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. While the film "What the #$*! Do We Know?" parades itself as a tell-all about quantum physics, it turns out that it's actually a 111-minute infomercial for ... that's right, the Ramtha School of Enlightenment. In fact, the three filmmakers, [William] Arntz, [Betsy] Chasse and [Mark] Vicente, are all devotees of Ramtha.
There's little to no accurate science in the film, and, as a physicist pointed out recently in your Answer Man column, the individuals who are quoted are pretty far from qualified experts on the field of quantum mechanics. Case in point: One of the persons expounding on causality and quantum physics (Dispenza) is a chiropractor. The film's sole purpose appears to be to promote the ideology of the Ramtha School of Enlightenment. A quick browse through their Web site will clearly demonstrate that the film's pseudoscientific nonsense comes straight from the teachings of the RSE.
Rubin Safaya, Edina, Minn.
A. Several other readers also unmasked the documentary as a hoax. I knew there had to be something fishy when the expert who made the most sense was channeling a 35,000-year-old seer from Atlantis.
Q. What is the etiquette for handling a request to move over to the next seat in the movie theater? Recently my wife and I were sitting in the same row as a couple who had an empty seat on either side of them. As the theater filled up, two couples separately requested that the couple already sitting there move over one seat so that they could sit together. The couple in the seats refused to move. Each time, the reaction by the requesting couple was shock. My wife and I felt that the couple sitting there had every right to refuse to move since they had arrived early enough to chose their seats. Your thoughts?
Kevin C. Rung, New Orleans
A. The Answer Man refers all questions of etiquette to his lifelong friend Dear Prudence, who writes the advice column for Slate.com. Prudie replies: "This is a judgment call -- or, to be more precise, a 'feeling call,' as in: how one is feeling at the moment. People are not impolite to ask, and often they will be accommodated. But by the same token, those who've chosen particular seats and wish to keep them have every right to do so. Sometimes a curmudgeon will say no just to say no. Regarding absorbing shock at a negative response, Prudie's inner snarky self thinks, well, so? You do not know these people, ergo, what's momentary discomfort compared to sitting exactly where you please?"
Q. I know well your well-deserved attacks on theater managers who don't have bulbs at full brightness. So when I was hired as the general manager of the Grand Cinema, a non-profit movie theater in Tacoma, Wash., I resolved not to be one of those managers. One of my first questions to my projectionist was whether we have the bulbs of our three screens at full power. We don't.
And five months later, we still don't. As he tells me, our theaters are so small (no more than 50 or 60 feet from projector to screen) that having our bulbs at full would burn our screens and wash out a picture. I've relied on his judgment, but I think it's time to check this. Is there any evidence to suggest that a bulb should be dimmed slightly or significantly if playing in a very small theater?
Erik Hanberg, Tacoma, Wash.
A. Steve Kraus of the Lake Street Screening Room in Chicago, who is a scholar of film projection, tells me: "Yes, it is possible to be too bright. Of course you can't literally burn the screen but the picture could be washed out and uncomfortable to watch. There are many factors in picture brightness, but there is no reason for guessing. A technician with a light meter can read the reflected brightness of the screen with the projector running without film. It should be 16 foot-Lamberts. I would recommend the forum section at www.film-tech.com, where he can get detailed advice about his particular equipment."
Q. As a free-lancer for the Seattle Times, I recently interviewed Kerry Conran, the writer-director of "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow," and when we discussed the film's budget, he quoted a figure -- off the record -- which was far below the $70 million that's been quoted in literally dozens of reviews and articles.
While I'm familiar with the ego-soothing spin strategies that studios use to inflate a film's budget, in the case of "Sky Captain," wouldn't it make more sense if Paramount had actually boasted about the film's relatively modest budget, since it represents a digital milestone?
Jeff Shannon, Lynnwood, Wash.
A. I heard the budget was not a million miles away from $38 million, which is the advertising budget for some films in that genre. So "Sky Captain" will win back its cost and turn a profit, despite a relatively tame reception at the box office. Many readers tell me I liked it more than they did, and accuse me of being blinded by its style, as if there's a surplus of style in today's movies.
Q. I was saddened to hear about the passing of Russ Meyer, who should be credited with getting sexually explicit (but not hard porn) films into the mainstream. I recently watched his "Good Morning ... and Goodbye"(1967) and noted a very young Don Johnson in the cast. Is this the same Don Johnson who later became a star in the 1980s with "Miami Vice" and film? It sure looks like him.
Scott Favareille, Pinole, Calif.
A. Janice Cowart of RM Films says, no, it's not the same Don Johnson.
Q. Someone asked the Answer Man what happened to Daryl Enfield, the reader who got in trouble because he was too inspired by "Before Sunrise."
That reminded me of another young man you wrote about -- an enterprising young director at Sundance who went to great lengths to get you to see his short movie, called something like "Bobby Loves Mangos." Anyway, you said it was a good short and I've always wondered if the short is available anywhere, and whatever happened to the director?
David Zobel, Atlanta
A. That was a wonderful short by Stuart Acher, who bribed the cafe manager at Park City's Yarrow Inn to put it on the big TV so he could nudge me to see it. You can view the film for free at atomfilms.shockwave.com. The short won Acher an agent, talks with studios, and lots of work directing commercials for such clients as Porsche. He made a music video called "Powder: Up Here," featuring the band Powder, which is also free at Atom Films, and is currently preparing his first feature.
Q. Regarding your recent column on interspecies dating, specifically the relationship of Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, I had the good fortune in June 1999 to interview Mr. Frog around the release of "Muppets From Space." Kermit said that the public has been terribly misinformed concerning his relationship with Miss Piggy.
"This whole romance thing is just a figment of the pig's imagination. It's not true. There is nothing going on there whatsoever," he said. "I don't know whether or not she knows it, but she certainly should be aware by now. She tends to still be out there telling people that we're married or we're dating or all that stuff, but it's just not true."
Kermit went on to say, "The pig is crazy," but I sadly had to cut that quote for space constraints.
Robert Bishop, Prairie Village, Kan.
A. So there you have it, straight from the frog's 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.