Monday Morning Critic – 1.17.2011 – Brock Lesnar & UFC, Noomi Rapace & Remakes and The Enforcer

Every Monday morning, Inside Pulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

One of the biggest stories in the MMA world this week was that of Brock Lesnar and Junior Dos Santos are coaching The Ultimate Fighter, with a fight scheduled for this summer for the right to face Cain Velazquez for the UFC Heavyweight title. With Cain hurt from his fight with Lesnar, keeping him out of action for most of 2011, it makes the most sense for Dos Santos to take another fight while waiting for the champion to heal. And if he can beat Brock, it makes the title fight that much bigger since he’ll have had a stage to become a star and a chance to headline a pay per view with the biggest draw in combat sports. But one thing intrigued me: what would the MMA forum monkeys think about Lesnar being a head coach on TUF?

It was mainly negative, because a vocal segment of MMA fans hate Lesnar for no real good reason, and it got me thinking about this. And the more I kept thinking the more positive things kept coming to mind about the whole Lesnar experience on the UFC’s proving ground for young fighters. I don’t see how this is going to end up being a bad thing in the scheme of things.

Listen to me now and believe me later.

For full disclosure I’m a big fan of Lesnar, going back to his days at Minnesota when I loved the way he wrestled, so when he decided to go from being a pro wrestler to a professional fighter I was intrigued. Brock was always a physical specimen and a phenomenal athlete but cage-fighting is much more than just physical prowess. So when he stepped into the UFC I was intrigued; it is one thing to be a great wrestler, but MMA is more than amateur wrestling. I was happy as hell that he got the success he did and with his loss to Velazquez, a bit of a beating, left his career in a quandary. Where does he go from here? After cheating death, defending his title in the process, Lesnar is now a defeated champion and lost the belt in the worst way possible. Everyone else at his level has fights lined up, and the new champion is out with a torn rotator cuff, so he can wait for someone to get free or take on the #1 contender this summer. A stint on the Ultimate Fighter, and the resultant high profile fight, is absolutely the best thing for him. Why?

Because we get to see the human side of him over a three month season, as opposed to the handful of interviews he gives before a fight.

Brock’s been one of the more hated guys in MMA for good reason but The Ultimate Fighter brings out the best (and worst) of its coaches. Before a handful of guys became coaches they were almost universally reviled by the MMA fanbase. And a handful of guys went from being likeable to not as liked. Ken Shamrock and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson were liked going into fights / coaching gigs against Tito Ortiz and Rashad Evans beforehand and coming out the latter two had a much higher esteem than they previously had. And people thought Shamrock was an idiot and Rampage wasn’t exactly helped by the perception he was more concerned with pranks than he was with the fighters in his care. So this could end up in one of three ways.

The first is that Brock comes off as the biggest d-bag in the history of d-bags and as such Dos Santos looks like an absolute charmer by association. I kind of doubt this, mainly due to the anecdotes about Lesnar being a first rate guy, but it is possible. Brock has been a WWF bad guy and he does know how to play for the cameras.

The second is the reverse and Dos Santos makes Brock look like a decent guy by association. Again I doubt that because the Brazilians who make it to the UFC all tend to be pretty decent people. It is possible, though, but I highly doubt that.

The third is that Brock brings a lot to the table for a group of eight guys that no one expects, in the process winning over plenty of people who had major dislikes of him. Brock was a first class amateur wrestler and is a renowned workout enthusiast. He went from being a man with no MMA experience to one of the top 10 heavyweights in the world within two years. That doesn’t happen normally; usually it takes many years of hard work and thousands of hours in a particular field to be really good at it. It’s a sign to me of two things.

