We're liking the latest by Big Boi and Vince Flynn, the new FDR flick, puzzles of classic album covers and "Elf."
1 Why can't all hip-hop albums be as fun as Big Boi's? Always seen as the more strait-laced and rugged member of OutKast, the Atlanta rapper carries on his old group's playful spirit and psychedelic funk tones with smile-inducing methodology on his second solo album, "Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors." He gets heavy and dirty with T.I. and Ludracris in the woofer-booming "In the A," but the record's defining songs include the Prince-copping, Kelly Rowland-guesting "Mama Told Me" and the spastic "Thom Pettie" with indie-rocker Wavves -- both fluffy and superfluous tracks, and that's more than OK.
2 Mitch Rapp is in a really, really bad mood -- and that's great news for fans of Vince Flynn's signature CIA power player. In "The Last Man," he's searching for the CIA counterintelligence whiz who's been kidnapped in Jalalabad, he's just run into the assassin who murdered his wife and unborn daughter a few years back, and there are the corpses of 21 heavily armed Afghan cops piled up outside the door. Yeah, we know all of Flynn's books become bestsellers, as this one has. But "The Last Man" is arguably Flynn's best work yet. Tight, right and dynamite.
3 Franklin D. Roosevelt used a wheelchair because of polio, but "Hyde Park on Hudson" paints a genial, warts-and-all portrait that demonstrates that he was in many ways a real live wire. Charmingly represented by Bill Murray, the film's FDR is a jaunty bon vivant who enjoys his cigarettes, martinis, good conversation and plenty of extramarital sex. If you like your U.S. history breezy, here's a film half as long as "Lincoln" and three times funnier.
4 Jigsaw puzzles of classic album covers seems like such an obvious idea. But RedisCover's new line takes itself seriously: The puzzles are two-sided (if you have a glass table, you can see the back side of the original LP cover). Plus, the record label, artist, photographer and art director are all getting compensated. One concession for baby boomers: The 300-piece puzzles are inflated to 16 by 16 inches, which makes it easier to read the back liner notes for "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" and Jimi Hendrix's "Axis: Bold as Love."
5 "Elf," the musical at the Ordway, is adapted from the 2003 movie comedy starring Will Ferrell. It retains many scenes from the film but ramps up the holiday sentiment. Like Ferrell, Matt Kopec imbues Buddy, the 6-footer raised by elves at the North Pole, with wide-eyed innocence and open emotion, but delivers them in a bigger and broader fashion. A natural, Kopec has a gorgeous singing voice that recalls a young Matthew Broderick. www.ordway.orgthe five spot our five faves of the moment
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