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ASK MICK LASALLE, CHRONICLE MOVIE CRITIC

Mick LaSalle

Sunday, July 4, 2004
San Francisco Chronicle
Chronicle Sections

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Dear Mick: Why would anyone remake "The Manchurian Candidate"? How can it possibly be dissociated from the Kennedy assassinations, not to mention the superb satire of McCarthyism and its understanding of how both contributed to 1960s political paranoia?

Ron Gordon, San Francisco

Dear Ron: It's true the original "Manchurian Candidate" benefited from a mid-century atmosphere of paranoia, distrust of government and an underlying sense of powerful, malevolent forces using their influence to destroy the Constitution, undermine the democratic process and enslave and degrade a gullible, willing populace. But aw, heck, I bet if we concentrate really hard, we can still find a basis for understanding the forthcoming remake..

Dear Mick: You commented in your review (of "The Terminal") how Catherine Zeta-Jones looks more beautiful than ever. I noticed in previews for "The Terminal" that she looked quite different and it seems that she had her eyelids "done" or lifted.

Fran Miller, Lafayette

Dear Fran: No, she didn't. After I saw the movie, I realized what she did -- she lost about 10 pounds, and in the process took about five years off of her appearance. It's terrible the difference weight can make. It's one thing I miss about being on TV regularly -- the weekly visual reminder to stop eating like a gavone and start Somers-izing..

Dear Mick LaSalle: The word is out. The street says that "Around the World in 80 Days" stinks. Here you are giving it a glowing review! Amazing how you keep your job, man! Rave reviews for "In America" and "My Life Without Me" and now this joke of a review!

Wayne M. Bernier, Calgary

Dear Wayne M. Bernier: I understand your concern, but I'm at a loss to respond without knowing what you mean by "the street." Wall Street? The Arab street? Perhaps it's a street you woke up on, and you happened to see an opposing review in your newspaper/blanket? Without knowing specifics, all I can tell you is that I really liked the movie, but I didn't review "In America" or "My Life Without Me." I was on vacation for "In America," and I avoided "My Life Without Me" because I'm too much of a hypochondriac to watch disease movies. When I heard "My Life Without Me" was about ovarian cancer, I wanted to get my ovaries checked. Historical disease movies I'm OK with, though, especially biblical ones involving leprosy..

Dear Mr. LaSalle: I have often wondered how Alfred Hitchcock would describe his use of "a MacGuffin."

Chuck Harrison, Oakland

Dear Mr. Harrison: As I recall, Hitchcock used that term to refer to a plot device that keeps the action going, even though it ultimately has little to do with what the movie is really about. The classic example is the embezzlement plot in "Psycho.".

Dear Mick: Where did Ronald Reagan stand in the Hollywood pecking order? Just how well known was he throughout America? If one were to draw a comparison of his stature to that of a modern star, who would it be?

Danny Sullivan, San Francisco

Dear Danny: It's hard to make a modern comparison, but let's try. He was someone everyone knew. In the beginning of his career, he was popular and up and coming, like, say, Matt Damon a few years ago. And later on, he was established in the middle tier, probably analogous to a solid TV actor who also makes movies, someone who almost everyone likes, but few people are obsessed about. Say Tom Selleck, without the mustache..

Dear Mick LaSalle: Took my wife and daughter to see "The Stepford Wives." Oh my gosh, you were way too kind. I hope that my daughter will not sustain permanent brain damage from that viewing.

Jeff Rosen, Half Moon Bay

Dear Jeff Rosen: Until you see me drooling, you can consider the whole family safe.

Have a question? Ask Mick LaSalle at mlasalle@sfchronicle.com. Include your name and city for publication, and a phone number for verification. Letters may be edited for clarity and length.

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