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Office Christmas Party

Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…

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Harry Benson: Shoot First

The filmmakers are themselves too celebrity besotted to comment in a meaningful way on how Benson’s career balanced depictions of the rich and famous with…

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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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Movie Answer Man (08/10/2003)

Q. In your "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" review, you mentioned that I was opening a pirate store. We actually opened the store 14 months ago. It's doing well, too. Pays the rent on our nonprofit space, oddly enough. Only in San Francisco. We sell about 100 eyepatches a week. We sell hooks, striped socks, treasure chests in all sizes, lard, planks (by the foot), peglegs (sized to fit)--anything you could want, though we don't sell cannonballs anymore. Our supplier was good, but they kill you on the shipping. (Dave Eggers, San Francisco)

A. I have bookmarked your store at www.826valencia.org/store/ and will use you for all my pirate needs. I could also act as an independent supplier of parrot jokes.

Q. There is a time-space conundrum in "S.W.A.T." It goes something like this. 1. In the universe that the film "S.W.A.T." inhabits, the original 1970's TV show clearly did exist. After all, there is one scene where the characters begin to sing the theme song and there is another moment where someone is seen watching an old rerun on a television. 2. However, the characters played by Sam Jackson (Hondo), Colin Farrell (Jim Street) and the guy who gets shot when the evil cops snag the swarthy Dr. Evil wannabe (T.J.) are all characters from the original show. To further confuse matters, Steve Forrest, who played Hondo on the show, pops up at the end of the film driving the "S.W.A.T." truck carrying our heroes to their next adventure. I can accept one or the other but it seems to me that by trying to mix up the two universes--the "real" world and the world of the show--the filmmakers are violating all the laws of physics that we learned from Einstein or the Jean-Claude Van Damme epic "Timecop." By letting the worlds overlap, they have caused a rift in the time-space continuum. (Peter Sobczynski, Chicago)

A. Your warning came just in time. The Griffith Observatory has spotted a gigantic space-time rift in the Andromeda Galaxy, where stars are rearranging themselves into the shape of a gigantic brown bunny.

Q. In your review of "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" you describe a fight at Griffith Observatory and wonder why it is abandoned. Having not seen the movie, I can't speculate, but the real observatory has been closed for renovations for a few years. (John Latchem, Los Alamitos CA)

A. Does this mean the report of the intergalactic brown bunny was a hoax? Even though the observatory is closed, isn't it odd that extras were not used?

Q. I found "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" as lame and pointless as you did, but I believe H. Rider Haggard's hero's name is Quatermain, not Quartermain. (Steven D. Greydanus, Bloomfield NJ)

A. As Michael Caine likes to say, "A lot of people don't know that." Among them (some since corrected) are Yahoo Movies, the Internet Movie Database, Reel.com, MTV, and me.

Q. As I left the theater after "Swimming Pool," I was overwhelmed by many possible explanations for what I had seen. I actively sought your Answer Man "spoiler" on the web--and yes, that was the one possible explanation that tied everything together. Yet I cannot think of any point where a clue is given to this specific explanation (except, perhaps, the very end, but this, too, suggests a number of possibilities). There are certainly vague suggestions that fantasy and reality are coexisting, but isn't it the filmmaker's responsibility to give us a clue? Though I must have enjoyed the film a great deal, or it wouldn't have played so well, I believe "Swimming Pool" would have been a richer experience had I been "in on it" at some point during my initial viewing. Now I have to view it again. (Phil Appelbaum, Albuquerque NM)

A. I agree that the movie doesn't tip you off, unless you start working on a vague feeling that something is fishy. I like it that way. You leave the theater and starting working backwards through the plot, trying to incorporate the information in that key final scene. If you see it a second time, in a sense you'll be seeing a different film for the first time.

Q. Is there any particular reason why you didn't mention John Schlesinger's passing? (Gino Montoya, Bothell WA)

A. Yes. I was visiting friends in North Carolina and was off line and out of touch for four days. The paper used an appreciation by another writer. Schlesinger's "A Kind of Loving," "Billy Liar" and "Darling" helped make me a film lover in college, and his "Midnight Cowboy" and "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" are classics. Among his later films, I especially admire "The Falcon and the Snowman" (1985), "Madame Sousatzka" (1988) with its great Shirley MacLaine performance, and "Cold Comfort Farm" (1995).

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