Here's a vote for the new and improved Candidate
Remakes are a tricky proposition, particularly when the original is highly regarded. In that sense, director Jonathan Demme has performed a cinematic miracle: His revamped version of the 1962 film The Manchurian Candidate is a superb and well-thought-out political thriller, superior to the creaky original in every way imaginable.
Demme has updated the story: Instead of brainwashed Korean War veterans, we get Gulf War vets fitted with implants; instead of malevolent killer Communists, a much more threatening corporate conglomerate, Manchurian Global, is attempting to seize power. Denzel Washington plays Maj. Ben Marco, a career soldier who is haunted by bizarre nightmares of lab experiments related to his platoon's supposed capture by Iraqi soldiers. In the original, crooner Frank Sinatra played Marco, but Washington is a much better actor, and his stronger screen presence gives the remake a more solid foundation. Liev Schreiber is Raymond Shaw, the role played by Laurence Harvey the first time around, and his character undergoes the most changes. As in the original, Shaw served in Marco's platoon, but now, instead of being the son of a vice presidential candidate, he is the candidate. Meryl Streep is Eleanor Shaw, Shaw's domineering mother. Like Angela Lansbury, who played the role in the original, Streep will likely receive an Oscar nomination.
The insidious plan to commandeer the White House is more logically mapped out in the remake, and the switch to corporate villainy should resonate better with contemporary audiences angered by the antics of companies such as Halliburton, Enron, and WorldCom. Demme's work has been hit-or-miss in recent years, but The Manchurian Candidate easily ranks beside his best-known film, The Silence of the Lambs, as a classic thriller. (MS)
News flash: Potheads get the munchies and act stupid!
Harold (John Cho) toes the line at his entry-level corporate job, lacks confidence, and is afraid to take a chance on anything. Kumar (Kal Penn) is his opposite, a complete slob who takes for granted all he's been given and fails to live up to his potential at every turn. But Kumar is a master at getting high and never misses a chance to use this talent. On a Friday just like any other, Kumar tokes up and convinces weak-willed Harold to join him. The munchies ensue, a commercial for White Castle hamburgers airs on TV, and the two underachievers decide to locate the nearest purveyor of sliders.
Naturally their quest for small, greasy, square burgers turns into an odyssey of self-discovery in which the two friends deal with a raccoon, perform emergency surgery, meet a misshapen freak with a fashion-model wife, face off with out-of-control rednecks, and end up in jail.
Admittedly a stupid and unfocused comedy burdened with dumb sex gags and infantile humor, Harold & Kumar does have some bright spots when it skewers ridiculous government anti-drug campaigns and other social conventions. Writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg must also be commended for bringing to the fore the abusive and prejudicial treatment their protagonists and many other minorities face, especially in the post-9/11 era. (CK)
What other critics are saying...
Anchorman [PG-13] Will Ferrell is a pompous newscaster in the '70s who is matched with an ambitious and talented female colleague. "It's a cute, silly, likable movie without much weight or intensity, but it's also pretty funny." (Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune) ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East
The Bourne Supremacy [PG-13] The second of the planned trilogy based on Robert Ludlum's novels about a CIA agent (Matt Damon) with a secret identity. The Chinese vice premier is assassinated by someone using the agent's cover name, Jason Bourne, and the agent must find the real killer to prevent a war between the U.S. and China. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East
Catwoman [PG-13] Halle Berry stars as Patience Philips, a graphic artist who is murdered when she discovers secrets about the cosmetics company she works for, which is a front for a criminal organization. Brought back to life, she seeks revenge. This is essentially a different character from the one played by Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns. Parkway Pointe, ShowPlace East
A Cinderella Story [PG] Routinely mistreated by her stepmother, Sam Martin (Hilary Duff) looks forward to meeting her Internet beau at a Halloween dance. "Give this wannabe Cinderella a big Bibbitti Bobbitti Boo." (Susan Walker, Toronto Star) Parkway Pointe, ShowPlace East
De-Lovely [PG-13] Kevin Kline plays celebrated songwriter Cole Porter, whose turbulent career is anchored by his wife and muse, Linda (Ashley Judd). Film features original performances of Porter's songs by Alanis Morissette, Robbie Williams, Sheryl Crow, and Elvis Costello. "Spike Jones or 'Weird Al' Yankovic could scarcely have been more jarring than the gaggle of preening pop stars invited to camp on the classics." (J. Hoberman, Village Voice) ShowPlace West
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story [PG-13] Vince Vaughn leads a group of friends to a dodgeball competition in Las Vegas to save their favorite gym. Ben Stiller leads the corporate team. Reviewed this issue. "Not sure where the producers get off implying that this sports-movie satire is in any way true, but it's so preposterous, few are likely to be confused." (Luke Y. Thompson, New Times newspapers) White Oaks
Fahrenheit 9/11 [R] Michael Moore (director of Roger & Me, Bowling for Columbine) looks at the Bush Administration's response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack. "What's remarkable here isn't Moore's political animosity or ticklish wit. It's the well-argued, heartfelt power of his persuasion." (Desson Thomson, Washington Post) Parkway Pointe
Garfield [PG] The famous cartoon cat finally comes to the big screen in a mix of live action and CGI animation. Bill Murray seems the ideal choice to voice the cat with an attitude. "I sure wish someone remembered to change the litter box on this stinker before it was released." (Jeffrey Lyles, Maryland Gazette) White Oaks
I, Robot [PG-13] Set in the year 2035, Chicago police detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) investigates a murder that may have been committed by a robot. "A high-tech thriller that really works -- both because of its eye-popping visual feats and the ideas and humanity behind them." (Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune) ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East
King Arthur [PG-13] A less mystical, more historical account of King Arthur, who reigned in Britain as the Roman Empire was collapsing. "Overall, Arthur fails to stir the spirit; its constant talk of freedom seems hollow." (Robert Denerstein, Denver Rocky Mountain News) Parkway Pointe
The Notebook [PG-13]Two young lovers from different backgrounds are separated when the U.S. enters World War II. Seven years later, she is engaged to a soldier when she discovers the whereabouts of her first true love."Mercilessly plodding pacing, problematic character motivations and a fundamental lack of chemistry between the two star-crossed lovers." (Michael Rechtshaffen, Hollywood Reporter) Parkway Pointe
Spider-Man 2 [PG-13] Peter Parker still has personal problems, while Spider-Man is forced to confront Doctor Octopus. "Spider-Man 2 is that rare thing, a thoroughly successful sequel." (John Anderson, Newsday) ShowPlace West
Thunderbirds [PG] Live-action version of the popular British science-fiction series featuring marionettes as a family of rescuers. Bill Paxton is the patriarch of the Tracey family, who use various ships and rockets called the Thunderbirds, and Ben Kingsley is the villain, known as the Hood. Parkway Pointe
The Village [PG-13] M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable), the director who brought intelligence and thought to the horror and science-fiction genres, is back with a period tale about a tiny village in 1897 Pennsylvania that is surrounded by a forest hiding a group of mythical beasts. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East