Get ready for '80s movie encore
LOS ANGELES -- "Clash of the Titans" writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi are understandably excited about their movie arriving in theaters Friday. But if you really want to get them going, mention the "Red Dawn" remake coming later this year.
"I love that movie," Hay says of the 1984 Cold War adventure flick where Colorado high school students use guerrilla warfare to stave off a Soviet invasion of America. "Everyone from my generation loves 'Red Dawn.' It's really ripe for a remake."
These days, it seems any movie that came out during the 1980s is ripe for a remake. "Clash of the Titans" and "Red Dawn" are but two of a significant number of '80s-related films Hollywood will bring to theaters in coming months.
Joining their ranks are Disney's mega-budget "Tron" sequel starring Jeff Bridges; reboots of "The Karate Kid," "Predator" and "Nightmare on Elm Street" franchises; a follow-up to Oliver Stone's "Wall Street" and the Sylvester Stallone-directed "The Expendables," an '80s-style, men-on-a-mission movie teaming Stallone with other action stars of his vintage.
"It's crazy, man," Bridges says. "You almost want to look around and make sure people still have their cell phones and laptops. It's like going back in time."
You mean, like stepping into a Hot Tub Time Machine? The nostalgia-infused, gross-out comedy "Time Machine," which opened last weekend, uses the '80s as a punch line, taking its heroes back to a decade heavy on the legwarmers, mullets and primary colors.
"Anyone who wants to know why the '80s are a joke need only look at the fashions in our movie," "Hot Tub" director Steve Pink says.
But if the '80s are a joke, it's a quip studio executives and filmmakers are now eager to share with moviegoers. Chalk it up to the fact that the people who grew up watching Freddy Krueger and Mr. Miyagi are now in a position to green-light the movies they loved as children.
"Certainly, there's a fondness for that culture for those who come of age with it, and now we want to share it," says Columbia Pictures president Doug Belgrad.
In addition to "The Karate Kid," Belgrad, 44, and Columbia co-president Matt Tolmach, 45, are developing sequels and reboots to such 1980s properties as "Ghostbusters," "21 Jump Street" and "The Smurfs." 20th Century Fox will release a feature film based on the '80s action-adventure TV series "The A-Team" this summer.
"Grown-ups are always looking for movies they could share with their kids," Belgrad adds.
With "The Karate Kid," he notes, Will Smith took that idea a step further, suggesting remaking one of his favorite childhood movies with his 11-year-old son, Jaden, starring. The new "Karate Kid," due in June, shifts the action to Beijing, attempting to add a dash of culture clash to the familiar story.
Other remakes and sequels, like "Clash of the Titans" and "Tron: Legacy," bring modern technology to movies that time has dated.
"("Tron" director) Steve Lisberger told me that we've made the movie that people think they remember seeing when they were 8 years old," says "Tron: Legacy" director Joseph Kosinski.
"The original pushed the envelope in a way that we can't do. But we can take things that have been simmering in people's minds for 25 years and bring them to life."
Kosinski shot "Tron: Legacy" entirely in 3D. Warner Bros. converted "Clash of the Titans" to 3D after the fact, hoping to cash in on the "Avatar"-fueled mania for the format.
But "Clash" writer Manfredi says that what made the original so special -- and what he hopes the remake maintains -- is a good-hearted sense of adventure.
"What all these '80s movies have in common is a feeling of fun and excitement, a certain genuineness," Manfredi says. "You don't find that spark as much in movies these days. That's what we're hoping to bring back."
Others are attempting a stab at modern relevance with their films. Michael Douglas' Gordon Gekko has been refashioned as an antihero, warning business leaders of impending doom in "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps."
The "Red Dawn" remake has the Chinese, not the Soviets, invading America.
And you have to wonder whether the Smurfs will make a passing reference to their blue-hued cousins from "Avatar."
OK -- maybe you don't have to wonder or even think about the Smurfs at all.
"Hot Tub Time Machine" star and '80s icon John Cusack would be just as happy to consign the whole decade to the attic.
"I remember it being a kind of forced Prozac happy time without the Prozac," Cusack says. "We were sort of like optimism by martial law. There were jumbotrons of Ronald Reagan everywhere. There were Dr. Pepper people dancing. There was this militant patriotism, nationalism, faux spirituality to it. I look back on it as an intense, dark decade."
Maybe next time, he could set the hot tub to the '60s.
-- Associated Press writer Sandy Cohen contributed to this story.