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Monthly Archives: July 2010

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Another Day, Another Awful Remake

Total Recall always seemed like one of those reboot proof movies. Because how exactly do you reboot something like that. The freaks, the bug inside Schwarzenegger’s head that he has to extract through his nose, the fake head, the talking robot cab? The answer is you hire Len Wiseman to direct, and the guy behind Law Abiding Citizen, Ultraviolet and Equilibrium to write the script. Now there’s no way that combination is going to produce anything watchable.

And why hire Len Wiseman, who isn’t on a roll, to remake the movie, when Paul Verhoeven is still around. Dan O’Bannon may be dead, but the other writers credited on it, with existing credits like Freejack and Big Trouble in Little China are still working. And even their mediocre movies like Next, are still better than Law Abiding Citizen, Ultraviolet and Equilibrium. But you’re missing the point. They’re too old now. Only Len Wiseman can make Total Recall contemporary enough by making it PG-13, filling it with special effects and casting somebody from Grey’s Anatomy in the lead.

So once again why? Is Total Recall such a brilliant concept that the remake will even work? No it’s not. Most of what’s fun about Total Recall is what will be taken out. Arnold’s deadpan performance. The over the top violence. The ridiculous toys. All of them part of the flavor of the 80’s. Take those away and you have nothing much left.

I can see the point of a 3D Yogi Bear, as hopelessly lame as it is,

because if you’re not Pixar, instead of trying to come up with a new idea, you just remake the old and sell it to kids. Who don’t know and don’t care anyway. Bear hits head. Kids laugh. Adults aren’t that much smarter, but Total Recall is not a franchise, it’s not a property, it’s a PK Dick story with an ironic twist ending that never made it to the movie.

If you wanted to remake it so badly, bring in the people behind Crank, cast Jason Statham in the lead, and it’ll be the same movie except with a trip to Mars.

Will FOX Learn a Lesson from Die Hard 4?

Not that Die Hard 5, or supposedly Die Hard 24/7 is on its way, did FOX actually learn any lessons from Die Hard 4’s failure? It’s reasonable to look back and say that Die Hard shouldn’t have been a franchise at all. That it should have been just one movie about a cop in a skyscraper trying to rescue his wife from supergenius robbers. But it did become a franchise, and Die Hard 2 was a reasonable follow up. It had the same elements as the original Die Hard, even if they weren’t as good. An isolated location. A bad guy with a complicated plan. McClane working around the clock to try and stop him, leading to some good set pieces. Die Hard 3 took the whole thing to an odd place, giving him a partner, and making the bad guy a little too ridiculous, right down to the whole phone clue game. But it was still entertaining. And then there was Die Hard 4. PG-13. Lots of CG explosions. A terrorist plot of some kind that made no sense. And McClane having to drag around some kid. For Die Hard 5, FOX needs to get back to the basic formula. Die Hard 1 and 2 worked pretty well, because they had McClane as an ordinary guy caught in the middle of somebody else’s scheme, which might involve a lot of people, but made some kind of sense. No partners. No gimmicks. More of McClane having to kill people in tight quarters, and much less CG explosions.

Will FOX get it? I wouldn’t count on it.

Comic Con’s End

Comic Con has had its own stabbing, and while Comic Con has never been short of fights, they’ve usually been the nerd rage kind where two people yell insults at each other until they run out of breath. And since plastic swords usually can’t hurt you much, there’s never been a stabbing. The stabbing reflects the changing nature of Comic Con, as being more about people chasing movies, than comic books. Plenty of the Comic Con panels have nothing to do with comics, really most of them don’t. So why is Salt there or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia? Because Comic Con is now a media event complete with celebrities and directors showing up with their latest movie. The comic books don’t really matter, and DC and Marvel are owned by two major Hollywood studios, which is why DC is taking back a lot of titles from Vertigo, including Hellblazer, because the job 1 over there is to prep everything for film releases. Comic books are IP’s now. They’re only there so studios can turn them into movies. And Comic Con is only there so studios can promote their movies.

Apple’s Collapsing Reality Distortion Field

It’s almost sad to watch how within a month, Apple’s PR has gone from bulletproof to full of holes. But Apple’s own arrogance was also its own undoing. Apple’s arrogance and elitism gave its products the perception that they were superior, and attracted fans who wanted to take home a piece of that elitism and add it to their own identity. Like an expensive French restaurant that serves the same food that cheaper places do, but whose staff is so arrogant and exclusive that patrons assume that the food is better, Apple’s ploy could only work for so long. The iPhone 4.0 antenna mess wasn’t Apple’s first brush with technical problems being covered up with snootiness, denial and blame the customer attitudes, but this time it affected too many people on a basic issue. And Apple’s arrogance and obnoxiousness is making the problem worse. Its determination to drag in every other company to dodge the blame for its own technical problems is starting to look like an 8 year old throwing a tantrum to avoid admitting he did something wrong.

