Posts Tagged ‘remakes’

Let me preface this review with a disclaimer: I’ve never been a fan of the Child’s Play franchise. I saw the original Child’s Play when I was too old to be scared of Chucky, and I never bothered to see any of the sequels. So I was not among the many people who raged at the thought of a redesigned Chucky, a new origin story for the character, or the concept of a reboot in general. However, I knew that there was a good chance this would fall under horror remakes we all wish we could forget would ever make. So I braced myself, bought a ticket, and went in.

Child’s Play follows Andi, a young deaf boy with trouble making friends. His mom finds him a used Buddi doll, a cross between your Alexa smart product and the worst of the uncanny valley, as an early birthday present. Unfortunately, neither of them realize that this particular doll was sabotaged by a disgruntled factory worker, and has all the limiters taken off. The result is a psychopathic stalker unhealthily obsessed with a little boy. And he’ll stop at nothing to make sure his best buddy stays his best buddy. Especially when he gains access to the network.

Okay, first off, I’m just going to say it. In what world does ANYBODY want THAT version of Chucky in their home? Give the original design its due, at least it looks somewhat adorable, something your child would want to play with. Take it from the guy who has a doll collection and his favorite is kind of creepy, this doll looks too creepy for the average family, let alone something people would allow into their home and pretend is their best buddy while at the same time handing control over their home devices.

There’s this thing called the suspension of disbelief. Don’t go too far with it, or nobody will believe your story.

Yeah, I wouldn’t trust this with my devices. Why would anyone?

And now that that’s out of the way, let’s just say it. Even if you can forgive all the changes from the source material, the Child’s Play remake is not very good. For one thing, it’s predictable. We’ve seen this story, the doll that comes to life and becomes too attached to its owner, again and again. Beyond adding the element of a doll connected to the cloud and the Wi-Fi and everything else, there’s nothing new to add. If you have a checklist for this kind of trope about what to expect, you can check every single one off and rate it as average at best.

I also disagreed with some plot choices. The worst was with Andi’s mom, played by Aubrey Plaza. She seems caring, but at the same time she’s like, “I could care less and want to go back to being a carefree teenager.” And then, in a scene where Andi displays some behavior that seems disturbing, she instead…takes him to work? How about a hospital to get his head looked at?

Oh, and talk about a waste of Mark Hamill. I totally forgot that was Luke Skywalker/arguable one of the best Jokers ever playing Chucky. The robotic voice mutes the actor’s distinct voice, making you forget who’s behind the character.

Was there anything good about this film? Well, the cast is okay. They’re not trying very hard, but they convince me anyway. Some of the sweeter, more heartfelt moments are decent at giving you the feels. And some of the moments of horror and dark humor are enough to terrify and gross you out. Especially with one scene in the basement.

But all in all, the Child’s Play reboot is a sad attempt at revitalizing a slasher franchise. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 1.8. Even if it somehow is a success at the box office (which, with a ten million dollars budget, could be done in a few weeks), it might not get a sequel just based on how bad it is. Only go if you don’t mind wasting two hours of your life.

Thank God it wasn’t a bad Friday the 13th reboot. Can you imagine how disappointing it would be if that happened? Oh wait, that did happen! And it’s still a shitty piece of filmmaking courtesy of Michael Bay’s toilet. That’s right, I found another opportunity to trash the Friday the 13th reboot! And I’ll keep trashing it until a better (or worse) Friday the 13th film is released, mark my words!

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My copy of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

My copy of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

So I recently bought my own copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, something I’ve been contemplating on doing since I listened to and reviewed Go Set a Watchman last year (more on that later). Reading the book, which I hadn’t read since eighth or ninth grade, I realized two things: one was that a lot of my memories of the Mockingbird book had been clouded and confused with the Mockingbird movie. The other was that this merited discussion. And where better to discuss it than on my blog?

I finished the book on Tuesday and watched the movie that night, but couldn’t really blog about it till now because I only have so much time, and what little I have goes by rather quickly (dammit Time, you’re still a quick bastard, aren’t you?). This article will be part review, part reflective essay, but all about what is obviously one of the best pieces of American literature ever written. So without further ado, let’s get into it.

The Book. To say the least, I’m glad I reread the book. I’m not sure if I just didn’t absorb the details as well the first time around, or if I just have a worse memory than I thought, but a lot of what made the book so wonderful hit me like it was my first time reading it. The text is beautiful, full of a smart child’s observations about events that an adult might have trouble absorbing, and all with a somewhat poetic innocence and beauty. You find yourself discovering all sorts of ironies and hypocrisies with Scout Finch, and you find yourself also wanting to explain to her these ironies and hypocrisies that, to her, are too confusing and that the adults can’t seem to explain to her very well.

