1 "What We Do in the Shadows" tackles a movie genre lacking lifeblood — the vampire saga — and spins it into a wonderful paradox, a surrealist spoof that puts the "dead" in "deadpan." Imagine a Christopher Guest mockumentary that's quite gory, with humor full of foreboding and malevolent twists. The forces — co-directors/co-writers/co-stars — are Jemaine Clement of "Flight of the Conchords" fame and Taika Waititi, a former Oscar nominee for best live short.
2 "There are things in this book, as in life, that might upset you," Neil Gaiman warns in the introduction to "Trigger Warning," and he is not kidding. These 24 stories and "short disturbances," as he calls them, are unsettling, scary and dark. Almost as interesting are Gaiman's notes on how he came to write each story. One was written as a 90th birthday gift for Ray Bradbury. Another is a companion to Gaiman's very popular "American Gods." These pieces are not terribly complex, but they are deeply entertaining, each with its own very Gaiman-esque plot twist. Loads of dark fun.
3 The accomplishments of Minnesota's most successful American Indian artist are eloquently reprised in "Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison," at the Minnesota History Center. With more than 80 paintings, drawings and sculpture spanning his 60-year career, the show is a well-deserved tribute to Morrison's complexity, steady vision, integrity and character. mnhs.org
4 One of rock's most underappreciated bands of the 1970s, the J. Geils Band walked the line between grease and glam, blues and rock, bar band and show band. Peter Wolf was a delightfully manic frontman, and Magic Dick was a smokin' harmonica player (love him on "Whammer Jammer"), and these Boston boys were a nonstop party in their pre-hitmaking "Centerfold" days. The evidence is abundant on the DVD/CD "House Party Live In Germany" captured in 1979.
5 Charles Dickens is closely examined in the one-man show "To Begin With," receiving its world premiere in Minneapolis. The play takes place in 1847 on the Isle of Wight, where Dickens has brought his family for vacation while he works on the manuscript of "David Copperfield" but instead decides to write a children's version of the Christian gospels. Gerald Charles Dickens, great-great grandson of the writer, gives a marvelously textured performance in this inspired peephole into the mind of the famous author. musicboxtheatre.org