What to watch (and skip) in theaters and on Amazon Prime this weekend

January 17, 2020, 4:45 PM UTC
Courtesy of Epic Pictures, Apple +, Amazon Prime

Whether you’re standing in the theater lobby or curled up in bed, deciding what to watch next is often the most difficult part of any pop-culture junkie’s day. And with dozens of films in theaters on any given weekend, plus virtually endless layers of streaming purgatory to sort through in search of your next binge-watch, there’s more out there—and tougher decisions to make—than ever.

Fortune‘s here to help you navigate the week’s latest offerings, boiling all the entertainment out there down into three distinct recommendations: should you see it, stream it, or skip it? Find out below.

SEE IT: ‘The Wave’ (In theaters/VOD)

When it comes to playing men in completely over their heads, there’s no one better than Justin Long, which might explain why both horror and comedy have so embraced him across the past 20 years. Long’s eyebrows are gloriously thick, capable of being raised practically into his hairline out of terror or confusion, and his pre-eminently affable grin lends itself equally to nice-guy romantic leads and pleasant-enough everymen about to have their worlds rocked.

He’s in the latter boat for The Wave, a psychedelic drug-trip odyssey from director Gille Klabin that’s pitched as something like The Hangover meets Primer with a healthy dose of Charlie Kaufman, and just about follows through on that screwy fusion of ingredients.

Long plays Frank, a corporate lawyer whose day-to-day involves scrutinizing the insurance policies of the deceased so that his company can wriggle out of paying out policies to their bereaved loved ones. Years of this have Frank callous, and he’s eager to deliver on a particularly coldhearted maneuver that will screw over a dead firefighter’s family, securing himself a promotion in the process. But when Frank goes out on the town with coworker Jeff (Donald Faison) to celebrate, the buddies intersect with two young women, Natalie (Katia Winter) and Theresa (Sheila Vand). Pairing off, Frank and Theresa try a mysterious drug offered by a maybe-real shaman-dealer (Tommy Flanagan).

What follows is a mind-bending excursion through time and space, Frank riding vividly colorful waves of hallucinogenic phenomena from boardroom meetings to strangers’ houses without a clue what’s happening. His wallet’s missing, as is Theresa, and Frank becomes convinced that finding both will help him come down, lending The Wave all the bearings of a quest story.

Visually speaking, Klabin has accomplished something quite special with his directorial debut, The Wave‘s bright neon palette and giddily discombobulating sense of circular momentum replicating the look and feel of a particularly glorious trip. In terms of narrative, there’s a little less there, Frank’s gradual journey toward change and self-betterment ending up a rather compact and simplistic arc. But The Wave‘s still a trip worth taking, and one that gives Long a chance to shine in a role that’s both hilarious and dramatic. He’s a skilled actor in both veins, and seeing him surf between the two tones at once is a welcome treat.

STREAM IT: ‘Little America’ (Apple TV+)

Apple hasn’t exactly roared out of the gate with its original programming, but Little America is, simply put, such a remarkable step forward for the platform that early misfires like The Morning Show, See, and Dickinson can be both forgotten and forgiven.

The anthology series (eight episodes, streaming Friday)—hailing from  Lee Eisenberg, Kumail Nanjiani, and Emily V. Gordon—studies the immigrant experience in America with resolute grace and hopefulness, each half-hour episode looking at a different person struggling to overcome a challenge specific to their cultural heritage. Its stories were selected from a series by Epic Magazine. Though some creative liberties have been taken, there’s truth at the core of each story.

In “The Baker,” actress Kemiyondo Coutinho (in a stunning turn that should bring Hollywood knocking on her door) plays a single mother in Louisville, Ky., who eventually opens a storefront bakery that pays tribute to her father back in Uganda. In “The Grand Prize Expo Winners,” the nuances of the Chinese-American experience are gorgeously illuminated by the tale of Ai (Angela Lin), who struggles to accept her changing role in her teenaged children’s lives as the family vacations at sea.

There are high-water marks to be had in terms of specific performances and some exceptionally striking direction (each episode feels lovingly, singularly crafted), but each installment is a gem. Little America, across its first season, feels like a perfectly timed and sorely needed celebration of the aspirations common across all those living in the United States today, a reminder of ties that bind us and dreams that move us. Its politics are the politics of humanity and its spirit is profoundly generous. It’s the first great series of 2020, and you shouldn’t miss it.

SKIP IT: ‘Russell Peters: Deported’ (Amazon Prime)

If you know the stand-up stylings of yuk-yuk funnyman Russell Peters, little will surprise you about the contents of Deported, his Amazon Prime comedy special.

Peters was the first comedian to get a Netflix comedy special, Notorious, back in 2013. In the seven years since, the streaming giant has rapidly expanded its library of such specials, releasing standup at an unprecedented clip of around one a week, welcoming a range of comics from around the world onto its service.

From John Mulaney and Chris Rock to Ali Wong and Hannah Gadsby, dozens of comedians have triumphed on Netflix by personalizing the standup format, crafting creative, subversive, and often deeply hilarious sets that (in ways small and large) play to the streaming platform’s strengths as an audiovisual medium. The form has evolved, and many comedians have risen to the modern challenge of setting themselves apart in a nevermore crowded field.

Peters, alas, is not one of them. He’s achieved massive popularity through a reliance on patanking—actress Sakina Jaffrey’s term for the broad mimicking of South Asian accents and mannerisms perhaps best presented by Apu from The Simpsons—and otherwise lazy stereotypes, particularly surrounding brown and black men, that were outdated by the late 2000s and certainly feel moreso today.

But in Deported, recorded in Mumbai’s NSCI Stadium, Peters makes no attempt to update his schtick. From his first moments on stage, he’s yukking it up about Indians not wearing deodorant, having names that Westerners might find hard to pronounce, and lacking fashion sense. The rest of the special follows suit. One can only imagine his comedy contemporaries, from Hasan Minhaj to Mindy Kaling, cringing with secondhand embarrassment.

Throughout, as Peters trots out segments about fatherhood, sex, and doctor’s visits, he occasionally lands a few punchlines, the majority aided by his natural instinct for creating off-the-cuff moments with his audience. But the material he wrote for this special is so dismayingly tired across the board that such moments feel like blips more than highlights.

Deported takes an unwelcome detour into homophobia as well, with an interminable bit about endoscopies and colonoscopies in which he recalls repeatedly stressing to a doctor that he’s not gay and therefore opposed to being penetrated. Seldom is Peters particularly witty, nor does he appear embarrassed to be perpetuating such hoary tropes in a period where the potential for standup comedians to be bold and innovative has never been higher.

“My audience has grown with me,” Peters said in a recent interview with Forbes India. Watching Deported, it’s difficult not to be skeptical of both sides of that sentiment: the suggestion that Peters’s continued reliance on lazy stereotypes could constitute any form of growth on his part, and the more desperate insinuation that audiences haven’t already grown beyond his puerile provocations.

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