1 "The Witch" is an uncommonly strange, superlatively foreboding folk tale that is full of surprises. Set in 1630 New England, Robert Eggers' film explores the chilly Puritan logic that sparked Salem's witch trials, as God-fearing people began to fear one another. Is "The Witch" a parable on fundamentalist hysteria or a devout warning against abandoning faith? Either way, this is a compelling film.
2 It's hard to be a Kanye West fan sometimes — what with all the Twitter rants about Bill Cosby's innocence, T-Swift's fame and his own deep debt. But then he finally releases "The Life of Pablo" and we see him for what he is: a supreme provocateur with an unmatched ear for kaleidoscopic, challenging pop beats. The production on each song of his seventh album mutates from minute to minute as synths and samples fight for Kanye's attention. The effect is jarring and often sublime. He has made the perfect album for the disjointed social media age.
4 "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife" has some script issues, but come on, dramaturgy schamaturgy. The ridiculous story of a Manhattanite obsessed with herself (played by Sally Wingert) is rendered with such dust-dry wit that we cannot help but get lost in the laughs. Ends March 6. mnjewishtheatre.org
5 Too bad it's February in Minnesota, because we probably won't fully appreciate Iowa-bred folk-twangers the Pines' new album "Above the Prairie" until we crank it in the car on a warm night with the windows down. Songwriters David Huckfelt and Benson Ramsey sing of celestial beauty overhead and the lovely things right in front of our eyes. The album is full of Lanois-like sweeping sounds but with a few charming twists, such as the Irish-flavored choir piece "Here" and a moving contribution by American Indian poet/activist John Trudell, who died shortly after nailing his part.
3 Annie Baker's play "The Aliens" is a slow-moving affair, with lots of silence between the lines. But Baker has great affection for the three misfits who animate her tale. You must be willing to give this production some patience, for it will ultimately grip you with a devastating turn. Ends Feb. 27. walkingshadowcompany.org