Efficient, nasty action scenes can't overcome mostly bland characterizations and a half-baked story.
Q. You asked if readers raised on color had any thoughts on the B&W issue. I was born in 1971, and the worlds of television and cinema were fully in color. I grew up "hating" black and white, and dismissed it as something that was only used because there was no better option. In my teenage years, I saw two films that used black and white when color was readily available, and it worked exceptionally well: Woody Allen's "Manhattan," and David Lynch's "Eraserhead." These films convinced me that black and white is beautiful, and can help in the creation of mood and theme (although Lynch might have done "Eraserhead" in B&W for financial reasons).
Q. You aren't a big fan of colorized movies, and I agree that the studios should leave the original movies alone. Black and white is beautiful, and is indeed more dreamlike. Colorization does mess with the lighting--but, in a way, can it help encourage people to see black and white films? Let me give you an example: my kids love Shirley Temple, although they've only seen the colorized versions on video. Since they're kids they don't like b&w now, but maybe when they're older they'll appreciate how grand b&w really is. Can it introduce older films to them by using elements they know, so later they can go back and experience it the way it was really meant to be seen? A lot of people don't like b&w after all. (Dan Carell, Natick MA)
Q. Watching "Juno" again, I think I've figured out why the story is bookended with a motif of chairs. Juno narrates her story beginning with "It started with a chair," and we gaze upon a big, worn-out, comfortable-looking chair. Near the end, she tells us "It ended with a chair," and we see a different chair, this time, a lovely slimmer, not-so-comfortable rocking chair. These two things illustrate the journey our hero has taken, that our security blanket in childhood becomes not so comfortable when our eyes are open to the realities of the world. Jerry Roberts, Birmingham, Ala.
Q: How would you compare Scorsese's "Shine a Light" to "No Direction Home," the brilliant documentary Scorsese made about Bob Dylan a couple years ago? I am a huge Dylan fan, never been a big Stones fan. Can I appreciate "Shine a Light" without being a Stones fan?
Q. It recently came to my attention that there is a ghost in "Three Men and a Baby." If you start the tape at 1:01:13, the camera pans across a window behind Ted Danson and Celeste Holm, who are walking into a room, and at a spot by the window curtains, the rifle that was presumably used in the killing of a young boy may be clearly seen, with the barrel pointing down.
Q. I just watched "Cloverfield" and found the shaky-cam ruined the movie for me! I know it was supposed to give the feeling of being there, but I felt the director took it WAY too far. As you noted in your review, Hud "couldn't hold it steady or frame a shot if his life depended on it." Not only did it make me ill, but it ruined the whole movie for me.
Editor's note: This edition of the Movie Answer Man was written by Roger Ebert before he went into the hospital for his most recent surgery -- and before the death Jan. 22 of actor Heath Ledger.
Q. I noticed the letter in the Answer Man from Daniel Stender of Ames, Iowa, who had a project of paintings of scenes from movies featuring people dressed in bear suits but who could only think of two titles, "The Shining" and "The Science of Sleep."
Q I have been following the debate about the clever dialogue in "Juno" and there are two things I don't understand: (1) Why do people continue to expect every film they see to be a flawless reflection of reality when no film, not even a documentary, could ever accomplish such a feat? Isn't one of the pleasures of going to the movies is seeing things we don't usually see in the real world? (2) Why aren't more people refreshed that a film has gone against the grain by creating characters more intelligent than real people, as opposed to the Hollywood norm of creating characters who are considerably dumber and more shallow than real people? Adam Breckenridge, Edmond, Okla.
Q. So, should there be more Adam Sandler movies? You'll get what I mean when you read the New York Times article headlined "Economists claim that movie violence might temper the real thing."