What Makes A Good Remake?

Written by Gillian Finklea

Like many movie purists, I used to despise the dreaded remake. As a believer in originality, I held out hope that we could do more than simply repeat the past. More than anything, it just seems like a waste to pay money to watch the exact same things that have already entertained me years before.

But now, I have learned to accept, and even enjoy movie remakes. Occasionally you get a delightful spin on a property you were never truly familiar with – such as ’21 Jump Street’ – or a modern twist on an old story like ‘You’ve Got Mail’. I’ve learned that remakes can be a welcome event or an unmitigated disaster, and now I’m able to look for signs as to how successful a remake is going to be.

21 JUMP STREET

Let’s use ’21 Jump Street’ as an example. The trailer for this movie was funny, light, and utilised two well-known actors. Compared to the trailer for the TV show, which takes itself very serious despite the outrageous plot, it seems like the two properties are barley related. The revitalised franchise doesn’t rely on similar plot lines or character relationships as foundations for the movie, instead it takes the general idea of undercover cops in high school and spins it out into a whole new world. We have one great cameo from the original television show, and then we don’t really think of it ever again. It is a remake that created its own universe and it’s certainly one worth exploring.

Psycho

Now let’s look at the opposite end of the remake spectrum — Gus Van Sant’s almost shot-for-shot remake of the classic Hitchcock masterpiece ‘Psycho’. For the first 20 seconds, the trailer makes it seem like you are going to get a movie from Norman Bates’ perspective which, while that may not be everyone’s cup of tea, would at least be an interesting take. But then the trailer starts showing very familiar and famous scenes – Marion in the shower and Arbogast running on the stairs. But what else are we to expect? This is a very specific movie with a very specific twist. We get excited to see those famous shots in the trailer because we briefly think that maybe this would be a chance to see more of the the psychological turmoil and expand the horror universe. However, when the movie came out it was literally the exact same as the film which came 40 years prior. The best parts were shown in the trailer and those parts were obviously better in the original.

junglebook

In order for a remake to work, it needs to be updated with its own sense of self and if possible, be better than the original. The trailer for the new ‘The Jungle Book’ movie appears to have its own ideas and themes, at least in the fact that it’s not animated and seems to take itself more serious than the Disney classic. It doesn’t completely rely on familiar songs and has an interesting enough cast that I think it may be a worthwhile remake.

ghostbusters2016

The new ‘Ghostbusters’ trailer however, has left me a little suspicious. Now, I have been a champion of the ‘Ghostbuster’ remake because I don’t think the original is some kind of Holy Grail never to be altered, and I trust Paul Feig with most things relating to comedy. However, that trailer was way too close to 1998 ‘Psycho’ territory. In the trailer there’s a ghost in the library, a funky car and even Slimer; all of which we’ve seen before. And while the actresses seem to have developed fun and interesting characters, the overall feeling is too similar to the original movie and that’s a problem. Remakes that don’t forge their own path are doomed to make viewers wonder why there needs to be a remake at all.

So when you see a trailer for a remake and get an instant rush of nostalgia, take a pause. If the trailer just conjures up reminders of the previous movie or lifts from scenes beat-by-beat, you are probably destined for a disappointing trip down memory lane.

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Dave Vescio

Dave Vescio is a criminal turned actor who, since leaving prison, has gone on to work alongside the likes of Eddie Redmayne, Chloe Grace Moretz and Kate Beckinsale. Dave has mastered the art of playing the villain, but he’s actually a really nice guy, and here’s the proof.

