THE CIRCLE *Movie Review*

The Circle is based on the 2013 Dave Eggers novel of the same name.  When Mae (Emma Watson) begins working at the technology giant the Circle, she doesn’t quite believe it’s as amazing as her co-workers claim.  As she becomes more ensconced in life at the Circle, she begins to believe the company’s claims.  At the Circle’s helm is Tom Hanks, an ideal casting that capitalizes on his Every Man persona.  While we as an audience have been conditioned to trust his every word, the trust is at odds with the movie’s message.

Voyeurism and technology are the core of The Circle.  These themes have long been the subject of dystopian novels as well as Hollywood fiction.  When we’re watched, are we at our best or at our worst?  Mae thinks she behaves better knowing she’s under constant observation from the Circle’s ever-present wireless cameras. What is it that makes the concept of observation both a threat and a judge?

In a world–our world–where technology allows for a shared experience, the concept of not sharing equates to keeping secrets.  And secrets are lies.  That’s Mae’s mantra from the moment she, too, begins to buy what the Circle is selling.

For more about The Circle and other movies with similar themes, take a look below:

—>Keep in touch with Zoe Hewitt on social media @RealZoeHewitt on Twitter and Instagram.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.



Books: Oren ‘Tempts’ Israeli readers and defies critics

When Ram Oren helped define a new generation of Israeli “airplane reads” in 1994 with his fast-paced best seller, “Temptation,” he faced a challenge: to persuade the Israeli elite that his book did not signal the demise of literature and the erasure of Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Agnon or Amos Oz.

“The critics received ‘Temptation’ very harshly,” he said with an undertone of glee. “By then in the United States and Europe, authors of popular light-reading novels, like John Grisham and Tom Clancy, were flourishing. But in Israel there was an outcry. As if books are not allowed to have high ratings. It took a while for the hysteria to subside and for people to understand that easy reading does not place a threat on classic, high-quality literature, just as reality TV does not erase shows like ‘The Sopranos,’ and Rita’s tunes do not threaten the eternalness of Verdi’s operas.”

More than a decade after the release of Oren’s first book, he seems to have achieved a level of acceptance. Bookstands in Israel are filled with dozens of thrillers, many of them brisk reads published or written by Oren.

However, the man who has written 16 titles, sold more than 1 million copies in Israel and set up his own publishing house (Keshet) doesn’t care to have his titles labeled “airplane books,” a term used to describe a novel so fluffy it can be read entirely on a single flight.

“I don’t understand what an ‘airplane book’ is supposed to mean,” he said with a grunt. “It should be simply referred to as ‘popular literature,’ but I guess people have a need to label it in a demeaning way. It’s OK, I’m not fighting it anymore.”

While almost every book Oren writes becomes an instant best seller, others who try to ape his style remain obscure.

“This is proof that maybe it is not as easy to write popular literature as people think, just as it is not easy for Shlomo Arzi to invent a popular tune that will appeal to a broad audience,” Oren said. “My books are easy to read, but not easy to write. You have to feel your reader, you have to research a lot of the incidents you discuss in the book, sometimes for a full year or two. And you have to acquire full proficiency in the art of light writing.”

As a longtime Israeli journalist, Oren certainly understands his readers.

He started out in 1950 as a messenger boy for Yediot Aharonot, Israel’s leading daily, before becoming its legal correspondent for three years until 1955. After writing for Bamahane, the Israel Defense Force’s weekly newspaper, and studying law at Hebrew University, he rejoined Yediot Aharonot in 1964.

Oren served for years as the editor-in-chief of Seven Days magazine, the immensely popular Yediot Aharonot weekend supplement. Under Oren, Seven Days was a skilled barometer of the Israeli street — a melange of feature stories that spread from political profiles to interviews with models, from riveting crime stories to sometimes yellowish celebrity accounts. He was 60 years old when he finally left journalism after his first books took off.

“I always wanted to write books,” he said. “And I got to do what I really set out to do very late in my life. I always considered journalism as a time-out that lengthened and lengthened. But by the time I finally left it, I knew exactly what the readers want to read.”

Judging by his two latest books, “HaRamatkal” and “The Oath,” both released last year, his readers like stories based on factual events that feature lots of surprises and a somewhat flat, almost journalistic language with very few wisecracks and minimal metaphors.

