Disney's Animated Storybook: Disney's 101 Dalmatians

CD-ROM, Mac & Windows
Disney Interactive

Crulella De Vil gets hers in Disney's animated film, but in the CD-ROM version, she's at the mercy of the player.

You'd have to have a heart of stone not to like this CD-ROM. My3 3/4-year-old son/ace multimedia consultant, Dashiell, navigates the interface like a proverbial bird dog on a hunt. All the essential elements that have made this story such a perennial favorite of children and adults alike are here, and should be so familiar as to not need mentioning. The dogs are adorable and Cruella is deliciously wicked. The style elements, too, are vividly woven in: the Sixties' Euro-kitsch with its allegories to the underground resistance fighters in World War II (think about it and you must agree: just cast the Collie as your favorite stalwart Brit actor from movies like The Great Escape and Battle of Britain), and a jazzy version of "Cruella De Vil" and three other tunes. The games are designed to reinforce memory skills, spelling, and vocabulary; and there's even a thesaurus for highlighted words in the narration! Although nominally designed for ages 3 to 7, the true genius of a disk like this is that Mom or Dad won't mind serving as a booster seat for son or daughter at the family computer hutch. My only complaint is that "Cruella De Vil" is paced just a bit too fast to comfortably sing along with. Dashiell's nutshell review: "Lucky is the cutest dog in the whole wide world, and I like to put Cruella in jail." Me too. -- Jesse Sublett

Manny & Lo

D: Lisa Krueger (1996)
with Mary Kay Place, Scarlett Johans-son, Aleksa Palladino, Paul Guilfoyle

Newcomer Lisa Krueger wrote and directed this alternately pitiful and amusing tale of two desperate sisters on the run. Lo (Palladino) is pregnant, but while she is busy blaming her burgeoning belly on her convenience store diet, younger sister Manny (Johansson) is spraying the familiar scent of their late mother's deodorant on everything to keep her memory alive. Making do where they can, crashing on golf courses and model homes and finally breaking into a luxurious, deserted ski cabin, Manny and Lo protect and comfort each other while dodging the cops they assume are searching for them. When they hit upon the brilliant scheme of kidnapping Elaine (Place), a nitpicking, annoying baby store clerk, to help them through the birth, the girls find she is more interested in mothering than escaping. Krueger's script brings humor, irony, and adventure to what could have been a heavy-handed, sappy tearjerker and she expertly balances Place's seasoned pro performance against the girls' admirable rookie efforts. Everyone weathers through the unlikely plot to deliver a moving film that stirs up hope despite itself.

-- Kayte VanScoy


D: Paul Schrader (1979)
with George C. Scott, Season Hubley, Peter Boyle, Dick Sargent

Calvinists adhere to a moral code that makes the Mormons look like a bunch of beer-swilling, toga-clad frat boys. In Hardcore, George C. Scott plays a Calvinist businessman Jake Van Dorn, whose teenage daughter ditches a church retreat to California for the lure of Los Angeles. Scott gets nowhere fast with the cops, so he takes a leave of absence from his company and hooks up with sleazy private dick Peter Boyle and a streetwise Season Hubley to look for her. When Boyle begins to act exactly as you'd expect of a sleazy dectective, Scott takes matters into his own hands. In about the only real stretch of credibility, he dons a ridiculous wig, fake mustache, and ugly Seventies clothes to pose as a porn director casting for his next movie, and questions all the young cockslingers about his daughter. Before you can say "Ron Jeremy," he's ass-deep in the slimeball L.A.'s sex industry underground. Van Dorn finds his daughter and takes her back to Michigan, but....

Scott has made an art form out of apoplectic sputtering and his scenery-chewing here shines (especially the scene where an auditioning actor recognizes the daughter's picture). Peter Boyle damn near steals the show as the private detective with a $50 suit and ankle-holster. The massage parlor/peepshow/snuff film late Seventies milieu is a little dated now but still pretty damn seedy and harsh. The best element is the subtext of Scott having his pious, farting-in-the-bathtub-is-sinful mores shot all to hell by the experience. All in all, an impressive slice of lowlife that still leaves you with the urge to shower when it's over.

-- Jerry Renshaw

Devil Got My Woman: Blues at Newport 1966

D: Alan Lomax (1996)
with Skip James, Bukka White, Son House, Howlin' Wolf, Pearly Brown

The place: Newport, 1966. The scene: a mock-up juke joint, stocked with a case of whiskey, an appreciative crowd, and five of the greatest Delta bluesmen ever to walk the planet. Roll film. Catch Skip James with his trademark moan (and some pretty fine picking to boot), Bukka White workin up a good butt-shakin', and Son House singing like a man possessed. Follow with the inimitable Howlin' Wolf holding court. Finish with Pearly Brown bearing witness on a few
12-string spirituals, and there you have Devil Got My Woman. You'll find no fancy camerawork here, no narration, no interpretive structure (save Howlin' Wolf's brief exposition on the meaning of the blues). In trademark Lomax style, Devil speaks for itself. If you want a history of the form, try Robert Palmer's Deep Blues. If you want 60 minutes of genuine, gut-wrenching, down-in-the-bottom Delta blues, try Devil Got My Woman.

-- Jay Hardwig

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