Although when I was younger I would enjoy watching movies starring Danny Kaye on a Saturday afternoon, the original 1947 whimsical comedy wasn’t one I recall seeing. Therefore although I usually hold remakes in some disdain, this one was more welcome. Ben Stiller stars as loner office worker Walter who lives his life day dreaming about adventures, more than often featuring his workplace crush Cheryl (Kristen Wiig). When the threat of redundancy puts everyone on edge at the magazine he works for, a telegram from a renowned explorer / photographer (Sean Penn) sees Walter clutching onto his last hope for adventure.
This utterly charming and clever movie has Ben perfectly casting himself (he also directs!), equally well supported by the always lovely Kristen. The movie takes the blueprint of the Danny Kaye movie and attempts to really go to town with it, resulting in lavish and outrageous fantasy set pieces such as rescuing a dog from a burning building and a Matrix-like street surfing battle with his boss (!). It’s an idea that proves a bit hit-and-miss (who came up with the Benjamin Button sequence?) but livens up what would otherwise be a pleasant but very gentle story. Add to this stunning cinematography with a Forest Gump-like tone for Walter’s globe trotting scenes, and this also proves a visual treat.
I found Walter’s motivation for setting off in search of the explorer, considering his employers are a bunch of arrogant dicks, lacked plausibility and the love story sub-plot with Wiig could have been more engaging if she’d tagged along (for real, not just in his head). Add to this some artsy effects that didn’t always work (we see a brief text message displayed on the side of a mountain, that I had to rewind because I missed what it said…) and a (mostly) forgettable soundtrack … this almost fell short. Thankfully Stiller is excellent and very likeable throughout and there’s enough feel good, heart-warming moments (Wiig’s Major Tom bit) and creative razzle-dazzle to make this one to check out.
It’s difficult to really say what we as movie lovers actually want from a remake. In my opinion they have usually only worked when the source material is ropey or lacking in the first place, with some exceptions of course. So now we come to what was possibly one of my most dreaded rehashes. First mistake – remake a bonafide classic of the genre, Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s debut novel. Second mistake – the casting of pretty starlet Chloe Grace Moretz, something I have ranted about here on this very blog.
But brushing such fears aside, what is it actually like? Well let’s back track a little and tell you what we have here. Moretz plays lonely, bullied high school kid Carrie White, who lives in the shadow of her god-fearing, domineering mother (Julianne Moore) and pretty much tries to go unnoticed … until that is she gets her period in the school showers and becomes a cruel laughing stock to everyone who witnesses it. But hey, Prom Night is on the horizon, so things can only get better … right?
Let’s just say straight away, I was wrong about Chloe Grace Moretz. She is actually surprisingly convincing as the outcast Carrie, something I didn’t see coming and hey I’ll admit when I am wrong. She portrays the iconic role previously played by Sissy Spacek very well indeed, and even seems to have grown somewhat as an actress in the process. The second slam dunk is Julianne Moore – absolutely perfect as Carrie’s demented bible-quoting mother, and does the impossible by equalling the performance of the excellent Piper Laurie – possibly the true highlight of the original. The rest of the cast aren’t quite so interesting; we get the token popular girl who grows a conscience, the bully who basically is like every other bitch in such movies, and the do-gooder gym teacher … all not adding much. Director Kimberly Pierce however is clearly well-traversed in De Palma’s movie and this is basically a very close never-really-daring-to-try-anything-new sort of remake – although when the original pretty much hit all the right notes, that can be (mostly) forgiven.
Some bits are drawn out (the car sequence…), there’s too much CGI and the final prom bit fails to go for the jugular … oh and sorry Chloe you don’t look scary covered in blood. Yet this was still better than I expected. Worth a look.
Now before you think this is going to be some sort of character assassination post … I personally am a fan of this talented young actress. I thought she stole the show in the movie Kick-Ass, a role that deservedly launched her to stardom. Yet the next thing I saw her in was a remake of the excellent Swedish vampire flick ‘Let The Right One In’.
