At the Movies With Ann Hornaday

Ann Hornaday
Ann Hornaday (Julia Ewan - The Washington Post)
Ann Hornaday
Washington Post Movie Critic
Friday, November 14, 2008; 12:30 PM

James Bond is back in theaters this weekend. But is "Quantum of Solace" worth seeing? Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday can help you decide. She was online Friday, Nov. 14 at 12:30 p.m. ET to answer all your cinema-related questions.

Hornaday has been a film critic for the Post since 2002. Prior to that, she reviewed movies for the Baltimore Sun and the Austin-American Statesman.

Submit your questions and comments any time before or during the discussion.

A transcript follows.


Ann Hornaday: Happy rainy Friday everybody -- let's get this party started!


Ballston, Va: Are you the Claire Danes to Rita Kempley's Gwyneth Paltrow?

Ann Hornaday: Okay, now THIS is the kind of question we need more of, people! Too hilarious...Uhm, I'll gently pass on this one and just say I genuflect in the direction of Rita's greater beauty and wisdom!


Wilmington, Del.: I read your review and found myself a little confused. It was clear that you did not particularly care for the film but I was not sure if it was because you thought it was poorly executed or because you are disappointed that Bond is something more than the cartoon character he had devolved into as depicted by Roger Moore and even Pierce Brosnan. Daniel Craig and "Casino Royale" brought me back into the theater to see a James Bond film.

Ann Hornaday: Sorry you were confused -- my disappointment is really with both elements, the emphasis on hyperkinetic, explosive action AND the direction they took the Bond character -- away from what I think we all liked in "Casino Royale." So I'd say Yes and Yes -- not to be even more confusing!


Laurel, MD: Hey Ann! Glad to see your face in the place. Great pic :)

FYI-Robert Downey, Jr. was named Entertainment Weekly's "Entertainer of the Year." I think it's very well deserved. Between the blockbuster that was "Iron Man" and "Tropic Thunder" (I know you didn't like it) he had a phenonmenal "comeback" of sorts (not that he ever went anywhere).

Ann Hornaday: Oy, my face?! There go the page visits...

I totally agree with you about Downey. Much deserved honor. He's such a gifted actor and seeing him make such a dazzling return has been one of the most gratifying things about the movies this year...He just seems like such a good sport about it all. And even though I didn't admire "Iron Man" as much as some critics and fans, my adoration of him in that role is unbounded. I think it's a great marriage of actor and character, and I look forward to the "Iron Man" franchise. They just need to stop impersonating "Transformers."


Crofton, Md.: Been scouring the Internet for a "Twilight" review and seen nothing. Please PLEASE tell me it does not totally suck. Does it?

Ann Hornaday: I hate to continue the torture, but I haven't heard anything about it. And since our family isn't in the "Twilight" demographic yet (we haven't even gotten to "Harry Potter"), I don't have any inside dope from the fans, either.

Sorry -- I know this is a huge event for lots and lots of people, so I vicariously share your anticipation! I know they've already okayed two sequels, so let's all hope this one provides a terrific template with which to go forward! (I'm already a major Kristen Stewart fan, so that's one plus right out of the box.)

Hang in there...


Locust Grove, Va: You referred to Bruce Campbell as devilishly handsome in today's review.

Does this mean you've given up on Mark Ruffalo?

Ann Hornaday: Perish the thought! Ruffalo rules, now and forever, Amen. But I had to give Bruce C. his props!


Dumfries, Va.: Did Hugh Jackman get the role in "Australia" because of the excellent horse riding skills he displayed in "Kate & Leopold"?

Ann Hornaday: Hahahaha! You guys are KILLING me today! I think it was his horseback riding skills AND the song-and-dance chops, combined.

I'm so curious about this movie -- seeing it on Wednesday. I so want it to be good (love Hugh, love Baz Luhrmann, have been known to love Nicole in certain roles)...


Falls Church, VA: Ann,

I was the movie goer who had a double feature last weekend. I saw "RocknRolla" and "Pride and Glory." P&G was okay. Will see anything Ed Norton is in (Columbia, MD in the house!). But I really really enjoyed "RocknRolla!" I don't know what the critics are saying but I hope he keeps this going. Some of the dialouge and slang were hard to follow but I got the gist of what they were saying.

Ann Hornaday: Hey, I'm glad you liked "Pride and Glory," although as you probably know I was not a fan, Norton's always-outstanding work notwithstanding (it was the movie that inspired me to coin a new genre: testosterone gothic).

