Tsai Ming-Liang's first feature in five years is a mysterious and alienating series of tableaus about the fragility of flesh and the smallness of humanity.
Q. Re the ending of "Planet of the Apes," I wanted to throw in a cent or two after reading the theory by Josh Daniel of Slate.com, as quoted in the Answer Man. Thade (or whoever) hardly needs to spend years developing a space program in order to go back into time. The craft that Mark Wahlberg uses at the end is not the one that he came on, but the one that the chimp arrived on during the climax. Wahlberg's original craft is still at the bottom of the lake. Assuming that there was another ape revolution which led to the freeing of Thade and assuming that the sunken craft was good ol' fashioned Detroit rolling stock, one could assume that Thade retrieved the craft from the lake. When the monkey ancestors passed on their knowledge to future generations, one might also assume that they passed on the knowledge of how to fly such a thing. That would be all that he needs to go back in time and create the events that would one day lead to the twist ending of the only semi-disappointing Tim Burton film to date. (Peter Sobczynski, Chicago)
A. Josh Daniel of Slate writes: "Quite a few readers in our Slate.com discussion forum pointed out that I'd made the ending too complicated. There's still Davidson's escape pod in the bottom of the pond. There also are, presumably, two other escape pods in the mother ship (in the beginning of the movie, they pointedly refer to the chimp's pod as Alpha, and Davidson goes after him in Delta, so that leaves two pods in between, I think). Davidson leaves Pericles, the pilot, on the ape planet, so Thade wouldn't have to learn to fly."
Q. You wrote in your review of "The Crimson Rivers" that "If the makers of the next Hannibal Lecter picture don't hire Mathieu Kassovitz to direct it, they're mad." Word around the campfire is that Brett Ratner, of the two "Rush Hour" movies, will helm "Red Dragon." Can I get a collective HUH? (Paul West, Seattle, WA)
A. Huh? The Hannibal Lecter pictures depend above all on mood and tone, qualities a hammer-and-nails director like Brett Ratner hasn't demonstrated. Ratner pictures have recently grossed some $600 million, which makes him, by definition, a genius, but he has not yet revealed any hint of a personal style. His wham-bam hyperkinetic approach, which had Jackie Chan complaining that even the fight scenes were truncated, is alien to the creepy buildup of atmosphere and nuance required for Hannibal Lecter. I would suggest that producers Dino and Martha De Laurentiis screen both Lecter pictures, both "Rush Hour" pictures, and "The Crimson Rivers," and ask themselves if they were out of their minds.
Q. I rented Kurosawa's "Ran" last November and watched it with my uncle, who fancies himself a film buff. He said he'd never heard of Kurosawa, so I felt incredibly jealous. There are a thousand films I'd give anything to see for the first time again, from "The Seven Samurai" to "Taxi Driver" and even something like "Road Warrior." And I'd never seen anyone else watch Kurosawa for the first time. Then he went and ruined the experience for me by making kung fu movie noises throughout the film: "Waah Wooshaaw! Oh you have killed my master, now you will surely die!" I respect and love all film genres, especially kung fu, but not only has my uncle disrespected the master himself, but he also missed the whole quote; it's "You will die like the dog you are!" Anyway, my question is; Is what my uncle did a punishable offense? (Gilbert Smith, Thoreau NM)
A. His offense was making a public nuisance of himself, and for his punishment I suggest you reproduce this item and send it to everyone in his address book, so they will know they have a friend, relative or business associate who has the aesthetic sensibility of Beavis and/or Butthead.
Q. Have you heard of the CAP project? "Child Care Action Project: Movie Analysis for Parents" (CAP) is the most insulting movie site on the web. Their lust for demeaning a film solely on its content (violence, sex, profanity) is annoying. An example is their review of "Jurassic Park," a film dear to my heart. They gave it an R rating in the Sex/Homosexuality department because there was "an inappropriate touch to a child from an adult." I wrote them back, saying that the film had no such scene. They told me they analyze every part of the film, including stuff parents/guardians wouldn't even recognize. To do that is perverted and wrong. (Travis Denson, Yoakum TX)
A. Later in your message you recommend www.screenit.com. I agree that ScreenIt is the most useful and sensible site on the web for parents seeking sane advice about movies. It has no religious or political affiliation, but simply provides detailed information about the content of a movie, so that parents can make up their own minds.
Q. Re the new "special edition" of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"--Warner Brothers has decided to sell ONLY a pan-and-scan version of this film on DVD! I gave my original "Willy Wonka" DVD away to a relative and now I will be left with no "Willy Wonka" DVD as I won't come near one of these horrid new releases. I guess I'll have to find someone selling a copy of the old one. (Frank Slove, Buffalo Grove, IL)
A. "Willy Wonka" was originally released as a widescreen movie. The new Warner Brothers release has been "modified to fit your screen"--a sneaky way of saying, "we have chopped off the sides of the picture so what is left will be the same shape as a TV." Many movie lovers insist on seeing movies in their Original Aspect Ratio (OAR), which in this case would mean letterboxing. Warners is experiencing a firestorm of criticism for their sliced-and-diced version, and a Warner Home Video spokesperson tells me: "It is in a full-frame format as research indicates that families prefer a full-frame presentation. We do recognize that there is an interest in a widescreen DVD edition and we are evaluating offering that version in the near future." What this overlooks is that many "Willy Wonka" fans are not children but adult DVD users who look with horror on the "full frame format." ("Full-frame" is Orwellian doublespeak for "lacking one third of the original frame.")
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
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