24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Remakes

‘Short Circuit’ director: War makes this remake relevant

April 10, 2012 |  4:42 pm

From “American Reunion” to “Fright Night,” remakes of 1980s and 1990s films have taken their lumps on the big screen lately. But the director behind the new iteration of “Short Circuit” is taking a rigorous approach that he hopes will help his movie avoid the reboot trap.

Tim Hill,  the “Hop” helmer who has been hired to direct the film, says that his take on Johnny No. 5 -- of course, the weapon-turned-cuddly-companion from the 1986 hit -- will resonate in this era of drone warfare.

“The thing that makes it so relevant is that we live in this age of robots, particularly when it comes to war,” Hill, also a longtime writer on the television series "SpongeBob SquarePants,” told 24 Frames. “We have drones that do our fighting for us, do all these jobs men and women don’t want to do. And that’s what makes this so interesting -- things like this moment in the story when Johnny realizes he’s going to be disassembled and contemplates death, and whether it’s right to terminate someone else.”

He paused, “These are heavy themes for a family movie," he said, anticipating a reasonable reader's reaction. "But I think they can have their place.”

John Badham’s comedy classic told of Johnny, a Cold War weapon who attains a form of consciousness after being caught in a lightning storm. Starring Steve Guttenberg and Fisher Stevens as the scientists who create Johnny, the film ironically takes a human turn when animal-lover Ally Sheedy befriends the rolling robot.

The new version will recast the Sheedy role as a teenager or preteen, Hill said, in part because it gives the movie a family-friendly angle but also because it adds a wish-fulfillment dimension not present in the original.

Hill said the robot protagonist will, however, retain the wide-eyed tone of his forebear -- “like an infant struck by lightning, and you see human foibles reflected in him.” (The new version is being developed at Dimension Films, the Bob Weinstein-led unit that acquired the rights a number of years ago. Hill and various writers are working on the script.)

To prepare for the movie, Hill, a polymath who is one of the more eclectic director voices out in Hollywood, has been reading up on modern robotics, ticking off in the interview a few academic texts he has been studying.

But he added that one doesn’t need an advanced degree from MIT to appreciate the issues he hopes to raise.

“If you look at kids and how they adopt machinery, it’s just getting tight and tighter,” Hill said. “We're just becoming more connected to our machines. That’s why I think this can say more about our relationship with technology than the original ever did.”

And how will the new Johnny look in an era when technology has become ever more compact (and, it should be noted, Pixar’s “Wall-E” has offered its own cinematic take on a humanoid robot)?

“I’m tempted to go back and grab the original,” Hill said. “But I think it has to be closer to what modern design actually is. There are computer models and labs developing real machines like this. We want to do something like that.”

And despite the wide-eyed qualities to Johnny, a little menace wouldn’t hurt, either.

“You’ve got to find the balance between something fierce and something endearing,” Hill. said. “The original was cute. But no one was threatened by it.”


'Titanic' & 'American Reunion:' Is nostalgia clock ticking?

From 'Hop' director Tim Hill: Our movie almost didn't make it

Dimension Films seeking a comeback by refocusing and reflecting

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Ally Sheedy and Johnny No. 5 in "Short Circuit." Credit: TriStar Pictures

'Titanic' & 'American Reunion:' Is the nostalgia clock ticking?

April 9, 2012 |  7:00 am

"American Pie."
Sometime in the late 2020s, a canny producer will try to revive "The Hunger Games." He will graft on the technology of the moment (a smell-enhancing app for your next-generation Google Glasses, natch) and find a new narrative thread to bring back the duo of Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, now nearing 40 and hankering for their fifth collective Oscar.

Overcome with goodwill about the franchise of their formative years, a handful of thirtysomething moviegoers will rush out to see the "Hunger Games" reboot. But the teenagers that comprise the bulk of the filmgoing audience will be baffled by a franchise that reminds them of their parents and instead flock to a newer phenomenon (a superhero horror comedy starring the prepubescent son of Daniel Radcliffe and Rosie Coker, and costarring Justin Bieber, somehow still pre-pubescent in 2029).

