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.
Q. In the trailer for "Highlander: Endgame," the villain is cut in two, is called a sorcerer, suspends a sword in mid air, and views people on a magic floating crystal ball. The heroes are seen jumping through a "Poltergeist"-style swirling vortex. None of these scenes are in the movie. The villain isn't a sorcerer, just a guy good at cutting off heads and hissing like the Emperor in "Star Wars." I've since found out from the "Highlander" internet newsgroup that the scenes I mentioned were shot just for the "Highlander: Endgame" trailer and were never going to be in the movie. Not even scenes that were later cut but scenes that were never going to be used. How different can a trailer be from the film before it is just lying? (Ian Boothby, Vancouver)
A. This trailer seems different enough. I haven't seen "Highlander: Endgame," since I was in Thailand when it opened, and would have been prepared to go even farther to avoid it, if necessary. I note on the Rotten Tomatoes web site that it scored 11 out of 100 on the Tomatometer, with three positive reviews and 27 negative. Quite possibly anybody who has seen "Highlander Endgame" is grateful that the trailer doesn't remind them of the movie.
Q. "Beyond The Mat" took a "behind the scenes" look at the world of professional wrestling. But watching it on DVD, I may have spotted two sections which suggest it may not be a real documentary. There is a section where a "former third grade teacher" is described as moving away from teaching and on to wrestling. In the "Special Features" section of the DVD, the theatrical trailer shows the same person being asked "you gave up Wall Street for this?" to which he replies "Wall Street wasn't fun, wrestling is." It seems as if different versions were shot. Secondly, the section depicting Mick Foley's losing match to The Rock shows him seemingly receiving medical attention for a gash on the right side on the top of his head, and his family reacting to it. But on DVD, using pause and zoom, you can clearly see, when he is preparing for the match, someone rigging a prosthetic to his head in this exact spot and in a very brief frame you can see it is a fake gash of some kind. I don't know if this is a fake documentary, but odd things seem to be going on with this film. (Steven Diaz, Venice, California)
A. Barry Blaustein, the film's director, replies: "Believe me, 'Beyond The Mat' is a 'genuine documentary.' Regarding the first question: Matt Hyson, the wrestler your reader asked about, was a third grade teacher. He left teaching and went to work on Wall Street while pursing his dream to be a professional wrestler. As you may know, trailers are often done before the final cut of the film. When the trailer was edited, my cut of the film had mentioned both his previous professions. For the sake of timing and pacing, I chose just to mention Matt's teaching background in the final edit. Sorry for the confusion.
Q. Thanks for your "Great Movies" piece on "Shane." It has always been one of my favorites movies. One issue you did not address involves the very last shot, where a wounded Shane rides through the cemetery. Is he dying? I've read the book, which was also ambiguous. What do you think? (Ben Brown, Chicago)
A. He was much more seriously wounded than he let Joey know. But on the evidence in the movie, we cannot say for sure if he's dying or not. I like the ambiguity.
Q. In a recent Answer Man you quoted a New Line spokesman as saying Jennifer Lopez was watching "the Japanese anime, 'Fantastic Planet'" in a scene in "The Cell." That spectacular 1973 animated film is French, not Japanese. Rather than being anime, it belongs to an era of cutting-edge fantasy and sci-fi animation that came out of Europe in the 1970's. "Fantastic Planet" is the tale of an alien world where the descendants of humanity live as small, wild beasts sometimes domesticated by the planet's inhabitants, blue-skinned giants. "Fantastic Planet" is eerie and dreamlike, and therefore, an excellent choice by Tarsem for Jennifer Lopez to be watching. (Greg Dean Schmitz, Upcomingmovies.com)
A. I hope "anime" isn't one of those terms like Kleenex that becomes generic. If it's Japanese it's anime, and if it's not Japanese, it's not. Kevin L. Knoles informs the AM that "Fantastic Planet" was recently re-released on DVD.
Q. I want to hear someone agree with me that re-releasing "Raiders of the Lost Ark" as "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark" is really, really stupid. I saw the actual video box on a shelf. Is this now the new, official title of this film? What I mean to say is, will this film now be filed under "I" instead of "R?" If you ask me, "Raiders" deserves to be set apart from the other films in the series. (Joel Tallent, Brooklyn NY)
A. It's stupid, but not as stupid as re-releasing "The Exorcist" with the formerly perfect ending now followed by a conversation about a version of "Wuthering Heights" starring Jackie Gleason and Lucille Ball. I am not making this up.
Q. "The Watcher" has a howler involving phones. Good guy Spader flips on his cell phone while in a car with evil creep Keanu Reeves. Cops answer the call, figure out what's what, and put--yawn!--a trace on the call. A zowie computer system displays the phone's location right down to an address. This is impossible. A call from a cell phone goes through a radio receiver based within a cell site, i.e. a geographical area monitored by low power transceivers. But there is no way to pinpoint the exact location of a cell phone within a cell site. Certainly not by street address. (Rich Elias, Columbus, Ohio)
A. If I follow the movie correctly, the killer was clever enough to know the cop's couldn't trace his cell call, but the cops were not, and did.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...