Hugh Jackman in "Les Miserables"

Laurie Sparham, Universal Pictures

The Five Spot

  • Article by: Star Tribune staff
  • January 11, 2013 - 2:21 PM

1 After decades of promises and delays, the musical version of "Les Misérables" is worth every minute of the wait. Director Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech") marries propulsive, character- driven drama to scenes of jaw-dropping spectacle and tender intimacy. The Broadway score's indelible songs, recorded live on set by a dream cast (Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway), have a dizzying, electric immediacy no studio-tuned rendition could equal. Victor Hugo's tale of abject squalor and undying love, calamitous mobs and barricades, idealistic self-sacrifice and cold moralism has become a film of almost inexpressible beauty.

2 The sudsy ABC soap "Nashville" may be a guilty pleasure, but "The Music of 'Nashville' Original Soundtrack" is a real treat. Thanks to producers T Bone Burnett and Buddy Miller, and such songwriters as the Civil Wars and Elvis Costello, the material is first-rate country with traditional roots. The actors -- especially the warbly Clare Bowen and music star-bound Hayden Panettiere (think Miranda Lambert lite) -- are convincing as singers.

3 Dread dealing with kids cooped up on cold days? Look no further than "Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun," which has been on the indie-bookstore bestseller list and nabbed one of the world's greatest honors as far as we're concerned, a thumbs-up on New York magazine's Approval Matrix. Authors Elizabeth Foy Larsen (of Minneapolis) and Joshua Glenn have compiled a truly appealing collection of fun activities -- from science experiments and farting games to quizzes and comics -- that kids will actually get into.

4 The legendary 1960s sitcom "The Dick Van Dyke Show" won a trunkful of Emmys and later spawned the greatest TV DVDs ever produced. What could be better? The new 15-disc complete-series Blu-ray (Image, $150 at Amazon), with stunning high-def video and even more extras. Ottoman not included.

5 We can't get enough of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, oh, no, we cannot. And the attractive book "Celebrating Pride and Prejudice" by Susannah Fullerton, president of Australia's Jane Austen Society, helps get at the many reasons why that is. She gives the history behind Austen's "beloved child," as she called her novel, and looks for the qualities that gave it its "particular brand of magic." The illustrations are as much fun as the text. There are photos from various movie versions, including nice ones of Colin Firth and also Bollywood's "Bride and Prejudice," and a roundup of any number of bizarre sequels.

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