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The Unusual Suspects
With Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 10, 2002; 2 p.m. EDT

It's Friday afternoon and you can almost taste the popcorn. Whether you're planning to hit the theater or your local video store, Rita's here to help you wade through the sea of choices.

It's also your chance to be a movie critic. Share your picks and pans, and tell us how things would be different if you ran Hollywood. Who would you cast in your movies and why?

A transcript follows.

Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

Washington, D.C.: I know that movie critics prefer not to comment on other colleagues' work, but... Stephen Hunter's review of "Unfaithful" in today's Style section was a joke. I'm not saying the movie's great (I went to a screening the other day), but obviously a man like Hunter is incapable of understanding why Diane Lane (or any woman, for that matter) would be all too willing to have a roll in the hay with the smokin' hot Olivier Martinez. And this from the same guy whose review of the horrendous "Erin Brokovich" consisted mostly of rhapsodizing over Julia Roberts' Wonder Bra-enhanced bazooms? Give me a HUGE break. 'Unfaithful': Unfathomable Attraction (Washington Post, May 10, 2002)

Rita Kempley: Steve's review hit the same way. It reminded me of the profiles Stephanie Mansfiled, a former Style writer, used to write. All the women were fat and ugly and all the men wanted her. Steve, on the other hand, pants over the ladies--the last, I believe was Cameron Diaz--and pans gorgeous men. I'll always remember the movie as "Erin Brakovich."

College Park, Md.: Hey Rita,
I saw Y Tu Mama Tambien last week at the new Bethesda Row theatres, and I was surprised at how many people walked out of the film, presumably because of the sexuality.

Although certainly more sexual than 99.9 percent of the films coming out of the Hollywood Machine, did you view it as harshly as some of these people? In France this movie was considered appropriate for anyone over 12. Are we Americans really that prudish?


Rita Kempley: No, I didn't have any trouble with the sex, though I wasn't as blown away by the movie as a lot of other critics. I thought the scenes seemed really authentic unlike more recent American movies with all the trite shots and the swoony music.
Yes, I think lots of Americans are prudish--or perhaps they didn't like the feelings that the movie aroused within them. You can force a man to eat his own brains, but you can't show him...well, you'd have to go to a French film for that.

Arlington, Va.: Attack of the Clones: It ain't no Spiderman.

Haven't seen either, just wanted to be the first to make the comparison.

Rita Kempley: I have seen it and unfortunately you are right on. I never have a hard time staying awake in movies, but at one point, I went into a tharn state. That kid who plays Anakin (Annie he's called) makes Keanu Reeves look like Sir Laurence Olivier.

Formerly Fiendship Heights, Washington, D.C.: Lovely Rita film reviewer,

I recently went to a movie and saw the preview for an animated film called "Spirit." The animation looks impressive but I noticed something that REALLY disturbed me. In a sequence where the horse leaps over what would be the camera in a live action film it is plainly evident that this stallion lacks genitals of any kind.

Now I'm used to the fact that kids animated movies often anthropomorphize animals (a monogamous stallion? A lioness who bears a single cub?), but I think this weird neuterization is beyond the pale.

What do you think?

Rita Kempley: Fiendship, doll. We missed you like crazy.

Like you, I am shocked.A gelding would be one thing, but a stallion without a complete package. What is this world coming to? If "Spirit" were made in France, that horse would be the envy of the stable.

Miss Edie the Egg Lady: Hello Rita&#33 How are you, dear? I just wanted to say "Hello" to you and expecially to that lovely Miss Nani, Tex. who was so nice to ask about me during your last "chat."
All's well and it's Soo good to have you back in the "room."
Bye now.

Rita Kempley: Miss Edie&#33 Oh, my Gawd. So good to hear from you. Mister Jimmy has been keeping us up to date, but it's just not the same. EraserheadGuy's book is on its way to Nani even as we speak. Unless it arrived yesterday. Mega smooches back at you.

SciFiGirl: Submitting incredibly early, as work is insanely busy.