OK, so that's as hard to imagine as, say, Tiger winning another major. Still "Hunger Games" did this weekend what, given the cyclical ways of pop culture, others may well one day do to it. In its third weekend of release, the Jennifer Lawrence film crushed not one but two '90s revivals,"Titanic" and "American Pie." Nirvana, indeed.

Few wallets were hurt in the making of "Titanic 3-D"; conversion costs for the reissue ran about $18 mil and were shouldered by two studios.  But with barely $17 million in premium ticket prices collected over the three-day weekend, you wouldn't exactly call the James Cameron re-release popular. especially given how much love we had for it the first time around. (In contrast, a 3-D revival of "Beauty and the Beast," which upon initial release made only a fraction of "Titanic's" original $600 million, actually opened to higher numbers.)

Continue reading »

'The Grey' director Joe Carnahan has a death wish

January 28, 2012 |  3:21 pm


EXCLUSIVE: The weekend is already shaping up nicely for Joe Carnahan, the director of the Liam Neeson survival thriller "The Grey" which is poised to take the box-office crown.

Now Carnahan has landed a new gig: He's being hired to write and direct a remake of "Death Wish," the 1974 vigilante picture that helped put Charles Bronson on the map, according to a person familiar with the project who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak about it publicly.

MGM and Paramount are developing the film, which will reboot Michael Winner's box-office hit. The original starred Bronson as Paul Kersey, a liberal architect who morphs into an assassin after his wife and daughter are brutally attacked. Bronson's character then undertakes a one-man mission to hurt and kill a host of criminals on the streets of New York. The movie was a cultural phenomenon of sorts, helping birth the modern action movie and also provoking criticism for its intense violence.

Four sequels were made over the course of the next two decades, with the franchise eventually running out of steam in 1994. Sylvester Stallone came on at one point to attempt a reboot of the original but the project got stuck in development about five years ago.

The new "Death Wish" will be produced by "The Grey" producer Jules Daly along with Ridley and Tony Scott's Scott Free Prods. An MGM spokeswoman and a Carnahan representative did not immediately have a comment.

"The Grey" features an outlaw theme of its own, as a group of survivalists in the Alaskan wilderness must fend off a dangerous pack of wolves. Carnahan previously wrote and directed another notable reboot, "The A-Team," and was also behind the 2006 mob action film "Smokin' Aces" in 2010. Carnahan was also set to direct the upcoming drama "Umbra" before recently falling off.

Under the leadership team of Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum, MGM has been developing a slate of library titles, many of them classics from a few decades ago such as "Robocop" and "War Games."


Movie review: The Grey

Makers of 'The Grey' confront inner beasts

MGM studio remade with a focused strategy

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Charles Bronson in "Death Wish." Credit: MGM/Paramount


David Cronenberg on why the new 'Fly' has been swatted

December 8, 2011 |  8:30 am


 Fans of “The Fly” were intrigued a couple years back when David Cronenberg began working on a script for Fox that would put a new spin on one of his best-known movies. The script, it was reported at the time, would basically offer a new telling of the 1986 body horror classic -- only with the special-effects of the 21st century.

It turns out that intrigue was for naught. Cronenberg told 24 Frames that although he finished the script a while back -- creating "a different take on some elements of the plot" -- the movie is stillborn.
"It seems to be dead, and it's hard to penetrate the mysteries of the studio," Cronenberg said. "I'm not really getting a straight answer."

Any attempt to extricate it from Fox would fall flat, he added, because the studio has owned the project from the beginning and isn’t likely to part with it. A Fox spokesman did not comment on the project’s status.

Cronenberg's first “Fly,” itself a new spin on a 1958 classic,  was of course a breakout hit, starring Jeff Goldblum as an eccentric scientist who accidentally transforms himself into the titular insect. A sequel was made a few years later (Cronenberg was not involved and it was poorly received).

