Trashy, goofy, and surprisingly sincere, this superhero fantasy is better than you expect but not as good as it should be.
Q. I have enjoyed reading your views on the digital vs. film issue and was wondering if you had any update on how Dean Goodhill's "Maxivision 48" system has been coming along. Do you know of any directors who are actually considering using it for a feature production? I was sad to read in one of your articles that Eastman House is going digital as well, and lately director Sidney Lumet has mentioned that film is going to be gone within 50 years. I would love to hear if you have any updates about Maxivision 48. Ibrahim Shankiti, Baghdad, Iraq
A. Goodhill is still optimistic. The process is so much better than 70mm or IMAX that it blows them away. The digital revolution is useful for many reasons, including cost, speed and increasing quality, but a venture capitalist with imagination could transform epics such as comic superhero movies. If fanboys could see "Spider-Man" in Maxivision, you'd never get them down at the multiplex again.
In my science-fiction film class, we were tying to determine the first film to use the "flying saucer" spaceship. The earliest film we could come up with was "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951). Any thoughts? James Hrivnak, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
A. Two 1950 movies were named "The Flying Saucer" and "The Flying Saucer Mystery."
Q. Re the Joy Division biopic "Control": 1) Is it true that singer Ian Curtis hanged himself either while or after watching Werner Herzog's "Stroszek" on TV? 2) Wasn't one of the ironies behind the name Joy Division (besides the joylessness of the music itself) that it's a euphemism used by the Nazis for the brothels in concentration camps? Alan Partridge, Manchester, PA
A. Yes to both. You can see Bruno S., the star of "Stroszek," on the screen in Curtis' house just before he kills himself. But why that film? It doesn't seem terminally depressing to me (it's in the Great Movies Collection of rogerebert.com).
Q. I'm a fan, that's why I read your site. However, doesn't it seem odd that you're not exactly raving about "Bee Movie," and yet their ads are all over your site? I understand the importance of advertising space; however, in consideration of the similar industry, perhaps it's a conflict of interest? At a glance, someone may assume that you're promoting this film. Nicole Comer, Toluca Lake, CA
A. Not if they read my review. Haven't you noticed that movie ads and movie reviews do not always agree? The ads are what make it possible for you to read the site.
Q. You recently reviewed "The Gates," and in doing so shared your appreciation of "The Gates" themselves (an appreciation I share). I'm curious, though: Given your argument that video games cannot be "high art" because they are open-ended, does this also disqualify "The Gates"? Stephen Eldridge, Landing, NJ
A. No more than it would disqualify the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Stonehenge or Schubert's "Unfinished Symphony."
Q. As for the driving directions to or from Barrow, Alaska, Google has become tame. At one time, you could ask it for directions from midtown Manhattan to Paris, and it would instruct you to head down to the docks, turn right and swim 4,000 miles. Now you just get that same bland "could not calculate" message. Adam Weintraub,Sacramento, CA
A. That's better than wading ashore in New Jersey.
Q. I am delighted to see you finally list "Blade Runner (The Final Cut)" in the Great Movies Collection, as this is my favorite film. But you've made the same mistake that you made in your previous reviews, which is regarding how many replicants Deckard needed to hunt down. Deckard's police superior, Bryant, informs him that, indeed, six did escape; however, as was noted in the Final Cut (and interestingly, the workprint) "two were fried running through an electric field," which nullifies any chance of Deckard being part of the renegade group of Nexus-6s.
However, a few things should be noted. Originally, Deckard was to hunt down five replicants, with only one, named Hodge, getting nailed in the field (as reflected in the original theatrical/international and director releases). The fifth replicant was actually a character named Mary, and was to be portrayed by Stacy Nelkin, but her scenes were cut before filming began. This was far enough into production that Bryant made the dialogue mistake. Of course, it is a very valid theory that Deckard is, in fact, a replicant, perhaps even a Nexux-7 (that's not a typo), just not part of Roy's group. N.R. Klein, Pomona, NJ
A. I am slowly beginning to realize I am a replicant, programmed to spread disinformation to put any loose ones in greater danger.
Q. The little boy who played Michael Clayton's son was a crucial part of the movie and yet no credit has been given to him. He did a great acting job, and the book he was reading was so important to the story. Joan Clark, Ketchum, ID
A. Praise to Austin Williams, 11, who also played Timothy Hutton's son in "The Good Shepherd."
Q. I was watching "The Sixth Sense" with my cousins, and we got into a debate over whether Haley Joel Osment's character in the movie knows that the Bruce Willis character is dead. I said he could not possibly know he is dead because he would have been scared to talk to him, but they pointed out that he does know and talks to him because he is not scared of him. Who do you agree with? Claudia Cruz, Riverside, CA
A. Your cousins. Cole says, "I see dead people." So he knows they're dead. He kindly does not always inform them.
Q. My girlfriend and I have attended the Chicago International Film Festival for many years (I even once sat a couple rows from you during a special screening of "Gates of Heaven.") We would like to attend another international film festival. Do you have a recommendation? Joseph Azazello, Chicago, IL
A. Forget about Cannes, Berlin and Venice: Big deals, but expensive and you need credentials. Pick your dates and go online to www.filmfestivals.com. They list 1,400 fests. Near Chicago, the biggest and most user-friendly is Toronto. Montreal is making a comeback. I have had wonderful times at the Hawaii, Virginia and Savannah festivals. Telluride is magical but expensive and hard to get to.
Here in Chicago, we have many festivals, including the Latino, Animation, Reeling (Gay/Lesbian), Underground, Short Film, Future Filmmakers, Asian Animation, Asian-American, Horror, International Children's, Documentary, and Women in the Director's Chair festivals. There's hardly a week of the year without a festival going on here. And in Urbana-Champaign, you might enjoy the Insect Fear Film Festival, and also surf to www.ebertfest.com, with next year's festival coming in April.
Q. Thank you for steering me to "The Greatest YouTube Clip of All Time," with 100 movies, 100 scenes, 100 numbers. I enjoyed it immensely. I think I was identifying about half of the films without looking them up. How did you do? Ann Hubbard, Williamsburg, VA
A. I got them all. Not always by title, of course. A lot of them I correctly identified as, "Oh, yeah, that movie!"
Q. There's a big news story out about the West Memphis Three, subjects of the documentaries "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills" (1996) and "Paradise Lost 2: Revelations" (2000). They may be exonerated on the basis of DNA evidence. Also, a new movie about them may be in the works. Justin Weiss, Tokyo
A. I've been writing about this case for years. The two documentaries, by Joe Berliner and Alan Sinofsky, compellingly argue that three young men were railroaded for the crimes because they wore black, liked heavy metal and fit the local profile of "Satanic cult members." The first doc showed us Terry Hobbs, stepfather of one of the victims. Now DNA evidence puts him, but not the three prisoners, at the scene. The full story is at http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,2204901,00.html.
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