Conan, the Cimmerian

“Barbarism is the natural state of mankind. Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.”

Like our President, I am a big fan of Conan the Barbarian. I don’t collect Savage Sword of Conan, however I am tempted. I was raised onthe movie incarnation by Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Milius, and I finally got around to reading the stories by Robert E. Howard- who managed to create Conan, Kull the Conqueror, Solomon Kane, Red Sonya, and an entire mythology out of the whole cloth by the age of 30. Howard was supremely talented storyteller, despite essentially living in his mom’s basement- he was a mama’s boy, and when she passed into a coma during her terminal run with tuberculosis, he killed himself. He did have a romance of a sort with a schoolteacher, chronicled in her memoir One Who Walked Alone, and the movie adapted from it, The Whole Wide World. Vincent D’Onofrio plays Bob in that, and I’ve tucked it in my Netflix Queue.

But he left us a legacy that influenced fantasy literature as much as Tolkien, even if he was more interested in commenting on the shackles of civilization than experimenting with language, myth cycles, and the battle between technology and nature. Whenever you see an image of a sword-wielding man with mighty “thews,” possible Howard’s favorite word, you are seeing the legacy of Conan. Magic was a Lovecraftian force, a devil’s bargain, that corrupted all who attempted to master it. Women were often damsels, but he also created characters like Valeria, the archetype for the unattainable battle mistress.

 

Sure, he was not beyond titillating his readers with scenes of women whipping each other, or my favorite, a savage king raking his bristly beard over Valeria’s breasts after he tears her shirt open:

Her shirt had been torn open in the struggle, and with cynical cruelty he rasped his thick beard across her bare breasts, bringing the blood to suffuse the fair skin, and fetching a cry of pain and outraged fury from her. Her convulsive resistance was useless; she was crushed down on the couch, disarmed and panting, her eyes blazing up at him like the eyes of a trapped tigress.

Steamy stuff. Makes me regret trimming my beard. I’ll have to test its raspiness on Firecracker and report back to you. So if you see me with black eyes, you know what happened).

The stories are iconic and still enjoyable 70 years later. Unlike much pulp and adventure fiction, they don’t feel dated- what was shocking then is still exciting now, and his cynicism suits the times. The movies seem quaint in comparison- they were considered gory, bloody and gratuitous when they came out, but compared to Howard’s stories they’re tame. Conan the Barbarian is the bloodier of the two, and based on a smattering of different stories. It takes Valeria from “Red Nails,” the black lotus (Stygian, the best) from there as well; the snake cult of Set is used in many stories, and Thulsa Doom is the name of a Kull villain, but based on Thoth Amon from “The Phoenix on the Sword.” His magic resembles that of “The People of the Black Circle,” and Conan’s raid on their airy castle is similar to his commando strike on Doom.

Conan the Destroyer is more a product of the ’80s than the perfect syzygy of Arnold’s rise to fame, John Milius’s obsessions with Conan, Nietzche, and Genghis Khan, and James Earl Jones going from Oscar-worthy performances in The Great White Hope to an infamous villain in Star Wars. Arnie seems goofy in the sequel; gone are the surfers from Milius’s Big Wednesday as Subotai and Valeria, replaced with comic relief like Grace Jones and Tracey Walter. At least Mako returns as the Wizard, and despite the dopey storyline, we at least get to see Conan battle with Wilt Chamberlain, and Andre the Giant in a Dagoth constume. We get the eye candy of Olivia d’Abo, but the film is strictly PG, a smarmy land that no Conan should be forced to tread, by Crom!

