Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
I have been a little busy these last few weeks, and for that, I apologize. I let the inbox stack up waist deep, and I haven’t put together a “Remake THIS!” column for a while. As a result, there’s a hell of a lot to discuss. Let’s dive right in with my personal pick as the most incomprehensible story of the week:
AKIRA holds a special place in the hearts of many animation fans. For many of us, AKIRA was the first chance we had to see anime on the big-screen, presented with something like respect. When it played the Nuart a little over a decade ago, there were huge lines for it. It was a buzz hit immediately, and everyone I knew saw it, blown away by the hypnotic beauty of the film, even if they didn’t really get it all.
Reading Otomo’s manga AKIRA is a separate sort of kick in the face. Denser, most destructive, truly absorbing as a piece of visual art, it’s one of the most remarkable examples of what the comics medium is capable of in any language.
And now, Zoriana Kit of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, broke the story that Warner Bros. is working with Stephen Norrington to create a live-action AKIRA.
You wanna know what scares me? One sentence.
”Jon Peters is producing.”
That’s incredibly frightening to hear. I think Jon Peters may well be the real life FORREST GUMP, some kind of charmed idiot, riding fortune’s feather for the duration of his 20-year career. His efforts at producing a workable SUPERMAN franchise for the studio are legendarily troubled, and his input on bringing Neil Gaiman’s brilliant SANDMAN to the big screen was disastrously wrong-headed.
Why would the studio hand over such an obviously expensive property (trying a live action AKIRA for anything less than $150 million doesn’t make any sense) to a guy who hasn’t been able to get the ball across the finish line on his own is a mystery. Peters may be the worst major producer currently working on the Warner lot.
Beyond the Peters factor, there’s the larger question of “Why?” I think it’s an enormous challenge that Norrington is taking on, but if he’s got the passion for it, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t be amazing to see the world of AKIRA realized in live-action. There’s a huge audience that hasn’t seen the anime that would probably go see a movie starring Josh Hartnett and Tobey Maguire, or whatever pair of “hot” young Hollywood stars they shoehorn into the roles of Kaneda and Tetsuo. Or Ken and Ted. Whatever. This movie wouldn’t be made for the legions of fans who already exist for the various tellings of AKIRA thus far. Instead, it would be a movie that would bring the story to an audience that wouldn’t dream of seeing a “cartoon.” That’s really, really sad, but true.
Until we see Norrington’s next film, THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, we don’t really know how he’ll handle a film of this scale. So far, his biggest movie (BLADE) is still fairly modest. Who knew that Peter Jackson was capable of LORD OF THE RINGS until he did it? Sometimes, filmmakers rise to the challenge of these enormous films, and when someone’s working on a beloved property like this one, let’s hope for the best. Let’s hope Norrington’s just the right guy, and everything up till now has been warm-up. Let’s hope he brings us something unforgettable.
And let’s hope Jon Peters stays out of it.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?!
Charles Shyer isn’t a particularly great filmmaker. He worked with his ex-wife Nancy Meyers as a screenwriter on films like BABY BOOM and PRIVATE BENJAMIN and PROTOCOL and even SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, and who has directed movies like I LOVE TROUBLE and both of the Steve Martin FATHER OF THE BRIDE movies. His last movie, AFFAIR OF THE NECKLACE, was a pretty dud. Now he’s decided to turn back to remakes (a la FATHER OF THE BRIDE) for what he hopes will be a big romantic comedy. The problem is, the film he wants to remake is a classic, and it’s been imitated so many tims that a remake is bound to feel like an imitation of an imitation.
Both Shyer and co-writer Elaine Pope have very respectable mainstream comedy credits. Not really my taste, but they have made a lot of money and won a fair share of awards between them. It mystifies me, though, how someone like Pope can keep a straight face when she says something like, "I was a huge fan of the movie, and especially that device in which he gives his inner thoughts to the camera." She can’t really feel there’s anything fresh about that device now, can she? Yeah, when ALFIE did it, there was something charming and direct about Michael Caine looking directly into the camera and voicing his inner thoughts. But in a post-FERRIS BUELLER world, when the device is used weekly on sitcoms like MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE or THE BERNIE MAC SHOW, and when it’s been used in dozens and dozens of films, it’s not really enough to hang a film on, is it?
