Category Archives: Films

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)

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They definitely don’t make movies like this any more (it’s sad to say but true), and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend watching It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World as soon as possible because in this depressing age we live in, it will absolutely make you laugh! This movie is epic comedy in the purest sense of the word (from the opening credits until the screen goes black at the end of the film, every moment will have you giggling), with a dream cast of comedians that couldn’t be matched in a million years (no offense to today’s comedians).

The plot revolves around the whereabouts of $350,000 dollars that was stolen years ago by an ex-convict (Jimmy Durante) who dies in a car crash near Palm Springs, but not before revealing to a group of people who stopped to help that he buried the money in Santa Rosita State Park under “a big W.” From this point on, the film quickly devolves into one giant chase that continues for the rest of the film.

The primary group chasing the money consists of:

  • Melville Crump (Sid Caesar) and his wife Monica (Edie Adams)
  • J. Russell Finch (Milton Berle), his wife Emmeline (Dorothy Provine) and HER loud, obnoxious mother Mrs. Marcus (Ethel Merman in a hysterical role)
  • “Benjy” Benjamin (Buddy Hackett) and Ding Bell (Mickey Rooney)
  • Lennie Pike (Jonathan Winters)

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This group is quickly joined by Otto Meyer (Phil Silvers) and Lt. Col. J. Algernon Hawthorne (Terry-Thomas) who are let in on the secret of the money by various members of the original group and decide they want it for themselves. This group is further supplemented by two cabbies (Peter Falk and Eddie “Rochester” Anderson) and EVERYONE is being observed by an aged police officer, Captain T.G. Culpeper (Spencer Tracy), who has been attempting to track down this stolen money for the last fifteen years.

Opening titles for It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)

After a series of wild chase sequences (including a crazy plane ride and an incident with some dynamite and fireworks) all paths converge at Santa Rosita State Park, where there is indeed a “giant W” in the form of four intersecting palm trees though, funnily enough, no one sees it at first. But at last, it is spotted and after much digging, the suitcase full of money is found! But then Captain Culpeper chooses this moment to make himself known and advises the entire group to turn themselves in (after all, he knows from listening to the police radio that they’ve all broken a plethora of laws) and forget about the money, since it IS stolen after all. Reluctantly, the group agrees, but no sooner do they leave in the two cabs then they begin to wonder…WHY is Culpeper so eager to see them off to the police station? Sure enough, the jaded Culpeper (who has been griping most of the film about his small pension) has decided that he’s just going to take the money for himself and run for the Mexican border. Well after everything they’ve been through, the others aren’t going to stand for this, so the chase is back on! In a zany sequence that had me howling with laughter, the men in the group chase Culpeper to the top of an abandoned apartment building, where, after much struggle, the aged suitcase falls open…pouring out the money to the crowd below. But it isn’t over yet…the men are all trapped by the collapsing fire escape, so when the fire engine sends up a ladder to get them down, all ELEVEN of them climb on at once, leading to a funny scene where the ladder is whipping them all around, crashing them little by little into windows, trees and fountains.

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World “Fire Engine Finale” (1963)

By the last scene, all of the men are in the prison hospital in varying degrees of traction. In marches Mrs. Marcus to give all the men a piece of her mind (and this time they can’t get away because they’re in traction) but just as she gets wound up, she slips on a banana peel that Benjy had discarded on the floor and is taken away as the men begin to laugh hysterically at the absurdity of it all.

Another brilliant part of this film is the innumerable cameo appearances from other comedians throughout the film. Examples include (but are by no means limited to):

  • The Three Stooges
  • Buster Keaton
  • Jack Benny
  • Don Knotts
  • Sterling Holloway
  • Jerry Lewis

A restored edition of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is available via The Criterion Collection and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes comedy, especially old-school comedy.

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The Avengers: Infinity War trailer is here!

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Avengers: Infinity War trailer

It’s here…it’s finally here!! Finally a solid look at the film we’ve all been waiting for since this crazy train started rolling with Iron Man all the way back in 2008. The first trailer for Avengers: Infinity War is finally here! And oh.my.goodness. I think my brain just about exploded with visual overload.

