Secret, Profane & Sugarcane *** (3 stars)
Elvis Costello has never been one to shrink from a challenge, and on his new album, he has taken on a big one, a song cycle of sorts incorporating themes that wind like the muddy Mississippi through the cultural legacy of the American South and the tragic secrets and varied stripes of love - obsessive, unrequited and misfired. Some songs can be as straightforward as classic country.
With country queen Loretta Lynn, Costello wrote "I Felt the Chill Before the Winter Came," a dark scenario of a faithless man losing his grip on the woman he sinned for. Others are as art-song sophisticated as "She Was No Good," inspired by 19th-century European singing star Jenny Lind's tour of the U.S. Mystery abounds in oblique stories such as "Hidden Shame." "Red Cotton" is powerful, a dramatic example of the price of human greed.
The highlights are "Sulphur to Sugarcane," the kind of bawdy blues Ma Rainey or Bessie Smith would have loved, and "The Crooked Line" that Costello describes as "the only song I've ever written about fidelity that is without irony."
- Randy Lewis, Tribune Newspapers
Klonoa *** 1/2 (3 1/2 stars)
Available on Nintendo Wii. Released by Namco. Rated 10+. $29.99.
Klonoa, a remake of a PlayStation game from 1998, is a pretty piece of work and one of the best platform games on the Wii - and that includes the classics available on the Virtual Console.
The game play is strictly 2-D in Klonoa's journey to stop an evil lord. The levels twist and turn into themselves and are riddled with split pathways and switchbacks, but the action is always centered on Klonoa, and part of the fun is figuring out how he can get to a seemingly out-of-reach area within the strictures of a left-to-right platformer.
Klonoa has a fairly simple set of moves: He can jump and glide; grab enemies and throw them as an attack or summon a whirlwind to slow down foes.
- Justin Hoeger, McClatchy-Tribune
The Strain ** (2 stars)
By Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. 401 Pages. Released by William Morrow. $26.99.
Just in time for summer - and presciently perhaps, for the swine flu outbreak - comes The Strain, a sort of Twilight for the testosterone set, swapping romance for thrills and gore.
Writer and director Guillermo del Toro teams with thriller writer Chuck Hogan to create a visceral page-turner that reimagines vampirism as a virus that causes its victims' bodies to mutate into buglike creatures, stomping zombie-style around Manhattan and wreaking havoc. A disparate team of a rogue CDC doctor, rat-catcher and an Eastern European pawnshop owner try to stop them.
Del Toro and Hogan create vivid scenes of a New York where something has gone terribly wrong. One of the eeriest moments occurs at the beginning, when an airplane lands safely at JFK airport. It suddenly goes completely dark, all of its shades down, with no communication or 911 calls coming from the aircraft as handlers puzzle outside it.
Other creepy scenes involve a morgue filled with not-so-dead bodies and a vampire child thought dead returning home to an unsuspecting parent.
There is humor as well, as when a Goth rocker realizes he has become a vampire when he takes off his makeup and black contact lenses and looks the same.
Del Toro, who has brought macabre characters to life in movies such as Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy, originally wrote the book as an outline for a TV series. It is the first in a trilogy, with new volumes due out in 2010 and 2011. Sometimes the plot stretches thin, but horror fans in search of a beach read will find the action moves swiftly and the violence is satisfyingly gruesome.
- Mae Anderson, Associated Press