Review: ‘Total Recall’ Has Its Moments, But Not Much Else

“Total Recall” is a remake of the fan favorite Schwarzenegger sci-fi movie from 1990. The updated version features Colin Farrel, Bokeem Woodbine and Jessica Biel in a world where any situation can be simulated by “Rekall”, and the lines between it and reality begin to blur.

I’ve never seen the original, first of all. I know it’s loved for its bold outrageousness, but heading into this remake, I thought that source material had been twisted into a new, serious tone that I was curious about. “Total Recall” aims for that highbrow sci-fi story, but falls pretty short.

The cast is stiff and kind of awful to be honest. Not even one of my favorite actors, Bryan Cranston, as the villain is able to make much of his bland material. No one has any chemistry at all and their relationships come off as pretty corny and stereotypical because of it. Needless to say, the characters are a downside.

“Total Recall” is a high concept sci-fi thriller being told by people who, unfortunately, are unable to do it justice. However, there were two scenes I kept in mind where I thought it lived up to that set standard. This film is at its best when the main character must decide if what’s happening is real or “Rekall”. These situations put you in a unique position where you must decide for yourself and it’s exciting to face the same dilemma as the protagonist. Had “Total Recall” embraced that dynamic more often, I would have enjoyed it much more.

I think your best bet is to wait until renting this one, if you’re still curious about it. So basically, “Total Recall” isn’t the best movie I could end my Harrodsburg Herald movie review tenure on. It has flown by though. It’s kind of hard to believe. “Is this real life?”


Review: ‘The Watch’ Is Hit and Miss, But Hits Hard When Cast Is At Its Best

“The Watch” is a new film directed by Akiva Schaffer, who is best known as a member of comedy group The Lonely Island. The film stars Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade encountering aliens while doing a local community watch.

I had mixed feelings going into this movie that I think hold up as my immediate reaction afterwards.  I was pleasantly surprised by certain things but there were still a handful of things I didn’t particularly enjoy either.

For example, I’m not a huge fan of Vaughn but in this movie he had a lot of moments where he won me over. The team itself, that being the four main characters, are probably the best thing about the movie. Hill and Vaughn specifically throw out one liners throughout the entire movie, but Ayoade may have stolen the most scenes with lines that are still bouncing around my head. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy Stiller as much as I did the other three. His character is sort of a wet blanket but he doesn’t take too much away from anything.

The bad thing about what seems to be so much improv through one liners is that there’s going to be a lot of hit and miss. Improv is something I like a lot and it’s hilarious in parts, but other times I just rolled my eyes.

Another positive thing was the commitment this made to being sci-fi and adult oriented. “The Watch” was much more raunchy than I expected it to be. A certain cameo by friends of Schaffer gets that whole point across. Most of the time it was pretty funny but if you don’t like that kind of comedy you won’t find anything significantly new here.

Overall, I think I enjoyed it fairly. By the end, the good had outweighed the bad. I’d give “The Watch” a light recommendation, and a strong one if you are already a fan of Vaughn’s previous work.

Review: ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ Provides An Incredible Finale To Trilogy

“The Dark Knight Rises” is the final installment in Christopher Nolan’s acclaimed Batman trilogy. Christian Bale returns as the caped crusader, along with new faces such as Tom Hardy as Bane and Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle.

It’s 3:37 a.m. Friday morning and I’ve just returned home from “The Dark Knight Rises” midnight premiere. On the way home a friend says, “So, this should be your shortest review, right? ‘It’s amazing. Go see it.’” Essentially, yes. But I have to do this justice, just as director Christopher Nolan did the delicate finale to a beloved trilogy.

But where do I begin? I’ll start with the newest additions, Bane and Selina Kyle, perhaps better known as Catwoman. After the late Heath Ledger’s iconic performance as The Joker in “The Dark Knight”, the search for a formidable villain was tricky. They needed a fresh villain that would not be stuck in the shadow of the psychotic spectacle The Joker held, and they found that in the callous brute, Bane. Hardy plays the colossus of a man, his face mostly covered by a voice box that filters his words into their twisted enthusiasm. I expected Hardy to shine, but maybe more eye catching was Hathaway as Catwoman, really giving an outstanding performance. Everything about Hathaway’s dialogue to mannerisms just breathes this character and she embraces it.

