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Office Christmas Party

Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…

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Harry Benson: Shoot First

The filmmakers are themselves too celebrity besotted to comment in a meaningful way on how Benson’s career balanced depictions of the rich and famous with…

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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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Do we NEED to see "Tintin" in 3D?

Q. I read your review for "Tintin" and it says the 3D works nicely. I have one tiny problem, though, I would have preferred the 2D because our son is autistic and we don't know how he'd take the whole 3D thing. The 2D version is only showing at 9:15 pm. On a scale from 1 to 10, how overwhelming did you think the 3D was in this particular movie? I know it's ultimately our decision, but I'd like to know if anyone thinks it's too overwhelming. Thanks! (Lola Bringas-Garcia)

A. The 3D is not necessary. I wonder if exhibitors schedule so few 2D screenings in order to force customers to pay the surcharge? They've got people over a barrel--a Spielberg family film at holiday time! Makes no difference whether or not you like 3D. Spielberg uses it well--which is to say, in a minimal and controlled fashion. Fine. But it's not necessary to enjoy the film.

Q. On Tuesday I was at the Navy Pier IMAX theater for the new Batman and saw Mr. Roger Ebert there and was wondering if he had any comments on the prologue. More specifically perhaps what he thinks of Bane's voice. I looked on his site and couldn't believe he didn't remark about it. (Scott Durso)

A. That was me you saw after the IMAX preview of "Mission Impossible -- Ghost Protocol," hurrying home to write my review. And that must have been you lined up outside for the late-night promo of "The Dark Knight Rises." That's a big screen, eh?

Q. In your opinion, if movies (from 1980 or so) were re-rated (by today's standards) such as "Porky's," "Animal House," etc., do you think they would still get the "R" rating? Also, on the same line, do you think PG-13 (some places PG-14) is the "new" R rating for (2011) standards? I wonder what the rating system of 1980 would think of movies like "American Pie," "The Hangover," or more recent horror movies. (Deejay Eric Vee, Niagara Falls, NY)

A. The ratings system of 1980 would clap its hands over its eyes in horror. The level of sex and violence in PG-13 would have often gained an R in those days. For that matter, a lot of current television is R-rated.

Q. With your clout in entertainment, couldn't you mention the idea of Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine presenting together at this years Oscars? Surely if they could make peace there might be hope for world peace. (Jim Holt, Buffalo, NY)

A. Sure. It doesn't take much clout to mention it. It would take a hell of a lot to bring it about.

Q. Just watched "Captain America." Do you think Hollywood will ever get over its obsession with the Nazis? If you were to look at 20th century history through the prism of Hollywood you would think the only evil regime was that of Hitler's Germany 1933-45. Seventy years later and we're still seeing movie after movie featuring Nazis as the bad guys. Why does Hollywood rarely, if ever, pick any other evil regime from which to draw its bad guys, like Lenin, the Soviets, Mao, Pol Pot/Khmer Rouge, Suharto, Mussolini, etc? (Jim Walker)

A. In my deepest cynicism I suspect it has something to do with costume design.

Q. I will keep this short. Please explain something to me and a friend who doesn't understand why this is important. Why do film critics and audiences so often disagree? (Luke Drake, Naples, Florida)

A. Because their expectations are different, and audiences set the bar lower. Critics see just about all the movies, and for that reason are less (or more) easily satisfied. I'm sure you're pleased with my answer.

Q. Do you ever have a hard time appreciating actors who are talented at their craft but unlikable as humans? Whether they are jerks (Mel Gibson), crazies (Tom Cruise), or whatever else the case may be, does this get in the way of your enjoyment of a film when they appear on screen? Quite a few years back, I was a great fan of the movie "The Color of Money," but now I can't stand to look past Tom Cruise the insane person to appreciate his genuinely good performance in the film. Does this happen to you? (Eric Ransom, South Korea)

A. Both Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise, to use your examples, have done things they may have reason to regret, as have we all. I've met them and sensed they were nice people. What I require of a actor while I'm watching a movie is that the actor be good. Considering the recent fuss about Hollywood child sexual abuse and the victims who aren't naming names, what do we really know about anyone's private life?

Q. In your "Muppets" review you state the relationship between Jason Segel (Gary) and Walter as "best friends." They were actually brothers which is referenced repeatedly in this movie. Please take better care. (Janis McGlone, Albuquerque, NM)

A. Oh, I will, I will. This is the kind of error that inspires people to write me snarky messages asking, "Did you even see the movie?" I registered that they were raised as brothers and considered themselves brothers, but can you forgive me if I instinctively assumed they were not biological brothers? That was my mistake right there. In a Muppets movie, a Muppet can theoretically do anything a human can do. Well, almost anything. Can they reproduce with each other? Are Gary and Walter the biological children of the same parents? At his birth, did the doctor say, "It's a Muppet!" and then sever an umbilical cord of felt? These are mysteries I believe could inspire several sequels.

Q. You keep complaining like this: "As for star ratings, as I have often written, they're silly, useless, and relative, not absolute." So why not just ditch the star rating system altogether? It would certainly save you a lot of headaches from observant readers who require consistency. I know speaking for myself, I would rather do without them. I prefer to read a movie review fresh and focus more on what a critic is trying to say about a movie rather then seeing how well he or she justifies the rating given beforehand. (Michael Zey)

A. I had the Sun-Times convinced to drop them and then Siskel was made film critic of the Tribune and I had to keep them for "competitive reasons." Now I've rated about 10,000 films and it's too late to stop. By "Not absolute," I mean don't come asking me why a film got four stars and another three and a half stars. It involves things like genre, the film's intention, and so on. Also, the purpose of a list is to allow a critic to look back and reevaluate a film.

Q. I appreciate you making a Best Film list, but I feel as though you did this one too early. Did you see the other films that will be released later this month? Did you see "We Bought a Zoo," "War Horse," "In the Land of Blood and Honey" or "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"? Those all look like very good movies. (Benjamin P Weaver)

A. Yes, it was a bit early. That was because of space limitations and production deadlines at the paper. If you've noticed, I've added more titles in the list at the bottom. As I say about those additions, "There were many other excellent films in 2011, some fully the equal of some of these."

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