Whether you’re filled with festive cheer or hissing “Bah, humbug!” at every coworker who offers you a candy cane, this week’s super varied pop culture essentials will definitely have you covered.
1. WHAT TO WATCH IF YOU HAVEN’T GIVEN IT A GO FOR A WHILE
When The CW chose not to renew it last year, this long-running reality series looked dead and buried. But just a few months later, VH1 came to the rescue and cycle 23 — yes, twenty-three — begins tonight (December 12). On paper, British pop singer Rita Ora seems an unlikely choice to replace Tyra Banks as presenter, but adding game-changing model Ashley Graham to the panel is smart. Can ANTM rise again like a phoenix from the ashes? With the ever-savvy Ms. Banks still on board as an exec producer, this show definitely has a shot.
2. WHAT TO LISTEN TO IF YOU LIKE POP WITH A POWERFUL MESSAGE
This L.A. trio has been building buzz for a while, but the shimmering ’80s-style rush of “I Know a Place” could be their breakthrough song. “And it’s hard to love with a heart that’s hurting,” front-woman Katie Gavin sings. “But if you want to go out dancing, I know a place.” On the one hand, it’s a celebration of safe spaces and LGBTQ solidarity; on the other, it’s just a wonderful, warm-hearted pop song that anyone can relate to.
3. WHAT TO WATCH AS WE SAY FAREWELL TO THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION
Launching Friday (December 16) on Netflix, this is actually the second film about Barack Obama‘s formative years after Sundance hit Southside with You. Barry focuses on the future President’s first year at Columbia University in 1981 and features a convincing lead performance from rising star Devon Terrell, who nails Obama’s facial expressions and mannerisms. There’s the odd clumsy moment, but Barry offers a generally credible portrait of a talented and charismatic man who is still figuring things out.
4. WHAT TO WATCH IF YOU FANCY SOME PREMIUM-GRADE HOLIDAY SCHMALTZ
Opening in theaters Friday, this drama from Marley & Me director David Frankel looks like it could get emotional. Will Smith stars as a man who writes a series of anguished existential letters after suffering a terrible personal tragedy, only to find himself confronted by personified visions of Time, Death and Love. Even if Collateral Beauty over-eggs the sentimentality, a classy ensemble cast featuring Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren and Edward Norton should keep you intrigued.
5. WHICH SURPRISING CHARITY HOLIDAY SINGLE TO ADD TO YOUR PLAYLIST
Cruz Beckham, the 11-year-old son of soccer superstar David and former Spice Girl Victoria, has just released his debut single. Yes, really. It’s obviously no masterpiece, but Cruz’s boyish vocals and some candy-sweet pop production from old pro Rodney Jerkins should appeal to anyone who likes Justin Bieber‘s early music. Everyone else can console themselves with the knowledge that all proceeds are going to British children’s charity Make Some Noise.
6. WHAT TO WATCH IF YOU LOVE A RAGS-TO-RICHES STORY
Premiering Wednesday (December 14) on Fox, this new musical drama series follows a fictional girl group on their quest for superstardom. Co-creator Lee Daniels has promised it’s a gritty “antithesis” to his other TV show, Empire, and the trailer introduces a lead character who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. But this doesn’t mean Star is a glitz-free affair: expect some slick song and dance numbers, Queen Latifah stealing scenes as the show’s matriarch figure, and attention-grabbing guest appearances from the likes of Lenny Kravitz and Naomi Campbell.
7. WHICH INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT TO FOLLOW IF YOU’RE SO OVER HOLIDAY SHOPPING
This popular account’s premise is simple but kind of genius: It posts real-life photos of men looking bored, tired and downright defeated during shopping trips. Hitting the mall is especially exhausting at this time of year, so it’s a must-follow for anyone who’s become a miserable man (or woman) trying to grab that last Panettone in the grocery store.
8. WHICH APP TO TRY OUT IF YOU’RE A BIT OF A FRUSTRATED RAPPER
Released on her birthday last week, this virtual reality game allows Nicki Minaj fans to create their “own Rap Empire.” Users can try dueting with the Super Bass star, record and share their best rhymes with other hip-hop wannabes, and even give themselves a neon-bright Nicki-style makeover. Nicki Minaj: The Empire is fun whether you’ve tried rapping before or not, but it’s probably best to play along in private until you’ve really honed your flow.
9. WHO TO FOLLOW ON TWITTER BECAUSE SHE’S THE ACTUAL SALLY FIELD ON TWITTER
Sally Field isn’t just the double Oscar-winning star of films like Norma Rae, Mrs. Doubtfire and Forrest Gump, she’s also a respected campaigner for osteoporosis awareness and a longtime LGBTQ rights activist. So why has she only amassed 17,000 followers since joining Twitter last month? Come on people, sort it out, after all, who wouldn’t want to follow an account that calls itself “@realmommagump”? Aww!
10. AND FINALLY, WHAT TO WATCH WHETHER YOU’RE A STAR WARS FAN OR NOT
Last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens offered a feel good franchise reboot, but this spin-off film sounds more interesting. Over the summer it was reported that Disney bosses had ordered expensive reshoots to lighten the mood, but Rogue One is still being sold as darker, edgier and more visceral than previous Star Wars adventures. Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal) and Riz Ahmed (The Night Of) lead the cast, but don’t be surprised if a sardonic droid called K-2SO ends up becoming your fave.
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