Hiss Golden Messenger, “Quietly Blowing It" (Merge)
M.C. Taylor sounds gorgeously despondent at the outset of his band's new album, a follow-up to his brilliant 2019 record, “Terms of Surrender." But before he's done he has charted his way, musically and lyrically, to a better place.
It's intriguing to imagine Liam Neeson's management team, contemplating his next film. Perhaps “Uber Express”? Maybe “Lyfted Up”?
There’s just something symbiotic about Neeson and vehicles — not only cars, but planes (“Non-Stop”), suburban commuter trains (“The Commuter”), even snowplows (“Cold Pursuit”).
Doja Cat, “Planet Her" (Kemosabe/RCA)
Not to be totally catty, but Doja Cat's third album starts poorly. The first four songs — “Woman,” “Naked,” “Payday” with Young Thug and “Get Into It (Yuh)” — are half-baked tunes mimicking beats and vocals from Nicki Minaj or Rihanna.
Lucy Dacus, "Home Video” (Matador)
This is what the world of teenagers sounds like — intense, earnest, funny and sometimes beautiful.
On “Home Video,” 26-year-old Lucy Dacus revisits her adolescence, and in this case, intimate introspection makes for moving music.
The Mountain Goats, “Dark in Here” (Merge)
“Dark in Here” was recorded in 2020, that calamitous year of fear and mistrust. It shows.
High anxiety fills the Mountain Goats' new album, the product of sessions held in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, just as the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Director Heidi Ewing makes a powerful narrative debut with “ I Carry You with Me,” a dreamy and tender, decades-spanning story about love, sacrifice, memory and immigration.
In 20 years and 10 movies the “Fast and Furious” series has relentlessly insisted that its saga is really, truly about family.
With all due respect to Vin Diesel's Toretto clan, I must disagree.
“A Distant Grave,” by Sarah Stewart Taylor (Minotaur)
Homicide detective Maggie D’arcy has been hoping to heat up a cross-Atlantic romance with her sweetheart, Conor Kearney, but after a body turns up on Long Island beach, her trip to Ireland appears to be off.
Modest Mouse, “The Golden Casket" (Epic)
Uh-oh. It's not a good sign when any band starts referencing death right from jump. Modest Mouse have placed an open coffin on the cover of its latest album and have called it “The Golden Casket.”
“Filthy Animals,” by Brandon Taylor (Riverhead)
Brandon Taylor’s “Filthy Animals,” a book of interconnected short stories, is a chronicle of pain, identity, recovery and the desperation we all feel for human connection.
“The Boys,” by Ron Howard and Clint Howard (William Morrow)
“What was it like growing up on TV?” That’s the question, along with the death of their father in 2017, that prompted Ron Howard and his brother, Clint, to co-write a memoir of their childhood.
“The Atlas Underground Fire,” Tom Morello (Mom + Pop Music)
Once the paint-peeling guitar riffs, spleen-shaking drums and rip-roaring parade of guests subside, Tom Morello’s “The Atlas Underground Fire” really gets hearts racing.
As a young man starting college, director Todd Haynes fell immediately for the Velvet Underground — the band which, musician Brian Eno famously said, didn’t sell many records, but everyone who bought one went and started a band.
The poor folks of Haddonfield, Illinois, are having the worst and longest Halloween ever. It seems one movie wasn’t enough to contain Michael Myers’ 40th anniversary rampage.
“ Halloween Kills ” picks up at the moment David Gordon Green’s 2018 “Halloween” ended.
On its mud-and-blood surface, “The Last Duel” seems like a familiar slog.
The film, directed by Ridley Scott, begins with all the expected medieval trappings: gory battlefields, imposing stone castles, the clop of horses.
“Dimension: Dilemma” by ENHYPEN (BELIFT)
ENHYPEN takes its own advice seriously. Track “Go Big or Go Home” could very well describe the K-pop group's attitude to its first studio album “Dimension: Dilemma.” Its understated musical vibe belies its flawlessness and impact.
“Dooms Children" by Dooms Children (Dine Alone Records)
Sometimes it takes a crisis to settle into the space you should have been all along.
