ALWAYS KEEPING AN EYE ON HOLLYWOOD!!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

JER’S TURN: THE HORROR OF REMAKES, REIMAGING & REBOOTS OF STORIES AND FILMS

JER: Here is a topic that I believe both JOHNNY CHAZZ and I have danced around, but never really took it for a full spin. I am talking about the brainless notion to take quality stories, films or ideas and re-work them for a whole new generation to enjoy. In other words, the concept…or misconception acceptability by the general audience to allow these re-visioned, recycled pieces of garbage to be taken in as entertainment!

At a recent outing to my local theater, I always find myself constantly looking forward to the displaying of new posters, banners and standees that decorate the theater’s lobby with the similar anticipation of a child waiting for Disneyland to open! As my eyes began to fixate and take individual inventory of the presentations made available… here is a rundown as to what the movie- going audience has to look forward to.

First off, the ‘re-imagined’ version of THE SMURFS: the movie takes place in present day and the annoying blue little pests somehow end up in New York with hopes to return home. I don’t know what is worst…taking them out of their native Smurfville or that they befriend Neil Patrick Harris in our world! Oh, then there is Hank Azaria playing the evil wizard Gargamel. Double- oh: the movie’s opening gross brings the films at Number Two with $35 million dollars. Triple- Oh: The studio announced plans for a sequal set for 2013! UGH!

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES: Although I am looking forward to this film, it is ‘re-boot’ of the original series, this being the origins story as to how the apes got to be smarter than humans. So then, we are supposed to forget about the Tim Burton film altogether and glue- in the original Charlton Heston 1968 classic irght after RISE. Wow, that is a lot of mental cutting and pasting to do! At blog- time, the film opened Number One with $54 million. Still really wanting to see this one!

CONAN THE BARBARIAN in 3-D: This is an accident I am not looking forward to witnessing. The trailer looks horrendous with Conan looking like he stepped out of a WWE battle- royale match! The trailer’s music has turned heavy metal with plenty of CGI face- lifts and far too many slow- mo action shots to allow the audience to really take in all of the money shoveled into this blotted action flick. I am a purist when it comes to the CONAN film, meaning, I thoroughly continue to watch the original with Arnold Swarzenegger! I know, I know… poor Arnie has become the butt of so many personal mud- slinging jokes these days… but there was something very magical in the 1982 sword and sorcery fantasy film! This jumbled mess ranks as “reboot, re- imagined and remake”. What’s next? Conan in leather chaps riding a Harley carrying a pair of bushido blades strapped onto his back? The trailer could only be complete with an even heavier metal soundtrack with a dubbed voice- over resembling your local radio ads for Saturday Mud- Bog Monster Truck Battles!

THE AMAZING SPIDER- MAN: Another ‘reboot/ remake’ of a story we just saw ‘re- imagined’ back in 2002! Personally, it is too soon to have us see another visional version of the story we had already began to accept as both origin and stories! What was wrong with director Sam Raimi’s films? The box office dollars and sequels didn’t seem to go against the audience’s cries for more! Other than just more CGI, I really didn’t see anything new that this trailer presented that we didn’t already see in the first film.

Other coming attractions include remakes, reimagined, reboots and retakes on the following titles: FOOTLOOSE, FRIGHT NIGHT, THE EVIL DEAD, THE THREE MUSKETEERS, TOTAL RECALL and ROBOCOP! Seriously….enough already!

In this so- called sophisticated world filled with technological advances including I- phones, I- pods, Kindles, I- pads, smart phones, text messaging and Skype… is the world of imagination gone so sour that we have to keep recycling material as recent as ten years ago? Really? When did it start and why does it continue? Have we deemed ourselves to such a heightened level of sophistication that everything must be ‘updated’ because our sensory neurons cannot take anything that isn’t involving CGI (Computer Generated Images) or 80’s haircuts? All joking aside, the cause has been serious since the start and it has become worst!

I really don’t think it is the audience crying for this change- up in the original presentations. So, my judgmental index finger points an accountable digit at studio execs, writers and anyone else who passes the “green light” to move forth with a production blessing!

Yes, this really hangs in my TV room!
 One director I am going to hold accountable in particular is Tim Burton! Before you pick up your pitchforks and torches and seek me out to be hung in the town square for blasphemy, allow me to explain! I am a fan of Tim Burton, a huge fan of Burton’s work. To slightly brag, I actually own one of the shirts worn by Johnny Depp's Edward and Diane Weist's Avon pill- hat from EDWARD SCISSORHANDS!

Burton was a gloomy, but highly imaginative force to be reckoned with. Blending his artistic days as a Disney animator and his own specialized look at the world around him, he presented such contemporary classics as PEE- WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE, BEETLEJUICE, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, ED WOOD and his presentations of THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS and THE CORPSE BRIDE; it would seem as if the man could never run out of original ideas… well, he did. With his takes on previous materials including PLANET OF THE APES, SLEEPY HALLOW, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY it now seemed as if Burton was ready to just add a twist of his demented imaginary eye to some very bad tellings of SWEENEY TODD (he snipped the original ending off the Broadway musical it is based from!) and ALICE IN WONDERLAND (a horrible question brought forth: “What if Alice grew up and went back to Wonderland?”)!

The “what- if” question was also posed by director Steven Spielberg when he conceived the basis for his 1991 disaster, HOOK. “What if Peter Pan grew up?” Hey Steven and Tim, why don’t you stick to the already great stories that are tailor- made to your individual styles, respectfully and present that outline instead! Spielberg was the prime candidate to direct a Peter Pan film in his days…but he ruined it! It is a blatant opened- palm slap onto the forehead!

I have to mention director Gus Van Sant’s 1998 ‘stab’ at the remake of the immortal classic, PSYCHO. Van Sant literally shot his movie frame by frame, constantly viewing a portable DVD copy of the original 1960 Alfred Hitchcock film for references. Well then, why remake it? What was the point? Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates was taken on by Vince Vaughn and Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane was filled- in by Anne Heche… both latter actors, in my opinion, brought absolutely nothing to the classic characters portrayed by the fine actors in the classic telling. What was the point, then…to reshoot a black and white film into color? To see a little red blood as apposed to the dark blacks? To make Alfred Hitchcock roll in his grave? I am still baffled…

What about taking an original film’s story, updating it from its time and calling it something else completely different? I will shine the light on two observations I personally have made.

Clint Eastwood had made his directorial debut with a film entitled PLAY MISTY FOR ME in 1971, named after a very popular jazz piece called “Misty” in its time. The film involved Eastwood playing a local Disc Jockey at a remote radio station in Carmel, CA who befriends and later has a romantic fling with radio fan, Evelyn Draper, played with psychotic flavor by Jessica Walter. Things get complicated when Eastwood falls for a pretty little thing and cannot seem to shake Evelyn off. There are the moments of awkwardness by sudden, unannounced appearances by Evelyn and delusional dreams of a happy future… did I mention the unstable and psychotic episodes she throws at anyone who gets in her way? It would seem obvious that the basic storyline is the foundation for the 1987 thriller, FATAL ATTRACTION.

One other comparison would begin with 1970’s A MAN CALLED HORSE. The film takes place in 1825 when an English aristocrat, John Morgan (played by Richard Harris), who is captured by Indians as an enemy. As time progresses, Morgan comes to accept the ways of his Native captors and wishes to join their tribe as a brother. He must pass the very dangerous and deadly ritual named “Ceremony of the Sun” before he can shed his pass and move into the ranks of the tribe. This film’s plotline and comparative storyline can arguably be compared to the 1990 Academy Award winning film DANCES WITH WOLVES.

There is a very small silver lining to this dark and pendulous cloud looming overhead. Not all of these labeled films have been bad. So let me separate a “good” and “bad” list for you. Maybe you will not recognize that some of these films are remakes, so I placed the year the newer movie was released followed by the original source’s release date. These are a small number I came up with:

GOOD: SCARFACE (1983/ 1932), TRUE GRIT (2010/ 1969), FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1991/ 1950), CAPE FEAR (1991/ 1962), HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1999/ 1951), THE WOLFMAN (2010/ 1941), THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008/ 2003), STAR TREK (2009/ 1966), KING KONG (2005/ 1976/ 1933), THE MUMMY (1999/ 1932), THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2003/ 1974), THE ITALIAN JOB (2003/ 1969), OCEAN’S ELEVEN (2001/ 1960), GREYSTOKE: THE LEGEND OF TARZAN (1984/ 1981), DRACULA (1979/ 1931)

BAD: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010/ 1984), HULK (2003/1978), THE KARATE KID (2010/ 1984), FRIDAY THE 13th (2009/ 1980), MY BLOODY VALENTINE (2009/ 1981), THE BAD NEWS BEARS (2005/ 1976), THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (2009/ 1972), HALLOWEEN (2007/ 1978), HALLOWEEN II (2009/ 1981), THE OMEN (2006/ 1976), THE FOG (2005/ 1981), TARZAN: THE APE MAN (1981/ 1932)

JOHNNY CHAZZ: It's really quite depressing to see the list of films here, Jer that our movie-going audience has to look forward to. Let’s list them: “The Smurfs”; “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”; “Conan The Barbarian 3-D”; “The Amazing Spider-Man”. This is typical of what we have to endure year after year during the summer months (refer to earlier blogs posted by J. Chazz) and there is no justification for my heading to the theater until some point in early to mid-October.

Your point however, Jer, regarding studio execs, writers and anyone offering the “green light” to move forth with a production blessing is well taken. Summer movies are about box-office revenues and making a name for the studio. You mention that the world of “imagination” has been trimmed, but I hold audiences accountable for a portion of this since they continue to buy-into these shoddy re-makes dealing with subject material that have been stale for decades now. In general, most re-makes in the summer months are just plain lousy.

Newman & Gleason: THE HUSTLER
Now, a film that I would probably add to that list off the top of my head would be the re-make of “The Hustler” (1961) titled “The Color of Money” (1986) with Newman and Cruise. There was simply no comparison between the two films in terms of sets, direction, lighting, dialogue and casting. Case closed.

Another film that would also make my “Bad” list would be the re-make of “The Wicker Man” with Nicholas Cage – a sad rendition of an outstanding and disturbing cult classic.

My top-10 re-makes that DID seem to work for me would include the following:

* The Fly (1986): Turned a corny original film into a true thriller. The effects, casting and tones of the film worked on every level to create a modern-classic.


* Cape Fear (1991): Scorsese and DeNiro really made this one work with riveting performances, outstanding sets and the performance of a young Juliette Lewis.


* Scarface (1983): I will agree with you on this one Jer, as the De Palma’s idea of using the Cuban cartels instead of the Italian mob was an excellent choice considering the perfect setting on Miami Beach. Al Pacino’s performance is completely unforgettable as the ruthless Tony Montana.


* Love Affair (1994): Some may disagree here and I absolutely love the original (“An Affair to Remember”) with Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant. Still, although this film was actually made two times before the 1994 release, but Katherine Hepburn and Warren Beatty’s performances are actually quite good and it’s hard not to shed a tear when watching this.

* Pan’s Labyrinth (2006): Now some of you might be asking why this film is on my list. Not only does it qualify as the best (yes, the best) fantasy film of the past 10 years, but it is – in so many ways Guillermo Del Toro’s remake of both “Alice in Wonderland” as well as “The Wizard of Oz”. It works on so many levels and does what the prior films did not do: slowly blend the fantasy world and the reality world into one as the film progresses….just outstanding.


* The Birdcage (1996): Don’t get me wrong – “La Cage Aux Folles” was truly amazing for its time. Still, I have come across very few people who did not absolutely adore this remake – myself included. What is vital here is that Mike Nichols focused on the essence of character behavior more than the plot. The film sparkles, is high-energy and the performances are genuine and well paced.


* Victor Victoria (1982): How intriguing to see this foreign film is made by an American studio here. Originally made in German, the remake offers us musical numbers with Julie Andrews and Robert Preston that are crisp and arrangements that weave in perfectly with the overall movement and direction of the film. Andrews is also quite impressive in terms of acting performance as well.


* Scent of a Woman (1992): Here is a terrific remake from the 1974 Italian film “Profume Di Donna” giving Al Pacino an Oscar as well as launching the career of the little-known Phillip Seymour Hoffman. The sets, the score and the dialogue are all touching and sincere. Thumbs up!


* The Ring (2002): Hats off to this exciting and thrilling re-make which was well received by American audiences. Originally titled “Ringu” in Japan, this story made its way to America starting a trend in a sense to re-make many foreign films here in the states. The film is a terrific thriller and maintains a chilling effect throughout with the outstanding performance of Naomi Watts.


* The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011): Based on a series of best-selling crime novels, here is a film that has yet to be released, but is one of intrigue to myself. The question as with any remake, is: will it be inferior to the original? Based on the original Swedish version which was released last year and grossed nearly $100 million, this new edition appear in late December, 2011 and we'll see how this American version compares. David Fincher directs and stars Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.

JER: A very impressive list of films brought forth… some of which I had forgotten to include in my list! JC, I need to make a slight correction on one of your films you are referencing to. THE COLOR OF MONEY is not a remake of THE HUSTLER, it is a sequel. Paul Newman continues to play “Fast” Eddie Felson in the sequel and still takes on the embarrassment of losing and being ‘hustled’ by Minnesota Fatts (Jackie Gleason). He takes his streets- smarts and takes on the ‘loose cannon’ crack- shooting Vincent (Tom Cruise) as his protégé.

I nearly twinged in my seat when you placed THE BIRDCAGE on your list of good remakes that worked. I recall giving my two cents on your blog topic posted on June 8th, 2011 entitled “Recognizing Director Mike Nichols” to which I slammed everything that film presented itself with that just didn’t hold a candle to the original 1978 French classic LA CAGE AUX FOLLES.

I actually stayed away from foreign films that were remade to fit the American palettes, but since you brought it up by mentioning THE RING, SCENT OF A WOMAN and THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO… then I have to mention a few worth talking about.

As your feelings were expressed by THE RING, I have to bring up the 2004 version of THE GRUDGE produced by Sam Raimi. The film was directed by Japanese director Takashi Shimizu, who helmed the original Japanese film entitled JU-ON in 2000. There were certain legends and beliefs that probably wouldn’t have translated appropriately by any other director, however, Shimizu did an excellent job in introducing a Western audience to its traditional and specific taboos that assisted in the creep factor in this modern haunted storytelling.

Both THE RING and THE GRUDGE opened an Eastern door into the Japanese world of horror and thrillers with other topical remakes including THE EYE (2008) taken from its original Japanese 2002 film GIN GWAI. 2008’s SHUTTER was remade from its original Thai 2004 version. Yet another 2008 release, this time for ONE MISSED CALL derived from its original 2003 Japanese edition and finally 2005’s DARK WATER, taken from its 2002 Japanese release entitled HONOGURAI MIZU NO SOKO KARA.

We have seen several French films make its way to American audiences from its own crop of remakes as well. Previously mentioning THE BIRDCAGE from its (way funnier) original LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, I have to bring to light the Westernized version of 1985’s 3 HOMMES ET UN COUFFIN with its 1987 THREE MEN AND A BABY! But the most embarrassing American remake from a classic French film has to be 1993’s POINT OF NO RETURN,  taken from director Luc Besson’s 1990 euro- thriller, LA FEMME NIKITA! Yikes!

The point being made here is that everyone begs, steals or borrows from anyone or anything else it can get its grubby little paws on! Nothing is sacred or respected. I shudder at the now- confirmed “prequel” to THE WIZARD OF OZ entitled OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL. The film tells the story of how the Wizard found his way to Oz to rule the enchanted land; it is set for a 2013 release. One ray of hope is that it will be directed by Sam Raimi.

Another prequel coming our way is THE THING. Wait a minute, the prequel to THE THING (1982) which, in itself was a remake of the original 1951 classic THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD is also called THE THING set for release in October 2011? OK, I guess… follow along with me and we should get through it safely. This story takes place with another Antarctica research team that finds the alien ship and causes a fist- to- cuffs confrontation between graduate students wanting to study the “thing” and scientists wanting to cut it up!

I AM ONLY KIDDING!!!!
 I guess the only thing we have to hold our breathes for would be a prequel to GONE WITH THE WIND, in which we meet a young Scarlett O’Hara, played by Willow Smith, finds that she had once had a run- in with her future love interest, Rhett Butler (Jaden Smith is considering the role) while in a Southern playground! (Folks, this is a parody… I am only joking, so please stow your nooses away!) Hmmm, Hollywood, are you listening?

JOHNNY CHAZZ: Jer - Touché in regards to how we are coining the 're-make' phrase in terms of "The Color of Money" with reference to "The Hustler" as a 'sequel'. Still, I think so many people still view the 1986 film as being a re-make in a sense considering the resemblance and plot. It is a film that finds itself years in the future, but remains a story that was told in similar fashion (yet far superior) 25 years earlier. With respect to this, I will always view it as an attempt to re-live and revive interest in "The Hustler".

Now, as for the re-make of “La Cage” ("The Birdcage"), please keep in mind that I did anticipate some static from our audience and definitely from you regarding this selection. You know as well as I that I almost always favor the original / foreign film, but there was something about the colors and the energy of the re-make that just worked – Je ne sais quoi……

I am glad that we had the chance to discuss the foreign-film remakes as there are so many have been attempted, yet failed miserably. Your reference to “The Grudge” is well-received as it is a film I have seen (as well as its Japanese predecessor) and I must agree with your selection there. To say that the film woke American audiences up to the ‘creep factor’ shown in 'Ju-On' is a vast understatement.

As for “La Femme Nikita” my friend, ‘Yikes,’ as you state, is the appropriate adjective selected here.

We also tremor at the thought of re-working the “Oz” story into what will hit the big screen in the near future. So many films have borrowed from this story including our blog last week (Mulholland Drive) to a film I discussed in this week’s forum (Pan’s Labyrinth). As for “Oz: The Great and Powerful”….I have absolutely no clue as to what direction that film will travel – but, the yellow brick road will likely not be the road taken.

