Don’t Remake My Heart

On a recent episode of The Highlight Reel, myself and Matt got into it (and by ‘it’ I mean a discussion which only came to blows after we went off the air) on the subject of remakes. It’s a topic that’s been brought back into sharp focus by the considerable, still-churning backlash against the Robocop reboot. Yes, the one where they paint Robocop black for literally no other reason than to make him look cool. No, really, they explicitly say that in the damn trailer. It’s this kind of attitude that means remakes, much like sequels, are an often-unfairly maligned branch of cinema. They suffer from many of the same problems as sequels (needing to be different enough to justify being made without being so different that they alienate the fanbase), only these problems are exacerbated a thousand times by the fact that they are, well, remakes. You have literally seen it all before. So why bother?

 

Well, that’s an interesting question, and one with no easy answer. I know why they do bother, of course, because Hollywood is run entirely by moustache-twirling Scooby Doo villains, but from the perspective of the fan, the mucky-faced plebeian crammed into a cinema screen, the matter can be a delicate one to touch. As a film fan, whenever you watch a film, it is a unique experience to you. Any film is subject to your own personal checklist, and the more boxes it ticks, the more likely it is that you’ll remember it and take it close to your heart (unless of course, it is a truly terrible film, in which case you remember it in the same way you’d remember a bout of malaria). If a film that you like is being remade, then there’s absolutely no way you’re going to respond positively to it at first. How could you? It’s like Hollywood went right into that brain-checklist and fiddled with it, changing and tweaking everything about that film until it’s nothing like you remember. If you liked the actors in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, there’s pretty much no reason you’d want watch the exact same film again with different actors in, right? Get the brain-eraser out and scrub that off the checklist. That’s one black mark against the film before you’ve even watched it.

 

But which remake am I even talking about?

 

What I’m getting at, in my own torturously metaphorical way, is that a remake is onto a loser from the start, purely because it takes something you liked anyway and then changed it. It’s adding tabasco sauce onto your favourite meal. Depending on what it is and how much you spice it up, your remake can be a disaster or a roaring success. Take The Haunting for example. The 1950s original was a brilliant exercise in horror, namely because it showed restraint. The plot begged questions of the characters and the audience because you didn’t know whether there was actually spooky shit going down, or whether it was all in the sleep-deprived minds of the characters. The 1990s remake, however, didn’t have any time for that subtlety crap. Didn’t you know? By the 90s, that shit was totally gay, man. Using the Babby’s First CGI brand of special effects that plagued films in the 90s as filmmakers took to this exciting new technology like a child would take to an annoying novelty ringtone , the rejigged version of The Haunting was like an exceedingly cheap ghost train. Gone was the creeping psychological horror, replaced by Owen Wilson doing awful comic relief and shoddy, shocking-but-not-in-that-good-way pixellated ghoulies that wouldn’t even scare Shaggy from Scooby Doo. It completely missed the point of the original, dumbed it down hopelessly and added things where they did not need to be added. This approach, used by many remakes during this time (and in present day, actually) is one of several solid reasons why remakes are treated with such scepticism by audiences around the world. Hollywood doesn’t care about you, and it certainly doesn’t get you, so if it can replace subtlety and craftsmanship with waving a shiny new toy in your face for 90 minutes, it will.

 

Or is it? See, within the sprawling hellmouth that is the modern Hollywood landscape, there lie a selection of noble artists. Sleeper agents, if you will, embedded, deep cover, within enemy territory, fighting the good fight for the simple moviegoer that they once were themselves. I have a lot of time for filmmakers who are obviously big movie fans themselves – I know all of them are probably big fans to some extent, but I’m talking the weirdly obsessive, student of the game sort of fan here – and that’s why I’m a huge fan of guys like Rob Zombie (I list The Devil’s Rejects among my favourite films of all time without shame) and his work in the Halloween franchise. Now, the two new Halloween movies he made are far from perfect, but they’re a hell of a lot more important than people give them credit for. You can hardly accuse Zombie of not getting his source material when the Halloween franchise itself had descended into campy self-parody over the years. It’s little wonder John Carpenter himself looked on Zombie’s remake so kindly, as he’d seen his creation bled to a more painful death than any of Mike Myers’ victims (and people who watched The Love Guru). Hallowee-make (shut up) modernised and reinvigorated the character of Myers and almost threatened to start a new franchise all of its own, for a time. It was never going to match the original, but what it did do was provide a gateway to a generation of moviegoers who knew nothing of the original classic, and instead might only know the character of Mike Myers from his pop-culture footprint, which had largely been spoiled and demystified by years of crappy, knock-off sequels. Hell, much of this could apply to horror films in general – as the best horror films are very much a product of their time, it makes sense that they might need to be updated from time to time. The need for a new lick of paint only becomes more vital after said horror film has suffered a series of dodgy sequels, which is ultimately the fate of every successful horror film.

