The Weekender: Hunky vikings, new wavers, and Ms. Jackson (if you’re nasty)

Marvel Studios

Chris Hemsworth in “Thor: Ragnarok.”

By Michael Andor Brodeur  Globe Correspondent 

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Hey folks, a happy November to you. Assuming you’ve managed to scrub your Hulk makeup off (keep trying), you’re likely primed for another weekend — or at least an excuse to shift yourself out of reach of that candy bucket. Fear not: This post-Halloweekend has no shortage of good stuff to keep you occupied — none of which counts as cardio, just in case you were banking on that. Let’s get to it!

HAMMER TIME: If you’ve been polishing your mead horn all week in anticipation of “Thor: Ragnarok,” the hammer-swinging three-quel in the resurgent Marvel mythology, the wait is over! It opens Friday. But be warned, says Tom Russo in his 2½-star review, it’s a little more “Guardians of the Galaxy” than “Hammer of the Gods”: “As a steady stream of random wit and bawdiness, it’s a good time. But as a story ostensibly escalating toward the titular cataclysm — Norse mythology’s take on doomsday — ‘Ragnarok’ feels too episodic, a scattered trifle passed off as epic.” Meanwhile, Chris Hemsworth’s whole situation? Still very much epic. That’s me talking.


PREZ PLAY: Elsewhere at the megaplex is “LBJ,” the Rob Reiner-directed historical biopic charting the rise of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, here played by Woody Harrelson, whom Ty Burr says in his two-star review “gives as good a performance as you can expect from an actor who appears to have someone else’s buttocks attached to his chin.” Yowchers! He goes on: “It’s an entertaining piece of Hollywood waxworks if you don’t set your expectations very high and it’s probably the best movie Rob Reiner has directed in more than a decade. (This only sounds like a compliment.)” Come for the “reminder of what competence in government looks like,” stay (maybe?) for the “bushel of prosthetics, wattles, and liver-spots.” Opens Friday.

BALLET-HOOED: This weekend sees the North American premiere of British choreographer Wayne McGregor’s ballet “Obsidian Tear” with Boston Ballet, a co-production with London’s Royal Ballet. Boston Ballet artistic director Mikko Nissinen calls McGregor (known for his unusual collaborations with dancers, artists, and scientists) “on top of the list of the finest choreographers alive” and distills his admiration down to terms any local can understand: “He is wicked smart.” “Obsidian Tear” will be paired with the world premiere of resident choreographer Jorma Elo’s “Fifth Symphony of Jean Sibelius.” It runs Friday through Nov. 12. Tickets and full program information here.

Francois Nel/Getty Images/file

Janet Jackson plays TD Garden Sunday.

MISS HER MUCH: Back in 2015, the Globe’s Sarah Rodman (*waves toward Los Angeles*) faintly praised Janet Jackson’s return on “Unbreakable” as “closer in sound and spirit to her peak self, and her most solid release in years.” Still, just seeing the queen of Rhythm Nation back in control was enough to get devotees committing to show up anytime, anyplace to see her perform once again. An anticipated Boston appearance in August 2016 was abruptly postponed mid-tour (doc’s orders), but Ms. Jackson (if you’re nasty) is coming back to bring us all back together again — to TD Garden on Sunday, to be specific. Can you tell I’m really excited about this? Tickets here.

RETURNED ON: If you missed the 2012 reunion gig from undersung Boston New Wave heroes Human Sexual Response, you have another (and possibly final) chance on Friday, as the band (all seven of ’em) takes one more turn onstage at the House of Blues. “Instead of looking out at a sea of Revlon-blue-black hair, we looked out at a lot of white,” HSR vocalist Dini Lamot told Franklin Soults of their last (sold out) reunion. So here’s me introducing a good number of you to the wonders of Lime Crime. And for you curious youngsters who still have all your pigment, here’s me introducing you to “Jackie Onassis.” Unnatural Axe opens the show; get tickets here.

PAIR THEE WELL: The pairing of Aussie rock firebrand Courtney Barnett and slow-burning song-savant Kurt Vile might seem as unlikely to some as strawberries on pizza (let’s not get into that again) — a potentially hazardous mix of uppers and downers. But the impromptu duo’s collaborative album “Lotta Sea Lice” finds a wild chemistry brewing between this odd coupling (not to mention a really solid Belly cover). The two come to the Orpheum on Saturday night for a romp through the album and each other’s repertoires, backed by an all-star band including former local Rob Laakso, erstwhile of Swirlies and the Wicked Farleys (full disclosure: my old bandmate! Hi Rob!). Grab tickets here.


