Archive for Remakes

Total Recall Remade

Posted in Art, Entertainment, Movies and Theatre, Science, Technology with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2012 by urbannight

I saw this movie the Saturday after opening night. And yes, it took me this long to get around to reviewing it.  It was early in the morning to catch the cheapest showing.  I wasn’t going to pay full price for it.

I do have a few good things to say about the movie.  It looks very good.  It has a feature that I think is quintessential to cyberpunk in my mind.  It is the strange blend of poverty and high-tech.  A blue color worker living in a loft or larger studio apartment, they look like they are not all that well off but the refrigerator is very high-tech.

Of course, I didn’t think the original story was supposed to be cyberpunk.  On the other hand, it is argued that Dick’s writing anticipated a great many of the concepts that became central to the cyberpunk genre and people argue both sides of the argument as to whether he should be counted as a cyberpunk author or not.

To use and argument from one of my history professors, when I tried to argue that England possessed most of the forms of feudalism prior to William the Bastard seizing control of England by conquest.  They were not completely developed, but England was perhaps a few decades away from outright feudalism already.  So is it really fair to say that William brought Feudalism with him?  Her argument is that nascent forms of feudalism didn’t count.  That until all the elements existed, fully developed, then feudalism didn’t exist.  It could be said that Dick’s laid the groundwork that other authors completed and turned into Cyberpunk.

So maybe making this like far more cyberpunkish than the original is a viable vision for the story.  I just don’t remember the original having that feel to it.

I also loved the mag-rail roads to improve traffic capacity by layering upwards and the ability to travel on the topside and bottom sides of roads.  Much better than the flying cars of Fifth Element.

I was surprised by how well Jessica Biel was in this film.  I was a bit leery about the casting, but they all pulled it off and did a good job.

I also like the fact that the fake wife assigned to keep an eye on him had a greater roll in this film.  In the first film, there were two characters chasing after Quaid in most of the film.  They were combined into the one roll and I think it worked really well.

One you get past that, you start into the area of problems…….

The show takes place on Earth after some major event makes most of the planet uninhabitable.  But don’t blink, if you do, you will miss it.  Only one or two sentences on the screen and it is very poorly explained.

The blue-collar workers and lower socio-economic strata of society lives on what is left of Australia, now called The Colony.  Normally, if a disaster occurs, and few people survive, only in two parts of the world, those populations should resemble the population at the time of the disaster.  Yet Australia has become a very Asian society, with junks navigation former streets in some area.  It looks a bit like the heavy Asian influence that tends to dominate cyberpunk.

White Collar workers, the wealthy, and politicians live in Great Britain.  Some key factories are in Great Britain.  Like the factory making the automated police force.  But they are running out of space to put people.

The workers for the above mentioned factory travel via a high-speed elevator that travels THROUGH the earth and reached Great Britain in 15 minutes.  If it was really going that fast, they would have more than just the change in up/down orientation half way through.  They would have to be experiencing some g forces that was not depicted in the film.

Not to mention the fact that, while the film indicates they are not going through the center of the Earth, they would have been going through magma.  I didn’t see any indication that they had come up with materials to make a permanent shaft for the elevator in those conditions.

Several attempts to pay homage to the original were included, such as a woman going through the checkpoint that looked remarkably like the ‘woman’ from the first film.  That was kinda cute.  Because hush of anticipation came over the theater and the expected outcome did not happen.

The other item was the three breasted hooker.  That one was awkward and didn’t make sense.  Part of her function in the first movie is an example of the genetic mutations caused by lax radiation shielding in the poor zones.  This was not a feature written into the remake.  So there really wasn’t purpose or relevance to it and the result was that it felt out-of-place.

There were several other minor things wrong with it and I can’t talk about some of the items near the end of the film without giving spoilers.

Leave it to say, a lot of the character development was terribly weak because they decided to give the time over to action scenes instead.  I love a good action film and can enjoy one with a weak story.  (Battleship ship for example) But I know this story can be much stronger so it was a bit of a let down.  A visually appealing but weak remake is really not much of a movie.

The original is a story of power and control.  He who controls the air control the planet.  This is not the plot of the remake and the plot, which I can’t explain without spoilers, comes across as pathetic in comparison.

On the whole, watching it for a giggle to compare to the original is fun.  But don’t pay full price.

