Movie Forum: The horror of horror movie remakes
05:00 AM, Apr 05, 2013
Every Wednesday, the Movie Forum convenes to discuss the latest news from the film world and answer questions submitted by you, the reader.
This week, USA TODAY movie reporters Brian Truitt and Susan Wloszczyna discussed last weekend’s winner (GI Joe: Retaliation) and this week’s new releases (Evil Dead, The Company You Keep). We also explored the plethora of horror film remakes and examined what worked and what films should NEVER be remade. Finally, we took a look at the the directorial career of Robert Redford ahead of his new film, The Company You Keep, with particular focus on the films in which he directed and starred.
John Elliot: Welcome to the USA TODAY Movie Forum!
…where you were a fool (April or otherwise) if you bet against G.I. Joe!
I’m John Elliot, online producer for USA TODAY Movies and I will serve as your moderator. Joining me today are USA TODAY movies reporters Susan Wloszczyna and Brian Truitt
How this works - Each week we solicit questions, online, from our readers on the latest news from the world of film.
This week? Box office winners, horror movie remakes, the films of Robert Redford and more!
Remember: you can submit questions right here and now and we will tackle them later in the chat.
So let’s get started!
G.I. Joe: Retaliation won the weekend with a $40.5M box office. Retaliation is the second film in the Joe franchise and is a bigger critical success than the first film, Rise of Cobra, which was widely panned by critics and had a lackluster box office. Retaliation may turn out to be a bigger commercial success as well; time will tell…
Brian, you saw the film. Why do you think Retaliation is garnering more praise then Rise? Better story? Better stars? Better marketing? All of the above?
Brian Truitt: For a lot of different reasons. Rise of Cobra was an OK movie but it didn’t have the story or the feel of the G.I. Joe comics, toys and cartoons I and many of my fellow nerds grew up with in the ’80s. Retaliation was much friendlier to the longtime fans in terms of plot. The marketing was a little bit better - although most of the marketing had been out before it was pulled from its initial slot last summer - and it did have better stars like Dwayne Johnson and Adrianne Palicki. I think director Jon Chu, a fanboy himself, is probably the dude who deserves most of the credit for the success.
And Cobra Commander. Anything is better with Cobra Commander.
Susan Wloszczyna: To me, Jon Chu will always be near and dear to me for Step Up 3D. But I always have problems with films based on toys. I mean, I wrote my own plots for Barbie and Midge’s travails. Speaking of which, why not a live-action Barbie movie. How about Angelina Jolie and maybe Emma Stone as Midge and Taylor Swift as Skipper. And that Dream House in 3-D. Amaze-balls.
Brian Truitt: Here’s the thing, though. What a lot of people don’t realize is that, unlike Battleship or something, the G.I. Joe universe is just as deep in characters and personalities as, say, Star Wars or even like The Young and the Restless. People LOVE these characters and it has a definite mythology. I think that’s what a lot of the mainstream misses.
That said, I do have a daughter, so if there’s a Barbie movie, I will probably be at it.
Susan Wloszczyna: They are doing a live-action musical of the Monster High dolls, so who knows what door that will open. Perhaps Madame Alexander dolls could have their day. American Girl dolls are already pretty human.
Brian Truitt: Dream House 4 eva
Susan Wloszczyna: But now we have to contend with a Lego movie. Where will this insanity lead next?
Brian Truitt: Now see, the Monster High stuff is cool. My wife will probably shoot me for getting her horror stuff, but I think my daughter - if anything like dad - will be all over that
John Elliot: The release of the film was pushed back for nearly a year. Why was that and, in the end, do you think it was a smart decision?
Brian Truitt: At the time, there was a lot of gnashing of teeth from fans about how this was the end of the franchise when it was pulled from its June spot last year, with tie-in toys on the shelves already. It was a head-scratcher for sure, but in the end I think it’s the best thing that could have happened.
The 3D looks pretty great, but the timing is eons better. There’s nothing other than Evil Dead in the next few weeks. Had it opened last June, it would have to deal with The Amazing Spider-Man a week later, and then The Dark Knight Rises right after that, killing any box office big mo it might have had.
Susan Wloszczyna: Brian — wasn’t also to add more Magic Mike — I mean, Tatum Channing into the film, too. If he strips in this, I just might go but I am guessing not. Does this mean there is a doll out there that looks like him. I could turn that into Magic Mike perhaps?
