Monday, September 24, 2007


If you like "The Office" and haven't seen the BBC version with Ricky Gervais you really should check it out. But more than that you should definitely watch "Extras", another show by Ricky Gervais. I think it's much funnier than "The Office." Here is the funniest part of Season 1 (in my humble opinion), with Kate Winslet (one of my favorite actresses).

Saturday, September 1, 2007

My Two Cents #1

Movie Remakes

Hi folks. Sorry I have been absent so long. To briefly explain (although I’m not trying to come up with excuses), classes started two weeks ago, I’ve been working at the theatre and I’ve also gotten three freelance gigs in the last couple weeks that are due very soon (I promise to tell you about these in an upcoming blog). But I’ve been thinking that in addition to regaling about my boring daily life, I’d like to write a column each week or so (more often if the thoughts come to me) about things that I’m thinking.

Well, this first column comes as the result of something I heard a customer say at the theatre a week or so ago.

I was working at the podium one evening, tearing tickets and telling folks in which theatre their movies were playing. On the wall next to where we stand the podium, we keep posters of movies that are opening soon. About two weeks earlier, the poster for Rob Zombie’s version of the John Carpenter classic “Halloween” was hanging there. By the way, the poster is really cool. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

As a few movie-goers walked by (probably in their early to mid-20s), one of them looked at the poster, said, “They’re remaking ‘Halloween?”, made a sound of disgust and said, “Oh my God. I can’t believe that. Rob Zombie is going to ruin that movie.”

Let me say that it bothers me when someone makes such a statement knowing nothing about what he/she is commenting on. This particular guy obviously didn’t know that Zombie was making this movie, so he has absolutely no knowledge of it at all. It’s possible that he has seen Zombie’s first two directorial efforts, “House of 1,000 Corpses” and “The Devil’s Rejects,” and then made an assumption based on those two movies. Now, I can’t say much about that because I haven’t seen those two films. However, despite some negative reviews I’ve heard and read about them, I am reserving judgment on this new film.

If this young man was making an assumption based on previous experience, then I have to take issue with that. If, however, he was making an assumption on the fact that he doesn’t like remakes of movies, then I might be willing to cut him some slack. But to say that someone is going to ruin a movie without knowing anything about it is absurd.

“Halloween” is my all-time favorite horror movie. For my money, nothing is scarier than Michael Myers. He’s real. He’s not some character who comes to kill you in your dreams Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket, he’s not someone who returns from the dead to avenge his mother who died trying to avenge his death Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket, he isn’t an alien, he isn’t the undead. He’s a real guy who, for some reason, cracked when he was a kid and killed his sister. He then learns he has another sister and decides he must kill her, too. He doesn’t have special powers, he isn’t a ghost, he doesn’t come back from the dead to keep killing.

Okay, for those of you who haven’t seen the film this next bit of information will be a slight spoiler, so skip to the next paragraph if you like… If you have seen the film, you might be saying that he did come back from the dead because he was shot at the end, disappears and then returns later that night in “Halloween 2.” Well, I argue that he wasn’t fatally shot. I say that Dr. Loomis is just a bad shot. He’s a doctor for goodness sake, not a cop. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket And when Laurie stabbed him earlier in the evening in the neck with a big sewing needle, it, too, was not a fatal blow. He’s psycho, you see, and is on a mission to get rid of his sister. Nothing short of a deathblow would stop him.

So, my contention is that he is a wonderful horror movie villain, much like Batman is a great comic book hero. He, too, is real. No super powers. Just a man on a mission. By the way, my affection for Batman might be the subject of a future column.

Back to my point: “Halloween” is my all-time favorite horror film. I was fortunate enough to finally get to see it last Halloween on the big screen at Regal Cinemas. It was at that screening that I learned about the new Zombie version. From what they said during interviews with Zombie and others involved, it looked intriguing, and the premise very interesting. In John Carpenter’s version, we see Michael kill his sister when he was a child. There is a brief visit with him by Dr. Loomis, and then the film goes into “The Night He Came Home.”

The Zombie-ized version is supposed to take a closer look at Michael’s childhood, try to discern what made him the way he is, something Carpenter never really delved into. My hope is that Zombie will take us into the mind of the monster. I want to know what makes Michael tick. And from what has said, I can’t wait.

In the Summer 2007 issue of “MovieMaker” magazine Zombie said:

“A little over a year ago someone said, ‘Bob Weinstein would like to have a meeting with you about stuff.’ It was nothing specific, so I just went in and started talking to him. He kind of threw “Halloween” out there in a general sense to see if I was interested in any way. The Weinsteins wanted to do something but they didn’t know what-they didn’t know if they wanted to do another sequel or a prequel or God knows what.