There is so much jam-packed into this trailer I’m not honestly sure that I can break it all down, but I’ll try:

  • Thanos is here on Earth: This is an “Oh SH**” moment if ever I saw one. It’s been building and building and the Mad Titan is finally on our planet (and he’s seen placing Infinity stones into the Infinity Gauntlet)
  • Loki DOES have the Tesseract: Why am I not surprised? But the question is, what is he doing with it? It almost looks like he used it to open the portal that lets Thanos walk onto Earth, but that could be a red herring.
  • Captain America is in Wakanda: “Get this man a shield” might be one of my favorite lines from the trailer, and I’m kind of digging the beard. We haven’t even seen the Black Panther film yet (that comes out in February) but it was awesome to get another look at Wakanda. It looks like Captain America, Bucky, Hulk, Black Panther obviously and others are there leading the charge against…aliens?
  • Not Vision!!!: So that shot of the Infinity Stone being forcefully removed from Vision’s forehead…does that mean he’s going to die? Because as I remember it in Age of Ultron, that stone is the reason he came alive in the first place and without it I’m almost certain he can’t exist.
  • Spidey-senses: So I haven’t gotten around to watching Spider-Man: Homecoming (my apologies, I’ve been very busy) but I AM excited to see Spider-Man in this film. Seeing the moment the hairs on his arm stand up straight (surely his spidey-senses at work) was an awesome moment, not to mention that wickedly awesome suit he’s wearing! Another question though: what IS that huge circle thing? It can’t be anything good, that’s for sure.
  • Falcon takes to the skies: need I say anything more?
  • Black Widow is a blonde: I’m not sure how I feel about this, I like her with red hair
  • Dr. Strange and Iron Man in the same scene: YES!!!!!
  • But the best part of all might be Thor meeting the Guardians of the Galaxy, I can’t wait to see that scene play out in full.

We only have to wait until May 4th, 2018 to see the fulfillment of this stage of the MCU. And I for one can’t wait! What do you think about the trailer for Avengers: Infinity War? Let me know in the comments below!

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Thoughts on: John Wick Chapter 2 (2017)

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Unless we’re talking about Star Wars, it is very rare for a sequel to surpass the original, but I think John Wick Chapter 2 qualifies. Picking up four days after the conclusion of the first movie, Chapter 2 takes us through the continuing trials of would-like-to-remain-retired hitman John Wick. His vengeance completed, John is perfectly content to return to retired life with his new dog that he rescued in the previous film. However…fate seems to be out to get him as he is dropped in on by Santino D’Antonio, an Italian gangster to whom John owes a huge favor. See, it so happens that in the course of fulfilling his “impossible task” for Victor, Santino provided some invaluable service to make it possible. And as a result, John gave Santino what is known in the underworld as a “marker.” Basically, if you grant someone a marker, you’re saying that at some time in the future you are binding yourself to do whatever task that person asks of you, no exceptions. And also no getting out of it either: even though John begs Santino to not call the marker in, the Italian persists, and when John still refuses? He blows John’s gorgeous house up (the puppy lives!!!) and Winston firmly reminds John that he can’t ignore this. This is the other inviolable rule of the underworld: all markers MUST be honored. If you refuse, you die. If you attempt to run, you die and if you kill the person holding the marker, you most definitely die.

So what does Santino want done so badly that he blew up John’s house? Oh nothing much, he just wants his sister murdered so he can take her place at “The High Table” (the gathering of all the criminal heads of the underworld). If John does this, Santino swears that will fulfill the marker. What he doesn’t mention, however, is that once his sister is dead (she actually commits suicide and John shoots her afterward to technically fulfill his contract) Santino wants John dead as well to get rid of any “loose ends.” I really loved this entire sequence set in Rome. The whole set up of John checking into the city’s Continental hotel and then acquiring everything he needs for the hit and talking about it in the most civilized terms. For example, John asks the hotel clerk if he can see the sommelier (which ordinarily refers to a wine specialist). But in the Continental, the “sommelier” is an expert on all kinds of weapons. So, John and the sommelier discuss what guns (and other weapons) he will need in the exact same terms one talks about fine wines (appetizer, main course, dessert, etc.). He also visits a tailor (for a bulletproof suit that would be the envy of James Bond) and other establishments, always paying in those same gold coins from the previous film. It’s a fascinating sequence because it reveals this whole world that’s hiding in plain sight (and as I said before, I love those kinds of stories).

