The ever-growing glut of great new TV, movies, books, music, comics, and podcasts can be a lot to keep up with. So we here at Vox Culture — where our current obsessions include two of the summer’s best movies so far, an under-the-radar new Netflix release, and lots of excellent new music — have a few suggestions for how to make the best use of your pop culture–consuming time.
Here are some items you should really consider checking out.
War for the Planet of the Apes is a tremendous blockbuster, capping a terrific trilogy
It seemed like such a bad idea at the time. Revive the Planet of the Apes franchise? When Tim Burton’s 2001 reimagining had been so awful? Yet 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a bracing return to the idea of an Earth run by talking apes, this time with the apes at the center from the get-go. (The original five-film run of the ‘60s and ‘70s had gotten there eventually, but only after letting humans rant about those damn dirty apes for a while.)
2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was even better, bringing Matt Reeves (one of our best blockbuster directors) to the franchise. And now, War for the Planet of the Apes, out everywhere this weekend, is the best film in this trilogy, capping it with a fitting conclusion — while leaving plenty of room open for future films, should Fox feel the need. These are beautifully made movies about the need for political revolution, the difficulty of building societies, and the endlessly warping nature of prejudice. Each of the three is standalone enough that you can jump in uninitiated, but they also fit together beautifully as a saga. Oh, and they have apes armed with machine guns, too, so it’s not all heady academia fodder. —Todd VanDerWerff
Netflix’s Castlevania is weird, funny, and sort of a great spin on Dracula and vampire-hunting
Netflix’s Castlevania is based on the popular Nintendo video game series that so many of today’s 30-somethings remember fondly from their youth. (It launched in the 1980s but released its most recent title in 2014.) That original game was extremely difficult, but the four-episode first season of the Netflix adaptation is a little more accessible: Dracula isn’t a big fan of humans, and has unleashed his night horde of vampires to inflict bloody, bloody death upon them. The only thing standing between humans and extinction is a sardonic demon hunter named Trevor Belmont, one fabulous fur coat, and Belmont’s trusty whip. —Alex Abad-Santos
Spider-Man: Homecoming is the best Spider-Man movie in a decade
Patient Spider-Man fans have been waiting 10 years for a story that’s worthy of the character’s legacy — one that’s as much about the heart and soul of its hero as it is about slinging and swinging through the city sky. And with Spider-Man: Homecoming, which brings Marvel Studios back into the Spider-Man fold as a co-producer with Sony, that story has finally arrived.
Tom Holland is the best Spider-Man ever, the action scenes are fantastic, there are lots of fun Easter eggs for diehard fans, and most importantly of all, the movie gets Peter Parker’s coming of age story exactly right. Welcome home, Spidey. —AAS
Haim’s long-awaited new album is an addictive treasure
Finally, Haim has seen fit to bless us with a new album! The trio of California sisters instantly became a sensation with their 2013 debut Days Are Gone, thanks to their electric chemistry and seriously sharp interpretations of sounds that bands like Fleetwood Mac and Wilson Phillips made famous. Something To Tell You doesn't stray too far from what Haim proved they could do the first time around, but it's even more confident, making clear how thrilled they are to just get together and create the kind of rock music that makes belting out their songs on a humid summer night so much fun. —Caroline Framke
An essay on The Beguiled challenges the controversy over how the movie treats race and the Civil War
Sofia Coppola’s latest film The Beguiled premiered to acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival. But as approached its June 23 release date, controversy emerged over the way the movie omits an enslaved character who’s present in the novel it’s based on, possibly glossing over the history of racial oppression in the Civil War-era South it depicts. This week, critic Angela Jade Bastien — who’s not a Coppola fan — wrote an insightful piece for Vulture about how The Beguiled tackles race even though all of its characters are white. “Her memory isn’t historically honest,” Bastien concludes, “but it is a white fairy tale that deserves to be examined closely.” —Alissa Wilkinson
Dua Lipa’s new video for the endlessly catchy “New Rules” is mesmerizing fun
The second I started listening to Dua Lipa's neon pop, I couldn't stop — and when she released the video for "New Rules" last week, my obsession reached critical levels. Not only is the song catchy as hell, but the video is creative and frankly mesmerizing, as Dua Lipa and a throng of supportive women dance out their feelings in a tropical Miami hotel and remind each other that fuckboys don't deserve them. Good luck getting this one out of your head! —CF
This sci-fi tale of football’s future is top-notch online-only art
Jon Bois (of Vox’s sister site, SB Nation) is one of the internet’s finest writers and/or mad scientists. His “Breaking Madden” series experimented with the internal settings of America’s most popular football video game, creating nightmare hellscapes from which the digital players could not escape. And his YouTube series Pretty Good tells engaging stories in a format that’s equal parts Ken Burns and indie comics.
But his latest creation, semi-serialized “17776,” might be his best work yet. All I’ll say is that it’s a story about what football might look like in the titular year. But it’s also really not about that, because it also concerns the human capacity for reinvention and mortality and the endless gulf of time that we (currently) only occupy a brief speck of.
The series wraps up this weekend, but part of the fun has been anticipating each new chapter. Binge what’s there, then join the rest of us in waiting for the conclusion to arrive. —Todd VanDerWerff
Demi Lovato’s new single “Sorry Not Sorry” is the start of an angry, take-no-prisoners comeback
Demi Lovato latest opens with fighting words, as she declares that she’s “out here looking like revenge” while you’re “out here looking like regret.” The song, which the singer has called “an anthem for anyone who's ever been hated on and has risen above it and come out from the other side like a fucking savage!" is a blunt response to “haters” after her nearly year-long hiatus from social media and music-making. But it’s also a perfect mix of angry power ballad and catchy summer tune, and a good reason to want her to stick around. —Aja Romano
Andy Samberg aces his second sports parody with Tour de Pharmacy on HBO
It may have seemed hard to beat the absurdity of 7 Days in Hell, the HBO tennis mockumentary that, among other absurd scenes, included a two-minute digression into Swedish courtroom sketches, but Andy Samberg’s Tour de Pharmacy is even more of a screwball masterpiece. With Orlando Bloom, John Cena (trying out a ludicrous Austrian accent that works far better than it has any right to), Daveed Diggs, and Freddie Highmore in tow, Samberg’s send-up of the Tour de France — now streaming on HBO Go — and doping-related sports corruption is further proof that he’s clearly found the perfect medium for his bizarre brand of comedy. —Grant Rindner
Broken Social Scene returns in the nick of time with Hug of Thunder
Seven years after Forgiveness Rock Record, Canada’s Broken Social Scene has gifted us with a new album that’s full of gorgeous, intricate indie rock buoyed by an appropriately rebellious spirit. Hug of Thunder is sweeping and varied, with highlights ranging from the intimate “Please Take Me With You,” a confessional ballad underscored by doleful synths, to “Protest Song,” which manages to be both inspiring and exasperated (“We're just the latest in the longest rank and file list / Ever to exist in the history of the protest song”). 2017 has produced a handful of quality alternative records, but Broken Social Scene’s latest may well be the most captivating of the bunch. —GR