All posts tagged remake

IT Breaks the Remake Curse

Published September 12, 2017 by vfdpixie

It (2017, 2 hrs 15 mins)

We all know by now that Stephen King is one of the most prolific horror writers of the 21st century. Along with his incredible library of terrors comes film adaptions. Some are classics like Christine, The Dead Zone, Carrie and The Shining, and some were not so great like Sleepwalkers (although a cat does save the day), Dreamcatcher, and Secret Window. Being a fan since my teens, I’ve read a lot of his books and watched the good and bad films. One of my favourites has to be It. This chilling book told the tale of a clown that terrorized a small town in Maine and its children every 27 years. When the TV mini-series adaptation was aired in 1990, I was there with bells on and loved it. Fast forward to this summer where Andy Muschietti, director of Mama, took the helm to create a modern take on the demonic clown. I was a little skeptical since I had mixed feelings about Mama, but this director has an aesthetic that I like, so I was willing to give it a go. I’m pleased to say that he has done a more than successful job in modernizing the mini-series into a fast-paced horror movie, destined to create new fans and please the old ones of Stephen King’s work.

The town of Derry is seemingly peaceful and a great place to raise a family, but there is a darkness that dwells there. Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott), Bill Denbrough’s (Jaden Lieberher) brother has gone missing after being lured into a sewer by a menacing clown. Given up for dead, the town puts a curfew in place to save other children from going missing as they try to figure out what happened, but 7 young misfits know better. They have all been tormented by the clown in their waking life, being lured and taunted by him; becoming his inevitable prey as he feeds off their fears. When they realized they’ve all encountered this clown known as Pennywise, they band together to defeat this evil entity.

From L to R: Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), Stanley (Wyatt Oleff), Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Mike (Chosen Jacobs), Bill (Jaden Lieberher), Beverly (Sophia Lillis), and Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor). Photo credit: IMDb

King has a way of conveying an incredible sense of nostalgia with his books, and luckily films like Stand by Me and The Green Mile were in the hands of competent directors who created visual testaments to King’s skill. The 1990 version of It directed by Tommy Lee Wallace works well too, tapping into the schoolyard fears of being bullied and not having the idyllic childhood that so many strive for. I also enjoyed the introduction of characters as adults and their encounters with the dreaded Pennywise in flashbacks. In the 2017 version, we get only the childhood battle with the demon clown, but here instead of a timeline from the late 1950s to the mid 1980s-early 90s, the kids are based in the 80s.

Everything 80s is new again, from the hit Netflix series Stranger Things to popular bands touring for their now adult fans. The writing team of Cary Fukunaga (director of HBO’s True Detective), Gary Dauberman (writer of both Annabelle films), and Chase Palmer were extremely smart about the setting of the remake. Instead of regurgitating the same timelines from the original and making a static revamp mired in a world that is further removed from our generation, they made the timeline dynamic because it holds so much meaning to many of us that grew up in that era, tapping into a visceral feeling of that same nostalgia King is so brilliant at. It translates really well, especially with the music choices, and we all relate to the kids in the film because it felt like we were all there. They also took great pains to encapsulate the episodic TV representation, streamlining action and changing some moments to make things fresh while still capturing the same feel of childhood uncertainty that comes with being a preteen.

Pennywise has become iconic because of Tim Curry’s terrifying portrayal. Everyone remembers the scary clown’s grimacing mouth filled to the brim with razor-sharp teeth. Those are large clown shoes to fill, but Bill Skarsgard did a fantastic job channeling the essence of the evil Pennywise and at the same time making it his own. His handsome young face is unrecognizable under the clown makeup and prosthetics; his voice is eerily childlike, cartoonish and menacing all at once. The ensemble cast that makes up this modern “Loser’s Club” was engaging, sharp and had the best chemistry. Finn Wolfhard embodied the cut-up Richie with a wit that made me forget he’s the kid from Stranger Things. Lieberher and Chosen Jacobs both worked well as Bill and Mike respectively; embracing the sensitivity of the two characters, and Jeremy Ray Taylor will break your heart as the awkward and love-struck Ben. Last but not least, Sophia Lillis was tomboyish and feminine with a wonderful strength that updated the original interpretation of Beverly.

