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La La Land

This is a beautiful film about love and dreams, and how the two impact each other.

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Jackie

There are two movies in "Jackie." One of these movies is just OK. The other is exceptional. The first one keeps undermining the second.

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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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How many "The Ends" is too many?

Q. Regarding your review of "The Girlfriend Experience": Prostitutes in movies are never used for what they provide in real life, which is sex. In movies, prostitutes are paid for anything and everything but the thing they actually provide. See: "Pretty Woman," "The Girlfriend Experience" and countless others. Eliot Spitzer or any other man never paid large amounts of money to talk to a woman. Eric, Meriden, Conn.

A. Although it may have turned out that way.

Q. I've detected prejudice in your writings regarding facial hair. In your review of "The Illusionist," you describe Ed Norton as having "the lower half of his face masked behind an impenetrable Van Dyke." More recently, in your review of "The Girlfriend Experience," you describe the role of sex in an escort-client relationship as "the beard," by which I assume you mean something to hide one's true motivations behind. And there have been others. I have facial hair, mainly because I like the way it looks and the shape it gives to my face. Also because I hate shaving. I don't think it hides much, except maybe a double chin.

My emotions and personality tend to express themselves through my eyes and mouth, words and actions. You seem to think that the chin is the window to the soul. Is it so? Do you universally ascribe obfuscator motives to men with long whiskers? Does it depend on the whiskers, or on the man? Do you consider invention of the razor a historic advance in honesty? In short, do you have a metaphysical problem with beards? Robert McLendon, Altadena, CA

A. Some of my best friends have beards. Others of my best friends are beards.

Q. Thanks for including "The Thief of Bagdad" in your Great Movies Collection. This is one of my family's favorite movies, bar none. When we were kids, WPIX in New York used to show it every year on Thanksgiving morning, followed by "Babes in Toyland," the one with Stan and Ollie. Problem is, in some years they only showed this 100-minute movie in a 90-minute slot, leaving out large chunks of film. My response to the edited version was a line borrowed from Jaffar's death sentence pronouncement upon the shackled, future Mr. and Mrs. Ahmad. He saith thus, "In the morning they die the death of 1,000 cuts." So does this movie, says I, when shown in this truncated fashion. Thank God cable came along, and home video.

How crazy is our family for this movie? We saw this in a theater when it first came to America in the late '50s. Then we went to another showing recently of a clean, color-fixed copy that was playing at the revival-house Loews in Jersey City. While we are normally well-mannered, polite moviegoers who demonstrate proper theater etiquette, we almost got thrown out because we kept speaking the dialogue. Perfectly, with the proper inflections, too (my favorite lines came from Rex Ingram). Boy, if they ever showed "Thief" and the original "Producers" on the same bill here, my cousin and I would be banned for life. Maybe even executed. Richard T. Hajeski, Elmwood Park, NJ

A. It should be as popular as "The Wizard of Oz," another film of the same vintage.

Q. About a year ago it was reported that the original full length version of Fritz Lang's silent film "Metropolis" (1927), including lost footage, had been found in a South American film vault. When will this film be made available? Ed Carty, St. Louis, MO.

A. This was one of the great film archival discoveries. The movie is still in the process of being restored; one scene, at a reel end, is so badly damaged, it is almost unusable. A restoration is hoped for by the end of this year.

Q. While I agree with your review of "Terminator Salvation," and unlike you, hope what was once a great franchise can finally die in peace, I take offense to this sentence in particular: "It gives you all the pleasure of a video game without the bother of having to play it."

I know of your view on video games, being a fan of yours to some extent, and I must protest. I know that you're too old to learn about the world of video games, Roger, but that doesn't mean slights against them are appropriate. There is a greater world to video games than "Call of Duty" and "Grand Theft Auto," shallow, superficial excuses for games churned out to the same dumb, mindless male audience as the very film you review.

I encourage you to not blanket all of the industry and the works therein with the idea that video games cannot be moving experiences and fall only under the moniker of cheap male masturbatory action experiences such as the aforementioned games. Garrett Cosgrove, Battle Creek, Mich.

A. My good young man. I am not too old to learn about video games, but I'm old enough to know better. Life is too short, and it always has been. But please, be my guest. Shoot your rosebuds while ye may.

Q. In your review of "Terminator Salvation," you mentioned John Connor's initials in writing, "led by John Connor, or 'J.C.' for you Faulkner fans." I'm familiar with some of the religious symbolism in the "Terminator" series (e.g., J.C., the savior of humanity), and I'm at least somewhat familiar with Faulkner's work, but didn't catch this reference. What does the "J.C." mean or call attention to? Brian, Orlando, FL.

A. In Faulkner's novel Light in August, the hero is named "Joe Christmas" and is thought to be a reference to Jesus Christ. John Connor seems doomed to die again and again and again for our sins.

Q. What is your opinion of the growing trend for filmmakers to include "alternate" endings on their movies' DVD releases? While I'm reasonably comfortable with a different presentation of the ending from that originally conceived (for example, "Training Day"), it seems that to offer a different outcome is an admission of failure on the part of the director. If the movie is well structured, shouldn't the outcome follow inevitably and essentially from the plot and characters depicted? Even in movies famous for the twist in their tales, the ending is compelling at the very least in retrospect (for example, "The Sixth Sense," "The Crying Game," "Memento").

To me, an alternate ending sends the message that the director lacks commitment to or faith in his material. I give a pass here to movies where a director restores his or her preferred ending in a director's cut over one that was handed down by "creative executives" (for example, "Blade Runner"), but I've never felt that watching a movie should be an exercise in choosing the ending that makes you feel most comfortable. Carl Zetie, Waterford, VA.

A. In the case of a movie not worth taking seriously in the first place, alternate endings can be fun. Otherwise I agree with you.

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