Monday, February 7, 2011

Studio Remakes! Killin Us Softly With Their Shlock

What happens when you realize that you never properly scheduled a post like you meant to? And you have over 1000 perfectly good words that were written about something when it actually happened?

You find a way to recycle and/or make something relevant again. Writing doesn't grow on trees, except figuratively. I'll call this a "Site Oddity" (it's a new label) so I can show you "the post that would have been." Why do I think that title is accurate?

If any of this news - from December 11, 2009, no less - is new to you, that will be mildly amusing. It'll be even better, though, if you notice how much it keeps to the themes and ideas of my other posts - entries both before and after this one should have been published. Here goes...

You know how you and a friend might have this conversation?... "I just saw 'My Blue Heaven!' Remember that one? It was hysterical - I never laughed so hard in my life."

Among Hollywood "movers and shakers," apparently, the discussion would go something like this... "I just saw 'My Blue Heaven.' Remember how good that pic was? Let's remake it! Maybe with Zac Efron - the teens are wild over him..."

The Transformers and GI Joe trademarks somehow spawned 3 21-century movies. So much money was given the former series, there was no doubt that it would (a) brutally suck and (b) earn a ton of cash. The Freaking A-Team - an urban guerilla/vigilante show from the 1980's  - is being remade as a movie. Now, the Secret of Nimh is being remade, despite the fact that the original is, simply put, good.

At this point, I can already imagine a movie planned as a reboot of "Gilligan's Island." 7 strangers totally get stranded on an island. It's different because this time, one of them's a blogger! That makes it topical too.

Remember how "Gilligan's Island" had the same plot in at least half of the episodes? This time, the recurring plot is: the blogger almost gets one of his readers to believe his shipwreck story and free them, but it falls apart. My guess is that the endings will alternate between the internet connection breaking, dead batteries (replaced in a 1-2 episodes), or the person they're convincing dies/is arrested/was a hoax.

Read all that and see if it makes as much sense as doing a "Starsky and Hutch" film in 2004. See, what both things have in common is that people believe that these "properties" can be turned into big revenue-generating vehicles - into franchises. But what are their conditions for this kind of project? Good quality hasn't been one - just that people already know about it. In fact, that's it.

"Has something been mentioned in print and speech that people would have heard of it?" Film execs have apparently been told that this question is crucial. They seem to believe even the most poorly-made effort will perform well enough on name recognition alone. Somehow, despite the $ investment, actual "quality" isn't part of it. But Monopoly, Tender Vittles, and Right Guard also meet those requirements...

The concept isn't completely stupid. You probably don't need much exposure to American culture to know what "The Twilight Zone" is. Certainly, people who were born here will have a clue what kind of movie would be named "The Twilight Zone." And it would get some media attention because it's a remake of something old and had a long run, blah blah... Even dumb-ass kids in 2054 will probably know about it, get piqued into a theater (or holo-cave or sky-dome or whatever they'll have).

Yes, "awareness" does mean that the picture will have higher box-office receipts. It might even mean that it's virtually guaranteed returning the production investment.  What seems to be missing, however, is any sense of (a) logic and discrimination, (b) dedication to producing quality pictures, and (c) the use - in decision-making - of common sense to defeat naked greed.

Let's take a look at some examples, shall we?

Let's start in the blistering, shiny past - the place where things are magically supposed to be better than they are now.  In 1993, "Coneheads" was released into movie theaters around the country. That was based on an SNL skit from 1977. "Relevance," anyone?

While we're with Dan Aykroyd, he threw away his 1997 "Grosse Point Blanke" cred with "Blues Brothers 2000." The first problem would be that "BB2k" was released in 1998. The second is that the co-star of the original "Blues Brothers," John Belushi, died 2 years after the original. Also, the first entry was released in 1980 - so the sequel was (a) 18 years too late and (b) 16 years after a lead's death. I've never seen "BB 2k." I can't imagine why I would.

So in the news, I hear about a lifeless, plagiaristic "Spaced" remake. For those of you who don't know what this show is, it features the same lead actors and director from "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz." 'Nuff said, right? No?

Here's some context: McG and (I think) NBC were moving forward on an American version of this well-loved (and now, 11-years old) remake without a single word to the creators of this great show. The outcry from the fan and the original principles was intense. Look at the video clip in the link below and tell me it doesn't sound dreadfully dull.

"Mr. and Mrs. Smith" to be rebooted. Really? Apparently, this wildly successful (and utterly unrealistic) movie is worthy of sequels. Rather than getting the leads back (where Brangelina began, no less), a "reboot" seems smart. The only reason to reboot is for a franchise.

At best, though, that movie worked as "relationship-porn." They got to sort-of cheat (and lash out for all their little grudges) but still defeated their challenges, the lovin' was still hot, and (most of all) they both looked great! "M&MS" can't - and probably shouldn't - be recreated.

What happens when you have a man who directed 3 successful movies? A director whose last 2 entries in a planned franchise grossed massive money for the studio? A director named Sam Raimi, who apparently had some disagreements as to how to proceed with the series?

Sony decided to reboot the "Spider-Man" series after 3 movies. Seriously, someone decided that it's a waste to try to deal with an intelligent director whose movies are generally quite good and thoughtfully made - (Sam "Evil Dead" Raimi). Got problems with the intended direction of the 4th film in a highly-profitable series?

Well, don't deal with the artistic issues, just scrap everything and start from scratch. Why? Because studios figure kids are pretty dim and don't care about things like quality or paying for the same movie twice or the fact that this came out already, but 5 years ago.

"Remember those 3 movies you saw, kids? Scratch that! We're bringing back Spider-Man from the beginning! Aren't you excited? He's no longer be 6 years older than you, he's just 2 grades above you! Relate to him, damnit!"

God, execs might be right. Kids might "pssh!" at the old series, and just focus on Kirsten Stewart's... um lovely face? Even if studios are correct, tho, it's a really slimy way of doing business. It's a cheap move that feels insulting to film-goers.

On the flipside, the long-discussed sequel to "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure?" Now that might actually may work - only because it's insane. And "B&T3" has been a project in limbo forever, so the grab for $ is a little less "grabby."

I just wish it were easier to turn my cynicism and sarcasm off. Surely, re-makes and sequels with real promise are fewer than the ones that simply say, "Americans! Insert your money in the slot to the left! Good! Now enter the machine where you insert more money! Good! Now leave!"

I won't ask for much; just a hand, sometimes. Give us a hand, Hollywood. And, no - not down there.

So, that was the entire "post that should have been," and I hope you don't feel I've wasted your time for putting it up now. If you follow the Sequel-itis and Remake-itis labels below, you'll see more of my recent thoughts on this exact same topic. It's one problem, repeating itself over and over.

I'll certainly post more oddities in the future, I'm sure. I can't stay on all the news, and sometimes posts do get "lost in the mix." If this whole entry was horribly cheap of me, my apologies. I promise all-new writing tomorrow!

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