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by Tony Johnson 08.24.2015 7 days ago
at 03:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
compton

Spoonful of Cinema: Straight Outta Compton (Review)

When N.W.A. first arrived, the group was a revelation — a musical explosion of aggressive lyrics and explicit subject matter. When its legendary record Straight Outta Compton dropped 27 years ago, it may very well have marked the inclusion of gangsta rap in the mainstream conscious of pop culture for the first time. The rap group, comprised of Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, MC Ren and DJ Yella, became the voice of a pissed off generation of street kids who had been subjected to and paid witness to the worst of the War on Drugs, police harassment and brutality and Reaganomics.

So here we are, more than a quarter of a century later, and the story that N.W.A. was telling in 1988 sounds all too similar to the domestic issues we face as a nation today. While Straight Outta Compton the album was current, Straight Outta Compton the film is characterized by a triple balancing act of paying tribute to the godfathers of gangsta, the biopic-necessity of gritty truth-telling and exuding modern relevance.

The film begins before the group comes to exist. Before they become pieces of the world’s most dangerous Hip Hop group, Eazy-E is pocketing stacks of cash (or not, when he gets stiffed) from dope deals and ducking from the police. Ice Cube is venting mightily with a pen and pad, and doing his best not to get beat by local gangsters. Dr. Dre is begrudgingly DJing for an L.A. club that distances its image from what the club owner calls “that gangster bullshit.” Ren is just a small-time MC, and DJ Yella works the club discs with Dre. Eazy wonders how long he could survive in the drug game, Cube is full of rhymes targeted at everything he has to deal with and Dre is escaping into his G-funk production dream world at his mother’s strong disapproval.

As we watch the stories unfold — which primarily revolve around the trio of Eazy, Cube and Dre — we also witness the blossoming of three exceptional young and relatively unknown actors.  Jason Mitchell nails the loose-canon, true gangster attitude of Eazy-E and adds touches of guilt and tinges of pain. O’Shea Jackson Jr., the son of Ice Cube, is surprisingly superb in his first significant acting performance as his father. The resemblance is astoundingly striking — from Jackson Jr.’s appearance to his laugh, voice and smile, there could not have been a better or less conventional choice as to who could play Ice Cube. Corey Hawkins portrays Dr. Dre. It’s a tight race amongst the three to determine which star shines the brightest — not in dissimilar fashion to the icons they emulate — but perhaps Hawkins is the most impressive, if not the most qualified. Hawkins’ experience ranges from playing Shakespeare’s vital Tybalt role in a Broadway production of Romeo and Juliet to being recently named as the actor to take on Heath in The Walking Dead, and his experience and natural talent are both are on full display in Straight Outta Compton. If Hollywood has its head on straight, these three actors can help to close the cringe-worthy diversity gap in the movie industry.

The actors and director F. Gary Gray carry an expansive, sometimes sprawling collaborative script to impressive places in Hip Hop history that were all sparked by N.W.A. From their initial, practically overnight explosion of popularity to the subsequent contract dissatisfaction and departures of Ice Cube and Dr. Dre from the group, the movie becomes something that it may not have intended to be but is rewarding to witness — it serves as a re-telling of West Coast Hip Hop’s rise through the spectrum of N.W.A.

We get a taste of early Hip Hop dis-tracks when Ice Cube leaves for New York City to start his own rap label, Lench Mob. We witness bad contracts from Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) and violent intimidation from Suge Knight, which serve as opposite sides to the same coin of Eazy-E’s tragic fall from rap stardom. We watch Dre work out production kinks with Snoop Dogg, the D.O.C. and Tupac.

Straight Outta Compton is a treat for Hip Hop fans, and as a huge fan of N.W.A., Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, I can say that my expectations were easily satisfied and my highest hopes exceeded.  It’s a strange formula for a blockbuster hit. Think about it — a picture produced by the artists (Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, the Eazy-E estate) with the most to gain monetarily from its success shouldn’t be good. It should be a two-hour commercial. But it is good, even though the cast is essentially a collection of unknowns with the insertion of the producer’s son as a lead. But it does work, and it works brilliantly, and I can only hope that Ice Cube’s Cube Vision video production studios aim to make more Hip Hop and street pictures.  

