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Trust Me, Baby, You’re Gonna Wish You Had Three Hands.
Remakes get a really bad rap. But, most of the time, they deserve them. Remakes are usually a sign that Hollywood has run out of ideas and must dig into movies that have already been made instead of supporting a new idea. It typically gets even worse when the movie that’s being remade is a movie that’s generally agreed upon as a movie that does not require a remake. If we already have that movie and it was good, you’re probably not going to add anything to it. All of that lead to me not really having a great desire to watch today’s movie. But when my end of the year review was approaching, my standards lowered and I decided to watch the remake of Total Recall, loosely based on the short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick, written for the screen by Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback, directed by Len Wiseman, and starring Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, Bill Nighy, Bokeem Woodbine, John Cho, Ethan Hawke, and Kaitlyn Leeb.
In the near future, war has devastated the Earth … because no movie can let us think that we have anything to look forward to. The world has mostly mellowed out, but a group of resistance fighters still occasionally cause trouble for the Man. A factory worker named Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) decides to visit a place called Rekall to get some artificial memories implanted to add some excitement to his life, even though his bangin’ hot wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) and straight-jackin’ best friend Harry (Bokeem Woodbine) warn him against it. The Rekall employee, Bob McClane (John Cho), suggests that Quaid try out their secret agent package, but also warns him that past memory augmentations could create problems. Suddenly, Bob gets agitated by something on the computer and pulls a gun on Quaid, but is killed by a SWAT team that arrive and attempt to arrest Quaid, who proceeds to beat the snot out of all of them with skills he didn’t realize he had. Confused, he goes home to his wife, who perplexes him further by going all Death Dealer and trying to kill him. He eventually gets rescued by Melina (Jessica Biel), who tells Quaid that he is a spy working with the Resistance. Is this all a fake memory?! IS IT?!?!?!? ANSWER ME!!!!!
Some people gave this movie a hard time because they have such fondness for the original that they could not stomach the notion of it being remade. The difference between those people and me is that I have no particular fondness for the original. I saw the movie much later in life than most people did, and found it entertaining enough, but dated and extremely goofy in parts. That didn’t stop me from finding the irony in the fact that the studio behind this movie was called “Original Film” though. I mean, that’s balls! To call yourself “Original Film” and put out a movie that is a remake of a movie that was itself based on a book is pretty amusing to me. But, once I got into the movie, I actually found that I liked it more than I liked the original movie. It wasn’t terribly goofy and the action and visuals had drastically improved from the original. The opening perplexed me a little bit because it pretty much gave away the fact that Quaid worked for the Resistance, and only thinly veiled that by writing it off as a dream sequence, but when I got to thinking about it I realized that they were probably well aware of the fact that the people seeing this movie had probably already seen the other movie and that trying to act like it was a surprise would’ve just been a waste of time. But from that point on I was on board with the story pretty much all the way through. Sure, it wasn’t drastically different from the original movie, but who cares. It was a fun movie. I did get a little perturbed by the scene with Harry, where he’s trying to convince Quaid to shoot Melina because he was trying to convince him that he was trapped in the Rekall machine and couldn’t get out without shooting her. I feel like that moment would’ve been really easy for me. Just shoot the guy! If you kill him, then he was lying and was working for the enemy. If you don’t kill him because he wasn’t real, then he wasn’t real and who gives a shit? And let that be a warning to all of my friends: if you try to convince me I’m in a dream world, my first response will be to try to kill you.
The look of this movie took drastic steps in the right direction. The future world was very well-realized. They didn’t go horribly over the top with the future technology, but they also didn’t just set it in today’s world and say it was the future. I particularly liked the LCD Phone he had in his hand that he could touch to glass to display pictures. Take that, Samsung Galaxy Note 2! Acting all big and bad and shit! (This review is sponsored by the LG Optimus G. “If you want a phone, go with the O.G.”) One of the pieces of technology in this movie was the money they used in the future, the Obamoney. …Cute… The action in the movie was mostly over-the-top, but definitely fun to watch, even though the camera could go a little crazy in some of the scenes. I probably could’ve done without a lot of the music in the movie. I assume what I was hearing a few times in this movie would be considered “dub step,” but I really have no way to be sure. I’ve been graced enough in life to have little to no experience with dub step beyond hearing people make fun of it.
I really didn’t have a lot to say about the performances in this movie. Literally. The only note I took in the performances department was: “Bokeem Woodbine. ‘STRAIGHT JACKIN’!” And even that is just a joke meant strictly to amuse my friend Phil and me. Not that anyone in this movie did a bad job; it’s just that I didn’t have anything to say about any of them. …Any of them save for one. The crowning achievement in this movie was the performance by Kaitlyn Leeb who played the Three-Breasted Woman. YAY! THEY GAVE US THE THREE-BOOBED CHICK! That’s almost entirely all I remember about the original movie!
