Top Picks: Amazon Studios' 'Vanity Fair,' Ingrid Michaelson’s 'Songs for the Season,' and more top picks

See how the robot InSight's successful landing happened with a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory video, the movie 'Eighth Grade' stars Elsie Fisher as Kayla, a teenager navigating middle school, and more top picks.

Shervin Lainez

Middle school story

The movie Eighth Grade stars Elsie Fisher as Kayla, a teenager navigating middle school. Monitor film critic Peter Rainer writes that Fisher is “marvelous” and that the film is a “modest charmer.” The movie is available on DVD and Blu-ray and is rated R for language and some sexual material.

'Vanity’ adaptation

William Makepeace Thackeray’s classic novel is adapted for TV with Amazon Studios and ITV’s new take on Vanity Fair, which debuts on Dec. 21. Olivia Cooke stars as scheming protagonist Becky Sharp. 


NASA view

The robot InSight has successfully landed on Mars. See how it happened with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory video, which shows what occurred at Mission Control as signals began to come back. You can find it at

Donate meals

Coverage of recent conflicts has highlighted the food insecurity faced by many global citizens. Some estimates say more than 84,000 children have starved to death in Yemen since the country’s civil war began in 2015. ShareTheMeal, an app from the United Nations World Food Program, provides a place to donate money toward hunger relief. The app allows donation tracking and provides notifications to keep you in the loop. The app is free for iOS and Android.

Retro holiday

Here’s the open secret about Christmas albums: They’re seldom recorded during the yuletide season. The marvel of Ingrid Michaelson’s Songs for the Season is that it convincingly sounds as if she really had convened a 35-piece orchestra for a December-night party ... in 1948. Her elaborate yet unfussy big-band arrangements of “Looks Like A Cold, Cold Winter” and “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” evoke an era when the hottest name in pop music was Bing Crosby. Meanwhile, Michaelson’s composition “Happy, Happy Christmas” boasts a chorus as memorable as any of the album’s beloved traditionals.

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