Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
Other things have managed to bump REMAKE THIS! from the rotation these last few weeks, but I felt like we needed to do one because of some of the specific stories floating around this week, and because I got a chance to peek at Adam Sandler’s MR. DEEDS on Tuesday night.
I want to remind you that this column isn’t just about bashing upcoming projects. What’s the point in that? Instead, it’s to explore the staggering number of remakes that are being produced these days and examine what has a chance of working and what seems ill-conceived from the start. There’s gold out there... I’m convinced of it... but you have to go looking for it.
And on that note, pick up that pickaxe and follow me. We’ve got some digging to do...
MICHAEL BAY SCARES ME... AND HE WANTS TO SCARE YOU, TOO!!
First up is word of Michael Bay becoming involved with a small, independent horror film and remaking it on a bigger budget. And, no, I’m not talking about ‘SAW. We’ll get to that in a moment.
Instead, it’s a poltergeist film from Indonesia called JELANGKUNG that’s got him going right now. I’ll let one of our readers explain further:
A few weeks ago, I got word of a new Michael Bay project based on an Indonesian film that was recently released. I had hoped to get more info of your site, but it seemed that this project was never mentioned before.
A few months ago, 2 Indonesian music video directors Jose Poernomo and Rizal Mantovani created their first movie, JELANGKUNG (POLTERGEIST), filmed on digital camera. It’s pretty fuzzy, following the horror hype created by Blair Witch. Based around a gang of ghost investigators, the film was praised by fans for its authentic horror and unofficially hyped up by supposed 'cameos' by real ghosts & poltergeists.
The film was a HUGE success, overtaking TITANIC's release locally. It stayed at the cinemas for a very long time. This is rather unusual for a country which tends to get bored really quickly and strives to get the latest of everything.
Now, Michael Bay was interested in re-making JELANGKUNG, as were MIRAMAX/DIMENSION. A deal was made for the directors to make a movie for Michael Bay and one for Miramax. Michael Bay also asked them to look into some CG work for their original film.
In my opinion, this sounds a lot like a copy of the idea to bring RING into US audiences. Studios probably found JELANGKUNG to be a pitch worth rivalling RING's release, but unlike RING, JELANGKUNG's US version will be helmed by the original directors.
Just call me Anditte
Any other readers had a look at JELANGKUNG in the theaters? If so, let me know, and I’ll run your reviews for the original in the next REMAKE THIS! column. I’ll also be looking into this further, to find out what it is that Michael Bay has planned.
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE MASSACRE CONTINUES!!
I’m not stuttering. That makes sense. Especially the more I hear about this thing.
First of all, I’m going to slap the stupid out of some motherfucker. I’m just not sure who yet.
There’s a paragraph in there that literally makes me cross-eyed with anger. It’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard in a long line of stupid things as I’ve been here at AICN. It is arrogant and ignorant and completely contemptuous of a filmmaker and an audience. See if you can pick it out.
”The original 1974 "Massacre" is about five young adults touring rural Texas who are slowly whittled away by the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface. The updated version is expected to be less gory than the original, focusing more on the thriller aspects of the story.”
Josh Spector wrote the story for VARIETY. I’m going to give Josh the benefit of the doubt and assume that he’s not the person who needs to be roughed up. This particular bit of language has shown up several times now in articles about this proposed remake, suggesting that it’s coming straight out of a press release that is being sent to various outlets. I wish I knew for sure, though. I wish I knew who the chimpanzee is who wrote the phrase.
”The updated version is expected to be less gory than the original...”
Less gory. They’re saying that they’re going to have less gore than Tobe Hooper’s truly groundbreaking horror classic. Because, as anyone who is familiar with that film can attest, it’s nothing but blood and gore and red meat from end to end, right?
What’s that? There’s essentially no gore in the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE? Oh, really? Well, that would mean that the soft-skulled pinhead who has decided to emphasize that the new version will be “less gory” has possibly never seen the original. And that would just be crazy, right? I mean, someone involved with the remake having no idea why the original is great... that would be IMPOSSIBLE!! RIGHT?!
I have to go sit down for a moment. I want to hand the floor over to Vern, one of the web’s best writers about all things film-related. Make sure to check out THEN FUCK YOU, JACK, his amazing website. He sent me a letter when this story first broke that is worth sharing:
I know it is hard to accept but Michael Bay really is producing a remake of one of the greatest american independent films ever made, THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. I know you boys have met this man so maybe you can confirm that he really is one of those lizard people from the tv show 'V' like I suspect. I saw him on the MTV movie awards where he dedicated his award to the 3,000 people who died at Pearl Harbor.
That's right, he dedicated his MTV MOVIE AWARD, the one that he got for BEST ACTION SEQUENCE, an action sequence that was making good summertime fun out of THEIR DEATHS. I'm sure it was a great honor. And then he peeled off his mask and ate a spider or a mouse or whatever those V guys ate.
