Remakes are rarely a good idea. Remakes of classics are even less likely to be a good idea. They rarely improve on the original and more often, to be blunt, they suck. But up with it I’m willing to put if it means that, from time to time, we get a remake like this one, which takes everything that was good about the original and turns it around so it is relevant to the present.
A contemporary of both M*A*S*H and Patton, this gleefully anti-establishment World War II comedy manages to bridge both films, turning a lot of the clichés of earlier war movies on their heads while not totally disrespecting the genre. The American GIs in this film are still square-jawed and tough-as-nails, but they are also tired of war and bored out of their minds.
Jane Austen’s 1813 novel has almost been anointed as the “mother of all romantic comedies.” Certainly, its plot, in which the two protagonists disguise growing affection behind barbed language and outward contempt for each other, is now a well-trod path and was so even in Austen’s day. Lizzie (Keira Knightley) and Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) are very much spiritual descendents of Beatrice and Benedick in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
It also has to be one of the most adapted novels in cinema history, with eight film versions, including this one, and three television adaptations. Joe Wright’s 2005 film manages to do a masterful job of compressing the novel’s plot into a reasonable two-hour running time. The movie manages to do justice to the film’s characters, Austen’s language and major themes within the confines of a feature length film.
Oliver Stone‘s JFK is a movie as admirable in its technique as it is troubling in its agenda. Much like Birth of a Nation sought to rewrite the early history of the original Ku Klux Klan, JFK represents a concerted effort on Stone’s part to insert certifiable falsehoods into the historical record of the Kennedy assassination. He gets two basic facts correct. John F. Kennedy was indeed assassinated on November 22, 1963 and New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison did actually prosecute businessman Clay Shaw for his role in an alleged conspiracy. After that, the facts and Mr. Stone have a strained relationship at best. I sincerely hope that this movie will be as routinely dismissed by future generations as Birth of a Nation is today.
Anyone who pops in their DVD of Robert Altman‘s movie adaptation of Richard Hooker‘s novel expecting to see a two-hour version of the TV show is in for a rude shock. The long-running series starring Alan Alda is related to this movie only by title, character names and setting. Stylistically, they are very different animals altogether.
The CBS sitcom, for its groundbreaking subject matter, is still a traditional “workplace” comedy at heart, very much in the tradition of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The TV Frank Burns has far more in common with Ted Baxter than with the religious fanatic portrayed by Robert Duvall in the movie.
The movie version is a choatic, anarchic and hilarious celebration of insanity as an antidote for insanity. Continue reading →