“HaRamatkal,” the title taken from the acronym for the IDF chief-of-staff, is an account of events largely drawn from the Second Lebanon War, with easily recognized characters (the prime minister is a lawyer, a member of a new Kadima-like party who inherited the job after the old prime minister was gravely injured; the defense minister was a union leader and knows nothing about managing the defense forces, etc.). “The Oath,” based on a true story, recounts the unique bond between a Jewish boy and his Christian nanny as devastation and despair grow in Europe during World War II.

“I wasn’t influenced by Grisham or Clancy, but rather by the Israeli realm,” Oren said. “I think my style is mostly Israeli, and even when the story occurs overseas it reflects my Israeli agenda.”

As for the reason why his version of the Lebanon War resolves better and with a brighter future then the real-life war, he attributes that to his journalistic past.

“I have a tendency to try and improve Israel in my books and to suggest a different path for the real Israel even in a fictional story. That’s why I wrote a book about black medicine — to expose to light many of the bad sides of the medical system; and that’s why I wrote a novel about the judicial system — to put a finger on the corruption related to the justice process. I want people to pay attention, but without preaching.”

As for the critics, he said, he has long given up on them. “I don’t read reviews anymore,” he said, adding a cliche many pop-culture artists like to use. “I don’t really care if they don’t appreciate my writing. It is enough for me that I contributed to the success of pop literature.”

Ram Oren will be a guest speaker in a four-part lecture series at the American Jewish University during the Celebration of Jewish Books. Oren’s presentation on Nov. 7, 7 p.m., will be in Hebrew.

Fox Takes ‘Walk’ Down Provocative Path


Israeli director Eytan Fox makes films that open on a rousing patriotic note of rugged Israelis battling the enemy, before gradually exposing the chinks in his country’s macho culture.

His widely acclaimed “Yossi & Jagger” began with an elite Israeli unit facing infiltrators from Lebanon on a snowy mountain top and evolved into a clandestine homosexual love affair between the company commander and his sergeant.

His current film, “Walk on Water,” lures the viewer by posing as an old-fashioned thriller, in which a hard-as-nails Mossad operative, who specializes in quietly terminating terrorist leaders, is assigned to finish off an aged Nazi war criminal.

By the end of the film, Fox has cast a provocative eye on the awkward relationship between today’s Germans and Jews, Israeli attitudes toward Palestinians, the gay scenes in Berlin and Tel Aviv night clubs and the psychology of a professional killer in the service of his country.

At the opening, top Mossad agent Eyal, played by Lior Ashkenazi, one of Israel’s most popular actors, is in Istanbul, stalking and quietly eliminating a terrorist leader in front of his wife and young son.

Feted with champagne toasts by his colleagues on his return, Eyal is given an unwelcome new assignment by his boss — to find and kill Alfred Himmelman, an aged Nazi mass killer of Jews, who has been in hiding since the end of World War II.

When Eyal demurs that the Nazi is old and sick and will die soon anyhow, his boss answers curtly, “I want to get him before God does.”

Himmelman’s blonde granddaughter, Pia, has rebelled against her background by living and working in a kibbutz, and is visited by her brother, Axel, who wants to persuade her to return to Berlin for their father’s birthday party.

Hoping to learn the Nazi’s whereabouts, Eyal poses as a tourist guide and he and Axel embark on a trip from the Dead Sea to the Sea of Galilee. Although the young German declares himself an expert on circumcised penises across Europe, it takes Eyal an astonishingly long time to catch on that Axel is gay.

In another scene, a young Palestinian tells Eyal, “You Jews are so obsessed with the past — if you could just let go….”

The brief exchange reflects Fox’s own outlook.

“The Holocaust has been so implanted in our souls that we feel constantly under siege and that the whole world is out to get us,” he said in an interview. “We Israeli men feel that we have to be tough all the time, which blinds us to the pain we inflict on others and cripples us emotionally.”

Before the film ends — and we won’t give away the ending — Eyal undergoes a lengthy soul-searching process in which he must re-examine his role in the Mossad and his prejudices against Germans, Palestinians and gays.

As a bonus, scenes of idealized kibbutz life and of swinging Tel Aviv at night should boost tourism to Israel.

Fox is one of a trio of American-born Israeli filmmakers who are sharply questioning Israel’s predominant social and political beliefs in critically and commercially successful pictures.

