Jeff Parker's "The New Breed": Familiar to indie music fans for his bent, flinty guitar lines in the intricate framework of category-defying post-rock band Tortoise, Parker shifted to warmer, funkier ground for his latest release this summer. Steeped with humid funk and hazy electronics that reflect Parker's recent exposure to the improvisation-friendly beat scene around L.A. and featuring invigorating turns from some local favorites in drummer Jamire Williams and saxophonist Josh Johnson, "The New Breed" combines the soul-jazz of Grant Green with head-bobbing instrumental R&B on tracks like "Get Dressed" and "Visions."
Constance Wu: Best known for her role in the ABC comedy "Fresh Off the Boat," this Taiwanese American actress continues to act as a powerful voice advocating for change in the traditional, white male-dominated lead roles in big-budget studio pictures. Earlier this year she called out the efforts to make white actors look Asian in the upcoming "Ghost in the Shell" adaptation, and last week she pointed out the casting of Matt Damon to lead the upcoming Chinese-set action film "The Great Wall." With Hollywood a more global business than ever, who plays the hero matters, and Wu is furthering a lesson that change only comes with awareness.
The nostalgic hook of "Stranger Things": Set in a Midwestern world just adjacent to the Dungeons and Dragons-laced bonding of "Freaks and Geeks," this Netflix newcomer has become a binge-watch favorite for its haunting story line and performances that include throwback favorite Winona Ryder. But for all its addictive qualities it's worth wondering if the show really needs its '80s touchstones, which after providing a tidy referential shorthand with its Stephen King typeface and foggy BMX scenes borrowed from the Spielberg playbook begins to feel like a needless crutch. Do we like this show for what it is or for what it reminds us of?
"Suicide Squad": Wasn't this movie about comic book villains turned to heroes first announced sometime during the Bush administration? (The first one?) In actuality the movie finally opened Friday but by now it feels like a revival screening after an exhausting onslaught of "news" on Jared Leto's outsized reinvention of the Joker, Margot Robbie's grin and an avalanche of teasers, trailers and exclusive clips that have wallpapered the Internet on a semi-weekly basis. Sight-unseen, the studio has made a movie so inescapable it must be escaped as soon as possible.