Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Remake Rubdown

Today was remake madness here at Casa del Kimchi. For breakfast, it was Conan the Barbarian, The Thing* for lunch and finally, Fright Night for the nightcap.** While I'm naturally apprehensive about remakes (especially of great films) I was drawn to these three in particular because, honestly, like the majority of thirtysomething sociopaths nerds I think each of the aforementioned films is ridiculously cool and so, like moths to a flame and flies to feces, I took them in without hesitation. The hip thing to do, I suppose, would be to deride the films without having seen them (cough, cough, Harrison Forbes, cough, cough) but I'm not that hip. So.

Some quick thoughts:

Conan the Barbarian

The Good

What I respect about this movie is that the filmmakers attempted to create something different, which is a smart move (in theory) given that the original Conan is, arguably, so iconic within the sword and sorcery genre. Also, if you're going to cast someone besides Arnold, Jason Momoa is your man as he has the presence, intensity, and appearance to convince viewers that he's the titular barbarian. There's plenty of gratuitous violence to go around as well, to say nothing of a battle with a ravenous cephalopod that works in all the right ways.

The Bad

Difference doesn't always correlate with quality, of course. Without spoiling the plot, I'll go on record as saying that it reminds me a bit more of Kull the Conqueror than the original film, and for those who haven't seen that movie, I'll give you a hint: it sucks. Jason Momoa makes a fine Conan when the script isn't sabotaging his efforts by making the character positively loquacious, Khalar Zym is no Thulsa Doom, and priestesses are poor substitutes for badass thieves.

Have I mentioned the music yet? Basically, the original has an amazing soundtrack by Basil Poledouris.  The remake has, um, oh yeah, no one cares who composed the music on account of it being instantly forgettable.

And say what you will of John Milius (most of which would be spot on) but he's the kind of guy required for a concept like Conan. I'm sure Marcus Nispel's a nice guy and all, but he brings modern sensibilities to a film about bloodthirsty barbarians, which just doesn't work.

The Forbes

Was a body double employed for the sex scene between Jason Momoa and Rachel Nichols? My money is on yes.

I like Ron Perlman, sure, but does he have to be in every mid-scale action film? Goddamn. He's in the running with Samuel L. Jackson for the Most Overused Actor award.

Rose McGowen's not in everything but no matter where she pops up, I think of the bitchy bitch from Jawbreaker. Sorry, Rose!

The Thing

The Good

The film looks gorgeous. Be it lighting, locale, set design, special effects, or cinematography, The Thing is no slouch and worth watching in high definition. The story itself, while not on par with Carpenter's 1982 remake, is fairly engaging though admittedly predictable. The antagonist is one vicious alien (one plus a half dozen, I mean) and appropriately grotesque in all its applicable forms.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is quite likable and the rest of the cast performs admirably...

The Bad

... But lack memorable, or even readily identifiable roles. In the Carpenter version, you had MacCready, rough around the edges but pragmatically heroic; Blair, scientist gone berserk; Childs, hothead; Windows, eccentric radio dork, etc. whereas in the remake, it's basically Winstead as Dr. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton as one of the pilots, and a bunch of Norwegians. Don't get me wrong, everyone likes Norwegians but they, alongside their un-Scandivanian counterparts, end up seeming a lot (as in, too much) alike.

The films takes more of a survival horror approach to the material than relying upon elements of suspense and the results are evident. I would have preferred to see the opposite, especially when it's painfully obvious, at some points, as to who the alien is imitating, which detracts from the horror of the scenario.

The Verdict

All things considered, this version of The Thing is a pretty good flick and recommended. The only problem is that it's not as good as John Carpenter's film.

Fright Night

The Sidestep

I adore the original film but, admittedly, the remake isn't bad. If anything, it's tweaking the establish story, this time focusing more upon Charlie as the teenaged hero and certainly not as strongly influenced by classic horror; in other words, less Peter Vincent and much less suavity, which may or may not be a bad thing. Colin Farrell's Jerry Dandrige, for example, is much more the serial killer (or manic slasher) than debonair vampire and while I prefer the latter, there's nothing particularly wrong with the former. Similarly, I've always been more interested in the Peter Vincent character than Charlie Brewster, so to see David Tennant's skill and charisma hampered by limited character development is a shame but again, there's nothing inherently faulty about allocating more screen time to Charlie. I'm partial to the original but thoroughly enjoyed the remake.

The Cameo

That's right, actor Chris Sarandon makes a cameo in the film, which is sixteen shades of spectacular. My question is, what about Stephen Geoffrey's cameo (namely, the lack thereof)? If nothing else, there could have been one of his porno films playing on some television in the background. You were robbed, Stephen. Robbed, I say!

* Technically a prequel but let's not kid ourselves. It's a premake.
** The nightcap takes the place of dinner and lasts for approximately six hours here on Planet X, FYI.

P.S. Out of sheer boredom, I attempted to watch the third installment of Transformers but fell asleep midway through. Talk about your steaming bowls of poop soup. 

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