Joseph Cedar is an Orthodox Jew, whose unsparing examination of national religious groups, the backbone of the settlers’ movement, keynotes both his earlier “Time of Favor” and the current “Campfire.”

Eytan Gorlin, also from a yeshiva background, is the third director, whose “The Holy Land” probed the danger of religious zealotry.

It is to Israel’s considerable credit that such self-critical films are not only accepted by the public, but are largely subsidized by government funds. Would that Hollywood and the National Endowment for the Arts, in the powerful and secure United States, showed a similar level of moral courage.

“Walk on Water” opens March 4 at three Laemmle theaters — Sunset 5 in West Hollywood, Town Center 5 in Encino and Playhouse 7 in Pasadena. For additional information, visit


‘Burial’ Unearths Small-Town Secrets

Toward the end of Nicholas Racz’s quirky, quiet, noirish thriller, “The Burial Society,” Sheldon Kasner, the film’s protagonist but certainly not its hero, whines: “Why can’t anything ever be easy for me?” It’s a line Woody Allen might have used in “Take the Money and Run,” but while Sheldon has elements of Allen’s nebbish-turned-wannabe-thief, he is darker, more complex and far craftier. So is Racz’s film about death and rebirth, real and metaphoric.

A newcomer to town, 40-something Sheldon (Rob LaBelle), whose name, spectacles and receding hairline enhance his sepia-toned meekness and ordinariness, seeks to join the tiny Jewish community’s chevra kadisha, which prepares the dead for burial. To the elderly, wary, tight-knit chevra kadisha triumvirate — Hy (Allan Rich), Marvin (Jan Rubes) and Harry (Bill Meilen) — Sheldon explains that he has abandoned his career as loan officer to find meaning in his life. When the trio is still skeptical, Sheldon reveals that his employers tried to kill him because he was privy to the money-laundering taking place at the bank.

“Bad money came to be redeemed,” Sheldon says. “It traveled from darkness into light.”

With that, Sheldon is welcomed into the burial society and taught its rituals by men who play cards and grouse when they’re not performing a tahara (purification) or watching over a body until its interment, or delivering medication and homemade matzah ball soup to an ailing community member. Increasingly fond of their protégé, they view Sheldon’s arrival as a Divine act that will save the chevra kadisha and Jewish tradition that survived the Nazis but is now threatened — Marvin laments with bitter irony — by lack of funding.

But Sheldon, we soon learn, is Darrel Zimmer — “the world’s least likely criminal,” on the run from police who suspect his involvement in the homicide of his former employer, Stuart Lightman, and the disappearance of Stuart’s brother, Jake. Zimmer is also being hunted by Sam Goldberg, a Jewish mob boss from whom he has embezzled $2 million. Hence Zimmer’s rebirth as “Sheldon” in a small town, and his urgency to join its chevra kadisha so he can appropriate a body and stage his death.

Sheldon, it turns out, is not the only one who isn’t what he seems. With the exception of the Lightman brothers, one-dimensional stereotypical thugs, and mob king Sam Goldberg, who is no Don Corleone, Racz does a deft job in providing surprises and twists through the nuanced layering of his characters: Sheldon/Darrel; Sheldon’s brother, Morrie (David Paymer); the superintendent of the building where Sheldon has found lodging; and, most importantly, Hy, Harry and Marvin. Hy is the gruff one, the loose skin on his expressive face pulled down by gravity and, one suspects, dashed expectations; Harry is the “youngster” who defers to his two colleagues; Marvin, with his elegant European accent and regal carriage, is the philosopher and Sheldon’s mentor. The three are, as the title suggests, the film’s center. They function as a unit, bound by decades of friendship and their devotion to the chevra kadisha. But they are not saints either, and their actions are morally ambiguous.

Racz has imbued his film with the necessary ingredients of a thriller: the missing millions; the mounting tension as Zimmer’s hunters close in; Sheldon’s terror and desperation when his clever plan unravels. Adding intrigue are flashes to an unidentified face, eerily lit and masked by shadows, that becomes the leitmotif of the film. But what distinguishes and enriches “The Burial Society” is the mystery that takes place inside the chamber where the taharas (ritual cleansings) take place. Outside this room Hy, Harry and Marvin are old men passing time by playing gin rummy. Inside, they become keepers of a hallowed tradition. Donning kippot and reverence (and accompanied by a delicate, lullabylike score), they recite psalms as they sponge and dress each body with tenderness and respect that underscore the brutality of Sheldon’s subsequent sacrilege.

