Welcome back to The Big To-Do. Late summer feels especially magical this year, with its corn and tomatoes, its in-person agricultural fairs, even its tropical storms. We’re experiencing them together. Also great to experience in a group? Pop culture and entertainment.
FILM: The Hugh Jackman vehicle “Reminiscence” is “quite a package: a touch of sci-fi welded to neo-noir, with a love story thrown in,” plus “a dystopian fantasy. Oh, and it’s a thriller,” the Globe’s Mark Feeney writes in a 2-star review. “As all those genre elements suggest, writer-director Lisa Joy doesn’t lack for ideas. It’s just that there are too many and few of them original.”
The blood-soaked thriller “The Protégé” earns 1½ stars from Feeney, who finds the film “far nastier than it needs to be.” Maggie Q plays a hired killer, Samuel L. Jackson her foster father and mentor, and Michael Keaton “a low-key wiseass” well enough, but “[t]he pleasure of such company isn’t enough to compensate for watching a succession of scenes that are like recruitment ads for abattoir work.”
Spike Lee’s documentary “NYC Epicenters 9/11→2021½” is “a dynamic, symphonic assemblage of voices, images, and sounds of the past two decades of US history from the point of view of New York City,” writes Globe correspondent Peter Keough. “To cover such a broad swath of recent history, much of which has been rehashed in other documentaries and media, Lee applies a spirited free association.”
Breathtaking domino constructions made Lily Hevesh into a YouTube sensation, and now she’s a movie star. In Jeremy Workman’s “Lily Topples the World,” the 20-year-old’s “modesty, confidence, and generosity in sharing her skill and wisdom will impress you as much as her more than 1 billion YouTube views,” writes Keough.
TV: Sandra Oh stars in the “enjoyable but uneven” series “The Chair” as the new head of a college English department dealing with professional, family, and romantic issues. “Now that she’s the chair, she’s on the hot seat,” writes Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert. “Created by Amanda Peet and Annie Wyman, the show obviously dips into issues of sexism, racism, and white privilege, but it remains light on its feet — too light, at times.”
The conclusion of “The White Lotus” was “just exactly perfect,” Gilbert says in a spoiler-filled consideration of what makes a good series ending. “I see the end as a crucial part of the whole, and a bad finish can go a long way in challenging my previously positive judgments of a series.” Disappointing: “The Undoing.” Not: “It’s a Sin,” “I May Destroy You,” and a number of other candidates for your to-watch list.
An “edgy show”-loving Ask Matthew reader branched out into comfort TV and landed on “All Creatures Great and Small,” writing, “It’s corny but I loved it. Got any other corny shows to recommend?” Gilbert has five, including the original adaptation of “All Creatures Great and Small,” plus good news about the reboot.
VISUAL ART: Outside the MFA, Cyrus Dallin’s “Appeal to the Great Spirit” stands alone. The time has come to reconsider the equestrian statue of a Native American man — overdue though that may be — but the way forward isn’t clear. “It serves as a flashpoint because there’s nothing else; it’s so isolated,” Heather Leavell, director of Arlington’s Cyrus Dallin Art Museum, tells Globe art critic Murray Whyte. “There has to be some sort of an intervention — it can’t stand on its own.”
The century-old art of neon signage endures at Neon Williams, one of New England’s few surviving neon sign shops. “Back in the day, if you didn’t have a neon sign, you didn’t have a business,” co-owner Dave Waller tells Globe correspondent Dana Gerber in a fascinating behind-the-scenes look — with dazzling Jessica Rinaldi photos — at the Somerville business. “If it’s a neon sign, and it’s around here, it’s probably made by us.”
The “darkly gorgeous” exhibition “A Thread, Extended” unites photo-sculptures by Odette England with video installations by Justin Levesque and Allison Maria Rodriguez. In the show, “artists mindful of damage done approach places curious about what they have to reveal,” writes Cate McQuaid. At Northeastern University’s Gallery 360.
Work by 120 photographers from 1921 to 1960 makes up “The New Woman Behind the Camera,” at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Any good photography show, and ‘New Woman’ is very good, offers memorable images to look at,” writes Mark Feeney. “‘New Woman’ offers something much rarer: a real sense of discovery.”
PARENTING: The Globe’s In the Family Way project tackles your thorniest pandemic-era dilemmas, including life with the not-yet-vaccine-eligible under-12 set. Through a weekly newsletter and column, it explores questions about children’s health, education, and welfare in uncertain times. This week, Kara Baskin puts a pin in back-to-school stress and focuses on places “where you can pretend life is calm, happy, and within your control, at least for a little while.” Sign up for the newsletter here.
