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Ten Movies Actually Worth Remaking

It seems that these days every other movie in production is a remake of a film that was near-perfect to begin with. For all the times Hollywood seems obsessed with heading back to the well, relatively few of these endeavors warrant the effort. We here at Filmcritic thought it would be a good idea to ponder a few remakes that could actually improve upon the original.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
Do you know why Alan Moore hates Watchmen so much? Because The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was such a giant pile of crap that he refused to trust any filmmaker ever again. What if someone could restore that faith: Take the wit, satire, and dark adventure of Moore’s original graphic novel and transpose it onscreen properly? It would require a blockbuster budget, yet remain committed to the literary intelligence of the piece. More importantly, it would need to be OK with the fact that some of its references may go over the average teenager’s head. But if it could do that, what a thing of beauty it would be. With Michael Gambon as Allan Quartermain, Anna Paquin as Mina Murray, and Irrfan Khan as Captain Nemo. Directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Rob Vaux

The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)
Following the success of the adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff into a classic movie, Hollywood had high hopes for the 1990 film version of The Bonfire of the Vanities. Sadly, Brian De Palma utterly ruined it — as he is prone to do — with a lot of help from Melanie Griffith at her career worst. Tom Hanks is also badly miscast as ‘master of the universe’ Sherman McCoy, playing for grins what should have been the straight guy. The story’s good enough to merit another chance. Recast today with Jon Hamm as McCoy, Rachel McAdams as the mistress, and Ethan Hawke as the freeloading reporter. Directed by David Fincher. Christopher Null

High Tension (2003)
The brutal head-smashing and stylized throat cutting in the first 30 minutes of High Tension gave horror fans something to stand up and cheer for, if we weren’t too busy pretending not to cover our eyes. But a lame third-act plot twist, along with some out of place Daft Punk, destroyed any tension and made a potential horror classic a horrible parody. Borrow the nameless killer’s blood-covered knife and cut out the second half of the script. Rewrite it to let High Tension be the straight-forward visceral thriller it is rather than an infuriating film with half a brain. Jason Morgan

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
On the one hand, nobody should ever remake a film starring Audrey Hepburn. When that happens, Hollywood delivers things like Sydney Pollock’s Sabrina, and filmgoers don’t deserve that. Nobody does. That being said, is there anything besides Audrey to like about Blake Edwards’ limp 1961 adaptation of Truman Capote’s tart story? There are squadrons of modern lead actors with more personality than George Peppard (who wanders through this glitzy bauble like Lee Marvin on tranquilizers) and any number of screenwriters who could do away with George Axelrod’s clumsy twisting of Capote’s romantically downbeat fable into self-consciously quirky uptown romance. Maybe Marion Cotillard as the self-deluded streetwalker and Edward Norton playing the lonely and conflicted writer, with Sam Mendes behind the directors’ chair. Lastly, but no less importantly, today’s studios wouldn’t even consider casting Mickey Rooney (who is, yes, still alive) for comic relief as a bucktoothed Japanese caricature who would have seemed retrograde even when Nisei were still in internment camps. Chris Barsanti

The Running Man (1987)
Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman) penned a truly prescient piece of science fiction with his dystopic novel The Running Man. Though inspired by Blade Runner, 1984, and their ilk, it forged a unique direction with its introduction of a lethal game show/manhunt that foresaw the rise of Cops, America’s Most Wanted, and similar reality TV fare. Then Hollywood had to ruin it all by turning it into a crude vanity project for Arnold Schwarzenegger. A remake, with more respect for the source material and an eye on plausible conjecture rather than cartoonish posturing, could make a masterful addition to the sci-fi canon. With Christian Bale as Ben Richards, Julianne Moore as Amelia Williams, and Michael Sheen as Dan Killian. (Richard Dawson, the only good thing about the first film, gets a cameo as game show host Bobby Thompson.) Directed by Christopher Nolan. Rob Vaux