Oh that Pennywise! (Bill Skarsgard)

My only criticism is that Beverly ends up being the damsel in distress that the boys must save after we see her come through as a fighter and survivor of abuse, as well as the unifying, peace-keeping member of the group. It’s contradictory, but in the book, it’s worse when she offers herself up to the boys in a weird sexual bonding scene to unite the group. Other than her needing to be rescued, the new Beverly stands up for herself making this portrayal the lesser of two evils.

If you’re looking for a relevant walk down memory lane, It is a must-see. With the film’s current box office take of 123 million dollars, and a sequel focusing on the kids as adults back to battle Pennywise in the works, horror has clearly made its place in the theatres. I keep saying (and will continue to say) movie-goers are hungry for content, and even though this is a remake of a classic, it’s well done and worth the cost of a movie ticket.


Giant Lizard Love: Godzilla 2014

Published May 19, 2014 by vfdpixie


Godzilla (2014, 2 hrs  3 mins)

As a kid, I was a diehard fan of that giant, nubbly-hided, spiny lizard, the one with the pseudo-elephant roar, yes, Godzilla.  Saturdays were made better if I found a channel with a grainy old school Godzilla movie, forfeiting any outdoor adventures for an hour or two.  Because of the nostalgia and all the remake frenzy going on these days, I have become somewhat immovable in my stance of the loveable, kitschy icon with the bouncy stomping action.  Godzilla of the 50’s to the 80’s was all I knew and that was fine with me.  When the 1998 version came out, I didn’t bother seeing it since the reviews skewered it.  I happened to catch it on T.V. one day, and agreed.  It was not the best representation of Godzilla, and I smugly held my stance.

After seeing a trailer for the 2014 version a few months ago, I was dubious.  There seemed to be a touch of cheese to the melodrama unfolding, making both my sister and I giggle.  I wasn’t sure if I would see it because I thought they would screw it up again.  Well, I am happy to say that I was wrong.  Gareth Edwards, who directed the intriguing indie film Monsters, manages to encapsulate all the important elements of an old-fashioned Godzilla movie and make the story current, relevant and bloody entertaining!

In 1991, scientists at an enormous excavation find gigantic fossils and some weird activity.  Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) is physicist working at a nuclear plant in a city just outside of Tokyo, Japan.  He finds some unusual seismic activity and insists that it is not an earthquake.  His wife, Sandra (Juliette Binoche), works there as well, and perishes during a seismic event and subsequent nuclear disaster that leaves Joe to raise their son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) on his own.  Ford grows up to be a soldier and somewhat estranged from his father, who is bent on finding out the source of the disaster that ruined his family.  When Ford goes to Japan to bail his father out for trespassing in their quarantined hometown, Joe reveals to him that there is something going on, something that will put a lot of lives in danger.  Add some officials that aren’t telling the whole truth, some radioactive hungry monsters and epic disaster scenes, and you have yourself a sensational monster movie.

I loved this movie!  Edwards added the classic elements from all the Godzilla films such as the cute little Japanese boy with a baseball cap rescued from peril, a tsunami, countless destroyed buildings, and the feverish workings of scientists and the military, to continue the legend and mythology.  The story stayed true to the veiled environmental and political commentaries of past Godzilla movies, without any distracting subplots.  Some of the details were well thought out too, like the opening credits, which showed clever vintage footage of military nuclear “testing” and grainy, Loch Ness type reels, as well as the redacted credits themselves.  I admit, I wasn’t there for the acting, but Cranston was solid as the obsessed grieving father and husband, and Johnson was nice to look at.  I was there for the monsters, and I wasn’t disappointed.  The monster fights were spectacular, bringing this pixie more massive creatures than I could ever dream of.  The scoring was also key for me.  It was overwhelming, ominous and grandiose, giving you the gut wrenching feeling of being tiny and helpless, which is more than fitting for the subject matter.

