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Total Recall (2012) Review

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Total Recall (2012)

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence, offensive language & nudity
Cast:
Colin Farrell as Douglas Quaid
Kate Beckinsale as Agent Lori
Jessica Biel as Melina
Bryan Cranston as Chancellor Vilos Cohaagen
Bokeem Woodbine as Agent Harry
Bill Nighy as Matthias
John Cho as McClane
Director: Len Wiseman

Douglas is frustrated with his frequent dreams where he is a secret agent. He visits Rekall to get a fake memory implanted into his brain, but the procedure goes haywire.

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When it comes to remakes of classics, 2012’s Total Recall seems to be one of the most disliked, at least from the past decade. I remember liking it when I saw it for the first time, but that was quite a while ago. After rewatching the original Total Recall after many years (and loving it even more), I decided to check out the remake again the same night. Perhaps not the best option, as I immediately noticed everything great and good about the original that the remake did not have. That being said, taking the remake aspect out of it, Total Recall (2012) is otherwise a serviceable enough standalone sci-fi film.

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I wouldn’t say the script of Total Recall (2012) is bad, it is competent and functional enough but it really isn’t strong. It does start off pretty well, with a good pace and an intriguing mystery at the centre of the movie. Throughout the movie, there’s some pretty good world building as well. I wasn’t super engaged with the plot partly because I knew what general direction it would be moving towards, and partly because it wasn’t the most interesting. Still, the plot at least had me willing to follow what was happening. After a while though, the plot becomes very generic and by the time it reaches the third act, it almost just gives up. It just concludes in a dragged out, dull and bland action climax. By that point the plot has gotten really convoluted, and I didn’t have enough enthusiasm for the movie to try to regain the thread of what was happening. For what its worth, I watched the Extended Director’s Cut and I heard the theatrical version removes the complexity from the plot. So if you were planning on watching it, I highly recommend checking out the longer version. That was me talking about the remake without comparing it to the original, that ends here. Side by side, the remake really does take away so much of what made the original film so special. Mars doesn’t play a part, there aren’t any mutants, and it takes itself incredibly seriously. Plotwise it’s not exactly similar to the Paul Verhoeven film which I honestly respect. I admire the decision to be a little different to the classic Arnold flick, even if it means having to drop some beloved and iconic aspects. That being said, the movie is still left less memorable and interesting and really lacks a personality. It is worth noting is that there are some out of place callbacks to the original throughout, which are baffling considering the remake’s intention to be somewhat different. There are lines of dialogue which are straight up taken from the 1990 film. There’s even a reference to the three breasted woman from the original film, which will only make sense to people to watched that movie and understands this moment, while the rest of the audience are left confused.

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Total Recall does at the very least have a solid cast going for it. Colin Farrell plays the role of lead role Douglas Quaid, not one of his all-time best performances, but he’s quite good. Arnold Schwarzenegger did admittedly seem out of place for the story of Total Recall (especially when he’s playing a role that is meant to be an everyman), but he fitted the energy of that film appropriately, and his presence really added to the film. With a more conventional and straight-faced Total Recall however, Farrell does a good job in the part. He’s convincing at the action scenes and at conveying his character’s need to know what is going on. Most of the other actors like Bill Nighy do a good job. Meanwhile Jessica Biel is very unconvincing as the love interest. Bryan Cranston plays Cohaagen, the main villain of Total Recall, played in the original by Ronny Cox. With a talent like Cranston as the antagonist, there’s a lot of potential. While he’s decent enough in his scenes, the movie doesn’t utilise him the best. He’s just generically evil, doesn’t leave much of an impression, and isn’t even in the movie a lot. Thankfully, Kate Beckinsale picks up the slack as Quaid’s wife Lori and the secondary villain of the movie. Essentially she plays a combination of Sharon Stone’s Lori and Michael Ironside’s Richter from the original Total Recall, as she relentlessly pursues Quaid throughout the film. Beckinsale’s turn as a villain is very fun to watch, she’s unstoppable and ruthless, and is definitely one of the strongest parts of the movie.

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Len Wiseman is a decent director and overall, his work here is okay. At the very least, the cinematography is stunning with some impressive visual effects. Wiseman has many sweeping shots of the big cities, and he is great at visualising a futuristic world. Although it looks very similar to locations in other sci-fi/futuristic movies, Wiseman clearly has an eye for detail and scale. The action is entertaining and well shot, even if it isn’t always coherent (especially towards the end). There is a ton of CGI and everything from the visuals to the action can seem very video gamey, which is a criticism that I’ve seen a lot from people. That being said, given that the point of Rekall was to give a false reality with the memory implants, it does play into that aspect well, unintentionally or otherwise.