So I've got two words: Spider Man, Spider Man (sing to tune of old show). Wow, what a fun movie. Toby Macguire was an inspired choice for the role, and Willem Dafoe was awesome as the villain. I love seeing actors having fun, you don't get to see it much these days.

Rita Kempley: SciFiGirl: Sorry to hear that you've gone insane. This will help you sit through "Attack of the Clones," maybe even make sense of it. Thanks for the Spidey review.

Alexandria, Va.: I think that the suprise summer hit will be "Undercover Brother," whose trailer broke my theater out in laughter.

Rita Kempley: Alexandria: You just never know.

Blain, Pa.: Hi Rita. There was a post last week from San Francisco -- you asked if it was me. It wasn't, but I was so flattered you remember me, it's been a while. Mrs. Dex and I have fled San Francisco for the Pennsylvania countryside. Long story -- apartment eviction, job lay-off, new baby. And so Green Acres, we are there.

As you might imagine, there hasn't been much movie-going, although I'm pleased to note that there are a few art houses scattered around. When I last lived here (outside Harrisburg) nearly a decade ago, there was nothing but talking-dog movies and outrun-the-fireball stuff to be had locally. But right now it's IFC and TCM for me, which are lifesavers.

So here's what I've got: "Amelie" was fun but too long, by the end I felt like slapping her. There's a documentary coming out about the great jazz singer Jimmy Scott that's a must-see for me. And I've heard about a romantic comedy on the way co-starring Emily Watson and Adam Sandler? Ewwwwww&#33

Rita Kempley: Hi Dex and Mrs. Dex--Of course, I remember you, your comments and I'd like to think, the kind of films you enjoy. At least it's Blain and not Plain. Congratulations on the new baby, sorry about all the rest. I believe you're talking about Sandler's remake of "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town." Now he thinks he's Capra. Another sign of the apocalyspe.

Arlington, Va.: Folks, I got the chance to check out the new Landmark Row theaters in Bethesda last Thursday night and I have to say it's an impressive place -- huge lobby, gourmet-like food, stadium-seating theaters for independent films(&#33), and a great selection of non-Hollywood, independent, buzz-worthy films. And it's right near Restaurant Row, accessible by Metro (bus or subway), and there are parking garages nearby where it's only $3.00 to park for the night&#33 All in all, not a bad deal&#33 But don't forget to continue to support D.C.'s Visions, which is another great place. Rita, have you made it out to the Landmark Row yet and what's your take on the place?

Rita Kempley: No, I haven't had a chance to check out the new theaters. So thanks for the report.

Columbia, Md.: I am a big fan of Tom Clancy. His books are very well written with many subplots, and twists that make it hard to streamline into a movie. When "Sum of All Fears" opens in a few weeks, it will be the first time that I have seen one of Clancy's books made into a movie, after I had read the book. Is it possible for the post to run a review by someone who has read the book, and someone who has not, in order to get a balanced review?

Rita Kempley: An interesting idea, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Reston, Va.: Scooby Doo: The Movie may be the ultimate sign of the apocalypse. I wonder how they got a PG for it. What with all the drug references.

Rita Kempley: Don't you mean dung references?

Arlington, Va.: Toby Mccguire an inspired choice for Spiderman? Yeah, maybe when he finishes puberty and his voice stops changing.

Rita Kempley: Spiderman is an adolescent.

Sir Synergy: Alas, sad to hear that Lucas hasn't really learned any lessons from the Phantom Menace catostrophe in terms of casting and directing actors. Unfortunately, movies like that are critic proof.

With the big splash Spiderman and LOTR made, isn't it great to see that former splatter directors like Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson at the top of the box office food chain these days?

Rita Kempley: My Good Sir:
Alas, right back at you.

Springfield, Md.: Hi Rita: I�ve seen the subject of movie theaters pop up in various chats occasionally and wanted to share how GREAT the situation is back in my hometown, a metropolitan area of about 200,000 in the Pacific Northwest. I think I suspected we had it pretty good, but I didn�t know how right I was until moving to this miserable theater area.

