To paraphrase a timeless saying: Everything old is new again. To amend it slightly: At least we’re not talking about sequels.
The cinematic schedule for 2008 offers more than a dozen “re-imaginings” united in their hope that built-in fanbases will support TV-to-film, Broadway-to-film and old-film-to-new-film reboots. But which of these will rise above their source material à la “Bourne,” and which will suck harder than “The Honeymooners”? Below are the 10 re-imaginings that already have us tasting the popcorn.
10. “Death Race” (September 26)
Have you ever taken a car ride with your friends, seen a person slowly crossing the street, dangled your foot above the gas pedal and joked, “five points”? Well, the 1975 flick “Death Race 2000” is where that came from. Although the year 2000 didn’t bring about the national sport of mowing down pedestrians with your car, 2008 gives us a remake with Jason Statham, Ian McShane and Joan Allen being overseen by director Paul Anderson. Nope, not that one — the “Resident Evil” guy. Regardless, knowing how “Transporter” star Statham drives, this movie could make NASCAR look like a race between Lark senior scooters.
9. “The Punisher: War Zone” (September 12)
If you’re the sort of moviegoer eager to undergo a “Men in Black”-like memory wipe, you’ll have your chance to rediscover another trouble-plagued superhero just three months after the Hulk also returns to theaters (see below). Marvel continues to party like it’s 2003-’04 with this reboot of arguably its darkest cinematic superhero, and it promises no relation to the Thomas Jane movie — or, we can only assume, the Dolph Lundgren one — but the inclusion of a new city for Frank Castle to destroy (New York) and zero interaction with John Travolta’s whiny villain. Instead, the skull-bearing antihero will have the unfamiliar visage of Ray Stevenson (anybody seen “Rome”?), several other actors you’ve never heard of and Newman from “Seinfeld.” The bottom line is that Castle remains one of Marvel’s all-time greatest creations, and it’s sad that they can’t get him right onscreen. We only hope that this version, unlike the last two, doesn’t punish the fans.
8. “Scanners” (Late ’08)
Sure, David Cronenberg isn’t exactly thrilled with the idea of his 1981 cult classic being rebooted — but that doesn’t mean we won’t give comic book geek/director David S. Goyer (“Blade: Trinity”) the benefit of the doubt. The original film boasted a killer concept (telepathic, corporate-monitored freaks battle extinction — and each other), a rare blend of sci-fi and thrills, and a singular image (the exploding heads of overloaded scanners) that became the “bullet time” of its day. If Cronenberg had had the CGI technology that Goyer will have when he shoots his remake, we can only assume that “Scanners” would have been even more mind-blowing.
7. “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (December 12)
The 1951 film was a Cold War metaphor that entertained audiences while tenderly reflecting our culture’s fears of escalating brutality, totalitarian world leaders and nuclear apocalypse. The 2008 version has Keanu Reeves. Laugh if you will, but the durable leading man drops a culture-changing classic on us every time we think he’s down for the count and, well, he’s due. Overseen by Scott Derrickson, the underrated director behind “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” the flick casts Keanu as well-intentioned alien Klaatu, Jennifer Connelly as sympathetic housewife Helen and, God willing, some sort of F/X awesomeness as Gort. We can already imagine the “Klaatu barada nikto!” ringtones blaring from cell phones everywhere next December.
6. “Mamma Mia!” (July 18)
Three years ago, Amanda Seyfried’s fellow “Mean Girls” left her behind to become superstar Lindsay Lohan, cinematic sweetheart Rachel McAdams and Lacey Chabert. Now they’ve become “What happened to ’Chapter 27’?” star Lindsay Lohan, missing-in-action Rachel McAdams and, well, Lacey Chabert. This leaves big-eyed beauty Seyfried on the verge of sprinting ahead with this big-screen adaptation of the Broadway sensation, based on a bunch of ABBA songs that rocked the ’70s, were detested in the ’80s, became tongue-in-cheek hip in the ’90s and have now completed the circle of life. Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth support Seyfried’s bride-to-be in this film, which is clearly hoping to be 2008’s “Hairspray.”