The director did get a chance to steward an opera version of his film that began in Paris and eventually came to Los Angeles. And, of course, it's not as if Cronenberg hasn’t been busy. His Freud-Jung historical drama "A Dangerous Method" is currently in theaters, and he's next out with "Cosmpolis," an adaptation of the Don DeLillo novel starring "Twilight" mainstay Robert Pattinson. Cronenberg recently dished about both films to my colleague Rebecca Keegan.

But if a new version of "The Fly" was ever to be revived, Cronenberg said it had to happen in the relatively foreseeable future. "I think [the script] would survive five years," he said. "I don’t know about 10."


Dangerous Method: Cronenberg on Freud, Jung and hysteria

David Cronenberg; The detail-obsessed Viggo Mortensen

Toronto 2011: Keira Knightley says 'Method' role wigs her out too

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Jeff Goldblum in "The Fly." Credit: 20th Century Fox

'Footloose' may fizzle, but 'Police Academy' star is pro-reboot

October 17, 2011 |  1:52 pm

"Footloose" landed awkwardly at the box office this week, and plenty of 1980s comedies have taken their lumps in their 21st century guises (see  "Arthur," "Fright Night"). But can other Reagan-era hits make a more successful return?

Steve Guttenberg, who starred in an inordinate number of them, says he believes they can. And, he says, Hollywood should believe it too.

Guttenberg, who headlined the "Police Academy," '3 Men and a Baby" and "Short Circuit"  franchises (combined box office: $570 million) feels those movies would find an audience quickly if they came out now. "They're shoo-ins for $40-, 50-million [opening] weekends," he told 24 Frames about reboots of these titles.

New installments in all three franchises are in development at Hollywood studios -- Disney has "Three Men and a Bride," New Line is working on a "Police Academy" reboot  and Dimension Films is moving forward with a new "Short Circuit." The idea, of course, is that an older audience will go to these films for nostalgic reasons, while a younger crowd will discover them for themselves, especially if they feature hot young stars.

Whether that logic is enough to overcome the prevailing mood remains to be seen. It didn't exactly apply to "Footloose" -- with a $15.6-million opening, the movie is on track to take in only about half the total of the 1984 original, and in 2011 dollars, no less.  (Incidentally, if you're wondering what Guttenberg is up to, he's back on Broadway in "Relatively Speaking," a play co-written by Woody Allen.)

Of the three Guttenberg franchises, it's "Circuit" that may have the best shot of getting to the screen. This summer, Dimension Films hired director Tim Hill ("Hop") to offer a new take on the robot comedy, and a person familiar with the project said producers had contacted Fisher Stevens about reprising his role as eccentric Indian scientist Ben Jabituya. (Stevens was said to be open to it, although the character's political incorrectness may require a modern update.)

Don't necessarily expect to see Guttenberg in that one, though. He's been involved with the new "Police Academy" as it's been developed, but producers on "Short Circuit" have, he says, left him out of the process. Asked about the film's development, Guttenberg said, "I would do things differently," and then invoked a metaphor to describe how he felt:

"What happens in Hollywood sometimes is that you hear about a party, but the guy throwing it didn't call you. And you're like 'That's my best friend; why didn't he call me?' And then what happens is that they call you the day before the party and say, 'We meant to invite you.' And you're like, 'Dude, really?'"


Is a new 'Police Academy' a good idea?

Steve Guttenberg is back in the majors

'Real Steel' shimmies past 'Footloose' for No. 1

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Steve Guttenberg and Ally Sheedy in "Short Circuit." Credit: TriStar Pictures.

'Footloose:' The '80's are dead. Long live the '80's.

October 17, 2011 |  8:00 am

The original "Footloose." Its 2011 remake pulled in $16.1 million at the box office.
Seasons, like paychecks and Republican presidential front-runners, come and go. But some things remain constant. Like '80s remakes. And, specifically, their power to make us yawn.

This weekend saw the moviegoing public shrug off two more retreads, a revival of a 1984 Kevin Bacon classic and a prequel of a 1982 John Carpenter cult hit. "Footloose," that Bacon revival, pulled in $16.1 million -- not a terrible number, but considering how heavily the movie was marketed, not exactly auspicious, either. Results for "The Thing" looked more grisly -- the movie eked out only $8.7 million.