After years of development hell, it seems like we’ll be enduring a new Conan movie- but I am heartened by the choice of screenwriter, Howard McCain. He did a fine job with Outlander, taking a ridiculous concept- Vikings vs. Predator, essentially- and made a good movie out of it. On the other hand, putting it in the hands of bland-o-tron hack Brett Ratner assures that like Red Dragon, we’ll probably get an inferior product held together by the actors. With the proper choice of Cimmerian, we could have a good movie; Let’s hope they just throw us in the middle, like Howard would have- no need to rehash his origin, for Conan never really had one- he walked out of the hills of Cimmeria where barbarian tribes fought, and was a tiger among the livestock of civilized humanity. Give us bloody swordplay, give us scantily clad sorceresses, fearsome magic too terrible to contemplate. And never let Conan be the butt of any jokes. I hope there’s room for Arnie to make a cameo as an older king- perhaps a role similar to Max Von Sydow’s in the first movie- but it would be fine if he kept governating.

Who’s my choice of Conan? Because it has to be a big name, I’d say the obvious choice is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who has both muscles and charisma. Give him the right haircut and make him forgo that easy smile of his for some blue contacts and a smoldering stare. That would give me hope. As for Robert E. Howard, tragedy made Conan and his other characters spring forth from his imagination- he wrote to pay the bills when his mother got sick, and his father’s business floundered during the Depression. At one time he was making $6,000 a year at 1 1/2 cents a word. Talk about prolific. Someday I’d like to visit the Robert E. Howard museum in Cross Plains, Texas, and see the tiny room he tapped away at his typewriter in.

Evilspeak

Data incomplete… Human blood required. Thus spake the computer.
Computers and Satan. Two tastes that go great together! Evilspeak was one of my favorite horror movies as a young teen. It contained all the things a growing boy needed in the ’80s- computers, boobies, and Satan. This computerized Carrie stars Clint Howard as the nerdy Coopersmith, who is so tormented by his classmates at the military academy that when he finds spooky books in Latin in the chapel basement, he becomes obsessed with performing a black mass to summon the devil.
Yep, Satanism was everywhere back then. Kids caught it from the heavy metal or the Dungeons and the Dragons, and it made them spray-paint pentagrams under highway overpasses, and sometimes stick shotguns in their mouths. Evilspeak‘s story begins hundreds of years ago in Spain, where we see Father Esteban (Richard Moll, Bull from “Night Court”) being exiled from the church for heresy when they catch him performing a human sacrifice.
How he got to America, no one knows, but centuries later Stanley Coopersmith, the shittiest guy on the soccer team, finds his book in the cellar of the chapel he’s forced to clean. There’s a fantastic cut when he cuts the topless woman’s head off with a jewelled sword, and we see her head flying off into the ocean… and then, a soccer ball flies past Stanley. No one at school likes him, who they cleverly call “Cooperdick.” Even the soccer coach says he’s forced to play him, but if something “happens” to him, so he can’t play, then everything’s cool.
Poor Stanley. He’s a welfare case that the school has only accepted because they need the money, and the administrators remind him every chance they get. He has one friend- the token black kid named Kowalski- who stands up for him, but he spends most of his time in the cellar typing away on a biege Apple ][e, asking the computer to translate the Latin from Esteban’s book. I loved computers in the movies back then- they could do everything.
Finding a good Latin-English dictionary online is difficult even nowadays. But this one even knew how to perform a Satanic black mass! It tells him he needs blood, desecrated host, and corrupted holy water! I couldn’t even get my Atari 800XL to GOTO 10 half the time. We had Apple ][e’s at school, though, and you bet your ass I tried asking it how to perform a black mass after I saw this movie. It didn’t work. So I played Ring Quest instead.

The only other guy who treats Stanley with a scintilla of human compassion is the cook, played by wrestler Lenny “Luca Brasi” Montana. He has a bushel of puppies, and gives Stanley the runt of the litter, which he nurtures in the basement. When “Sarge,” the drunken bum who is for some reason given free range of the campus finds out that Coopersmith has taken over the chapel cellar as his little nerd-cave, he gets furious. He wants to twist the puppy’s head off. Luckily the Apple, possessed by Evil Father Esteban, helps his new acolyte by breaking his neck via some cheesy computer graphics:

Colonel Kincaid (Charles Tyner, the warmonger Uncle Victor from Harold & Maude), the school leader, loves to bring Coopersmith into his office just to torment him, while his sexy secretary Ms. Friedemeyer sits around and… looks sexy. She’s got the big glasses, short skirt and plunging neckline thing going on. Stanley has the book with him, and hides it in the trash can, where she finds it- and tries to pry off its pretty pentacle with her nail file. The evil spirit of Esteban must reside within, for the pigs that they raise on the Academy start going wild. Later, they get their vengeance on her in the bathtub.

