What to watch: Tina Turner, jazz and more Memphis-connected streaming options

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The tsunami of content offered by the laughably identified "streaming" services is enough to wipe out even the most skilled channel surfer. What to watch, what to watch?

Here are five possibilities — bits of Memphis, to grab onto, as the digital streams rush on...


Tina Turner and the Ikettes perform in 1976, as seen in the documentary 'Tina.'
Tina Turner and the Ikettes perform in 1976, as seen in the documentary 'Tina.'

Debuting in 2021 on HBO and given homepage pride-of-place on the revamped Max streaming service site in the wake of Tina Turner's death at 83 on May 24, this alternately harrowing and inspiring documentary presents in vivid detail the ascent and self-liberation of Anna Mae Bullock, from the cotton fields of Nutbush near Memphis, where her underage day labor helped provide support for unloving parents, to the concert stages and recording studios of the world, where she was embraced by a family of fans and admirers that numbered in the millions.

Memphis' own Katori Hall, the former Commercial Appeal intern and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who co-wrote "Tina: The Tina Turner Musical," which opened on Broadway in 2019, is among the notables enlisted by directors Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin to testify to Turner's strength and artistry.

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'The Pilot: A Tribute to Malvin Massey'

Airing again at 11 a.m. June 14 on WKNO-2 and available for free on the Kudzukian YouTube channel, this half-hour documentary celebrates the beloved Memphis jazz enthusiast, radio personality and music mentor Malvin Massey Jr., who for some 30 years was associated — first as a disc jockey and eventually as general manager — with 91.7-FM WUMR, "The Jazz Lover," the all-jazz radio station that operated at the University of Memphis from 1970 to 2020 (eventually transmuting into the current, Crosstown-based multi-format WYXR).

Known as "the Pilot of the Jazz Jet" ("and all the people who listen to my show regularly are frequent flyers," he said), Massey — who died in 2022 at 71 — is described by the documentary's director, Chuck O'Bannon, as a man with a genuine respect for the art of jazz, a music that requires "training, practice and passion" to master.

"If jazz had a human voice, it was Malvin Massey's," says Howard Robertson, co-host of the "Riffin' on Jazz" podcast, while Kirk Whalum, one of Memphis' most successful jazz artists, says Massey showed him Jesus-style "radical hospitality" by playing his music before anyone else in radio was interested. "There was nothing about me that deserved that big support that he gave me, the big lift, the big push," Whalum says. "It was just grace."

The documentary was produced by Kudzukian, the Memphis audio-and-visual production company that hosted Massey's podcasts.

'Indie TV 2023: Local Short Films from Indie Memphis'

Airing at 8 p.m. May 31 on WKNO-2 and available at wkno.org and on the PBS/WKNO streaming service through June 2, this hourlong anthology collects short films and music videos that screened during the 2022 Indie Memphis Film Festival, including Kyle Taubken's "Nordo," which won the prize for best Hometowner Narrative Short, and "The River" by Janay Kelley, winner of the Indie Memphis Youth Film Fest competition.

The lineup also includes (to name a few) the comedic "Jesus Is Lord," from longtime local film stalwart Mark Jones and an uplifting music video titled "D-Up (Here's to Diversity)" by FreeWorld, a Memphis band that has been active for close to 40 years.

'Hustle & Flow'

"Everybody gotta have a dream": Terrence Howard in "Hustle & Flow."
"Everybody gotta have a dream": Terrence Howard in "Hustle & Flow."

Local writer-director Craig Brewer's made-in-Memphis sensation — winner of a top prize and a bidding war at Sundance, winner of the Best Original Song award at the Oscars a year later — returned to HBO Max (now simply Max) in mid-May, 18 years after its premiere.

On a certain level, the movie about a hip-hop-aspiring pimp and his problematic makeshift family of collaborators never went away: The phrase "Hustle & Flow" has entered the lexicon (you can eat at "Hustle & Dough" on Main Street); stars Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson reunited for several seasons of the hit series "Empire"; the Al Kapone soundtrack song "Whoop That Trick" has become a Memphis Grizzlies anthem of defiant braggadocio.

But if it seems familiar to older folks, no doubt its return to Max will expose it to thousands (millions?) of new viewers.

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Courtney B. Vance is a Memphis barbecue restaurant owner who hopes to pass the business to his son, played by Mamoudou Athie, in "Uncorked."
Courtney B. Vance is a Memphis barbecue restaurant owner who hopes to pass the business to his son, played by Mamoudou Athie, in "Uncorked."

Seemingly not heavily promoted by Netflix, this 2020 movie from writer-director Prentice Penny casts the always wonderful Courtney B. Vance as the patriarch of a fabled Memphis barbecue restaurant whose son and presumed pork heir (Mamoudou Athie) prefers wine to ribs: He dreams of becoming a master sommelier.

"Memphis was the logical choice," Penny told The Commercial Appeal, when asked why he shot "Uncorked" here. "Not only is it a capital of barbecue, so much of the fabric of American life is rooted in Memphis. The city has had such a rich impact, not just on American culture but on African American culture."

Penny said his team interviewed owners of the Cozy Corner, the Bar-B-Q Shop, A&R Bar-B-Que and The Four Way while researching the project, which also enabled the filmmaker to present a portrait of a Black family facing problems that do not include drug abuse or gang violence or the "urban" challenges emphasized by what Penny calls "quote unquote mainstream Hollywood."

This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Best shows to stream: Tina Turner documentary, 'Hustle & Flow,' more