Media Mix

A Quick Take on New Releases for Sunday, August 19, 2007

  Title Basic Story Sample Grab What You'll Love What You Won't Grade
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By Amy Bloom

Random House


In the mid-1920s, a 22-year-old Russian Jewish refugee living on Manhattan's Lower East Side sets out for Siberia to search for the daughter she once thought was dead.

"[The porter] pushes Lillian and her bag in a closet, and she hears the key turn in the lock. 'Twenty-two hours,' he says. 'Not a sound.' "

— Our heroine begins her journey across America

Bloom's secondary characters, from an African American prostitute in Seattle to a tortured Alaskan telegraph operator, meld the best of short-story detail with a panoramic sweep.

The New York-based opening flirts with predictable immigrant saga cliches; the novel doesn't take off until our heroine herself does.

— Reviewed by Adriana Leshko

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Letters to a Young Teacher

By Jonathan Kozol



The National Book Award-winning author shares letters between himself and a spirited young teacher named Francesca who's beginning a difficult tenure at a Boston public school.

"Down with concerns about the global marketplace.... Childhood does not exist to serve the national economy. In a healthy nation, it should be the other way around."

— Kozol reinforces Francesca's approach to her students

Kozol's love for his students is as joyful and genuine as his critiques of the system are severe. He doesn't pull punches when discussing politicized education issues.

Bright-eyed rookies beware: Kozol depicts a difficult, depressing situation with the bureaucratic decrees that stifle the spirits of well-meaning teachers and their young charges.

— Sara Cardace

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The globe-trotting U.K. rapper, goes back to the future on her sensational sophomore disc. It's the most innovative pop album we're likely to hear this year.

"Hands up / Guns out / Represent the world town"

— "World Town"

From global club bangers ("Bird Flu") and Bollywood disco gems ("Jimmy") to moody future funk ("The Turn"), M.I.A.'s approach feels bold and boundless.

Is it too futuristic? To quote Marty McFly: "I guess you guys aren't ready for that yet. But your kids are gonna love it."

— Chris Richards

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Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations

Cornel West

Hidden Beach


Instead of criticizing rap from the sidelines, the esteemed scholar gets into the act, curating this compilation of socially conscious hip-hop, R&B and spoken word.

"Caught up in the fog of war they let the Big Easy flood / You tellin' me that you would do what Jesus does? No, I don't believe you"

— Talib Kweli on "Bushonomics"

Diddy couldn't muster a guest list this impressive. West lands cameos from Andre 3000, Jill Scott, KRS-One and even His Royal Purpleness, Prince.

How does West expect to engage young listeners when a majority of his guest artists are older than 30?

— C.R.

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The Lives of Others

Rated R



In 1984 Berlin, a secretpolice officer (Ulrich Muehe) spies on a playwright (Sebastian Koch) and an actress (Martina Gedeck), and starts to question the rationale behind his Orwellian job.

"Blacklisting? We don't do that in this country. You should choose your words more carefully."

— A culture minister (Thomas Thieme) quietly menaces dramatist Georg (Koch) over cocktails

Muehe's muted performance as a conflicted Stasi agent is remarkable, and the disc includes both an insightful commentary and an interview with director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

The film initially grants viewers a look at the desperation behind the Iron Curtain, but its resolution seems a bit too tidy and "movie-ish."

— Greg Zinman

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Ugly Betty: The Complete First Season -- The Bettyfi ed Edition

Not Rated

Buena Vista


Adapted from a Colombian telenovela, this hit fish-out-of-water dramedy follows the travails of earthy, braces-wearing Betty Suarez (America Ferrera), a plucky fashion magazine assistant.

"Have you seen her yet?" "Yes, and it looks like Queens threw up."

— Ice queen creative director Wilhelmina (Vanessa Williams) gives her notes on Betty

The ensemble cast is loaded with talent from "Extras," "Entourage" and "The O.C.," as well as such stars as Salma Hayek and Gina Gershon -- lending emotional heft to the sporadically witty material.

While divertingly pleasant, you have to have a taste for ludicrous soap-opera plotting to fully enjoy the show.

— G.Z.

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PC, Xbox 360

Rated Mature

2K Games


The mysteries of Rapture, a once-idyllic underwater metropolis undone by genetic experimentation and a tycoon's paranoid rule, await in this first-person adventure.

Genetic modifiers called plasmids grant players the powers of telekinesis, pyrokinesis and bio-electric discharge.

BioShock's tense storytelling, stunning graphics and striking World War II-era aesthetics complement a first-rate gameplay design that allows for clever improvisational combat.

The dark, foreboding lighting can make exploring Rapture's terrain a little too time-consuming.

— Evan Narcisse

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Crazy Taxi: Fare Wars

PlayStation Portable

Rated Everyone 10+



In this compilation (featuring the original Crazy Taxi and its sequel from the old days of Sega Dreamcast), traffic laws are null and void as you zip passengers to their destinations.

With two huge cities to trash -- New York and San Francisco -- there's no end to the amount of vehicular damage you can inflict.

Play head-to-head against a friend to see who can plow through fences and mow down hot dog carts to get their client to the same venue faster.

The game is still just as great as it was eight years ago, but if you played it to the point of tedium back then, you won't find anything new here to spice it up.

— Christopher Healy


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

© 2007 The Washington Post Company