By then the jocks have pushed Coopersmith too far. They’ve killed his puppy. They pull his pants down in front of pot-smoking girls right before the Colonel walks over, so he can expel him for moral turpitude. Now that Stanley has nothing left to live for, he decides to raid the chapel for the chalice, and one of the officers follows him down, to his doom. Now that Esteban’s Apple ][ has the final requirement of Human Blood, Coopersmith’s wishes are fulfilled- Esteban returns and possesses him, so he can wreak- and scream for– vengeance on his enemies.

Unlucky for the padre, the Reverend is giving a speech upstairs, and when he sees blood dripping from Jesus’s wounds on the crucifix, it ain’t no miracle. The nails fly out and spike him in the head! The altar explodes, and Coopersmith flies forth, holding Esteban’s sword and a haircut somewhere between Eraserhead and Clint Howard’s future role as “Rughead” from the evil car movie, The Wraith.

The pigs break out and storm through the complex, gnawing faces left and right. One of the bullies is McDorfus from Joy Sticks, and it’s funny to see him eaten by pigs. Satan loves irony. Who the pigs don’t get, Coopersmith beheads with his cool new sword. Satan triumphs! Yay, Satan!

Wait a minute! Satan can’t win, can he? Better tack on a lame-ass epitaph about how Stanley was admitted to a mental institution for catatonia, so kids won’t go sacrificing people. And one more after that, telling us that he will return!

Evilspeak is like no other movie of its kind- combining ’80s-era computer geekery with Satanic horror. Name another movie with a title card reading the ominous words starring Clint Howard. I’ve admired Clint since I saw him as Eaglebauer in Rock ‘n Rock High School, but nowadays he only seems to turn up as a bit part in his brother Opie’s movies. He’s quite the prolific character actor, and his nerds of the ’80s are unforgettable. Evilspeak is definitely classic ’80s trash, and worth your time if you’re in a nostalgic mood for silly horror, or want to remember when we thought our Apple ][e’s were magix boxes that could do anything, if we could only program it (and give it human blood).

Beers Required to Enjoy: 2
Could it be remade today? Fear.com, Pulse… sure why not?
Quotability Rating: zip
Cheese Factor: devilishly hot pepper jack
High Points: the Satanic Apple ][
Low Point: weird boobies
Gratuitous Boobies: the devil gave us boobies, but with a catch!

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=plyoto-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=B0001ZX0D8&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

Fanboys

We all know one. You might even be one. The fanboy: the person who doesn’t just like something, but goes that extra parsec and lives it. We’ve all seen the Star Wars fans who waited in line for days to catch the midnight premieres, dressed in costumes, living in tents. This is a story about guys even crazier than that, who want to go to George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch and steal the print, so their dying buddy can see it before he goes to a galaxy far, far away. Whether you are a fanboy, know one, or just like making fun of them, Fanboys is pretty entertaining just as a buddy road trip movie- the nerd stuff is just gravy.
The saga begins in ’98, a few months before the new Star Wars movie, The Phantom Menace, is to be released. Three nerd buddies show up at a Halloween party dressed as Darth Vader and two stormtroopers, like they do every year. When you spend that kind of time and money on a costume, you need to get some mileage out of it. They are Hutch (Dan Fogler, Balls of Fury) who has the Shag Van and lives in his mom’s garage- I mean Carriage House; Windows who runs the town comic book shop (Jay Baruchel, who seems to have parlayed his ability to mimic Chewbacca in Knocked Up into this bigger role), and Linus, who’s got terminal cancer, but hasn’t lost his hair yet. They’re having fun until Linus sees Eric- his old high school buddy who was gonna draw comic books with him until reality dragged him away to Dad’s car dealership.
Eric misses his pals, and seeing them again makes him dread the daily drudgery and his douchey older brother at the dealership even more than usual. So when he hears of Hutch and Windows’ idiotic plan to raid Skywalker Ranch and snag a workprint of the new Star Wars film so Linus can see it before he dies, Eric is lured to the dark side. Windows is cybering with a “girl” in a chatroom who has a contact inside the ranch, so they hatch a plan to sneak in and grab the film. Remember this is ’98, he’s constantly lugging an old Toughbook and looking for phone jacks.

