Fincher’s Tattoo Remake Gets Its Best Trailer Yet

I find myself having to begin warming up to this whole remake/reboot market which Hollywood seems to be in lately, and with Fincher, an amazingly unique and original filmmaker, I have total confidence in the fact that he will put out a fine film, but deep down it’s still hard for me to handle the fact that he has to be getting sloppy seconds on this one. What I look forward to most about the first remade feature in the Swedish crime trilogy is that with Fincher’s eye, I am sure it will look gloriously dark and seem almost Ikea-perfect. However, the original Swedish films were damn near perfect, although they regrettably had the feeling of television miniseries more than cinematic experience. (For those of you living under a rock this year, I’m of course talking about Stieg Larsson’s The Millenium Series and, in particular, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.)

Anyway, I ran across this little promo spot which the filmmakers seem to have put together to promote the film in a most unique way – highlighting both the artistic, marketing and musical perfection which both David Fincher and his new-found scoring partner Trent Reznor constantly (and usually successfully) strive to. Check it out below.

What to Watch in October

October appears to be the month of Hollywood uninspired remakes and throwbacks. Why is it so acceptable in the megabucks film industry to be unoriginal? Anyway, this installment of my “What to Watch” series shows you just how few amazing films are pumping out of the studios these days. Strikethroughs are strongly discouraged viewing.

October 7, 2011

Dirty Girl by Abe Sylvia. An interesting cast rounds out this indie-feeling teen road movie/comedy which was helmed by a former-Cats-dancer-turned-UCLA Film School Grad. I say give it a chance. With tinges of Raising Arizona and Easy A it appears to have a nice balance of comedy and drama.

The Ides of March by George Clooney. Political intrigue Clooney style looks to be light on the politics and heavy on the intrigue. Clooney’s smart-man genre has both stood out and fallen through the cracks in the past, but I’m looking forward to this one. The addition of the of-late, ever-present Ryan Gosling certainly can’t hurt either.

Real Steel by Shawn Levy. So the brilliant movie concept here was to make a film based on that game with the boxing robots 10-year old’s used to play in the 80s? Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Something or Other. What actually bothers me more though is that I’m fairly certain this idea has already been put to celluloid by Spielberg, Scott and/or Cameron at some point in the past 30 years. And while Michael Bay is my favorite summer movie director of the lot, I’m pretty sure any Transformers flick will overshadow this thing to a middle schooler.

Texas Killing Fields by Ami Canaan Mann. Is it wrong to wish you were related to a famous filmmaker? That seems to give a number of young filmmakers in recent years the power to write and direct and actually find backing for their projects. Oddly enough though their projects are many times not nearly as great as someone unrelated to a hit director. So this run-of-the-mill crime drama doesn’t really stand out, but the trailer is relatively taut and looks like it will fit right in between two more movies on Cinemax on a Friday night.

Toast by S. J. Clarkson. Standard British coming-of-age drama with Helena Bonham Carter and Freddie Highmore. Nothing to get to excited about, but it’s bound to be endearing.

The Way by Emilio Estevez. Ok, so we’re back to classic Hollywood nepotism in our October lineup. This time in a film starring Martin Sheen and directed by none other than Emilio Estevez! Interestingly though, even for a real life father and son to play off each other in the film, their acting almost comes across a little subpar. Check out the trailer, it almost feels like their conversation is scripted, when even if it was, you’d think they’d play off each other a little better. Anyway, it’s a cute, typical looking journey film, but nothing career defining.

October 14, 2011

The Big Year by David Frankel. Jack Black, Steve Martin and Owen Wilson as comedic trio in a film about competitive bird watching? Yeah… I’m not really feeling it either. Sounds like a fun rental though!

Footloose by Craig Brewer. It pains me greatly to say that the stellar Brewer, coming off creating some of the best neo-exploitation films of the past ten years, would stoop to the level of a remake – already. In the realm of cult classic dance movies of the 80s, you’d not expect to see Footloose cropping up ahead of that other one… but, alas, here it comes. So kick off your Sunday shoes and get comfy.

The Skin I Live In by Pedro Almodóvar. There’s no way I would miss any new film by this Spanish auteur, but this one just looks gloriously dark, creepy and quite apropos for October. Antonio Banderas, working with Almodóvar for the first time since their last disturbing work together (the 1990 NC-17er Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!), plays a sociopath/plastic surgeon who experiments on women he holds captive in his mansion. And, if you like this film, definitely check out the amazing short by filmmaker Sébastien Rossignol, Le Miroir.

