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The 2021 version of ‘West Side Story.’

Mr. Movie: Remarkable remakes

Recently, Mr. Movie was taking movie producers to task for their slavish reliance on sequels, though he found a few that are worth your time. 


Those same producers also rely way too much on remakes. “The first one was good; let’s remake it and sell it again.” Remakes mostly suck. Mr. Movie is here for you to separate the wheat from the chaff.


Ikiru  (1952) is a Japanese classic. It’s the story of an aging bureaucrat who stolidly stamps form after form, then gets the bad news that he has six months to live. Although he wants to use his time differently, he realizes he doesn’t know how. Great stuff! 


Then came Living (2022) with Bill Nighy absolutely knocking it out of the park with one of the great performances. Well, he was nominated for Oscar but lost to Brendan Frazier for Whale. Frazier was very good and lucked into the Academy’s preference for handicapped roles. But Nighy’s performance is one for the ages.


True Grit (1969) is a dead-on winner featuring John Wayne’s only Oscar-winning performance as retired sheriff Rooster Cogburn. Kim Darby is just right as Mattie Ross, who hires Rooster to track down outlaw Tom Chaney, who killed her father. Glen Campbell plays Texas Ranger La Boeuf who is also pursuing Chaney and his gang. He joins up with Mattie and Rooster and the hunt is on.


I dreaded the release of the 2010 remake, but I was wrong. Jeff Bridges makes a splendid Rooster and Matt Damon and Hailee Steinfeld are also good. This one is directed by the Coen brothers and is every bit as good as the original. These would make a great double feature!


The original West Side Story (1961) is a joy with the great music of Leonard Bernstein, great dancing and the lovely Natalie Wood as Maria. This one is almost ruined by the dreadful Richard Beymer as Tony, who virtually disappeared after this film. It is, of course, the Romeo and Juliet story played out on the mean streets of New York by rival gangs. 


The 2021 remake is even better, with mostly unknown actors in Tony Kushner’s sparkling screenplay and the sure-handed direction of Steven Spielberg. The best known cast member is Rita Moreno who also appeared in the 1961 version and is still fabulous 40 years later.


The original film of All Quiet On The Western Front won the Best Picture Oscar in 1930, as did director Lewis Milestone. The only familiar name is Lew Ayres, as the story is told from the German side of World War I. The title comes from Erich Marie Remarque’s novel: “The day he fell, the dispatches read ‘all quiet on the western front.’ ”


The 2022 remake was also nominated for Best Picture Oscar but didn’t win. The updated version is just as good as the original, though. Again the cast is made of actors not known to American audiences. Neither movie pulls any punches about the grimness and pointlessness of World War I.


All of the films in this article are available on DVD. All are for adults. And yes, Mr. Movie has more remarkable remakes up his sleeve!