That appears to be the case on “Dooms Children," the new solo project by Wade MacNeil, who made his name fronting hardcore bands such as Alexisonfire and Gallows.
“Little Pieces of Hope: Happy-Making Things in a Difficult World,” by Todd Doughty (Penguin Life)
Todd Doughty’s “Little Pieces of Hope: Happy-Making Things in a Difficult World” is a joyful compilation of lists meant to remind readers of all the little things in life that make us happy.
The piercing traumas of school shootings, when they've made it into the movies, have seldom carried quite the right tone. Even the best intentions in wading into such tragic horrors can come off as insincere, even exploitive.
“The Darkness Dressed in Colored Lights" by Sean Rowe (Fluff & Gravy Records)
Singer-songwriter Sean Rowe's big voice is part of the reason his new album has heft, but it's not the only one.
“The Lincoln Highway,” by Amor Towles (Viking)
Home is different for 18-year-old Emmett Watson when he returns from a juvenile prison sentence for accidentally killing a bully in a fistfight.
“Crossroads,” by Jonathan Franzen (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Jonathan Franzen dreams big. His newest novel, “Crossroads,” arrives with an audible thud on readers’ doorsteps and will easily hold those doors open at 580 pages.
“Chronicles From the Land of the Happiest People on Earth,” by Wole Soyinka (Pantheon)
With “Chronicles From the Land of the Happiest People on Earth,” Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka has created an exceedingly unique tale, one that feels as if it has a tone and genre all its own.
“ Venom: Let There Be Carnage ” is best when it’s not trying to be a comic book movie.
That fact may not bode especially well for future spinoffs and integrations within the so-called “Spider-Verse,” but one senses that director Andy Serkis, screenwriter Kelly Marcel and star/producer Tom Hardy are aware of this weakness.
" Titane ” is a shock to the system.
Unbound by genre, decency or form, French writer-director Julia Ducournau’s Palme d’Or recipient is pulsating and passionately defiant cinema that nearly defies explanation.
When “The Sopranos” is brought up these days, it’s usually for the nebulous way it ended: That now-famous cut-to-black in a crowded diner while Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” plays. Whether Tony Soprano lived or died is still hotly debated.
Welcome back, Mr. Bond. This is your most important mission yet. The fate of the movie business depends on your success.
That’s how it feels, anyway, so high are industry expectations around “No Time to Die.” The 25th James Bond adventure is finally hitting screens a year and a half after its originally scheduled April 2020 release date, and is central to Hollywood’s hopes of luring pandemic-weary audiences back into movie theaters.
“Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence” by Anita Hill (Viking)
Anita Hill didn’t care if President Joe Biden apologized or not, but she found his aversion to doing so rather dramatic.
“Robert E. Lee: A Life” by Allen C. Guelzo (Knopf)
Controversy over the equestrian memorial to Robert E. Lee on stately Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, was once limited to the removal of the blue-green oxidation from his bronze statue.
“Voices from the Pandemic" by Eli Saslow (Doubleday)
More than 18 months into the coronavirus pandemic, there’s already been a bumper crop of books about COVID-19 that have focused primarily on the policy failures that allowed the virus to spread.
“Cloud Cuckoo Land,” by Anthony Doerr (Scribner)
How do you follow up a Pulitzer Prize-winning work of fiction? If you’re novelist Anthony Doerr (“All the Light We Cannot See”) you write a story that consists of five separate stories, spans millennia, and all ties together with a fictional manuscript attributed to the ancient Greek novelist Antonius Diogenes called “Cloud Cuckoo Land.”
The journey from stage to screen, so often a perilous one, has been particularly bumpy for “Dear Evan Hansen.”
The Broadway show, starring Ben Platt as a lonely, anxiety-racked teenager who turns into a social media sensation after exaggerating his friendship with another, more hostile loner who kills himself, was an overwhelming hit.
“Remember Her Name," Mickey Guyton (Capitol Records Nashville)
It's hard enough to be Black woman in America, but Mickey Guyton's path in country music has been especially fraught with obstacles she had to overcome.