The Thing by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. Watch the red band trailer here. Ok, I admit, I’m kind of a 70s and 80s trashy film nerd, so yeah I love John Carpenter’s The Thing, and while it disheartens me to see that it’s being remade (like everything else lately), I’m a little excited underneath it all to see it in maybe a slicker, gorier version than before. I’ll have to go a little hypocrite here, and say I appreciate the facelift on this schlocky horror gem.

October 21, 2011

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey by Constance Marks. I really dig personal journey and inspiration documentaries like this, so I may be a little biased here, but I would recommend giving this film a shot.

Father of Invention by Trent Cooper. 2010 holdover and weak comedy about a Kevin Spacey character who is released form white collar prison life and has to shack up with his daughter and work at a Hollywood-type Walmart. Pass.

Margin Call by J. C. Chandor. High drama in the banking and investment world seems to be a theme of a lot of films lately (no surprise), this one is run of the mill and sports a 50/50 cast. This seems a genre better suited to the likes of Oliver Stone and/or David Mamet.

Martha Marcy May Marlene by Sean Durkin. There’s a new Olsen girl in town! Her name’s Elizabeth. From the looks of it, she’s not interested in following in the footsteps of her sisters oeuvre, and instead has debuted her acting career in this indie Sundance word-of-mouther about the titular, multi-personaed girl who is part of a religious cult. See? Now here’s that originality I’ve been looking for!

Paranormal Activity 3 by Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman. The first was relatively captivating, but two sequels since then? Paranormal stuff is better viewed on basic cable when it comes on without knowing after an Anthony Bourdain marathon.

Revenge of the Electric Car by Chris Paine. I can only hope this film makes some waves.

The Three Musketeers by Paul W.S. Anderson. Another unnecessary remake of a perfectly suitable classic. The story is one of those that really looks better in classic film form anyway, so upgrading this one seems a little gratuitous. On the other hand, Paul W.S. Anderson has been known to do some pretty decent action flicks, and the obvious addition of Milla Jovovich is more than welcomed.

October 28, 2011

Anonymous by Roland Emmerich. Summer movie maven Emmerich slows it down for the Fall and tries out Shakespeare instead of catastrophe. Same premise, of course: he wants to turn The Bard on its head (sort of like humanity). Yes, this film is of the position that Shakespeare did not actually write his world-renown plays, and that Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford did. Pleasantly surprised; this appears to be a step up for Emmerich. Rhys Ifans’ and David Thewlis are always great, too.

In Time by Andrew Niccol. No stranger to this sub-genre, director Niccol creates a future where humans are genetically engineered and designed to die at the ripe old age of 25. In the cliched future-film/suspense genre there’s always one individual who breaks away from the mold and goes on the run, chased by whatever futuristic armed and uniformed drones the screenwriter has come up with – and, while this film doesn’t really look any different (despite the unique life-span concept), it does have the gorgeous Olivia Wilde playing a (…wait for it) mom. Commence dirty acronyms… now.

Johnny English Reborn by Oliver Parker. The inimitable Roman Atkinson dusts off the 007-parody character Johnny English and gives it another try after almost a decade.

Like Crazy by Drake Doremus. Director Doremus is a Sundance veteran now, but as I’ve said many times on this blog, don’t see a movie just because it played Sundance. Do, however, see Like Crazy because it’s heartfelt, realistic, humorous and painful all in one – and for me – it’s hits home all too much (but that’s for another blog, another day). This is solid work and great indication of what’s to come from this fledgling filmmaker.

The Rum Diary by Bruce Robinson. Okay, well you’ve got three things to consider here: 1.) Hunter S. Thompson; 2.) Bruce Robinson; 3.) Johnny Depp. Add them all together and you’ve got a winning combination in my mind, however I haven’t seen the film yet, but if Robinson’s cult classics How to Get Ahead in Advertising and Withnail & I are any indication, this film will be witty, effervescent, and full of colorful characters.

Sleeping Beauty by Julia Leigh. In a film “presented by” Jane Campion you can expect the material to be pretty raw and jolting, but Leigh’s film has the eerie, off-kilter presence of Dogtooth and the concept and tone of Eyes Wide Shut. Not to be confused with the children’s story, this is very adult-oriented material. A young college student (Emily Browning) takes a job as a “sleeping beauty” in a venue where men pay to watch her as she sleeps.

