March 2007

Remake and destroy

Straw Dogs DVD I was going to stop complaining about the constant stream of remakes coming out of Hollywood at the moment. But, while reporting that Rod Lurie is to direct a remake of Sam Peckinpahs classic revenge film, Straw Dogs, CHUDs Devin Faraci summed up in two sentences everything that is wrong with this remake fad:

But I guess someone at Sony did some market research or something and found that Straw Dogs has some name recognition. It can add three percent to Friday night numbers!

I dont have a problem with remakes in principle and would be the first to acknowledge that, if someone has a new insight or original slant to bring to a story, the results can be well worth seeing and may even be better than the original film. David Cronenbergs version of The Fly, for example, is a much stronger film than the original; and I have to admit to preferring the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers to the 1956 film.

What I find objectionable about the current slew of remakes is that there isnt any new slant or original take on the story. This is a fad driven entirely by the cynical observation that if you churn out a completely anodyne piece of drivel with a recognisable name, enough people will march into the multiplex to make it financially worthwhile. I know Ive said it before but as long as we keep buying this crap, the big studios will continue to sell it to us.

A Crood Awakening for Dreamworks

One of the films to be affected by the split between Dreamworks and Aardman Animation was Crood Awakening - a comedy about a big man in a small village called Crood whose position as Leader of the Hunt is threatened by the arrival of a prehistoric genius who comes up with revolutionary new inventions like fire.

The film was originally going to be an Aardman project but when the two companies parted ways, Dreamworks retained the rights to the film, which was written by John Cleese. Things were not looking good.

But now, according to CHUD, John Lassetter has been throwing his weight around at Disney and Chris Sanders - the writer and director of the excellent Lilo Stitch - has walked, after being forcibly removed from his American Dog project, straight into the arms of Dreamworks Animation where he will be restarting Crood Awakening.

This is a good move for Dreamworks and good news for animation fans. A Chris Sanders caveman film wont look like an imitation Aardman and neither will it look like a Shrek clone.

Whoever named your car the Bull was only half right!

Death Race 2000 DVD Death Race 2000 was directed by Paul Bartel who, as an actor, appeared in a film called Utterly Without Redeeming Social Value. Which brings us neatly to Paul W.S. Anderson - the man who brought us such cinematic treats as Resident Evil and AVP: Alien vs. Predator.

According to Dread Central (via) Anderson has left the long-gestating adaptation of Castlevania either because he didn’t like where the project was going or didn’t feel like waiting any more.

So why should I care whether or not he directs yet another third rate adaptation of a video game that I wasnt even aware of until people started talking about the film? Frankly, I dont. Unfortunately, however, this means that Anderson will now be focusing on his remake of Death Race 2000 about which his producer, Jeremy Bolt, said:

We’ve basically taken the idea of reality television and extended it twenty years. It’s definitely a comment on society and particularly on reality television, but it’s not as much of a parody or a satire as the original. It’s more straight-ahead.

Which completely misses the point of a film that is a great piece of satire and which is still both relevant and watchable today.

So here is my plea to Konami. Keep Paul W.S. Anderson working on Castlevania - pay him whatever he wants, let him do whatever he wants (lets face it, the film will suck anyway) - but keep him working on it until his plans for a remake of Death Race 2000 have sunk so far into development hell that the project is nothing more than a bad memory.

300 Parodies

David Bishop over at Vicious Imagery has been spending far too much time on YouTube watching parodies of 300, a film that does much to parody itself.

So, for your viewing pleasure we have..

Its Raining 300 Men

300 Phantoms

300 - The PG Version

Does anyone make science-fiction films any more?

Breakfast with the Colonel - a very good independent science fiction film MSN Movies has an interesting article on the subject of Science Fiction films (found via the Starship Sofa Forums).

While movies have struggled and sometimes succeeded in keeping up with the literature, the last two decades have seen real science-fiction cinema pushed almost to the fringes by space operas, video-game adaptations and comic-book franchises. Even movies based on written science fiction — most notably that of Philip K. Dick, who has probably been adapted more than any other sci-fi writer in the last 25 years — have fallen prey to marketing notions that action is more riveting to the modern moviegoer than ideas and imagination.

Whos to blame for all this? Well point the finger at that famous punching bag of fan boys everywhere: George Lucas. When Lucas made Star Wars in 1977, he was paying tribute to a subgenre of science fiction that he loved dearly as a boy: the space opera. But although the breathless serial adventures of Flash Gordon and his ilk had their pleasures, they were often treated with tolerance, at best, by more serious science-fiction writers and readers. Nevertheless, the success of Star Wars changed the movie industrys perception of science fiction forever. As much as we love Star Wars for what it is, it nearly killed Hollywoods willingness to fund science-fiction movies that actually said something about the human condition.