“This knot from the kabbalah is 2,000 years old,” Hy informs Sheldon as he secures a simple shroud. The pieces of earthenware placed on the deceased’s eyes will protect him from the bright light when he arrives in the next world. The twig placed in his hand, which will turn into a staff, symbolizes that he takes nothing material with him on his final journey.

It is a lesson Sheldon doesn’t take to heart, but one that ultimately proves true. In “The Burial Society,” bad money is not the only thing that came to be redeemed and traveled from darkness to light.

The Journal is co-hosting a special screening of “The Burial Society” on Wednesday, July 28, at 7:30 p.m. at the Laemmle’s Fairfax 3, 7907 Beverly Blvd. West Hollywood. To R.S.V.P., e-mail The film opens July 30 at both Laemmle’s Fairfax 3 and Laemmle’s Town Center 5, 17200 Ventura Blvd., Encino. For more information, visit

Rochelle Krich is the L.A. Times best-selling author of the award-nominated mystery series (“Blues in the Night,” “Dream House”) featuring Orthodox tabloid journalist Molly Blume. The opening chapter of “Grave Endings,” arriving this October from Ballantine, can be found at

Actor of ‘Favor’

"I am not Menachem."

So says Israeli heartthrob Aki Avni, referring to his character in "Time of Favor," the Israeli psychological thriller opening in Los Angeles movie theaters Feb 1. The film, winner of six Israeli Oscars last year, including picture of the year, tells the story of a religious settler army unit in which one student, Pini, takes to heart his rabbi’s ideological rantings about the Temple Mount, and crazily decides to blow it up.

Avni plays the lead character, Menachem, a religious company commander who must weigh his loyalty to the rabbi and the unit with his own sense of personal responsibility and his love for the rabbi’s daughter, Michal, and in the end, save Pini from himself.

Even now, pounds thinner, hair choppier (he’s just growing it back after shaving it all off for his last film) than when he played the 23-year-old religious commander, it’s hard to separate the actor from the character. That quiet confidence, charismatic goodness and soft-spoken assurance with which Menachem carried the film (he won an Oscar for best actor) comes across in person.

Avni, 35, in a typically Tel Avivian formal outfit of sleek black — collarless blazer, untucked buttoned shirt, stylish pants — stands at attention to demonstrate how he got into the role of Menachem. Chin raised, shoulders back, heels clicked together, instantly, he becomes the character, the one on the screen who stole the heart of Michal and the audience with his sympathetic portrayal of a conflicted man: religious, idealistic, but learning to doubt.

Very different from the real Avni, who in the past few years has started becoming observant.The boy who grew up in Rehovot in what he calls an "atheist house" now keeps kosher and observes the Sabbath, and has an older brother who’s a Bretslover Chasid living in Jerusalem’s Mea She’arim. "I became interested in the wisdom in Judaism. … It would be a shame to lose it," he says.

His film character goes in a different direction. Menachem slowly disconnects from the spirited singing of his soldiers, his rabbi’s orders to soldier on and forget Michal — though it’s never clear how far Menachem breaks from it.

Playing the part of Menachem was no problem — he’d already starred in the popular weekly drama series, "Basic Training"; but to absorb the religious settler aspect, Avni spent time in yeshivas in Hebron and elsewhere. "I wanted to know the [behavioral] code between the students and the rabbi," Avni told The Journal.

Avni acts his part as convincingly as fellow actor Assi Dayan acts the role of Rabbi Meltzer, a chillingly sane man with a belief in the Greater Land of Israel, who holds sway over many impressionable yeshiva bochers (students), indirectly influencing Pini, a diabetic genius, to try to bomb the mosque after being rejected by Michal.

But did they play their parts too well? In Israel, during the year since the film has come out, many religious people were outraged because they felt the film portrays settlers in a negative light.

"All in all, it’s not a biography, it’s a movie," Avni says. "Even though the story could be realistic, in a far-off possibility, but it could be realistic."

The possibility of fanatical words leading to acts of terror isn’t really far off; it’s the world we live in today, post-Sept. 11, the world the film is being released into, even though it was made long before. But Avni is not concerned that "Favor," depicting Israel now to the world at large, depicts the nation in a fanatical light. "The movie clearly says there are extremists everywhere, but we [in Israel] don’t accept them."

