Archive for the ‘Remake’ Category
Tuesday, March 6th, 2012
Genre: Remake, Drama, Garbage
Country: United States
Starring: Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid, Andie MacDowell, Miles Teller
Eye candy: Hough, Ziah Colon, Kim Dickens
Director: Craig Brewer
Run time: 113 minutes
DVD distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
I’m not sure that Footloose was any good in 1984. And I know that today, it just hasn’t held up well over time, and is as dated as any movie has ever been. So it would seem like a good idea to do a remake for today’s audiences, who watch Kevin Bacon doing a tractor race and roll their eyes and smirk when watching the original.
The problem with doing a remake though, is that the idea was a pretty cheesy, bad one to begin with. And the 2011 version of Footloose does absolutely nothing to change any of the things that made the original lame. Oh, it’s different alright. See now, in 2011, instead of a tractor race it’s a race in schoolbusses. And instead of listening to Quiet Riot’s “Bang Your Head” on his car’s tape deck, Ren McCormack now listens to…Quiet Riot’s “Bang Your Head”. On an iPod.
The premise is still exactly the same – new kid comes to a town where they have outlawed dancing and fun and have imposed a curfew. He piques the interest of the minister’s daughter and changes the town and blah blah blah.
The only bright spot in this remake, out March 6th from Paramount Home Entertainment, is the ludicrously hot Julianne Hough, who wears totally hot slutty clothes through the whole movie so that Ren can change her into the good girl she’s supposed to be and get her into like a turtleneck or something at the end.
Everything that was lame and dated about the original Footloose remains intact in the remake. The same music. The same small town jerks and small town cool guys. Ren’s best friend is played by Miles Teller, who seems to have been cast based solely on his remarkable resemblance to Peyton Manning.
The worst thing in the movie though has to be the finale. Of course, the kids finally break out and dance to assert their freedom! Which is as I expected. But dude, it’s 2011. And what are they dancing to? What music makes them move? Is it Cee-Lo, or Deadmouse? No. These kids celebrate their modern independence and throwing off the shackles of their oppressive parents by kickin it to…Footloose. A (very slightly) amped up version, admittedly, as done by Blake Shelton. But it’s still Footloose, and it still sucks.
Tuesday, April 7th, 2009
“You should really let me go.”
There are some movie roles Keanu Reeves was born to play. Like a robot. Or a soulless killing machine. Or a sequioa. When he took his first acting class, and the drama teacher did that excercise where everyone pretends they are a tree, he figured he was done, and he never progressed past that moment. So he is now very well suited to playing trees, or robots. And this is the biggest problem with Klaatu, the character Reeves is playing in the remake of the classic Sci-Fi movie The Day The Earth Stood Still. Reeves apparently believes that his character is a robot. Or someone told him that Klaatu is a robot. Or, at the very least, a terminator-like cyborg, able to replicate the most basic of human expression.
But Klaatu, unfortunately, is not a robot. He is an alien. And he has come to Earth to save the planet from the people who are making it uninhabitable. (Which is a great message for a movie, by the way. I like that, at least.) While here on Earth, he meets other members of the alien race to which he belongs, creatures who have, like him, taken human form in order to live amongst us human beings. And they are emotional beings. They speak of their love for the human race, and of their joy and elation at the fact that they have been able to live an entire life as one of us. And Klaatu stares blankly and then moves on with his task. Eventually, the movie’s resolution will revolve around his own personal emotions, and whether he too has found enough love for the human race to save us from ourselves. (I won’t ruin it by telling you whether or not this happens.)
But in what should be a scene filled with emotional crisis, a heart-wrenching decision to end the film, becomes a decidedly uninteresting, totally nonchalant decision on the part of Klaatu, because Reeves still seems to believe he is a robot. Outside Reeves, however, the movie for the most part is decent. Jennifer Connelly is reasonably good as a scientist of some kind who gets recruited for some kind of mission because there is some kind of unknown menace threatening the Earth. It is all very vague. In the end, it doesn’t matter what kind of scientist she is, because she never makes use of her scientific skills in any way. It doesn’t matter why the government recruited her for this mission, because she is quickly on the run with Klaatu. Basically she exists as a device that will hopefully convince Reeves that humanity is worth saving.
And the main way she is supposed to do this, I suppose, is through her little son Jacob, played by Will Smith’s son Jaden, last seen playing in a movie with his father in The Pursuit of Happyness. In this film, he is one of the most irritating kids in movie history. He constantly fights his mother. He hates the alien and wants the government to catch him. He complains incessantly, and does that little-kid movie-cliche thing where he is constantly talking about his dead father, and what his real father would have done if he were here today. And when he isn’t talking about his father, it’s OK because all the other characters are talking about him. He misses the man, you see. And let us never forget it.
