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John Wick

The film breathes exhilarating life into its tired premise, thanks to some dazzling action choreography, stylish visuals and–most importantly–a vintage anti-hero performance from Keanu Reeves.

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Low Down

Preiss' movie does a consistently excellent job of explaining the lure of jazz, and the psychology of addicts, their enablers and their children, without explaining…

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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 (04/07/2002)

Q. In "Panic Room," viewers are treated to another of those Hollywood creative moments: Jodie Foster on the toilet peeing. The camera pans tactfully away, leaving us with just the tinkle. My question: Did they use a bladder double? (Neil Ferguson, Tempe AZ)

A. Not Foster, not a double. You were probably hearing the work, in more than one sense, of a sound effects editor.

Q. In your review of "The Rookie," you complain it is too predictable and cliched. Aren't these things forgivable since they actually happened in real life, since the movie was based on a true story? It is a great story and I disagree with your critique. (Brent Ecenbarger, Fort Wayne IN)

A. My Sun-Times review included this sentence, which a glitch kept out of the online version: "Yes, the movie is 'based on a true story,' but one of those true stories that seems based on a movie." Although the events really happened, they are so much the stuff of movie formulas that had they not really happened, it is possible the screenplay would have been turned down as too cliched and predictable. Strange, but there you are.

Q. I read Ross Anthony's review of "The Rookie" (http://rossanthony.com/) and he claims the entire movie was shot on video (not film). I cannot find any facts to support that view. (Herb Kane, criticdoctor.com)

A. Anthony gives several reasons why he thinks "The Rookie" was shot on video, including jittery tracking shots, pastiness in long shots, and washed- out color. The print I saw looked superb. It may be Anthony saw it projected on video. For a verdict, I turned to Steven Poster, president of the American Society of Cinematographers, who responds: "The movie was shot Wide Screen Anamorphic, Panavision 'C' series lenses with Kodak 5277 Emulsion. Nothing but the best for my friend John Schwartzman. What Anthony might have seen is a digitally-projected presentation at the El Capitian theater. And that would go to prove what you and I believe in our hearts; not only is film not dead, it doesn't even have a cold. I've seen the same kind of junky-looking presentations from digitally-presented movies before. It's just not even close to film yet."

Q. Before a recent showing of "Blade II," I saw a trailer for the upcoming "Jason X". Is this film "Jason Ten" or "Jason X," as in the letter "x?" "Jason 10" makes no sense when there was no previous film entitled "Jason." (Tim Banach, Penn Yan NY)

A. The complete title explains everything: "Jason X: Friday the 13th, Part 10." Yes, it's 400 years in the future, earth is uninhabitable, but human colonists from outer space return to explore Camp Crystal Lake, and find a cryogenically-frozen body wearing a hockey mask...

Q. In your review of "The Time Machine," accounting for the ugliness of the race of Morlocks, you write, "evolutionary theory assumes men do most of the choosing and the strongest men get the bride they want." Evolutionary theory predicts the opposite. Males invest little in offspring (other than sperm) so they are less choosy of their mates. Females have to be careful of their choices, because they invest more in each offspring, and their potential output of offspring is smaller than males. Therefore, the Morlocks in "The Time Machine" are more likely the result of ugly husbands than ugly brides. (Of course, the brides themselves would consider them to be beautiful)." (David Seelig, Volen Center for Complex Systems, Brandeis University)

A. I am sure you are right, especially that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. D. J. Trail of New York City informs me: "Judgments of attractiveness are species-centric, which is why chimpanzees do not find human females attractive. There is no such thing as objective attractiveness." I agree that Morlocks look sexy to other members of their gene pool, as do alligators, octupi and boy bands. I am gratified that esteemed members of the academy are debating my evolutionary insights. Dan Jardine of Victoria, B.C. writes: "You will be happy to know that your theory that we are about as attractive as we are going to get, has some support in the scientific community. According to the London Observer, Professor Steve Jones told a Royal Society Edinburgh debate in February that human evolution is basically over, because modern medicine and the creature comforts of contemporary lifestyles assure that virtually all genes, and not just the 'fittest' ones, are making it through to the next generation."

Q. I was lucky enough to catch your 11th Hour talk on PBS about a year ago and was affected by your thoughts on vegetarianism. I was therefore puzzled by your recent review of "Ice Age," where you state, "Much of the serenity and order of nature depends on eating the neighbors." (Jay Miller, Boulder CO)

A. Except in Boulder, where all living species dine on tofu, trail mix and bottled water, human beings are the only voluntary vegetarians. All other species dine on their favorite foods without a moment's concern about how their favorite foods feel about that.

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