Friday FabOoolousness – “Let’s Dance!”

It’s time again for Catie Rhodes and I to break down another cinematic original and its remake – this month, we discuss Footloose.

First, let’s review Catie’s summary of the 1984 film:

Footloose is the story of a big-city kid who moves to a podunk town where dancing is illegal.  The big-city kid fights to hold a school dance, a prom, and encounters resistance from both town leaders and other kids who don’t like slick, fast talking outsiders.  Footloose has it all–romance, fighting, laughs…and dancing.

And in keeping with Catie’s style, here’s a taste of the most recent, Footloose (2011):

I’ll be the first to admit that when I saw the trailer, I felt the remaking of Footloose was sacrilege.  The 1984 film is and forever will be a classic – why mess with greatness?

But it’s because of this negativity that I asked to review the 2011 remake by MTV Films.  And I won’t lie – I prepared myself for a horrible film.

The opening scene gave me goosebumps, blasting the original Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose” as today’s teens danced and partied.  It almost seemed like there wasn’t a generational gap between kids today and kids twenty years ago – everyone appreciates good music.  Heck, I wanted to get up and dance with them.  Already, my opinion of the movie slowly began to turn around…

Immediately following the opening scene, five teens are killed in a horrendous car accident.  The driver, a senior football star, was also the son of the town’s reverend (Rev. Shaw Moore, played by Dennis Quaid).  This accident forces the members of the Bomont, Georgia city council to impose strict laws, forbidding teens from drinking and participating in public dancing.

The “new” Ren

Fast forward three years and viewers are introduced to the new kid in town, Ren McCormack (played by Kenny Wormald), a boy who also recently suffered a great loss of his own with the death of his mother.

The “new” Ariel

Ren immediately finds himself not mixing well with the locals and can’t quite understand why a local police officer pulls him over for disturbing the peace (he was playing his music too loud).  He attempts to befriend the reverend’s daughter (Ariel, played by Dancing with the Stars’ Julianne Hough), but she’s too busy rebelling and dating an older, rough-around-the-edges man to give Ren the time of day.

The “new” Willard

After Ren makes friends with a fellow high school boy (Willard, played by Miles Teller), he learns that the town also enforces a “no dance” ordinance.  Needless to say, Ren is miserable in Bomont.

Does this sound familiar?  It should – the 2011 film mirrors the 1984 classic throughout.  Usually I’d list the differences between the original and remake, but today we’re going to appreciate the similarities:

Ren’s car – a yellow Volkswagen Beetle, also known as a Slug-Bug around Texas
Ren’s hobby and pastime – Gymnastics
Ariel’s boots – red
Ren’s first day of school attire – a neck tie
Ren’s “blowing off some steam” dance scene – a lot of the moves were the same (but the music was way off)
Willard learns how to dance – wearing a straw cowboy hat to the music “Let’s Hear it For the Boy” by Deniece Williams
The high school students’ secret hangout – The Yearbook
Ariel’s t-shirt at the council meeting – “Dance your @$$ off”
Ren’s prom attire – dark red, almost maroon, tuxedo jacket with a black bow-tie

Can everyone see where I’m going with this?  I applaud the attention to detail in keeping the original alive.  Of course there were also a few differences, but the bottom line is what matters – the story remains the same.

Footloose is a story about a boy, a stranger from another part of the country, who moves in and changes the town people’s lives and opens their eyes to believing in their children again.

Footloose is the story of a town coming together to celebrate life, not just mourning the dead.

Footloose is the story of children finding their voice – peacefully and respectfully.

Catie mentioned the music in the original Footloose, something none of us can argue with – the soundtrack is simply amazing, featuring artists such as Kenny Loggins, Sammy Hagar, Mike Reno (of Loverboy), Ann Wilson (of Heart), Bonnie Tyler, Foreigner, John Mellencamp, and Quiet Riot.

How does the remake compare?  The 2011 soundtrack may not be considered a classic twenty years from now, but the movie does feature many of the original’s hits – including Kenny Loggins’ and Blake Shelton’s rendition of “Footloose”, a Quiet Riot heavy metal song, plus remakes of “Hero” and “Almost Paradise”.

