David O. Russell out-Scorseses Martin Scorsese himself with "American Hustle," a rollicking '70s crime romp that’s ridiculously entertaining in all the best possible ways.
Q. I checked out the "Eyes Wide Shut" DVD to see if the flub I noticed in the movie had been fixed. It had! I'm referring to the appearance of a crew member (or maybe Kubrick himself) reflected in one of the stainless steel shower stall posts in Ziegler's bathroom. This occurs at the end of Dr. Harford's examination of the overdosed woman... just as Ziegler says something about "this being between just you and me." On the DVD, where once there was a reflection there is now a blank white space. It makes me wonder if on the next DVD of Kubrick's "Spartacus," those soldiers with wrist watches will no longer know the time of day. (David Kodeski, Chicago)
A. See, that's the thing about digital. Nothing stays put. Meddlers can go in and fiddle. First they add the digital Austin Powers cut-outs standing around at the orgy scene. Then they take out the reflection in the bathroom, which home video fanatics were really looking forward to spotting for themselves. Kubrick was a perfectionist who edited his own films. My guess: He saw the reflection, but disregarded it, because the shot worked the way he wanted it to. A "mistake" like that is a wink from the filmmaker.
Q. I saw your review recommending "The King Of Masks" (a Chinese film with subtitles) as a family film. But when I went to Blockbuster to rent it, it was rated "YRV." The clerk said this rating is even more restrictive than an "R.". Did I misunderstand? Or could the rating be mislabeled? What would make this movie worse than an "R?" FYI, my children are aged 9, 13 and 16 and there are some things that we just don't allow them to see. (Paul Sherbo)
A. The clerk did not understand Blockbuster's YRV rating, which has no connection to the MPAA ratings, but is applied by Blockbuster itself to videos the MPAA has not rated. YRV means "youth viewing restricted," and means Blockbuster will not rent them to those under 17. Since Blockbuster does not evaluate individual videos but simply slaps YRV on anything "unrated," the ironic result is that family films like "The King Of Masks" get lumped right in with soft-core sex and swimsuit videos. In my review of "The King Of Masks," I noted it was "suitable for all but younger children," and it is.
Q. Will the films included in the American Film Theater project of the early 1970s ever be re-released? I remember Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel in "Rhinoceros," Alan Bates in "Butley," a great production of "A Long Day's Journey into Night," etc., and I would love to see them again. I thought there was a 25-year embargo, but we are past that now. (John Keenum, Worcester MA)
A. There's good news, according to Tina Landau, a director and playwright at Chicago's Steppenwolf theater. She is the daughter of Edie and the late Ely Landau, who produced the AFT. It offered new films of great plays, one a month, shown on a hard-ticket basis. There was no "Long Day's Journey" (Landau produced that in 1962), but the series did include "The Iceman Cometh" (Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan), "In Celebration" (Bates), "Galileo" (Topol, John Gielgud), "Lost in the Stars" (Brock Peters), "Luther" (Stacy Keach), "A Delicate Balance" (Katharine Hepburn), and "The Man in the Glass Booth" (Maximilian Schell). After a stay in copyright limbo, she tells me, the films will be available on video in the foreseeable future.
Q. In "Mission To Mars," I was upset at the rotating double helix made from M&Ms by an astronaut in space. I mean, what were they rotating around? Maybe in the future they have electromagnetically attractive candy? (Sean O'Brien, Baltimore MD)
A. You refer to the M&Ms that float in mid-air to represent a DNA strand. In zero-gravity, according to Newton, they would either stay at rest or move in the direction they were propelled, but would not instinctively find the double helix formation. This scene brings new meaning to the concept of product placement.
Q. In "Mission To Mars," Gary Sinise says, "That DNA looks human!" A cursory look at 23 chromosome pairs will tell the observer nothing about from which species it originates, since there are billions of base pairs inclusive. The makers of many science fiction movies do not do any research concerning their subject. Is it because they are made for unsophisticated teenage audiences? Would a simple phone call or question entail too much effort? (Edward M Connell, Albany NY)
A. You know, until I got your message, I thought it not only looked human but actually resembled M&Ms. Then I remembered that in the movie another character points out that you can't tell if it's human just by looking.
Q. Can we put a stop to what Dimension Films plans to do to Jackie Chan's classic film, "The Drunken Master 2?" They plan to edit down the fight scenes and make a whole new score for the film. Redoing the score is horrible enough, but why in the world are they editing the very thing that is going to put people in the seats? It's a martial arts film, with possibly the greatest fight scenes in cinema, and they want to cut them. It just doesn't make sense. (Anthony Harrison, Fairfield CA)
A. I've received a lot of queries citing this rumor. You can relax. According to Cynthia Swartz, rep for Dimension, "Drunken Master 2" will be released "with all of its original fight scenes and a remastered score, plus additional footage never before seen by US audiences, plus an introduction by Jackie himself."
Q. In "The Next Best Thing," the plot hinges on the fact that characters played by Madonna and Rupert Everett sleep drunkenly with each other, and she gets pregnant. Where is the condom? These people have lost their best friend to AIDS, yet they have unprotected sex. I am stunned that Madonna and Everett would allow this transgression, and that not one critic has mentioned it. (Robin Murray San Francisco, CA)
A. An excellent point. Maybe they were not exchanging DNA, but only M&Ms.
Q. I was watching "Inside The Actor's Studio" on TV the other day and heard Billy Crystal talk about how some actors have a "tip" or a "catch" that they use in each of their movies (Tom Cruise's wide smile, Keanu Reeve's annoying "whoa!"). What is your favorite "catch" used by a star? One of mine would be Samuel L. Jackson's expression when he is really mad. The same in every movie, but always effective. (Mikhel Burgland, Fort Wayne IN)
A. I like the way William H. Macy frowns earnestly as if he really, really wants to understand, but you're not making it easy for him.
Gerardo Valero sees the potential for a good remake in "Escape from New York."
Omer Mozaffar reflects on "12 Years a Slave."
The first in a monthly series of video essays about unloved films, Scout Tafoya's video essay is an appreciation of "...
Erik Childress looks at the first awards of the season and their possible impact on the Oscar race.