1 A grandly conceived, impressively mounted swashbuckler, the animated “Epic” features action, romance, “Avatar”-worthy fantasy visuals and characters cold-blooded, heroic and lovably goofy. Like many fables, “Epic” begins in the forest. Unseen by humans, nature is locked in a timeless struggle between the colorful powers of growth and the dark forces of decay. This may be the thinking family’s best Saturday matinee of the summer. And the date movie of the season.
2 As Mötley Crüe so famously, crudely demonstrated in its 2002 autobiography, metal musicians have no qualms about sharing their dirt with the public. The new oral-history book “Louder Than Hell,” compiled by longtime hard-rock scribes Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman, is loaded with countless sordid tales by everyone from Black Sabbath and Judas Priest to Korn and Iowa’s Slipknot. You’ll never look at groupies the same way after reading this one, but you’ll also get insight into such definitive moments as Ronnie James Dio pioneering the devil’s salute and Limp Bizkit laying Woodstock ’99 to waste.
3 The smart, sleek film “What Maisie Knew” liberates Henry James’ 1890 novella, a disturbing story of emotional violence surrounding an upper-class London child-custody dispute. Instead of self-involved aristocrats, the not-so-noble players are a fading rock star (Julianne Moore, never better) and a manipulative art dealer (Steve Coogan at his most insinuating) fighting over their daughter (Onata Aprile) in present-day Manhattan. The manners of the leisure class have transformed. The nature of emotional warfare endures. The story is sad, but the talent involved in its telling is elating.
4 The ever-popular “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is back for a third Chanhassen run. As Joseph, newcomer Jared Oxborough brings innocence and an irresistible desire to charm us — the perfect ingenue. Keith Rice returns with his hammy-and-cheesy Elvis routine as Pharoah. The production is colorful, the dancers are athletic in tight spaces, and two kids from the audience join the cast at every performance. This shtick-loving show is light, sweet and remarkably brisk for the Chan. www.chanhassendt.com
5 “The Other Typist,” Suzanne Rindell’s debut novel, is creepy, fascinating, enthralling, glittering, confounding — and more. Set in the 1920s in New York City, it’s told by a police-department typist who is mousy and prim, judgmental and prudish, but she’s knocked off her perch by her first glimpse of a glamorous woman who arrives as the department’s other typist. The book takes us to speakeasies and boarding houses, fabulous parties and penthouses. A great read, and a must-read if you’re suffering from Gatsby withdrawal.