Akira Kurosawa is Open for Business: A Look at the Rape of Cinema by Hollywood’s New Remake Code

Remakes bother me terribly, no matter how great they are. I’m all for putting a fresh coat of paint on something that’s the original (thank you, Criterion), but without originality in filmmaking where is this business going to ever find its way back to becoming the Golden Age of movies? Sadly, the last decade has almost felt like Hollywood doesn’t care or have the creative know-how to blossom into a Golden Age of movies again. Hollywood has gobs of talent to go around, but no one wants to do anything original or outside the box anymore. I understand the concern to make money on your product; it’s not the just the artistry of the whole thing, in today’s tough film-going market, and for the price it cost to make big budget now, you have to ensure you’re audience will give you a return on it.

So maybe that explains why a large percentage of everything that comes out now are remakes. Simple, outlined story to work from, cost-effective, and “kicked up a notch” by today’s standards, you may even get someone who saw the original to say, “yeah, I’m curious to see what they did to it.” Some terrible films maybe would benefit from a remake now, but really what’s the point even then? The problem is though, it’s never the poor films that get the remakes, it’s the ones that were great, and many times the ones that have collected a sort of following or classic status. Take for example the Kate Bosworth-Americanized version of Peckinpah’s 70s triumph, Straw Dogs. This is a film that should never have been touched by another director or reflected a different cast. The original is truly a slice of the times it was made in, and is close to perfect. Remaking this movie is just blatant exploitation and a simple way to cash-in with sex, violence and pretty girls.

Taking inspiration from other filmmakers and building off that inspiration, that’s the beauty of great filmmaking. No art is truly original, everything has to come from somewhere – some catalyst. Most filmmakers, I’d wager, are consumed by media around them; saturated with it. So it’s fair to say not everything they come up with in their work is going to be original. It’s just human nature.

Take George Lucas for example, most film buffs know that Star Wars was inspired by (if not based upon) Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress. But Star Wars is not The Hidden Fortress and is not trying to be, and that’s the beauty of falling in love with both films. When Gus Van Sant remade (shot-for-shot no less) Psycho, did it feel like an amazing, revelatory film experience? No. Yet when he made Elephant (inspired by Alan Clarke’s amazing film of the same name), it was critically acclaimed and made its mark in contemporary film history. Maybe most contentiously, there’s Quentin Tarantino, a filmmaker people sometimes blaspheme for his heavy-handed homages and wink-wink’s, but Tarantino again creates films using only inspiration from others, and at the very most, is only derivative of another filmmaker’s work in something he does, akin to a DJ sampling a beat from an obscure 1960s blues record. The best art is art that both builds on something familiar and at the same time seems amazing all on it’s own.

Variety reports that a company called Splendent Media is now selling remake rights to nearly every Akira Kurosawa film in existence, which I’ve identified below (sans the four ones crossed out, which ironically all already have remakes in the works). So, now you know, if you see one of these titles coming soon at a theater near you – it’s not new. The part of this story that leaves me sitting on the fence is, the fact that Splendent is also offering up the rights to make films from the 19* screenplays which Kurosawa never produced. I’m interested to check these out, if they ever get made, but I fear I’ll never look at them the same as I would if they were made by the master of emotional manipulation himself.

EDITORIAL: Weinstein Company is apparently remaking The Seven Samurai (much to my dismay, as well), and as of last reports it looks to be directed by upstart-action-rookie Scott Mann. Fantastic.

As Director:

1943    Sanshiro Sugata
1944    The Most Beautiful
1945    Sanshiro Sugata Part II
1945    The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail
1946    No Regrets for Our Youth
1947    One Wonderful Sunday
1948    Drunken Angel
1949    The Quiet Duel
1949    Stray Dog
1950    Scandal
1950    Rashomon
1951    The Idiot
1952    Ikiru
1954    The Seven Samurai
1955    I Live in Fear
1957    Throne of Blood
1957    The Lower Depths
1958    The Hidden Fortress
1960    The Bad Sleep Well
1961    Yojimbo
1962    Sanjuro
1963    High and Low
1965    Red Beard
1970    Dodesukaden
1975    Dersu Uzala
1980    Kagemusha
1985    Ran
1990    Dreams
1991    Rhapsody in August
1993    Madadayo

As Writer Only:

