New Beginnings

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To mark what we consider a new beginning- the start of a new Uni year, fresh faces, new talent and of course a brand new CUB, we thought the most natural path to take for our first entry, would be films and their new beginnings- the much debatable Remake! Here are six films that we think are more than worth a watch- both Original and Remake.

Sleuth (Original 1972, Remake 2007)

For me, the original Sleuth is a masterclass in acting and is alternately funny, creepy and a tad over the top. I mean, with a cast that consists solely of Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine, how could it be anything but superb? Ok, so the plot is a tiny bit unbelievable, but it’s Hollywood, right? I allow director Joseph Mankiewicz a few liberties.

His successor Kenneth Branagh however…. Personally I think he went much too far with his ‘adaptation’ of the masterpiece. Every nuance of the mystery, every subtle implication and telling glance is exploited and banged over the audience’s heads until there’s not much artful left. Caine takes up the role previously inhabited by Olivier and is, as always, pure joy to watch. Jude Law in turn plays Caine’s old role with characteristic charm, and the duo’s performances arguably turn this into a riveting watch.

The remake is clever in that it uses its contemporary setting to allow some slight plot changes and takes advantage of the story’s background as a 2-man theatre play to manipulate the film to show every tiny space and impossibly tight angle. Branagh’s manipulation of lighting, camera angle and sound lend his film a claustrophobic feel that I think detracts from the acting, whereas the original film uses its sets and colours to give the preposterous plot and vivid characters take control of the screen. While Branagh’s direction is inspired and extremely ambitious, for me the remake is trying so hard to be original that it comes off distinctly second best.

Verdict: The original is, typically, superior. Its pretty hard to top an original directed by Mankiewicz of All About Eve and Citizen Kane fame, starring Olivier and Caine. Law is a worthy successor and Branagh certainly can’t be accused of trying to copy his predecessor, however I personally think his attempt at originality takes away a lot of the charm of the 1972 version.

Insomnia (Original 1997, Remake 2002)

It’s difficult to explain why Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia is not more widely known. The psychological detective thriller, starring Al Pacino and Robin Williams, is critically favoured, but doesn’t seem to have too great a fan following. Among Hollywood film fans, however, it is much more popular than the Norwegian film upon which it is based (director Erik Skjoldbjærg). The original features Stellan Skarsgård where Nolan prefers Pacino, which might convey some of the differences between the two films.

Nolan’s remake is set in Alaska, where the sun never sets. It is insomnia caused by this oppressive light, coupled with crippling guilt, which plagues Dormer (Pacino) throughout the film. Nolan’s film is of course beautifully shot and cleverly directed, but comparison to the original shows up the Hollywoodisms that have been added to guarantee the film success in America. References to sex from the 1997 film are wiped, possibly to keep the film’s age-rating low. A scene in which Skarsgård’s detective shoots a dog is altered, to show Pacino conveniently stumbling across a previously deceased canine. There are a few examples in the English-language remake of plot points being tamed and changed a bit, and it’s hard to look past Hollywood’s interference.

Verdict: While I think Nolan’s film is a haunting and well-crafted procedural thriller, some of the ‘Hollywood effect’ has robbed the plot of its moral ambiguity and intrigue. Both are excellent films, but I would definitely recommend the Norwegian original as first viewing of this gripping tale of guilt.

The Parent Trap (Original 1961, Remake 1998)

I think we all know the winner here – I mean, who doesn’t love a bit of Lindsay Lohan?! Ok, so that’s a loaded question, but Lohan’s dual performance as twins is masterful (kind of), and blows her predecessor Hayley Mills’s out of the water.

If The Parent Trap (Lohan’s) wasn’t part of your childhood, I don’t understand you. From a killer soundtrack (seriously, check it out) to an admirable attempt at an English accent from Lindsay, there’s not a lot you can’t love in Disney’s 1998 effort. The original isn’t bad either, but it’s dated, particularly when compared with the remake.

The story of two kids trying to get their parents back together is pretty timeless, but the remake gave the story a much-needed update, with modern relationships, references and technology. If they remake it again I suspect Twitter will be a major player, but that’s another matter. The remake cleverly makes refers to the original movie, through names and some shared plot points, however its pop culture references for me set it apart, not to mention the instantly recognisable cast of Lohan, Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson and Elaine Hendrix.

If you’re looking for a bit of old-fashioned innocence, the original is definitely for you. Not to say in 1998 it was sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, but the modern setting and soundtrack of Beatles tunes situates it definitely in the contemporary age.

Verdict: If you’re looking for light-hearted family fun then you can’t really go wrong with either of these films. But the remake is a really nice way to remember how cute and fun Lindsay Lohan was before the life of crime found her, and is generally a really fun, feel-good movie, and I would recommend the 1998 version for pure enjoyment.

