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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 25: Quarantine 2 – Terminal

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 25: Quarantine 2 – Terminal

Occasionally a film comes along that is well received, that a sequel in instantly ordered, in order to capitalize on the momentum of the original.  Other times, a film is so original that it spawns remakes.  Sometimes, the remake is produced in an entirely different country and language (see Japan’s recent remakes of Sideways (Saidoweizu) and Ghost (Ghost: Mouichido Dakishimetai), for example).

Often times, a sequel or remake will match, or in some cases surpass, the excitement found in the original (see Aliens, Spiderman 2, or Godfather 2 for more examples).

Other times, you have today’s film.

In 2007, spanish directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza gave us [REC], a brilliantly crafted found footage film.  It quickly was followed by an American remake in 2008 titled Quarantine, from John Erick Dowdle, and a direct sequel from Balagueró in 2009 titled [REC]2.

The US remake closely followed the original in story, style, and direction.  It was as equally frightening and enjoyable as the original, much in the same way Let Me In (2010) was to Let the Right One In (2008).

Why then, did they go the direction they did with the US sequel?

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 25: Quarantine 2 – Terminal

quarantine_two_terminalDirector: John Pogue
Year: 2011
Cast: Mercedes Masöhn, Josh Cooke, Mattie Liptak, Noree Victoria, Erin Smith
Language: English
Country: United States
Specs: 89 mins. / Color / OAR 1.78.1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★ / D

A deadly virus infects the members of an airliner, causing a quarantine to be placed on the jumbo jet and its inhabitants.  The infected must work together in an attempt to overcome the virus, and escape safe and sound.

B-level acting, absurd character actions (the sneezing scene alone is worthy of a Razzie), and horrible camera work are only the beginning that I found wrong with this film.  The most bewildering aspect of the film was Pogue’s lack of style.  Jump cuts, extremely close and crazy close-ups, simply amateurish staging, and consistent shaky-cam are all inconsistent enough to bother even the most die-hard fan of those music video hold-overs.

If the script were any better, I may attempt to overlook those aforementioned problematic elements.  Instead, it simply adds to the unfortunate air of a student film that this production delivers.  For instance, why during a power outage does the plane also lose its power?  How is it possible for a lockdown of that magnitude to be instituted that quickly?  How did the airport possibly know that the airplane was infected?  Why was this film completely unrelated to the first film?  Why did they not follow the storyline of the sequel to [REC]?

If you want to see how NOT to make a sequel, then by all means give this a rental.  Otherwise, get the superior spanish language [REC]2 instead.  You won’t regret it.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 11: House of Dark Shadows

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 11:  House of Dark Shadows

As a young child, I would sit in front of the television, playing with my Imperious Leader, Ovion, and Daggit action figures as my father would watch The White Shadow. I remember my mother would also make comments about Dark Shadows, a soap opera that she enjoyed watching along with the likes of General Hospital and One Life to Live. I would often confuse the two well into my early adult years. It wasn’t until recently when I truly became aware of the distinction between the two. When Johnny Depp was announced as playing the star of the remake/reboot of today’s film and its universe, I moved to seek out the original to see exactly what Tim Burton was choosing to ape.

As an aside, I’m not sure, and I’ll save this for another day, why we keep getting comedic remakes of films that weren’t originally comedies. Who are they making these films for, the original audience? They’re bound to be disappointed. A new audience are less likely to have knowledge of the source material, thus entirely missing the satirical elements of the feature..

With that being said, onto today’s entry.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 11: House of Dark Shadows

house_of_dark_shadows_xlgDirector: Dan Curtis
Year: 1970
Cast: Jonathan Frid, Grayson Hall, Kathryn Leigh Scott, David Henesy, Roger Davis
Language: English
Country: United States
Specs: 97 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85.1 / MPAA Rating: PG
Rating: ★★★½
/ C+

Vampire Barnabas Collins, a member of an aristocratic family, returns from a long slumber, where he encounters a woman who resembles his long-lost love.  He embarks on a journey to find a cure for his curse, in order that he be allowed to live life as a human once again, and be reunited with his lover.

