Category Archives: remakes
Man of Steel ~ We’ve been on this ride before, a new Superman movie. I remember the thrill and awe of the first two movies with Christopher Reeve, and the disappointment of the following two as well. And then two decades later we got Superman Returns, and while I had huge issues with the ‘super stalker’ and ‘deadbeat dad’ subplots, Brandon Routh wasn’t bad as the man of steel, Kevin Spacey was brilliant as Lex Luthor, and the plane rescue had to have been the single greatest superhero special effects scene filmed up until that point. I enjoyed quite a bit of it. And if I enjoyed it… you know what Hollywood has to do, change it.
I have talked before about how I feel about origin stories, no need to chew on that again. But the fact is they (writer David Goyer and director Zack Snyder) have changed Superman’s origin. If not for the fact that everyone knows Superman’s origin I wouldn’t have a problem with it. It’s the Moses story, the Jesus story, the immigrant story, the perfect origin for a perfect hero, and they had to tamper with it.
In this new version, there is no requisite scene of Jor-El and Lara holding each other as krypton explodes and their son rockets away to safety and his destiny. It reminded me of the latest movie version of Spider-Man where Uncle Ben never says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Why? If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Some traditions should stand.
Instead of a tender tragic moment, Man of Steel delivers the Kryptonian Civil War, General Zod murdering Jor-El, and Lara on the stuffy Science Council (although unnamed as such in this flick). At the last minute, almost as an afterthought, they go, oh by the way, Krypton is doomed, and about to go boom. We spend a good twenty minutes or so on Krypton, not a frozen crystalline weirdness that it’s been on film for decades, but almost something resembling the comics Krypton. I loved the wing machine, Kelex, and the jungles and cities. I would have squeeed if we’d gotten the actual Scarlet Jungle or a thought beast.
Zod here is a military leader who attempts a coup on the council, and with his underlings (the also unnamed Black Zero terrorists, a name only learned from movie affiliated toys), is sentenced to do time in a space singularity. Again, we don’t hear the words ‘Phantom Zone’ until much much later. What is Goyer’s resistance to using correct terms for people and things?
We did get a few little tidbits in the flick. No after credits scene or cameos or even mentions of other DC characters really. We did see a LexCorp truck at one point. I was thrilled seeing the names of real Phantom Zone character names in the credits – had I heard them out loud in the film, I would have loved this movie a lot more. Jax-Ur! Dev-Em! Nadira! We’re talking fanboy heaven here. Comics fans like Easter eggs, why not give us a few?
The cast was surprising, both good and bad. Amy Adams as Lois Lane is the plucky reporter from the 1940s Fleischer cartoons, wonderfully updated not to a 2013 standard but to a respectful current version. She won’t seem dated to audiences a few decades from now as Margot Kidder does in her then highly acclaimed tour as Lane. Watching her performances now just scream 1970s so loud. Adams is amazing for the most part, only briefly falling into annoying mode once or twice.
Henry Cavill, in my opinion, and I know many friends who disagree, is only just adequate. He is suitable alien, and distant, and anti-social. Superman is an alien, yes, but he’s not any of those other things. He is sensitive, and caring. Remember in Superman II when the three Phantom Zone villains discover his true weakness? He cares. Cavill’s Superman never gives me that impression ever. In Man of Steel, when Zod demands that Kal-El be delivered to him, if it was Christopher Reeve, or even Brandon Routh, the Superman/Zod confrontation would have happened in the next few seconds, or however long it would take super speed to get our hero to the villain’s lair. Goyer’s Cavill takes his damned time.
Henry Cavill as Superman lacks heart, he lacks love. Superman loves the human race, he believes in the human race, and he wants to make them better, to inspire them to greatness. I never believed Cavill in the role except for one or two brief moments. Let’s face it, and I’m not saying this to be old school – put Christopher Reeve in this exact film, in this same role, with the same dialogue and direction, and I would believe him, Cavill I would not, and do not.
Kevin Costner will hopefully be remembered come Oscar time because he deserves it for his performance as Jonathan Kent. That said, I hated the character of Pa Kent in this movie. Just the concept that he would tell his son maybe he should have let people die rather than reveal his powers just aggravates the hell out of me, and is so against his character. And his death, his sacrifice that forces young Clark not to save him when he easily could have… I wanted to scream at the screen. Who is this man? Because it sure as hell isn’t Jonathan Kent.
