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.
Q. I work at Mission Control for the shuttle program, and am impressed by the realism of "Apollo 13." That control center in the movie is dead-on. To me, the whole thing looked and felt real, which is the highest compliment I can give. There are some minor technical things that only insiders would know (Mattingly stands too close to the launch, the crane was facing the wrong way in the Vehicle Assembly Building, the paint scheme was a little off, the phases of the moon and the site shown on the moon were not correct), but those are just nit-picks. I'm glad the American public is going to see it in such numbers. -- Michael Grabois, Houston
A. It's ironic that the movie's effects are so good that many people don't realize they're effects; sequences like the lift-off look so real that viewers assume they're watching archival documentary footage -- not models, computer animation, etc.
Q. Since British actor Hugh Grant's alleged liaison with a prostitute in Hollywood became public knowledge, there has been much speculation about the impact that this may or may not have on Mr. Grant's acting career. What do you think? -- Mark Dayton, Costa Mesa, Calif.
A. It's pretty simple: If his new movie "Nine Months" is successful, it will have no effect. If it flops, the scandal will be blamed. In fact, the quality of "Nine Months" will have much more to do with its box-office performance, but it won't be regarded that way. Analyze the press reaction to Hugh Grant's arrest, and you will find not shock, but a cackle of glee. The British trash press in particular has been overjoyed at his misfortune. The logic goes as follows: Here's a guy who's handsome, successful and has a pretty girlfriend. Therefore, he deserves to be disgraced.
Q. Haven't seen "Judge Dredd," but as one of the 14 or 15 writers on the movie, I had to wade through the final draft for the arbitration of screen credits. Personally I felt that the script captured little of the satire of the highly original comic books, which is their charm. Anyway, I just wanted to comment that it was "Mad Max" that ripped off "Judge Dredd," not vice versa. The comic preceded "Mad Max," "Blade Runner," "Terminator" and all the second-class s.f. stuff like "Cyborg" that shows a Dredd influence. -- Jan Strnad, Los Angeles
A. I knew you were going to say that.
Q. Your review of "Congo" was the MOST ACCURATE review of a movie that I can remember. I've seen it three times and have enjoyed it more with each showing. It's hysterical. There are so many inside jokes that it's tough to catch everything the first time. I've dragged friends to it who had refused to see it because it got "terrible reviews." After I told them about your review, and about how I believed your assessment was right on target, they went. THEY LOVED IT!!! You are about the only critic in the country who "got" the movie. Thanks for putting yourself out on a limb for it. -- S.W. Simmons, Jenner & Block, Chicago
A. "Congo" is a comedy that was mislabeled as an action drama, and has suffered as a result. I still say if it had been titled "Mel Brooks' Congo," people would have caught on.
The first part in a four-part series on what film can teach us about the relationship between Israel and Palestine.
An obituary for the legendary James Garner, who has passed away at the age of 86.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
A report on the atmosphere at the 2014 Jerusalem Film Festival and its best film, "Maidan."