Coen Brothers, Alexander Payne, & ‘The Thing’ Remake Breaking Ground

Three projects I’m excited about begin lensing this week (ostensibly), so I thought it’d be appropriate to wish them all well. The first is the Coen Brothers’ remake of Henry Hathaway’s 1969 John Wayne wagoneer, True Grit. This time around, Jeff Bridges takes over the role of crapulous sheriff Rooster Cogburn, hired by an impetuous young girl (Hailee Steinfeld) looking to avenge her father’s murder. I can’t say that the original — which earned Wayne an Academy Award for best actor — is exactly a favorite, but the idea of the Coens collaborating with Bridges for the first time since The Big Lebowski is sufficiently thrilling for me to get over any misgivings.

The next film that’s got me going is Alexander Payne’s The Descendants. I know very little about the Kaui Hart Hemmings novel on which it’s based, so the Publisher’s Weekly blurb will have to do.

Hemmings’ bittersweet debut novel stars besieged and wryly introspective attorney Matt King (Clooney), the land-rich descendant of Hawaiian royalty and American missionaries and entrepreneurs. He wrestles with the decision of whether to keep his swath of valuable inherited land or sell it to a real estate developer. But even more critical, Matt also has to decide whether to pull the plug on his wife, Joanie, who has been in an irreversible coma for 23 days following a boat-racing accident.

The big draw for me here is, of course, Payne, who hasn’t helmed a feature since Sideways. Fans of the Election and About Schmidt director have had only his contribution to the omnibus film Paris, Je t’aime to tide them over, though many (myself included) count that among his best works. Hopefully The Descendants will be worth the wait but, if nothing else, I’m happy to see that the underrated Matthew Lillard (SLC Punk) is getting some decent work again.

The last film I’m juiced about is the re-make of John Carpenter’s 1982 classic The Thing, itself a loose remake of the 1951 Howard Hawks picture, The Thing from Another World. Carpenter’s film is the kind of thing that really can’t be bested, so the filmmakers (producers Marc Abraham and Eric Newman, director Matthijs Van Heijningen Jr.) are making more of a companion piece rather than a straight-up remake. Fans of the original may recall that the “thing” came to infect Kurt Russell’s arctic weather station after wreaking havoc in a similar, nearby Norwegian camp. The new film aims to tell the story of that latter camp, only briefly visited in Carpenter’s film. It’s a canny move I think, one that wont ruffle the pic’s legions of devotees, who I’m guessing share my opinion that there’s really no replicating this (which is pretty NSFW owing to spectacular gore!):

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