 

And even most of the unsuccessful ones too!

 

At the end of all that, my not-very-revelatory conclusion is simply that, like all film (and indeed all art forms) remakes need to be made for the right reasons. If they’re made for genuine reasons by an artist who genuinely wants to add something to the original, then it at least deserves a chance. Take remakes on their own merits, and don’t tar them all with the same brush, and you could be in for quite a treat. Or, at the very least, you get to like a film that everyone else hates and get a smug feeling of superiority from doing so. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to defend the new Robocop on Youtube. You filthy mainstream casuals.

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The Highlight Reel Preview: 15th July Edition

It’s that time of the week again for a look at what is coming up in our latest episode of the The Highlight Reel that broadcasts every Monday at 11PM on Sine FM, or you can catch it anytime over the week if you press this shiny red link! (Do it!)

But anyway, what’s in the show? Well I’m glad you asked, (well I asked under the guise of you, but anyway) in this week’s show, we’re taking a look at a prequel to one of the greatest animated movies of all-time: The Lilo & Stitch prequel. Just Joking! We’re of course taking a look at Monsters University. We cast our eyes (or should that be eye) upon the return of the second most famous green testicle on legs, Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) as he and his future friend Sulley (John Goodman) go to University and learn how to be “scarers” (and just in case you are wondering why Mike is the second most famous green testicle, the most famous is of course Hitler’s loose one, but I can neither confirm or deny as to whether his testicle does have legs or not, so I’ll err on the side of caution and say that it probably does).

But is it a good film? Well you will have to listen to the show to see what we think. However, I do apologise if i used one too many genitalia jokes in the last paragraph and I take them all back, I also promise that you will not hear any more penis jokes in the rest of this preview. So why not take a look at the trailer of Monsters University and see how this one eyed monster is doing (…I’m so sorry):

We also have a review for the new American TV drama: Ray Donovan. It stars Liev Schreiber as a “fixer” called Ray Donovan who battles to fix the problems of the rich and famous while struggling to fix his own. Take a look at the trailer below:

And finally, this week’s feature sees us taking a look at one of the strangest genres that has ever came to the screen, these films are what we have called ‘Nanny movies’. They are the films where famous tough guys look after little kids in films like: The Pacifier, The Tooth Fairy and Kindergarten Cop, and we ask the question, “who are these films actually made for?”

So for all that and more, tune in tonight at 11PM, or anytime over the week on Sine Fm, to have a listen to our show The Highlight Reel where we take a look at the weird and wonderful about film and TV today. So why not give us a listen? Go on! You know you want to!

The Highlight Reel Preview: 8th July Edition

Hello guys! It is that time of the week again to have a quick preview of what is to come in this week’s episode of The Highlight Reel, airing Monday nights on Sine Fm. So what’s happening in this week’s episode? Well this is actually my first proper episode co-presenting with Chris and in it we will review the latest Magical Crime Thriller (talk about a niche market): Now You See Me, which stars a whole raft of stars such as Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman and everyone’s favourite Michael Cera impersonator: Jesse Eisenberg.

We are also having a look at the returning BBC drama Luther, starring Dj Driis (A.K.A. Idris Elba) as the troubled detective John Luther, and you’ll find a teaser trailer of this new season below:

And finally, if you have already seen Chris’ great article just below (go on give the page a little scroll down), you’ll know that this week’s main feature sees us taking a look at something so terrible, so utterly, utterly, terrible, that some of them almost managed to killed off a whole genre before the genre had even had a chance to start getting good. We’re taking a look at the disastrous times for Comic Book movies that was the 1990’s.

So for a quick fix of the latest film and television news, catch our show at 11pm on Sine Fm, Monday the 8th July, or anytime over the week. So go on give it a go, you won’t regret it! (However, you would regret it if you pressed this link – Ooooooh! The tempation!)

Batman And Robin: “Buy This, You Simpletons!”

I’ve gone on record many, many times about how much I enjoy bad movies. Many of my favourite films of all time are famously awful train wrecks. Troll 2, The Wicker Man (Nic Cage’s Woman-Beating Extravaganza, not the original one) and The Happening are all films I heartily recommend to anyone, even you, who I would almost certainly despise if I ever met. There’s something admirable about them. Maybe there’s something remarkably human about a pathetic, incompetent effort of a bad film. Maybe I appreciate that it actually was an effort. Maybe I’m just insane and, shortly after writing this blog post, am going to shit into my own hands and hurl it at the moon, but the point is there’s a soul to the bad movie that I just find really endearing. Well, not quite every bad movie.

