Hi hi. Welcome back to The 405 Film Digest, in the week that most of you finally got to go see Avengers Assemble and swell its frankly super box office success, the week in which the majority of my Twitter timeline filled up with Homeland-finale excitement followed by glee and the subsequent post-season depression, and the week in which all manner of political controversy riled up the populace so much that a great swathe of London couldn't even face the stress of the polling booths. Anyway, read on for Jake's great feature centred around the recent Oldboy casting announcement, posters, trailer analysis and the biggest and best industry news.

Danny - Film Ed.



Oldboy: Remade and Recast

Jake O'Brien

Is it at all possible for Hollywood to leave foreign films alone? It would seem at times that all they want is to rebrand beloved films from greener pastures with a more palatable Western narrative and an English audio track that doesn’t require their audiences to, God forbid, actually read something. However, there is always hope...

Spike Lee’s remake of the Korean masterpiece Oldboy has begun to gain some serious traction with the latest news that the role of the primary antagonist has finally been cast. South African Sharlto Copley (District 9; A-Team) has grabbed the part, starring opposite leading man Josh Brolin’s character Joe Douchett. Copley will be filling the formidable shoes of Yoo Ji-tae, who played the disturbed and vastly wealthy villain Woo-jin in director Park Chan-wook’s 2003 original. With this in mind, the South Africa actor will have to carefully balance an outward tone of complete control that is consistently informed by a far more sinister and internalised insanity. Those who are fans of the original will be frighteningly aware of the binary existence within all of the film’s characters as both hero and villain seek to stabilise their lives and memories through vengeance. The real question is will those cast be up to it?

No doubt Josh Brolin will inform his character with a careful mix of Choi Min-sik’s original performance and his leading role in 2007’s Oscar winning No Country for Old Men. Certainly, Brolin’s performance from the Coen’s tempered success exudes characteristic similarities in that the angry silence and simple fortitude of Llewelyn Moss mirrors the quiet betrayal of Oldboy’s lead. Quite conversely, Brolin’s portrayal of the confused and frustrated Dan White in 2008’s Milk can do nothing but compliment the complexities of the characterisation at hand. Critical reasoning aside, his general aesthetics and stern demeanour make him a perfect fit for the role.

As far as Copley is concerned, audiences are not too familiar with his capabilities outside of the fantastically surprising District 9 and the painfully ridiculous A-Team. The only two roles that could serve to inform the potential for Copley’s performance are so frantically polarized in nearly all respects that you can’t help but wonder what the finished product will look or feel like! What’s more, Copley has scooped up the role in the wake of interest from both Colin Firth and Clive Owen. Realistically, Firth would have presented an excellent performance in such a role as this – an opportunity to allow his villainous scowl vibrate the screen throughout the closing scenes of the film only after having utilised his incredible talent as a dramatic actor build the narrative to a boiling point. Regardless, we can only wonder what could have been at this stage in the proceedings, and hope that Brolin and Copley create an accurate replica of the seething historical tension between the original purveyors of revenge.

Will that be all it is - a replica? An attempt to water down the brilliance of Chan-wook’s breathtaking tale of forced alienation, history, violence and vengeance? The last time Hollywood dabbled in rehashing South Korean films the result was a morbid disaster. When 2003’s A Tale of Two Sisters was given the once over by the big boys in California, audiences were served up a stale and slobbering mess of a film in The Uninvited. Elizabeth Banks et al. waded through a slovenly script that took all the wrong chances and pulled not one pathetic punch, leaving everyone to wonder if this practice of filmic repatriation was nothing more than a trans-Pacific pilfering. Almost as if Hollywood was that kid is class who kept leaning over everyone’s shoulder to copy down the answers to a question they weren’t asked.

Moreover, while expectations abound that Oldboy’s gritty and beautifully layered narrative will be resold as the Diet American version, new ending and all, it has been suggested that in many ways Spike Lee’s remake may in fact push the boundaries where these contextual queries are concerned. Not to be overly superficial, but to disturb the original scenes of painful realisation and grotesque action would be to collapse the integrity of the whole project.