Sure, we lost our classic theaters, those grand single-screen palaces with balconies, to development, but it�s hard to find those anywhere. For whatever reason, my hometown area has ample multiplexes, spread around the community, that are relatively clean and feature the latest sound systems. The price may have gone up 50 cents or so, but the top price for a ticket was no more than $6.50 when I left.

But here�s the real beauty, and what�s really missing around here: Second-run theaters. We have several and the best is really terrific. It�s a 12-screen multiplex that wasn�t built more than 10 years ago or so. It so happened that about three years ago, the same company decided to build a 17-screen, stadium-seating theater in the same mall complex. So they took what was already a very pleasant and modern (if not state-of-the-art) multiplex and use it to show movies that came out in the last one to three months or so. Cost? I believe it�s TWO BUCKS. When I left, I think you could go on one night a week and to daytime matinees for 50 cents. That might have doubled by now. With 12 screens and none of them showing the same movie, it also offers more �art� films than you normally get in a conventional multiplex. So there�s quality, diversity and a pleasant environment all for a couple of dollars.

Why on earth there aren�t theaters like this around here is beyond me. I never made it to the Foundry but nevertheless mourn its passing. I spend a lot of time in New York, and there�s certainly nothing like what we had out west there either. Sometimes I think it�s kind of funny that I come from a place that would be considered backward and lacking in amenities and culture by big-city standards, yet you can�t beat our movie theaters. Any chance of improving the situation here?

Rita Kempley: Hi Springfield. You sure said that.

re: Anakin Skywalker actor: I am already uninterested in Clones after watching the trailer and listening to this guy say "ma'Lady" in a VERY bad pseudo-Brit accent.

Rita Kempley: The trailers are a tip off.

Tu Mama, Tex.: People walked out? Here in Austin they loved it. Even the (so hot&#33) last scene.

Rita Kempley: Tu Mama:
I'm still troubled by what happens to the heroine in the end. (Don't worry I'm not going to blow it for anybody.)

Chicago, Ill.: Re: the bizarre ratio of sex to violence in American movies: didn't somebody write into your chat last year asking whether they could take their adolescent child to see Enemy at the Gates? Something about how she'd heard there was a racy sex scene in the movie and perhaps it was inappropriate for a teen to see. Or was that Desson? Either way, bizarre. Murder a woman on screen in America, and it's entertainment. But if she's topless, it's filth.

Rita Kempley: Chicago: It may have been this chat. Truth be told, I don't really remember. But even Jack Valenti would agree with your assessment. I believe he said something along those lines himself. He means well.

Arlington, Va.: Ok, am trying to decide between "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and "Kissing Jessica Stein" for tomorrow night -- dinner and a movie with my best gal-pal.

Which one would you choose for a girls night out?

Rita Kempley: Well, it depends on what kind of night you girls have planned.

White House, Washington, D.C.: I just wanted your thoughts on the original scene in Spider-Man which included a helicopter caught in a giant spider web between the World Trade Center towers being removed from the screen version.

Rita Kempley: If we erase the towers from our art, we erase it from our memories. It's right out of "Forrest Gump" and "Zelig." We're destroying our own history, never a wise idea.

Bethesda, Md. Mom: Rita:

For the people looking for second run movies, it's hard to beat the Old Greenbelt -- arty second runs and a genuine art deco theater at that.

Also, for folks looking to check out the new Bethesda Row Cinemas (I was there last weekend and it was fabulous, even if the escalator was broken), be aware that you can buy a ticket book of 5 coupons/$30 good anytime weekdays and up until 6pm showings on Fridays & Saturdays. You can use all 5 coupons at once, or save them up. The staff won't necessarily tell you about this so it's good to know.

Rita Kempley: Thanks for the info. Happy Mom's Day.

Arlington, Va.: I saw Spider-Man last night and thought it was quite entertaining, particularly for the first half. But I have to say (and I'm a romance type of girl) that there was too much lovey-doveyness, and that I thought there was a crucial point during the final scene of the movie when the son of the villain could just have easily been saying, "Folks, please get your $8 out now and set the money aside for May 2004, when the sequel will be coming to a theater near you."

