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The thriller occupies the same territory as countless science fiction movies about deadly invasions and high-tech conspiracies, but has been made with intelligence and an…

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Planes, Trains and Automobiles

It is perfectly cast and soundly constructed, and all else flows naturally. Steve Martin and John Candy don't play characters; they embody themselves.

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Movie Answer Man (01/27/2002)

Q. The wife in the Coen Brothers' "The Man Who Wasn't There" works for a department store named Nirdlinger's. That is the surname of the man who is murdered in James M. Cain's novel "Double Indemnity." (John R. Simon, City of Salt. UT)

A. Quite so. But in Billy Wilder's movie "Double Indemnity," the name of the victim is changed to Diedrichson--and there is a character in the Coen Brothers' movie named Diedrickson, which is so close I intuit a spelling error. Also, Freddy Riedenschneider, the movie's lawyer, may be related to Doc Riedenschneider, from "The Asphalt Jungle." There is, however, nobody in the movie named Tenenbaum.


Q. When I first saw "A Beautiful Mind," I thought, like most other moviegoers and critics, that it was great, literate, moving, compelling--the best thing Ron Howard has ever done. Intrigued, I did some further research into Nash's life, and was discouraged by reading that the more unappealing aspects of his life were left out of the film. I feel this insults the audience's intelligence, keeping us from seeing the true man. This is a typical Hollywood move, thinking we would not think Nash's story inspiring and his achievements noble if we don't like him every second of the way. Now I see it as a shameless Oscar ploy, and an effort to jerk tears from us to make "Mind" more easily digestible. Can't we appreciate an anti-hero anymore? (Gerry Miriello, Los Angeles CA)

A. If the movie was great, literate, moving and compelling until you learned more about Nash, then can we argue that it is still great, literate, moving and compelling, but simply not as factual as you thought? Would it diminish "Gladiator" for you if you learned of its factual inaccuracies? Movies, even those "based on fact," weave fables and legends by picking and choosing from the available material. My feeling is that we go to books for facts, and to movies for feelings. John Forbes Nash is not an anti-hero but a man who struggled with a tragic mental illness, lived an imperfect life, and made an enormous contribution to human knowledge.

Q. I think Don Cheadle is a terrific actor, and I was disappointed that he did not get a credit in "Ocean's Eleven". Do you know why he was left off the credits? (Carol Klann, Glenview IL)

A. He was not "left off" through an oversight, if that's what you mean. Sometimes an actor will chose not to be billed, as a sort of status thing. Bill Murray is famous for it.

Q. During the end credits of "Ocean's Eleven" I noticed that it said "Introducing Julia Roberts." I thought that the word "introducing" is used when an actor stars in his or hers first film. Why is it used here? (Sean O'Connell, Novato CA)


A. Kinduva joke.

Q. What do you make of Blockbuster putting "Terrorist Themed" warning labels on certain films? This is obviously a very sensitive subject since Sept. 11th, but I feel this is just another ploy by Blockbuster to make themselves America's conscience, like they do with the edited-only versions of films they carry. (Josh Korkowski, Minneapolis, Minn.)

A. Call me a cynic, but I believe those labels will only increase rentals of the titles they are applied to.

Q. Even though I'm not a big fan of the movie "The Mummy Returns," I was appalled to find out that I could not rent a widescreen copy of that movie at either of my local rental chain stores. I can understand if some people would rather watch a third less of a movie's original picture just to fill their TV screen. What I can't understand is that these chains chose at a corporate level (or so I was told by the store managers when I complained) not to provide copies of BOTH versions so those of us who want to watch the widescreen version have the choice to do so! (Karl Englebright, Vancouver WA)

A. I was actually told by a video chain spokesman that widescreen ("letterboxed") versions were not stocked in some stores because some customers complained, and the clerks did not have sufficient knowledge to explain the logic of letterboxing. My opinion is that (a) anyone who actually works in a video store and does not understand letterboxing has given up on life, and (b) any customer who prefers to have the sides of a movie hacked off should not be licensed to operate a video player.

Q. I remember when "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut" came out. I seem to remember that the earlier title of this film was "South Park: All Hell Breaks Loose." This title was rejected by the MPAA on the basis of the word "Hell" in the title. I was wondering if this was true why they decided to allow the word "Hell" in the title of "From Hell" the new movie with Johnny Depp? This would seem to be very contradictory. (Russell Benz, Fargo ND)

A. Richard Taylor, spokesman for the MPAA, says: "According to the Classification and Ratings Administration in Los Angeles, the word 'hell' was never part of the title of that film (at least never in any form when the ratings board was reviewing the film). Therefore, the simple answer to Mr. Benz's question is that the MPAA never rejected the use of the word 'hell' in the title of the film."

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