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Posts Tagged ‘remakes’

Cat People (1982)

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

In 1982 Paul Schrader followed AMERICAN GIGOLO with a look at another oft-ignored segment of society, the CAT PEOPLE. It’s a much hornier movie than GIGOLO – some of the posters even call it “AN EROTIC FANTASY” – and it compares sexual desire to turning into a hungry animal. That may sound like some ‘Schrader was raised as a strict Calvinist’ shit, but he actually didn’t get a writing credit on this one. Believe it or not he used a script by Alan Ormsby (CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS, DERANGED, DEATHDREAM, PORKY’S II: THE NEXT DAY, POPCORN, THE SUBSTITUTE)! I’ve read that he rewrote the ending, but I don’t see how he could’ve changed the very premise. So I honestly don’t know what this one is supposed to be saying – it seems to be a sexy anti-sex movie – but it’s artful and weird and compelling in all the right ways.

Irena (Nastassja Kinski, TERMINAL VELOCITY) is a pescatarian virgin orphan who arrives in New Orleans to reunite with her long lost brother Paul (Malcolm McDowell, FIST OF THE NORTH STAR). Paul lives in a big house with his Creole housekeeper (Ruby Dee, UP TIGHT) whose name is pronounced “Feh-molly” but spelled “Female.” The brother and sister do a juggling act together as they reminisce about playing circus as kids, and Paul is immediately standing uncomfortably close to her and doing weird incestuous nuzzling. The movie never addresses that if the actors are playing their real ages Paul would’ve been 18 when she was born. But Ruby Dee seems to be playing her real age of 60 while looking about half that, so what is age, anyway? (read the rest of this shit…)

Child’s Play (remake)

Monday, June 24th, 2019

You all know the story of the 1988 horror classic CHILD’S PLAY: a single mother buys her son the talking doll he wants for his sixth birthday, she brushes it off as imagination when he claims the doll is telling him weird things, a babysitter gets killed and because of the tiny footprints at the scene the police suspect the kid did it. We only see glimpses of what the doll is up to, but we know that a cornered serial killer named Charles Lee Ray performed a voodoo ritual and his spirit is hiding out in there. And the mom goes from worrying about what’s wrong with her son, to worrying she’s losing her mind for starting to wonder if he’s right, to the total shock of seeing the doll walk around and talk to her and stuff. And now she has to stop this supernatural threat that no one will believe her about before the killer transfers his soul into the body of her son.

This new movie called CHILD’S PLAY that is officially considered a remake is not that story. You still got a single mother (Aubrey Plaza, INGRID GOES WEST) trying to make ends meet working at a store, and she still has a son named Andy (Gabriel Bateman [ANNABELLE]), who she buys a doll named Chucky. But Andy is 13 years old (huge difference) and the doll is an A.I. infused walking and talking robot (also huge difference) and he is not possessed by Charles Lee Ray or anyone else (hugest difference). So there’s no secret, everybody knows it walks around and talks to you and stuff, and the kid is not young enough to be confused by it. Instead of dealing with the classic “no one believes me” theme (until it’s implausibly shoe-horned in near the end) the tension comes from the kids (he has friends in this) making the poor decision to try to hide things from the adults, even though Andy is friends with a nice cop who could help him (the great Brian Tyree Henry from Atlanta, WIDOWS, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK and SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE). (read the rest of this shit…)

Miss Bala (2019)

Monday, May 6th, 2019

SPOILERS for both MISS BALAs

You may find this shocking, but the American remake of the great 2011 Mexican film MISS BALA is not as good as the original. Director Catherine Hardwicke (THIRTEEN, LORDS OF DOGTOWN, THE NATIVITY STORY) doesn’t Hollywood it up quite as much as the trailer made me think she might, but maybe she should’ve. She stays maybe 75% faithful to the original, maybe more, but the normal, slick style severely blunts the impact of the story compared to the previous suspensefully long, unblinking takes and documentary-like realism. It goes from an intense CHILDREN OF MEN type of style that puts you in the middle of it all with the protagonist to just some random, normal TAKEN sequel or something. And the major story changes that do happen are, in almost all cases, less interesting than the earlier version.

It might seem okay if I hadn’t seen the original. Gina Rodriguez (ANNIHILATION) is quite good in the lead. In this version her name is Gloria Fuentes and she’s an American citizen returning to Tijuana to visit her friend Suzu (Cristina Rodlo, The Terror) and help her with her makeup when she tries out for the Miss Baja California pageant. After an audition they go to a party where her friend tries to flirt with the corrupt chief of police (Damian Alcazar, MEN WITH GUNS), who supposedly has some sway over who wins the pageant. So they’re there when members of the Las Estrellas gang come in to massacre the police, and Gloria, having seen them sneak in while she was in the bathroom, escapes alone. (read the rest of this shit…)

A Star Is Born (from director Bradley Cooper)

Monday, November 12th, 2018

A STAR IS BORN, from director Bradley Cooper, is a very good adaptation of the trailer that played before every single movie I saw in a theater for the last three months. I saw that trailer so many times I would try to act it out and could sing the two songs (one with correct lyrics, even). I would get just those song fragments stuck in my head for days. So it’s exciting to discover that they have second verses.

