They don’t make movies like that anymore; they remake them

The remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic “The Day the Earth Stood Still” was No. 1 at the box office this past weekend, raking in $32M. The remake stars Keanu Reeves as the space alien Klaatu — which begs the question: When is the guy going to be cast against type? It was panned by those critics who are probably movie classic purists. Apparently not even the CGI was AOK. The special effects carry the movie, which the original lacked because the technology wasn’t out of this world at that time. The original relied upon — and succeeded — with its message of non-aggression and its not-so-subtle jabs at Cold War fears. In short, it relied on the script andthe acting. And Gort the robot, of course.

The remake again tackles the issues of tolerance and how we’re destroying the planet — and this time not just with super weapons of mass destruction, but also by global warming. But you know us earthlings, it’s not easy being green.

The remake might not have what Hollywood calls “legs,” meaning it’s not likely to stay in the Top 10 until, well, the earth starts moving again. But it’s still further proof that even OK remakes of classic films can do boffo opening weekend business. Which means more remakes are on their way.

Not a good thing. Most remakes of classic movies suck. Hollywood fiddled with a remake of “Sabrina,” the classic Audrey Hepburn romantic comedy directed by Billy Wilder, and they faddled with a poor attempt at re-doing the political thriller “The Manchurian Candidate,” which dramatized an American brainwashed by communists and turned into a presidential assassin. The original took on greater meaning when it was released in 1962, one year before JFK was assassinated.

It’s about time an alien in some movie says something like, “Churn out a remake of “Citizen Kane” or any other classic film that Ted Turner has in his private stash and your planet will be reduced to a pile of burning pebbles. Hell, we should disintegrate New Jersey because you’re releasing “Yes Man” — which is Jim Carrey’s own retread of his movie “Liar Liar.” “

The one sci-fi movie that Hollywood keeps remaking every decade or so is “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Of course the original, released in 1956, is still the best. The plot is a killer: an alien life form settles on earth and creates pods from us loser humans. And they do so while we’re asleep. No escape, sleeping beauties. The result is we all become void of personality or emotion and can’t think for ourselves. You know, like Rush Limbaugh fans. The latest incarnation was called “The Invasion” starring Nicole Kidman. It deserved to die a quick death at the box office because it did the unthinkable: it found a way to beat the alien takeover. The whole point of the movie is it’s left up to us how to defeat the menace (symbolized in the original as communism, the McCarthy hearings and other creepy paranoia of the 1950s.). It’s a cautionary tale that’s not supposed to have a happy ending.

In today’s happy ending Hollywood, everybody wins:

1. Remake “Casablanca” and Rick gets on that plane with Ilsa because her Victor Laszlo comes out of the closet and confesses his love for General DeGaulle.

2. Redo “Gone With The Wind” and Rhett Butler tells Scarlett O’Hara, “Frankly my dear, I give a damn about you and someday, together, we’ll open up Tara to people of all races and creeds and bring a progressive way of thinking to the South.”

3. Apparently “The Graduate” didn’t end as happily as we thought. Ben has a sudden change of heart and gets off at the next bus stop, leaving Elaine in the back of the bus. Ben runs back to his real love, the lascivious older woman Mrs. Robinson and runs off with her — because cougars are in, and younger female wildcats are out — reserved only for more sequels to movies like “American Pie.”

4. Howard Beale, the mad prophet of the airwaves in the biting satire about television, “Network,” became power mad after he was turned into a media messiah, until his ratings plummeted and the network execs had him gunned down on his own show on live TV. Not in the remake. This time Howard, still mad as a hatter, is promoted to president of the network and creates reality TV.

5. And Hollywood has got to do something about all that tragegy in Shakespeare dramas. In the up-to-the-minute remake of Romeo and Juliet, the star-crossed lovers attempt suicide, yes, but are saved at the last minute. They marry, settle down and open a bed and breakfast.

Now about all those films based on stories from the Bible that are just too depressing….

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