Media Mix

A Quick Take on New Releases for Sunday, June 10, 2007

  Title Basic Story Sample Grab What You'll Love What You Won't Grade
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Cat O’ Nine Tales and Other Stories

By Jeffrey Archer
St. Martin’s Press

The prominent British writer and politico spins his stint in prison (after a conviction for perjury) into a collection of crime stories.

"Max struck a match, lit his hand-rolled cigarette, and inhaled deeply before he began. In prison, every action is exaggerated, as no one is in a hurry."

— The author awaits his cellmate’s story about outwitting the police

The stories are quick and concise, and it’s easy to empathize with Archer’s idiosyncratic characters, as morally misguided as they may be.

From someone who’s touted as a master of storytelling, you’d expect something more than a mostly unmemorable, mildly entertaining group of tales.

— Reviewed by Sara Cardace

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The Maytrees

By Annie Dillard



The Pulitzer Prize winner’s first novel in 15 years is a gorgeous meditation on one couple’s slog through marriage, separation and reconciliation.

"Theirs was too much feeling to push through the crack that led down to the dim world of time and stuff."

—The Maytrees’ love affair, before the heft of time (and life) tore it apart

Dillard’s spare yet lofty prose teems with unassuming power — a talent only the most seasoned of writers seem to master.

Readers on the verge of a breakup or blinded by the onset of a new romance might flinch at Dillard’s all-too-true depiction of love’s ebb and flow.

— Alexis Burling

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Big Dog Daddy

Toby Keith

Show Dog Nashville


The Dixie Chicks might not be ready to make nice, but Nashville’s favorite alpha male is. His new album is light on testosterone and heavy on hooks.

“I ain’t asked her out yet / ’Cause I don’t know if I can / It’s just a high maintenance woman / Don’t want no maintenance man”

—“High Maintenance Woman”

Keith keeps the macho act in check and applies his barrel-chested baritone to a panoply of moods and modes.

The title track is the only dud. Its shticky bravado can’t compete with the clever tunes that surround it.

— Chris Richards

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Mark Ronson

Red Ink


The producer behind Amy Winehouse steps into the spotlight with a soulful solo disc of delightful cover tunes. Timbaland, Puffy, et al., take note!

"I'm addicted to you, but I know that you're toxic. "

— "Ronson’s Afrobeat-inspired take on Britney Spears’s “Toxic”

Ronson’s sharp ear and killer horn section make Radiohead’s “Just” sound like a Specials vamp, and they transform the Jam’s “Pretty Green” into a rave-worthy romp.

Vocalist Daniel Merriweather’s rendition of the Smiths’ “Stop Me” feels overbearing and melodramatic, even by Morrissey’s standards.

— C.R.

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Luxuria: Casanova, Vol. 1

Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba



Plucked from one timeline and inserted into another in which he’s dead, amoral super-thief Casanova Quinn must become a double agent inside his father’s massive paramilitary peacekeeping organization. Confused yet?

"Geopolitical destabilization!
. . . I love this job "

— Casanova’s father gets excited during a mission briefing

Fraction imagines a dangerous, sexy world of psychedelic espionage that pays homage to its influences but succeeds in being its own uniquely trippy thrill ride.

Some of the plot devices are waaaaytoo convoluted.

— Evan Narcisse

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Rated PG-13



This true-life spy story fi nds earnest FBI trainee Eric O’Neill (Ryan Phillippe) tasked with finding intel on the seemingly pious Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper), whose treasonous actions resulted in the worst security breach in U.S. history.

"The enemies of this country aren’t so picky. They’ll work with anyone who shares their hatred of us."

— Hanssen (Cooper) tries to misdirect his young charge (Phillippe) with a little flag waving

Cooper remarkably manages to make a colossally creepy traitor seem human. A commentary track by O’Neill and director Billy Ray fleshes out the DVD.

Phillippe tries hard but lacks Cooper’s nuance and is thus out-acted at every turn.

— Greg Zinman

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Ghost Rider

Rated PG-13



In this Marvel Comics-inspired adaptation, a young stunt motorcyclist (Nicolas Cage) sells his soul to the Devil (Peter Fonda) to save his father and ends up becoming Satan’s personal bounty hunter.

"He may have my soul, but he doesn’t have my spirit."

— Johnny Blaze (Cage) heroically misunderstands the whole Faustian bargain thing

As the narrator and mysterious Caretaker, Sam Elliott manages to escape this flaming turkey with his dignity intact.

Why does Fonda look as though he’d rather be smoking a joint poolside than playing history’s most famous fallen angel?

— G.Z.

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Brookdown High

PlayStation Portable

Rated Teen



As the new transfer student, you need to say all the right things to make the jocks, nerds and goths like you — and maybe you'll even score a date in the process.

The classes you take determine how your character develops (physics makes you smarter, French boosts your charm).

In an homage to teen comedy films, the game ends with a glimpse of how your life turns out after graduation.

There's not enough dialogue programmed into the game; conversations repeat ad nauseam.

— Christopher Healy


PHOTOS: Courtesy
Adapted from version orginally published in The Washington Post

© 2007 The Washington Post Company