Few articulate as inspiring a blend of grace and gravitas as the transcendent Maya Angelou. Phenomenal Woman celebrates the steel of femininity via a quartet of elegant yet unadorned poems that swell the heart, soothe the soul, and energize a pride in the complex selves we are called to be.
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Paging through Carnet de Voyage is like a virtual backpack trip through Europe and Morocco. Craig Thompson’s sketchbook travel diary depicts in simple yet telling detail the moments, individuals, and local color that made indelible impressions on him during a combination book tour and search for exotic new inspiration.
A sure cure for winter glums is an energetic Broadway cast recording, and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical strikes all the right chords: irresistible oldies, show-biz success story, and a dazzling Tony Award-winning performance by lead actress Jessie Mueller. Turn the grey into “One Fine Day” with a remarkable life in song.
As tickled as I was to see Veronica Mars return, I missed the inventive noir detective work and motley associates. The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by creator Rob Thomas improves upon the movie, giving Veronica plenty of opportunity to outwit and out-quip those in Neptune who have something to hide.
A body is discovered lying across the border of Sweden and Denmark, and it’s only the first in a series of violent crimes designed to draw attention to social ills. A fascinating achievement of international television, Bron / Broen (The Bridge) straddles intersecting character arcs in a tension-filled series that examines the boundaries we cross.
Need a vacation? Let the honeyed voice of Edoardo Ballerini whisk you to a remote Italian villa in Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. Entwining the past story of a bewitching extra on the set of Cleopatra with that of contemporary film production team, this Audie Award-winner offers a fascinating mental getaway.
The Happiest Millionaire is a favorite lesser-known Disney musical that offers toe-tapping charm. Fred MacMurray is a wealthy father who keeps pet alligators in his mansion and hosts a Bible-and-boxing club in the stables. Lesley Ann Warren, Greer Garson, and the irrepressible Tommy Steele add to the family fun.
Both electric and acoustic strains of the country music scene are showcased in the series soundtracks The Music of Nashville, Volume 1 and Volume 2, and it’s the original songs that make an impact. The best are the sweet yet sultry duets, especially those featuring newcomer Clare Bowen, but there’s something for every mood.
Summertime begs a soundtrack that can back both active afternoons and sultry evenings. For a fun, bluesy, energizing mix, try Marcia Ball’s Peace, Love & BBQ. The influence of her Texas/Louisiana upbringing gleams in the pep of her piano and in her soulful singing. Just try to sit still!
Canadian series Slings & Arrows is must-viewing for anyone with a weakness for theater. Each season showcases the staging of a Shakespeare play that finds its themes oddly paralleled in the current cast’s shenanigans. An entertaining blend of broad comedy and poignant life lessons played by a masterful cast.