What to Watch This Week: 'Emancipation,' 'The Whale,' 'Harry & Meghan' and More

Check out the best of the best that is hitting theaters, TV and streaming services this week. From 'Emancipation,' to 'The Whale,' and more.

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This week’s releases are reminders that Awards SZN is right around the corner. Will Smith is returning to the big screen with Emancipation, his first movie after the infamous Oscar fiasco. The Apple TV+ film showcases a powerful story and an even more impressive performance from the actor. The Whale also marks Brendan Fraser’s big comeback with another captivating story that has already received great praise from critics and fans alike. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is also bound to have film lovers raving and celebrating the acclaimed director. 

If you’re looking for something a bit more lighthearted, and less thought-consuming, there’s nothing like a good comedy like this week’s fantastic episode of Abbott Elementary (featuring an appearance from Vince Staples!) or Netflix’s docuseries about Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s relationship, Harry & Meghan. Regardless of what you choose, we won’t judge. We’re just here to inform you of what’s the latest and what we think you might like. Take it easy this weekend, as we prepare for the biggest event of the season—Avatar: The Way of Water—arriving next week. We will tell you all about that next week so check back in then. 


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When: Friday, Dec. 9

Where: Apple TV+

After a hectic promo tour, Will Smith and director Antoine Fuqua’s film Emancipation is arriving on Friday and it is a must-see. While it might be difficult for some to watch, it is a story that is worth learning about. Smith plays a slave named Peter who runs away after being sold to the Confederate Army, which separated him from his wife and children. Peter fights against all odds to make it out alive and becomes a historical figure after whipping scars on his back are photographed and used worldwide as proof of the cruelty slaves were enduring in the south. Peter defies all adversity with as much dignity as possible given his circumstances and shows how much strength and power people in his position had back then just to survive each day. The film also stars Charmaine Bingwa and Ben Foster, and features one of Smith’s most challenging roles to date.  

One thing that is certain about Emancipation is that Smith really wants you to see it. The actor worked alongside Apple TV+ to give his fans a free two-month trial to the streaming service to ensure that they would be able to watch his new film—so do him and yourself a favor and check it out. —Karla Rodriguez

'The Whale'

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When: Friday, Dec. 9th

Where: In Theaters

If you’re a fan of checking off all of the Oscar-nominated films each year, or you’re an A24 junkie, or maybe you enjoy diving into things a little off the beaten path, The Whale is certainly worth your time. From the dark and disturbed mind of Darren Aronofsky, The Whale is able to harness the lovable persona of a Hollywood icon in a devastatingly effective story. Flanked by The Menu’s Hong Chau and Stranger Things’ Sadie Sink, Brendan Fraser’s kind and gentle eyes are never lost in the prosthetics that make him a 600-pound man living out his final days. Charlie is dying of congestive heart failure due to his morbid obesity and he’s not particularly keen to do anything about it as his dear friend and nurse, Liz, makes daily visits to monitor his well-being while simultaneously enabling his awful habits. Instead, he prioritizes rekindling his relationship with his estranged teenage daughter, Ellie, whom he abandoned eight years ago and is reluctant to have any connection with him.

A firmly dedicated character study, The Whale is not so much a fun night out as it is a transfixing display of performance and exploration of the soul. Aronofsky is among the best there is at depicting the grimiest parts of our humanity. Yet the real magic he pulls off here isn’t so much in diving deeper into the detestable nature of man, as is usually his style, but instead lies in slowly revealing the tenderly heartbreaking truth at the center of the tragedy. The Whale is obsessed with the idea of truth and what it means to live honestly. Underneath its sad exterior, The Whale has a remarkably sweet core with Fraser leading the charge, in tandem with Chau, in what surely leads to an Oscar nod for them both. Visceral, engaging, and shockingly emotional, The Whale is a notable addition to the fall film slate. —Gabriel Alvarez

'Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio'

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When: Friday, Dec. 9

Where: Netflix

The original Disney classic Pinocchio is a weird and beautifully rendered coming-of-age story of simple morality and ethics. The remake released on Disney+ just a few months ago is somehow even more strange but in a much less enjoyable way, with Robert Zemeckis’ CGI Pinocchio triggering a truly unsettling uncanny valley effect. This latest adaptation comes from the esteemed Mexican filmmaker, Guillermo del Toro. Famed for his work with creatures and all things fantastical, del Toro has long spoken of his lifelong dream to remake this legendary story. Much more than a straightforward retelling, del Toro’s version of Pinocchio is very much in line with his expected auteurist vision.

Made by Gepetto in a fit of drunken rage and grief, Pinocchio is a mildly creepy, very janky pinewood puppet who is brash, impulsive, and disobedient. del Toro puts his character through literal and figurative hell in World War II era Italy, as he brilliantly weaves together the antithesis to Disney’s original fairy tale. Challenging authority, fighting conformity, and being your own person is more important than blind obedience and this Pinocchio has no interest in becoming a flesh-and-blood “real boy.” The dark edge is perfectly finessed within the gorgeous stop-motion animation medium, reminding me a lot of what James and the Giant Peach and Coraline were for me—two films I adored growing up for their subversive nature. If you’re having family over for the upcoming holidays and want something the whole family can enjoy, this is the one. —Gabriel Alvarez

'Harry & Meghan'

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When: Thursday, Dec. 8

Where: Netflix

This might not be your cup of tea but it is mine. I live for drama and mess, especially when it involves celebrities, and in this case, royalty. I was never truly interested in the British royal family until Meghan Markle entered the picture and really spiced things up when she started dating Prince Harry. Their love story has been no fairytale though, and the couple had enough foresight to document the beginning of their relationship and are putting the ups and downs of their love story on Netflix for all of us to enjoy in this new in-depth documentary series, Harry & Meghan. In six episodes, the series explores the secret days of their early union and the challenges they faced with the family and the media that led to them stepping back from their full-time roles in the institution.

Harry & Meghan is a never-before-seen look at one of the most-talked-about couples in history, that also show the realities of what it’s like to deal with public scrutiny from not only the press like Harry’s mom Princess Diana had to deal with but also from cruel social media trolls. The pair have been open about the racism and mistreatment that Markle endured when their relationship went public, and how they felt unprotected by his family in the midst of it all. It’s a particularly interesting story, and even if it’s not your thing, you can’t help but pay attention to what the couple has to say. —Karla Rodriguez

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