SOUTHERN EXPOSURE: This Friday evening, you can dig into a heaping helping of classic Southern soul and jazz at the Berklee Performance Center, as Lousiana’s “Soul Queen” Irma Thomas takes the stage along with the beloved Blind Boys of Alabama, and five members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band gathered as the Preservation Legacy Quintet. They’ll bring the soul, you bring the spirits (the non-potable ones, please). Presented by World Music/CRASHarts. Find tickets here

MATH APPEAL: On stage this weekend is SpeakEasy Stage Company’s production of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” (Simon Stephens’s play based on the best-selling novel by Mark Haddon). It’s a far smaller-scale staging than the touring production that hit the Boston Opera House earlier this year, but Elliott Purcell shines in his lead role as math genius Christopher Boone, “the teenager at the heart of this coming-of-age story, whose struggle to understand his place in the world is complicated by his hatred of being touched, his inability to understand small talk, and his intense focus on specific objects, words, and movements.” It’s up at Roberts Studio Theatre (at Boston Center for the Arts) through Nov. 25. Find tickets here.

NAN STARTER: A short (and lovely) drive up to Portland, Maine, will take you to a “transfixing” exhibition of photographic/diaristic slideshows from Lexington-born legend of the lens Nan Goldin. “Nan Goldin” includes the now-canonical “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency” — “a visual diary, at once fond and unflinching, that chronicles Goldin’s life on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and points beyond between 1979 and 1986,” writes Mark Feeney — as well as 1995’s “The Other Side” and 2010’s “Scopophilia” “Goldin takes the viewer backstage, so to speak, except there is no backstage,” says Feeney. “Everything is stage, whether at the bar or away from it; and the sense of relaxed, matter-of-fact excess throughout is at once inviting and exhilarating.” The exhibition is on view at the Portland Museum of Art through Dec. 31. More information here. Oh! And while we’re at it, if you haven’t checked out the Boston Globe’s Museums Special, it’s chock full of picks from museums around New England — big, small, weird, not

HE’S GOT ISSUES: Finally from the outside world, this weekend offers a fine chance to familiarize yourself with Hari Kondabolu, the stand-up comic and political satirist behind the forthcoming TruTV documentary “The Problem With Apu,” which grills the most offensive stereotype in “Simpsons” history like a perpetually turning taquito. He brings his topical zingcraft to the Wilbur along with Liz Miele on Friday night. Get tickets here.

Danielle Levitt/Showtime

Frankie Shaw (right) costars in “SMILF” with Rosie O’Donnell (left).

OR STAY IN! If “The Handmaid’s Tale” took care of your dread of the near future, let another Margaret Atwood adaptation restore your horror in the not-too-distant past. “Alias Grace” tells the true tale of a young Toronto maid imprisoned in 1843 for the double-murder of her master and his housekeeper, but the telling of the tale is a tale in itself. Says Matthew Gilbert, “the dependability of the person or people telling the story — the motives behind the facts they choose to relate, the plot twists they stress to support their cause, the lies they tell to evoke sympathy — can create the drama as much as anything else.” Written by Sarah Polley (“Away From Her”) and directed by Mary Harron (“I Shot Andy Warhol”), the miniseries comes to Netflix on Friday.

Of special note on the tube this weekend is “SMILF,” the new Showtime series from Brookline native Frankie Shaw, who stars, writes, directs, and produces the half-hour comedy. Based on a short film that snagged a jury award at Sundance in 2015, the Southie-set show offers a refreshingly honest view of single motherhood, with equal emphasis on both words, and Shaw’s wry, dry wit carrying the whole thing (along with a thing of Cheerios, a vomit towel, and some extra undies). That’s Sunday at 10 p.m. on Showtime.


And for a break from the noise — a really long break — the Boston Symphony Orchestra just dropped a 57-CD box set, and it’s presumably very sorry about breaking your coffee table in the process. The sprawling set covers recordings from 1969 to 2017, and Jeremy Eichler spent nearly as long listening to it.  

And that, my faithful Weekenders, is all I’ve got for you. Well, that and the guitar solo for “November Rain,” since it’s November, it’s gonna be rainy, and there’s no reason why I should be the only one stuck with it looping in my head.

Be good to each other, and however you spend your weekend, make it one you’ll miss come Monday. See you next week!

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