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Entries in Remake (18)

Friday
Apr162010

Death at a Funeral

Rarely does a movie come along that is so funny you laugh until you can't breathe. The British 2007 comedy Death at a Funeral is one of those rarities. While a lot of British humor is hit and miss with American audiences, Death at a Funeral successfully bridged that gap and made itself accessible to everyone domestic and abroad. The remake can only wish to attain that status. It tries hard, but ultimately this Americanized Death at a Funeral feels like a shoddy rehash of the wonderful original.

The film stars Chris Rock as Aaron, the oldest son of his recently deceased father. Today is his burial day and the turnout is great. Everyone from his family, as well as many of his friends, have all shown up to give him a fond farewell. Among them are his brother Russell (Danny Glover), his author son Ryan (Martin Lawrence), his nephew (Columbus Short), his niece Elaine (Zoe Saldana) and her boyfriend Oscar (James Marsden). But thanks to some hallucinogenic drugs and a little person named Frank (Peter Dinklage), who claims to have had some, shall we say, uncouth rendezvous with him, his funeral is about to get a little more zany than the usual.

Death at a Funeral follows its British predecessor to the letter. The writer, Dean Craig, penned both scripts, though it really seems more like a copy and paste job than a whole new script in and of itself. This version follows the original, quite literally, scene by scene and rehashes the exact same jokes word for word. There are minor differences here and there, but by and large this is the same movie.

Which is to say the writing is brilliant. The absurd twists and turns both movies make are delightful and work despite their inherent goofiness. The writing takes a morbid subject and somehow wrings laughs out of a period normally set aside for grieving.

Or at least that's how the original worked. What this remake proves is how crucial comedic delivery is to a film. Despite using the same jokes that came from the same writer who more or less used the same script, this version of the film lacks laughs because the actors simply aren't up to the challenge. Rock is a poor replacement for Matthew Macfayden, who played his part in the original. Macfayden brought the character to life. He played him in a soft spoken kind of way. You could tell he was grieving over his father and in distress by the crazy events unfolding around him. All he wanted was to get the day over with and move on. Rock doesn't do that. You never sense that he, or any other attendee for that matter, is grieving in any way. He stands up there and does his usual schtick better suited for a stand-up routine, but never brings any depth to his character. Most actors fall into this category.

That is except for James Marsden. Playing the role Alan Tudyk knocked out of the park in the original, Marsden breaks from the monotony of the rest of the cast and switches his performance up. Rather than simply mimicking the cast of the original, he is allowed to roam free and be as goofy as he wants. Being the unfortunate victim of an accidental acid hit doesn't hurt of course, but nevertheless he plays his part wonderfully and produces the most laughs of anyone in the film.

But that doesn't change the fact that this is simply an inferior product to the original. Contrary to last week's Date Night, which had bad writing, but was saved by excellent performances from two hilarious leads, Death at a Funeral has terrific writing, but is hurt by poor performances from actors who don't know what to do with their characters. I wouldn't say I hated this Americanized remake, but why would I recommend it when I can simply point readers to the far superior original?

Death at a Funeral receives 2.5/5

Friday
Feb262010

The Crazies

When one thinks of horror master George Romero, it's only natural to recall films like Night of the Living Dead and its sequels Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead. He practically invented the zombie sub-genre by mixing gore with brilliant political and societal commentary. You may not, however, be aware of his lesser known directorial endeavors, including his 1973 turd bomb The Crazies. Now, nearly 30 years later, a remake has emerged and rightfully so. This is the type of movie that should be remade, one that had potential and an intriguing set-up, but failed to capitalize on it in any way. This 2010 version of The Crazies does indeed improve on its predecessor, yet it's still not good. You can polish crap all you want. In the end, it's still crap.

The film is set in a small Iowa town, a relatively quiet place that has never really had to deal with criminals, so much so that the sheriff, David (Timothy Olyphant), spends his days at local baseball games. One day at one of those games, a strange man walks in from the outfield with a shotgun and David shoots him dead. He assumes this was a one time thing, but odd actions begin to plague the citizens of the town and before he knows it, him and his wife, Judy (Radha Mitchell) are being quarantined off by the government. It turns out a plane carrying a biological weapon has crashed into their reservoir polluting their drinking water and turning everybody who drinks it stark raving mad. David and Judy are eventually separated because Judy is suspected of being infected, but instead of leaving quietly, David goes back to find her as the crazies break out of their camps and begin to wreak havoc on the town.

