Remakes going forward to yesterday

Remakes are in the movie news as usual. There’s not much more to say than a new iteration of John Woo’s classic international breakthrough, “The Killer,” and the fun but entirely non-classic caper flick “Gambit” are on the way.

The news on the latter is that this time the players are, in a switch from usual remake practice, a bit more mature than in the original. Cameron Diaz, who really needs to shine in something, and habitual award nominee Colin Firth, who’s doing just fine, will star. The twisty-turny tale is going forward with a years-old screenplay by the Coen Brothers, no less.

Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine in The setting has also been switched from Hong Kong to Texas and everyone will presumably be playing more or less their own ethnicity. The original had the very Anglo Shirley MacLaine playing a Eurasian woman of mystery and even more Anglo, as in actually British, character actor Herbert Lom as an Indian gazillionaire; Michael Caine who gets mentioned here on what seems like a daily basis, actually played an Englishman in it.

Regarding “The Killer,” before you Woo fans (and I’m certainly one) decry a crime against cinema, be aware that Woo himself is producing with his usual partner, Terrance Chang. Korean superstar Jung-Woo Sung will be making his English language debut with Korean-American helmer John H. Lee (the Korean-language love story, “A Moment to Remember”) directing and a screenplay by the previously unknown Josh Campbell. Oh, it’ll be in 3D.

I’ve written many times that I think complaints about remakes of classics are somewhat silly. If they’re bad or mediocre, they’ll be quickly forgotten. If they’re good, someone will complain about the remake of that one. Regardless, the originals aren’t going away any time soon. Below the flip are two samples of those originals. Try to see them both before the new versions come out for maximum compare-and-contrast fun.

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Slightly early midweek movie news

Just a few items that have been swirling about the movie media news/blogosphere…

Ving Rhames in * I know conservative Hollywood-bashers think all we film people both love and fear James Cameron and will leap to his defense with the ferocity of an intimidated momma grizzly on principle. They should take a look at the hub-bub the man has kicked up with some remarks in Vanity Fair that are perhaps best described as 3D snobbery run amok. To use his own terminology, he threw “Piranha 3D” under the bus — presumably with the resulting exploding innards heading directly at the audience’s face. I’m sure the fact that, as per Hollywood legend, Cameron was fired after a week directing “Piranha 2” decades ago, has nothing to do with this.

Anyhow, here’s the oft-quoted choice bit:

…that is exactly an example of what we should not be doing in 3-D. Because it just cheapens the medium and reminds you of the bad 3-D horror films from the 70s and 80s, like Friday the 13th 3-D. When movies got to the bottom of the barrel of their creativity and at the last gasp of their financial lifespan, they did a 3-D version to get the last few drops of blood out of the turnip. And that’s not what’s happening now with 3-D. It is a renaissance—right now the biggest and the best films are being made in 3-D. Martin Scorsese is making a film in 3-D. Disney’s biggest film of the year—Tron: Legacy—is coming out in 3-D. So it’s a whole new ballgame.”

One of the first to get in on the attack — and with the ferocity of a poppa grizzly, I might add — was our pal (and “Piranha” guest reviewer) Dennis Cozzalio. Numerous others have joined Dennis in the good fight for low-budget 3D horror. Apparently not one bit concerned about being able to work in this town again, producer Mark Canton has joined the fray with a sharp counter-attack.

* John Woo directing a movie about the American trained Chinese WWII aces the Flying Tigers in Imax? Where do we send our $15.00? Remakes of his long-time favorite, Jean-Pierre Melville’s “Le Samurai,” and his own international breakthrough hit, “The Killer”? Not my absolute first choice for Woo projects, but I’ll pay to see those too. I just hope he really has something new he wants to say with those stories.

* RIP director Alain Corneau.

* A truly intelligent man like Martin Scorsese knows it’s never time to stop learning. The Onion has the scoop.

*Via an e-mail from the elusive BKS: Cecil B. DeMille rewriting Billy Wilder? Sort of like James Cameron trying to rewrite Quentin Tarantino (and he would too, I bet), but anything is possible in this crazy town.

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Michelle Yeoh, wire-fu, and flaming swords

Pretty much everything I can ask for in a movie.

“Reign of Assassins” is a collaboration between relative newcomer Su Chao-Bin and John Woo, the past master of such classic Hong Kong modern day action epics as “The Killer,” “Hard Boiled,” and “A Bullet in the Head,” who recently returned to Hong Kong to make the acclaimed period epic like “Red Cliff” (which I still desperately need to see). Now he’s back with this still-in-production blend of Wuxia madness and romance, also starring Jung Woo-Sung alongside international treasure Michelle Yeoh. This promotional trailer has been making the blog rounds of some of the better sites, and for very good reason. Looks promising, indeed.

H/t Anne Thompson

  

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A little Sunday morning ultraviolence, with a side of religious imagery

Continuing on a theme from last night…Chow Yun Fat is a paid assassin with a heart of gold in John Woo’s 1989 “The Killer,” a classic badass variation on the twice-filmed weepy, “The Magnificent Obsession.”

When I described this movie to a friend of mine with more PC tastes than I, he asked “is it gratuitously violent?”

“I don’t know,” I responded. “Is ‘Singin’ in the Rain‘ gratuitously musical?”

  

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