To prove it can be done Jarv lists 10 actually good remakes.
Remakes, eh? The lazy hack’s adaptation format of choice. Seriously, why bother going to all the trouble of coming up with a new idea, and then writing it, filming it and then marketing it to people who have never heard of it when you can pick a classic/ popular title off the shelf and routinely sodomise it on-screen for the vicarious pleasure of the cretinous plankton who intermittently tear their eyes off their vital text message to cast their listless gaze on a film that once fired the imagination being used and soiled like a Thai hooker with self-esteem issues. Particularly guilty are all those hideous Carpenter remakes, which, let’s face it, only exist to keep the man knee-deep in mediocre weed and shitty KFC. Nevertheless, it isn’t impossible to craft an actually good remake (and The Departed is not a good remake). To prove it- here are 10 in no particular order that are all quality, and some of which surpass the original.
10. 12 Monkeys (1995) based on La Jetée (1962)
This is the film that everyone quotes when they say that Brad Pitt can act. Well, he’s actually the worst thing about it. Terry Gilliam claims the sequence of static shots that is La Jetée was only an inspiration, but 12 Monkeys is so similar to it (albeit moving), that I’d be astonished if this were true. What it does do, brilliantly, is take the idea of La Jetée, and fill out the background by expanding on the central premise of a slave sent back in time in a post-apocalyptic world. It’s also a good film and a fun thriller.
I’m including this as a remake, because it is so, so similar, but at the very least La Jetée serves as the bedrock the rest of 12 Monkeys is built on.
9. No Way Out (1987) based on The Big Clock (1948)
Forget Boring with Indians, this is Kevin Costner’s finest hour. A complicated twist-upon-twist type thriller involving an attempted cover up and the identity of a Russian Spy in the White House. Featuring strong performances from Gene Hackman, Costner himself, Sean Young and Will Patton, Roger Donaldson’s Cold War Thriller is a cracking ride, with a genuinely surprising denouement. I haven’t actually seen the original, but this is a film I thought about doing for the Underrated series, and can happily sit at the tail of this list with no shame whatsoever.
8. The Manchurian Candidate (2004) based on The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
I won’t waffle on too much about this one, as Droid already reviewed it surprisingly coherently for a malfunctioning robot built by a horrible emo douchebag on a desert planet. Nevertheless, Jonathan Demme’s version of The Manchurian Candidate is a spectacularly well put together piece of paranoid tension in it. Liev Schrieber puts in the best work of an otherwise ho-hum career and both Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep are simply outstanding. Anyway, to read his full review of it, click here.
7. The Magnificent Seven (1960) based on The Seven Samurai (1954)
Come on now, who doesn’t love this? Own up…
This is one of the most famous “good” remakes out there. It certainly helps that Kurosawa (as far as I understand it) was trying to make a Japanese western with the original, and therefore it was a pretty obvious move to transplant it to America for us ignorant Western types that think a Samurai is a small hatchback that does great miles to the gallon. Nevertheless, with a cast simply to die for (including Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter, Eli Wallach and Horst Buchholz). The Magnificent Seven spawned a shed-load of sequels of dubious quality and became a mainstay of British Christmas TV. For good reason: it’s great fun.
Obviously it isn’t as good as Kurosawa’s, but as a film in its own right? Excellent.
6. Down and Out in Beverley Hills (1986) based on Boudu sauvé des eaux (1932)
I didn’t actually know this was a remake until I started on my *cough* research for this piece, as I’ve never even heard of that complicated foreign, possibly French, title above. Still, and not to be disparaging in the slightest, it’s a very funny film in its own right. Richard Dreyfuss is hilarious as the uptight clothes hanger magnate and Nick Nolte is simply superb as the bum that upends his life by shagging Dreyfuss’ wife and mistress, stealing the dogs affection and other suchlikes. Notable for being the first ever Disney R rated film (technically Touchstone) and also containing the first sex-scene in a Disney release (I’m not convinced about this, but if Wikipedia says so…), Down and Out is well worth a couple of hours for a good chuckle.
5. Scarface (1983) based on Scarface (1932)
Oliver Stone and Brian DePalma’s reimagining of the seminal story of Al Capone has several things going for it. It cleverly moves the story to Miami, has a cast including Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer and is a fucking good thriller in its own right. However, it’s also eminently quotable (“Say Goodbye to the Bad Guy”) and is a gleefully trashy look at the rise and fall of a Cuban drug lord. This is a film I return to more often than I care to think about it and is one that’s always considered when these lists are put together.
Altogether now: “And fuck the fucking Diaz Brothers”.
4. Fistful of Dollars (1964) based on Yojimbo (1961)
Another ludicrously famous pick, this one. The first of Leone’s epic trilogy is interesting in that it is ostensibly a remake of Yojimbo, Kurosawa’s storming Samurai Tale. Except that Yojimbo is actually an adaptation of Dashiell Hammet’s piece of sterling noir Red Harvest. Nevertheless, Clint Eastwood is on stomping form as the Man with no Name and watching him tame the warring factions is simply hugely entertaining. There’s a lesson to be learnt from this film: don’t fuck with the man’s mule.
Still, though, as Spaghetti Western’s go, A Fistful of dollars is one of the finest out there.
3. The Fly (1986) based on The Fly (1958)
It’s debatable which is Cronenberg’s greatest film. I personally lean towards the magnificent Dead Ringers, but a very strong case can be made for his 1986 remake. I reviewed this already here, so I’ve got fuck all worthwhile to add, but it’s one of the very few films that I’ve dished out a full 4-Chang rating. Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davies are superb in this depiction of a man turning into a monster, and there’s enough gore to keep even the most apathetic viewer interested.
This is an awe-inspiring remake, that stands confidently as a film in its own right and I honestly cannot recommend this enough.
2. True Lies(1994) based on La Totalé (1991)
Another one that I didn’t know was a remake when I saw it. However, only the French would take the premise of a guy working undercover for an anti-terrorist organisation and make a film with absolutely no action in it whatsoever.
Thankfully, James Cameron has no such qualms, and when you cast Arnold in the role, let’s face it, you’re not looking to make a film about the sensitive portrayal of the difficulties maintaining a dual identity in the face of a fragmenting home life.
True Lies is one of the last, if not THE LAST, “great” Arnie films, and I’m sure Droid will pen a glowing review of it when he gets there. Which will probably be some time in 2017.
1. The Thing (1982) based on The Thing from Another World (1951)
This is arguably the greatest film of Carpenter’s hot streak. Kurt Russell has never been better as R.J. Macready, and The Thing features some truly first-rate monster work. The Thing is a superbly paranoid alien invasion film full of likable and sympathetic characters, paranoia and bucket loads of tension. Furthermore, the ending is absolutely wonderful- leaving the question open to the viewer.
This is a really great film, one of my favourites actually, and I could waffle on about it indefinitely. But that would be boring, so I’ll stop here.
This list is not exhaustive, and not even in order. There were several other candidates that narrowly missed out including Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, Bodysnatchers itself and other sterling candidates, but at the end of the day, the shitty remakes outnumber the good ones by a factor of at least 3 to 1.
Until next time (which will be the 10 most hateful Remakes)