But I digress: Haven't caught up with "Rocknrolla" yet, but so far it seems to have received positive-to-mixed reviews. Our critic, Michael O'Sullivan, noted that the director Guy Ritchie has basically been making the same movie his whole career, starting with "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" to "Snatch" and so forth (okay, there's "Swept Away" with ex-wife Madonna, but I think we've all agreed never to speak of that again).

One thing is true: Ritchie is fluent enough with the filmmaking process that his movies are almost always assured to be entertaining. So if that hyper-pop-crime-caper thing is what you're in the mood for, he's your guy!


Rockville, Md.: Hi Ann: your assessment that Austin Powers and Bourne killed James Bond was spot-on, but wouldn't you agree that the series was sorely in need of a makeover? After all, the last Pierce Brosnan flick featured a North Korean baddie who somehow changed himself into a British millionaire, Madonna as a sword-wielding villainness and Bond driving around in an invisible car. I'll take serious over self-parody any day.

Ann Hornaday: Hi Rockville! Yes, I absolutely agree, and in case I didn't make it clear enough in the review, I'm a fan of "Casino Royale" -- I think that movie really put Bond back on his legs (although am I alone in still seeing Clive Owen as Bond?)...So that made this one all the more disappointing -- that they didn't capitalize on what worked so well and took it in a much more generic direction. But you're absolutely right, the Pierce Brosnan period was probably the nadir.


Bethesda, Md.: The other day I watched Martin Scorsese's "Casino," and at the end of it I felt a little cheated, but couldn't pinpoint why. A short time later, it dawned on me: I had essentially just watched a three-hour remake of "Goodfellas"! Because if you look closely, so many elements of "Goodfellas" are evident in "Casino": De Niro and Pesci teaming up, Pesci playing basically the same character between the two films, an epic story of the rise and fall of high-profile gangsters, a beatdown scene between Joe Pesci and Frank Vincent (though with Vincent finally turning the tables on Pesci after "Raging Bull" and "Goodfellas") and a tragic marriage story of the wife loving the main character but falling apart over the years.

Ann Hornaday: Totally, totally, TOTALLY agree with you. I reviewed "Casino" when I was working in Austin, Texas, and if memory serves that's exactly what I said in my review -- although I have a dim recollection of comparing Sharon Stone's character to Lucy Ricardo on coke. Ugh. What a misfire. It seems like Scorsese was imitating every single mannerism and tic that made "Goodfellas" so pungent and singular, and just transferred them to the desert. Weird.


007: I think you are spot-on that Austin Powers and Jason Bourne affected the Bond franchise, although I don't know if they killed it. I thought "Quantum of Solace" was a very fine movie, albeit clearly a placeholder between the first one and the next one. In some ways, that lack of closure was unsatisfying to me last night. But isn't it always darkest before the morning (or whatever that line from "Batman" is)? I was happy with the overall arc of the story (plus, no boring poker scenes), and we all know that the true joy is going to be watching the Daniel Craig movies back-to-back-to-back on DVD.

I thought the most telling change in tone, however, was who the villains were. The CIA was always a little more bumbling than MI6 in the Bond films, but were always at least somewhat helpful to Bond along his way.

Ann Hornaday: Hey Aught-aught-seven! I hope you're right about "QOS" being a placeholder for the next one. It did have that feeling about it...And I'd like to hold out hope for Craig, who -- if he can't magically transform himself into Clive Owen -- seems like an able vessel for all the hopes and dreams Bond represents.

And I agree with you on the CIA tweak -- I wonder if Jeffrey Wright is going to be a permanent fixture in the future? Hmmm...


Washington, D.C.: Have you seen the latest "Watchmen" trailer? I don't even know what it's about but it looks so awesome.

Ann Hornaday: You know what, I haven't seen that trailer but it's getting high marks in the blogosphere -- another graphic novel adaptation, which I'm kind of burned out on. ... But an interesting cast (Billy Crudup, Carla Gugino, Patrick Wilson, Jackie Earl Haley!)...It's due to open March 2009 -- in IMAX -- to stay tuned!


Springfield, Va: When movies like Beverly Hills Chihuahua come out, do you feel like all of your work as a film critic is going largely ignored?

Ann Hornaday: You shake your head, you heave a sigh, you move on.

