1 Despite its unusually clumsy title, “Attack of the Best of the Brave New Workshop” proves why the 55-year-old Minneapolis comedy company has had such staying power. The sketches, which date to the Nixon era, are wittily incisive. They tackle divisive issues with elucidating humor. Racial ignorance, homophobia and misogyny all come up for skewering in “Attack,” as do the Vikings’ quest for a stadium, Christian metal rockers and Michele Bachmann. www.bravenewworkshop.com
2 The Little Engine That Could, the plucky little dynamo who beats the odds by believing in herself, gets a radical remake in “Turbo,” the animated story of a high-revving snail who enters the Indianapolis 500. The script has a nice sense of sports savvy (Robert Siegel, writer of “The Wrestler”), and the ace voice cast (Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Bill Hader) makes a dozen colorful characters come alive. There are some teachable moments (about performance-enhancing drugs) and a gratuitous risqué gag. Nonetheless, “Turbo” belongs in the winner’s circle.
3 It was a small footnote to a major news story, but Toki Wright’s playlist for Tuesday’s Hoodies Up rally for Trayvon Martin in downtown Minneapolis had some serious legs to it. The Twin Cities rapper/educator/father brought a portable sound system to the youthful event to provide a soundtrack as varied as Sam Cooke’s “Change Is Gonna Come,” M.I.A.’s “Born Free” and Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name,” with local tracks by Brother Ali and Greg Grease fitting right in. Spotify users can give the 51-song mix a spin under Wright’s name.
4 It’s a garden party of a different kind. Minnetonka Center for the Arts’ “Art of the Garden” exhibit features paintings, prints, photos and sculptures of plants, flowers and the like by more than 30 regional artists. Catherine Hearding expertly deploys transparent watercolors to capture the luminosity of fruit and flowers. Thomas D. Nye cleverly pushes the seasons in “Wire Tomato Hoops in Garden” with wet snow falling (pictured). Like summer days themselves, these are images to savor and enjoy for their simple beauty. www.minnetonkaarts.org.
5 Sweet Relief is a nonprofit that since 1993 has raised money for professional musicians who lack health insurance. “Sweet Relief III: Pennies From Heaven,” their third charity collection, features such stars as k.d. lang, She & Him and Ben Harper interpreting pop classics. There are also lesser-known singers, including former Twin Cities favorite Tina Schlieske, who out-Joes Joe Cocker on “With a Little Help From My Friends.”
Poll: Of "naughty" and "nice" Christmas movies, which is your favorite naughty one?