Once John escapes the hit squad sent after him, Santino (being rather stupid) has a hit put out on John, a $7 million hit to be precise. And here is the most fascinating sequence of all: we get to see HOW this is accomplished. If someone wants a hit put out, they call “Accounts Receivable” where all these ladies are working old-fashioned switchboards and typewriters (I’m not sure if its for aesthetic reasons or what, but all their technology is old-fashioned) and there are files on everyone in the underworld. So once they give a code to verify who they are, they name the target, how much the hit is worth, is it international, open or closed (if it’s open that means anyone can claim it) and when does it take effect. And once all of this is filled out, there’s a sequence where we see a computer auto-dialing all of these numbers with the relevant information. And what’s even more mind-blowing? The revelation that there are assassins EVERYWHERE, in all kinds of professions. Since very few people could resist a $7 million bounty (and the chance to take out John Wick), the hit man has a big problem on his hands as, once he returns to New York City, just about everyone he encounters is out to get him. This leads to another montage of John fighting assassin after assassin (and getting more injured all the time). Thoroughly frustrated, John makes his way to the “Bowery King”, another underworld figure with a huge organization (most of his force consists of those homeless people you see on the street corners in NYC). John convinces the Bowery King to help him get to Santino when he reminds him that if Santino comes to power he intends to take over New York City completely, there won’t be any room for the Bowery King or anyone else.

The last part of the film is where things get a little crazy: after pursuing Santino through an art exhibit (and killing dozens of Santino’s guards along the way), he corners the gangster in the Continental where, it turns out, Santino is planning to live permanently (which would make him untouchable). Winston, seeing how angry John really is, attempts to talk him down from doing anything stupid but at this point, John doesn’t care about the consequences, so before anyone can stop him….BANG! Santino is dead. Inside the Continental. John has broken the number one rule of the underworld: you NEVER conduct business inside the Continental.

By rights John should be executed (and I think he knows it) but Winston can’t quite bring himself to give the order. So, he has John meet him in a park and lets him know the following:

  1. The bounty on his head will be doubled (that’s $14 million)
  2. It is now an international hit (anyone in the world can come after him)
  3. He is excommunicado meaning he has lost all rights and privileges to all services in the Underworld. No more Continental, secret shops, NOTHING.

However, to give John a fighting chance, Winston also adds that the new hit won’t go active for an hour, he has that long to make himself scarce. And then comes a scene that chilled me to the bone: when John asks Winston why he isn’t already dead, Winston signals to one of his guards who says “Now” into a phone. At that moment, everyone around the fountain in the park stops and looks at John, revealing (I think) that he’s been surrounded by assassins this entire time. As the hour starts, John walks away with his dog while we hear Winston placing the order with Accounts Receivable. As John continues to move through the park, phones begin to ring around him. But as we don’t see the messages being received, there’s no way for us (the audience) to know if these are assassins receiving the information or simply regular people going about their lives. John doesn’t know either, and in his paranoia, he takes off running, his dog jogging beside him. And that’s where the story ends!!

Of course, since a third film has already been announced, it’s obvious that John will get away in the short term (not to mention he’s promised to kill anyone who comes after him), but so many questions remain. For one, where will all of this end? Part of me suspects that this is going to end with John dead and therefore finally reuniting with his wife. But there’s something else in play: Winston gave John a marker in the park. Does this mean Winston owes John a favor now? There are so many questions, but we won’t get any answers until 2019.

And there’s my thoughts on John Wick: Chapter 2. It’s such a great film, I really wish I’d gone to see it in theaters (I definitely won’t miss the third installment).

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Thoughts on: John Wick (2014)

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Well everyone, I have to say you were right. John Wick IS an awesome film and one that I should have seen long before now. It’s not that I didn’t want to see John Wick (or the sequel, which I also watched over the weekend), it’s just that I was buried so deep in paper writing and research three years ago that I simply didn’t have time to go watch much of anything. So, when Black Friday rolled around and the two John Wick films were on sale, I decided to take the plunge and buy them both (having been assured by many people that it was absolutely worth it).

