Sunday, August 12, 2012

TOTAL RECALL 2012 - You won't recall anything better

Where to even start!? This movie is the pinnacle of film. It's the reason we go to the movies. It's the reason we get ripped off on prime time tickets then come out of the theater feeling like you just got away with murder. What a show, what an absolutely outstanding movie. The film is a sci-fi action movie, and once it starts there is no stopping it. The normal human resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. If yours is anywhere under 150 during this movie then you're probably not paying enough attention. Those with cardiac issues involving tachycardia should definitely consult their doctor before taking part in this non-stop thrill ride. It was one incredible moment after another, and Len Wiseman's epic vision is one I will not soon forget.

Yes, this is a remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic which is an excellent and exciting movie. The fact that its a remake quickly doesn't matter - this movie borrows some names, a plot outline, and some plot elements and just runs with it. It's a great adaptation for today's modern audience and all the expectations of that group. The story takes place on only one planet instead of mars, but somehow that works even better - and despite the general dystopian edges, this film will make love to your eyeballs in every scene. I cannot overstate how gorgeous this film is visually. The sprawling urban megalopolises, the highly contaminated ruins, the twisting labyrinths of elevators, all of it is so well designed that its almost tangible. Sitting in your seat you will be so engrossed that you'll just want to step through the screen and go exploring. I particularly liked the concept of "The Fall" - a giant elevator like tram that transports citizens on one side of the planet to the other through the core. In fact I really loved the way technology was presented in this film - some really cool ideas that when you think about it, could actually work great in today's world. The level of ingenuity is on a par with something like Blade Runner - you just can't seem to get enough of it.

What's better than seeing brilliant set designs and eye popping CGI? Seeing ass-kickery and mass destruction in them of course, and Total Recall will not let you down. We all know Collin Ferrel (Douglas Quaid) and Kate Beckinsale (who looks scary as hell and sexy at the same time) have done some cool action sequences. So when you put two good things together, the product is purely savage. The fights in this are so visceral and brilliantly executed. The coreography will make you feel every punch, every kick, and every shattered pane of glass. And unlike a lot of would be super-directors, there is no cut-away editing or ultra blurry handheld camera nonsense. Just like the original old school action movies, you feel like you are right there in the moment. You know in the back of your mind that they're only human but when people are moving on screen you can easily start to doubt that. One sequence that might have been a tip of the hat to 1997 movie "Cube" will leave you with white knuckles on your arm rests and your heart in your throat. The action sequences are many, frequent, and every single one of them is as brutal and entertaining as the next. There are fights, chases, robots with guns, and even a lady with three boobs for a hats off to the original.

If a film were judged purely on its aesthetics and how much ass it kicked, this one would be golden. We all know however, that you cannot have a film without some kind of plot. But surprise! This one is absolutely gripping. The whole idea of the double agent who doesn't know he's a double agent, implanted memories, and who or what is even real will keep you guessing again and again. What makes this really great though is the script and the writing in general doesn't feel overdone. Like so many other parts of this movie, they take this decades best elements and combine them with what everyone loved about old-school action movies like the original Total Recall.

The universe that this film creates is absolute. You will be utterly dazzled and lost in everything. The dystopian setting is that chemical warfare has destroyed most of the world and living space is the human races most precious commodity. As you might imagine this film has a very claustrophobic feel to it, a lot of tight spaces and dank environments. Like I mentioned earlier, there's a lot of this film that reminds me of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, and that is most definitely a good thing. The sprawling cities are great to look at but the creativity of having buildings hanging upside down and having magnetic highways that work on both planes is also incredible. The producers literally thought of everything.

The balance between the film having some cool gadgets and being outright nerdy is handled very well - for example a citizen of the poor nation known as "The Colony" has no idea what a high-tech phone in Collin Ferrel's hand is, even though its intensely obvious. Its the combination of so many little things, little details adding up to give you a total picture of what a bleak, rotten existence life has become in that part of the world. Details that add up because no detail is missing. Everything flows together, all gears mesh, and this film goes full throttle all the way. There are countless action films where the idea and concept is ridiculous and over the top but we love it anyway because its exciting to watch. One of the best things about this film is how detailed it is, because it feels so believable .

Not only does this film take your eyes and heart for a joy ride, but it has utterly brilliant sound. The original score is a mix of modern electronic music and a typical high octane orchestral style score. It always suits the moment perfectly without putting it over the top or being overbearing, repetitive, or dull. Some of the sound effects are a little dull though, handguns being fired sound a little hollow, but that's a very minor complaint in what is by far a brilliant creation.

Creating this film in fact cost approximately $125,000,000. Given that this is a remake of a classic Arnold Schwarzenegger film from 1990, a sci-fi, and a summer movie - I'd say the result is wholly impressive. Things like Batman: The Dark Knight Rises and John Carter cost upwards of $250,000,000. And while those are both good films, they're nowhere near as pure as this. Purity perhaps is what makes it so great. It doesn't even bother to try and register with you on an emotional level, and why should it? When was the last time you heard about someone who was secretly a spy but didn't know that they were a spy but they were really a double agent but disguised for their own good as a construction worker? Did you go see Total Recall expecting some big emotional moments, tears of love or sorrow, and a long emotional journey? I definitely know I didn't. There are some softer moments for relief from the excitement, and the obvious romantic connection between Ferrel and Biel comes to pan out just as you'd hope it would.

