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Posts Tagged ‘remakes’

TEXAS CHAINSAW Re-Massacred

Friday, August 12th, 2022

For those of you who missed it when it was a Patreon exclusive in June, here’s my Vern’s Appeals Process revisit to the 2004 remake of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. And if you’re interested in something else to read I just put up a new Patreon exclusive (for now) where I do the same for Stephen Sommers’ DEEP RISING.

INSPIRED BY A TRUE STORY

When I positively reviewed this year’s sequel to THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974), coherently titled TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2022), I wasn’t quite prepared for how controversial that would be. Not nearly as controversial as when I loved the 2013 EVIL DEAD remake directed by the producers/writers of this new CHAINSAW (I stand by that), but my appreciation for it really threw some people for a loop. What I came to understand was that people remembered how fiercely protective of Tobe Hooper’s creation I was when I went scorched earth on Marcus Nispel’s remake in my 2003 Ain’t It Cool News review, which I proudly titled “Vern massacres THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.” At least a few people wished I had come at this unpopular sequel with that same kind of righteous fury.

My perspective: of course I didn’t. That was a long time ago, I’ve changed, circumstances have changed, the franchise has changed, this one is more my style than that one was, and even if none of those things were the case, I’d still have different expectations for the — what, fifth? — sequel than the first redo. But I had been thinking about the remake, because I’d been seeing people on Twitter – possibly a generation younger than me, who saw it at a different stage in their life and horror fandom – saying that it was a classic in its own right, and they couldn’t believe there were people who disliked it. I ferociously disagreed with that assessment at the time, but like I said, I’ve changed, things have changed. And It’s been so long. (read the rest of this shit…)

West Side Story

Tuesday, February 15th, 2022

WEST SIDE STORY – it’s very clear when you see it – is a film by Steven Fucking Spielberg. That’s why I saw it. Usually when I write about a remake of a beloved classic I like to be somewhat knowledgeable about the source material, but this late in the game you’ve had plenty of time to read reviews from people who know the musical or the earlier Robert Wise movie forward and backward, can tell you all the things that Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner (MUNICH, LINCOLN) added, cut, updated, etc., and the significance of those alterations. Or at least from someone who has seen the original. I have not. I would’ve, but Spielberg didn’t direct it.

I don’t really gravitate toward Broadway musical type stuff, but I do have a thing for great filmatism, so this thing knocked me out. As even I kind of knew, it’s the story of two gangs, the Jets (white guys) and the Sharks (proud Puerto Ricans) stubbornly fighting over territory in a dilapidated Manhattan slum that (this part is new, I believe) is on the verge of redevelopment. In the opening, Janusz Kaminski (COOL AS ICE)’s camera hovers over what remains of the neighborhood, climbs up the side of a structure under construction, past a billboard advertising the fancy apartment building and entertainment center it will become (featuring the sort of upper class white people who will inhabit it), then hangs out a while next to the wrecking ball waiting to get the process started. Meanwhile, the percussion section (David Newman [CRITTERS, ROVER DANGERFIELD, CONEHEADS, THE SPIRIT] arranging Leonard Bernstein’s music) playfully percolates like the build up to a heist sequence.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Wrath of Man

Monday, September 13th, 2021

WRATH OF MAN is a pretty different type of Guy Ritchie movie. It certainly shows some of his interests, his directorial chops, and his long relationship with filming Jason Statham. And okay, it also has some of that lightning quick snappy banter between the fellas, some of which I couldn’t follow at all. And it has Josh Hartnett playing a character called “Boy Sweat Dave.” I’m not sure I can picture that being in somebody else’s movie. Guy Ritchie is the Boy Sweat Dave type.

And yet this is a different style (a more calm and controlled type of flashy) and tone (less flippant, more foreboding, and even mythical) than what we expect from him. It doesn’t have freeze frames with character’s names as they’re introduced, but it does have four sections with pretentious chapter titles. A trend I very much approve of.