“My initial thought was ‘No!’ I didn’t want to do it, so I just said, ‘Oh, well, I’ll think about it and get back to you guys.’ I went off and thought about it for a long time and as I thought about it more and more, I kind of came up with an angle that I thought would be fresh and worth doing.

“What was originally scary about Michael Myers seems like a cliché now, but at the time, the idea of a silent, unstoppable, faceless killer was terrifying. By now it’s beaten to death so much and copied and imitated and ripped off- even by itself. Seven sequels clearly diluted whatever power it had, so for me part of the challenge and fun was that Michael Myers as a character is one of the few really iconic horror characters that has come along in a long, long time. You can say ‘Frankenstein’ or ‘Michael Myers’ and people know then-they’re equally well-know—and that’s what was attractive to me. I could dust him off and find a new angle that would make him scary again.

“I think that [in the last ‘Halloween’ films] Michael Myers was just played by a stuntman who fit the suit. But I needed someone who could really act and bring something to it. I didn’t want to just do a bunch of gags with a guy in a suit falling off things, getting lit on fire and blowing up. This time, you really get inside the head of this guy. That’s what I find scary in real life and I tried to base my version on real-life scenarios. Picture anybody—picture Jeffrey Dahmer. If you just see a picture of the guy sitting there, you say, ‘Well, he’s not scary.’ Then you feed all the backstory into it and suddenly you see that kind of mild-mannered guy with glasses in a completely different light. Now he seems completely terrifying.

“In John’s movie, the origin of Michael Myers is very vague. They show him as a little kid for about five minutes and then you sort of hear a little bit of backstory that’s told to you by Dr. Loomis. But you don’t see any of it and you don’t experience any of it, so I started from the beginning. You can watch the first hour of my movie and if you didn’t know it was ‘Halloween,’ you wouldn’t know. It really delves deep into the whole creation of this monster before he becomes the icon everybody knows today.”

Now, I would not profess to be a fan of remakes. But then again, I can’t say that I would arbitrarily denounce them like the young man I mentioned earlier. Many, though, seem to feel very strongly when a film they love is being redone. I can say that I might be a little skeptical in those instances, as well. And was initially when I first heard about the “Halloween” revamp nearly a year ago. I love this film, and yes, a bad redo could lessen the luster of the film and the character, although the sequels have certainly messed with Michael’s luster more than I think this remake will. But I’m going to give it a chance. I like what I’ve read about it. I like what I’ve heard about it. I want to see it for myself. I think I will be pleasantly surprised.

Besides, John Carpenter himself has given his blessing to the film. According to an interview with Carpenter in the Summer 2007 issue of “MovieMaker” magazine, he was asked about giving his blessing.

“Sure, why not?” Carpenter said. “We talked about it. He told me what he had in mind, and I just said, ‘Make it your own film, man. Don’t worry about the original. Just do what you want to do.’ ” And that’s the thing, Zombie is making it his own. He isn’t making a 2007 version of a John Carpenter film.

Yet, rest assured, if I even felt remotely like that young man from earlier and I thought it would mess with the mystique of such a great, almost perfect film, I just wouldn’t watch it. I wouldn’t take the chance of it ruining things for me, I wouldn’t take the chance of thinking less of it. And I certainly wouldn’t arbitrarily claim in a movie theatre full of people without having any knowledge of what I was talking about that the movie would be bad.

Can you tell that bothers me???

Okay, that’s what I was thinking that night. And the more I thought about it, the more I was thinking about remakes in general. Are they good? Are they bad? What’s the point?

I think it’s apparent that I am open to the idea of a remake. However, I certainly don’t think they will always turn out well.
Truth be told, I don’t know that I actually have seen a lot of remakes. But the following discussion will be based on ones that I have seen (for the most part anyway).

Let’s start with something not so good – “The Omen.” The 2006 version starred Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles. Now, that’s not why I didn’t like the film. Julia Stiles in one of my favorites. Her turn in “10 Things I Hate About You” is one of her better performances (please don’t hold that against me). (Insert image from that movie here). I also like Liev, who was pretty good in the “Scream” films, and I enjoyed his performance in “Kate and Leopold.” What bothered me about the film is that it seemed to me that the studio was looking for something to coincide with a particular date. See, this film was released on 6/6/06. Get it? 666? Which is the whole point of the film. A child is born with the mark of the Devil on his scalp. But beyond that, there was nothing new. It simply rehashed the original film. Watching it, it seemed like I had seen it before. Oh, wait! I had, back in the 70s when it first came out. It added nothing to the story and wasn’t even nearly as good. It simply had two current actors in present day trying to get the current generation to see it. Why not just re-release the original? It’s a better film.

