Tag Archives: action

Total Recall

Totall Recall: Remade.

I saw the big budget remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger/Sharon Stone scifi actioner, Total Recall. This new version stars Colin Farrell (taking over from Arnie), Kate Beckinsale as his wife/watcher (originally played by the Mars hating Sharon Stone), and Jessica Biel in the rebel/lover role (originally played by the sleazy but demure Rachel Ticotin).

The plot for this “remake” > and its predecessor is very loosely derived from a short story by Philip K Dick. In this version of the story, Farrell’s Douglas Quaid is a lowly factory worker with a beautiful, devoted wife (Beckinsale) who lives in the oppressive confines of The Colony but commutes to work (via a world spanning train tunnel) to the seemingly utopian Britain to work. He feels a deep dissatisfaction with his daily life and has dreams about being trapped in a place, trying to escape with the aid of an equally beautiful mystery woman (Biel).

One of the things that I like most about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall is that it has a sense of humor; it’s a wild romp and had a “damn, doesn’t that make you grin at the shittiness of it all” kind of pluck to it. It took itself just seriously enough to carry you along for the ride. The fact that at the end of it you, as the viewer, we’re left to decide if it was real or all in Quaid’s head was icing on the cake.

This version is humorless, joyless and filled with hard, ruthless people who aren’t even enjoying being hard and ruthless. It doesn’t help at all that the script and direction don’t bring anything new to the table as far as ideas are concerned. You’re left realizing at the end of it all that you just watched a fairly standard chase movie with a lot of special effects thrown in purely for the sake of spectacle. Themes of identity and purpose are present but so eclipsed by visual bombast that you just don’t care whether Quaid finds out who he is or isnt.

I was disappointed by this effort in the extreme. I will take the Verhoeven/Schwarzenegger version over this one every time because as cheesy as it is, it has a heart. Wiseman/Farrell and Co? Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

I really think that instead of rehashing movies that were pretty great in their original versions (Footloose and Spiderman, anyone?) Hollywood should focus on taking a chance on creating something new and different. There are some great scifi stories out there that could be crafted into the next big thing. I’d rather have somebody try and fail at that than get served another helping of “been there, done that”.

Final recommendation? Skip it. Go see The Dark Knight Rises again.

Snow White and the Huntsman

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Friday, I went to see the fairy tale epic, Snow White and the Huntsman, with my cousin at Kent Station. I’d been anticipating this movie for months, so I was a little excited. I’m not understating my excitement level for effect either. I literally was only a little excited; after waiting that long for the movie to come out my initial desire to see it had waxed quite a bit. Still, I got my $6 ticket. (I love the opening day matinee!)

The movie opens with a voice over by the Huntsman (costar Chris Hemsworth) giving us the back story on how Snow White and Queen Ravenna become mortal enemies. We learn that Snow is a miracle baby to her parents, that her mother (who was already ill when she had Snow) dies a few winters later, that the king is inconsolable, and how Ravenna is able to scheme her way onto the throne through the king’s grief. We also meet Snow White’s childhood friend and fellow noble, William.

Soon the evil queen realizes that the only way to prolong her reign of terror is to consume the still beating heart of her step daughter, Snow White. Of course Snow White escapes and the Queen brings in The Huntsman to track down and bring her “prize” back.

The opening is brilliant and fairly well paced but when Ravenna makes her move to kill snow the pacing starts to falls apart. There are large sections of the movie that, while beautifully filmed, drag the story down. Instead there are lingering shots of (admittedly beautiful) scenery… and Kristen Stewart’s face that don’t add anything to the story. If any thing they take you out of the story and make you think about taking a quick trip to the concession stand.

Charlize Theron delivers a solid performance despite the odd direction of her character’s motivation. She convinces as a victim that is heedless of the fact that she has become exactly what she most hates in the world. Chris Hemsworth was also a treat as a widower whose lost faith with himself and the world. He actually brought me to tears with a moving speech he gives to Snow towards the end of the show. His action sequences are a bit shadowed somewhat by the badassness of the grownup William, played by Sam Claflin (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) who executes some moves with a bow that would make both Hawkeye and Legolas proud.

The weak link in the main cast is Kristen Stewart. She is wooden, uncharismatic, flubs her accent, and has zero chemistry with either male lead. Snow White is a character that should elicit some compassion because of her plight but Stewart barely manages to make her sympathetic. I kept wishing they would have cast someone who actually had the acting chops to pull off the character, taking her believably from an orphaned girl in fear for her life to an armed and ready warrior and focused less on looks.

Aside from the pace and the miscasting of Kristen Stewart, I enjoyed the production design and the soundtrack including the two songs with vocals used in the film, especially Florence and the Machines’ end credit burner.

All in all? Not horrible. If you’re seeing it on the big screen, I recommend a matinee or second run. Until next time!

Haywire

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I saw this movie on Friday (followed by Underworld: Awakening) and I liked it… for the most part. Mallory Kane (played with wooden aplomb by Gina Carano) has been double crossed by her employer/ex-boyfriend, Kenneth (Wide eyed faux innocence and easy charm? Could it be anyone other than Ewan McGregor?). Being the bad*ass name taker that she is, of course she’s going to get even.

That’s the downfall here: you know you’re getting a B grade revenge action film from the start. What makes it remotely interesting are the delight with which the all male cast (aside from Carano) throws itself into harms way (again, Carano) and the absolutely brutal way in which she dishes out that harm. Another reviewer wrote that when you see her dishing out mayhem on screen it’s more believable than watching an Angelina Jolie or Zoe Saldana do the same. There is a case for that. Carano is no waif; when she was hitting Michael Fassbender in one scene, I winced for him very time she made contact.

If she’d been a better actress she might have carried the movie. A truly bad*ass chick’s fighting chops are just not enough to do it. See it at a matinee if you’re a hardcore action junkie otherwise wait until it comes out on video.