Behold! The sound of scraping the bottom of the barrel. In this, the year of our lord, Two Thousand and Seventeen, Ellen Page will star in a remake of inessential goofball 1990 young actor showcase, Flatliners. Directed by Niels Arden Oplev (Dead Man Down), and catering to an audience of absolutely no-one, the trailer primal-screams, “Maybe you should be watching Final Destination 3.” Words cannot describe how un-interesting this idea is at this point in time. People should be sacked, which is the only reason why I am posting the trailer (above) in the first place. Ellen. Ellen. Ellen. Did you need a new swimming pool that much?
I am not sure how much of the trailer for Sophia Coppola’s new film is a spoiler or not. I’ve never read Thomas P. Cullinan’s novel, A Painted Devil, nor have I seen the Don Siegel/Clint Eastwood 1971 version of the film. I am guessing the marketing department figures with the existence of other properties, might as well sell the ‘turn’ to get butts in seats. Maybe. Either way, I am always interested in movies set in hermetically sealed boarding schools or orphanages, be in Picnic At Hanging Rock, Cracks, Melody, The Devil’s Backbone or If… And I’m all in with Sophia Coppola as a filmmaker, so when she assembles Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Elle Fanning, Kristen Dunst and others to be in a highly sexualized Civil War pressure cooker, well, it’s a pretty easy sell, spoilers or no.
The Beguiled will be in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Hopefully it will get booed, because, as everyone knows, the films that get booed at Cannes are the ones that end up being pretty amazing. Coppola herself would not be new to the experience, because her own Marie Antoinette (an superb bit of contemporary film-making applied to a period piece) was rejected by the Cannes intelligentsia, but went on to be great, in spite of it.
The story unfolds during the American Civil War, at a Southern girls’ boarding school. Its sheltered young women take in an injured enemy soldier. As they provide refuge and tend to his wounds, the house is taken over with sexual tension and dangerous rivalries./blockquote>
The most telling line in this version of Ghost in The Shell is: “Your uniqueness is a virtue. Embrace it, and you will be at peace.” Delivered here by iconic Japanese comedian, TV show host, actor, and arthouse director ‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano, it is a bold statement coming from a live-action Hollywood remake of a Japanese animated film. The source material for the mid-nineties animated classic, directed by Mamoru Oshii, has spawned many direct sequels and spin-offs, and heavily influenced the 1999 mega-hit Hollywood blockbuster, The Matrix, is in fact a 1989 Manga (loosely translated, “Mobile Armoured Riot Police: The Ghost In The Shell”) which I am guessing was liberally influenced by William Gibson’s cyberpunk novel, “Neuromancer” (long has this been trying to find its way to the big screen), and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (the latter weirdly -barely- adapted from Philip K. Dick’s novella “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”)
Still with me?
The Japanese port city in Ghost in the Shell visually resembles the future Los Angeles of Blade Runner (which, again I am guessing, was inspired by Tokyo’s visually dense Shibuya’s district and Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira) commensurate with what can be realized on screen at the present moment with $100M. Even the cyber-surgery sequences seem lifted somewhat from HBO’s Westworld, itself a re-envisioning (inverting?) of the 1973 Michael Crichton movie.
What can we read from this line about ‘uniqueness’ in a property that is so very much a copy of a copy of a copy? To that, I quote another line in Ghost In The Shell, “We cling to memories as if they define us, but they don’t. What we do is what defines us.”
This begs the question: What does this version do to define itself?
Director: Bill Condon (Kinsey, Gods & Monsters, Dream Girls)
Remake of 1991 Beauty and the Beast
Screenplay: Stephen Chbosky (screenplay), Evan Spiliotopoulos (screenplay) Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont (Tale By)
Producer: David Hoberman
Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline
MPAA Rating: PG
Running time: 129 min.
Something unexpected happens when familiar tales are re-imagined for new audiences. Since much of the story is well-known, it allows those gathered to focus less on the story, and more on the voice doing the telling. Plot and prose take a back seat to cadence and inflection, which can bring new life and luminosity to a well-known story…
…or it can screw up the story entirely.
It’s a tale as old as time.
Once there was a young prince (Dan Stevens) who lived a lush life in a grand castle. One night, as he’s holding a lavish ball when disheveled beggar woman comes calling, he mocks her before turning her away. Seeing the vain and uncaring nature of the prince’s heart, the beggar – actually an enchantress – casts a spell on him, his home, and everyone in it.
He is turned into a hideous beast, and his court all household items. So they will stay until their master can learn to love.
Years later, in the town at the foot of the hill, a young girl named Belle (Emma Watson) is the misfit of her town. While other girls her age pine for marriage, she seeks independence. While others slave over the washing, she invents ways of doing chores faster. While others in town drink and gossip, she only has eyes for the pages of her books…and her loving father (Kevin Klein).
When her father takes his wares to sell, his wagon gets lost on the road. After surviving a wolf attack, he seeks refuge in an isolated castle that seems largely abandoned…but for the roaring fire in the hearth. Inside, he meets what has become of the court; Lumiere, now a candelabra (Ewan McGregor), Cogsworth, now a clock (Ian McKellan), Mrs. Potts, now a teapot (Emma Thompson)…and the furry and frightening lord of the manor. The Beast doesn’t take kindly to strangers – especially ones who help themselves to roses growing in his garden, so Belle’s father becomes his prisoner.
After fighting off advances from the beefy and smarmy Gaston (Luke Evans), Belle is alerted to her father’s disappearance. When she makes her way to the castle to search for him, she bargains with The Beast to take his place instead.