The Crazies is one of those movies that you walk out of in a state of bewilderment, impressed by its expertly crafted look, but baffled at the unstructured mess it became. What I mean to say is that this thing is shot with panache. In its own dark, macabre sort of way, the film is quite beautiful. The cinematography is second to none in the horror genre and each shot is bursting with creativity.

But all of that is wasted on a bare bones script and poorly executed jump tactics. Much like the majority of so called "horror" movies these days, The Crazies implements these jump scares like they're going out of style, each one more predictable than the last. I barely flinched, let alone jumped out of my seat. If I were wearing a heart monitor during my screening, I feel confident that it would have maintained a steady beat.

But what this thing really needed above all else was a decent script. It does nothing but move from horror set piece to horror set piece with little narrative arc. It moves so quickly from the morgue to the big empty house to the diner down the street and to the creepy, darkened shed with plenty of pointy objects just waiting to be impaled into somebody that it didn't feel so much like a movie as it did a haunted carnival ride.

This might not have been a bad thing had the film known how to carry itself. Look at Zombieland, for instance. That movie, much like this one, went from horror set piece to horror set piece with minimal narrative flow, but it knew what it was. It didn't care about story or scares, but rather on simply providing a damn fun time to its audience and it succeeded. The Crazies takes itself far too seriously and in its attempt to be scary, it falls face first to the ground, denying itself a chance to get back up again.

Like the original film, director Breck Eisner includes a commentary on biological warfare and the use of the military, but it's surrounded by so much useless bloodshed and idiocy that none of it seeps through. The only redeeming factor in all of The Crazies is the excellent visual style. With that style, which provides the appropriate tone for the movie, it's shocking to see how utterly void of scares this thing is. It may be more entertaining than the exposition filled snooze fest that was Romero's original, but that's kind of like saying a punch in the gut is better than one to the face. I'd rather not have either.

The Crazies receives 2/5

Friday
Feb122010

The Wolfman

The Wolfman has been plagued with production problems since its inception. Originally scheduled to be released in late 2008, it was pushed back numerous times, it underwent reshoots, a usual normalcy in filmmaking, that were rumored to be because the powers that be weren't happy with the look of the werewolf, directors were leaving the project due to the ever reliable term "creative differences," and even now, a week before the film came out, early word wasn't good. Well, it's not. The Wolfman is a dull, lifeless, meandering failure saved only by the sinful glee of watching England's citizens get their limbs get ripped off in splatters of blood.

The Wolfman stars Benicio Del Toro as Lawrence Talbot, a British man who moved to New York some time ago to pursue his acting career. His brother, still living back in Blackmoor, England, has just been found dead and Lawrence has been summoned back for the funeral. The events surrounding his death are mysterious because his ravaged corpse shows evidence that he was not murdered by man, but by some kind of beast. One night at a gypsy camp, Lawrence finds that beast and is bitten, giving him the curse of the werewolf. Meanwhile, something doesn't seem to be right with his father, John, played by Anthony Hopkins and now he is being pursued by the local police, headed by Abberline, played by Hugo Weaving.

There are more than a few problems in this dreadful adaptation of The Wolfman, but none surpass the questionable decision to cast Benicio Del Toro in the title role. I haven't seen such an egregious case of miscasting since Ben Affleck in Daredevil. The film takes place back in old England, in the late 19th century and Del Toro plays a British lad who grew up there, yet he doesn't even attempt an accent. The problem is that his dialogue is still written in that time period's prose, so he ends up sounding silly. Every line he uttered was a distraction and his presence in this movie is unforgivable.

Still, with such great material to develop from, I find it baffling how bad this thing turned out. It should have been an homage to the olden days of horror, hearkening back to the roots of what made the genre so popular in the first place. Instead, it's little more than a new age horror flick hiding under the guise of a classic. It's incredibly violent and it uses dozens of jump scares, some that are placed within mere seconds of each other, none of which work.

The disappointment is that the film looks good. The production design is impressive, with a haunting, bleak atmosphere accompanied by gothic architecture and a dark tone that would have generously supported the story had there been one to care about. This thing goes from scene to scene without so much of a story arc, basically repeating itself over and over until the anti-climactic final battle. Scene transitions were sometimes abrupt and rarely seemed to gel together, even going so far as to overuse the fade-to-black scene ender multiple times.

What The Wolfman all boils down to is a slapdash, clumsy remake with zero scares, an uninteresting story and one ridiculously bad miscast. Sure, the intense violence will hold your attention for a few moments, but when you realize that's one of the only aspects of it worth noting, you begin to realize how truly shallow it is.

The Wolfman receives 1.5/5

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