5 Remakes of Famous Movies That Would Actually Be Awesome
They had their chance on the big screen and for whatever reason failed to live up to their potential. Granted, even if the source material is strong, some movie adaptations of books just aren't meant to be. For every success like The Godfather making the jump look effortless, there's a story like A Confederacy of Dunces that's been kicking around for what seems like forever and probably should never be made into a movie. But, whether it was the storyline, the Hollywood machine, or just bad timing that created obstacles to their success, the following book-to-film translations have a legitimate shot at superseding mediocre-at-best first performances by learning from the mistakes of their past.
Frank Herbert's Dune is one of the best-selling and most beloved sci-fi novels of all time, and with good reason. It's a pretty awesome, well-thought-out tale. Set in a futuristic feudal society, the epic saga has captured the imagination of science-fiction fans since it was released in the 1960s. The Dune universe has so permeated the geekdom lexicon, every nerd worth his or her salt has committed Dune's fear axiom to memory ...
... to be pulled out right before getting a beat down.
I must not fear ...
As a little kid, I loved to read, and I mean really loved to read. It was my escape. I read everything available I wasn't supposed to, regularly sneaking books from the adult bookshelf. The Shining, Fear of Flying, you name it. If it was pop and pulp it was in my home and I read it. Thanks to reading The Exorcist under blankets with a flashlight, I didn't sleep the entire year of third grade. By the time I got to Dune, I was plowing through books by Jackie Collins and other smutty stuff, so it was a bit of a surprise how taken I was with this science-fiction universe, and soon read all the books published in the Frank Herbert series. When I found out there was a Dune movie, I was super jazzed. Yay!!
Unfortunately, director David Lynch appears to have used the book as a drink coaster rather than source material for his film. I could nerd you out with everything he got wrong, including the ridiculous ending and unnecessary flourishes that aren't even in the book. But instead I'll just point to his interpretation of the Bene Gesserits, an all-female religious order of temptresses known for their seductive wiles and sexual talents, as proof.
Sexy in what universe?
Released in 1984, Lynch's movie was a critical and commercial failure. Roger Ebert gave it one star and declared it the worst movie of the year. Not even the star power of Sting parading around in a winged codpiece could save it.
However, thanks to its enduring popularity, Lynch's abomination isn't the only attempt to adapt the Dune story. In 2000, the Sci-Fi Channel (before it became Syfy) premiered Frank Herbert's Dune, a three-part miniseries, to mixed reviews. In 2008, another attempt was made to get a feature film off the ground, this time through Paramount Pictures with Peter Berg set to direct, but thanks to creative differences and staffing changes, the project appears to have been scrapped.
The mistake everyone seems to keep making is trying to shoehorn a ridiculous amount of information into a single movie or short miniseries. The Dune universe is intricate, and the byzantine plotlines make no sense unless you have a pretty good grasp of the nuances of the history of its entire fictional world. In addition to the original book, there are now a total of 17 sequels/prequels in the Dune canon. With so much material, it would be smarter to take the Game of Thrones route and roll it out over several television seasons.
Max Thieriot as Paul Atreides and Jessica Chastain as his mom, Lady Jessica.
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Wait, how is Breakfast at Tiffany's even on this list? It's a beloved cinema classic and partly responsible for the popularity of that overpriced chain jewelry story that everyone mistakenly believes turns you into a classy person by virtue of shopping there.
Spoiler: You're paying a 100 percent markup for the box.
As a movie, Breakfast at Tiffany's is a fine vehicle for showcasing how adorable Audrey Hepburn looks in various outfits. Loosely based on the novella by Truman Capote, the film chronicles career party girl Holly Golightly and her misadventures in 1960s Manhattan.
Capote, who also penned the gritty true crime drama In Cold Blood, wrote a darker, more poignant tale than the sappy one that made it to the big screen. But that isn't the real problem. Thanks to one of the most cringe-inducing "comic" caricature portrayals ever, Breakfast at Tiffany's is basically unwatchable today.
Mickey Rooney's turn as Holly's bucktoothed, squinty-eyed Japanese landlord, Mr. Yunioshi, is routinely called out for its promotion of negative Asian stereotypes. Swapping Rs for Ls, myopically bumbling around -- it's a bizarre attempt at racism-laced physical comedy. Check out this video for a less time-consuming example.
Explaining the choice to cast Rooney in the role of a person of Japanese descent and having him play it so broadly, director Blake Edwards reasoned in a documentary on the making of the film, "At that time it was perfectly OK," but, he admitted, he wished he hadn't in retrospect. Considering the Mr. Yunioshi storyline is basically nonexistent in the book, it seems like a pretty egregious error. But not everyone is so hard on Rooney's portrayal. When asked about it after the movie was dropped from a public screening in Sacramento, California, Rooney talked about how much fun he had doing it and also said:
Never in all the more than 40 years after we made it -- not one complaint. Every place I've gone in the world people say, "God, you were so funny." Asians and Chinese come up to me and say, "Mickey, you were out of this world."
For additional proof that the uproar was over nothing, his eighth wife, Jan, helpfully mentioned that the couple were "married in Hong Kong and love Chinese art, food, culture, and medicine" and said the role was "meant to be fun." Wheee!
In addition to dropping Rooney's embarrassing "yellowface" Fu Manchu routine, which is a must, a remake would allow for the novella's darker, more melancholy roots to be explored. Originally set in the 1940s against the backdrop of World War II, a fresh take could skip the happy ending and return to Capote's original themes of longing and ill-fated love.
