Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Total Recall

For those just joining us, I used to do this thing on my podcast called Fishing in the Discount Bin, where, as my friend described, "[I] just go off on one of the many DVDs [I] own."  I only did about 10 or so on my podcast before I found it too exhausting, but I actually wrote up 30+ reviews before giving up.  Rather than let the reviews go to waste, I've decided to start posting them on my blog.

Today, we do the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic Total Recall.  This review is originally dated September 5, 2010.

Posting this here, I'm thinking I should finally watch this with the running commentary, as clips of the commentary became a bit of a viral sensation not too long ago.  Anyway, on with the review!

So, am I going to be doing this after every DVD I watch, all in the name of show prep, so I'll always have something to talk about on the podcast?  Yup.  Nothing I hate more than flipping on the mic and having nothing to talk about.

When I was in the city the other day, I finally picked up the super-special edition of the classic Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi/action film Total Recall.  I'd been eyeing this one for a while.  When the super-special edition DVD came out, o, about 9 or 10 years ago, it was much beloved, critically acclaimed, and given the most positive reviews at all the home theatre forums.  All that hype always stuck in my mind, so when I saw it in the discount bin for the low, low price of $5, I figured, "Why the hell not?"

(The same people also produced the super-special edition DVD of the definitive erotic thriller, Basic Instinct, and I fished that out of a discount bin when I saw it for $3!  So, yeah, look for my thoughts on Basic Instinct to be here soon.)

I remember this DVD also caused some controversy when it first came out because Arnold demanded a salary of $100,000 to participate in the bonus features.  So, for $100,000, Arnold got interviewed for the "making of" documentaries and did a running commentary.  It was controversial at the time because, back in those days, actors participated in the bonus features for free...to hang out with the old crew members who they made the film with, have a few beers, and remember all the fun they had making the film.  Arnold, of course, was seen as a money-grubbing movie star.  But here we are now, 10 years on, and I'm sure it's become a standard clause in every contract that the star will get $x to participate in the DVD.

So, anyway, Total Recall.  Made in 1990, and lots of reaming 1980s conventions are in there.  Such as Sharon Stone's aerobics outfit.  I love the sci-fi predictions they made back then.  TVs covering whole walls, being able to watch a dozen channels at once.  Some of that has come true, some of it hasn't.

And let's not forget the film's Oscar-winning special effects.  Some of them have actually aged pretty well, and still hold up to this very day.  Others will have you screaming, "It's only a model." 

We're all familiar with the plot.  Arnold is a mild-mannered construction worker who has visions of Mars.  Unable to actually travel to Mars and get it out of his system, he goes to this futuristic company called Rekall where they can just implant the memories so you think you've gone.  He goes for the super-deluxe package so he can live out the life of a secret agent.  Before you know it, something goes horribly wrong, and he's trapped in a conspiracy where he has to actually go to Mars, team with the rebels, and find out what exactly is going on.  And that's where the film got its hook.  Is Arnold really on this epic adventure to Mars, or is he just sitting in a chair in Rekall, living out the fake memories he's paid for?

I haven't listened to the running commentary yet, but apparently Arnold and the film's director, Paul Verhoeven, get into a spirited debate about that.  Verhoeven was of the belief that it was real, and Arnold believes it was a dream.  The commentary ends with them agreeing to disagree.  I don't know.  I first saw the film when I was 13 and I was 100% sure that it was real.  I still feel that way.  Why they hell would you spend 2 hours watching something that's imaginary?

(But Mark, you're saying, aren't all films imaginary?  And to you I say, don't be a smart ass.  :-)  I have no idea how I'm going to represent a smiley face on the radio.) 

I forgot how many elements of this film have entered pop culture.  Kuato, the mutant leader of the rebels who takes the form of super-intelligent baby emerging from a man's stomach, has now become much-parodied.  And Family Guy once did a whole bit about the three-breasted hooker.

But yeah.  It's still a good watch after all these years. 

No comments: