Put Out To Pasture: Our Not-So-Newvember Wrap-up

Posted in The Screening Room by - December 01, 2015

It’s the end of Not-So-Newvember, and we have had our fill of remakes good and bad. Check out our thoughts on what made the cut on this month’s wrap-up! 

Best Remake

Oscar: The Mechanic 

Entertaining and stylish, The Mechanic showed that even a little Hollywood action excess can be fun.

Chris: The Phantom of the Paradise

If you haven’t listened to our thoughts on the film yet then check them out right here. It has quickly become one of my favorite films, and yes, I had an agenda getting it on the list this month. That being said, the camera work is awesome, the music is memorable, and the performances are fantastic. Its also directed by auteur Brian De Palma, and is, in my opinion, his best film to date.

Ben: The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

Let’s be honest, here: I’m not exactly picking from a list of winners. 2008’s The Day the Earth Stood Still isn’t the pinnacle of remakes, but it’s still a solid flick, which is more than any of my others can contend. Well cast, believably acted, and cleverly written, this 21st century remake remembers what made the original such a classic, and knows what to keep and what to curb for a new audience. It’s a shame this doesn’t get recognized more, but it’s still overshadowed by the film that inspired it.

John: The Mechanic

Any number of Hollywood movie remakes is going to be a mostly terrible selection of features. At worst remakes are senseless drivel that puts a stain on the name of truly great films, and at best they’re usually mildly entertaining flicks that you can enjoy for the camp and the novelty. I have to agree with Oscar, The Mechanic is the best remake we featured this month. It’s violent and explosive, the plot is interesting, and it has some shot compositions that are extremely well put together. The characters may not be entirely original, and the movie was never going to win an Oscar, but who really cares about the Academy Awards any way.

Worst Remake

Oscar: Guess Who

Guess Who is a boring and insipid update that does nothing with either its idea or its cast.

Chris: Red Dawn (2012)

Fuck this movie. Seriously, it’s an absolute joke of a film, and it exists solely to try and get butts in the seats with name recognition alone. This film is the reason remakes get a bad name and are so bemoaned by the film going public.

Ben: Bad News Bears (2005)

I watched plenty of deplorable movies this month (well… two and a half), but the 2005 version of Bad News Bears is so bad, it makes a high school drama starring Miley Cyrus look like a watchable movie. Completely tone deaf, awkwardly cut, and deplorably acted, this is the definition of a terrible remake. Seriously, it makes me question everyone in the production – clearly the original from the 70s couldn’t have been this crass and stupid and still warrant any warm feelings, right? The only thing to learn here is that Billy Bob Thorton is nearly unhateable, I swear, as much as I wanted to sling him under the bus with the rest of this trash of a movie, he still has some semblance of charm in this shit-show.

John: Planet of the Apes (2001)

This is one of those movies that taints the good name of its predecessor. There is something inherently wrong with the creative minds behind a film when you can take a movie as classic in the sci-fi genre as Planet of the Apes (1968), cast a group of talent that includes Tim Roth, Paul Giamatti, and Michael Clarke Duncan, and then pump out an incoherent, overly stylized piece of time travel garbage like Planet of the Apes (2001). Watching that film is a 119 minute shit show of “Why the fuck is that happening?”, “What the hell are they doing?”, and “What the shit is going on?”. It’s trash.

Best Performance

Oscar: Oscar Isaac as Prince John in Robin Hood

Oscar Isaac chews the scenery in all the right ways, and provides some nuance to a surprisingly complex character in a movie that needed to match up to his performance.

Chris: Tom Cruise as David Aames in Vanilla Sky

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Tom Cruise, and I honestly expected to dislike his performance and the film as a whole. However, I have to say that this may be my favorite role I’ve ever seen him in. He’s sympathetic and brash at the same time, along with grounding a film that sometimes strays into the fantastical. His vulnerability is real, and one of the best parts of the film. If you’ve never seen Vanilla Sky before, check it out for Cruise’s standout performance as the millionaire playboy.

Ben: Keanu Reeves as Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

Say what you will about his acting in The Matrix or any other post-Bill & Ted flick, but Keanu is perfectly cast as Klaatu in this update. His lack of emotion and direct, yet intimidating demeanor help him portray an eerily-accurate host for an alien consciousness. He’s at once sympathetic and frightening, and allows us to both see and feel his progression towards empathy for humankind. Keanu is truly compelling to watch among a veritable sea of noteworthy performances.

John: Neil Diamond as Yussel Rabinovitch in The Jazz Singer (1980)

I didn’t like The Jazz Singer (1980), partly because it’s a remake of a movie that’s only still talked about for it’s introduction of synchronized sound in to cinema, but also because it doesn’t really have a point. Yussel changes his name to Jess, leaves his wife, family, and religion to become a rock star, and then convinces his dad to forgive him. However, of all the movies I watched this month, Neil Diamond gets the prize of Best Performance. Neil, a Jewish man who became a secular rock star, is at least believable as Yussel, a Jewish man who becomes a secular rock star. This authenticity provides a better portrayal than most of the characters in movies I watched this month.

