August Entertainment Hit List

A feature that I’ve been planning for a while is one in which every month I preview what’s coming up in entertainment that I’m excited for. It could be things that everyone has access to, or it could be events that are happening here in Boston. Summer is winding down, but there’s still plenty to look forward to in Boston and elsewhere.

1. “The Help” — Pretty much everyone read the book about a young woman writing about black maids in Jackson, Mississippi, in the ’50s when it came out almost two years ago, and though I was a little late to the party, I’m still very much impressed with Kathryn Stockett‘s work. Whether it will translate to the big screen remains to be seen, but with Emma Stone taking the lead of Skeeter and a strong supporting cast, it looks as if unknown Tate Taylor could make this the female must-see of the summer. I think it’s going to explode at the box-office making it the second movie marketed for women this summer to exceed expectations (the first being “Bridesmaids“). “The Help” lands August 10 in theaters everywhere.

2. Tom Perrotta’s “The Leftovers” — Perrotta is one of the best (and most popular) Boston-based fiction writers, and ‘Leftovers’ will be his newest book since “The Abstinence Teacher” in 2007. It’s so far unclear what the book is about — something to do with a religious fervor like the Rapture in a small town — but I’ve no doubt that it will be excellent. He really knows how to tackle the fears and hypocrisies of small-town America, like with sex offenders in “Little Children” or high school politics in “Election” (both of which were turned into fabulous films). If you haven’t read anything by him yet, you’ve got time to pick up ‘Abstinence Teacher’ as it’s his most mature work to date; ‘Leftovers’ comes out at the end of the month on August 30.

3. “Gloria: In Her Own Words” — I haven’t been following the HBO documentary series the way I should be, but they always have really great stuff in the summers. So far this summer, they’ve covered working in a sexual assault prosecution office, young Afghan women accused of committing “moral crimes” and chess champion of the world Bobby Fischer. They’ve got a couple more documentaries in August, including “Koran by Heart” and “Superheroes,” but they finish up their series with a documentary about Gloria Steinem‘s life, which looks pretty amazing. Check it out on August 15 at 9 p.m.

4. Shakespeare on the Common — Though it isn’t New York City’s Shakespeare in the Park, Boston’s version draws huge crowds for its 3-week run. This year it’s “All’s Well That Ends Well;” luckily, this is one I know nothing about. And it’s free! No reason not go, except maybe the heat… The play runs until August 14, with shows everyday except Monday.

5. Whim Series at Smolak Farms — Another Boston event, this one’s been going on since June in North Andover. Smolak Farms has partnered with the star chefs around Boston to present a barbecue dinner to lucky Bostonians. They work with students from Le Cordon Bleu Boston to put on a picnic, and then visitors get a hayride at sunset around the farm. I’ve got tickets for this upcoming Wednesday with Rebecca Newell from The Beehive (excellent food!). I’ll let you know how it goes. The Whim series is every Wednesday until August 24th; buy tickets exclusively at giltcity.com

6. Yannick Murphy’s “The Call” — I’ve never read any books by Yannick Murphy, but “The Call,” coming out tomorrow, sounds wonderful. It’s about a veterinarian, and told through his visits to neighboring houses and farms for animal injuries or deaths. When his eldest son lands in a coma because of a hunting accident, he must learn to deal with his new world. It sounds unique, and her previous books like “Signed, Mata Hari” have gotten good reviews. This could be the novel that makes her a writing star. If you love animals and how they change the lives of humans, this is the August choice for you. Pick it up on August 2 at your local bookstore.

7. Catalyst and Abigail’s in Kendall Square — For those of us who live west of the Charles, we know that there are a lot of great restaurants out this way, especially in Cambridge. Kendall Square, however, has remained a corporate wasteland with very few restaurants and only the Kendall Square Theatre for entertainment. Many times I’ve come out of the theater — my favorite in the whole city — and had nowhere to eat. Hungry Mother is out there, but it’s crowded and fancy. All that is about to change as Area Four and Bondir have just opened there, with Catalyst and Abigail’s slated to open this month. Check back later this month for reviews of all four.

8. “Porgy and Bess” at American Repertory Theatre — In Boston, you’ve got to take good theater where you can get it. I’m so excited that Diane Paulus is reconstructingPorgy and Bess,” a George Gershwin opera about the lives of African Americans in Charleston, South Carolina, in the ’20s. She did a fantastic job with “Hair” a couple of years ago, and she’s got four-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald coming in alongside Norm Lewis. Though they haven’t mentioned anything, it’s clear they’re pushing for a New York run on Broadway if all goes well. Tickets are sold out for the first couple of weeks, but you can still get some good ones for September. Its run starts August 17 and ends October 2.

9. Nouvella Books launch — An old friend of mine works for a new company called Nouvella Books. They utilize the LAUNCH program, which is like a community-supported way of buying books. You are given the opportunity to purchase a share of a small publication of a novella, and then you get an exclusive first-edition of the novella before it goes wide to distributors. Their first book, Matthew Salesses‘ “The Last Repatriate,” comes out in August, and excerpts should be up on the website soon, so you can decide if you’d like to buy a share. This sort of innovative approach to publishing is exactly the kind of thing we’ll see a lot of in the coming years with e-books taking over. Check out their website for more information.

10. “I’m With You” by Red Hot Chili PeppersRed Hot Chili Peppers haven’t had a new album since “Stadium Arcadium” in 2006, and that was much more pop-oriented than their previous efforts. Whether or not “I’m With You” will be as great as their previous albums remains to be seen, but they’re always solid on the rock front. And since they take so long to put out new material, anything is exciting. Maybe I’ll actually be able to get tickets to a concert this time (doubtful). Album comes out August 30.

11. Tres Gatos Book ClubTres Gatos is a small tapas place in Jamaica Plain, but they also sell books and music in their back room. They are starting up a book club this month, and the first meeting happens August 7 at 3 PM. The choice for the month is Charles Yu‘s “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.” I’m about 2/3 of the way through, and it’s a unique pick, although I can’t say I completely understand what’s going on. I guess that’s what a discussion group is for. I hope there will be yummy snacks and wine as well.

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  1. […] August Entertainment Hit List – cinnajoon Smolak Farms has partnered with the star chefs around Boston to present a barbecue dinner to lucky Bostonians. They work with students from Le Cordon Bleu Boston to put on a picnic, and then visitors get a hayride at sunset around the farm. … It sounds unique, and her previous books like “Signed, Mata Hari” have gotten good reviews. This could be the novel that makes her a writing star. If you love animals and how they change the lives of humans, …https://cinnajoon.wordpress.com .. […]

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