Yep, that's the inhuman lizard man producing a remake of one of my favorite movies. Thanks.
Anyway, below is an article from the Hollywood Reporter, in case you missed it. In the article we learn:
1. that Michael Bay plans for the movie to be "hip."
2. that they still think the movie will have less gore than the original, which of course has almost no gore.
3. that it will be directed by Marcus Nispel, the auteur behind such films as "Terence Trent D'Arby" and "UPS" and "C&C Music Factory" and of course those JC Penney commercials we all probaly saw. They were probaly very adequately done I bet. (see www.marcusnispel.com for a complete resume)
Harry, I know that this is not something that can be stopped. Elections will be stolen, governments will be run by oil executives, and Michael Bay will get two criterion editions and then take an option out on our souls. These things cannot be stopped unless the people rise up against it, and frankly, the people don't give a fuck because there's a whole new crop of reality television shows popping up. But for those of us who do care, where is the outrage? Must we go out in silence?
I refuse to. Let me be the first to say that Michael Bay, you bitch hog, you ruined my Sonny Bono wig.
Well said. Well said.
GUESS WHO’S REMAKING A “CLASSIC”!!
I got a lot of e-mail this week with people flipping out about the idea of Bernie Mac starring in a remake of Stanley Kramer’s GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER. People seemed outraged and kept moaning about them remaking this “classic.”
Here’s the thing... when was the last time you watched GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER?
Because it may not be popular to say this, but this is how I honestly feel: I don’t think it’s a particularly good movie to start with, and I think Bernie Mac might just be able to do something great with it.
I can already see the flood of e-mail from people pointing out to me that the film was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, and that it won two. They will bellow that the awards are PROOF... INCONTROVERTIBLE PROOF... that the film is a work of art, a classic, and that I am out of my mind. It’s certainly a sacred cow, one of those films that is reflexively given a free pass. But before you scream at me, ask yourself this: how many times have you see a film win Best Picture and thought to yourself, “Oh, bullshit.” I think it’s dated horribly, though, and there’s a preachy self-righteous smugness to a lot of the humor that rubs me the wrong way. It’s “message” filmmaking with a capital “M”. I think Stanley Kramer was a filmmaker of decidedly mixed gifts, and he was capable of profoundly painful moments. When I recently watched this film again, I found it false from start to finish.
An update with Mac could essentially be played as MEET THE PARENTS with a slightly more complex spin. The joy of PARENTS was watching the King Of Squirm (Ben Stiller) wither under the focus of the King of Glare (Robert De Niro). With the right person cast opposite Mac, this could be a source of nearly endless amusement. I think Mac’s show for Fox this season was surprisingly strong, with a sense of humor that had some real edge and recalled the best seasons of THE COSBY SHOW. And Mac’s getting a lot of camera time right now as he gears up for BAD SANTA, HEAD OF STATE (a movie at DreamWorks that is being directed by Chris Rock), and CHARLIE’S ANGELS 2. By the time he gets around to doing this, he should be ready to rip.
I would beg the producers of this new version to find a comic writer with a bite, someone who is going to write you a script that will snare you a great co-lead for Mac, a script that is smart about race and family. If John Ridley (UNDERCOVER BROTHER, THREE KINGS) is available, make him your first stop when shopping. His recent work as a novelist proves he’s got real depth as a writer, and he’s due for a monster hit. At some point, his sensibilities are going to strike lightning, and someone’s going to make a mountain of money off of him. A smart, topical, full-tilt remake of this film could be that right place, right time.
LET’S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN! AGAIN!!
”I’m on a ROCKY HORROR mailing list, and I just got some crazy shit in my mail! Check this crazy shit out!”
That was just one of the letters from fans of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. Sal Piro, the world’s biggest fan, got ‘em all stirred up with a release that came as a bit of a surprise to everyone, I think:
“Dear ROCKY HORROR fans and friends...
The RHPS Fan Club has a big scoop for all its devoted followers. In Celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the birth of "Rocky" (when Richard was writing the original play)...Lou Adler and Twentieth Century Fox will shortly announce a huge broadcast television event for February 2003....
A remake of the Rocky Horror Picture show with an all-new celebrity cast.
What makes this more exciting is that the director of this project will be Stephen Elliot who directed the much beloved "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" and the cult classic "Welcome to Woop-Woop"".
Casting will be going underway soon and we will keep you informed of all updates.
Keep Time Warping...
So Fox Television is doing a TV remake of ROCKY HORROR? That makes sense, actually, considering the recent success of the various revivals of the stage production here in LA and in New York. It was hip to go see the various casts, and I’m sure they’ll pick and choose from the various productions as well as giving some new actors a chance to play a favorite character. I think a lot of actors in their 30s now spent some time performing at various midnight shows around the country, getting their fix in front of a crowd with the film playing behind them. A chance to be in a new ROCKY HORROR film and really make the various roles theirs might bring out some interesting closet fans with some clout. Stephen Elliott should have a blast casting this thing, and we’ll keep our ear out for more news as it breaks...