Brian Truitt: Actually there is no more C-Tates than there had been, I hear. There were rumors of reshoots but nothing that came to fruition. There is no stripping thankfully - Magic Mike is not an action figure I would buy.
John Elliot: Joe is just the latest franchise Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has commandeered and the latest in a string of recent, and upcoming films, featuring his acting talents. Why is the Johnson the go to guy for action movies these days? What make him such a draw?
Brian Truitt: Um, he’s not just the go-to for movies - The Rock is everywhere. He’s in five movies, he’s defending his WWE title at Wrestlemania Sunday and he’s got some reality show. But it could not have happened to a nicer guy. I think finally people are seeing his charisma and personality are actually bigger than his biceps.
Susan Wloszczyna: He is what Vin Diesel was trying to be back in the day. Charming and funny but also believable in action situations. He is loved by all ages, all sexes and probably could easily run for office someday. I also think he is more versatile than some musclebound types since he isn’t too huge to adapt to drama or humor.
Brian Truitt: Agreed. He draws in EVERYONE. He’s larger than life for kids, dudes love him because he wrestles and punches people on screen, and I’m sure women have their own reasons for watching his stuff.
Plus he doesn’t make bad films for the most part. Can’t always say that about the Vin Man, although I dig him to.
Susan Wloszczyna: Just as long as he doesn’t try Shakespeare, I think his career is in the good place.
John Elliot: This weekend, the latest film from director Robert Redford, The Company You Keep, hits theaters. An accomplished actor, Redford’s directorial career began in 1980 with the Oscar winning Ordinary People. Redford has yet to replicate that critical success career as a director. Particularly panned, have been the films in which Redford directs AND stars.
Susan, you were at Toronto Film Fest when Company debuted, what was the reaction?
Susan Wloszczyna: The overall feeling was fairly tepid. I don’t know how relative the radical ’60s activists the Weather Men are in this day and age. Basically, it’s the Expendables concept with Susan Sarandon, Julie Christie, Brendon Geeson, Nick Nolte, Sam Elliott and Richard Jenkins and Shia LeBeouf for the kiddies. Great cast actually but the story overall does not catch fire and there is a headline out there calls it Wheezy Rider.
Brian Truitt: I have heard about the Weather Men here and there, but that’s definitely talking to a certain segment of the population.
John Elliot: What do you think the difference is between Clint Eastwood and Robert Redford, two elder statesman of acting, who have moved to the director’s chair, yet Clint has found much more success, critically and commercially. Does Clint just pick better stories?
Susan Wloszczyna: Clint Eastwood cut his teeth with Spaghetti Westerns — he knows how to entertain while thematically making a statement about society or just wanting to take revenge on bad men. His output is uneven — I personally adore Play Misty for Me that basically a blueprint for Fatal Attraction — but rarely dull. Can you imagine Redford pulling off that geezer in Gran Torino?
As for Redford, his directing career tends to be more drama-bound and he doesn’t seem to take into account all the time that other people have to watch this stuff. Grand themes don’t always work. That said, Ordinary People takes a lot of digs for winning best pic over Raging Bull but it still is an extraordinary portrait of family dysfunction that is sort of echoed in Quiz Show, too. But Bagger Vance? Oy. Cornball down to its costumes. Lions for Lambs? Who saw it. The Conspirator? The non-Lincon. At least Brad Pitt made a good doppelganger for Redford in A River Runs Through It. And The Horse Whisperer now is the go-to phrase for anyone who charm something into submission.
Brian Truitt: It seems to me that Clint has a much better eye for nuance in his films than Redford in terms of his directorial fare. But that’s just me. I’d take Mystic River over Bagger Vance any day. (Quiz Show beats Million Dollar Baby though.)
Susan Wloszczyna: Oh, don’t beat up on Million Dollar Baby. I still have a red nose from crying over that one. Morgan Freeman in the ring was great. And Hilary Swank hasn’t had anyone give her such a perfect-fit role since.
John Elliot: A remake of the 1981 cult classic The Evil Dead will be hitting theaters this weekend, and from the looks of it, it will NOT be taking the humorous tone of its predecessor. This looks to be a much darker Dead. Brian, you saw the new Dead. What are your thoughts on the film? Is it a success?