It’s a remake of a 2004 French film called LE CONVOYEUR (or CASH TRUCK), which I could only find on VHS with no subtitles (update: I got to see it on a Region B blu-ray so here’s my review). But this seems to me like it’s playing off of two American traditions: pulp crime novels, and movies that try to be like HEAT. I can enjoy both. (read the rest of this shit…)

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (and a little on Ganja & Hess)

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

Here’s something for a limited audience: Spike Lee, following his guerilla-style, filmed-in-three-weeks, released-in-41-theaters RED HOOK SUMMER, and his universally rejected OLDBOY remake, wanted to do a faithful remake of Bill Gunn’s 1974 arthouse bloodsucker movie GANJA AND HESS. Even with a lower budget than RED HOOK SUMMER, he knew no studio was gonna give him money for something like that, so he raised the money on Kickstarter.

It’s not something the average person is gonna need to see, but it’s weird that it took me so long to see this particular Official Spike Lee Joint (as the credits label it). I love Spike Lee, and I think even the ones I don’t like as much (BAMBOOZLED when it came out – haven’t rewatched it though and could well be wrong) are interesting and worth analyzing. DO THE RIGHT THING is still my favorite, and around the time it came out I caught a double feature of SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT and SCHOOL DAZE, and since then his only theatrical releases I’ve missed were SHE HATE ME (still haven’t seen it), RED HOOK SUMMER (I’m not sure it played here) and this one. But yes, I saw GIRL 6, I saw MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA, I saw CHI-RAQ. (read the rest of this shit…)

Rabid

Tuesday, February 11th, 2020

Maybe it’s sacrilege to remake a David Cronenberg movie, but if somebody’s gonna do it it’s fitting that it’s weird Canadian twins. I really liked Jen and Sylvia Soska’s extreme-surgery underworld tale AMERICAN MARY, and kind of liked their SEE NO EVIL 2. And it’s been a long time since I’ve seen Cronenberg’s 1977 RABID, so I don’t remember it well enough to have any specific expectations for a redo.

This RABID is about Rose (Laura Vandervoort, THE LOOKOUT, INTO THE BLUE 2: THE REEF), a lowly employee for a pretentious, obnoxious, and on-the-nose-German-accented fashion designer named Gunter (Mackenzie Gray, JOY RIDE 2: DEAD AHEAD, Legion, WARCRAFT, MAN OF STEEL, True Justice). In tribute to the original’s motorcycle she rides a scooter.

It’s one of those things where they cast an unusually beautiful TV star to play an awkward misfit who everybody picks on, the excuse I guess being that her co-workers are supposed to be mostly models. I had a hard time watching adults act out these teen movie tropes such as the ol’ ’getting mad when she finds out the cute boy only asked her out as a favor to someone who feels sorry for her’ and of course the ‘overhearing the mean girls talk shit about her when they don’t know she’s in the bathroom stall.’ Maybe it’s meant as a satirical statement about the fashion industry to make them this petty and childish, but it feels phony to me. (read the rest of this shit…)

Black Christmas (second remake)

Monday, December 16th, 2019

BLACK CHRISTMAS (2019) is another loose remake of BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974). Like the original and the 2006 remake it’s about a group of sorority sisters who stay on campus during winter break and then start getting stalked and murdered. The creepy phone calls have been updated to creepy texts, and the identity and mythology behind the killings is completely different from either of the previous versions. Which I support. No reason to do this otherwise.

The opening feels like the serious, scary parts of SCREAM. A student named Lindsay (Lucy Currey) is walking home one snowy night, getting weird texts, thinking a dude is following her. He’s not, but suddenly she crashes into a different man wearing a mask and black robe who chases her around a heavily Christmas-decorated house where no one responds to her cries for help. But the horrifying/beautiful overhead shot of Lindsay making a snow angel as she dies and is dragged away sets a bar that’s never met in the subsequent off rhythm and ineffective cat and mouse scenes. I didn’t realize until afterwards that it’s a PG-13 movie, which might explain some of that, but doesn’t really justify that the mask isn’t particularly cool or creepy. That shit is important in a masked slasher movie.

But maybe not as important as a good protagonist, and in that department BLACK CHRISTMAS definitely delivers. The story centers on Riley (Imogen Poots, 28 WEEKS LATER, FRIGHT NIGHT, GREEN ROOM), who is helping the sisters prepare for some sort of Christmas performance at a frat party, but doesn’t plan to participate. Even though she’s in a sorority, her long coat and Doc Martens signal a tinge of cool non-conformist status that Poots somehow makes credible. (read the rest of this shit…)

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…)