Movies, music, and books we're into this week

It's almost the weekend and time to relax! Here are the movies, music, and books the Windows Central team is enjoying this week.

The weekend is just around the corner, and you're probably keen to put your feet up and enjoy some downtime. What better way to relax than with some great tunes, a great movie, or a real page turner? If you're looking for some suggestions, we put together a collection of some of the best stuff out there right now.

Movies and TV

Here are some of the movies and TV shows the Windows Central team is enjoying this week.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Recommended by Daniel Rubino, executive editor

I've been a huge fan of the Marvel series of movies mostly because I never read any comics. That lack of bias means I can watch them and just enjoy the story without fingering contradictions the whole time.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 (2014) and its recent 2017 sequel Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 are immensely dense and hilarious films. While the sequel did not garner as much critical acclaim as the original, I think the opening scene of Vol. 2 is worth the price of entry alone.

Sure, some of the plot is a bit predictable, but the story does an excellent job of developing its main characters even further while introducing us to a few new ones like the adorable Mantis. Shoot, even Nebula – the adopted daughter of baddie Thanos and sister to Gamora – is a blast to watch with her brooding meanness (that is touchingly explained later).

Between the music, colorful visuals, and sarcastic banter, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 still maintains what its predecessor featured: heart.

Bonus: Volume 2 is also available in 4K UHD through the Store. And you can buy both Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 on sale for just $33.

See Vol. 2 at Microsoft Store

The Simpsons (seasons one through nine)

Recommended by Jez Corden, senior Xbox editor

Ah, The Simpsons. An unwavering staple of TV, a menagerie of quotable gags, and repository of modern memery. How the mighty hath fallen.

While modern episodes of The Simpsons might be a cringey shadow of its former glory, seasons one through nine, maybe even a little higher, remain incredibly funny, poignant, and often timeless. They're available on the U.S. Microsoft Store, and they remain hilarious for light viewing.

See at Microsoft Store

The Circle

Recommended by Jason Ward, writer

As a big sci-fi fan and someone who loves to contemplate social issues and ponder where the world is headed, my wife and I found the movie The Circle a poignant commentary on the erosion of privacy, and the acceptance of that, very interesting.

As believers in biblical prophecy, we found the movie a springboard for discussion of what the world might be under the rule of a one-world government with unfettered powers of surveillance.

See at Microsoft Store

Logan

Recommended by Brendan Lowry, writer

Out of the hundreds upon hundreds of films I've seen in my lifetime, I can safely say that James Mangold's Logan has officially secured its spot as my No. 1 film of all time. It distances itself from the typical action-packed superhero films by taking a much more grounded approach, portraying Wolverine (played by Hugh Jackman) as a shadow of his former self, a weary, aged mutant who struggles to protect who he loves (mainly Professor Xavier, played by Sir Patrick Stewart) and finds difficulty coming to terms with his past.

But where his adamantium claws show weakness, his heart shows an unparalleled strength. This film is a phenomenal, near-flawless conclusion to the Hugh Jackman-era of Wolverine, and an emotional, touching message to the world that heart, not powers, is what truly makes a hero.

See at Microsoft Store

Ballers

Recommended by Al Sacco, managing editor

HBO's Ballers is overdone. It's absurd. It's often obviously fake. It's always excessive. And that's precisely why I enjoy watching it.

The series is about former professional football player Spencer Strasmore (played by Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a., The Rock), a mountain of a man with a pile of personal baggage at an equal scale. After his pro ball career ends following injuries, Strasmore tries his hand at being an agent for young players, where he thinks he can help them avoid the same mistakes he made — and make a lot of money in the process. The show is a comedy, but it's packed with gratuitous sex, drugs and rock and roll, and it can be quite dark at times. I'm a big fan of HBO's Entourage, and Ballers is very much like that hit show, but with a focus on pro athletes instead of movie stars. It's also shot in beautiful, sunny Miami, which doesn't hurt.

The third season of Ballers just started on HBO, so now's a great time to get caught up with the episodes that are already available.

