The Hunger Games: I read this back in early June when I was vacationing on the Outer Banks. True beach reading. It's a formulaic story, written in a truly sophomoric style and voice. Needless to say, I couldn't put it down. Author Suzanne Collins takes unforgettable heroine Katniss Everdeen through a survivalist battle worthy of the best reality-TV plot lines.
***1/2 out of ***** stars
Girls: So far, I've made it through the first 8 of 10 season-one episodes. This is another can't-put-down pleasure. The HBO series takes us deep into the not-so-deep minds of the 20-something generation, barely surviving, arguably employed, and down-and-out in New York City. Lena Dunham brilliantly leads the cast of aimless youngsters through a version of 90210 with a seriously funny and edgy edge.***** out of ***** stars
Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play: My season tickets at DC's Woolly Mammoth have been good to me over the years. And I was super-excited going into this season, with an apocalyptic (fun!) theme coursing through every production. But this has been a real let-down of a year. I think Woolly is losing its way by, if possible, trying just a little too hard to be creative and different. The second act, the actors, and the premise are all fairly strong in Mr. Burns. It's several decades into the future and the only culture left among the survivors of a global collapse is the memory of The Simpsons. But the story is often sooo slow and convoluted, and it fails to shed insight into the Simpsons' episode that the actors discuss. A real pop-culture miss.
*1/2 out of ***** stars
Wilco: The band's recent performance at Wolftrap in Vienna, Virginia was another in a long line of great shows I've witnessed (I saw the first of a two-night stand there). Nels Cline added new guitar solos that displayed his increasing prowess as the greatest rock player alive. And the shifting styles keep multiplying for Wilco, which started as an alt-country band, and now often sounds like something between Radiohead, Billy Bragg, The Beatles, and Sonic Youth. Speaking of Sonic Youth, that band's guitarist, Lee Ranaldo, opened and, like his new album, was spectacularly catchy.****1/2 out of ***** stars