Top 100 Movie Review: #67 – Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Old Movies Can Still Thrill

This movie might not have action in a contemporary sense, but neat ideas and slight of hand can cause immense thrill — proven by this classic.

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Old Blue eyes himself as the main character, Captain Bennett Marco

American Film Institute Ranking: #67/100
Academy Awards: Nominated for best supporting actress (Angela Lansbury)
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

Old movies are better, so the argument goes, because they had to be creative: they didn’t have the get-out-of-jail-card of special effects like today, so they had to rely on the innovation that came from imagination alone, making magic out of thin air.

Evidence Exhibit A: The Manchurian Candidate.

This movie is a political thriller, but there is very little “action” within the frames. What grips you and keeps you interested isn’t the flash and sizzle of shoot-outs but the tension and puzzle of what is real and what isn’t.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #30 – Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

The Case Study of Greed

Humphrey Bogart’s character epitomizes what can befall us all: the complete perversion of our sensibilities by unchecked avarice. 

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Bob Curtin (Tim Holt), Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart), and Howard (Walter Huston).

American Film Institute Ranking: #30/100
Academy Awards: Best Director and Best Supporting Actor for Jim Huston and Walter Huston — a father-son combo.
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

It was obvious early on what this movie was going to be about: Greed = Bad.

By showing the cards early, I didn’t know if I would be interested, especially if the moral teaching was going to be heavy-handed. My concerns were ungrounded and the movie addressed them with a counterintuitive solution. Instead of using fast-pace or subtlety, Jim Houston takes the approach of a staggered walk, slowly allowing Fred C. Dobbs (played by Humphrey Bogart) descend into is madness over the course of a couple hours.

What this does is make you experience every slow, twisted turn into immorality. This slow-train wreck of a nose-dive makes you squirm, really understanding what greed can do, exceeding my low expectations of what I thought would be an after school special delivery.

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Top 100 Album Review: #36 – Tapestry, Carol King (1971)

The Song Writer’s Breakout

Tapestry, a sprawling epic including hit after hit, was a chance for Carol King to show off her own material.

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Carol King with her cat Telemachus, named after the son of Odysseus from the Greek Mythology story the Odyssey.

Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #36
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

If you are over 50 or like any type of old music, you’ve heard Carol King’s work.

Between her writing career and people doing covers of her songs, King has given hit singles to several other well-known artists, including James Taylor, Quincy Jones, The Animals, The Drifters, Roberta Flack, and more. Known as a prolific song writer in the 60s with her then husband Gerry Goffin, King didn’t have any platform of her own as her pervious band “The City” was disbanded between label switches and her debut album “Writer” did not make much movement on the Billboard charts.

Then Tapestry released. Carol King was launched into another stratosphere as one of the most successful, solo-female acts.

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Top 100 SNES Review: #25 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles In Time (1992)

Time Travel Made Easy

Ignoring difficult to explain paradoxes, four turtles get thrown into a beat-em-up style adventure that spans 250,000,000 years but only takes an hour or so to complete: I guess time is relative!

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Donatello’s David – a landmark in Western sculpture.

Sydlexia’s Ranking: #5/100
Developer: Konami
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

Before we had to concentrate on an eight-hour day of physical therapy lectures, I plugged my computer into the big screen and had a romp through NYC at 3am with someone who had never played video games in her life.

She giggled as I was electrocuted. She bubbled over when a wrecking ball flattened me. She rejoiced when we defeated the boss at the end of the level.

Games have just gotten too damn complicated today. There is something fully hedonistic of the classic beat-em up, and TMNT 4: Turtles and Time does it better than anyone else. Not only is it fun, but educational: history, evolution and art history all combined in one.

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Top 100 SNES Review: #17 – Star Fox (1993)

Geometric Joy

No matter your favorite polygonal structure (dodecahedron anyone?), you will enjoy flying through this math-class review of a rail shooter game. 

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Find the perimeter of the acute, isosceles triangle shown above.

Sydlexia’s Ranking: #17/100
Developer: Argonaut Software
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

What a combination: a fox, hawk, toad and hare trapped within recessing parallelograms.

It’s hard for those who weren’t there to understand how interesting the promise of 3D games was. While the SNES was not ready to do it, many developers came up with “tricks’ to make the illusion of depth. Donkey Kong Country used rounded front characters on bubbled backgrounds to create a magic eye of 3D. Doom took advantage of Renaissance-era depth and perspective techniques to make it seem that monsters were moving positions.

Starfox did it through creating actual polygonal shapes, thus an actual precursor to what we would come to know from the psone and n64. While somewhat of an ugly first effort, the charm is still there, and the organic contributions of the four characters softens the hard edges of the environment.

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Top 100 NES Review: #46 – Kirby’s Adventure (1993)

The Archetypal Hero

Kirby shows up fashionable late to the NES party and provides a final jolt to a dying system with this introspective tale of fulfilling the Hero Archetype.

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Kirby destroying the ecology. Mercy, Mercy Me.

Sydlexia’s Ranking: #46/100
Developer: Hal Laboratory
Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

This game has a lot of Japanese flair — I’m not sure how else to put it. Your character is a pink puffball that sucks in monsters and steals their abilities. Mini-games includes eating as many eggs as possible and an old Western dual. The opening sequence is a how-to-tutorial of how to draw kirby (“First you draw a circle…”). Your journey begins in vegetable valley and ends with a battle flight through the stars. This game leaves no ground uncovered, including the collective consciousness.

Along the way, you may become attached to the trials and desires of the pink enveloper, but by the end you realize that Kirby’s playful facade is just a cover for his performance as a Carl Jung archetype: the hero.

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Top 100 NES Review: #60 – Double Dragon II: The Revenge (1989)

LIFE ISN’T FAIR

And other life lessons learned from Billy and Jimmy Lee in this erudite, side-scrolling, beat-em-up adventure.

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Billy Lee pondering his place within the technicolor dreamcoat of his existence.

Sydlexia’s Rating: #60/100
Developer: Technos Japan
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

The beat-em-up genre defined an entire generation. Its repetitive-button smashing released personalized-serotonin hits allowing us to feel good while eschewing any actual personal development. I don’t know of any other category of video game that so easily mixes repeated motions with such a sense of accomplishment – complete entertainment with little effort.

Except when the Double Dragons are involved. 

What we have here is a compact set of nine levels, beautifully architected for the pithy purpose of teaching us that life’s lottery doesn’t always come up triple 7s. A perfect compliment to my summer of mismanaged love and unfortunate living arrangements, Double Dragons II helped me cope with the idea that this isn’t all my fault.

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