And I must take a moment to comment on Godzilla and the beautiful creature design.  I read that Edwards wanted to pay homage and respect the “Gojira” designs from the past, and his design team did just that, gaining approval from the original Toho production company that was responsible for Godzilla’s movie fame.  The majestic 2014 Godzilla is awe-inspiring, terrifying and somehow elicits sympathy with its expressive face.  This incarnation is also the biggest in Godzilla’s history. From that fabulous roar to the blue fire spit balls, this lizard fits the bill of his past brethren. I found myself cheering for it in the theatre, even finding it kind of adorable at some points during the film.  I especially liked it when Godzilla stomped on things and we got a close up of the giant clawed foot.  I giggled as I remembered the old school, latex foot bouncing as it decimated miniature houses and cars.  I would also donate to Godzilla’s epic vet bills.  It would be worth it to me, just to see that gorgeous lizard face again.

My only critique, as a monster movie fiend, is that the M.U.T.O. monster villains looked a touch like the Cloverfield monster.  I wanted them to have a separate identity instead of an actual (probably not intended) reference.  Also, I saw the 3-D version which I normally wouldn’t do, but I wanted to go the V.I.P. theatre and that was the only option, so I have no idea if those effects were any good as I have an eye issue that prevents me from experiencing this particular effect.

There has been announcements that a Godzilla sequel is in the works, and I couldn’t be happier.  With Edwards at the helm, I have no doubt that he will respect the O.G. Godzilla legend, this “King of the Monsters”, and will hopefully bring on more daikaiju (I vouch for Gamera, Rodan or Mothra) and more epic battles.  Go see Godzilla if you want to see a legend respected and represented the way a remake should!

Robocop VS Robocop

Published February 22, 2014 by vfdpixie

robocop 2014

Robocop (2014, 1 hr 57 mins)

I find a lot of remakes, or the rumours of them, unsettling.  With the exception of a few, like We Are What We Are, Let The Right One In, and Tron, all of which kept the essence of the original films and were either visually appealing or well acted, I often wonder what the point is.  I see remakes as cash grabs for Hollywood executives wanting to capitalize on the new wave of movie-going youth who are always looking for bigger and better, or to bank on the English version of foreign films since, as rumour has it, they think the general public don’t like subtitles.  Meanwhile, the original films also make money due to curiosity and comparison, so I guess everyone is happy because money trumps an original idea any day.

I wanted to check out the new V.I.P. theatre that opened nearby, and the only film of interest was the Robocop remake.   After making the above comments, I have to say I actually liked the reboot.  I watched the original Robocop recently, and remembered why I loved it.  Director Paul Verhoeven found a good balance of action, camp and heart in the 1987 classic sci-fi action film that made Peter Weller a fan favourite.  Peppered with catch phrases like, “I’ll buy that for a dollar!”, “Your move, creep!”, and cheesy commercials for games like Nuke ‘Em, the original Robocop was an ’80’s tongue in cheek look at the near future that can’t be reproduced.  The focus on Officer Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen) as she tries to connect with her refurbished ex-partner Murphy, as well as his quest for retribution and justice for his assailants melded well with the corrupt bureaucracy of big business.

The 2014 version was a more straight-laced story.  This time, Officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) gets too close to a gun running operation with police ties.  He is blown up and left for dead by these criminals, and with the blessing of  his wife Clara (Abbie Cornish), is chosen as a guinea pig for a new prototype robot.  Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton), CEO of technology giant OmniCorp, is behind this initiative and bent on winning over the U.S. public by humanizing robots already in use for peace keeping efforts overseas.  When Murphy comes back as Robocop, he struggles with what he has become, the loss of his life as he knew it and his estrangement from his family.

This version is a sleeker, more emotional take on the original, and focuses on morality and Murphy’s struggle with his humanity.  The seamless special effects made up for the lack of campy goodness, and the cast made watching worthwhile.  Keaton really does a bad guy well.  His portrayal of Sellars illustrated the heartless side of progress, and Gary Oldman was great as Robocop’s creator, the conflicted Dr. Dennett Norton who battled with his duty and his conscience.  Michael K. Williams as Murphy’s partner Jack Lewis was also a great choice.  I love him as Chalky White in Boardwalk Empire, and he does a stand up job here too.  Joel Kinnaman was a decent leading man, exhibiting the right amount of weary cop on the beat and a machine with waning humanity.

