Bad "Lieutenant": I've long been a critic of Hollywood's obsession with remakes, especially in light of new plans to rework relatively recent films like "Predator," "RoboCop" and "Friday the 13th." However, the idea of "reworking" a story has admittedly yielded some positive results lately ("Batman Begins" and "Casino Royale" being the best examples), so I have begrudgingly began to come to terms with this increasingly popular practice. If that's the only way to inject new life into a dying or dead franchise, then so be it.
A couple weeks ago, it was announced that Nicolas Cage will be starring in a reworking of the 1992 Abel Ferrara film "Bad Lieutenant." It appears that things may have gone too far and film buffs may have finally had their fill, because the uproar among movie geeks has been deafening. It's one thing to revitalize a franchise or translate a foreign film to mainstream U.S. audiences (trivia: Cage was also at one time attached to a remake of the South Korean thriller "Oldboy"). It's quite another to apply the same principle to a highly regarded American film less than 16 years old.
The weirdest thing about all this: The new "Bad Lieutenant" is being directed by German visionary Werner Herzog. Although the filmmaker does lend some credibility to the project, the whole endeavor just seems wrong. There's no way Cage can possibly equal - let alone surpass - the genuinely shocking, raw brutality of Harvey Keitel's original performance as a corrupt and self-destructive police detective, and if he even tried, his career as a family friendly box office draw would be forever shot. (Just picture Cage recreating the verbal sexual assault from the original - it just doesn't work.) Herzog or no Herzog, this has got to be the worst movie pitch since "The Hottie and the Nottie."
Speaking of bad pitches … : A couple weeks ago, I looked at some of the promising summer releases I was really looking forward to seeing. Now, an antidote to all that naïve optimism: A half-dozen upcoming wide-release movies that could potentially cause me to swear off movies forever (in order of likely horridness - and yes, I will be forced into seeing some of them).
1) "Meet Dave" (July 11) - If you've seen the trailer, you know what I mean. This new Eddie Murphy vehicle features the comic in (surprise, surprise!) multiple roles as both a miniature humanoid alien and the full-sized humanoid robot the alien uses to interact with Earth's citizens, and it's destined to be "Norbit" all over again. But you know what? Like the crime against humanity known as "Norbit," this will probably be a hit, too. This is why we can't have nice things.
2) "Wanted" (June 27) - The presence of James McAvoy ("The Last King of Scotland") gives me the tiniest shred of hope that this over-the-top action flick won't be the cinematic equivalent of malaria, but Angelina Jolie's awkwardly labored "coolness" immediately dashes that hope. "Curve the bullet"? 'Tis a fine line between harmless fun and mind-bending, life-destroying stupidity.
3) "The Love Guru" (June 20) - Hey, did you know that Verne Troyer (aka Mini-Me from the "Austin Powers" movies) is short? If that fact never ceases to amuse you, and if you love lame cultural humor, then maybe this latest comedy from Mike Myers is just for you. But if you've a higher intellect and a more sophisticated sense of humor than, say, a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios, ya might want to stay away.
4) "You Don't Mess With the Zohan" (June 6) - Adam Sandler needs to stop. Just, stop. He wasn't funny as a mentally retarded waterboy, he wasn't funny as the son of the devil, and he doesn't look very amusing as an Israeli commando/hairdresser. It's times like these that I pop in "Punch-Drunk Love," curl up in a fetal position and try to convince myself that Sandler does in fact have something to contribute to society besides depressing gimmick roles.
5) "Get Smart" (June 20) - I'm okay with the casting of Steve Carell as dim-witted federal agent Maxwell Smart. And I'm downright thrilled that Alan Arkin is playing the Chief. Yet, in a general sense, something just doesn't seem quite right with the project. Maybe it's the fact that it's directed by Peter Segal ("Tommy Boy," "The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps"), or maybe it's that the previews (which usually offer only the funniest bits) inspire nary a single chuckle. Whatever it is, I'm not really looking forward to finding out.
6) "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" (August 1) - Strictly speaking, was this really necessary? The first "Mummy" movie was good, clean fun, but "The Mummy Returns" and its ensuing spin-off, "The Scorpion King," were close to worthless. Brendan Fraser returns for this fourth installment, but director Stephen Sommers has split (replaced by Rob Cohen, of "Daylight," "The Skulls," "xXx" and "Stealth" infamy), as has co-star Rachel Weisz. Something tells me they had a reason to avoid it.
Fond farewell: I'm not very comfortable writing lengthy tributes to filmmakers whose work I'm not intimately familiar with, so I'll keep this simple: Oscar-winning director Sydney Pollack died of cancer on Monday at the age 73, and I regret that I didn't appreciate him more when he was still with us.
However, I can pass along two enthusiastic recommendations for viewers looking to memorialize this noted actor and filmmaker: "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?", Pollack's 1969 masterpiece that depicts a brutal, Depression-era dance marathon; and 1992's "Husbands and Wives," which is notable not only for being writer/director Woody Allen's best film, but also for containing Pollack's finest on-screen performance.