The remake of Total Recall never escapes the shadow of its Arnold Schwarzenegger-led predecessor — and strangely it feels like a choice. With a script that's nearly beat-for-beat the original film Total Recall plods along with enhanced special effects that bring to life an expansive sci-fi world and action scenes constructed to send eyes flipping backwards into skulls. Filling the cracks of the fractured film is a story that without knowledge of the Philip K. Dick adaptation's previous incarnation is barely decipherable. Those who haven't seen Paul Verhoeven's 1990 Total Recall? Time to get a few memory implants. 2012 Recall makes little sense with the cinematic foundation but it does zero favors to those out of the know.
Colin Farrell takes over duties from Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid a down-on-his-luck factory worker hoping to escape his stagnate existence with a boost from Rekall a company capable of engineering fake memories. Quaid calls the damp slums of "The Colony" home (one of two inhabitable parts of Earth) but he dreams of moving to the New Federation of Britain a pristine metropolis on the other side of the planet. When the futuristic treatment goes awry — caused by previously existing memories of our blue collar hero's supposed past life as a secret agent — Quaid emerges from Rekall with lethal power hidden under his mild-mannered persona. He quickly goes on the run escaping squads of soldiers robots and his assassin "wife " Lori (Kate Beckinsale) all hot on his tail. Total Recall turns into one long chase scene as Quaid unravels the mystery of his erased memories.
But when it comes to answers and heady sci-fi Total Recall falls short. Farrell isn't a hulking action star like Schwarzenegger but he's a performer that can sensitively explore any human crisis big or small. Director Len Wiseman (Underworld Live Free or Die Hard) never gives his leading man that opportunity. Farrell makes the best of the films occasional slow moment but the weight of Recall's mindf**k is suffocated in a series of fist fights hovercar pile-ups and foot chases pulled straight out of the latest platformer video game (a sequence that sends Quaid running across the geometric rooftop architecture of The Colony looks straight out of Super Mario Bros.). When Jessica Biel as Quaid's former romantic interest Melina and Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston as the power-hungry politico Cohaagen are finally woven into Farrell's feature length 50 yard dash it's too late — the movie isn't making sense and it's not about to regardless of the charm on screen.
The action is slick and the futuristic design is impeccable but without any time devoted to building the stakes Total Recall feels more like a HDTV demo than a thrilling blockbuster. The movie's greatest innovation is the central set piece "The Fall " an elevator that travels between the two cities at rapid speed. The towering keystone of mankind is a marvel but we never get to see it explore it or feel its implications on the world around it. Instead it's cemented as a CG background behind the craze of Farrell shooting his way through hoards of bad guys.
Science fiction more than any other dramatic genre twist demands attention to the details. New worlds aren't built on broad strokes. But Total Recall tries to get away with it in hopes that audiences will recall their own movie knowledge to support its faulty logic. The movie repeatedly prompts viewers to think back to the 1990 version with blatant fan service that's absolutely nonsensical in this restructured version (no longer does Quaid go to Mars but there's still a three-breasted alien?). The callbacks may have given Total Recall a "been there done that" feel but rarely is it coherent enough to get that far. By the closing credits you'll be struggling to remember what you spent the last two hours watching.
“My dick is going to get so wet tonight ” declares Costa the foul-mouthed ringleader of a trio of sex-starved teens in the opening moments of Project X the new “found-footage” comedy from director Nima Nourizadeh and producer Todd Phillips (The Hangover). Believe it or not this qualifies as one of his more charming moments in the film. All of 17 but blessed with an obnoxiousness lesser men would take decades to cultivate Costa (Oliver Cooper) is the perfect mascot for a film that makes no bones of its mostly prurient intentions proffering what is essentially a succession of debaucherous montages intermingled with uneven attempts at comedy and held together by the slimmest pretense of a plot.
Caustic as he is Costa at least exhibits something of a recognizable personality; the same cannot be said of his two cohorts the tubby dweeb J.B. (Jonathan Daniel Brown) and the earnest blank Thomas (Thomas Mann). None of them seem to enjoy much in the way of popularity at their high school located in the fictional suburb of North Pasadena but Costa has a plan to fix that. On the occasion of his 17th birthday Thomas whose parents have conveniently departed for the weekend reluctantly agrees to host a party that Costa promises will be a “game-changer” for their lowly social status.
Hardly a game-changer is Project X’s script co-written by Matt Drake and Michael Bacall which mostly treads a predictable teen-comedy path. At its outset the party appears to be a bust. Soon however hordes of eager revelers descend upon Thomas’ house and the event swiftly devolves into a festival of wanton hedonism that would impress Charlie Sheen. The orgy of booze drugs and sex is captured by Nourizadeh in one impressively slick sequence after another set to a vibrant soundtrack.