Interview by Jakob Lewis Barnes
Q. You’ve had quite the journey into the world of acting. At what moment did you realize that performing was the way to go?
A. I was always taught to follow my heart, no matter what.  And I’ve had the privilege to work with some of the best people on this planet, or at least be mentored by them. From my childhood, during my time in the infantry and in prison, learning culinary arts and TV photojournalism, to where I am today, and these people were the best of the best at what they did. They taught me that you’ll know when you love your job because you’ll want to do it every single day of your life, and if by chance you can’t do it, you’ll be depressed as hell.  And let me tell you, it does feel like hell when you can’t do it. So, that’s when I knew that acting was my one true love, and I knew that the very first day I walked into my first acting class.
Q. Is there times when you find that your experiences as a criminal have actually benefited your acting career?
A. For sure! First off, I specialise at playing movie villains, so I can always bring real life experiences into each and every single one of my roles, either from my own personal crimes or by having the privilege of being caged up with these kinds of twisted villains at Fort Leavenworth Maximum Prison. I have actually met a lot of criminals since then too, and I’m always researching them in their environments as well. It’s my job to bring the hard truths to the world, that’s what professional art actually is. So that’s what I do, or try to do, with every one of my antagonistic roles. Plus, I get to release my skeletons and confront them, because the truth will definitely set you free, it always has, and it always will. 
Q. You’ve been involved in projects with some huge names, including Chloe Grace Moretz and Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne, how did you find working alongside these actors?
A. I LOVE working with the best of the best! It’s the best way to truly learn how to be a better actor. And every single one of my directors has made me a better actor as well. I have been very, very privileged to work along side Oscar winners, Golden Globe winners, Primetime Emmy winners; there’s been a lot of them so far!
Q. Which actors inspire you the most? And who would you love to work with in the future?
A. Since I’m a villain actor, I am mostly inspired by actors who play great villains on the big screen. Such as Ted Levine in ‘The Silence Of The Lambs’, Anthony Perkins in ‘Psycho’, Ralph Fiennes in ‘Schindler’s List’, and Michael Douglas in ‘Wall Street’. Those were phenomenal performances that will rock the world for decades to come!
As for who I would like to work with, honestly, any major award-winning or nominee actor, or any veteran actor. If I had to pick, then I would love to work opposite Daniel Day Lewis. He’s the most method actor there is and he’s going to beat Katherine Hepburn’s record of winning the most Best Actor/Actress Academy Awards. So Daniel, for sure!
Q. Of all the acting roles in your catalogue, which has been your favourite?
A. So, far it’s what I have on my current acting reel right now: the stranger character in ‘Hick’ starring Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne & Chloe Grace Moretz, the salesman in ‘The Odd Way Home’ starring Rumer Willis & Chris Marquette, and Eddie in ‘The Millionaire Tour’ starring Dominic Monaghan. But, I also loved my role as the sign man in ‘The Trials Of Cate McCall’ starring Kate Beckinsale & Nick Nolte. But, since the movie was sold to Lifetime Television, my scenes had to be cut out due to violence. But, that’s fine; it was great working opposite of Kate & Nick. They definitely taught me a lot!
But, I’m also looking forward to being Bobby in ‘Wolf Mother’ starring Golden Globe nominee Tom Sizemore. It’s a villain role I’ve definitely played before, but not like this. This is new territory for me, so I’m excited to start shooting.
Q. If you could play any movie character, who would it be and why?
A. I love indie films, and honestly, indie film is brand new territory for movies. They tend to be storylines that are so different from any ever told before, or the direction and editing of them is totally brand new. We just don’t do remakes in indie films, only studio movies do that, and I’m just not a fan of most studio films. I also see myself as an artist who is trying to bring the hard truths to the world, and studio films rarely do that nowadays. That wasn’t always the case, but it is nowadays. So, I would rather stick to original characters in original storylines in the indie film world, because that’s what I love most!
Q. Can you tell us anything about your upcoming projects?
A. From August 28th, AMC Theatres  give you the chance to see my lead villain role in the movie ‘Going To America’ starring Eddie Griffin, Josh Meyers, Najarra Townsend, Mindy Robinson, & Penny Marshall. It’s a hilarious story about two crazy guys who break out of a mental asylum, because one of them (Eddie Griffin) thinks he’s a prince on a mission to save a princess. Well, let’s just say that ‘princess’ is my prostitute. So, my character is not happy about that at all! So, if you get the chance, definitely check it out. We won fifteen different awards in the film festival circuit this past year for this film.
Q. What is the best piece of advice you can pass on to aspiring actors?
A. That’s a tough question. There’s so much advice to be given. If I had to sum it up in one neat soundbite, I would say that the only thing stopping you from making your dreams come true is applied knowledge. That’s it. So, go out there in the world and find that knowledge and start applying it to your daily habits. And the ones who have this knowledge are the ones who actually make their dreams come true; only they know how to get there, because everyone else is just guessing and assuming, and we all know what making assumptions truly means: making an ass out of you and me. Only study the best of the best, they will always teach you the way!