Actually -- I cannot tell a lie -- I thought "BHC" was kinda cute. Or, maybe put more accurately, I see and appreciate its entertainment value. The important thing about being a critic is not to constantly expect everything to comport with your ideas of what's interesting or worthy or artistically 'important.' In other words, judge every movie on its own merits. Seen in that light, "BHC" succeeded honestly and with a modicum of genuine charm and sweetness. Nothin' wrong with that!


Burke, Va.: I'm a huge fan of the movie "Fireproof." It has done amazingly well in its 7-week run, considering it's being shown in only 872 theaters nationally, was produced on a $500,000 budget with mostly volunteer actors and has grossed over $28 million! I think this movie speaks to the heart of what marriage really means -- commitment and self-sacrifice, but the rewards are invaluable. Your thoughts?

Ann Hornaday: I haven't caught up to it yet, but thanks for the heads-up!


Seattle, WA: Hello again Ann, I always try to tune in to your chats. Just wondering what films you're excited about these days? I notice that you're big on "Slumdog Millionaire," which has gotten such great word-of-mouth. Anything else tickle your fancy? Thanks again!

Ann Hornaday: Hello Seattle! Thanks so much for comign back!

I did find "Slumdog Millionaire" a diverting movie -- maybe not super-deep but very clever and well-executed...As for what's out there now, I'm a huge fan of "Happy-Go-Lucky," Mike Leigh's new film, and the French drama "I've Loved You So Long," which arrives in most theaters next week...Charlie Kaufman's "Synecdoche, New York" is a fascinating exploration of the meaning of life, and for family films "Madagascar" and "High School Musical 3" are both good options.

Three movies I really need to catch up with (still) are "Rachel Getting Married," "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" and "Ballast," which I intend to see ASAP!


Washington, D.C. : There are a bunch of really great independent movies I'm interested in, but none of them are playing locally and I can't seem to out when they might be. Do you know when "Dear Zachary," "Frontrunners," and/or "Nights and Weekends" are coming to DC?

Ann Hornaday: What a great question -- those are all movies I'm interested in seeing, too, having all received good marks on the festival circuit. Unfortunately, they don't seem to be scheduled to open in Washington as of this time...But that might change. Maybe your question will inspire someone to bring one or all of them to town!


Florida: I've been dying to see "Quantum of Solace" for a while now, stupid title aside. I'm thinking of going tonight with my husband and mother-in-law. Worth the money, or should we stay home and watch "Casino Royale" again instead?

Ann Hornaday: Hi Florida!

Well, "Quantum" is no "Casino Royale," I'll tell you that right off the bat. Much less glamour, much more action. Of course, his love interest died in "Casino" (which is a bummer, because Eva Green is sensational), so now he's avenging her death -- very serious, grim, no-fun kind of a gig. I wasn't very fond of this one, and most people I know who really liked "Casino" were disappointed in "Quantum" as well. ... If you do go, come visit the chat next time and let us know what you think!


Baltimore, Md.: I was really encouraged to read your review of "Slumdog Millionaire." Danny Boyle has such a great range--who would believe that the same guy who directed "28 Days Later" could direct a movie like "Millions" -- and he's one of the few directors that consistently makes great films with wonderful visuals. But he manages to fly greatly under the radar, which I assume is by design. Surely if he wanted to do a big budget epic he could by now.

Ann Hornaday: Hi B'more! My (adopted) home town!

I agree that Boyle is an incredibly gifted and, to use a word I used in another answer, fluent director. I actually think his direction is the best part of "Slumdog Millionaire," rather than the story itself, which when you strip away all of Boyle's expressive touches is kind of a contrived, derivative melodrama (of course, it's derived from Dickens, so at least they steal from the best!).

According to IMDB the next two projects he's developing are a thriller based in apartheid-era South Africa and serio-comedy about a man who ages into maturity in a week -- kind of a Benjamin Button-in-reverse. We'll see...


Washington, D.C.: Hear any buzz about Australia? Good? Bad?

I loved "A Town Like Alice" and "A Man From Snowy River" and "Strictly Ballroom"...

Ann Hornaday: The only buzz I've heard -- which I don't necessarily believe -- is that the production has been a bit 'troubled' and that Luhrmann has changed the ending to a "happy" one (whatever that means). For his part, Luhrmann has denied both assertions. ... For my part, I try to stay away from buzz, and just watch the movie they put in front of me. Tabula rasa.


