Five Honorable Movie Remakes

September 10, 2009

It seems we have moved into and era of film making that is highly practiced on remakes, recreations, sequels, and prequels.  For most of these, I am filled with frustration and disappointment at the second tries and uncreative recreations of older more original works, but I must also give credit for those who have successfully reinterpreted and refashioned classic works into something new, something great and something their own.   The remake of a previously great plot, idea or film can be a risky venture for filmmakers and I want to discuss a few successful and respectable triumphs in such ventures.

 The first is the reason for my writing this article at this particular time.  I recently saw Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, which is a loose recreation of The Dirty Dozen, and loved it.   Rather than being a complete remake it’s a fresh and uniquely beautiful blend of classic influences, and with this film Tarantino practices a new style of war film.

The first scene of the second chapter (early in the film) is a clear callout to the original Dirty Dozen while Tarantino’s love for Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns (especially The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) also clearly has its influence.   The spaghetti western influence was most prominent in the peculiar use of the score and the introduction of the characters.

 inglourios basterds

Another recent and successful remake is 3:10 to Yuma, a remake of the famous western of the same name starring Glenn Ford.  The reasons I feel this is a successful remake are quite different from those of Inglourious Basterds. 

What impressed me most on this remake is the  successful capture of the classic western feel achieved by the remake.  Its creators decided to remain true to the classic genre and stayed honest.  Watching the new film felt very much like watching a good old western.  This strict return to the classic themes and genre stands quite unique among other modern films and is refreshing to young and modern audiences.

 310 Yuma

Possibly one of the greatest remakes ever achieved is You’ve Got Mail, the 1998 remake of Jimmy Stewart’s 1940 The Shop Around the Corner.   The transition from a letter writing to an Internet and e-mail writing culture provided the perfect chance to retell an old story in a completely new light and setting.  The finished product is a charming and witty tale filled with literary reminders of simpler times.  Plus, it’s Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

 shoparndcorner-9849

I must also mention the new Gone in Sixty Seconds.  This is a great action flick in a time of too few good car movies.  It also helps that it is the remake of a film originally made entirely by stunt drivers.  The original is fun thrill ride for car guys but offers little else for the general audience, as half the film is 45 minutes of some of the greatest driving and chase put on film (and that’s just one of the car chases).  The remake offers most of that driving excitement with the addition of a plot and some acting.  (Although, the new one may have the better car the original has the better car chase.)

 gonein60d

Also, as an honorable mention, I should mention Ocean’s Eleven.  Consider it mentioned.

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My top black and whites

March 10, 2009

This post is in response to and in praise of Blaze Danielle’s post at http://blazedanielle.wordpress.com.

Here is my list of favorite black and white movies.  It is also meant to provide great films of introduction for those who don’t watch, are indifferent of, or don’t like black and white movies.  Try a few of these.  If you have seen them please comment; if not, watch them then comment.  The top ten counts down to my favorite.

 

Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)

Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)

 This is the gangster movie that made James Cagney.  It’s the story of a couple of friends, one grows up to be a priest and the other a gangster.  The ending is intense.

The Wind (1928)

This excellent silent drama proves the silent era was cut short just as it was reaching its pinnacle.  It’s easily one of the best silent films made and a great showcase for Gish’s tremendous talent.  She plays a young woman moving to Dust-Bowl-Depression-era Texas where she is haunted and being driven mad by a freakish sandstorm,  isolation and a stalker.  If you don’t mind spoilers check out these fantastic closing scenes.

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

This fast paced comedy helped define the slapstick genre.  It stars Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.  The laughs come so fast and constant that during the first view you’ll miss half the jokes from laughing .
All About Eve (1950)

All About Eve (1950)

This is a hilariously witty comedy starring the great Bette Davis. It’s one of Davis’ finest performances, and that’s saying a lot.

Key Largo (1948)

Key Largo (1948)

I love this gangster movie starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren BaCall and Edward G. Robinson (love them all) where a hurricane turns the tables on some gangsters who are holding a Florida hotel hostage.
The Big Sleep (1946)

The Big Sleep (1946)

Another great Bogart and BaCall.  This one is based on a classic Raymond Chandler LA noir novel.  If you haven’t seen a Bogart and BaCall try this one.  I will warn you the plot gets fairly twisted; but a lot of people like that.
The Philadelphia Story (1940)

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

A comedy of manners starring Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart.   Jimmy Stewart earned his only Oscar with this performance.  That’s enough for me.

The Night of the Hunter (1955)

This is an absolutely gorgeous black and white film which is like watching a child’s nightmare. Robert Mitchum’s a creepy, preacher-clad murderer stalking and hunting two siblings until he meets Lillian Gish’s wonderful character in a false prophet verses true prophet showdown. There are so many beautiful and memorable images in this film which makes excellent use of light and shadow.