What about “Psycho”? Anne Heche and Vince Vaughn? Are you kidding me? What the hell is the point of remaking a classic? No point whatsoever. Like I said, it’s a classic. Anthony Perkins is Norman Bates. That’s it. That’s where it should end. It’s Hitchcock for God’s sake. Of the Hitchcock films I have seen, I can’t imagine any of them needing remakes. People, just go out and rent his films. Believe me, you won’t be disappointed. What is interesting about Hitchcock is that he actually remade himself. He first made “The Man Who Knew Too Much” during his days in Great Britain, but then after coming to the States to make films, he eventually remade that film. I have not seen either version, so I can’t comment on them, but I’d have to guess that if someone remakes his own film it would be for the better.

Another Hitchcock film I haven’t seen the remake of is “Rear Window.” At some point, I’m guessing after his accident, Christopher Reeve starred in a remake. Honestly, I only discovered this film this year and didn’t know until after the fact that there actually was a remake. And after seeing the original with James Stewart and Grace Kelly (see previous post about the greatest movie entrance I’ve ever seen), I see no reason to see, much less film, a remake.

Now, I saw a take off of the “Rear Window” story earlier this year, and would recommend it to anyone. This film, “Disturbia,” starred Shia LeBeouf, who is definitely one of today’s more talented young actors. Actually, he is who I want to play the part of Dean in my movie, "To Dream of Life." If you haven’t seen Shia, go check him out. And I don’t mean go see “Transformers.” That movie was fun, but certainly didn’t highlight Shia’s skills. See “Disturbia,” “The Battle of Shaker Heights and “A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints.” For that matter, check him out in "Bobby" as well.

Okay, I got off topic a little bit. Sorry.

Remakes, I think, can be enjoyable films. I enjoyed the Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch version of “The Italian Job” which was originally released in 1969, and I also liked “Ocean’s Eleven” which originally hit theatres in 1960. But I can’t make judgments there because I haven’t seen the originals. What I can say, is that the remakes were fun. Whether they were necessary, I don’t know. Had I known they were remakes I might have sought out the originals first. And still may. When I do, I might just change my mind as to how much I liked the new versions.

A good remake? “Stephen King’s The Shining.” I know, I know. You probably disagree. Jack Nicholson was so, SO amazing in the Stanley Kubrick classic. I can’t argue with that. But they changed the story too much. See, here’s where fanboys and fangirls get upset when a book they loved is adapted for the big screen and doesn’t follow the same story. The big difference with the Kubrick version and the book was the ending. That was upsetting. The hedge maze was scary, and Nicholson succumbing to the cold seems a great way for him to meet his end. However, the book’s topiary garden coming to life and the actually ending was, to me, much better. Therefore, I enjoyed the TV miniseries better than the Kubrick version. However, I think they miscast with the kid in the TV version. He wasn’t very good. But at least they stuck to the story. Oh, and the original version, I once read that Stephen King didn't care for it because watching Nicholson made you think the main character was crazy even before he got to the hotel.

They also remade Salem’s Lot.” It was originally a TV miniseries with David Soul, which was very good. I really dug it because I loved that the main vampire resembled the Dracula-like being in “Nosferatu.” Very scary. But I wasn’t a Stephen King reader when I saw the original, which appeared in 1979. It was then remade in 2004 with Rob Lowe. I haven’t seen it, but want to very much.

See, I open to remakes.

I would even like to see some movies remade. I would like to see a remake of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I can hear you all screaming right now. Okay, okay. Are you done cursing me yet? Please let me explain.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is another movie that I just discovered this year. I know, I know. I’m 36. I love movies. I should have seen it already. It’s been on TV every year since creation it seems. But yes, I just watched it for the first time this year. And I liked it. I thought it was a good movie, shot very well. It definitely looked good. I especially liked the part where camera views the starry sky and as the angels are talking, different stars are lighting up. Very nice touch. But I didn’t fully like the story. I thought it focused too much on George’s life and the impact he had, and then in 15 minutes we see how the town and world was different without him there. That little bit of time just wasn’t enough for me to see the negative impact of George not being alive. I’d like to see a remake that focused more on that part of the story. I think this could make a great two-night, four-hour mini-series that airs on Christmas Eve. Holy crap!!! Maybe I should write that. Hmmmmmm…

But do you see what I’m getting at? If there is a reason for a remake, then it can be worthwhile.

What have you seen remade that you have or haven’t liked?