A little film called Star Wars: The Last Jedi hits theaters Friday, but if the force isn’t quite with you right now, here are 10 other ways to keep yourself entertained.
1. WHAT TO WATCH IF YOU’RE DRAWN TO A MURKY REAL-LIFE MYSTERY
Debuting Friday on Netflix, this six-part miniseries offers a distinctive blend of documentary and drama. Through a mix of interviews, archive footage, and reconstructions, Oscar-winning film-maker Errol Morris explores the sad, strange story of American scientist Frank Olson. While working on a secret Cold War program in the ’50s, he was secretly dosed with LSD, and died nine days later after apparently falling from the window of a New York City hotel room. To this day, many people including his son Eric suspect the truth could be much darker. It’s a grimly fascinating tale which has the potential to become the next big word-of-mouth series.
2. WHAT TO TUNE INTO IF YOU’VE WATCHED TOO MUCH CABLE NEWS THIS YEAR
The term “fake news” has become so ubiquitous that it was recently declared word of the year by Collins Dictionary. This satirical special airing Wednesday on Comedy Central cleverly plays off its popularity. Ed Helms stars as “Ted Nelms,” a pseudo news anchor delivering an hour-long stream of humorous and totally phony news segments designed to send up current events and cable news’ sensationalizing style. Comedy Central says the special will “look like CNN with the volume off,” so a few viewers could get fooled, at least for a minute or two.
3. WHAT TO TRY FOR A LESS ROMANTICIZED VIEW OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON
This BBC comedy-drama series has been praised for its realistic and condescension-free depiction of older characters. Reliably brilliant British thesps Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi star as former childhood sweethearts who reconnect and marry in their seventies, forming a sprawling blended family with their respective daughters and grandkids. This two-part holiday special should please existing fans and newcomers alike; writer Sally Wainwright has a knack for turning commonplace experiences like moving house and dealing with grief into compelling, relatable TV. If you tune into part one this Sunday on PBS, you’ll probably want to return for part two on December 24.
4. WHAT TO LISTEN TO SO YOU CAN FRESHEN UP YOUR FESTIVE PLAYLISTS
It’s rare for an A-list album to arrive so close to Christmas, but Pharrell Williams‘ band N.E.R.D have never been conventional. Led by the infectious, Rihanna-featuring single “Lemon,” their first album in seven years is a typically varied and inventive collection of contemporary pop, rock, and hip-hop sounds. The guest vocalists are impressive, too, with Kendrick Lamar, M.I.A, Outkast’s Andre 3000, and the seemingly indefatigable Ed Sheeran all contributing. Stream it from Friday to make your holiday party cooler than an eggnog popsicle.
5. WHAT TO WATCH FOR A MOVING INSIGHT INTO THE REFUGEE EXPERIENCE
After winning acclaim at a number of international film festivals, this lovely Dutch documentary opens in select theaters Wednesday. It takes us into the classroom of schoolteacher Kiet Engels, whose pupils are refugees newly arrived in Holland. Wife-and-husband directing duo Petra Lataster-Czisch and Peter Lataster follow the children closely but respectfully as they open up to their classmates and embrace the learning experience. Miss Kiet’s patience and empathy shine through brightly, turning this seemingly modest doc into uncommonly heartwarming viewing.
6. WHAT TO WATCH FOR A DIFFERENT TAKE ON A FESTIVE FAVORITE
Given A Christmas Story‘s enduring popularity, it’s surprising Fox hasn’t attempted a live version of the Broadway musical adaptation before. Still, there’s no denying the network has attracted a crack cast for this three-hour spectacular airing Sunday, with Maya Rudolph, Jane Krakowski, Matthew Broderick, and Ken Jeong all appearing. Meanwhile, newcomer Andy Walken has been cast as Ralphie Parker, the little boy desperate for Santa to leave him a Red Ryder air rifle. If the live version reminds you how much you love the original movie, TBS will be running its annual 24-hour A Christmas Story marathon from 8pm on December 24.
7. WHAT TO LISTEN TO IF YOU (OR SOMEONE IN YOUR LIFE) IS STILL MISSING ONE DIRECTION
Ever since One Direction announced their hiatus in 2015, there’s been space in the charts for a new, tween-friendly boyband. Step forward PrettyMuch, an Americo-Canadian five-piece formed by none other than Simon Cowell. Their new single “No More” is a trendy slice of Latin-inflected R&B featuring a cred-boosting rap from French Montana and a chorus that recalls the heady days of NSYNC. It’s early days, but don’t be surprised if you see a lot more of PrettyMuch in 2018.
8. WHAT TO TRY IF YOU STILL LOVE A CLASSIC ACTION FLICK
As fans of Sylvester Stallone‘s Expendables movies will know, watching old action stars send themselves up is a lot of fun. Created by Expendables co-writer Dave Callahan, this new comedy series stars Jean-Claude Van Damme as a fictionalized version of himself who returns to life as an undercover agent because his acting career is all washed up. This year’s pilot episode featured some decent jokes and memorable action sequences led by Van Damme, who’s still hench enough to be called “The Muscles from Brussels.” Let’s hope the full series launching Friday on Amazon builds on that promising start.
9. WHAT TO WATCH IF YOU COULD USE SOME EXTRA FESTIVE CHEER RIGHT NOW
Now in its third year, Taraji’s White Hot Holidays is becoming a Fox Christmas tradition. Airing Thursday, this year’s special features seasonal performances from the likes of Chaka Khan, Fergie, Salt & Pepa, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s Titus Burgees. But as ever, holiday songs are only part of the festive mix. “I didn’t want it to look like another music show,” Empire star Henson explained recently. “It’s more about laughter infused with some music.” Sounds like the perfect party, right?
10. AND FINALLY, WHICH INSTAGRAM TO FOLLOW IF YOU’RE A BUDDING HORROR BUFF
If you already feel as though you’ve overdosed on holiday schmaltz, this account could be the antidote. @retrohorror is dedicated to sharing posters and stills from cult, obscure, and underrated horror flicks, including many examples from the cult Italian genre known as “Giallo.” It’s a terrific way of discovering movies you’ve never seen before, and the fantastically campy artwork is a welcome addition to anyone’s Instagram feed.
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