Also, I’ve felt that Batman has been overshadowed before by his villains and surroundings. But here, I’m more engaged than ever in Bruce Wayne’s story and struggle. Seeing Batman and Alfred’s characters evolve significantly was a highlight.

Nolan has made it clear that this is his last Batman film. Nolan was confident he and co-screenwriter and brother Jonathan Nolan had created a fulfilling and appropriate end to their Batman tenure and enjoyed the closure it could provide. I had the highest expectations and never worried a bit. The Nolan brothers are two of the best in the business and they delivered near flawlessly. Superhero movies are voted “Most Likely To Be Milked To Death”, but you can bet it won’t be by these two.

There’s so much I have to say still, and I wish I could, but the bottom line is that you need to see this movie. It’s a cinematic experience unlike any other this year or any time recently for that matter, and you need to take advantage of that.

Review: ‘Ice Age’ Silliness Can Appeal To More Than Just Children

“Ice Age: Continental Drift” is the latest sequel in long running animated series. This installment separates Manny the mammoth, Sid the sloth and Diego the saber-toothed cat from their friends and family because of a freak accident causing the continents to drift apart.

“Ice Age” is a really popular franchise. This makes the fourth installment and that’s because kids love it. Sometimes that spells a lousy viewing experience for parents or any older crowd but I wouldn’t say that this movie completely falls under that category.

Sure, this had its share of those corny gags tailored to the young kids, but it’s not only that. Every now and then you’d catch a hint of the characters poking fun at the movie they’re in, disregarding simple facts in history. I found that amusing, it’s always fun to see a little hidden humor for the adults. Not to mention, I’m not too grown up for those goofy gags. I laughed out loud a handful of times at those too.

Another thing I did like about this movie was how great a lot of the animation is. Everything from the incredible landscapes to the precisely detailed character models was really impressive. Even if you weren’t enjoying what was going on in the movie, you always have eye candy to sit and gaze at.

So all in all, I didn’t really love “Ice Age” but I was interested by enough of it to make it worthwhile. Considering that, I would recommend renting it, or taking any kind of young relative to see it in theaters. They will love it and you may have an alright time as well. Not to mention, there is a very entertaining silent “Simpsons” short beforehand starring the baby, Maggie.

Review: ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ Is Fresh and Entertaining

“The Amazing Spiderman” is a rebooted version of the popular superhero movie series. This updated version features Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy and Rhys Ifans as Dr. Connors, also known as The Lizard.

Many people will doubt this movie. The original Spiderman trilogy was extremely successful, arguably pioneering the superhero movie genre as we see it today. But this new Spiderman film succeeds in distancing itself from what we’ve already seen and creating a fresh interpretation of the origin.

More than anything else I give credit to the impressive cast. Each character is given a strong performance, guided by an inspired Garfield as Peter Parker. Naysayers can doubt the new all they like, but truthfully, had this “Spiderman” been released before the Sam Raimi trilogy, I believe these actors would be just as iconic in these roles.

The whole world of Spiderman is faithful yet retooled to create a unique vision. As I watched, certain sequences and events echoed past interpretations but remain original. If there’s anything I don’t like about “Spiderman”, it might be the high school. It’s almost cartoony with typical cliches, but it’s out of the picture early on.

It was questioned if Rhys Ifans would be able to hold the crowd’s attention as a scarcely known actor portraying a B-list villain. But The Lizard is a great villain, in my opinion, for the same reason most Spiderman villains are. Usually, they are misguided scientists cursed by their attempts to better society backfiring. I always like this because it keeps them human, and to me, the villain is every bit as important as the superhero.

“The Amazing Spiderman” will please fans old and new. It stands alone with ease apart from a great Sam Raimi trilogy. Thankfully, this film didn’t try to be anything we’ve already seen, and that will a be big part of its success.

Filmmaker of the Week: George Clooney – Taking Control of Both Sides of the Camera

Did you do a double take?