An emergency dispatch center doesn’t exactly sound like the most visually exciting place to set an entire film. But the technical limitation of being imprisoned in a soulless office while high stakes action takes place off screen can be an inspired storytelling gimmick in the right hands, as it is in “ The Guilty,” directed by Antoine Fuqua, written by Nic Pizzolatto and starring Jake Gyllenhaal.
“True Raiders” by Brad Ricca (St. Martin’s Press)
For fans of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” there’s something just as exciting as seeing Indiana Jones swashbuckling his way through the jungles in search of treasure.
“Echoes of the Dead,” by Spencer Kope (Minotaur)
When four wealthy men, one of them a congressman, disappear on their annual fishing trip to the Upper Kern River near Bakersfield, California, Magnus “Steps” Craig of the F.B.I.
“Daughter of the Morning Star,” by Craig Johnson (Viking)
Cheyenne Tribal Police Chief Lolo Long’s niece, Jayla, star of the Lame Deer Lady Stars High School basketball team, is in danger. The girl has been getting credible death threats, so Long asks her friend, Absaroka County Sheriff Walt Longmire, to help her find out who is responsible.
“Bewilderment,” by Richard Powers (W.W. Norton & Company)
Here are two words that are so ingrained in Richard Powers’ astounding new novel as to be almost unnecessary: Autism and Trump.
The book tells the story of Theo Byrne and his son Robin, Robbie for short.
There is no doubt that James Wan knows his way around the horror genre. The man behind “The Conjuring,” “Insidious” and “Saw” franchises has not had many misses. But his gruesome latest, “ Malignant,” is simply ridiculous.
You would have to shuffle a lot of movie ideas to come up with one that pairs a card sharp with the horrors of Abu Ghraib.
But writer-director Paul Schrader has for some time known his cards, playing variations of the same hand over and over again.
The timing was perfect. The very moment I sat down to write about “Queenpins,” the inspired-by-actual-events tale of a coupon scheme gone awry, a tantalizing coupon popped up on my screen.
“The Grief We Gave Our Mother" by Matthew Fowler (Signature Sounds)
The bright promise of singer-songwriter Matthew Fowler's label debut lies in its acoustic elegance.
His new album, “The Grief We Gave Our Mother," combines clean, crisp guitar playing with Fowler's warm, wistful tenor and tight background harmonies to deliver well-crafted songs that change speeds and create moods with the sure-footedness of a more seasoned artist.
“In The War for Gloria” by Atticus Lish (Knopf)
“In The War for Gloria” by Atticus Lish, Gloria is the single mother of Corey. While she struggles to make ends meet, it is clear Gloria will do anything for her son.
“star-crossed,” Kacey Musgraves (Interscope Records/UMG Nashville)
Kacey Musgraves breaks down the breakdown of her marriage on “star-crossed,” her follow-up to 2018's Grammy winning album of the year “Golden Hour.”
“Matrix,” by Lauren Groff (Riverhead Books)
Little is known about Marie de France, a 12th century poet who lived in England but is known for the romances and fables she wrote in French. From a handful of facts, Lauren Groff has written a richly imaginative account of her life that casts her as a mystic, warrior and proto-feminist separatist.
“Senjutsu,” Iron Maiden (BMG)
Iron Maiden is not a band for those with short attention spans.
Since blasting out of England in the late '70s in what would become known as the new wave of British metal, Iron Maiden has never been one to give record companies the kind of three-minute anthems they craved.
“What is life worth?” asks Washington lawyer Kenneth J. Feinberg (Michael Keaton) in the opening scenes of the based-on-a-true-story drama “Worth,” while writing the question on a blackboard for a room full of law school students.
Their love declared, their fairytale kiss accomplished, Cinderella has an urgent request for her Prince. Can she get a lift to her business meeting?
And so, as princes are wont to do, he scoops his new love off her feet to carry her to his horse.
If the Marvel Cinematic Universe has taught us anything it's that heroes arise from unexpected places. For their 25th film entry, that place is valet parking.
The titular hero of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is laying low living on tips as a hotel parking attendant in present-day San Francisco when we meet him as an adult.