Avni believes American audiences will appreciate the film more now. "There is a great parallel between the story [of the film and that of] every extremist," he says. "Of course," he adds, "there’s a big difference between Pini and terrorists."

Like most Israelis, Avni has a lot to say about the situation — about Yasser Arafat not being a partner, about the failed Camp David talks, the need for a Palestinian state so that Israel can act freely, and the effect on Israelis and Israeli culture. "Whenever the security situation is bad, luxury is the first thing that hurts…. Today there are fewer people going out," Avni explains. "But people always want to be entertained, and we have a nation that’s very, very strong; people are very strong in the State of Israel … and no one will break us. Everybody understands that now more than ever."

His patriotism aside, Avni plans on spending more time in — where else? — Hollywood. Avni’s wife, Israeli model Sandy Bar, will join him in their Marina del Rey apartment next month, and he is hoping to land work here. He has already signed with the Don Buchwald agency.

After nearly a decade of fame in Israel — in theater, television and film as, say, the Israeli equivalent of Tom Cruise — can the big fish from the small sea handle it as small fry here in Tinseltown?

"I’m nobody here. No one knows me," he admits. "But I love challenges. You know what? I look at it as something very good that happened to me. Israel, it was like my laboratory. I learned what I should do and what I shouldn’t do," he says.

Avni started acting at age 12; his formal training began after his army service, studying at the Yoram Levinstein studio in Tel Aviv. For a few years Avni was pigeonholed as a TV show host ("The Price Is Right") before he got cast on the dramatic "Basic Training."

He doesn’t seem to care that he might have to start all over again. "To tell you the truth. I feel like I’ve done it already. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone," he says. "I know the feeling of going on the street when people want your autograph, I’ve done it already. I want to work in the biggest professional system that I can find, which is here, probably. That’s what interests me."

The Arts

Photo design by Carvin Knowles

Aronofsky’s Original Formula

By Naomi Pfefferman, Entertainment Editor

Debut filmmaker Darren Aronofsky manages to sound incredulous about the Jewish sci-fi flick that has made him a star. “You don’t think God, math and bad-ass Jews makes for a Hollywood movie?” he quips of “PI,” which won the director’s prize at Sundance and a $1 million distribution deal.

The disturbingly visceral thriller (you could call it “Eraserhead meets Frankenstein”) features neither aliens nor humongous reptiles. Rather, it centers on mad Max Cohen, a tortured, paranoid mathematics genius on the verge of a startling discovery. For a decade, he’s been trying to decode the hidden numerical system that governs the universe and, specifically, the stock market. On the brink of success, he is pursued by representatives of a sinister Wall Street conglomerate and a Chassidic sect bent on dissecting the numerological codes of the Torah. When Max’s supercomputer spits out a number that may signify the ancient Hebrew name of God, it’s a secret some are willing to kill for.

The Kafkaesque, hallucinatory “PI,” which has jarring, grainy black-and-white images and a fingernails-on-the-blackboard score, recently broke box-office records in New York. It’s not for everyone, however. While many of the notices have been glowing, some reviewers have deplored what they perceive as the film’s “freakazoid intensity,” “film-school-style trickery,” glib theology and “midnight movie” attitude. Yet even the less-than-ecstatic notices have praised Aronofsky’s talent and referred to “PI” as “smart” and “engrossing.”

During a recent telephone interview, Aronofsky, 29, wasn’t as concerned about the reviews as he was his depiction of, well, “bad-ass” Jews. “Any time you put the words ‘Jew’ and ‘conspiracy’ in the same sentence, you’re treading on dangerous ground,” says the director, a graduate of Harvard and the American Film Institute.

Nevertheless, he insists, New York audiences have been cheering on the Chassids, whose intentions are noble. The religious Jews want to usher in the Messianic age; plus, they counter what Aronofsky perceives as the ubiquitous film stereotype of Jews. “I’m tired of the victim image,” he says. “I wanted to smash it. I wanted my Jewish characters to have more of an edge.”

Aronofsky says that he grew up amid “tough Jews” in Brooklyn, where his father taught science at Yeshiva of Flatbush. He was “a typical, bratty Hebrew-school kid” who preferred science fiction to Judaica; who wrote book reports on Rod Serling; who pretended the gears of a pocket watch were his bionic guts.

