Ever reach for this:
But grab this instead?
Within the culture of channel-surfing, there's nothing worse than clicking through channels, seeing a certified classic on a channel that doesn't censor/edit, putting the movie on, and then finding out that it's a shitty, inferior, unnecessary money-grab of a remake/reboot/re-do. Infuriating. I feel so used. And not the good kind of feeling used. It's more the "that's not fucking Patrick Swayze!" kind. So you might want to start hitting INFO before you tune in.
The basic algorithm here is quality/importance/relevance of original and shittiness/irrelevance/forgettableness of re-do (forgettableness is a word now). If you see an original higher than you expect, it's because the remake should've gotten Plan B'd let alone greenlit.
I've had this log in the fire for awhile so the number has gone up immensely from when I first had the blog idea. To wit, here's a list of The Worst SONKs from the guide on your TV...
10. ARTHUR. This is what I mean in the algorithm explanation above. ARTHUR is a kind of "you had to be there" comedy that doesn't have the legs of peers of its era (though it was nominated for four Oscars and won two). If you weren't around for Dudley Moore's run, he was a charming, lovable English goofball that America fell in love with for a stretch. ARTHUR was a big part of that. Moore played a charming, lovable, rich-as-fuck goofball in this COMING TO AMERICA-ish comedy that also starred Liza Minelli and John Gielgud (who won for Best Supporting). 30 years later, for some reason some suit thought it was a good idea to dust off an asset that teens knew nothing of and put a guy people couldn't stand in the lead role. What could go wrong? Russell Brand as ARTHUR is what could go wrong. Zero of the charm of the original. The epitome of a paycheck movie for all involved. And I don't begrudge actors for taking work. But when they appear in shit, they'll get shit for it. And this is shit.
9. ROLLERBALL. Jimmy Caan's first appearance here is in the futuristic, corporate-skewering ROLLERBALL (can see some shades of SNOWPIERCER in here). Caan is the star player and the face of the country's most popular sport. He becomes suspicious of people's motives and pokes around a bit, leading to repercussions and plot escalation. It might look its age when you watch it now but the messaging is as spot-on as it's ever been. Now ROLLERBALL isn't the best movie in this blog and isn't close to it. But the remake is such a schma-schmortion, that it propels ROLLERBALL into the 8-hole. The '02 remake starred Chris Klein, LL Cool J, and Rebecca Romjin (ironically, it was helmed by DIE HARD director John McTiernan) and was a DOA flop. It was made for/marketed to teen boys and even they avoided it.
8. ROBOCOP. The original ROBOCOP wasn't just a LEO with a steel coating, bad-ass look, a penchant for Arnold-like lines that fucked shit up. Paul Verhoeven's 1987 feature also casts a sharp eye on what was going on in Reagan-era America. So yeah, the cop getting revenge and also being half-robot was pretty cool shit back then and moviegoers flocked to it. But it was the subtle critiques of the script that made it a hit with critics as well. So the remake is just yet another "why bother?" if you miss the cultural criticism that made the original so much more than a 'cop of the future' movie. It just gets made for the sake of getting made (i.e. to make money). But it's forgotten almost as quick as it came. Not sure I've ever heard anybody ever bring up the remake of ROBOCOP other than clicking on it thinking it was the original.
7. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. During the slasher run started by HALLOWEEN (1978) but rife with copycats, NIGHTMARE stood out in '84 thanks to Wes Craven. He wrote and directed this visually appealing and genuinely creepy flick in which a soon-to-be-iconic custodian (no, not me) invades the dreams of sleeping high schoolers and offs them. And that custy, Freddy Krueger, was scary as fuck. Robert Englund brought Freddy to immediate Slasher Rushmore status along with Michael and Jason.
6. OLDBOY. This Korean mind-fuck from Park Chan-wook is one of the best of this century. It's about a guy imprisoned in a hotel room-like cell for 15 years but has no clue why or who put him there. When he finally gets out, he seeks answers. Might sound run-of-the-mill but it's anything but. OLDBOY has one of the best fight scenes ever onscreen (no bullshit or hyperbole here---it's that incredible) and has one of the "OOF!"iest turns you'll ever see. An incredible movie. So when Spike Lee needlessly made an American version in a classic case of "let's get a big-name director and some big-name stars together and it will automatically be good" way of thinking. [Family Feud "X"] Even Josh Brolin, Sam Jackson, and Liz Olsen couldn't make this work. If you've never seen the original and are capable of using subtitles, watch it.
5. THE GAMBLER. When you think of Jimmy Caan in the '70s, you automatically think of Sonny Corleone. But Caan also turned in excellent work as a literature professor who is also a self-destructive, full-blown degenerate gambler in this 1974 flick. So imagine my ire when I hit the button to take me to this very good movie and instead end up with Marky Mark. Playing a literature professor. In a plot that gets increasingly ridiculous before its all-too-predictable ending. Jessica Lange as Marky Mark's mother is the highlight of the movie but that's about it.
