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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.

The Aviator (2004) Review

Time: 170 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains adult themes
Cast:
Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes
Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn
John C. Reilly as Noah Dietrich
Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner
Alec Baldwin as Juan Trippe
Alan Alda as Senator Owen Brewster
Ian Holm as Professor Fitz
Danny Huston as Jack Frye
Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow
Jude Law as Errol Flynn
Willem Dafoe as Roland Sweet
Adam Scott as Johnny Meyer
Director: Martin Scorsese

Billionaire and aviation tycoon Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a successful public figure: a director of big-budget Hollywood movies such as “Hell’s Angels (1930)”, a passionate lover of Hollywood’s leading ladies Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) and Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale), and an aviation pioneer who helps build TWA into a major airline. But in private, Hughes remains tormented, suffering from paralyzing phobias and depression. The higher he rises, the farther he has to fall.

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I remember when I saw The Aviator for the first time, I watched it because Martin Scorsese directed it and Leonardo DiCaprio was in it. I thought DiCaprio was great and the movie was pretty good, but didn’t remember much from the film, except that it was really long. I knew that I’d appreciate it a lot more when I got to around to watching it again and that’s certainly what happened. I was interested in it a lot more this time, and I think it’s a really great film.

The Aviator is very long at 2 hours and 50 minutes, yet it’s much faster paced than I remember it being. After while you began to notice some parts where it dragged but if you were invested in it as much as I was, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. A successful biopic makes you learn about the real life subject, both what they did and what kind of person they are, while also making you interested to learn about them through further research. The Aviator succeeds at this at flying colours, showing a large portion of Howard Hughes’s life. Part of why Scorsese did so well with this biopic was that he treated it like it was a character study, like some of his past films. Over time we get to learn more about Hughes and his life, as we see him at different stages of his life, at highs and lows.

There is a large and talented cast, and they’re all great here. Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance as Howard Hughes has to be among his all time best work. DiCaprio portrays many sides of Hughes, the filmmaker, the entrepreneur, the aviator, the businessman, as well as his eccentrics and OCD. This entire movie surrounds him, and the work that he’s done here is nothing short of excellent. Cate Blanchett is another standout as real life actress Katharine Hepburn. Although I’ve never seen Hepburn in a movie, Blanchett seemed to have captured the mannerisms, voice and overall character of her perfectly. Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda and Ian Holm make up a strong supporting cast and give memorable performances as well. Even some brief performers like Jude Law, Willem Dafoe and Adam Scott play their parts well.

Martin Scorsese’s direction of The Aviator is excellent as expected. Robert Richardson’s cinematography is outstanding, and the editing by Thelma Schoonmaker here also ranks among one of her best works in a Scorsese movie. While indeed the scenes involving planes and all that are filmed and edited very well, it also works in other regards, such as when Howard Hughes has some breakdowns and issues with his OCD. There are some parts where the CGI really hasn’t held up all that well in the plane scenes (this movie is from 2004 after all), but thankfully these moments don’t last for too long, and don’t take away too much from the overall movie. There aren’t a ton of plane scenes, but the ones in this movie are very well filmed. The score by Howard Shore is also quite solid.

Although it’s recently being regarded as one of Martin Scorsese’s lesser films, The Aviator is great and is worth seeing at least once. On a technical level it’s fantastic, Scorsese directs it incredibly well, and its shot and edited to near perfection. On the whole, it’s also an interesting biopic about a fascinating man, that’s well paced despite its very long runtime. It’s worth seeing even just for Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance here.