The Way Way Back (2013)
A sort of shy, ungainly 14 year old called Duncan is forced to spend a summer at a beach house with his mom (Toni Collette), and his mom’s sucky boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell). Early on in the film, Trent antagonistically asks Duncan what he’d rate himself on a scale of one to 10, and then tells him that he’d give him a three. Understandably, Duncan wants to stay the hell away from douche lord Trent, and he eventually finds a way to occupy his time: at a water park run by a slacker named Owen (played by the consistently fantastic Sam Rockwell), who unlike Trent instantly accepts Duncan and gives him a job. The Way Way Back is brimming with phenomenal actors like Maya Rudolph and Allison Janney; Carell plays the jerk beautifully; and the movie showcases Oscar-winning writing duo Jim Rash and Nat Faxon’s gift for melding real human drama with comedy (they’re also talented comedic actors, look out for them in the movie). Duncan begins to flourish once he’s under the wing of someone who has faith in him, and he gradually becomes more self-assured. You’ll giggle, you’ll cheer, and you might sob (I totally did). The Way Way Back is way, way great. —Amber
The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (2015, HBO)
Last week I hadn’t even heard of The Jinx; this week, I’m obsessed. When the final episode of this documentary miniseries aired and everybody was talking about the explosive finale, I couldn’t stop thinking, what is it all about??!??!? I decided to stream the first episode before I went to bed. The next thing I knew, it was three in the morning and I was in deep. Here’s what I know so far. In 1982, Robert Durst’s wife disappeared, her whereabouts still unknown. In 2000, Durst’s friend Susan Berman was found murdered in her home. In 2001, Durst’s neighbor was brutally killed. Somebody might look at all these cases and say, “HMMMM, I WONDER WHAT THE COMMON DENOMINATOR IS??” But Durst wasn’t charged with any of these crimes. The filmmaker Andrew Jarecki was obsessed with Durst’s case, he decided to create this series—which includes reenactments and archival footage of the murder scenes—around two interviews he did with Durst himself (who, by the way, looks like the human equivalent of a shark). It’s terrifying. But it’s also fascinating to know that the act of making The Jinx has impacted the case itself. —Anna F.
Survivor (2000–, CBS)
I am not an outdoorsy person. I don’t like camping, or sleeping on the ground, or cooking over an open flame, and, truth be told, I prefer swimming in a pool to diving into the ocean. But for some reason, I can’t get enough of watching other people do these things, especially on Survivor, when a bunch of strangers are split into two camps and forced to compete against each other in ridiculous challenges. How many variations on giant puzzles and obstacle courses can there be? The number is unlimited, according to this show. The best part, always, is watching the contestants align themselves with each other during the first few days, and choose who to trust even though these allegiances almost never work out. They will eventually lie and cheat just to make it through the game, and then sit around boasting about who lied the best! It’s a terrible way to live, but just like camping, fun to watch on TV. —Emma S.
The X-Files: Fight the Future (1998)
This is the first (and best!) movie based on The X-Files TV show. It’s a treat for rabid fans of the show and a great introduction for anyone who hasn’t caught it yet. At the start of Fight the Future, agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are investigating a bomb threat in Dallas. Sure, it seems like typical FBI work, BUT then it turns out that the bomb is just part of a cover up. In fact, an alien virus has been discovered in a small Texas town, where it had been buried since 35,000 BC! This is just the start of an incredible adventure that goes from cornfields swarming with virus-carrying bees, all the way to Antarctica, as Mulder and Scully attempt to unravel this government conspiracy and get to the truth they know is out there. The film is action-packed, and while you might wind up feeling uncertain about trusting the government, you might also come to share my faith in Mulder and Scully. —Stephanie
A Summer’s Tale (1996)
I’ve been a serious fan of the director Éric Rohmer for a while, and A Summer’s Tale has to be my favorite of his films. Gaspard, an aspiring musician, arrives at the seaside in Brittany, France, for a three-week vacation before he’s due to start a new job. He’s waiting for his kinda-girlfriend Dinard, but while he wanders around the beach resort he gets involved with two other women, and ends up in a summer love triangle…or rectangle…or something. Basically, romantic complications on the beach ensue. The characters are just trying to find out who they really are, and they do that by making mistakes. A Summer’s Tale a beautiful, honest film, and Rohmer manages to show just how difficult it can be to start over. —Dana
Did you think Holes was just about digging holes? Well it isn’t. OK, it is…but only a little. This film adaptation of the novel by Louis Sachar, is mostly about the struggle for trust that exists between young people and adults. Stanley (played by Shia LaBeouf) is in deep trouble; he’s catching the blame for a crime he may or may not have committed. Since nobody believes he’s innocent, he’s sent to a Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention center where the main activity is searching for treasure in—OK, you guessed it—holes. Obviously this sucks as a way to spend your days, and even worse, the relationship dynamics in this film are fraught. The power hungry warden of the camp and her henchmen corrupt the trust that the kids have invested in them, and as a result, the youngins really only have themselves to rely on. Who really runs the world? Watch Holes and find out. —Chanel
The Amazing Race (2001–, CBS)
The Amazing Race has won the Emmy award for Best Reality Show 10 separate times. Even on a purely logistical level, the show deserves awards: Imagine if it was your job to figure out how to get a dozen pairs of contestants from country to country; to buy airplane and train tickets on the fly; and do country-specific challenges at every stop, on and on, for weeks at a time. Every episode, pairs of contestants (some are romantic couples, some are friends, some are family) must complete a task—learn a dance routine, memorize sake bottle labels—while simultaneously navigating the nuances of their personal relationships. This season Jonathan Knight, of ’80s super group New Kids on the Block fame, was on Amazing Race with his boyfriend. Watching them cuddle up on trains and planes was a gift to my 10-year-old self, but I’m astonished that any of the pairs can even bear to look at each other once it’s over! —Emma S.
Les Saignantes (2005)
Majolie and Chouchou are best friends, so what else can Chouchou do when it turns out Majolie has (accidentally?) killed the Very Important Politician she was having sex with, except help her friend get rid of the body, and then retrieve the body, and then attend the guy’s wake in a bid for political power? The Cameroonian director Jean Pierre Bekolo’s speculative, comedic thriller Les Saignantes (or Bloodettes), opens in 2025. Nightlife in Yaoundé amounts to attending the wakes of rich people, and two girls are trying to avoid being killed and maybe negotiate themselves a better life in the process. It’s the future, so naturally everybody moves like they’re in a glitchy video game and the cars are voice automated. Some of the themes are harsh, and Majolie and Chouchou are in pretty much constant danger, but for every cadaver, there’s a fight-slash-dance routine in which they channel their sexual power to squash their enemies. Les Saignantes also contains a getting-dressed-to-be-the-flyest-friends-at-the-party montage that makes the sometimes slow-moving plot 100 percent worthwhile. —Derica ♦