And the very first impression from this film? (This will surprise nobody): That poor puppy!!

Even though I knew going in that this part was coming, I still almost couldn’t go through with it when John received the puppy as a final gift from his recently deceased wife. I absolutely adore animals, and every time that puppy looked up at John, my heart just melted (to the point where I had to hold my own pet close just to get through what came next). Mercifully, the final scene with the puppy was kept short or I’m not sure I could’ve kept going. But I’m getting ahead of myself: for those who may not know, the film starts with a battered John falling out of a shot-up car by a waterfront before jumping back a few days to the day of his wife’s funeral. In a series of flashbacks, we see John reminiscing over anniversary celebrations, dates, ending with his beloved collapsing on a boardwalk and ultimately dying in the hospital (I suspect an aggressive cancer, but no cause is given as of yet). The puppy is delivered that evening and a card (from his wife) explains that this is to help him learn to love again and not to be alone. John is adjusting to this new life with Daisy (named after his wife’s favorite flower) when he encounters some Russian gangsters at a gas station. One, Iosef (Alfie Allen, aka Theon Greyjoy from Game of Thrones) admires John’s car very much and asks how much he will sell it for. John insists it is not for sale and heads home. But that night…Iosef and his friends break into John’s house, assault him and, out of pure spite, kill the puppy. From this point on, the story is a pretty violent roller coaster ride because…it turns out that Iosef has unwittingly pissed off one John Wick, formerly the greatest assassin the criminal underworld had ever seen and (a rather important detail) a former employee of Iosef’s father. Just over five years ago, we learn, John informed his employer that he wished to “get out” of the business as he’d fallen in love. Victor (his employer) informed him that if he wished to leave he would need to complete an impossible task (I believe it was killing all of Victor’s enemies in a single night). That being done, John retired and was left in peace, until now.

This is actually one of my favorite story tropes: dumb criminal pisses off the legendary assassin/fighter/etc. and it’s just a matter of time until he pays with his life. In John’s quest for vengeance, we get introduced to the remarkably civilized underworld, where assassins and other types use strange gold coins as currency, cleaning up the bodies is referred to as “dinner reservations” and there are exclusive hotels for assassins. Indeed, the Continental Hotel in New York City caters to everyone in the Underworld (provided you’re in good standing) but there is one cardinal rule that everyone must follow: no “business” may be conducted on hotel property. That means, even if your target is standing right in front of you in the lobby, you can’t kill them (if you do or if you try anyway, there are severe consequences). I liked this part because it is always interesting to imagine that a secret world exists in plain sight like the one depicted in the film. Access is dependent on the gold coins, no coins, no admittance.

Knowing that John will be coming for his son, Victor puts a $2 million dollar hit out on his former employee. He also specifically goes to Marcus, John’s former mentor and personally asks him to take John out. Marcus says it will be done, but he’s lying. Instead of killing John (which he has several opportunities to do), Marcus is seen watching over John, preventing others from taking him out. This includes stopping a fellow assassin, Ms. Perkins, from killing John inside the hotel (Victor offered double the bounty to anyone willing to break the rules). It takes some time, but Ms. Perkins ultimately pays for this violation (she also killed another assassin inside the hotel after John stopped her) with her life after Winston, the hotel’s owner, revokes her membership.

After destroying a lot of Victor’s assets, John finally convinces him to reveal where his son is hiding out, with the understanding that this will stop all further acts of vengeance. But while John goes to kill Iosef (successfully I might add), Victor corners Marcus for not killing John when he had the chance and after torturing him extensively, shoots him dead in his own home. This prompts John to turn around (literally) and head off for one last showdown. By the time Victor is disposed of, we’ve caught back up to where the story began, with John beat up on the waterfront. He patches himself up in a vet’s clinic, but before he leaves, he saves a puppy that was scheduled to be put down and takes him home (which made my heart melt again).

