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The Month Ahead

BLOCK PARTY

Since its 1932 founding, Lego has churned out roughly 560 billion building pieces — enough for every person on earth to construct, say, a tiny schoolhouse. But as the new book The Cult of Lego shows, some obsessives set their sights much higher, using the plastic blocks as inspiration for art (a re-creation of Escher’s staircases), innovation (prosthetic hands) and general awesomeness (an 80,000-brick T. rex skeleton). The book has plenty of lore and lingo, too, which will come in handy should you visit the new Legoland — the world’s biggest — in Winter Haven, Fla., or hobnob with fellow AFOLs (Adult Fans of Lego) at the BrickFair convention Jan. 14-15 in Birmingham, Ala.

FEMME FATALE

Plotwise, Haywire is nothing new: An elite agent is double-crossed and seeks revenge on the folks who set her up. Yawn. But factor in director Steven Soderbergh’s decision to assign the lead role to mixed martial arts star Gina Carano, and you’ve got something else entirely. Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas and Ewan McGregor all take turns looking concerned or impressed, and Soderbergh brings a sophisticated touch to this adrenaline-packed thriller, but ultimately it’s Carano’s realistic action scenes that’ll keep audiences riveted. Opens Jan. 20

FRAME CHANGE
Steven Soderbergh’s casting choices aren’t his only surprising moves
The auteur, whose blockbuster filmography includes Ocean’s Eleven and Contagion, has announced that after a few more movies he’s taking a break to try his hand as an artist (a painter, specifically). “I’m interested in exploring another art form while I have the time and ability to do so,” he told the New York Times. “I’ll be the first person to say if I can’t be any good at it and run out of money, I’ll be back making another Ocean’s movie.” That’s quite a fallback.

USE YOUR ILLUSION

Equipped with little more than household items, chamber magician Steve Cohen has been eliciting oohs and aahs from such luminaries as Warren Buffett and David Letterman for more than 10 years. In anticipation of his first show at New York’s Carnegie Hall on Jan. 12, we had him teach us an easy trick to help launch our own careers as professional illusionists.

1. Before the show, fold two $20 bills into eighths. Tuck the folded bills into your shirt collar, one behind each ear.

2. Show the audience that both hands are empty. Say, “I have magic elbows that help me whenever I need some cash!” Lift your right elbow toward the audience and point to it with your left hand. While everyone is looking at that spot, quickly grab the folded $20 bill from your collar with your right hand and keep it hidden there.

3. Repeat the move for the left side.

4. Bring both of your hands forward, and make them into fists. Cross your arms and then “bump” your fists against your elbows. Open both hands to reveal the cash hidden inside. Study the audience’s response to see if they bought it. Revise as needed.

ROGUES GALLERY

Showtime’s protagonists shouldn’t be so easy to root for: a drug-dealing mom, a serial killer and now, the worst yet — a business management consultant (Don Cheadle) who ruthlessly manipulates everyone in his path in “House of Lies,” debuting Jan. 8. Here are three more unapologetically shady protagonists making trouble on cable:

Kenny Powers in “Eastbound & Down” (HBO) • Danny McBride is back as the baseball washout who is his own (and everybody else’s) worst enemy.

Tom Kane in “Boss” (Starz) • Kelsey Grammer sheds all traces of lovable psychiatrist as a take-no-prisoners Chicago mayor with a brain disorder.

Frank Gallagher in “Shameless” (Showtime) • The Gallagher kids might be better off without their degenerate, money-squandering dad, played by William H. Macy.

STRANGERS IN A STRANGE LAND

Los Angeles is surreal already, but the clocks will really start melting when “In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States” opens at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Jan. 29. Works by famous women surrealists like Louise Bourgeois and Frida Kahlo will be on display, as well as paintings and sculpture by lesser-known artists. Here’s a guide to figuring out which of the latter you might like:

IF YOU LIKE — LOOK FOR
Joan Miró — Alice Rahon
René Magritte — Helen Lundeberg
Max Ernst — Julia Thecla
Yves Tanguy — Jacqueline Lamba
Man Ray — Kati Horna
Salvador Dalí — Remedios Varo

SHE’S THE MAN
Glenn Close goes undercover in Albert Nobbs

Now that’s a passion project: It’s been 30 years since Academy Award nominee Glenn Close took the lead role in an off-Broadway play about a woman passing as a man in order to work as a waiter in 19th-century Ireland, and 20 since she started trying to turn it into a film. She even co-wrote the Albert Nobbs screenplay (after acquiring the rights to the short story it’s based on). “There’s something deeply affecting about Albert’s life,” Close says. “She never stopped continuing to move me.” There’s a good chance the Academy will be moved, too. Opens Jan. 27

QUOTED

“I very much doubt that our grandchildren will understand the distinction between that which is a computer and that which isn’t.”
From Distrust That Particular Flavor, a collection of essays by sci-fi master William Gibson. Out Jan. 3

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