Beyond Rangoon

D: John Boorman; with Patricia Arquette, Frances McDormand, Spalding Gray, U Aung Ko.
VHS Home Video
Vulcan Video, 609 W. 29th St.

Now this is an action adventure! Who needs Bruce Willis or any of the testosterone team when you have a heroine like Patricia Arquette? Arquette portrays Laura Bowman, a woman coming to terms with the murders of her son and husband while on vacation, who accidentally becomes immersed in the Burmese democracy movement and the ensuing slaughter carried out by the military regime. In her attempts to escape Burma and rescue her guide, a politically outspoken professor, Bowman finds courage and the strength she had lost. There's plenty of explosive action and gripping personal drama in this thriller, which is based on the actual events of 1988 that were virtually ignored by the media. -- Kayte Van Scoy D: Abel Ferrara; with Terry Kinney, Gabrielle Anwar, Meg Tilly, R. Lee Ermey, Forest Whitaker.
VHS Home Video
Waterloo Video, 1016 W. Sixth St.

This, the third and most recent (1994) filming of Jack Finney's sci-fi horror tale in which aliens take over the world by entering the bodies of humans, may not be the best version, but it's worth a rental. Ferrara brings the story to a military base in the South, where an environmental scientist (Kinney) has been sent -- family in tow -- to test the water for toxic waste. This time around, the protagonist is Dr. Malone's teenage daughter Marty (Anwar, last seen light on her feet with Pacino in Scent of a Woman), who is struggling with the awkwardness of her age and a troubled relationship with her stepmother (Tilly). Though the film lacks the heavy metaphor of the original, Body Snatchers delivers some very suspensful scenes along with the most graphic vision yet of how the aliens get into the character's bodies. -- Jen Scoville


Seven

D: David Fincher; with Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Richard Roundtree, Lee R. Ermey.
Laserdisc
Encore Movies & Music, 8820 Burnet

Hailed by some as a smart, suspenseful thriller and damned by others as chic nihilism, Seven, the second film by former MTV-whiz-kid David Fincher, at least never fails to make an impression. Thankfully, for its admirers anyway, the prestigious Criterion Collection has chosen to release Seven on laserdisc in a deluxe box set, and the results are truly definitive. The transfer is gorgeous, the audio commentary (featuring Fincher, Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, screenwriter Kevin Andrew Walker, production designer Arthur Max, and effects virtuoso Rob Bottin) is both candid and informative, and the loaded-with-extras supplemental section is unquestionably mind-blowing. So whether you think Seven is a searing commentary on the things human beings do to each another in the name of religion, or just a somewhat pretentious Silence of the Lambs rip-off, one thing's for sure: On home video, the Critirion version is the only one to see.

-- Joey O'Bryan


National Audubon Society Interactive Guide to North American Birds

CD-ROM for Mac or Windows
Knopf New Media

Attention bird lovers: If you don't already own a CD-ROM drive, this electronic field guide and encyclopedia of bird knowledge is the best reason yet to buy one. This product, more than any other non-game multimedia title I've yet seen, unleashes the potential of a computer to put knowledge at your fingertips. The interface is elegant, intuitive, and rich. Seen a strange wading bird on the hike-and-bike trail lately? Load this CD-ROM and narrow the search by selecting the correct Life Zone, Bird Shape, Color, Season, and Size, and pretty soon you'll have that bird's name, along with its habits, range, and other characteristics, along with a sample of its song. The video essays are beautiful and educational, the textual information voluminous. Extras include a trip planner, 700 range maps, life lists, and a pocket-sized field guide. -- Jesse Sublett


Civilization II

CD-ROM for Windows
Microprose

This update of one of the finest computer strategy games ever created lives up to all expectations. CivII is much more than just a better-looking version of its predecessor: The computer AI has been improved, combat is much more realistic, it sounds great, and it's much more complex. New improvements such as solar plants and sewer systems, new wonders such as Sun Tzu's War Academy, and new units such as the paratroopers and the AEGIS cruiser make the game much more immersive. It sounds hard to believe that an incredible title like Civilization could improve so dramatically, but it has.

-- Kurt Dillard



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