Freeheld stumbles over too many hurdles to recommend it. The film’s heart is in the right place, but its focus is not.
Q. Thank you for speaking out about the travesty that Warner Brothers is perpetuating with "Eyes Wide Shut." I originally read about the digitally altered 65 seconds in Richard Schickel's Time magazine article. This is truly a sad day for film enthusiasts. I believe that it is time for someone to step in and deal with the MPAA's perversion of their power. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to their decisions. For example, the original tagline of the "South Park" movie, "All Hell Breaks Loose," was rejected due to the use of the word "hell." The MPAA claims the rating system is only to inform potential viewers about objectionable subject matter, but it is farcical for them to act as if their rulings have no effect on a film's box office potential, especially the stigmatized NC-17. I will still see "Eyes Wide Shut," because I love Stanley Kubrick's work and consider him a true artist. That does not change the fact that I am extremely disappointed in Warner Brothers. Although they are in business to make money, it would be nice to see them strive to support those filmmakers who have an artistic vision, rather than solely support mind-numbing dreck such as "Wild Wild West". (Jeremy Slate, Tallahassee FL)
A. America sleeps better at night knowing that the offensive "All Hell Breaks Loose" was not part of the campaign for "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut," a title the MPAA did not object to. The MPAA serves a useful purpose as a guide for parents. But as an unintended side effect, it prevents adults from seeing films as their directors intended them to be seen.
Q. I just saw "The Thirteenth Floor," and I noticed in one of the scenes in the 40s world, that there was a grand swimming pool. Wasn't this the same pool that was in "Cruel Intentions?" Both are Sony movies, and were probably produced at the same time. Since when have studios recycled sets? Did Reese Witherspoon and Craig Bierko bump into each other unexpectedly? (Eric Knopp, San Francisco, CA)
A. A Sony Pictures rep says the pool of the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles was used for both films.
Q. I just saw "Tarzan" and loved the movie. My question is: Were my eyes deceiving me, or did Mrs. Potts and Chip from "The Little Mermaid" make cameo, albeit non-speaking, appearances during the "Trashin' the Camp" scenes? Of course many teapots and teacups (with chips) look alike so it may be my mind creating a link that is simply not there.(Jim Tsai, Philadelphia, PA)
A. Thomas Schumacher, president of Walt Disney Feature Animation and Theatrical Production, replies: "Yes indeed, good catch. That was in fact Mrs. Potts. Her cameo seemed a fitting tribute and you'll be comforted to know she is one of the few items not 'trashed' in that sequence."
Q. The recent boxed set of Stanley Kubrick DVD releases has some titles, like "The Shining" and "Full Metal Jacket," that are "modified from their original format" instead of being letterboxed. Are you aware if those films were shot in a theatrical, widescreen ratio? If so, it really angers me that those films would be released that way on DVD. (Paul West, Seattle, Wash.)
A. "Dr. Strangelove," which made such good use of widescreen, was also panned-and-scanned. Here's the shocker: Kubrick himself reportedly approved pan-and-scan of some titles, because he felt letterboxing was distracting. Boxed DVD collectors' set are aimed right at videophiles, however, and they like letterboxing. Also, of course, the DVD format makes it possible to put a letterboxed version on one side and a pan-and-scan on the other. The "Kubrick Collection" does not serve his memory well.
Q. A recent "Answer Man" column noted how the street names in "The Matrix" were also streets in Chicago. There's obviously a bug in the Matrix: the Chicago street names are combined with the landmarks and company logos of Sydney, Australia. And for some strange reason, all the streets in this strange city are "one way," and it's difficult to see into the interiors of cars for all the reflections. Does this have anything to do with the fact that Australians drive on the other side of the road? (Murray Chapman, Internet Movie Database)
A. Inspired by your e-mail address, I went to www.imdb.com, the most invaluable single movie site on the web, and discovered that "The Matrix" locations were indeed in Sydney, Australia.
Q. I am a big fan of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maurtin series of novels and have wondered why they have never been made into a movie. They would seem to have it all: Action, romance, intrigue, the historical angle. Do you know if anyone owns the rights or if anyone has every tried to get a movie deal? (Eric Killian, Vancouver, WA)
A. These swashbuckling, seafaring novels with lots of 19th Century sailing minutiae have an enormous following, but not in the demographic group of 16-to-25 year old males whose support is needed if a picture is to open strongly. I've listened to Master and Commander and H.M.S. Surprise on audiobooks, however, and recommend them, especially for Robert Hardy's great gusto in the reading. (You didn't ask, but the single greatest performance in the history of audiobooks is Sean Barrett's reading of Perfume, by Patrick Suskind.)
Q. I went to "American Pie" today, and left the theatre depressed for two reasons. 1) The preview for the 3-D IMAX film "Encounter In The Third Dimension" looked interesting and I had a slight urge to see it, which was killed after I noticed those responsible for making the trailer had written "Encounter in the Thrid Dimension". 2) When Jim, the lead character in "American Pie," finds the note written by his mom, in regard to the pie she just baked, it reads "Jim -- Apple! You're favorite!" You are favorite indeed. (Leigh Emshey, Innisfail, Alberta, Canada)
A. Yeah, but you're "American Pie" had some great-looking grils in it. (cq)
An interview with Michael Shannon on Freeheld, 99 Homes, Boardwalk Empire, and more.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
A comparison of Frank Costello in The Departed and Whitey Bulger in Black Mass reveals weaknesses in the latter.
Our monthly series digs into the career of Wes Craven and comes out with his 3D 2010 film, "My Soul to Take".