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Total Recall (2012) is not a good remake, it definitely lacks a lot of what made the first movie great in the first place. I appreciate the efforts to be different and not just a copy of the beloved classic, but the method for doing so seemed to be copying plenty of other sci-fi movies. The end result is a bit generic and despite a promising start, ended up losing me by the end. But I wouldn’t say it’s bad, as a standard sci-fi thriller, it’s okay enough. The visuals are nice to watch, the action is entertaining, and generally the cast are good, especially Colin Farrell and Kate Beckinsale. Not a must see but it’s passable and not a bad watch, preferably if you haven’t watched the original first of course.

Devil (2010) Review

Time: 80 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Chris Messina as Detective Bowden
Logan Marshall-Green as Mechanic (Anthony “Tony” Janekowski)
Jenny O’Hara as Old Woman
Bojana Novakovic as Young Woman (Sarah Caraway)
Bokeem Woodbine as Guard (Ben Larson)
Geoffrey Arend as Salesman (Vince McCormick)
Jacob Vargas as Ramirez
Director: John Erick Dowdle

Five strangers’ day begins with an elevator ride in a Philadelphia office tower. But, what happens next is anything but ordinary. The elevator gets stuck, and the trapped passengers, who expected to be together just a few minutes, now face the revelation of their secrets and transgressions. Frightening events turn annoyance into terror, as they begin to realize that one of their number is Lucifer himself.

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Devil actually has a pretty decent concept: a bunch of people stuck in the elevator and they are being killed off one by one by a mysterious killer. One thing however that might’ve turned off people from this movie is the fact that M. Night Shyamalan wrote it. Shyamalan might’ve made a comeback recently but in 2010 he was rather hit or miss, especially The Last Airbender. Although he didn’t direct this movie, he still wrote it, and having seeing it, I have to say that he might as well have directed it. I wasn’t expecting much out of it as I heard it wasn’t that good but it was actually okay. It’s not really that good but it does have some bright spots amongst all the wasted potential and absolutely ridiculousness.

The script by M. Night Shyamalan is a mixed bag. I’ll hold off on talking about the main problem with this movie for a bit and except talk about all the other problems first. There’s only really a couple of characters you really learn about, so you’re not particularly invested in them aside from these particular characters. This means that you don’t really care about what’s going on with them and so the tension doesn’t work that well. We are stuck with mostly 5 characters stuck with each other and most of them we don’t get to know that much about. The dialogue at times can be absolutely terrible, most of the dialogue is things that no normal human being would say. Any of the awkward dialogue that some Shyamalan movies can have is here, and that also goes for some of the weird ideas. The moment when a security guy puts jam on a toast, flips it, and says that when a toast lands jelly side down it means that the devil is near is when you begin to notice that something is really wrong. This movie is really short at an hour and 20 minutes long. It doesn’t overstay its welcome but nonetheless feels very short and unsatisfying. The film tries to build a mystery about what the killer is but it doesn’t help that the film is literally called devil. In fact, this whole supernatural aspect really brings down this movie and was the biggest problem of the movie. When you really think about the plausibility of the devil doing this, it just reveals more holes in the movie. The devil takes so long to get rid of these people, and all in an elevator with only 5 people, if the devil wanted to kill some people, surely it could’ve found a much more efficient way that wouldn’t require him killing them all over 1 hour in a room that has cameras. By the way, the twist of the identity of the devil ultimately doesn’t pay off in the end, you probably won’t be able to predict who it is but there’s nothing to indicate that this person is the devil. Just because you can’t predict a twist doesn’t make it good. Honestly don’t even bother predicting who it is because you won’t guess it, even if you do it’s not very satisfying. Had this been a thriller about a killer in an elevator without them being the devil, it might’ve actually worked. If you add a supernatural element into an otherwise plausible human story, you’ll have to account for all the plot holes that comes with it. Maybe if they at least established the devil as not being particularly good at his job, maybe Shyamalan could’ve gotten away with it. Otherwise, imagining the devil himself doing this is actually kinda hilarious and is quite possible the least effective devil on screen to date.

I don’t know most of the actors involved but from watching Devil, I get the impression that most of then are good and but are ultimately held back from giving much better performances because of the script and characters. The highlights included Logan Marshall-Green and Chris Messina, those two get the most characterisation and depth to them compared to the other characters. There are a couple of actors which really don’t work at all, one of them is Geoffrey Arend as a salesman, who was one of the people stuck in the elevator, he just comes across as being really awkward and annoying. The second is Jacob Vargas as a security guard who is superstitious and was also the guy who said that toasts landing jelly side down means that the devil is nearby. Not that their performances are necessarily their fault, very few actors could deliver a somewhat okay performance with their characters and dialogue.

The direction by John Erik Dowdle is fine enough, nothing special but nothing that bad either. The movie never really delivers on any of the horror aspects well, it’s predictable. For a movie about the devil killing people, its very tame, with the PG-13/M rating. When the scares are there, they’re just typical jumpscares and aren’t effective in the slightest. It doesn’t even deliver on particularly good tension, though as I mentioned previously, that’s mostly due to the underdeveloped characters and story not being particularly interesting.