The films join a long list of '80s reboots that have yielded lackluster results: "Fright Night," "Conan," "The A-Team," "Arthur."

But whilem any specific '80s titles have failed, the ethos of that decade actually remains alive in some of moviedom's most popular films.

In "Drive," the well-reviewed art-house piece that has established a loyal fan base, Nicolas Winding Refn channels the spirit of "Miami Vice" and other pastel-colored entertainment. Throwback action movies such as "The Expendables' and "Fast Five," meanwhile, have turned into the biggest hits of the last couple of years. "Footloose" may have struggled, but its spiritual descendants, the "Step Up" films, has blossomed into one of the hottest teen franchises of the last few years.

And this summer J.J Abrams looked to the movies of the 1980s, like "Stand by Me" and "The Goonies," in creating his coming-of-age adventure "Super 8." The film went on to become a huge global hit.

There are good reasons we're looking back to the movies of several decades ago: There were some storytelling values to that period, for one thing, and there are only have so many stories to tell.

Even a contemporary director such as Jason Reitman, one of the more original-minded filmmakers out there, said he felt the ghosts of decades past when he gets behind the camera. "In a strange way, I always feel like I'm doing a remake," he told 24 Frames in an interview last week. "I mean, 'Thank You for Smoking' was 'Jerry Maguire' if Jerry sold cigarettes."

In a new column, my colleague Patrick Goldstein takes a look at why so many producers these days choose to resurrect the past, offering the theory that platforms such as Netflix and YouTube make a new generation more willing to accept older stories. "With a century of culture just a click away on any computer, young consumers have become the ultimate archivists, just as willing to embrace familiarity as innovation," he said.

In that sense, Hollywood is giving us what we want with these throwback pieces -- films that remind us of stories we've heard before. It's just that we prefer they don't remind us so explicitly.


"Real Steel" shimmies past "Footloose" for No. 1

Has "Footloose" been given a conservative makeover?

Is Hollywood's mania for remakes spinning out of control?

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: The original "Footloose." Credit: Paramount Pictures

'Footloose' star Kenny Wormald on fame and humility

October 17, 2011 |  4:00 am

Kenny Wormald plays Ren McCormack in the Footloose remake
Kenny Wormald has spent most of the last decade in the shadows of fame, dancing behind Madonna and Justin Timberlake in music videos or on tours. So when the native of Stoughton, Mass., landed the lead role in Paramount Pictures’ remake of the classic ’80s dance flick “Footloose,” he thought he’d arrived.

In reality, though, getting the part was the beginning of an exercise in humility. First came the realization that he wasn’t the first choice to play rebellious Ren McCormack, whom Kevin Bacon brought to life in the 1984 original: Producers initially wanted Zac Efron, then riding high off the success of the “High School Musical” films. But Efron dropped out and was replaced by “Gossip Girl” star Chace Crawford — but he also quit, citing scheduling conflicts.

Wormald got the part only after a weeks-long audition process — during which he was put through acting boot camp with director Craig Brewer to prove he could do more than just dance. Then came more acting lessons during rehearsal. With many months between the end of filming and the movie’s arrival in theaters, he’s struggled to accept his lack of public recognition.

“This summer, I was at an MTV award show, and Selena Gomez was in front of me on the red carpet,” recalled Wormald, 27. “Everyone’s like, ‘Selena! Selena!’ I wait a couple of minutes until she moves over, and then I get on the stage and all of the camera guys just have their lenses follow her. It was a great, humbling moment.”

To familiarize the public with Wormald and costar Julianne Hough — also a dancer — Paramount sent the two on a 12-city tour. And they recently appeared together on “Dancing With the Stars,” where Hough had performed for years.

Continue reading »

'The Sitter' star: Don't compare us to 'Adventures in Babysitting'

October 10, 2011 |  4:06 pm

"The Sitter" star Jonah Hill

The new David Gordon Green comedy "The Sitter" has a memorable marketing campaign, with a phone number that Jonah Hill may or may not answer.

But will the film be as good as the movie that inspired it, the 1987 Elisabeth Shue classic "Adventures in Babysitting"?