The sleek glass settings of the offices, labs and landscape paid homage to the original film, while still giving us a believable vision of a near future.  I also liked the modern take on Robocop’s suit and the addition of his high-tech motorcycle.  The gun battles and training scenes were good, but reminded me of those shooter video games which lacked originality.  They also butchered the “I’ll buy that for a dollar!” line, and while the news show “The Novak Element” worked well for the story, I am a little over Samuel L. Jackson who played the show’s host, Pat Novak.  I will probably be hunted down for saying that, but so be it.  Don’t get me wrong, I like him, but try as he might, the old Tarantino tough guy trickles out here and there.  Too bad he was typecast so much.  The only time I thought he stepped out of the “tough guy” box was in Star Wars Episode III:  Revenge of the Sith, and Unbreakable.

To sum it up, both films do the dirty corporation story well.  Both do the tragic half-human half robot well.  Both have a great supporting cast, but the original resonates with a nostalgia that is hard to rival.   While I enjoyed Robocop 2014 and found it visually stylish and generally entertaining, it still bothers me that this remake trend hasn’t slowed down.  The only positive outcome of this is that perhaps the industry will pay attention to director José Padilha’s keen eye and finance one of his own projects.  Until then, I guess I just have to get with the times and embrace the newer, shinier versions of classic films, and forget about original movies and ideas from fresh new talent.

Rosemary’s Baby, Devil’s Due and the Favourite Child

Published January 23, 2014 by vfdpixie

rosemary's baby    devil's due

Rosemary’s Baby                                   Devil’s Due  

(1968, 2 hrs, 16 mins)                        (2014, 1 hr , 29 mins)

For my 100th post I wanted to write about my favourite movie.  A difficult choice, but it always comes back to Mia.  Rosemary’s Baby has always stayed close to my heart; it inspired the name for this blog, and it is chilling and comforting at the same time, fulfilling my ultimate horror need.  There is a mythology that comes with this classic film-from the original book by Ira Levin published in 1967, to the choice of director, to the actors; Mia’s infamous Vidal Sassoon haircut and finally the location that spins a near perfect tale.  The sets, the transformation of the characters, and the horror that builds from one scene to the next has yet to be duplicated.  There has been chatter of late on a new film about devil spawn, called Devil’s Due.  Many people see it fit compare the classic film to this new addition to the genre for obvious reasons, but it may not be as easy as pointing out the obvious.

No matter how many times I watch Rosemary’s Baby, I always get goose bumps at the ending.  Mia Farrow’s haunting vocals as the credits roll and the camera pans away from the iconic Dakota (starring as the Bramford in this film) always gets me.  After watching it for the umpteenth time, I have to correct myself. This film is not near perfect.  It is perfect.  From the first few minutes, there is a sense of gothic foreboding, even as Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse (Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes), the modern young couple in love, start their lives in a new apartment.  When Guy is offered success in exchange for Rosemary as the mother of Satan’s spawn, the temptation is too much for him to resist.  Most of us have seen the film and know what the outcome is, however, the plot is played out with such subtle horror that we can imagine this actually happening.  Key coven members Minnie and Roman Cassevets (played brilliantly by Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer) masquerading as nosy neighbours, coupled with Guy’s ruthless ambition and Rosemary’s vulnerability created a tale of supernatural conspiracy that grips you until the final frame.

In Devil’s Due, Zach (Zach Gilford) and Sam (Allison Miller) are happy newlyweds.  Zach has a persistent need to document every waking moment of their lives via video, giving us an intimate look at  their wedding, new life and unexpected baby news.  Yes, the happy couple is expecting.  Only problem is that baby is not Zach’s.  During a night out solicited by a suspiciously friendly taxi driver (Roger Payano) on their honeymoon, Sam blacks out and is taken to a subterranean ceremony where she has been impregnated by the Devil.  As we watch the couple prepare for the baby, we also see Sam change from a vibrant young woman to a sullen, short fused and voraciously hungry host to the demon seed.  They are also being watched by shadowy figures, and Zach begins to notice the change as well as weird things happening in the house.  Devil’s Due takes us on this couple’s journey to place where wedded bliss can’t rescue them.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this film.  While, I didn’t read reviews, I saw the occasional 2-5 star rating here and there, and the general consensus that it was a bad film.  I had no expectations, but the story held my attention.  I liked that it was shot from the husband’s point of view, and the paranoia came from him instead of what we typically (and unfortunately) expect from the female characters.  It was refreshing to see Sam’s character as the sinister one, succumbing to the evil she carried.  I really felt for Zach and his growing concern for his wife, mixed with happiness and fear over her condition.  It was an unknown that he tried to understand and support, with a supernatural complication that no father could expect.

