Picture
José Padilla's remake of RoboCop - What's with the hand?
General chit-chat between work colleagues usually ends up covering the same topics and this weekend was no exception. As most of my workmates know about my love for the cinema, it is unsurprising when they ask me which films are worth checking out, or my thoughts on the films that I have already seen (I always try to point them in the direction of this website, to limited effect!). One rather chipper cohort asked if I had seen the remake of RoboCop yet. I feel I must apologize to my aforementioned colleague for my blatant snort of derision and insult. The trouble is that Paul Verhoeven's 1987 action satire is, in my humble opinion, a genre-smashing masterpiece. Despite the subsequent inferior remakes that followed (people still insist on saying that RoboCop 2 is good... poor, misguided individuals), the original remains a true one of a kind in both execution and design. So that old debate rears its ugly head once more... Why, why, why is a remake necessary?
PictureGareth Evans' "The Raid" is up for "re-imagining"...
It is no big secret that remakes have existed since the art of film was invented. Some of the greatest and most recognized film makers have dabbled in remakes themselves - Alfred Hitchcock even remade his own movie The Man Who Knew Too Much. And yet, when another film is given the remake green light, public opinion swings wildly towards vitriol. Why does a perfectly fine film need a "re-interpretation"? This argument has become even more diverse when one takes into consideration the international success of many foreign language films. As a recent example, it was announced that producers in the US have been given the go-ahead for an American take on Gareth Evans' modern Indonesian martial-arts epic The Raid - a lean, mean and explosive action thriller that has caused a huge stir for kung-fu fans. The online uproar when the remake was announced is one of the most vocal and negative of recent times - aided in no small way by the impending arrival of Evans' sequel Berandal, already making waves on the festival circuit. The language barrier is usually touted as the primary reason for remaking these films - Johnny Mid-West America surely cannot handle subtitles in movies, so an English language version makes perfect sense. Perhaps this is true, but only when the original was a relative success to begin with - either artistically or financially. And when you look at this in a business sense (it is showBUSINESS after all), copying and repackaging a proven success surely improves the odds on making something successful too?

PictureFincher's "...Dragon Tattoo" was superior
The real reason for all this negativity and ranting on the web is when a film that is particularly close to your heart is considered for the remake treatment. When you are really honest with yourself, the way you react to this sort of news is completely connected to how you feel about the original movie. Personally I have enjoyed many remakes to films that I liked, but did not love with a great passion. Norman Jewison's 60s Steve McQueen caper The Thomas Crown Affair was great, but I really enjoyed John McTiernan's 90s version with Pierce Brosnan. Keeping with the Bond theme, I actually preferred David FIncher's more faithful take on Stieg Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo starring Daniel Craig - even though I enjoyed the Swedish original a lot. But when I found out about a RoboCop remake, I spat acid at the film makers who I believe to be completely deluded if they think they can offer anything worthy of the original's greatness! Did no-one learn anything when they tried to remake Verhoeven's other Sci-Fi classic, Total Recall??! "Leave it alone" is the only response, surely?

Perhaps a remake is worth it - perhaps it is not. Thankfully it is all down to personal taste. Do you truly love the original, or do you feel a remake can offer something fresh and exciting? When my workmate asked me if I had seen the new RoboCop film, my considered and well-rehearsed answer was simply this: "I have a pristine Blu-Ray disc of Paul Verhoeven's 80s classic original at home - I consider this film to be a masterpiece. I will not go to see the remake for two reasons: One, because I do not want to spend my hard earned money on a film that I consider pointless. And Two, what can a remake possibly give me that my Blu-Ray original already does?"

(Now, a remake of Showgirls... I'd buy that for a dollar!)