It’s probably not a popular opinion to admit that I enjoyed this movie more than I enjoyed the original Total Recall. The story was roughly the same but thankfully much less goofy than the original, and the visuals and the action were far better. And the performances included Bokeem Woodbine and a chick with three boobs, so I’m down with them as well. I don’t know if I’d feel the need to buy the movie, but it’s definitely worth checking out as a rental. Total Recall gets “The past is just a mental construct” out of “And by the way, you haven’t even begun to see me try to kill you!”
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Because Donuts Don’t Wear Alligator Shoes.
The inspiration for seeing today’s movie came a good while back, and mostly from the Nerdist podcast. They did an interview with some of the people involved with this movie, and had previously talked about how funny the movie was. I put it on my Netflix queue pretty quickly, even though all I knew about the movie gave me no reason I could think of to enjoy it. I don’t know that I’ve seen a Blaxploitation film before, and it’s also a very fine line to walk to make a movie really bad to call it a comedy. Sometimes it can be done very well, and sometimes I just think it’s using comedy as an excuse because the movie they made was not actually good (Like Leprechaun: In the Hood). We’ll find out as I review Black Dynamite, written by Michael Jai White and Byron Keith Minns, directed by Scott Sanders, and starring Michael Jai White, Salli Richardson, Tommy Davidson, Kevin Chapman, Byron Minns, Cedric Yarbrough, Mykelti Williamson, Brian McKnight, Arsenio Hall, Obba Babatundé, Bokeem Woodbine, Miguel A. Nunez Jr., Mike Starr, John Salley, and Nicole Sullivan.
The brother of Vietnam veteran and former CIA agent Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White) is killed in the streets by a shady organization. Black Dynamite decides to set out on a crusade of revenge, and to clean up the streets as he does it. On his journey, he meets up with a black power activist that he gives a certain degree of his affections to named Gloria (Salli Richardson). Speaking of affections, it turns out that his brother was killed to cover up a plan by “the Man” that would fill the popular Anaconda Malt Liquor with a formula that would shrink the size of all the black men’s penises. Black Dynamite is the only thing standing between them and the destruction of the entire “Blacks on Blondes” porn series!
This was a really good movie. Well, technically speaking it was a really bad movie, but they intended to make it as bad as they did for comedic effect, and it definitely worked. The story is pretty typical Blaxploitation stuff that tends to be pretty ridiculous on its own, but it’s sold by all of the other ridiculous stuff. The performances are usually over the top, the scenes drag on longer than they should, the characters are ridiculous, and it’s just really funny because of it. The badness of the movie is an asset, using things like the main character trying and failing to hang up a phone for an extra couple of seconds, a character looks like he really got punched in an action scene and breaks character before an obvious cut gets the action back on, and they take the most ridiculous series of tangents to reach a conclusion, starting with M&Ms and how they melt in your mouth, going through Greek mythology, and somehow ending up at the fact that Anaconda Malt Liquor is going to make the black man’s penis small to defeat them. One of my favorite parts was when a group was going into a battle situation and one of the characters starts randomly talking about his aspirations for when the revolution is over, talking about how he wants to settle down and be a father, showing a picture of his kid, and he gets expectedly hit with a spear. Black Dynamite then shouts, “Who saw that coming? I mean, ‘Who saw where that came from?’” I also liked when Black Dynamite was fighting with nunchucks and “accidentally” threw them off camera, punched a dude in the head, and then someone off camera threw his nunchucks back to him. The animated Kama Sutra part that was sold like it was supposed to be a really sweet love making scene was also pretty hilarious.
The performances in this movie deserve about as much credit as the writing and filming process. Much like the movie Airplane!, the performances in this movie acted like they were not trying to be funny, which just makes everything that much funnier. Unlike Airplane!, they weren’t acting as if they were in a soap opera, they were just acting like over the top characters from a Blaxploitation movie. It was all excellent. Michael Jai White was great, able to do the acting just as well as the action. I was really happy with all of the cameos in the movie as well. Tommy Davidson was in this movie, Cedric Yarbrough, Brian McKnight, Arsenio Hall, Miguel A. Nunez Jr., Mike Starr, and Nicole Sullivan. Each one of them had some solid funny parts and made me happy that they even showed their faces in the movie.
Black Dynamite was a lot of fun. Ridiculous Blaxploitation story that takes full advantage of the generally shoddy filming that was common in those movies, while having the good sense to not have any of the performances act like they were in a comedy. Let the movie be ridiculous around characters that only seem to be desperately trying to remember their lines and the comedy will be largely amped up. This is like the Blaxploitation version of the movie Airplane!, and that’s alright by me. This is definitely a movie that you should check out. You can’t help but laugh. I’ll be purchasing this movie as soon as I can find it, but you can find it on Netflix right now. Black Dynamite gets “I am smiling” out of “Black Dynamite, that was the best loving I ever had.”
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