"Transcendence" is a serious science fiction movie filled with big ideas and powerful images, but it never quite coheres, and the end is a copout.
Q. A message from the Rev. Donald Wildmon, head of the American Family Assn., is making the rounds of the Internet. In it, he attacks Disney, writing: "In 'Toy Story,' rated G by the ultraliberal MPAA, the main characters, 'Woody'--note sexual reference--and 'Buzz'--note drug reference--are owned by a child in a single-parent household in which the father is noticeably absent. 'Woody' and 'Buzz' have equally disturbing toy friends, including a sex-obsessed talking potato, a sex-obsessed Bo Peep doll who cannot keep her hands (or lips) off 'Woody,' and an Etch-a-Sketch whose 'knobs' must be 'adjusted' to produce results." Don't you think this is carrying things to extremes? (Name Withheld)
A. I withheld your name because you merely forwarded a message which had dozens of other recipients in its header. It sounded fishy to me, so I contacted the American Family Assn., and its spokesman, Scott Thomas, said, "This message is a hoax. It was sent by someone who doesn't like AFA, and apparently doesn't mind using others to express his view, since he has manipulated many (about 100 so far) into writing us on his behalf. The message purports to come from Don Wildmon, who doesn't even have a modem, let alone an e-mail address. Nor does the AFA maintain any electronic mailing lists."
Q. In a recent Answer Man, a reader noted a problem with the movie portrayal of head-butts. He wrote, "Whenever a head butt is delivered in a movie, the receiver of the butt is sent reeling into a semiconscious stagger with all manner of hideous facial contusions, while the deliverer of the butt doesn't even wince, even though his own head has just received an identical impact." As an aging rugby player, I have had the distinct displeasure of receiving my share of head-butts (and given a few). Your correspondent is more a student of physics than of hard-scrabble street maneuvers. The point of a head-butt is to strike the soft part of your opponent's head (e.g. nose, filtrum, mouth) with the hard part of your head (e.g. forehead). If you do that correctly, you will likely hear a noise similar to a walnut cracking. If you do it wrong, both of you will stagger away looking like the Moe after Curly nails him with a 2-by-4. (Mark Firmani, Seattle Rugby Football Club)
A. Now that we know how you do it, how did Curly do it?
Q. Comedy Central, the cable outfit that runs the great program "Mystery Science Theater 3000" has tentatively decided to cancel it. I know that you're not a TV critic, but MST3K obviously appeals to film buffs, too (as well as all intelligent, perceptive, good-humored, and wonderful people everywhere). We must save this show! (Jeff Feindt, Dayton, N.J.)
A. MST3K shows spectacularly bad movies, and superimposes the silhouettes of three futuristic critics (a human, an alien and a robot), who provide a running critique. There are those who devour every episode (Time movie critic Richard Corliss recently published a lengthy analysis in Film Comment magazine). If you want to protest, write to Doug Herzog, Comedy Central, 1775 Broadway, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10019. What I'm getting tired of is Comedy Central's endless tapes of stand-up comedians, who seem required to stand up, by law, in front of the same brick wall.
Q. While the computer-generated animation in "Toy Story" is superb, it scares me a little, as do other movies making extensive use of computers, such as "Jurassic Park." Now I can't always tell whether something is real, or created from zillions of bits. Last night I watched "My Darling Clementine." I knew those mountains and rock outcroppings were real. Yes, backdrops were sometimes used (I don't care for that method either, but it's easier to spot). I hope the movie industry doesn't go overboard with chips and trickery. Don't get me wrong: I am all for technology, in part because I'm a quadriplegic. I'm typing this on a Mac. Before working on them, I thought computers were anathema, but now they have opened up countless worlds for me. (Robin L. Rogalski, Glendale, Wis.)
A. I hear what you're saying, but the movies have used effects right from the start, and many "real" scenes in the past were actually all trickery. (When the seaplane takes off in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," for example, the plane, the water, the land, the town and the sky are all separate effects.) What has me concerned is the work being done to clone human actors, so that Humphrey Bogart or Marilyn Monroe could convincingly "return" in a modern movie. I think that comes close to grave robbery.
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