Google’s Game Agenda

What exactly makes Google think that it can launch a games portal? Who knows. So far when it comes to entertainment, Google isn’t exactly riding high. Google Video failed. Google’s social networking efforts failed. And enlisting Zynga isn’t going to change that. Zynga’s games worked not on quality, but on social networking. Delete Zynga from Facebook and you don’t have much left. By embedding click social gaming into a vast social network, Zynga was able to recruit a large user base, but Google doesn’t have a large social networking base to offer them, not unless you’re counting on Orkut, or some attempt to shove Google Games into Gmail. Which means either hoping Facebook Farmvillers will follow Zynga to Google Games, where they’ll be socially isolated, saving everyone from seeing another Farmville message, or Google shoving Google Games into its search page for a while, until they realize people aren’t interested and give up.

Tron Legacy Trailer

It’s easy enough to take shots at the obvious, but you have to praise everyone involved for putting together a trailer that pulls in fans of the original movie and new viewers. And for creating a movie that feels like it might actually tell a story about people, instead of just being a collection of special effects. Okay some of the people are CG. And some of the CG are people. And some of the CG could be better. But wading through a summer like this, with movie after movie that isn’t just bad, but isn’t even trying, Tron Legacy might offer some hope for something better. For a movie that doesn’t aggressively insult your intelligence, doesn’t reboot what doesn’t need rebooting, and actually makes an effort to pay tribute to and continue a story. Of course the lead looks stiff, and I’m not seeing all that much wonder.

Exclusivity Comes to the eBook Market

The Wylie deal with Amazon marks not just the beginning of high profile authors cutting publishers out of the loop to strike deals ebook deals directly with online retailers, it’s also likely to do for eBook readers, what mutually incompatible OS’s and video formats did for desktop computers and video players. Segregate them. Apple’s launch of the iPad might have delayed the inevitable, and Barnes and Noble diving in the Nook, and Borders with its own branded eBook reader might have delayed it a latter, but it was bound to happen anyway. Book publishers attempted to slow down the drift by overpricing and slowing down eBook releases, which just made authors hungrier to bypass them, and reap the profits. So just as the MPAA sabotaged its hold on the music market by fighting P2P, publishers trying to slow down eBooks alienated readers and writers. But if Amazon and other book retailers try to protect their hold on the marketplace with exclusives in incompatible formats, they’ll be opening the door to a war that will only kill the viability of the eBook reader.

Clash of the Titans vs Clash of the Titans

Comparing the original 1981 version of Clash of the Titans with the shiny new 3D editions, it’s easy to notice what’s different. The original movie was good at building smaller moments into a larger story. The new movie wanted to be epic so much, that the characters didn’t matter anymore. But when you look at reviews from both sets of movies, what’s striking is that the negative reviews are surprisingly similar. Both the 1981 movie and the remake are dismissed as special effects driven movies trimmed with a few high end actors. That criticism isn’t wrong. A big chunk of the appeal of the 1981 movie was to see Ray Harryhausen’s creations come to life. And that also highlights the changes brought by CG. Stop motion animation had artistic cred, that CG doesn’t, because CG is everywhere. CG work is still artistic and difficult, but it’s considered less creative. People are less amazed and more bored by CG. Which is why studios had to roll out 3D as the big new thing, but 3D can’t last forever either. Creative tricks in the Matrix drew in audiences, but there’s only so many tricks left out there.

That 3D Future

When Nolan bucked the 3D trend by refusing to gimmick up Inception, and still turned in a successful opening, he may have helped kill the 3D monster that James Cameron turned on us. So did Airbender in its own way by showing just how bad a 3D conversion can look. Of course we’ll never know what 3D might have meant to A Sorcerer’s Apprentice, wishful thinking might dream of a big opening for Sorcerer’s Apprentice with a 3D conversion, but with Airbender’s own sharp drop, that probably isn’t the answer. 3D as the big solution is quickly wearing off. It’s easy enough to throw 3D at CG movies, but directors like Nolan want to preserve a cinematic vision, not just beat people over the head with angles and sparks. And audiences won’t always be convinced to pay big for a 3D showing. For lazy studios looking to turn out a scriptless CG mess and kids cartoons, 3D seems like the answer. And so it will be box office numbers that will decide for certain whether 3D is here to stay.

The Real Question is Who Needs Another Scream Movie?

Scream 4 and 5 are happening, apparently, for some reason, because there was something that the first bunch of Scream movies didn’t manage to say. Also they’re being dumbed down from the otherwise stunningly brilliant works of cinematic genius that they might have been.

Look I have some sympathy for Kevin Williamson, he got a hell of a start with teen slasher movies that deconstructed teen slasher movies, but were still basically teen slasher movies when you got right down to it, but that start long ago dissipated. Today he’s on a CW vampire show that exists only because of Twilight, even though it has nothing to do with Twilight. And that’s a shame because I was actually one of the 4 people who liked Glory Days.

But since then Williamson has been stuck on TV series that are clones of more popular stuff that’s trendy, Hidden Palms and Vampire Diaries, and that Cursed movie. Like Wes Craven he’s never been able to escape what made him popular. And what made him popular stopped being relevant when the people who watched Scream began having their own kids. Making Scream sequels is a waste of everyone’s time, especially since we’re talking about movies starring teen stars who are a long way from being teens, and that were released when today’s teens were teething.

Nobody needs more Scream sequels. It’s time to let this go.

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