It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Q. In your review of "Lilo and Stitch," you were moaning that people would ignore this film in favor of "Scooby Doo." Well, "Lilo and Stitch" is on track to almost tie as the number one box office draw this weekend, with the second biggest opening ever for a traditional animated feature. And "Scooby-Doo" suffered a 57% drop of box office revenue. (Kenneth Chisholm, London ON)
A. Word of mouth is the most important advertising. People are telling one another "Lilo" is fun compared to "Scooby-Doo"-doo.
Q. On the DVD of David Lynch's "Blue Velvet," one of the extras is the original Siskel & Ebert TV review. You didn't like it; Siskel did. Why did Lynch include this on his DVD? He also once advertised his movie "Lost Highway" as "Two Thumbs Down!" (Joshua Hall, Kansas City MO)
A. David Lynch is a quiet, well-mannered man who has a certain Olympian detachment from critics.
Q. In "Minority Report," when John returns to Pre-Crime headquarters he enters the building using his original eyes for the retinal scan. Being a wanted man, don't you think they would have locked him out of the system? (Michael Keegan, Halifax MA)
A. Oversights like this will be prevented by the Department of Homeland Security.
Q. In your review of "Minority Report" you hinted that the female PreCog 'Agatha' might be a nod to Agatha Christie. I noted that the male PreCogs were named Arthur and Dashiell. Might these be a nod to Arthur Conan Doyle and Dashiell Hammett? (Mary Payton, Reno NV)
A. My guess: Sir Arthur C. Clarke.
Q. My name is Peter Donen and I was the Visual Effects Supervisor on "The Bourne Identity." I just listened to your TV review of the film and am flattered by the attention you gave me, although it was probably unintentional. At the end of your reviews you both stated that you liked the film for the lack of Visual Effects in it. By this I take it to mean, the lack of VISIBLE Visual Effects. I strive very hard to have my work seamlessly integrate itself into the telling of the story and to make sure that the audience is unaware that any of the imagery has been manipulated. On this film I executed in excess of 150 Visual Effects shots, which included, miniatures, blue screen, wire removal, time manipulation, 3D character animation and background replacement for starters. I come from the school that says if I do my job well, my work will not be noticed by the audience. (Peter Donen, Los Angeles)
A. Richard Roeper said "no computer effects are as good as a well-shot movie in Paris..." and I agreed, "this movie is a convincing argument for really photographing real things happening on real locations." That isn't the same as saying there were no effects at all; I think we were contrasting it with the blue screen work in "Episode II." But you make an excellent point, and your letter arrived just in time to assist me in the next reply.
Q. I saw "The Bourne Identity" last night. Question: If you are at the top of a stairwell several stories high and you want to fall to the bottom by using a corpse as your "shield," how likely is it that (a) the corpse will sufficiently cushion your fall, and (b) while riding said corpse, you can shoot and kill a man at the halfway point in your descent? (Steve Bailey, Jacksonville Beach, FL.)
A. I don't think it's possible. Based on my expert ability to analyze a film, I'd guess it was done with Visual Effects.
Q. Every time I see the trailer for "Changing Lanes," I cringe. According to the trailer, the film stars "Academy Award Nominee Samuel L. Jackson" and "Academy Award Winner Ben Affleck." Now, since most folks can't even name the Oscar winners from last year, I'm willing to bet they have no idea what great performance Affleck won his Oscar for--which is what the studio wants, since Affleck won for Best Screenplay, not acting. This is a dubious practice, especially up against a mere "nominee" like Jackson who should have a set of Oscars by now! (Paul Castiglia, Huntington Station, NY)
A. Technically, the trailer is correct. Ethically, it stands on shaky ground.
Q. How does the screenwriter for "Insomnia" get away with saying in interviews that Nightmute, Alaska is a fictional town? In reality it is a rural Yup'ik Eskimo village on the coast of southwestern Alaska. It is surrounded by rolling hills and tundra and sits on the coast. All of us out here in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta have been pretty put off by the fact that they took this name (probably because it sounded cool). We are not the Kenai peninsula out here. There aren't huge mountains and tall trees. I nearly fell off the couch when I heard "Nightmute" and saw that in Hollywood this very proud village is apparently full of white people, bears, mountains, and every other Alaskan stereotype. (Tiffany Longan, Bethel AK)
A. Screenwriter Hillary Seitz replies: "It certainly wasn't my intention to put off the entire town of Nightmute, Alaska. When I went up to Alaska to do research for "Insomnia," I was so intrigued and bewitched by both the people and scenery of this amazing part of the world, I shudder at the thought of giving offense. Firstly, you shouldn't believe everything you read. I have never said Nightmute is a "fictional town." I tell interviewers that I did most of my research in Homer and Seward, but felt that "Nightmute" had such a splendid poetic and thematic ring to it that I couldn't resist shuffling the geography around. This wasn't a case of my closing my eyes and randomly pointing at a map of Alaska. Poetic license is often taken for the overall effect of the piece; and in many ways it is a compliment, not a slight."
Q. Who would win in a fight between Batman and Shaft (Richard Roundtree, not Samuel L. Jackson)? (Duane Theriot, Baton Rouge LA)
A. Which Batman? Jackson would beat them all. Roundtree would win against Keaton, lose to Kilmer, draw with Clooney.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
Chaz Ebert highlights films with the potential to get us through the confusing political times of the Trump presidenc...
A review of Netflix's new series, Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events," which premieres January 13.
One of the most audacious American films from the 1960s is now available via the Criterion Collection.