Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort and Jonah Hill, left, in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Mary Cybulski • Paramount Pictures via the New York Times,

Julia Udine and Ben Jacoby.

Matthew Murphy,

"The Heir Apparent: A life of Edward VII, The Playboy Prince," by Jane Ridley.

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Amy Adams and Christian Bale.

Sony Pictures,

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Our five faves of the moment: "Wolf of Wall Street,” "Phantom of the Opera,” "American Hustle,” more

  • December 28, 2013 - 2:00 PM

1 The brilliance of Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” is that it delivers a strong-medicine rebuke not with a spoonful of sugar, but a nose full of blow. The film is a fleet-footed three hours of startling moments, 99 percent of them hedonistic and hilarious. As with his “Goodfellas,” Scorsese’s new movie comes not to bury its colorful villains but to praise them. Leonardo DiCaprio’s triumph in the lead role is that he makes us enjoy this magnetic monster. Jonah Hill plays his grasping junior partner, his most abrasive, least ingratiating character ever, yet one of his funniest.

2 The story line and songs remain the same. But what’s been revamped in the ever-popular “Phantom of the Opera” is director Laurence Connor’s staging, now at the Orpheum Theatre through Jan. 5. It is more scaled down but more high-tech, with plenty of pyro. While the turntable sets make for quick changes, the most fascinating design aspect is a winding staircase that seems to magically appear as the Phantom conducts Christine to his mysterious lair. The strong cast is led by the glorious Julia Udine as Christine and the commanding Mark Campbell in the title role.

3 Jane Ridley is a scholar, prize-winning biographer and wonderful writer, and the 700 pages of her “The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince” just fly by. Granted access to 150 volumes of documents from his reign as King of England, she has delivered a book that’s smart, fascinating, sometimes funny and well-documented. It reads like a novel, with “Bertie,” as he was known to his family and Ridley’s readers, so vivid he nearly leaps from the page — cigars and all.

4 There’s a mad extravagance to “American Hustle” — the in-your-face ’70s furs and disco suits, the whipped-meringue hairstyles, the multilayered characters, the sprawling story. Inspired by the real-life Abscam scandal, the plot of this exceptionally funny crime caper by David O. Russell is jumbled but intentionally so. “American Hustle” is a screwball romance about the love of power, with A-list stars— Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner — who mostly live up to their reputations.

5 In a year in which the Replacements garnered so much attention for their reunion onstage and in the studio, a Mats fan couldn’t find a cooler souvenir than the picture book “The Replacements: Waxed Up Hair and Painted Shoes.” Chock full of priceless photos, posters and passionate commentary by Minneapolis critic Jim Walsh, this photographic history is more satisfying and accessible than Walsh’s 2007 oral history of the beloved Minneapolis rock ’n’ roll misfits. This book may not answer all your questions about the ’Mats, but it captures the band’s essence as much as a flier pictured within did: “Warning: Radio stations have determined that the Replacements are hazardous to your health.”

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