D: Ross McElwee.
VHS Home Video
Ross McElwee, fascinated with General William T. Sherman, set out to make a film about Sherman's infamous march across the South. The $9,000 that McElwee received as a grant for the project instead funded a self-reflexive documentary romp through his own Southern past. The result is an intimate portrait of the South, replete with Southern womanhood of both the pushy and pristine varieties. Southerners and non-Southerners alike should find such characters as the determined matchmakers, reactionary militia members, and Burt Reynolds fanatics a welcome eyeful. More than a uniquely hilarious and poignant insight into the South, McElwee's film is a subtle statement about the nuances of recollection and the role of the documentarian in the documentary-making process. -- Clay Smith
D: Mandie Fletcher; with Jane Horrocks, Brenda Fricker, Imelda Stanton,
VHS Home Video
Vulcan Video, 609 W. 29th
This very proper, British black comedy begins with a swift smack of an axe into the poor head of an overbearing Welsh mum. From there it only gets bloodier, sillier, and terrifically more contrived. The adorable Jane Horrocks plays Jodie, an unlikely mass-murderer prodded by the rather pushy ghosts of infamous British killers to take the matter of her stifling family life into her own hands. Jodie's sister is glad to have Mum out of the way, but won't take the rap. When she invites a muscle-bound male stripper to live at home, Jodie finds herself in a domestic pickle once again. Easy enough to fix, though, when your options include murder. -- Kayte VanScoy
Sony Computer Entertainment
NBA Shoot Out
For those basketball fanatics whose lives temporarily cease to have any meaning when the NBA playoffs end, there is now an answer. NBA Shoot Out for the PlayStation is arguably the best video game hoops simulation currently available. Every NBA franchise is included, and with a few notable exceptions (Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal) the team rosters are also complete. The polygon graphics are nicely rendered and the sound of sneakers on hardwood is lovingly reproduced in all its annoying glory. Gameplay is very good, but not entirely glitch-free. There are also a variety of options including multiple difficulty levels, adjustable length of quarters, and modes for one to eight players. As a final crowning touch, there are no visible officials, although a disembodied voice does stop play for supposed infractions.
-- Bud Simons
D: Henry Jaglom; with Victoria Foyt, Matt Salinger, Dinah Lenney, Elaine
Kagan, Zack Norman, Eric Roberts, Frances Fisher.
VHS Home Video
"You can't marry someone who deals in golf metaphors -- I won't let you," declares Gena's (Foyt) best friend Roz (Lenney) in Babyfever, independent director Henry Jaglom's most recent feature to be released on video. Usually put off by Jaglom's somewhat smug cinematic sense of women, I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Perhaps it's due in part to Foyt, Jaglom's real-life wife and co-writer of the script. The story deals with Gena's deliberation over having a baby with her lover James (Salinger), a nice enough man but one whom Roz believes is too conservative for Gena's lively personality. As with most Jaglom films, the majority of Babyfever takes place at an all-female event, in this case a Los Angeles baby shower. Gena's indecision and uncertainty about children and husbands comes off as honest and real, and the character's self-deprecating wit saves the film from whiny self-absorption. Lenney's performance as the resolute best friend also is impressive, and her advice to Gena about not settling for just any partner further empowers the film. -- Alison Macor
CD-ROM for Windows
Whether you're a Scully (skeptic) or a Mulder (believer), the CD-ROM The Unexplained has something of interest for you. You can explore all sorts of phenomena accompanied by eery music and voiceovers. Small anecdotal details are given on a wide range of topics such as black holes, UFOs, time travel, aberrations of nature, ESP, and other oddities of the human mind and body. One of the main themes is the inability of science to explain these strange phenomena. Unfortunately, no topic is covered in any detail and much of the information is given in vague terms such as "more likely" and "disproportionate" rather than in real statistical terms, leaving the science-minded skeptical. If, however, your interest has been piqued, a world-wide listing of books, magazines, societies, and Internet addresses is given from which more information on the paranormal can be found. -- Tivoli Majors