The main thing The Day The Earth Stood Still has going for it are some pretty neat special effects, specifically a big swarm-of-locusts thing they do. But that alone isn’t enough to make up for the shortcomings in the script. For a movie that is ostensibly about the End Of Days, and the environmental apocalypse that we human beings have visited upon ourselves, there is an awful lot of tried-and-true movie moments. The great Kathy Bates is badly used as the American Secretary of State, who represents the President and tries to do everything she can to thwart the intentions of this alien being. For no good reason, other than the fact that this is what government officials do in movies. They try to destroy everything they don’t understand.
I know, we just came out of the world of the Bush administration, and this doesn’t exactly strain credulity. But imagine an alien being emerging from a spaceship that lands in Central Park, and asking to speak to world leaders. We all know Bush didn’t like talking to his “enemies”, but I think even he would meet with an alien if it asked for him by name. Would he really have sent Condoleeza Rice to deal with it for him? I don’t know. Maybe he would. I’m just glad no aliens landed before January 27th, so we never had to find out.
The Day The Earth Stood Still is not a horrible movie, and I feel like I’ve been ragging on it perhaps a little too much. But it just isn’t memorable, it isn’t very interesting, and I am really struggling to find nice things to say about it. John Cleese is good in his two-minute cameo…the giant alien robot thing is kinda cool…my girlfriend liked it…that’s about all I’ve got. And I’ve been trying not to compare this movie with the 1951 original, but it’s tough because that movie was a superior effort. This film is average at best.
Thursday, March 12th, 2009
“Don’t go in the pimped-out fridge Jack…”
This is what passes for cool-guy, badass dialogue in Race To Witch Mountain, in theatres Friday. The line got a mild laugh out of the audience at the preview Wednesday night, but that was about it. There were a few mild laughs in this movie, but for the most part the humour involves Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) looking perplexed, raising an eyebrow, and becoming confused by two unusually smart kids. And although he does have good comedic timing, some of the time, Dwayne Johnson can’t carry the full comedy load in any movie, ever. Remember The Game Plan, where he is a pro football player who finds out he has a daughter and finds redemption? Remember how that one wasn’t funny either?
Once again, Johnson is playing a character in need of redemption. He used to do bad things and spent some time in jail, and then got involved with a Vegas gangster…all of this is presented as a cloudy past from which he can redeem himself. Really though, he has already redeemed himself before meeting the weird little alien kids – he has left the gangster life behind, and he’s been driving a cab and staying clean for several years. This is a point that is hammered home when the gangsters show up at the beginning to strong-arm him into doing…something…no one explains what, really. And he beats them up.
The gangsters are distracting, and they keep showing up in the movie so The Rock has people to beat up. He can’t beat up the alien assassin who is after the kids, so the only way he will be able to kick ass and take names is if people decide to attack him. So, the gangsters. Anyway, the idea is that he is a cab driver, two weird kids with a wad of cash get into his cab, and they turn out to be aliens who are here to save their planet and ours. And in order to help the kids (although they are not really kids, they are actually aliens), The Rock has to drive really fast, run the government off the road, race flying saucers through train tunnels, and dodge laser beams and plasma cannons and other Star-Trekky stuff.
Really, this is one big long action-chase movie, with The Rock being big and the two kids being strange. Thankfully, Carla Gugino shows up midway through as a “scientist” specializing in UFOs and extra-terrestrial life. She is as gorgeous as ever, and adds a little class to the picture. The best actress in the movie though is Annasophia Robb, the young girl playing one of the aliens. The other alien is played by Alexander Ludwig, who is quite good as well, but Robb is quickly becoming one of my favourite young actresses. You might remember her from Bridge To Terabithia, which was quite good, or as that little maybe-evil girl in The Reaping, which was quite bad. And she was terrific in Sleepwalking, which was somewhere in the middle. She is charming and – amazingly – actually believable as an alien inhabiting the body of a teenage girl.
The main thrust of the movie is that government agents are trying to track down these kid-aliens, and the only one who can protect them is The Rock. The government in Race To Witch Mountain is, like so many other governments in so many similar films, interested only in doing cruel experiments on these kids, and is unwilling to listen to them, and doesn’t care what they have to say. Government is stupid! Also, five thousand people in the government are the only people who know about the aliens who come to Earth, and they know everything about it, but only seven weird conspiracy theorists around the world outside the U.S. government even have an inkling about this stuff.
