1 Directed and co-written by Shane Black (who scripted “Lethal Weapon”), “Iron Man 3” races on a high-octane mix of spectacle, sarcasm and smarts. It balances massive, show-offy effects with hip knowingness and quirky human touches. It’s a comic-book world seen not from the viewpoint of a fanboy but a wiseguy adult earthling. With Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow, “IM3” is doing boffo box office, and deservedly so.
2 “Stick Fly” offers a window into the upper-crust black intelligentsia rarely seen onstage or on screen. For this regional premiere of the well-structured Broadway play, Park Square has an excellent cast. Traci Allen brings fiery intensity to the acid-tongued daughter whose daddy issues surface when she brings her boyfriend to meet her family on Martha’s Vineyard. Tracey Maloney is lyrical and wry, and James A. Williams shows a commanding meanness as the father. www.parksquaretheatre.org.
3 Some writers seem to turn out wonderful books effortlessly — like Tracy Kidder, whose résumé includes the Pulitzer-winning “Soul of a New Machine,” and the even better “House” and “Mountains Beyond Mountains.” But behind every writer is an editor, and in “Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction,” Kidder and his longtime editor, Richard Todd, discuss everything from how they communicate to how to structure a narrative to whether it’s acceptable to change facts in nonfiction to make it more lyrical. The conversational “Good Prose” is like going to a great writing workshop without ever leaving home.
4 Even if you raised your hands in disgust over her Iraq war protest in the Dixie Chicks, you have to hand it to Natalie Maines for finding common musical ground on “Mother.” Her largely twang-less solo debut boasts hard-to-argue-with covers of the Roger Waters-penned title track, Eddie Vedder’s “Without You” and two Minnesotan gems, the Jayhawks’ “I’d Run Away” and Dan Wilson’s “Free Life” (Gary Louris also co-wrote one new tune). Nobody doubted Maines’ ability to sing. With producer Ben Harper’s help, she proves she can rock, too.
5 “In the House” is a cleverly structured comic thriller rich with narrative trickery and macabre humor. It’s the story of a jaded high school lit teacher who pushes a star student to write about the “perfect” family of his classmate whom he often visits. What begins as a standard, if well-written, film about a lower-class outsider enamored of a bourgeois family evolves into a spellbinding comic drama about voyeurism.
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