July 28, 2014 12:00 PM



No. 1 Planes: Fire & Rescue

A soaring, sincere – and surprisingly emotional – 3D family adventure


When we last saw Dusty (Dane Cook), the crop duster had sped to the front of the “Wings Around the Globe” air race, eyes fixed on fame and fortune. The sequel to Planes has a far more ambitious flight plan: A failing gear box and some shattered dreams lead our hero to fly away from home on a mission to become a firefighter in a national park. Adrift, inexperienced and naive about the dangers of fire season, Dusty is in over his head. But as he embraces teamwork and takes pride in saving both the forest and its tourists, Fire & Rescue rises above mere racing thrills, emerging as a coming-of-age odyssey that’s sweeter than expected. (PG)

No. 2 Matador

Playing soccer, fighting spies—and somehow scoring


In the World Cup’s wake comes an enjoyably far-fetched soccer-and-espionage thriller: If you punctured the surface all the air would hiss out, but it’s worth watching for kicks. Gabriel Luna is CIA agent Tony “Matador” Bravo, who plays for an L.A. soccer team as cover. Tony doesn’t seem too bright—he asks what a toxin is—but Luna’s dutiful manliness pairs oddly well with such cluelessness. This is Covert Affairs with a dude. (El Rey, Tuesdays, 9 p.m.)

No. 3 Botched


E!’s new reality hit is a plastic surgery drama with a twist: These patients have been under the knife before – several times – and the slick-yet-sweet Drs. Nassif and Dubrow are out to correct the sins of past surgeons. (E!, Sundays, 10 p.m.)

No. 4 Lele Pons


Six-second comedy? Lele Pons is a master. Starring in her own hilarious, hyper-edited Vines about dating, friends and daydreams, she’s won more than 3 million fans with her one-of-a-kind shorts. (

No. 5 Sia 1000 Forms of Fear


Sia Furler growls and swoons her way through a dizzying sixth album that finds her pitch-ing her voice to all-new heights – from the Caribbean bark of the first single, “Chandelier,” to the soaring chorus of “Fire Meets Gasoline.” Sia is unconventional, but she has never sounded more of-the-moment.

No. 6 Mood Indigo


Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) directs a fantasy that’s both beguilingly whimsical and completely devastating. Colin and Chloé (Romain Duris and Audrey Tautou, who’s as adorable as a BuzzFeed kitten) fall in love in a Paris that magically reflects their happiness: Food comes to the table practically leaping into the mouth, and when people dance, their legs lengthen to the rhythm. (Gondry is master of the charming, low-fi special effect.) When Chloé becomes sick, the surreal touches become wilder and surprisingly more powerful. The lesson of this lovely but unsettling film is that, when it comes to capturing the human heart in love or grief, no image can be too extreme, too absurd. (In French, unrated)

No. 7 La Roux Trouble in Paradise

Still “Bulletproof”


Five years after her debut, La Roux returns with a bouncy mix of distinct electro-meets-retro bangers and some bionic disco—think Daft Punk – to boot. (See: “Uptight Downtown” or the cheeky “Sexotheque.”) But singer Elly Jackson shines just as bright when she drops the bulletproof guise on vulnerable cuts like “Paradise Is You.”

No. 8 The Best New Books

A popular witch returns, an old house gives up its secrets, and a dogged reporter sheds new light on author Harper Lee

Marja Mills

The Mockingbird Next Door


In 2001 Chicago Tribune reporter Mills was asked to approach Harper Lee, elusive author of To Kill a Mockingbird, for an interview. Expecting to fail, she wound up fishing with Lee, now 88, and hearing tales about that “psychopath” Truman Capote. She has written an intimate, moving book about a rare talent.

Rebecca Makkai

The Hundred-Year House


An allegedly haunted Chicago-area mansion is the enticing backdrop for this gleeful tale of ghosts, vengeance and family secrets stretching back a century. The darkly funny Makkai seeds the narrative with so many mysteries and surprises – star-crossed lovers! mistaken identities! – that those 100 years race by.


Deborah Harkness The Book of Life


Rejoice, Harkness fans! The final installment in the bestselling All Souls Trilogy is here – and it’s juicy and action-packed. As witch Diana Bishop and her beloved vampire Matthew Clairmont continue their search for the enchanted Ashmole 782 manuscript, they learn it’s not only the key to the origin of magical species but may also be essential to their own survival. Even at 561 pages, this is one hardcover no one will mind lugging to the beach.


Meg Waite Clayton

The Wednesday Daughters

A daughter uncovers truths about her mother’s past in this enchanting novel set in the English Lake District.

John Searles

Help for the Haunted

Sylvie’s parents live to help “haunted souls” find peace – until they’re killed one wintry night, leaving Sylvie to solve the mystery. A creepy page-turner.

Amy Tan

The Valley of Amazement

Beginning in 1905 Shanghai, Tan’s richly imagined saga follows the shifting fortunes of a madam and the daughter from whom she’s cruelly separated.

No. 9 Monty Python Live


What could be the last live Monty Python reunion culminates in a global simulcast of the comedy troupe’s final curtain at London’s O2 arena. Hundreds of U.S. movie theaters will screen Python’s most popular bits—forecasts call for silly walks, lumberjacks, and of course, dead parrots. (2:30 p.m. ET July 20, rebroadcasts July 23 and 24.

No. 10 Ariana Grande

“Break Free”


Grande ditches her ’90s sound—and those Mariah comparisons – on this thumping EDM anthem. When she shouts, “This is the part when I say I don’t want ya,” this 5-ft. starlet has never stood taller.

No. 11 Wish I Was Here

And you thought your family had drama


Garden State is all grown up. In this quasi-sequel to his directorial debut, Zach Braff plays Aidan, a struggling actor and father who’s fighting to keep his fractured family – a cancer-stricken father, alienated brother and two quirky kids – from falling apart. Anchored by a soulful soundtrack and a series of raw and funny asides filled with Scrubs-style slapstick, this Kickstarter-funded film is a winning portrait of a family driven apart, then brought back together, by illness. (R)

No. 12 Binge on These Emmy Hopefuls


No more excuses! It’s time to get your binge on with HBO’s Silicon Valley, FX’s Fargo and Showtime’s Masters of Sex – all of which scored Emmy nominations for their debut seasons – before the awards are handed out Aug. 25 on NBC.


Immerse yourself in this loony buddy comedy about a bunch of computer techs – if only for the scene involving one of TV’s longest penis jokes. (Yep, you read that right.) (HBO on-demand)


A smart reboot of the 1996 film that’s brilliantly cast with Martin Freeman as a harebrained insurance agent and Billy Bob Thornton as a hit man. Both were nominated! (VOD and FX On-Demand)


Ogle this period drama about sex pioneers Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (nominee Lizzy Caplan) that’s both provocative and wildly informative. (On DVD)