Holidays In and Out of the Sun

Total Recall: adapted by Kurt Wimmen and Mark Bomback from the screenplay for the 1990 film of the same named adapted by Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon, Jon Povill, and Kurt Wimmer from the short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick; directed by Len Wiseman; starring Colin Farrell (Quaid/Hauser), Kate Beckinsale (Lori Quaid), Jessica Biel (Melina), Bryan Cranston (Cohaagen), and Bill Nighy (Matthias) (2012): Surprisingly enjoyable, relatively non-campy remake of the 1990 film that was itself a very loose adaptation of a Philip K. Dick short story. Neither film has the courage to go all the way with the mind-fuck that Dick’s story ends with, but it’s Hollywood, where Inception is the height of reality-bending.

This Total Recall leaves out Mars entirely and instead posits a future Earth where chemical warfare has reduced the world to two liveable zones, one a British Federation (though few have British accents) and the other the Australian Colony that supplies the Federation with manual labour. Travel between the two zones is with a massive and fairly nifty elevator through the centre of the Earth. Admittedly, I’m pretty sure a civilization capable of building a massive elevator through the centre of the Earth would probably find a little chemical warfare clean-up to be an easy task. Oh, well.

As with the first film, a visit to Rekall, a company that imprints false fantasy memories into the minds of people looking to escape their humdrum lives, causes Doug Quaid to discover that his own memories are false. Or are they? Much shooting and exploding ensues.

The original was funnier, and there’s no substitute here for Kwato, but the three-breasted hooker does have spectacular breasts. Three of them!!! Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale are decent as good and bad love interests, while Colin Farrell invests his character with humanity and a seriousness of purpose that actually make one care about what happens to him. Recommended.

Chernobyl Diaries: written by Oren Peli, Carey Van Dyke, and Shane Van Dyke; directed by Bradley Parker; starring Ingrid Berdal (Zoe), Dimitri Diatchenko (Uri), Olivia Dudley (Natalie), Devin Kelley (Amanda), Jesse McCartney (Chris), Nathan Phillips (Michael), and Jonathan Sadowski (Paul) (2012): Oren Peli, patron saint of the second generation of found-footage horror movies, here supplies some of the writing for a conventional narrative horror film that nonetheless borrows all its camera tricks (by which I mean shaky-cam, and lots of it) from Peli’s Paranormal Activity movie.

Six stupid twenty-somethings and one Russian guide visit the area around Chernobyl, long evacuated of people, still somewhat radioactive. You know hilarity will ensue. And it does! The stupidity quotient is quite high here — for everything to happen as it does, the guide has to do something inexplicably stupid in the middle of the night.

I’m pretty sure I know more about the effects of radiation than the people who made this film. Disappointingly, none of the film was actually shot around Chernobyl. Serbia apparently has a lot of abandoned stuff. The characters range from unlikeable to just plain stupid. And the shocking climax lacks both shock and horror. If you figure out what the ‘Diaries’ of the title refers to, please contact me. Not recommended.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits: adapted by Gideon Defoe by his book of the same name; directed by Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt; starring the voices of Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, David Tennant, Jeremy Piven, Brian Blessed, and Salma Hayek (2012): If not for Paul Meahan, I would have gone to my grave believing this was another one of those crazy-ass Christian Veggie-Tales movies. Instead, it’s an enjoyable romp from the people at Aardman (Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run).

Much pirating, Charles Darwining, and poking fun at Queen Victoria fills the movie. It’s not the greatest animated movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s funny, with a number of fine set-pieces and some nice voicework from everyone involved. There are also a surprising number of gags based on the reaction that occurs when baking soda meets vinegar. Recommended.

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