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The November Man

In this excitingly nasty but ultimately confused action picture, Pierce Brosnan plays a retired government hitman drawn out of retirement to untangle a global political…

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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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What's this? Sherlock Holmes was never much for the pipe and hat?

Q. In your review of "Gentlemen Broncos," you state: "Hard as it is to believe, 'MILF' was not used until Stifler's Mom appeared on the scene." As a college student in the early '90s, I can assure you that the term MILF was in use among young men my age. "American Pie" only let the cat out of the bag. Although I will say that to this day, she played the iconic MILF. Rich Bennett, Baltimore

A. Still unresolved: The origin of ROFL.

Note: Readers may send questions to the Movie Answer Man at answerman@gmail.com

Q. Roger, you have written some of the most interesting things on Robert Altman over the years. I am still moved when I think of the way you closed your piece on Altman directing the opera version of "A Wedding": "Where the years have gone, I don't know," Altman mused at the end of the afternoon. "But they're gone. I used to look for a decade -- now I look for a couple more years." I advise him to keep on telling time by making films, and he will never die, because it won't be in the production schedule."

The L.A. Times published Richard Schickel's nasty and dismissive piece on Altman in his review of Robert Altman: The Oral Biography by Mitchell Zuckoff. Despite his lofty perch as critic for Time magazine, I never took Schickel seriously as a writer, filmmaker or historian. What's your take? David Ortega, East Chicago, IL

A. I take him seriously as a writer, filmmaker and historian. But I find his opinion of Altman deplorable, baffling and just plain mean. What did he ever do to deserve such contempt?

Q. Is it just me, or is Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" similar to a Massive Attack video called "Eternal Feedback"? Did Tarantino direct the video? Or does he like Massive Attack? Anton Kainer, Toronto, Ontario

A. I checked it out, and don't see a similarity, but it's a good video. I found it here: http://j.mp/8n0abP

Q. Recently an Answer Man question remarked that the "blood dust" that jumps from a shooting victim's chest seems implausible. It is not. This is actually vaporized blood and body tissue, and this "geyser" can occur when someone is shot at close range with a heavy caliber weapon. On a related point, in "Wyatt Earp," the marshal's shirt catching on fire after he's shot is also very real. It was common with older smoky gunpowders and happens less frequently with modern propellants, but it's still possible. This was the only time I've seen this in a movie.

We rarely see authentic effects of a shooting on screen. I do get a kick about the incessant and unnecessary clicking sound that weapons make, apparently on their own. And how the bad guy can threaten someone with an uncocked pistol. Oh, well, I'm watching a movie, for Pete's sake, not a documentary. At least they don't show silencers on revolvers much anymore. Sam Waas, Houston, TX

A. And as you know, blades always make a snicker-snack sound as they move through the air.

Q. Do you have any reaction to your shoutout in "Imma Star (Everywhere We Are)," the pop song by Chicago R&B singer Jeremih? In bragging about his fame, he sings, "Don't need Roger Ebert or the paparazzi/Take on and already the county stop me." It's sort of cryptic, as Jeremih doesn't seem to have done any film work outside of music videos. But the song has a local following and has been showing up for weeks in B-96's "9 Most Wanted." Earl Hofert, Chicago

A. I am most honored, and know how he feels. The "country" stop me all the time, too, especially during the previous administration.

Q. When you mentioned the 22 actors who have played Sherlock Holmes, you forgot to mention Ronald Howard, son of the great Leslie Howard, who played Holmes in 39 episodes of the 1954-1955 French-made TV series for 39 episodes. He was one of the best Sherlock Holmes ever. Ted Hazen, Carlisle, Pa.

A. Make that 23.

Q. I've been puzzled for weeks as to why Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's name is nowhere to be found in any of the full-page color ads run repeatedly in newspapers here in Chicago and New York. Screen story and screenplay credits with no mention of the originator? So "elementary." Is this how twisted copyright legalities have become? Lee Kay, Eola, Ill.

A. Conan Doyle gets screen credit for the characters of Holmes and Watson. It's possible he's not mentioned in the ads because he's not as big a box-office draw as the film's producers.

Q. In response to your recent Q&A concerning Sherlock Holmes' iconic Meerschaum pipe, although the great Basil Rathbone made great use of the prop, he certainly wasn't the man who made it the familiar image in the public mind. The Meerschaum pipe was first used by the well-known 19th century American actor William Gillette, who made his fame and fortune playing Holmes on the stage. Gillette originally used a conventional pipe as shown in the Paget drawings, but found it awkward to deliver his lines with the small straight pipe. I imagine it rather waggled in the air like FDR's cigarette holder. Gillette switched to the curved pipe, as it was easier to handle on stage. By Rathbone's time, it was a convention of the character. Mark S. Chenail, Champaign, IL

A. I gather the Holmes of Arthur Conan Doyle never used such a smoking implement. Sidney Paget's drawings make him look too sleek. The Meerschaum fits better with a certain shaggy quality, don't you think?

And here's another image challenged. Wikipedia reports: "Holmes is never actually described as wearing a deerstalker, although in "The Adventure of Silver Blaze," Watson describes him as wearing a similar-in-design "ear-flapped traveling cap." The entry points out that Holmes was too fashionable to wear such a hat in the city; it is properly worn only in rural settings.

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