1. He worked his ass off to learn how to become a fighter
2, He had great coaches that got him up to speed quickly

You just don’t walk into the UFC and beat top quality guys without training like a madman and having good people behind you guiding it. So if Brock, notorious for loving his privacy, is willing to come out to Las Vegas and spend six weeks of his life with a camera crew documenting his every move you can be sure he’s bringing his guys with him. If they can turn him from a guy who was an NCAA champion in the earlier part of the decade into a fighter with a definitive style that has been successful in the highest level in the sport, then they can definitely work with guys who’ve been fighting for some time in the lower organizations. On top of that, they have another thing going for them:

BROCK LESNAR.

Say what you want about the guy, but the one thing he does is work his ass off. And I can guarantee that the guys he picks on his team are going to be working hard. He’s also an accomplished amateur wrestler and I doubt that anyone appearing on this year’s Ultimate Fighter will have his wrestling credentials. So having a guy who has drilled for that many years is a good thing; takedowns are an essential part of the sport. Having a guy of his caliber training them will only help.

Any way you look at it, this upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter is appointment television as far as I’m concerned. But then again, thoughts like these kept me out of the good colleges.

Random Thoughts of the Week

Sometimes the best ideas come from conversations that start out over petty differences. And the worst ones, too, as my college experiences have many of these same starters. My roommates at one point thought it would be a good idea to make a batch of “jungle juice” and flavor it with laxatives, just because they wanted to be mean to people at one of our house parties. Their follow up was to cake up the toilet seats in our house with Icy-Hot, to further up the shenanigans. I merely presumed that mental retardation wasn’t something you were just born with, that you could actually catch it like influenza, and took away both the Ex-Lax and sports cream they had acquired. Eric and Tim were both significantly smarter than I am but sometimes the two just had idiotic ideas that put anything I’ve said or written to shame.

This past week over the Twitter, Robert Saucedo and I had a bit of a sparring match about many things. The main topic was on whether or not David Fincher’s upcoming opus The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo qualified as a remake. Since Fincher is allegedly doing an adaptation of the book as opposed to grabbing the Swedish script and Americanizing it Robert argued that it wasn’t a remake. I say it is because it’s been reported as a remake of the Noomi Rapace starrer and they are cribbing pretty heavily from the trilogy released in 2010.

It’s hard not to look at the poster for Fincher’s version and not see Rooney Mara openly doing a Noomi Rapace imitation as Lisbeth Salander. Rapace made the character totally iconic, and unfortunately Halloween 2012 you’ll see girls everywhere dressing like Rooney Mara instead of Rapace if the film is as successful as it can be. Either that or they’ll be dressing like the girls from Sucker Punch, which looks like a $100 million pedophile’s dream. And it got me thinking: if it’s an adaptation or a remake, there need to be some ground rules. Not on how to classify them, obviously, but on what should and shouldn’t be remade.

We always kvetch about what’s being remade, and the reasons why it should or should not be remade, but no one ever really sat down and said “hey, here are some ground rules” on the whole situation. So, midway though this conversation over Twitter I had an idea about all of this because Rapace inspired some banter between Robert and I. I would’ve preferred if they were going to remake Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that they bring Rapace with. I tend to think Rapace was brilliant despite a director who hasn’t shown the chops Fincher has. Robert argued that they deserved a different project, especially because Rapace just owned it already, and inspiration set in.

Listen to me now and believe me later, again.

We need set rules and criterion for what should and shouldn’t be remade and/or adapted into new movies. Why? Because they don’t exist and like any problem that needs solving, I’m here to indulge on the solution. That and Hollywood is shunting out remakes like Kate Gosselin shunted out kids from her Gosselin and frankly this needs to stop. Thus I’m establishing some criterion for remaking or adapting material. Call it rules or guidelines that I think ought to be followed for the silver screen with examples:

The Rapace Corollary
… or Kubryk’s Big Guide to Adapting Material to the Big Screen

— Find a new angle of approach
Ex: The Departed, remade from Infernal Affairs

Infernal Affairs was a solid film, a good Hong Kong action film, but Scorsese took what was essentially a standard action film and crafted an operatic crime epic out of it. This isn’t a case of taking the basic structure of an original and running with it. He took the basic structure of the original, of a cop going undercover as a crook and a mob boss putting a crook on the force, and crafted a healthy dose of grandiose to the story in only the way Scorsese can. It was something new and unique that made it different from the original in more than a superficial way. Anyone can do a shot for shot remake, ala Gus Van Sant’s Psycho, but it takes a craftsman to do something original with it. Like the Coens take on True Grit, which took a standard ‘60s western and transformed it into a gritty western.