I’ve never seen an episode of the television show that this film was based upon. I’ve noticed that there are episodes available to stream on Hulu, and while I would like to go back and visit it at some point, having learned that it’s over 1200 episodes long, it is unlikely I’ll have much opportunity in my overworked life. Thus, going in, I knew little to nothing, as you’ve already seen in my opening paragraph, heading into today’s viewing. I eagerly sat down to see what the draw was to this long-running TV show and its 2 theatrical sequels. I was curious why it had spawned numerous books, games, television reboots, and other forms of merchandise.

Dark Shadows car

I’m happy to say that while I didn’t find the film a brilliant sortie into vampire fiction, I also didn’t find it deplorable. It was simply prosaic, lacking any nuances to justify a repeat viewing. Perhaps had I been familiar with the original series I may have gained more out of my viewing experience? I was a little confused as to who the characters were, and felt that they didn’t truly offer much exposition to clear my confusion.

The cinematography did stand out, as well as the sets and locale lending an air of authenticity. The spooks and blood also did play more like a film coming from Hammer Films than a 70s television sudser. However, the acting does come across like an extended episode of a soap opera, and is theatrical and over-the-top at moments.

House of Dark Shadows [1970]

The greatest thing that I experienced while watching the film was the desire to sacrifice some of my precious time set aside that I may catch up on other storied series to watch the original series. I also would like to watch the sequel, in the hopes that I may gain more clarification to the questions I had without resorting to 600+ hours and more searching for on googling. I’d actually love to hear what others who are familiar with the television show thought of the film, or if they believe it’s worth my time and effort to visit the original series.

Perhaps, as the Tootsie Owl once heard it said, the world [me] may never know. (That actually sounds like Elmo. Oy vey)

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2013 in Movies

 

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20 Films Remade by the Original Directors Pt.4

I love film.  I have studied film, worked in the film business, and created films for both a hobby and a living.  Watching movies is a wonderful experience.  Watching movies that are simply wonderful is an experience I’d deem delightful.  Watching lovely films that were remade as substandard is simply atrocious.  It is because of this reason that many filmgoers like myself sit to watch a remake of a previously produced film with extremely dubious assumptions.

It is why I, after hearing of David Cronenberg and Géla Babluani’s plans to remake “The Fly” and “13 Tazameti”, respectively, I decided to take a look at 20 other films that were remade by the original 20 directors.

Thankfully,  there are many times when the remakes far exceed the original film in tone, story, and execution.  Many times, it is clear that the director revisited his earlier film with years of maturity, experience, and reflection to expand on a story dear to his heart.

Unfortunately, today’s films are not in that category.

“Remaking the Tinsel in Tinseltown”

Or

“20 Films Remade by the Original Directors”

Part IV

Remake #7

~Director: George Marshall~

Original Film: Destry Rides Again
Year: 1939
Cast: James Stewart, Marlene Dietrich, Mischa Auer, “Charlie” Winninger
Language: English
Country: United States
Specs: 94 mins / Black and White / OAR 1.37:1

Excellent western sets the bar high for many years to follow.  The superbly written banter, clever dialogue, funny quips all add to this very well written script.  After losing a bet over his pants with Dietrich, one cowboy says, “I can’t.  It’s undignified.  Think of my position!  I’ve met every king in Europe”  Dietrich retorts in perfect comedic timing “Now you’ve met two Aces in Bottleneck.  Off with those pants”.  Another perfectly executed scene involves every patron in the bar teasing Stewart for his gentlemanly ways.  The bartender asks “Whattaya have?  Milk?” Steward answers “Yeah, I think I will!”  The look of sudden surprise on the bartenders face is excellently timed.

The opening scene with Dietrich pulling a fast one on the local ranch hands poker game is classic.  Her titillating character as the tavern owner / cabaret performer is very memorable and superbly portrayed by the consummate actress.  The wonderful direction by Marshall has Dietrich’s character hiding gold down her bra, displaying a very simple act that so cleverly defines her character.  Her cat fight with Mrs. Callahan and Stewart is so exceptionally staged and dramatic that it stands head and shoulders above most other fight scenes.  In fact, the whole scene is played with the actual actors, instead of stuntmen, and it adds to the realism of this scene, as well as the film.

The acting chops on display in this film are so spectacular, the plot so well written, the direction so amazing, this is simply one of the best.