Once they hit the road the laughs are pretty solid, whether it’s Hutch’s Millennium Falconesque ’70s shag-van, their continual war on Trekkies, or the acerbic comments of Zoe (Kristen Bell, “Gossip Girl,” Spartan) the clerk at Windows’ comic book store. She’s the spunky Leia of the film, gone brunette and feisty. Together the gang has solid comic energy between her sharp tongue, Hutch’s perversity, Windows exasperated haplessness, and Eric and Linus as the straight men. Their adventures lead them to a hilarious clash with Jabba the Hutt (Harry Knowles, impersonated perfectly by Ethan Suplee of “My Name is Earl”), a hive of scum and villainy led by Danny Trejo, and a band of Trekkies led by Seth Rogen in one of his more self-effacing roles.
They use their cameos wisely, and don’t lay on the in-jokes too thick- there’s plenty to laugh at if you’re only peripherally aware of Star Wars. I saw it after a foray into NYC Comicon, and the theater was only a few blocks away, so the audience was full of folks who saw a lot of themselves up on the screen. And we all loved it. Just don’t go in expecting a classic- this is somewhere in the big spread between Detroit Rock City and Role Models, and the humor is similar to both. If you’ve been following the sordid tale of the movie’s attempts at re-cutting by the Weinsteins, be assured that this is no Lucas puff piece, and while we never get to see what the fanboys think of The Phantom Menace, they do ponder, “What if it sucks?” But they recall the new hope and anticipation we all had for it, and made a good comedy about it.

3.5 neckbeards out of 5

NYC Comicon – Venture Bros. panel

I haven’t been to a Comic con before, but there was a Venture Bros. panel, so I decided to go with Milky and Darth Dross this weekend. While I am still recovering from geek overload, I do not regret it. We began Tick Tock Diner, home of the English Breakfast Burger, Eggs Arepas, and other fine fare. We knew we were close, because a fat Jedi waddled past the window. At the Javits Center, the line to the dealer floor was enormous, but they kept it moving quickly. Soon enough we were in the dealer’s room, with all their wonderful toys.

Things got off to the wrong foot when I saw my old high school pal C.C. Banana while I was on the escalator. I’d seen his website, but I was not prepared for my old friend to be dressed as a giant fruit. We didn’t have a chance to talk, or for me to see his act. Then again, with the amount of grown men dressed as Inuyasha, I shouldn’t single him out. There were plenty of good costumers there, from the 501st Legion- Star Wars costumers- to a guy on stilts as an actual-size Hulk. And of course, plenty of Venture Bros. fans.

http://wmg.photobucket.com/pbwidget.swf?pbwurl=http://wmg.photobucket.com/albums/v360/stripey357/NYC%20Comicon%202009/c812ab6a.pbw