Catie also enlightened the rest of us with a fun fact – Kevin Bacon was not the first choice to play the role of Ren in the 1984 hit — Tom Cruise and Rob Lowe were considered first.  Can any of us imagine anyone besides Kevin Bacon playing Ren?

The “original” Ren

Similarly, Kenny Wormald wasn’t the first choice for the remake either.  Apparently Zac Efron, Chace Crawford, and Thomas Dekker all passed on the role first for one reason or another.  I was a little disappointed, especially that Chase Crawford didn’t work out, but I must say I am not at all sad after watching Kenny Wormald’s performance.  I don’t know who he is, but he’s absolutely adorable and nailed the character of Ren.

Speaking of relatively unknowns, the same can be said for Miles Teller.  Catie honored the fabOoolous performance of Chris Penn as Ren’s best friend, Willard, in the 1984 film.  But what about the 2011 portrayal of Willard?  Miles Teller may actually be the best casting of the entire film.  Sometimes I actually saw and heard Chris Penn in his performance.

Now Catie closed her post on an entirely different note, introducing the true story on which Footloose is based.  Be sure to remember and click over to her blog to read all about it.

For me, I’m just going to close with Ren’s words: “There is a time to dance.”

“Let’s Dance!”

What do you think?  Have you seen either the original or the remake of Footloose?  If you’ve seen both, which do you prefer and why?  If you haven’t, do you want to?  I’d love to hear from you! 

Remember to stop by Catie’s blog discussing the original if you haven’t already.

Friday FabOoolousness: The Fear of the Unknown

Catie Rhodes and I are back with our new blog collaborative series where we each review an original movie and it’s more recent remake.  This month, we discuss the psychological horror film/s, The Thing.

Despite the fact that Catie agreed to review the 1982 film version of The Thing starring Kurt Russell, I scheduled the DVR to record it and watched it as well.  What better research for my blog post than to watch both films practically back-to-back, right?

For an early ‘80s film, The Thing is really terrifying.  I had seen it before, but still managed to jump in my seat on multiple occasions and cringe at some of the special effects — not because they were outdated, but because they were so well done and gory beyond belief.

The 1982 movie poster

After reading Catie’s post, I knew exactly why I was so impressed: The Thing was directed by none other than John Carpenter himself.  I may not be a “Level 3 Nerd” fan like she is, but I too believe the man is genius and knows horror (I am a big fan of Halloween; thank you, Mr. Carpenter).

I am also glad Catie mentioned the hotness of Kurt Russell.  Even with a full-on beard, the man had it going on in The Thing.  And if we’re being honest here, the main reason why I wanted to review the 2011 remake of The Thing is because of another cutie on my radar – Eric Christian Olsen (NCIS: LA).

He's not a bad reason to watch a movie, right?

So I keep saying remake, but this is not correct.  I had heard in passing that the 2011 film was actually a prequel to the 1982 movie, but like usual decided that I must first see it to believe it.

It is.

Based on the novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, writer Eric Heisserer begins the story with the Norwegian and American scientists who discover The Thing.  Not only do they discover the alien life form, but they also find its spaceship buried deep beneath the Antarctic ice.    The Norwegians contact a doctor (Ulrich Thomsen) about the discovery and he immediately makes plans to travel to the base.  But he first needs someone to assist with the dig.

The doctor remains hush-hush about the find when he hires a paleontologist to assist him (Kate, played by Mary Elizabeth Winsted).  Together with the doctor’s assistant (Olsen), the three travel to the Antarctic not knowing what BIG discovery they will unearth.  It doesn’t take long for their eyes to bug out in disbelief when they see firsthand what they are dealing with.

Kate immediately gets to work, and with help from the scientists removes a large chunk of ice surrounding the alien.  They return The Thing to the Norwegian base and the Mister-Know-It-All-Doctor demands a tissue sample from The Thing, even though Kate highly recommends against it.

The group later gathers in the common area and celebrates the find – they will forever be associated with the team that captured the first alien life form known to man.  While they party, the alien breaks through the ice and escapes.

Or does it?

Burn it! Burn it!

After capturing and burning the alien life form, Kate learns from a tissue sample that the creature’s cells have yet to die.  Instead, these cells have the ability to imitate another’s cells perfectly: a human’s cells.

