“Total Recall” is a remake of a 1990 film of the same name, which itself was an adaptation of the Phillip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.” Yeah, I know, Hollywood is really running out of ideas. As Bullz-Eye’s Jason Zingale put it, “[Director Len] Wiseman does his best to freshen things up, and in some cases, he actually improves upon the original, but you can never quite shake that feeling of déjà vu while watching the film, and that only begs the question, why bother remaking it at all?” Rave reviews I know, but I’ll give you a quick synopsis anyway.
Collin Farrell plays Donald Quaid, a factory worker disenchanted with life in the stereotypical sci-fi “future world” (think “Blade Runner” with better CGI). To cure his woes, Quaid seeks out Rekall, a company that implants artificial memories so realistic you can’t tell the difference between them and your true past. The procedure goes wrong (imagine that) and Quaid finds out his wife, Lori (Kate Beckinsale), is a government agent assigned to watch over him. It’s the opening scene of the second “Austin Powers” movie, only her guns are guns, not breasts. Along the way, Quaid finds out he too is a secret agent so undercover not even he knew about it (shit’s deep, bro), and teams up with rebel fighter Melina (Jessica Biel) against the United Federation of Britain and its evil chancellor, Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston).
As the source material has gone through each step of the adaptation and remake process, its purpose—the major themes and feelings, indeed the story it was trying to tell—has become increasingly diluted. Dick posed philosophical questions about what makes reality “real” and memories “true,” while in the trailer for the latest version, Collin Farrell asks himself, “If I’m not me, then who the hell am I?” Yep, shit’s deep, bro.
Check out “Total Recall” if you’re in the mood for some heavy on the action, light on the depth sci-fi. The film currently sits at a 31 percent on the Tomatometer, so I’d rent the original or see “The Dark Knight Rises” (again, if need be) before plunking down my hard-earned cash on this one.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days
I knew it was a book series, but the only reason I had any inkling this was a sequel, let alone the third film in a series, is the fact that there was a colon in the tile. It turns out there have in fact been two “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” films prior to this one. When a series is able to release its third film in as many years, it screams phoned-in counter programming playing for a built-in audience. Here’s what this one’s about, per the official synopsis:
During his summer vacation, “Wimpy Kid” Greg Heffley, the hero of the phenomenally successful book series, hatches a plan to pretend he has a job at a ritzy country club – which fails to keep him away from the season’s dog days, including embarrassing mishaps at a public pool and a camping trip that goes horribly wrong.
The newest “Wimpy Kid” movie is at a 44 percent on the Tomatometer, which notes that it “fails to improve upon previous installments and will likely appeal to few outside its target audience.” How much could there be to improve upon, given that the first two films are at 53 and 47 percent, respectively? Like I said, this is phoned-in counter programming. If you need to sit in the AC with the kids quiet for 90 minutes, this one might be for you. Otherwise, avoid it.
Follow the writer on Twitter @NateKreichman.