1941    Uma (Horse) [uncredited as writer]
1942    Seishun no kiryu (Wind Currents of Youth)
1942    Tsubasa no gaika (The Triumphant Song of the Wings)
1944    Dohyosai (Wrestling-Ring Festival)
1945    Tenbare Ishin tasuke (Bravo! Tenbare Ishin)
1947    Yotsu no koi no monogatari (Four Love Stories) [one segment]
1947    Ginrei no hate (To the End of the Snow-Capped Mountains; aka Snow Trail)
1948    Shozo (The Portrait)
1949    Jigoku no kifujin (The Lady from Hell)
1949    Jyakoman to Tetsu (Jakoman and Tetsu)
1950    Akatsuki no dasso (Escape at Dawn)
1950    Jiruba no Tetsu (Tetsu of Jilba)
1950    Tateshi danpei (Fencing Master)
1951    Ai to nikushimi no kanata e (Beyond Love and Hate)
1951    Kedamono no yado (The Den of Beasts)
1952    Araki Sauemon – Ketto kagiya no tsuji (Sauemon Araki – Duel at Key-Maker’s Corner; aka Vendetta for a Samurai)
1952    Sengoku burai (Vagabonds in a Country at War; aka Sword for Hire)
1953    Fukeyo harukaze (Blow! Spring Wind; aka My Wonderful Yellow Car)
1955    Kieta chutai (Vanished Enlisted Man)
1955    Asunaro monogatari (Hiba Arborvitae Story; aka Tomorrow I’ll Be a Fire Tree)
1957    Nichiro senso shori no hishi – Tekichu odan sanbyaku ri (Three Hundred Miles Through Enemy Lines; aka Advance Patrol)
1959    Sengoku gunto-den (The Story of Robbers of the Civil Wars; aka Saga of the Vagabonds)
1985    Runaway Train
2000    Ame Agaru (After the Rain)
2000    Dora-Heita (Alley Cat)
2002    Umi wa miteita (The Sea is Watching)

Unproduced Screenplays*

Deruma-dera no doitsujin (A German at Daruma Temple)
Shizukanari (All is Quiet)
Yuki (Snow)
Mori no senichia (A Thousand and One Nights in the Forest)
Jajuma monogatari (The Story of a Bad Horse)
Dokkoi kono yari (The Lifted Spear)
San Paguita no hana (The San Pajuito Flower)
Utsukishiki koyomi (Beautiful Calendar)
Daisan hatoba (The Third Harbor)

*There are apparently 19 in total which Splendent Media now owns the rights to, but I have not been able to track them all down as of yet as Splendent has – conveniently – taken down their page as of late. Hence, this part of the list above is incomplete.

What to Watch in September

It’s a tough cinematic world out there, but I care about the readers of this blog and only want them to spend their hard earned dollars on the good films, so here’s a (sorta) completist’s guide to the 2011 Fall Season of films – starting with September. My plan is, around the middle of each month, to post the next month’s domestic (limited and wide) film releases – while of course providing my own two cents on it. The indicators should be pretty clear: if it’s got a line through it, it does not have my recommendation. That said, give it a chance if it comes on cable someday.

September 2

  • Apollo 18 by Gonzalo López-Gallego. Watch it and think about how we’ll never get to go to space again. Which is ok I guess since there’s monsters up there.
  • Seven Days in Utopia by Matt Russell. Looks like a cross between Doc Hollywood and Tin Cup.
  • Shark Night 3D by who cares. It’s sharks in 3D.

September 9

  • Bucky Larson: Born to Be A Star by Tom Brady. Nick Swardson plays the socially-outcasted son of two adult pornstars.
  • Contagion by Steven Soderbergh. Eh. Pretty sure I saw this almost 10 years ago, but it was called Outbreak.
  • Warrior by Gavin O’Connor. Looks like a possibly edgier, indier version of The Fighter, although the MMA thing is getting old.

