Great Movie Remakes

The “remake” is an interesting entity. It can either be a great revival of an old classic or it can be a total disgrace to a wonderful film. Either way, remakes allow the creative people involved to update or refresh appealing storylines and plots. Some argue that there’s no creativity in remakes and I can understand that point of view, however, it does take major innovative thinking to revive old films and make them relevant for today’s movie goers.

Some of the Good Ones:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) – Modernized with a darker look into Willy Wonka’s life, Tim Burton recreates the chocolate waterfall, the gum that tastes like dinner, Oompa-Loompas, sorting animals, and all the memorable iconic items from the original movie without making a duplicate film. What more could you ask for? The original 1971’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” stared Gene Wilder.

Dawn of the Dead (2004) – With the basic plot same as the original, survivors of a zombie attack hold up in a mall. This recent version takes on a more video game feel than its predecessor welcoming a classic screamer flick into the modern age. The original was released in 1978 and is considered one of the best horror films ever made.

The Departed (2006) - A remake of a Hong Kong movie, Departed, with good reason (a cast staring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg, directed by Martin Scorsese), won Best Picture and Best Director Academy Awards in 2007. The Hong Kong original “Internal Affairs” was released in 2002.

I am Legend (2007) - In general, the story is the same as the two original movies, Robert Neville is the only man (he knows of) immune to a disease turning everyone into zombies. The details, such as setting up manikins and the zombies being deformed with see-through skin differ from the other films, but the fight to survive a daily deadly enemy and battling the loneliness are still the main storylines. The first movie, 1964’s “The Last Man on Earth,” was an Italian film starring Vincent Price and the 1971 version “The Omega Man” starred Charlton Heston.

The Italian Job (2003) - It’s noted that this particular remake differs greatly from the original with the exception of the mini cooper. Both films have more of a romanticized view of the crime world in the respective cities they are set in. The original released in 1969 was poorly received in America, with the remake being the bigger success of the two.

King Kong (2005) - A monumental film based on an even more monumental film. There’s just something about King Kong that’s larger than life. Even if critics didn’t reflect too positively on the film and even if box office numbers were low, there is nothing larger than “King Kong.” The original released in 1933 made huge waves in the special effects field, especially for that era.

The Manchurian Candidate (2004) - Revered by a lot of critics as a terrific reimagining, this version holds true to the founding idea that manipulation and brainwashing are influencing this particular political race. However, the modern version doesn’t leave the audience wondering about brainwashing, it’s outright with it, but is mysterious with other conspiracy strategies. Originally a movie in 1962 starring Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey had communists at the core instead of the right wing versus the left in the updated version.

Ocean’s Eleven (2001) - Another reimagining with roots grounded into the main theme of multiple Las Vegas casino heists, this crime caper flick offers an all star cast (just as the first movie did), but, most notably offers a very different ending than the original. Fun and frolic ensue in this updated Rat Pack movie making it my personal favorite on the list. The 1960’s version starred the Rat Pack who on occasion got to showcase their singing (and lady charming) abilities.

Planet of the Apes (2001) - Receiving mostly negative reviews when it premiered in 2001, this remake was a disappointment, but lands on the "Good" list because it is such a known remake. Part of that disappointment had to be from recreating an already iconic film. Again, the endings differ between the remake and the first film, but the remake stuck more to the book that the movies were based on. The original in 1968 starred Charlton Heston and was a ground breaking film for its use of makeup and other special effects.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) - A bloody musical based on a theatrical musical based on a play based on an old movie based on an urban legend – with that type of history it’s no wonder Benjamin Barker and cronies turn out so odd. This version of the film is almost completely different in that the original was not a musical and the lead character (named Tod Slaughter) was a villain, not a broken man with revenge in his heart. Both films were positively received by critics and audiences. The original film was released in 1936.

War of the Worlds (2005) - Wikipedia states that the 2005 version isn’t an actual remake, but when reading a description of the 1953 movie, the main themes are definitely the same. Taking “mass destruction, fleeing masses of refugees, the failure of humans to stop the invasion, and the final death of the Martians from bacterial infection” from the H.G. Wells story, Steven Spielberg takes the audience on a fight to survive - “I don’t know what to do” thrill ride. Some differences between the two films are the locations and the main characters. Both films were hugely successful and were relevant to “war” situations around the time of their debut.

And the Bad:
Yes, we must (briefly) discuss some of the bad remakes that have been created in recent years.

When a Stranger Calls (2006) - Staring Camilla Belle, the remake is considered bad and it differs from the original in that the source of the scary calls is revealed too soon (and by that I mean it’s revealed in the trailers). The original was released in 1979.

The Wicker Man (2006) - Again, a remake of an already very highly regarded film – it only sets things up for disappointment. The original was released in 1973.

Bad News Bears (2005) - This film held pretty closely to the original but was still a box office strikeout (pun intended). The original was released in 1976.

The Fog (2005) - Veering far from the course of the original, the scare factor just wasn’t so clear for this remake. The original was released in 1980.

House of Wax (2005) - Gore for gore’s sake (and Paris Hilton) although wax figurines will always be a little creepy, this was a bomb of a movie. The original was released in 1953.

School for Scoundrels (2006) - Two different endings - guess which one was better (and British)? The original, “School for Scoundrels or How to Win Without Actually Cheating,” was released in 1960.

The Time Machine (2002) - This love story version received not ALL bad reviews, but seemed to be more sappy-ish than time travel wonder-ish. The original was released in 1960.

“Basically, I'm for anything that gets you through the night - be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels.” – Frank Sinatra
So may the prayers, tranquilizers and JD be with you and see you next time.

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