Thursday, September 13, 2018

Thursday Movie Picks: Good Remakes


It's Thursday, but it's not any old Thursday. Here in the great state of North Carolina, it's the day a big, bad storm is rolling through. This time, we're calling her Florence and she might be puttin' a hurtin' on some folks even as you read this. Hopefully, we all pull through this okay and won't have a care in the world when next Thursday rolls around. It's all reminding me of something that happened a little over 20 years ago. A young lady named Fran blew into town, breaking hearts and tree trunks as she passed. As is the case with so many movies that flood theaters every summer, we're getting a remake we didn't really want. So yeah, this week's topic for Thursday Movie Picks hosted by Wanderer at Wandering Through the Shelves is remakes. But not just any old remakes, we're talking good ones.


Scarface
(1983)
Original: Scarface (1932)
The original, loosely based on Al Capone, was one of the best of Pre-Code gangster flicks of the early 1930s. It's protagonist, Tony Camonte was an ambitious Chicago thug who was more than a little bit on the reckless side with vaguely incestuous feelings towards his sister, and eventually succumbs to the whirlwind he stirred up around him. Fifty years later, Oliver Stone penned a script that moved the action to Miami, made Tony Camonte a Cuban refugee named Tony Montana, and handed it off to Brian De Palma who cast Al Pacino in the lead role and helped him bring it to blaring neon life.


Heat
(1995)
Original: L.A. Takedown (1989)
Rightfully regarded as one of the finest heist movies ever made, most people don't realize that Michael Mann's Heat is a remake. The original was a TV movie that was really a failed pilot episode of a proposed cop show called L.A. Takedown. Here's the kicker, that show's director was also Michael Mann. In a true case of learning from his mistakes, Mann took the story and ported it to the big screen with a few more dollars at his disposal and Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in the two main roles. As you'll see at the bottom of this post, that made all the difference in the world.


(Here's a quick look behind the curtain. I was planning on doing a Pacino theme-within-the-theme, but sadly, I haven't seen Insomnia and couldn't think of another remake he was in. I know, right? Anyhoo, let's just find some more gangsters.)


The Departed
(2006)
Original: Infernal Affairs (2002)
When Americans remake foreign films, we generally screw those up even more than when we remake our own stuff. Not this time. Martin Scorsese got his hands on a Chinese crime thriller named Infernal Affairs that had only come out a few years prior and was a really good movie in its own right. Scorsese upped the character development and maintained the brutality and whiplash ending to create a film that surpasses the original in just about every aspect. It doesn't hurt that his A-list cast turned in work that is among the best of their careers, to a person. This includes arguably the best 21st century performance of none other than Jack Nicholson.


Okay, let's get back to Heat.

One of the most famous scenes from Heat is the diner scene where the characters played by Al Pacino and Robert De Niro meet for the first time. It's a stunning and pivotal scene extremely well-played by two acting giants finally sharing the screen...



Then there's the same scene in L.A. Takedown...


Sigh.


19 comments:

  1. We share a pick in Scarface. That is actually a rare remake that is better than the original. I haven't seen L.A. Takedown but I do want to since I do like Michael Mann a lot but I do love Heat. Infernal Affairs I have seen although it's been years since I've seen it as I do like The Departed a lot.

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    1. Oh, wait. I'm sorry. I don't have Scarface as one of my picks. Plus, it would've been too easy.

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    2. L.A. Takedown is not a must-see. I love The Departed, but Infernal Affairs is really good.

      Scarface was an easy pick, but I love it so much I couldn't ignore it.

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  2. Although I haven't seen the original (I didn't even know it was a remake, to be honest) I'm sure Scarface is a great one. I mean, that film is fantastic and unless the original is the best film ever made, De Palma's is an amazing remake. I haven't seen Heat nor the original but the first is on my watchlist. I also picked The Departed. I liked the original movie, but Scorsese did such a wonderful job. The tension, the characters, the dialogue, it's all on point. And the acting, damn it's good!

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    1. The original is very good, but yeah, I prefer the remake. Please see Heat. Please. Just know that it's a 3 hour movie.

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  3. I did NOT know that Heat was a remake! I mean... I haven't even seen it, but still... WOW.

    I like The Departed, but don't love it. It is well-done, though, and count me as one of the people who LOVE Nicholson's performance in it.

    I haven't seen Scarface, either. I hang my head in shame.

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    1. Same as I said to Sonia - please see Heat. Please. And Scarface, while you're at it.

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  4. A Pacino trio would have been cool and he did do a third remake-Scent of a Woman-but that's a piece of utter crap so doesn't qualify.

    I liked the original Scarface (though of Paul Muni's 30's films I much prefer I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang) and Ann Dvorak is amazing as his sister Cesca but unlike most I detest the De Palma redo (hey I'll have to keep it in mind for next year's Against the Crowd week!). With Pacino working in a nuance free zone and the ridiculous over saturation of violence I tuned out on it within the first half. Michelle Pfeiffer is decent but that's about all.