The film works brilliantly on two levels. The first level is at face value — we get to re-witness one of the most —if not the most — exciting moments in Hip Hop. The second level is revealed when you peel back the layers and ask yourself why the story of these kids from Compton in the late ’80s is just as relevant as it was then. The things that they were saying on record, the journalistic qualities unique to Hip Hop (and perhaps Folk music) that showed what life was really like — I don’t think the film is trying to keep those ideas and frustrations bottled up in the era of Reagan and Bush 1. Instead, the film is really about what we face today, how things haven’t changed enough and that if artists don’t feel the responsibility to shine a light on unfortunate circumstances the way that Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, MC Ren and DJ Yella did, then maybe things never will change. The film is as much a message to the future as it is a reflection of the past. And it’s a whole hell of a lot of fun, too.

Grade: A-

 
 
by Tony Johnson 08.19.2015 12 days ago
at 12:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Spoonful of Cinema: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (Review)

I went and saw Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation twice in the last week and a half. It was an absolute blast the first time around and the second opportunity was too hard to turn down when I found myself at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, Calif., last Wednesday afternoon. It is a doozy of a cinema house, and if you find yourself in the land of make-believe (that is, Hollywood), I do recommend an escape to the famous theater for a tour and a showing in their IMAX auditorium.

But back to Mission: Impossible 5. The high-octane action flick is a blast to the very past of its origins. The first Mission: Impossible arrived nearly 20 years ago. Ethan Hunt, the uncannily able, righteously insubordinate agent of the IMF (that’s the Impossible Missions Force) is as heroic as ever in huge thanks to none other than Tom Cruise. Cruise is his usual self — sharp as they come, quipping one-liners and putting his ass on the line for the old-fashioned Hollywood thrill of watching someone do drastically dangerous things as we watch from the comfort of a cushioned theater seat, throw popcorn at our faces and slurp on our sodas.

But Hunt is not without his team, and his team is a well-rounded crew both in what they contribute to Hunt and what the respective actors contribute to the chemistry. Simon Pegg gives us the silly, sarcastic surveillance wiz Benji Dunn. Jeremy Renner gives us the seriously stressed IMF Field Operations Director William Brandt. Rebecca Ferguson is the mysterious secret ally to Hunt, who holds the key between the IMF and their most dangerous enemies, known only as the Syndicate.

Together the team works from Washington, London, Paris, Vienna and Casablanca in their desperate attempts to thwart what seems like an unstoppable force of cruel international intentions. Along the way, we get Ethan Hunt and Co. in their finest form. They race through tunnels and alleys and mountainsides by foot and by car and by motorcycle. They infiltrate high-security premises with masks and soft steps and deep-water diving. They keep us laughing, on the edge of our seats and constantly wondering, “How can they get out of this mess?”

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation lies in its star, the Undeniable One, Mr. Cruise. But perhaps the most important piece of M:I–RO’s meticulously crafted Hollywood formula is its story, script and direction, all of which were crafted and brought to life by Christopher McQuarrie, with story assistance from Drew Pearce (set to write the upcoming Ghostbusters reboot).

McQuarrie’s expertise at the typewriter is as evident now as it was when he penned the Bryan Singer-directed, Academy Award-winning screenplay for 1995’s The Usual Suspects. No line is wasted. When viewers aren’t chuckling, we’re learning about the Syndicate — who they are, what they want, how Hunt might be able to stop them. Above all, McQuarrie knows how to paint Cruise as a charming lead. McQuarrie has written three other scripts (Valkyrie, Jack Reacher, Edge of Tomorrow) that have featured Cruise as the lead man.

And the charm is what drives the film at the end of the day. Because we’ve all seen Mission: Impossible before. We’ve all seen Tom Cruise save the day (practically every time we see him, actually). We’ve all seen explosions and motorcycle races and we’ve all heard big resounding chords played on horn sections as high-flying stunts are performed on-screen. So what makes this time around so special, perhaps the best Mission Hunt has seen in his five-installment, 20-year span?  It’s something difficult to describe.

