By: Reaper Rick
Welcome to the Summer edition of Reaper Rick’s Movie Reviews. This issue I am going to review an old Johnny Depp flick, plus several recent remakes of earlier films. In the past, remakes were often half-hearted attempts by studios to make-over a blockbuster film, in the hopes of making even more money by using the efforts of someone else. These attempts were usually doomed to failure. However, with today’s better special effects, new actors and bigger budgets, remakes are oft times even better than the original movies. Let’s see how some of them did recently.
A few of you out there may actually remember the 1969 version of “True Grit” which starred John Wayne as U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn. Wayne was a consummate actor of the 1940’s through the 1960’s, and no one could touch him as a dyed-in-the-wool, red-blooded American hero in his movies (his political views notwithstanding). His role as Rooster Cogburn was no exception. However, that was over forty years ago, and film audiences have changed during that time period, not to mention a couple of different generations have been to the movies since then. Audiences want and expect more from their movies today than they did forty years ago.
The 2010 remake of “True Grit” stayed ‘true’ to the original version, but it was a much better picture, and starred Jeff Bridges, Mark Damon and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld as the teenage girl who hires Cogburn to track down the outlaw that killed her father. And I must admit that Mr. Bridges ‘owned’ this role. While Wayne was a loveable drunk in his version of “True Grit,” Bridges played the role as a more realistic cowboy, slash drunk, slash U.S. Marshall, who more often than not would rather bring in a dead outlaw than a live one.
Mark Damon plays a Texas Ranger, also on the trail of the same bad guy who killed the girl’s father, and for a time they team up to search for him as they travel into dangerous Indian Territory. Differences of opinion cause them to split up, however, and they go their separate ways.
This version of the movie is a more realistic view of the old west. People are frequently killed (usually bad guys), and oft times brutally (but they deserved it, after all), and is a great film if you like Westerns. I did grow a little tired of Damon’s accent, but that was a mere trifle. As a bona fide cowboy-type movie and for great acting, I give “True Grit” Four Howls of Pleasure , and recommend this movie if you have yet to see it.
The 2010 version of “The Crazies” was a remake of George Romero’s 1973 effort of the same name. Oddly enough, neither of these movies featured zombies, although in the end it was hard to tell the difference. Timothy Olyphant starred in this remake as the Sherriff of a small town in Iowa. When a military plane which carries a deadly toxin crashes in a bog outside of town, the toxin leaks into the drinking water, and slowly most of the townspeople turn into maniac killers. They don’t eat you; they are just really mad and kill everything that moves.
A few of the people are somehow immune to this poison (the Sherriff and his pregnant wife among them), and they at first try to figure out what is happening, but when the military quarantines their town and rounds up everyone—sick or not—it makes things more difficult for Olyphant. And when he learns that there is no cure or antitoxin for the victims and the military is simply trying to eliminate all evidence of the outbreak, the situation turns even more deadly.
This was not a great film, but it wasn’t terrible, either. The action starts quickly, there are lots of suspenseful moments, quite a bit of gratuitous gore, and it has an interesting and somewhat surprise ending. This is just another example of why you should never drink tap water. For a fair amount of tension and fun, “The Crazies” is a good weekend rental and a nice popcorn flick. I give this remake Two and a Half Howls of Pleasure .
“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” was technically not a ‘movie’ remake, although Disney did include a short animated version of this story in their film, “Fantasia.” Initially, I was concerned that the guys at Disney might over-make this movie, and thus turn it into a kid’s flick like “Herbie Does Magic’ or something equally unpalatable. I was pleasantly surprised to find that, aside from a few questionable areas, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” was in fact a fun, and a funny movie.
Nicolas Cage stars as a centuries-old magician who himself apprenticed under perhaps the most famous magician of all time—Merlin. Cage has spent the past thousand years or so seeking Merlin’s successor, who turns out to be Jay Baruchel, a nerdy enough kid that grows into a nerdy young man with a passion for physics. In order for Jay to become Merlin’s successor (not to mention that he must help Cage save the world from a group of Bad magicians), he must learn the art from Cage as his apprentice.
Even though it does have some serious moments, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is a comedy, and at times is ‘laugh out loud’ funny. Alfred Molina plays another of Merlin’s apprentices who chose the ‘Dark’ side of Magic and has been locked away for years in a nesting doll and, when he escapes, attempts to gather other dark magicians to help him destroy Cage and Merlin’s new successor.
This is a good, fun movie, with lots of great special effects (the dragon scenes are especially well done), and I was pleased that they included in this movie the scene from “Fantasia” where Mickey magicks the mops and brooms to help him clean up, but they managed to make it a comedy scene in this flick. Overall, for great acting and really nice effects, I give “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” Three and a Half Howls of Pleasure .
> Back in 1990, baby-faced Johnny Depp was not a well-known movie actor, but John Waters decided to star him in his first big budget flick, “Cry Baby.” This movie also starred Amy Locane, Iggy Pop, Ricki Lake, and Traci Lords among other famous and infamous people. It takes place during the 1950’s and Depp is the leader of The Drapes, a gang of teens also known as Greasers during the 50’s. This was writer and director John Waters first serious musical comedy (he went on to bring “Hairspary” to the big screen and then to the Broadway Stage).
Depp falls in love with a ‘good’ girl, who doesn’t want to be good anymore, and goes against her mother’s wishes to date Depp, who is considered a delinquent, at best. There is a lot of singing and dancing in this movie, but it is all 1950’s music, so is entertaining, even if the story line is a bit old fashioned.
A fun rental, it might even be considered a good ‘date’ movie by some, and I give “Cry Baby” Three Howls of Pleasure .
And that will do it for me this issue. I hope to see you next time…