    I have seen both L.A. Takedown and Heat and would agree that while the first wasn't bad, though run of the mill Mann was definitely able to improve on it in the remake. That's an interesting juxtaposition of the two clips of the same scene. Again the first isn't terrible nor are the two actors but Pacino and De Niro bring much more to the scene.

    Ack! The Departed, another one that I hate that everyone seems to love. I'm always variable on Scorsese, his over reliance on profanity usually turns me off and takes me out of his films, had lulled me into a sense that we had finally arrived on the same page with his previous film to this, The Aviator, but nope. I did however really like his follow up, Shutter Island. I haven't seen Infernal Affairs, I hated this one so much I never made the effort to find it.

    A previous article of yours inspired my first pick and the others just came easily to me.

    Ocean’s Eleven (2001)-Freshly released from prison Danny Ocean (George Clooney) has a plan to pull off an elaborate heist of several Las Vegas casinos. He looks up his old pal Rusty (Brad Pitt) and together they gather a group of con men with various skill sets to pull it off. Excitement and merriment follow. The original Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin Rat Pack version has the germ of a very good idea and a very lackadaisical execution, the sequel improves on that idea in every aspect….well I wouldn’t say Julia Roberts is the equal of Angie Dickinson but otherwise it’s golden.

    3:10 to Yuma (2007)-In the Old West impoverished farmer Dan Evans (Christian Bale) hires on with Pinkerton men to transport outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) through the hardscrabble trip to Contention to be put on the 3:10 train to Yuma and prison. Through the many hardships on the trail the two men form a grudging respect for each other which is sorely tested when Wade’s gang is waiting at the end of the journey. Hard, tough minded Western is based very closely on the excellent 50’s version of the same name that stars Van Heflin & Glenn Ford in Bale & Crowe’s roles. Both very entertaining films the ’07 version benefits from the flashy supporting turn of Ben Foster as unhinged henchman Charlie Prince.

    Enchanted April (1992)-In 1920’s London upper middle class housewife Lottie Wilkins (Josie Lawrence) is neglected by her business minded husband and yearns to escape the constant rain and gloom of the city. Sensing her church acquaintance Rose Arbuthnot (Miranda Richardson) is in the same fix she proposes they rent an Italian villa for the month of April. Realizing they can’t quite afford it themselves they advertise for other ladies who might be interested. They receive only two replies, Caroline Dester (Polly Walker), a beautiful socialite seeking refuge from an endless string of facile admirers and Mrs. Fisher (Joan Plowright) a crusty, closed off lady who lives in her memories. After a hellious journey and a bumpy start the four women come under the spell of the beauty of the Italian villa (the cinematography is amazing) and surrounding grounds leading to a life changing experience. Based on a bestselling novel and originally filmed in a staid 30’s version (though with a good cast including Frank Morgan and Ann Harding) this adds a half an hour to the running time and vivid color to flesh out the story.

    Hope you're not in Florence's path! Stay safe!!

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    1. I haven't seen Scent of a Woman, but I never had any desire to. On the other hand, I definitely need to see I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang. Sorry the Scarface remake or The Departed doesn't work for you.

      Ahh, I almost went with Ocean's 11, myself. Good stuff. I was also close to choosing 3:10 to Yuma. I haven't seen the original, but I really enjoyed the remake. It's one of this century's best westerns by my estimation. I've not seen either version of Enchanted April.

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    2. At the risk of being cutesy Scent of a Woman stinks. It's painful that with The Godfather, Scarecrow, Serpico and especially Dog Day Afternoon on his sheet Al Pacino won the Oscar for his hammy showboating performance in that terrible movie.

      Absolutely see Chain Gang. I'd say the same for the original 3:10 to Yuma, it's not quite as violent because of the censors and times but a fine tense drama set in the West.

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    3. I've been silently protesting Scent of a Woman for a quarter century because he beat Denzel Washington for that Oscar who gave what might be my all-time favorite performance in Malcolm X. Robert Downey Jr. was also phenomenal in Chaplin. I'm having a hard time believing Pacino was better than that. I suppose I'll have to see it at some point to confirm my thoughts.

      Yes, Chain Gang is on my list. So is the original 3:10. I meant to watch both right before and right after the remake, but neither happened for a reason I no longer remember.

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  5. The Departed is popular today. I love it, and I really need to bump Infernal Affairs up in my Netflix queue.

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  6. I wouldn't recommend Insomnia. Great shouts. I knew about the original Heat but seeing that difference in the scene is just startling.

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    1. Yes, there is a HUGE difference in the way that scene plays in the two films.

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  7. Heat is excellent and I had no idea that was a remake. I only have seen bits and pieces of Scarface but I also want to see the original with Paul Muni. I did like The Departed and it is one film you must have your eyes glued to the screen in order to follow it. I would recommend Insomnia and Robin Williams steals the picture from Al Pacino

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    1. The original Scarface is excellent...and underseen, best I can tell. Interesting - one who wouldn't recommend Insomnia and one who would. Hmmmm...

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  8. Yep I didn't know Heat was a remake. Still haven't seen it and it's been on my to-watch list a long time.

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  9. GREAT picks here. I love that Mann decided to to retackle his own material, and improve upon it so gloriously.

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