September 16

  • Drive by Nicolas Winding Refn and starring Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan – there’s no way I’m missing this.
  • I Don’t Know How She Does It by Douglas McGrath. A classier comedy for the SITC set?
  • The Lion King 3D by Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff. So The Lion King is getting not only a Blu-ray upgrade, but a limited theatrical release in 3D!? Oh Disney, your vaults are so leaky!
  • Restless by Gus Van Sant. The story of a terminally ill teenage girl who falls for a boy who likes to attend funerals and their encounters with the ghost of a Japanese kamikaze pilot from WWII.
  • Straw Dogs by Rod Lurie. This is one of the most painful films for me to list here. In general, I loathe most remakes of anything, but especially a remake of a film that was absolutely perfect to begin with. Peckinpah would roll over in his grave if he knew someone bastardized his (possibly) best – and most controversial – work to make an easy sale to the teenage torture-porn audiences who should just be left to their Final Destinations and $5 popcorn. Haven’t seen the 1971 version of this film with Dustin Hoffman? Try and get your hands on that first and check out my review of it here.
  • The Whale by Suzanne Chisholm. Endearing doc which looks like a cross between Free Willy and The Cove.

September 20

  • Pearl Jam Twenty by Cameron Crowe. A cineaste’s favorite rock ‘n’ roll filmmaker (ok, along with maybe Pennebaker and Scorsese) pulls together a new rock doc on the 90s other Top 40 grunge band, Pearl Jam. You know, the ones who instead of making kids want to do drugs and commit suicide, made them want to surf and stand up to bullies? Apparently, they’ve been around for 20 years now. Problem is, if I go see this, I’m just going to feel fucking old. PS. The soundtrack is released on this day as well, and it includes 30 pages of liner notes from Crowe himself.

September 23

  • Abduction by John Singleton. Decent looking action suspense flick which fits neatly into the fringes of the summer blockbusters. Nothing you haven’t seen before story-wise, but a chance to see Team Jacob’s (Lautner’s) acting ability in something other than stilted-werewolf-lover-boy for once.
  • Dolphin Tale by Charles Martin Smith. Another Free Willy in September comes you (and your children’s way)! This one looks more like a good tearjerker for the adolescents and their moms than The Whale, but at least this one will probably have the prospect of ending on a high note.
  • The Double by Michael Brandt. Political intrigue and the usual pairing of a retired CIA Operative and a younger FBI agent to help heighten the tension and provide something mid-life crisis moviegoers can sink their teeth into. Think Hollywood Homicide in… Detroit?
  • Killer Elite by Gary McKendry. Standard issue action flick, but one with a cast that I admit I’m intrigued to see play off each other: Statham, De Niro and Clive Owen (with a ridiculous Magnum P.I. throwback mustache). The updated version of “Rock You Like a Hurricane” in the trailer is not adding any points though.
  • Machine Gun Preacher by Marc Forster. First of all, I’ll watch anything by Marc Forster. He has a sensibility to rooting out the most unique films which appeal to both the marketing people and the critics. It’s a beautiful thing. This one stars Gerard Butler as a (I think) a real life reformed drug addict/biker who finds religion and makes it his life’s devotion to help the children of impoverished and brutalized Africa. The poster, however, looks a little goofy.
  • Moneyball by Bennett Miller. Hollywood takes a shot at revitalizing the sport of baseball by bringing in Brad Pitt and the only character Jonah Hill seems to ever play anymore – the bright, young, employee with fresh ideas on an old line of work. Looks a little too Any Given Sunday via Jerry Maguire for me though.
  • Red State by Kevin Smith. Holy crap. I’ve been waiting for this movie since 2008. What else can I say?
  • Weekend by Andrew Haigh. British indie romance about a gay couple who do pretty much nothing exciting looking for an entire weekend. Touted as an “Audience Winner” at SXSW this year – don’t let that get your hopes up. A good percentage of what they program is geared towards one specific type of hipster audience and most of the films are either pretentious or ridiculous or both. Example: MacGruber. This one looks a bit like Medicine for Melancholy only not with a black, hetero couple in the States.

September 30

  • 50/50 by Jonathan Levine. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of my favorite young male leads and playing off another of my favorites – Anna Kendrick – makes this made-for-hipsters dramedy all that much more enticing. 
  • Courageous by Alex Kendrick. Overwrought drama about four law enforcement officers.
  • Dream House by Jim Sheridan. Rock solid lineup of actors, with the always-solid directing of Sheridan (ok ok, Get Rich or Die Tryin’ was a joke) makes this a no-brainer. Additionally, this will be Sheridan’s first stab at helming a horror flick!
  • Margaret by Kenneth Lonergan. Anna Paquin plays a woman who witnesses a bus accident which turns out to change her life. Honestly, this could be hit or miss. I’ve grown used to Paquin as a mind-reading vampire lover, so it may be a hard transition for me in this real-world-rooted drama, but then a film produced by the trio of Minghella, Pollack and Scott Rudin can’t be all bad.
  • Take Shelter by Jeff Nichols. This film looks just plain awesome. Michael Shannon is always great as the tight-lipped, emotionally-repressed characters he exudes, but the austerity and manipulation of the dramatic elements in this film make it no question as to why it garnered praise at Cannes, Sundance and other fests. Be sure to give it a shot if you see anything in September.
  • What’s Your Number? by Mark Mylod. Anna Faris churns out another romantic comedy where she gets to trip, fall and look goofy. 

