"When faced with a problem you do not understand,
do any part of it you do understand; then look at it again."
~(Robert A. Heinlein - "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

A Boy and his Vampire

(This post is mostly about remakes)

  Owen: "How old are you, -- really?"  
   Abby: "Twelve, -- but I've been twelve for a really long time."

Let Me In is the story of 12-year old Owen, lonely and tormented by bullies at school, and of Abby; a very unusual girl of the same apparent age, with whom he becomes acquainted when she and her guardian move into the apartment next to his.

Based on the Swedish thriller Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One In), from the novel of the same name, it is the latest in the long-standing Hollywood tradition of taking an absolutely superb foreign film and remaking it for those who "don't want to read their movies".

What is not in that tradition is the fact that this remake stands in the same league as the original, to a degree I haven't seen since Gore Verbinski's The Ring.

The Swedes have been cranking out some interesting work lately, including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, already scheduled for an American remake with Daniel Craig.  For the role of Lisbeth Salander (the girl of the title), for a short while Emma Watson (Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films) was briefly considered for the remake, before being ultimately passed over for someone else. Lisbeth would have been one Hell of a change for Watson; very edgy and as big a step as Kurt Russell going from the nerdy kids he played in Disney movies to putting on the eye patch and becoming "Snake" Plissken  in John Carpenter's Escape From New York. (Believe it or not, even that one has a remake in the works.)

Before that, I'd have to rate Insomnia (with Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hillary Swank) as maybe one of the most successful re-dos of a first-rate Swedish movie. That particular remake was directed by Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Inception) and that may have had much to do with it turning out so well.

Of course, Hollywood doesn't have to go overseas to mine something already done (and done very well) before. (They never seem interested in taking something that should have been good but was botched, and giving it another shot.)

Even the Coen Brothers are going down this path. After couple of decades of some of the most original work seen on the screen, they confessed to being inspired by The Odyssey for O Brother, Where Art Thou?, they adapted Cormac McCarthy's novel for No Country for Old Men, and now they are going as mainstream Hollywood as one can possibly get; they are remaking True Grit.

Scheduled for this Christmas, this is one remake that does not fill me with dread. I've not seen any of the trailers now available online (watching videos on a dial-up connection is an exercise in masochism), but some of the stills I've seen give me a very good feeling about this.

Jeff Bridges steps into John Wayne's role as Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn, and looks absolutely perfect for it.

Matt Damon is the Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, and while Damon can make me want to throw things at him when he opens his mouth politically, as an actor he has a lot more going for him than did singer Glen Campbell in the original.

Likewise, I have no problem with Josh Brolin taking over from Jeff Corey as Tom Chaney, the object of the manhunt the story is about.

Who I'll be most curious about is Barry Pepper (the sniper, in Saving Private Ryan, who would cross himself before blowing out the brains of some poor German soldier). He will be essaying the role of the outlaw "Lucky" Ned Pepper, a role that was filled by Robert Duvall in the original.

Now, that will be a challenge on a par with Steven Weber following in Jack Nicholson's footsteps in the TV remake of The Shining. I think Weber did a fine job of meeting that challenge. We'll just have to see how well Barry does.

As of now, the "True Grit" remake is scheduled for Christmas Day, 2010.

December 25th this year occurs on a Saturday. New movies are usually released on a Friday, with an occasional Wednesday or Thursday thrown in. I don't ever recall a Saturday being used before, BUT, this is the Coen Brothers we are talking about. So, anything can be on the plate where they are concerned.

But, WHY does Hollywood depend so much on remakes and sequels? Are they really that devoid of imagination?

I seriously doubt it. I believe some of the most imaginative people on the planet are in that industry, but, you must never forget that there are two words in "show business". Millions (lately hundreds of millions) are at stake in modern movies, and that is a powerful incentive to play it safe by remaking, or making sequels to movies that made money. It doesn't get any simpler than that.

As for sequels; there have been some good ones. But as far as most of them go, consider Robert Rodriguez's violent, over-the-top live action cartoon spoof of late 60's exploitation movies Machete.

As the end credits start, they announce...

Machete will return in

"MACHETE KILLS"

             and

"MACHETE KILLS AGAIN"

Right there, Mr. Rodriguez says it all about most sequels.
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1 comment:

Paul_In_Houston said...

Commenting here, on my own post...

Barry Pepper truly did an amazing job as "Lucky" Ned Pepper.

As with Karl Urban channeling DeForest Kelly (as "Bones" McCoy) in the Star Trek remake a couple of years ago, I felt that I was actually watching Robert Duvall playing Ned Pepper, right down to looks, mannerisms and voice.

Eerie.
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