I cannot overstate how incredible this film is. I dare say that in parts its more like an exciting video game that you can't put down - you're so addicted to the action and the suspense of wondering what's coming next is just keeping that adrenaline high going that much better. The film is true to what action films should be, and it masterfully incorporates a sci-fi backdrop just to mix things up. Action more intense than Roadhouse. Scenery more engaging that Blade Runner. Chases more exciting than Bullitt. Shootouts more visceral than Equilibrium. This film has absolutely everything any action fan is looking for. I'm surprised that so many so called "critics" have slammed this film because it isn't a drama. No one ever went and saw an Arnold Schwarzenegger film because they wanted to watch him search for his soul, fall in love, battle through emotional travesty. People went because he kicked ass on screen and made exciting, fun to watch movies. And that is exactly what Total Recall 2012 is: exciting, fun to watch, and utterly thrilling.

What I loved:  The fight choreography, Kate Beckinsale being a seriously scary villain, the jaw dropping visuals, Jessica Biel kicking ass, and just about everything else
What I hated: Critics who don't understand movies like this, du(m)bstep, Arnie not having a cameo

Final Rating: 5/5 Stars, or 100%, or A+. Drop what you are doing and go see this film right now. 

Did you like Total Recall? Or were you wishing someone would recall you to do something totally different? What about the review? Bias? Fair? Weak? Strong? Let me hear from you in the comments.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

THE WATCH - Jack of all trades, master of none

Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill? Ridiculous scenario? How could this possibly get any better, a plate of laughs right? Wrong. This film is just as the title of this review describes it - a jack of all trades and master of none. I enjoyed it overall, but I guess with so much comedy and acting talent on the screen I just expected more. The film combines elements of science fiction, action, and comedy  to create a big melting pot of mediocrity. Its enjoyable, but if you're going to the cinema expecting to pee your pants every few minutes, you might want to pick something else.

If your favorite beer is Budweiser and you like Chevrolet, this movie is definitely for you. I lost count of how many times I saw characters drinking Budweiser followed by a gratuitous close up of the Chevrolet badge on the latest brain-dead stay-at-home mom's crossover. Now, I know advertising plays essential parts in movie budgets and so on and so forth but this was just so blunt it felt like there was going to be some cheese ball sales rep in a suit outside the theater after the credits rolled. You know, just in case. That said, there is some entertainment to be found. There are several genuinely funny moments, but the vast majority will get nothing more than a few chuckles out of you. Most of the humor is crude, and unfortunately (as any film buff will tell you) good technique will not make up for bad writing. Don't come to this film looking for originality. There are multiple moments when you can tell the writing had intended that particular scene to be funny - unfortunately it just comes across as awkward because it isn't. I'd also like to mention that just because the characters throw cursing around left right and center doesn't make them funny, so on the extraordinary chance that a budding film writer is reading this - be clever and witty with your humor. Some cursing is ok, and when done well can be hilarious. However, you should never rely on swearing to make something funny. Even with such a talented cast who deliver lines brilliantly, it just doesn't cut it. And really, Jonah Hill's character has a weird thing with his mother again? I'm seeing some bad type-casting in his future.

Granted, the plot in general has some very predictable moments, but most of them still leave you chuckling. There were times when I was outright laughing at what happened on the screen. On the plus side, this movie really captures that boyish recklessness that a lot of male audience members will understand. A scene involving blowing up a cow with a laser beam in particular was great and had me creased with laughter. For the most part, I felt like the plot was mainly used to set up action scenes - some of which are actually pretty good, even for a movie of this genre. You'll get high-speed camera slo-mo, gunfire, alien gore, and all sorts of fun stuff. Even a cool explosion. Is it good enough to redeem this movie? Absolutely not. In many ways, this film reminded me of "That's My Boy" - nothing more than a means to an end, that end being a paycheck for someone other than myself.

Ask yourself that question, because I bet for a lot of you the answer is yes. The uniquely funny moments in this film are few and far between. In fact this movie is mainly dull and such a typical product from the action-comedy genre that there isn't really much to say about it. Rebellious teenage daughter with over protective but semi-secretly crazy father played by (who else?) Vince Vaughn. Dorky guy with a heart of gold and some romantic problems? Ben Stiller, of course. Utter weirdo with mommy issues? Jonah Hill, been there and done that and still have the ticket stub in my jeans as I recall...regardless, there is nothing new to be found here. It's got some laughs, and that's about it. Audio wise, there is some original music that is meant to be intense and exciting - and actually, it makes a few scenes that much cooler. Ok, bases covered there? Good. Next.

Finally, I can be done with this. It was so run-of-the-mill that I didn't even feel like reviewing it. It has a little to say about upscale suburban communities and especially the glorified house husbands that live in them, there was some undertone to a few moments but really this is just a mediocre action-comedy that manages to do neither of those things well at all. You'll smirk a lot, chuckle a bit, laugh a few times, and spend the rest of the time being reminded that just because you saw someone driving a Chevrolet and drinking a Budweiser in a movie doesn't mean you're going to poop your pants if you don't have one immediately after leaving the cinema.

What I loved: Cool action sequences, the 'shooting the alien' scene, gratuitous (totally expected) orgy scene, seeing the credits roll.
What I hated: Everything that didn't make the above list.

Final Rating: 1.5/5 stars, or 45%, or D+. Not worth paying for, wait for the network television premier. 

Agree or disagree, I'd love to hear your thoughts on both this film and this review. Please share this blog wherever you share things, and keep going to the movies!