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No. 1 Brad Paisley: Moonshine in the Trunk
The country star’s 10th studio album is the perfect soundtrack to your Labor Day barbecue
After last year’s controversial album Wheelhouse, Brad Paisley returns to his easygoing, fun-loving roots with Moonshine in the Trunk. He teams up with Carrie Underwood for “High Life,” a sly little song that nods at their own real-life legal troubles. Girls will swoon for the love ballads “Perfect Storm” and “Cover Girl,” but it’s “River Bank” that captures the sweet nostalgia of late summer. If you can’t bear to say goodbye to the sunshine and saltwater, Paisley will help you hold on just a little longer.
No. 2 MTV Video Music Awards
Has it really already been a year since Miley Cyrus and the twerk seen round the world? An eclectic mix of A-list performers have signed up to storm the VMA stage, including Taylor Swift, Iggy Azalea, Usher, Maroon 5, Ariana Grande and, of course, Queen Bey herself. (MTV, Aug. 24, 9 p.m.)
No. 3 If I Stay
Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz) is in a coma after a car crash—and that’s the least of her problems. Looking on from outside her body, she frets: to live or die? You’d think she was returning a pair of jeans. If the setup is a bit much, Stay is heartbreakingly good where it counts: Mia’s bonds with her family, particularly her mother (Mireille Enos), an old rock and roll priestess now blissed out at home. (PG-13)
No. 4 To Be Takei
Star Trek made George Takei a star, but in this portrait he explores the issues that defined his personal life: gay rights and the dark history of U.S. internment camps, where he spent four years as a child. (NR)
No. 5 Dr. Who
In one of series television’s stranger rituals, by which showbiz spills into religious myth, the Doctor has been incarnated in a new body and persona. Put another way, actor Matt Smith has been replaced by Peter Capaldi. Smith, dreamy and lovable, looked like a handsome poet with enough income for a pop star’s stylist. Capaldi, famous as political fixer Malcolm Tucker from The Thick of It, is middle-aged and sinewy, with a fox’s profile, an icy stare and superb comic delivery. His arrival in the premiere is a jolt—and a joy. (BBC America, Aug. 23, 8 p.m.)
No. 6 When the Game Stands Tall
This family-friendly drama, based on a true story, profiles a California high school team that couldn’t seem to lose—151 straight wins over 12 years—until they nearly lost it all. Jim Caviezel stars as the inspirational coach who refuses to give up on his players when the going gets tough, elevating their sideline camaraderie into a coping strategy for life’s unexpected tragedies. (PG)
No. 7 Chelsea Lately
You have to hand it to her: She exits E! one of late night’s most original personalities
The late-night lineup has been undergoing a generational overhaul, but it’s still a boy’s game. The big exception is Chelsea Handler—rough-grained, funny and uncensored, she suggests an Elizabeth Banks who has stayed up three nights straight. She’s bringing her E! show to an end after seven seasons and then plans to move to Netflix, where it’s unlikely she’ll go all Lady Mary Crawley on us. (E!, Aug. 26, 11 p.m.)
No. 8 Sinéad O’Connor I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss
The album’s title says it all. With her distinctive voice ranging from snarl, swoon and whisper to caress, the Irish singer is at times wounded and worried, but 100 percent in charge. While each track has its own distinct flavor, standouts include the rollicking anthem “Take Me to Church” and the haunting slow dance “Streetcars.”
No. 9 Happy Valley
A town is hit by a perfect storm of violence
This exciting crime series is set in a grim West Yorkshire town that Bruce Springsteen could have sung about if he were British. A businessman’s daughter is missing, a rapist is back on the streets, and both events overwhelm Catherine Cawood (the terrific Sarah Lancashire), an emotionally bruised police sergeant whose hair frames her face like drooping petals. The story is crowded with characters good and bad, all at their very worst when desperate. (Netflix)
No. 10 Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
There’s not a soul worth saving in the seedy back alleys of Sin City—not Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the card shark who’s trumped the wrong man, nor Mickey Rourke, the tough drunk with a death wish. And certainly not Eva Green, the show-stealing Dame her-self, who does her best Lady Macbeth in warping the minds and exploiting the morales of the men who woo her. (R)
No. 11 Hilary Duff ‘All About You’
This multi-genre ditty will get you dancing in your seat. Some parts fizzy pop, some parts folk and a dash of reggae-lite, it’s a summer-ending concoction that goes down smoothly.
No. 12 The Best New Books
Two debut novels—one intimate and the other epic—that measure the American pulse, and a smart take on elite education.
Martha Woodroof Small Blessings
A decade of caring for his alcoholic wife leaves English professor Tom Putnam resigned to an unfulfilled life. But after he meets Rose, a new hire at the bookstore, and learns of a son he didn’t know he had, Putnam yearns for more. NPR’s Woodroof nails the debut novel: This warm, wise tale leaves a smile long after the final page is turned.
William Deresiewicz Excellent Sheep
The ex-Yale professor effectively skewers elite colleges, their brainy but soulless students (those “sheep”), pushy parents and admissions mayhem. He bolsters his case by quoting other academics and undergrads who, like him, want schools to teach kids to think, not just score lucrative jobs.
BOOK OF THE WEEK
Matthew Thomas We Are Not Ourselves
This astonishing and powerful debut novel follows Eileen Leary, born in Queens to Irish immigrants in 1941, as she strives for betterment and a shot at the great American dream. Spanning half a century of triumphs and disappointments for Eileen and her family, Thomas’s finely observed tale is riveting. As a reflection of American society in the late 20th century, it’s altogether epic, sweeping the reader along on a journey that’s both inexorable and poignant.
NEW IN YOUNG ADULT
Una LaMarche Like No Other
Devorah, a strict Hasidic girl, and Jaxon, a nerdy West Indian boy, fall for each other after getting trapped in a hospital elevator in this refreshing tale of forbidden love.
Rachel DeWoskin Blind
High school sophomore Emma must relearn the contours of her small-town world and move beyond self-pity after an accident blinds her permanently.
Chris Weitz The Young World
A viral plague has killed everyone except teenagers. Screenwriter-director Weitz (About a Boy) focuses on a band of kids hunting for a cure in war-torn Manhattan.