1 "Ex Machina" is a tense, edgy tale of artificial love, intelligently crafted. Juxtaposing several kinds of stories, it's a coherent, suspenseful film noir battle of wills, and a beauty vs. beast gender fable. It opens in a confusing time of economic, technical and ethical upheaval. The self-involved CEO of a Google-like Web crawler runs every aspect of life, but he needs his boyish, sensitive apprentice to test his latest creation, a sentient, talking robot. The film makes us wonder if artificial intelligence is a bigger threat than the artifice of human beings.
3 After his 1987-91 run with the Replacements, Minneapolis rock hero Slim Dunlap recorded a pair of underexposed solo albums, "The Old New Me" and "Times Like This." The recordings were nicely repackaged and remastered as a double-LP set for Record Store Day last weekend, but they are available long-term. Seems fitting, given the timeless quality of his Stones-y rock songs about rock life and especially his tunes about what really matters in life.
2 Kate Andersen Brower's behind-the-scenes account of the servants at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is more sweet anecdote than exposé. For "The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House," Brower interviewed many of the maids, florists and electricians as well as several first ladies. While a few of the stories are juicy (naked Ronald Reagan), all are entertaining. She covers the grief of the Kennedy assassination, the mocha-cake indulgences of Hillary Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and many stories of day-to-day life.
5 In the rock musical "Next to Normal," 18 years have passed since Diana and Dan suffered the loss of a child. To curb her subsequent depression and bipolar disorder, Diana was medicated into a state of continual abstraction while Dan has become her loyal caretaker. Jessica Lind Peterson's luminous performance as Diana propels this hypnotic Yellow Tree Theatre production about the conflict between science and one's right to grieve. yellowtreetheatre.com
4 Anelace Coffee is bringing a much needed jolt of high-quality caffeine to Central Avenue in northeast Minneapolis. It features beans from a rotating list of acclaimed roasters, including Counter Culture (North Carolina) and Ruby (Wisconsin). Anelace's single-brewed pour-over is so delicately made you'll want to drink it black to take in all the natural tongue-twisting flavors. www.anelacecoffee.com