Monday, May 29, 2023

24 Hours of Movies: Remakes!

by Patrick Bromley
Anything worth making is worth remaking.
Contemporary cinema feels plagued by remakes and reboots and reimaginings, but they've always been around. The difference is that there used to be more and different kinds of movies being made, so they didn't feel like the only game in town. Enough good to great ones have been produced over the years that it seemed like it would be fun to program a whole Remake Marathon. Thanks to Adam Riske for suggesting this theme!

10 am - The Magnificent Seven (1960, dir. John Sturges)
Confession: I think I just saw this for the first time. I have a memory of convincing my high school history teacher to show it to our class, but no memory of actually seeing the film so I'm counting this week's viewing as my first watch. It's good! Not, like, Seven Samurai good, but good! I like that we're starting off with a movie that remakes its source material as a different genre altogether, something few remakes have been willing to do. Is Seven Samurai the most remade movie of all time? It's got to be up there.
12:15 pm - Invaders from Mars (1986, dir. Tobe Hooper)
Of course we're going to ramp things up with a banger from my favorite director. People call this movie "flawed' or "imperfect" or "not good" and those people are wrong. Well, ok, maybe it's flawed and imperfect, but it's so much fun and Tobe Hooper is having the time of his life reimagining a movie that traumatized him as a kid, filtered through an '80s Cannon sensibility. I know most people prefer the OG, but I am not most people. 

2 pm - Brewster's Millions (1985, dir. Walter Hill)
Despite the fact that I've never seen the original and despite the fact that Walter Hill seems like the wrong person to direct this kind of old-fashioned comedy and despite the fact that the source material has been adapted seven times (forget what I said about Seven Samurai being the most remade), I enjoy the 1985 version as a kind of John Landis comedy that John Landis never made. Richard Pryor plays a minor league baseball star who will inherit $300 million if he can spend $30 million in 30 days. It's the kind of reckless comedy of excess that could only have been made in the '80s, but that's part of the charm. It's also one of the best vehicles for a then-sober Richard Pryor, a comedian who was rarely well-served on screen. I think the movie will play well in this slot.

4 pm - Get Carter (2000, dir. Stephen Kay)
I might be one of the only people in the world who likes this remake, probably because I've never seen the Mike Hodges/Michael Caine original (I know, I know). This one casts Sylvester Stallone as a Las Vegas mob enforcer who returns home to investigate his brother's death and gets wrapped up with a bunch of terrible people because that's the life he's chosen. The impressive cast includes Rachael Leigh Cook, John C. McGinley, Miranda Richardson, Michael Caine, Alan Cumming, and a pre-Wrestler "comeback" Mickey Rourke as the heavy (heavier than Stallone, I suppose). It's a little thin and stylistically leans too heavily on what Outlaw Vern coined as "Avid farts," but it's a sneaky good movie from one of Stallone's fallow periods.

6 p m - Breathless (1983, dir. Jim McBride)
If I'm maybe the only person who likes the Get Carter remake, I know I'm the only person who prefers Jim McBride's 1983 remake of Breathless to the Jean-Luc Godard original, the New Waviest of all French New Wave films. Richard Gere is at his dick-swinging best as Jesse, a comic book-reading, Jerry Lee Lewis-loving criminal who goes on the run after shooting a cop and shacks up with his French girlfriend (Valerie Kaprisky). I know the switching of the nationalities is a little on the nose, but I love the style and energy McBride -- a truly underrated filmmaker -- infuses into his remake. I love that this is a movie that dares to exist in the first place.

8 pm - Insomnia (2002, dir. Christopher Nolan)
Christopher Nolan's major studio follow-up to Memento is a remake of a 1997 Norwegian thriller and still one of my three favorite Christopher Nolan movies. Al Pacino is a great as a detective hiding a secret and who is exhausted both physically and emotionally. Robin Williams is equally great as a killer who knows Pacino's secret and sees them as kindred spirits. I love the Alaskan setting. I love the cinematography. I love this movie and that's why it's getting the primetime slot.

10 pm - Black Caesar (1973, dir. Larry Cohen)
Since Junesploitation is in just a few days, let's introduce a little grindhouse into the mix as we go into the overnight. This loose blaxploitation reimagining of Little Caesar (written and directed by the great Larry Cohen) helped codify the subgenre and launch the movie star career of Fred "The Hammer" Williamson. I like the sequel, Hell Up in Harlem (from later the same year!), a little better but that shouldn't take anything away from how much Black Caesar rules.

11:45 pm - House on Haunted Hill (1999, dir. William Malone) 
Horror has more remakes than pretty much any other genre, so we should have no problem programming the overnight section of our marathon. Let's kick off this section with my favorite of the Dark Castle remakes, William Malone's update of William Castle's House on Haunted Hill. I know it's probably blasphemous to say, but I prefer this version to the original (which I also like). It's fun, it's got an incredible cast, and it's genuinely scary at times. Two decades later I'm still not sold on the ink blot doily ghosts, but that's a minor grievance. This movie is so good.

