1 “Oculus” is not just a howling good horror film. It’s a terrific film by any standard, a smart, character-driven, original, creepy hair-raiser with no cheap scares. The assured, nerve-racking theatrical debut of writer/director Mike Flanagan, “Oculus” could be an account of supernatural happenings, or a story seen from the viewpoint of a lunatic. The key players are a twentysomething woman and her slightly younger brother, reunited after his decade-long stint in a psychiatric hospital; they are both still emotionally wounded by the violent deaths of their parents 11 years ago. Totally unpredictable, this film is a new classic.
2 The absorbing, flawlessly staged “The Mountaintop” at the Guthrie marries the real and the mythical in a two-person drama that re-imagines the last night of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life. He is visited in Room 306 of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis by a coffee-delivering maid who is a chirpy, flirtatious cross between a Motown backup singer and a church usher with a surprisingly tart tongue. She knows his buttons and she pushes them at will, almost as if testing him so he can get to his spiritual essence. guthrietheater.org
3 Best known these days as the Grammy-winning songwriter who has worked with Adele, Taylor Swift and Pink, Minneapolis-reared, Los Angeles-based Dan Wilson will release his overdue second solo album, “Love Without Fear,” on Tuesday. It’s a little lighter and occasionally a little twangier (and mandolin-spiked) than his 2007 solo debut, “Free Life.” But with his sweet, pretty, reassuring voice, it’s hard to resist this swell pop collection of left-field love songs, which tell us that relationships are complicated but worth it.
4 During World War II, five U.S. film directors at the peaks of their careers — John Ford, Frank Capra, John Huston, William Wyler and George Stevens — voluntarily joined the military to make movies (mostly of the propaganda and training variety) for the government, often putting themselves in harm’s way. In his book “Five Came Back,” Entertainment Weekly writer Mark Harris offers a meticulously researched account of the men’s experiences. It’s a must read for anyone who loves history or movies — or both.
5 There’s a reason Entertainment Weekly put “Orphan Black” on the cover of a recent issue featuring “criminally underrated” TV shows. This Canadian sci-fi import hooks you from its first harrowing scene. As a woman who discovers she’s one of several clones who are now being killed off in the aftermath of a dark experiment turned deadly, Tatiana Maslany has to be the hardest-working actor in the business — she plays them all. Season 2 keeps up the breakneck pace as single mom Sarah races to find her kidnapped daughter. Premieres at 8 p.m. Saturday, BBC America
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