Ari Graynor, who plays the female lead in the December 9 release, says yes -- though not because "The Sitter" has much do to with its predecessor. "The conceit of the film is similar in its bones -- it's a babysitter and kids and a crazy night -- but the meat of it is very different," Graynor told 24 Frames.

Graynor plays Hill's reluctant girlfriend, and the reason he has to interrupt his babysititng duties, when she calls him to pick her up at a party. (In the original, Shue and the kids were sent into the streets when she had to pick up her runaway friend, played by Penelope Ann Miller, at a bus station.)

Calling "Sitter" "both very current and very classic," Graynor said that unlike some other remakes, the new film shouldn't be compared to the first go-round. "One really had nothing to do with the other -- ["Babysitting"] didn't inform how I prepared for this film at all," she said, in part because Hill and Green have a "[filmmaking] style that's so specific."

(Green, of course, is the indie film wunderkind who's recently made a run of studio-based comedies including "Your Highness" and "Pineapple Express." Hill, now starring opposite Brad Pitt in "Moneyball," is extending his foray into '80s nostalgia territory with an action-comedy reinvention of the TV series "21 Jump Street.")

Graynor returns to Broadway this week in the Woody Allen-written portion of the much-ballyhooed  "Relatively Speaking," and she's also currently starring on the big screen in the Anna Faris romantic comedy "What's Your Number?" The actress says she similarly resists how that movie has been compared to another on-screen phenomenon, "Bridesmaids." 

"I'm excited that 'Bridesmaids' helped create a Hollywood trend for comedies with women," Graynor said. "But ['Number'] was always supposed to be more of a romantic comedy than just a comedy. It was never supposed to be this big, raucous comedy like 'Bridesmaids.'"


Jonah Hill and Mark Wahlberg look to become a 21st-century Murtaugh and Riggs

What's Your Number writers on sex, comedy and slacker heroines

Jonah hill in Moneyball: Betsy Sharkey's pick of the week

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "The Sitter." Credit: 20th Century Fox

Director drama heats up on 'Dredd' [Updated]

October 7, 2011 |  8:40 am

EXCLUSIVE: It's not often that a director of a major action film is asked to step aside as the movie enters its postproduction phase. But that's what has happened with director Pete Travis and "Dredd," the remake of the 1995 Sylvester Stallone vehicle "Judge Dredd," casting a pall over the anticipated reboot.

Although he completed shooting the picture earlier this year, Travis has not been involved in the current editing phase of the movie, after creative disagreements with producers and executives in charge of the film reached a boiling point, said three people with knowledge of the production who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak about the situation publicly. Instead, the editing room is now being run by a writer-producer on the film, screenwriter Alex Garland, the people said.

In fact, so involved are Garland and two other producers, Andrew Macdonald and Allon Reich, that Garland may seek a co-director credit on the movie. Although he's made no decision on whether he'll seek that credit -- a petition would need to be filed with the Directors Guild of Great Britain -- the fact that the possibility is even being considered is unusual. Garland is a novelist and screenwriter who did not shoot the movie and has never been credited with directing a picture before. Representatives for Garland and Travis did not respond to a request for comment.

There also still exists the possibility of reshoots, two of the people familiar with the film said, although who would man the camera in that scenario is an open question. The movie is set to come out next September.

Although the specifics of the disagreement that led to Travis' dismissal are up for debate, two sources said it arose when Travis and producers and executives in charge of the production did not see eye-to-eye on footage Travis was delivering. A separate person involved in the film maintained that although Travis is no longer involved in postproduction, he is keeping up with progress via the Internet and has not been pushed aside.

[Update, 12:23 pm. Monday: Travis and Garland released a joint statement that read, "During all stages of the filmmaking, 'Dredd' has been a collaboration between a number of dedicated creative parties.  From the outset we decided on an unorthodox collaboration to make the film.  This situation has been misinterpreted.  To set the record straight, Pete was not fired and remains a central part of the collaboration, and Alex is not seeking a co-director credit.  We are all extremely proud of the film we have made, and respectfully suggest that it is judged on viewing when its released next year."]

