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Transcendence

"Transcendence" is a serious science fiction movie filled with big ideas and powerful images, but it never quite coheres, and the end is a copout.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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Bond Reborn, 'Bourne' Style

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, Alberta

A. 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, Ontario

A. 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, Chicago

A. 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. Jason Ellison, Cincinnati

A. The film played on opening night at the Chicago Underground Film Festival. They sent me a DVD, which slid out of sight under my chair. When I belatedly found it, I thought, "There's a film that needs a break." When I saw it, I felt so even more strongly. Now I hope a distributor gives it one.

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