His feelings about Judaism changed when he visited Israel after graduating high school, although the trip got off to a rocky start. Aronofsky arrived with dreams of picking avocados in idyllic fields; instead, he was put to work in a kibbutz plastics factory, where he felt like a character from “Modern Times.” He fled in the middle of the night two days later, and ended up shekel-less and homeless in Jerusalem. While hanging out at the Western Wall, he was approached by members of a Chassidic sect who offered him free room and board if he studied each morning at their yeshiva.

It was at the sect’s headquarters and later at Aish HaTorah’s “Discovery” program that Aronofsky first learned about kabbalah and the famous “Bible codes.” He was so fascinated that when he began Harvard several months later, he spent hours perusing esoteric books in the library and researching Jewish mysticism, parallels between Purim and the Holocaust, and, especially, gematria . “I was possessed,” says the filmmaker, who ultimately merged his obsession with the work of several “bizarre conspiracy theorists” to invent “PI.” He completed the film before the publication of Michael Drosnin’s best-selling book, “The Bible Code.”

Aronofsky says that he most resembled his tortured protagonist as he struggled to write “PI,” “hunched alone in a room, suffering.” He often wrote the script in the homes and offices of friends and relatives, hopping from location to location whenever he felt his muse wane. As research, he interviewed several visiting Israeli kabbalists; he also turned to Yisrael Lifschutz, founder of the Hassidic Actors Guild, whose motto is “pay us for pais .” Aronofsky and producer Eric Watson scraped together the $60,000 budget, in part, by soliciting $100 donations from friends, relatives and shul members.

Their efforts paid off, big time. The temple members are getting a 150-percent return on their investment. And Aronofsky is getting nearly $1 million to write and direct his next film, “Proteus,” about a U.S. submarine dodging Nazis and monsters during World War II. He also has been signed to develop and direct the feature adaptation of the comic book”Ronin” for New Line Cinema. If it gets produced, he stands to pocket $650,000.

“Proteus” also has a Jewish theme, but Aronofsky isn’t worried about being typecast as a Jewish director. “I want to make a movie about the Warsaw ghetto uprising, and I’m adapting Hubert Selby Jr.’s book, ‘Requiem for a Dream,’ in which several main characters are Jewish,” says the filmmaker, who still shares a Hell’s Kitchen, N.Y., flat with Watson. “One day, I’ll also make a movie about my Hebrew-school classmates, a bunch of smart, smart-alecky guys I’m still friends with today.” Aronofsky pauses, then laughs. “It will be like a Jewish ‘Stand By Me.'”

Above, Sean Gullette, left, and Ben Shenkman from a scene in “PI”

The Emperor Has No Clothes

At a recent screening of “PI,” 28 critics were in attendance. Seven departed before the film was over, while the woman on my left dozed fitfully through most of the film. This should serve as fair warning that “PI” faces some difficulties and has received, silently at least, a mixed reaction.

The reasons for the rejection are visible on the screen. Shot on a low budget of $60,000, there is considerable voice-over and little dramatic action, and the print is assaultive, with harsh contrasts of black and glaring white light, so that the film resembles one of the early German expressionist efforts of the late 1920s.

Depending on your outlook, the story is either a profound commentary on purity and obsession, or a jejune and pretentious clump of clichés, thinly disguised by the overlay of science fiction. I side with the latter view.

What makes “PI” interesting is that its director-writer received $1 million to make his next film, “Proteus.” It suggests to me that the instant an artist is labeled as the newest experimental figure in films, art, literature, etc., or the moment he or she is acclaimed at Sundance, he or she is quickly transposed onto the pages of Time, Vanity Fair, Vogue; morphed into a segment on “Charlie Rose;” and nestled somewhere on the Internet.

There is no time for the “experimental, cutting edge” nature of the work to evolve into a finished film or, as is more often the case, simply to disappear mercifully from view. Instead, to be identified as a “hot” prospect is to be granted fame of a sort for a while, and to be embraced by Hollywood and the mass media.

What is notable about “PI” is that its director was quickly given a $1 million film deal. Granted, that may be walking-around money, and its purpose simply a way for producers to cover all their bets. — Gene Lichtenstein, Editor in Chief