1 AMC’s underappreciated “Halt and Catch Fire” is on fire with its Season 2 story line of a women-run online gaming start-up in 1985 Dallas. Work politics and well-drawn lead characters of both genders give the show an ’80s “Mad Men” vibe, and the writers’ surprising refusal to dumb down the tech talk and programming plot points is a gift to retro nerds. We’re not sure how much all this resembles the real early computing business, but no less than Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Wired magazine have given the thumbs up. The season’s fourth episode is at 9 tonight.
2 Especially while it’s still so new it doesn’t have any commercials yet, iHeartRadio’s new throwback rap and R&B station Hot 102.5 FM has been a surprisingly entertaining listen since hitting the Twin Cities radio dial two weeks ago. It’s a bit like what we imagine Kevin Hart’s iPod to sound like, from old-school Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac joints on up to early Kanye, right, and Jay-Z tracks, plus forgotten guilty-pleasure sexy jams by the likes of Jagged Edge and Candyman. Our only complaints are its signal doesn’t seem to reach beyond Minneapolis, and we haven’t heard enough local music. You know, like Next or Sisqó.
4 “If this was a touching romantic story our eyes would meet and suddenly we would be furiously making out with the fire of a thousand suns. But this isn’t a touching romantic story,” says Greg, the narrator in “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” This movie about two high school boys, a girl and cancer reveals a platonic connection that is utterly nonromantic, like an adolescent “Harold and Maude.” Or at least it seems to be.
3 Always one to change things up, Neil Young takes two unique turns on “The Monsanto Years” (out Tuesday). First, his collaborators are Willie Nelson’s gifted sons Lukas and Micah and their band Promise of the Real, who provide a very convincing stand-in for Crazy Horse’s ragged glory. And the songs are all rants against America’s corporate food providers and box-store mentality, i.e. “A Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop” (get it?). Idea No. 1 works better than idea No. 2, but all told it’s one of Young’s best records of the past decade.
5 Sarai Walker’s “Dietland” is a feminist fairy tale about women taking back their lives, their body images and their happiness from a big, bad sexist society. A young woman named Plum, fat and getting fatter, is on her way to stomach-stapling surgery when she gets drawn into a women’s commune. At the same time, an underground movement called Jennifer begins taking feminist philosophy to an extreme with kidnapping, castration and murder. It’s a fun, cathartic read, best enjoyed with a big ice cream sundae.