A few not-so-shocking giveaways about this week’s new movie releases, including Justice League and Frank Serpico
Matthew Lickona 6 p.m., Nov. 17
So they’re remaking the Crow.
What, terrible sequels with the likes of David “Bones” Borneanaz, Iggy “Grampa” Pop, and Tara “Tipsy” Reid aren’t enough torture inflicted upon the cursed soul of the late Eric Draven?
Is this really what actor Brandon Lee literally gave his life for while filming the 1994 original? Woudn’t Jim O’Barr’s prototypal comic book Draven literally jump from grave in anguish over the jaw-droppingly bad 1998 TV show recreating his character as a crime-solving cop’s buddy (I sh-t thee not!)
It’s still up in the air as to whether director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later) will cast Marky Mark Wahlberg as Draven, as has been reported, or whether the script will focus on the Draven character or some other tragic deathbird dude.
Just today, I saw commercials for the remake of Straw Dogs (really?! Dustin Hoffman and Susan George aren’t good anough any more?) and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. (I’m actually curious about the latter, as it’s written AND directed by Guillermo del Toro, whose Pan’s Lanyrinth and Devil’s Backbone are among my favorite movies)
To my mind, only four remakes come to mind that may be as good as, or even better than, the originals.
Dawn of the Dead (2004 VS 1978)
I LOVED the original Dawn of the Dead back in the day, especially the version with the wonky music by Goblin (who D.o.t.Dead collaborator Dario Argenta used to their best psychedelic spookshow effect in Suspiria). It played every few weeks at our local drive-in for well over a year.
The original was one of the first "funny/scary" movies, as pioneered with flicks like American Werewolf in London. But the "funny" in D.o.t.Dead didn't hold up when I rewatched the original years later.
The remake, on the other hand, goes from TERRIFYING (the first 10 minutes especially, with the supersonic zombies that can outrun cars), to screamingly hilarious (the survivors in an elevator commenting on the muzak just before the doors open to their next zombie battle).
The old version had such lumbering, unscary zombies (including a nun and a Hare Krishna), while the remake has really scary dead folk walking. The redo even cameos by cast members from the original, a dicey maneuver that usually only serves to remind one of how poorly the classic is being treated in the clunker (think Lost in Space, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe, Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, etc)
Hairspray ( 2007 VS 1988)
In the 1988 original, plump and lovable teen dancer Tracy Turnblad wants to be a regular on the Corny Collins Dance Show. Along the way, she discovers that negros can dance pretty well too, and that people shouldn’t be so mean to negros, prompting her to take on social causes like integration, at least of the TV dance floor.
Tracy's nemesis is the uptight former dance queen of the program, Amber VonTussle, whose parents taught her that she should never mix her whites with coloreds. Both dancers aspire to be crowned Miss Auto Show 1963.
The stunt casting here gets downright distracting: Sonny Bono, Pia Zadora, Debbie Harry, Jerry Stiller, sheez, it was like a reunion of every person ever to appear on Battle of the Network Stars.
I was scared to see gigantic man-broad Divine turn up as Tracy's masculine mommy, tho he didn't send me running from the room like the first time I saw bits of Pink Flamingos. In fact, I became curious enough to check out more of his stuff, including an episode of the TV anthology Tales From the Darkside that indicates Waters may have been misusing the actor all along, perhaps making him famous as a freak but ignoring (or at least diluting) his actual performer potential.
The Waters movie was adapted as a Broadway musical, and the newer film was based on that, tho there are nods to the original movie (Rikki Lake even turns up near the end). John Travolta took on the Divine role, and it may be my favorite Travolta performance ever; he even does some singing and dancing in the female fat suit!
I understand the music in the movie version was different than the Broadway show, with some songs cut and new ones added. But, having just watched the original, I was quite surprised at how much I liked the remake. Waters himself was involved a bit (tho I think it's the only movie he's worked on outside Baltimore).
I'm still humming some of the tunes, and I can't wait to drop film quotes into casual conversations like "I wish EVERY day was Negro Day!"
Next time: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978 VS 1956) and The Thing (1982 VS 1951 The Thing From Another World)
"Field Of Screens" -- Cover story 7-6-06: Complete theater-by-theater history of San Diego drive-ins thru the years, including interviews with operators and attendees, dozens of rare and unpublished photos, vintage local theater ads, and more. http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...
"Before It Was The Gaslamp: Balboa's Last Stand" -- Cover story 6-21-07: In the late 70s/early 80s, I worked at downtown San Diego's grindhouse all-night movie theaters. This detailed feature recalls those dayz, the death of the Balboa Theatre, etc., including interviews with operators, vintage local movie ads, and more. http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...
"Pussycat Theaters: When 'Cathouses Ruled California" -- for the first time, the inside story of the west coast Pussycat Theater chain of adult moviehouses, which peaked in the '70s but later died out. Company head Vince Miranda owned and lived part time at the Hotel San Diego, operating several other local theaters downtown and in Oceanside, Escondido, etc. Told by those who actually ran the theaters, with a complete theater-by-theater encyclopedia covering every Pussycat that ever screened in CA -- http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...