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Lucy

Scarlett Johansson is an intriguing blank in Luc Besson's "Lucy," which is stranded somewhere between a stranger-in-a-strange-land action thriller and apocalyptic science fiction.

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Hercules

Dwayne Johnson tries, but he’s surrounded by poor CGI and a terrible adaptation of yet another comic book. Ian McShane steals what little movie there…

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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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Movie Answer Man (01/12/2003)

Q. On the DVD of "Minority Report" there is a line of dialogue that sounds blatantly changed through ADR post-recording. It goes something like this: "...taking a shower while this large fellow with an attitude you can't even knock down with a hammer whispers in your ear 'Oh Nancy, oh Nancy'." Now, the word "attitude" in that sentence doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Several people have reported that they remember different wording in the theatrical release, which would make the line a lot more coherent (if obscene). (Joshua Zyber, Jamaica Plain MA)

A. Dreamworks Home Video, which released the DVD, says: "Absolutely no audio was changed for the home video release of 'Minority Report'." This does not exclude the possibility that an offending expression was cleaned up in the original release, to quality for the PG-13 rating.

Q. Roman Polanski's "The Pianist" inspired me to recall Ernst Lubitsch's "To Be Or Not To Be" (1942), a film of a very different tone that also takes place in Nazi-occupied Warsaw. Then I remembered that a character in the troupe recites the "If we are pricked, do we not bleed?" passage to a colleague at least twice to establish his Shakespearean bona fides. Hearing a character recite that speech in the middle of "The Pianist," I knew that Polanski has not lost his sense of humor. Yes, the speech is dramatically appropriate on its own merits, but knowledge of the Lubitsch reference changes it from appropriate to brilliant. (Art Rothstein, San Francisco, CA)

A. This kind of movie cross-reference is like a hidden treasure.

Q. I was astonished by how many movies you gave four star reviews to in 2002. Assuming that all these movies are of masterpiece caliber, what's the point of making a year-end Top Ten list if you can't give each film rightful acknowledgment? (Jon Crylen, Schaumburg IL)

A. What's the point of not giving them four stars if they deserve them? Last year was a very good year at the movies, and I don't grade on the curve. When it comes time to make the Top Ten list, which is somewhat arbitrary anyway, I try to choose the best of the best.

Q. Just out of curiosity, do you happen to know how much of "Adaptation" is true? (Daniel Lee, Los Angeles CA)

A. Susan Orlean really did write a book about an orchid fanatic named John Laroche. There really is a screenplay guru named Robrt McKee. That's about it, although Charlie Kaufman's struggles with the screenplay are no doubt inspired by fact.

Q. We know that Oscar has a short memory and rarely honors films released in the first half of the year. Why doesn't the Academy have TWO ceremonies--one for films released between January and August and another for the "prestige" items of the fall and winter. (Joe Sadowski, Minneapolis MN)

A. Two Oscarcasts? Twice as many envelopes? A Billy Crystal and Steve Martin tag-team? And of course in the weeks before them, two Golden Globes, two People's Choice Awards and two special issues of Entertainment Weekly? The real reason the Academy nominates mostly recent films is not because it can't remember the earlier films, anyway, but because an Oscar can't help a film that has already played out in theaters and on video. The studios put their promotional clout behind films that are still in theaters, or newly on video. It takes an extraordinary film from early in the year to swim against this tide.

Q. I wholeheartedly agree that the bone-shattering "City of God" belongs near the top of a Top Ten list. But are you sure you've got the right year? As far as I can tell, this movie had no theatrical release in 2002--even in L.A. it's not slated to open until Jan. 17. Indeed, in the few dozen Top Ten lists I scanned, only you and Screen Daily (a European publication) cited it, which I consider rock-solid proof that your peers must have considered it off-limits. (Kevin Bourrillion, San Francisco CA)

A. it's not slated to open until January 17. Indeed, in the few dozen top-ten lists I scanned, only you and Screen Daily (a European publication) cited it, which I consider rock-solid proof that your peers must have considered it off-limits. 

Q. As a movie lover I was delighted with the success of the DVD format for home viewing. Unfortunately, now I often have to choose between the letterboxing and better picture quality of a DVD and the more clearly audible dialog of a VHS tape. Why is the dialog on so many DVDs overshadowed by the music and background sounds? Most recently I purchased "Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring" on DVD and had to turn on the English captioning because of the poor sound mixing. Are the new DVDs designed for the newer digital TVs and no longer compatible with conventional TV systems? Even my friends with quality surround sound are having this problem on certain DVD releases. (Karen Eubanks, Calgary AB)

A. In the theater, movie dialogue is carried on the center channel, and music and sound effects are on the surround channels. DVDs do the same thing. A good home entertainment system will have a receiver capable of decoding them, and a center speaker in addition to the "stereo" speakers on the side. New TVs can handle DVDs.

Q. I couldn't agree with you more on your choice of "Minority Report" as the best film of the year. I think Spielberg's film is one of the greatest sci-fi films every made. Much like "Blade Runner," it will be recognized for its greatness in time. Yet upon its release and even now it hasn't received the accolades it so richly deserves. Why do you think that is? Do you feel it was too intelligent for some viewers? (Tony Hough, Oak Park IL)

A. Some people never saw it because it was science fiction. Others discounted it because Spielberg's popularity distracts from his talent. It is ambitious and visionary in the way of silent films like "Metropolis," and his technical skills are at the service of the story, instead of in place of it.

Q. In a recent Answer Man you were asked why James Bond never seems to remember that he has a past. My hypothesis: When a Bond is retired or killed, a new Bond is groomed to replace him. We have seen five different faces for Bond so far (not counting "Casino Royale") and it would be fair to assume that the legend of Bond is nurtured and exploited by MI6. After all, why else would five different secret agents introduce themselves as such? It even explains Lazenby's quip at the beginning of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," "This never happened to the other fella." (Ramsey Brown, Denver CO)

A. You realize this means Monypenny is a promiscuous slut?

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