What sets M:I 5 apart from so many other stupid Hollywood blockbusters is its ability to keep us constantly on our toes, unsure of whether we might be laughing at a surprise punch-line or gawking at a dangerous stunt or discovering some top-secret information. Rogue Nation accomplishes that rare, perhaps unprecedented feat of taking a Hollywood franchise beyond its own limits without uprooting its foundation in its fifth installment. Like the Fast & Furious franchise, the Mission: Impossible universe seems to only get more and more fun as each installment finds its way from studio back-lots and extravagant shooting locations to the cinema houses. It is a brilliantly young-at-heart balancing act that buoys the end result upwards toward Hollywood awesomeness in a silver-screen summer that has been sorely lacking in good old-fashioned fun.

Grade: B+

 
 
by John Hamilton 05.04.2015 119 days ago
at 12:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Reel Redux: The Revenant

The most recent recipient of the Best Director Oscar, Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman), will have a new film for 2015 —The Revenant. This movie tells the true story of early-19th entury frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), who was mauled by a bear during a trapping expedition and is left for dead by his hunting partners (Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, Domhnall Gleeson). But it turns out that he’s alive and is now on a quest for revenge.

Some of you are probably tilting your head and wondering why I’m talking about this film instead of something like the new string of Disney live action adaptations that are coming up. The reason is because this is essentially a remake of a 1971 Richard Harris (the original Dumbledore) movie called Man in the Wilderness. It’s a similar story but with names changed, more characters added and the main character, Zachary Bass, is only targeting one person, Captain Henry (John Huston).

I think Man in the Wilderness is an underrated gem from the ‘70s about a man’s struggle for survival and what motivates him to continue his quest. But even though this is a film that I like a lot, I don’t have a problem with it being remade.

First of all, it is trying something a bit different with the story and style. For one thing, Iñárritu seems to be sticking closer to what actually happened. He’s keeping it to just about Glass and his three hunting companions, which I’m sure will be very engaging. In the original film it just kept the drama between the relationship with Bass and Henry all the while trying to juggle more than a dozen members of the expedition; with this small group of characters we get a chance to get engaged with all of them.

One interesting aspect that Iñárritu is doing is that apparently he is filming in natural light — no studio lighting, no artificial lighting or anything. This could add a really nice flavor to the movie. This could help emphasize the survival aspect especially given the fact that it’s in the summer time in a rather untamed part of the country.

Now, as for the casting choices, I’m mixed when it comes to the choice of Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass. I mean, there’s nothing really about him that screams mountain man or frontiersman. But then again this could a very good role for him; it’s very different from his usual parts where he typically plays an overly confident one-percenter type or a wide eyed dreamer. It could be right up there with his performance as Calvin Candy in Django Unchained as something different and surprisingly suiting. Though I still would have preferred the original casting choice — Christian Bale.

As of right now, this is a film I’m really looking forward to seeing. Yes, I do recommend the original Harris film, but this new retelling may inspire those in the future and may bring in a whole new audience. Remakes/retellings are not always a bad thing, people, it’s best to keep an open mind. 


 
 
by John Hamilton 04.23.2015 130 days ago
at 01:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Forgotten Classics: Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier

Reviewing lesser-known films that stand the test of time

We all have that one Disney movie that we love dearly. The one film that, despite whatever age we are, we can watch and enjoy. For me there are several that meet that criteria: The Three Caballeros (1945), Beauty and the Beast (1991), The Great Mouse Detective (1986) and countless others. But the one film that takes the No. 1 spot on my list is Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, Disney’s take on the adventures of famed frontiersman and one-time congressman. The movie’s plot ranges from his time in the Creek Wars to his congress years to his final stand at the Alamo.

If I may get personal for a moment: I was obsessed with this movie when I was kid. I couldn’t get enough Crockett related stuff. I even dressed up as Crockett for Halloween one year. I was heartbroken when the film’s lead actor, Fess Parker, passed away in 2010. So, yes, this movie meant a lot to me. In a way, it set me on the path to my love of films and shaped me in a lot of ways.

I’m sure to some people the biggest flaw with the movie is that the plot is a rather romanticized telling of Crockett’s adventures. There’s very rarely a moment where he isn’t an upstanding guy, but to me that kind of works for the film. Walt Disney had no pretentions about this film (originally a mini-series) — he wasn’t planning on making this a super deep movie with complex characters and themes. What Disney wanted to do was take an iconic American folk hero and give the intended audience a person to look up to and root for. To me, you couldn’t anyone more perfect than actor and future wine maker Fess Parker.