And then there are explosions. And car chases. And special effects upon special effects. A race down a train tunnel as a flying saucer is pursuing them and a train is approaching them really lacks tension, because as soon as we see the train ahead we know exactly how the whole thing will turn out. But, it’s a kids movie, and we obviously know how the whole movie will turn out as well. I just wish it had been better in getting there. Race To Witch Mountain had potential, and it could have been much better than it is.
Saturday, May 10th, 2008
When I was a kid, I was convinced that the most dangerous person on Earth was Angela Lansbury. Not because I had seen her crazy-scary performance in The Machurian Candidate, but because everywhere she went, a murder was committed. Usually someone close to her. Don’t go on that cruise, Jessica Fletcher! People will DIE. That role has now been taken up by Jodie Foster in The Brave One. This movie almost definitely has the worst movie title of all time. The Brave One? Who would ever watch something called that? Unless it’s a bunch of kids, and The Brave One is the title of a Nickelodeon after-school special where a young man finally learns to stand up to bullies. But the title here is meant to be slightly ironic, which would be fine if it wasn’t so lousy. Jodie Foster plays a radio DJ who has gone her entire life never finding any trouble, about to get married to her boyfriend, until the couple is mugged and her boyfriend is killed. Then, all of a sudden, she becomes an absolute magnet for trouble. Murders are committed in front of her, tough guys harass and attack her. I guess violence is much like breaking the seal when you drink. Once it happens once, it will happen every six minutes for the rest of your life until you stop.
Of course, with all this fear, she purchases a gun. And when violence finds her now, she is ready to respond with more violence of her own. Which escalates into vigilante justice, Charles Bronson with a pretty face and an awful haircut. She kills muggers, murderers, you name it. Terrence Howard plays a cop who is on the trail of the vigilante killer and who is also sort-of involved with Foster. He is one of those amazing movie cops who can make enormous leaps in logic to come to the exact right conclusion with no help from the other officers or from actual reasoning. He is also one of those amazing movie cops who are completely oblivious of the most obvious things that are right under his nose. Example: He spends the whole movie hanging out with the killer he is pursuing. She says weird things, knows too much about some stuff, seems jumpy at the mention of other stuff. But only when he hears an elevator door bing while he’s talking to her on the phone, and then hours later finds a dead body that’s merely a few thousand yards from some elevators, does he maybe start to clue in. EVERY dead body will be within a few thousand yards of some elevators. It’s a CITY.
The end makes no sense. I know real police work is not like CSI, but I know enough about powder burns and gunshot residue and the analysis of ballistics to know that the scenario that plays out would never work in a million years. Nor should it. The ethical dilemma faced by Howard at the end is akin to the one at the end of the Charles Bronson classic Death Wish. And, basically this is the same movie. But it tries so hard to be something more, and sadly this ruins Jodie Foster. Jodie Foster is one of the top five actresses in the world in terms of talent, and yet, shockingly, she is the worst part of this movie! She looks so sketchy and freaky that anyone would immediately think “killer” when looking at her, the emotions she is called upon to produce never once ring true, and her connection with Howard feels so forced and unnatural that we really don’t care about either of them in the end. This movie really wants to have a message, and deliver that message they have. Here it is: “Don’t rent me”.
Saturday, May 10th, 2008
The Invasion is a remake, yet again, of the 1950s classic sci-fi horror film Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, a film that has been done many times, in many different ways, including an excellent 1978 remake featuring Donald Sutherland. The basic premise here is that aliens are invading Earth, and doing so by taking over the bodies of humans. In this way, no one can tell that the aliens are here – they still look like the same people. But their loved ones and people close to these people begin to notice. Those people are somehow different. You see, they seem to have lost all capacity for emotion. And it’s easy to spot emotionless people when you are close to them. This leads to some creepy scenes without the need to have some kind of high-tech computer generated monster spitting venom at the screen, or an actor of Anthony Hopkins’ calibre talking about fava beans and Chianti. All you really need to be creeped out is real people who can register no emotion and convey an icy demeanor.
Enter Nicole Kidman. No one does icy demeanor and cold-fish emotionlessness better than Nicole Kidman. She looks like a china doll, as though her features have been carved out of some kind of fine china, and might shatter if she smiles or frowns. And that’s when she’s being interviewed. One big problem with the 2007 edition of The Invasion is that Kidman does not play the leader of the emotionless drones who take over the world. That is a role that would suit her immensely. Yet she plays the emotional centre of the movie, for some reason. The only scenes where she is truly convincing are the ones where she must blend in with the invaders by acting emotionless. Another big problem with The Invasion is that there is nothing terribly interesting about it. Daniel Craig plays Kidman’s best friend, with some romantic tension, but nothing really develops there. Kidman’s son is the catalyst for the proceedings, as he has been taken by his father, and Kidman must get him back before hiding out in the safe zone away from the steel-faced mobs. Her ex-husband, the child’s father, fills the role of the big villain in the film, as he is perhaps the First Person Infected, and therefore the Most Evil.