Worst Performance

Oscar: Ashton Kutcher as Simon Green in Guess Who

 It doesn’t help that he was given the blandest character in a bland movie, but Kutcher does nothing here. He’s like a blank slate.

Chris: Will Smith as Robert Neville in I Am Legend

Smith recently said that his turn as Robert Neville in the film is one of his favorite performances, and I can’t understand why. Everything about his performance as the “last man on Earth” feels forced and displays so much artificial melancholy that it’s absurd. He over does it at every chance he gets to deliver a nuanced performance, and instead resorts to his usual bombastic ways. I enjoy bombastic Will Smith, and I have a soft spot for Wild Wild West, but his reserved turn in this film never really hits.

Ben: John Travolta as Ryder in The Taking of Pelham 123

As opposed to Mr. Reeves’ excellent performance in The Day the Earth Stood Still,  we have Travolta’s terrorist, Ryder. Running from jokey to manic and threatening in a beat, all with his signature “style,” his character is never believable or terrorizing, except maybe when he’s openly murdering passengers. I was never fearing for anyone’s life, or regretful at his death, because all I ever saw was Travolta playing a part. Just another terrible decision in a movie rife with “Why the hell?”s.

John: Mark Wahlberg as Leo Davidson in Planet of the Apes (2001)

 Seriously, I try to spread my round up rewards out among all the movies of the month so as not to harp on any one film, but Jesus Christ Planet of the Apes. Marky Mark is a super well trained scientist astronaut pilot that wants to fly into a space anomaly in a tiny spaceship to get readings for science. Instead they send a monkey he’s been training specifically to do his job. when the monkey disappears, he climbs in his own monkey-sized vessel and shoots out into the anomaly. An actor should be able to express the motivations for such reckless actions on the part of their character. Mark Wahlberg expresses two or three motivations, each different and conflicting. Wahlberg spends the rest of the film doing the same thing, expressing motivations and emotions that run counter to whatever the hell it is he’s doing in this movie, and blandly accepting some pretty earth shattering revelations about mankind and the way of the universe. Maybe it’s the writing that’s to blame for his poor depiction of his character, but the same writers made the dialogue for Tim Roth’s character in that flick, and he at least managed to avoid being another of the many reasons that movie sucks. Mark makes no such save.

Most Needless Remake

Oscar: Guess Who

Extremely disconnected from the original’s concept, this movie feels more like a remake of Meet the Parents than Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. It has nothing to say, and does nothing for the audience.

Chris: The Planet of the Apes (2001)

This is as bad as you’ve heard, and it is probably worse. It exists because money was already sunk into it, and something had to come of it. Factor in Tim Burton’s unique style and a generically Wahlbergian performance from the Marky Mark and you get a film that is a mess. It makes little sense, and seems to exist more to show off cool ape makeup than to tell a compelling story.

Ben: LOL

 I had never heard of the French original and I see TONS of foreign movies (admittedly not so many from France, but still)! So why would we need to port over a no-name teen dramedy from France four years after its release? And then cast Miley Cyrus to lead? The movie isn’t awful, by any stretch, but it’s completely forgettable with nothing to say or show – the very definition of a needless movie. Too bad to enjoy, too bland to hate, LOL has nothing going for it.

John: Red Dawn (2012)

This is another movie I’ve watched but didn’t review for the site. It’s also another garbage movie, but it gets a little less hate than Planet of the Apes because, while it’s equally bad, the movie it’s based off of doesn’t fall as far because of it. The original Red Dawn is a classic example of the nationalistic patriotism action movie of the 80s. It’s relatively entertaining, tells an interesting “what if” story, and has a defined bad guy that was terrifying at the time of it’s release. The remake is none of those things. In an interconnected world in the information age, the studios didn’t have the balls to pick the Chinese, and so the film ends up casting “Asians” as the baddies and mildly connecting North Korea to it. Unfortunately for the film, North Korea isn’t scary because people are worried about them parachuting in their highly organized and well armed ground forces on to American soil, but because their leader is a whackjob and has a shit load of very big missiles.

The film also suffers from the fact that it came out in 2012, a year in which a large number of people are no longer affected by overt patriotism in a positive manner. I like America, I served in the military, but when a Marine’s only lines of dialogue are a ceaseless explanation of why america and the marine corps are the best two things on the planet, I want to punch the writers for a total lack of subtlety. The real Red Dawn is a cold war relic that one can watch with an awareness of the mindset of its time and its creative controllers. The new one is just a pointless remake meant to reel in the American population with a carrot and a very big stick.

This post was written by

Chris Stachiw is the Editor-in-Chief and co-host of the Kulturecast. He’s a native Californian with a penchant for sarcasm and a taste for the cinematic bizarre. You’ll often find him wandering the wasteland of Nebraska searching for the meaning of life and possibly another rare Pokemon.

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