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Archive for Monday, August 3, 2009

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The Edge

August 3, 2009

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‘Twenties Girl’ (Books)

In “Twenties Girl,” chick-lit queen Sophie Kinsella introduces readers to Lara Lington, a 27-year-old Brit who sees something no one else can see: a ghost.

Lara’s great-aunt Sadie shows up at her own funeral — as a young woman in her prime, from the 1920s, with one last request. Sadie needs to find a missing necklace, and she wants Lara’s help.

The plot is far-fetched, but “Twenties Girl” isn’t all detective work. The story also follows Sadie and Lara — who have great chemistry on the page — as they relate as women from different eras. This is the best part of the novel. Although they bicker back and forth, Sadie and Lara also perform tender acts of love and generosity toward one other.

If there’s one complaint, it’s that Kinsella’s main characters tend to be neurotic, self-conscious, down-on-their-luck women who find themselves in absurd situations (like being able to see a ghost). It would be nice to see Kinsella, author of the popular “Shopaholic” series, step out of her comfort zone and write a character who is completely different, with a unique voice.

‘Watchmen: Director’s Cut’ (DVD)

If Batman’s badly needed cinematic reboot put comic book films on a new kind of notice, “Watchmen” — which brings the cherished 1986 graphic novel both to the big screen into the mainstream — essentially raises the bar beyond reach. That’s in equal parts due to how well the film brings to life the anti-superheroes and villains (Jackie Earle Haley, Billy Crudup, Malin Akerman, Patrick Wilson, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Matthew Goode) that comprise the cast, how faithful it is to the source material in doing so, and how perfectly it makes the alternate-history United States in which they exist practically a starring character in its own right.

“Watchmen” checks in at a bloated 162 in theatrical form and 24 minutes heavier in Zack Snyder’s director’s cut. But outside of a few momentary lulls and the occasional narrative redundancy, it utilizes that time to pay meticulous tribute to the source material without drowning in the details. It also captures, unflinchingly, just how savagely violent the original comic was.

Jordin Sparks (Music)

“Battlefield” may be the perfect title for Jordin Sparks’ sophomore CD, simply because you’ll struggle to get through her war chest of songs.

The 12-track set is overloaded with too many songwriters and producers — Ryan Tedder, StarGate and T-Pain help out, among others. Though all that talent is around, there’s no real direction. Some tracks sound Celine Dion-esque, while others are clearly crafted for Radio Disney. “Emergency (911)” and “S.O.S. (Let the Music Play)” are meant to be playful and cute, but they aren’t. “Don’t Let It Go to Your Head,” a FeFe Dobson cover, is clearly not as good as the original, and on “No Parade” and “Let It Rain,” Sparks’ vocals are impressive but overdramatic.

The majority of the songs are sad love ballads, but Sparks fails to make listeners emotionally connect.

The 19-year-old does prove why she deserved the 2007 “American Idol” crown on the groovy “It Takes More” and the first single, “Battlefield.” Sparks fares better on the songs she penned (she co-wrote four tunes) like “The Cure,” the powerful “Faith” and the exceptional “Was I the Only One.”

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