During the shooting of this movie, there was a well-publicized accident during a car chase scene. A car (with Kidman inside) slammed into a wall with six or seven stunt men hanging onto it. The headlines in the papers – Nicole Kidman survives scare! The details in the reports were that Kidman had suffered only minor scrapes and bruises. Ummm…what about the stuntmen? They must have been completely smashed up, right? They were hanging onto the car, it crashed into a wall…no mention of them. I tried to do some research on this to include here in the review. Other than the fact that two stunt men had to be hospitalized, there was no information about them at all. I assume broken bones, smashed ribcages, horrible injuries. But who knows? And this is in a way another problem with the movie. Only Nicole Kidman matters. Daniel Craig exists mainly as her driver. Jeremy Northam exists only to put a bad-guy face on the “invaders”, and Jeffrey Wright has a part that could be fairly interesting, but takes up only about three minutes of screen time.
Wright is a scientist and doctor who can solve the problem of the epidemic. The key to stopping that epidemic is finding Kidman’s son, who seems to be immune to the infection. I guess they will just mulch him up, synthesize his remains, and create an antidote that will be administered to the emotionless masses by means of an army of crop dusters. Who knows. The climactic scene is nerve-wracking for a moment, but loses all the momentum it has right at the end, leading to something of an anti-climax. The one thing I will say about the movie is that it is a bit of a throwback to those classic horror sci-fi films of the 50s, (like the original Bodysnatchers) and attempts to make a social commentary at the conclusion of the film. It comes off as a bit heavy-handed, since early in the movie there is a Russian diplomat inserted into the story for the express purpose of making that social commentary. Was there anyone who didn’t think his words would come back to seem prescient? No. By the way, during that scene, Kidman is praised for her intelligence in shooting down the theories of this diplomat, but she does so by making statements that have nothing to do with his. It’s like someone says to you “I think abortion is the murder of babies”. And you say “I once burped a baby, and he was grateful”. And then people say “what a brilliant way to win that argument!” What?
As far as modern horror or sci-fi movies go, The Invasion is in the middle of the pack. Far below The Descent and The Host and 28 Days Later, far above Resident Evil and Stay Alive and The Village and Lady in the Water. But all that means is that sci-fi fanatics might find it worthwhile just because they will watch anything in that genre. Really, this movie is made for rabid fans of Nicole Kidman, who want to watch her run around, pretend to talk smart, and get into her underwear several times. That’s the target audience, that’s who should watch this film.
Saturday, May 10th, 2008
If you are going to make a movie starring just one actor, you could do worse than Will Smith. I Am Legend is a movie concept that isn’t exactly new, it’s basically a remake of the old Charlton Heston post-apocalyptic film, The Omega Man. The film opens with a cameo from Emma Thompson, who plays a scientist on TV announcing a cure for cancer. I suppose we are to believe that whatever that cure was is the same thing that unleashed the virus that wiped out humanity. The next thing we know, it’s three years later and Will Smith is the only man left alive, and he tears around New York City in sports cars shooting at deer, who apparently now live right in the city with the humans. He is accompanied by his faithful dog, Sam, and he lives a fairly quiet life. He has set up mannequins in the local video store to appear as though there are people around, and he rents movies there every night. He has to make sure he is home by sundown, and then he sits there with his dog watching the films.
The reason, it becomes clear soon enough, that he has to be home by sundown each evening, is that not everyone has died. There are strange, mutated human beings living in the darkness. Like vampires, they die in the sunlight, and therefore the daylight hours are perfectly safe for Smith and the dog Sam. Like the volleyball in Castaway, Sam becomes a very human character in the film, like a child who can’t speak. He helps Smith with his work – which is, basically, finding a cure for the virus. Because he is immune to it himself, he uses his blood to try to cure the infected mutants, which he captures by means of snares and traps, the kind one might lay for rabbits as a third-grade boy scout. He then takes them back to his underground lab and injects them with…something…that might cure them. All very experimental, all very high-tech.