Much like the original film, panic and mass paranoia spreads across the camp like a wildfire in hot, dry, and windy conditions.  The search for The Thing yields many dead bodies (and a dog, which I could have done without).  But luckily for the group, Kate discovers a crucial tell-tale sign about The Thing — when it imitates a life form, it cannot absorb any metal — therefore no dental fillings, no earrings, and no metal rods replacing bones from previous surgeries will absorb in the mutation.  Knowing this will later prove to save her life.

I'd be looking behind my shoulder too...

The 2011 movie ends just as the 1982 movie begins.  The transition was very well done, even matching the music and the burned Norwegian camp with the dead body inside (the man slit his throat rather than die at the hands of The Thing).  The film also answers how The Thing escapes camp to continue its slaughter of human lives after MacReady (Russell) arrives – the alien is the dog (again with the poor dog).

Unlike the 1982 movie, the prequel (ha, notice I didn’t say remake this time) didn’t get great overall reviews.  But it’s really not that bad.  I particularly liked the fact that one doesn’t have to watch the films sequentially in order to understand what’s going on.  I also applaud the fact that even though the 2011 film is a prequel to the 1982 version, they didn’t take us back in time with ‘80s clothes and other retro images.  Or if they did, it wasn’t distracting.  It’s not that I have anything against the ‘80s (I’m actually a proud child of the ‘80s), but sometimes the effort to create a certain time period takes away from the rest of the story.

Having watched both films, and truly knowing what to expect, I still jumped in my seat…on multiple occasions.  I even looked away at times.  That to me is good horror.

What do you think?  Have you seen either the 1982 or the 2011 The Thing?  If you’ve seen both, which do you prefer and why?  I’d love to hear from you! 

Remember to stop by Catie’s blog discussing the original if you haven’t already.

Friday FabOoolousness: Babysitting is a Dangerous Business

Catie Rhodes and I had such a fabOoolous time teaming up and writing the last collaborative blog (Straw Dogs), that we decided to start a monthly series where we’ll review and compare original films and their remade counterparts.  This month, we discuss the psychological horror film, When a Stranger Calls.

On her Wild-Card Wednesday post, Catie breaks down the 1979 horror film, When a Stranger Calls, starring Carol Kane and Charles Durning.  In her blog, she mentions the fact that the original movie was based on an urban legend: The Babysitter and The Man Upstairs.

In addition to When a Stranger Calls, other popular horror/slasher flicks come to mind that play off of this urban legend: Black Christmas (1974 and 2006), as well as the cult-classic Scream franchise.   Being that Catie and I are planning future blog posts, I won’t go into much detail about Black Christmas since it’s a potential candidate in the running, but we can briefly discuss the opening sequence of Scream.

A girl, home alone, prepares popcorn awaiting the arrival of her boyfriend when the telephone rings.  The disguised voice on the other end asks her, “What’s your favorite scary movie?” and before we know it, the teenager is terrorized by a crazed killer, chasing her through the house.  While she may not be babysitting, she is home alone and the killer is already inside the house.

Creepy…

Catie also does a wonderful job of  breaking the original When a Stranger Calls down into the classic three-act structure: Act One, the babysitter and the “caller”; Act Two takes place seven years later, as a former policeman chases the “caller”; and Act three, when the “caller” has refocused his attentions on the babysitter from years earlier.

Immediately, we see the first major difference between the original movie and the remake – the 2006 When a Stranger Calls focuses approximately 90 minutes on the original film’s act one.  The second and third acts of the original movie do not exist in the remake.

The trailer:

The movie begins with a brutal murder after a girl receives prank phone calls – the killer doesn’t leave behind a murder weapon, and the body is so completely mutilated that the medical examiner has to remove it in multiple body bags.

 

Next, we meet Jill Johnson (Camilla Belle), who lives over a hundred miles away from the first homicide.  Jill is clearly having a rough week – her boyfriend cheated on her with her supposed good friend Tiffany (played by Katie Cassidy), and her parents have disconnected her cell phone for going 800 minutes over her calling plan.

Side note #1: Why does the home-wrecker character always have to be named Tiffany in movies and television?