I only fanboyed over a few people. Lou Ferrigno was there signing photos, and the Hulk was my childhood idol, as those who know me when I’m angry can attest. It was $30 for a photo with him, so I opted for an autographed one of the Hulk instead. I snagged a photo of him anyway. He was friendly enough, but it’s got to suck making money this way, so I don’t hold it against him.
While I’m more of a fan of the Conan movies and books than the comics, when I saw Will Conrad was there selling sketches, I got one of the Cimmerian. Milky got a headshot of Leonardo the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle from the artists there, too. I also met animator Bill Plympton, one of my favorite animators. His sick sense of humor still cracks me up. He was showing off his newest, Idiots and Angels.
Of course Watchmen was a big thing- Dave Gibbons the artist from the original comic was there- but I was surprised there wasn’t more. No actors promoting it, or anything like that. I guess NYC ain’t as big as the San Diego one yet. Thankfully there weren’t any Dr. Manhattans going around in blue body paint, either. Here’s Milky’s Rorschach costume and a guy dressed as the Comedian.
The panel was very crowded- I had no idea Venture Bros. was this popular! Doc Hammer was there in his multicolor-haired and scrawny-limbed glory (hey, he spent like 5 minutes talking about how a men’s size small fits him like a circus tent, so don’t blame me for commenting on his gangliness). They showed some clips from the upcoming Season 3 DVD and Blu-Ray, the first HD release. The Blu-Ray will come with the soundtrack CD included; DVD set buyers will have to get it separately. The deleted scenes were pretty funny, and I’m sure I’ll be getting the set soon. I wonder how many will convert to Hi-Def to see Dr. Girlfriend in her Mrs. The Monarch outfit.
The panel was good fun- Doc, Jackson Publick, and Michael Sinterniklaas (voice of Dean, among others) answered many questions from fans who are a hell of a lot more obsessive than I’ll ever be. We didn’t learn much about Season 4, as expected. They repeated that #24 was dead so many times that I have an inkling he’ll be returning somehow. You can’t break up a good team like that. One of the more amusing questions was about how they’d cast a live-action movie of the show, and it seems they are big fans of Lost, since Hurley would be #21. And all the fans who lust after Dr. Girlfriend, the voluptuous villainess voiced by Doc Hammer with a throatful of gravel, got taken to task when a guy asked Doc if “he’d do her,” because of her voice. Doc replied, “would you have sex with me if I had a sexy girl voice?”
They did autographs afterward but I didn’t bring anything, and the line was limited to 1 hour- and moved glacially slow. So we went to see Fanboys instead. I’ll post a full review tomorrow, but I loved it. It was hilarious, somewhere between Detroit Rock City and Role Models. Certainly funnier for Star Wars nerds, but even Firecracker liked it. If you’re nerdy at all, you ought to go see it so it’ll get a wider release.
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=plyoto-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=B001NOMO2Y&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrhttp://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=plyoto-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=B001NOMO38&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

The Last Legion

Happy birthday Firecracker… here’s some hot Colin Firth for ya. And swashbucklin’ babes for me.
This sword and sandal epic released in the shadow of 300 took a serious beating from the critics and those who saw it in theaters. I decided to give it a try anyway when it was on cable in HD, thinking that like other berated B-level action films such as Eragon and Doomsday it might serve as good viewing from the comfort of my couch, rather than taking $12 out of my pocket.
The story echoes The 13th Warrior, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and better movies like Gladiator and Excalibur. It begins in Rome, 460 A.D., when the city’s might has fallen and it must deal with Goths to the north and Constantinople, the new seat of the empire. Young Romulus is the last of the line and is about to be crowned Caesar, when the Goths break treaty and invade. Aurelius (Colin Firth) is the young boy’s commander of the guard, and when the boy and his greybearded teacher Ambrosinus are exiled to Capri, he must rescue them. Luckily he still has a few good men and an ambassador from Constantinople with a kick-ass lady warrior bodyguard to help.
Ambrosinus is played by Ben Kingsley in his best impression of what he’d have done if Ian McKellen was too busy to play Gandalf, with parlor tricks, platitudes and a crooked staff for ass-whuppin’ when all else fails. It was touch keeping the supernatural ambiguous. The Goths are led by the conqueror Odoacer with his over-ambitious and bloodthirsty henchman Wulfila, a scenery-chewing villain sent to guard the boy. Colin Firth is decent as the Roman commander- he may be Mr. Darcy, but he’s still convincing as a warrior a bit long in the tooth, much like the empire he represents. If anything rings untrue, it’s his dispassion when faced with swordswoman Mira, played by Bollywood hottie Aishwarya Rai.