5. “The Incredible Hulk” (June 13)
We’ve always been in awe of the green guy’s massive legs and biceps, but who knew that he possessed equally impressive guts? Barely five years after Ang Lee’s universally panned “Hulk,” hyper-stylized “Transporter” director Louis Leterrier is among those begging us for a do-over. This time around, Edward Norton is playing Eric Bana, Liv Tyler will be stepping into the role of Jennifer Connelly and William Hurt is the new Sam Elliott. Is it a better cast? Is it a better director? You can make that call, but this much is certain: “Hulk” is too important a character for Marvel to let slip into Daredevil-like hibernation, and this big-budget release might be its last shot at turning Bruce Banner into an incredible franchise.
4. “Sex and the City: The Movie” (May 30)
In the eyes of Maxim readers, she’s the Unsexiest Woman Alive. To their wives and girlfriends, she falls somewhere between Mother Teresa and Oprah. Either way, Sarah Jessica Parker is bringing her pink tutu, coffee klatch and designer handbags to the big screen in the most anticipated TV-to-movie translation since the Simpsons’ summer 2007 blockbuster. Little is known about the plot, and the flick’s recently released trailer could just as easily have been advertising a TBS rerun. However, fans are hopeful that Jennifer Hudson, who is new to the “Sex” fold, will hit some high notes, and in May we’ll finally know for sure whether Mr. Big can work it on the silver screen.
3. “Speed Racer” (May 9)
On our TV screens, it was a cheaply animated adventure show starring an ascot-wearing hero, a car whose steering wheel boasted more letters than Afrika Bambaataa and a family continually amazed that Chim-Chim and Spritle were stowing away in the vehicle’s trunk … just like they did in the last episode. On the big screen, enigmatic “Matrix” masterminds the Wachowskis are determined to bring more of the same while substituting big-budget CGI for cheap Japanese anime. The new trailer and poster may have us fearing a PG-13 version of Mike Myers’ “The Cat in the Hat,” but we’re holding out hope that the attempt to bring animation to life will instead mark a “Sin City”-like breakthrough. With Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci and Susan Sarandon in the leads, come May 9 we’ll be first in line to see if Speed can go, go, go.
2. “Get Smart” (June 20)
When we visited the set earlier this year, it looked like Steve Carell and company were flirting with greatness — and loving it! A James Bond super-spy spoof is just as relevant now as it was in 1965. Plus, Carell is doing a good job of keeping Don Adams’ delivery intact without mimicking his famous voice; Alan Arkin seems spot-on exasperated as the Chief; and Anne Hathaway is inspired casting as the beautiful, brainy Agent 99. Mix in Bill Murray as the hilariously hidden Agent 13 (don’t do anything in that toilet — he might be in there!), and confirmation of both the shoe phone and the Cone of Silence (even if it is CGI), and this comedy might just become the greatest movie of all time. OK then, the funniest movie of the summer? Would you believe better than “Evan Almighty”?
1. “Star Trek” (December 25)
Some decisions have thrilled us (Nimoy’s back? And with Sylar now taking on his old role as Spock ? Cool!) while others have left us scratching our heads (The guy from “Just My Luck” as Captain Kirk ? Seriously?). But the fact remains that this is the most anticipated re-imagining of 2008. “Lost” super-producer J.J. Abrams has a lot to accomplish with his time-traveling quasi-prequel — making “Trek” hip again, selling all-new faces as iconic characters, pleasing passionate fanboys whose wrath makes Khan jealous — but we’re holding out hope that this will be one star-date worth keeping. This much is certain: J.J. will be giving us all he’s got, Captain.
Hungry for more on what to expect from this year’s fleet of flicks? Check out these other 2008 movie previews:” ’Indiana Jones,’ ’Dark Knight’ And More Flicks We Can’t Wait To See: ’08 Movie Preview”
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