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Monday, May 04, 2009

Six Remakes Better Than Their Originals

So, I just found out that Robert Rodriguez is remaking Barbarella with Rosario Dawson in the lead. I don't know how I feel about that. On one hand, I say "why?" The original, starring Jane Fonda, was so bizarre and wonderful, yet still pretty disjointed and messy as a film. Remaking it could wring out everything that was great about the original while still being a sloppy mess. Or it could be fine. But will I want to watch it instead of watching the original? This got me to thinking: what remakes would I rather watch than their original source films? Here's a short list.

Ocean's Eleven
This is an obvious choice. Steven Soderbergh's remake of the 1960 Rat Pack movie succeeds because it took an awesome, star-packed heist story and made it even more star-packed, while updating it for today. It doesn't copy the original, it improves upon it, and manages to be very entertaining as a result.

The Thing
John Carpenter's remake of Howard Hawkes' The Thing from Another World makes the most of the greatest special effects that 1982 had to offer.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Who would have thought you could do better than Marlon Brando and David Niven? Frank Oz's remake of Ralph Levy's 1964 comedy Bedtime Story is great because it does better than Brando and Niven by giving us Steve Martin and Michael Caine in one of their most hilarious outings ever as a couple of Riviera con men.

Little Shop of Horrors
Okay, this kind of doesn't count because it was based on a stage musical that was based on the original 1960 Roger Corman film. But let's face it--never have we seen such a whimsical and quirky remake brought to the screen.

Ben Hur
Ben Hur has actually been remade three times, in 1925, 1959 and in 2003 as an animated film. The remake I'm referring to in this case in the 1959 film starring Charlton Heston. What a spectacular period piece!

The Birdcage
Director Mike Nichols reminds us that he can do comedy with this 1996 remake of La Cage aux Folles, a 1978 French by Jean Poiret and Francis Veber. I saw it when it first came out and it still makes me laugh.

The Good Thief
This 2002 film starring Nick Nolte is a remake of the 1955 French film Bob le flambeur. It is atmospheric, intense and insanely well acted (but then, with Nolte, everything is insane).