Anne Hathaway as Holly Golightly and Ian Somerhalder as "Fred," the narrator and Holly's unrequited suitor.
Based on the cleverly titled short story "Trucks," by Stephen King, Maximum Overdrive is a campy look at what would happen if the machines in our everyday lives suddenly turned on us. It also has the unique distinction of being King's first and only directorial effort. Unhappy with how The Shining had turned out, King wanted to show Stanley Kubrick how they git 'er done in literary circles.
For his efforts, the film was rewarded with two Razzie nominations: worst director for King and a nod to lead Emilio Estevez for worst actor (neither received the award). As to why the film is such a disaster despite all his bravado, King relies on everyone's favorite catchall '80s excuse.
The problem with that film is that I was coked out of my mind all through its production, and I really didn't know what I was doing.
Cocaine may be the reason why it's a mess, but Maximum Overdrive also seems to be derivative of a much earlier work. Killdozer! is a 1974 made-for-TV movie about a sinister bulldozer that suddenly turns hostile and terrorizes a construction crew. It's based on a short story by Theodore Sturgeon, written in 1944. I'd be willing to chalk up the coincidence to chance and a pretty obvious horror premise. However, Maximum Overdrive opens in outer space with a title sequence about the Earth passing into the tail of a rogue comet, a theory not even explored in King's book. Killdozer! also opens with a shot from space, but instead of a comet, a meteorite lands near the construction site.
The good news is, we no longer have to rely on a hokey outer-space explanation for menacing appliances gone wild. Preeminent scientist and aspiring movie villain Stephen Hawking recently warned that sentient machines could end the human race. In a world where your vehicle can be disabled remotely without your input and a smartphone will start spontaneously snapping covert photos of what it deems suspicious behavior, the horrors of a machine takeover don't seem that far-fetched.
Google's self-driving car as the nefarious vehicle.
In the movie Sliver, Sharon Stone plays a NYC book editor who's recently moved into a Manhattan high-rise with more than its share of bizarre tenant deaths, including the chick who tragically leapt from Stone's balcony. In addition to dealing with the mysteries of her new creepy environment, Stone finds herself in the middle of a love triangle involving fellow tenants Billy Baldwin and Tom Berenger.
Based on the book of the same name by Ira Levin, the movie has plenty of gratuitous sex scenes but offers little in terms of traditional scary thrills. Following an awkward "gym date," where an oiled-up Baldwin teaches Stone how to do leg lifts ...
She had no idea how they were done!
... their relationship heats up to the point where Baldwin feels comfortable letting Stone in on his big secret. He actually owns the building and has installed cameras in every single apartment so he can surreptitiously spy on the tenants as they go about their private lives.
There's a whodunit element where it's not quite clear if Baldwin or Berenger is the bad guy, but as film noir it's a yawn-fest. Sliver has a 12 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was nominated for several Razzies, including worst picture, worst director, worst actor (Baldwin), worst actress (Stone), and worst supporting actor (Berenger).
Levin has a pretty impressive track record when it comes to his books being made into movies. The Boys From Brazil, Rosemary's Baby,The Stepford Wives, and A Kiss Before Dying are all based on his works. In fact, every novel he's ever written except for Son of Rosemary's Baby and This Perfect Day, one of my favorite books of all time, has been made into a feature film. Thanks to the recent NSA revelations, schools spying on students via laptop webcams, The Fappening, and other advances in intrusive surveillance, a story like Sliver is even more pertinent today.
Jennifer Lawrence in the Sharon Stone role and Dave Franco as the creepy landlord voyeur.
The Bonfire of the Vanities
I can't think of a single book-turned-movie that got it more wrong than The Bonfire of the Vanities. It fails on so many levels, there's a nonfiction book that details all the behind-the-scenes shenanigans that helped make the movie a colossal flop. The Devil's Candy: The Anatomy of a Hollywood Fiasco is a fascinating inside perspective, and I'd recommend it to anyone who's interested in figuring out why bad movies are the way they are.
Bonfire was Tom Wolfe's first novel, and it was a huge success. The book follows the intertwining lives of a cast of morally bankrupt characters as they navigate the social, political, racial, and legal intricacies of 1980s Manhattan after a wealthy bond trader and his young mistress are involved in a hit-and-run accident that leaves a black Bronx teenager in a coma.
While the book is considered genius, the movie ... not so much. One of the biggest issues was the attempt to make the characters more likable in the film version. The affable Tom Hanks is the arrogant, felon-in-hiding bond trader, Sherman McCoy, while the cynical, has-been British journalist covering the hit-and-run story is played by Bruce Willis. Bonfire of the Vanities was universally panned by critics, and The New York Times went so far as to describe it as "Brian De Palma's gross, unfunny movie adaptation."
The Wolf of Wall Street has proven there's a market for '80s greed nostalgia, and Bonfire would work just as well as a period piece. Especially when you consider that, thanks to Mad Men and Arrested Development and nearly every other contemporary popular series, audiences today have no problem rooting for antiheroes and rich assholes. Trying to make these characters likable is what killed it the first time. No one does that anymore, so it shouldn't be a concern with the remake.
Paul Rudd as WASPy Sherman McCoy, Russell Brand or Simon Pegg as drunken British journalist Peter Fallow, and Emma Stone as Sherman's calculating mistress, Maria Ruskin.
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