After an exciting rescue from the island fortress, with plenty of weaponry for us history and RPG nerds like proper gladiuses, falcatas, huge fuck-off Viking axes, a spring-bladed push dagger that Aishwarya must have brought from India, foot-pulled crossbows for launching grappling spikes, and siege engines I think were meant to be scorpions, or multiple-firing crossbows. Our heroes are a motley band- the young guy, the big black guy (Nonso Anonzie from Atonement, RockNRolla), the woman warrior, the old man, and the kid. Unfortunately it loses steam shortly after the rescue, when the backstory emerges.
The young Caesar, egged on by Ambrosinus, searches the fortress of his exile and finds a room enshrining a bejewelled sword, inscribed with prophecies. And if we’re unsure as to what it is, all mystery is removed when he chops a bed in half with it. This is an Excalibur story, and for that to work they must travel to Britannia. They do so with a few Lord of the Rings-inspired walks over mountain passes, with Wulfila not far behind. In Britain they hope to find the legendary Ninth Legion, believed lost. Of course they find them, now farmers, and the land is under siege by another tyrant named Vortgyn, whom they must fight. He wears a gold mask like Mordred in Excalibur, and tried to the sword from Ambrosinus decades ago, and wants it back. Confusing? Yes.

Directed by a veteran of the Hercules and Xena series, it certainly lacks that certain finish necessary for the big screen, but on TV it looks like a great made for TV movie. The fight choreography looks great for fifteen years ago, but we’ve seen it so many times before. It’s obviously not the director’s forte, but he manages to keep the movie flowing at a good pace and it never takes itself too seriously. The score is a little too bombastic at times, and Kingsley’s Gandalfesque “wizard” does spout wisdom that isn’t as wise as he thinks it is. The battle scenes have been criticized but they were decent- I really liked how they made Ambrosinus look like a wizard hurling fireballs, when he was just standing on the parapet in front of the catapults. It was a neat trick to pull on the invading Goths.

My biggest complaint is that it was cut to be PG-13 for U.S. audiences, and painfully obvious about it. Every time a spear hits someone, we cut away, and then see their death scene. In one of my favorite fights, Wulfila gets a scar from Aurelius using his own axe on him, but we cut away. A leader cuts off a disobedient soldier’s finger, and in the uncut version Ambrosinus’s pet crow makes a snack of it. But all that is cut. I’m tempted to throw it in my Netflix queue and see if the deleted scenes are available. The other failing is the CG- when used, it is used badly. The fireballs look fake, and what should be a spectacle at the end looks like a videogame cutscene. But this is not bad viewing if you want a light adventure movie. It’s a cute origin story for King Arthur’s Dad Uther Pendragon, and fun to watch.

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Star Wars Trilogy Retold

… by someone who’s never seen it.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=2809991&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1
Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn’t seen it) from Joe Nicolosi on Vimeo

Actually quite funny, and good to remind us nerds that not everyone cares about Star Wars. I pity them.

Remakes – Same as it ever was, or worse?

What, you don’t remember this scene?

This is part of the Large Association of Movie Blogs’ monthly blogathon on remakes.

While it is popular to slam on the current flood of Hollywood remakes, it is not a new thing. The versions of The Maltese Falcon, Ben-Hur and The Wizard of Oz we know as classics are all remakes. Sometimes a good story needs to be told more than once, and the first time isn’t always the best. Lately remakes have concentrated on hits, or beloved cult classics- which is where the difference comes in. Some classic remakes work- like Scarface, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (not the Nicole Kidman one, doofus- the Sutherland one) and Ocean’s Eleven– but even some of the best attempts only reach mediocrity, such as Peter Jackson’s indulgent and overlong King Kong– which is still much better than soulless money-grubbing crap like Death Race.

Nowadays remakes are seen as a cash cow to get people into theaters by name recognition, and to get a script that is a “sure thing” for enough box office to cover expenses, or at least be profitable as a write-off. But not all new remakes are shit. I really enjoyed the remake of Dawn of the Dead, even though it dropped George Romero’s social commentary about consumerism and societal malaise for a more straightforward horror flick. While “speed zombies” are kind of old now, it was refreshing and different at the time, even though it had already been done in 28 Days Later.

