A thorough and thoroughly conventional, look at the first astronaut to set foot on the moon.
Read Ebert's tribute to Gene Siskel, who died ten years ago, here.
Q. Thank you for your heads-up regarding Rod Lurie's "Nothing But the Truth," but I have to cringe in anticipation of Kate Beckinsale's character. If she is indeed meant to be [New York Times reporter] Judith Miller, I dearly hope she is not portrayed as some saintly, sympathetic figure. The real Miller carried so much water for Bush's attack on Iraq that some of us may never forgive her. I hope her role in the rush to war is not forgotten in the examination she may get from this movie.
Q. You had a good quote in your review of "Benjamin Button: "You can't go through life waving goodbye" I really liked this quote--for about 3 seconds. The sad fact of life is this "We all go through life waving goodbye". I hate this, but it's the truth. Eric Peffer, Spokane WA
Q. How can you be so dead-on correct about 99 percent of the movies you review, but be 100 percent off about a piece of crap like "Marley and Me"? Boring material, terrible script and totally misleading advertisement -- worse than a Lifetime cable movie! We took our 5-year-old to what was supposed to be a fun family movie about a dog, not a slice of life from a totally uninteresting family. I won best jazz guitarist in all the major guitar magazines for two years in a row. I'm not perfect and neither are you, but I've never made a piece of music that's as horrible and dead wrong as your review.
Q. I was puzzled to see only one entry for "Beauty and the Beast" under your Great Movies listing, and while Jean Cocteau's magical 1946 film certainly deserves its status, I was sorely disappointed in the exclusion of the Disney version. I cannot think of a reason why you do not consider Disney's film a Great Movie. Company biases? I would hope a pundit of your standing would be above that. Maybe because there's already a Great Movie called "Beauty and the Beast"?
Q. I recently came across a post on gawker.com which claimed to contain an excerpt from the worst movie review of all time. The review is for the new Paul Rudd comedy "Role Models" and was written by (name withheld) of FHMOnline.com. Could this be the worst review ever done by a "professional" writer? Also, the article claimed (name withheld) was paid handsomely for writing this drivel. What does that say about the state of film criticism in America when major critics are losing their jobs while rubbish like this is published and paid for?
Q. At least until the recent "Casino Royale," James Bond has always been rather silly as an action hero. He is essentially a hired killer for the British government. Daniel Craig is the first actor who truly looks and acts the part. And as any cinematic assassin-for-hire should be, Craig's Bond is an emotional train wreck. With "Casino Royale," we finally got away from the boring, two-dimensional Bonds of the past. We meet a vulnerable, interesting, lethal secret agent with real flaws and feelings. The latest movie continues that tradition. Jason Schofield, Peace River, AlbertaA. After 20 Bond films, the last thing I want is a new kind of Bond. Yes, Daniel Craig is ideal for the role. But Bond is a role. If we want someone vulnerable, interesting, lethal, with flaws and feelings, we go to a Le Carre movie.Q. In your review for "Quantum of Solace," you wrote what has to be one of the most incomprehensible statements of all time: "James Bond is not an action hero"! Are you kidding? What was he doing not just in this movie, but in the 21 that preceded it? Playing Scrabble? Surely you know that every action hero that has appeared since 1962 (including and especially Jason Bourne) owes their very existence to Bond? Bond isn't just an action hero, he's the one against which all others are measured. Nobody, as they say, does it better.Daniel Young, Bensalem, Pa.A. There must have been a word missing, as in "merely an action hero."Q. James Bond was indeed not intended to be an action hero. And was it just me, or did the "Quantum" roof-chase sequence in Italy rip off "The Bourne Ultimatum"? There was the same severely angled jump from a balcony, the sideways crash through a window of the adjacent building, and then the use of a book in the culminating fight scene. The similarity was so obvious that many in my audience chuckled. Could it have been a tongue-in-cheek homage? (Since when did James Bond need to show tribute to Jason Bourne?) As good as Craig was, the Quantum Bond looked distinctly uncomfortable in such an unnatural milieu. Thus all the brooding and seething. Jimmy Jacobs, Columbia, S.C.A. When you are chasing across rooftops, there is only a finite number of things you can do, apart from falling to your death, which I have never seen an action hero do.Q. I'm the entertainment editor of The Record/Herald-News and have been copy-reading your review of "Twilight." There seems to be a discrepancy about the vampire Edward's age. You say it's 114, another story says it's 118, and my math says it's 107.Marlaina Cockcroft, Hackensack, N.J.A. And you are ... correct. I rather like the answer of the prepubescent vampire in "Let the Right One In." Asked "Are you really my age?" she replies: "Yes. But I've been this age for a very long time."Q. My wife and I went to see "Rachel Getting Married." In my opinion, a fine movie was ruined by extensive use of the hand-held camera. At home, there is mercifully a pause button, which gives respite from the