1 There's an unforced charm to "Fading Gigolo" that dares you to quibble about its crazy plot. In a case of monumentally unlikely casting, John Turturro plays a New York City florist turned high-priced escort, and Woody Allen plays his quick-talking pimp. Seriously. The actors make a genial comedy team, and their enterprise feels romantic rather than sordid. Turturro, who wrote and directed this film, is an irresistible soul, a gentleman gigolo, juggling his emotional obligations with the demands of kinky cougars Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara. Allen does his best acting in a decade. Uptown Theater
3 In "Alec Soth: Until Now," a poignant 31-image exhibit at Weinstein Gallery, the St. Paul photographer composes each shot as carefully as if it were a still life or a film scene. The subjects might seem casual or offhand, but the formality of his compositions gives them an arresting stillness that deepens their appeal and mystery. There is a coiled and knotted snake centered on a slab of marble, a snow figure at the middle of a swirling vortex of crystalline light, a crucifix with a detached leg bowed over a wintry Iowa valley. While the photos seem bleak at times, they also are marked by warmth, tenderness, bruised beauty and gentle humor. weinstein-gallery.com
5 Gina Gionfriddo's smart, provocative "Rapture, Blister, Burn" offers loads of trenchant ideas and arguments about the aspirations of women and men trying to fulfill themselves. Yet, as the dust settles, the denizens of Gionfriddo's universe appear as uncertain as they ever were. The feminism she explores in this 20% Theatre production at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage makes its own rules and discoveries, recognizing the mileposts of history yet not at all a prisoner to orthodoxy. She seems interested in probing unhappiness among modern women with an honest inquiry, rather than prescribing pat solutions. www.brownpapertickets.com
2 While it's a bit too rustic to warrant the $109 boxed-set version with a "direct from the booth audiophile" LP, Neil Young's "Letter From Home" is fun and heartfelt enough to make the standard edition a must for fans. He recorded the 11 cover songs in Jack White's vintage recording booth as a tribute to his mom. The emotional versions of Springsteen's "My Hometown," Dylan's "Girl From the North Country" and the Everlys' "I Wonder If I Care as Much" have a deeper soul that rises above the novelty of the lo-fi 1947 audio quality.
4 In Norwegian writer Jo Nesbo's latest hair-raising thriller, "The Son," readers are taken into the underworld of crime and police corruption in Oslo. The main character, Sonny Lofthus, is a heroin addict whose father was a corrupt cop. Sonny is in prison, and he seems to be a likable guy, but the question arises fairly quickly: Is he good or evil? Sonny learns a terrible secret, breaks out of jail and begins a campaign of retribution on the city's most ruthless and corrupt characters. The whole thing is a bit violent, but that's Norwegian noir.