4. POINT BREAK. Kathryn Bigelow's adrenalized action flick about a crew of bank-robbing surfers that Keanu Reeves's FBI agent attempts to infiltrate is a blast to watch and re-watch over and over. It featured some incredible stunts and gave fans numerous quotable lines. The late and beloved Patrick Swayze performed his own stunt when he jumped from a plane during that incredible scene (he reportedly made 55 jumps for the film). Unfortunately, they did give us two. And the second one is a dud that only comes alive during the stunt scenes. But eye-popping stunts and not much more do not make for a quality feature film as the 2015 version makes clear.
3. THE OMEN. The 1970s did a bang-up job of making movie audiences collectively shit their pants with religion-themed horror flicks. While nobody has tried to re-do THE EXORCIST (at least as a movie), the sacreligious act of remaking Dick Donner's 1976 flick about the son of Satan was performed 30 years after the original. So now when I tune into THE OMEN, I'm no longer guaranteed the legendary Gregory Peck attempting filicide of the demon seed Damien (expertly played in his film debut by Harvey Stephens). Instead, I'm just as likely to get this limp retread that left nary a mark in most filmgoer's memories. (One wacko plotline in both is how a husband will simply replace his stillborn baby with the newborn of a stranger. Fucking '70s, man.) The original also ensured that any kid named Damien born in the '70s would get...crucified on the playground.
2. GHOSTBUSTERS. A strong case for the top slot on this list. Just a huge psych-out here. "Ooh, it's the comedy classic directed by Ivan Reitman with legendary funnymen Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray," you say to yourself when you spy GHOSTBUSTERS on your guide. But then you put it on and...ugh. Instead, it's the dreadful distaff version foisted upon moviegoers four years ago. Now I'm not one of those crybaby losers claiming that his "childhood was ruined" because a beloved movie from my youth was getting a re-do. And I certainly didn't care that the new crew would be all ladies. As a fan of the stars from their previous works, I went into it with an open mind and hoped I would maybe have a few laughs. Nah, not even close. The remake lacked any of the charisma of the original. There was zero chemistry between the four 'busters. The story stunk. Who ya gonna call? The theater to get your $15 back.
1. PSYCHO. This gets the pole position because a) PSYCHO's huge role in cinematic history and, b) the complete uselessness of an inferior re-telling of a truly iconic film. The ony question people had when Gus Van Sant directed a shot-by-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock's horror classic: WHY? Van Sant took one of the most ground-breaking films ever made and just copied it. Other than giving it a modern day setting, 1998 didn't add any new wrinkles or anything interesting. The only thing it succeeded at is getting people to yell, "Motherfucker!" at their TV when they click on PSYCHO and get this dreck rather than the 1960 masterpiece that changed the game.
OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES:
PLANET OF THE APES
CONAN THE BARBARIAN
THE LONGEST YARD
WALTER MATTHAU OR GET THE FUCK OUT
These ones are only off a little from the original title but just enough to fool you if you don't know better.
BAD NEWS BEARS. You want THE BAD NEWS BEARS.
THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123. And THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE.
YOU AIN'T FOOLIN' ME
POSEIDON. This 2006 dud came and went unlike the quintessential disaster film that turned '70s audiences upside down in suspense.
AND THERE'S THE SPECIAL CATEGORY WHERE IT'S NOT A BULLSHIT REMAKE AT ALL BUT JUST HAPPENS TO SHARE A TITLE.
GLADIATOR. Obviously, the Russell Crowe swords-and-sandals epic that won Best Picture is the more well known. But the '92 underground fighting flick starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and James Marshall isn't a bad take. Not Best Pic-worthy but certainly worse ways to kill 1:41.
CRASH. Paul Haggis's "hey, we're all racist" flick was an upset Best Pic winner 15 years ago (can we please get Matt Dillon in a big role in a prominent Hollywood feature?). But there are some who do prefer David Cronenberg's unique 1996 tale about people who get off on...car crashes.
THE CHARLES GRODIN CATEGORY
THE HEARTBREAK KID. The '72 original was a hit with critics and helped establish Grodin's comedy chops. The Farrelly/Stiller version...wasn't a hit with critics. But you know what? It has a funny cast and the movie cracks me up. So if I click on either one, I'm fine.
KING KONG. I know the '33 version is a groundbreaking masterpiece but I'll always have a soft spot for the '76 version with Jeff Bridges, Jessica Lange's film debut, and weasely Charles Grodin. The Peter Jackson CGI-fest was bloated though the final scenes were gorgeous to look at. I'm OK with any of the three. But if you've never seen the original, you ought to check it out. Pretty awesome for a nearly 90-year-old movie.
JOHN CARPENTER, ONE OF THE ALL TIME GREATS, GETS HIS OWN SECTION HERE
HALLOWEEN. The original. The game-changer. Accept no substitutes. Not sure why you'd even bother. I actually hit the INFO button first just to make sure I don't actually put the remake on.
THE FOG. Still enjoyable enough for an '80s horror flick even if not HOF material. Still better than the lifeless re-do that came 25 years later.
THE THING. Yes, I know Carpenter's '82 version was itself a remake of THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD. But the 2011 retread is a waste of time, especially when you can watch Kurt Russell and Wilford Brimley do it much better. Woof.
THEY'RE NOT ALL PSYCHOUTS