Now as I stated before, Crockett’s portrayal in the film is a romanticized, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some powerful moments — outside of the heroic times — with him. For me, one of the best emotional moments in the film is when Crockett receives word about his wife’s death. His sidekick throughout the film Georgie Russell (Buddy Ebsen) reads a letter delivering the unfortunate news and you can see the news slowly sinking into him. Russell consoles him and asks him if there’s something he can do, and all Crockett says is, “Just give me some time to think.” He then slowly and quietly walks into the woods to try and figure out what to do without his other half. Without any dialogue or music playing, we get a true sense how deeply this has affected him.

The film doesn’t shy away from all the historical facts; the most obvious example is that in the end he and his comrades die at the Alamo. Granted, they don’t show Crockett’s death onscreen but, then again, given how nobody knows how Crockett actually died it makes sense that we don’t see it. The movie ends with him swinging his rifle like a club at the overwhelming forces without a hint of fear.

Like a lot of classic Disney films, it features many great qualities: It has a memorable soundtrack that will have you humming its songs for hours on end; a great sense of adventure and excitement; and a terrific cavalcade of characters performed by great character actors. I mentioned earlier Parker and Ebsen who have amazing chemistry together. There’s also stunt-man Nick Cravat as the mute Comanche Indian named Busted Luck who shows that not only does he have bravery but he's also very witty and smart. There’s a great scene where he foils a trickster’s attempt at swindling him out of food. Speaking of which, there’s the dandy riverboat gambler Thimblerig played by Hans Conried who is a delight in every scene. Some of you know him best as the voice of Captain Hook in Disney’s Peter Pan (1953) and as Thorin in Rankin/Bass’ version of The Hobbit (1977).

If you haven’t seen this Disney gem, do yourself a favor and check it out, especially if you have youngsters. Then check out the prequel Davy Crockett and the River Pirates featuring the fun and bombastic character actor Jeff York as Mike Fink, King of the River.


 
 
by Steven Rosen 04.16.2015 137 days ago
at 08:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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'Carol' Will Be in Competition at Cannes

It's official.

Carol, the 1950s-set drama about an affair between two women that was filmed last year in Cincinnati, will compete for the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival. That will be its long-awaited premiere.

It is one of only two films by U.S. directors in the much-vaunted competition, according to Variety. The announcement was made at a press conference in Cannes today.

Directed by Todd Haynes (I'm Not There, Far From Heaven) with Christine Vachon as one of its producers, the film stars Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara and Sarah Paulson and is based on the novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith. Variety succinctly describes Carol's story as "about a lonely young department-store clerk who falls for an elegant older woman in 1950s New York."

Besides Haynes, the only other U.S. director with a new film in competition at Cannes is Gus Van Sant, whose The Sea of Trees stars Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanabe as two men who meet in Japan's "Suicide Forest."

However, because financing of movies is often international, Carol is actually listed as a U.S.-U.K. co-production. And another film in competition by a non-U.S. director, the French-Canadian Denis Villeneuve's Sicario, is listed as solely a U.S. production.

Because the 14 films announced for competition are lower than in past years, Variety suggests several more may be added. This will be the 68th annual Cannes Film Festival, the world's most prestigious, and occurs May 13-24.

To read the full Variety story, go here.

 
 
by John Hamilton 04.14.2015 139 days ago
at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Forgotten Classics: Quigley Down Under

Reviewing lesser-known films that stand the test of time

As I said in my in Silverado review, western films fell out of popularity during the ‘80s and ‘90s with some obvious exceptions. One of these was the TV miniseries Lonesome Dove, based on the novel of the same name by Larry McMurtry. On a side note: Lonesome Dove is probably my favorite novel of all time and you should all read it.

What connection does that miniseries have to today’s film Quigley Down Under? Both feature the same director, Simon Wincer, and the same music composer, Basil Poledouris, but unfortunately the film was sort of passed over when it should have been watched and at least given the compliment of, “that was pretty good.”

Quigley Down Under is the story of an American cowboy and skilled sharpshooter named Matthew Quigley (Tom Selleck) who receives a job on an Australian ranch run by Elliott Marston (Alan Rickman). But upon his arrival, Quigley runs into a woman named Cora (Laura San Giacomo) who confuses Quigley for her abandoning husband Roy and he finds out that his job will be shooting the native Aborigines. Quigley disapproves of what Marston wants to do and goes against him, only to be left for dead in the Australian desert with Cora. He must survive the harsh environment and then stop Marston from continuing his cruel treatment of natives.

