Thursday, May 26, 2016

Rebooting the Blog with 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'Halloween' Remake and Video Adaptation Talk


No more vague allegories of my emotional state that contain vain promises of me writing on here again. I'm launching this right with the long promised movie talk.

The last few days of movie news has made it hard to argue against the belief there aren't any new ideas in Hollywood, It has been remake, reboot and adaptation mania. While my gut instinct is to normally groan, I have to confess that some of the news is a little bit exciting. But first let's start with the absurd and ridiculous that made my eyes roll right out of my head.

We live in a world that movie adaptations of Tetris and Fruit Ninja are moving forward. Because when you think of big blockbuster smash hits, you think movies based off games you play on your phone while waiting for the bus. Tetris is going to be a sci-fi thriller, because that is exactly what I always assumed would be the perfect genre for a block stacking game. I'm assuming the pitch was "It is Pixels but replacing the variety of classic video game characters with CGI blocks." Some suit agreed that the diverse array of video game characters is what hurt the Adam Sandler movie and approved the movie about colourful descending blocks for an $80 million budget. We're at least promised amazing looking blocks.  From my few times playing the game, I'd wager the intricate backstory is about giant cubed shapes that crush major cities until the world is saved by the heroic letter L.

Fruit Ninja is going to be a family comedy, because all my childhood memories of laughter with my parents and siblings involved sliced watermelon. The people behind this should be given some credit for actually coming up with a premise for this thing, which is ninjas who are out for vengeance against produce. It sounds like a gag that may work as a SNL skit but gets tedious after the 3 minute mark. I assume it will also star Josh Gad and Rob Schneider (who will play the Asian ninja). If there was a screenwriter out there really itching to do a grand CGI battle between a martial artist and a mango, did it really need to be as an adaptation from an iPhone game that people play because they've already passed Angry Birds?

The only reason I can guess that someone thought Tetris and Fruit Ninja needed movies was less about their rich backstory or even that their names would be box office draws, and more that they can make "movie versions" of the games and increase merchandising opportunities. Or maybe I'm just cynical and oblivious to the loud vocal fan base that demands these stories to be told.


I also was once very cynical towards Disney's goal of making a live action adaptations of their animated features. It would be that type of cynicism that would throw up my hands and wonder what is the point of a live action musical of Beauty and the Beast. The animated movie is a definite classic and when something is that ingrained in childhood memories then it is more reason to not mess around.



The trailer leans very heavy on nostalgia with almost identical set pieces and costumes, and the story with the rose and talking furniture is all there along with the same score. I'd have chalked that up to pointlessness except Disney has an impressive success rate with their live-action adaptations. The Jungle Book is destined to be a modern classic that this generation's children will remember fondly, and both Cinderella and Maleficent turned out to be really solid and at times magical movies. All three had several scenes and elements designed to conjure up vivid and fond memories of the originals but after nostalgia warmed you up, the movies had some major reworkings and twists on the common story. All three ended up having different messages than the older works and became fresh takes on classic stories, I need to trust Beauty and the Beast is going to follow a similar path and expect something special. At this point, the visuals look marvelous.


The final big remake news of this week is one that I'd normally be opposed but then some announcements pulled me over to Team Excited. Halloween is one of my all-time favourite horror pictures and is without doubt the best ever slasher. It also fits alongside Texas Chainsaw Massacre as great original movies that have dreadful sequels. I'll concede Halloween 2 is acceptable, but I'd rather never think about those bad Rob Zombie remakes (though the morbid side of me feels that I need to write a review for both).

We live in a world where I'm excited for a new installment in a franchise that hasn't been great since 1978. The first good bit of news was John Carpenter and Jason Blum teaming up as producers. Carpenter not only was the great director for the original but is one of the all-time great genre filmmakers with classics like The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York ((and the master of the ear buggy synth score). He also has been removed from mainstream filmmaking for a significant amount of time, which makes me hopeful that he may be less influenced by modern horror tropes and will attempt to bring something fresh (or at least bring back a long forgotten horror element). I once had my qualms with Blum, mostly for the not very good but very popular Paranormal Activity series, but for independent genre filmmaking, he is one of the best producers out there and has found some great directors. Plus I've become a big fan of a lot of the movies that have come out of his studios like Insidious Chapter 3 and Sinister.

Before I start dancing on the rooftops, Carpenter was also the producer of Halloween 2 and apparently, the reason it played out more like Friday the 13th by having gruesome kills and less attention on psychology. He also was the one with the idea to give us Silver Shamrock. Those were all decades ago, and he is someone that I trust learns from his mistakes and missteps (which is why we never got Escape from Detroit).

Though they haven't outright said this is a reboot, I'm hoping this is far removed from all previous Halloween movies except maybe the original (kind of like how Neill Blomkamp wants to do an Alien movie that only acknowledges the existence of the first two). What I'd really like is to leave out the Strode family and maybe even Michael Myers. Make it a spiritual successor with a new babysitter killer, where it plays off the atmosphere and fears and style of the original movie but updated to modern phobias and concerns. After 40 years, I don't think large heavy breathers wielding a butcher knife are scary anymore, but rather they've become kind of cool and cheered and expected. But I realize there is no way they aren't at least having Michael Myers in this and it is accepted canon that Laurie is his sister even though that didn't come along until the second. If we need to revisit this world then all I hope is that it is being driven by a worthwhile story with an attempt at revitalizing and shaking up the slasher genre.

This is why Mike Flanagan, director of Oculus and Hush, is near perfect to helm this movie. His past two horror movies were an example of following typical horror beats and set-ups, but adding in unexpected twists and some reworkings on the tropes. He also has proven to be excellent at using shots and scores and visuals to amplify the senses and to really get you emotionally invested rather than rely on just typical jump scares. Both his movies got more frights out of me than most other modern horrors combined. Based on how he built up the tension in Hush, I'm stoked to see what ideas he has for the Shape and his evil intentions for sex-starved babysitters. If this ends up really happening, I don't want a typical routine slasher but a ground-breaking movie that fits alongside the original Halloween, Scream and Nightmare on Elm Street as a movie that reshapes the subgenre.

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