By the time the credits rolled, I was deeply in love with this movie, not to mention grateful that I’d thought to buy the sequel as well. One of the things I loved in the story is that every time John Wick is mentioned as being part of the scenario, all anyone can think to say in response is “Oh.” Like, just hearing Wick’s name explains everything about the situation (this carries over into the sequel as well). I also liked how the action was almost non-stop once that part of the story got rolling, there are very few moments where you are allowed to catch your breath once the violence starts.

In conclusion: John Wick is an awesome film (with an awesome sequel) and I eagerly await the final installment (due in 2019) that I will definitely be seeing in theaters. Tomorrow I will publish my thoughts on John Wick: Chapter 2. Until then!

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The trailer for Rampage (2018) did NOT impress me

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Rampage (2018) Trailer #1

Oh boy. Here we go again. Another video game being adapted to film and it already doesn’t look good. Yup, I said video game. If you didn’t know that Rampage (2018) is adapted (very loosely) from a video game series of the same name, it’s okay, I had no idea either. *I* thought it was just an attempt to make an American kaiju movie (which I still think it is) but it’s also based off a game series that started in 1986.

The plot is as follows: The Rock plays Davis Okoye, a primatologist who gets along better with animals than other people. One of his best friends is an albino silverback gorilla named George who is very intelligent. But one day, George gets exposed to some weird kind of experiment and begins growing…and growing….and then he becomes this savage beast on top of it all.

And if that wasn’t enough, it seems there are more giant animals lurking around including the freakiest giant wolf I’ve ever seen (if those quick glances are anything to go by) and an impossibly large crocodile (that also looks pretty freaky).

If I had to take a guess, I’d say the filmmakers are hoping to launch yet another franchise, but if past attempts are anything to go by, this film is likely dead on arrival. It certainly doesn’t appeal to me, but then again I could be wrong.

What do you think of the trailer for Rampage? Yea or nay? Let me know in the comments below!

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New TV spot for The Last Jedi

So I got a big surprise last night. Here I am watching Game 7 of the World Series (it’s the only time I pay attention to baseball) and suddenly I hear Star Wars music…and then there’s this new footage playing and I’m like “Oh my gosh, what is this?”

Star Wars: The Last Jedi TV Spot

The sneaky people at Disney decided to spring a new TV trailer on us without any warning (and I love it!) The biggest parts that are new include: footage of Luke walking into the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon and flipping on the lights (with a very emotional look on his face); additional footage that indicates a fight between Luke and Rey; a badass look at Snoke’s “throne room”(? I’m just going to call it a throne room because truthfully I don’t know what it is) and this awesome line “Darkness rises, and light to meet it.”

It seems relatively clear to me that this is going to come down to a clash between Kylo and Rey, the former represents the dark and the latter the light (at least I hope so). I’m so excited that I can finally say that The Last Jedi comes out NEXT MONTH!

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10 films that are remakes of 70s films

If you talk to me long enough, it will come out that one of my biggest pet peeves is Hollywood’s current obsession with remaking every film they can think of, simply because they can (and not for a good reason, like making a remake of a silent film). I think it’s the height of creative laziness and it also makes me wonder if the Hollywood writers think the audience is stupid. Just because a certain movie was made 40 years ago doesn’t mean it’s been forgotten (or that a remake will be better). And when I saw the news on Twitter that Death Wish was being remade into a Bruce Willis film due to come out next year, I decided it was time to start making lists to point out just how many films are actually remakes. I chose remakes of films from the 1970s for this list because Death Wish originally came out in 1974 and there have been a LOT of remakes from that decade. So, to that end, I present a list of ten films that are actually remakes of films from the 70s.

1.The Mechanic (2011)

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I have a confession: watching Jason Statham onscreen is one of my guilty pleasures and I was initially excited when I saw previews of the 2011 film The Mechanic, a story about a professional assassin who makes his hits look like anything but an assassination. I was going to see the film until I went to the internet and found out that this film is actually….a remake.

Remake of: The Mechanic (1972)

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That’s right. The Mechanic is a remake of a 1972 film starring Charles Bronson. The plot is largely the same, though the latter has more explosions. But knowing it was a remake..I just couldn’t watch it, and it’s my understanding that the unwanted sequel, The Mechanic: Resurrection (2016) largely bombed at the box office.