To maintain the guise of an actual movie – and to occupy us between shots of topless beauties downing tequila and frolicking in the pool – Project X tosses in a few familiar tropes to push its story along: an unstable drug-dealer bent on revenge a buzzkilling neighbor seeking to end the night’s festivities prematurely a budding but hesitant attraction between Thomas and his childhood friend Kirby (Kirby Bliss Blanton). But the scenes are so hollow and contrived that you get the sense even the filmmakers don’t buy them and only added them to the film in a transparent ploy to forestall allegations of complete and utter vapidity. The efforts serve only to add a dash of the banal to the proceedings.
Project X’s natural forebears – R-rated teen comedies Superbad and American Pie – tempered their crudity and outrageousness with a surprising degree of depth and sincerity. Moreover they were actually funny. Project X is a shallow affair to be sure but a dearth of laughs is what ultimately dooms it. A belligerent little person who goes on a crotch-kicking spree after being tossed in an oven amounts to the film’s most sophisticated attempt at humor. More often it relies on recycled gags from previous films (including Phillips’ own library from Road Trip to The Hangover Part II) and Jackass-inspired mishaps.
The found-footage approach has proven to be a potent (if overused) tool in horror films but its utility in the service of comedy at least in the hands of Nourizadeh is limited. It mostly comes across as a needless gimmick good for marketing purposes but little else. Perhaps acknowledging as much Project X’s backup plan calls for an incessant raising of the stakes. As the once-innocuous gathering metastasizes into a fully-fledged riot one so dangerous that even the police dare not intervene the specter of parental disapproval gives way to the threat of incarceration and finally to the potential incineration of the entire neighborhood. The scale of the destruction is impressive – especially for such a (presumably) low-budget film – but like much of what precedes it almost entirely pointless.
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The deadly road games between motorists Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson should propel Changing Lanes straight to the top of this weekend's box office.
The dark psychological drama, representing a change of pace for Notting Hill director Roger Michell, should fend off a serious challenge from Cameron Diaz's romantic comedy, The Sweetest Thing.
In Changing Lanes, a fender bender results in attorney Affleck losing an important court document and Jackson missing a golden opportunity to win back his estranged wife and kids. The two lock horns when Affleck resorts to desperate measures to retrieve the document from Jackson.
The spectacle of an indignant Jackson exchanging blows with a fraught Affleck should allow Changing Lanes to overcome a couple of a bad plot turns and a slew of traffic-halting speeches about the law. Accordingly, Changing Lanes should debut somewhere between the openings of Jackson's Rules of Engagement ($15 million) and Deep Blue Sea ($18.6 million).
Changing Lanes also kicks off what could be a banner year for Jackson, who will be seen this summer in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones, XXX and Formula 51. Is Jackson trying to replace Gene Hackman as the hardest-working man in Hollywood?
Cameron Diaz showed a willingness to do anything and everything for a laugh--especially when it came to certain bodily fluids--in the unexpected comedy smash There's Something About Mary. She returns to similar bawdy comic territory with The Sweetest Thing, in which she plays a party girl who flounders at the prospect of wooing the man of her dreams (Thomas Jane).
The Sweetest Thing marks Diaz's first solo opportunity to capitalize on the recent success of her ensemble and supporting contributions to Shrek ($267.6 million), Charlie's Angels ($125.3 million), Vanilla Sky ($100.3 million) and Any Given Sunday ($75.5 million).
Sony must have great faith in Diaz, who pocketed a reported $15 million for The Sweetest Thing. The sight of a carefree Diaz dancing the night away helped turn Charlie's Angels into a hit, so The Sweetest Thing should have no problem earning back that $15 million in its opening weekend. That would best the $13.7 million debut of There's Something About Mary, but the Bobby and Peter Farrelly farce had such long legs that it made a total of $176.4 million. The Sweetest Thing should charm its way to $50 million.
After many years of toiling in one James Cameron blockbuster after another, actor Bill Paxton finally tries his hand at calling the shots.
Paxton's gothic horror tale Frailty features his U-571 comrade Matthew McConaughey as a man who assists the FBI in the search for a serial killer. Paxton, seen in flashbacks, plays McConaughey's character's murderous father.
Lions Gate didn't have much luck getting audiences to sample the grisly, but satirical, American Psycho ($15 million), which may explain why the distributor has played around with Frailty's release date. Also, Lions Gate is putting Frailty into a modest 1,800 theaters, which could result in a $5 million to $6 million debut. Its long-term prospects seem to hinge more on its excellent reviews than McConaughey's questionable box office stature.
Not much can be expected of New Best Friend, which sneaks into about 100 theaters this weekend after spending two years on the shelf. Once known as Mary Jane's Last Dance, this teen-oriented thriller will doubtless endure the same fate as last year's woeful Soul Survivors: a don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-it theatrical run followed by a quick video release. Still, its cast--Taye Diggs, Dominique Swain, Mia Kirshner and Rachel True--might lure a few people to this tale of a deadly university clique.
Human Nature also debuts this weekend in limited release. The latest warped satire from Being John Malkovich screenwriter Charlie Kaufman features Tim Robbins as a behaviorist who abandons studying mice in favor of civilizing the feral Rhys Ifans.
