There’s a pleasant, old-fashioned feel to Alpha.
Q. What do you think about the "red band" trailers, which are now used in theaters and on the Internet to advertise R-rated films? Greg Nelson, Chicago
A. Unnecessary, and a contribution to the vulgarization of our society. These trailers can contain R-rated sex, violence and language, and are supposed to be shown only with R-rated movies or on age-restricted Web sites. That's a joke. Multiplexes rarely check tickets once you're inside, and on the Web, all kids have to do is click the button saying they are old enough. Surely the studios could honor what little innocence remains.
Q. The trailers for "Lakeview Terrace" spell out an interesting premise, since the notion of a black police officer abusing his authority over a white civilian flies in the face of cultural expectations. The television ads for the movie have added a new piece of content, featuring a quick, but clear, moment at the top when Jackson's cop is seen assaulting another African American. Am I too cynical to believe that this scene has been placed in the advertising campaign to pull in some audience members who may be less inclined to see the film if they believe it's only "about" a black cop who has a hate-on for Caucasians? George Allen, Springfield, Pa.
A. The cop abuses his authority over not only a "white civilian," but his black wife. The film is more complex than the ads suggest. They downplay social aspects and hype thriller elements. Your reading of the new footage may be correct. No studio wants to risk losing any demographic.
Q. I'm currently at the San Sebastian film festival and enjoying the films, but limiting myself to no more than one a day, as I'm afraid that if I see 30 films in 10 days like many people here, it will all be a wash by the end of the week. Do you have any advice on how to avoid festival burnout? Duncan Watt, San Sebastian, Spain
A. I see three or four films a day at festivals. A few times, five, which I do not recommend. I know fellow critics who watch movies every waking moment (and some sleeping ones). I think you can safely see at least two. After all, double features are as much of our heritage as doubleheaders.
Q. In response to your item about the relationship between the Coen brothers' movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" and the Preston Sturges film "Sullivan's Travels," I've always thought that "O Brother" is the film the brothers imagine Sullivan would've made after learning what he learned on his "travels."
It was the book Sullivan wanted to film at the beginning of the movie, but after his travels, instead of making it as a ponderous slog through poverty and misery, he made it as pure entertainment; he adapted the book as a comedy. I think of it as a sequel 59 years after the fact. Charley Cvercko, Seattle
A. Perfectly plausible.
Q. I can't believe you didn't review "The Family That Preys" by Tyler Perry. That is such a disappointment, and it is No. 2 at the box office. As a thirtysomething African-American woman, you know what it looks like to me: Another black person not getting their just due.Nicole Stafford, Durham, N.C.
A. Tyler Perry's film was not screened for the critics and I was at the Toronto film festival and had no time to see it in a theater. I think you will find I review virtually every movie I can.
Q. This is a completely illogical question. Let's assume you are being held at gunpoint by Abraham Lincoln, who demands that you recommend one movie to each of four supernatural beings, who are waiting in the next room: God, the Devil, Santa Claus and Albert Einstein. What would you recommend and why?Vincent Santino, New York City
A. First, I would ask Abe how he knew about movies. If he started waving the gun, I would reply: For God, Bergman's "Silence of God" trilogy; for Satan, a film by Buster Keaton, who is angelic; for Santa Claus, "Pulp Fiction," for a change of pace; for Einstein, "2001: A Space Odyssey." Of course, I would want to sit down afterward with all four to chat about their thoughts. Perhaps a round-table discussion.
Q. A problem with the current generation of students is that their only theater experience is tentpole movies viewed with a pack of friends. Everything else is viewed on a laptop or iPod. They don't even watch TV, except on their computers. Professor Nate Kohn, University of Georgia, Athens, Ga.
A. I despair. I grieve. I utter wild goat cries at the moon. They are denying themselves proper access to an art form that could enlarge and deepen them. I get many e-mails and blog comments from college and high school students, even some who are younger, who do care about movies and take them seriously. Many even read a lot of books, a subject I don't even want to get you started on. That's cause for hope. But is attention deficit syndrome spreading through our society like a deadly virus?
Q. You're fond of saying that you go to the movies with the same positive mindset as the average patron. But do you actually attend movies outside of press screenings and festivals? If you don't, you're missing vital components of the average moviegoing experience (intensifying excitement as you wait in line, popcorn intoxication and audience enthusiasm). Of course, you're also avoiding $6 hot dogs, dim xenon bulbs and filthy screens. But doesn't the mood generated by socio-cinematic atmosphere help contribute to the overall pleasure or displeasure? Lucas Rothman, Houston
A. Yes, I go to theaters with actual audiences, although deadlines usually require me to see movies in advance of opening. A week ago, I saw a screening with an audience that was thought to be especially sympathetic to the film; about 50 of them were extras in it. Audience members from age 25 up seemed deeply involved. Too many younger members spent the time on their cells, texting, talking and advising one another to shut up. In the midst of this tumult, I saw a very good film. But no, the audience didn't contribute to my pleasure.
Q. I saw an article on movieweb .com that said its author was sitting next to a film critic who "remained on his cell phone for the entire duration of "Towelhead." While he wasn't talking on the phone, he [spent] most of the two hours click-typing out texts. His head was continuously pulled down, face away from the screen, his zombie-like eyes bathed in that annoying bright blue light." Your reaction? Charlie Smith, Chicago
A. I went to the site and found that the author, B. Alan Orange, had already answered for me. He quoted one of my Answer Man columns, where I wrote: "Cell phones have no place in a movie theater, and anyone who uses one there should be required to wear a badge saying, 'I am an inconsiderate moron.' The time is coming when theater chains will be forced to take action against audience misbehavior, because it is alienating so much of its customer base. With big pictures, perhaps some multiplex screens could be set aside for the civilized."
This is true of ordinary audience members. When a film critic uses a cell phone, he should be handcuffed, dragged from the theater, shackled to a post in the lobby and pummeled with popcorn until he is greasy all over.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
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