ScreenCrush Staff Picks for What to Watch the Weekend of May 5
If you can’t decide what to watch this weekend, ScreenCrush’s Staff Picks are here to help. They’re like the recommendations at an old video store, except you don’t have to put on pants or go outside to get them. Here are four things to watch this weekend:
If you’re like me, the mere mention of “improv” makes you cringe into yourself like human origami. So a movie about a group of friends and aspiring comedians who do improv together probably sounds like the absolute last thing you’d want to watch. But you really don’t want to sleep on Don’t Think Twice (even though you already did because it was released last year). Mike Birbiglia’s sophomore directorial effort is even better than his debut, Sleepwalk With Me: Hilarious, weirdly poignant, and painfully relatable — emphasis on painfully. You might not empathize with their chosen profession, but each and every character has some emotional or narrative beat you’ll identify with, maybe even a little too much. Birbiglia co-stars with Gillian Jacobs, Chris Gethard, Keegan-Michael Key, Kate Micucci, and Tami Sagher as an improv group rattled when one of them lands a gig with SNL. Jacobs is easily the MVP of the film, and between Don’t Think Twice and Love (also on Netflix!), she’s quickly become one of my absolute favorite actors to watch.
Don't Think Twice is streaming on Netflix.
Do I buy that 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is not political? No. Do I like it anyway? Yes, yes I do. In fact, this might be Michael Bay’s best movie in 20 years. (Don’t @ me.) Jim from The Office stars as CIA contractor Jack Silva, deployed to Libya to protect a secret American facility shortly before the infamous attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi. When the crap hits the fan, Silva’s team are the only ones left to protect American agents and officials. Bay's valorization of fighting men in the field over short-sighted pencil pushers puts him squarely within a tradition of classical Hollywood war films and Westerns, and he draws an impressive performance from James Badge Dale, who is both Kevlar-tough and black-and-blue-mark sensitive as Rone, the leader of the CIA contractors. Ultimately, though, this is a movie about action, which Bay manages to make both coherent and chaotic all at once. The elaborate assault scenes reminded me that Bay can capture practical stunts, and show the weight of all that death and horror on the faces of soldiers, like few other filmmakers. If he could stop making movies about transforming robots for more than five minutes, he would be a genuinely exciting director.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is streaming on Amazon Prime.
Everyone from Dave Chappelle to Ricky Gervais and Louis C.K. have recently been under fire for using transgender people in their jokes. But if you want to learn about the trans experience with a sense of humor, you best hear it from a trans person. Enter Ian Harvie's stand-up special May the Best C--k Win. You likely recognize Harvie from the first season of Transparent. He spent three years opening for Margaret Cho and now he's brought his act to the small screen thanks to Seeso. Harvie's sense of humor brings a fresh perspective to the ways we talk about gender roles and identity. He isn't preachy or policing, but vulnerable and open about his experience as a trans man. His jokes find the humor in what would be upsetting moments, like how his grandmother with dementia literally doesn't remember that he's her grandson. Harvie weaves in some basic Trans 101 education while touching on experiences often left out of the mainstream dialogue about trans identities, like taking testosterone, packing, and being in cisgender lesbian and gay bars as a trans man. Trans masculine people are rarely shown on screen, much less accurately, and Harvie is helping to change that.
The Handmaid’s Tale is … maybe a little too real right now, but so long as we’re riding the “Elisabeth Moss is great” train, there might be no better pit stop than the 2013 miniseries Top of the Lake. The Jane Campion-written and directed mystery sees Moss as Detective Robin Sydney, managing a surprisingly good New Zealand accent as she investigates the disappearance of a young pregnant girl in sleepy, but scenic Laketop. The views are only half as gorgeous as the performances themselves, which include wrenching turns from Moss, Peter Mullan, David Wenham, and a delightfully offbeat Holly Hunter. It’s a traumatizing tale of sexual abuse and uncertainty, sure, but one that finds surprising strength in survival.
Top of the Lake Season 1 is streaming on Hulu.