The Magnificent Seven
Rarely have so many charismatic actors been used in a film that feels quite as soulless as Antoine Fuqua’s update of The Magnificent Seven.
Q. When explaining why in my film "The Last Castle" we see none of the dead strewn in the prison yard after the film's climactic battle sequence, you wrote in the Answer Man that it would diminish Robert Redford's heroism to see that he was responsible for far more deaths than Gandolfini's character. The truth is this: There are no corpses because nobody was killed. We spent much of the movie establishing that the guards use rubber bullets and not live ones (at the very end of the battle, one of the guards switches to live ammo). Some men may have been wounded, but unless there were hit with direct shots to the temple (very hard to do with moving targets) they all would have survived. (Rod Lurie, director, Pasadena)
A. I knew about the rubber bullets, but what about the various explosions, fires, etc? I think many viewers, like the reader who asked that question, felt that some the guards were using live ammo. It just felt that way.
Q. I am looking for "Kandahar," and can't find it. Filmed last year by an Iranian producer and director, about a Canadian journalist trying to find a friend stuck in Afghanistan under Taliban. It was supposed to be released 10 September. Do you know, did it get released? (Calla Shane, Long Beach CA)
A. No release yet in North America. I saw it at Cannes. It is a powerful film about an Iranian who has lived in Canada for years, and now wants to smuggle herself into Afghanistan to save her sister's life. She disguises herself as one of the several wives of an itinerant trader. It would be timely right now, especially since it is largely in English.
Q. Yes, "The Man Who Wasn't There" is in beautiful black and white. But I hear it was shot in color, as USA Films wouldn't finance it any other way. They were afraid foreign markets wouldn't take it in black and white. (Jeff Joseph, Los Angeles)
A. It amazes me that there are people who consider themselves moviegoers and do not appreciate the beauty of black and white.
Q. I took my 7-year-old son to see "Spy Kids," which he loved, so when the movie was released on VHS, we purchased a copy. Upon viewing the video, my son noticed one of his favorite parts was missing. It's the scene where Juni and Carmen are in scuba gear enroute to the underwater entrance to Floop's Castle and the sleeping sharks are awakened by the change in water temperature when Juni "wets in his wetsuit" Why would they cut out such a scene? (Shari Prenzler, Inez TX)
A. I immediately suspected the insidious practice of some video outlets which silently "edit" films for "family viewing," deciding for themselves what is suitable. But, no, in this case the answer is more complicated. According to a spokesperson for Dimension Films, when "Spy Kids" was released on March 30, it contained only dialog about the kid peeing in his wet suit. When it was re-released in August, director Robert made some slight changes, including new footage actually indicating pee in the water. The video version is of the original March 30 version, which does not include that footage.
Q. How many universes are there in Jet Li's "The One?" And how many versions of his character are there? Your review suggests there are 124. But the movie we are told he has killed #123 and is going after #124, which would make him #125. (Susan Lake, Urbana, IL)
A. Ah, but does the movie say he has killed 123 Jet Lis, or is killing Jet Li Number 123? Makes a big difference. The first way it's a running total, the second way it's a tracking number, and the bad Jet Li could be #1--or any other number. Critics are not in agreement. Mike Clark of USA Today agrees with me there are 124. Stephen Holden of the New York Times observes the villain has killed 123 and is going after the "remaining doppelganger"--thus, 125. Kirk Honeycutt of the Hollywood Reporter suggests 125, but a paragraph later writes of "one survivor out of the 123." A Columbia Pictures rep tells me: "As you watch the movie, the display behind Jet displays 123 total victims. The prisoner killed was the 123rd victim. Thus Yulaw and Gabe make up the 124th and 125th beings in the mutiverse, respectively, which consists of 125 parallel universes." The studio helpfully adds: "There may be other life waves in other alternate universes that exist."
Q. Your review of "Monsters, Inc." referred to "voice-over" actors "dubbing" or "looping" their lines. Nothing of the kind is involved. The voices for animated films are recorded beforehand, and the animation is drawn to match the voices. (Justin Weiss, New York NY)
A. You took the words right out of my mouth.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
Writers at RogerEbert.com share their favorite "Star Trek" moments in honor of the original TV series' 50th anniversary.