I don’t know if it’s as good as an adaptation of the 1937 film starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, or the 1954 one starring Judy Garland and James Mason, or the 1976 one starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, or the 1998 made-for-cable one starring Brandy and Casper Van Dien, because I haven’t seen any of them and made up the last one. I have to assume it’s closest to the ’76 because actor Bradley Cooper (THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN) definitely seems to be channeling Kristofferson’s rugged country poet vibe. I even contemplated whether or not he should be allowed to play Whistler if they ever do a new BLADE. Then I realized that really the voice he’s doing is Sam Elliott, so I was delighted when the actual Sam Elliott (ROAD HOUSE) showed up, playing his older brother/road manager. I wondered if that was awkward between the two actors, and then I found a Good Morning America interview where Elliott says Cooper (THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN) warned him “this is gonna be a little weird” before playing him a tape of the voice he was working on. “And it was a little weird.”

What if Elliott hadn’t been available? If they ended up casting, like, Don Johnson or Willem Dafoe or somebody, would they have to imitate Sam Elliott too? (read the rest of this shit…)

Prom Night (2008 remake), + closing thoughts on the PROM NIGHT series

Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

At a glance the PROM NIGHT of 2008 doesn’t seem like a remake at all, but more of a re-use of the title. It doesn’t take any major elements of the original or its unrelated sequels – there’s no children’s game turned deadly, no principal’s son or masked killer or prom queen burned alive and back as a ghost or evil priest, no Hamilton High or Brock Simpson or even ambiguity about which North American country it takes place in (it’s in Bridgeport, Oregon, though filmed mostly in L.A.). It does take place on prom night, though, so I totally get why they wanted that title.

If you look closely it is arguably based on a somewhat forgotten plot point of the original 1980 PROM NIGHT, but if so that detail is now a xerox of a xerox of a xerox of the fifth revision of the 13th draft. The part in question is the original’s red herring about the pedophile who was blamed for the sister’s death and now has escaped and the police are trying to make sure he doesn’t come to the prom for revenge. The remake/”remake” uses a similar escaped lunatic template, but in this one it’s ex-teacher turned stalker Richard Fenton (Johnathon Schaech, ACTS OF VENGEANCE) who, three years ago, became delusionally obsessed with his student Donna (Brittany Snow, PITCH PERFECT, BUSHWICK) and murdered her family in front of her. Unlike PROM NIGHT (but like PROM NIGHT IV and their original inspiration, HALLOWEEN) there’s no whodunit mystery in this one. He definitely did it, he really is here, he for sure is killing a bunch of people, and we’re seeing it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Invaders From Mars

Thursday, October 5th, 2017

In the ’80s, lots of people were trying to make Steven Spielberg movies. And obviously POLTERGEIST is Tobe Hooper’s Steven Spielberg movie. Or Steven Spielberg’s Tobe Hooper movie. These days it sounds like they should’ve just been credited as co-directors if it had been allowed. Accounts vary. So let’s forget all that and call INVADERS FROM MARS his version of a Spielberg movie, but not a regular Spielberg movie. It’s the type that the weirdo who directed LIFEFORCE would make. And that Golan and Globus would produce.

It was, in fact, Hooper’s followup to LIFEFORCE (which the kid is watching in part of the movie – lenient parents) and has a screenplay by the same duo. That would be the great Dan O’Bannon (ALIEN, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD) and the mysterious Don Jakoby (DEATH WISH 3, ARACHNOPHOBIA, DOUBLE TEAM, VAMPIRES – how is the writer of all of those not legendary?) Hooper was still editing this when he started TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, so by my calculations this is right near the peak of feverish Hooper creativity. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Magnificent Seven (1960)

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

tn_magnificentsevenMan, you’re looking for a movie with seven dudes who possess some level of magnificence, you could do worse than John Sturges’ THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960). I wouldn’t personally use the adjective “magnificent” to describe any cowboys, but if I did then Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson and James Coburn would be good candidates. And Robert Vaughn wouldn’t be out of the question. That there is a hell of a cast, and then they’re facing off against Eli Wallach in a more large-and-in-charge character than he usually plays as Calvera, the leader of a gang of bandits terrorizing a small Mexican village. He’s one of these bullies who gets across his true evil by doing a really unconvincing fake nice guy act to your face. He keeps saying how much he loves the village in the process of threatening it. Make Cuernavaca great again!

This is, of course, a remake of SEVEN SAMURAI, so some of these poor farmers go into town looking for gunmen. Brynner plays Chris Adams, the first one they find, who becomes leader and recruiter. That’s funny, ’cause he’s bald just like the impostor monk Kambei, but not for any narrative reason (and he wears a hat anyway). He’s introduced as a bystander who intervenes when the local funeral home director won’t take a rich traveler’s money to bury an Indian on Boot Hill. He says he wouldn’t have any problem with it (some of his best friends are Indians buried in white cemeteries), but he’s scared of the local whites who he knows won’t stand for it.

