1 Watching Cirque du Soleil’s “Amaluna” in the big tent across from Mall of America is like watching human fireworks. We go oooh and ahhh at these jaw-dropping feats of gymnastics and body-bending, but the true showstopper is the quietest moment in the two-hour extravaganza. Lara Rigolo Jacobs, as the “balance goddess,” starts by standing in an assembly of loose palm fronds of various sizes. In slow motion, she piles one strategically atop another and begins to balance them in thin air. By the end of her breathtaking bit, she has built a big armature that looks like the ribcage of some Jurassic whale.
3 A riveting tale of two American astronauts cast adrift, “Gravity” is a spectacle of brilliantly orchestrated action set-pieces and relentless narrative drive. It contains some of the most impressive feats of technical virtuosity ever committed to film. Yet its real power is in its urgency, the pull of the story’s anxiety and almost unreachable hope. That emotional impact is one of the many qualities that elevates this Sandra Bullock/George Clooney science-fiction adventure into a stratospheric achievement.
4 “Intense rehearsals” was the reason Drake gave for postponing his fall tour (including a Target Center gig, rescheduled for Dec. 8), but after hearing his third album “Nothing Was the Same,” we wonder if he just needed to cheer up a bit before hitting the road. The Toronto rapper was already known as hip-hop’s most sensitive guy, and he lays out even more raw emotions than before on the surprisingly downbeat yet sonically adventurous record. Even the more intense songs such as “Worse Behavior” come more from heartache than chest-beating.
5 The goings-on in Washington might be crazy, but they’re not nearly as nuts as the shenanigans on “Scandal” — Shonda Rhimes’ stylish, breakneck-paced and insanely over-the-top tale of powerful D.C. fixer Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), whose own life is one hot mess. Let’s see, there’s her on-again, off-again affair with the president; her dalliance with a mysterious spy guy who has been ordered by her father (?!) to bump her off, and her complicity in an election-rigging scheme. Throw in Pope’s delicious wardrobe and a killer ’70s-funk soundtrack, and you’ll get why “Scandal” is one of TV’s most buzzed-about shows. 9 p.m. Thursdays, ABC.
2 The compelling 3-D film spectacle ‘’Metallica: Through the Never’’ gives you a roadie’s-eye view of the mighty metal boys in concert, in full middle-aged glory. The sound isn’t quite loud and powerful enough to rock your body like a Metallica concert does, and the fan-fantasy subplot of a young roadie sent to pick up a mysterious package (think “Rosebud” from “Citizen Kane”) is befuddling, bizarre and bloody. But, dude, being that close to the flames, watching Lars Ulrich go nuts on the drums and having the statue of Justice tumble in 3-D, you have to throw up a devil’s horn — the metal equivalent of two thumbs up.