Alexandria, VA: I'm just back from the UK, where I saw a trailer for a movie called "Dean Spanley" that looked intriguing. It stars Peter O'Toole, Jeremy Northam and Sam O'Neill, and apparently premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. Have you seen it, and is there any information on U.S. distribution?

Ann Hornaday: Good lord, do I have the most sophisticated chatters on the Web, or what?! You guys amaze me. I'm in awe.

"Dean Spanley": It played at the Toronto International Film Festival, but I didn't catch up with it there. It hasn't been picked up for US distribution yet, so it looks like if you want to see it you'll either have to go to England or wait for the DVD...But wow, with Jeremy Northam, Sam Neill, Bryan Brown and Peter O'Toole?! Yum!

Thanks for letting us know about it, Alexandria!


Washington, D.C.: Tell me it's not so! I have seen every James Bond movie (I'm old) and loved most of them but, afer reading you review, am not planning to see this one unless and until friends whose judgment I trust see it and say I should, too. Whatever were they thinking? No puns, no fun, no moviegoers, I would think.

BTW, I took my Mom to what I thought had been an especially clever abd lightheared Bond movie many years ago, and she was appalled by all the killing. So I had to think, yes, there was a lot of killing, but it was not a large part of the movie. It did make me rethink taking my own kids, however, who are 12 and 13. Even if I eventually wind up seeing this, I think I'll give them a pass.

Ann Hornaday: I'd be very interested to hear what your friends say...I must admit I did get a reality-check on my impressions with my editor, who was at the same screening I attended. She felt the same way about the movie...I haven't checked other critics' reviews today, so I have no idea if I'm out on a limb on this one or not. Just one girl's opinion!

Still, it would be nice if they could get Bond back to his old-school glamour, sensuality, intrigue and playful humor. That will NEVER go out of style, or at least it shouldn't!

Thanks for writing -- sorry to be the bearer of bad news!


Naus, E.A.: More than one reviewer has associated "Quantum of Solace" with the Bourne franchise. Does this mean ubiquitous shakycam, and me being sick to my stomach?

Ann Hornaday: Hello, Naus! The cam, she is shaky, and the edits, they are many. Lots and lots of cutting to and fro, to the point where you're not sure where anyone is or what they're doing. An unfortunate trend, I'm afraid.

But just think of how good it is for the Dramamine business!


Gallery Place: Haven't seen "Quantum" yet but the reason I so liked "Casino Royale" ... and I hope "Quantum" as well ... is that they mark a return to the Bond of the original Ian Fleming novels. That Bond was essentially a cultured assassin, not beyond revenge or "going rogue" and certainly not a wrinkle-free super hero. What's wrong with a character-driven rather than gadget-driven Bond? I found most of the Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton and even the Pierce Brosnan films to be so fantastical that have become mildy entertaining parodies.

Ann Hornaday: I agree with you. Let's hope the previous chatter was correct and that this is a mere "placeholder" until they can get James back into that tux and at the roulette wheel...


Bethesda, Md.: I don't understand why the Post had you review the third Harry Potter movie when you hadn't even seen the first two.

Ann Hornaday: Wow, can you hold a grudge or what? I can't remember exactly, but the thinking was probably that every film should be able to stand on its own merits...And if memory serves, that was the Alfonso Cuaron one, right? Considered by most Potter fans to be among if not the best?

If I'm assigned to the next one I promise to do my due diligence...


Morristown, N.J.: I can either go to "Happy-Go-Lucky" or "Rachel Getting Married" after work today. I'm going alone. My wife and I movie tag-team --she'll meet me in the parking lot later with the minivan of kids and she'll go the later show by herself.

Which movie do you recommend?

Ann Hornaday: Wow what an interesting system! Quite creative!

I loved "Happy-Go-Lucky," it's truly a unique movie. Am hoping to get to "Rachel Getting Married" myself this weekend, but I haven't heard one bad thing about it. So I'd say you're in pretty good shape either way. Have fun!


Washington, D.C.: What are your thoughts on Marvel trying to tie all of their movies together in order to build up to the Avengers movie? You think they can pull it off? They are off to a good start with the Hulk reboot and "Iron Man," IMO.

Ann Hornaday: It's all part of the ballyhoo. As you said, so far so good, they're keeping it light, which is nice.


Germantown, Md.: The question about "Twilight" got me wondering: isn't there a third release of the Russian "Watch" movies to appear? Soon? I thoroughly enjoyed the crazy nonsense of the first two.

