1 It is always about Masha, the leggy, glamorous, successful sister. She has friends, money, fame and complete power over everyone else in Christopher Durang’s deliciously arch play “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” at the Guthrie. This play satisfies every Chekhov sweet tooth you might have. It is about the fear of change, the gap between generations, the comfort of sloth and the pomposity of artificial wealth. Stay with this show (it can test your patience at times) because as happens with good plays, things come together in a satisfying way. guthrietheater.org
3 This is what happens when blockbuster filmmaking sits on a whoopee cushion. A highly combustible mix of space opera and camp comedy, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is crammed with fun, though you wouldn’t predict that from the setup, a 1988 curtain-raiser about a frightened kid and his cancer-ravaged, widowed mother. But he’s soon whisked into a world of fantastical escapism by space pirates who abduct him. The plot is the plot of many a Marvel comics film, with a big creep planning to destroy a planet but, with so many Kevin Bacon “Footloose” references and a Rob Zombie vocal cameo, how can you not love this movie about saving the universe?
4 Heavy and thick enough to use as a jack stand the next time their tour van breaks down, Doomtree’s new 500-page coffee-table book “Every Single Day” is light enough reading to thumb through in a few hours. However, the many candid or posed photos of the Twin Cities hip-hop crew — by such insiders as Ben LaFond and Zoe Prinds-Flash, plus their own selfies — will keep you coming back with their artistry, hilarity or peculiarity. The scores of old album, flier and merch art will take fans back, too.
2 In William Kent Krueger’s latest mystery, “Windigo Island,” private investigator Cork O’Connor turns his big brain and prodigious courage to finding a teenage girl who is missing from a Wisconsin Indian reservation. His investigation takes him from his home in northern Minnesota to Bayfield, Wis., the port of Duluth and the oil fields of North Dakota — all vividly, beautifully described. Krueger skillfully lays out the enormous problem of sexual trafficking of runaway girls (particularly Indian girls), but the book reads as a mystery, not as a polemic. The St. Paul writer will launch this book on Aug. 19 at Once Upon a Crime Bookstore in Minneapolis.
5 As lively and fun as Beck’s own new record is drab and boring (though many fans and critics disagree on that front), the new all-star collection “Beck’s Song Reader” is worth a listen even if the “Loser” hitmaker has never won you over. The album is based on his 2012 sheet-music book of unrecorded songs, interpreted here by the likes of Jack White, Norah Jones, Jeff Tweedy, Jarvis Cocker and Loudon Wainwright III. From Jason Isbell going thrash-rock to Juanes and Swamp Dogg going all Beck-y, it’s unpredictable but never gimmicky.
Poll: Of "naughty" and "nice" Christmas movies, which is your favorite naughty one?