1 Comedies based on funny people in peril are movie gold. “Spy” proves that even when it’s about throwing stilettos rather than custard pies. This engaging secret-agent farce starring the wonderful Melissa McCarthy puts the dead in deadpan. It’s as if writer/director Paul Feig studied an Ian Fleming list of everything you’re not supposed to do in a spy yarn, then did it all — producing an excellent adventure movie that’s very funny.
2 Joe Dowling’s final production as director of the Guthrie is Sean O’Casey’s 1924 classic “Juno and the Paycock,” set during the Irish Civil War. Dowling’s soul demanded that he stage this play: He grew up poor in Dublin and hears the song in O’Casey words. Dowling’s farewell production is a dramatic gesture by a director always defined by his drama, on and off the stage throughout his 20 years here. guthrietheater.com
5 Florence Welch’s fiery voice and flaming-red presence made strong first impressions when Florence + the Machine hit big in 2009 with “Dog Days Are Over.” But the British bellower’s songs take center stage on the group’s third album “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.” It’s a breakup record guaranteed to get 2,100 critics’ comparisons to Adele’s “21,” but it’s far rockier and more grandiose, from the Pretenders-like opener “Ship to Wreck” to the Joni Mitchell-style epic ballad “Various Storms & Saints.”
3 Re-creating the life of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson in “Love & Mercy,” director Bill Pohlad and two lead actors fashion a touching and perceptive film. Paul Dano plays the 1960s-era Wilson with uncanny skill — part Mozart, part teddy bear. John Cusack picks up the second stage of Wilson’s life, and his portrayal of a man increasingly divorced from reality feels just as accurate as Dano’s.
4 While new host James Corden is a too-eager-to-please cross between a fawning Jimmy Fallon and a silly Benny Hill, the real comic star of CBS’ “The Late Late Show” is bandleader Reggie Watts. Not only is the keyboardist a musical whiz, but he’s funnier than his boss. A sometime stand-up comic, Watts shows a wit that’s as free-flowing as his lion’s mane of hair. Love it when he throws absurdist questions at Corden’s unsuspecting guests.