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. Recently I saw the movie "Heat," and a couple of scenes reminded me of a TV movie I watched a few years ago. When I got home I located the tape and watched it, and it was the same movie! The TV movie was called "L. A. Takedown," and starred one of my favorite TV actors, Alex McArthur. Michael Mann wrote and directed both this movie and "Heat." (D. Jackson, Chicago).
Q. Once again the Golden Globes blew it, by failing to nominate Oliver Stone's brilliant "Nixon" as one of the best-directed films of the year. What gives with this group? (Jordan Marsh, Chicago)
A. Anthony Hopkins was nominated for best actor. But Oliver Stone may have lost the "director" nomination for himself. In behavior that seemed positively Nixonian, he took personal control of the preview press screenings of the movie, insisting on approving every name. In most cities he allowed only a handful of "leading" critics to attend. The Golden Globe membership is made up of Hollywood foreign correspondents--few of them on Stone's A-list. Since 10 actors are nominated (five for comedy, five for drama), enough Globe voters saw the movie to nominate Hopkins. But in the more competitive director category (only five names), Stone's policy may have aced him out a nomination. Ironically, the Globe voters have historically supported Stone; they gave him their "best director" Globe for "JFK."
Q. You go ballistic when a Washington politician chides Hollywood about the garbage it is producing, but are happy to have those Washington politicians dictate what each of the 50 states speed limit laws should be. As a genetically-impaired leftist you are incapable of seeing a paradox there. (Alex R. Thomas, San Antonio, Texas)
A. Actually, I would be against both national speed limits and movie censorship. But my argument was more precise. What I said was that when a popular target (Hollywood) is available, politicians go for votes by attacking it on the grounds that a movie may have inspired a murder. But when the target is unpopular (speed limits), politicians can happily live with thousands of deaths. This, I think you will agree, is hypocrisy. I would also like to query some of Washington's movie critics about their support of tobacco subsidies.
Q. Despite your review saying it was too scary for younger kids, I just took my two children (ages 4 and 7) to "Jumanji," prepared to yank them out of the theater at the first sign of terror. They loved it. The dangerous animals were animated in a somewhat cartoonish style that took out most of the sting. Certainly nothing worse than the scorpion scene in "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids." Comparing this movie to say, "Jurassic Park," (which every kid in America probably owns on video) I'd say it was fairly tame. I really think you were too concerned about the child-in-danger plot. However, certain rules must be followed: Everything must work out okay in the end, nobody dies, and the kids must triumph over the monsters. I'm not claiming this was Great Cinema, and it's not as good as the book, but it hardly qualifies as an evil attempt at terrifying the unsuspecting children of the world. (Leslie Scalfano, Decatur, Ala.)
A. I noticed that a lot of the reviews shared my concern; the movie would have been too intense for me as a kid. But then, I hadn't trained by seeing "Jurassic Park." Thanks for the feedback: All parents should be so observant about what will, and won't, upset their children,
Q. Regarding the mean kid next door in "Toy Story," who takes his toys apart and puts them together in strange ways: It might interest you to know that bashing commercial toys and making new toys out of the pieces is actually a very popular hobby with the kids today. The toy companies don't make action figures for some of the more obscure comics and movie characters, so these people build 'em themselves by cannibalizing the parts they need from existing action figures and then re-painting and in some cases entirely re-sculpting. Many of the results are actually far better than commercial quality. A bunch of comix magazines I read run photos of readers' homemade figures, two or three pages' worth, every month. It's a cool hobby and I wish I had the time to take a crack at it myself. (Andy Ihnatko, Westwood, Mass.)
A. It is so heartening, in this modern age, to learn that kids still make their own toys. Here you go, Junior: Batman, Robin, and a hammer!
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...