By now, all the cast recordings from the 2013-2014 season have been released, and there are a lot of good ones this year! But the budget-conscious Broadway fan can’t buy them all, so here’s a handy list of the ones worth checking out.

I’m only considering the ones with entirely brand-new music. And before anyone decries the omission of Aladdin – yes, it did get a Best Score Tony nomination, but most of the worthwhile songs are already available on the movie soundtrack.

#5: ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’

Gentleman’s Guide won the Tony for Best Musical, and that does not happen unless there are some good songs in the show! Most of the songs are comedic in nature, though I feel the comedy stems more from the staging than from the music itself. Still, there are quite a few songs that are worth listening to out of context. Oddly enough, none of the truly memorable tunes are sung by Jefferson Mays, who received all the awards attention for his performance.

The best song is “I’ve Decided to Marry You,” the showstopper that was performed at the Tonys. The murderous protagonist Monty is proposed to by Phoebe D’Ysquith as his mistress Sibella eavesdrops, leading Monty to sing about his difficult choice between the two ladies. The two ladies get a second chance to sing together to great effect in “That Horrible Woman,” where they enact a scheme to spring Monty from jail. Also worth a listen are the funny ensemble numbers that begin each act, “A Warning to the Audience” and “Why Are All the D’Ysquiths Dying?” (Amazon)

#4: ‘The Bridges of Madison County’

The polar opposite of Gentleman’s Guide, there is not a single moment of levity in this romantic drama that won Tony Awards for Best Score and Best Orchestrations. The music is penned by Jason Robert Brown (13 the Musical). The songs are long and complex, at times almost operatic, and leads Kelli O’Hara (as Francesca) and Steven Pasquale (as Robert) bring a lot of raw emotion to their songs.

The first act of the show was not particularly memorable, and the cast recording reflects that. The only standout in the first half is “Another Life,” a country song sung by the Robert’s ex-wife. The album picks up in the second half, and the last four songs are where you get your money’s worth. The standout is “One Second and a Million Miles,” the romantic duet to end all romantic duets. Beginning softly, the seven-minute song builds to a belting climax that will be sure to give chills.

Pasquale’s eleventh-hour solo, “It All Fades Away,” tells the story of a lifetime of loving from afar, and will be sure to break your heart. The melancholy will stay for the closing song, O’Hara’s “Always Better.” Since Bridges of Madison County had an early demise on Broadway, we should be grateful for this cast album preserving such a beautiful score. (Amazon)

#3: ‘If/Then’

If/Then is from Tony winners Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey of Next to Normal fame. It’s essentially “Idina Menzel: The Musical,” and the cast album can sit snugly on the shelf next to Wicked and Rent.

The highlights are Menzel’s belty ballads, which showcase an incredible range both vocally and emotionally. Chief among them is “Always Starting Over,” which Menzel performed at the Tonys. Other great songs include “The Moment Explodes” and “Some Other Me” (which also highlights Anthony Rapp). If you want your heart broken, listen to the quiet and emotional “You Learn to Live Without.”

For some much-needed levity, skip back to “What the Fuck?” That song perfectly encapsulates mornings after, with Menzel’s character questioning her poor life choices of the previous night. Though as evidenced by that song title, some of this cast album is not suitable for younger kids, no matter how much they love Queen Elsa. (Amazon)

#2: ‘First Date’

First Date was created by no one you’ve ever heard of, opened the 2013-2014 Broadway season, closed in January, and was promptly forgotten about by Tony season… unless you had the cast album. The score of First Date is in the Wicked style – pop-rock, with a good mix of fun numbers and Broadway ballads. It starred Zachary Levi (Tangled) as Aaron and Krysta Rodriguez (Smash) as Casey, who are on a first date. The ensemble bemoans the perils of dating in “The One” to open the show, and get several fun songs about dating like “The Awkward Pause” and “The Check!”

Casey’s sassy gay friend gets the hilarious “Bailout Song” plus reprises, while Casey’s douchey ex-boyfriends get “That’s Why You Love Me.” Any Jewish listeners will be cracking up during “The Girl For You” – the ghost of Aaron’s grandmother scolds Aaron for dating a non-Jewish girl. Rodriguez and Levi get one true duet and a solo each – the very funny duet is “First Impression.” Rodriguez gets a power-ballad, “Safer;” Levi gets one of the best ever NSFW kiss-off songs to an ex in “In Love With You.”

