Media Mix

A Quick Take on New Releases for Sunday, September 9, 2007

  Title Basic Story Sample Grab What You'll Love What You Won't Grade
photo sample

Songs Without Words

By Ann Packer



The warmly received author of "The Dive From Clausen's Pier" delivers an ambitious story of the lifelong friendship and shared hardship between two friends, Liz and Sarabeth.

"How she lived made sense in a certain way, the bits and pieces of work she did that added up to a living -- a life."

— World-weary, dejected Sarabeth considers her existence

It's easy to find elements of one's own experiences in Packer's wise prose, which proves her an expert observer of the give-and-take that characterizes any deep friendship.

For all its empathy, the story never really takes off, probably because the main character (Sarabeth), a quirky grown-up orphan, fails to come into believable focus.

— Reviewed by Sara Cardace

photo sample


By Graham Swift



The Booker Prize winner's latest novel channels bleary-eyed Paula Hook's unease the night before she and her husband confess a 16-year-old secret to their teenage twins.

"I'm the only one awake in this house on this night before the day that will change our lives."

— Paula sets the scene

Swift fluently captures the manic, distressed voice of a shamefaced mother who seeks forgiveness from the people she holds most dear.

While skeletons in characters' closets are certainly alluring, having to wait 150 pages before the mysterious details are revealed is not.

— Alexis Burling

photo sample

Good Bad Not Evil

Black Lips



This punky Georgia foursome puts a fresh sneer on the vintage bluster of the Sonics, the Stooges and the Stones.

"All my friends are bad kids / Product of no dad kids / Kids like you and me"

— "Bad Kids"

Fans of the White Stripes' icky thumping will find lots of charm in these knotty, bratty tunes.

Does even the biggest nostalgist have room in their iPod for the umpteenth wave of garage-rock revivalism?

— Chris Richards

photo sample

Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates

Kenny Chesney



Poet? Pirate? Try punching bag. Chesney's latest heap of midtempo mush and banal balladry makes it easier than ever to pick on the multiplatinum country star.

"Don't blink / Just like that you're 6 years old and you take a nap / And you wake up and you're 25 / And your high school sweetheart becomes your wife"

— "Don't Blink"

After his short-lived marriage to Renee Zellweger, Chesney's domestic yearnings on "Wife and Kids" might pique the interest of Us Weekly subscribers.

Chesney pairs his brain-numbing platitudes with party tunes ("Wild Ride" and "Got a Little Crazy") that feel as rowdy as a T.G.I. Friday's happy hour.

— C.R.

photo sample

Away From Her

Rated PG-13



Sarah Polley directs Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie in the moving story of Grant and Fiona, a long-married couple whose relationship is drastically redefined as Fiona succumbs to Alzheimer's.

"So you see, I am going, but I am not gone."

— Fiona relishes her lucid moments

Christie and Pinsent earn every emotional response in a film that paints a picture of love and loss without taking any shortcuts. A commentary track with Christie is just icing.

Though you can't turn away from this movie, it is never easy to watch.

— Justin Rude

photo sample

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Not rated



Beginning with a massacre at Little Bighorn and ending with a massacre at Wounded Knee Creek, the HBO movie tells a shameful story of the government's treatment of Native Americans.

"The Sioux resisted because this land is theirs."

— Sen. Henry Dawes (Aidan Quinn) lobbies for kinder treatment of the Sioux

Among a number of satisfying performances by lesser-known Native American actors, August Schellenberg's portrayal of Sitting Bull, at turns demeaned and determined, stands out.

Some Hollywood types (Quinn, Anna Paquin) must make do with parts that are stiff or underdeveloped.

— J.R.

photo sample

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption


Rated Teen



Laser-toting heroine Samus Aran returns for the final installment of her action-packed spacepirate-hunting trilogy.

Entering "hyper mode" makes Samus unbelievably strong, but you need to fight the temptation to overuse it, or the power will eventually corrupt -- and kill -- her.

Using the "grapple lasso" to catch enemies and then yanking the Wii remote to pull them to you is ridiculously fun.

The need to revisit locations multiple times may annoy some players.

— Christopher Healy

photo sample


PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Rated Teen

Electronic Arts


Players control a young skateboarding prospect as he shreds the streets of the fictional San Vanelona, trying to break into the extreme sport's big time.

A surprisingly robust video editor lets players capture their most awesome tricks, add music and share the clips with friends.

Skate's stunning graphics, along with analog stick controls that make it feel as though you're really controlling the character's body, help deliver a gritty, lo-fi experience.

Gamers used to playing similar games with button-based controls may find the interface tough to adapt to.

— Evan Narcisse


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

© 2007 The Washington Post Company