“Everybody’s working for the weekend,” the song goes. But what are we supposed to do when the weekend comes and your cycle hums, as the other song says? Well, those days are all happy and free (those happy days).
Aside from clearly running out of songs about the weekend so that we have to mash two together, we at The A.V. Club are working to make sure there are enough pop-cultural goodies for you to enjoy this weekend. Your time-off is precious, or if you’re working this weekend, as some of us at the site are, that time is even more so.
Unfortunately for you, and us, August is one of the slowest months of the year for the good stuff. Typically, speaking this is when studios really load that dump truck of blockbusters, horror shlock, and stuff that probably wasn’t good enough for award season and drop it off in front of movie theaters across these beautiful United States. And that’s even true a year and a half into the pandemic. The biggest studio offerings this week, Free Guy, Don’t Breathe 2, and Respect feels like movies from another time, a time called 2018. That was actually the last time the second week in August had a legit smash-hit: Crazy Rich Asians.
But don’t let the lack of compelling blockbusters scare you. There’s a world of entertainment out there. In addition to movies made outside of Hollywood, there’s plenty of new television to check out. Oh, TV, you’re always there for us, aren’t you? Enough with the preamble, let’s get to those recs, baby!
By law, we cannot recommend Free Guy in good conscience. As the kids say, “We don’t make the rules.” Should we find out who does? Sure, but it’s not happening right now. So instead of tuning into the summer’s second Hollywood attempt at processing our I.P.-heavy entertainment nightmarescape (after [Gulp.] Space Jam: A New Legacy), we’re recommending the near-silent film Days. Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang is one of the world’s most renowned filmmakers, and this is his first film since 2013’s Stray Dogs.
What our review says: “Days may be Tsai [Ming-Liang]’s most narrative film in nearly a decade, but that remains a relative distinction. The impression is of a filmmaker shaving away everything subordinate to his interest in stasis. There was no conventional screenplay for the movie; Tsai constructed his nominal story around the mundane action he filmed, not the other way around. And he’s finally done away entirely with dialogue, declining to even subtitle what few lines are spoken aloud. In truth, that choice may be more blessing than curse for a viewer unacclimated to the languid rhythms of his films: Is it easier to orient oneself to a movie of this much quiet and stillness—to accept its demands on your attention—without any words to distract from the often glorious imagery?” [A.A. Dowd]
The “Days is only playing in a handful of theaters” movie to watch: Swan Song
Few careers are as varied and interesting as the always varied and interesting character actor Udo Kier. His latest, Swan Song, is no exception. Kier plays Mr. Pat, a retired hairdresser who will get $25,000 if he does the hair of a former client for their funeral. Never mind that the deceased was a “demanding Republican monster” Pat had a falling out with some years earlier. If that doesn’t sell you on the thing, consider this: Jennifer Coolidge co-stars. Swan Song is now available on VOD.
The show to watch: Reservation Dogs
One of our most anticipated shows of the summer, Reservation Dogs is the coming-of-age caper this summer has been pining for. What a terrible world we live in where all teen shows aren’t heists, but what can we say, the world is a chilling and unforgiving place. It takes Taika Waititi and Sterlin Harjo to do what needs doing, and we thank them for their efforts. The first two episodes of Reservation Dogs is currently available on FX and FX on Hulu.
What our review says: “Taika Waititi and Sterlin Harjo might make the boldest play with the ‘bildungsroman by way of a heist film’ approach of Reservation Dogs. Ahead of its premiere, the new FX series was hailed, and rightly so, for its commitment to Indigenous talent, on and offscreen. Even the photographer for the show’s gallery images is Native American: Ryan RedCorn, who’s from the Osage Nation. Reservation Dogs is making important strides, not least of which is being one of the best new shows of the year. [Danette Chavez]
The “I need more than two shows” show to watch: Brand New Cherry Flavor
Considering they’re very much in the content-pumping business, Netflix doesn’t do a lot of miniseries. The last time a Netflix short-run show made a splash was the Cary Joji Fukunaga series Maniac—there have probably been others since, but it’s the last this author distinctly remembers enjoying. Hailed as a Cronenberg-meets-Lynch Hollywood noir in Alex McLevy’s review, Brand New Cherry Flavor is poised to make an impression. If you want something a little weird for this dog day weekend, look no further.
We’re biased, but it’s been a banner week here at the A.V. Club. We’ve got some great news to catch up on, particularly about The American Pickers feud that’s even juicy to those who don’t watch the show. We’re also recapping the new Marvel series What If…?, offering some post-Suicide Squad recommendations, and getting people up to speed on Alan Partridge—the last written by a really great guy, maybe one of the best guys.
All that aside, we published a fantastic TV Club 10 on Superman: The Animated Series that really puts into perspective how underrated the show was, especially compared to its seismic counterpart Batman: The Animated Series. Detailing the 10 best villain episodes of the series, writer Jarrod Jones inadvertently makes a case for spending the weekend just plowing through these 10 and then going head on into the whole series.
Superman’s major foes have gotten the short shrift on the big screen, but TV has more than made up for it—in particular, Alan Burnett and Bruce Timm’s Superman: The Animated Series, which was the optimistic counterpoint to the broodier progenitor of the DC Animated Universe (or the DCAU), Batman: The Animated Series. Where BTAS boasted “dark deco” backgrounds painted on top of jet-black paper, STAS depicted its unabashedly colorful adventures in vivid daylight. Naturally, the mood between these two series differed as well: Episodes of BTAS, which took a mature approach in terms of its subject matter, were melancholic, while the attitude of STAS was decidedly more upbeat.
That about wraps things up for now. Now, let’s all kick back to the delightful sounds of the Bay City Rollers and promise to have a great weekend!