There's a lot of pop culture to sort through week after week. Times staff writer Chris Barton offers his take on what's up and what's down in music, movies, television and just about anything else out there that is worth considering.
Autolux's 'Pussy's Dead': One of those L.A. indie-rock bands that became a critical darling in the early aughts on the strength of off-kilter songs like "Turnstile Blues," Autolux performed with PJ Harvey, Portishead and Thom Yorke but never rose above cult status. Now with its first new music in six years, Autolux sounds as strong yet experimental-minded as ever with an album released on Danger Mouse's label and produced by Beyonce collaborator Boots. The songs are shaded with fuzzy guitar and electronics, but the internal drive remains strong thanks to the band's powerhouse drummer, Carla Azar (just ask Jack White).
'Man Up' (2015): One of those unexpected, unfortunately titled pleasures that suddenly appears among Netflix's usual new-release deluge of limited appeal, this British film proves that even an otherwise middling romcom from overseas is always two or three times as satisfying as anything Hollywood generates. Girded by the chemistry of endearing comic leads Simon Pegg and Lake Bell, who puts the limber vocal chops seen in her film "In a World" to good use, "Man Up" succeeds with its ability to lightly twist the usual formula with a generous helping of occasionally dark, absurdist humor.
2016: As if it weren't already marked for a level of dread for its standing as an election year in a media climate that's more voracious for viewers than ever, 2016 has already seen more than its share of unexpected and overall unfair losses in David Bowie, Garry Shandling, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, Merle Haggard and, most recently, Prince. This sort of thing is inevitably part of the march of time and will only continue — that's how time works, after all — but failing the ability to seal our great artists in a plastic bubble going forward, may we suggest fast-forwarding to 2017 as soon as possible?
'Crimson Peak' (2015): Benefiting from the inevitable grading on a curve that occurs among fans when a filmmaker of real vision creates something immediately recognizable as a bit too familiar, Guillermo del Toro's latest is a pure-hearted homage to vintage gothic horror all the way up and over its Victorian high collars. But for all its striking costuming and set design, there are precious few scares or lingering impressions, which is close to criminal considering a cast that includes Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain was paired with the filmmaker who gave us "Pan's Labyrinth."