It’s true. George Clooney is not only among the best Hollywood has to offer on-screen, but also a director who is quickly gathering acclaim. Clooney has directed four films now, two of them (“Good Night, and Good Luck”, “The Ides of March”) already attracting nominations for an Academy Award for Directing and a Golden Globe Award for Best Directing – Motion Picture.

These are some of the most interesting cases in filmmaking for me. We are given stars to follow their every move for years, making them the most publicly recognized of all filmmaking employees, so we (theoretically) know a lot about them already. So any time an actor or actress takes it upon themselves to step behind the camera it’s an interesting choice to me. I’m especially excited to see their films because I like to see if my favorite actors have the dynamic talent to helm all aspects of a film on their own.

Even more interesting, getting the opportunity to direct his feature film debut “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” was given by the busiest filmmaker in Hollywood, Clooney’s longtime friend and partner, Steven Soderbergh. Soderbergh has directed too many films to count but the first ones to come to mind are “Ocean’s Eleven”, “Solaris”, “Erin Brockavich”, oh..and “Magic Mike” (It’s a hard life being a guy knowing Magic Mike is directed by someone you think is really cool and admire.) Anyway, Soderbergh is a big name and without his consent and coming on to “Confessions” as a producer, I don’t see Clooney getting this film made.

It was such a unique odd-ball thing to begin with. The plot follows Chuck Barris, who was a TV show host who also claimed to be an assassin for the CIA. Based on a true story. Oh, and the screenplay was written by the strangest, most unique genius in screenwriting today: Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, etc.). So this was nothing safe. I admire that Clooney wanted to take this challenge because this is how you get noticed in filmmaking. You have to pull out all the stops.

As it turns out, I’ve only been able to see “Good Night, and Good Luck”. This has been Clooney’s biggest critical success to date garnering six nominations at the 2006 Academy Awards. “Good Night” was a nostalgic period piece set in the 50’s about a network television war between anchors and executives debating the amount of truth revealed in reporting.

Overall, it was a good film but I probably won’t watch it again. It showed flashes of interesting cinematography in a stylized decade, but ultimately I didn’t care enough about this confrontation. Anyway, the best thing I got out of it was that Clooney is a legitimate filmmaker and I will definitely see all his future work.

I just missed “The Ides of March” unfortunately which seemed to be his most successful film. I’m going to catch up to it through Netflix next time I’m thinking about it online because I have a feeling that one will be the turning point. I first realized Clooney was directing films back when his football comedy “Leatherheads” was released in 2008 but when “Ides” was released, people finally knew he directed it.

That’s cool because this is the path I always hope for with my favorite actors. Clooney is 51 and can act for quite some time (see: Morgan Freeman, Jack Nicholson, Christopher Plummer) but a seat behind the camera will always be available.

If Clooney continues this interesting two way street career path he could build on to an already legendary career in film. I hope he does because I have confidence in the most charismatic man in Hollywood.

Review: ‘Ted’ Is Not Your Average Teddy Bear

“Ted” is the feature film debut for director Seth MacFarlane, who is best known for creating the television series “Family Guy”. Mark Wahlberg stars as a man child Boston native with Mila Kunis, his girlfriend, who is bothered by his troublesome childhood teddy bear come to life.

Read that last sentence again. I have to recognize that this is probably the most ridiculous concept of any movie I’ve reviewed. However, it works extremely well and that is a testament to Macfarlane’s talent.

This is definitely for the fans of “Family Guy”, first of all. Those who have enjoyed MacFarlane’s past work will feel right at home with the vulgarity, cultural references and occasional blatant absurdity.

I’m not against “Family Guy” but it’s not my favorite either. I laughed heavily throughout “Ted”, so I believe this is a pretty accessible comedy. In fact, this was pretty exciting to me because the full house crowd I was in seemed to love it, so I expect to see MacFarlane get more directing opportunities in the future.

The relationship between Wahlberg and MacFarlane as the bear is, as you’d expect, the highlight of the film. If you’ve seen “The Departed”, you’ve seen Wahlberg do the tough Boston guy thing really well and now seeing him do it again is hysterical.

I’d recommend “Ted” to anyone comfortable with swearing and crude behavior because from start to finish it is non-stop. There’s a time or too it pushes it to a point that’s a little tasteless, but pushing that envelope will be appreciated by fans of that humor.