1 “Rush” is a Formula One racing drama of almost irresistible forward momentum. The on-track action is blistering, the filmmaking sure-footed (even as cars fishtail into catastrophic crashes), the characters bigger than life. Even more important, it avoids the stock plotting that turns most sports movies into bland emotional pick-me-ups. It’s one of Ron Howard’s best films, certainly his most surprising. Who knew that this competent craftsman had such a furiously exciting, sex-drenched story in him?
2 Humans are a bunch of clumsy squares in E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web,” which is receiving a charming production at Children’s Theatre. As they go about their boring business, they are clueless about the intelligent lives of their animals. Meanwhile, the critters in the show — from the spelunking title spider to an oversized, over-the-top rat — are having their own ball. They also have emotional lives marked by feelings of affection and loss. www.childrens-theatre.org.
3 Joyce Maynard has a gift for exploring how dark and unexpected events can turn the staid, quiet lives of American suburbanites, especially children and young people, upside down. “After Her” may be her best novel yet, a psychological murder mystery set in Northern California’s Marin County in the 1970s that’s loosely based on real events. A 13-year-old narrates the story, in which she and her kid sister come of age in a shabby home that sits at the edge of a beloved mountain where a strangler has preyed on several women.
4 “Good People” at Park Square Theatre is a good production with a TV star who lives here now (James Denton), a director with a light touch (Joel Sass) and a good story (by David Lindsay-Abaire) about the contrast of blue-collar South Boston and wine-and-cheese Chestnut Hill, as two former high school friends meet later in life. www.parksquaretheatre.org.
5 “The Diving Board,” Elton John’s first new studio album in seven years, won’t make a big splash with all his fans. It’s stripped down, just piano, bass and drums, produced by minimalist master T Bone Burnett. So don’t expect any ornate pop pieces. Bernie Taupin is again writing lyrics, which can sometimes leave you scratching your head. But there are enough winners — including the melancholy “Can’t Stay Alone Tonight,” the jaunty “Mexican Vacation (Kids in the Candlelight)” and the Leonard Cohen-evoking “My Quicksand” — to make you want to download several tracks.
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