Speaking of fathers, Russell Crowe’s Jor-El leaves the movie early, as I mentioned, a victim of General Zod. He returns later in a method similar to the earlier Superman films, as a hologram, or more accurately an interactive artificial intelligence. What boggled my mind is the fact that Crowe as Jor-El had more chemistry with Adams as Lois than Cavill’s Superman did.
I was a bit iffy about Michael Shannon’s Zod at first. He can be brilliant but sometimes he’s a one note actor. If we’re judging Shannon as if he was playing Terrence Stamp’s general Zod, he fails miserably, but the thing is he’s not. This is a different Zod. He is almost a heroic figure. He is commissioned with the responsibility of continuing the Kryptonian race, and Kal-El actually stands in his way, a war criminal of sorts, the one keeping krypton from flourishing again. Really, how can we root against a man with that new MO and motivation? Despite his methods, this is one of the good guys, right? Shannon’s portrayal is good, only falling into cartoon mode once or twice.
As long as we’re talking about Zod, we come to two of my biggest problems with Man of Steel. Here be spoilers, be warned. Superman has to murder Zod to stop him. At the climax of the film, Zod gets desperate and starts to heat vision a family so Superman breaks his neck. The powers that be behind this flick, Goyer and Snyder, among others, have defended this move, saying that Superman has to learn not to kill by having experienced it.
Hello? Bullshit. I call shenanigans, as they say on “South Park.” I don’t have to kill someone to know it’s wrong. You don’t have to kill someone to know it’s wrong. Why does Superman, the pinnacle of all that is good and right in the world, not already know this like you and me? Superman, the real Superman, would have found a way to stop Zod without killing him. That’s what makes him freaking Superman!
Yes, something similar happened in the comics. John Byrne had Superman execute Zod and two other Phantom Zone villains in the post-Crisis continuity, and I hated it then as I hate it now. With over seventy-five years of source material it hurts me deeply that the hero’s darkest hour is what some people think should be brought to the screen. There are much better stories, people, probably hundreds, if not more.
One thing that superhero movies have brought to the screen recently, especially the billion dollar blockbuster, Marvel’s The Avengers, is the level of destruction. Well, super powers, the wrath of gods, can bring wholesale destruction down on us all, and now with the special effects available and the popularity of superheroes, we can now show combat on a scale similar to what is sometimes shown in comics.
Listen to me carefully. It does not translate to the big screen. I want to see these big smash-ups and slugfests as much as the next guy, but when it happens in ‘real life’ in a movie, it just does not work. We live in a post-9/11 world, and even over a decade later, those images have a blood curdling effect. To borrow the words of comics writer Mark Waid, it’s disaster porn, plain and simple, and I don’t wait to see it. I want to leave a Superman film inspired, uplifted, wanting to make the world a better place – not mourning the dead.
In conclusion, Man of Steel was a good movie, but it wasn’t a good Superman movie. I look more forward to Batman Vs. Superman, or maybe the much anticipated Justice League film, than I do ever seeing this one again.
For other perspectives, including my own, below is the Biff Bam Popcast featuring Andy Burns, JP Fallavollita, Jason Shayer, and special guest, Michael Moreci of the Hoax Hunters comic series, done at the time of the film’s theatrical release:
And then there’s also JP Fallavollita’s review of the film at Biff Bam Pop! here for a very different view.
Star Trek Into Darkness ~ There was so much hype about is-it-Khan-or-isn’t-it that I think it really overshadowed what a great film this truly is. Maybe if J.J. Abrams hadn’t kept it such a big secret, and just not made a big deal about it, maybe the reception would have been different. Sure this sequel did well, and there will be a third, but I think it could have done better. I mean, seriously, if it came out that this was going to be a remake of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, different or exactly the same, couldn’t that have only helped box office sales?
Yes, the circumstances are different, and yes, things play out very Bizarro World in some places, but that doesn’t make it a bad movie. I think it’s cool. Abrams did a wonderful thing with the first movie. He found a way for old fans and new fans of Trek to get the best of both worlds. There’s a new continuity without jettisoning the old one, can it get much better than that? New and old fans get a new Khan story, and old fans get to see a parallel universe to the one they know. This is a good thing.