Casablanca (1942)

Casablanca (1942)

This is just plain classic.  It’s so well made and acted in every area.  It has a great cast (even the smallest characters) including Peter Lorre, a favorite of mine.  I only wish he had more screen time.
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Love it.  It’s Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart!  See it any time of the year.
Charlie Chaplin's City Lights

Charlie Chaplin's City Lights (1931)

This silent is hilarious and touching and spectacularly smooth flowing.  This is not only my favorite black and white movie by my favorite movie of all. Chaplin was the master.  Also, the final scene is easily one of the best scenes ever fillmed.  Again, see my earlier posts (See These Movies, An Eloquent Silence).

Engulfed by classic film

May 15, 2008

The other night I had the opportunity to see one of my favorite movies, American Graffiti, in theaters. (For a brief description see the earlier post ‘See These Movies.’)  It was amazing!  Most of my favorite movies are older movies and many of them I regret not having the opportunity to experience them in theaters when they first came out.  Thanks to the American Film Institute I was able to remedy that for one of the films on my small list of films I most wished to see in theater.

            American Graffiti had been on that list because of the completeness of the nostalgic atmosphere created by the film.  It is easy to become lost in the era when watching the movie, and I always felt it would be even more complete if seen in a dark theater with a large screen and engulfing sound where everything and the only thing you experience for those two hours is that film.

            I was right!  Those familiar with the movie know the impact and greatness of the almost none stop soundtrack.  Also, the sounds of all the cars were amazing and exciting.  One of my favorite elements of the film is filming of the street and cruising at night (the movie take place almost entirely at night).  The shining cars, street lights, neon lights, headlights and reflections all clash and blend beautifully in the dark of night when the streets were most full of life.  And all this is even more beautiful and spectacular on the big screen, in the dark room.

            Something I was curious about before seeing the movie that night was how being so familiar with the film would affect the experience of seeing it in a theater.  Fortunately, knowing the lines before they were spoken only added to the anticipation, excitement and enjoyment of the film.  It was also great to see the film with the crowd that showed up.  They were all movie fans and particularly of American Graffiti.  American Graffiti is the kind of movie that gets better the more you see it and it was clear most of the audience was well acquainted with it and were enjoying it deeply. 


See these Movies

April 5, 2008

I know we have not been posting frequent enough and we are trying to change that.  We are all students and our time is easily snatched away from us by school, work and others.  Please continue checking and reading our posts.

 

In order to get something out there I thought I would put together a list of a few films that I highly recommend you go out and see if you are not already familiar with them.  If you have seen them write in what you think.  If you have not, see them and comment on what you thought. I am very interested to hear what others think of these movies.

 

THE FILMS

 

I love old movies so many of these are older and may be unfamiliar to you. See them and comment.

 

Rear Window(1954)– I have mentioned this masterpiece of suspense by Alfred Hitchcock before and it?s always worth mentioning.  Hitchcock being the ‘Master of Suspense’ makes this film like he created suspense, both the feeling and the genre.  It is one of his best if not the best.

       Possibly the best part is that it stars Jimmy Stewart and the gorgeous Grace Kelly.  Stewart’s character is confined to a wheelchair and his apartment and begins watching his neighbors out of boredom (and he has a great view thanks to an amazing set).  Things begin to get suspicious then tense as Stewart’s imagination begins to run, but is there something to it?

       Hitchcock plays with the natural curiosity that leads us all to be compulsive people watchers and he uses our own imaginations against us.  The film is so well shot and Stewart is so talented that we too are carried off in our thoughts and fears.

       There will be several scenes so tense you won’t be able to decide whether to sit or stand, hold your breath or scream.   

Jaws(1975)-This is just a great thriller.  If you haven’t seen it you must, and the whole thing (I know someone who has not been able to watch past that first scene on the beach).

        What is great about Jaws is that for most of the film you cannot see the thing you fear; all you hear is that ominous score.

         That scene with the scars and Robert Shaw telling the story of the U.S.S. Indianapolis is one of my favorite scenes in film.

 

City Lights(1931)– This is a charming, easy to watch and thoroughly pleasant silent film by Charlie Chaplin (probably his best). If you only watch one silent movie make it this one. It’s one of the greatest movies ever made. American Film Institute has it at eleventh place.

          One of the things that makes it worth seeing is to marvel at how smoothly Chaplin can communicate, develop a plot and appeal to your emotions.  The appeal to emotions is what makes silents wonderful. Without dialogue silent films communicated through pathos and emotion.

          The movie follows the misadventures of the Tramp as he falls in love with a blind flower girl and does all he can to help her. It’s sweet and hilarious.  The closing scene is also one of the best ever filmed and is so touching it may bring you to tears.  And all without sound, but when you?re Chaplin who needs sound.

 

American Graffiti(1973)– An amazing and important period piece.  It is important because it gave George Lucas the means to make STAR WARS.  It is Lucas’ record of the American car culture of the ’50s and ’60s.

          It is set on the last night of summer in a California town (filmed in Lucas’ hometown of Barstow) and has a continuous period soundtrack of Motown and first generation rock-n-roll.  If you can watch it without interruption it will cause you to lose yourself in the era.