My Rating: ***** / A

Remake Film: Destry
Year: 1954
Cast: Audie Murphy, Mari Blanchard, Lyle Bettger, Thomas Mitchell, Edgar Buchanan, Wallace Ford
Language: English
Country: United States
Specs: 95 mins / Color – Technicolor / OAR 1.85:1

What happened?  For starters, there isn’t much different from Marshall’s spectacular 1939 version of this film apart from the cast.  Other than the upgrade to widescreen and 3-Strip Technicolor, this a far less superior version in every way.  The cast, and the direction for that matter, is so flawed, I cringed at the fact that the same director was behind this film.

For starters, the mayor has been re-envisioned as a bumbling idiot.  Attempting to replace the iconic Marlene Dietrich proved futile at best.  Frenchie is uncomfortably generic and uninspiring, lacking even the smallest iota of villainess qualities.  The scene involving the bet for pants, a running gag throughout the original, is a quick bet for a woman’s hat.

Audie Murphy as Destry, played by the charismatic James Stewart in the original, now has ZERO charisma.  Much of the dialogue from the first film is retained, word for word, Sadly, this time however, either the actors were given horrible direction for the comedic timing or they lacked the acting abilities to pull it off.

There is no mystery as to the location of the old sheriff, and none of the clever manipulating Destry performs to defeat the town villains.  This time he simply “stumbles” into almost every situation.  Little character traits that added depth and insight into the character, such as Destry whittling away at wood to create napkin holders, has been rewritten as fiddling with a piece of rope, tying knots the most basic of knots.

All in all, I was never completely convinced Marshall knew what he was thinking, nor the reason behind the soulless direction.  Simply put, a terrible film with a sissy for a lead in Audie Murphy.

My Rating: ** / D+

Remake #8

~Director: George Sluizer~

Original Film: Spoorloos (“The Vanishing”)
Year: 1988
Cast: Johanna ter Steege, Gene Bervoets, Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu
Language: Dutch / French
Country: Netherlands / France
Specs: 107 mins / Color / OAR 1.66:1

This Dutch film is a hauntingly tense suspenseful thriller.  If you have not seen this film, I highly suggest you do so today.  It is simply riveting with its portrayal not only of the inner turmoil the victims boyfriend goes under, but also the very believable actions of the perpetrator and his preparations.  The film takes place in both the Netherlands and France, which adds tension in the form of being in a strange land, having a crime take place, and not completely being familiar with the language.  Surprisingly, the film is strictly a character driven story with a very nontraditional (in Hollywood terms) ending.  Even more surprising, the film contains very little coarse language, zero nudity and zero violence.  A true testament to the filmmaking prowess of Sluizer.

If it doesn’t appear obvious, this is certainly, without question, an excellently produced foreign film.

My Rating: **** / B

Remake Film: The Vanishing
Year: 1993
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Kiefer Sutherland, Nancy Travis, Sandra Bullock
Language: English
Country: United States
Specs: 109 mins / Color / OAR 1.85:1

As with the previous remake, I ask “What went wrong?”  A typical vanilla plain thriller with very predictable ending is a bland remake of the far superior Dutch film.  This version, for reasons I cannot fathom, was directed in a style completely different from Sluizer’s first effort.  It appears he was under a deadline, as the film feels completely rushed, with any sense of character development gone.  Bridges character, whom in the original was brilliantly portrayed as having a relationship with a family, is nearly nonexistent.  The dichotomy between good and evil, so cleverly evident in the original, has been completely erased, simply making the character of Barney nothing more than a sadistic evil creep.

Additions such as having Sutherland’s character being a novel writer contracted to write about his experience, and turning the new girlfriend into a super sleuth is silly and absurd.  How she knows that he’s been buried alive, and how she has the strength to easily fight off the twice her size attacker is Hollywood nonsense.  In fact, it seems at times that Sluizer intended to film an updated version of Sherlock Holmes, as her detective skills in finding him at a hotel, and finding the daughter to get directions to the house is more far fetched than an episode of Batman: Detective.

Lastly, the complete rewrite of the ending to a more traditional, and predictable, ending is tantamount to having a graphic on the screen read “For the easily pleased audience”.

Such wasted talent, both for the director and the usually entertaining cast.  A witless remake, through and through.

My Rating: *** / C-

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2010 in Movies

 

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