Chris proposes that he drive the hearse, and then another drifter onlooker, Vin Tanner (Steve McQueen), calls shotgun (oh yeah, that’s where that term comes from). The crowd follows along, watching in awe, as the two drive up the hill while fending off racist snipers. (read the rest of this shit…)

Kickboxer: Vengeance

Monday, September 5th, 2016

tn_kickboxervengeanceIn this age of reboots one thing I didn’t see coming was a respectful attempt to resurrect the magic of KICKBOXER. Produced by Cannon when Jean-Claude Van Damme was still a new star, the original is a seminal film in the foundation of the western-star martial arts movie. Part of the beauty of the era it helped ignite was its disposability; there was such a hunger for this stuff on VHS that they kept churning out KICKBOXERs and BLOODSPORTs and BLOODFISTs with whatever Next Jean-Claude Van Damme they could get. And the combination of these basic story formulas and the appeal of seeing thick-accented martial artists try to act cool between flying kicks made for many enjoyable evenings for people all around the world.

Things have changed. Far fewer straight up action movies are made than in the ’80s and ’90s, and viewing them is not as common of a ritual for young people growing up. The fringe market of DTV has mostly shifted to VOD, a riskier business model since people actually have to watch the movies for them to make money. So, weirdly, this new KICKBOXER (released to VOD on Friday) was made with care, in hopes of people liking it. You can tell they’re genuinely trying to recapture what was fun about those movies, but in a modern context – by which I only mean it has nice digital cinematography of sunny Thailand and many of the opponents are played by famous UFC fighters. (read the rest of this shit…)

Ghostbusters (2016)

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

tn_ghostbusters16GHOSTBUSTERS was a popular movie in 1984 and we still remember it and it has a good logo and it’s 2016 so obviously there’s a remake. Luckily they chose director Paul Feig, who has gotten big laughs with BRIDESMAIDS, THE HEAT and SPY, and he brought along past collaborators Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig, plus current SNL cast members Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones to bust open those ghosts and devour their delicious green centers or whatever it is that ghostbusters do.

Like in the original, the ghosts and the quasi-science of busting are pretty much presented with a straight face. I guess come to think of it it’s the ABBOT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN method. For this one it’s all digital FX, from what I can tell, but that works well for these glowing, floating, rotting, transforming, transparent entities. It’s kind of a retro Haunted Mansion type of ghost I guess, not the type you’d expect to see in a James Wan movie or something like that.

Then within this story (scripted by Feig with co-writer Katie Dippold) of some unorthodox scientists starting a ghost extermination business and uncovering a plot to summon evil spirits to New York City there is comedic riffing. The jokes come at a much faster rate than the original, so even in the scare-based opening scene there are some big laugh lines. I think this is a wise approach since they’re not working with a new concept this time around. (read the rest of this shit…)

Carrie

Friday, April 15th, 2016

tn_carrie13carryoncarrieLike THE RAGE, the 2013 remake of CARRIE is directed by a woman. This one comes courtesy of Kimberly Peirce of BOYS DON’T CRY and STOP-LOSS fame. The screenplay is credited to two men, Lawrence D. Cohen (GHOST STORY) and Robert Aguirre-Sacasa (THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN remake). The weird thing is that Cohen wrote the DePalma version, and this is his first credit in 9 years, so I don’t know if that means they started from an old-screenplay base. It kinda seems like it. It doesn’t do its own thing as much as I’d like. It’s not DePalma, but it’s not a drastically different take either, so I’m not sure how much the female perspective was able/allowed to add in this instance.

Part of the fun of a remake or re-adaptation is seeing who they have playing the different roles. There are some familiar actors in the leads here. Chloe Grace Moretz (TODAY YOU DIE) plays Carrie, and she’s the first actual teenager to ever play the character on screen. At 15 I believe she’s actually younger than Carrie was in the book, and there’s something to be said for authentic youthfulness in this role. Julianne Moore (ASSASSINS) is Margaret White, because of course she is. It would have to be her. Judy Greer, known for thankless roles in every major movie of the last few summers, actually gets things to do in the Betty Buckley role as the sympathetic gym teacher.

I was not familiar with the young actors playing the do-gooder couple of Sue and Tommy. Sue is Gabriella Wilde, a tall blond model who was in the Paul W.S. Anderson THREE MUSKETEERS, and Tommy is boyish Ansel Elgort, a rookie actor who has since been in the DIVERGENT series of trailers that seem to come out every few months, was the boy lead in THE FAULT IN OUR STARS and reportedly on the short list to play Young Han Solo in I HAVE A BAD FEELING ABOUT THIS: THE ADVENTURES OF ALL NEW HAN SOLO. Both actors won me over after initial skepticism. Meanie blood-dumper Chris Hargensen is played by Portia Doubleday, who I know from looking like Amanda Sieyfried on that tv show Mr. Robot. (She was also the surrogate date in HER, and her older sister Kaitlin plays Rhonda, the only major white character on Empire.) Chris’s bad boy boyfriend Billy Nolan (Travolta’s character) is Alex Russell, who I guess was in CHRONICLE and later Angelina Jolie’s UNBROKEN. (read the rest of this shit…)