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About Last Night: Sexual Predictability in Los Angeles

Forget Ice Cube. Based on the evidence provided by About Last Night, Ride Along should have partnered Kevin Hart up with Regina Hall. Where the rapper/actor spent the duration of that hit buddy cop comedy reacting to his co-star with barely concealed disdain, Hall, a veteran of the Scary Movie franchise along with other mid-level comedies, enters this rom-com ready to play. The result is a spirited back-and-forth of verbal volleys that both actors are clearly enjoying as much as the audience. Hollywood's been grooming Hart for some time now to be a big-screen comedy star on the level of Eddie Murphy, but this is the first time he's really been challenged to deliver an actual performance as opposed to acting out an extended stand-up routine and it's a direct result of Hall going head-to-head with him instead of letting him coast.

RoboCop: Fun’s Over, Boys

by Ethan Alter February 12, 2014 6:00 am
RoboCop: Fun’s Over, Boys

Looking back, Paul Verhoeven's RoboCop ranks as one of the most unlikely franchise-starters in Hollywood history. Operating without much studio oversight, the Dutch filmmaker produced a scabrous satire of the corporatization of Reagan-era America wrapped inside of an ultraviolent, hard-R rated action film. It's the sort of stunt that's really only designed to work once, but -- thanks to Peter Weller's square-jawed performance and that gleaming, instantly iconic Rob Bottin-designed metal suit -- RoboCop the character quickly became bigger than the film that birthed him. A pair of big-screen sequels followed, as well as four different TV shows (two live action and two animated), comic books, video games (including one where he battles the Terminator for some reason) and even a theme park ride. And once a character created to spoof big business became big business, you could kiss any lingering satiric impulses goodbye. The latter-day RoboCop vehicles mostly eschewed humor for mindless action and a forced solemnity that, frankly, was often plenty funny (unintentionally so) in its own right.

Oldboy: It’s Not Terrible, Guys!

by Ethan Alter November 27, 2013 6:00 am
Oldboy: It’s Not Terrible, Guys!

If somebody had to remake Oldboy, I'm glad it was Spike Lee. Arriving a full decade after Park Chan-wook's original film warped peoples' fragile little minds, setting off the South Korean New Wave in the process, this Americanized version is a surprisingly faithful re-do at least in terms of the general arc of the plot. Once again, a drunkard (Josh Brolin this time) wakes up from night of alcohol-fueled revelry to find himself locked in a hotel room, where he proceeds to spend the next twenty years of his life. When he's unexpectedly released one day, he embarks on a mission of vengeance that takes him to some dark, messed-up places that if you've seen the original you already know about and if you haven't, I'm not about to ruin it for you. Where the film establishes its own identity, however, is in its style; while Chan-wook's Oldboy constantly teeters on the edge of the absurd -- finally tipping over in the final act -- Lee rushes full-bore into Crazytown early on and the results are fun to watch, even when Oldboy 2.0 threatens to dissolve into a blood-red puddle of pure ridiculousness.

Indie Snapshot: Starbuck

by Ethan Alter March 22, 2013 11:47 am
Indie Snapshot: Starbuck

If it weren't already being remade as a Vince Vaughn star vehicle (look for it this fall under the new, more generic title, The Delivery Man), the French-Canadian comedy Starbuck could have easily been retrofitted into a TV sitcom. Just take a gander at the premise: in his youth, fortysomething slacker-with-a-heart-of-gold David Wozniak (Patrick Huard, one of French-speaking Canada's biggest comedy stars, which is akin to being the biggest stand-up act in Des Moines) made frequent and copious donations to his local sperm bank under the alias "Starbuck." Just as he's weighing whether or not to settle down his girlfriend, who is carrying their child, he's informed that his vintage seed was exceptionally popular amongst the bank's clientele and he's now the father of over 500 grown children, a significant chunk of whom now want to meet him. Not wanting to openly admit his parentage (both due to the humiliation factor and the fact that he owes money to some thugs), he pays one-on-one visits to some of his offspring and -- without revealing his true identity -- helps them out of various jams. It's like My Name is Earl crossed with Guys With Kids! Coming this fall to NBC.