It does kind of surprise me how well Australia’s Outback works as a setting for a western. It really shouldn’t, though — the scale of the desert almost matches the grand scale of Monument Valley on the Arizona-Utah state line. Add in the intense heat and it adds another element of suspense for the story.

One of the best elements in the movie is the script itself. It has a very good story and some great dialogue, which is delivered with charm courtesy of Magnum, P.I.’s Selleck. It makes me wonder why this film was passed up by Warner Bros. The role of Quigley was originally offered to Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood, and while I could see Eastwood doing this kind of role I think Selleck fits perfectly.

The other performances are also very good. Rickman is also great as the villain who wishes to be a Wild West gunslinger. So, yes Harry Potter fans, you get to see Prof. Snape in a gun duel.

The real highlight performance comes from Laura San Giacomo. She just steals every scene  she’s in as the half-crazed woman who has demons of her own. During her first few scenes she could be seen as a just another forced comedic character but as time goes on we hear about her back story and see what led her to her crazy attitude.

As I mentioned before, the movie’s film score was compose by the last Basil Poledouris. To me, Poledouris is a film composer that deserves to be held in the same regard as people like Elmer Bernstein and John Williams. The music he composed for this movie, along with Robocop, Starship Trooper and every other film he’s worked on is amazing. It can capture a sense of excitement and it can be touching as well.

If you haven’t checked this film out then do yourself a favor and track down a couple in the near future.


 
 
by John Hamilton 04.07.2015
at 12:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Forgotten Classics: Death on the Nile

The year 2014 was a great one for movies — a really, really good year. Sure, there were duds and bombs just like any other year, but there were seriously so many good films that it was tough to properly list off my favorites in a satisfying order. One of my favorites of last year was Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. The movie reminded me of two Agatha Christie movies from the 1970s, Murder on the Orient Express (1974) and Death on the Nile (1978), the latter of which is my personal favorite of the two.

Based on the mystery novel of the same name, Death on the Nile tells of Christie’s famous Belgium (not French) detective Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov) as he investigates the murder of the beautiful newlywed heiress Linnet Ridgeway-Doyle (Jane Birkin) on the Egyptian riverboat S.S. Karnak. The mystery is made all the more difficult considering how everyone on board the ship hated her in one way: from the bitter and begrudged nurse Miss Bowers (Maggie Smith), whose family was ruined by the Ridgeways, to the exotic and eccentric novelist Salome Otterbourne (Angela Lansburg), who was threatened to be sued by Linnet for defamation. With the help of his friend Col. Race (David Niven), Poirot must track down the killer before the ship reaches its final destination.

In the Sidney Lumet-directed Murder on the Orient Express, Poirot was portrayed by Oscar-nominated actor Albert Finney. While Finney certainly did look the part of the famed detective, for me between him and Peter Ustinov, I have to go with the latter. The main reason is because Ustinov seems to fit the persona. Finney, while being a good actor, seemed to talk too fast and rushed through lines, while Ustinov took things slower and seemed much more like the intelligent private investigator who was motivated by morality attempted to keep more unlawful activities from happening. He also sports a splendid mustache, which is very vital to the character.

One reason The Grand Budapest Hotel reminded me of these kind of films was because of the all-star cast. Death on the Nile features Ustinov but also stars the aforementioned Maggie Smith (Prof. McGonagall in the Harry Potter series) and Angela Lansbury (Mrs. Potts in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast) but it also features Hollywood legend Bette Davis (All About Eve), George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke), Olivia Hussey (1968 version of Romeo & Juliet), Mia Farrow (1974 adaptation of The Great Gatsby) and one of my favorite character actors, Jack Warden (12 Angry Men). Speaking of Grand Budapest Hotel’s cast: I could totally see Ralph Fiennes portraying Poirot in a movie.

But what about the actual mystery in the movie? It is pretty interesting. Yes, it is a rather standard whodunit sort of scenario where they go through the list of suspects until they come to the final decision. But with the given scenario of everyone having a reason to hate her and the fact that anyone could have gotten to her, it does make you wonder. The result is something that I’m sure a lot of people won’t see coming.

