The weekend is here, and after a week of sitting at your desk staring at a screen, it’s time for some personal sit and stare. But with so many options, from Peacock to Paramount+ to whatever else is available on your ex’s Netflix account, who can pick what to watch? We can!
Typically speaking, August is the doldrums of summer. Time for back-to-school ads to start creeping into your favorite shows, reminding you that it’ll soon be all pencils, books, and teacher’s dirty looks. Meanwhile, movie studios start dumping the crap that wasn’t good enough for July, expecting us to eat the slop like good little consumers. Well, this year, like the one before it, is anything but traditional, so the slop is actually pretty tasty. Good slop, healthy slop. More slop, please!
This August has lots to check out. So much so that our weekend guide now has alternatives and alternatives to alternatives. There are supervillains who look like they’re having more fun than their costumed counterparts, the returns of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and a Pig hunt underway. Let’s dive in!
The movie to see: The Suicide Squad
If you had told us four years ago that a sequel to the dreadful supervillain mashup Suicide Squad would be one of our most anticipated movies of the year, we’d probably say, “God, they’re making a sequel to Suicide Squad?” Well, they did. From “the beautifully twisted mind” of James Gunn (Guardians Of The Galaxy), The Suicide Squad defies The Social Network’s Sean Parker (by adding the “The”) and expectations, with what looks like a colorful and violent take on the rogues’ gallery team-up.
What our review says: “Sure, you have your Shazam!s and your Ant-Mans, but on the whole, American superhero cinema has become preoccupied with the somber responsibility of being a demigod in a world full of helpless victims. In tone and content, The Suicide Squad is the antidote to that self-seriousness. (The simple fact that these are supervillains takes a lot of the weight off.) Opening with an orgy of bodies being torn to pieces in a wild beachfront massacre, Gunn’s film has little regard for human life, superpowered or civilian, and characters are offed with such irreverent abandon that it really feels like anything could happen.” [Katie Rife]
The “I Can’t Stand Superhero Movies” movie to the see: Pig
We’re not ignorant to the fact that many, many people are probably sick of superhero movies—even ones as distinctive as The Suicide Squad. So allow us to suggest Pig, the Nicholas Cage pig-knapping movie that our film department believes is a real truffle in the dirt. The recipient of a rare “A,” Pig is more than John Wick with a hog, and as of this week, it’s now available on VOD.
What our review says: “From this superficially goofy, lowbrow premise, they’ve crafted a quasi-philosophical odyssey—one that, while not devoid of violence or humor, largely focuses on exploring the nature of creativity, passion, loss, and love. It’s at once ludicrous and deeply felt, anchored by a lead performance that balances manic intensity with uncharacteristic restraint in ideal proportion. Not since Drive, perhaps, has an apparent action film swerved so far from its designated lane, to such unexpectedly magnificent effect.” [Mike D’Angelo]
The show to stream: Mr. Corman
Apple TV+ is on something of a hot streak lately, with the surprise success of Ted Lasso and Mythic Quest, two of the best shows on TV. So it makes sense that they would turn to Joseph Gordon-Levitt to keep the streak alive. Premiering today on Apple TV+, Mr. Corman, a project that old hitRECordjoe created, wrote, directed, and stars in, follows Josh Corman (Gordon-Levitt), a depressed and anxious fifth-grade teacher looking for purpose. Plus, there are some serious ringers in the cast, such as Debra Winger, Arturo Castro, and the bespectacled rapper Logic.
What our review says: “The magic of the series comes from the emotional and romantic asides that stem from Josh’s psyche. He admits in the first episode that he hasn’t played piano in a year, but once he does, that effort kicks off his season-long story. Gordon-Levitt is perfect for this role—he displayed remarkable nuance early on in 3rd Rock From The Sun, and his turn in (500) Days Of Summer still feels fresh after 15 years—but you can see why he’s avoided taking on a singular lead role in a TV series until he created his own show. The play between music and imagery needs to be sold wholesale by its main actor, since most of the other characters are more self-assured in their personal identities, at least compared to Josh. The actor can tap into a kind of menacing anxiety and self-pity in a way that keeps even the audience at arm’s length, which makes his attempts to connect feel more earned. The breaks from Josh’s perspective add another layer, showing that his sad sack worldview is remarkably truncated, even when he’s right about things (like wearing masks).” [Sulagna Misra]
You don’t need another person telling you to watch Ted Lasso, so we’ll remind you that the penultimate episode of Mike White’s fantastic The White Lotus airs this weekend. The first four are already on HBO Max, so if you aren’t caught up, now is the time—before Twitter ruins the finale.
If White Lotus is too stressful, might we also suggest checking out the third season of Holey Moley, ABC’s best summer fill-in show. Holey Moley is a miniature golf tournament with a Wipeout component, hosted by comedian Rob Riggle and professional sportscaster Joe Tessitore. The two bring a real “can you believe we’re getting away with this” vibe to the proceedings that’s as proudly stupid as it is endearing.
The album to hear: Laura Stevenson, Laura Stevenson
Another week has come and gone, and we still don’t have that new Kanye album—well, as this writing, there’s no DONDA. So let’s channel that rage and enjoy the bombast and beauty of Laura Stevenson’s self-titled sixth record. A mix of soft vocals and heavier-than-thou guitars, the album is the cure for the common DONDA-related blues.
What our review says: The A.V. Club does not have a review of Stevenson’s record yet. But, in our August music preview, Music Editor Alex McLevy writes, “Combining Americana, spare indie folk, and blustery country swing, Stevenson’s music on her new self-titled release consistently packs an emotional wallop: As raw and confessional as Elliott Smith one moment, as lyrical and evocative as Joni Mitchell the next.”
Speaking of The White Lotus, we here at The A.V. Club have been pumping out some great supplemental readings for fans new and old (we’re all new fans because the show only premiered a month ago, but you know what we mean). Saloni Gajjar’s Reaction to last week’s episode hits hard for all of us in the online journalism game, but it’s especially on-point in its comparison of Succession’s “Vaulter.”
In the last few years, myriad TV shows have attempted to capture media’s evolving nature, from The Newsroom’s holier-than-thou approach to The Morning Show’s showy but timely narrative; from Great News’ comedic setting to the short-lived Murphy Brown revival. It’s been a greater challenge to effectively portray the age of online journalism on TV. The White Lotus invokes the industry-wide mandates to produce more and more “content,” following in the footsteps of Succession to provide a terrifyingly accurate depiction of digital media.
Our own Cameron Scheetz also did a post-mortem interview with Lukas Gage on his surprise viral video from earlier this year and that ending, which, surprisingly enough, was thought of on the spot. It’s also one of the few A.V. Club interviews that includes the line: “We said, ‘Wouldn’t it be more interesting if [Dillon’s] getting his salad tossed?’”
Have a great weekend! Here’s some ZZ Top to take us out: