Archive for the 'remakes' Category

Friday, part one: things I didn’t want to write about this week

1. The Funny Games remake. The films are controversial, and I’ve seen the original, so I guess I should have an opinion. But my main reactions to the original were a sort of shrug at the social commentary of violence aspect, a polite nod at the acting, and an eyeroll at the breaking-the-fourth-wall gimmick. I think the most interesting thing about the movie is the composition, and since I don’t have a copy available to do any sort of screen grabs or anything like that (and, honestly, probably wouldn’t bother even if I did), I haven’t got much to say. And if I’m barely interested in my view of the movie, why should anyone else be? However, if you would like to read some other people’s interesting thoughts, I recommend these three posts over at Jim Emerson’s Scanners blog.

2. The “Who Says Women Aren’t Funny?” Vanity Fair cover article. A response to something written by purposeful-schmard Christopher Hitchens, with additional response-to-the response from His Schmardness, of course. Sure, there’s a lot to discuss about how funny women are perceived in the media and by the public, whether a woman has to be attractive to get the opportunities, etc. But really, I only have two things to say: first, trying to say that women aren’t funny is clearly just dumb (insert list of funny women throughout history here, etc etc); second, certain female comediansand you know who you arefor the love of God stop talking about your fucking periods all the time. NO ONE CARES, and you’re making the rest of us look bad.

3. ABC’s new sitcom Miss Guided. Love Judy Greer in everything she does, especially Kitty on Arrested Development (“Say goodby to these, Michael, cuz it’s the last time!”), and I’m glad she has her own show now. I’ve watched two episodes of it. I’ve been moderately entertained. Uuuhhh….yeah. Great star, okay show. That’s my whole review. I have nothing to elaborate on.


The Remake Question, episode three

I’ve written two posts so far discussing a good movie about to get the Hollywood remake treatment, and whether I thought that was a promising idea. For both 3:10 to Yuma and Halloween I felt that there was compelling evidence that the new version would have worth, but I haven’t yet been able to confirm or deny my thoughts. Today is the opening of yet another high-profile remake, The Heartbreak Kid, and this time I’m not at all optimistic about the prospects for a good movie.

heartbreak1.jpgThe original: released December 17, 1972, written by Neil Simon from the story by Bruce Jay Friedman, directed by Elaine May.

The premise of this film is so perfect in its simultaneous comedy and tragedy that I am not at all surprised someone wants to visit it again. Lenny (Charles Grodin) has just married Lila (Jeannie Berlin). It becomes immediately clear to both Lenny and the viewer that he has made a terrible mistake. On their honeymoon, Lila sustains a blistering sunburn and must stay in the room for a couple of days. On the beach without her, Lenny meets Kelly (Cybill Shepherd). She is the girl of his dreams.

Everything that happens after that point serves two purposes: to be as cruelly funny as possible without actually causing us to actively dislike the characters, and to lead the way to the answer to the film’s ultimate question: why would Lenny ever have gotten himself into this marriage in the first place? It’s a movie about everyday neurosis, the things desire can drive someone to do, and the thing that romantic comedies don’t address: what happens after you get the girl.

Beyond the first few minutes of this movie, once the premise is set, nothing that happens is predictable. Yet there is an encompassing feeling of inevitability surrounding every stupid thing that everyone does. The tone is remarkable. And the final scene brings exasperating clarity to that ultimate question of why all of this happened in the first place, and does it with restraint and subtlety. It is one of my favorite movie endings, though it lives up to that word “heartbreak” in the title.

heartbreak2.jpgThe remake: releasing October 5, 2007, directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly, written by a whole mess of people, it seems.

The Farrelly brothers are capable of being very, very funny. They have shown this especially in the sweet and disgusting There’s Something About Mary, which should always be regarded as a classic. But the trailer for their Heartbreak Kid has absolutely nothing funny in it. That’s concern number one.

Concern number two involves that all-important theme so brilliantly dealt with in the original: why our main character got into this marriage that is so clearly wrong, and why he thinks this new girl can fix his life. In a Farrelly brothers movie, there are no whys. It will all be clear right from the beginning. Their Lenny, now called Eddie (Ben Stiller), will marry their Lila (Malin Akerman, aka Freakshow’s wife Liane, gotta love that at least) because she is young and hot and seems fun. But mostly because she is young and hot. And he will fall in love with his Kelly, now called Miranda (Michelle Monaghan, on whom, it should be disclosed, I have a massive girl crush), because she is young and hot and seems fun, but in a nice, warm, stable way this time. We will dislike Lila because she is bat-shit crazy, and probably won’t have any of the sympathy you can’t help but have for the irritating but well-meaning version of this character in the original. We will never have to question why Eddie is doing the things he does. There will be no revelations in this movie, no commentary about something greater than itself.

Without a promise of either comedy or pathos, why would I part with ten dollars?

The Remake Question, episode two

Today I’m considering the remake of 3:10 to Yuma, a somewhat obscure 1950s western. The plot is so simple but brilliant it’s pretty much begging to be given the contemporary treatment. But will that process result in a great product? I think it’s possible. If the purity of story is infused with the intensity of a film such as The Proposition (what’s that you say? haven’t seen The Proposition? rent it now!!), it could work very well.

The original: released July 1957, written by Halsted Welles from the story by Elmore Leonard, directed by Delmar Daves.

This is a solid western that stars the remarkably twitchy Van Helfin and the unusually suave Glenn Ford. I believe, with a twist of fate here or there, Ford could still be as much a household name as Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant, but is probably best known to contemporary viewers for playing Jonathan Kent in the 1978 version of Superman…though I sincerely hope some people have seen him in at least the amazing The Big Heat. Anyway…this is a movie about two men in a desperate situation testing each other until it becomes inevitable that one will break. Helfin is Dan Evans, a rancher on the verge of financial ruin because of a severe drought. Ford is Ben Wade, an outlaw who’s been caught after he and his gang robbed a stagecoach and killed the driver, and the stagecoach company owner will pay $200 to any man who will transport him to town and put him on the 3:10 train to the prison in Yuma the next day. Evans needs that money, but Wade’s gang isn’t likely to make his job easy, and Wade is a master of manipulation who drives Evans to his limit well before the train pulls into the station. This is a solid entry in the tradition of tales taking place in a land just a bit beyond reach of the law, where citizens must act for themselves.

10m2.jpgThe remake: will be released on September 7, re-written by Michael Brandt & Derek Haas, directed by James Mangold.

The trailer for this movie has me excited. It gives the impression of expanding on the original’s vision of the west, but takes several lines directly from it, which is good because the dialogue is quite sharp in the original. The director’s last movie was the great Walk the Line, and the cast is solid. Russell Crowe is capable of great things when he doesn’t veer into overacting, Christian Bale is almost always fantastic, and I also expect to be impressed by Ben Foster (who was grotesquely underused as Angel in X-Men: The Last Stand). I just hope it doesn’t make Crowe’s outlaw into a 100% “bad guy.” The best part of the original was the depth of that character, and the theme of men from different circumstances finding themselves understanding each other in revealing and frightening ways. That’s much more interesting to me than black hats vs. white hats.

Next time: The Heartbreak Kid.

The Remake Question

I hear a lot of bitching about the number of remakes in Hollywood these days, and as an aspiring professional writer I understand the concern over the perceived lack of creative and original projects getting made. It’s true, many things seem a little like an inexplicable waste of resources. When a Stranger Calls, The Pink Panther, The Hills Have Eyes, The Shaggy Dog…that’s just the first three months of 2006, people. Believe me, I get it. But I’m not against the concept of a remake in and of itself, if the project is interesting. I’m all for the revisiting of ideas in general, be it song covers, Broadway revivals, or high school-set versions of Shakespearean plays, as long as the new project is entertaining, respects the original, and just generally has a reason for existing past being a chance at a payday for a producer without any vision. With all that said, I’d like to begin a series of posts that will be dedicated to high profile remakes coming out in the near future. I’ve seen the originals, but I’ve only read about the remakes. So…is the original worth your time? Does the remake seem like it will be worth your money? And if the answer is yes to both of those questions, which should you see first? First up: Halloween.

The original: released October 25, 1978, written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, directed by John Carpenter.

images2.jpegI fucking love Halloween. I believe it is one of the best horror movies ever made. Many great reviews of this movie have been written–Roger Ebert’s spot on and much better than I can provide review is here–but I feel that a lot of people don’t realize how fantastic it is, since they’ve only ever seen it edited for TV with commercials while doing tequila shots and putting their plastic fangs in before heading out on the town. Rent it, turn the lights off, grab a beer, and just focus on how awesomely shot that opening sequence is, how crazy scary Michael Meyers is, and how every slasher movie made since 1978 owes a monstrous debt to this one.

The remake: will be released on August 31, re-written and directed by Rob Zombie.

10m1.jpgRob Zombie has a vision. Whether or not you enjoy his all-out-there style, his movies are entertaining, and it’s obvious that he not just respects but reveres the horror classics that have come before him. And his casting choices are no short of awesome…Malcolm McDowell as Dr. Loomis? Brad Dourif as the sheriff? Have I already used the word ‘awesome’ too much in this post, because that is awesome. And yet, the trailer hasn’t quite done it for me. It just provides a rehash of common slasher movie scenes. I know trailers can be deceiving, though, so I’m willing to give this movie a chance. I want it to be good. And I will probably pay to see it. Though matching or surpassing the original is unlikely, I know Rob will give it his best, because I know he loves the original as much as I do. Which means yet again, if you’re going to see the remake, you’d be doing yourself a disservice not to see the original first.

How do others feel?

Next time: 3:10 to Yuma.

Other projects:

Downton Gabby: podcasting about Downton Abbey from a funny, foul-mouthed, feminist perspective

Quick Lit: reading one short story a day in 2015

Grand Dames: collecting sundry achievements of admirable women

The MacGuffin: archive of my days as a film critic

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