I liked the parallels. I like the new and known dynamics of the Kirk/Spock relationship, and well all the other character relationships. While I do yearn for a seasoned Kirk who knows what to do, I like this young guy too. All the characters get good screen time, the actors give great performances, and the villain(s) do as well. Benedict Cumberbatch is both a compelling actor, but a very compelling villain as well. His casting was golden. He’s no Ricardo Montelban, but he is Khan.
The other thing I loved is probably something that the old Trekkies and Trekkers hate. I loved the action. It never stops. Star Trek Into Darkness is a fast rollercoaster ride of an action movie. This is not your grandfather’s Star Trek where they talk their enemies to death, this is, again, the best of both worlds. I should note that the story has some problems, both in logic and in flow, but you don’t have time to think about it until after it’s over.
And many folks I know had a problem with what seems at first a cop out in the story. That would be young Spock confronting old Spock on a situation he had already encountered. Hello? If your alternate universe future self were readily available for you to access his experience, wouldn’t the logical thing be to consult him, and consult him as much as possible? Eat Vulcan logic, Trekkies.
Visually stunning, wonderfully written, directed, and acted, this is one hell of a movie. I will grant you, this isn’t as good as the first one, but it continues the story suitably and respectfully. Maybe for the new Trek series, the odd-numbered sequels are the good ones.
The Great Gatsby ~ Every time I think of this Baz Luhrman flick, I can’t help thinking about the “Entourage” fictional version Gatsby. Maybe if I keep thinking that, I can also manifest another fake movie from the show, Aquaman, ’cause that one I really want to see.
At first, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to see this new version of Gatsby. I remember vaguely reading it as a teenager, and then being made to read it in college. I remember watching a TV version as an ABC movie of the week back in the seventies and being bored to tears.
The Great Gatsby is a lot of tell vs. show, along with subtext and metaphor that if you don’t get, your English teacher or professor will have a seizure. It’s also full of unlikable characters. It serves its purpose, like say Catcher in the Rye, don’t get me wrong, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Then there’s the problem of the director. Baz Luhrman, for me, is a creator of extremes. I think his Romeo + Juliet is a work of brilliance, yet his critically acclaimed Moulin Rouge! revels in the mud of my bottom five. I hated it. And because of it, I approach any further Luhrman work with contempt, derision, and caution. The Great Gatsby, seemingly in a similar vein to those two previously mentioned films, is definitely no exception.
I did not hate this version of Gatsby, but I didn’t love it either. It falls somewhere around my impression of the 1970s one, less than impressed, and bored. The leads are strong and perfect had this been in hands of any other director. Luhrman resorts to camera tricks, fast motion, modern music, and even 3-D trickery, and all any of it does is sour and dilute the classic story. Don’t waste your time, unless you’re a fan or morbidly curious.
Total Recall ~ I thought it might be worth taking another look at this 2012 remake of the 1990 scifi classic, especially in the light of seeing Iron Man Three and Star Trek Into Darkness, as well as anticipating Man of Steel later this month. All of these films have one thing in common. Everything you think you know is wrong, here’s the new spin, enjoy the irony and the fun references to what you thought was going on.
Anyone walking into Total Recall, or any of those other flicks, is going to get what they thought they would, and that’s part if the ride. And rollercoaster ride is principally what Total Recall is. It barely ever stops from start to finish, the action is full on forward, barely giving the viewer time to catch their breath.
Those expecting star Colin Farrell to play Arnold Schwarzeneggar are to be disappointed. This flick is both a remake of the 1990 film and loosely (as loosely as the original) based on the Philip K. Dick story, “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.” Keep in mind, the original protagonist was based on Richard Dreyfus so Farrell is not right either. As far as cast goes however, only he and antagonist, Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad,” really shine.
The setting is different, rather than Mars, this is set fully on Earth, even as Earth as a tunnel through the world from London to Australia features solidly. It’s still a dystopian future, and our hero still has memory issues and may not be who he thinks he is. Same s#!t, different day, if you’ll pardon the expletive.
The references are plentiful and amusing, as long as you’re not a purist to the first movie, or the story. Just sit back, turn off your brain and enjoy the ride. I loved the flying car chase, amped up unbelievably over the one in The Fifth Element, and the more original vertical/horizontal elevator chase. Bring seat belts!