Brian Truitt: For sure. It’s obviously a lot different than the original movie - which was done on the excessively cheap - but new-recipe Evil Dead is great as both an homage to the first movie but also as its own thing. It is crazy gory and the camera stays on shots where you wish it would just turn - a mark of an effective horror film in my book - and Jane Levy is pretty awesome as first a heroin addict and then as a possessed hellion. The Evil Dead will always be classic, but this one deserves kudos.
You’re never going to want to go out in a rainstorm in a forest ever again, that is for sure.
Susan Wloszczyna: I will take your word for it, Brian. Looking at the voluminous list of horror remakes on Box Office Mojo makes me think barely a horror film hasn’t been remade already. The only one that I like in a whole different way than the original is Cat People.
Brian Truitt: There hasn’t been many that have been untouched.
John Elliot:Evil Dead is just the latest, and certainly not the last, in a string of remade horror films. Why are scary movies subject to this re-makeover trend?
Susan Wloszczyna: They don’t need stars since the concept and familiar title are the selling points. Their core audience is fairly dedicated and usually show up the first weekend in droves. They are great date movies — something about girls snuggle up more during them and that stuff. They are cheap to make. And they have shelf life. That said, not every classic needs a do-over.
Brian Truitt: Completely agree, Susan. Plus, many horror movies go off a formula - slasher appears, sexy girl gets killed, virgin survives, rinse and repeat - and since Hollywood is not exactly a hotbed of originality, I think these things are easy to get a hold of and do the template again.
John Elliot: Which of the horror remakes do you think was the most successful and why?
Susan Wloszczyna: Well, I do love Cat People with that great David Bowie song Putting Out Fir, And the Dawn of the Dead remake really kickstarted the whole zombie reawakening even if they were sped up. Plus, pre-Modern Family Ty Burrell gets the best lines.
Brian Truitt:The Ring is the king of remakes when it comes to box office, but personally I’d choose John Carpenter’s The Thing from ‘82. That’s just a classic, period, not just of horror flicks. And as for guilty pleasures, I’d throw in House of Wax for good measure.
Susan Wloszczyna: The ’70s Invasion of the Body Snatchers reflected that era the way that the ’50s original did.
John Elliot: BONUS QUESTION: Which horror film should be completely off limits from being remade?
Susan Wloszczyna: Well, as we said, not much has not gotten an update. But I would hope these would be put in a vault for safekeeping: Black Sabbath (a great Italian trilogy film), Sisters, Silence of the Lambs, Blair Witch, Rosemary’s Baby, The Birds and Candyman.
Brian Truitt: For me, I think a large part of me will die if they ever redo Gremlins - it will kill off the rest of me left after that horrid Karate Kid remake. Also, Jaws should be not touched at all. I have a feeling there’ll be another Rosemary’s Baby before long. Though that and The Exorcist I hope are seen as hallowed horror ground.
John Elliot: Finally, let’s end with a reader question!
Ted Nolan from NC asks:
I’m a weekly moviegoer, but this Friday begins a suck weekend for new action movie releases, so I’ll be staying home. Too bad the studios can’t crank out a weekly B flick with gun fights, car chases, and explosions. Why won’t distributors back this concept?
Brian Truitt: Isn’t that what Netflix is for? But seriously, it’s probably not in their best financial interests to go to the trouble of making a B-movie that will exist in a theater for any amount of time. I think straight-to-DVD fare kind of fills that role, and there’s a fun diamond to be had in that rough from time to time.
Susan Wloszczyna: Well, there is always the premiere of the new season of Mad Men — they supposedly are all sporting late ’60s sideburns now if that helps.
John Elliot: Unfortunately, it’s time for us to wrap up
Thank you Brian and Susan! And a VERY big thank you to all our readers who participated and submitted questions.
Brian Truitt: Thanks for chiming in and listening to us pontificate. Until next time… Yo Joe!
Susan Wloszczyna: Thanks again for putting up with us again. Bye!
John Elliot: Remember: you can submit your burning movie questions all week long, right here.
Thank you all for joining us for the USA TODAY Movie Forum! Please join us again next Wednesday at 3 PM EST/12 PM PST for another edition of Movie Forum.