the Vicious Circle
D. Alan Rudolph; with Jennifer Jason Leigh, Campbell Scott, Matthew Broderick, Peter Gallagher, Jennifer Beals, Andrew McCarthy, Wallace Shawn, Martha Plimpton, Sam Robards, Lili Taylor, Gwyneth Paltrow.
VHS Home Video
Fineline Features Director Alan Rudolph's cast shines in this mostly biographical account of writer Dorothy Parker (Leigh). Opening in 1937 Hollywood with screenwriters Parker and her husband (Gallagher), and quickly retreating to New York's Roaring Twenties, the film chronicles her life within a circle of writers trying to afford the "speakeasy" life. Leigh wears Mrs. Parker's droll personality as snugly as her cloche. Scott delivers a compelling performance as Robert Benchley, Mrs. Parker's close companion. Video is the way to catch who's who in this literary circle. The biting repartee and sarcasm are nonstop, and the names of people and publications are easy to miss -- partly due to the film's muffled and frequently inaudible sound quality. -- Stephany Baskin
D: Mark Malone; with Mimi Rogers, Anthony LaPaglia, Peter Boyle, Matt Craven.
VHS Home Video
Republic Entertainment, Inc. If The Rapture slays you and Someone to Watch Over Me seduces you, then you're probably a fan of Mimi Rogers. Here's the film to make a trilogy. LaPaglia is a Manhattan hit man who's burnt out -- "there's something wrong with my brain," he tells boss Boyle, who begs him to whack another one; "She knows it's coming, she's not gonna put up a struggle." Enter Rogers, who gives femme fatale a whole new meaning. She's spellbinding, as is this highly stylized, tightly scripted film featuring great performances from the four principals. People who went gaga over Linda Fiorentino in The Final Seduction shouldn't miss Rogers in Bulletproof Heart.
-- Raoul Hernandez
CD-Rom for Windows* and Mac
LucasArts Entertainment One minute you're cruisin' down the road with your cycle between your legs, the next you wake up in a Dumpster to find you've been framed for murder in a diabolical plot to replace all motorcycles with minivans. Full Throttle uses the standard game recipe in which you must find objects and use them correctly to move on to the next level. However, with a good story line, quality soundtrack (even for non-heavy-metal fans), and tremendous sense of humor, LucasArts managed to take a decent game and turn it into a hell of a lotta fun.
-- Carl Bacher
Magic Carpet 2: The Netherworlds
CD-ROM for DOS
Bullfrog Productions A fantastic game combining fast action, challenging tactics, and tough strategy, Magic Carpet 2 is one of the most immersive games I've ever played. You are an apprentice wizard somewhere in the ancient Middle East battling enemies from a flying carpet, gathering new spells, and improving your ability to cast older spells as you go. The levels are beautiful, from dark and moist caves to bright oceans dotted with mountainous islands, and the bestiary is fearsome -- lightning-fast manticors, stone sentinels, fire-breathing wyverns, and armies of undead soldiers are yours for the conquering. There was concern earlier this year when monster software publisher Electronic Arts acquired the British developer, but Magic Carpet 2 has alleviated any fears that Bullfrog would start to move toward the mainstream. -- Kurt Dillard
Windows CD-ROM for Windows
Microsoft The ultimate encyclopedia of the world's oceans finally comes to your home in a CD-ROM. Part of Microsoft Home's Exploration Series, and in conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund, Oceans is packed with information. Suddenly, I was seven years old again, discovering cool facts for the first time, only this time, from film clips of sharks hunting prey, of anemones and clown fish, and much, much more. Oceans will feed your head and gets an environmental message across by helping the WWF "protect the world's endangered species and their habitats."
-- Nisa Sharma