SOME LIKE IT OLD!!
I am confused. I don’t know if I desperately want to see this or if I think it’s a terrible idea.
Seeing Tony Curtis live in SOME LIKE IT HOT has a certain undeniable appeal when you first hear it. SOME LIKE IT HOT is one of the greatest American comedies, an enormously funny and progressive and adult film with a cast turning in career-best performances left and right.
And that’s why I hesitate. Part of SOME LIKE IT HOT was Curtis, no doubt, and a big part is the gaspingly funny screenplay by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, but Lemmon and Monroe and Joe E. Brown and George Raft and the kick-ass black and white work of cinematographer Charles Lang. And without them, can it even begin to compare?
If any readers attend a performance of this, write in for this column and let us know how it is. I’m genuinely curious if this production manages to harness any of the magic of the still-remarkable original.
I THINK YOU UNDERESTIMATE THE SNEAKY!!
So I went to the new Adam Sandler film.
Based on your reaction to that sentence, you already know if you should spend the $9 to see it. If you groaned and rolled your eyes, there is nothing on display in this film that will convert you in any way, shape, form, or fashion. This is a standard issue vehicle, a thinly-written update of the Gary Cooper/Jean Arthur film. The original was a pretty slick and effective Frank Capra picture with a sweet natured script by Robert Riskin, who also wrote IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT and MEET JOHN DOE, among others. If the idea of Sandler and long-time crony Tim Herlihy and more-recent crony Steve Brill daring to update Capra and Riskin offends you, then don’t go. Seriously. You’re not going to walk out converted, convinced, won over. It’s not that good a movie.
On the other hand, if you like Sandler and you have seen all his films (including LITTLE NICKY) and you believe that he’s got an amiable goofball charm, and you find something to like in all of his films so far, then by all means, go see MR. DEEDS, because it’s pretty funny. Sandler is playing himself here, and Herlihy and Brill have reimagined Mandrake Falls, Deeds’s home town, as a place where everyone is just like Sandler. This is a town of complete innocents, like the world of PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE. It’s a cartoon. It’s not brilliant stuff, but it is a pretty enjoyable setup. Fish out of water movies work best if you see how truly at home the fish is in the water to begin with. Deeds is beloved in Mandrake Falls, the center of his community. When his uncle (played briefly by Harve Presnell) dies, Deeds suddenly inherits $40 billion, and goes to the city to sort things out.
And, yeah... as usual... there’s hilarity... and it ensues.
Steve Brill’s direction makes me long for the polished professionalism of Dennis Dugan... and THERE’S a sentence I never thought I’d type. What Brill lacks in visual accumen, though, he makes up for in the way he gives Sandler and his supporting cast room to play around. John Turturro is a shameless scene-stealer, and he makes the most of every second of screen time that he has as Emilio, Deeds’s “berry berry sneeeeky” butler in the apartment he inherits from Uncle Preston. Allen Covert plays Marty, a douchebag tabolid reporter who works to humiliate Deeds and who harbors a crush on Babe Bennett (Winona Ryder). Babe has also been sicced on Deeds, and she sets up a “chance meeting” with him. He falls for her, hard, and she sets him up, videotaping him, and her show begins to rip him apart on a daily basis. He has no clue she’s involved, and he really pours on the romance. This is Sandler in WEDDING SINGER mode, and a big part of you liking DEEDS is going to depend on you liking WEDDING SINGER.
There’s plenty of typical Sandler weirdness, with Steve Buscemi doing disturbing work as a Mandrake Falls local aptly called Crazy-Eyes. A sequence involving a fire, some cats, and a trampoline is as silly as Steve Martin circa THE JERK. Most of the film is spent painting Deeds as the nicest guy on Earth, though, and that ends up robbing the film of even cursory tension. Of course Deeds is going to triumph. He’s never even remotely challenged in this film. He should have a lightbulb behind his head in every shot, like in old Jesus movies, symbolizing how pure and perfect he is. I wish Deeds was a little bit more of a thug on occasion, since the moments where he erupts into comic violence are some of my favorite. Gary Cooper was a nice guy, and nobody did decent better. Watching Sandler do this is, ultimately, a little bit dull. Don’t get me wrong. I laughed. There’s no more direct review of a comedy than that. I’m not hyperbolizing. My sides didn’t hurt. I didn’t have tears streaming down my face. I laughed at a lot of this film, and what didn’t work for me didn’t bother me. More than anything, watching this made me impatient to see PUNCHDRUNK LOVE later this year, since a stretch will do Sandler a world of good as a performer. No matter what, it should be fascinating to see.