FilmMarch 29, 2012 at 5:37 am

Remakes Remixed

With Mirror, Mirror and Wrath of the Titans both being released this week, Street decided to take a look back at some of the most (in)famous remakes of the past couple of decades.

The Good Remake: True Grit (2010)

Few can deny the pure talent dripping from every pore of the Coen brothers’ bodies, and this holds true for their 2010 western, True Grit. Initially inspired by the famous John Wayne adventure of the same name, the Coens stuck closer to the original novel upon which Wayne’s film was based. In that case, perhaps True Grit does not strictly fall into the “remake” category, instead straddling the line between reconsideration and adaptation. Nonetheless, the Coens still manage to infuse their unique (and consistent) brand of dark humor.

The Bad Remake: Taxi (2004)

A Jimmy Fallon–Queen Latifah pairing would under no circumstances be a promising one.  But for a brief moment in the mid–2000s they both seemed like stars — Fallon was leaving SNL for a surefire career in the biz a la Adam Sandler (right?), and Latifah’s prospects were on the upswing after making ChicagoTaxi made them both seem less able to handle leading roles. Based on a 1998 film by Luc Besson, the Tim Story–helmed piece follows a cab driver (Latifah) who helps a police officer (Fallon) catch a bank robber (Gisele Bundchen). More importantly, this all happens because Fallon’s character (who presumably had to pass a driving test to even qualify for the force?) can’t drive. The film continues to make less sense as it progresses. At least audiences didn’t have to deal with three sequels — which the original Besson piece, and understandably not the remake, merited.

The Weird Remake: A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop (2011)

Strangely enough, Chinese director Zhang Yimou remade Joel Coen’s directorial debut, Blood Simple. However, while the Coen bros’ original was stylized as a neo–noir thriller, Yimou’s remake transported its characters and plot to China, adding a dose of slapstick and wackiness to an otherwise morose movie. Though the film may have garnered much praise both from the Coens and on the festival circuit, audiences may remain skeptical, fearing it to be a bastardization of a Coen Classic.

The Reframe: The Manchurian Candidate (2004)

Though some may consider Jonathan Demme’s remake of Sinatra’s classic a complete travesty, it does prove a rather clever update of the original. In the 1962 version, Sinatra’s Capt. Ben Marco must save the presidential race from a dangerous assassin brainwashed by the Chinese; in this remake, Denzel Washington’s Marco fails to find help until late in the film, almost allowing the unspeakable to happen. Demme’s update brings the film into the context of the 2004 election, highlighting fears of conspiracy, an excessively strong executive and the Iraq War.

The Screen–to–Stage Remake: The 39 Steps (2005)

After waking up to find a beautiful spy dead in his apartment, the suave Richard Hannay embarks on a journey to protect her political secrets from being stolen by a mysterious villain who’s missing half his pinky finger. This is the plot of Alfred Hitchcock’s supposedly serious 1935 film The 39 Steps, transformed by Patrick Barlow into a 2005 stage farce. The story is identical and the dialogue is verbatim, but now a four–person cast plays 150 roles, actions are pantomimed and everything is slapstick; it is resourceful, hysterical and just as respectful of its filmic lineage as it is rebellious.

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