Really, the genius of ALFIE was the casting. Young Michael Caine was a force to be reckoned with, with wicked comic timing and a ever-so-slightly self-mocking attitude. English AICN readers are up in arms over both this remake, and the word, also broken by Michael Fleming in his VARIETY column, that Mark Wahlberg is playing Caine’s role in the remake of THE ITALIAN JOB that F. Gary Gray is prepping right now.
All I know is when I close my eyes, I can’t help but see the poster for this remake, with Ewan McGregor smiling, and I pray that Ewan and any other self-respecting young English actor is smart enough to avoid the inevitable comparison. It just doesn’t need to be made.
”OOOMPA LOOOOMPA, DOOOOPITY-DOO!! I’VE GOT A MOTHERF*#%ING DIRECTOR FOR YOU!!”
I apologize to Martin Scorsese for the goombah humor in that header, but I’m still shocked at the idea of him directing CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY.
Yeah, you read that right. The director of TAXI DRIVER, RAGING BULL, GOODFELLAS, and THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST is currently in discussions with Warner Bros. over helming the new Willy Wonka film, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY.
It’s amazing how much information was crammed into PREMIERE magazine’s recent POWER 100 list. Each entry had a “Yes, It’s True!” segment, and under Scorsese’s, they mentioned the CHARLIE possibility. A little calling around reveals that there’s a very real chance this could happen.
I must admit... I’m fascinated. I can’t imagine what the film might be like. I consider Scorsese one of the most important American film artists, capable at whatever he’s tried so far, and I’m sure he could make an achingly great adaptation of Roald Dahl’s novel if he tried.
I discussed the difficulties of adapting the original Dahl novel with someone close to the project, and they told me that one of the complications in doing a completely faithful rendition of the book is that Charlie is an almost totally passive character. He doesn’t do anything or change much in any way. He just takes the tour and watches the other bad kids do things. The makers of WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY added a scene in which Granpa (Jack Albertson) and Charlie (that blonde kid) sneak a drink of the Fizzy Bubbles drink, just to show Charlie doing something... ANYTHING. I love Dahl’s work, but I’ve always preferred CHARLIE AND THE GREAT GLASS ELEVATOR, which is a crazier ride.
One thing’s for sure. If Scorsese does sign on to make the film, my interest level will spike on this one. Good or bad, it’ll have a voice, and won’t just be another cookie-cutter kiddie film.
THE STEPFORD DIRECTOR
Okay... who kidnapped the real Tim Burton?
I know what’s going on. And you think you’re funny. Somewhere, you’re sitting and reading in PREMIERE’S Power Issue about how Burton will be directing a remake of THE STEPFORD WIVES with a script by Paul Rudnick, all under the watchful eye of Scott Rudin. You think that’s hysterical, don’t you, considering you replaced the bizarre, quirky, personal filmmaker behind PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE and ED WOOD and even MARS ATTACKS with the mainstream slickster who pumped out SLEEPY HOLLOW or PLANET OF THE APES last year. You think no one’s going to notice the bitter irony of Burton doing a film that satirizes the drive to conform, even as he’s finally been beaten down by the system, turned into just another mainstream gun for hire.
But I’m on to you.
Many of our readers may be too young to remember the original STEPFORD WIVES, a story about a woman who moves with her husband to a new town, where all the wives are perfect. Too perfect. Creepy perfect. And when it becomes obvious that she is NOT perfect, they set out to help her become one of them.
Rudnick is a clever writer, but sometimes too clever. He writes broad, obvious comedy, and I don’t know that the idea of him making fun of perfect people sounds particularly fresh to me.
All of that is moot, of course, since I know what you’re up to. And all I can say is give us the real Tim Burton back. You’ve had your fun.
”WARRRRIOOOOORRRRS!! COME OUT AND SLAAAAAAAP FIIIIIIGHT!!”
