To some, the popularity of remakes over the last couple decades - along with hasty 3D conversions, the Saw series, and Michael Bay - spells twilight for great American cinema. To others, remakes are like holidays: the comforting repetition of tradition that grounds us in a world in which technology is changing the way we live every day. But even holiday traditions aren't good by default, and the history of remakes has had more than few fruitcakes.
Either way, don't expect to escape remakes anytime soon; like sequels and reboots, they are a favorite bet with increasingly cautious Hollywood studios. In October, new versions of Footloose and The Three Musketeers will hit theatres, no doubt driving critics to their thesauruses for more ways to say "screamingly awful."
As we wait to see how audiences will treat these latest remakes, here are the five worst cinematic remakes of all time.
5. Psycho (1998)
Rundown: This shot-by-shot color remake of Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 masterpiece certainly created buzz for its daring, but it will go down in film history as utterly pointless. As Roger Ebert wrote at the time, director Gus Van Sant - whose otherwise brilliant career includes Good Will Hunting and Milk - brings nothing new to the table save an unnecessary masturbation scene.
Unfortunately, Hitchcock may not be done turning in his grave; Chinese director Chen Daming said in an interview last year that he'd love to remake classics like Strangers on a Train (1951) and North by Northwest (1959) for Chinese audiences. Fingers crossed.
How bad is it? It's said that Orson Welles' dying wish was to keep the colorizing-happy Ted Turner and his "damn crayons" away from Citizen Kane.
That's basically what this is: Psycho, but not good, with crayons.
4. Fame (2009)
Rundown: This remake of the popular 1980 film of the same name sought to capitalize on the success of reality shows like "So You Think You Can Dance" and "American Idol." But unlike a little show called "Glee" that did this effectively, 2009's Fame felt like it could have been written by the Microsoft Office paperclip (or maybe it was, since he clearly abandoned his old gig).
How bad is it? Even my friend Dave, a singing, dancing, ballroom instructor with a crush on star (and "SYTYCD" alum) Kherington Payne, fell asleep.
3. The Wicker Man (2006)Rundown:
Before we knew thatNicholas Cage's film career
would only keep getting worse, there was this remake of the 1973 cult classicThe Wicker Man
. Where the original holds a favored place in the history of horror, this version would find better company in the comedy section.
At least it gave us the infinitely quotable: "Get off the bike. Get off the bike. Step away from the bike!"
How bad is it? The hilarious YouTube video "Best Scenes from 'The Wicker Man,'" featuring clips of Cage punching Leelee Sobieski and running around in a bear costume, is just shy of 3 million views.
2. Rollerball (2002)
Rundown: Stripping away all that was right about the 1975 Rollerball (its dark, dystopian themes and star James Caan), this remake claims an astoundingly low critical rating of 3% on Rotten Tomatoes. At least Rebecca Romijn got to somewhat mask herself with a black wig and one of those vaguely Russian accents required of Hollywood starlets (see Angelina Jolie in Alexander); Chris Klein and LL Cool J are easily recognizable.
How bad is it? Klein's role would be better played by that two-by-four with the drawn-on face everyone was touting as a replacement for Keanu Reeves in The Matrix trilogy.
1. High School Musical: China (College Dreams) (2010)
Rundown: In an epic fail for globalization, Disney tried to export its wildly popular High School Musical franchise to China with this Chinese remake of the 2006 original. There were problems from the start; for one, it was deemed that high-school students having time to put on a musical in the rigorous Chinese school system was too unrealistic, and the plot was moved to college.
So Japanese high-school students can make time to battle to the death, but Chinese students singing and dancing? That's just silly.
How bad is it? NPR reported that the few theaters signed on for its Beijing release sold one ticket on a good week.
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