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Diving into Dann's mailbag
By Dann Gire | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 1/18/2008 12:20 AM

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Time to check the e-mail bag and a look at a couple of new movies.

Dear Dann: Thanks for keeping me honest by including some of my quotes. ("10 Ways to Become a Quote Whore," Time out, Nov. 23.) I'm very cognizant of the need to avoid overpraising a movie, and being original in observations. After 37 years and some 20,000 movies, however, it can be difficult to come up with new ways to praise or condemn. A daily challenge, but if you check, you'll see I'm usually in the middle of the opinion scale and not nearly as generous with quotes as some competitors. -- Jeffrey Lyons, NBC

Dear Mr. Lyons: You and I have both been around the movie-reviewing block enough times to know that the so-called quote whores have co-opted key phrases and words ("masterpiece," "classic" and "tour de force," among them) that virtually guarantee placement in movie ads. It's unfortunate that quote tarts have robbed legitimate critics of these phrases and words. For us to employ them now makes us sound just like them, justified or not. You are correct that it can be challenging to find fresh ways to praise and condemn. That doesn't mean credible critics can afford to fall back on "a thrill ride!" or "lights up the screen!" when the challenge gets tough.

Mr. Gire: While I appreciate your inclusion of "Waitress" on your top 10 list (Time out, Dec. 28), had you done some simple research you'd find that this film was the third feature that Adrienne (Shelly) wrote, directed and starred in, the others being "Sudden Manhattan" and "I'll Take You There." Given the fate this talented lady suffered, and out of respect to her and her family, the least people could do is get her career accomplishments straight. It would be very appropriate for you to issue an immediate correction. -- Andy Ostroy (Adrienne Shelly's husband)

Dear Mr. Ostroy: Consider it done. I can only apologize that you had to correct my error. I have now seen "Waitress" seven times and I become more impressed with each successive viewing. As the father of two daughters, I am grateful for its positive message of independence and perseverance.

Hi, Dann: I think I can call myself a loyal reader of yours (at least 25 years now). I'm wondering how you missed the opportunity to score an interview with ("Juno" screenwriter) Diablo Cody. She's a local girl, as you know, graduating from a respectable Catholic high school, Benet Academy. She's the film story of the year as far as I'm concerned. I find her character interesting and I'm sure she'd make quite the fascinating interview. Have you interviewed her and I somehow missed it? Just curious. We're always interested in the locals, particularly the quirky ones ! -- D. Esser, Naperville

Dear D. Esser: I would love to interview the quirky Diablo. She did, in fact, tour Chicago for interviews during December. Unfortunately, my schedule was crammed when she was available. So, Diablo, if you're reading this, contact me at dgire@dailyherald.com. I promise I won't get freaky, but I am interested in how you became so skilled as a phone sex operator that your bosses begged you to stay when you wanted to resign.

Mr. Gire: My wife, both of us 60 years old, strongly disagree with your critique of "The Bucket List" (Time out, Jan. 11). Wefound it to be a "recommended" for all of our friends. -- Peter Booth

Dear Mr. Booth: If I had only a few months to live and untold millions of dollars at my disposal, I assure you that I would do something less self-absorbed than jump out of airplanes, destroy expensive race cars, hire hookers and go motorcycling along the Great Wall of China. Most of what Edward and Carter do isn't life-fulfilling, but life-wasting, at least in my book. Plus (SPOILER ALERT-- DO NOT READ IF YOU WANT TO SEE THIS FILM), I really hate movies narrated by dead people, unless M. Night Shyamalan directed them. Incidentally, I am the proud carrier of an AARP card and I'm not afraid to use it.

• It took a battery of French animators armed with felt-tip pens three years to finish "Persepolis." They have created an amazing work of animation that could not, or would not, ever be produced in Hollywood.

Based on a series of autobiographical graphic novels by Marjane Satrapi, "Persepolis" tells not only a story about a smart and sassy rebellious girl (think of "Juno" in Iran), but a fascinating history lesson. Marjane is 8 when the Islamic revolution takes over her country and the curtailing of freedoms is immediately evident in her city of Tehran.

Marjane escapes, but later returns to her homeland as a young woman and witnesses what has happened to women and men -- but mostly women -- under the Taliban rule. Strikingly designed in rich blacks and brilliant whites for flashback segments (current-day scenes have color), "Persepolis" is a fast-paced first-person account of politics -- personal, sexual and national. If the emotional moments don't grab you by the tear ducts quite the way Uncle Walt's animated movies do, that's all right. You don't get this kind of eye-opening, world-view experience from a story involving talking animals.

"Persepolis," co-directed by Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, opens today at the Century Centre in Chicago and the Evanston CineArts 6. (PG-13) violence, language. 95 minutes. ....

• "Cassandra's Dream" marks Woody Allen's third movie shot and set in Great Britain, and it's the weakest of the trilogy after "Match Point" and "Scoop." This blackly comic crime drama has a dickens of a time finding its footing. Sometimes, it strives to be the Euro-version of Allen's fine-tuned "Crimes and Misdemeanors." Other times, it teeters toward the criminal ineptitude in "Small Time Crooks" with class consciousness added.

Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell, who act nothing like brothers, play brothers Ian and Terry Blaine. They spend time aboard Terry's new boat, Cassandra's Dream, purchased with winnings from dog races. When Terry winds up owing a fortune at the track, the brothers desperately look to kindly, generous Uncle Howard (the always excellent Tom Wilkinson) for help. He has one small favor to ask: kill one of his colleagues about to blow the whistle on Howard's shady business dealings.

"Cassandra's Dream" has the look of a classy TV movie, and Philip Glass' throbby, intriguing score is audio miscasting. It seems appropriate that this movie be named for a boat, especially when its director spends a lot of his time treading water.

"Cassandra's Dream" opens today at the River East 21 and Pipers Alley in Chicago, Northbrook Court and Village Crossing in Skokie. (PG-13) sexual situations, violence. 108 minutes. ..