I know it’s been a little over a week since VARIETY first ran this story. It’s been long enough that I can’t even find the link to the story anymore. But it’s taken me this long to even be able to discuss the extreme, almost overwhelming stupidity of the following story:
Paramount Pictures has tapped scribes John Glenn and Travis Wright to update "The Warriors" for MTV Films and Paramount Pictures.
At MTV Films, Van Toffler, David Gale and Michael Cole are overseeing the project along with Larry Gordon, who produced the original. Paramount's Brian Witten and prexy John Goldwyn are supervising pic for the studio.
Original centers on a small group of gang members who are falsely accused of murdering a peace-seeking gang leader. They are chased through Gotham's streets by rival gangs eager for revenge. In their updated version, Glenn and Travis have eliminated guns. The gangs, rather, have turned to an urban hybrid of martial arts and street fighting to settle their differences.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let’s stop you right there, dutch. THE WARRIORS without guns? In today’s world? The reason they could have singing and dancing gang members in WEST SIDE STORY was because there was still some romanticism in pop culture about gang life at that point. THE WARRIORS was, in the words of a friend who centered his whole recent birthday party on a theatrical screening of the film, “Walter Hill’s gay 1979 rollerskating disco street gang masterpiece.” It’s a film that is still great fun to watch, particularly with a crowd, and was made before gangsta culture was introduced, changing perceptions dramatically. Gangs today are synonymous with gun violence. Eliminating it from the film is one of those ideas that could only happen in a Hollywood office. It’s simply unthinkable.
Besides, didn’t Wesley Snipes just announce something that sounds like THE WARRIORS on motorcycles, but using the entire East Coast instead of just New York?
Ugh. Let’s move on. Quickly. And we’ll pretend no one ever brought this one up.
SAM RAIMI REMAKING GEORGE PAL?!
Here’s an exclusive for the “Remake THIS!” column, and it’s a fun one. James Jacks is producing a remake of Byron Haskin’s THE NAKED JUNGLE, a film that was produced by George Pal and starred Charlton Heston in a war with a hot redhead (Eleanor Parker) and a two-mile wide column of marching fire ants (the Marabunta). If you haven’t seen this film, it’s a real kick. Haskin was a special-effects guy on films like THE SEA WOLF, THE SEA HAWK, and the 1935 A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM before becoming a director. He’s known for genre entries like ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS and, of course, the George Pal production of WAR OF THE WORLDS.
According to Jim Jacks, he and Raimi are going to be working to set this film in the same time period (around 1901) and keeping the central plot device, in which Charlton Heston’s character sent off for a mail-order bride, only to end up with a widow (the smokin’ hot Parker) who he immediately clashes with. When the giant column of fire ants threatens his plantation, they end up fighting side by side, and falling in love. Raimi evidently wans to do this small. I’m not sure when he expects to do this, since it sounds like he’s going to dig into SPIDER-MAN 2 immediately.
It’s worth checking out the original now instead of waiting for the remake, which could be a while. I’m curious to see what Raimi would make of this material, since I think he’s reached a new level of control as a filmmaker in recent years. Besides... maybe it’ll be relevant when he makes it. I’m sitting here listening to NPR as I type, and they just teased “All Things Considered” with the headline “Giant column of ants on the march across Europe... next!” They’re talking about enormous colonies of Argentine ants, millions of billions of them comprising billions of colonies. And just typing that gives me the heebie-jeebies in a major way, so I’m moving on to the next story.
AMERICA INVADING KOREA!!
I haven’t seen IL MARE. I want to, though. Michael Fleming described the film as “a love story with a time twist. A woman moves out of her beach house and leaves a forwarding address, but when a man tries to correspond with her, it soon becomes clear that she lives in the year 2000, while he lives in 1998. And her correspondences to him might cause his demise.”
Okay. Sounds good. I’d like to see that film. I won’t, most likely, unless I’m lucky enough to score an import somehow, because it’s one of the many films that has been purchased by Vertigo Entertainment, a company that has a first-look deal at Dimension, even though they’ve been setting up projects everywhere. These guys had the admittedly brilliant idea of hooking up with foreign studios looking to make some money of their ancillary rights. In particular, the remake rights.
