The five best film remakes

Since the trailer for the Coen Brothers’ remake of “True Grit,” (the
original starred John Wayne as an ageing gunfighter) has just hit theatres and
the Web– and it looks really good- it seems an opportune moment to look at
some of the good and not so good remakes. Remakes can be seen as lazy film
making but in Hollywood terms they usually make money as people usually want to
see whether they are an improvement or worse than the original. This list is
comprised of films that significantly improve on the original but before
mentioning the best, I must name and shame some of the worst remakes in film
history. The films with this dubious honour include Tim Burton’s 2001 remake of
1968 original “Planet of the Apes.”

In fact come to think of it, as
great a director as he is, Tim Burton is responsible for some of the worst
remakes ever.  He also helmed 2010’s
billion-dollar earner “Alice in Wonderland,” which was a redo of the 1951
animation classic, and the 2005  “Charlie
and the Chocolate Factory,” a soulless re-imagining of the beloved 1971
version.

Burton is not alone in the remake,
failure list however; other master directors have also failed spectacularly.
Gus Van Sant’s 1998 slaughter of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece “Psycho” is a
prime example.

But let’s focus on the good.

 

Five best film remakes               in reverse order

 

5) 2005’s “Fun With Dick and Jane” (based on 1977’s “Fun With Dick
and Jane”)

This film
marks the only comedy on the list.

Tea
Leoni stars as Jane Harper, and Jim Carrey as her husband Dick, the “corporate
puppet” for an enormous and corrupt company, Globodyne. Original cast were Jane
Fonda and George Segal. Billed as a comedy, but there weren’t many laughs.

Almost
the exact opposite, the 2005 version came at a time when so many Americans were
captivated by these corporate raiders who were essentially keeping the public
poor while making off like bandits.

Jim
Carrey gives the funniest and most honest performance of his career, enhanced
by his recent turns in dramatic roles. 
He’s the driving force here, also wearing the producer hat for the first
time.

Let’s
not discount Tea Leoni’s performance, though. 
She matches Jim Carrey’s charisma and comedic timing with unforgettable
scenes including one where she participates in a test drug survey using collagen
in her lips.

This is
a perfect comedy for those in need of a good laugh at the expense of the
uber-wealthy.

 

4) 2006’s “Casino Royale” (based on 1966’s “Casino Royale”)

The 2006 remake is considered the
best James Bond film by 007
aficionados everywhere.

The
Daniel Craig starrer was a much needed boost to the 40-year franchise that was
becoming rather stale and corny with Pierce Brosnan in the lead role.

The
Brosnan Bond films made money, but they were critically scorned, especially
when Denise Richards was cast as a nuclear scientist in 1999’s “The World is
Not Enough.”

In
“Casino Royale,” audiences were shown a tough-as-nails, handsome (and blonde!)
James Bond who just tore through his enemies without even flinching.  Daniel Craig was the relative unknown to take
the Bond reigns, and he owned the role more than any of his predecessors since
Sean Connery.

In
“Casino,” Bond’s first mission is to stop a banker to the world’s terrorist
organizations from winning a high-stakes poker tournament.  Director Martin Campbell leaves the cheese
behind and gives us a pulse-pounding action film with a believable love story.

But it’s
Daniel Craig who shows the world that he’s the new British bad boy with a
license to kill.  He’s single-minded, a
ruthless British agent who survives car crashes and poisoning to complete his
mission.

It’s a
complete retooling of the franchise.  And
it’s the best tone yet for this ongoing series.

 

3) 1983’s “Scarface” (based on 1928’s “Scarface”)

It
became the film anthem of a generation of hip-hop artists everywhere, with
famous rap video director Hype Williams cutting his feature film teeth with a
loose remake in “Belly.”

From
an Oliver Stone penned script, Brian DePalma directed this epic crime drama
that gets better every year.  Al Pacino
stars as Tony Montana, a Cuban refugee living in Miami.  He makes his ways up through the ranks of the
cocaine trade and eventually runs the entire South Florida operation.  Up-and-coming bombshell Michelle Pfeiffer
co-stars as Tony’s wife.

