life, from scrolling to swiping to anxiously waiting for a pulsating ellipsis to morph into text. Gently tracing the will-they-or-won’t-they exploits of two very different young couples, she makes sex suspenseful and erotic, dialogue barbed yet fragile.

Discursive epistles, fully transcribed, on everything from religion to aesthetics to the Bronze Age might look indulgent or pedantic elsewhere, but here they’re refreshingly deep dives into character and voice.

Beautiful World, Where Are You
By Sally Rooney
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 368 pages, $28)

— Lily Janiak

“Cloud Cuckoo Land,” by Anthony Doerr Photo: Scribner

‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’

The phantasmagorical new novel by Anthony Doerr is both a celebration of the art of storytelling and an irresistibly virtuosic example of it. Across expanses of space and time, Doerr weaves together seemingly disparate yarns of vividly drawn characters — an Anatolian herder at the fall of Constantinople, a curious teenager aboard a spaceship in flight from a dying Earth, a lonely American POW during the Korean War — only to fuse it all together in a final narrative coup.

Lovers of Doerr’s previous masterpiece, the Pulitzer Prize-winning “All the Light We Cannot See,” will recognize his signature style, a dreamy present-tense voice that infuses even the most mundane scenes with a seductive shimmer. The difference is that this time around, the plotting is firmer and more precise, the characters more lifelike, the themes more crisply drawn.

Cloud Cuckoo Land
By Anthony Doerr
(Simon and Schuster, 640 pages, $30)

— Joshua Kosman

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New TV Shows And Movies In January 2022 For UK Screens



New TV Shows And Movies In January 2022 For UK Screens

Including Sing 2, Scream, and a new season of Too Hot To Handle.

Looking for a new TV show to binge or a movie to watch for a film night? Well, you’ve come to right place! Here are 33 of the best TV shows and movies coming to the UK this month.


Note: these release dates and streaming platforms only apply to viewers based in the UK, Ireland, and some European territories.

James Pardon/BBC Studios

Sarah and Nick always cross paths every year on New Year’s Eve, but their standard NYE goes left when the Doctor, Dan, and Yaz show up to battle the Daleks.

Starring: Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill, John Bishop.

Release date: 1st January.

Where to watch: BBC One/BBC iPlayer.

Watch if you likeBlack Mirror, Stranger ThingsSherlock.


The Tourist

BBC/Stan/HBO Max & ZDF/Ian Routledge

A man wakes up in the glowing red heart of the Australian bush with no idea who he is and why he’s there. With merciless figures from his past pursuing him, his search for answers propels him through the vast and unforgiving outback.

Starring: Jamie Dornan, Danielle Macdonald, Alex Dimitriades.

Release date: 1st January.

Where to watch: BBC One/BBC iPlayer.

Watch if you like: Baptiste, The Missing, Fleabag.


The Masked Singer – season three

Kieron Mccarron/ITV/Bandicoot TV

Another season of the ridiculous yet watchable celebrity singing competition is here, with 12 celebs donning costumes such as bagpipes and snow leopard in order to sing in disguise and stump the panel and viewers alike.

Starring: Davina McCall, Jonathan Ross, Mo Gilligan.

Release date: 1st January.

Where to watch: ITV One/ITV Hub.

Watch if you likeThe X-Factor, The Voice, Britain’s Got Talent.


Gossip Girl (part two of season one)

Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images / Via Getty Images

Queen bee Julien clashes with her long lost sister Zoya when she enrols at the same prestigious Manhattan high school as her.

Starring: Jordan Alexander, Whitney Peak, Thomas Doherty.

Release date: 1st January.

Where to watch: BBC One/BBC iPlayer.

Watch if you like: OG Gossip GirlGirlsThe O.C


Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts


I guess inspired by the Friends reunion special, this similar retrospective takes a magical first-person journey through one of the most beloved film franchises of all time.

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson.

Release date: 1st January.

Where to watch: Sky/NOW.

Watch if you like: Friends: The Reunion, Harry Potter: Behind the Magic, the Harry Potter movies.


The Apprentice – season 16

BBC/Boundless/Ray Burmiston

The legendary business-based reality series returns with 16 candidates hoping to nab an investment from mogul Alan Sugar.

Starring: Alan Sugar, Karen Brady, Tim Campbell.

Release date: 6th January.

Where to watch: BBC one/BBC iPlayer.

Watch if you like: Dragon’s Den, The Apprentice USBeat The Boss.


A Discovery of Witches – season three


In this final series, Matthew and Diana return from their trip to 1590 to find tragedy at Sept-Tours. They must find the missing pages from the Book of Life and the Book itself before it’s too late.

Starring: Matthew Goode, Teresa Palmer, Alex Kingston.

Release date: 7th January.

Where to watch: Sky/NOW.

Watch if you like: His Dark Materials, Britannia, Doctor Who.


Twenties – season two

BBC/B.E.T/Viacom International Inc.

