Weekend Forecast for August 3-5, 2012

By Reagen Sulewski

August 3, 2012

Oh, so *this* is what it's like to be in a Len Wiseman movie.

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August is here, so it's time for the B Team of the summer movie lineup to take over. On deck for this weekend; an action remake that I'm not sure anyone was clamoring for, and the third film in a middling tween franchise. Rock on!

The original Total Recall remains a landmark in the world of sci-fi cheese, and the middle film of Paul Verhoeven's unofficial trilogy of insane satirical action films (including RoboCop and Starship Troopers). It also has one of the more outlandish Arnold Schwarzenegger performances outside of the Conan films. It's this memory that the remake is competing with as it opens this weekend, and it seems like a pretty difficult standard to live up to.

Stepping into Schwarzenegger's role as the scenery- (and dialogue-) chewing Quaid is Colin Farrell, playing the construction worker who has nagging dreams of a grander life. Heading to the memory-implantation service Recall, he immediately finds himself embroiled into a spy plot that mysteriously matches the fantasy he went in to get. Is it a real scenario, unlocked by the memory service, or is it simply something so perfect that it can't be told from the real thing? The 1990 film was a bit coy about the whole thing, and I'm not sure if I trust director Len Wiseman (of the Underworld series) to actually stick to that level of subtlety.


What he has done is amp up the action, which, okay, maybe I can see as a justification for this sequel (which appears to not have anything to do with Mars but still manages to throw in the three-boobed chick). So instead of the bonkers industrial set design of the original, we've got a sort of warmed-over Blade Runner feel combined with the flying cars of Fifth Element. Hey, if you're going to copy, might as well copy, right?

Farrell isn't the physical specimen that Schwarzenegger was by any means though he's fairly capable as an action guy. It's the female leads who are a definite improvement in my opinion, with Kate Beckinsale taking over for Sharon Stone, and Jessica Biel stepping in for Rachel Ticotin. Bryan Cranston (as Cohaagen, which is just perfect), Bokeem Woodbine, Bill Nighy and John Cho also make appearances in the film, but I don't see any credit for Quaato, which might be the original film's greatest legacy. In that respect, the updated version seems safe and tame and generic, although some of the action set pieces do appear to have something going for them. Remakes are kind of a dicey proposition, and without giving audiences a good reason to check them out, they can fall well short of their predecessors. Just look at the last time someone tried to remake a Schwarzenegger film – last year's Conan the Barbarian failed to match the original in a straight-up box office comparison, even with a nearly 30 year inflation advantage.

The 1990 Total Recall wound up earning around $120 million, which seems like a really optimistic final total for the update, especially since critics aren't lining up to support it and give it that last boost it'll need. Twenty years of inflation probably loses again, which doesn't say much for the way that Hollywood treats its properties. I look for an opening weekend of around $28 million.

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