Inside Llewyn Davis
"Inside Llewyn Davis" is the most satisfyingly diabolical cinematic structure that the Coens have ever contrived, and that's just one reason that I suspect it…
Q. I believe the film did try to address the issue of why the characters "have to physically parachute to land on a platform." If I'm not mistaken, it is mentioned that the drill is interfering precisely with the function of the beam; the drill must therefore be disabled manually before the beam can be used. In this case, then, the logic may not be entirely puzzling. Andrew Wang, Los Angeles, CA
A. I missed that detail, perhaps because I was astonished that three men would attempt to parachute from Earth's orbit and zero in on a platform so small one of them misses it. And then I got caught up in their battle with the Romulans, which involves a duel with swords and a fistfight, although I was relieved to find such weapons are still used in the 25th century.
Q. I was lucky enough to see "Star Trek" this past Saturday with my husband, mother and father, who is a diehard fan of the original series and idolizes William Shatner to a degree that is not at all weird. My real criticism was that Shatner wasn't included. We all agreed that they could have at least had him voice the "Space, the final frontier" monologue, topping off what was, to me, a surprisingly good movie. Rachel Dixon, St. Louis
A. Shatner himself thought he should have been in it, since Leonard Nimoy was. Fred Topel at starpulse.com says Shatner and Nimoy shook and made up after Nimoy pointed out that Shatner was in "Star Trek: The Next Generation," so now they were even. Director J.J. Abrams told Topel that he wanted to use Shatner, but "his character died onscreen in one of the films. When we tried to figure out a way to put him in, it was a gimmick."
However, your idea of using him for the voiceover is brilliant. Voiceovers by the dead have been used before. Look at "Sunset Boulevard."
Q. So, to paraphrase: "Star Trek" is an action-adventure movie (rather than true science fiction, like "Knowing"?). Apart from grousing about script details, your only gripes seemed to be that this is mainly a set-up movie for the next one (which is a fair comment) and that it wasn't as filled with hot air as previous installments. But it didn't read as a thumbs down, "don't see this" review. So are you telling folks not to bother? Or did you just want to stay far away from the "Trek" love-in? Jason Tchir, Toronto
A. "Star Trek" was very wrong about black holes. (1) You can't see them. (2) One in the center of Vulcan would swallow the planet and everything else in the vicinity, including spaceships. (3) If you're being sucked into one, it's way, way too late to get out. There's a good discussion about the science of "Star Trek" by Discover magazine's "Bad Astronomy" blogger, Phil Plait, who loves the film, here: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy.
What did 2 1/2 stars mean? They meant I couldn't recommend it but it was funny, anyway. "Knowing" was a much better, more stimulating, more intriguing movie. The science in both films is preposterous.
Q. I would like to inform you what parts of your "Star Trek" review makes it lesser than anyone else's and just seems to be dribble that stings the eyes when read. You write, "Anyone with the slightest notion of what a black hole is, or how it behaves, will find the black holes in 'Star Trek' hilarious." Damn it, man, you're a film critic, not an astrophysicist!
"The logic is also a little puzzling when they can beam people into another ship in outer space, but they have to physically parachute to land on a platform in the air from which the Romulans are drilling a hole to the Earth's core." Your logic is puzzling. When the drill is active, all communications and transporter capabilities are disabled. Thirdly, they didn't parachute to land on the platform when it was drilling the Earth's core, that was on Vulcan. Joel Gainey, New Orleans
A. Thanks for your corrections. I got carried away with the Grand Canyon, which, after checking with Google Earth, I find is not located in Iowa. Regarding the astrophysics: I have never seen a black hole and am not sure if one can be seen, since even light cannot escape from it. But if I could see one, I doubt it would be on such a scale that it and the Enterprise could fit into the same frame.
Q. I hope you were not holding too much of the science against "Star Trek," especially since some of the science "problems" seem to be based on your own misunderstandings. It should be pretty obvious that if you want to stop a warp-speed star ship with any precision, a computer is going to have to do it, and "3...2...1..." is just counting down how long until the computer stops the ship. And I don't see how a space elevator fits into the film at all. A space elevator sits in geosynchronous orbit above a planet's equator so it stays above the same point on the planet's surface, allowing a ultralight cable to be dropped to the surface to haul stuff up.
Such a device would be useless if you want to suspend something above plot-convenient points like San Francisco that don't happen to be on the equator. For that, you'd need an attachment to a ship moving with the planet's rotation. I don't know what kind of alloys they have in the 24th century, but a chain might fit the bill. Using warp speed to escape the clutches of a black hole makes science-fiction sense. What doesn't make sense is no one being even slightly perturbed when they almost get sucked into a black hole while their captain is trash-talking. Chris Raehl, Chippewa Falls, Wis.
A. In other words, the computer is controlling warp-speed autopilot, and the human countdown is simply to keep the crew informed? (1) Why couldn't the computer speak that? (2) Why does the crew need to know? It's not like they experience annihilating G-forces or anything. But I grant your point. About the geosynchronous orbit, no matter where above a planet the platform is suspended, don't you think the cable would have to be made from an ultralight buckyball thread as Clarke suggested, and not from a metal chain, which would weigh millions of tons and require more matter than the Romulus ship contains?
Q. I disagree with much of your "Star Trek" review, but for a reason more related to the origin of this entire film "species." While this latest effort pays homage to the earliest of the "Star Trek" series, let's not lose sight of the origin of so much of that series: "Forbidden Planet" (1956). The captain, doctor and engineer are all ripped from that seminal movie, as are facets of the ship, especially the transporters (which began as stasis fields to cushion the crew during deceleration from warp speed). Even the banter between characters, Kirk's womanizing, McCoy's fondness for drink and Scotty's ability to accept impossible tasks are all borrowed from "Forbidden Planet," as are the grand vistas, meaningful plots, lost civilizations and invincible enemies. So, let's enjoy this latest (and, yes, perhaps the best) sequel to the 1950s best space saga. George L. Curran III, Harrisonburg, Va.
A. Also, Robby the Robot introduced the concept of robots with personalities, grandfathering R2D2, C3PO and WALL-E.
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