When David Mamet's play Sexual Pervesity in Chicago was adapted into the 1986 movie About Last Night, the self-absorbed Chicago twenty-somethings were played by Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Jim Belushi, and Elizabeth Perkins. In the 2014 remake, those parts are now being played by Michael Ealy, Joy Bryant, Kevin Hart, and Regina Hall and nothing about that seems unusual. It isn't that Mamet's play has changed much in the 40 years since he first wrote it, it's that some of the audience's preconceived notions of who can play what role have.Just as it happened with the reworked The Karate Kid that featured Jaden Smith in the title role made famous by Ralph Macchio, About Last Night takes a '80s story and adds some ethnic diversity to come up with something new. Well, there's a whole lot more movies from the '80s that are just sitting there waiting for just such a redo. Here are five stories that would work just as well in a more coloful version.
Molly Ringwald playing the forgotten girl on her birthday, in love with an older boy and tormented by geeks in the John Hughes classic. Everything about the story still works, including the Chicago suburban setting that was ultra-white in the '80s. Disney Channel stalwart Coco Jones is the right age to play the teenager in love, and Zoe Kravitz would make a fine addition as her attention-hogging older sister. So what if Jones and Kravitz don't look alike? Ringwald looked nothing like her onscreen family in the original. In the all-important older guy role, someone like 90210's Tristan Wilds could provide the smolder. The only real issue would be what to do with the original's exchange student, The Donger. That was a role so racially regrettable that it doesn't exactly have a place in today's world.
In Mike Nichols' film, Melanie Griffith played the secretary that secretly takes over for her out-of-commission boss (Sigourney Weaver), proves a capable business woman, and wins the affection of Harrison Ford. The Griffith character would have to be called an assistant now, but otherwise there isn't much about the story that needs to change. Use someone like Kat Graham (The Vampire Diaries) or Tika Sumpter (Ride Along) as the underling trying to get ahead, maybe Halle Berry or even Gabrielle Union as the obnoxious boss and Taye Diggs as the love interest, and update the setting from a generic New York investment bank to the entertainment idustry. What Hollywood assistant doesn't want to push the boss out of the way and take over?
Sure, people remember the soundtrack but how many people remember the story? A steel-worker by day who dances in a bar by night, all while dreaming of making it as a legitimate professional dancer, and is pursued by her rich boss. Back then she wasn't really a stripper, but now she would have to be and she'd be trying to break into something hipper than ballet. The role could also be played this time by someone that can legitimately dance, since Jennifer Beals, the original star, was famously replaced by a body double. Someone like That Awkward Feeling's Jessica Lucas would work, or else there's got to be a Janelle Monáe back-up dancer that's ready to break out.
Tiger Woods broke on the scene nearly 20 years ago, so a golf comedy set at a country club and featuring a diverse cast shouldn’t be any big deal. It's near sacrilege to many to consider remaking such a beloved classic, but a new version would be shooting for a whole new audience. After all, golfers of all colors are tired of reciting the same tired lines from the original. Start with Hart taking on the Rodney Dangerfield role of the rich guy that doesn't like the country club set. Imagine letting Hart riff on a bunch of rich people while dressed in ugly golf garb, throw in Saturday Night Live's Jay Pharoah as the wacky grounds keeper, and it just flows from there. You could have a who's who of comedy going... Godfrey, Chris Rock, Mike Epps, Katt Williams, Faizon Love… there would be a part for just about everyone. Heck, even Eddie Murphy might be convinced to do the Judge Smails role that Ted Knight made famous. That would be top notch.
Three Men and a Baby
Tom Selleck, Ted Danson and Steve Guttenberg were three well-off bachelors sharing a fabulous midtown Manhattan apartment that have their lives interrupted by a baby being dropped off at their doorstep. The idea of guys taking care of babies continues to be played for laughs, most recently in the sitcom Guys with Kids. What has been missing since Three Men is the angle of the guys being rich, Type A personalities. Take Jesse L. Martin, Tyler Perry and Damon Wayans Jr., move the setting to Hollywood, make them all successful and sharing a Charlie Sheen-type playpen, and then let a baby screw up their lives. It's comedy gold.
The debates can finally end: Ansel Elgort has just landed the lead in the hotly-anticipated adaptation of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, directed by Josh Boone. He will star opposite YA queen and Divergent costar Shailene Woodley.