See Ballers Season One at Microsoft Store See Ballers Season Two at Microsoft Store

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Recommended by Cale Hunt, staff writer

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is not a show for the easily offended. It's not a show for anyone who doesn't like inside jokes and weird plot twists. It's not a show for anyone who needs a laugh track to know where the funny parts are. Actually, it's probably best if this show remains unwatched.

Just kidding. Watch it. Watch it from the very start if you haven't seen any of it. Make it through the first season and hold on tight for season two when Danny DeVito joins the cast. From there, it's a showcase of characters who shouldn't be allowed out in public. This group of friends owns a bar (they don't do a very good job of running it), but if you're expecting a regular old Cheers vibe, you'll be disappointed.

See at Microsoft Store

Music

Here's some of the music the Windows Central team is listening to this week.

Bruised Orange — John Prine

Recommended by Cale Hunt, staff writer

A weekend at the lake for me usually involves a bit of John Prine, and this one will be no different. If you don't know who John Prine is, you might not be into folk-rock, as he's one of the most talented, most celebrated voices who ever sang a song about Sabu the elephant man.

Prine has a certain songwriting ability that conveys hurt and pain in a funny, quirky way that's not often found. You can relate to each song he sings, even when you've never been to any of the locations or met any of the people he sings about.

Bruised Orange was released in 1978, but it's been listened to ever since. If you've never heard of Prine, it's a fine place to start. If you have heard of Prine, it's time to finally add this one to your collection.

See at Microsoft Store

Books

Here are the books we're reading this week!

It — Stephen King

Recommended by Al Sacco, managing editor

Stephen King is my single favorite novelist. I've literally read every novel and short story he's ever officially published (and that's saying something, the guy is extremely prolific). It is King's best — and scariest— book. It's been at least five years since I read It, but I've read the story cover to cover at least three times. And it's more than 1,000 pages long. That sounds daunting, but I promise you'll be sucked right in after the first chapter. By the end, you'll think 1,000 pages wasn't enough.

It is on my radar right now, because there is a new movie version coming out early next month. For some reason, King's writing doesn't translate very well to film or TV, so I'm not exactly optimistic about the remake. But the 1990 It TV miniseries was actually one of the best visual interpretations of King's work to date, so who knows?

Either way, the book is an absolute masterpiece. If you haven't read it, DO IT RIGHT NOW. Seriously. You will not regret the decision.

Download the Kindle book from Amazon Download the Audible audio book from Amazon


In a Dark, Dark Wood — Ruth Ware

Recommended by Jen Karner, writer

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware is a fraught and tense tale of a woman returning to the past she thought she'd left behind her. It involves a weirdly awkward bachelorette party held in the middle of the woods, a cast of sharp and interesting characters, and a murder.

There is plenty here to sink your teeth into. It starts a bit slow but once it picks up, you won't want to put it down until you turn the last page.

Download the Kindle book from Amazon Download the Audible audio book from Amazon


The Things They Carried — Tim O'Brien

Recommended by Cale Hunt, staff writer

I recently found a copy of The Things They Carried in a used bookshop, and as soon as I began reading I was transported back to high school where I first read it. I'm a lot older now, and I think I can appreciate the themes of the story a bit better.

Tim O'Brien writes about the Vietnam War from first-hand experience. This is a fictitious (or is it?) collection of short stories that all weave together to create one long narrative of his time over there. It's an incredibly sad book, one filled with themes of loss, love, heartbreak, and redemption.

O'Brien's prose is to-the-point and subtly poetic. Once you start reading, it's very difficult to put down. Give this one a try if you don't mind the content that comes with a novel about war.

Download the Kindle book from Amazon Download the Audible audio book from Amazon

If none of these recommendations strike your fancy, check out a list of all of our past recommendations. We promise you'll find something you'll like:

Tons more recommendations from Team Windows Central.


Your favorites?

What have you been watching, reading, and listening to this week? We want to know, so drop a comment and share your recommendations.