David Harbour of Stranger Things (Photo: Netflix)

The show to watch

Stranger Things

“The second season of Stranger Things—or Stranger Things 2, if you must—goes bigger: a bigger threat to its sleepy Midwestern setting, a larger playing field, and an expanded roster of players that includes erstwhile Weyland-Yutani stooge Paul Reiser. It’s not going to convert skeptics who dismissed the first season for reconstituting VHS favorites for streaming audiences, but it gives the faithful more of what they liked the first time around, with greater stakes, a new batch of interdimensional nightmares, and a better sense for how Stranger Things can carry on for two (or maybe three) more rounds.”
Read the rest of our review here.

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The video game to play

Super Mario Odyssey

“It’s been easy to see Super Mario Odyssey as a series-redefining throwback to an idea Nintendo gave up on long ago, but it’s turned out to be so much more than that. It’s a pristine combination of all the directions this company has taken its icon in over the last several decades, cherry-picking the best traits from Mario’s many outings—and out into Nintendo’s wider oeuvre—and rolling them into an adventure that refuses to quit changing.”
Read the rest of our review here.

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The movie to watch

The Square

“Ruben Östlund is a maestro of discomfort, and The Square, which won the Palme D’Or at Cannes earlier this year, might just be his magnum opus: a two-and-a-half-hour cringe comedy about the foibles of supposed high society, unfolding as a daisy chain of exquisitely awkward episodes. […] This is a movie with a lot on its mind, from art to altruism to the so-called bystander effect, and it could function as a Rorschach test for its audience, reflecting viewers’ anxieties and insecurities right back at them. It’s also just really, really funny, at least for those who can find humor in humiliation. […] If nothing else, The Square works as a collection of great individual moments; one could waste a whole review just describing its most provocative or pointed episodes.”
Read the rest of our review here.

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The book to read

John Hodgman, Vacationland

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“After writing three very funny books of fake trivia, esoteric lists, and other myriad and delightful bullshit, John Hodgman has taken a sharp hard turn into truth. His latest book, Vacationland: True Stories From Painful Beaches, tackles such varied topics as the secret perils of municipal garbage delivery and the strange social gauntlet of boat ownership, describing them with the same lyrical, digression-filled warmth he once applied to presidential dream thieves and planet-cracking Century Toads. The subject matter is vastly different, but the mind producing it is unmistakably the same, albeit in a more weathered, grounded, and sometimes sadder form.”
Read the rest of our review here.


The podcast to listen to

The Impact, “A Band-Aid, A $629 ER Bill, And A Hard Truth About American Health Care

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“New Vox podcast The Impact promoted itself as a ‘weekly narrative podcast about the consequences that laws have on real people’s lives.’ Episode one delivers: Host Sarah Kliff helps dissect American healthcare prices, weaving together statistics and stories effortlessly as she takes listeners from the tale of a $629 Band-Aid, to the doctors who think this sort of cost is reasonable, to a health economist who’s calling bullshit. Like all other Vox properties, this podcast is well-reported, leaving no glaring unturned stones.”
Read about the rest of the week’s best podcasts here.


The album to listen to

Julien Baker, Turn Out The Lights

“As [Julien] Baker digs into mental health, relationships, faith, and adulthood, Turn Out The Lights is, understandably, absolutely crushing. […] But there’s also a newfound, weary optimism beneath it all. In ‘Happy To Be Here’—whose guitar recalls Jimmy Eat World’s similarly somber ‘Roller Queen’—Baker sings of becoming an electrician to fix her ‘faulty circuitry,’ saying, ‘I heard there’s a fix for everything, then why not me?’ Yet whether hopeful or wallowing, Turn Out The Lights is beautifully crafted throughout, full of the kinds of songs that linger long after they’ve ended. Baker doesn’t make it easy, but fans wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Read the rest of our review here.

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