Ann Hornaday: I'm so with you on enjoying the crazy nonsense of those "Watch" movies. And even though I sort of loathed "Wanted," I still think Bekmambetov is a hugely gifted director.

So: "Twilight Watch" is listed as "In Production," scheduled for release in 2009. Stay tuned.


Bethesda, Md.: I say "Synecdoche, New York" last weekend and disliked it, as did my wife (with whom I often disagree) and the four friends we met at the theater. I thought that it was not only not a good picture, but one of the worst I have seen in many years. I have since not encountered anyone who saw it and liked it. Yet it got raves from Philip Kennicott in the Post and in the New York Times. To what do you attribute this disparity?

Ann Hornaday: Ooh, sorry you were so unhappy. This is a movie that most definitely is not for everyone. I can't say I 'enjoyed' it -- it's too painful to say that -- but I did admire its ambition, its imagination, its uncompromising commitment...And just the fact that it dared to do something different. But I can completely understand if it's not to your taste -- all I can say is, better luck next time!


Reston, Va.: Was your "My Name Is Bruce" viewing one of the shows attended by Bruce "The Chin" Campbell? If so, how was the intro and Q&A session?

Ann Hornaday: No, worse luck. It must have been a hoot to see it with him in the house.


Germantown, Md.: Any news on what Mr. Lynch is up to nowadays? "One Spit Bubble"?

Ann Hornaday: The most recent thing I heard was that he was producing a Web series based on his book Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity -- which should be very, very cool.


Silver Spring, Md.: Ann, for more reasons than need be repeated here, my wife and I have not been out to a movie since I don't know when. We acutally can get out this Saturday night. But what to see? Sounds like "Slumdog Millionaire" is the best bet? Do you agree?

Ann Hornaday: "Slumdog Milionaire" is good; I'd also very much recommend "Happy-Go-Lucky" -- and, based on our own review and that of everyone else I know who's seen it, "Rachel Getting Married" might also be worth a shot!


Bond: Bite your tongue! Of COURSE Clive Owen would make a terrific Bond. But, lady, we have Daniel Craig, for goodness' sake! And if that doesn't make us happy and satisfied and drooling enough, then I just don't know what.

Ann Hornaday: True, true, true. Tongue duly bitten. I'll shut up now.


Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Ann. I heard that the new J.J. Abrams "Star Trek" trailer would play before "Quantum of Solace." I also heard that some theaters don't show it. What's up with that?

Ann Hornaday: Apparently only three fourths of the "QOS" screenings had "Star Trek" trailers attached -- for reasons that still aren't clear.


Annapolis, Md.: I'm really looking forward to seeing "Slumdog Millionaire." When can we expect to see it reach the 'burbs?

Ann Hornaday: According to my friendly Fox Searchlight rep, "Slumdog" will come to Baltimore next Friday (the 21st) and AFI in Silver Spring on Nov. 26. So far, no plans for Annapolis -- but keep checking Muvico listings, that might wind up being your closest playdate if it opens there!


Washington, D.C.: I'm sorry to take it down to basics, but what is "Twilight" and why are so many people interested in it? Granted, I was abroad for all of 2007, but I still read the Post and the Times, and I never heard anything about this thing until this year when people started referring to the movie as desperately anticipated, based on the smash novel. Did I just fall asleep for a few months there and miss something?

Ann Hornaday: "Twilight" is a series of novels about a teenage girl who falls in love with a vampire. HUGE hit with tween readers, which if you aren't one, could easily have passed by your radar. The movie, as you have noticed, is the subject of intense interest on the part of its fans, which is why all the hubbub.


Rochester, N.Y.: Thoughts on "Happy-Go-Lucky"?

Ann Hornaday: Love. Love, love, love, love, LOVE! One of my absolute favorite movies of the year, hands down. Go. Enjoy. Let me know what you think.


Washington, D.C.: Hey Ann,

Not really a put down but everyime I read your online chat (which I rarely miss), it seems as if you haven't seen a lot of movies that are currently out. Odd for a movie critic don't you think?

Ann Hornaday: No excuses, only alibis -- not sure if you see how many movies open every week, but keeping up with them is more than a fulltime job...But I'm painfully aware of how often I say 'haven't seen it.' Bear with me, it's a matter of time management, booking babysitters and basically trying to keep all the plates spinning of all the different poles.


Ann Hornaday: Okay everybody, that does it for today! Thanks for the excellent questions, comments and observations and enjoy the weekend!


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