7/10 The “Step Brothers” reunion I didn’t know I was getting, “Nightmare Alley” is writer/director Guillermo del Toro’s remake of the 1947 film adaptation of the novel upon which this is based. While 99% of the people who watch this will not have seen the original film, I checked it out to see if this remake was warranted and unlike the recent unnecessary “West Side Story” remake, this film is actually warranted and welcomed. Not only that, despite a couple problems, this is a better film than the 1947 original. Obviously with this coming 74 years after the original, the film is obviously going to look and sound better. The black and white original is replaced by some absolutely gorgeous cinematography, perfect production and costume design and a small amount of visual effects that look flawless. I was worried when composer Nathan Johnson replaced del Toro’s Oscar winning composer from his last film, Alexandre Desplat at the last minute, but Johnson gives a terrific, subtle and era appropriate score that goes with the film noir vibes del Toro has created for his audience. With del Toro switching composers for nearly every film, he does keep that pattern going. Even when del Toro’s films fall short, his visuals always impress and the visuals here are no exception. What makes this truly better than the original are the changes in story that del Toro and co-writer Kim Morgan make. Without giving away spoilers, there is an affair that is changed from the original, certain scenes made more clear with character intentions and a far superior ending since the original film’s ending almost rewarded our leading character Stan (Bradley Cooper), which totally defeats the point. The overarching story does follow the same general path from the original but the slight changes really up the quality of the film. The ensemble cast is fantastic with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara really standing out for me. However, the casting does transition me into the film’s few flaws, one of which is casting. Bradley Cooper is a fantastic actor and here he gives a strong, leading performance in a role that he took after Leonardo DiCaprio turned down due to wanting more pay (he got his way with “Don’t Look Up” but that movie might be his worst movie and he should have taken less pay and made this). However, I couldn’t help the feeling that despite his talent, Cooper felt miscast to me here. The only way the original film surpasses this superior remake is in the casting/character of Stan. In the original, Stan was played by Tyrone Power who brought us a Stan that was far more charming than Cooper’s rendition. For us to believe Stan’s lies and cons, we need to be charmed and enthralled by him so we are less likely to pick apart his stories and illusions. The original did that well but here Cooper’s Stan is far more serious, less charming and lacks the enthusiasm that a proper showman should have. So despite the overall fantastic cast and Cooper’s talents, I felt that he was miscast and/or the character should have been written/played differently. The film also does go on a little long and drag in certain places. Some moments in the first act could have been shortened or cut entirely. Despite the slower pacing and problems with our leading character, this is del Toro’s best film in years and despite being a box office flop, far superior to the completely overrated and undeserving of Best Picture winner “The Shape of Water”. The intelligent improvements with the story over the original, perfect supporting cast and Oscar nomination worthy production and costume designs paired with Johnson’s score and Dan Laustsen’s cinematography make this a gorgeous nightmare of an alley worth walking down.

#CatchMeIfYouStan / #AmericanHustle2 / #FreaksAndGeeks / #WeDontTalkAboutBruno / #FantasticManOrBeastTheCrimesOfGrindle / #TheGreatStanton

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