One of the problems I had with the story was how they agreed to go along with the taxi driver, especially after a weird visit to the local psychic.  It’s just common sense to be aware that the locals may not have your best interests in mind.  And the dog.  Are we to assume that Maverick, their golden retriever, was at doggy daycare when the watchers tended to their business in Zach and Sam’s home?  Some pets will betray you by snuggling up to intruders, but I don’t recall seeing him when the watchers were mucking about the house.  I should also point out that if you get motion sickness, you may not want to sit through this film.  I found the shaky camera work to be distracting at first, but got used to it as I watched.  It also annoyed me that Zach brought the camera everywhere.  If he were my man, I would have dropped that camera in the toilet from the get-go.  Sorry, but I don’t like my daily life filmed, especially when I’m having a meltdown.

I did like how the other p.o.v. cameras were incorporated when Zach wasn’t around or behind his camera.  I was also pleased to see a diverse background cast!  From church parishioners to Zach and Sam’s neighbours, visible minorities were a part of everyday life without being forced.  And I loved the ending!  I won’t give it away, but as a perpetually (happy) single person, I kind of snickered because it sticks it to traditional values that I have been criticized or pitied for not adopting.

Character wise, even though Rosemary and Sam were the expectant mothers and their experiences were somewhat similar,  I thought Zach had more in common with Rosemary.  They both had good instincts.  They knew when something wasn’t right and stuck to their guns, even thought they cared about their spouses, and made sacrifices in order to work on the relationships.  The major difference with husbands Guy and Zach was that Guy knew what was happening and why as well as being totally self absorbed, while Zach was in the dark until the end like Rosemary.  I also felt that as a character, Sam got lost in the plot and became merely a device to present the demon birth.

It’s really interesting as I comment on the two films, how film has changed as a whole.  Rosemary’s Baby has such style, such ambiance.  It is said that Polanski wanted to make a classy horror film, and he succeeded.  His use of suggestion and intrigue created a monumental paranoia that is hard to duplicate and the performances of the veteran cast projected the story to cult status.  In contrast, Devil’s Due is a bare bones, sometimes sloppy, vision of the same subject, and although a seasoned horror fan may tire of the found footage genre, it seems appropriate for this age of reality based T.V., voyeurism and all its trappings.   The sloppiness kept the audience guessing even though the plot was fairly obvious.  Despite its appearance, it created a decent amount of dread and suspense and turned out to be a passable horror movie with a punch line ending.

In all truth, I don’t think it’s fair to compare these two films.  They convey a similar storyline, but that’s as far as it goes.  Devil’s Due is an entertaining film you should see on a Friday night; a film you may eventually forget once the hype dies down simply because this fledgling film doesn’t have a history, and the filming style may make potential viewers skip it.  Rosemary’s Baby is an incredible book adaptation that even the original author held in high regard.  It has stood the test of time, was directed by a master, and became a masterpiece.  Both films take the mundane of everyday life and make it haunting and sinister, one with timeless finesse, the other with an in your face guerilla style point of view.  But like most offspring, it’s not healthy to pit one against the other.  There is another baby brewing as well, a remake of the iconic film for T.V. starring Zoe Saldana.  Can’t say I’m thrilled at all.  Does anyone remember the made for T.V. sequel Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby?  Total ’70’s weirdness. Can we stop with the remakes already?!  At least Devil’s Due didn’t claim to be a remake, because in this case, big sister Rosemary will always be the favourite child.  So lay off people…it’s a hard act to follow!

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