Tag Archives: Unnecessary remakes

Total Recall (2012)

It’s been a while since I’ve watched the 1990 version of Total Recall, and yet it was still obvious to me that the 2012 version was the same in plot but different in setting. The setting change was particularly jarring. It is bizarre to me that Mars does not enter into the 2012 movie at all – Australia stands in, which is not really an even trade.  No offense, Australia, but a destination (/colony) I can reach by airplane is not nearly as futuristic-feeling as a colony on another planet. Also, is the fahero_EB20120801REVIEWS120739999ARct they refer to Australia as “the Colony” in Total Recall a little too close to home?

As with all remakes, I waited for the 2012 Total Recall to justify its existence. And like a lot of remakes, it never did. The Total Recall remake is more serious and more down to earth than the original, and both of those are bad things. The original stands above, not just because it did everything first (including the three boobed prostitute) but because it did everything better (including giving a reason why there would be a three boobed prostitute).

The original is campy and dumb and fun. The remake is muted and sterile and dull. The difference between the two is exactly the difference between 80s Arnold (no last name needed) and Colin Farrell (no time period needed since to say he peaked would wrongly imply he was ever much good). No one with any sense would choose Farrell over 80s Arnold as an action hero, and likewise no one should watch 2012 Total Recall when 1990 Total Recall is either in your basement/garage or the basement/garage of a friend, gathering dust with hundreds of other DVDs.

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Flatliners

Courtney is a medical student in a competitive hospital. She’s not content with just being the best, she wants to be a pioneer, and she’s got her eye on quite the break-through: she wants to be an expert in the afterlife. To that end, she recruits a few brave colleagues to do some top-secret experimenting in the hospital’s basement. She somehow convinces them to stop her heart for a full minute before resuscitating her. When she wakes up, her brain is re-wired, keyed up to excel, to remember everything, to reach further, better, higher. So of course her fellow students are jealous, and curious, and lineup to have their hearts stopped.

Ellen Page is kind of the coolest. I respect her. She makes everything she’s in better. Flatliners-stillBut you can hardly make something better if it isn’t remotely good to begin with. The thing is, the idea behind this movie is probably solid. But this movie takes an interesting premise and immediately flushes it down the nearest toilet. It takes philosophy and science and turns it into a party drug, giving lots of opportunity for shirtless dancing but not a whole lot else. It’s supposed to be a horror movie and it does lazily throw some things at the screen in order to startle you, but it doesn’t try hard enough at anything. I don’t even think the original was all that great, but trying to make a second cup of tea from the same old tea bag makes for a very weak cuppa.

The most character-building the movie strives for is to give each student a name, and a haircut. Basically they’re all greedy, selfish, horny little pricks. Shouldn’t med students know better than to intentionally die?

Newsflash, guys: bringing stuff back from the dead is rarely a good idea. It’s funny that the director made a movie about this but never took the lesson to heart.

Ben-Hur

The weird thing we all noticed in the trailers of Ben-Hur is that there were no big names. No names mentioned at all. No recognizable faces. I know the actor playing Ben-Hur – it’s Jack Huston, and I came to know him on Boardwalk Empire – but he’s not well-known. Matt never recognized him without the half tin-face, and Sean doesn’t know him from the third freckle to the left of his arsehole. Huston’s decent in it, but he’s no movie star. Isn’t it weird that a studio would spend $100 million dollars on a movie and neglect to cast any celebrities? And I don’t mean Kanye West as Jesus (Yeezus?) – but to cast a whole roster full of nobodies seems like a gamble.

So Ben-Hur is a bonafide flop. Not because Jack Huston couldn’t carry it, but because he benhur-faithtrailer-1-1024x426.pngshould never have been asked to. And of course you could say that Ben-Hur didn’t need a remake, but the simple truth is that no movie needs a shitty remake. If you insist on having a go at a famous and beloved movie, you’d better be bringing something to the table. And Timur Bekmambetov thought he was: CGI. But he failed to appreciate that a lone 10-minute sequence of blood-rushing speed just doesn’t cut it anymore. This is the era of action. 60% of the shite in theatres right this very minute, competing against it, is action-packed. Suicide Squad, which is a pretty terrible movie, is at least more energetic. Star Trek Beyond is full-throttle. The days where Charlton Heston going all fast & furious on a chariot could save a movie are gone. Long gone.

