Calm down, 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels' was already a remake of another movie
Credit: Orion Pictures

Calm down, 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels' was already a remake of another movie

And a pretty good one, at that

As with any actor whose work I love, there are films that stand out as particularly great in the career of Steve Martin, and one of those films is Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

There are many great things about Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Michael Caine is a perfect foil for Martin, whose work as nascent con man Freddy Benson is inspired. Frank Oz does a terrific job of creating this romantic, beautiful French fantasyland where people are going to believe the incredible lies told by Freddy and Caine’s master bullshit artist Lawrence Jamieson. Glenne Headly gives one of her most nimble performances as Janet Colgate, the poor defenseless tourist who ends up targeted by Freddy and Lawrence. Ian McDiarmid, best known to the fanboy nation as Emperor Palpatine, is dry and deadly as Arthur, Lawrence’s manservant. Miles Goodman’s score is terrific, one of the great comedy scores of the ‘80s, and Michael Ballhaus soaks everything in a beautiful sun-drenched quality with his cinematography.

And, of course, that script is fantastic. Dale Launer wrote the film and was the only writer who worked with Frank Oz. So why does the screenplay credit read “Written by Dale Launer and Stanley Shapiro & Paul Henning”?

Because it’s a remake. But more than that, because it’s almost word-for-word.

Most of the time, you’ll either get a “based on” credit or maybe a “story by” credit for the original writers when you’re remaking something, but this is a shared credit for screenplay, and it’s actually a good call. While it was Launer who had the idea of updating the film, and he was the one who wrote the script that Oz shot, he absolutely used whole chunks of the original in his script. And why not? It’s a great script. And for those of you who are just learning that Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a remake, or for those who have never seen the original, let me urge you to do so. It’s called Bedtime Story, and it stars Marlon Brando as Freddy Benson, David Niven as Lawrence Jameson, and Shirley Jones as Janet Walker.

When Dirty Rotten Scoundrels came out in 1987, I tracked down the original on VHS, and I was sort of blown away by it. One of the things that made me laugh so hard in the Steve Martin version is the scene involving Ruprecht The Monkey Boy, a truly deranged comic creation that felt like a perfect fit for Martin. I assumed it was largely his idea, perhaps even improvised. And then I saw Marlon Brando play Ruprecht the Monkey Boy and my whole world turned inside out:

The news today that Rebel Wilson may star in a gender-flipped version of the film seems like a pretty clever way of doing it. I thought Wilson did very good work in this spring’s How To Be Single, and the right director and the right script is all it’s going to take for her to have a monster hit of her own. When Dale Launer set up Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, it was off the strength of Ruthless People, which was an original by Launer, and a damn fine piece of comedy writing. It’s a good sign, then, that Jac Schaeffer is the writer of this version, because Schaeffer’s TiMER was a lovely, smart script, and her script for The Shower, an upcoming film with Anne Hathaway, is just wonderful. I’m a big fan, and this is good material for a writer to dig into. There’s some fun rich stuff to play with, and making Wilson’s target a young tech millionaire nerd seems like a fun variation.

If you can, track down Bedtime Story and watch it back to back with Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. It’s practically a master’s class in how to adapt another movie and how to tailor something to someone’s particular comic capabilities. And considering the material's history, I'm absolutely interested in seeing whether or not this new version can live up to what we've seen so far.

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Review: 'Suicide Squad' won't save the world, but it just might save DC
Credit: Warner Bros
B+

Review: 'Suicide Squad' won't save the world, but it just might save DC

Will Smith and Margot Robbie loom large, but Jay Hernandez also impresses

Suicide Squad is not the darkest mainstream superhero comic book movie ever made, nor is it even the darkest live-action film featuring Batman ever made. However, it is gleefully nihilistic, and it takes a different approach to what has become a fairly familiar story form at this point, right at the moment when it feels like superhero movies either have to evolve or die. It is very much a David Ayer film, but he’s playing with some of the biggest icons of the DC universe in a way that no one else has so far in a feature film. It suggests just how much room there is for filmmakers to think outside the box as they bring these characters to life, in part because of the ways it succeeds and because of the ways it fails.

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Channing Tatum? Jillian Bell? And a gender-flipped 'Splash'? Sign me up
Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Channing Tatum? Jillian Bell? And a gender-flipped 'Splash'? Sign me up

What a combination of talent

If you were to ask me who the modern Daryl Hannah is, the first name that would leap to mind is Channing Tatum. No question about it.

Splash seems like an inevitable remake, and I’m frankly surprised that it took this long. It sounds like they’re doing it for the right reason, though, which is that someone who genuinely wanted to make the film came in the door and asked about doing it. Jillian Bell, who gave a breakout performance in 22 Jump Street, reportedly helped to develop the pitch for the film, and now Marja-Lewis Ryan is writing it for Disney. Both Imagine and Tatum’s Free Association will produce the film for the studio, and for Imagine, the stakes here are very high. After all, Splash is the film that turned them into a genuine commercial force to be reckoned with, and it helped build everything that came afterwards for both Ron Howard and Brian Grazer.

