Remade Right: The secrets to a successful remake

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Hollywood has always loved remakes, no matter how much it may seem like they’re inundating our multiplexes these days. For almost as long as movie studios have been pumping out hits for the masses, they’ve been remaking so-called classics. Sometimes it’s a matter of retelling an old story, adapting a particular book again, or even translating a foreign film into an English-language version so people don’t have to bother with the pesky subtitles. Regardless, remakes are nothing new. From adapting TV series for the big screen, to rebooting older franchises with new blood (all while tipping the hat to what came before, like J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek”), there are plenty of remakes always being developed, and there always will be.

With the new “Ghostbusters” arriving in theaters on July 15th, it’s uncertain how that film will perform. Will it be a good update to the now-classic comedy with its own take on the material, or will it simply be a cash grab with swapped gender roles and updated F/X but nothing else of interest? It’s too soon to say, but it got me thinking of the remakes that got it right. What made those films work when so many others have failed? Why are they successful, sometimes even eclipsing the original, when the majority of remakes just feel tired and uninspired?

Here’s a handy list of probably the best remakes produced by studios in the past 35 years or so (in no particular order): John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” David Cronenberg’s “The Fly,” Philip Kaufman’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed,” Matt Reeves’ “Let Me In,” Terry Gilliam’s “12 Monkeys,” Steven Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s Eleven,” Joel and Ethan Coen’s “True Grit,” Michael Mann’s “Heat,” Martin Scorsese’s “Cape Fear,” James Cameron “True Lies” and Mike Nichols’ “The Birdcage.”

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