 
 
Picture
Bayhem in full swing on the set of Transformers: Age of Extinction
Today saw the first real glimpse of the latest in the Transformers franchise with a release of the first full trailer of Transformers: Age of Extinction. After an introduction to our new lead characters in the form of Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Kelsey Grammar and Stanley Tucci, the overblown snippets of world destruction and indiscriminate robot wars are all present and correct. In fact, apart from a couple of new transformers in the mix (hello, Glavatron and Dinobots!) the trailer looks, sounds and feels like every last one of the previous films. Not that you would know from the first responses to the trailer - comment after comment heaped (largely undeserved) praise on the footage, validating director Michael Bay in his quest to completely trash on one of my beloved childhood memories.
Picture"Me Grimlock no pony!!!"
The release of a new Michael Bay trailer always brings out the worst instincts from film lovers. It seems that each and every one is greeted with an unfounded and almost always disappointing degree of hope from this director. When looking at the release of the trailers for each of the previous films, there are the same levels of positivity that this will be the one to break the festering mould that shaped the rest of the franchise, only to realize that in fact the new film is even worse than the previous effort. I find it truly astonishing that people can expect Bay (in my humble opinion, a well-connected, well-financed but talent-free hack) to actually produce a decent movie. Even last year's "low budget" effort Pain and Gain was truly one of the most vile and hateful films I have seen in recent years. And I feel confident that I have a sure bet that Age of Extinction will prove to be another nail in the artistic coffin for this franchise.

Many will point to the fact that the franchise is very successful - which I am happy to concede as a valid argument. All of Bay's films have made money - even his dire cloning Sci-Fi thriller The Island were profitable. Yet profit is never a good marker when it comes to a film's artistic merit - as I am sure most critics would state. How many people can truly say that they enjoyed Pearl Harbor? And when it comes to Transformers, surely I am not alone in feeling utterly morose in seeing Bay stamp his action/porn "style" all over a beloved kids TV show? People tell me, "But the first one was good!" No... It wasn't. It was NOT Transformers for me. I do not care what it would be like if the Transformers came to Earth and hung out with LaBoeuf and company! I wanted Cybertron, intergalactic warfare and above all, distinguishable characters!
Picture"No, I will never schtarr in another Bay movie!"
Even those who agree with me point to the Bayster's first movies as evidence that he CAN make a decent action movie. Here is where I feel conflicted. It is true that I do like Bad Boys (although that is mostly due to the charisma of stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence). And then there is The Rock - a film that I really like. I use the fantastic score from Hans Zimmer, Nick Glennie-Smith and Harry Gregson-Williams as a motivational ass-kicker, the chemistry between Sean Connery and Nic Cage is buddy-movie gold and the action sequences on Alcatraz are truly thrilling. But if I had to look hard at the film, it is clear that it is not perfect - the villain has an extremely weak motivation for taking hostages and threatening the US, the dumb Navy SEALs are typical movie good-guy idiots who are taken out by the bad guys the moment they set foot on the Rock and there is a whole car chase that is rendered completely unnecessary when Connery, after going to so much effort in escaping FBI custody, just hands himself back over after a brief pow-wow with his estranged daughter.

Regardless of these flaws, I cannot help but enjoy watching The Rock. So why is it that Bay has lost the sense of fun and enjoyment that he once brought to these meat-headed action movies? I am certain that Transformers: Age of Extinction will be a financial success. But I am also certain that Bay is set endure another bout of critical vitriol, both from movie-lovers and reviewers alike. Are we ever going to see a Bayhem movie greeted with complete universal indifference or even dislike? I certainly hope that this will be the case. I really hope he doesn't destroy may favorite characters, The Dinobots... Or is this just even more wishful thinking?

To see the new trailer, click here.

 
 
"Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live... This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup."

Steve McQueen

Another year, another Oscar night... And for a change, the 86th Annual Academy Awards threw very few surprises as the cream of Hollywood joined film makers from all over the world and celebrated a particularly strong year at the movies. Hosted by the "safe pair of hands" Ellen DeGeneres (After last year's rather disappointing turn by Seth MacFarlane), The night will not go down as one of controversial choices and shocking acceptance speeches. In fact looking back at it in the cold light of the day after, it all seemed a little... dull. True, some of us (OK, just me) were harshly campaigning for Paul Greengrass' glorious Captain Phillips to illegally board this steady vessel and take it over in a vicious act of piracy, but by all accounts the awards fell to their expected (and in many ways most deserving) recipients.