never-ending, herky-jerky, oh-God-I'm-starting-to-get-nauseous, will-someone-PLEASE-buy-the-cameraman-a-tripod feeling. I have two pieces of advice for anyone making a film who is thinking about using a hand-held camera in a scene: (1) Don't. (2) For advanced cinematographers only: Not Yet. Bob Felice, Cupertino, Calif.A. The Queasy Cam bothers me when its shots are cut into baffling montages in action scenes. As a device to enter us into a group interaction, it has been used since Cassavetes and even before. It all depends on how it's used. I thought it was essential to enlist me into Rachel's wedding party.Q.Give a Stephen Colbert-style "Wag of the Finger" to Agatha Jadwiszczok. Her argument regarding the New York City/Chicago/Gotham issue was spirited, to be sure, but ruefully inaccurate. Her assertion that, "even if we give you Batman, we'd still have Spider-Man, Superman, the Hulk, several X-Men and the Fantastic Four" is just plain wrong. Superman patrols someplace called "Metropolis" and the "Hulk" has no central base of operation, unless she's mistakenly referring to the latest movie in which the climactic battle takes place on Yonge Street in Toronto.Corey Stewart, Mississauga, OntarioA. For that matter, the X-Men have battled in outer space, near Madagascar, near Singapore, off the coast of Scotland, Antarctica and, briefly, in the East Village, which was too weird for them.Q. I came to your site for a review of "Religulous," which I have already seen once and thoroughly enjoyed. Thus, I agree with your rating. What I find appalling is your cop-out vis-a-vis Maher's religious criticism presented in the movie. It appears as if you are terrified of the backlash from believers and cannot bring yourself to really review the movie. I would encourage you to take courage and provide a more thorough review.Andrew Freeman, ChicagoA. I guess this didn't cut it for you: "The movie is about organized religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Mormonism, TV evangelism and even Scientology, with detours into pagan cults and ancient Egypt. Bill Maher, host, writer and debater, believes they are all crazy. He fears they could lead us prayerfully into mutual nuclear doom. He doesn't get around to Hinduism or Buddhism, but he probably doesn't approve of them, either."Q. Why would you torture me by reviewing a documentary that can't yet be seen? "Song Sung Blue" is so right up my alley, so much grist for my mill, so much my bailiwick -- and you say I can't see it. I guess I should thank you for informing me of the film's existence, but I'm not gonna.
Q. Didja notice "Bummy's Diner" in "Changeling" (where the kid to be exploited as Jolie's "son" is first seen with the drifter in DeKalb)? I just about cried when I saw that most appropriate of tributes -- and better yet, it's vintage 1920s signage on an exterior set that is itself a tribute to Bummy's school of authentic design. All of which makes this moment (see photo) one of the happiest encounters of my lifetime. Just under eight months later, Henry was gone.
Q. Sadly, Studs has left this world. But he leaves behind a huge footprint and will always reside nearby, on the nearest bookshelf and through the frequencies of freethinkers. How unfortunate it is he was not here to witness election day. But his last laugh is on us. Studs leaves to perform the greatest of all Chicago traditions, casting his final vote from the grave.
Q. I was surprised by your review of "Blindness." I've not seen the film yet; I am currently reading the novel, with 50 pages left to go. It is a stunningly good work. I've not read any of Jose Saramago's work before, but I will be reading more in the near future. I plan to see the film. John Zulovitz, Columbus, OhioA. One of the commenters on my blog asked how a film could be so true to a great novel and yet be an unsuccessful film. I think it involves the POV. In the novel, we are imagining being blind, but in the movie, we are seeing blind people.Q. What do you think of the idea of recommending someone "wait for video" to see a movie? What the heck is that supposed to mean? Chris Rowland, Browns Mills, N.J.A. Must be something in the air. A. Braunsdorf of Lafayette, Ind., asked the same question. If you're told to "wait for the video," interpret that as "don't see it." Any movie worth your time is worth seeing in a theater, if you can. But certainly use and appreciate video as a way to view good movies you want to catch up on. It's two hours of your life, no matter where you park your butt. "Wait for the video" should always mean "see it."Q. Do top-rank directors like Scorsese and Demme consider their films successful if they receive widespread critical acclaim, yet fail at the box office? Or is a profitable film a necessary earmark of success? By the same token, does it really matter to them if their films are critically lambasted, yet are huge box-office hits? Conrad Gurtatowski, Crown Point, Ind.A. Great directors believe their films are a success if they are satisfied with them. So they should. You can never be a great artist if you think critics or the box office know better than you do.Q. I had an odd movie-going experience today. The Clearview Chelsea, in one of NYC's gay neighborhoods, was showing "The Exorcist" as a camp classic mainly for its gay audience. A drag queen comedian "hosted" it, which means she sat with a microphone and made loud, obnoxious jokes throughout the movie (OK, some of which were kinda funny), and the audience was encouraged to scream out favorite lines and clap and cheer throughout.