Like Ficarra and Requa’s 2011 comedy Crazy Stupid Love, Focus begins promisingly and bops along enjoyably for a while, only to run out of steam…
Q. I'm still wondering why it's so tough for Marvel to reconcile psychological extrapolation and pure action with the Hulk. Having seen both incarnations, they're vastly different movies, and I'm still curious why it's so tough to dabble in the middle rather than one or the other. I still prefer Ang Lee's version, when all is said and done, even if the new version was fun. Felix Vasquez Jr., Bronx, N.Y.
A. The original comics were good at meeting in the middle, but movie audiences, I think, want to jump one way or the other.
Q. I agree with pretty much everything you said in your "Incredible Hulk" review but I thought I'd give you some additional info about the plot. The plan of Gen. Ross is not to create Hulk soldiers but to use Hulk to create "Super Soldiers," which Blonsky became on their second meeting (the serum didn't look to me like it needed much improvement, but what do I know?). That means, in comic book geek language, that he wants to create a bunch of Captain Americas. Alexandre Rowe, Montreal
A. I have read this message three times, and am still not sure of its meaning. But I confess I do not speak comic book geek.
Q. In an answer regarding the demise of theatrical intermissions, you state, "Today's exhibitors would hate intermissions because they reduce the number of times a film can be shown in a day." I've often heard that due to the high percentage of movie ticket revenue that goes to the studios, exhibitors are completely dependent on snack-bar revenues to generate a profit. Wouldn't the snack-bar revenues generated by intermissions for three-hour-plus movies compensate for the loss of a few shows? Besides, any way you try and slice it, a three-hour-plus movie gets three shows a day (say at 12, 4 and 8), with only one showing starting at the prime 7-9 p.m. start times. Mark Polak, Redondo Beach, Calif.
A. My mistake was to write "exhibitors" instead of "distributors." The studios care much more about box office than snack sales.
Q. We recently saw "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead." In your review of that film, you said Marisa Tomei "just keeps on getting sexier as she grows older so very slowly." Is it possible that hormones compelled you to say that, considering she was in some state of undress in half her scenes?
Also, why was the opening scene necessary? In my advancing age, I'm more and more repelled by such scenes. Also, as long as I've been reading this column, I've never seen anyone ask how they do such scenes. Can you safely do that in this column? I'm baffled how they could fake that opening scene. Chris Baecker, San Antonio
A. Let's face it. Convincingly faking sex is done all the time, and not just in the movies. The opening scene was perhaps necessary to establish the characters, but it wasn't exactly essential.
Q. Would it serve Mr. Shyamalan better to try different types of movies? His movies always take place in or near Pennsylvania and seem to have some type of supernatural theme. "The Happening" (2008) seemed to be very similar to "Unbreakable" or "Signs" or any other movie he's done. I like his style, but it's getting old. Derek Pencak, Kenosha, Wis.
A. Shyamalan has complained that the studios typecast him, but in fact "The Happening" is not supernatural. I would, however, like to see a straight drama from him.
Q. Allow me to liken "The Strangers" to "Hamlet," if you will. What made the sad ending of "Hamlet" (1996), to which you awarded four stars, so much more redeeming than that of "The Strangers"? Both movies featured complicated, multidimensional and human characters, who, through trials and tribulations, suffered and ultimately were killed. Both films were superbly acted, filmed and directed, and I find the endings to be very similar.
So what about the end of "The Strangers" made it be a 1½-star movie while Hamlet got four? Wasn't "The Strangers" also more about the feelings of the two main characters, and the wrenching sympathy to be felt for them? Kyle Strand, Louisville, Ky.
A. I think it had a lot to do with everything that happened before the ends of the two films.
Q. Andrew Baron of Houston pointed out Tim Roth's "The War Zone" as a film where a teenager is allowed to suffer from acne. That's one. The other one I thought of was "Saved!" Toward the end of the film, Mandy Moore takes one to the chin. You even discuss it in your review. James Van Fleet, Studio City, Calif.
A. Roth's "War Zone," in addition to its pimples, is one of the great films about a profoundly dysfunctional family. Censorship almost sank in it Great Britain.
Q. I've noticed some reviewers complaining about the "twist" ending to M. Night Shyamalan's "The Happening." What twist ending? A twist ending redefines everything that came before it; the ending to "The Happening" implies that the events in the story are not yet over. In fact, "28 Weeks Later" had an almost identical ending, and I don't recall any reviewers referring to it as having a "twist" ending. It makes me wonder if "The Happening" would be viewed differently had it been directed by someone else. Adam Greenbrier, Colorado Springs, Colo.
A. Quite likely. There isn't a twist, but there is a big poke in the ribs.
Q. Even though Spider-Man is Marvel's creation and property, on film Spidey belongs to Sony. But since Marvel Studios is trying to regain control of its characters (watch the post-credits scene in "Iron Man" and the last one in "Incredible Hulk") for an "Avengers" film, why would they have set the climax of "The Incredible Hulk" in New York City? It's obvious Spider-Man, Marvel's biggest moneymaker, should have been around for that final faceoff, so why not just pick another city? Bernardo Ratto, New York, N.Y.
A. Although most of Marvel's characters seem to exist in each other's worlds, is there any evidence in the comic books that Hulk and Spidey exist simultaneously? For that matter, can you imagine an evening of the news on CNN if all the superheroes were simultaneously active?
Q. I am a big fan of "Last Tango in Paris" and would like to read the famous review by Pauline Kael. I have searched the Internet and a few journals and cannot find a copy of the review anywhere. Do you have a copy you could post a link to or do you know how I can get a hold of it? Jennifer O'Donnell, Oaxaca City, Mexico
A. The absence of Pauline Kael's film criticism on the Web is a continuing disgrace. You will find that review, however, and many more of her reviews of key films in her book For Keeps. All of Kael's books may be purchased used, but apparently none are currently in print.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
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