With regards to the re-make of the 1951 Sci-fi flick eventually resulting in “The Thing” in 1982, I can see your point Jer. This is a film I have forgotten about entirely, but are they really making another one in 2011? Hang it up please.

Hollywood is listening Jer ~

JER:  Thank you for those final words of encouragement, JC. I sure hope someone out there is listening. As I am about to put the lid on this subject… I was horribly reminded of two recent comedies that ripped the guts from its predecessors.

Peter Sellers as Clouseau
Where do I begin…or better yet, the question best posed here is ‘when will it end?’ 2006 pushed forth an abomination of a remake of THE PINK PANTHER with Steve Martin taking on the roll of Inspector Jacques Clouseau, originated by the one and only Peter Sellers. The original PINK PANTHER series began in 1963, to which, the world would be introduced to the slapstick timing and hilarious accent that only Sellers could present forth. It would also be the start of a wonderful and laugh- filled relationship between Sellers and director Blake Edwards who would helm the following sequels: A SHOT IN THE DARK (1964), THE RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER (1975), THE PINK PANTHER STRIKES AGAIN (1976), THE REVENGE OF THE PINK PANTHER (1978) and TRAIL OF THE PINK PANTHER (1982) which used archived footage to complete the film since Peter Sellers had passed away on July 24, 1980. There just cannot be another Inspector Clouseau than Sellers, with respects to the very funny Steve Martin. It just doesn’t work for me.

Dudley Moore is ARTHUR
On that same note, the unbelievable attempt at presenting the most recent ‘knife through the heart’ catastrophe that is 2011’s ARTHUR starring the overly- overrated Russell Brand in the lead role. Any respectable film fan cannot bare to watch this with any amount of acceptance, knowing damn well that the role could have only been played by the charming Dudley Moore. His stature, comedic demeanor and blast of drunken laughter and slurred speech made Arthur a lovable mess of a character back in the original 1980 release. I honestly do not have any interest whatsoever in reviewing or screening the ‘remake’… period! It comes down to that! I love the original, I love how it takes place in New York City and I love that it takes place in 1980 and that the film begins with the classic Academy Award winning theme, appropriately entitled “Arthur’s Theme: The Best That You Can Do” sung by Christopher Cross.

This was quite lengthy, but not by a long shot to continue on my soap box. So, for now, I put the box away and will save further rants and raves for another time. Keep it locked- in for next week, when JOHNNY CHAZZ takes his turn on the podium with volumes set at 10! As always, we will SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY!

Don't forget to stop and visit the official YOUTUBE page for CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT! Here you will find vintage trailers, tribute clips and many other great treasures! Click the link below and see "Favorites" for a list! ENJOY!



9 comments:

  1. I never usually like most of the remade movies but every now and then a pretty good one appears. I liked what you both recommed above, "Scent of a Woman" wasa great remake and so was "The Birdcage". The new "Incredible Hull" was pretty entertaining also. I have not seen the new Conan movie - do you guys recommend it or have you seen it yet? Alyssa *** Chula Vista, CA

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  2. Hello Alyssa, I could safely say that neither of us would pay money to see the new CONAN. I can speak on behalf of JC in saying this is not his kind of film...at all. I can say that I personally cannot see any reason for a remake other than to beef it up with steroids and a bad-ass soundtrack, a whole lot of CGI effects and less of a meaning storyline than the original. Thanks for your comments

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  3. so far I think the new conan looks like SNL parody. This new guy lacks of scenic presence and the previews. kinds chessy. Definitively I'm not going

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  4. LOL: Benos, I never thought of it that way...yet, it defines my view on the presentation as well! If audiences thought the original was cheesy, this version looks even worst!
    Thank you for your comments!

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  5. What do you think about the tabloid gossip about the real ballerina in the movie black swan?
    did you guys hear that?

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  6. Hello again Benos, yes, I (Jer) heard about the controversy of a ballerina double being used in some of Natalie Portman's alleged dance scenes in BLACK SWAN. I truly believe that Portman has proven herself to be an extraordinary and talented actress right from the get go. I do not believe that she would be part of a lie and credit herself for something she didn't do herself. I am passing on this as mere publicity until I hear more! Thank you for bringing up this interesting topic!

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  7. I would like your recommendation of movies like enemy of the states. maybe could be a topic don't you guys think?

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  8. Hello again, Benos...
    Are you talking about making Film Recommendations or talking about films like ENEMY OF THE STATE as a topic? We do periodically make recommendations and then we begin to talk about other film related items. Please let us know what you were referring to as we are always welcoming new ideas to better serve our reading audience! Thank you for all imput!

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  9. Can be both because don't you think?
    I like those movies and of course, you might know a few of them. see ya!

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