Your time is valuable and at the end of a long week the discretionary time must be spent to maximum value. In order to help narrow choices down on the film and television front, every Friday we’ll give you the rundown of your options and an educated guess as to which ones make the most sense. There is a very complex formula involved. Usually that formula includes us watching the things and then telling you if they’re good. OK, we admit it’s not exactly the recipe for Coke, but we’re trying to help. Onward!

On the Screen

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13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
Director: Michael Bay
Stars: John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Pablo Schrieber, and David Costabile

This is a peculiar movie. It’s from Michael Bay and it’s not coming out on the Fourth of July, which is surprising. The director is so known for his Transformers movies and for making things go boom, it seems a military-themed effort coming out in the doldrums of January would mean he’s lost his mojo. Not the case at all. This is subdued Michael Bay and while his subdued is still the equivalent of any other director going over the top, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is a quality movie. It’s not as agenda driven as one would expect and the cast does a good job adding depth to what could have easily been cookie cutter characters. To my surprise, the movie is quite good.

The Verdict: See it if you are in the mood for a little Black Hawk Down-lite.

 

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Ride Along 2
Director: Tim Story
Stars: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Olivia Munn, and Ken Jeong

A cynical person might say this is a rush job and a cash grab. Others may feel that the filmmakers for Ride Along 2 struck while the iron was hot. Critics have not been kind to this film, though they weren’t all that kind to the original and that movie grossed a whole lot of money. This will be the film that dethrones Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so there’s that.

The Verdict: See it if you really, really love Ride Along and felt there were important unanswered questions.

 

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Norm of the North
Director: Trevor Wall
Stars: Rob Schneider, Heather Graham, and Ken Jeong

The kids have seen everything out there and need to be sated. There has to be something for the children. Norm of the North is that something and if the buzz on this is any indication the kids may just want to go back to school instead.

The Verdict: See it if you are a completist of films with a 3% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

 

On the Tube

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Saturday Night Live
Guests: Adam Driver and Chris Stapleton

Kylo Ren jokes will be aplenty when Adam Driver hosts Saturday Night Live, a show which is on a bit of a high after the Ryan Gosling and Amy Poehler/Tina Fey episodes. It’s the 41st season of the show and there’s still gas left in the tank. There are worse ways to spend a Saturday night.

The Verdict: Adam Driver was the strongest element of The Force Awakens. It’s going to be a blast seeing him let his hair down without having to worry about his parentage.

 

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Billions
Director: Neil Burger
Stars: Damian Lewis, Paul Giamatti, Maggie Siff, David Costabile, and Malin Akerman

Showtime unleashes its latest drama on Sunday night and it is fantastic. We spoke with the creators of the show and for fans of mature and gritty programs, this is one of the best ones in years. There’s a swagger to the show that makes it a soulmate to classic movies like Wall Street and Glengarry Glen Ross, so if that’s your bag get ready to have a blast Sunday night.

The Verdict: An absolute winner.

 

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Mercy Street
Director: Roxann Dawson
Stars: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Josh Radnor, and Gary Cole

This PBS show debuts Sunday night and is aimed directly into the wheelhouse of Downton Abbey and The Knick fans, though there’s not enough meat in the miniseries yet to earn it the comparison. It’s a period piece and does focus on medicine, but it’s going to take a little more than that if it’s going to stick.

The Verdict: Wait until the first series is done and if it’s righted itself it could be a binge watch candidate.

 

Happy hunting! We’ll catch up with you on the other side and see how it went.