BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Jan 6th, 2013 •

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This and PROMETHEUS are the two best art-directed films of 2012 – which, in the case of TOTAL RECALL, is both it’s great virtue and it’s fatal flaw. By act three, the narrative gives in to CGI-tis. There is just so much art direction and so little believable or comprehensible plot that things don’t resolve satisfactorily. But up until it falters and sinks under the weight of its own visual creativity, it’s a relentlessly-paced, fun ride.

Colin Farrell grasps and communicates the intricacies of his role, and is substantial enough to carry us along, but he also suffers in comparison with an earlier version of the Philip K. Dick story, which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s not that Arnold was the better actor, just that one has the ghost of the Paul Verhoeven film in one’s mind to contend with. It’s a similar situation to the 2009 remake of THE WOLFMAN. Benicio Del Toro is a better actor than Lon Chaney Jr. was, but the 1941 Universal classic, which sat poised on the fulcrum between their Golden Age and their ‘B’ assembly line, has acquired such a rep that the remake was destined to suffer in comparison. I find it fairly easy personally to judge the four films independently, and I liked TOTAL RECALL a lot, save for that final half hour.

And what hurts in the final half hour, in addition to the balance being upset between effects and human empathy, is the introduction of the two faction leaders on this future dystopian Earth – Bill Nighy and Bryan Cranston. Nighy trades some pretentious philosophical one-liners with Farrell, and I didn’t buy them, nor did I quite buy him as this heavyweight revolutionary leader. Similarly, Bryan Cranston (who I didn’t recognize at first from ‘Breaking Bad,’ but knew I’d seen him somewhere) proceeds to beat the crap out of Farrell, who we’ve already seen subdue whole divisions of warriors up to this point. (Granted, he’s nursing numerous wounds by this time, but it failed to suspend my disbelief.) Not buying either faction’s honchos, I was cast adrift from the human element in the storyline.

But I’m going on and on about that, when I really must get back to the good stuff – which is everything outside of what I just mentioned. The film has a BLADE RUNNER-ish look that just doesn’t stop for two hours, and it’s both exquisitely beautiful and wonderfully creative. So many gifted artists must have had their hands in the art department – maybe hundreds – including set design, special effects, make-up, costumes, props, even paper currency with Obama’s face on the bills (one of the great throw-away moments of the year). If one can believe what one reads, the reported $125,000,000. budget was a bargain.

The person I saw it with was confused that the two leading ladies looked so much alike. Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel under ordinary circumstances might not appear bewilderingly similar, but here, dressed and made-up pretty much the same, who was who was at times confusing. And yet I wondered if that weren’t the idea. After all, Farrell leads a double life, and here are two women who seem like doubles.

Picture and sound quality on the BluRay are everything one could ask for. Plenty of dimensionality for the surround system, and infinite image depth detail. The score, which at times felt like a repetitive driving disco beat during the action scenes, pounds it’s way out of the speakers. I was also impressed at how the filmmakers managed to deliver violence galore and still keep the blood to a bare minimum, thus securing for themselves the coveted PG-13.

The Director’s Cut is also included, and it has as much as twenty minutes either added or exchanged with what comprised the release version. This cut would have gotten an ‘R’, not for blood, but for profanity (Ms. Biel is a little raunchier in her choice of words) and nudity (there are several more shots of the three-breasted street walker). The third act was a tad more coherent.

A gag reel is less funny than it is illuminating about the technical difficulties employed to create the illusion of city and fight scenes.

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