Top Picks: The FoodieTV app, Greg Kot's Staples Singers biography, and more

Actor Christopher Plummer portrays John Barrymore for PBS as part of the 'Great Performances' series, 'James Bond' writer Ian Fleming gets his own series for BBC America, and more top picks.

I’ll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the March Up Freedom’s Highway
Rania Matar/Carroll and Sons Gallery
Stephanie, Beirut, Lebanon 2010
Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond

The man behind Bond

Ian Fleming, creator of the iconic James Bond character, gets his own series in BBC America’s Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond. The real-life man behind Agent 007 used his checkered life as a playboy and womanizer-turned-wartime spy as a road map for his cold-war era agent. As the typewriter that opens the series is careful to tell us, the events of the shaken-not-stirred Bond sagas all have a foundation in truth. It launches on Jan. 29.

Last audition

PBS profiles a member of Hollywood royalty in Barrymore, part of the “Great Performances” series. Starring the equally masterly Christopher Plummer as handsome screen and stage legend John Barrymore, the film, set in 1942, focuses on the performer during the final months of his life as he prepares for a last audition. It airs Jan. 31.

Arab women

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts photography exhibit She Who Tells a Story makes a remarkable book. The 12 photographers from Iran and the Arab world challenge “exotic women” stereotypes while exploring themes of personal identity and gender as well as war and national pride. From Rania Matar with her coming-of-age portraits to Jananne Al-Ani and her abstract landscapes, author and curator Kristen Gresh has selected masterful artists, each speaking through her unique approach, underscoring the individual as well as the collective voice.

Cuisine and culture

If you love food and travel, check out FoodieTV, the latest free app from Glam Media. Each week, five mini-documentaries, each about five minutes long, are bundled into episodes easily viewed on smart phone screens. The topics range from farming, to chef profiles, to recipe instruction, to cuisines around the globe, and more. The bite-sized films are beautifully produced, and each reveals something about the interconnected world of food. It’s available in iTunes.

American history

PBS has released its previously aired African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross on DVD. Narrated by Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., the six-part series explores the progress African-Americans have made through the lenses of culture, politics, religion, and society as they forged a history of triumph against odds.

Anthems for a movement

Longtime music critic Greg Kot has written the definitive biography of one of America’s greatest family bands. I’ll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the March Up Freedom’s Highway chronicles the influential Chicago group whose uplifting gospel/soul music became the soundtrack to black pride and the civil rights movement. The group’s message still resonates around the world today via the powerful voice of the band’s youngest and sole performing member, Mavis, who, at 74 is still touring, belting out familiar anthems like “Freedom Highway” and “Respect Yourself.”

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