The (Un)necessary Remake Dept. – Fame

Fame (1980)

Generally speaking, for me watching a musical is like going to the dentist:  I just know at some point it’s going to hurt.  I may not know when, or in some instances even how, but pain is pretty much a given.

Which is why I tend to avoid musicals (and dentists), though in reference to the former what bothers me more is when characters sing in dance in situations that don’t warrant such behavior–as if there are that many situations that would.

And then there’s Fame, which is brilliant.  It was directed by Alan Parker, who did the equally remarkable–for entirely different reasons–Midnight Express (a film that had such a effect on me that I wanted nothing to do with Turkey, till I learned that the screenwriter, Oliver Stone, took a whole lot of liberties with his screenplay).

Fame takes place at the High School of Performing Arts, which at least puts all the singing and dancing in some sort of context.

But what’s most important is the tenor of the performances, which are all pretty good though deserving of special mention are Paul McCrane (Montgomery) and Ralph (Paul Miller), who bring an honesty and vulnerability to their roles that I am not entirely sure was on the page.

There has already been a reboot in 2009, which I haven’t seen–though if I had known Charles S. Dutton was in it I might have changed my mind, especially since he has the uncanny ability of elevating just about everything he turns up in.

Fame (2009)

in 1982, prior to the last reboot there was a series on NBC based on Fame as well, though it had relatively little of the edge that made the movie so effective.

Fame TV Series Opening

Though I wasn’t aware that they were still exploiting the memory of those dancing and angsty teens, there’s apparently there’s a play based on the movie going on in London (or at least there was as of last year).

Fame: The Musical

Point Break (2015) – Trailer

The trailer for the upcoming Point Break. like Poltergeist, illustrates the problem with seemingly pointless remakes.  It actually looks pretty interesting, but as someone who’s seen the original, on some level I will always be comparing it, as opposed to just enjoying it for what it is.

And i don’t want that to be interpreted in ay way as saying that the original movie was such a cinema landmark, because it wasn’t; which reinforces why copying it is such a dubious exercise.

And while I have no idea who Luke Bracey is, he comes off–in this trailer, at any rate–as charisma-bereft as Keanu Reeves, so there’s at least that.

Something Wicked This Way Comes Comes Again!

Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

“By the pricking of my thumb, something wicked this way comes.”

–Macbeth

A few hours ago I was re-linking my movies in iTunes (for some reason iTunes linkages break sometime, though I have suspicions why it happens) when I noticed Jack Clayton’s movie of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes.

There’s talk about it being rebooted, and if any movie warranted such treatment, it’s this one.  Jack Clayton’s version wasn’t in any way bad, but Bradbury’s novel–it’s been quite awhile since I last read it–was about innocence, loss and young people longing to become adults, without understanding all that such a transition entails.

Which isn’t to say that the movie didn’t touch on those themes, though it did so hesitantly, instead of going for the jugular, so to speak.

Like The Black Hole, Something Wicked This Way Comes was caught in the odd space Disney occupied for quite awhile, when as a viewer you weren’t quite sure who they were making them for.  They were oddly schizophrenic, playing a bit too intense for children, yet not serious enough for older viewers.

And speaking of older viewers, Jack Clayton was not the first choice to direct.  For awhile there was talk of Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs, The Osterman Weekend, The Killer Elite, Convoy, etc) helming, which would have been a very, very interesting choice mainly because he was accustomed to dealing with violence, more so than Clayton.

Though that doesn’t mean that Jack Clayton’s movie was pretty entertaining, though the idealized world depicted in the movie wasn’t one that I was terribly familiar with.

Hopefully the reboot will have a greater sense of universality about it (and hopefully take place in times closer to our own) though that might have a lot to do with the nature of the novel itself, in that anytime you’re working with a medium based upon imagination, how you envision things is very much a partnership between the reader and the writer.

Love In The Time Of Monsters – Review

Love in the Time of Monsters poster

“So this is where the American Dream died.”

  —Marla

Matt Jackson’s Love in the Time of Monsters–a play on Gabriel Garcia’s Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera?–is interesting for a lot of reasons, the first being that it’s so thematically similar to Zombeavers that it almost plays like a sequel.

Luckily, Love in the Time of Monsters is a better movie, though neither will be winning any awards, Saturn or otherwise, any time soon.

My biggest issue with it is that it takes two interesting leads–Marla (Gena Shaw) and Carla (Marissa Skell), both who’s views on family vacations were marred by the death of their father, who died when Paul Bunyan’s ax fell on him during a trip to Trees of Mystery in Klamath, California–and does relatively little with them.

Paul Bunyan and Babe Paul Bunyan and Babe

The movie covers their first vacation together in 15 years.