The Beast agrees, sends father on his way, and holds Belle in his place. The court sees this unfold and wonders aloud if she might be the one to teach their master to love and break the curse?
But who could ever love a beast?
Melancholic pop song. Check. Lots of hyper-cut violence. Check. Mystery box promise. Check. We really have to have a conversation on how to cut trailers. I do not mean to single out the first full trailer for the live-action remake of classic anime, Ghost In The Shell, because hey, it looks pretty good in a noirish cyberpunk fashion. (And hey, there is Beat Takeshi in a small appearance!) But I an tell you that if we keep advertising blockbusters this way, it is its own kind of fatigue.
For the uninitiated, in 1995, long before The Matrix was put into production by Joel Silver and The Wachowski Brothers, Japanese wunderkind, Mamoru Oshii and a large team of traditional animators adapted the 1988 Manga into an influential-in-its-own-right post-Blade Runner cyberpunk masterpiece. It also broke just as ‘anime’ was coming into vogue in America (spawning that awful term, Japanimation, may it never be spoken out loud again!) which garnered it a pretty wide North American theatrical release, which was rare both then an now. Meanwhile, in Japan it has since spawned one major (and quite opaque) cinematic sequel, several (more accessible) OVA spin-offs, as well as TV shows, books, et cetera.
Rupert Sanders (Snow White And The Huntsman) is finishing up on the often delayed American remake, see the trailer below, starring Scarlett Johansson as the iconic synthetic police woman, “The Major” who works with the counter-cyberterrorist organization in mid 21st century urban Japan.
During production, this has bred its own kind of controversy (#OscarSoWhite) in recasting an Asian character — in spite of being an android in an animated franchise — as a white girl. Currently, the landscape around this picture is fraught with peril; perhaps not as much as the recent Ghostbusters remake, but still plenty. The producers have attempted to dodge the issue by stating that the film is not set in Japan, but rather post-national urban setting where all races are represented. Personally, I am more interested if Sanders and his three screenwriters (two male, one female) screenwriters can bring the intelligence, style and wit to the picture, and not make it so forgettably ‘vanilla’ like his previous CGI-laden Snow White movie.
Nevertheless, if you have not had the pleasure of the 1995 version, I recommend finding it, even as I tentatively look forward to what this new version might possibly be. The imagery sure is striking, and much like the western, I’m always a little please to see cyberpunk poke its head into the world of big studio pictures.
One last thing, it appears that the poster designers are fans of Aeon Flux, a bio-cyberpunk, female driven blockbuster from 2005, that was itself a remake of a violent animated series. Unfortunately the Charlize Theron film was not very successful at the box office at the time; but, in my humble opinion, is nevertheless a pretty solid (and currently overlooked) entry in the genre.
After years of false starts and unfulfilled promises, the live-action remake of Mamoru Oshii’s influential animated feature, Ghost In The Shell is coming with Scarlett Johansson in the lead role (and Michael Pitt, Beat Takeshi and Juliette Binoche on support). Throughout a recent episode of Mr. Robot, a series of 6 second micro teasers showed during the commercial breaks, and they have been re-constructed to form a teaser trailer of sorts, and the result is a creepy Under The Skin (ish) vibe going here. Which I quite like.
Less Kate McKinnon (sad-face), more ghosts (happy face). The new trailer continues the aspect of the marketers addressing the online imbroglio about gender (and concert stage diving in the 21st century). If you have not had the pleasure, it seems that conversation on the internet about this forthcoming Ghostbusters reboot quickly veers into mass hysteria; please keep it civil in the comments section, folks.
Oooh, MGM Logo!
Hit and miss action-director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, King Arthur, Olympus Has Fallen) has gone and remade The Magnificent Seven.
The 1960 version was itself, of course, a remake of Kurosawa’s bonafide cinema classic Seven Samurai.
Sony Pictures has assembled a superb cast consisting of Denzel Washington (in full Yul Brenner black attire), Chris Pratt (doing his thing), Ethan Hawke (with a mighty beard), Vincent D’Onofrio (Onofrissance!), Byung-Hun Lee (no stranger to western remakes, with his villainous turn in Kim Ji-Woon’s The Good The Bad and The Weird), and Peter Sarsgaard (always welcome in anything, particularly as a bad guy) combined with a sizable budget have yielded a frothy, high octane unabashedly modern version of the story looking to capitalize on the star power and production values that this property, in all its incarnations, has always had. I could do without the crap cover of House of the Rising Sun, in the below trailer, but that is just personal taste, this looks like a solid popcorn western. Maybe this will be the one to break the curse of westerns at the box-office.
You know the story: A small frontier town of desperate townspeople employ the protection from seven outlaws, bounty hunters, gamblers and hired guns who for a violent showdown that they know is coming.
I don’t see the resurgence of the sword and sandals film any time soon, so clearly the raison d’etre for remaking the Charleton Heston biblical epic, Ben Hur, is to update the iconic chariot race. And besides some impressive Roman naval warfare, it seems Paramount (a studio on a role lately with upscale entertainment including Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, 10 Cloverfield Lane and The Little Prince) wants to up the bar in the hippodrome.
Plus, Morgan Freeman in white dreadlocks.
(I know that Ben Hur has name value, but Hollywood, please, make a Lord of the Rings Trilogy of Guy Gavriel Kay’s chariot race heavy novel, The Sarantine Mosaic)