Nothing here deserves to be characterized as morbid. Indeed, quite the opposite.
Q. There was a lot of publicity when a helicopter crashed into an active volcano in the Hawaiian islands while filming for the movie "Sliver." The cameraman and crew were saved only after much danger. When I went to see the movie, there were no shots of a volcano in it. What happened? -- Ronnie Barzell (Chicago)
A. The volcano footage was planned for the film's original ending, which was subsequently changed, making it unnecessary. The thoughts of the men who nearly died to get the footage can only be imagined. Maybe they can sell their story to the movies.
Q. How come on the "Far And Away" movie poster both Tom Cruise's and Nicole Kidman's names were featured, but this summer's poster for "The Firm" has only his name on it? I thought Gene Hackman was also in this movie. Do you have to be married to Tom Cruise to have your name on his posters? --R. Sullivan (Lowell, Mass.)
A. Yes, and that's where Hackman draws the line.
Q. In the movie "Rookie Of The Year," the 12-year-old Cubs pitcher throws his final pitch directly underhand. In the major leagues, isn't an underhand pitch illegal? -- Paul Dunn (Peoria, Il)
A. I sensed there was something implausible about that plot. Thanks for pinpointing it.
Q. In your review of "Hot Shots! Part Deux," you said that many people would not know that "deux" means "two" in French. Why do members of the media believe the public is ignorant of all facts not found in the Sunday funnies? After awhile it becomes irritating to constantly listen to media figures talk down to the public. We do have intelligence reaching above that of a trained seal. I am by no means a dummy. I even know that "trois" means "three." -- Laura Elizabeth Durnell (Oak Lawn, IL).
A. Vous avez raison, madame. Excuuuuusez-moi!
Q. We were viewing Tom Kalin's movie "Swoon" last night and noticed several inconsistencies, for example touch tone phones and TV remote controllers, even though the movie was set in the 1920s. What's up? -- Michael Wm. Smith (Gainesville, Fla.)
A. Either (a) The anacronisims add an ironic note to the film, hinting that the material is being filtered through a modern sensibility, or (b) like many young filmmakers, Kalin cannot imagine the world without touch-tone phones and channel-surfing.
Q. In your review of "Guilty as Sin," you were puzzled by the appearance late in the film of a reputable woman who provides Don Johnson's character with an alibi. Because the audience and the lawyer (Rebecca De Mornay) know that the character did commit the murder and did hide his tracks, your question was, how to explain this alibi that is false and supplies an unnecessary glitch? My answer is that by producing this witness he is telling his lawyer that he can make a woman do anything he wants. -- Margaret Beauchamp (Chicago)
A. Yours is the only explanation that accounts for what otherwise is a puzzling lapse.
Q. In recent columns you addressed the problem of digital sound systems in movie theaters and how difficult is can be to understand the dialog. This problem is academic to me and others who view movies by renting or buying tapes. When I rent a movie, I want to pop in the tape, adjust the volume, and sit back and enjoy it. But I find I either have to constantly adjust the volume or play the entire movie at a raised volume and hope I can hear what's being said. What are we supposed to do? -- Maria A. Slivka (Chicago)
Q. Is it true that the little boy who played opposite of Whoopee Goldberg in "Clara's Heart" is really YOUR little boy? -- Jim Cook
A. The little dickens sure could act!
Q. OK, was that you, or a highly-paid celeb look-alike in the movie premier scene of "Last Action Hero"? -- Jim Deck
A. If he had been highly-paid, it would have been me.
Q. I am teaching immigrants from China and decided they should be introduced to the pinnacle of American culture: the movies. I've been trying to put together a list of the ten films which are cultural landmarks, must-see films to be American. What's your list? -- Devatara Holma
A. The Godfather. Do the Right Thing. Singin' in the Rain. The Grapes of Wrath. Apocalypse Now. My Darling Clementine. Say Amen, Somebody. Casablanca. North by Northwest. JFK.
Q. Recently I read that Sir Anthony Hopkins has cooled to the idea of a sequel to "The Silence of the Lambs," due to media criticism in the U.K. that his portrayal of Hannibal the Cannibal glamorizes serial killers. Do you think Sir Anthony is serious or just bluffing? -- Cynthia I. Sole
A. Hopkins was deeply disturbed by a case in which a small boy as abducted and murdered by two other youngsters, and has been giving deep thought to the possible connections between violence in the media and in society. However, Hannibal Lector was the role of a lifetime for him, handled so brilliantly it won him the Academy Award, and it is likely that he will not pass over the sequel without carefully weighing the screenplay.
Q. I've just watched "Batman Returns" again on video. Two of the Penguin's famous trademarks are his cigarette holder and his monocle. But in the movie, the holder was only in one scene and in that scene he had spit it out! Was this a sort of anti-smoking message? -- Mark Garoutte
A. The Penguin was played by Danny DeVito, who has chain-smoked in two recent roles ("War of the Roses" and "Hoffa"). Leaving out the holder may simply have been a way to avoid messing up the Penguin's complicated and time-consuming makeup. I doubt it was an anti-smoking message. A recent British study of the top ten Hollywood films in the U.K. so far this year showed smoking in eight of them (the exceptions were "Honey, I Blew Up the Kid" and the re-release of "The Jungle Book"). However, in only one of them ("TheBodyguard") was smoking given a positive image. In the others, smokers were seen as losers, criminals, prostitutes or villains. On the other hand, the British found, there might have been a more subtle message: Smoking was portrayed throughout as a tactic for dealing with stress. I get letters all the time from people with dark suspicions that the tobacco companies pay to have characters smoke in movies. Given the frequency of paid "product placement" for many other commodities (Pepsi, Dunkin' Donuts) this is not inconceivable. But if they pay, do they mind that the smokers are usually villains.?
Q. My husband and I saw "Cliffhanger" last night and we were both on the edge of our seats!! We didn't hang onto each other that much when we were going through Hurricane Andrew!!! But did you notice in the credits that one of the stuntmen, who I believe they listed as doubling for Stallone, had the film dedicated to his "memory"--and someone else was named, too. Did these people die as a result of a stunt executed during the filming? -- Michelle Haber
A. The film was dedicated to Wolfgang Gulich, Sylvester Stallone's stunt double in the climbing sequences, who was killed in an auto accident three days after shooting was completed, and to Fadel Kassar, who died of natural causes during the production, and was father of the film's executive producer, Mario Kassar.
Q. McDonalds did an advertising tie-in with "Jurassic Park," and I think it was irresponsible of them to link up with such a film. McDonalds generally positions itself in the marketplace as a child-oriented restaurant. I think this slant tends to rub off on the perception the public forms about movies like "Batman" or "Jurassic Park," through the McDonald's co-op advertising. I heard several comments about "Batman," from other parents, saying they wish they had not taken their children to see it because of its violence. How many children, who love cute and cuddly dinosaurs, are now going to have nightmares after they beg mom and dad to take them to the movie depicted on their McDonalds beverage container? -- Loring Fiske-Phillips, San Bernardino, CA.
A. And how about the nightmares suffered by executives at Burger King, who did an expensive tie-in with "The Last Action Hero?"
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
A review of the "Mystery Science Theater 3000" revival that's now playing on Netflix.
One of the most important and dazzlingly original works by Coppola comes to Criterion Blu-ray.