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American Sniper

American Sniper proves the dictum “never count an auteur out” by proving itself as Eastwood’s strongest directorial effort since 2009's underrated Invictus pretty much right…

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The Interview

Opportunities at rich satire flatten out into Hangover dude-dope-doodoo jokes, where the premise is that there’s nothing funnier than watching over-privileged grown men act out…

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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 (07/26/1998)

Q. Today, I read that a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" is shooting this summer with Gus Van Sant as the director and Anne Heche taking the Janet Leigh role and Vince Vaughn the Tony Perkins role. My first reaction is--"why?" There are great novels and screenplays floating around that don't get made, and here comes yet another remake of a film that was plenty good the first time around. If a film was popular and successful, a remake automatically has things going against it from audiences who liked the first one. So, why? (Vicki Halliday, New York City)

A. Even stranger, Van Sant is reportedly following Hitchcock's original script. Reports on the Web call it a "re-creation" instead of a remake. Dominick Cancilla of Santa Monica e-mails me: "If this is indeed the case, the film would, in essence, be more kabuki than cinema." My feeling is that the project is not only an affront to Hitchcock, but a waste of Van Sant's talent. The Answer Man's frequent correspondent David J. Bondelevitch, of Los Angeles, thinks perhaps Van Sant was attracted by "the intellectual experiment of testing whether Hitch's direction was so brilliant that it will transcend the casting." Ouch.

Q. Regarding "Madeline," try reading the stories or check out the cartoon series. The girls are not visiting Paris, they live there! THEY ARE FRENCH!!! And they should speak with a French accent! From the clips, it sounds like these little girls are talking with an English accent. This is a basic and major error on the part of the producers--as bad as "Doctor Zhivago" in an Italian accent. That English (U.K.) accent keeps hitting us in the face like a dirty dish rag. Official protests should be coming from the French government over the international insult of this movie. At least the girls in the cartoon series speak English with a French accent. You probably also eat at Au Bon Pan for the French food. The only thing close to French on that menu is the croissants, which were not invented in France. (Ken Griggs, Park Forest, IL)

A. But the movie is AMERICAN!!! In French movies, the Americans speak in FRENCH!! Yet the U.S. Government has not protested this international insult. Another thing close to French on that menu is the prices.

Q. At what point exactly did the price for a small soda at the movies become more expensive than three 40 ounces of beer? Heck, although a bottle of beer in a bar costs more or less the same as a soda at the movies, at least you get a buzz and look a lot cooler with a brewski in your hands instead of a plastic flexi-straw in your mouth. (Chad Polenz, Schenectady, New York)

A. It's a matter of simple economics. In the opening weeks of a movie's run, the studio grabs 70 percent of the ticket price, or more. Take out amusement taxes, and the theater isn't even breaking even on the ticket sale. Most of its profit comes from the refreshment stand. Look at it this way. If they didn't sell refreshments, a ticket might cost twice as much. At least this way you have the illusion that you're getting something for your extra money. People who buy a ticket but don't buy refreshments are essentially being subsidized by the rest of us.

Q. Just saw "Lethal Weapon 4," which I thought was sub-par except for that terrific car-trailer chase scene. What threw me most about the movie was that any sense of fair play has been pretty much abandoned by our heroes. Riggs fakes an injury to get out of a boxing match, and the cops grind an innocent perp's face into the pavement, and it's just the wacky hijinks of another day on the job for the LAPD. The scene that most unnerved me was the finale, in which Riggs and Murtaugh double up on Jet Li. I always thought the idea was that fistfights be resolved mano a mano. Wasn't that how you could spot the villain in old movies--he was the coward who wouldn't fight the hero alone? Didn't Mel Gibson wave off Danny Glover's help at the end of the first "Lethal Weapon," when he's fighting with Gary Busey? What's happened since then? Have the rules changed? (Tim Carvell, New York City)

A. Riggs and Murtaugh are obviously students of the Hong Kong cinema, and know that when you're up against Jet Li, if you want to live, you cheat.

Q. I was reading your review of "There's Something About Mary' and was absolutely shocked to find that you are a bigot. Your statement that we are "the only animal with a sense of humor" is pure species-ism. Recent books on various ape societies make it quite clear that members of the ape species have a definite sense of humor. Moreover, just because other species may not show a human-like manifestation of a sense of humor does not mean they don't have one. They may in fact have a better sense of humor than humans. It seems to me possible, if not likely, that animals possess the full range of emotional responses that humans do but they just don't communicate it to us, maybe because they know that animal jokes are only funny to other animals. (Prof. Richard J. Gaylord, University of Illinois, Urbana).

A. A guy goes into a bar with a duck under his arm. The bartender says, "Where'd you get the pig?" The duck says, "He's a human."

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