PictureThe photo that broke Twitter
Steve McQueen's harrowing and timely 12 Years a Slave was a very worthy winner for Best Picture, as well as picking up awards for both Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actress,  for the astonishing breakthrough performance from Lupita Nyong'o. Alfonso Cuarón was richly rewarded for the 5 years he put into his box office smashing Gravity, becoming the first Mexican to win Best Director. Gravity ended up with a total of 7 Oscars, taking all the technical awards including Best Cinematography. Cate Blanchett eased to victory as Best Actress in Blue Jasmine, while the double-team of Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto took the Actor and Supporting Actor for the sublime Dallas Buyers Club. A mild surprise was Spike Jonze's victory for his take on the romantic comedy Her, which beat off stiff competition to the Original Screenplay crown from the likes of Nebraska and Dallas Buyers Club. And it was a big night for the British, with key wins for McQueen and the VFX crews on Gravity, as well as a great win for director Malcolm Clarke in the Best Documentary Short category. So all in all, rather predictable.

Picture#Cumberbomb - Benedict Cumberbatch with U2...
Thank goodness for the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, who "photobombed" Irish rockers U2 on the red carpet, to liven things up a bit. Last Year's Best Actress, Jennifer Lawrence, managed to trip over yet again - only this time on the red carpet and not on the way to the podium. And the great Bill Murray paid a small but charming tribute to his Ghostbusters, Stripes and Groundhog Day cohort, the late Harold Ramis while presenting the Best Cinematography award. It is these small moments that will linger long in my memory. Unlike most others who have commentated on last night's event, the lack of controversy and the charming, pleasant quips from our host (I do love Ellen, but she played it a little too safe) left me a little bored and nonchalant about it all. In fact I was wishing for a Conan O'Brien or Jimmy Kimmel type to shake up proceedings, for Borat to create an international incident when presenting the Best Foreign Language Film, or maybe even a surprise honorary award for Amy Adams' side-boob in American Hustle (deserving of a credit alone!). Maybe the Academy can see how Trey Parker and Matt Stone's schedules are looking next year...

For the full list of award winners, click here.

 
 
"Thank you so much. I never in my life thought I would be up here."

Halle Berry, Worst Actress, Catwoman - 2005

Last night, as is now tradition on the night before the Academy Awards, the 34th Annual Razzie Awards took place at IgnitedSpaces on Hollywood Boulevard. And in a surprising twist, regular Raspberry blower Adam Sandler left the ceremony empty handed, despite strong representation in the shape of so-called "comedy" Grown Ups 2. In a break from tradition, an Adam Sandler film was not the worst in the room for a change - that honor fell to the woeful Movie 43, a film where (I imagine) each of the 13 contributors behind the camera all tried to get the Alan Smithee moniker to replace their credits. M Knight Shyamalan's leaden After Earth also picked up awards for the "performances" from father-son team Will & Jaden Smith. Tyler Perry continued a long line in tradition when he won Worst Actress for yet another Madea movie, while Kim Kardashian fought off all competition (!!) to win Worst Supporting Actress for a film that I can only hope will never see the light of day over here in the UK (even the name brings back horrid memories of Robin Askwith comedies from the 70s).

So far, so "good". However for the first time, there was a bit of controversy (at least, in my eyes) when it came to the award for Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-Off or Sequel - which was awarded this year to Gore Verbinski's The Lone Ranger. Now hang on... I know it cost a lot and lost even more, but was The Lone Ranger really that bad? I admit, it was no masterpiece, but I sure as Hell thought it was way more entertaining than Sandler's brain-killing SNL love in... And don't even get me started on The Hangover, part III! And the umpteenth Scary Movie film was better than it too??! It beggars belief that the "Academy" could be so narrow minded...

