Tag Archives: Len Wiseman

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.

Live Free Or Die Hard (2007) Review

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Live Free or Die Hard

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] containes violence & offensive language
Cast:
Bruce Willis as Detective John McClane
Justin Long as Matthew “Matt” Farrell
Timothy Olyphant as Thomas Gabriel
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Lucy Gennero-McClane
Maggie Q as Mai Linh
Director: Len Wiseman

The Director of FBI’s Cyber Crime Division assigns John McClane the task of tracking down a hacker. John ends up working with an ethical hacker who helps him deal with the cyber criminals.

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Live Free or Die Hard (or Die Hard 4) was the fourth movie in the Die Hard series, released 12 years after the last movie. I do recall people being a bit mixed on this movie, especially as it leans into more a conventional action blockbuster and feeling less like Die Hard. To a degree it is partially a let-down after Die Hard with a Vengeance but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

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The movie is definitely ridiculous even by Die Hard standards, with regard to the plot and with the action (particularly near the end). Die Hard with a Vengeance increased the scale to the entirety of New York City, so as you can expect, the fourth movie’s scale is even larger. Live Free or Die Hard pits John McClane against younger cyberterrorists and while the plot does feels very late 2000s and dated, cyberterrorism was a decent choice of antagonism to keep the series from just rehashing the past. Some of the changes do make the movie feel less like Die Hard, it’s pretty much a generic action plot that happens to have John McClane as the protagonist. With that said, McClane does play a big part in this movie working. Despite feeling less like typical Die Hard, I appreciate the changes made to the formula, especially with how the last movie was made over a decade prior, and it does its best to modernise it.

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Bruce Willis returns once again to the iconic role of John McClane. I wouldn’t say that this is Willis in top form, and the movie effectively turning him from a down to earth cop and underdog into an indestructible superhero who survives unbelievable dangers. At the same time, he is still really good here. As a more grizzled John, Willis is surprisingly engaged in this role and still delivers as his character. Live Free or Die Hard is a typical mid to late 2000s action movie with cyberterrorists but the one thing that makes it work is John McClane, it would be a much weaker movie without him. Willis is protecting a hacker character played by Justin Long, who had the potential to be annoying but actually worked okay here. The chemistry between the two certainly wasn’t at the level of Willis with Jackson in the previous movie, but their banter is enjoyable enough. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays McClane’s daughter and isn’t in it much but is good in her screentime. Timothy Olyphant as the villain is fine enough for this movie. He isn’t all that intimidating or convincing, but at least was different enough of a villain compared to McClane’s past antagonists. There is a Kevin Smith cameo in this, while I’m not going to say I disliked it, it was certainly distracting.

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Len Wiseman directs this movie, and his work is decent. This is the first PG-13 Die Hard movie, meaning that the violence is toned down and is less bloody despite the high bodycount. I have issues with it for sure but it doesn’t ruin the movie for me. Something you’ll notice immediately is that it looks so different from the rest of the franchise, fitting right into the late 2000s mold of action cinema mainly with the cinematography and lighting. The action is competently handled even if it doesn’t reach the heights of the first or third movies. The action is often cartoonishly over the top and far fetched, but at least it is creative and fun to watch. I will say though that the over-the-top action does eventually lead to a lack of tension since John seems to survive soe many ridiculous situations.

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Live Free or Die Hard definitely has its faults. The story is fairly generic, and it does lose some of its identity of a Die Hard movie. However I do think it is entertaining. The story is at least watchable, the action is fun to watch, and Bruce Willis is once again great to watch as John McClane. Considering many of its aspects, the updated modern day setting, the PG-13 rating, the fact that it’s the 4th movie in the franchise and 12 years since the last instalment, it could’ve been a lot worse. This was the more ideal place for the franchise to stop. Die Hard had to evolve, from 2 to 3 and from 3 to 4 but at this point its lost its identity as a Die Hard movie and would be best leaving it at that. Unfortunately there was a fifth movie after this.