The notion of playing this as the gender-switched inverse of the original is automatically interesting when you cast Bell and Tatum opposite each other, and when she’s the lead, the human being who encounters this magic and is changed by it. I think it’s hilarious that Tatum’s going to be playing this while we’re getting our first serious Aquaman from Warner at around the same time, and there are few credible action/blockbuster lead actors who are also able to routinely deflate their entire persona with such expert aim. Tatum rebuilt himself from his first wave of films as a guy who is self-aware and fearlessly funny, and I’m genuinely excited to see his take on a merman who falls in love with a human being.

No word yet on director, but it’s going to take someone who understands that no matter how weird the story gets, the humanity and the heart has to be front and center. That’s what made the original such a monster hit. Between Night Shift and Splash, Howard is as responsible for the archetype of the wise-ass white dude ‘80s movie lead as anyone. There’s an entire attitude that can be summed up by the work that Michael Keaton did in Night Shift and that Tom Hanks did in Splash, and it feels like everyone was doing some variation on these characters for the next 15 years.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but… I’m really curious about this one. I’m in.

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Director Taika Waititi drops a big 'Thor: Ragnarok' hint on Instagram
Credit: Marvel Studios

Director Taika Waititi drops a big 'Thor: Ragnarok' hint on Instagram

Could the big purple guy be a problem for Asgard's favorite son?

Taika Waititi is officially having too much fun.

Then again, he’s in an enviable position as the director of Thor: Ragnarok, since he’s following up a film that considered one of the most uneven of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far (Thor: The Dark World), and he’s doing so smack dab in the middle of Phase Three, the strangest and most playful series of films from Marvel so far.

Waititi was an inspired choice, and I’m still having a hard time believing that any studio, even one as aggressive as Marvel, is hip enough to hire the guy who made What We Do In The Shadows to make a giant superhero film. If you’re still lucky enough to be somewhere you can see Hunt For The Wilderpeople in theaters, you really should. It’s terrific. He’s got a lovely sense of character, and while he’s very funny, his humor comes from a place of gently poking at the absurdity inherent to whoever we are, whether that’s a group of vampires sharing a flat in New Zealand or a grizzled old loner and a defiantly sweet but troubled foster kid or, presumably, Asgardian heroes and interstellar villains.

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Legendary finally unveils their long-promised Chinese action film 'The Great Wall'
Credit: Universal/Legendary

Legendary finally unveils their long-promised Chinese action film 'The Great Wall'

They've been revving up for this one for years

Welcome to the future of blockbuster movies.

Legendary Pictures was started as a major funding partner for studios, with an aggressive creative team of their own onboard, and over the years, I’ve talked to Thomas Tull repeatedly about his goals and his work. Tull has stayed very true to the earliest vision of what Legendary should be, and he genuinely seems to be driven by his own interests as a fan. He didn’t get interested in Batman and Superman because Warner needed someone to pay for their films; he specifically asked to be involved in those films because he adores them. Same thing with Godzilla. Same thing with Pacific Rim. These are things that hit Tull dead center in his nerd pleasure center, and he throws his support behind them because he wants to see them given all the resources possible.

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Review: 'Jason Bourne' is one trip to the franchise well too many for this spy
Credit: Universal
C

Review: 'Jason Bourne' is one trip to the franchise well too many for this spy

Matt Damon's fine, but is fine the best that this creative team can do?

In every movie in the Bourne series (except for Legacy), there comes that moment. You know the one. Some shadowy government scumbag is convinced they’ve got the drop on Bourne, and they’re celebrating their accomplishment only to have the phone ring or the computer screen come on just in time for Bourne to tell them that he’s looking at them through a sniper’s scope or he’s recorded them threatening to kill the President or he’s got naked pictures of them and a goat, and as they realize just how screwed they are, here comes the Moby on the soundtrack and there goes Bourne, back into the shadows until next time.

The problem is, the charm has definitely faded, and Jason Bourne proves to be one trip too many to the well, lapsing into accidental self-parody in places. There are scenes I dug and a few set-pieces that work, and there’s an overall level of intensity that I like from director Paul Greengrass. Taken as a whole, though, this is very familiar territory, and I just don’t care when the stakes are this low and the violence is this rough. It’s like beating someone with a tire iron because they didn’t cover their mouth when they sneezed. The film never really makes a compelling case for why Jason Bourne should be back in action, or what makes him heroic in any significant way at this point, and that feels like a problem.

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'Ask Drew' looks at which horror remake might be a perfect fit for Robert Eggers
Credit: HitFix

'Ask Drew' looks at which horror remake might be a perfect fit for Robert Eggers

Plus we play a fiendishly hard round of 'Remake This'

In all the excitement of Comic-Con week, I have been negligent, and I forgot to post the latest episode of Ask Drew for you.

