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Cinematic copycat
by Asa Butcher
Issue 16
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One of my favourite topics over the past few months has been the lack of inspiration at the cinema, with its mindless remakes, pointless sequels and TV-inspired insipidness. A quick look at the schedule for our local multiplex reveals the sad picture: 'The Pink Panther', 'The Omen' and even 'Lassie' are all cashing in on the success and reputation of their predecessors.

Last night I watched 'Ishtar', the classic box office flop starring Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman (see iKritic for the review), and was surprised to discover how much it bombed upon its release in 1987. The US domestic gross totalled $14,375,181, which barely paid for the blind camel (see the film) as the budget was $40,000,000. During the research for my iKritic I noticed that a number of recent remakes have also been financial disasters.

The latest casualty has been this year's 'Poseidon' that has currently managed to return just $47m of its $160m budget. When I first saw the trailer my reaction was horror, especially since it followed the trailer for 'Miami Vice', because was shocked to see that they would want to remake the 1972 original with Gene Hackman. 'The Poseidon Adventure' was the first and best disaster movie I have seen and it happily put the nail in the coffin of my seafaring dreams.

To my knowledge, only one Alfred Hitchcock film has been remade, excluding the ones that Hitch did himself, and that was the bizarre version by Gus Van Sant in 1998 that reproduced the 1960 version nearly shot-for-shot. Why this was necessary will remain a mystery for me because to me it is like taking an airbrush and copying the Mona Lisa - the same but just using modern tools. The Van Sant remake did manage to break-even upon its release, but it was a waste of $20m.

On the other hand, $20m is pocket money when compared to the $110m spent on updating the 1957 Best Picture winner 'Around the World in 80 Days', $95m on 'The Alamo' and $80m on 'The Manchurian Candidate'. Why, why, why? Steve Coogan is no David Niven, Billy Bob Thornton is definitely not John Wayne and Denzel Washington is not Frank Sinatra. Yes, all three remakes bombed.

What made Michael Caine's past movies so attractive to Hollywood studios over the last few has baffled me, especially since they keep flopping at the box office. Jude Law couldn't save the 2004 remake of 'Alfie' and Sylvester Stallone was out of his depth in the 2000 remake of 'Get Carter', although Mark Wahlberg managed to break the trend by bringing financial success to the 2003 - there's always one that slips through.

Hollywood will never learn its lesson and will continue its 'spit and shine' job on the classics that the film industry was built upon. The day Tinsel town holds open auditions for 'The Godfather' remake then Tinsel Town will implode in a nasty way; it will happen, just you wait, because somebody may make an offer that can't be refused.

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