Lest you think the show is all fun, there is true emotion on display in “The Things I Never Said,” a song from Aaron’s mother that had the entire audience and some of the cast weeping. The First Date cast recording is remarkably consistent in quality – there’s a song now and then that can be skipped, but most of the music is well worth listening to. (Amazon)

#1: ‘Heathers’

Indeed, the best score of the season was not even heard on Broadway, but off-Broadway at the New World Stages. Heathers is an adaptation of the 1980s cult classic – think Mean Girls with a body count. The score is written by Laurence O‘Keefe (Legally Blonde), and is absolutely infectious. It is hilarious, and entirely NSFW, with some very clever rhymes. There is not a single song on the cast album that is not worth listening to over and over; listing them all would be redundant.

“Candy Store” is the biggest earworm, sung by the Heathers to display their bitchiness. The lead characters, Veronica and JD, get three awesome romantic duets: “Freeze Your Brain,” “Our Love Is God,” and “Seventeen.” The score is full of dark reprises, so expect those romantic lyrics to get turned on their heads.

The best song sung during sex since Avenue Q is “Dead Girl Walking,” which shows off impressive vocals (and also gets a dark reprise). For a song to party to, look no further than “Big Fun.” The single funniest song to come out of cast albums this season is “Blue,” a drunken ode to blue balls that will have you laughing out loud and feeling terrible about it. Finally, be ready for the showstopper “My Dead Gay Son,” a very comedic take on homophobic parents learning to love their gay sons. (Amazon)

These five cast albums should tide us over until the next Broadway season begins. Which songs and scores have been your favorites this year?

Major changes coming to ‘Sense8’ season 2

And I'm excited about what happens next.

11:00 am EDT, May 30, 2016

Sense8 is currently in production for their second season, and they’ve gotten pretty far. Here are some important things you need to know about what’s to come for your favorite cluster!

Ever since Sense8 debuted on Netflix a year ago I’ve been obsessed. Not only because it was such a fantastic premise of connecting eight people, but because it was so immensely diverse and represented so many people from all over the world. Now that we’ve got a season 2, it’s about time to start learning what it’ll be about.

There’s some major things about Sense8 season 2 that are going to be dramatically different, and we’ve gotten an update on what our favorite characters will be up to this season thanks to BuzzFeed.

There’s only 1 Wachowski left

One of the biggest draws of Sense8 was the fact that it was a Wachowski sister production. These sisters have brought us The Matrix and Cloud Atlas so we knew when we heard that last name that this was going to be an epic series.

This year, only Lana Wachowski is staying on to direct the show. Lilly Wachowski is taking the much-deserved time off after having just come out as transgender in March, and is using the time to focus on herself. Should the show return to Netflix for a third season then she’ll probably return.

The return of only one sister isn’t something that should affect the show too much, and I’m sure if it does then any changes will be welcome and give the show a fresh vibe — not that it needs it.

Sense8 Nomi Amanita

Capheus has been re-cast

For those who enjoyed Capheus’ story in Kenya the most prepare yourselves for a major change. Due to disagreements between Lana and Aml Ameen, who portrays Capheus in season 1, Ameen left the show before production began.

Capheus’ story isn’t one you can just replace and end so suddenly, so instead of writing him out Wachowski opted instead to re-cast him. Toby Onwumere will now play the part.

For those of you concerned with any disagreement between Ameen and Wachowski being over her being transgender, Jamie Clayton, who plays Nomi, was adamant about stopping that rumor.

The good news is that Onwumere has been completely welcomed by the cast and he felt immediately connected to them upon meeting them at dinner for the first time. This makes me more confident that his chemistry with the actors will show on screen, which is one of the reasons I love Sense8 so much – the chemistry has been fantastic in every episode with all 8 actors.

But these changes can be amazing!

Even though they’re major changes from how the show operated last year, I feel like the new single director and the new actor is going to bring a welcome fresh take for the new season.

Every show can use something new in each season they come back just to keep it interesting and unique every year. I feel like, thanks to these changes made to the cast and crew, the story isn’t going to have to change too drastically just for the sake of change. Obviously it’s going to probably take to places we don’t expect, but that will be because the story is naturally progressing, instead of them trying to change actors and plots already set.

Are you excited for season 2 of ‘Sense8’

Hollywood reacts to ‘Begin Again’ director’s candid criticism of Keira Knightley’s acting skills

Should the trust between actors and directors ever be broken?