You see, on the latest edition of The Highlight Reel we discuss bad comic book movies, specifically ones from that faraway land of the 90s, and while films like Steel, The Phantom and Tank Girl are laughably bad, and miles away from what your average comic book movie today is, there at least seems to be some value to them. A picture drawn with human shit is still art to some people, after all.  You’ll notice I’m referencing excrement more than I usually do in this article, a theme which is appropriate given the final film we talk about on The Highlight Reel: Batman and Robin.

If you squint slightly, it looks sort of like the cast are emerging from a cavernous, brightly coloured, torn anus. Or maybe I’m just projecting again.

Now, it’s hardly a revelation on my part to suggest that Batman and Robin is a bad movie. The film has been universally panned by anyone who has so much as caught a glimpse of a frame in their peripheral vision, not least by the entire cast and crew who spent much of the promotional featurette that went out on the DVD apologising while looking sheepish and profusely ashamed of themselves. The cast refers to the film in much the same tone as that rehab group leader in Breaking Bad recounting how he accidentally killed his daughter. Director Joel Schumacher apologised to the fans for making such a gaudy, horrible light show instead of thinking about what the hell he was doing for more than 5 seconds. And honestly, I don’t like this kind of senseless rage that this film brings out of me. I like to have a bit more poise about my criticisms. While I love film, I don’t like to take it too seriously. I like to separate my passion from my inner Youtube commenter. Rarely will I flip out and let a film get under my skin so much that I fly into a Tazmanian Devil-esque rage at the mere mention of it, over fifteen years after its release, with a desire to write a lengthy, ranty blog post about it before shoving blunt sticks into my eyes to make the nightmares go away. But holy fucking shit, this film is terrible.

After Tim Burton made things too dark and weird with the vastly overrated Batman Returns, a shift into lighter territory wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. So, when they turned to Joel Schumacher to make Batman Forever with the instruction to make the Dark Knight that little bit brighter, it was pretty successful. That film isn’t without its faults, but it’s a decent watch. Of course, in typical Hollywood fashion, following the success of Batman Forever they immediately decided that, hey, the lighter tone worked so well, so that means going several hundred miles further in that direction is the only logical course of action! Let’s have everything daubed in gaudy, horrible neon. Let’s have every other line of dialogue be some crushingly awful pun, let’s have the costumes based on what a five-year old would find cool, and let’s turn the entire relationship between Batman and Robin into some bickering nonsense that would make even the worst buddy cop movies cringe (assuming a film could cringe, of course, which they can’t unless you live in Peewee’s Playhouse where everything has eyes and a mouth or something).

Batman and Robin is so bad because it’s a slap in the face not just to Batman fans, but to film fans in general. It’s so obviously toyetic, geared to sell action figures and theme park rides and horrible little collector cups. It’s corporate bullshit being poured into your eyes, and if you try to blink and look away you can’t because the horrible ice puns and frantic editing and screechy children and bat-nipples all surround you until it swallows you up, swallows you up in gloopy brown filth, the rotten hands of Chris O’Donnell grabbing at your ankles as he pulls you down to whine about how he hasn’t got his own shit little car, and all this steamy shit roars up your nostrils and into your ears and into your brain and it’s whirling, whirling around the inside of your mind and oh god it just won’t ever stop because it’s Batman and Robin, fuck me it’s Batman and Robin and they’re in your brain forever screeching BUY THIS, BUY THIS SHIT PLASTIC TOY FOR YOUR MORONIC OFFSPRING until you eventually relent and begin convulsing, naked and sweaty, on your bathroom floor at 3am as the last wisp of your soul evaporates through your red withered eyeballs and you live out your days as a shrivelled husk, not quite dead yet not really alive.

