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A Walk Among the Tombstones

Fans of the hardboiled detective, rejoice. Screenwriter-director Scott Frank and actor Liam Neeson, adapting the splendid work of crime novelist Lawrence Block, have brought a…

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The Zero Theorem

Terry Gilliam's first science fiction film since "12 Monkeys" is an inventively designed but oddly inert satire on technology, God and the future of humankind.

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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 (02/11/1996)

Q. I was watching "Judge Dredd" on video, and I noticed something. You know those glare spots on camera shots of cars' headlights, etc., that appear on the screen? Well, film technology technique has managed to almost weed them out entirely. Then I notice that on occasion where a computer generated light source is filmed, those spots are artificially added! That's not the only time I've seen this, either! Why add such a flaw on purpose? (Matt Perry, Rocky Hill, Conn.)

A. The purpose is to make the film look, in a subtle way, more real. Although reflections and highlights are a function of the film itself, we are so used to them that when they're missing we subconsciously register it. In "Toy Story," which was entirely done on computer, one of the brilliant touches was the use of room reflections on the helmet visor of Buzz Lightyear. Check out the trademark logos that studios use at the beginning of films. One of the popular cliches has a wave of light reflecting over the letters, and then a little flashing "ping" of light.

Q. In your movie reviews, you give "Showgirls" and "Sense And Sensibility" the same two-and-a-half stars. Any second thoughts? In your opinion, who is a better writer, Joe Eszterhas or Jane Austen? (John Cauman)

A. Eszterhas is definitely the better screenwriter. The thing about stars is, they're relative, not absolute. I thought "Sense And Sensibility" fell just short of its goal of being more than a respectful adaptation of an official masterpiece, and "Showgirls" fell just short of its goal of being a trashy sexploitation film with style. To see movies that succeed in these two genres, I recommend "Persuasion" and "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls."

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