Steel Against the Sky ~ A classic Warner Bros. two-reeler from 1941, this has stock characters and a predictable end, but all in all is great fun. Two brothers, Lloyd Nolan and Craig Stevens, high rise construction workers, compete for the same girl, sexy dame Alexis Smith. Thrills abound in the climax high above a bridge construction in a raging ice storm. Classic forties Hollywood melodrama at its best – snappy banter, comedy, romance, and adventure. And watch out for the young Jackie Gleason. Worth watching.
Spaceship Yamato ~ This 2010 live action version of the animated TV series “Star Blazers” is everything you would expect it to be. I liken it to seeing my comic book heroes, the Avengers, on the big screen. It’s something I never thought I would see in a million years, and yet here it is. Fabulous special effects bring the animation to life. So worth seeing, even if you just look at it with no subtitles on YouTube. Absolutely must see for any “Star Blazers” fans.
21 Jump Street ~ I really only watched the first season of this show when it was originally on, so I’m not a fan by any real stretch, but I do hate the idea of remaking old TV series into comedy movies, especially when the source material was not a comedy. I can forgive “Bewitched,” but this one doesn’t quite fit. About the only thing I liked about this was the Johnny Depp reveal at the end. The rest of this mess is really like Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum just got stoned and improv-ed what they thought “21 Jump Street” might be about. Hill is so not funny here, and I equally don’t get what all the fuss over Tatum is. Avoid this like a salad bar without a sneeze guard.
The Cabin in the Woods ~ Joss Whedon strikes again. There’s really not much I can say about this one, other than it is always more than you expect, and always goes one better. Unpredictability at its best, a modern horror classic. If I told you anything else, I’d spoil it. You’re on your own.
Double or Nothing ~ This great one-reeler from 1936 stars Phil Harris as a stunt double in Hollywood who while under gas dreams he goes to ‘Doubles Heaven,’ home to lookalikes of the stars. An amusing musical romp, and lots of fun for fans of classic Hollywood, starring many doubles of the day.
The Initiation of Sarah ~ The original came at the tail end of the great ABC telemovies of the 1970s. In it, Kay Lenz, who I always mixed up with Susan Dey, plays the Carrie part in this Carrie rip-off. Morgan Fairchild is chief tormentor and Shelley Winters the witchy housemother mentor. There were a few of these Carrie wannabes in the 1970s, The Spell with Susan Meyers from “James at 15” was another, that aped the mousy scapegoat girl, who also happens to have telekinetic powers, flipping out in her tormentors. Sarah took place at a college sorority as opposed to high school.
The 2006 version is a re-imagining of the 1978 movie of the week done for, believe it or not, the ABC Family Channel. Well, at least they’re keeping it in the ‘family.’ Yeah, I know, sorry. Here, Morgan Fairchild returns as the snooty mom of two girls about to enter college, and join her old exclusive sorority. Lindsay, played by a post-“Firefly” Summer Glau and mousey cutter Sarah played by Mika Boorem of Blue Crush, are, as one would expect, polar opposites.
It is essentially the same story, with a decidedly non-fun Jennifer Tilly in the Shelley Winters role, but it has become unnecessarily complicated, almost as if someone was watching nothing but “Buffy” and old soap operas for a couple weeks straight. The warring sororities are the guardians of good and evil, people pretend to be other people to sleep with them, and it gets worse from there.
I wanted to like this one, I really did. It could have been the good old campy fun the original was but just took itself too seriously, and too much ABC Family as well, adding a crapload of teenage melodrama to the mix. Avoid and look for the original.
Yogi Bear ~ This is the live action and CGI big screen movie from Christmas 2010 that pretty much bombed at the box office. Much like The Green Hornet a year or so back, I have to wonder if its because the current movie going audience has no point of reference for Yogi Bear any longer.
When I was a wee toddler waaay back in the late sixties, I have great memories of watching classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters like Yogi Bear with my dad. It’s a good memory, sitting with my father, seeing the five to eight minute adventures of Huckleberry Hound, Jinx the Cat, Pixie and Dixie, and Jellystone Park’s favorite pick-a-nick basket thieves, Yogi and Boo Boo Bear.