With this in mind, there is hope! After Matt Reeves’ 2010 Let Me In, we were shown that a sophisticated remake is possible without damaging the memory of the original. In many ways, Reeves’ adaptation was more of a celebration of Tomas Alfredson’s Let The Right One In. It built on the same darkly romantic themes and maintained the gruelling and heavily bleak aesthetics that were crafted not long before the reproduction.

With Spike Lee at the helm we can be sure of a finished product that balances both style and substance. Additionally, Lee has an esteemed history of detailing the nuances of identity and alienation that will allow him to delve into the characteristic complexities upon which Oldboy’s narrative is founded. However, exactly what parts of the plot are getting the axe is not yet certain which could create a huge problem in the dissemination of the story itself, as nearly all scenes are integral to the film’s brilliance. Add to this the heavily unstable and greedy MPAA and the film will either be butchered through editing to suit a tepid rating, or retain its integrity and end up on a vastly limited release.

Either way, I cannot help but be intrigued and excited.

News Wrangle

Did you think it wouldn't happen? With Whedon at the helm? The Disney and Marvel Studios tentpole makes history in securing the biggest opening of all time in North America; and globally the film has earned a massive $641.8 million in 12 days. Hopefully now Joss will finally command the Absolute Power he deserves and get cracking on that second series of Firefly we've all been pining for....

After the trailer (most likely) gave the game away, you might not think there's much more to learn about Prometheus. Well, at the very least the Alien-prequel will be rated R, according to Collider.com, who reckon they got their mitts on a pre-sale ticket stub, which is great news for anyone worried they'd gloss-over the scare/gore factor to cash in that little more. If you're too young to see an R-rated film at the cinema, then, well, better make do with that nice blu-ray box set for a few more months...

New Bond film Skyfall is bringing back the wry, tongue-in-cheek side of Fleming's original character, Mendes assured Total Film last week, whilst on-set in Istanbul. "What Fleming created was a very conflicted character," director Sam Mendes explained of the more dynamic arc of Bond’s character in the finally-green-lit sequel, which sounds great to us; Bond was always at his best when he was enjoying himself a bit, and Quantum... was ever so dour.

Universal announced last week that Tom Cruise was in talks to star in a Van Helsing reboot. It's news like this that can't help me feel a little cynical. The original was a stinker (garlic notwithstanding) and the success of another franchise that brought a good few disparate 'superhuman' characters together can't have gone wholly unnoticed. That said, Tom Cruise's other vampire films have been surprisingly rewarding and despite what you might think of him as a person, he's always going to have on-screen chops, so it'd be interesting (from a purely theoretical perspective of course) to see how he handles being on the other side of the fence-stakes.


Poster Child

“‘The Possession’ is the terrifying story of how one family must unite in order to survive the wrath of an unspeakable evil. Clyde (Morgan) and Stephanie Brenek (Sedgwick) see little cause for alarm when their youngest daughter Em becomes oddly obsessed with an antique wooden box she purchased at a yard sale. But as Em’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic, the couple fears the presence of a malevolent force in their midst, only to discover that the box was built to contain a dibbuk, a dislocated spirit that inhabits and ultimately devours its human host.”

What I dig about this poster (apart from the incredible cast staring back at me like some kind of weird fantasy) is the little narrative details that make me want to find out what's going down; the kid's eyepatch, the retro-photo Jason Schwartzman is holding up, Bill Murray's dress sense, the sinister look in the eyes of the girl in the pink top... it's a kind of simple roll-call poster but I'm Wes Anderson won't disappoint in his quirky characterisation, especially with players of that calibre.

And for the classic poster this week, the Korean version of Park Chan-Wook's incredible and innovative thriller, and second of his 'Vengeance' trilogy, Oldboy. The difference between the Eastern and Western version of the quad has always intrigued me, with the latter seeming to focus on the psychotic look and feel of protagonist Oh Dae-Su, and the former highlighting the bond between the two characters and foregrounding a dazzling array of neon signs, a nod to the disorienting effect of society perhaps? An alternative version of the UK/US poster features Dae-Su wielding a hammer - an apt prefiguring of how Hollywood will try and hammer in an unnecessary remake to pry more revenue from an original script...

Trailer Park