Far too many of the films coming out of Hollywood that are called science-fiction are really little more than action/adventure films that happen to be set in space. Its a real shame because it creates a vicious circle in which these types of films do well, so we get more of them - and this isnt helped when the likes of Alfonso Cuarón try to pretend that films like Children of Men arent science fiction.

If film-makers who make proper science-fiction films would be more willing to describe their films as science fiction, maybe the Hollywood execs would realise that there is an audience out there for intelligent, well made SF films.

Vinny Jones in the Palace of Delights

Cilve Barker\'s Books of Blood. Midnight Meat Train is in volume 1 Vinny Jones has been talking to Sci-Fi Wire (via) about Midnight Meat Train, the forthcoming adaptation of a Clive Barker. Jones plays Mahogany in the film, which is being directed by Ryuhei Kitamura who shot to fame with the deliriously bonkers zombie gangster film Versus.

Its all in the trains, Jones said in an interview at Wizard World in Los Angeles on March 17. [Bradley] Cooper is a photographer, and he thinks he knows whos doing the killings, but the police wont [believe him]. I just keep disappearing, but he keeps seeing me, and he keeps trying to get pictures of me.

He went on to say that his own character is a chameleon.

This guy—Mahogany, my characters name is—can just blend in with the crowd, he said. I wear a suit, and he just blends in. Theres nothing different about him, really. [Cooper] keeps trying to take pictures, but when I go into the crowd, I just become one of the crowd. So what were saying is this guy is such an enthusiastic killer, and he just blends in with the crowd.

I do like Clive Barker and I do like Ryuhei Kitamura and - you know what - I even like Vinny Jones who has always struck me, as an actor, as someone who knows what he can do and does it well. If all these elements come together as well as they could, we could have a blisteringly good horror film on our screens in 2008.

Dance motherf***er!

Dolemite DVD Its been seven years since Samuel L. Jackson tried to revive Shaft, but the Hollywood remake machine has once again turned its attention to the blaxploitation genre and this time its the turn of Dolomite.

The original film starred Rudy Ray Moore in the title role of pimp who - with his army of kung-fu hookers - takes on assorted corrupt cops, cocaine dealers and and organised crime ring in a chaotic campaign to retake control of his nightclub.

There is a review and a clip (from which the title of this post was taken) over at Does anyone really think that any mainstream remake can do justice to this film?

Not the Stardust trailer

Still from Stardust According to Neil Gaiman its not a trailer but a bunch of shots from Stardust, cobbled together from unfinished CGI footage with a bit of dodgy music over the top has turned up online.

It looks pretty, though, and can be seen over at Solace in Cinema. Hopefully the real trailer will be along in the next two to three weeks.

Two films for the price of two

Dutch film site, Inglorious Bastards have doctored (via) the recently released Grindhouse poster to make clear their views on the decision by the Weinstein company to split the film into two pieces in non-English speaking territories in order to make audiences pay more for less.

The Inglorious Bastards Grindhouse poster

Since Im living in Belgium at the moment, and dont intend on being ripped off, I wont be rushing to the cinema to see this film.


300 poster So I saw 300 this evening. To say I was less than impressed would be a bit of an understatement - the film was awful. Zack Snyders adaptation is faithful to its comic book source, to the point of being a literal retelling of the story. And this is where the problem lies.

A comic book tells its story through a combination of text and static images. Trying to reproduce the text, as 300 does, in the form of a narration - which was mildly annoying to start with and became increasingly irritating as the film wore on. As for the visuals, I mentioned earlier that Solace in Cinema had compared the images from the source comic to the relevant stills from the film and found them very similar indeed.

It sounds interesting on paper, but when you see the results on the big screen the results are incredibly static. So much so that I was starting to get very bored indeed with watching what amounts to a series of very pretty pictures being presented one after the other.

And when boredom set in, I started thinking about the dialogue and something snapped. As with the imagery and the narration, the dialogue for 300 may well have worked more than adequately on the printed page. But on the big screen, it sounded bloated, over the top and very silly indeed.

When we got to the end of the film my girlfriend felt the need to point out that 300 wasnt supposed to be a comedy.

If youve already seen this film, or dont care, there is a more spoileriffic version of this review on the forum.