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The Weekender: ‘Frozen’ treats, Letters to Cleo, and a trip to the Dolly-verse

Disney's "Frozen II" tells of the continuing adventures of Queen Elsa and the gang.
Disney's "Frozen II" tells of the continuing adventures of Queen Elsa and the gang.

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Hey there Weekenders! Some of you may be spending your weekend concocting complicated brines and peeling potatoes, others may be on pie duty, and still others may be negotiating last-minute peace talks ahead of Thursday’s tryptophan-fueled roundtable summit. When I finish this, I’ll be polishing my armor in anticipation of the battle royale at the Whole Foods cheese counter (BACK OFF. That gruyere is mine). But preparations for the joy of giving thanks can’t be the only thing that gobbles up your weekend. Don’t be a turkey (seriously — this is a very bad week to be a turkey) and save a little bit of time for yourself. (Oh, and dry brines work better. You have to trust me on this.)


Read on! And if we don’t get to speak again before Thanksgiving, the Weekender just wants to say, from the bottom of its well-meaning, highly informative heart: You’re welcome.

SNOW BALL: In case your kids aren’t already screaming this information at you, “Frozen II” opens Friday, and in his three-star review, Globe critic Mark Feeney calls it a "a solid, if not quite inspired, follow-up” to the 2013 original — though “notably less fairy-tale-like” (please note: the scary stone giants are very scary). But fans of Disney’s first big chill will melt to find the same familiar cast of characters sporting semi-stunning Pixar visuals and singing a whole new set of super-catchy songs for kids and musical theater majors everywhere to shriek from the back seat for the next calendar year — led once again by “she of the howitzer pipes,” Idina Menzel (a.k.a. Adele Dazeem).

UPS AND DOWNS: Many of you may be queuing up for Shia LaBoeuf’s talked about “Honey Boy” (which Globe film critic Ty Burr gives three stars and calls “better than a movie written as an actor’s therapy project has any right to be”), but don’t sleep on the equally-starred third feature from writer-director Trey Edward Shults, “Waves,” which is also now screening. “‘Waves,’ ” Burr writes, “puts moviegoers through hell, the better to lift them to heaven,” with its “incantatory visual style ... a powerful artistic undertow that sucks viewers in and spits them out gasping.” It’s a family drama in two parts that couldn’t feel more distinct, but Shults weaves them all into “an intoxicating, one-of-a-kind whole” that combines “visual acrobatics and impassioned movie poetry.”


BROKEN LINK: And lastly and not leastly from the dark room with the sticky floor, there’s “Marriage Story," which Burr gives four stars and calls “possibly the magnum opus Noah Baumbach [“The Squid and the Whale”] has been working toward for much of his career" that gives “space to two or three or five of our finest working actors to re-enact the human condition as a daily tragicomedy.” That cast includes Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver — as the couple calling it quits — as well as Azhy Robertson, Laura Dern, Julie Hagerty, Merritt Wever, and Alan Alda. “Movies like this,” Burr writes, “that with sorrow and solidarity offer witness to the muddles we make — can help us feel more connected, rather than less, to the slipstream outside the theater and to everyone inside it, too.” Now screening.


SOUL SURVIVOR: A reading from the book of Mark (Feeney): “Theologians of all faiths are agreed that when on the eighth day of creation God said, ‘Let there be irresistible organ licks,’ it was the opening of ‘Green Onions’ he must have had in mind.” And while the big man upstairs took care of most everything else, Booker T. Jones is the mortal behind the immortal jams of his storied M.G.’s. And Booker T. himself — who has a new album as well as a memoir — is rolling through town on Friday to play the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River. He’ll play the classics and the new jams (featuring guitar and vocals from his son and collaborator, Teddy Jones) and even stick around for a Q&A. Pro tip: Don’t ask if he’ll write a second book; his wife reportedly already did: “If he writes another book, I’m leaving.” Tickets here.

BLAST FROM THE PAST: The first and only time I met Kay Hanley I was barely 17 and had sneaked into a Letters to Cleo show at some pit in Worcester and when she spotted my fetching Whalom Park hat — because I worked summers operating the rotating barrel at the back of the Fun House there, you see — she regaled me with all sorts of ribald tales of very bad things she had done there, none of which I remember because she also gave me her drink before taking the stage and sending my developing rock brain down a power-pop roller coaster. It was awesome. On Friday and Saturday, you can take a similar ride down non-memory lane (made more festive with cuts from the band’s Christmas EP) as Letters to Cleo delivers once again from the stage of the Paradise, joined by the must-see Speedy Ortiz. Find tickets here, and if you could ask if she still has that hat I’d appreciate it.


WANDERING STAR: Between Terry Gilliam and Salman Rushdie, it seems like the Man of La Mancha is having something of a cultural moment; and since one good Don deserves another, there’s “Quixote Nuevo,” a “poetic and dazzling drama” from playwright Octavio Solis that runs at the Huntington Avenue Theatre from Friday through Dec. 8 (produced by the Huntington Theatre Company in association with Hartford Stage and the Alley Theatre in Houston). Solis’s take on “Don Quixote” shifts the story “from 17th-century La Mancha, Spain, to the Trump-era borderlands near El Paso,” writes Globe contributor Christopher Wallenberg. “And instead of a wannabe knight who’s been seemingly driven mad, the central character in ‘Quixote Nuevo’ is a retired college professor, Jose “Joe” Quijano, a Cervantes scholar now saddled with worsening Alzheimer’s.” Globe theater critic Don Aucoin says Solis “has fashioned a highly imaginative meditation on old age and its sorrows — and on the desperate desire for second chances — while also mining a rich vein of comedy. It’s a balancing act Cervantes might have admired.” Find tickets here.