Did I miss anything? Let me know and I’ll add it to the list.

Two Bad Lieutenants – One Good Producer

Film producer Edward R. Pressman puts together some pretty amazing films. In the 90s alone he had Homocide, Two Girls and a Guy, Hoffa, Reversal of Fortune and The Crow. In the oughts, he had American Psycho, Harvard Man, Undertow and The Cooler. In the 80s he had Oliver Stone. Anyway, I guess I’m just so fond of many of his films, and a lot of them I’m fond of specifically because I love the originality and daringness of them, so seeing that he wanted to remake one of his films that was near perfect – irritates me to no extent.

Abel Ferrara is a filmmaker who can be hit or miss. Usually hit. Sometimes he puts together a story like Bad Lieutenant (Ms .45 or King of New York) where he just finds his focus and rings it dry, and sometimes that focus never becomes deeply, disturbingly clear (like New Rose Hotel). Bad Lieutenant was the kind of film in the early 90s that was like shock treatment to cinema. It was pure, raw, eviscerating, unflinching, beautiful and filthy all in one. Harvey Keitel plays amazingly, the emotionally unstable, severely addicted and bitterly human titular character. Like I said, near perfect.


Now, it probably didn’t get much theater-life as a result of its NC-17 rating, a rating as ridiculous as ever, considering the ungodly acts of violence, drug use and sex that prime time crime shows now think is necessary to keep their viewers. Have you ever wondered how in the world Law and Order SVU gets away with half of the content they deal with at nine o’clock at night? I’d wager Ferrara himself would shudder. I digress.


Werner Herzog, another amazing (and sometimes not-so-amazing) filmmaker comes along and remakes Ferrara’s film Bad Lieutenant. So the first part that irked me “bad” was the new subtitle. No longer is it Bad Lieutenant, now it’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans. What? Why? That was the first thing I said, then I was like, “And how could Pressman let this happen!?” Yes, I distinctly recall sitting in front of Apple’s trailers website and yelling those very words at the screen. Was it contractual? As maybe part of the deal for shooting in New Orleans after Katrina? That I could understand, but anything else is just not an acceptable reason. In fact, there hasn’t been an acceptable reason to subtitle a film since like 1982 or unless it’s a documentary. I digress, again.

So first the title is bastardized, then the whole film I come to find out too! Well, I couldn’t bring myself to watch it until now (as you may notice from my blog, even though I have a lifelong plan to watch every film in existence, I’m always a little behind. Theaters are too noisy these days, plus I have my own.)

In the opening minutes to the film, the lieutenant (here played uncomfortably by Nicolas Cage) displays immediate heroic traits and enables the audience to sympathize for him throughout the rest of the film. We even find out in the next scene that he’s now plagued with a painful ailment as a result of his kindness. This is a terrible change to the original film. The whole beautiful point of Ferrara’s film is that the lieutenant has no immediate redeemable traits; we’re led to believe he is just a horrible man and we grow to despise him before we witness the raw realization that he has of his own downfall. Some goodness will come out of him in the later scenes, but it’s never overwrought like Herzog’s.

Now, agreed, Herzog does 180 on us at the end and leave it with a cold closing scene that is in direct contrast to what we’ve been made to feel for him, but this is unnecessary and to be expected in a modern film – always there’s a twist – but it’s vague here and doesn’t reflect the meaning behind the original version. The beauty of the 1992 version is that his self-destructive nature is heightened by the disturbing case that he is working on; he’s affected by it. Nicolas Cage’s lieutenant could care less about dead children on his turf, he’s heartless. I even question what he felt was in it for him to risk his silk underwear in the opening scenes of the film, in order to save a trapped prisoner in a quickly flooding New Orleans. Maybe he new it was a promotion.


