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Transcendence

"Transcendence" is a serious science fiction movie filled with big ideas and powerful images, but it never quite coheres, and the end is a copout.

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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 (10/21/2001)

Q. Answer Man, demand a recount! In Entertainment Weekly's list of the "100 Greatest Film soundtracks ever," they have omitted Anton Karas' score to "The Third Man!" (Matt Jaycox, Chicago)

A. That invalidates the entire list. They need to throw it out and start again.

Q. I am obsessing over this new film, "K-Pax" Do you remember the 1986 film, "Man Facing Southeast?" It was an Argentinean film, but, as I recall, based on a short story by Philip K. Dick. Apparently, "K-Pax" is based on a novel of the early 90's, by Gene Brewer. How can this be? The stories seem identical. (Kaylie Jones, Southampton College, Long Island University)

A. I won't see "K-Pax," starring Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges, until Tuesday. But many similar messages have come to the Answer Man, and Meinert Hansen of Montreal writes, "The trailer for 'K-Pax' even has scenes identical to 'Man Facing Southeast."

Q. In your review of "Iron Monkey" you write how one fight mirrors a similar scene in the recent "The Musketeer." Anyone who has seen Jet Li's "Once Upon A Time in China" recalls an almost identical scene where king-fu fighters balance on ladders. It turns out the fight choreographer was the same for both films, Xin Xin Xiong. So what's worse? Hollywood pilfering proven techniques from Asian cinemas, or people who work in Asian cinemas merely rehashing what they have already done? (Matt Singer, Syracuse NY)

A. Once a stage choreographer composes a work, he is happy to see it performed by many different companies. Is this, in a sense, any different?

Q. This puzzles me. A lot. How on earth can "Amelie" get an R-rating? How can any sane human being think that this wonderful and uplifting movie can harm people under 17 in any way? Actually, I think that if every living creature saw "Amelie", there would be peace on earth. Can anyone at the MPAA give an explanation to this that makes sense to anyone? I live in Norway, where the movie received an 11-rating. (Birger Vestmo, Trondheim, Norway ST)

A. "Amelie," the most popular film at this year's Cannes and Toronto festivals, opens Nov. 2. The ratings board has for some time cut loose from the common sense values of the vast majority of Americans, and is making weird judgments apparently designed to placate Hollywood's critics from the extreme fringe. While penalizing thoughtful and mature movies with R ratings, they cheerfully give the green light of PG-13 to intentionally vulgar teenage films based on the non-sexual exchange of bodily wastes. In the case of "Amelie," the MPAA objected to the chldbirth scene at the beginning, and the montage in which all of Paris seems to have an orgasm.

Q. I convinced my wife to go to "Joy Ride," and found it a most enjoyable companion to "Duel." However, the voice of the trucker, an integral element to the film's success, was not listed in the credits. My wife thought it was actor Clancy Brown ("The Hurricane," "The Shawshank Redemption") and I thought it was Ted Levine ("The Silence of the Lambs"), who was actually a costar "Joy Ride's" Walker in "The Fast and the Furious." Are either of us correct? (Ed Vaira, San Diego CA)

A. You are half right. Ted Levine does the voice, and Matthew Kimbrough plays the (only barely glimpsed) physical Rusty Nail.

Q. In your review of "Serendipity" you say: "She says they'll get on separate elevators in a hotel and see if they both push the same button. Odds are about 30 to one against it." Assuming 30 possible floors to randomly choose from, the probability of each person picking a particular floor is itself 1/30, but for both to simultaneously pick the same floor is actually (1/30)*(1/30)=1/900. This makes things look even worse for the movie! (Bobby Scurlock, Gainesville FL)

A. You are...wrong! I thought you were right. I am easily intimidated by math questions. But Chris Knight, an editor at the National Post of Canada, saw your question and writes: "The odds of two people each choosing a pre-determined floor (14, for example) is one in 900. However, the odds of two people choosing the same floor as the other is still one in 30. (If I pick floor 1, you have a 1/30 chance of picking the same floor, and if I pick floor 2 you have a 1/30 chance of picking the same floor, and so on.)"

Q. Travis Denson wrote to you about the "Child Care Action Project" (www.capalert.com), and was wondering about the "inappropriate touch between an adult and child" that CAP warned about in "Jurassic Park." I think the scene CAP was referring to was when the girl fell from the heating vent and a Raptor attempted to eat her. Alan Grant pulled her up to save her life and his hand touched her behind. I guess if a CAP staffer is ever attacked by a dinosaur they'd rather die than be "touched inappropriately." (Andrew Ricci, Manchester NH)

A. Being eaten by a Raptor ranks high on my list of inappropriate touching.

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