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JUNE 29, 1998: 


Sigourney Weaver cracks the whip as neighbor Janey Carver inThe Ice Storm.

The Ice Storm

D: Ang Lee (1997)

with Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Courtney Peldon, Henry Czerny, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood, Sigourney Weaver

Kitschy Seventies comedy does battle with some painful dramatics in Ang Lee's highly regarded The Ice Storm, and the film is a bit of a puzzle when it comes to separating the two. It's 1973, and the Sexual Revolution is in full bloom. So are the thick shag carpets, glass-bead necklaces, Watergate hearings, and teen angst. And it's an arctic Thanksgiving weekend in Connecticut when these things all come together at the home of a small and highly dysfunctional family. Kline and Allen are the hapless parents of Maguire and Ricci, and everyone's up to no good in the sex department. Dad is having an affair with the next-door neighbor Weaver, and the kids are ripe for all manner of trouble with show-and-tell games, experimental drugs, et al. Oh, and Mom is pretty pissed about all of this. Taken the wrong way, all of this can be downright hilarious, and for the first hour, it is, as reminiscing over the maroon tux I wore to my cousin's wedding wins out over the melodrama behind the Seventies jokes, at least for me anyway. After that hour, you are on your own. While there are plenty of questions at the root of The Ice Storm, the film unfortunately feels awfully light on any answers. Still, it's quite worth the rental price. -- Christopher Null



Vigilante 8

Sony Playstation

Publisher: Activision

Developed by: Luxoflux

Vigilante 8 offers the ultimate catharsis for frustrated commuters: arena-style automobile combat in a demolition derby free-for-all with a funky Seventies twist. Better known for their PC gaming acumen, Luxoflux has made an audacious entry into the twitch-happy land of console games. V8 raises the bar way above current Playstation titles such as Twisted Metal by making the cars' reactions more real, the controls more responsive, and the enemies more intelligent. A custom 3-D graphics engine provides faster and smoother gameplay than any PC game. You get excellent graphic detail on the cars and exquisitely rendered terrains, but it's the details and gameplay where their artistry excels. The surroundings from the neon boulevards of Casino City to the icy slopes of the Ski Resort reflect in the vehicle windshield. Damage to your car and others is cruelly visible you can hobble along on three wheels with a crashed windshield and mangled bumper, but you can also smolder and catch fire from an enemy assault. Driving controls change depending upon the surrounding terrain and the condition of your vehicle. The environments and surroundings harbor many secret bonuses and weapons, and are, of course, fully destructable. In fact, you can blow up practically anything on-screen, not that you would necessarily want to. While some missions (in the arcade mode) demand wanton destruction, others (in the quest mode) require you to protect specific areas, such as Anasazi ruins, oil derricks, or downtown buildings.

Here's a scenario: Choose your vehicle from among nine contenders, including a '75 Palamino, an armor-plated schoolbus, and a camper pickup full of killer bees. (If you make it to the end, or scarf the password, you can drive a UFO at a secret military base). In one mission, you pursue a gang of terrorist road warriors, the Coyotes, who are intent on controlling the oil fields of the Southwest. To beat the Coyotes, you'll need a lead foot and a spastic trigger finger. After only a few minutes of gameplay, you'll be burning more rubber than Starsky and Hutch: spinning out on 180-degree turns, doing crazy jumps from the tops of buildings, and taking detours through swimming pools and hotel lobbies.

Destruction is the word of the day: rockets, roadkill mines, cannons, even deadly speaker cabinets litter the playing field. Special controller combos deliver attacks like the "Cow Puncher" and "Flaming Disco Ball." But your opponents play dirty, using artificial intelligence, to attack in groups, steal your powerups and bonuses, and lead you into traps.

Vigilante 8 is so convincing and therapeutic, I've recently considered attaching one of them rocket launchers to my Nissan Sentra. Okay, so maybe I've played a few games too many. -- Ben Davis


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