Keitel knows how to feel this character out. Cage doesn’t. Cage’s vocal tone and accent even begins to morph throughout his scenes. I just don’t think he cared about this one at all. What Herzog is sorely lacking here is his muse: Kinski. Klaus Kinski in the role of the lieutenant would have been quite something to witness on film. Too bad we’ll have to just stick with Woyzeck.

Ferrara knows how to use New York City to his advantage. Herzog is a foreigner to New Orleans. It’s void of any color; lifeless even in the wake of the floods. Herzog is no stranger to making great films about foreign lands and the people who inhabit them (Fitzcarraldo, Cobra Verde), and he appears to be employing some of that in this film too with his Senegalese drug dealers.

It’s a shame this film was remade, when it should have been apparent to the producers that it was perfect in its place in contemporary film history. If they wanted to cash in on it, couldn’t they just have waited two years and created a nice, deluxe edition Blu-ray boxset for the tenth anniversary of the film? Or give it the Criterion treatment. Everyone is aware that Hollywood is clearly hard-up for anything original anymore, that’s why every summer there is at least three or four remakes of films that should be preserved as the beautiful shining relics that they are, instead of being bastardized by filmmakers who can’t come up with their own ideas. I think what bothers me the most is that I’ve always regarded Herzog as a genius, a savant in his film concepts and style, so the fact that he needs to remake something is just sad and a clear sign of the times.

What to Hope for in 2008…

So, I know I’ve been slacking on the reviews lately here, but there’s been a lot going on (including finishing up production on my own latest film) and not much time to leave for watching/reviewing films. But, I thought I’d take a moment to spill some of this wonderful news to anyone who cares.

So here goes…

The Gospel According to Janis — Penelope Spheeris [Update: The film has been delayed till 2012]

More than anything, I’m just so excited that Zooey Deschanel is set to portray the inimitable Janis Joplin in her heyday. The film is supposedly set around the late singer’s peak as a musician and rockstar, and seems to be structured very similar to Almost Famous where a young Rolling Stone music writer gets the time of their life entering the world of a depraved, drug-addicted demi-God. I think only Penelope will be able to tell this story with just the right amount of meaningful sleaze.

Funny Games — Michael Haneke

It beats the hell out of me why Haneke would choose to remake his own (rather famous and even critically lauded) film about a family which gets pretty much tortured (sometimes more mentally than physically) by two sadistic men who’ve surprised them in their vacation home. I mean I guess what director wouldn’t love the opportunity to re-work a film for a larger audience? I just loved the original one, and maybe it’s because Hollywood is stuck on these “torror” films, (as I call them; “torror” standing for torture/horror), and this film fits that category to the fullest. I look forward to the torture of knowing the ending (or do I?), and I’ll definitely be awaiting this remake.

Jumper — Doug Liman

Even though Liman has recently gone from indie cool to Hollywood pimp, he still can make a quality film. He always tends to maintain a strong visual framework, and never holds back in good, palpable storytelling. But all his films are so straight forward, honest feeling renditions of his insights on relationships (and men and women in general), that it surprises me and excites me that his next feature is about a young man who can “teleport.” I had to look this word up to make sure I was delusional, since sci fi is not my strong suit in film and literature. Upon discovering that he has this supernatural (?) ability, he sets out find his estranged father employing his new powers.

Red State — Kevin Smith [Update: This film has been delayed. Latest release date is October 19, 2012]

A horror movie with politicians? In a film by Kevin Smith? Need I say more? I only can hope Buddy Jesus makes a cameo.

Mister Lonely — Harmony Korine

First of all, I never miss a Korine pic. But I also never miss movies by Werner Herzog, and never miss movies with Samantha Morton. So, a film with all three individuals involved?? Too good to be true. Plus, Korine as always, draws my attention with his oddball plots, like this one which I can only do justice by copying the synopsis from IMDB: “In Paris, a young American who works as a Michael Jackson lookalike meets Marilyn Monroe, who invites him to her commune in Scotland, where she lives with Charlie Chaplin and her daughter, Shirley Temple.”

The Countess — Julie Delpy

Believe it or not there once was a woman (from Hungary, of course) who believed that bathing in the blood of virgins would keep her beautiful forever. So, she killed as many as she could sometime in the 1700s. Or, at least, that’s what Julie Delpy wants us to think. Her film is not even shot yet, and I’m already excited! Now, I don’t always approve of these indie actor-turned-indie director type ventures, but with this premise and Vincent Gallo and Radha Mitchell, I’ll acquiesce.