Learn more about Dave by following him on Twitter @DaveVescio and on his IMDb page. Dave’s next project, ‘Going To America’, is released in selected US theatres from August 28th.

Watch This Space: May 25 – May 31

Welcome to your weekly go-to-guide – WatchThisSpace – where we give you recommendations of films to watch in the cinema, on the television and those brilliant films hiding at the back of your DVD collection.

IN THE CINEMA

The Rock is slowly winning us over, proving that he is a respectable actor in Hollywood. He certainly earns enough anyway. His latest offering, ‘San Andreas’, promises to be quite the spectacle, one which simply HAS to be enjoyed on the big screen.

We waited a week with this one, to gauge the opinion from opening weekend. Disney’s attempt at a summer hit with ‘Tomorrowland’, has been quite divisive among audiences thus far, with the consensus seeming to be that the fantasy flick is just about worth seeing.

ON TELEVISION

Monday 14:25 GMT: The multiple academy award-winning western ‘Dances with Wolves’ graces our screens during the Bank Holiday afternoon on BBC2. An emotional roller coaster, set against wonderful scenery and with a beautiful musical score to accompany, this film is just about as good as the West gets. 

Monday 20:00 GMT: Finish your holiday in explosive style with Avengers Assemble’ on BBC1. You’ve probably seen it before, but why not relive some Marvel magic. Sit back with your beverage of choice and enjoy blockbuster action at its very best.

Wednesday 18:55 GMT: Film4 brings us the hilarious ‘Sister Act’ on Wednesday evening. The perfect way to break up the working week, this film will do it’s best to raise your spirits. As far as musical comedies go, there’s nun better. I’ll get my coat…

Wednesday 22:55 GMT: A real late-night treat for you on Film4 this week. Arguably his best film, ‘Psycho’ is trademark Hitchcock. One of those films that you’ve heard people talk about, but never had the opportunity of seeing? Now’s your chance. Just don’t expect a peaceful sleep afterwards. 

Saturday 17:25 GMT: With the release of Jurassic World growing ever closer, see where it all began with the ground-breaking, timeless classic that is ‘Jurassic Park’ on ITV2. The iconic action film for all ages, this is one simply not to be missed. Hold onto your butts.  

DIG IT OUT

This is our favourite part of the WatchThisSpace section. We delve into our own DVD collection and pick out some amazing films, that may not instantly spring to mind when you’re stuck for inspiration to make your movie night a success. Maybe you’ve never seen a film that we pick – or even heard of them for that matter – but you’re gonna have to trust us on this one, and Dig It Out.

A Beautiful Mind: There was sad news last week when mathematician John Nash and his wife were tragically killed in a car crash. Celebrate his life in this truly incredible film with Russell Crowe portraying the genius with an Oscar winning performance. Dig out this wonderful film that chronicles the life of a truly wonderful and inspirational individual. 

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: Following Sweden’s victory at this year’s Eurovision ‘singing’ competition, we recommend watching one of the country’s more notable exports, aside from flat-pack furniture of course. The original Swedish adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series of books are astounding. This is a brilliant beginning to a wonderfully gritty and violent crime trilogy. Make sure you watch the original Swedish version though, as it is infinitely better than the later Hollywood effort starring Daniel Craig.

Fish Tank: Last week we were treated to a teaser trailer for the upcoming biopic ‘Steve Jobs’, starring Michael Fassbender. Now, we urge you to travel back to the start of this wonderful actor’s career and check out the provocative, British flick about that fine line between adolescence and the scary world of adulthood.

Pulp Fiction: Cannes, the biggest event in the film festival calendar, has come to an end. This time, the coveted Palme D’or prize went to Jacques Audiard for ‘Dheepan’. A great film no doubt, but will there ever be a better winner than Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 effort?

 This week’s WatchThisSpace was compiled by Jakob Lewis Barnes and Nick Deal