And while neither sister was unscathed by the experience, Marla seems worse off, becoming cynical and unable to maintain a relationship for any length of time.

Hoping that this family outing goes better than that last one–it doesn’t–they decide to visit Uncle Slavko’s All-American Family Lodge, where Carla’s fiancee works as a Bigfoot performer.

Yes.  I did just type ‘Bigfoot performer.’

Where the movie succeeds most is in the backgrounds of its quirky supporting cast, such as Uncle Slavko (Michael McShane), who, despite running an “All-American Family Lodge” isn’t American or Dr. Lincoln/Doug (Doug Jones) a chemist that just happens to be working at that lodge because of the economy.

And sure, they’re less individuals than vehicles designed to get the story from one point to the next, but everyone looks like they’re having enough fun that it’s easy to overlook.

Another similarity to Zombeavers is a panoply of zombified animals, which would have been much more welcome if they had come a bit earlier in the movie–they first make an appearance in the latter third–with the zombified trout being particularly effective (though the vultures (?) were pretty memorable as well).

When all is said and done, Love in the Time of Monsters is fun, and pretty well-acted, considering the genre, though it’s not quite Hitchcock’s The Birds.

Love in the Time of Monsters is prowling the fringes of iTunes, VOD and Amazon.

Pixels – Trailer 2

I’ve got to admit that despite the presence of Adam Sandler in a movie virtually guaranteeing that it’s going to appeal to the lowest possible denominator, I am hoping for Pixels.

Maybe it’s the presence of Chris Columbus (the director of Home Alone, Adventures in Babysitting, two Harry Potter movies, etc) and actors like Josh Gad, Sean Bean and Peter Dinkage that, working their hardest, they’ll will be able to generate enough comic energy to escape the blackhole-like pull that is Sander’s mediocrity.

I doubt it, but I can dream.

Zombeavers – Review

Zombeavers movie poster

“Watch If Just So You Can Say You Do Did (Or You Really Like Bill Burr).  Other Than That, I’ve Got Nothin.'”

Bill Burr!  Bill Burr is one of the first people you see when Zombeavers starts, and maybe it’s just that he’s not too discriminating about the roles he chooses, but I was genuinely happy to see him.  That being said, I’m not too sure why because it’s not like he’s some sort of motion picture arbiter of quality (though he was in Breaking Bad, which was all sorts of awesome).

Though in this instance it’s his screw-up that sets events in motion (by not breaking for a deer).

By the way, under most conditions when deer are hit by vehicles they don’t explode like they’d swallowed a hand grenade or something.

Another surprise is that Chris Bender and JC Spink are listed as producers.  They’ve done some pretty interesting work, such as The Butterfly EffectFinal Destination and The Ruins, among many others).

Which still doesn’t mean that Zombeavers isn’t going to suck, though at least there’s a (admittedly slim) chance it won’t (And apropos of nothing, the origin of the zombified beavers is remarkably similar to that of Marvel’s Daredevil, also on Netflix. Coincidence?  Probably).

About midway the movie turns to ‘The Raft,’ from Creepshow 2, except dumber, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering that earlier, when three sunbathing women encounter a bear–the one who happened to be topless covered her breasts, as if the bear somehow cared how small they were.

It’s worth mentioning that the beavers were brought to life–so to speak–via animatronics and hand puppetry, which I appreciate.

There’s also little in the way to CGI to be found, which is good because it would have made the movie look cheaper than it probably was.

Zombeavers plays like a parody of horror movies in which a bunch of–in this instance sort-of-young–young people find themselves in a horrific  situation, which would be fine if it were as funny as the situation is absurd.

So when all is said and done, not even Bill Burr can save Zombeavers, though the theme song at the end comes awfully close.

Zombeavers aren’t resting easy on Netflix.

Carrie (2013) – Review

“Kimberly Peirce’s Carrie, As Far As Remaks Goes, Isn’t Terribly Necessary, Though It’s Worth Seeing Anyway.”

For the longest time I’ve avoided watching Kimberly Peirce‘s remake of Brian DePalma’s Carrie because I just didn’t see the point, especially since from what I had seen from the trailers it wasn’t saying anything that the original didn’t.

And for the most part, I was right–and also wrong.

I’ll explain what I mean.  Pierce’s remake modernizes the material in a way that you’ll never get from DePalma’s movie–for instance characters use cell phones as well as the Internet–but there’s a very good reason for that:  Cell phones didn’t exist and I suspect that Internet didn’t either, at least not in the form that we know it today.

It’s also worth mentioning that the original movie might feel almost quaint (and to be honest, a bit dated) to a contemporary audience that’s grown up in the age of touch screen phones and the wireless interlinking of devices.

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