A Tribute to Peter Cushing

Posted in Entertainment, Movies and Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2012 by urbannight

Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin


I still have Peter Cushing on the brain. 

If you claim to be a fan of horror movies in general, or a fan of vampire movies, and you do not know who Peter Cushing is, I may have to call you a Poser.

This British actor, born in 1913, should rank up there with Bela Lugosi in name recognition.  Horror and Vampires owe as much to him and Christopher Lee as they to do Bela. 

Having an aunt who was an actress inspired his own acting dreams and he did amateur theater while also going to drama school. 

He continued to perform and decided to give Hollywood a try in 1939 when he landed a part in Man in the Iron Mask (good film, haven’t seen it in years) that same year.   But Hollywood wasn’t his style and he did a bit of acting  in Canada and on Broadway and returned to England to entertain the troops during WWII. 

He had the opportunity to perform Hamlet with Laurence Olivier and Christopher Lee was there in a bit part.  He and Lee also had the opportunity to do Moulin Rouge together as well. 

He is a perfect example of the British entertainment industry, where actors perform in film, on stage, and for television and he became a very familiar face on British television sets.  In fact, he was so well-known on t.v. that a comedian once called a television set “Peter Cushing with Knobs”.  (IMDB)

Near the end of the 1950’s, Hammer Film’s started to remake all the old horror films from the 30’s.  People saying we are in the decade of the Remake/Reboot are failing to notice that every decade does this.  They usually draw on material from 20 to 30 years prior.  What is unusual now is that they are currently drawing on material that isn’t actually all that old.

The Cushing and Lee names eventually became synonymous with Van Helsing and Dracula, at least to American viewers and apparently became best friends for life.  Cushing thought it odd that people would look at him and see a monster, he never actually played a monster.  He was occasionally the creator or a monster, Such as Baron Frankenstein, but often the man who killed the monsters, such as Van Helsing and Sherlock Holmes, who proved monsters were just humans with a bit of unusual knowledge.   It was Lee who often played the monster. 

For 20 years, Cushing performed in primarily horror programs.  During this time, although he did two films as The Doctor, he was actually the first choice for the original doctor.  I have not yet found out why that didn’t happen.  Of course, his most notable exception was Star Wars, as Grand Moff Tarkin. It is interesting to note that as many people working on Star Wars expected it to fail, Cushing actually thought kids would really like it. 

After his wife died, he seemed to have lost a lot of his will and didn’t perform as much.  His Star Wars performance was one of the few things he really did after her death.  He did do a few other bits and peices, but nothing as well know.

One of my favorite quotes by him is “You have to have a sense humor to be alive. Or a bit mad.  It helps to be mad.”  Of course, I’ve discovered that this isn’t the accurate quote.  It should be “You have to have a sense of humor, darling, to be alive.  Even a bit mad.  It helps to be mad”. (1991)

I found information on a variety of sites, I think I want to pick up either one of his autobiographies.  Most of the information seemed identical to IMDB or Wiki.  I’m not sure if wiki was based on the others or the other’s were just regurgitating Wiki.  So I primarily used IMDB for the timeline to organize the information I knew and filled in a few bits from Wiki.  Since most of what I know came from various t.v interviews and overviews over a lot of years, I couldn’t even begin to remember which programs my knowledge originally came from.  It probably came from PBS, A & E, and random stations running themed marathons where they talk about the people in the movies between showing the movies.

B-Movie Saturday on Monday

Posted in Entertainment, Movies and Theatre, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 4, 2012 by urbannight

Since I had some boxes to go through, I thought I would watch some of the bad movies on my Netflix Queue.  Why would I put bad movies in my Queue?  Easy, I’ve been known to enjoy the occasional B-movie (more than occasional if I’m honest).  Most of the early science fiction and horror films were B-movies.  If you want to appreciate a film genre, you really have to watch the old stuff as well.  If you appreciate film and film history then every film has something to say. 

Perhaps the once exception is “The Room”.  Even that has value.  It tells a person that if you can’t get a theatre to perform your play, and you can’t get a publisher to take the book, and you can’t get anyone to do the film, there is a REASON.  So save your time and DON’T raise the money to make the movie yourself.   Even Zardos has more value.  (I’m maybe one of five people on Earth that actually likes the film despite massive issues with it.)

