1 From the ashes of his intended documentary on heroic cancer-surviving bicycling champ Lance Armstrong, Oscar-winning doc filmmaker Alex Gibney has fashioned something valuable in “The Armstrong Lie.” Reconfiguring his footage after Armstrong’s disgraceful confessions, Gibney has created an unforgettable portrait of an egotist unshakably convinced of his own greatness.
2 Let the malls entice more holiday shoppers with their variety and slashed prices. Thanks to them, last weekend we didn’t have to wait in line at the Santaland mega-display on the eighth floor at Macy’s in downtown Minneapolis, a tradition for families with young children since 1963. The gyrating elves and singing Christmas trees haven’t changed in several years, but they still unfailingly bring out the oohs and ahhs from the kiddies. Also not changed: The free admission price, which is especially appreciated this time of year.
3 This year’s “Christmas of Swing” marks the fourth time the History Theatre in St. Paul has trotted out the Minnesota-born Andrews Sisters to celebrate the season against the backdrop of World War II, and it may be their brightest appearance yet. With a newly designed set, a few other tweaks and the solid trio of Ruthie Baker, Stacey Lindell and Jen Burleigh-Bentz, this swingin’ Christmas musical drama is refreshed, invigorated and ready to boogie-woogie. www.historytheatre.com
4 In Helen Fielding’s “Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy,” Jones, older and (thankfully) not much wiser, is raising two adorable moppets and looking for love on the Internet while trying to write a screenplay and accumulate Twitter followers. (Her dating tips are quite good, by the way.) In this third Jones novel, our heroine is still hilarious and hopeful, even while making crazy mistakes and pointed asides and romancing a sexy younger man, the inspiration for the Dinah Washington-inspired title.
5 The year-end lists for best albums of 2013 are arriving in this month’s magazines (or at least the ones that used to be magazines). While all seem to agree on Vampire Weekend, Kanye West, the National and Daft Punk as top contenders, both Rolling Stone’s and Spin’s tallies were otherwise far off the mark. Instead, Paste has delivered the most definitive list so far, with high nods for Phosphorescent, Janelle Monae, the El-P and Killer Mike collaboration, and Jason Isbell. Pastemagazine.com.