But of course, something has to go wrong. And I don’t want to divulge the end of the movie, so I won’t say exactly what it is that goes wrong. But I will say it involves mutants, since that seems obvious, and it involves Will Smith, since that too is obvious. He behaves, toward the end of the film, exactly the way I expect I would behave were I utterly alone save for a dog for three long years. There are some good action scenes, and the mutants are suitably scary. They do seem old-hat by now, however. We have seen many similar scary mutants in movies like Blade II, The Descent, 28 Days Later, and so forth. But they work, and they serve their purpose, so I really can’t complain.
There are some problems with the plot. How come his house still has electricity so many years after the world disappeared? How do his various cars seem to have an endless supply of gas? How come he has those massive steel doors protecting every possible entry into his house, yet the mutants can so easily break in at the appropriate moments? How do the mutants remember where he lives when the time comes? And how can he have the lights on in his house at night if he is afraid those mutants may discover where he lives? Furthermore, if his lab is in the basement of his house, how can daylight get down there to protect people from the mutants when the need arises? And most of those deer-in-the-city shots are very obviously (and therefore poorly) computer-generated.
All problematic, but in the end, irrelevant. As I said before, a movie with (basically) just one actor needs someone like Will Smith, who can make his way through scenes completely solo and still keep our attention. We enjoy this movie because we enjoy Will Smith, plain and simple. And despite the fact I have seen it many times before, despite the problems involved, I did indeed enjoy this movie.
Saturday, May 10th, 2008
Michael Caine is an all-time legend in the acting world. Lately, however, that is not really a reason to see one of his movies, as he has shown absolutely no discretion when it comes to choosing his roles. He has been in some great pictures (Batman Begins, Children of Men), but that seems to be more as a result of him never saying no to a film role than as a result of any kind of discretion when choosing those roles. As is evidenced by some other films of his – Miss Congeniality, Get Carter. And Jude Law is no better a barometer for the quality of a film. Road To Perdition and The Aviator were great, All The King’s Men not so much. One of the few young actors who has been working as hard as Michael Caine. So their names on the marquee were not likely to draw many people in to watch Sleuth. The only thing that one can count on when it comes to these two actors is the quality of their own performance in a movie. And by and large, they are both terrific almost all the time.
And considering they are pretty much the only two actors in Sleuth, that should make this movie that much better, shouldn’t it? Not only that, but it is directed by Kenneth Brannagh, and he is one of the best directors of literary films of our time. You can tell that this film is Brannagh’s work because he is so very Shakespearean when he does any movie. Sleuth is divided, just like a good play, into three very distinct acts. The first act involves Caine and Law having a conversation-confrontation in Caine’s house. Caine’s wife has left him, and Law is the younger man with whom she is now shacking up. This scene opens with a series of truly strange camera shots, which make the movie feel artistic while simultaneously irritating me. Mercifully they end quickly, and the scene proceeds with some very witty and entertaining dialogue delivered wonderfully by Caine and Law. It ends with a bizarre confrontation and a very strange but compelling break-and-enter-and-murder scene. Close curtain.
Act II: A cop shows up to investigate the murder. Another one-on-one interrogation scene takes place, where Caine is put on the spot by a tough-talking, hard-drinking Scotland Yard cop, and while the dialogue does not sparkle nearly as much as it did in the first scene, this one ends in an almost equally intense way. I think most people could guess the giant revelation at the end of this scene, but since I am not absolutely certain of this, I will not reveal it here. This scene, as did the one before, makes extensive use of Caines monstrous rich-guy mansion, with all it’s hidden safes and elevators and lighting remote controls and buttons and gadgets and gizmos. It is the prototypical rich-guy ostentatious house-that-wipes-his-ass-for-him. The fact that the cop knows where all the buttons in the house are tells us all we need to know, which is why the big revelation at the end of the scene is not so surprising.
Act III: The wheels come off, and this third scene appears to have been tacked on at the end of a movie that had no idea how to end itself. The film plunges out of the realm of entertaining cleverness into the abyss of disjointed narrative and unnatrual actions. Midway through this scene, we stop caring about either character involved, and we hope the movie ends quickly. Mercifully, it does.
I give this movie six out of ten, because I rank every movie out of nine and this one was two-thirds good. (To get a ten, a movie has to cross the line between fantastic movie and all-time classic.) I have always said that if you have say, several verses to a song, and one of them is clearly weaker than the others, bury it in the middle. Don’t open with the weak verse, and certainly don’t close with it. This movie had used up all it’s creativity and intelligence by the one-hour mark. Michael Caine starred in the original, 1970 movie, with Lawrence Olivier. Caine is decent at capturing the character Olivier played in the original. However, Jude Law is nowhere near becoming the next Michael Caine. The best character in the movie, in fact, ends up being the house. And that’s not a good thing.