1:30 am - The Blob (1988, dir. Chuck Russell)
Alongside John Carpenter's The Thing and David Cronenberg's The Fly, Chuck Russell's 1988 retelling of The Blob is one of the three greatest horror remakes of the 1980s. It takes a premise that was a little goofy in the 1950s -- killer goo from space lands on Earth -- and turns it into one of the most brutal and intense remakes of the decade while never losing a sense of energy or fun. The clever, surprising script (you're never sure who's going to get it) and lively direction are aided by Tony Gardner's practical effects, among the best ever committed to screen. No way anyone is sleeping through this one.

3 am - Evil Dead (2013, dir. Fede Alvarez)
I was weirdly hard on this movie when I first saw it (and when we first podcasted on it). I don't know why. It's super good. It has enough DNA of the Raimi movies while still being its own thing, which a good remake should do if it's not going to forge entirely new territory. Jane Levy is a great lead and, like The Blob remake we're playing just before this, the movie isn't afraid to be very intense and very gory. Seeing Evil Dead Rise recently reminded me of just how much I appreciate this film.

4:30 am - Knock Knock (2015, dir. Eli Roth)
We'll ease our way out of the horror block with Eli Roth's remake of Death Game, a strange and confused film that doesn't totally know what it's trying to say about gender politics. While it's Ana de Armas' nude scenes that will unfortunately lead audiences to the film these days, it's absolutely worth seeing for the performances of Keanu Reeves and (especially) an unhinged Lorenza Izzo as one half of Reeves' captors/terrorizers. It's the wrong time of morning for such a thing, but this would go best with free pizza.

6:15 am - Point of No Return (1993, dir. John Badham)
As we wake up and come to, let's watch John Badham's mostly-generic remake of La Femme Nikita. Bridget Fonda takes over the lead role as a junkie-turned-assassin, with Gabriel Byrne, Harvey Keitel, and Dermot Mulroney rounding out the cast. I can neither explain nor defend my affection for this movie, which has little going for it save for the group of actors assembled and the lead performance by an admittedly miscast Fonda, but I'm down to watch it at this point in the marathon. I won't argue it's better than Nikita, but it's the movie I'd put on first and one I can watch literally anytime.

8 am - 3:10 to Yuma (2007, dir. James Mangold)
One more western remake before we run out of time! James Mangold's re-do of of the 1957 movie of the same name (and the 1953 short story by Elmore Leonard) is a fairly literal translation but comes to life thanks to good performance -- in particular Russell Crowe's heel turn -- and strong, no-nonsense direction. I kind of miss when Mangold was just a dependable journeyman and wasn't vaulted to cinematic savior status thanks to Logan and the upcoming Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. He's a good filmmaker who needs less pressure to be great every time out.

10 am - Rock-a-Bye Baby (1958, dir. Frank Tashlin)
This is the first and only remake I'm programming that I've never seen because I will use any excuse there is to watch a Jerry Lewis comedy, one of my favorite subgenre discoveries of the last five or so years. This is supposedly a loose retelling of Preston Sturges' The Miracle of Morgan Creek, though I guess I can't be sure because I haven't seen it. I just love Jerry Lewis movies, in particular his collaborations with the great Frank Tashlin. Add in some Technicolor and I'm in heaven.

11:30 am - Four Brothers (2005, dir. John Singleton)
I know we're well over 24 hours now, but I'm too nervous to end with a movie I've never seen and would rather close things out with a surefire banger. It's another loose remake, this time of The Sons of Katie Elder, but transplants the original's western trappings to a contemporary action film. I'm starting to realize I might like John Singleton's more genre-focused "B" period of the 2000s better than his "A list" run of the '90s, even though all of it is good. This one also makes a nice bookend to The Magnificent Seven.


  1. I only learned recently that Brewster's Millions was a remake. That's a movie that was on regular rotation on our local tv station, so i must've seen it at least a dozen times. I also really like it

    And the Insomnia remake is almost better than the original, thanks to great performances by Pacino and Williams.

  2. Every time you post that you like Jim McBride’s Breathless more than Godard’s I think about how many times I watched this in the mid-80s and how weird it was for a junior high kid to be watching it that much and how I haven’t seen it since the 80s and now that I see it’s on Tubi I will definitely be watching it for Junesploitation.
    Again, thanks for Free Space Days.

  3. A day that starts with The Magnificent Seven is a good day!

    I've seen all of Nolan's movies except for Insomnia and Following. I keep hearing good things about Insomnia so I should make time to watch it.