It’s a real treat for anyone who loves a good murder mystery and enjoys the works of Agatha Christie.

One final similarity that this film has with The Grand Budapest Hotel: both won Best Costume Design at the Oscars. 

 
 
by Steven Rosen 03.27.2015
at 08:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Cincinnati-Filmed 'Carol' to Premiere at Cannes?

Carol, the drama about a romance between a younger and older woman in 1950s New York that was filmed in Cincinnati last spring, may have its premiere in May at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in France.

Variety, which closely follows the film industry, yesterday published a speculative report about what may be appearing at this years Cannes, the world's most important film festival. It said, in part:

"Looking to represent North America in competition are [Todd] Haynes’ Carol, a 1950s lesbian love story starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, and [Denis] Villeneuve’s Sicario, a south-of-the-border crime drama starring Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin. Slots may also be reserved in the official selection for Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special, a science-fiction chase thriller starring Adam Driver and Michael Shannon, and Gus Van Sant’s The Sea of Trees, a suicide drama starring Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanabe."

Based on a novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, Carol has impeccable credentials for Cannes. The director is Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven, I'm Not There), a producer is Christine Vachon, and it stars Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett and Oscar-nominee Rooney Mara. The film came here with the assistance of the Greater Cincinnati and North Kentucky Film Commission.

This year's Cannes Festival occurs May 13-24. The full official-selection lineup will be announced April 16.

 
 
by John Hamilton 03.26.2015
at 01:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Reel Redux: Top 10 Good Remakes

Today, whenever the terms “remake,” “reboot” or anything like that pop up in terms of film or TV, people automatically assume the worst thing imaginable. While I won’t deny the fact that there have been several remakes that have been pointless, there have been a lot of remakes that have been very good and, in a lot of cases, have improved on a few aspects.

Now, I’m not claiming that the 10 I’m listing off are “better” than the original. Instead, these films (listed by release date in chronological order) are evidence that a remake is not an automatic seal of sucking.

The Magnificent Seven (1960, John Sturges)

I’m sure some of you saw this coming given what my first "Reel Redux" was about, but none the less this is still a pretty good film. A remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, this version doesn’t do too much different from the original film but it is still holds up through its fine acting, amazing music score and story.

A Fistful of Dollars (1964, Sergio Leone)

Another remake of a Kurosawa film, this time a remake of his film Yojimbo. In this film you see the foundations of Eastwood’s most famous screen persona, many of Leone’s trademarks and an awesome final duel. A good stepping stone for anyone wanting to get into Spaghetti Westerns.

The Thing (1982, John Carpenter)

Yes, believe it or not there are some good horror remakes, and this was one. John Carpenter’s remake of the Howard Hawks-produced The Thing from Another World ups the ante with the suspense and gore. This is not for the faint of heart. But it’s more than just a gore-fest — it’s a film with amazing suspense and atmosphere.

Little Shop of Horrors (1986, Frank Oz)

This music adaptation of the Roger Corman B-movie is a genuine delight and definitely improves on a few aspects of the original, mainly the special effects. That glorious Audrey II puppet is a testament to how great practical effects can be. Also, Levi Stubbs of The Four Tops is a perfect voice for Audrey II.

Beauty and the Beast (1991, Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise)

This classic Disney animated musical actually has a lot in common with the 1946 French surrealist adaptation by Jean Cocteau. Both beasts have a similar design, both feature a castle of human servants that are also appliances, and both have a Gaston equivalent. But of course the animated version does do a few things differently, mainly musical numbers, funny side characters and, of course, being a cartoon.

Homeward Bound – The Incredible Journey (1993, Duwayne Dunham)

Here’s another Disney remake that proved its worth. A remake of the 1963 movie just called The Incredible Journey, this renditions seems to hold up for anyone because of the animals. All three have distinct voices and personas that make us love and root for them.

The Birdcage (1996, Mike Nichols)

A film by the late Mike Nichols and starring the late Robin Williams is a remake of a French-Italian film called La Cage aux Folle. With the combined comedic charm and brilliance of Williams and Nathan Lane, it’s no wonder why Nichols had a hard time holding his laughter during some of the scenes. My words won’t do it justice — you just have to watch.

Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003, Peter Jackson)

If we’re loosely defining the term remake, Jackson’s fantasy trilogy is technically a remake of Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings (1978) and Rankin/Bass’ Return of the King. If you’ve seen those animated films then you can see why Jackson’s are usually the preferred versions. Jackson's films create an epic fantasy environment, they have an amazing film score and feature some awesome battle sequences.

3:10 to Yuma (2007, James Mangold)

Many hold the original 1957 film as a classic and it is, but Mangold’s version doesn’t try to duplicate it. Instead he goes the action route, and it does not disappoint. The gunfights are stunning throughout the film. Also, the chemistry between Christian Bale and Russell Crowe is stunning, and it also has a great villain performance from Ben Foster.

True Grit (2010, Ethan & Joel Coen)

My first two listed were westerns and so we end with two westerns. The Coen Brother’s version of the manhunt of Tom Chaney is truly phenomenal. The Coens stay close to the tone and style of Charles Portis’ original book by sticking to the dryer tone, keeping it less romanticized and “Hollywood.” And it features some trying fantastic performances from everyone.

 
 
by John Hamilton 03.19.2015
at 10:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Reel Redux: Ghostbusters and the Potential Cinematic Universe

In the first installment of "Reel Redux" I brought up the upcoming Ghosbusters reboot, so I figured I’d talk about it more in this edition.

I don’t think I need to remind you about what Ghostbusters is, right? Well, for the five of you who don’t know the plot, here’s a summary: The titular group of the franchise are scientists who go around New York City busting ghosts. There, that was easy.

How could anyone not love these movies, or at least the first one? You have the sarcastic Bill Murray, the enthusiastic Dan Aykroyd, the late Harold Ramis, who possessed great dry comedic timing (he also co-wrote the screenplay with Aykroyd), and Ernie Hudson as the Everyman. Not only that, but they’re given giant laser cannons for zapping and trapping ghosts of all shapes are sizes! What’s not to like?

Recently it was announced that a reboot is in the works, this time featuring an all-female cast. This version will feature Kristin Wiig (Bridesmaids), Oscar-nominee Melissa McCarthy and Saturday Night Live cast members Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon.

Right off the bat I’ll say it: I am not opposed to the idea of an all-female cast. Not at all. Although I was kind of hoping to see Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in the cast. To paraphrase someone on Twitter (I couldn’t find the original tweet) who said it best, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are today’s equivalent of Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd.

But nevertheless I’m all for this cast. I mean, why not? Why not have an all-female cast? But there is one thing that makes me worried about it. I’m worried that all this movie will be, “It’s the Ghosbusters… but they’re girls!” And that’s it. I’m worried that the film will make jokes about the fact that this time around the group will be played by girls. For example, they’ll paint the Ecto-1 pink, or have one of the girls put a bunch of flowers on their proton pack. One can only hope they don’t resort to that.

There’s one other thing that has popped up involving the Ghosbusters franchise that is causing a bit of stir: Sony is planning on having an all-male cast in yet another Ghostbusters reboot, thus building its own cinematic universe to go along with it. Oh dear.

On the surface I have no problem with the idea of Sony wanting to build a Ghosbusters universe — it sounds incredibly cool — but Sony has a short but rather poor history of trying to build a universe with popular franchises. Mainly, their attempts at building an Amazing Spider-Man franchise. I’m not calling those films bad, mind you, but it’s obvious that Sony was trying a little too hard to compete with Marvel’s cinematic universe.

The concept of an expanded universe is nothing new to Ghostbusters. I’m mainly referring to the ending of the 2009 video game where the four original members hinted about opening another office in another city, which sounds awesome to me.

But again, my concern is with who’s handling it. If I was handling it, I would take it very slowly. Let the first movie come out, see how well that did and if it did well, then I’d work on the next film. Which seems like it should be obvious, but, whatever, I’m not the head of a major film studio.

One thing I’m hoping for at some point in the franchise, which may not happen, is I’d like to see a New Generation kind of movie. Recruit Aykroyd and Hudson as their characters and have them train a new group. Make it a mixed group of people of various backgrounds. I’m not asking for a Captain Planet kind of thing, but have this be about  the old guys passing the torch onto the next group. It could be good.

In the meantime, I will wait and check out the new installment and hope for the best and I will, of course, check out the originals and enjoy them because no matter what happens those films will still be there.

 
 

 

 

 
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