THEATER: Even whittled to 90 minutes, “Romeo and Juliet” is irresistible, at least in Apollinaire Theatre Company’s “delightfully engaging” outdoor production in Chelsea Square. “This bilingual script adaptation has Romeo speaking Spanish almost exclusively, while Juliet mostly speaks English, but the meaning of their words is always clear,” writes Globe correspondent Terry Byrne. It’s “a wonderful reminder of the power of theater to bring people together.”
After 18 months, Tony Award winner Stephanie J. Block returns to the stage this weekend in shows at opposite ends of Massachusetts (in Pittsfield and Provincetown), “praying to the theater gods that I let the emotion fuel my performance.” She dishes with Globe correspondent Christopher Wallenberg about “The Cher Show,” — which she calls “a gift that I never saw coming” — “Wicked,” and more.
BOOKS: Sarah MacLean’s new novel, “Bombshell,” has a built-in audience. “In the Regency romance world, MacLean is a star like Julia Quinn of ‘Bridgerton’ fame,” explains the Globe’s Meredith Goldstein. The Rhode Island native’s books “focus on a woman seeking pleasure, often in defiance of norms, and a man who must allow himself to be vulnerable to love.” In this one, the hero is from Boston, but as for the details, the author says, laughing, “I took a bit of liberty.”
LOVE LETTERS: Ready for a fresh start? Aren’t we all? The theme of season 5 of the Love Letters podcast, hosted by the Globe’s Meredith Goldstein, is “New Beginnings.” The episodes tell stories about love that’s new, revived, reinvented, and full of hope. In the season finale, Brette Goldstein, Meredith’s sister, takes the reins, and Meredith’s in the hot seat. Listen here.
DANCE: In a retrospective at Jacob’s Pillow, the “Action Heroes” of STREB, choreographer Elizabeth Streb’s company, “land, bounce, and usually scramble right back up to wherever they ‘flew’ from, to do it all over again,” writes Globe correspondent Janine Parker. “It’s a heady mix, this concoction of potentially perilous, but frequently witty, physicality.”
FOOD & DINING: The vegan takeout window Littleburg has arrived “to let us know that the meatless — or meat-less — future tastes amazing,” writes the Globe’s Devra First. “Swearing off meat isn’t particularly counterculture anymore,” the onetime teen vegetarian acknowledges. “It’s never made much sense to me the way people say ‘you won’t even miss the meat’ ... but I know that this matters to many, so, yeah, you absolutely won’t.”
MUSIC: Former poet laureate Tracy K. Smith welcomed the chance to write new English lyrics for the choral finale of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, better known as the “Ode to Joy.” But the Falmouth native and Newton resident couldn’t have known the first live performance would be by the Handel and Haydn Society, on the Esplanade. “I wasn’t making a statement in classical music. I was simply thinking about words and images and rhythms,” she tells the Globe’s A.Z. Madonna.
In the “great idea” department, The Record Co. has expanded from two recording studios to four and zero rehearsal rooms to a whopping 15. The nonprofit “surveyed more than 500 music makers while planning the new space,” writes the Globe’s Malcolm Gay. “The message was clear: Affordable recording studios were critical, but ... what people really needed was somewhere to practice and create.” Mission accomplished — during a pandemic.
Singer-songwriter Martha Wainwright calls her new album, “Love Will Be Reborn,” “a coming-of-middle-age story.” “In the past, a lot of my songs have been steeped in a certain amount of self-deprecating feelings and self-doubt,” she says in a Q&A with Globe correspondent Stuart Munro. “What I’m trying to do with these songs is find a way to pull myself together.”
Recorded in 1970, “The Complete Live at the Lighthouse” captures a pivotal moment in the career of trumpeter Lee Morgan (1938-72) on eight CDs. “It’s hard to overstate the importance of this epic collection,” writes Globe correspondent David Weininger. “I doubt the year will give us a more important archival jazz release.”
“I’m concerned about the future of the school as well as the safety and security of my students,” says the founder of a music school. Never a good thing to hear from anyone, and this speaker created the Afghanistan National Institute of Music. Dr. Ahmad Sarmast and others associated with the school, which has deep ties to Boston, share their memories and fears with Gay.
LOOK AGAIN: The clock is ticking on opportunities to enjoy sand and surf without also freezing your toes off. Condé Nast Traveler’s list of best American beaches includes just 19 entries, three of them in Massachusetts: Coast Guard Beach in Eastham, Singing Beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea, and Nantucket’s Siasconset Beach. Not enough? The Globe’s lists, divided into Greater Boston, Maine, Rhode Island, and Cape Cod, offer tons of other options.