Those of you who've seen it probably know what I'm talking about, and I don't want to ruin it for those who haven't but want to.

Rita Kempley: Yes, I think you're right on both counts. The thing I notice with these Super movies is that the girl only likes the hero when he's in disguise. Perhaps it's the tights. Plus I am still thinking about the symbolism: Spiderman squirts viscous fluid onto tall towers. What's that about?

Washington, D.C.: Hi Rita --

Adolescent or not, I gotta agree with Arlington on Toby Macguire. For me, it was his voice. Sorry you disagree. However, "Clones" looks horrible, so I think we're together on that one.

Rita Kempley: No, I don't disagree with you. I just think that he was probably directed to play the role that way. Tobey doesn't do it for me, though I do think he was reasonably well cast. I thinks he's on the vanilla side.

Re: Spidey and the WTC: No images of the World Trade Center were removed from Spider-Man. The scene in question was done specifically for a trailer, and the studios pulled the trailer fearing claims of insensitivity. Same goes for a reflection of the WTC in Spidey's eyepiece in the poster. But Raimi INSISTED that the WTC remain in the film itself. And it's still there.

Rita Kempley: If they were, I didn't see them. But good for Raimi.

Washington, D.C.: Oh my, you used the word "tharn" in an earlier post&#33 That ranks with "grok" as one of the words that few recognize, but says a lot about you if you do -- long live Hazel&#33

Rita Kempley: I grok your meaning. And I see you a roodoodoo (sp).

Del Ray, Va.: Could the two of those stars in "Clones" be more dead in the trailer? I can't imagine having to listen to their awful delivery of lines throughout an ENTIRE MOVIE&#33

Rita Kempley: They're so wooden that they're in danger of coming down with Dutch elm disease.

Washington, D.C.: Rita --
I see that your "grades" are still appearing in Entertainment Weekly. Are you still providing them with a "letter a week", even though you are not writing for The Post?

Rita Kempley: Actaully, I'm trying to go for a couple of letters a week. Yes, I'm still keeping up with the openings for ET, you folks and Oldies--now BIG-radio.

Caitol Hill, Washington, D.C. (and should be working): Two questions:

(1) Roger Ebert's review of ATTACK OF THE CLONES is up on his paper's web site. Isn't he a little early?

(2) Have you been to the 24 screen multiplex in Hanover, Md.? The Egyptian temple themed one? What a hoot.

Rita Kempley: The foreign critics have already posted their reviews, so I believe Ebert is within his rights. Besides, the studio screened it earlier this week and they didn't ask for an embarago. Like somebody wrote earlier, it doesn't matter what critics say anyway.

Mister Jimmy: Hi Rita, just wanted to let you know that Miss Edie and I had a wonderful time on our cruise to the Caribbean. Miss Edie spent a lot of time during the at-sea days at the movies seeing classic third-run films such as "Jurassic Park III" and "K-Pax," while I opted to spend that time in the casinos or lounging in the sun with the umbrella drink of the day. We sent you a postcard in care of The Post; I hope it makes/made its way to you. We missed you -- and the fellow suspects. Happy Friday!

Rita Kempley: A postcard&#33 How sweet of you two. I haven't received it yet, but I look forward your missive. I was once a guest critic on an Italian cruise ship. The theme was Italian Festival at see. Two Japanese women attended my screening of "The Bicycle Thief." Everybody else on the boat went to the Miss Long Legs and Mr. Harry Chest contest by the pool.

London Callin': Hi Rita -- Young Paduan

May the force be with you. I too have had the dubious pleasure of seeing 'Attack of the Clones/Clowns'. There's something really funny about a male hero called Annie.The flick is laughably bad -- but it does prove that even terrific actors, Jackson, McGregor and Portman can't save dialogue that would put 'Days of Our lives' to shame. Should I be awaiting the Webbed-One with anticipation?