And like I said earlier, I had quite a revelation about how much I confused the book and the movie. For instance, Scout’s a lot girlier in the book than in the movie. Yes, she’s still quite the tomboy in the book, but the movie emphasized that more, even to the point where she says she hates dresses. In the book, Scout doesn’t seem to outright hate dresses, she just prefers overalls. She also wants to be a good housewife when she grows up and take care of her husband, and she dreams of being a baton twirler when she’s in high school, which are something I can’t imagine Mary Badham’s Scout ever wanting to do. Yeah, these aren’t big differences, but they’re differences nonetheless.

What really surprised me though was the difference in Atticus’s character.* I’ve had this image of Atticus being like this perfect being, a giant of a man with the wisdom of Merlin and the morals of Abraham. However, this is only the movie’s version of Atticus. While Atticus is definitely a moral force, he does struggle in the book. You see it, every decision he struggles with. At times, you can feel him trying to figure out what’s the best move, whether it’s raising his children or trying to be a good lawyer and a good citizen. It was quite the surprise, but I like this version of Atticus more. A character who struggles to do the right thing is always easier to identify with and root for than a character who always does the right thing without question, and that makes the story all the more powerful.

Atticus Finch in the movie, as played by Gregory Peck.

Atticus Finch in the movie, as played by Gregory Peck.

The Movie. I love how the movie started with Scout just humming and coloring. It embodies the innocence that Scout somehow manages to maintain throughout the story. The actors all do very well in their roles, though I thought that the actor who played Bob Ewell could have looked a bit more unkempt and hateful, because he looks like just a regular farmer here. The film is smart in how it sticks to the most important points of the story, namely the trial and the children’s relationship with Boo Radley, as well as the family moments that allow the audience to get to know the characters. I would’ve liked to see more of Dill Harris, as his role is really scaled down in the film, and his exit from the movie is abrupt and not commented upon. Still, it is a really wonderful film. I’m glad I watched it again, and I hope it never gets remade (though if Hollywood is desperate enough to do so, cast Zachary Quinto as Atticus. He’s a bit young for the role, but he’s just an amazing actor. He could pull it off).

Overall thoughts. This book is just as relevant today as it was when it came out in 1960. Now I know to some people, that seems like a no-brainer. After all, the book is taught in schools every day, illustrating the racial climate of both the 1930’s and 1960’s. And yes, that is true, but Mockingbird‘s themes can be applied today. Look at the Black Lives Matter movement: it’s a movement that’s fighting against racial injustice in the justice system, trying to keep black men, women, and children alive when many are accused and sometimes even killed for crimes they did not commit. And people who would readily smack down Adolf Hitler have called these protesters thugs, criminals, terrorists for wanting things to change, and to not have to feel fear while walking down the street. Exactly like Mockingbird. And all too often, you hear people make sweeping generalizations about minorities, especially minorities who are “dangerous,” or a threat to social order. This happens in Mockingbird as well, and it’s scary to see something in a novel about the past happening in my present. And it makes you question how far we’ve really come since then.

One of the best lessons from Mockingbird is that you can’t really know someone until you walk in their shoes. I don’t remember if this point was emphasized as much in my classes back in the day (and as students at an all-Jewish school, we’re all-too familiar with what it’s like to be a persecuted people), but it’s something that should be emphasized more in examinations of Mockingbird. Because it’s all too easy to be scared of someone, but it’s difficult as hell to empathize and see things from their point of view.

Whether it’s the book or the movie, really, To Kill a Mockingbird is just a powerful story. It’s beautifully written and told, the characters are timeless, and its lessons are things we can all take to heart, no matter what age it is. I’d be lucky to write something just as earth-shattering someday. Because Mockingbird isn’t just a great example of American literature. It’s an exploration in what it means to be a human being.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. My next post will be at some point Saturday, so keep an eye out for it. Until next time!

*Speaking of Atticus’s character, something I just want to talk about real quick. When Watchman came out last year, there was all this controversy about Atticus being revealed as having racist leanings. Not the best thing to have in a sequel, is it? Well, I didn’t know this when I wrote my review, but apparently Watchman was not a real sequel. In actuality, it was most likely a very early draft of Mockingbird. This makes all sorts of sense to me, especially in light of my rereading Mockingbird. For instance, Watchman spends a lot of time going back and forth between events in Scout’s childhood and in her adulthood, which doesn’t happen at all in Mockingbird. A weird move for a sequel. That, and Atticus isn’t the only character who’s changed a bit: Uncle Jack Finch is portrayed as more eccentric in Watchman than in Mockingbird, which seems unusual as I’m sure Scout would have noticed his uncle’s oddness as a child. Most damning of all, though, is that the trial in Mockingbird is only barely in Watchman, and Boo Radley, who’s so essential to Mockingbird, isn’t even mentioned in Watchman! Very odd, to say the least.

