"Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is being remade and, as someone who read the books as a kid and also loved the BBC series, I naturally have a reaction.
Martin Freeman (who played Tim, the Everyman, on "The Office") as Arthur Dent is excellent casting, though the original actor from the BBC can hardly be improved upon. Ditto with Alan Rickman as the voice of Marvin, the paranoid android, though I'm somewhat alarmed to see the makers of the film have decided to radically change Marvin's look and shorten him in stature.
Sam Rockwell as Zaphod Beeblebrox I can dig, because you need moxie to play that character and Rockwell has it. Big question mark, however, on the casting of Mos Def as Ford Prefect, for the simple reason that Prefect is white in both the BBC series and the book. Mos Def is actually a decent actor and I have no problem with the casting choice so long as there's an artistic reason for it, but to me this smells like a marketing decision, designed to bring Mos Def fans, i.e. a certain demographic of black people, e.g. blacks who are into hip-hop but aren't too low-brow and watch Dave Chappelle, into the theater.
Looking forward to it though.
I am most certainly not looking forward to seeing "The Amityville Horror" remake, however, which made Salon reviewer Stephanie Zacharek leave the theater for the first time in her career. I don't generally agree with her reviews, but the fact that she walked out on her professional obligation is an ominous sign indeed. But I'd already had a problem with this film, because the previews and posters had set off major bullshit alarms.
First of all, the ads say that "The Amityville Horror" is "based on a true story." Two problems here. One, they're neglecting to mention the little fact that what this movie is actually based on is the first film version of "The Amityville Horror," since no one out there has read the book about the alleged haunting. When most people hear "The Amityville Horror," they think of the original movie. I never saw it, so instead I think of Eddie Murphy's bit from Comedian on the subject of why white people stay in haunted houses despite all the signs that maybe they should just leave and in which bit he imagines how a black man might react in the same situation (this before any such "white people do this, black people do this" comparisons were a stale stand-up cliche):
"Oh, baby, this house is beautiful. There's a lawn, a chandelier. This is beautiful. This is just great." Whispered ghost voice: "Get out!" "Too bad we can't stay baby."
So this film is operating on the assumption of American cultural amnesia, which is problem one with the "based on a true story" deal. Number two is that the true story of the haunting turns out in all likelihood not to be true, that is, it was a hoax, though the story of the murders that preceded the supposed haunting is pretty creepy.
The other major problem, and this returns us to the idea of cultural amnesia, is that the ads all tell you that this film is "brought to you by the producers of 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre'," which refers of course not to the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" but to the really shitty remake. So the producers of the remake of one of the great and pioneering horror movies of all time, which remake absolutely paled in comparison, are bringing you the remake of another classic horror movie, without any reference to the fact that both of the movies are remakes, all the while emphasizing the fact that this non-remake is based upon a true story that isn't actually true.
That just about sums it up for American popular culture right now.