Rita Kempley: If I were Annie, I would have smacked that supercilious Obi Wan silly. "My young Paduan this, young Paduan this." Dialog simply ghastly--"on the nose as the scriptwriters say." Sorry for your pain.

Superheroes: Queen Rita -- I think the point is being missed here -- the girl first gets attracted to the Hero, not the alter ego, because she (and we as people) tend to look on the outside, not the person within.

And apparently Toby was cast specifically BECAUSE he's an adolescent nerdy type (or plays one very well -- same thing)

Hope to see the movie this weekend

Rita Kempley: Yes, too true.

Baltimore, Md.: To all the Lucas haters, my advice is


Nobody goes to Star Wars expecting Shakespeare, and as such are rarely disappointed. "Episode II" will make more than "Spider Man" and probably even more than "Episode I" So all you little babies out there better get used to it and deal with the fact that some of us out here just like to escape to a galaxy far far away for a few hours every three years.

Rita Kempley: FRIGGIN A&#33

Maryland: When will they make a movie on a rag-tag group of Washington Post movie critics who uncover a secret plan to nuke the U.S.?

Rita Kempley: Even I would skip that one.

Gotham: I saw Spiderman last night. Excellent, despite the considerable hype. However, I thought the first two Batman movies were better, so I don't understand the raves? Thoughts? This isn't the first time I've gone against the hype. I thought Gladiator wasn't half the movie Braveheart was.

Rita Kempley: Gotham: I thought it was a good movie with great action, splashy and effects (though sometimes these were a bit sloppy) and a lot of heart. Since most critics were and mostly still are nerds, perhaps they saw themselves in the kid.

SciFiGirl: Rita -- oh dear. and I was cautiously looking forward to Attack of the Clones. I observed at lunch today with a friend that Star Wars is the movie that made me love movies. But y'know, Lucas is an IDEAS man, not a writer or a director. Just not good at putting his vision on screen. He casts terrible actors (are you saying Natalie Portman outacted the teenage Anakin?). You are not making me look forward to next week

Rita Kempley: SciFiGirl: Yoda turns in the best performance and has several charming scenes.

re: Lucas Lover: No offense sir, but we should expect better movies from Mr. Lucas. With all of his resources and technology, he has forgotten a fundamental rule of movie making, screenwriting. No, it isn't Shakespeare, but at least give the fans dialogue that don't elicit groans from the audience members who desperately want to like these films.

By the way, box office success doesn't mean anything. By your logic, Chris Columbus is one of the great directors of our time.

Rita Kempley: Exactly.

Re: "FRIGGIN' MOVIE" fan in Baltimore, Md.:
So all Star Wars fans are happy to have their movies come out like clockwork, no matter how bad they are?

It's that attitude that lets Lucas and others get away with stuff like that

Can you say "there's one born every minute?"

Rita Kempley: You are so right.

re: Anakin Skywalker actor: Are we allowed to gossip, or should I save that for Lloyd's chats. Anyway, I read online that Hayden, on several occasions, occasionally mugged to the camera after a romantic scene with Natalie Portman for the express reason of forcing their reshoot. The more I see and hear of him, the more I question whether I might be able to wait until video. Will an unprofessional attitude like that hurt his chances at future starring roles, or have his acting skills beat his unprofessionalism to the punch?

Rita Kempley: A bad actor with a bad attitude. Sounds like Val Kilmer, who has managed to hang on despite everything. But I don't see a bright future ahead for our Annie.

Herndon, Va.: OUR QUEEN: As the "summer madness" approaches, have you heard of any of the "non-hyped" movies to which we should pay special attention? Also, please tell me what I hear is not true -- that Jar-Jar appears in "Star Wars II." Thanks.

Rita Kempley: Hi Steve: Actually, Jar Jar's low-key performance is one of the highlights.

Rita Kempley: Great spending a little while with all of you this weekend. Hope to see you in a couple of weeks when everybody has seen the Clones. Till then my the farce be with you.

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