With World Cup fever over for another four years, how ever will you fill your time? Luckily, pop culture moves into overdrive this week, ensuring that fans experiencing withdrawal will have plenty of ways to fill their time.
Of course, there’s the long-awaited release of Inception, Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to The Dark Knight. If indie comedies are more your speed, you can add Noah Baunbach’s darkly funny Greenberg to your Netflix queue or Amazon cart. Meanwhile, football fans can ease the wait ’til September with the release of the ramped up NCAA Football 11.
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Fiction: Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik
Jane Austen meets Anne McCaffrey meets Patrick O’Brian in this fantasy series from Naomi Novik. The author imagines the Napoleonic Wars similarly to how you might have learned in school, except that both sides have dragons to aid in their naval warfare. The series follows Temeraire, a Chinese-bred dragon who fights for the British, and his best friend and pilot, Captain Will Laurence.
Though I’d recommend starting with the first book in the series (His Majesty’s Dragon), this sixth entry — Tongues of Serpents — finds the devoted duo in exile for a supposed act of treason. Novik’s books have always been a fascinating combination of high seas action, character-driven fantasy, and period-appropriate comedy of manners, but this novel has a more serious approach than many of its predecessors.
Nonfiction: The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean
If your last interaction with the periodic table was the monotonous memorization of atomic weights and symbols back in 11th-grade chemistry, The Disappearing Spoon might change your perspective on the inherent coolness of this scientific wonder. Author Sam Kean adds interest to a number of the elements, telling stories that are almost too fascinating to be true.
Of course, famed scientist Marie Curie is in on the action, and Kean tells of how she made chemistry sexy — and morally dangerous, at least in the eyes of her colleagues’ wives. Other tales include the connection between cadmium and Godzilla and Lewis and Clark’s mercury-ridden trail across America. If only your science teacher had told you these stories…
Movies in Theaters: Inception
No one could have made Inception but Christopher Nolan. From The Dark Knight to The Prestige, the director has experience helming films that bridge the gap between brain-bending and entertaining, and this latest, wholly original effort looks to be no exception. The film’s trailers have left movie nerds gasping and blogging with interest, and early reviews promise that the film won’t disappoint.
In his first collaboration with the filmmaker, Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Dom Cobb, a talented thief. But unsurprisingly, Dom is no ordinary thief and Inception is no ordinary heist film. DiCaprio’s character steals secrets from people as they sleep by invading their dreams. If that bit of awesomeness wasn’t enough to draw you in (and who are you?), the film also stars Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page, and Michael Caine.
Music: Dark Night of the Soul by Sparklehorse and Danger Mouse
It’s no surprise that an album titled Dark Night of the Soul would be bleak, and it doesn’t disappoint from its first line: “Pain/I guess it’s a matter of sensation.” This collaboration between Sparklehorse, Danger Mouse, and filmmaker David Lynch adds another layer of depression and depth with the knowledge that Sparklehorse frontman Mark Linkous committed suicide in March. But for all its darkness, Dark Night of the Soul is also a strong album with occasional moments of joy and frequent help from a number of big names.
If the vocals sound familiar, it’s because the album features talents from Iggy Pop, James Mercer of The Shins (and Broken Bells collaborator with Danger Mouse), Nina Persson of The Cardigans, and more. Lynch himself even adds vocals to a few tracks, and his offerings are as dreamlike and weird as fans of the surreal director’s work would expect (check out that fantastically bizarre cover, left, to get a feel for the strangeness).
New on DVD: Greenberg
Perhaps best enjoyed by residents of New York and Los Angeles — and those who like to make fun of them — Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg is a dark comedy about a New Yorker who feels hopelessly out of place in his short stay in Los Angeles. Truth be told, the beyond-awkward Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller) would likely feel out of place anywhere, but the East Coast-West Coast dynamic adds another dimension to this fish-out-of-water dramedy from the writer-director behind The Squid and the Whale and Margot at the Wedding.
Those expecting Meet the Parents-like hilarity will likely be disappointed by the low-key script and Stiller’s matching, yet solid, performance as the title character. However, as painfully funny as the A-lister is, he’s upstaged by indie stalwart Greta Gerwig. As Greenberg’s love interest, she’s remarkably fresh and real, which helps audiences stay engaged.
Video Games: NCAA Football 11
T-minus 51 days ’til the NCAA football season begins, or at least when it begins for this Ohio State Buckeyes fan. In the meantime, there’s NCAA Football 11, available for Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, and iPhone. If it seems like it won’t provide the full NCAA fan experience, don’t worry: you can even hear the voices of ESPN announcers Kirk Herbstreit and Brad Nessler as though they’ve been assigned to cover your game.
This new version also features a redesigned locomotion system, which allows on-screen movements to be even closer to the real thing. The addition of real assignment AI lets players coordinate their team’s offensive play like never before. Plus, gamers can choose any one of 120 NCAA teams to take on as their own. I plan on playing as the Michigan Wolverines — and intentionally losing.
In addition to the newest releases, we also have the previous weeks’ movies, books, and more in our Recently Released section.