"Ansel is whip-smart and uber-charismatic and everything I dreamed for Augustus Waters," Green tells EW. "I am by nature a cautious pessimist, but I’ll just say it: Now that we have Shailene and Ansel, I am completely, unreservedly psyched about this movie."
Elgort's Augustus Waters is a videogame-loving ex-basketball player who lost his leg to osteosarcoma, and a complete dreamboat. Woodley plays Hazel, a teenage cancer patient who meets fellow sufferer Augustus in a cancer support group.
"Elgort is the epitome of the boy John Green brought to life so vividly in his novel and he truly embodies the character traits we admire so much about Gus," Boone says. "His humor, sensitivity, honesty and confidence floored us. Watching him with Shailene was like seeing the film for the first time. Hearing then say okay to each other was incredibly moving. We couldn’t be more thrilled to have found our Gus."
Playing Woodley's on-screen love interest will be quite the change from their current on-screen relationship: Elgort is currently playing Caleb Prior, Woodley's brother on Divergent (adapted from the Veronica Roth bestselling series).
"We were all swept away by the humor, charm, and aching vulnerability Ansel brought to his portrayal of Gus," The Fault In Our Stars producer Wyck Godfrey says. "His performance completely annihilated our concerns about his playing Caleb in Divergent with Shailene, and we are confident that the fans of Fault will fall in love with him the same way that Hazel does – slowly, and then all at once."
Divergent is currently in production, while The Fault In Our Stars begins production in August.
Follow Sydney on Twitter: @SydneyBucksbaum
More:Shailene Woodley, Queen of YA, Gets Lead in 'The Fault In Our Stars''The Fault In Our Stars': Who Will Play Augustus?'The Fault In Our Stars' Gets a Director
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Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
Ridley Scott’s plodding pointless Robin Hood calls to mind a line from a stand-up routine (link NSFW) Patton Oswalt did a few years ago about George Lucas’ limp Star Wars prequels: “I don’t give a s**t where the stuff I love comes from. I just love the stuff I love.” Though there was never any discernible desire among filmgoers to know what the mythical medieval outlaw’s early days were like Scott nonetheless spent $230 million to tell us.
And so precious little of Robin Hood is devoted to all of the stuff we love about the title character — you know the stunning displays of archery skill the robbing from the rich and giving to the poor etc. Instead we're forced to watch as the future folk legend who begins the film as a lowly infantryman in King Richard’s crusading army engages in significantly less riveting endeavors like gambling with fellow soldiers in between sieges arguing against the killing of defenseless Muslims planting a wheat field just in time for the rainy season and debating the merits of the Magna Carta (which we learn through Scott’s usage of lame repressed-memory flashbacks that his father actually wrote).
Needless to say this isn’t Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood (which say what you will was at least entertaining) but a gritty period-authentic “real” take on the character absent all the usual Hollywood gloss and polish. Scott’s faux-revisionist approach calls for copious hand-held camera work a subdued color palette and various other cinematic devices (but no blood — this is PG-13 after all) meant to properly depict the nasty and brutish reality of existence in the early 13th century. Dirt and grime are omnipresent and all of the actors appear as if they haven’t bathed or shaved for days. Poor Cate Blanchett usually radiant even when dressed down looks positively ghastly as old Maid Marion.
For the lead role naturally Scott tabbed his trusty pal Russell Crowe the very embodiment of modern actorly grit who in Robin Hood perpetually bears the weathered sneer of a man awakened too early after a roaring bender. His principal adversary is not the Sheriff of Nottingham whose role is reduced to that of comic relief but Godfrey (Mark Strong) a scheming Rasputin-like advisor to the throne of England who secretly conspires to aid her greatest enemy France.
Unfortunately Robin and Godfrey share almost no screen time together draining much of the potential weight from their conflict. Their rivalry is mainly played out by proxy with a former royal functionary (William Hurt looking as lost and confused as we are) acting as a go-between while our Robin labors vainly to imbue a semblance of believability to his hasty courtship of recently-widowed Marion. His effort among other things involves an audacious narrative switcheroo reminiscent — I s**t you not — of this scene from the 2006 comedy Beerfest.
It goes without saying that drawing comparisons to a movie called Beerfest does not bode well for a serious-minded period epic. If there’s a silver lining to be drawn from Robin Hood it’s that the filmmakers mercifully chose not to release a 3D version of the film indicating that there was at least one kind soul at Universal Pictures who couldn’t bear the thought of some poor sap paying $19 to watch this medieval monstrosity.