Trial by Fire
The film plods at points, trudging along, and there are a few misguided narrative "devices" tacked on, but still, "Trial by Fire" bristles with anger.
In the Answer Man column for July 12, reader David J. Bondelevitch wrote: "I had to bite my tongue from laughing when Sam Neill's character showed up in Montana near the end of 'The Horse Whisperer.' I kept thinking he had fulfilled his dying plea from 'The Hunt for Red October.' After being shot, Sam Neill's dying words in 'Hunt' were (in a thick Russian accent): 'I would like to have seen Montana.' "
Inspired by this observation, the Answer Man offered an autographed copy of Roger Ebert's Video Companion to the reader who contributed the funniest example of a character's wish in one movie being fulfilled in another movie. The AM's post office box was soon bursting with cinematic wish fulfillment. Here are some samples:
To begin with, doesn't "The Horse Whisperer" represent the second time that Sam Neill's character Capt. Borodin from "The Hunt for Red October" fulfills his dying wish to see Montana? In "Jurassic Park," Neill's first scene as a paleontologist is identified as being near Snakewater, Mont. (Larry N. Christiansen, St. Paul, Minn. Also spotted by Andrew Tice of Lebanon, Pa., and Connie L. Merchant of Rochester, N.Y.)
Halfway into "Forrest Gump," a sneering Lt. Dan (Gary Sinise) tells Gump (Tom Hanks), "The day you become a shrimp boat captain, I will be your first mate. The day you become a shrimp boat captain is the day I become an astronaut!" Sinise, of course, became an astronaut in his next film, "Apollo 13," also with Tom Hanks. (Craig Simpson, Reynoldsburg, Ohio. Also spotted by Patrick Chizeck of Chicago and Cal Bray.)
Reverse wish-fulfillment: In "Forrest Gump," Gary Sinise, as Lt. Dan, mourns after his legs are cut off that he'll "never be an astronaut." This prediction is confirmed in "Apollo 13," when it is not amputated legs, but suspicion that he was exposed to measles, that keeps him earthbound. In both films, Tom Hanks listens to his disappointment. (Adam Remsen, Ames, Iowa)
In "Demolition Man," Sandra Bullock's character says to Sylvester Stallone's character, "while you were sleeping . . ." That just happens to be the title of a later Bullock film. (Cal Bray, Snowmass Village, Colo.)
How about anti-wish-fulfillment? In "Bull Durham," Kevin Costner, as Crash Davis, says, "I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone." Later he played Kennedy conspiracy buff Jim Garrison in Oliver Stone's "JFK." (Brian J. Carr, West Chester, Pa. Also spotted by Tom Cammaleri and Chuck Hopkins.)
Eddie Murphy's fabulously wealthy prince in "Coming to America" tosses a big wad of cash to two bums. They are Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche, whose Randolph and Mortimer Duke were ruined by Murphy and Dan Aykroyd in "Trading Places." Bellamy looks wide-eyed at the money and exclaims, "Mortimer! We're back!" (Eric Berman, Indianapolis)
Here's a twist on "Wish Fulfillment" in which an actor fulfills another actor's wishes in a film. In "Platoon," Tom Berenger barks at Willem Dafoe, "Who do you think you are, Jesus Christ?" Dafoe should have replied, "No, but I'll be portraying him in my next film, 'The Last Temptation of Christ.' " (Joe Collins, Chicago. Also spotted by Chuck Hopkins.)
In "How to Marry a Millionaire," Lauren Bacall's character was trying to persuade the older millionaire that there are many older men who are still attractive and alluring. She compared him to the old guy who starred in "The African Queen" - her husband, Humphrey Bogart. (Jacqueline Iacullo, Chicago)
In "Lethal Weapon," Mel Gibson says, "I did (shoot) a guy in Laos from a thousand feet in a high wind. Maybe two or three guys in the world could have made that shot." No doubt he did it while he was in Laos in "Air America." (Tom Cammaleri, Newbury Park, Calif.)
In "Star Trek: First Contact," Capt. Picard (Patrick Stewart) is intent on obtaining revenge on an enemy, the Borg. He gets maniacal about it, and a character named Lily stamps into his office and compares him to Capt. Ahab chasing after Moby Dick. Patrick Stewart went on to portray Capt. Ahab in a recent cable movie version of "Moby Dick." (Marianne Stranich, Chicago)
In "Batman Forever," Jim Carrey as the Riddler says, in his final scene, "How could I forget?" in an eerie whisper. In "Liar Liar," Carrey says the same line in the same way when asked if he remembered his client's boyfriend. (Thomas Torrey, South Windsor, Conn.)
Daryl Hannah starred in a movie some time ago called "Summer Lovers." In that movie there was one scene where she wished she was a mermaid. As you know, her wish was granted in her later movie "Splash." (Carl Malmfeldt, San Ramon, Calif.)
Reverse wish-fulfillment: In Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever," there is a scene in which Debi Mazar portrays a bigoted girlfriend of Annabella Sciorra and declares to her: "I'll never have a sexual relationship with a black man!" In "Malcolm X," Mazar plays a character named Peg who does have sex with a black man. (Joseph Strickland, Chicago)
In "GoodFellas," Joe Pesci's character brutally kills Billy Batts, played by Frank Vincent. Vincent gets his revenge in "Casino," in which he does in Pesci with a shovel to the head! (Ian Waldron-Mantgani, Liverpool)
In "Pulp Fiction," Peter Green as Zed says the line, "Feed it to the gimp." And in "The Usual Suspects," Peter Green as Redfoot says that same exact line when asked what he should do about some recovered drugs. (Thomas Torrey, South Windsor, Conn.)
In "No Way Out," Gene Hackman plays a high-ranking Washington official whose philandering ways lead him to accidentally murder his mistress. Associates try to create a coverup, unknowingly implicating the hero (Kevin Costner) as the murderer. In "Absolute Power," Hackman plays a high-ranking Washington official whose philandering ways lead him to accidentally murder his mistress, and associates try to create a coverup, unknowingly implicating the hero (Clint Eastwood) as the murderer. "Absolute Power" is fun to watch if you pretend that Hackman's character is the same one from "No Way Out," 10 years later, and still murdering mistresses. (Chuck Hopkins, Columbus, Ohio)
And I'll add one of my own. In "Citizen Kane," Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten were boyhood friends, "thrown out of all the best schools together," before Welles grows up and eventually goes on a collecting tour of Europe, leaving Cotten behind to work as a writer. In "The Third Man," Welles is once again an old chum who has gone to Europe, but this time he sends for Cotten, a writer, asking him to join him.
The free book goes to Ian Waldron-Mantgani, who submitted the two most amusing entries.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...