Devil isn’t really that bad of a movie and was better than I thought it would be. However it really is wasted potential and the end result really isn’t anything. Even without the underdeveloped characters, awkward dialogue and crazy ideas, the inherent devil/supernatural element is the main thing holding this movie back from being somewhat good. It’s not a complete waste of time if you choose to watch it, it’s only an hour and 20 minutes after all. However I would like to see this movie without the supernatural/devil aspect, as I can see some potential with that.

Overlord (2018) Review

Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, horror, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Jovan Adepo as Pvt. Boyce
Wyatt Russell as Cpl. Ford
Mathilde Ollivier as Chloe
John Magaro as Tibbet
Gianny Taufer as Paul
Pilou Asbæk as Dr. Wafner
Jacob Anderson as Dawson
Iain De Caestecker as Chase
Bokeem Woodbine as Sgt. Eldson
Director: Julius Avery

On the eve of D-Day, American paratroopers drop behind enemy lines to penetrate the walls of a fortified church and destroy a radio transmitter. As the soldiers approach their target, they soon begin to realize that there’s more going on in the Nazi-occupied village than a simple military operation. Making their way to an underground lab, the outnumbered men stumble upon a sinister experiment that forces them into a vicious battle against an army of the undead.

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I knew about Overlord for a while because it was the long rumoured 4th Cloverfield movie (which would probably be titled Cloverlord). Turns out this isn’t what the movie is at all, despite some consideration of the idea. Still, the idea of a World War 2 Nazi Zombie movie sounded like something exciting, and I was looking forward to it after hearing that it was good. While Overlord isn’t quite the Nazi Zombie movie that was advertised, it is nonetheless a really bloody and entertaining movie, a nearly perfectly executed B movie.

A couple things first, firstly as I mentioned this isn’t tied to the Cloverfield universe in any way, and honestly it’s all the better for it, it feels like its own sort of movie and not tied down to other movies or cinematic universes. Second of all, as I said earlier, Overlord is not really a Nazi zombie movie even though the trailers sort of made it seem like that. Not only does it take a while before it gets to that aspect, but they aren’t even really zombies. I can’t really describe it but let’s just say the ‘zombies’ here aren’t really like the zombies from Call of Duty. Overlord more comparable to the Wolfenstein games honestly. It really is a World War 2 action movie with a horror aspect to it, with Nazis as the villains. This is a B movie, it’s not full of great in depth characters or an interesting plot, but it knows what kind of movie it is. Yet it plays it straight faced enough that you care enough about what’s going on, and so it doesn’t just become a goofy action horror comedy or anything like that. The plot is simple enough and doesn’t get convoluted really at any point. The movie is an hour and 50 minutes long and that was the right length for the movie really, from start to finish I was really entertained by what was going on.

The cast generally do well in their roles. The main squad are pretty typical and familiar for a war movie, like you have Wyatt Russell as the hardcore and hardened sort of soldier who is solely focused on the mission and nothing else but the characters don’t border on the cartoonish side either. They aren’t given a lot of depth (some of them don’t really get any) but for this type of movie it doesn’t really prove itself a problem. They also have enough chemistry that you care about them enough. The main soldier character is played by Jovan Adepo and he was great, he was likable and believable in his role. The other soldiers were good as well, especially Wyatt Russell and Iain De Caestecker, even though the latter didn’t have a ton of things to do, he was really good with what he had (and had a particularly memorably great scene, one of the best in the film). The Nazis were also really good as villains but the standout is Pilou Asbæk as a Nazi officer who really ends up being the most central antagonist of the Nazis. Asbæk is so great at being absolutely hateable and ultimately worked well as the main villain.

While Overlord definitely is a B movie, it is actually directed really well by Julius Avery, I haven’t seen any his previous movie Son of a Gun but he did very well with this movie at least. The action scenes themselves are also well directed, you can see what’s going on and they are all rather entertaining. The practical effects also deserve a lot of praise, I think the vast majority of the effects are practical and I’m glad for that, it really paid off. There are some really gratifying and grotesquely gory moments and deaths. While its not a full on horror movie, it has a lot of horror aspects to it, and the body horror side of it was really strong (much more than when they tried to do genuine scares, with an overuse of jump scares which didn’t really work). The score by Jed Kurzel also added a lot to the scenes, amping up the tension even more. The only out of place bit of music was during the end credits, which really didn’t fit at all.

You may be a little disappointed if you’re expecting Overlord to be a Nazi Zombie movie based off the trailers, but it is still a really entertaining action horror flick. The actors all did well, the direction of the movie is great, it’s entertaining from start to finish, it really handles well all the aspects needed in a B movie. If you’re into violent action B movies and if Overlord looks good to you, this is definitely right up your alley, and you’re going to have a lot of fun with it.