Your 80s-Remade Weekend at the Movies

10/14/2011 9:47 AM |

Big year, 1900.
  • Big year, 1900.

The Big Year: Something is up with the trailer to this movie. It’s pitched as a comedy, but it barely has jokes—or rather, it has some of the most wan, gently unfunny pretend-jokes I’ve ever seen used as trailer moments for a comedy (even unfunny comedy trailers tend to have bigger grabbers than any single second of its three minutes). It plays like a comedy trailer assembled by scraping whatever ultra-lite moments of levity anyone could find from largely dramatic footage. But I don’t think this is a drama. Everyone seems to be saying it’s a comedy, and it has Steve Martin, Jack Black, Owen Wilson, and they’re not babysitting children or anything, so it must be at least kind of funny, right? I mean, I remember asking similar questions about Envy (with Black, Ben Stiller, Christopher Walken, and Amy Poehler), and that movie didn’t turn out so well, but it definitely went for it, and had some laughs in its trailers (as well as in the movie itself). You could definitely tell it was a comedy.

I’m almost half-convinced that The Big Year, being about bird-watching and not seeming to have any exploitable big laughs, will turn out to be seriously melancholy, like a less hilarious Life Aquatic or something. Then again, it’s directed by David Frankel (who I have forever confused with Seinfeld guy David Mandel); I liked his Miami Rhapsody way back in 1995, but his The Devil Wears Prada offers pretty much this exact brand of wispy, not-actually-funny-but-not-dramatic-either “comedy.” I hope for the best, always willing to welcome Steve Martin back into movies aimed at grown-ups.

The Thing and Footloose: I reviewed these movies together for the L, so let’s consider their box-office prospects jointly as well. I understand that Footloose is being remade because decision-makers figure that boilerplate dance movie plus brand name must equal or surpass gross of You Got Served or Step Up 3D. But I’m not so sure: if you’re super into Footloose, a big part of it is probably its cheesiness and your misguided 80s nostalgia, right? Which a 2011 version doesn’t really offer. If you never liked Footloose, probably a remake doesn’t look like it’s blowing it up into something awesome, even if Craig Brewer made it (and did a decent job of it). That only leaves the people who have never heard of Footloose (who have seen hipper-looking dance movies) and people who love Footloose so much and so sincerely that they’re dying for a modern version.

As for the latter: enjoy the movie, you five! Horror remakes (or quasi-prequels) like The Thing trade more nakedly on a teenage audience unfamiliar with the old version, and horror fans also seem more likely to grudgingly (or, I don’t know, maybe excitedly! I don’t really understand horror fans, and I sort of am one) attend a new version of something they liked, even if it looks inferior. But a wintry horror like The Thing seems like a better bet in January, not in October. Then again, the appetite for Halloween movies can apparently be filled by Saw (not scary, not gothic) or Paranormal Activity (scary, still not very gothic), so obviously that’s not much of a concern.

The Skin I Live In: I’m a bad film geek: I kind of don’t get Pedro Almodovar. I mean, I think I get him. I just don’t like his movies that much. I didn’t really see how a semi-acclaimed movie of his like Broken Embraces was all that much worse (or better) than a more wildly acclaimed one like Volver or All About My Mother [Dude you gotta see Matador and Law of Desire. I secretly agree with you about the highbrow-beloved Penelope Cruz ones. This one is retro-nutty and awesome.—Ed.]. But I do think I prefer him in slightly more De Palma-ish mode, so maybe that edge of perversity plus Antonio Banderas will get me over my Al-meh-dovar hump and out to see this one.

Trespass: Because this is a remake-heavy weekend, you’d be forgiven for assuming that this is a remake of the seminal Ice-T/Ice Cube/Bill Paxton thriller of the same name (which I’m just now finding out was written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale! How have I not seen this?!). But it is in fact a team-up of two stars that, while past their late-nineties/early-aughts peaks of popularity, are far more famous now than Cube, T, and Paxton were in 1992: Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman. Despite the star wattage, Trespass is more or less going direct to DVD with a brief theatrical stopover, which breaks my heart as Cage and Kidman are two of my favorite actors of the past decade-plus.

Granted, this seems almost as junky a pairing of two talented actors as De Niro and Pacino trudging through Righteous Kill, but Joel Schumacher, chintz and stupidity nonwithstanding, has made some thrillers I at least found interesting: Falling Down, 8MM with Cage, and, well, ok, that’s pretty much it, and both of those movies have their lurid sides. Trespass is a home-invasion thriller that will presumably attempt to mix Cage’s wonderfully goony overacting with Kidman’s icy subtlety. Then it will mix them both with the stupefying sight of Cam Gigandet appearing not only in another feature film, but one that doesn’t come from Sony’s Screen Gems arm (also: why didn’t Screen Gems pick this one up and ride it to their typical $45 million and change?). By the way, I am totally seeing this. Well-played, Schumacher.