10:33 am EDT, May 30, 2016

After Begin Again director John Carney’s candid comments about Keira Knightley’s acting went viral, Hollywood has taken to Twitter to defend the British actress.

In case you’ve somehow not heard the story, here’s the sitch:

Over the weekend, The Independent released an interview with Irish director John Carney, in which he had some harsh words for former colleague Keira Knightley.

The pair worked together on the 2013 musical rom-com Begin Again, where Knightley starred opposite Mark Ruffalo as a promising young folk singer recovering from a broken heart.

Carney evidently wasn’t satisfied with Knightley’s performance, claiming she “always has an entourage that follow her everywhere so it’s very hard to get any real work done.”

Related: Exclusive: Keira Knightley, Joe Wright talk Anna Karenina and the choice to set it in the world of theater

Going on to praise both Ruffalo and Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine’s performances, Carney said, “I think that that’s what you need as an actor; you need to not be afraid to find out who you really are when the camera’s rolling. Keira’s thing is to hide who you are and I don’t think you can be an actor and do that.”

“I like to work with curious, proper film actors as opposed to movie stars,” he continued. “I don’t want to rubbish Keira, but you know it’s hard being a film actor and it requires a certain level of honesty and self-analysis that I don’t think she’s ready for yet and I certainly don’t think she was ready for on that film.”

Carney concluded, “I learned that I’ll never make a film with supermodels again.”

Now, Carney clearly had a frustrating experience working with Knightley on this film, and his distinction between ‘proper film actors’ and ‘movie stars’ may be legitimate in theory. Begin Again certainly wasn’t the great critical hit that Carney’s Once had been, and at the time of the movie’s release, Keira Knightley herself admitted that she struggled with the material, not being a singer-songwriter herself and having no great appreciation for music.

“It’s terrible. I know nothing about music whatsoever,” she told The Guardian. “I was always more into reading and drama. I was such a geek. … There’s often a huge link between music and memory. And I’ve got such a bad memory.”

But the issue Hollywood professionals have with Carney’s comments seem to have less to do with Knightley’s specific performance, and more about the fact that Carney made these comments at all.

Ava DuVernay certainly makes a great point about why Carney should have stayed silent:

Both industry professionals and notable journalists have joined DuVernay in speaking out against Carney. Here are some of their reactions:

All the same, there are some that find Carney’s candidness refreshing.

What do you think? Should John Carney have held back his criticism of Keira Knightley out of professional courtesy? Or was he right to share his negative experience?

John Carney rose to international fame with Once in 2007, and this year he’s coming out with a musical drama titled Sing Street.

Spectre director Sam Mendes is officially not returning for more James Bond movies.

While we wait for (almost certain) confirmation that Daniel Craig won’t reprise his role as 007 in the next James Bond film, we can at least contend with the knowledge that Sam Mendes will not direct Bond 25.

The two-time James Bond director came on board the franchise for the wildly successful Skyfall, but his follow-up Spectre was not considered as great of a success.

Even before Spectre‘s release, Mendes was talking about quitting the all-consuming franchise, saying at the time, “I don’t think I could go down that road again. You do have to put everything else on hold.” But it was only during a Welsh literature festival that he finally confirmed his departure.

Related: Quantico’s Priyanka Chopra doesn’t want to be a Bond Girl, she wants to be Bond

“It was an incredible adventure. I loved every second of it, but I think it’s time for somebody else [to direct],” said Mendes, as quoted via The Sydney Morning Herald. “I’m a storyteller. And at the end of the day, I want to make stories with new characters.”

Bond 25 is likely to be completely new chapter of the franchise, with Daniel Craig set to follow Mendes’ lead and officially announce his departure soon. Everyone’s been expecting him to bow out ever since his controversial promotional campaign for Spectre, and it’s even more likely now that his two-time collaborator has called it quits.

On the speculation about who might replace Craig, Mendes says, “I can guarantee that whatever happens next it will not be what you expect.”

“[Bond producer] Barbara Broccoli chooses who is going to be the next Bond, end of story. And without that there would have been no Daniel Craig because public support for Daniel was zero. It was her saying: ‘That man over there, he’s going to change the whole tenor, I’m going to cast him.’ That turned the whole thing on its head,” says Mendes.

Rumor has it that Tom Hiddleston is in talks to be the next James Bond, but until we learn more, we can speculate away as we wish! It’s also time to start making those Bond 25 director wishlists. Anyone know if Ava DuVernay is available?