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High fidelity? Fan thinks not

Q. You mentioned it's difficult to imagine anyone other than Jimmy Fallon as the Red Sox baseball fan in "Fever Pitch" (2005). For me, I'm having a hard time imagining anyone other than Colin Firth as the long-suffering Arsenal soccer fan in "Fever Pitch" (1997).

Both movies are based on the same memoir by Nick Hornby. I enjoy the older movie so much that I'm having a hard time deciding whether I can see the new one. As an added factor, I don't really like the Red Sox. How can I best approach this dilemma? Billy Guinigundo, Hamilton, Ohio

A. The 1997 British movie, unseen by me, was a North American box-office flop. It made less than $250,000 and on one weekend, it actually grossed only $170. But quite frankly, I'm so depressed that Illinois lost the final game of the NCAA basketball tournament, after coming back from 15 down to tie it up, that I wouldn't pay for a ticket if the Red Sox played Arsenal. To you and your dilemma, I say: "Oskee-wow-wow."

Q. Upon picking up the new "Amityville Horror" DVD box set, I was puzzled to read the following disclaimer on the bottom of the packaging:

"'Amityville 3-D' is not a sequel to the pictures 'The Amityville Horror' or 'Amitville [sic] II: The Possession.'"

From the story synopsis, "3-D" sounds like a sequel to me, given that it takes place in the same Amityville house and occurs after the previous two films. Further research has shown that this disclaimer was also on past releases of "Amityville 3-D," both on VHS and laser disc.

So I must ask, if "Amityville 3-D" is not a sequel to "The Amityville Horror," then what is it (other than an awful movie)? Rhett Miller, Calgary, Alberta

A. According to the Internet Movie Database, it is not a sequel because ... because ... are you ready for this? The events in the first two films were "real," while "Amityville 3-D" was (gasp!) made up! One way or the other, it remains unseen by me. This tradition continues with the current 2005 "Amityville Horror," which was not previewed for many Chicago critics, an infallible sign that the studio has good reason to believe it will not, in the words of Variety, draw fave raves from the scribes. Because of my forthcoming Overlooked Film Festival, I may not have time to see it in a theater. I can live with that.

Q. I noticed that you did not review the prequel, "The Exorcist: The Beginning" that came out last year. Do you have something against the movies that continue the story of the original "Exorcist"? Dan Harris, Brookings, S.D.

A. It was not previewed for critics, and I never caught up with it. I have, however, just seen Paul Schrader's original "The Exorcist: The Prequel," which was shelved by the studio, reportedly because it was "too serious." Renny Harlin was hired to make a version that replaced three of the four leads, spent $50 million on top of Schrader's $30 million, and the movie scored only 11 percent on the Tomatometer.

The Schrader version is a very good film, strong and true. It is intelligent about spiritual matters, sensitive to the complexities of its characters, and does something risky and daring in this time of jaded horror movies: It takes evil seriously. It will have a limited theatrical run next month before a DVD release.

Q. Lately some people have been complaining that "Sin City" was the No. 1 movie in the country the same weekend the pope passed away. I'm guessing they are referring to the violence and sexual content of the picture, which could be mistaken for anti-Catholicism, even though it is a great film. My question is, where do you stand on this issue and why? Ryan Graham, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

A. I think it is more of a coincidence than an issue. I did get a lot of messages saying my review should have underlined the level of violence in the movie. They were correct: I became absorbed in my discussion of the film's visual style, and its roots in film noir and comic books.

The violence did not seem real to me, as it did, for example, in "Monster." It had no psychological depth or realistic meaning, but was simply the medium that the genre swims in. Still, my review should have given a better idea of the film's content. Readers might also have been well-advised to note the MPAA rating ("Rated R for sustained strong stylized violence, nudity and sexual content including dialogue").

Q . This is regarding the Answer Man item about ads on DVDs. I own the special edition of "Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amelie Poulain" or "Amelie" as it's known in the United States. This is a box-set edition designed for the Quebec market that cost me about $60. Before the main menu even appears on the screen, you have to sit through an FBI warning, the Macrovision trailer, the movie distributor's logo, a Bordeaux wine commercial, and finally instructions on how to navigate through the DVD. And NONE of it is skippable! Whenever I try to watch the movie I feel as if I've paid 60 bucks to watch a wine commercial. And I don't even drink! Francois Caron, Montreal, Quebec

A. You'd think for $60 the Quebec edition could at least provide you with a warning from the Mounties.

Peter Becker is president of the Criterion Collection, the class act of the DVD market. He responds: "I've never seen discs like the one your reader mentions, but we like our editions to start as straightforwardly as possible. You buy a DVD to play the movie, so animations, warnings and ads shouldn't get in your way. As for making that stuff unskippable, I think locking out viewer input is never a good idea."

Q. In your "Sahara" review, you refer to Bob & Ray's "Blake Dent, Boy Spotwelder." Bob & Ray fans near & far are, I'm sure, letting you know that it's "Matt Neffer, Boy Spotwelder" ("Over here behind the duck press, Todd."). With hundreds of hours of B&R indelibly etched in my brain, I cannot recall a Blake Dent in any context. Art Scott, Livermore, Calif.

A. You are absolutely correct and win a year's supply of Parker House rolls with rich creamery butter from nearby farms. I was delighted to learn that virtually the entire Bob & Ray archive is available at Not many people know that when you solve the Da Vinci Code, that's where it leads you, right there to the archive's friendly front parlor, where on a good day you might meet Kent Lyle Birdley, Wally Ballou, Charles the Poet, Dean Archer Armstead and Mary Backstayge.

Just the other day I dropped in and overheard a scintillating conversation:

"Golly gee whillikers, Mr. Science! What's that long brown object?!?"

"That's known as a board, Jimmy."

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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