          It follows several friends as they prepare to go back to high school and leave home for college.  It’s a very entertaining and comic look at ’60s adolescence.

          It is also notable for strong performances of young soon-to-be stars like Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Mackenzie Phillips and Harrison Ford.

 

 

 

007_FXIW1_ITS_WONDERFULL_LIFE~It-s-a-Wonderful-Life-PostersIt’s a Wonderful Life(1946)– If you have not already seen this Jimmy Stewart movie you have been deprived of life and Christmas and cannot afford to waste any more time. Words will not do the film justice so just go watch it. Now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid(1969)– This is a western everyone enjoys.  Staring Paul Newman and Robert Redford it was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four of them.

           It is funny, exciting and playful.  The filming makes the movie beautiful and has a great script.  The ‘raindrops’ scene is probably the most enjoyable of the film and has a great song.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The African Queen(1951)– One of the (if not the) greatest examples of acting.  It stars Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn at the peak of their careers (and with plenty of experience).  They have natural chemistry and give the script new life as it develops into witty comedy.

          Bogart and Hepburn play Brits who get stuck behind German lines in Africa during World War I.  As they make their way up a dangerous and unpredictable river their focus moves from escaping capture to striking an offensive, their relationship humorously developing along the way.

          Since the movie is set mostly on a small boat with only Bogart and Hepburn aboard their performances are not compromised by lesser co-stars.


Disturbia

February 3, 2008

The other night I saw Disturbia for the first time.  When it first came out I was reluctant to see it.  Being an Alfred Hitchcock fan and a Jimmy Stewart fan I had always held the strong opinion that Rear Window is one of that elite class of movies of which it should never be remade or ripped off.  When I first saw the trailer for Disturbia I was furious and expected some kind of action—exile from the film industry, life in prison, castration… something. 

            As time passed and I heard more about the movie my feelings about the act of heresy became less intense.  I appreciated that it was not a complete remake (just the stealing of an original idea) and that it takes a different approach using more scare and horror than suspense (suspense takes more skill).  It became less of a sin; maybe ten years would be sufficient.

            Then I watched it.  It was a decent movie, and it was exciting and entertaining to watch.  I enjoyed watching it and felt that was the extent of it.  Whatever was clever or original about it is lost with the knowledge of Rear Window.  It was a good movie but I was hoping it would be better.  They were, after all, standing on the shoulders of Hitchcock.  Rear window

           

A few points on Rear Window:

           

            People-watching is captivating and Hitchcock used this to a much greater extent than Disturbia.  Disturbia did not allow for as much people watching focusing on the characters within the house doing the watching rather then letting us watch for ourselves.

            One of the great things about Rear Window is the situation combined with Stewart’s terrific acting.  You spend the movie only seeing from his perspective.  You see what he sees and then you see the reaction written in his face.  That was one of the disappointments about Disturbia, the main character ended up telling you what was going on.

              

            I highly suggest watching Rear Window its a masterpiece of film making.  If you have not seen either movie be sure to watch Rear Window first so when you see Disturbia you think “this is just like Rear Window” rather than the other way around.


Cloverfield

January 22, 2008

cloverfield_poster.jpgWarning: this post contains spoilers. If you have not seen this movie, do not read this.

By now, I’m sure most people have heard something about the new J.J. Abrams movie Cloverfield. There was a tremendous amount of hype surrounding the movie, and anticipation has been building for a very long time. The original teaser trailer premiered before Transformers last summer. At that point, the name of the movie was not announced, but just the date it would be released (1-18-08). Part of the thrill of the movie was all the hype surrounding it and just how little was known about it. There is an entire secretive system of promotions that they released also including websites, blogs, myspaces etc. After seeing the movie Saturday night, the audience in the theater had mixed reviews. Half of the people in the theater booed loudly, and the other clapped and cheered. I happened to be one of the ones cheering. Cloverfield is one of the most creative movies I have seen in a long time. The entire concept of the movie was clever and innovative. The movie is from the perspective of the cameraman, Hud, so it is entirely one perspective. At first, you might think that this would limit the potential of the movie, but they did a fantastic job of showing certain things, and not showing others. Because it is shot from the perspective of Hud, it seemed that I was with the cast as they ran throughout the city, and got to know the characters and experiences in a way unlike any other movie. Hud narrates, often humorously throughout and opens the door to get to know him, even though he has the least amount of screen time of any character. With the exception of the music in the background at the party at the start of the movie, there is no music in the entire film. But they pull it off. I felt like I was there. It wouldn’t fit if they added music, since it is from the perspective of the hand held camera. Because it was shot from one camera, it is completely one tape, and in typical J.J. Abrams style the tape has gaps in it where we see flashbacks of the characters and get more information.

Just as quickly as the conflict began, the movie ends. This is perhaps what upset the “boo-ers” the most. It was a film very different from everything else out there. The entire concept of the movie was genius and it was expertly done. This movie has quickly climbed near the top of my favorite movies.