Despite this, The Golden Raspberry Awards continue to have the strongest hit rate of any movie awards ceremony around at present. Sure, some say it is easier to pick the worst movies as opposed to the best - but sometimes it takes true grit and ability to churn out steaming piles of diarrhetic celluloid... And it sure is fun to honor them!

(BTW - No Pain and Gain??! I demand a recount!)

For the full list of award winners, click here.

 
 
"I don’t care who you are. When you sit down to write the first page of your screenplay, in your head, you’re also writing your Oscar acceptance speech"

Nora Ephron

And so that time is upon us once again... Hollywood's biggest night of them all, The Oscars, takes place tomorrow, rounding out the awards calendar for another year. I personally have a love-hate relationship with the Academy Awards. Yes, it is an incredible reminder of the magic that Hollywood still casts of us mere mortals, with the cream of western cinema's Demi-gods paraded before us and honored for their skills at weaving stories of pain, joy, suffering and euphoria. But we also have to endure the Red Carpet rubbish ("Who are you wearing?" - that question makes me wanna punch pretty people so hard!), the often excruciating music numbers and (for us in the UK at least) commercial breaks so that commentators & critics can throw their two cents about who should have won and who shouldn't. But above all, the bit I hate the most (fast forward button always at the ready) - the acceptance speech.
PictureThank you to my agent, my stylist, my blah blah...
I am certain that I am not alone in wishing that winning nominees would just walk up, acknowledge the applause they have received, say a simple "Thank you so much" and be on their way. There is nothing worse than another nauseating list of agents, producers, studio bosses, parents, Gods, manicurists, teachers and plumbers that have all helped our victor in achieving success and validation for all those years serving burgers and shakes in South Central. Yes, I understand that you have been working SO hard for this moment... Yes, I realize that this is an emotional time right now... But when you don't even remember to thank the hard-working public who don't download an illegal copy of your film, but actually go to an overpriced multiplex and fork out their money to see you play a disabled, space-traveling priest that is dying of consumption for three hours, perhaps we can spare the sentimental gushing.

There are always diamonds among the sycophantic rough, however. And it is these moments of genuine joy and amusement that stop me from spinning through to the next award (it is not always practical to stay up till dawn to watch the Oscars over here in the UK). I continue to watch through the dross in order to find another rare nugget of genuine respect and amusement. Here are my top three Acceptance Speech moments:-

Adrian Brody - When Brody won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in Polanski's 2003 film The Pianist, he did what any red-blooded man would do... Grab the presenter of the award, the delectable Halle Berry, tilted her back and passionately tongued her in front of everyone. He even quipped, "I bet they didn't tell you that was in the gift bag!" I love that guy!

Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová - Winning Best Original Song for "Falling Softly" from Once was one of the big David vs. Goliath victories in Academy history. Hansard made a brief, heartfelt speech and then stepped back to allow his co-star Irglová to speak, but the orchestra started playing and the mic was cut, so she could only smile and head backstage. It was then  incredibly touching when host Jon Stewart publicly shamed the orchestra and invited Irglová back on stage, who made a very touching speech that inspired every independent film maker watching. 

Roberto Benigni - The Best Actor winner for his self-directed film Life Is Beautiful didn't just walk down the aisle when his name was read out... No, he decided to scramble over the seats, stepping on the heads and shoulders of his fellow movie makers and waving his arms in triumph at the whole auditorium. His speech was even more outrageous, as he kindly offered in broken English to make love to the entire room on the planet Jupiter... Really.

It is these moments that make the acceptance speeches worth checking out. Mostly we are left with floods of tears and endless studio back-patting. This year's line-up look all too civilized for any anarchy or fun. But I cannot wait to find out if I am wrong... And as Warren Beatty once summed up - "We want to thank all of you for watching us congratulate ourselves tonight."