It's odd but not unheard of for major Hollywood producers to look elsewhere for editing help after a director has finished shooting a movie. It happened, for instance, with last year's "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time," as Hollywood uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer sought a longtime Steven Spielberg veteran to work on the film and kept director Mike Newell out of the editing room for weeks.

But it's rarer for a situation to evolve to a point where a new co-director is named. The sources said a decision will be made on whether Garland will seek directing credit as the film gets closer to completion.
"Dredd" is being financed by the India-based giant Reliance Entertainment, and overseen by its foreign-sales subsidiary IM Global. It will be released in the U.S. by Lionsgate, which has also been involved in the production and postproduction phases. Spokeswomen for Lionsgate and IM Global did not respond to a request for comment.

When it first went into the pipeline, "Dredd" held plenty of promise. Although the original was considered a commercial disappointment, the new movie, based on a popular comic book and loosely remade from the prior film, featured a hot young cast led by Karl Urban, fresh off a turn as Bones in J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" reboot. Travis was coming off a mid-budget hit in "Vantage Point," meanwhile, and the new "Dredd" film was to be scripted by Garland, a well-respected writer who had movies like "28 Days Later" under his belt.

The remake, about all-powerful "judges" who rule an uninhabitable Earth, also played off an interest in dystopian material that was being led by the hot genre property "The Hunger Games."

Movies can rebound from the stigma that comes with editing-room drama. But it's a mixed bag: Reported tension with director Stephen Sommers on "G.I. Joe.: The Rise of Cobra" in 2009 didn't stop the film from succeeding at the box office. But "Persia" disappointed when it was released in 2010.


The odd pairing of Mike Newell and Jerry Bruckheimer

Movie Review: Judge Dredd

-- Steven Zeitchik and Ben Fritz



Photo: The original "Judge Dredd." Credit: Hollywood Pictures.

'Dirty Dancing' remake: Maybe it's not such a bad idea

August 9, 2011 | 12:45 pm

'Dirty Dancing' will get a remake with Kenny Ortega, Lionsgate announced.

The collective groan could be heard practically the moment Lionsgate announced a "Dirty Dancing" remake with Kenny Ortega.

Did we need another reboot of a music-themed '80s movie? What with "Fame" and the upcoming "Footloose" more than satisfying our (meager) appetite?

More important, how could you possibly remake a movie that was rooted in period assumptions — not just the pre-feminist mores of the movie's 1963 setting but also those of the 1987 into which it came out? Back then, at least the idea of dancing as a taboo still resonated slightly with a teenage audience, if only because of things our parents told us. Anyone who was a teenager or twentysomething circa 2011 would not only not understand the idea of a forbidden boogie, they'd probably find the dirty dancing of the original  less dirty than anything they'd do themselves.

The remake didn't even have the "wholesale reinvention" shield to hide behind, since Lionsgate said the new film would be set in the 1960s and even include music from the Jennifer Grey-Patrick Swayze original.

But if the announcement lent itself to some easy punch lines (e.g., "at her age, maybe Baby should stay in the corner"), it's also not, on further reflection, a terrible idea.

Ortega, for one, offers some hope. He choreographed the original, so at least he understands the moves that made us (and Ryan Gosling's "Crazy, Stupid, Love" paramours) swoon. And the filmmaker has pulled off a feat like this before with the Michael Jackson concert documentary "This Is It," breathing life into what some saw as a tired music-film genre.

What's more, the idea of building a movie around youthful rebellion and identity has never been more timely in this age of "Glee" and "High School Musical." Plus, think of the tearful tributes to Jerry Orbach and Swayze.

In its announcement, Lionsgate said that its new "Dirty Dancing" will portray "the emotional excitement of first love, the thrills and complexity of sexual awakening ... and the soul-stirring power of dance." That sounds better than at least half the movies out there.


Dirty Dancing at the Pantages

Dirty Dancing to be remade

Dirty Dancing, the mega-hit musical

— Steven Zeitchik

Photo: "Dirty Dancing." Credit: Vestron Pictures.


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