I started off with ‘The Spellcaster’.  This 1992 movie looked like it was filmed in 1986.  It was very dated to the 80’s.  The cast was pretty much a no-name collection of actors with limited skill.  The writing was awful.  The dialogue left much to be desired.  The best acting came from Adam Ant, who played Diablo, and Richard Blade, who played Rex, the VJ.  (Video Jockey for those not old enough to remember the short lived term) 

The type of movie has been done many times.  Lock a bunch of people in a huge house and give them 24 hours to do something and earn a million dollars.  In this case it was literally find a check for a million dollars.  You have one host and one out of control non-playing character.  In this case, a drunken rock star and a host from the rock TV station filming the contest.  Oh, and camera crew, which is easy to forget as they are the equivalent to red shirts.

In other words, it is a milder rip-off of House on Haunted Hill and everyone who dies comes back.  The special effects were very good for the time.  Only one or two didn’t really pull it off.  Sets were pretty nice but the camera-work was uninspired.  Given the bad acting and bad dialogue, the reason this movie works is because it IS very campy and cheesy.  Isn’t strange how we can forgive a bad movie once it presents itself as ‘campy’?  We now expect it to be bad and can enjoy said badness in all it’s glory.  Overly cliched characters that are so exagerated that they move away from archtypes into characitures.  Still, it was a fun hour and a half.

Then I moved on to “The Tomb”, 1986.  This one did not have the dated look of most 1980’s films.  It looked much more contemporary.  But the opening scene made no sense.  The character seemed like Kurt Russell trying to play a very badly done Indiana Jones.  Only Kurt Russell can do more with a bad part than this guy did.

The tomb robber wakes up an Egyptian princess/priestess/sorceress or whatever she was supposed to be.  I had problems with the idea that your average tomb robber wouldn’t know who Bast was.  After all, in order to find buyers for things, and to steal the things buyers might want, you have to have some knowledge of the subject. 

It ended up being so boring and the special effects so bad that I gave up entirely and moved on to a different film.

Next up was the black and white film, The Maze, from 1953.  Netflix gave this a low rating for me.  But I actually liked it.  I’m pretty good about viewing films within the context of the time they were filmed.  It is vital for a movie like this.  If you can’t set aside what you know now it will be hard to suspend disbelief.  It is interesting to note that this was film for 3D.  I couldn’t watch it as 3D on Netflix but according to my research into it, it was very well done.  Modern 3D ads very little to the films and I prefer to go to 2D showings.

The spooky ancestral home and family secrets putting the leading lady in danger was a long time staple of films already.  It might explain the tired feeling of the lead actor, Richard Carlson.  It is interesting to not that he was once a big name in old science fiction/horror films. The cinematography and special effects were very good for the time and make the film worth watching for any student of films despite the performances of both the leads which fluctuate between wooden and forced.  The butler is well worth watching as well. 

The basis of this film is the now disproven theory of phylogeny which argues that the human embryo goes through all the stated of evolution when in the womb.  Children with webbing between toes or tails were thought to prove this.  While this does happen it does not mean that a baby can be born as an amphibian.  But this was considered a viable theory at the time which turns the ending into a tragedy rather than a horror. 

Several things are never really explained.  Why do all the heirs die young and seem to age quickly after inheriting?  What is the ‘monster’s’ issue with women that no heir ever marries?  If he has no problem killing women, why was he so afraid of the leading lady that he flees to his rooms and jumps out a window rather than attacking her? 

But the movie is still a pleasant diversion and rather good despite the evidence that the subject was becoming a tired and old one in Hollywood.  I can easily recommend it.

I followed it up with a much more recent film.  “The Thing Below (2004).”  If you go to IMDB you will see that the highlighted review says that it is a rehash of Alien.  Clearly, that reviewer was not familiar with the background on this film.  Long ago in 1938, a short novel was written called Who Goes There, it is set in the Arctic where the air force finds a spacecraft.  The monster itself is plant based. 

This short work has produced a number of movies.  The first movie, the Thing From Another World (1951) was usually just called The Thing. It retains the air force and the space craft and plant based monster. 

In 1982, the first remake was done and simply titled The Thing and was moved to the Antarctic, the Air Force connection was removed, and the basis and origin of the monster never explained.  While it was supposedly not intended to be a remake, it is said to follow the events of original book more closely than the previous movie did.  (I probably should read the actual novella one of these days.) 