And from a writer’s experience, I can tell you that stories can change dramatically between drafts. Some of my own stories have gone through great transformations from first draft to final publication (I should do an article on that!). That’s why Watchman, an early draft, is so different from Mockingbird, the final product.

So fear not, folks. Atticus isn’t really racist. An early version of him was, but I think the final version, who defended Tom Robinson and who said cheating a black man was ten times worse than a white man, isn’t a racist at all. He’s still a great idea of what we can be. He’s human, he struggles with his decisions, he’s not perfect. But he is a good man without prejudice. And that’s the version we love the most.

And Watchman? Well, it’s a pretty blatant attempt to capitalize on an already-famous book, but it’s good in its own right. Just remember its origin and don’t get too depressed over certain characterizations when you read it. That’s all I can say at this point, friends and neighbors.

Hollywood is stuck in this phase where the studios are obsessed with sequels and prequels and spin-offs and franchises and remakes and reboots and re imaginings and a million other things. I have mixed feelings on this culture. On the one hand, I love the Marvel movies and a clever re imagining of a classic story or stories (like what Once Upon a Time has done with some of my favorite fairy tales when I was young) is a great thing. Plus who doesn’t love a good adaptation of a beloved novel or comic book or even video game into a movie or TV series?

On the other hand, seeing all these stories continued or retold constantly encourages filmmakers ane viewers to seek out familiar stories that are sure bets to be successful rather than new material that they don’t know will work out for them, when there is new material. And plenty of these sequels/prequels/reboots/whatever, when they come out, they are just awful and you wonder how the filmmakers could do this to beloved properties (see my review of the Poltergeist remake or watch these two dudes review the Smurfs movie if you need further proof).

The horror genre has been a big part in this, for better or for worse. Since the success of 2003’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake (as opposed to 2013’s remake of the film), there have been a slew of horror remakes, mainly slashers but quite a few others, and they have been showing up with increasing frequency). I’m focusing on the slashers though, because of the horror remakes the slashers are often the ones I see the most advertising for (an exception being Poltergeist, but we know how that turned out), they have some of the most iconic characters in the horror genre (Freddy, Jason, Leatherface, etc.), they’re notorious for putting out too many sequels of varying quality, even for horror, and they’re difficult to get right, because they rely on blood, guts, and gore to scare people rather than suspense and atmosphere.

And for God’s sake, there’s just been so many of them:

  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre and its prequel (the former was good, the latter awful)
  • Halloween and Halloween II (same deal as TCM in terms of quality)
  • My Bloody Valentine (lacks all that made the original so awesome)
  • Black Christmas (awful murder-porn)
  • Prom Night (awful and nonsensical)
  • Friday the 13th (of all the Michael Bay shit movies, this one is the shittiest)
  • Nightmare on Elm Street (I liked it, but others disagree with me)
  • Leprechaun (more of a re-imagining of average quality)
  • Texas Chainsaw 3D (I liked this too, but not everybody else did)
  • Evil Dead (fun and extremely bloody)
  • Scream (got rebooted as a TV series. Only saw one episode before leaving for Germany, but wasn’t impressed by what I saw)

On TV and in the movies at the same time. Like Kevin Bacon or Viola Davis.

And that’s just the ones that I know of that are out. And believe it or not, there are more on the way: Friday the 13th is getting a new movie as well as being re-imagined as a TV series for CW (haven’t heard anything on the movie, but what I’ve heard on the TV series sounds promising), Halloween is getting a new movie (also looks promising), Evil Dead is getting a TV series set years after the original films (excuse me while I skip it, because I’m not much of a fan of the franchise), and Texas Chainsaw Massacre is getting a prequel exploring Leatherface’s origins (I’m skeptical). There was also talk of a Hellraiser reboot, but there’s been no word in two years on that, so I’m going to say it’s been shelved.

So why are slashers being remade by the dozen? Like I said, they’re difficult to pull off, and they’re formulaic. Plus blood and gore is how they primarily scare you, and a lot of horror fans, including myself, find that distasteful. What makes them so appealing?

I think a lot of it has to do with the characters. Slashers have produced some of the most iconic characters in horror and in cinema: Norman Bates, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers. Heck, Freddy Kreuger isso well-known that he’s made cameo appearances in movies parodying the 1980’s in one form or another. People love these characters as much as they’re scared of them, they love watching them in action and being terrified of them. They like to sit there and think, “What’s he going to do next? What’s he going to do next? What’s he going to do–AAAH!”