The real test will be Werner Herzog’s remake of Abel Ferrara’s masterpiece Bad Lieutenant, with Nicholas Cage in the Harvey Keitel role. Now, I know Cage can act- he just chooses not to. If you think he can’t act, see Moonstruck, Peggy Sue Got Married, 8mm, Adaptation, Birdy, Red Rock West, Wild at Heart, Raising Arizona, Bringing out the Dead, Matchstick Men, Leaving Las Vegas or Lord of War. Yes, it’s a lot easier to remember Ghost Rider, National Treasure, The Wicker Man, Gone in 60 Seconds, and Next, but with Herzog directing him, maybe he’ll point a gun at him- as he as rumored to do to Klaus Kinski on the set of Aguirre, the Wrath of God– and make him fucking act. Terry Gilliam got Bruce Willis to drop his action-hero persona for 12 Monkeys, so anything is possible. Sometimes directors remake their own movies- Michael Haneke remade his masterpiece Funny Games for American audiences, with Tim Roth and Naomi Watts; it’s shot for shot, but still felt less powerful. The subtitles actually made the original more gripping for me. I had to pay complete attention, and since I didn’t know the actors I never thought, “hmm, that’s some good acting, Michael Pitt.”

And apparently Herzog’s remake it is being played as a reimagined prequel, “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.” The title sounds like a serial novel, like the 150+ books in The Destroyer series (best known as the books the Remo Williams movie came from). Now I could get down with that, if the Lieutenant moved from city to city, masturbating in front of underage drivers and snorting huge lines of cocaine poured on the highways. As much as I like Herzog, I wonder if this will be as useless as Gus Van Sant’s remake of Psycho. Speaking of which, IMDb shows that The Birds will be remade in 2011, I believe Michael Bay is producing. Which means:
1. It will be called Birds, since “the” is so lame.
2. It will have an environmental cause, instead of being a mystery.
3. At some point, kids will be watching Happy Feet and the token funny black guy will turn it off. Sorry, I just watched Transformers.
4. The only actor over 30 will be Jon Voight as the grizzled old guy who’s seen this before.
5. When the birds attack the school playground, the hero will drive them off with a makeshift flamethrower, and make some sort of fried chicken joke.
6. Some young woman will solve the crisis and the birds will be friendly again, instead of the creepy, ambiguous ending the original has. And then maybe the squirrels will start attacking people, as a result of global warming affecting the acorn harvest.

The majority of remakes coming out now are horror movies, and the inherent problem is the love of CG. Let’s face it, fake CG blood is just stupid. Why do they use it? So they can remove some to appease the ratings board? It never looks real to me, and ruined a lot of The Devil’s Rejects for me. The remake of The Hills Have Eyes wasn’t bad, but it seems every horror movie of the late ’70s and ’80s that anyone might remember is being remade. Prom Night, which was nothing but a bad ripoff of Carrie; Rob Zombie remade Halloween, which I’ve yet to waste time watching. My Bloody Valentine 3-D is about to hit theaters, and a remake of Friday the 13th is in the works. What they can never recapture is the gritty, cheap feel the old movies had. Eli Roth gets it- his hilarious homage to ’70s horror Cabin Fever had the perfect feel, and so did Hostel– but most remakes look way too polished. Worse yet, they’ll try to make it “look ’70s” by giving people cars and haircuts.

At their worst, the remake is when Hollywood artifice lets it slip show- they just want a name to get enough 15 year olds into the seats for a few weekends to make enough money to pay the important people. Then with foreign and DVD sales, it might turn a profit later, and people looking for the original might buy it by mistake. I think sometimes we get lucky and a director who can wrest some control from producers gets the helm, or champions the project, and that’s when we get something decent. But the fact is they’re here to stay, and getting aggravated over it is nothing new. I think half of internet discussion on movies involves Nerd Remake Rage. Let’s put it to rest and judge them individually, because not all remakes are bad.