Wannabe screenwriter Hattie is an unapologetic, queer, African-American woman. Hollywood isn’t ready for her. Is she ready for Hollywood?

Starring: Jonica T. Gibbs, Christina Elmore, Gabrielle Graham.

Release date: 9th January.

Where to watch: BBC iPlayer.

Watch if you like: Master of None, Fleabag, Harlem.


Euphoria – season two


17 year old Rue must continue to find hope while balancing the pressures of love, loss, and addiction.

Starring: Zendaya, Hunter Schafer, Jacob Elordi.

Release date: 10th January.

Where to watch: Sky Atlantic/NOW.

Watch if you likeOn My BlockSkinsGenera+ion.


Rules of the Game

BBC/The Forge/Matt Squire

A COO clashes with a newly hired HR Director who makes it her mission to unpick the toxic culture of the workplace they share.

Starring: Maxine Peake, Rakhee Thakrar, Susan Wokoma.

Release date: 11th January.

Where to watch: BBC One/ BBC iPlayer.

Watch if you like: Behind Her Eyes, Bombshell, The Morning Show.


Cheer – season two


Follows the ups and downs of Navarro College’s competitive cheer squad as they work hard to win a coveted title at the NCA College Nationals.

Starring: Lexi Brumback, Gabi Butler, Morgan Simianer.

Release date: 12th January.

Where to watch: Netflix.

Watch if you like: Dance Moms, The Next Step, Bring It On.


Too Hot To Handle – season three

Tom Dymond/Netflix

The no-dating-dating-show returns as several sexy singles are dumped in a luxury with the promise of a huge money jackpot to share – the only catch is absolutely NO hooking up.

Starring: Desiree Burch, various contestants.

Release date: 19th January.

Where to watch: Netflix.

Watch if you like: Love Island, Love Is Blind, Married At First Sight.



Apple TV+

A Philadelphia couple in mourning after an unspeakable tragedy create a rift in their marriage and open the door for a mysterious force to enter their home.

Starring: Rupert Grint, Lauren Ambrose, Sunita Mani.

Release date: 21st January.

Where to watch: Apple TV+.

Watch if you likeBefore I WakeThe BoxThe Visit.


Ozark – season four


A financial adviser drags his family from Chicago to the Missouri Ozarks, where he must launder $500 million in five years to appease a drug boss.

Starring: Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, Sofia Hublitz.

Release date: 21st January.

Where to watch: Netflix.

Watch if you like: Breaking BadNarcos, Good Girls.


The Gilded Age


A young woman moves from rural Pennsylvania to New York City to live with her thoroughly old money aunts. There, she inadvertently becomes enmeshed in a social war between her aunts and their stupendously rich neighbours.

Starring: Cynthia Nixon, Taissa Farmiga, Christine Baranski.

Release date: 25th January.

Where to watch: Sky/NOW.

Watch if you like: Downton Abbey, Belgravia, Sanditon.


The Afterparty

Apple TV+

After someone is murdered at a high school reunion, a group of friends give their individual accounts of what happened through the lens of popular film genres and unique visuals to match the storyteller’s perspective.

Starring: Tiffany Haddish, Sam Richardson, Dave Franco.

Release date: 28th January.

Where to watch: Apple TV+.

Watch if you like: Community, Broad City, Parks and Recreation.


The Electrical Life of Louis Wain

Amazon Studios

A brilliant yet troubled artist’s fascination with the mysteries of the world is both complicated and deepened when he meets the love of his life.

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Claire Foy, Andrea Riseborough.

Release date: 1st January.

Where to watch: in cinemas.

Watch if you likeMr. Turner, Frida, Mrs Lowry & Son.


Liquorice Pizza

Universal Pictures

Two friends grow up, run around, and fall in love in California’s San Fernando Valley in the 1970s.

Starring: Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Bradley Cooper.

Release date: 1st January.

Where to watch: In cinemas.

Watch if you like: Almost Famous, Call Me By Your Name, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist.


Naked Singularity


A promising young public defender begins to lose faith in his work and the system. Soon he is pulled into a dangerous high-stakes drug heist by an unpredictable former client.

Starring: John Boyega, Olivia Cooke, Ed Skrein.

Release date: 2nd January.

Where to watch: Sky/NOW.

Watch if you likeGambitAmerican HustlePlastic.


The 355

Robert Viglasky/Universal Pictures

A CIA agent pulls together a crack team of spies from different national agencies in order to recover a top-secret weapon.

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Penélope Cruz.

Release date: 7th January.

Where to watch: In cinemas.

Watch if you like: Ocean’s 8, Red Notice, Like a Boss.


Save The Cinema


A tenacious hairdresser rallies against the closure of her local movie theatre in the sleepy town of Carmarthen, Wales.

Starring: Samantha Morton, Tom Felton, Jonathan Pryce.

Release date: 14th January.

Where to watch: Sky/NOW.

Watch if you like: Made in DagenhamCalendar Girls, The Full Monty.



Peter Mountain/Universal Pictures

A self-effacing officer and poet devises a way to convey his affection for a friend by enlisting the help of a handsome soldier.