Studios are aware of that, as well as they are aware of how much people go back to see the old films (the better ones anyway) and see these beloved characters do what they do best. With huge fan followings like this, and how easy it is to make a horror movie under twenty million dollars with minimal special effects, they know people are going to come and see the films so they can see these beloved characters resurrected again and perhaps in a movie worthy of carrying the franchise’s name.

The problem with that is, these same studios may just be banking on the popularity of a franchise and its character or characters to draw in crowds. Take a look at Friday the 13th, or another horror movie that Michael Bay meddled in, Ouija (read my review here). Both of those sucked, but yet they still made money. I think the latter was because of very good marketing, but the former had the draw of the first Friday the 13th film in six years, and one not bogged down by sequels’ worth of mythologies. Problem was, they didn’t invest in a good story, like the first film did and most of the early films tried to do with varying success. Instead they gave it a passable story and then added in as much drugs, sex, nudity, swearing, and gratuitous death scenes as possible so that the audiences would stay interested.

The result was a waste of film that makes watching people defecate on public streets look more entertaining. And I’m very worried that these other films that are on the way will do the same thing. They’ll be made with just drawing in fans and their credit cards in mind and the results will be absolutely terrible. And no horror fan wants to see beloved characters treated that way.

Hoping for better films for all these guys, and more.

On the other hand, I like to imagine that some of these filmmakers are huge fans of the franchises and really are trying to give these characters the stories they should be in, stories that are worth investing seven dollars and two hours in. The Halloween movie supposedly has an interesting plot, and the one thing I’ve heard on the Friday the 13th sequel indicates it’ll take place in the 1980’s, when the series started and where most of the better films are set. Perhaps there is hope here.

Well, we’ll just have to wait and see…and pray that along with better sequels/franchises/whatever, we get some new material too (*cough* Hollywood, call me *cough*).

All for now, my Followers of Fear. I have to get ready for the High Holidays tonight, so I’ll be busy for a while, but I’ll write again when I can.

See you next year, and Shanah Tovah (that means “Have a good year” if you don’t speak Hebrew).

saturation [n]: the act or result of supplying so much of something that no more is wanted.

–courtesy of Merriam Webster Online

Lately Hollywood is all about the franchises. Disney announced recently that they are making a Frozen 2, that they’ve set release dates for a Star Wars spin-off and Episode VIII, and for some reason they’re doing a live-action Dumbo remake. Sony recently announced that alongside the new female-led Ghostbusters reboot they’re making a male led one as well to even things out (because three male-led films vs. one female-led one is true equality), plus a production company to come up with all sorts of Ghostbusters-related stuff, and a Zoolander 2 is on its way as well.

Look, I’m looking forward to some of these sequels and prequels and remakes and reboots and spin-offs and franchises. Try and keep me away from the Poltergeist remake, the new Star Wars episode, and a few other upcoming films. However, I think that all this emphasis on creating major film series and franchises is actually working against Hollywood rather than helping it. I know that place is run by money primarily, with the idea of making memories and memorable films being a far second, and all these mega-franchises has everyone wanting to have their own moneymaker. But to pursue all that without investing in new material, to me anyway, is not smart business practice.

Not that there haven’t been original films this year. Seventh Son, Jupiter Ascending, and Chappie all are original films (one’s based on a novel, but whatever), so studios aren’t totally ignoring original ideas. However, the former two were panned and didn’t do well at the box office, while the latter…well, it did well at the box office, but the critics don’t seem to like it. I didn’t either. And that isn’t good, because it might make movie studios more wary about greenlighting new projects.

Does this seem a little excessive to you?

This means more superhero movies, more film series and franchise, more reboots and remakes and God only knows what else. And that’s likely to continue. The question is, how long will it continue? Marvel and DC have films scheduled through 2019 and 2020 respectively, but will we feel like watching them by that time? Will we feel like we’ve seen these films so many times that it takes something rare to make us enjoy the film, like it is for so many horror fans today? Are we going to reach saturation point soon? And when it does, what will the film industry do?

Luckily, there’s the indie scene, which is producing original and wonderful stories all the time (particularly horror: I Am A Ghost, The Babadook, and the upcoming It Follows, though I haven’t seen that last one yet). And the comedy genre keeps churning out with originals, probably because they know that pulling off sequels are difficult in that genre. There’s a growing number of biopics coming out each year (not exactly original, but not exactly overly done either), and most of the movies nominated for the Oscars each year are meant to be stand-alone films. Maybe we won’t reach saturation too soon.

But if we do, I think we might have enough filmmakers out there who aren’t so concerned with money and sequels, and want just to tell good stories. Heck, I might even join in then: I’ve got a few idea for screenplays, so I might write one too one of these days. We’ll see.

Do you like the way Hollywood is these days? Why or why not?

Do you think we’ll reach saturation point soon? What’ll happen when we do?