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In this episode: Mission to Mars | DLP Digital Projection | Meeting Vin


This week, we're proud to present something from the kitchen of Brian De Palma, his own personal recipe.


2 c. 2001: A Space Odyssey
1/2 c. 2010
2 tbs. Contact
1/2 tsp. Aliens
1 tsp. The Abyss
1 lump Armageddon
1/2 c. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (The Special Edition)
1 stick Apollo 13
1/4 tsp. Capricorn One
Pinch Galaxy Quest

In large bowl, blend 2001 with Close Encounters. Fold in Contact and 2010. Dump in everything else and blend on medium-low setting for 2 hours. Throw resulting mixture in shallow pan and spread thin. Sprinkle with saccharine. Put in oven with heat off and light bulb turned on. Bake half way. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Serve in early spring.

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If you haven't heard it already, this movie's a stinker. A bomb. A dud. If you can believe it, I hated this movie more than Pitch Black. How is that possible? Because Pitch Black had a style, a sense of self, a goal. It may have sucked, but at least it looked like someone tried. Mission to Mars takes the very worst element of space and embraces it: The vacuum. There is no energy, no effort, and no style of any kind in this big-budget hack job. The actors all do their absolute best to make the below-TV-grade writing sound honest and believable, but they fail because it is an impossible mission. Even the revelation at the end about the origins of life on Earth is a big yawner, a big "Who cares?" I just looked up the screenwriter's name on IMDb (Jim Thomas), and it is no surprise to me that he was also responsible for Wild Wild West, recipient of my shortest review ever.

The audience I saw this with at the El Capitan was a good crowd, and we all suffered together. We started off trying to give the movie a chance. We sat still through yet another "Hey, look how cool it is that we're opening the movie with one huge, long shot!!!" (the most recent example being Cradle Will Rock). We sat obligingly through the silly science explanation stuff. We were wowed by some really nice special effects. But like a person hanging from a ledge by one finger, we could only hold on for so long. Laughter of the most cruel kind finally took over, and by the end, most of us had thrown the movie away into the recycling bin from whence it came.

My God, if you're into mediocrity, see Pitch Black instead. I never thought I would ever say something like that, but Brian De Palma has left me no choice. This one isn't even a renter, my friends.



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I saw Mission to Mars in DLP digital projection, so I have to give you some input on that. DLP is the same format in which I got to see Star Wars I and Toy Story 2.

Now, DLP was perfect for Toy Story 2, a crisp, colorful CG film. But for live action, DLP is still lacking. I came to that conclusion in my Star Wars notes, but it was very obvious for Mission to Mars. The first disconcerting thing was the picture was flattened ever so slightly. If you doubt my ability to judge this, ask my friends who've been through my harrowing TV buying adventures the last four weeks.

Beyond the geometric flaw, the DLP system has trouble with flesh tones... including African Americans. People's lips were often a scary shade of pink, while their skin was murky, unhealthy. For very bright colors, the system does very well, but, as I've said before, if it can't present people with a healthy pallor, then it's not ready for the big time. I still believe in the future of digital projection, but there's more work to be done.

A side note: I have this theory that one of the things that makes film look richer and more realistic is the blanking interval between frames, where persistence of vision comes in. I don't know what the interval is between frames of a digitally projected movie, but I think it's very tiny, if non-existent. The shorter (or absent) flicker adds to the almost too-smooth feeling of digital projection. The brain can always sense flickers subconsciously (see your nearest fluorescent light), and I think film's longer black screen time might be part of its charm for us film buffs, even though we can't see it directly. It's something to think about, anyway.



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Speaking of Pitch Black, I had the pleasure of helping my friend Catherine out at a launch party here in L.A. for [which has since gone out of business, of course —3/14/01]. I got to be the cameraman for the celebrity interviews. Vin Diesel was one of the guests, and he was very nice, very kind, with no ego. During his interview, I was hoping to catch some glimmer that he was sorry he'd made Pitch Black, but instead he came right out and said he really liked the movie. Oh, well. He did have fun telling us the story of Saving Private Ryan and his discovery by Steven Spielberg.

Are you enjoying the name dropping? Me too! Here's who else I got to meet at the party:

Sara Gilbert
Jamie Kennedy
Seymour Cassel
Dave Navarro





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©2000 Steven Lekowicz except
Mission to Mars title treatment ©2000 Touchstone Pictures. All Rights Reserved.