Side note #2: The fact that a teenager doesn’t have an unlimited cell phone plan really dates this movie, and it’s only six years old.

Back on topic:

To pay off her cell phone bill, Jill agrees to babysit instead of partying all night with her friends at the high school bonfire.  Her father drives Jill out to her employer’s house for the evening — a beautiful and luxurious home out in the middle of nowhere, hidden behind security gates with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the plush trees and forest.   The wealth of the family also allows for motion sensor lights throughout the house, and for an enclosed  greenhouse smack dab in the center of the home, filled with greenery, chirping birds, a pond, and fish.

The parents give Jill the quick run through before leaving for their night out – if she hears any noises, it could be one of three things:

1)      Their black cat,
2)      Their housekeeper, who lives upstairs but has the night off,
3)      Or their son living in the guest house, home from college.

Jill sets the alarm, and settles in for a nice and quiet night of studying while the children sleep upstairs.  This should be easy, right?

Wrong.  The suspense starts almost immediately: the phone rings with no one on the other end, which Jill assumes is her silly ex-boyfriend and his friends playing pranks on her; she hears doors and/or cabinets close, which she imagines is just the housekeeper; the house alarm sounds, which she also writes off as the housekeeper since her employers mentioned they can’t seem to get her to remember the code; Tiffany pays her a surprise visit, through the open garage door (how did that happen?); and the motion sensor lights keep going on and off in other parts of the house.

Jill is so spooked, that at one point she walks through the house with the fire-place stoker in hand.  Okay, who hasn’t done that at least once?

The prank calls continue, and finally the voice on the other end of the phone speaks out and Jill has had enough.  She calls around for help, but not even the police can do anything at this point.

The phone rings again, and this time the “caller” asks those five frightening words:

“Have you checked the children?”

Jill does what any good babysitter would do, and she rushes upstairs to check on the sleeping children who are safe and sound, snuggled away in their beds.

The phone rings again:

“How were the children?”

How is he watching her?  Jill hangs up and calls the police again, and this time they agree to run a trace on the calls.  Before hanging up, the officer on the other end of the call reminds Jill that she is “safe inside the house.”  Yea, right!  Famous last words….

At this point in the 2006 film there is a lot of Jill’s running around the property, searching for the housekeeper, for the son home from college, for anything to make her feel better about being alone in this house.

And then the phone rings again, and trying to keep the “caller” on the line for the minimum sixty seconds required for the police trace, Jill asks, “What do you want?”

“Your blood, all over me.”  This may be one of the creepiest movie quotes of all time…

Jill successfully keeps the “caller” on the line long enough for the police trace, and the police notify Jill that “the call is coming from inside the house!”

Side Note #3: My doorbell rang at this very moment in the movie, and I had to laugh at the fact that I literally jumped in my seat.  Now I’ve seen this movie multiple times, but that didn’t stop the delivery man from giving me that one little “BOO!” when he dropped off our package…

Back to When a Stranger Calls

This is where the big battle ensues, and I don’t want to give too much away in case everyone hasn’t seen the movie.   But even during the fight scenes, the viewers don’t see the “caller’s” face.  Not once.  He is just a dark shadow, lurking around every corner, pursuing Jill until the end.

It’s not until the very end of the film, after the “caller” is arrested, that we see his face – and it is a creepy, creepy face (played by Thomas Flanagan).

There were rumors that a sequel was in the works, but other rumors mentioned that it had been thrown to the cutting room floor.  I’m not sure “sequel” would be the appropriate term anyway; it sounds just like another remake.  A true sequel would be a movie about the second and third acts from the original film, not another movie about a babysitter.

Regardless, we still have the 1979 When a Stranger Calls, the 1993 television sequel When a Stranger Calls Back (also starring Carol Kane and Charles Durning), and the 2006 remake to satisfy our psychological thriller needs.

What do you think?  Have you seen either the original or the remake of When a Stranger Calls?  If you’ve seen both, which do you prefer and why?  I’d love to hear from you! 

Remember to stop by Catie’s blog discussing the original if you haven’t already.

If you still want more of “The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs” urban legend, check out When a Killer Calls (also 2006).

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