Our staffers have some recommendations for what you can watch at the theater or in the comfort of your home this weekend.
David Shoemaker: In Nature Boy, the new 30 for 30 documentary directed by Rory Karpf premiering Tuesday night, we get a survey of [Ric] Flair’s life and career that leans heavily on the real, or at least the “real” as narrated by Flair himself. This approach presents a narrative problem rather specific to the bullshittery of the wrestling world: Ric Flair is a liar. Maybe you’re feeling generous and want to call him a fabulist. Maybe you see it as part and parcel of kayfabe — that everything is part of the big work of the pro wrestling endeavor. Maybe you think it’s the rose-colored reinterpretations of a 68-year-old man confronting his glory days. Or maybe you’re Ric’s first wife, in her first (surprisingly magnanimous) interview: “Don’t trust him.” Don’t just take it from her — ask Triple H, wrestler, WWE executive, and close friend of Flair: “Ric is a consummate liar. He’ll only tell you what he wants you to hear.”
K. Austin Collins: Thor: Ragnarok is the third movie in the Thor franchise, but it’s the first in the series to give off the “What, me worry?” vibes that make the Guardians of the Galaxy movies worth the price of the admission. Watching the original Thor, which is only six years old, you’re reminded of a time when Marvel movies looked and felt like Michael Bay rip-offs, with the same sense of heat and metal, similar camera swoops, and the same unnerving sensation that everything meant to seem human is in fact artificial. (The second movie, 2013’s Thor: The Dark World, was a little more of its own thing.) In a broader sense, Marvel has been trying to get more human — or at least more Hollywood. Movies like Spider-Man: Homecoming, Iron Man 3, and the Guardians films are as much about their charismatic stars as they are their overlapping mythic universes. Isn’t Ant-Man as much of a Paul Rudd movie as a Marvel Movie™? The Thor movies have increasingly followed suit — mostly for the better.
Collins: This all distracts from the persuasive power of the billboards themselves, which, with their black-inked accusations aglow with fury, are the best thing in the movie. Truly, as a feat of advertisement, Mildred is onto something. The language — AND STILL NO ARRESTS? — is all the more shocking for its simplicity. The stark red of the background bounces off of every face that passes them by, night or day, as if merely by seeing them, you become implicated in the Ebbing police department’s ongoing inaction. As an opportunity for [Martin] McDonagh to lend his movie moral weight through images, and not solely through the AP English–level routine morality of his script, they’re a fabulous anchor. I don’t actually know where those billboards are relative to everything else in Ebbing. But our sense of the town is inseparable from them. If only they were separable from the rest of the movie.
Alison Herman: In this second season, which premiered Sunday, [Lodge] Kerrigan and [Amy] Seimetz have claimed an even greater degree of autonomy. Though their combined output still adds up to a complete season of television, Kerrigan and Seimetz have split up to create two shorter, parallel stories, each of which gives sole script and directing credits to Kerrigan or Seimetz. There are some structural and thematic similarities, but neither half — Kerrigan’s is titled “Erica & Anna” and Seimetz’s “Bria,” both after their protagonists — has any more direct a connection to the other as either does to the first volume. When I spoke to them last year, Kerrigan and Seimetz compared The Girlfriend Experience to an extra-long movie, an analogy popular among TV creators attempting to stress the serialized nature of their stories and encouraged by Starz making the entire first season available even as episodes aired individually on the network itself. Season 2, however, makes the comparison more literal than ever. Seimetz and Kerrigan have essentially reinterpreted the anthology and made two separate, feature-length stories in dialogue with one another.
Herman: Mindhunter’s pedigree puts it in a slightly more privileged position than those network experiments. [David] Fincher, an executive producer along with Charlize Theron, also directed the first two hours — the only episodes, out of an eventual 10, provided to critics ahead of Friday’s premiere. It’s obvious why Fincher would once again be attracted to the true-crime story of a crew of obsessives fighting crime in the late 20th century: Mindhunter is set precisely 10 years after the events of Zodiac, in 1979, and in lieu of the Zodiac killer, it’s David Berkowitz — better known as the Son of Sam — who looms over the popular imagination. The promise of resurrecting the sensibility of a film that was named in a recent BBC critics’ poll as one of the best films of the 21st century just as it celebrates its 10-year anniversary grants Mindhunter a baseline level of anticipation. So does Mindhunter’s status as Fincher’s second foray into television after House of Cards, a show now five seasons and many Emmy nominations into a successful run.
Rob Harvilla: There are Shakespearean tragedies with happier endings than Rolling Stone: Stories From the Edge, the four-hour, two-night HBO documentary that premiered Monday. Directed by Oscar winner Alex Gibney and Emmy winner Blair Foster — and executive-produced by Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner, which naturally curtails the self-criticism quite a bit — the film means to celebrate the magazine’s 50-year run as a counterculture bible. But it also underscores the perils of trying to remain a counterculture bible for 50 years: the generational shifts, the philosophical betrayals, the softenings, the inexorable tilt toward gossip and frivolity and nostalgia. It’s the story of a still-often-great institution overwhelmed by its own claims to historical greatness.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.