Our staffers have some recommendations for what you can watch at the theater or in the comfort of your home this weekend.
K. Austin Collins: It’s a generous piece of filmmaking. The Last Jedi is a sprawling — at 152 minutes, you could say overlong, and you wouldn’t be totally wrong — tribute to the franchise’s past and future, with enough fan service and enough of the franchise’s recognizable house style to make sense as part of the greater story, but enough of [Rian] Johnson and his collaborators’ own sense of invention to make the movie feel almost personal. All the standbys are here. We get Jedi training sessions and needlessly complex covert ops, a handsome introduction to an odd new planet (this time, it’s a monied haven for über-rich gamblers with fat jowls, big coifs, and bad attitudes), hero shots, righteous cameos, and explosions, explosions, explosions. The Last Jedi’s success is not in reinventing the wheel; it’s in revitalizing it.
Collins: The Florida Project, Sean Baker’s deceptively sunny new indie, is a movie about a resourceful little girl named Moonnee (Brooklynn Prince) who lives in a castle. Sort of. It looks like a castle, anyway, albeit a giant, tacky, purple one, with bedbugs in one room and an ice machine that never works. To a 6-year-old girl reveling in the height of summer, what’s the difference? It’s all an adventure. Real castle or no, what’s here is just as grand and alive as the real thing.
Miles Surrey: The 53 people who have continuously watched A Christmas Prince are not responsible for the film’s existence; they are simply luxuriating in its cinematic beauty. I can say this because I too have watched A Christmas Prince — just once, but still. It falls under the precious category of “so bad it’s good” where every plot point is cheesy and predictable. Plus, it’s a Christmas movie — those two things combined make it ideal comfort viewing for the holidays.
To close out 2017, we’re rewatching some of the best television episodes of the year. Here are some staff recommendations:
Master of None, “Thanksgiving”
Shea Serrano: The best TV episode of 2017 is the “Thanksgiving” episode of Master of None. In it, we watch Denise, an offshoot character in the series played by Lena Waithe, live through 30 years of family Thanksgiving celebrations, from childhood to adulthood, each year more engaging and dramatic than the last. It’s always easy to fall into a trap with these kinds of storytelling devices where the actual story becomes secondary to the way it’s being presented, but “Thanksgiving” is just so brilliantly done that that never ever happens. There are moments in it that are insightful (like when we watch a young Denise refer to herself as “Lebanese” because she’s not yet comfortable enough to refer to herself as “lesbian”), moments that are thick with anxiety (like when we watch an older Denise come out to her mother in a diner), and moments that are legit hilarious (like when Aziz Ansari’s Dev keeps making tiny jokes about the Instagram username of a woman that Denise brings home). And were that not enough, all of those moments — literally every single one of them — are executed with a wit and warmness that TV shows rarely ever display.
Master of None worked toward being able to tell a story like what it did with “Thanksgiving” for the entirety of the show’s existence up to that point, and when it finally went for it the show got it exactly right. All TV should aspire to reach such lofty points.
Better Call Saul, “Chicanery”
Surrey: I could probably just drop the final five minutes of “Chicanery” below and leave it at that — but fine, I’ll talk about “Chicanery.”
Better Call Saul has significantly smaller stakes than its predecessor, Breaking Bad. Instead of cross-border drug wars and retirement-home explosions, the prequel’s idea of a climactic showdown in Season 3 occurs in an unassuming State Bar of New Mexico debate over whether Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) — the man inching closer to the slimy Saul Goodman by the hour — should be disbarred.
Better Call Saul makes up for its lack of explosive set pieces by focusing on relationships, and one in particular: the one between two petty, insidious brothers caught in a Shakespearean feud, fighting for their souls. Is Chuck McGill (an incredible, Emmy-snubbed Michael McKean) actually looking out for his brother with a disbarment, or crushing him to satiate his own deflated ego? Is Chuck’s aversion to electricity an actual physical symptom, or a mental illness? What is Jimmy willing to do to keep his license?
I’ll let those last five minutes take over from here. Nothing further.
Game of Thrones, “The Spoils of War”
Alyssa Bereznak: “The Spoils of War” may not contain the most epic battles in the history of Westeros, but it was one of the most thrilling moments on television in 2017 for an entirely different reason. Game of Thrones has spent the past six seasons mercilessly dwindling its roster of heroes. In this episode’s final scene — confoundingly nicknamed the “Loot Train Battle” — we suddenly find the precious few antagonists we have left on opposite sides of a battlefield. The question of who to root for is impossible. Losing Bronn and Jaime’s intoxicating bromance would be just as tragic as the demise of Tyrion and Dany, the only souls in the realm who seem well-equipped enough to defeat the White Walkers and, you know, rule mankind benevolently. For that reason, every puff of dragon fire and sword jab in “The Spoils of War” was viscerally unnerving. So much so that the night it aired I screamed into a pillow for an entire 20 minutes. Revisiting the scene months later with full knowledge of who was spared, I still can’t help but hold my breath the moment that Jaime stands staring down Drogon’s throat, while Dany recognizes she’s the target of his spear. The stakes of this battle were years in the making. However excruciating it was to watch, hypercharged moments like it are exactly why we invest hours of our lives in television.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.