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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

If it ain't broke.......

Gone In Sixty Seconds, Cape Fear, Father of the Bride, Ocean's Eleven, The Italian Job, The Fly, Clash of the Titans; the list goes on and on. These films have something in common, an unfortunate trend that is now spreading through Hollywood like a horrible strain of Writers' Block, and it is the REMAKE VIRUS.

Those films, and many others, have been remade and some very closely to the original, leaving fans of the originals wondering "why bother?". I feel that there are only two reasons to make a film that already exists; to send a message to the filmmaker of the original that you can do it better, or to share a favorite film with a new audience using today's advanced filmmaking tools. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, at least that's the excuse that filmmakers of the latest string of upcoming remakes will use. Among those coming soon to theaters or currently in the works are Footloose, Dirty Dancing, Overboard, Point Break, Total Recall and Wargames. These are just some of the more popular titles falling under the cinematic guillotine as Hollywood producers rely on the success of classics, using the built-in fan base of the originals, to create big draws for remakes. I'm a big fan of seeing a fresh take on a new idea, but only if it's needed.

For example, John Carpenter's 1978 horror classic "Halloween" is held in high regards by horror fans and filmmakers, but would barely cause the slightest stir for today's desensitized youth. Rob Zombie, having written and directed two well-received horror films, took on the original Halloween and unleashed a new Michael Myers in his brutally reinvigorated vision. Going against his vow to make only one Halloween film, he followed up his own remake with a sequel that took the aggressive tone of the first even further, allowing him to conclude his vision and keep other filmmakers from compromising it with unworthy sequels. I think this kind of remake is very worthwhile because it was approached with a great deal of appreciation and respect for the original but also brought something new to it that took nothing away from the appeal of the original, and in fact created renewed interest in it.


On the other hand, you take films like "Footloose" and "Dirty Dancing", both being classic films of the 80's which were huge launching pads for the cast. While a remake of Dirty Dancing is only in the planning stages, Footloose hits theaters October 14th with Julianne Hough, widely known for her years on Dancing With The Stars, and professional dancer Kenny Wormald. The trailer for the film reveals a Southern treatment, while many of the original film's elements remain intact. Movies like Footloose and Dirty Dancing are timeless and nostalgic and not the kind of movies that can be made better simply from being made modern. The storyline and early breakout performances will keep these originals towering over the remakes, especially once released on Blu-Ray which will only enhance their superiority.

Furthermore, for any film with a large fan base it should be recognized that those fans are loyal and likely very skeptical that any remake could ever come close to the original. I can't think of a better example of this than "Point Break", the surfer/cop action hit starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves, which achieved cult-like status among fans. On the same day I saw the news that this remake was coming, I got a text from my friend Dan Dedekian, filled with disgust and disbelief, which perfectly mirrored my own feelings. I'm willing to accept it as coincidence that Point Break, Dirty Dancing and Red Dawn originally starred Patrick Swayze, who passed away in September 2009 after a long battle with Pancreatic Cancer, and are all in various stages of being remade. Note to Hollywood: if you wish to retain this illusion of coincidence, make sure nobody ever remakes "Ghost" or those groaning shadowy figures from the original will likely hunt down everyone involved and haul them off to the underworld, where Christian Bale should be for ruining the Batman and Terminator franchises.

Another of Dan's favorites is "Top Gun", the film that fueled his own need for speed, and upon thinking of the possibility of a remake we shared a sentiment of "they f'n better not even try". Luckily, no remake of Top Gun is in the works but the original is getting the 3D treatment, due for theatrical release in 2012, and a sequel with a Cruise cameo is in the works.

Moving on, don't even get me started on "Overboard", the most adorable excuse ever to cast a Hollywood couple opposite each other, starring Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, otherwise known as the most successful unmarried couple in Hollywood (Sorry Gene, but even before you put a ring on it you were beat by a few years). It's been reported that the remake of Overboard will star Jennifer Lopez in Hawn's role and is to be produced by Will Smith; no male lead has been announced. No doubt J.Lo is the right choice for the uppity snob role, as she is infamous for her diva-like backstage demands, but judging from her Rom-Com history this remake will fall way short, as any remake of Overboard would.

Regarding the constantly confusing Ah-nold Sci-Fi thriller "Total Recall", I've got nothing bad to say about seeing this done better as it can't be any worse.

Obviously, I'm a mixed bag when it comes to where my thumb points for a remake, but this theme of taking well-known and loved 80's classics using them to launch the careers of today's newcomers is, like, so 30 years ago. Seriously, it's time to let some no-name fresh writers get their scripts on the desks of starving producers and directors before someone casts Megan Fox as the computer-generated bimbo in a remake of "Weird Science" and I have to put my fist through my 42". I'd rather see a remake of "Sixteen Candles"....better yet, the sequel, titled "The Return of Long Duck Dong"!

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