I’m trying my hardest to think of one nice thing I can say about this, but I’m drawing a blank. The editing is tumultuous. I think the film makers are relying on our general knowledge of the classic Ben-Hur to pull us through this one’s bumpy ride in story-telling (quite general: lots of details are changed, and I’m not sure to what end). That, and two really genius visual aids: 1. white horsies vs. black horsies (guess which ones the good guys ride) 2. Caesar haircuts vs. Jesus haircuts (guess which ones the good guys wear).  Subtle enough for you? Not that it matters. This movie lost me in its first 5 minutes. You know why? It’s stupid. You’re going to want to kick a black horse. It was a camera angle that took me out of the time period. It made me feel like Judah Ben-Hur was wearing a GoPro. He may as well have posed for a selfie.

The 1959 epic Ben-Hur used 2500 real, live horses and 10 000 real, live people. It was made with love – I know this because one of the last living American crew members told me so

BEN-HUR

Morgan Freeman plays Ilderim and Jack Huston plays Judah Ben-Hur in Ben-Hur from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Paramount Pictures.

in a documentary recently (The Man Who Saved Ben-Hur. Unfortunately he died before he could save us all from this one). Ben-Hur 2016 is a re-imagining lacking imagination. It used just 86 horses, 400 extras, lots of computer fakery, and – fuck me – GoPro cameras. Jesus fuck. Speaking of whom: unbelievably, the 2016 version is the more Jesusy of the two. I suppose producers were hoping for a built-in Christian audience, but the heavy-handed message will likely ring false even with them.

I’m afraid that this iteration of Ben-Hur is a symbol of our culture generally: devoid of our own ideas, we steal old ones and then make them crappier by half-assing things and cutting corners. Tell me I’m wrong.

A Star Is Born (1976)

John Norman Howard is 3 hours late to his own show. The 50K people spilling out of the stadium are restless, but they aren’t leaving. When he does arrive, they’re ready to forgive everything, but he’s not even sober enough to remember the words to his own songs.

Meanwhile, Esther Hoffman, an unknown songstress, is the “filling” in a trio regrettably called The Oreos, performing in a bar that serves warm beer or herbal tea. It’s not a great place, and it goes downhill when it’s terrorized by a drunken, sloppy, washed up rockstar. Intentionally or not, he’s incredibly disruptive, and Esther (Barbra Streisand) knows when a gig’s gone belly-up. Generously she leads John (Kris Kristofferson) out to safety.

MV5BMTQ5MzMyMjI0Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODk4NTUyNw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1544,1000_AL_This is where the numerous A Star Is Born remakes made their jump from acting to pop music. My Mom had this soundtrack on vinyl when I was a kid – she was still a kid herself when this came out. She though Kristofferson was a dish.

Anyway, though undiscovered, Esther is a pretty confident babe. It’s clearly a role written specifically for Babs, who shines her special light every moment she’s on screen, which means it’s hard to believe her as anything but The Voice. Although, to be fair, it’s even harder to believe her as a serious love interest – Streisand and Kristofferson do not have so much as a microwave lightbulb’s worth of heat between them. They often substitute cornball humour for passion, and that’s an awkward trade-off that grinds things to a halt.

Esther is mouthy; John Norman is irascible and intoxicated and is deathly afraid of buttoning his top 6 buttons. They’re not exactly a lovable pair, and god help us when the whole thing takes its time getting going. It feels like a cliche that he needs exactly her kind of saving, and yet there it is. Of course, when her star is shooting upward, he gets predictably petulant.

All this to say I’m not a big fan of the movie. I guess you’re in it for the music or you’re not in it at all. Not to worry though, if you don’t like this one, there are a half a dozen other iterations to try!