Starring: Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison, Jr.

Release date: 14th January.

Where to watch: In cinemas.

Watch if you likeMoulin Rouge!, Vanity Fair, Poldark.



Neon/Kick the Machine Films/Burning/Anna Sanders Films/ Match Factory Productions/ZDF-Arte and Piano

Whilst visiting Bogota, Colombia, a woman is awoken by a loud bang audible only to her. As she searches for an explanation for the mysterious sound, she soon begins to confront unsettling sights and sounds that call her identity into question.

Starring: Tilda Swinton, Juan Pablo Urrego, Elkin Diaz.

Release date: 14th January.

Where to watch: In cinemas.

Watch if you likeAnnette, Interstellar, Cemetery of Splendor.


Scream 5

Paramount Pictures/Brownie Harris

25 years on from the original series of murders, a new killer has donned the Ghostface mask and is targeting a group of teens in a spree that will resurrect a town’s long forgotten secrets.

Starring: Neve Campbell, Melissa Barrera, Courteney Cox.

Release date: 14th January.

Where to watch: In cinemas.

Watch if you like: The Fear Street trilogy, I Know What You Did Last SummerHalloween.


Nightmare Alley

Kerry Hayes/Searchlight Pictures

A down-on-his-luck showman becomes involved with a psychic act at a carnival. Once he has mastered the tricks himself, he starts using his newly acquired knowledge to grift the wealthy elite of 1940s New York society.

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett.

Release date: 21st January.

Where to watch: In cinemas.

Watch if you likeAmerican Horror StoryThe Greatest Showman, The Prestige.


A Journal for Jordan

Sony Pictures Releasing

A soldier begins to keep a journal of love and advice for his infant son; back at home, his fiancée reflects on her romantic relationship by sharing the journal with her son.

Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Chanté Adams, Jalon Christian.

Release date: 21st January.

Where to watch: In cinemas.

Watch if you like: Dear JohnThe Pursuit of HappynessAmerican Sniper.


The Souvenir: Part II

Sandro Kopp/A24

In the aftermath of a tumultuous relationship with a charismatic and manipulative older man, Julie begins to untangle her fraught love for him in making her graduation film, sorting fact from his elaborately constructed fiction.

Starring: Tilda Swinton, Honor Swinton Byrne, Robert Pattinson.

Release date: 21st January.

Where to watch: In cinemas.

Watch if you likeThe Souvenir, Tiny Furniture, Exhibition.



The Factory/No Reservations Entertainment/Film Estonia

A troubled young private’s life is turned upside down when a daring fighter pilot arrives at his base. Driven by curiosity, a dangerous love triangle forms between them and the secretary to the base Commander.

Starring: Tom Prior, Oleg Zagordnii, Diana Pozharskaya.

Release date: 28th January.

Where to watch: In cinemas.

Watch if you likeFreier Fall, Snails in the Rain, Brokeback Mountain.


Sing 2

Universal Pictures

Buster Moon has turned the New Moon Theatre into a local hit, but now he wants to take his all-star cast of animal performers on the road. Not content with anything but the best, Buster sets out to persuade the world’s most reclusive rock star to join them.

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Bono.

Release date: 28th January.

Where to watch: In cinemas.

Watch if you like: Zootropolis, The Secret Life of Pets, Trolls.


Parallel Mothers

Sony Pictures Entertainment Iberia

Two women about to give birth meet in a hospital. Both are single and have become pregnant accidentally – one exultant and one is repentant. The few words they exchange in these hours will change their lives forever.

Starring: Penélope Cruz, Milena Smit, Rossy de Palma.

Release date: 28th January.

Where to watch: In cinemas.

Watch if you like: Julieta, Volver, Women on GFN of a Nervous Breakdown.

Sony Pictures Releasing

A biochemist attempts to cure his rare blood disease but the experiment goes wrong and he inadvertently infects himself with a form of vampirism.

Starring: Jared Leto, Matt Smith, Adria Arjona.

Release date: 28th January.

Where to watch: In cinemas.

Watch if you like: FrankensteinVan Helsing, Venom.


The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window

Colleen E. Hayes/Netflix

A heartbroken agoraphobic watches the world go by from her living room window and sets her sights on a handsome stranger, until she witnesses a gruesome murder.

Starring: Kristen Bell, Michael Ealy, Tom Riley.

Release date: 28th January.

Where to watch: Netflix.

Watch if you likeGone GirlThe Girl on the Train, The Woman in the Window.


The Amazing Maurice

Sky Cinema/STX Entertainment

A streetwise cat develops a money-making scheme involving a horde of talking rats and a boy who plays the pipe. However, when they reach the town of Bad Blintz, their little con soon goes down the drain.

Starring: Hugh Laurie, Emilia Clarke, Gemma Arterton.

Release date: Sky/NOW.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video.

Watch if you like: RatatouilleWinnie The PoohThe Gruffalo.

Which of these are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below!

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