Bill Irwin on 'Legion': An early contender for one of the most twisted shows on TV this year (or any other, really), Noah Hawley's nightmarish reinvention of the superhero origin story is inventive with its visuals, sound and casting, which includes this veteran stage performer. Maybe best known for his abilities as a clown (as seen in an episode of "Great Performances" and the '80s music video for Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry Be Happy"), Irwin is masterful here as split-in-two scientist Cary Loudermilk, a dramatic turn that also taps his gifts as a physical performer in moments that transform action sequences into an exquisite sort of ballet.
Earthen Sea's 'An Act of Love': Like the seemingly contradictory elements that make up this project's name, this album from electronic artist Jacob Long is an immersive mix of what should be two competing elements: ambient atmosphere and head-bobbing beat music. Expertly targeted for nocturnal road trips served with an inescapable air of urban unease, the album is spellbinding whether through the dark, off-center drive of "Exuberant Burning" or the low hum that circles "The Flats 1975," an insistent take on minimalist techno that eventually dissolves into the airy gloom of the album's closing moments.
The everyman omnipresence of Ed Sheeran: Seemingly crafted in a U.K. laboratory out of an unused prologue from the film "Once" and a dream Taylor Swift had about an elf who plays guitar, Ed Sheeran dominates the charts so thoroughly it may alter how they're tabulated. And yet, despite the huge sales earned by each album, including the new "÷," this ginger John Mayer relies on a nice guy image that's grown exhausting. If only his upcoming cameo on "Game of Thrones" inspired Sheeran to turn heel and introduce a metal alter ego, something akin to a Renaissance Faire take on Garth Brooks' Chris Gaines? At least then he might surprise us.
Disney's content loop: Following a lucrative business model that began innocently enough with "101 Dalmatians" in 1996, the movie studio and lifestyle brand is in the midst of an ongoing repurposing effort for its best known titles that has seen new takes on "Cinderella," "The Jungle Book" and now "Beauty and the Beast," which premiered March 17. While it's tough to begrudge a winning formula — which will include "Mulan," "The Lion King" and "Dumbo," somehow — remember when Disney was lauded for producing contemporary stories like "Zootopia"? Is making a few more of those per year instead too much to ask?
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