The
original “Scarface” was produced by Howard Hughes, directed by Howard Hawks,
and starred Paul Muni.  It’s a wonderful
classic film, but it’s dated.  1983’s
“Scarface” invented catch-phrases that are now permanently woven into the
fabric of popular culture.  “Say ‘hello’
to my little friend” is the most famous, repeated in many movies, stand-up acts
and barrooms across the world.

In the
long line of unforgettable Al Pacino roles, Tony Montana sticks out as the most
important and over-the-top, overlooked by Oscar voters at the time, but now
considered to be one of his best.

2) 1995’s “12 Monkeys” (based on 1962’s “La Jetee”)

“La Jetee” was a French film released
in 1962 that used still photographs and voice-over to tell the story of time
travel and tragedy.  32 years later,
Terry Gilliam took over the modern update of the project and applied his
signature touch.  The result is “12
Monkeys,” a hyper-reality about a disease that plagues the future and the one
man sent back in time to prevent it.

Bruce Willis stars as James Cole, a
prisoner from the future who lands in an insane asylum with Brad Pitt’s
character and kidnaps Madeleine Stowe’s character in the present.  Cole is haunted by flashback memories of a
killing at the airport.  It runs so real
through his mind as he navigates through the present in search of answers,
trying to survive.

The ending of this movie is worth
the price of admission.  It’s one of the
great twists that cinema provides us with, hauntingly beautiful.

Bruce Willis is wonderful, but it’s
Brad Pitt in limited screen time that is the standout performance of the
film.  He plays crazy, but in 1995, it
was the best film representation of real psychological torture to date.  Pitt managed to show us calculated madness,
something that Heath Ledger posthumously won an Oscar for 13 years later for
his Joker role in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight.”  Pitt in “12 Monkeys” was the precedent.

Then there’s Gilliam’s direction.  He moves the camera and composes his shots
unlike anyone else.  He enhances the pure
lunacy of the story and its characters with every cant, every camera angle.

“12 Monkeys” is a movie that only
Gilliam could tackle.  It needed his
hectic direction to up the int

ensity and his wild vision to tell
the story.

 

1) 2006’s “The Departed” (based on 2002’s “Infernal Affairs”)

Martin
Scorsese is the greatest film director to ever live.  He gave us “Mean Streets” and “Taxi Driver”
in the 70s, “Raging Bull” and “The Color of Money” in the 80s, “Goodfellas” and
“The Age of Innocence” in the 90s, and in 2000s, he has been just showing
off.  Amazingly, with “The Departed,” Martin
Scorsese won his first Academy Award for Best Director.

In
“The Departed,” Scorsese teamed again with Leonardo DiCaprio (for the third
time out of four total), Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg (who was nominated for the
Best Supporting Actor Oscar), Vera Farmiga and Jack Nicholson for the first
time.

Jack
Nicholson plays Frank Costello, leader of the Boston Irish gang, who plants a
mole (Matt Damon) in the state police department.  Meanwhile, Leonardo DiCaprio, a cop just out
of training, infiltrates Costello’s gang. 
What ensues is a pitch perfect, high stakes game of cat and mouse with
death around every corner.

Hong Kong brought us “Infernal
Affairs” in 2002, thankfully, because it provided the core story for “The
Departed.”

Nicholson almost plays his gangster
boss role for laughs.  He’s turned up to
a different setting for the entire movie, and the characters around him are always
in fear of being killed.

Damon plays the perfect weasel with
no morals, a character that required only an actor of his calibre to do it
justice.

But it’s DiCaprio who stands out as
the talent that Scorsese keep returning to for film after film.  He brings an excitement and truth to every
scene, every line of dialogue.  He’s
cinema’s brightest young star, an actor with unmatched talent.

Quite simply, DiCaprio is the best
actor in the world right now.  He melds
terrific, independent-spirited performances with blockbuster films.

DiCaprio has a lot of
years and many more characters ahead of him. 
His best performance so far was in “The Departed,” the best movie of the
new century, and the best Hollywood remake of all-time.

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