As a side note, I spent YEARS trying to find the 1982 film.  I couldn’t remember the title.  I just remembered that I read a short story that matched the movie and I thought it might have been Kurt Russel or Michael Douglas.  I saw it on T.V. back in the day before people had VCR’s and movies were shown on T.V. instead.  This movie has been altered to fit your t.v. monitor, to fit the time block, and for nudity and violence.  The result is that when I finally tracked down the film, what I remembered and what the film was really like were two entirely different things.   It turned out to have WAY more violence in it that I expected.  In fact, I wonder how they stretched it out into a standard T.V. movie block based on the amount they would have had to cut out.

The Thing Below takes the story out of the Arctic and Antartica and moves it to a deep drilling platform in the ocean.  Otherwise, it is the same story.  A team working on a government project to find an alternative energy source instead finds a strange cavity in the earth.  A ship crashed in the distant past and an alien life form lived in the cavity until it was released by the scientists.  It takes on the form of people just like in the previous two versions. 

The movie itself wasn’t horrible.  Better than the low rating on IMDB.  But they did serious damage to it with the addition of the ‘porn star’ segment of the film.  That alone brought the entire film down and destroyed and validity the film could have otherwise had.  They could have used that additional time to fill out the other characters’ stories a bit better. 

As a strange side note, the monster actually looks more like the black, tentacled, alien from It Came From Outer Space.  Which is not a tie in to the original book as it is written by Ray Bradbury and the aliens are not dangerous.  They are just trying to repair their ship and occasionally take over the locals in order get things done as they could not blend into the human population.

There is also a 2011 remake of the 1982 version of The Thing.  I can’t say much about it since I never saw it and don’t plan on that happening.  At least not right anytime soon.  I don’t think it did well.

To top it off, there is going to be another 2013 film that seems to be tracing it’s roots back to the novella, sorta, in a very loose way.  It actually has the title that I always believe the first movie had, “The Thing from Outer Space”.   It is a spoof.  Intended as a comedy, the shape-shifting alien crashes in a British suburb and start to eat people.  The poster says:  Spore It’s Hungry.  Which seems to indicate it is going back to the plant based alien.   I can’t find out a lot of information on this so I don’t actually know it is part of the same chain of movies.  But as all of them were titled, ‘The Thing’ something or other, it leads me to think it might be. 

Wow, I didn’t mean to go so far into the history of one string of movies. 

I followed this up with the movie The Digital Man.  I had trouble getting into the beginning of this film and kept wandering in and out of the room.  Oddly enough, I kept going back to the computer to do more research on The Maze.   The first half is just a bit slow.  There is a terrorist attack.  Nothing is working.  A captain decides to use an experimental robot to end the attack. It works.  People above him are pissed.  Turns out, some uppity up, officer was behind it.  The malfunctioning or hijacked Digital Man was actually following his programming all along. 

The team sent after him is a mixed team of Humans and Cyborgs.  Because, in the past, the two didn’t work well together, these cyborgs were programmed with histories and to believe they were human.  As a result, the team worked great together.  At least up until they discover the first cyborg among them.  Then they started questing who is human and who is not.  Oddly enough, despite them question each other’s humanity, the team still is able to work and function very well together despite the fact that 3 of the 5 person team dies.   Once you get to the part of the movie in which this team is going after the Digital Man, it is picks up and is pretty good.  

By the time I reached the end, I had the oddest feeling I may have seen this film.  Bits and pieces felt like I knew them and other parts were totally unfamiliar to me.  I didn’t discuss much about this movie.  I guess because I started to focus on the story.  I feel like they were trying to do with a Human vs. Cybernetics story that got sidetracked by the action film.   At one part of the film, the Digital Man was described as having fully integrated systems.  It gave the impression that this was what they were trying for with the Cyborgs but the Cyborgs had to much independence and to much ‘humanity’ where as the Digital Man was much more robotic in nature, tied to performing his programming, and much more computer than man.  But everyone likes an action film and the action sort of ‘took over’.  

Production values seemed a little low.  Much of it was in a desert, that saves some money.  Many of the interior scenes seemed fairly close quarters, so  minimal sets were seen.  Props and body armor seemed a little on the cheap side.   The overall feeling is that they were working with a very limited budget.

I might have watched another movie, but I was getting tired of that and decided it was time to play some Star Wars, The Old Republic.