A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
Q. The other night I watched "48 Hours," and one of the subjects they covered was Sean Young. Apparently people who work with her consider her to be trouble. After watching the interview, I tend to agree with those who work with her. My question is this: Why is it that most talented artists appear to be "head cases?" --James R. Tappe
A. Talented artists appear to be "head cases" because they are. No one in his right mind would choose to be an artist when it is so much easier to play professional sports.
Q. You made a comment on Letterman concerning the Madonna movie. It went something like, "even in Portland, Oregon they'd notice her nude on the houseboat." In case you care, most of the houseboats in the Portland area ARE secluded, and she could very well have not been seen. There's not much river traffic around the areas the houseboats are in, particularly at night. Even if Portlanders could have seen her, they very likely didn't care. During filming, a contest was run by a local paper for Madonna photos, and they got two entries. Big deal! Not a very good movie, but Portland looked great, I thought. --Julie Kidd, Portland, Ore.
A. It did look great, didn't it? Especially with that houseboat in the foreground with the naked woman standing in the window.
Q. Spike Lee charged that the attendance figures for his new picture were being skewed by multiplex theatres issuing mislabeled tickets. A few days later I went to a twelveplex in the San Francisco area to see Steve Martin's latest. I thought of Spike and looked at my ticket, It was printed out for another film. The seller was not particularly busy when we bought our tickets. He even looked at his CRT for several seconds before issuing them. Is it of benefit to the multiplex to misrepresent attendance? --Bob Beggs (Comtel Video, California).
A. In the first weeks of a run, the studio typically takes 90 percent of the ticket price, and the theater keeps 10 percent. In later weeks, this percentage drops to around 50 percent. Therefore, the theater makes more money by selling tickets to the movies late in their runs. Is it deliberate? See if the usher looks at your ticket and then directs you to the "wrong" theater.
Q. I am writing in response to your criticism of Nick Nolte's accent in "Lorenzo's Oil," on your television show. I was dialectician for "Lorenzo's Oil," and having worked extensively with Mr. Nolte in the development of his accent, I can assure you that he created the real Augusto Odone exactly! Augusto is a Northern Italian. They speak their Italian differently, and when they speak English they speak it the way you heard it in the theater. Mr. Siskel was correct in accepting Mr. Nolte's accent as essential to the story. --Bill Dearth, 12/31/92 Please accept my apology for confusing you with your partner Mr. Siskel in my earlier letter. I was actually quite impressed with your reaction to Mr. Nolte's performance and his accent. Mr. Siskel was the one who I felt was unfair. --Bill Dearth, 1/4/93
A. No problem-o.
Q. I understand the Disney studios are going to bring out a new version of "Fantasia," replacing about half of the material in the original. I have two objections. First, they are tampering with a classic. Second, they told us we had our "last chance" to buy "Fantasia" on video, and now they're back to sell us the "new" version. Why don't they just make "Fantasia II" with all new material?
A. Wonder why they didn't think of that.
Q. Many videos are labeled with the information that they are closed-captioned, but when you get them home, they are not. I attended a meeting of my local deafened persons association recently, and I found out what seems to be the problem. Apparently a lot of video stores may be using pirated copies. These copies do not copy the captions. --Jerry Krueger, Canada
A. And you know who would love to hear about a store selling or renting you such a tape? The studio that released the original film. They're eager to catch pirates.
Q. Is it just me or is Hollywood changing the male/female relationships in films? Example: In "Under Siege," Erika Eleniak's character was more of a helper to Steven Seagal than a lover, and except for one of the minor characters who referred to her as "Miss July," it was as if no one figured out she was female until the film was almost over. It was the same in "A Few Good Men" (Demi Moore and Tom Cruise) and "A League of the Own" (Geena Davis and Tom Hanks). I am guessing that it is more 90's now to do this. Do you agree? --Michael R Bowman
A. I was trained in earlier decades, and guessed that they were female almost immediately.
Q. You got a letter from someone complaining that they saw "Far and Away" on an airplane, and the scene was missing where Nicole Kidman looks under the bowl that is covering Tom Cruise's privates. In the copy I rented, she looks under the bowl and there's nothing there. --Rich Elias, Columbus, Ohio
A. The problem may be with your TV set.
Q. My wife and I were browsing the Microsoft Cinemania movie guide and noted that it claims you were born June 18, 1962! If this is true, did you really write the screenplay to "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" at age eight? --Craig Renwick
Q. I am the general manager of a theater chain in Albuquerque, and a question has been asked of me for years. Are movie companies paid a fee from manufacturers to get their product on the screen? For instance, in "Home Alone 2," Coca-Cola can be seen repeatedly. Is it safe to assume that Coca-Cola paid the production company a fee to get Coke, not Pepsi, on the screen? If so, are we talking hundreds or thousands of dollars? --Steve McCaffrey
Q. My wife and I both suffer from some hearing loss. It is difficult for us to filter the dialogue from background sound. This makes it impossible to enjoy a film where the background volume is higher than the dialog. All too often, the sound technicians place a mike within inches of a running stream, to show how wonderful they are at picking up sound. The audience can hear every tiny bubble in the stream as it bursts and the gurgle as the water passes over every pebble. Big Deal! Night scenes are even worse when they manage to crowd the sound of every frog, cricket and mosquito within 10 miles onto the sound track. --Mary and Bill Richards, San Ramon, CA.
A. I agree that many movies are hard to understand--even for those with good hearing. Surround sound doesn't always help; stay away from the side speakers, since all the dialog comes only from the center speaker behind the screen.
Q. I just saw "Under Siege" and really enjoyed it. As with most action flicks, I frequently find myself wondering if what is done on screen is actually possible or is it just part of the magic of movies. For instance, when Steven Seagal mixes two ingredients in a glass and places it in the microwave on high for several minutes, it created a powerful little explosion, almost like a pipe bomb. Is that really possible and if so, what ingredients do you think he used? --Steve McCaffrey
A. I dunno. I guess you would have noticed if one of the ingredients was Coca-Cola.
A review of Netflix's new series, Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events," which premieres January 13.
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A review of NBC's "Emerald City," premiering January 6th.