The U.S. Open is ending, football is beginning, and the NBA offseason, which is nearly as watchable as the season itself, is still chugging along. But if you’re not looking to spend your post–Labor Day weekend in the sports world, don’t worry, our staffers have some recommendations for what you can watch at the theater or in the comfort of your home.
K. Austin Collins: It’s endearing, in a way—you almost want the new It to keep being a silly teen movie about growing up during a realistically unsheltered ’80s. But then we’d have to miss out on what Pennywise the clown, one of the great horror villains, has in store. And the answer is: too much and not enough. The Pennywise imagined by this new movie has changed with the times—meaning, he’s got a few new CGI tricks. That delightful grimace is back, and so is that irksome laugh and the violent sense of humor. As played by Bill Skarsgard, Pennywise is even more unhinged than we remember, and is it possible that his forehead is even bigger? He’s got a “Back on my bullshit” vibe I kind of love, even if what’s villainous about him seems somehow diluted. It’s a Pennywise who, though mischievous, is a little less clever and fun—a little less of a clown—than before. He’s bigger, but not badder; at his worst, he feels like a distraction from what this story is really about.
Collins: It’s not that Logan Lucky, Steven Soderbergh’s smooth new heist comedy, is about dumb crooks. It’s pretty clear, early on, that at least a few of these guys know what they’re doing. This is a heist movie whose scheming involves color-coded cockroaches, a staged prison riot, and the aforementioned gummy-bear bomb: This isn’t the work of fools, even if they are, at times, hilariously foolish.
Adam Nayman: The juxtaposition of political violence and mindless teen pop is undoubtedly meant as a provocation, and it works: I’ve gotten into more arguments about Nocturama than any other new movie this year. They started immediately after a late-night screening last fall at the Toronto International Film Festival. The screening there began with walkouts—triggered by the spare, minimalist rhythm of the opening scenes, which show the collective as it moves through the city planting explosives, and unfold largely without dialogue—and culminated with audience screams during several shocking acts of violence near the film’s climax. When the house lights came on, they were accompanied by the grumbling of audience members—the ones who hadn’t already beaten a hasty retreat from the theater—that what we had just seen was “awful” and “phony,” “not a movie,” and “an insult to our intelligence.
Alison Herman: [Michelle] MacLaren, [David] Simon, and [George] Pelecanos agreed that The Deuce’s first priority had to be avoiding the clichés and pitfalls that come with making a show about sex work. “It was extremely important to me that it is grounded and real and that it’s not gratuitous or exploitative or titillating in any way,” [MacLaren] says. “George said to me, ‘Michelle, we don’t want the 2016 version of this; we want the 1971 version of this.’” MacLaren focused on finding the essence of the era. “This was a time in New York City where there was kind of a free-for-all. There was a lot of opportunity and not a lot of thinking about moral consequences. It felt to me that, on the surface, it was a very exciting time. But when you get behind closed doors, then you see the harsh reality of some of these choices.”
Hannah Giorgis: While it is not rare for a TV show to serve as a mirror for its audience, it has often felt like Insecure has spent more time banking on its viewers’ reactions than it has fleshing out the characters’ stories. It is natural—and easy—for viewers to cringe at harsh words exchanged between former lovers; it is harder to develop the motivations and character history that ground those flashy outbursts. It is the show’s choice to decide how to spend its time and viewers’ prerogative to interpret the material. In the contentious, conflict-driven arena that is Twitter, it’s hardly surprising that Insecure’s romantic chaos propels the most passionate dialogue.
Chris Ryan: Imagine watching Game of Thrones while listening to Binge Mode at the same time. That is essentially the storytelling model showrunner Eric Newman and his team have perfected over the past three seasons. It’s artfully done Explainer TV. When a money launderer character is introduced early in the third season, he comes with a brief, punchy description of money laundering. With its overhead establishing shots and incessant expository voice-overs, Narcos has more in common with a docuseries like NatGeo’s Drugs Inc. than it does The Wire. It is essentially a collection of hyperstylized historical reenactments. And yet it is, right now, the best crime show on television because it understands one very important thing: There are only so many crimes—what matters is the crime scene.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.