Total Recall (2012)

Trust Me, Baby, You’re Gonna Wish You Had Three Hands.

Total Recall (2012)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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Sinister (2012)

Don’t Worry, Daddy … I’ll Make You Famous Again.

I actually found myself in a position that I could fulfill a couple of things all at the same time by reviewing one movie.  It’s a horror movie so it goes into the October Horrorthon, it was a request that I could take care of from my friend Kori, and it was also a movie in theaters now and I had not been to the cinema in a while.  The problem that I had was that the movie she requested was one I had never heard of, and I typically won’t honor a request made for a movie in theaters until it comes out on DVD because theaters are too expensive to see things I don’t give a shit about.  At least until I get famous in a couple of months and they start paying to get me to see their movies.  But I talked with my friend Jordan about this request and he said the trailer looked pretty good.  I checked it out and it did actually pique my interest.  Not enough to pay full price for the ticket, but I could certainly be inspired to check it out for $5 at my local theater.  And that’s how I ended up watching Sinister, co-written by C. Robert Cargill, co-written and directed by Scott Derrickson, and starring Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Clare Foley, Michael Hall D’Addario, James Ransone, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Fred Thompson.

The Oswalt family – father Ellison (Ethan Hawke), mother Tracy (Juliet Rylance), daughter Ashley (Clare Foley), and potentially-other-daughter-that-they-claim-is-a-son-but-I’m-not-convinced Trevor (Michael Hall D’Addario) – move into a house that will supposedly help Ellison finish his next novel.  He’s a true-crime novelist who hasn’t had a hit since his first book and has made the creepy and dangerous decision to move into the actual house where the murders his book are about took place, unbeknownst to his family.  Turns out that four members of a family were hanged from a tree in the backyard and the remaining daughter went missing.  Ellison finds a box in the attic that contains several reels of Super 8 footage that start innocently enough but turn into murders.  There’s “Pool Party” where the family plays in the pool and then cut to them tied to deck chairs and being drowned, “BBQ” which starts as a barbecue that cuts to the family being immolated, “Sleepy Time” which is the family tied to the beds and then getting their throats cut, and “Family Hanging Out” which is of the hanging murders.  Inside these videos, Ellison sees a dark figure that is either a demon or a Juggalo, and with that he starts having strange and scary occurrences around the house.

I didn’t build up any sort of expectation for this movie going in, and it met them.  It’s good.  Not great, just good.  It’s not entirely unlike the movies that they put on their poster because they share the same producer (Paranormal Activity and Insidious).  In fact, it’s got a lot of elements that can be found in Insidious.  The evil thing’s whole goal is to lure kids into the spirit world through their dreams, and that is exactly what happened in Insidious.  But I wouldn’t say these movies were too alike.  I guess these kinds of movies are always going to share a few similar themes.  What I did take issue with was that it really didn’t scare, at least not in any way I respect.  I don’t like movies startling me.  It doesn’t take a quality filmmaker to startle someone.  All you really need to do is be really quiet for a little while and then have something pop out.  It generally feels cheap in a movie, even if it is sometimes effective.  They do create tension pretty well to lead up to those moments, but the actual “scary” thing was usually just something popping out or a goofy scene of dead kid ghosts running around a house.  The story of the movie was fine, but certainly not innovative.  It’s all about something evil that kills people for watching a movie.  But this time the evil thing was named Mr. Magoo (Wikipedia says it’s Bughuul, but I know what I heard) and not Samara from The Ring.  And they also spent an awful lot of time on the other part of the story: Ellison wanting to write a new hit book.  But that part of the story got me annoyed right from the start.  First, why would you ever intentionally move into a place where you know people were murdered?  I don’t necessarily believe in ghosts, but I also don’t believe in finding out the hard way.  And his whole idea of moving there to help him write his story about it seems like bullshit.  I’m writing this review about the movie, but I didn’t have to move into a haunted house to do it because I can just use my imagination.  And this whole thing started to ruin his family life, but I didn’t feel like he was that interested in that even though he acted like he was because I think he was trying to kill his son/daughter, Trevor.  Early on in the movie (and it’s actually one of the scarier parts) he finds his kid in a box that he didn’t know how he got in because the kid has night terrors (that also have nothing to do with the movie).  Later, when he hears a noise upstairs, Ellison starts vigorously looking through boxes with a knife trying to find the source of the noise.  If your kid was pulling the same nonsense, you would’ve stabbed him in the face.  And I wouldn’t really have minded.

The look of the movie was a little hit or miss for me.  I appreciated the movie because the amount of time they relied on gore for scares was nearly non-existent, but the product placement was really starting to bug me.  Apple either fully funded this movie or the people making it are just fully in love with it.  Ellison spent 90% of the movie either on his Mac or using his iPhone.  I liked when he used his iPhone though because I could totally relate to it.  Instead of having an actual flashlight for one scene, he used the flashlight app on his phone.  I do that all the time.  I have flashlights all over the place in my house too, but they’re not on me 24/7 like my phone is.  But the Apple stuff actually leads to a plot hole that I found.  When Ellison is trying to wipe his hands of the whole situation, he deletes the stuff off of his Mac.  You know Time Machine won’t let you actually delete stuff!  Apple thinks you’re retarded!  Another thing that really worked my nerves in this movie was that they felt the need to show us how everything was being activated with a series of quick cut montage edits that seemed straight out of Hot Fuzz, except Hot Fuzz knew they were doing it out of comedy.  I started to get the feeling that the filmmakers really wanted me to know how to use a Super 8 projector because they had to show us exactly how the film was spooled in, then the lens clicks into place, then you spool it through the bottom reel, and then you flip the switch to turn it on.  How do I know that even though I’ve never seen a reel to reel projector in real life?  ‘Cause this movie wouldn’t accept me leaving without that knowledge.  And then they started doing it with the coffee machine too.

I can’t say I had any problem with any of the performances in the movie.  They were all either fine or good.  Ethan Hawke was not a likeable character, but he did a good job at the character.  He spent most of the movie being terrified by stuff, but he did a good job of it.  I just didn’t like that his character kept watching old video of him saying that he values the justice his books bring so much over the fame, but then would risk his family’s life to get another hit.  I guess that’s just making the character more human though.  Juliet Rylance tended to get on my nerves, but I think I take a negative stance on any lady in a movie that is a buzz kill.  If he listened to you, there wouldn’t be a movie.  So shut up and get to dying.  Though his part in the movie was not that big, I liked James Ransone as the Deputy.  He was funny and vaguely dimwitted, but not so much so that it was unrealistic.

Sinister was a bit of a risk for me, going in with completely no idea what I was in for, but I would say it was not without its charms.  I just don’t know if I’m confident saying those charms were enough to recommend seeing it in theaters.  The story seemed to take a lot from other horror movies like The Ring and Paranormal Activity, but the comparisons were not so overwhelming that I’d say it was the same movies.  The performances were also good.  I guess the biggest problem was that the scares were mostly cheap and not much more than startles.  I don’t regret seeing this movie in theaters, but I also would’ve been completely comfortable waiting to RedBox it.  Sinister gets “Children exposed to these images were especially vulnerable to Magoo’s abductions” out of “That symbol is associated with a Pagan deity named Magoo.”

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