Now the problem I have with such role choices she seems to be making (or her agent is) is that following a relatively daring turn in Kick-Ass the logical next step is to turn to horror roles? Erm, why? In the original movie they chose a pale, gothic looking actress in the form of Lina Leandersson (right) and it was perfect. Why was Moretz wrong for the remake? She’s too cute and pretty to believably come off as a vampire that’s hundreds of years old! No I say! That and many other mistakes the questionable retitled ‘Let Me In’ made. Yet for some reason her agent (or herself) repeated this casting error with the recent remake of ‘Carrie’.
I haven’t actually seen this movie although I plan to, but again she’s replacing an actress (Sissy Spacek – right) who was cast for her plain, wall-flower look, and again Moretz is too pretty for the role! This is meant to be a bullied, picked on character … and I imagine Moretz would be fairly popular in school! I may be wrong about this but it made me immediately doubt the credibility of the performance and the subsequent reviews seem to support my theory.
Now look at her in a movie like Hugo, perfect … quirky, cute and likable – even returning to Kick-Ass 2 will undoubtedly work I’d imagine (another one of my to-watch movies). So I sincerely hope that in the future Chloe Grace Moretz starts going after roles that suit her look and style, not dark horror roles better suited to dark, gothic actresses … perhaps its cool she has such diverse career opportunities, and she has the talent, is funny, charming and deserves to do well … just perhaps leave the remakes alone unless you’re really right for the character, huh?
French director Alexandre Aja (Haute Tension, Piranha 3D) may forever be stuck in remake hell, but although he is yet to make something on U.S. soil of his own imagining, he still seems to deliver very confident and gutsy material. This remake of the Korean psychological horror has Kiefer Sutherland as a disgraced former NYPD cop turned security guard who takes a night job watching over an old department store that was the subject of a fire years previous. During his nightly rounds, he soon discovers there is something very wrong with the place, and especially wrong with the mirrors that adorn much of the interior, and a series of hallucinations soon lead him to the conclusion that supernatural forces are at play.
Aja’s movie is stylish and well made, with plenty of scares and freaky moments (the bathroom death particularly standing out), as well as some decent special effects and unexpected twists. Sutherland is good as the lead, and has always been one of my favourites, even if he’s more known for his role in TV’s 24 these days. Yet his character felt underdeveloped with a very vague back story (he shot a cop. Why? What happened?). Supporting cast also pale significantly, and remain no name set dressing, but for some attractive females who seem adept at parading their cleavage. Plot-wise I was gripped throughout, even if I was left asking a few questions as the credits rolled. Overall though, this had enough quality moments and chills to entertain and make me avoid my reflection as I went to bed.
Not all horror remakes are bad, and some can bring a lot to an old concept, ultimately improving upon it … yet last night I sat down and watched on television the remake of Japanese cult horror The Ring. Ok, it starred Naomi Watts, had a decent director (Gore Verbinski) and was fairly well put together on a technical basis. Much like the original too, the use of a creepy videotape and hallucinations helped build an unnerving atmosphere. Yet then the movie does the unthinkable, and humanizes the character of the evil girl, this time named Samara, by showing footage of her time in a psychiatric hospital, and instead of the horrible vision of a small figure with hair over their face, we see it’s actually just a very troubled child. Naomi Watts over-acts somewhat from the very beginning and frankly her young son is creepier than Samara, which just baffles me. Now looking back at the original ‘Ring’, I recall only glimpses of the girl, Sadako, a flash of a hand with no fingernails, the same creepy atmosphere, but very little humanization – and you never saw her face. This then makes the ending something of horror legend, copied in the remake, much more terrifying as what crawls out of that TV and stands up to scare its victim to death, is not human, but pure evil – and just a close up of a blood-shot eyeball is all the viewer gets. In the remake we see the girl, albiet zombiefied, but still a girl, with a stern pissed off look, and guess what – it’s not scary. Well done remake. You just killed the money shot! Continue reading →
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