Like Frailty, Human Nature must rely on critical support if it is to overcome its offbeat premise and become an art-house sensation a la Being John Malkovich ($22.8 million).
Two tough women struggled last weekend for box office supremacy, with both emerging victorious.
With $61.8 million through Wednesday, Panic Room is certain to be Jodie Foster's first $100 million hit since 1997's Contact ($100.9 million). The claustrophobic thriller--with Foster thwarting a home invasion--also surpassed the box office totals for Alien 3 ($54.9 million) and The Game ($48.2 million) to become director David Fincher's biggest hit bar Seven ($100.1 million). After dropping an acceptable 39 percent in its second weekend, from $30 million to $18.2 million, Panic Room should amass between $11 million and $12 million this weekend.
Ashley Judd's High Crimes managed an impressive $14 million opening without the benefit of much pre-release fanfare and has $16.7 million through Wednesday. That's better than the $13.2 million opening for Kiss the Girls, which first paired Judd with High Crimes co-star Morgan Freeman. However, lousy reviews for this nonsensical courtroom thriller should result in a 50 percent plunge this weekend. High Crimes doesn't have the smarts or endurance to surpass Kiss the Girls' $60.5 million total.
The laughter seemed to stop last weekend despite the arrival of two comedies.
National Lampoon's Van Wilder--the first theatrical release to bear the comic institution's moniker since 1995's disastrous Senior Trip--collected a puny $7.3 million in its first weekend. National Lampoon clearly made the wrong choice in attaching its name to what was once known as Van Wilder: Party Planner.
With only $8.8 million through Wednesday, National Lampoon's Van Wilder once again proves that no one cares about Tara Reid unless she's serving up American Pie.
Tim Allen and Rene Russo wanted Big Trouble, and they sure got it in the form of a less-than-explosive $3.5 million debut.
Get Shorty director Barry Sonnenfeld's latest crime caper opened last weekend after being postponed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Seven months later, audiences still aren't ready to laugh at a plot that involves a stolen nuclear bomb and the possible military downing of a passenger airplane. Big Trouble has $4.1 million total through Wednesday, with $10 million a possible total.
Big Trouble's failure--expected or otherwise--comes as bad news for Allen and Russo. Allen's ignored Joe Somebody ($22.7 million) seems like a blockbuster in comparison. Russo now has three flops in a row following last month's Showtime ($36.3 million) and 2000's The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle ($26 million).
A plot to kill a beloved children's TV entertainer didn't need much help from Robin Williams. Death to Smoochy dropped out of the Top 10 after just one week. Director Danny DeVito's children's TV satire tumbled 62 percent in its second weekend, going from $4.2 million to $1.6 million. Its total through Sunday: $7.2 million.
Ice Age isn't cooling off, though. The CGI-animated adventure enjoyed a fourth weekend of $13.5 million, down a mere 25 percent from its third weekend haul of $18.1 million. With $142.4 million through Wednesday, Ice Age continues on its merry path to $180 million.
The Rookie threw a strong second inning, dropping 25 percent from its $16 million debut to $11.7 million. Baseball might not have recovered from the 1994 strike, but the game's sure reviving Dennis Quaid's career.
This stirring biography of Tampa Bay Devil Rays pitcher Jim Morris could become Quaid's biggest solo effort. With $36.6 million through Wednesday, The Rookie will outscore Frequency ($44.9 million) this weekend and may eventually exceed The Parent Trap's $66.3 million total. Quaid's biggest hits: the ensemble dramas Traffic ($124.1 million) and Any Given Sunday ($75.5 million).
Clockstoppers registered a strong second weekend, eroding by a mere 28 percent, from $10.1 million to $7.2 million. Jonathan Frakes' time-bending teen adventure has $23.1 million through Wednesday. Its final destination: $35 million.
Blade 2 will surpass its predecessor's $70.1 million total on Friday, but it continues to hemorrhage beyond control. Wesley Snipes' vampire saga lost 43 percent of its audience in its third weekend, dropping to $7.4 million from $16 million. With $69.2 million through Wednesday, Blade 2 will retreat into the darkness with about $80 million.
The end is near for Mel Gibson's We Were Soldiers ($72.2 million through Wednesday), Best Picture Oscar winner A Beautiful Mind ($165.5 million through Wednesday), The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring ($304.4 million through Tuesday), The Time Machine ($54.7 million through Sunday) and John Q ($70.1 million through Sunday).
Seems the 20th anniversary of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial isn't too much of a cause for celebration. Steven Spielberg's 1982 classic has phoned home $31 million through Tuesday. That's better than Grease's 1998 reissue ($28.3 million), but unimpressive compared with the 2000 return of The Exorcist ($39 million). Let's not even bring up the 1997 re-release of the Star Wars trilogy.
Still, with a total $430.8 million through Tuesday, Spielberg can take comfort knowing that E.T. will earn enough money this week to supplant Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace ($431 million) as the third high-grossing film domestically. At least, that is, until Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones storms theaters this summer.