2. I Am Legend (2007)

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I love to point to I Am Legend as the perfect example of how prevalent remakes are in Hollywood. This film isn’t just a remake, it’s a remake OF a remake. The compelling tale of the last man on Earth fighting the infected was previously told in the 1971 film The Omega Man, starring Charlton Heston (and it’s not a bad film, I’ve seen it). But this film was also a remake, of a 1964 Vincent Price film entitled (appropriately enough) The Last Man on Earth. Notice how the title of the original film becomes the tagline of the remakes.

Remake of: The Omega Man (1971) which is a remake of The Last Man on Earth (1964)

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The biggest difference between the remakes and the original is that, in the original, the infected humans are straight-up vampires (the kind you kill with stakes to the heart).

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3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

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I hate this movie. With a burning passion. From the moment a remake starring Johnny Depp (of all people) was announced, I knew I would HATE this movie. I don’t care who is in it, nothing could ever match the wonder of the original film starring Gene Wilder. And, let’s just face it, the remake was downright creepy, and not even a little creepy, it was a LOT creepy.

Remake of: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

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4. Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)

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I remember the previews for this film and ignoring the film altogether because it wasn’t my kind of movie. As a result, I didn’t learn until much later that this is actually a remake of a 1976 film of the same title. Once I learned of the original film, that’s when I really started Googling film titles to see which ones were remakes (answer: a lot of them).

Remake of: Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

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5. Death Wish (2018)

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As I said at the beginning, this is the film that pushed me over the edge into making this list, because I see it as totally unnecessary. I also fear it will start yet another franchise that nobody really wants, because the original Death Wish film spawned FOUR additional sequels (with Death Wish V: The Face of Death coming out in 1994).

Remake of: Death Wish (1974)

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6. The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)

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The Taking of Pelham 123 actually didn’t sound like a bad film: guy takes a train full of passengers hostage and demands a huge ransom while the good guys work to stop the train. Sounds pretty good right? It is, it was, and it was also first done in 1974 with the original film. A minor difference is that in the original film, they want $1 million dollars in ransom. In the remake, this is bumped up to $10 million dollars (wow, talk about inflation!).

Remake of: The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

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7. Poseidon (2006)

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People have told me that Poseidon isn’t actually THAT bad, but I’ll have to agree to disagree, because however good it may be, The Poseidon Adventure (1972) was better. I will take an older film with practical effects over a modern film loaded with CGI any day (not to mention the flipping scene in the remake is so realistic it actually gave me nightmares for a few days). I’m still waiting for a remake of The Towering Inferno (1974) (since they seem to like remaking disaster films).

Remake of: The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

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8. The Crazies (2010)

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I have discovered that Hollywood loves to remake horror films, that’s why the last three on this list come from that genre. It makes sense in a way, there’s always new ways of terrifying people that can be included in a film remake. But I still think it’s lazy to do the same story over again (though I suppose that’s a matter of opinion).

Remake of: The Crazies (1973)

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9. The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

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When I was fresh out of high school, I made a terrible mistake: I accidentally watched a big chunk of this film and didn’t realize what it was until it was too late. To this day, I refuse to go anywhere near this film (or any sequels). I wasn’t completely surprised to hear that this film was actually a remake, it just seemed like one of those films that’d been made before, only they updated the setting for the new version.

Remake of: The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

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10. Carrie (2013)

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I’ve toyed with the idea of watching the original Carrie (1976) for a while now, but I think the reason I’ll never be able to is because it’ll bring back too many memories of when I was brutally teased in school (not even close to the extent that Carrie was in the film, but still…) I felt resigned when the remake was announced. I’m sure these actors do a marvelous job, but they’re still just retelling a story we’ve all seen (or at least heard of) before.

Remake of: Carrie (1976)

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And that’s the end of my list, I hope you enjoyed going through it. There are more soundtrack reviews coming up this week, including a very special one (if I can get my hands on it in time). One note: next week is the annual musicology conference, so I will be out of town and not blogging at that time.

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