Top Picks: M.J. Carter's novel 'The Strangler Vine,' the movie 'Clouds of Sils Maria,' and more

Apple Music is very good at introducing the listener to new music, the National Geographic Channel program 'Kings of Baja' explores the Sea of Cortez, and more top picks.

National Geographic

What swims beneath

Baja, Mexico, which borders the most diverse sea on the planet, has a forbidding and majestic ecosystem that has fascinated humans for millenniums. From producer Michael Watchulonis and Emmy Award-winning cinematographer Johnny Friday comes a new National Geographic documentary, Kings of Baja, that explores the Sea of Cortez. It premières Aug. 2 at 10 p.m. on Nat Geo Wild. 

Movie night

In Olivier Assayas’s Clouds of Sils Maria, Juliette Binoche plays Maria Enders, an internationally celebrated actress who is offered the chance to star in the role of the older woman in a revival of the same drama that made her famous 20 years before. But to do so she must face down her own fears of ­aging to work with a troubled but highly talented young costar, Jo-Ann Ellis (Chloë Grace Moretz). It’s now available on DVD.

Beach reading

Odd couples (Hello, Holmes and Watson) are tantalizing no matter the era. M.J. Carter affirms that in her fun, well-crafted historical-fiction debut, The Strangler Vine, a tale of corruption, mystery, and colonialism set in 1830s India. Street gangs, exotic religious rites, and British paternalism are the backdrop for Jeremiah Blake and William Avery, disgruntled officials of the East India Company. There is more than a little swash in their buckles, and Carter knows her way around a phrase.

Apple and beats

When Apple finally released its all-encompassing music app the world expected, well ... the world. The verdict? Apple Music is very good at such things as introducing the listener to new music, using actual humans (instead of algorithms) to intuit what listeners might like. The 30-million-song library will please even the most jaded music head even if it errs on the side of too many choices. Take a free three-month trial spin and make up your own mind at

Zeppelin unearthed

It’s the Led Zeppelin session that time forgot. In 1972, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant recorded raga-rock versions of “Friends” and “Four Sticks” with Bollywood musicians in India. Those songs are included on a remastered, expanded version of the band’s 1982 rarities album Coda. (Also reissued: “Presence” and “In Through the Out Door.”) Led Zep rock archaeologist Page has also unearthed artifacts such as the 1968 blues romp “Sugar Mama.” “St. Tristan’s Sword,” a previously unreleased instrumental, has acquired mythical status among fans.  

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