It’s why I don’t get the need to remake The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo using all the same elements but without the biggest chip the original trilogy had going for it: Noomi Rapace. If you’re going to recreate the original, I don’t think it makes sense to not at least try to make a Godfather offer to the star of the original before casting someone with half the talent for an iconic role. While I would prefer to see Fincher and Rapace work on new material, I’d rather see Fincher take the material in a new direction (like setting it in Chicago, for example) as opposed to make an American film set in Sweden that apes the original Swedish film.

— The original isn’t a very good or memorable film to begin with
Ex: Christian Bale and Russell Crowe headline a remake of 3:10 to Yuma

The original 3:10 to Yuma is a good film but is rather forgettable from the era. It has a great concept behind it, though. Can a bad man find redemption through the friendship with a good one? And while it was nearly forgotten as soon as it came out, mainly because audiences have a hard time getting into westerns, it doesn’t mean that it was a mistake. It should’ve gotten Ben Foster an Oscar nomination, as he managed to nearly overshadow Christian Bale and Russell Crowe. But it proved a point by being great and better than the original; disposable films of yesteryear can turn into modern classics.

— The source material is at least fifty years old
Ex: West Side Story being one of the seemingly 8,000 versions of Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet”

Every generation needs certain stories to be retold, if only as a reminder of the universal concepts and stories that have existed for a generation or two. If it’s old enough to be more universal than contemporary than its open for business like a Thai hooker when the Navy comes to town. There is one exception, though.

— Thou shalt not touch universally acclaimed masterpieces
Ex: All the King’s Men going from acclaimed masterpiece to Sean Penn vanity film

There’s nothing about The Godfather or its sequel that needs updating for a modern audience. NOTHING. Some films need to be left alone, PERIOD.

— Thou shall touch crappy films
Ex: Two different versions of Piranha

Bad films kind of get a pass in the remake department. I mean if the material came out awful it could be for a variety of reasons. You can make 100 different versions of Piranha and frankly you’re not going to churn out a film to rival Citizen Kane as the best North American film ever. Thus I can see why there’s a remake of it with the 3D bit and not really have a problem with it. Every generation should have a chance to see if they can make a great film out of something prior filmmakers couldn’t. Worst case scenario you have three different eras of sucktacular films that shows you just can’t make a brilliant film about piranhas eating people. It’s a case study of how three different generations of exploitation filmmakers taking the same premise and having their way with it like it was a Thai hooker after the Navy’s left town.

— Films that haven’t aged very well, or are time capsules
Ex: The Karate Kid being remade with Will Smith’s untalented kid

The other thing is that some films are just relics of their time and era. The Karate Kid is one of those. An entire generation grew up with the crane kick and “wax on, wax off” as mantras. It’s also an entirely ‘80s film in that unless you grew up in that era, you really don’t get half of what’s going on. It’s total nostalgia, as opposed to a great film, and thus it’s acceptable to remake a film that other generations aren’t going to get.

I realize I did think this was a bad idea when it was released with The Karate Kid, and still do, but I can understand why it got remade. Me, I justify this rule with my thoughts on Jaden Smith’s it as such: I get why it was remade and understand that but couldn’t stand that Will Smith’s completely untalented kid was in it, learned kung fu (in a film about a kid who is supposed to learn KARATE, after all) and was an annoying paycheck film for Jackie Chan. But if someone made a modern version of Commando I could see why; it’s such an ‘80s action flick, perhaps the ultimate ‘80s action flick, and as such a new generation might want their own version of it. I get that.

