Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Movie Review: Total Recall (PG13 - 118 minutes)

Phillip K. Dick was an American short story (mainly sci-fi) writer who died in 1982.  His works focused on sociological, political, and metaphysical themes.  He often had heroes that struggled determining what was real, and what is illusion.  You're sure to have seen at least one movie based on his stories:  Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall - original (1990), Screamers (1995), Minority Report (2002), Paycheck (2003), A Scanner Darkly (2006), Next (2007), The Adjustment Bureau (2011), and now, Total Recall - new version (2012).  
Of these movies, my favorite was Minority Report - directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Cruise and Colin Farrell - star of new Total Recall.  Murder can be predicted, and cop Tom Cruise arrests people before they commit a crime - awesome, until they get the direction to arrest him, because he's about to kill someone.  He runs - action follows, if you haven't seen it in a while - check it out again, it's really good!
In 1987, Dutch director Paul Verhoeven began what would become a successful American action movie career by directing the movie Robocop, which was going to star Arnold Schwarzenegger.  There were issues with costuming and timing and Arnold ended up not being able to do the movie, Peter Weller did.  However, Arnold saw the movie, loved it, and contacted Verhoeven to say he wanted to work with him and that they should do Total Recall.  Previous to Arnold's involvment, the hero, Doug Quaid, was going to be portrayed as a standard 'everyman' accountant type.  Arnold's idea was that it made more sense to have secret spy Quaid be a large physically intimidating man, to more accurately emphasize the helplessness he feels when he begins to question his memory.
Fast forward to now - and someone decides it's a good idea to remake Total Recall.  Interesting, because the original was actually very well received, was fairly successful both critically and commercially, and won an oscar for visual effects. 
The current remake is by Len Wiseman, who is best known as the directer/writer for Underworld, which resulted in his marriage to Kate Beckinsdale, which results in her being in this movie.  Wiseman came out of the effects/props crew that worked on the Dean Devlin/Roland Emmerich movies, with Patrick Tatopolous, which resulted in Tatopolous directing Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, which also results in Tatopolous being the production designer for this movie.  See how that works?
This version of Total Recall has a very similar plot:  bored assembly line worker Doug Quaid is having nightmares, and goes to visit Rekall - a company that will implant false memories for you.  Say you can't take that amazing vacation to Hawaii, Rekall implants memories of an awesome trip to Hawaii for you - almost as good as going, right?  Well, in any case, while there, Quaid's memory goes berserk - apparently he really is a double agent spy with a wiped memory.  He goes home, tells his wife, she tries to kill him, because she's just keeping tabs on him for her boss, the evil Chancellor Cohaagen.  He goes on the run, and gets aided by Milena, a woman who knew the old him.  Together, they attempt to help him remember who he was, what he was doing, outrun the bad guys, and what steps to take next.  The main differences between this one and the old one is there is no Mars, and there's no mutants.  In place of those things are a chemically destroyed earth and a giant tube transportation through the earth between the only two liveable places left.  Don't worry - the triple-boobed hooker from the original is still there.  And, speaking of triple-boobed hookers, how does a topless triple-boobed hooker make it into a PG13 movie?  I'm just saying....
Wiseman is great at directing action, that goes almost without saying.  The movie looks amazing and the CGI is used well, and it is enhanced by some very impressive sets.  The cast is pretty good too:
  • Colin Farrell as Quaid is fine, he's no Schwarzenegger, but then, who is?  He is talented and has done some good work (my favorite is Intermission - rent that, and SWAT for simple action joy).  In this, he makes Quaid's confusion believable, and does well with the action sequences.  His chemistry with Jessical Biel is not overwhelming.
  • Jessical Biel as Melina takes over the role from Rachel Ticotin in the original.  She's fiesty and serious in her attempts to bring the old Quaid back.  Again, I'm not sure I see any chemistry between her and Farrell, but if you're engaged to Justin Timberlake, then clearly Colin Farrell is not your type.  She's very good at the action, and her fight sequence with Beckinsdale is really really good.  It gives you a bit of an answer to the question of what would happen if Whistler's daughter went up against Selene...
  • Mrs. Wiseman, Kate Beckinsdale, plays the Sharon Stone role, Lori.  Stone impressed Verhoeven so much with her prep for the role originally, he crafted the character in Basic Instinct for her.  In this version, Beckinsdale seems to be the person who is having the most fun, and incidentally, is kicking the most ass.  She's great at action, we know that from the Underworld movies, but this is the first time we've see her really villian out, and she is great at it. 
  • Bryan Cranston, and his terrible wig, plays Cohaagen who was Ronny Cox (from RoboCop) in the first one.  In this day and age, why can they not make a realistic wig?  An even better question, why does Cohaagen need to have hair?  Regardless, Cranston is as good as he usually is, and plays this role with just enough slimy evil.
  • John Cho shows up very briefly dyed blond and running Rekall.  The scene you saw him in the trailer is it - that's all he gets.  But he's entertaining while there.
  • Bill Nighy has less screen time than Cho - and plays the rebel leader Matthias, which would seem to be the "Kuato" of this version.  He has one scene - he's cryptic - then he's gone. 
  • Will Yun Lee has even less screen time and shows up right at the beginning to encourage Quaid to head over to Rekall...I kept feeling like there should have been a bigger payoff for his character, but alas, not to be. 
  • Bokeem Woodbine plays Quaid's friend (or is he?) that encourages him not to go to Rekall.  He's good, but again, doesn't have a lot to do. 
The action sequences are great, which is good, because there are a lot of them.  I especially like the elevator chase sequence.  The spaces between the action sequences are less great, and I found that i really didn't care about any of the characters, and was really just waiting for Beckinsdale to show up and attack everybody.  The plot is interesting, and as twisty as the original, which is always good - but sometimes too complicated is not great; it is possible to make a great action movie with a simple plot, the Expendables will reiterate this idea in a week.  The overly complicated plot here is mainly due to the overly complicated Phillip K. Dick original work, and they did well with it - but not amazing.
6 out of 10 - entertaining, but I don't think I recommend paying full price, but it is fun, and the spectacular look of the movie does deserve to be seen on a big screen.
Bonus Video 1:  Starship Troopers, my all-time favorite Paul Verhoeven movie...rent it, watch it again and pay more attention to the subtle nods to indoctrination and government propaganda...and oh yeah, continued to be grossed out as we get obliterated by giant space bugs.  Also - be cheered as NPH tells you how the brain bug feels! 
Bonus Video 2:  The original Underworld - so fun, stunningly shot, amazing performances from Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen, and fantastic effects both practical and CG!  Incidentally, Kevin Grevioux (he plays the giant Lycan, Raze) has a background in microbiology and came up with the story along with Wiseman.  That should win you a trivia contest someday...
Bonus Video 3:  Total Recall comparison fun:
Bonus Video 4:  Cast Interviews!

1 comment:

  1. The cast and action make this predictable story a whole lot more enjoyable, but it’s still the same, old formula as the original. Except this time, it’s without all of the hilarious Arnie one-liners. Nice review Jeanette.