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The Manchurian Candidate (2004)

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2/10: A Mediocre Remake for Our Mediocre Political Times (SPOILERS
Sunday, August 1, 2004

SPOILERS for both the original and the remake) This was not a bad movie on its own terms. Good cast, stylish direction by Jonathan Demme (though now in his trademark style: huge close-ups of people looking right at the camera), some nice suspense. But everything – and I mean everything – that made the original 'Manchurian Candidate' an unforgettable classic has been forcibly removed or revamped into dumbed-down mediocrity for our sped-up, sound-bite-ridden, politicized times. Part of the problem, indeed , is that we can't make a 1962 movie today. We're way in the future now, and the quiet, rather straightforward simplicity of the original could not be put on the screen today (Van Sant tried it with his shot-by-shot 'Psycho' and it didn't work.)So instead of beginning (after a brief prologue) with a brilliant credit-sequence and David Amram's deeply sad and aching score, the new one begins...

1/10: Brain dead
Monday, May 16, 2005

One of the finest political satires ever written, Richard Condon's 'The Manchurian Candidate' is a Trojan Horse of a novel, its purpose hidden within the artifice of a meticulously constructed thriller.Condon chronicles the odyssey of Major Marco, a Korean War veteran who believes that his life, and the lives of his comrades, were saved by Sergeant Shaw in an act of bravery that has, quite properly, made Shaw an All American Hero.But because bizarre nightmares increasingly suggest that Marco's memory plays him false, he sets out to discover the truth, contending with the fact that Shaw is the step-son of a political puppet whose strings are controlled by Shaw's power-crazed mother.Shaw, it eventually transpires, has been brainwashed by the Chinese Communists in Manchuria. So have the rest of the unit. The brainwashing was carried out to equip the Communists with a means to one day take over America. Shaw, the ultimate sleeper...

1/10: If It Ain't Broke
Saturday, January 8, 2005

Although the marketers insist that it isn't a straight remake of the original, it obviously is – all they key elements are the same. The new twist is supposed to be a post-modern take on America, because every liberal with a camera loves to point at the United States and laugh. Yet somehow it just feels simple and lazy. All the observations are obvious; the supposedly sly political commentary is about as elevated as Al Franken pulling a funny face, or Michael Moore ingratiating himself to Canadians by assuring them how stupid Americans are.Denzel Washington is the epitome of cool. I don't think he can give a bad performance. He gives this movie all his effort, and I would say that his performance and the brief one by Jeffrey Wright as Al Melvin are the best parts of the film. But even Washington can't overcome a scenery-chewing, cringe-inducing overacting seminar given by Meryl...

1/10: This was a TERRIBLE film. Read why did I and others rated it a 1
Saturday, July 31, 2004

READ AFTER YOU'VE SEEN THE FILM, CONTAINS POSSIBLE SPOILERS*For anyone who believes this movie was an excellent suspense thriller and a superb film...you have been brainwashed worse than Raymond Shaw.This film, or more importantly, this screenplay is only the latest entry exemplifying a very alarming trend in major Hollywood suspense thrillers. Most notably, the film `Godsend' came to mind almost immediately after seeing `The Manchurian Candidate' as a prime example of the same flaw, as well as to a lesser extent the films `Training Day' the cryptic Mamet thriller `Heist' and the `Indy' non-Hollywood but equally flawed (and for the same reason) `Cabin Fever.'What these films have in common is the single major problem with dramatic screenwriting today; the lack of a well-planned, well-executed, well-developed, payoff laden or at all logical third act. For those who may not know what I'm talking about, if you were enjoying `Candidate' quite a...

9/10: Evil Corporations Behind the Gears of Power
Wednesday, March 16, 2005

It's very tricky to do a remake of a well-known movie which has gone into the history of film as one of the greatest political satires of all time because the film maker runs the risk of having it compared to the original. Which means measuring up. In the 30s and 40s remakes were even more common given the fact that technology was advancing and if a B film could be remade into a much better version of itself, then why not. Such were the cases of the second film versions of THE MALTESE FALCON and A STAR IS BORN, whose first versions are good, but dated, and whose remakes have become the stuff of cinema legend. But when remaking those much better known versions in the 70s for a third time, one can see just how inferior the resulting movie turned out to be.In the case of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, when it became picked as Jonathan...

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