The Magnificent Seven
Rarely have so many charismatic actors been used in a film that feels quite as soulless as Antoine Fuqua’s update of The Magnificent Seven.
Q. I'd like your readers to know that most if not all reasonable American Jews have no problem whatsoever with "Munich." In fact, quite the opposite is true. Last night, I went with my father, an immigrant from Israel, to see the film. We both loved every minute of it and thought it portrayed Israeli/Palestinian relations in a positive and pretty realistic light.
If Jewish-American critics of "Munich" would take a look at some of the best films coming out of Israel made by Israeli filmmakers for an Israeli audience (such as "Time of Favor"), they might notice the same kind of soul-searching done by Avner in "Munich."
Guy Handelman, Valley Village, Calif.
A. I doubt that you are right when you say "most," and in fairness it is possible to be reasonable and still disapprove of the film. If "Munich" did not divide audience opinion, it would not be doing what Spielberg intended: To challenge his viewers to discuss issues which, in the minds of many, have long been settled one way or the other. Among dissent on the film, one of the sanest and most useful articles I've read was by Walter Reich, a former director of the U.S. Holocaust Museum, in the Washington Post.
Q. In your review of "Brokeback Mountain" you write, "In their own way, programs like 'Jerry Springer' provide a service by focusing on people, however pathetic, who are prepared to defend what they feel." Roger, really, now. Do you really think anything on 'Jerry Springer' is real? 'JS' is utterly useless. It's vapid. It's a waste of light and electricity. G-a-w-d! Stop it!
A. For the purposes of the point I was making, it makes no difference if the show is real, or whether I believe it, or whether it's vapid. In a sense, the lower he aims, the more he reaches the people who may be able to gain tolerance about the diversity in our society, if that doesn't sound too condescending, and it probably does.
Q. Being a diehard horror fanatic, I was surprised by your zero-star review of "Wolf Creek." I'd read several positive reviews of the film, and I was hyped to see it. Now that I have, I think you were right about the misogynistic undertones in the film. The film did "cross a line." An example is the "head on a stick" scene vs. the only male death scene in the flick. You can easily say which is more brutal and disturbing. The movie didn't act as though these women had names; it acted as though they were just numbers that would be mixed in and forgotten.
A. I heard from a lot of readers who admired the film and apparently were able to disconnect from its heartless and extreme sadism. That is an ability I do not envy them.
Q. You say in your review of "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" that the dialogue is "there for its own sake. Like a smorgasbord, it makes no attempt at coherence. Put a little of everything on your plate and you'll be stuffed by the end, but what did you eat?" Oh dear, oh dear. How wrong! I trust your every word about film but regarding Scandinavian smorgasbord you are out of your depth, like the blind discussing colors! If you are ever around Copenhagen I'll give you a crash course in the strict coherence and dos-and-don'ts about "smorrebrod!"
Leif Barbre Knudsen, Hveensvej, Vedbaek, Denmark
A. The word smorgasbord has a different meaning where I come from in downstate Illinois, where the salad bars include butterscotch pudding.
Q. It's great to see "Junebug" on your Top 10 list. It easily makes my top five. This movie is heartbreaking and real and smart, smart, smart. I can't remember if it was you or Gene Siskel who said of "Mrs. Brown" that Judi Dench's performance was simply the best of the year, male, female or otherwise. This year, that distinction goes to Amy Adams in "Junebug." Her performance is the best acting in any film in any role this year. I loved her, I loved the movie.
Paul Preston, Los Angeles, Calif.
A. If Amy Adams is not nominated for an Oscar, the Academy voters have not done their homework.
Q. Regarding your item about your average 2005 review being 2.7 stars, when on a perfect curve it would have been 2.0: For what it's worth (maybe a half star?), there's likely a good reason why your average movie rating isn't two stars. In the statistical world they call it a "survivor bias," which essentially means that you don't get the opportunity to review enough truly bad movies. Less-than-stellar movies are generally not shown for critics before the movie opens. If it follows that you don't write a review for those films, the average rating for "movies reviewed" will be higher than what it would be if you reviewed "every movie released." I have to tell you that one of my favorite moments on television was watching Rob Reiner read your zero-star review of "North" before the Friars Club.
John Fitch, Cary
A. Yeah, I hated, hated, hated that movie. On the other hand, how to account for my three-star review of Reiner's "Rumor Has It," the movie about the "real" sequel to "The Graduate"? Its average score at Metacritic.com, was 36. I also took some heat for my three-star "Cheaper by the Dozen 2." But I contend that if you read the reviews instead of merely counting stars, the ratings make sense. Another way "survivor bias" works is that I am more likely to seek out and review an independent or foreign film than I am to try to catch up with "Aeon Flux" (unscreened for critics) in theaters.
Q. Regarding your Great Movie choice of "My Fair Lady." The Beatles' film "A Hard Day's Night" and the Cukor's "My Fair Lady" were released in the same year, 1964. But I never noticed, until I read your comments, the revolutionary acts of Eliza against Higgins and the upper classes. I always thought that Eliza was a lazy protagonist pushed around by two men, but in fact she changed their lives. I used to feel that the revolutionary, black-and-white, low-budget, docu-style comedy about four rocker kids had nothing in common with the color, pageantry, scope and studio-produced grandeur of a Cinderella tale. Now I see that John, Paul, George, Ringo and Eliza have more in common than their lower-class British upbringing. The Beatles could be sticking it to the Higgins' at Ascot and Eliza could be a rocker chick on Ed Sullivan.
Nellie Kim, San Diego, Calif.
A. And wouldn't that be loverly.
Q. I can only assume that your e-mail is clogged with reports that the recent Russ Meyer biography Big Bosoms and Square Jaws is being brought to the screen by Rob Cohen, the auteur of "The Skulls," "The Fast and the Furious" and "Stealth." Two questions come to mind: (1) Who, dare I ask, do you see playing the ambitious young critic-turned-screenwriter? (2) Do you think they should just scuttle the whole damn thing if they can't get Rose McGowan to play Tura Satana?
Peter Sobczynski, Chicago
A. Cohen may be an excellent choice to make this biopic, since his films have the kind of high-energy audaciousness that Meyer loved. To answer you questions: (1) I'm thinking Jack Black or Philip Seymour Hoffman, and (2) There isn't a name actress in Hollywood today who could meet Russ Meyer's exacting standards. Another good question is, who should play Russ Meyer? He was a tall, brawny combat veteran, a Signal Corps cameraman with a robust personality. Not a dirty old man. James Garner at 50 would have been ideal.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
Writers at RogerEbert.com share their favorite "Star Trek" moments in honor of the original TV series' 50th anniversary.