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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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Was SATC2, uh, a joke, maybe?

Q. I'm so glad you reviewed "Robin Hood" as a "loss of innocence." I couldn't agree with you more. I would much rather see people laugh, love, and be absurd in movies, rather than hate, fight, and disembowel. I'm so glad you felt this way, because most of what Russell Crowe does falls into the latter. Modern guys feel they have to have a certain level of intensity about them or else they are wimps I guess. I for one am glad I retain something of the dreamer, the wanderer, and the lazy laugh of my childhood. I rarely go to the movies anymore because i don't want images of violence or gore impressed upon my subconscious, regardless of whether they are "real" or not. (Stephen Sian, North Vancouver, BC)

A. Robin Hood always used to have fun in the movies. Now even his Merry Men are pissed off. Do you sometimes think Russell Crowe acts as if he has a hangover?

Q. I couldn't agree more with your assessment of "Robin Hood," except I refuse to see the new remake on principle. “My Robin Hood” is Errol Flynn and his costume has green sparkles. Why mess with perfection? What will be next? A remake of "Gone with the Wind" or "The Wizard of Oz?" Oh the horror. (Stefanie Rehbein)

A. Political correctness might make a modern remake of "Gone With the Wind" impossible. I can imagine Prissy saying, "Lawzy, we don't need a doctor. I'm a skilled obstetrician."

Q. Just saw "Robin Hood". Sat thru the whole movie thinking about "Which century are we in?" and not really getting involved in the movie. In the written introductory plot set-up it was written that the action in the movie was taking place "at the turn of the twelfth century". However, the place/time setting on a scene a few minutes later indicated the action was taking place in "1199". Isn't 1199 the turn of the thirteenth century? My trying to justify this possible error, due to my advanced age, took me the rest of the movie, and indeed to this very moment (and perhaps beyond), to worry about - is it me or them having a memory/reasoning lapse? It's not nice to do this to old people. (Pdgmobil2@aol.com)

A. It's them. Hollywood sometimes has problems counting centuries. Give a moment's thought to 20th Century-Fox.

Q. Having heard a lot about the movie "Hello, Dolly!," and having listened the songs from the "Wall-E" soundtrack, I liked it so much I saw it twice (and a half) on the same day. I loved Barbra Streisand, I loved Walter Matthau, Michael Crawford, etc. the costumes, the art direction, the cinematography, but what I can't understand is how a lot of people hated the movie, based on a pile of reviews in IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes. Maybe there's something I'm missing, so that's why I am writing to you, to know if I have to like this movie or not, for I usually agree with your reviews, which have always assisted me in times of great confusion and indecision. Please help this 15-year-old movie-lover to realize what's wrong with this masterpiece that makes lots of people hate it. (Juan Manuel Cafferata, Argentina)

A. Not much, according to me. I gave it a four-star review, but my review seems to be missing online. I'm looking for it. I see the IMDb rating is 6.8, not bad. The comment boards on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes are often interesting and useful, sometimes appalling.

Q. If I am not mistaken, when I was a kid, I saw a movie you made with a Fisher-Price Pixelvision camera. I believe you screened it on your show. My parents would not buy me one of those cameras, so I spent the next ten years of my life trying to find one (more complicated in those days before eBay). I am happy to say that today I still have a working PixelVision camera I picked up in High School for $20, and have recently earned an MFA in film production. You made a difference in my life! I would really like to see the movie you made again, I remember almost nothing about it except a shot of you lips filling the screen. Do you still have that movie? Is it available online anywhere? Have you made any others? (David R. Witzling)

A. Damn! You're remembering Siskel'smovie! He used that gimmick from the Conan O'Brien show where you saw lips moving in a photograph, and filmed his own lips behind a photo of me. Of my own Pixelvision film, I will say only that it ended with a close-up of a license plate saying "ROZEBUD." We were having a contest for one of our Holiday Gift Guides, which may still be online somewhere.

Q. I respect Ebert's opinion most of the time on movies, everyone has one so it's great. But when will the time come that he admits a generational change has occurred when it comes to cinema or even 'art' for that matter. I understand that "Sex and the City 2" is going to be a terrible movie, but it's a cable show that many women love. Good for them that they get to pay $12 to see a 2 hour long episode. It makes them happy. But to read him discussing the ratings on thrusting and saying he knows about taste makes me heartily laugh. I'm sure he does. In his old codgery way I'm sure he does know what taste means to him. I'm not going to be taking serious movie advice from my grandmother. God love her, she still thinks Obamas the antichrist. It's a generational thing. This guy is reviewing poppy, bubble gum movies and acting surprised that they are terrible. (David W., Edmond, OK)

A. I wasn't complaining about thrusting and pumping. I was complaining about the hypocrisy of the MPAA ratings board. It has long been informally understand that graphic thrusting and pumping, so to speak, should be limited to two (2) thrusts and/or pumps per one (1) R-rated movie. Why wasn't that enforced here when it has been applied to many better films? Now about my age. I was the youngest daily newspaper film critic in America, and now I may be the oldest. Live with it. Years of reviewing movies may possibly have been useful to me. There are countless movie critics your age, which I am guessing is between eight and 18. They will see things as people of your age do. You already know those things. Consider me a change of pace. And don't despair: As you grow older, you learn stuff. You really do.

Q. Is there the slightest possibility that SATC2 is actually satirizing the shallow absurdity of its protagonists, but a large fraction of its audience has not realized that they are the target of its mockery? I suspect that the cast is also not in on the joke. If not, I may have to abandon my last shred of hope for the multiplex-going public. (Carl Zetie, Waterford, VA)

A. Whatever else it is, it's not a satire. I suspect some of its box office appeal can be explained because it's like a social occasion: Women enjoy dressing up and wearing great shoes to attend it. A lot of that is a tribute to their fondness for the characters as they were seen on the original HBO series. The women of SATC2 are apples who have fallen far, far from the tree.

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