Ocean’s Eleven (Original 1960, Remake 2001)

Lewis Milestone’s 1960 original Ocean’s Eleven sees multiple members of the Rat Pack fall in line as Daniel Ocean’s ex-paratrooper comrades, coming together to turn off the lights in Las Vegas for one night. More so than its 2001 counterpart, the original focuses around the real life stardom of its actors, its comedy value and its general feel good factor. With no intention to triumph this classic, it must be noted that it was filmed during a much simpler time, not only reflecting this within socio-economic and cultural factors, but also wherein the quality and level of acting didn’t matter as much.

Steven Soderbourgh’s 2001 counterpart can be seen to draw as little as possible from its 60’s origin. Asides from the main character and hair-pin story line, the most recent version could almost be considered a completely different genre. With a charming and snappy script, a story line unravels introducing just a few more than eleven individual characters, each with their own skills, personally and contributing worthiness. The ‘Hollywood’ element to the film, I think, only benefits the plot creating tension and enthrallment- much of this lacking within the original.

Verdict:
Despite the Remake’s over glamourised notion of what being a criminal entails- I’m sure we can blame Pitt and Clooney for this, at least Soderbergh’s 2001 version suggests some sort of consequence when robbing three mutli-million dollar casinos in Las Vegas. The original is lovable and entertaining, but for me, seeing multiple members of the Rat Pack, including Frank Sinatra, make off with that much cash in the back of a ‘garbage van’ doesn’t quite cut it; At least the original is sure to make you laugh.

 Alfie (Original 1966, Remake 2004)

Lewis Gilbert casts Michael Caine as the orignal 1966 Aflie Elkins. The events within Alfie’s life become documented across many years until he eventually falls victim to his own emotional growth and the much-deserved consequence of his actions. As a bachelor, Alfie’s constant womanising and attitude towards women- this being the main purpose in the film, in my opinion do not come across well.

Throughout most of the film, women are referred to as ‘birds’ or ‘it’, taking the supposable underlying message of the film a tad too far and leaving this very outdated and old-fashioned Alfie, with not much of a personality. At the time the film found much critical praise for the way in which Alfie talks to the audience through the screen, in attempt to explain and define his actions. This drives me to curse Caine’s Alfie further. Funnily enough, is this same soliloquy type aspect of the 2004 remake that in part makes me warm to Alfie.

I am rather glad that Charles Shyer’s modern Alfie lacks in Caine’s unrefined masculinity. Law as Alfie sees more intelligence, style and charm, and despite his similar unforgivable behaviour throughout the film, there are still some noticeable elements of regard and adoration for women (even if they may be in many the wrong sense). The original focused too much on the Alfie’s ability for frankness and tongue-in-cheek behaviour, causing the remake to become far more enjoyable and what I consider, easy watching.

Verdict: I find myself more than irritated by the attitude and behaviour of Caine’s Alfie. Caine’s unforgiving subordination of women, and lack of effort to even reflect on this is most definitely to blame. Michael Caine can be admired in his ability to take on many a different character (he was nominated for best actor in a leading role that same year), however for me, it is Jude Law in the extremely modernised and heavily stylised 2004 Charles Shyer remake that champions.

 Carrie (Original 1976, Remake 2002, 2nd Remake 2013- unreleased)

Based on the Stephen King novel, and his first ever book to TV adaption sees Brian DePalma throw Sissy Spacek onto our screens as the traumatised and god-suffering daughter, loner and eventually, girl who develops telekinetic powers.

The original boasts the classic concept of the underdog, and I suppose could be perceived as a feminist triumph. I think that the 1970’s element brings to modern day viewers an added unsettling tone and atmosphere. For viewers such as myself, having not been around to experience the 70’s, only benefits in my opinion, that which is ‘unknown’- this is where I think that older horror stories and movies hold their ground.

The 76 version, I find can cause the occasion laugh, but only to add its long list of endearing qualities. In the case of David Carson’s 2002 remake, I find that there aren’t actually any positive qualities to draw upon. Actor Angela Bettis as Carrie, is damn scary looking with damp scraggly hair, but otherwise I really can’t say all that much.

Verdict: The 1976 original is a total classic, capturing everything that a 70’s horror, sci-fi drama should. I would not recommend watching the 2002 remake, and instead suggest watching the original (if you haven’t already) before the 2013 second remake is due to be released this year. Kimberly Pierce’s 2013 version is a much-anticipated one. Having directed and co-written Boys Don’t Cry (1999), lets hope, that in the same vein, this will be just as, if not more entertaining.

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