— Modern effects can totally blow away the original
Ex: King Kong being remade a half dozen times over the years (approximately)

Sometimes what CGI can do makes it worth seeing what a modern take on a film would be on a film that was made when these effects weren’t available. Like King Kong, which is a marvel of stop-motion, is a classic but it looks kind of dated because of how it was made. But if I had $200 million to give to Peter Jackson to make his version of it, I’d do it. And his take on Kong was excellent, giving a brilliant take that looked insanely good. That’s how the ape is supposed to look and I bet 50 years from now CGI will make that look old and busted.

— Something nuts is opted for, like changing genres
Ex: “I Am Legend” being turned into The Last Man on Earth, The Omega Man and I Am Legend

I see no problem with a remake of a film if you’re switching something major in it. And if you’re going from a science fiction film to a horror flick to a post-apocalyptic survivor’s tale, that’s relatively interesting and something I think should be attempted regardless of its success rate. I’m all for film-makers taking a familiar story and trying something new with it. Sometimes you get something new and refreshing with a different take and a relocation of the story. I mean we’ve all seen 100s of variations of “Romeo & Juliet” but if someone crafted it into a slasher flick I could tune into that.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – The Enforcer

There’s something about Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry that’s infinitely watchable. Why? Because bad guys always die at his hand. None of this pantywaist “trial by jury” or “proof of guilt” crap that plagues other movie cops seems to apply to “Dirty” Harry Callahan. He kills the bad guys and at worst gets a chewing out from his boss. It’s what makes the Dirty Harry series such a fun viewing after all these years. Modern movie cops are a bit light in the loafers, as my grandfather would say if he were still with us, and Dirty Harry was an original that just hasn’t been matched. They just don’t make them like Dirty Harry anymore.

The third film in the five film anthology of Eastwood most famous character, The Enforcer follows Callahan as he takes on a group of radical hippies as they reek all sort of havoc on San Francisco. Callahan gets a partner, Tyne Daly of Cagney & Lacey fame, and from here his job is to take these hippies down. They’re not explicitly hippies, but they are calling themselves a retarded name and this is San Francisco after all. So it just it makes easier to watch, as this is a genre film after all and hard-thinking isn’t something you should be doing while watching a Dirty Harry film.

The Enforcer is where the series kind of went a bit downhill, as Dirty Harry was excellent and Magnum Force solid, but it also marks an interesting point in the career of Eastwood. From here he starts to go from being primarily an actor who’s directed a handful of films into an actor/director. His resume as a director was fairly established at this point, but continuing to be Dirty Harry got him the ability to do more personal films. Considering he directed Sudden Impact, the high water mark of the Dirty Harry sequels, that wasn’t a bad thing. It certainly was better than The Enforcer.

This film is more of a regurgitation of Magnum Force in being just another sequel, like being a Bond film before Casino Royale/ It’s entertaining, and the usual plot points (new partner, chewed out by those in command, admired by those who would be his subordinates) all come into play. It’s an innocuous 90 minutes of police procedural shenanigans.

Mild recommendation.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

No String Attached – Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman are bang-buddies who discover that sex ruins everything.

See It – The trailer looks impressive, much more than the one about bang-buddies with Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis.

The Way Back – The kid from Across the Universe leads a prison break from a Soviet Gulag.

See It – It has a loaded cast and a great director, never a bad thing.

The Company Men – Ben Affleck gets canned from his job and deals with life on the outside looking in.

See It – The worst that can happen is that you could consider this a spiritual companion to Up in the Air, ala Infamous was to Capote.

Do you have questions about movies, life, love, or Branigan’s Law? Shoot me an e-mail at Kubryk@Insidepulse.com and you could be featured in the next “Monday Morning Critic.” Include your name and hometown to improve your odds.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @MMCritic_Kubryk.

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