August 04, 2014 12:00 PM

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No. 1

Lucy

Scarlett Johansson kills with her mind (and warps space-time) in the summer’s trippiest thriller MOVIE ACTION Abducted by a drug kingpin and implanted with a bag of strange blue powder, Lucy (a ferocious Johansson) is the damsel in distress for all of 10 minutes of this heady thrill ride. But as soon as that stash leaks – and Lucy’s mind starts expanding exponentially, giving her the ability to access more than the standard 10 percent of her brain – things get far more interesting. Able to manipulate radio signals, control atoms and kill with a single thought, Lucy becomes invincible – and oh so bored. So she drafts a neurologist (Morgan Freeman) to study her powers, ignoring a mounting drug war as she masters the quantum physics underlying human existence. Tired of sequels? You’ve never seen a film like Lucy. (R)

SO BAD IT’S GOOD!

No. 2

Sharknado 2: The Second One

It’s New York’s turn to run from Syfy’s nutty airborne version of Deadliest Catch

TV ACTION Ian Ziering and Tara Reid reprise their craptastic roles as Fin (get it?) and April, survivors of L.A.’s inexplicable sharknado (for those who missed last year’s absurd TV movie, tornados + shark swarms = flying great whites), who now are seeking shelter from a similar big-toothed downpour in Midtown Manhattan. They’re joined by a deliciously random school of guest stars (Judd Hirsch, Billy Ray Cyrus, Judah Friedlander, Kelly Osbourne and Robert Hays, among others) who scramble among shark-infested New York City landmarks while Today‘s Matt Lauer and Al Roker pop up frequently as themselves to “report” on the fishy twister. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” exclaims Lauer. Neither have we! (Syfy, July 30, 9 p.m.)

No. 3

Dating Naked

TV REALITY Blind dates in the buff? VH1’s new reality show dubs it the “honest way” to find love. Awkward hugs abound as exposed singles pair off and bare all in this full frontal dating experiment. Lucky for viewers, it’s all a blur. (VH1, Thursdays, 9 p.m.)

No. 4

“Weird Al” Yankovic

8 new parodies, 8 viral videos

MUSIC VIDEOS COMEDY Eight new online music videos in eight days – that was the humorous marketing strategy behind Weird Al’s latest album, Mandatory Fun. Yankovic spoofs everyone from Pharrell to Lorde; his most creative new remix is “Word Crimes,” a reimagining of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” as a grammar lesson. (weirdal.com)

No. 5

Beck, Song Reader

With a little help from his (famous) friends, his signature sound gets a makeover on this compilation

MUSIC ALTERNATIVE Nearly two years after the publication of a sheet-music collection by the same name, the singer-songwriter’s creations are brought to life on this quirky 20-song album by artists ranging from Fun (the delightful “Please Leave a Light on When You Go”) and Norah Jones to Jack White and Juanes (whose Spanish-language addition is a can’t-miss). Though Beck is featured on only one song – the dreamy “Heaven’s Ladder” – his skillful touch is felt throughout.

No. 6

The Best New Books

A heart-warmer from Sweden, a gut-wrencher about politics and family, and an eye-opening look at our crazy love for dogs.

Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Ove

NOVEL

They call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But when a family he can’t ignore moves in next door, the cantankerous hero of Swedish author Backman’s charming debut starts to reconnect with the world. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll feel new sympathy for the curmudgeons in your life. You’ll also want to move to Scandinavia, where everything’s cuter.

Judith Frank

All I Love and Know, NOVEL

After a bomb explodes in Jerusalem, a gay Massachusetts couple, Daniel and Matt, take in Daniel’s lost brother’s two devastated children. In this wonderfully rich, absorbing novel, Frank sheds light on gender and identity, the anguished politics of the Middle East, the limits of love and one family’s struggle to stay intact.

BOOK OF THE WEEK

Benoit Denizet-Lewis, Travels with Casey

MEMOIR

Why are Americans so devoted to dogs? The author and his Lab mix Casey hit the road to find out, visiting 32 states in an RV. They stop in at doggie yoga classes and dog-friendly hotels, canine therapists, psychics and masseuses. Denizet-Lewis’s conclusion—we prize dogs because they love us unconditionally—isn’t surprising. But the abundance of fun facts (shelter pups are more likely to be adopted if they’re renamed Beyoncé …) makes his journey well worth sharing.

GREAT BEACH BOOKS

Stephanie Evanovich, The Sweet Spot

Steamy love between a curvaceous restaurateur and the baseball superstar she falls for. A ton of fun, no deep thinking required.

Lee Grant I Said Yes to Everything

Not only that, but she tells everything. A juicy, no-holds-barred memoir from the once-blacklisted star of Peyton Place, Shampoo andValley of the Dolls.

Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella Have a Nice Guilt Trip

True tales of how we live now from a mother and daughter who are best pals—and a very funny writing team.

No. 7

The Immigrant

MOVIE DRAMA

James Gray’s meticulous period piece follows Ewa (Marion Cotillard) as she arrives at Ellis Island in 1921, and tracks the indignities that await the Polish immigrant in a cruel N.Y.C. Separated from her ill sister, rejected by her Brooklyn relatives and lured into a life of dancing and prostitution by a self-hating schemer (Joaquin Phoenix), Ewa has every reason to give up her American dream. But she doesn’t – and in Cotillard’s anguished resilience, we see one of the year’s great performances. (R, Netflix)

No. 8

Colony House ‘Silhouettes’

The sons of singer Steven Curtis Chapman find their groove

MUSIC ALTERNATIVE

Summer, with its endless sunshine, begs for a soundtrack equally as pleasant. Enter “Silhouettes,” the first single from the young Nashville trio’s album When I Was Younger. The rock-tinged tune mixes a foot-tapping tempo with lyrics that stoke introspection – especially the kind done while cruising to the beach.

No. 9

Magic in the Moonlight

Woody Allen returns with a quirky and seductive caper

MOVIES ROMANTIC COMEDY

It is the South of France in the 1920s, and the countryside is gossiping about the young, beautiful American medium (Emma Stone) who leads séances to chat with the dead and the famous British illusionist (Colin Firth) who’s just parachuted in to debunk her “powers.” As mild a mystery as you’ll ever find, Magic proves more enchanting as an accidental romance – converting two charming actors, a sexy locale and a swift, smart script into instant chemistry. (PG-13)

No. 10

The Honorable Woman

MINISERIES DRAMA

Politics is personal in this thriller about an Anglo-Israeli business-woman (a stoic Maggie Gyllenhaal) who must cope with her past and overcome family secrets as she retools her dad’s arms empire into a peaceful philanthropic firm. (SundanceTV, July 31, 9 p.m.)

No. 11

Manhattan

TV DRAMA

Hired for a classified government project, scientists transplant their families to the desert at the height of World War II. It’s the Manhattan Project, of course, but what distinguishes this series isn’t its secret weaponry but the harrowing specter of a community – all its brilliant physicists and fragile families – pushing itself to the breaking point to beat Hitler to the bomb. (WGN America, July 27, 9 p.m.)

No. 12

Lindsey Stirling

A ‘hip-hop violinist’ loses America’s Got Talent, then becomes an online star

STREAMING MUSIC

She may have lost a reality competition, but dancing violinist-composer Lindsey Stirling has won the Internet. The star of multiple YouTube channels, which have generated a half-billion views for her classical-electronic tracks and everyday videos, Stirling also just self-released a second album, Shatter Me. (YouTube.com/LindseyStomp)

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