Hans Hofmann's "Sanctum Sanctorum."
Hans Hofmann's "Sanctum Sanctorum." Renate, Hans and Maria Hofmann Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

HANS ON: At the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem this weekend (through Jan. 5) you can catch “Hans Hofmann: The Nature of Abstraction,” a colorful survey of the undersung German-American 20th-century avant-gardist, a painter “whose work paralleled — maybe even presaged — Abstract Expressionism,” according to Globe art critic Murray Whyte. But his boldly painted canvases veer far from the austere “post-war angst” of the “famously morbid lot” of his contemporaries like Pollock and Rothko. Hofmann’s works feel “stylistically promiscuous, connected to the natural world, and bursting with a joy for all of it,” and a proper survey of them — especially an eye-opening star turn like this show — feels long overdue. Find more information here.

GET YOUR PHIL: Don’t miss the chance on Saturday afternoon to catch star conductor Gustavo Dudamel lead the powerhouse L.A. Philharmonic, as Celebrity Series brings the orchestra (as well as virtuosic pianist Yuja Wang) to Symphony Hall for a program of Alberto Ginastera (“Variaciones Concertantes”), Stravinsky (“The Rite of Spring”), and the Boston premiere of John Adams’s 2019 piano concerto “Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes?” — which may surprise the ears of longtime listeners (or abstainers) of the composer. As he recently told Globe contributor David Weininger, “things have changed since the old minimalist days where we took 20 minutes to get a piece off the runway.” Find tickets here.

‘LADY’ KILLER: For a different path into the great unknown, consider taking in a set on Saturday at the Wilbur Theatre from sui generis (Latin for wicked weird) comedian Maria Bamford — she of “Lady Dynamite” cult-fame — whom Globe comedy contributor Nick A. Zaino III calls “one of the most inventive headliners in stand-up” (no, really) and whose comedy often writhes between the lines of language into a more primal mode of humanity, one that eats warm Powerbars fresh from the glove compartment. Along for the ride is Jackie Kashian, “a surefire joke writer with a down-to-earth comic sensibility” (example: she calls herself “hardworking and earnest” in the sack). Grab tickets here.

DEATH BECOMES HER: Way over on the opposite end of the emotional spectrum (and just down by the Waterfront at the ICA) is “Space,” a 75-minute solo piece from Bessie Award-winning choreographer Faye Driscoll. Globe dance contributor Karen Campbell says this most recent work, “Thank You For Coming: Space” (the third movement in a series the artist started in 2012) explores “the substance of loss and the process of grieving.” The ICA calls it “a shared rite of passage — an invocation of the transformative powers of presence, and of absence.” I call it the year’s most unexpected use of a lemon. That’s Friday and Saturday at the ICA; grab tickets here.

PLENTY OF HORNS: And just so we can end on a high note, lastly from the outside world is the Jeremy Eichler-endorsed, BMOP-presented, Gil Rose-conducted cacophony of clarinets, “Klezmer Madness,” which features special guest clarinet superstar David Krakauer leading Mathew Rosenblum’s “Lament/Witches’ Sabbath” and Wlad Marhulets’s “Concerto for Klezmer Clarinet,” as well as Avner Dorman’s “Uriah” and “Ellef Symphony.” That’s at NEC’s Jordan Hall on Saturday evening; find tickets here.

Singer Juliana Hatfield at Q Division studios in Somerville. She is releasing an album of Police covers.
Singer Juliana Hatfield at Q Division studios in Somerville. She is releasing an album of Police covers. Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

OR STAY IN: Grown-up erstwhile Blake Baby Juliana Hatfield has been turning her attention to covers for the past few years, remaking songs by everyone from Foo Fighters, to Teenage Fanclub, to Elliott Smith to Olivia Newton-John, and this week, she released “Juliana Hatfield Sings the Police,” a collection of classics and deep cuts from “Roxanne” to “Rehumanize Yourself.” (Not a bad way to warm up for that Letters to Cleo show.)

And even if you’re homebound this weekend, you can still venture deep into Dolly-verse. Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert recommends “Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings,” which premieres Friday on Netflix. It’s an eight-episode anthology series “based on the stories found in Dolly Parton’s music catalog,” including “Jolene,” “If I Had Wings,” and “These Old Bones,” and a cast including Kathleen Turner, Delta Burke, Gerald McRaney, Ginnifer Goodwin, Melissa Leo, Patricia Wettig, Timothy Busfield, and Dolly herself. (Or you could just watch “9 to 5,” which I try to do at least once a week anyway.)

Also, the American Music Awards are Sunday night at 8 p.m. on ABC, but this is more me telling you that than recommending it. I have no idea who cares about these things. They’ve always looked sharp and potentially dangerous to me. Oh wait! Sorry, you should watch. I just checked and Ciara is hosting. She’s fabulous.

And that’s all I’ve got on the buffet for you this time, Weekenders. (Wow, y’all really destroyed that mac-n-cheese!) Have fun out there, be good to each other, and however you spend your weekend, make it one you’ll miss come Monday. See you next week! And thank you for reading!

Michael Andor Brodeur can be reached at mbrodeur@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MBrodeur.