Later those good memories of semi-good kids cartoons were ruined by parents groups in the seventies, leading them to join together to fight pollution on “Yogi’s Gang,” and then later were sidelined as peripheral funny animal characters on “Scooby-Doo’s Laff-A-Lympics.” After that, except for a handful of forgettable appearances, Yogi was, well, forgotten. Maybe, after the seventies, with good reason. Still, the 1960s cartoon shorts have a warm spot in my heart.
That said, I doubt most of the folks who saw this in theaters even knew who Yogi is, um, was. Those that did, might have been put off as I was. The CGI Yogi and Boo Boo is kinda cool, until you see them next to live action human beings. Then the reality sets in that they are bears because the size ratio is correct and troubling. Bears, even those wearing ties, sometimes tend to eat people. I can see young kids being maybe freaked out by this.
The plot is much too long and complicated for the characters who work best in ten minute increments at most. Similar structure has ruined of films of this genre like Rocky and Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right and even Looney Tunes and The Simpsons. Honestly, I would have been happy with eight ten-minute vignettes than one eighty-minute movie, but that’s me.
Intellectually disturbing (for me at least) is the fact they acknowledge Yogi and Boo Boo are not only bears, but talking, thinking, tie wearing bears. They even acknowledge its rare, but they never explain why. That drives me nuts. Maybe it’s just too meta for me to get past, but it bugs the hell outta me.
Then there’s also the voice casting of Dan Ackroyd and Justin Timberlake as Yogi and Boo Boo. Timberlake is not bad at all, but Ackroyd, once you know it’s him, never sounds like anything but Dan Ackroyd doing a bad Daws Butler as Yogi Bear imitation. Some folks may have enjoyed and praised us, but not me, I couldn’t get past it.
All in all, Yogi Bear wasn’t bad, fairly harmless actually, and did have the spirit at least of those original sixties cartoons. Anna Faris didn’t annoy the hell out of me, and it had Journey music, so it couldn’t be all bad. Good for the kiddies even though they might not even know Yogi or Boo Boo.
I Saw What You Did ~ Back in the old days, before video rentals, before OnDemand, even before cable television, there was only one way to see a particular film – you waited and waited for it to finally show up on standard six channel television. When it was a movie you’d never seen and only heard about, it became sort of an event, and a special memory. I saw The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon this way, and also Mothra and the Matt Helm films. There was a certain mystique to the movies you had to watch and wait for each week by scouring the TV Guide.
The original 1965 (it was later a terrible telemovie in the late 1980s that is best forgotten) version of I Saw What You Did was one of those movies, and in recent times it has been made even rarer by its on-again-off-again video and DVD releasing. In an age where almost everything is available, this is indeed a rare film. It’s a lucky thing that occasionally TCM gives it a run, usually when honoring its star Joan Crawford, or its genius director William Castle.
Its full title gives a bit of a hint what it is really about. Two teenage girls on a sleepover amuse themselves by making random prank phone calls and saying to the answerer, “I Saw What You Did! And I Know Who You Are!” You can imagine the bedlam that ensues when they call the man who has just murdered his wife. There’s the set-up and trademark William Castle hilarity and horror follow. You can understand how the plot of this one can become whispered legend among those watching the TV Guide every week.
In a role originally meant to be only a cameo (although she got top billing and pay) and originally offered to Grayson Hall, later to be known as Dr. Julia Hoffman on “Dark Shadows,” Joan Crawford eats up the screen like the film goddess she was in every scene. Her appearance, dressed for flash in the middle of the night, is kinda odd, but then again she’s Joan Crawford after all. She proves without a doubt she could easily be the kooky neighbor in a sitcom from any age, and do it with pizzazz.
The two girls, and one’s little sister, are terrible, but their kids, so give them a break. John Ireland as the killer is stone-faced and fierce, his looks alone inspiring scares. Some of the shocks and the violence are a bit over the top for the time, and surprising when you think about it in hindsight. It’s not Friday the 13th, but it’s a bit much for 1965. The initial killing is an ironic turn on the shower scene from Psycho and actually quite well done.
This is, despite what others may tell you, William Castle at his best. I love this flick, and watch it whenever it presents itself. Must see for horror fans, movie fans, and camp fans – funny, scary, quirky, what more could you want? So keep a lookout, just like in the old days, for the next time I Saw What You Did airs, it’s worth it.