I'm not surprised they’re remaking Weird Science. What does surprise me is that they haven’t remade every single one of John Hughes’ movies by now. It’ll happen. I have to imagine it will.
And I probably won’t care.
I take the remakes and re-imaginings as they come now. That means occasionally being surprised by a solid reboot. It also means not really caring if a remake had all the charm and good humor of being locked into an asbestos-lined coffin for the weekend. Cautious optimism is the best I can do. I might go see that Carrie remake. I have zero interest in the new Superman (that costume looks intensely stupid, and rumors of needless twists in the mythos are bugging me). I could be compelled to get into the idea of a Daredevil reboot.
All I really want is another Hellboy movie, man. Is that too much to ask?
Revamps have been the subject of this column before. I suppose it’s a testament to how much space they occupy that I come back to the topic more than once. Remakes are not a modern invention, but it does indeed seem like they take up a lot more space in the day to day business of movies than they did twenty years ago. Safety and formula is what you can find pretty consistently in the history of film. It’s up to the people lucky (or unlucky?) enough to be put in charge of those safe movies and established formulas to surprise us as best they can.
And sometimes, not very often, but sometimes they do.
The trick to being surprised, as far as I can tell, is to give as little of a damn as possible. Someday, I promise you, I’ll be smart enough to write about the symbolism of colors in a Kubrick film, or some such thing.
Iron Man 3 (2013): B+
Iron Man 3 is the opening number to the next round of Avengers movies, so it’s nice that it’s a fairly solid opening number for front to back. It’s certainly a worthwhile improvement over the so-so second film. That could be because it’s a considerably darker film than the previous two. That could also be due to the fact that Robert Downey Jr. is still being able to find new things to do with his character (which can then take us into the rising sentiment that Tony Stark and RDJ is pretty much the same person). And then there’s the story, which manages to be both personal and grand in the tradition that we’ve come to expect from the series. There are even a few worthwhile twists that come across nicely, and it’s hard to find fault with excellent performances from Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley. Iron Man 3 has to deal with the burden of having to top the previous movies, and the movie does throw a lot of things at us, but it rarely feels cluttered or overwhelming. Series regulars like Jon Farveau, Don Cheadle and Gwyneth Paltrow get plenty of time to shine, newcomers such Rebecca Hall and Ty Simpkins are excellent, and a healthy sense of progression comes through from beginning to end. We’re definitely getting Avengers 2. We’ll probably get an Iron Man 4. Iron Man 3 accomplishes two things. It stands on its own very nicely, and it maintains our excitement for the next adventures of Tony Stark.
Skyfall (2012): A+
I’m what you’d call a casual fan of James Bond, but there are a few films from the series that are so damn perfect on every level, I understand completely why the character has lived through decades, fads, disasters, dated cinematic touches, weird casting decisions, and so much more. Skyfall is the James Bond movie Daniel Craig deserves. I’m in the minority in terms of liking Casino Royale, but finding it a little underwhelming, and I refuse to admit that I managed to get all the way through Quantum of Solace. Daniel Craig is going to be remembered as one of the best of the Bonds. It’s just that the previous two films didn’t quite match what I thought Craig could do with the character under the right circumstances. Everything Craig does in Skyfall, from his relationship with M (Judi Dench’s best turn with the character to date), to his struggles with aging, to those moments where no actor in the world could better represent James Bond, helps make the film that much better. Director Sam Mendes has proven himself in the past as someone capable of crafting a movie that’s both intensely stylized, and capable of sustaining things like character, performance, and story. Skyfall puts all of these things together, throws in Javier Bardem as one of the most gleeful criminal maniacs in Bond history, and comes out with a masterpiece within the franchise. Skyfall finally does what I’ve wanted the Craig Bond films to do. It gives the character and his world the updated touches the series naturally needs to survive, but it also keeps just enough of what we love from the series (but I still don’t think one or two gadgets is going to break the bank) to make us well aware of what we’re watching. The James Bond films represent such an interesting, often exciting piece of history. Skyfall stands with the best examples.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012): B-
One of the biggest problems I have with the first of three films (I’ll let you decide if that’s greedy overkill, or Peter Jackson wanting to live in Middle Earth for as long as he can) on J.R.R. Tolkien’s other really famous book about Hobbits is that maybe, just maybe, 169 minutes is a little on the long side. There is so much to love about Jackson’s return to all things Tolkien. Only one thing really gets in the way of welcomed additions (Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Sylvester McCoy) and old friends (Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett) coming together in what is mostly a very fun movie. It’s Jackson’s schizophrenic attempt to be all things at once when it comes to telling Bilbo Baggins’ story. One moment, the movie is very much in the spirit of being much more light-hearted than The Lord of the Rings. Nothing in the world can make The Hobbit the epic The Lord of the Rings was. I don’t care how much material Jackson culls from other Tolkien works. There are lengthy parts of the film that seem obsessed with making sure we feel like everything will just be as intense and grand as it was before. The problem with those scenes is that the material doesn’t match. An Unexpected Journey is much more enthralling when it is content knowing The Hobbit isn’t Return of the King (or any of the others). Peter Jackson knows how to create (with perhaps a little too much CGI this time around) a breathtaking movie version of Middle Earth. It’s slightly unfortunate that, at least as much as this first film is concerned, he doesn’t quite know what he wants to do with the storytelling part.
The Thin Man (1934): A+
William Powell and Myrna Loy appeared in 14 films together. The Thin Man was their first of six films featuring Powell and Loy as Nick and Norah Charles, the husband and wife team who just happened to solve murder mysteries in their spare time. The Thin Man is perhaps also the best film of the series. The story is nice, one in which the Charles’ work together for the first time, to piece together the bizarre circumstances surrounding the death of a factory owner. It serves the true beauty of these films, indeed, of any Powell/Loy paring, which is the dialog and chemistry between the film’s stars. Powell’s amiable, rarely-sober persona is glorious fodder for the effervescence of Loy’s socialite character. Whether or not the murderer is found is almost inconsequential. What makes The Thin Man a classic for any time and place is Powell and Loy trading 1930’s-style one-liners so quickly, so naturally, it’s easy to believe they really have been married for years. No wonder they worked together so many times. The Thin Man is a textbook example of chemistry between stars. There is no creakiness to the humor and banter here. Only a pleasure in watching these two interact that’s so perfect, you’ll want to track down the rest of their collaborations as quickly as possible.
Jack Goes Boating (2010): B+
It’s not a huge stretch of the imagination that Phillip Seymour Hoffman directed a film. It’s not even that surprising that this 2010 adaptation of Robert Glaudini’s 2007 play (Glaudini also adapted the story for the screen) is pretty darn good. What is surprising perhaps is that the movie is as good as it is. Hoffman doesn’t even get close to indulgence as a director. Jack Goes Boating is largely a character study, one that focuses on the efforts of an inhibited limo driver (Hoffman) to win over a young woman (the low-key, excellent Amy Ryan), while also bearing witness to the messy, destructive breakup of his two best friends (John Ortiz and Daphne Rubin-Vega). Like a lot of films adapted so directly from a stage play, Jack Goes Boating gets its best stuff from the dialog and performances, both of which are handled exceptionally well by everyone involved. There isn’t any annoying effort on Hoffman’s part to cram a lot of cinematic flair into this. He focuses instead on the acting, which gives us a particularly good performance from Hoffman himself, and on the natural, constantly-magnetic conversations that dictate most of the movie. What we have here is strong evidence that Hoffman’s talents run much further than simply being one of the best actors of our generation.