Roy Lee and Doug Davison have so far set up the remake of RING at Dreamworks that Gore Verbinski is directing, as well as SASSY GIRL (Dreamworks), MY WIFE IS A GANGSTER (Miramax) and DARK WATER (Pandemonium). They represent Korean films, Indonesian films, Hong Kong films, Japanese films. They sell off the remake rights, and they also make sure the distribution rights are tied up so the originals don’t come out in the U.S.
That’s the part that kills me. I don’t mind the remakes, I suppose, as long as I have a chance to see the film that inspired it. If it’s worth remaking, then why isn’t it worth watching? In Michael Fleming’s piece, Lee says “It’s great for Hollywood because U.S. audiences haven’t seen the films.” That’s a brutal statement. On the one hand, he’s making these studios rich, but on the other hand, what are they really? Farm league teams for ideas? Is Hollywood essentially creating an idea sweatshop overseas, where dozens and dozens of movies are cranked out, and then stripmined by Hollywood without ever really recognizing the work of the artists involved?
They’re questions worth asking considering Lee ends the article by saying, "I am getting hundreds of films now, and am taking one to market every two weeks. I have sold every one of them."
At least I know I’ll have material for the column, eh?
And speaking of RING... check this out. Several of you sent me e-mails steering me to The Official Dreamworks Site, where there’s a hidden FLASH teaser trailer for Gore Verbinski’s upcoming remaking of RING, the cult horror film that has been such a hot import for the last few years. It’s just a little tease, but it’s fun.
HOMINA, HOMINA, HOMINA!! GANDOLFINI DOES THE GREAT ONE?!?
Michael Fleming was a busy boy last week. He also scooped the story about James Gandolfini wanting to play Ralph Kramden in a bigscreen remake of THE HONEYMOONERS.
I pray someone talks him out of it.
Danny Jacobson, who was the creator of MAD ABOUT YOU, is the one shepherding the project at Paramount right now, and Gandolfini evidently approached them about it.
No doubt, Gandolfini is a fan of Jackie Gleason’s. I understand. So am I. And THE HONEYMOONERS is a comedy classic for a reason. The interplay between the performers was perfect. One of those accidents of chemistry. Art Carney was the perfect foil for Gleason, and Audrey Meadows played him like a violin. You look at the shows now, they’re technically crude at best. They are the epitome of early television. Yet they remain the power to engage and entertain based on the strength of the performance work. It’s as iconic as TV gets.
And Gandolfini doesn’t stand a chance. He’s becoming a TV icon in his own right as Tony Soprano, and no matter what, audiences are going to walk into this movie with duelling baggage if Gandolfini plays the part. Half of them will be thinking about Gleason, and half of them will be thinking about Tony.
He’s a great actor, and I know he’s got great films in him. I can’t say I believe THE HONEYMOONERS would be one of them.
WHO KNEW LEATHERFACE WAS SO PRETTY!?
I don’t know any way to be clever about this.
RYAN PHILLIPPE is LEATHERFACE?!?
Please. Why do you do this to us? Why do you torture fans of films like TEXAS CHAINSAW? I love the original. It gives me hives to think of you remaking it. But... Ryan Phillippe... as LEATHERFACE?!??!
ARE YOU INSANE?!?!?!
What kind of... no... wait. I can’t do it. I can’t work up the rant. It just doesn’t make sense. You’re going to cast him. You’ve got this version already figured out. There’s no way this is going to be anything but a train wreck. I’m just going to set up my lawn chair here by the train tracks and turn on the radio and sit back with a cold drink to watch the wreck when it happens. And may the Film Gods have mercy on your souls.
So that’s it for this week. I’ll stop the horror here for now. I get woozy as I put this column together. It’s inevitable that some of these may actually turn out to be inspired... the great part about movies is that surprise and unpredictable magic of a film that works... but for the most part, I find it both hysterically funny and wrenchingly sad to see most of these projects mentioned. Ryan Phillippe is Leatherface?! ALFIE needs to be remade?! THE WARRIORS can’t have guns?!!
*sigh* The inmates are running the asylum, and it’s business as fucking usual.