Tell No One (2006)
Taking a highly unusual path in French filmmaking, a French director (Guillaume Canet) based his movie on a suspense novel written by an American mystery heavyweight (Harlan Coben). In this gut-wrenching thriller, a shattered husband (François Cluzet) is the only person known to have been with his wife (Marie-Josée Croze) when she disappeared during a midnight swim at the lake, making him the prime suspect for an unprovable murder. For eight years his agony is palpable… then he receives evidence that she may be alive. Canet’s film is taut and twisty with the deeply felt pain of loss and mental torture. So, why should it be remade? As a $22 million hit in France with barely a shudder in the U.S., the story is worthy of the worldwide attention that could only be realized by an all-American production with, say, Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts. It’s not just my idea. Keep your eye on Miramax. Jules Brenner

Waterworld (1995)
Burned-out, apocalyptic futures are the norm these days. It’s time we submerged these serious visions and reworked Waterworld. The environmental urgency behind the bloated, corny 1995 drowner still applies — and is perhaps even more relevant as evidence of global warming mounts on a weekly basis. But to trim the budget (and avoid the high seas), I’d turn a new Waterworld over to Robert Zemeckis so he can deftly motion-capture the Mariner’s intense, nautical environment. And in the lead? Well, I’d stick with Kevin Costner, who now brings the right amount of weary life experience to the part. Sean O’Connell

Sphere (1998)
And while we’re on the topic of water-borne sci-fi, how about Barry Levinson’s tepid adaptation of Michael Crichton’s mind-bending undersea thriller? Nothing against Levinson, but he was the wrong director for a novel that balanced paradigm-shifting plot twists with intense action homages to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. All the tension of one of the best spoilers Crichton ever concocted was sucked out of the film version. There was nothing wrong with the cast (Dustin Hoffman, Sam Jackson, and… OK, I would’ve replaced Sharon Stone even then), but for the sake of contemporizing, maybe Philip Seymour Hoffman, Don Cheadle, and Kate Winslet star. And hand the writing/directing reigns over to a storyteller who loves to pull the rug out from under you: J.J. Abrams. David Thomas

The Bib
le… In the Beginning (1966)

John Huston’s The Bible… In the Beginning reflects so badly on its source material that it lends credence to the crack, ‘Hey! Have you seen The Bible?’ ‘Naw. Read the book. Didn’t like it.’ Huston takes us on a lethargic journey through the Old Testament from Creation to Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, extracting curiously listless performances of his all-star cast despite the line-up of Huston, George C. Scott, Ava Gardner, Richard Harris and Peter O’Toole. Probably because the cast members were all nursing head-thumping hangovers. But now, in the Twitterscape of 2009, it’s time for another whack at the material with a DT-free perspective, and what better way to do that than to remake The Bible featuring the cast of top-grossing hit He’s Just Not That Into You. Just think: Justin Long as Nimrod. Ben Affleck as Abraham. Jennifer Aniston as Sarah. Scarlett Johansson as Lot’s wife. And, in keeping with the original concept, director Ken Kwapis as Noah. Just the thought of it all is enough the make you drop your fig leaf. Paul Brenner

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966)
Some would argue that there’s no reason to update this comedy classic, that it is Don Knotts’ best big-screen triumph after years of earning Emmys for The Andy Griffith Show — and they’d be right. But the story of small-town newspaper typesetter Luther Heggs and the scandal-plagued ‘haunted’ house that fuels his fascination with being a reporter is so perfect for our contemporary tabloid mentality that an update seems in order. How about turning the entire project over to Tim Burton, with Johnny Depp as Luther, Emma Stone as love interest Alma Parker, and a profoundly dorky Rainn Wilson as bad guy correspondent Ollie? Sprinkle with Mr. Goth’s certified love for all things dark and ominous, and you’d have a quirky character study with lots of spook show fun. Bill Gibron

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