Red Dawn: Why the Remake is So 2009

by Ethan Alter November 21, 2012 6:00 am
Red Dawn: Why the Remake is So 2009

If there was ever a good reason to remake the '80s chestnut Red Dawn, it would be to bring John Milius's teenage action movie kicking and screaming into the 21st century in a version that didn't resemble such a Cold War relic. And that seems to have been the motivating idea behind this new, updated Dawn that's finally opening in theaters a full three years after it wrapped production in 2009. (The movie fell victim to the bankruptcy of its original studio MGM -- the same plight that delayed the release of Joss Whedon's The Cabin in the Woods, which was made around the same time and received a belated theatrical release last April.) Funnily enough, in the relatively short amount of time, the new Red Dawn already seems as dated as its 1984 predecessor. Her are four ways that this largely pointless remake feels so 2009:

Sparkle: At Least It’s Better Than Glitter

by Angel Cohn August 17, 2012 5:58 am
Sparkle: At Least It’s Better Than Glitter

While this remake of the 1976 cult classic focuses on the titular Sparkle (Jordin Sparks) and her sister (Carmen Ejogo), it's hard to ignore the presence of Whitney Houston as the matriarch of the family, Emma. Her screentime is fairly limited, but given that this is her final movie, it makes her a lot harder to ignore. Unfortunately, this is far from her finest cinematic performance; she's very stilted in her delivery throughout, although the crowd that I saw the film with didn't seem to mind. Even her big gospel number wasn't mind-blowing -- just solid, but not chill-inducing. Still, it earned applause from the people in attendance. So for all you devoted Whitney fans out there, go, enjoy and just don't think too much about it... though you'd be better off watching The Bodyguard again. For everyone else? I'd say give this movie a pass, as Jordin Sparks's turn is not going to land her an Oscar, like fellow American Idol alum Jennifer Hudson managed to do with Dreamgirls.

Ten Things to Remember About the Total Recall Remake

As I write this, it's been roughly 24 hours since I walked out of the Total Recall remake and damned if I can remember a thing about it. Actually, my memory started to fail me before the movie was even over; after a decent first half-hour, the Len Wiseman-update of Paul Verhoeven's enjoyably silly 1990 original grew less and less interesting. By the final act, I was so bored that I could barely remember what movie I was watching; based on what was happening onscreen, it may as well have been called Generic Sci- Fi Action Movie Starring Colin Farrell instead of Total Recall.

The Three Stooges: Don’t Be a Wise Guy

by Rachel Stein April 13, 2012 6:00 am
The Three Stooges: Don’t Be a Wise Guy

There are so many questions we can ask about the very existence of a Three Stooges reboot in 2012. But rather than wax philosophical and for the umpteenth time make fun of the pointlessness of this film or analyze its quality in the context of the decades it took the Farrelly Brothers to make it, let's get right to it: It's not that bad. It's certainly not worth going out of your way for, unless, of course, you truly love the Stooges, know someone who has a deep affinity for them or have a curious child who is just dying to see it. And if you do find yourself with a hankering to see Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos), Larry (Sean Hayes) and Curly (Will Sasso) on a '90s kids-movie style adventure (complete with evil villains and a fight with a lion!), here are three solid reasons to indulge:

Footloose and The Thing: A Tale of Two Remakes

by Ethan Alter October 14, 2011 10:40 am
Footloose and The Thing: A Tale of Two Remakes

If nothing else, this weekend's dueling '80s remakes offer some instructive lessons in how to -- and how not to -- update a pair of widely liked films that still loom large in the pop culture imagination... at least for those folks old enough to remember the difference between a Goonie and a Gremlin. Craig Brewer's Footloose is a strikingly faithful adaptation of Herbert Ross's 1984 "rebel with a cause (and a groovy beat)" teen musical that rocketed Kevin Bacon to stardom. Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.'s The Thing is technically a prequel to, but really a loose remake of, John Carpenter's 1982 monster movie, which bombed in theaters at the time but has since become a genre touchstone. As is often the case with remakes, neither movie is likely to supplant the original in moviegoers' hearts. But only one truly deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as its predecessor. The other is destined to remain in obscurity, living out the rest of his post-theatrical days in the discount DVD bin at big box stores and the 2 AM timeslot on a random cable movie network.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Remakes (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Anyone over the age of 25 is going to experience some déjà vu when they head to their multiplex this weekend and see Footloose (Original Release Year: 1984) and The Thing (Original Release Year: 1982) emblazoned in big, bold letters on the marquee. No, they haven't accidentally entered a time warp back to the '80s (or even further back, since the '82 Thing was actually a remake of a 1951 picture) -- they're just part of the remake culture that seems to pervade contemporary Hollywood. In the current climate, no pre-existing movie is too good (or, in the case of, say, My Bloody Valentine, too bad) to be dusted off for another go-around. This weekend's double bill of dueling '80s remakes is just another example of what results when the past is routinely pillaged to create product for the present. It also inspired us to ruminate a little bit on some of the questions that the subject of remakes inspire, questions like...

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