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Men, Women & Children

A potentially interesting premise is handled so badly that what might have been a provocative drama quickly and irrevocably devolves into the technological equivalent of…

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Time Is Illmatic

An excellent documentary that focuses more on why the Illmatic album came to be than how successful it became. Prepare to be schooled in many…

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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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Can a man be a "sexaholic slut?"

Q. I read in one of your articles about the fact that movies are filmed with certain projector light requirements in order to correctly show the movie. You also suggested that some movie theaters might show the movies at a reduced lighting setting to save money on their electric bill. I suspect my local theater is doing this on a regular basis. Some movies are so dark, you can barely tell what’s going on. My question is how can you know (a) what the setting is and (b) what setting is being projected? Is a light meter relevant to this matter? Jim 'Catfish' Chapman

A. Of course there can be dark scenes. If the whole movie looks noticeably dim, it’s probably not being projected at the correct level. As the AM has tirelessly explained: Some theater owners believe that if they turn down the power of the expensive projector bulb, the bulb’s life span will be lengthened. This is not true.

Steve Kraus of Chicago’s Lake Street Screening Room tells me: “A technician with a light meter can read the reflected brightness of the screen with the projector running without film. It should be 16 foot-lamberts.” Ask your theater if they’ve checked lately.

Q. Didn’t Shia LaBeouf break some sort of unwritten rule by criticizing Spielberg over the last “Indiana Jones” movie? He indeed put him down by stating he had long discussions with Harrison Ford about the poor job they both thought he was doing, all this while making the film. For starters, if I were Oliver Stone, I might be a little apprehensive about Shia’s opinion on my work in the coming “Wall Street” sequel. I know people do this all the time in everyday life but with the exception of Marlon Brando (someone known as a bit of an eccentric) with “The Freshman,” you don’t see this every day, especially concerning one of the most powerful men in Hollywood. Gerardo Valero, Mexico City

A. I imagine LaBeouf’s agent smacked his forehead with his palm when he read that — not because of Spielberg’s possible reaction, but because his client comes off looking negative. Other directors might consider that. Spielberg, I think, is beyond caring about LaBeouf’s opinion. I certainly don’t think LaBeouf should have betrayed a private conversation with Harrison Ford.

Q. A friend and I got in a discussion over whether it is racist to have race be a criteria while casting a role. My friend was of the opinion that the best actor should get the role. I felt that if the part was written for, say, a young African-American male, the audition pool should be limited to young African-American males. This discussion specifically focused on the movie “The Last Airbender,” which is based on an American-made animated show called “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”

Two of the characters in the show were not white, yet their movie counterparts will be white. I felt that the movie casting choice was not true to the source material while my friend thought the casting choice (from a racial perspective) was irrelevant. Is casting white actors into non-white roles a form of racism/whitewashing? Would the opposite also be racist? Or should the best actor, regardless of race or any other physical consideration, be chosen? Colleen Stone, Woodbury, Minn.

A. It was racist in the days when minority actors just plain couldn’t get work in anything but stereotyped roles. The situation has improved. If I’d been making “The Last Airbender,” I would probably have decided the story was so well- known to my core audience that it would be a distraction to cast those roles with white actors. I’m guessing, but I suspect the American group most under-represented in modern Hollywood is young Asian-American males.

Q. For two years now, I have managed an eight-screen movie theater. For about six months, I have been writing movie reviews for our local paper. My question is: How do we not become repetitive after seeing so many common themes repeated ad nauseam at the cineplex? Today with so many movies being derivative of prior material, sequels, remakes and reboots ... how do we express to our readers the wonder of really finding something new?

It’s obvious to anyone who has seen more than a dozen movies that the romantic comedic female lead is not going to marry the guy she is engaged to at the beginning of the film. She is going to wind up with the awkward but charming stranger she can’t stand to be around at first. We know the girl in the sex scene is going to get murdered first. They’re going to manage to kill the shark. How do we write as to keep our material from being as derivative and repetitive as the movies? Aaron Lane Morris, Glasgow, Ky.

A. The hard part is expressing “the wonder of finding something really new.” Many moviegoers actually want to see movies that are already familiar. That’s why genres are popular. If a critic informs them of a “masterpiece,” their first reaction is, “that doesn’t sound like anything I’d like to see.” Your challenge is to evoke for them the experience you had.

As for the deadly predictability of some movies: In a way, that’s why I started the Little Movie Glossary, to have fun with cliches, archetypes, stereotypes and automatic plotting. But remember your readers haven’t seen everything you have. For instance, the new “Karate Kid” faithfully follows the original plot, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t entertaining.

Q. Would you please refer me to a review you have written where you refer to a man as a “sexaholic slut” because he has engaged in the same sexual behavior as Samantha’s [in “Sex and the City 2”]? No doubt you cannot refer me to any such review. I assume you get my point. Kathleen Dunham, Costa Mesa, Calif.

A. Damn! I received this too late to describe the Michael Douglas character in “Solitary Man” as a “sexaholic slut.” Of course the dictionary says “slut” is a word referring to a woman, but I am willing to bend the rules. Amazingly, according to the global word search on my computer, the “SATC2” review is the first time I have ever used the word “sexaholic.”

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