What I’m getting at is: this film has no soul. It was made to sell crap to you and your kids by people who think you are incredibly stupid. It was made by the kind of people who only exist in episodes of Scooby-Doo, cartoonishly evil folks who sit around working out how they can stab each other in the back for a 0.0000001% increase in their Christmas bonus, if they even believe in Christmas, which they don’t because they spend their holidays kicking orphans and hacking up baby animals with a rusty cleaver. I hate this film and everything it stands for. I hate the sheer, sneering contempt it shows towards people like me. There was no artistic endeavour whatsoever from anyone involved. Everything resembling character, or setting, or atmosphere, was reduced into some horrible neon sludge that SM:TV Live would consider tacky and lowbrow. I know Batman’s reinvention into some badass, dark crimefighter is a relatively recent thing, and I’m by no means denying the history of the franchise here, but during post-production of Batman and Robin someone made the decision to insert comedy sound effects when people fall over. Someone actively made a decision to turn Mr. Freeze into a big blue pun machine who only ever talks about ice. Someone threw out all that great, rich history that Batman had by this point because they wanted to make toys with George Clooney’s nipples on them. They wanted to make this lowest-common-denominator pap that they thought would get little kids to pester their parents into buying the toys, and the obvious, blatant cynicism of this is what really gets me. I know it wasn’t the first or last film to do this, but few have done it so blatantly at the expense of absolutely everything else in the movie. Not only is Batman and Robin completely without any artistry whatsoever, there was a conscious effort on the part of the filmmakers to avoid it altogether.

And no, bat nipples do not count as ‘artistry’.

As I stated earlier, there’s something weirdly likable about an incompetently put together movie – like Steel – that shambles along, put together by a bunch of people who had no clue what they were doing, as evidenced by the fact they cast Shaquille O’Neal as a superhero. You can’t be mad at it any more than you can be mad at a baby for soiling itself every day. With Batman and Robin, there’s a callous, almost malicious disregard for the audience on show. You are an idiot, and you will buy what we tell you to, it says, more loudly and more clearly than almost any other movie I care to remember. Whenever anyone whines about how bad movies are today compared to “back in the day” (when “back in the day” actually was varies on when the cretin using it was born. For my generation, it usually means the 90s), I often like to hold up Batman and Robin as a counter-example. After Earth sucks and I’d never tell anyone to go and watch it, but at least it doesn’t insult you while it steals your time and money. It’s for precisely that reason why Batman and Robin is one of the worst films ever made. It’s underpinned by this seething ocean of greed, made by suits of the kind only previously thought to exist in Wayne’s World, and it’s inescapable. It’s as if the film was written by feeding a bunch of sales figures into some monolithic supercomputer, which then churned out the script for this film before becoming self-aware and threatening to release dirty bombs all over the world unless it was made exactly as it thought it should be. It’s this forced, artificial version of cool that nobody in the world actually thinks is cool, and in the end, looked horribly out of place both “back in the day”, and even more so in the cold, harsh light of 2013.

In short: I don’t mind if your movie is shit. As long as it has a bit of soul.

The Highlight Reel Preview: Big Updates!

Having sat here for a good five minutes trying to think up a decent apology for neglecting this blog so badly, I eventually decided that being nice and sincere isn’t for me, gave it up as a bad job and put my feet up with a Newcastle Brown on hand. Although, I hasten to stress, that’s not what I’ve been up to these last few weeks. No, I’ve been beavering away on The Highlight Reel, and have a couple of exciting big updates about the show, which will see a few changes to both show and blog. What might they be? Well, because I can’t be arsed to think up of some clever, interesting viral marketing ploy, I’ll just tell you now.

First things first, Monday’s edition of The Highlight Reel sees a very special bunch of guys making an appearance at Sine Towers – the lovely guys from Cookie’s Crumble productions are in the studio to talk about their upcoming project The Dinner, and what you can do to help make it happen. They’re a genuine bunch of guys and their interview makes for great listening, so do tune in over on sinefm.com at 11pm GMT to find out exactly why their incredibly ambitious project is worth getting behind. Also on the show, there’s the usual mix of news, reviews and your mum jokes that are an integral part of The Highlight Reel, so expect reviews of World War Z, This Is The End and Hannibal.

While fooling some actual human beings into sitting into a room with me is big enough news by itself, that’s not the only exciting update I have for you. On Monday’s show, I briefly introduce Matt, my young Padawan who, starting next week, will be joining me as my co-host. Yes, I’ve been indoctrinating him into the Sine Collective these past few weeks, which means an extra brain on the show and on the blog. The division of labour means I’ll have much more time to write my high-larious comedy gold pieces on here, as will he, and both the blog and the show will continue to get bigger and better. So, do keep a close eye on this blog for further updates, as we do our best to keep you informed about all the really important stuff that doesn’t actually affect your life in any conceivable way.

You can follow the lovely folk of Cookie’s Crumble on that Twittery thingy so please do and also spread the word and give them all/some of your money HERE:

Jade Hamilton

Jess Pagan

Cookie’s Crumble