Maxwell, 'Now' (Columbia)
The dapper neosoulman sounds as good as he looks, yet clunky lyrics and shallow songs make even Maxwell feel bland. 2 Stars L.A.
Etta James, 'Blue Gardenia'
It's been a long hard road for James, and her intense vocals reflect the ride. Tempered by cool jazz, it's a smooth cocktail. 3 Stars L.A.
k. d. lang, 'Live by Request'
Lang sings her hits in a lush, velvety voice atop pedal steel guitar and accordion. A crooner for our times. 3 Stars L.A.
Jimmy Eat World, 'Bleed American'
Goopy ballads aside, the Arizona punk-pop quartet's turbocharged fourth CD shatters eardrums. 3 Stars D.G.
The Curse of the Jade Scorpion
Woody Allen is a gumshoe in 1940 investigating jewel robberies he committed himself, under hypnosis. Helen Hunt is the boss he hates--and loves. A pleasantly irrelevant retro comedy. 3 Stars D.A.
The Deep End
A mom (Tilda Swinton, in a raw, riveting performance) must protect her gay son (Jonathan Tucker) from a murder investigation, deal with blackmailers--and pick the kids up from school. 4 Stars J.G.
Claire Keegan, 'Antarctica' (Atlantic Monthly)
In her debut collection, Keegan transcends well-worn themes of adultery and familial discord, fashioning resonant stories with fairy-tale simplicity. 3 Stars B.W.
Bobbie Ann Mason, 'Zigzagging Down a Wild Trail'
Short stories about--what else?--poor American souls. A spunkier Raymond Carver, Mason does add something new to these tired muses: a little happiness. 3 Stars S.M.