Alice in Wonderland
First broadcast on NBC in February as a movie special, Alice in Wonderland has just been released in video stores. This latest rendition of Lewis Carroll's 1865 classic for children, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, is a sumptuous production, employing complicated special effects to illustrate Alice's (Tina Majorino) strange experiences in Wonderland. All the book's famous characters are here, ranging from the Mad Hatter (Martin Short) to the Cheshire Cat (Whoopi Goldberg) to Tweedledum (Robbie Coltrane) and Tweedledee (George Wendt). And many of Alice's famous encounters with these highly distinct characters are well illustrated, including the Mad Hatter's tea party and a most unusual chess game. But an odd thing happens as the movie rolls on: The story's very familiarity and the cultural baggage it has acquired over the years start influencing its meaning. No longer is Alice in Wonderland just a marvel-filled tale about a Victorian schoolgirl. Rather, it functions as something of a cultural Rorschach test, revealing viewers’ attitudes toward a variety of subjects, including politics, adolescence, sexuality and drug usage. An unsettling phenomenon.
Denver Broncos — Super Bowl XXXIII
Aboon for football fans and Bronco fans in particular, Denver Broncos — Super Bowl XXXIII is filled with thrilling footage of great plays, interviews with team members and revealing sidelines discussions. The National Football League documentary follows the hard-hitting team during fall 1998 as it tries to win the Super Bowl for the second straight year. Long an also-ran team, the Broncos finally pulled it together during the 1997 season. They won the NFL championship in January 1998 and began preparing for the onerous 1998 season. Guiding them was their head coach, Mike Shanahan, a quietly tough and humorous man. Leading them on the field was John Elway, a quarterback who was probably playing his last season. And inspiring them was Terrell Davis, football's best running back. Together with other great players, they won the division championship and headed to a showdown with the Atlanta Falcons. Although Denver Broncos — Super Bowl XXXIII will appeal mostly to football aficionados, non-fans will also find it surprisingly gripping.
Horton Foote's Alone
John Webb (Hume Cronyn) is a kind man and a highly ethical rancher who is facing bad times on his Texas spread. He's grieving over the loss of his beloved wife; his two married daughters, Grace Ann (Roxanne Hart) and Jackie (Joanna Miles), are facing troubles in their Houston lives; his nephews, Gus (Chris Cooper) and Curt (Frederick Forrest), are suffering from money problems; and his crops aren't bringing in the revenues they once did. John is seriously considering selling his ranch when he gets another chance: An oil company thinks it might contain crude, and is willing to pay John and his nephews, who co-own the mineral rights, a tidy sum to find out. The prospect of riches sets into play a variety of schemes among the family members as they wait for the oil-drilling results. Horton Foote's Alone isn't a brilliant movie; in fact, its plotting is somewhat loose and the acting isn't first-rate across the board. But the film is quietly engrossing as it highlights an honorable man while he deals with hardship.
12 Angry Men
A staple of stage and cinema, 12 Angry Men enjoyed a 1997 revival for MGM Worldwide TV and is now available on video. The script follows the increasingly heated discussions of 12 jury members dispatched by a judge (Mary McDonnell) to decide the fate of an 18-year-old Hispanic man (Douglas Spain) accused of stabbing his father to death. If the jury finds him guilty, he faces the possibility of execution. A first poll of the jurors — all male but representing several ethnic groups and social classes — reveals that 11 of the 12 believe the defendant is guilty. The only holdout (Jack Lemmon) holds forth on several of the problems he has with the prosecution's case. One by one, other jurors join him in voting not guilty. Although 12 Angry Men's dialogue is slightly dated — America's discussion of crime and ethnicity has grown much more complex since the play was first written — the film does pack a punch. Its power is augmented by the presence of a first-rate cast and the claustrophobia of its setting.
— Loretta G. Seyer