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Archive for Monday, December 1, 2008

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The Edge

December 1, 2008

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‘Hancock’ (DVD)

Will Smith shows off his box-office superpowers again, taking a dark story about a superhero who despises the people he’s bound to protect and turning it into his latest summer hit.

Smith plays the title role, a boozy misanthrope with a strange connection to a woman (Charlize Theron) whose husband (Jason Bateman) tries to give the hero a makeover to improve his public image.

The PG-13-rated theatrical release and an unrated version with extra footage are available in separate single-disc DVD releases, while a two-disc DVD set and the Blu-ray edition contain both cuts of the movie, along with a digital copy for portable video players.

Extras include a making-of segment and a batch of behind-the-scenes featurettes on the character, costumes and story development. Single DVD, $28.96; two-disc DVD set, $34.95; Blu-ray, $39.95. (Sony)

‘The First Hour I Believed (Book)

Wally Lamb’s new novel, 450,000 copies of which have just arrived in bookstores, is big enough to threaten Thanksgiving and maybe even Christmas, as readers ignore turkey basting and tinsel tossing to turn the 723 wide-ranging, heavily plotted pages of “The Hour I First Believed.”

Lamb writes big books. And popular ones. Oprah Winfrey added the paperback edition of “She’s Come Undone” and Lamb’s 900-page second novel, “I Know This Much Is True,” in her Book Club, a bestowal that invariably sends the anointed novel on a rocket ride.

Although there are dozens of characters in Lamb’s new novel, it has at its center the cranky and disconnected Caelum Quirk and his wife, Maureen. Their marriage splinters over an infidelity. Seeking a new start, they move from Connecticut to Colorado. Caelum, a teacher, and Maureen, a nurse, each get jobs at Columbine High School. When Caelum is away, Maureen witnesses the 1999 rampage of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold that left 15 dead and many more injured.

The tragedies and trials faced by Caelum and Maureen are contemporary, even the nonfictional ones. Deciding to graft the actual event, including the names of the victims, into his fictional account, was tricky. But, Lamb said, “I felt that as a high school teacher for 25 years I could put myself in those corridors and empathize.”

‘I am ... Sasha Fierce’ (Music)

Beyonce’s bid at musical immortality comes this week with the release of “I AM ... SASHA FIERCE,” her third solo CD, something of a departure from the frenetic funk of her previous two multiplatinum albums, “Dangerously in Love” and “B’Day.”

While the new album certainly has its share of club anthems — one of its first singles is the bouncy jam “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” — it is a double-CD with two personalities. The upbeat side is dubbed “SASHA FIERCE” (the namesake of her onstage, divalicious alter ego); the “I AM ...” portion is a ballad-centric pop album that features Beyonce at what her father and manager, Matthew Knowles, calls her most revealing.

“She shows more vulnerability on this record,” says Knowles, who with Beyonce acts as executive producer. “That’s a natural growth of her age and life experiences.”

Songwriter Makeba Riddick, who co-wrote songs on “B’Day” and was part of a team of writers on the ballad “Ave Maria” with Beyonce, says that growth was apparent during the creation of “I AM ... SASHA FIERCE.”

“The energy, it was different,” says Riddick. “’B’Day’ was a bunch of dance tracks, and it was a lot of fun records, party records, and this is more reflective and personal. (She’s) just showing a more mature side of her and music.”

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