I love how quickly you guys jumped right back into playing along, and this week, we ended up picking a Remake This! instead of a Movie God, but either one of those is acceptable, and I want you to feel free to come up with the most diabolical entries for both games.

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'Kong: Skull Island' makes an impressive Comic-Con debut with a new trailer
Credit: Warner/Legendary

'Kong: Skull Island' makes an impressive Comic-Con debut with a new trailer

'Apocalypse Now' with fur works for me

Brie Larson had a pretty good Saturday at Comic-Con, I think it’s safe to say.

She's had to do a fair amount of juggling around this film so far. When she won her Oscar this spring, she had to fly in from where she was shooting Kong: Skull Island to do so, and Saturday, they had to pull her away from her press duties for Kong: Skull Island to take the stage in Hall H to announce that she is officially signed to play Captain Marvel, aka Carol Danvers, in what will easily be one of the most eagerly awaited films Marvel has ever made.

But before we get all crazy about a movie that doesn’t even have an announced director yet, let’s look at the other film she came to San Diego to discuss today, because that is a seriously awesome trailer. Jordan Vogt-Roberts and screenwriters Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly, John Gatins, and Dan Gilroy all deserve credit for avoiding the problems inherent to simply remaking King Kong one more time. Instead, they’re using the general iconography and building a new film that kind of looks like Apocalypse Now starring a 100-foot gorilla instead of Marlon Brando. And if that doesn’t get you interested, then nothing will, I suppose.

First and foremost, Larry Fong’s photography is absolutely amazing here. Fong is not only one of the best of the big blockbuster cinematographers working these days, he’s also a really active Twitter user, one of the few DP’s to be so open and accessible to fans. He’s one of the stars of this trailer, and I love the way the trailer hints at what we’ll see in the actual film without revealing much of anything. Instead, they spend their time building tension and suspense and introducing what looks like a pretty great overall ensemble.

In addition to Larson, we’ve got Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, John C. Reilly, Toby Kebbell, Jason Mitchell (Eazy-E in Straight Outta Compton), and the one and only Terry Notary as Kong himself. Notary, who I’ve spoken to for the site before, is a movement coach and an actor who has worked with Andy Serkis extensively, and I’m curious to see what he brings to Kong. I didn’t realize until now that Kong was being created using performance-capture, and I’m excited to see what other monsters there are on that island that they’re not showing us yet. Those giant boneyards certainly drop some tantalizing hints.

Overall, this is a knockout first look at something and combined with that great new one-sheet…

… I’m feeling like we may be in for something special.

Kong: Skull Island is in theater March 10, 2017.

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Zack Snyder's 'Justice League' makes a triumphant trailer debut at Comic-Con
Credit: Warner Bros

Zack Snyder's 'Justice League' makes a triumphant trailer debut at Comic-Con

Aquaman! Holy cow!

Despite what many people believe about critics or people who write about movies professionally, I love to be surprised, and I love to be proven wrong.

When I kicked off an unexpectedly vehement wave of fan-driven mayhem this spring by sharing buzz I’d been hearing about Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, I did so without having any idea what kind of blowback I’d get. I wasn’t looking to shake anyone’s faith, and I certainly wasn’t pretending that the buzz I’d been hearing was the final word on anything. That’s one of the reasons the extreme overreaction bummed me out so much. If I can’t feel free to honestly report which way the wind is blowing as we build up to the release of a film, then you’re essentially asking me to just be part of the marketing arm of the studios. That’s not how I started writing about film, and it’s certainly not going to be where I end up. Fans seem to only want to hear good news, or they want their own opinion reinforced, but again… that’s not really my job.

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The first 'Wonder Woman' trailer makes a big noise at Comic-Con
Credit: Warner Bros

The first 'Wonder Woman' trailer makes a big noise at Comic-Con

Could they have really pulled it off?

Warner Bros. has made a habit of owning Saturday mornings at Comic-Con, and it feels like this year is no different. Our own Emily Rome was in the room today to bring you a report about how they rolled things out, and it sounds like Conan O’Brien was a great choice to be the host.

By far, the biggest noise they made today was with the first trailer for Wonder Woman, and congratulations to Warner for doing what fans have been asking for so loudly for so long. More than ever, I am keenly aware of the hunger that exists for representation in pop culture, and watching what happens when an audience feels included and respected is, frankly, inspirational. It reminds me of why I loved fandom when I was a kid. I spent much of my childhood reading books and watching movies that made me feel like I was alone in the world, with one or two friends who might be into the same thing. It wasn’t until my first science-fiction convention that I realized how many other people felt the same way I did. My whole life, I’ve been lucky enough to be the person who is the default in pop culture, so I’ve always been able to see myself in stories and onscreen. If it’s someone else’s turn now, it doesn’t negate all of those things I’ve read and seen, and I’m sure I’ll still see plenty of myself.

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