August 3, 2012, - 5:32 am

Wknd Box Office: Total Recall, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, Ruby Sparks

By Debbie Schlussel

I didn’t hate any of the new movie releases, this weekend. And I really liked two of them. I’ll start with the one I liked least and in which I was most interested.

* “Total Recall“: Uggh! They took a perfectly campy, funny, cool 1990 movie and removed all of its campiness, fun, humor, and coolness–turning it into a long, slow bore overstuffed with excessive, non-stop vomit of action and special effects. What was interesting and unique in the original has been removed, and the movie has been turned into a dark, serious, paint-by-the-numbers, formulaic action film. Yuck. The storyline is very similar, but it feels more like a cheap knock-off of the original, far superior “Total Recall,” and it is. There was absolutely no reason to remake it, except to replace all the roles that used to be played by White men and women with Asians and Blacks and to get rid of the cool, smart-alecky Black cab driver from the original. Do yourself a favor and rent the original before you see this (even if you’ve already seen the original before). You’ll see how much of a disappointment this cubic zirconium version is, when the real thing is fresh in your mind.

There is no Mars in this one, there are no holographic cab drivers (or any cab drivers at all), and there’s no mutant Mars brothel with all kinds of strange-looking prostitutes, including the woman with the three breasts. Oh, sure, the tri-breasted woman is in this one, too, but merely injected to get hormonal teen and twenty-something guys to buy a ticket, without explanation, as an Asian prostitute. In the original, she was a Mars mutant, thus the deformity. Gone from this version are the best lines and the best scenes. There is no scene in which Quaid–then played by Arnold Schwarzenegger–shoots his fake wife, Sharon Stone, in the head and says, “Consider that a divorce.” (See the video clip of that, below.) The scene at Rekal (in the new movie it’s spelled with two Ls, as “Rekall”)–the fake-memory implantation company– is devoid of all of the quirky dialogue. In the original, Quaid picks his ideal fantasy woman, and is asked “Do you want her to be classy or sleazy?” (he picks sleazy) and whether he wants her breasts to be large or small (he picks large). There is no rebel leader named Kwato–the wise, talking baby protruding from the stomach of one of the rebels.

This Scene From the Original Is NOT in the “Total Recall” Remake . . .

Instead, the movie and the story have been sterilized of all oddities and strangeness (other than the tri-chesticles) that made the original movie different. And now that it officially stinks, the filmmakers are insisting it’s not a remake. Make no mistake–it’s definitely a remake. Just a very poor one.

As much as I loathe crotchwoman Sharon Stone, she was excellent in the original as Quaid’s double-agent wife, far better than Kate Beckinsale, whose hubby, Len Wiseman, directed this cheap replica and cast her in the role. Beckinsale quickly becomes tiresome (doing the same thing over and over again), while in the original, the wife was killed off early on–just the right time. Jessica Biel’s freedom fighter rebel is no match for Rachel Ticotin’s hooker-as-rebel-liaison, which was more edgy. And with all due respect to Colin Farrell, he just can’t fill the shoes of Arnold Schwarzenegger on this one, as much as I loathe the ex-Governator. The role was really written for him and his out of place Austrian accent and cyborg-like appearance. Farrell’s faux-American accent makes it dull.

In the original, scenes from Mars’ underworld and seedy nightlife were the frequent stand-by setting. It was creepy, and that’s where the rebels hid in plain sight. But in this movie, there are frequent cuts back to a cheap futuristic Chinatown set that looks ripped off from the set of “Blade Runner,” another movie based on a Philip K. Dick work. Let’s hope they don’t remake (and ruin) that movie, too.

Instead of Mars, the setting for this is “the colony,” which is some sort of post-utopian version of America where workers are being replaced by synthetic soldiers and workers (robots) by the colonizing masters in the United Federation of Britain (UFB). As in the original, Quaid (Farrell) keeps dreaming that he’s elsewhere with a brunette woman whom he tries to save from falling to her death. He wakes up to another woman, who is his wife (Beckinsale). Also like the original, he is a working-class man who goes to Rekall, a memory implantation company, which implants false memories in your mind of vacations and adventures you want to experience but don’t have the opportunity to experience in real life. And like in the original, something goes wrong, Quaid discovers that his wife isn’t who he thinks she is and he’s not who he thinks he is. And as in the original, rebels are at war with the establishment government. And so on. If you haven’t seen the original, I don’t want to give too much more away than I already have. But it’s basically the same storyline. The original had sort of an Occupy Wall Street vibe to it. It’s been amped up in this one but meant to also resemble a post-futuristic Boston Tea Party.

Also, this version is only rated PG-13, despite the fact that every other word is the S-word and there’s the three-breasted nude woman. The original was rated R.

While this movie would be fine on its own (had it not been a cheap remake of a much better original that didn’t need remaking), as a remake 22 years later, it simply isn’t better or worth $10 to pay to see computer-generated images superimposed non-stop on what was fine as is, circa 1990.

It’s not that the movie is absolutely horrid. It’s okay. It’s just unnecessary and a tawdry shadow of something that was better. Who needs ground beef when you can have fine, dry-aged prime rib?


Watch the trailer . . .

* “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days“: Absolutely hilarious, and terrific for kids and the whole family! This is the third “Wimpy Kid” cinematic installment, and I like this one the best (read my reviews of the first and second “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” movies). And like the second one, it’s very funny, fast-paced, and entertaining. This is what a good kids’ movie is supposed to be like (even if it was a little gross–that’s what little boys like, and little girls will like this, too). And it ends up showing a positive father-son relationship in an intact nuclear family, something you hardly ever see anymore in any entertainment media. Kids might not get some of the jokes–such as a great one involving a Civil War re-enactment, but I suspect those jokes are in there for the adult parents who accompany their kids to the movie. I laughed a lot during this movie.

It’s the end of the school year, and the “Wimpy Kid,” Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon), still has his eyes on the pretty girl he met in the last installment. But you needn’t have seen any of the previous “Wimpy Kid” movies to know what’s going on here. Greg is invited to the country club by his best friend, Rowley, where he sees the girl. Because he wants to hang out with her and catch her eye, Greg lies to his parents and tells them he’s gotten a summer job at the club. And, then, whatever can go wrong ultimately does. It’s the same situation when Greg goes with Rowley and his family for a weekend at their house near the boardwalk. And during a camping trip in a Boy Scout-esque explorers group, in which Greg’s dad is an assistant troop master. Then, there is the fact that Greg’s family just got a new dog, that Greg’s dad feels competitive with their “perfect” neighbors, and Greg’s older brother, who is still terrorizing and extorting/blackmailing him.

The movie is clearly aimed at kids. If you have young kids, this is the movie to take them to see, especially if you want to be entertained, too.


Watch the trailer . . .

* “Ruby Sparks“: This is sort of a hipster/slacker, self-absorbed version of “The Twilight Zone.” I found it charming and entertaining to a point, even if I do not care for the whole hipster ethos. It’s written by and stars Zoe Kazan, granddaughter of famed Hollywood director, Elia Kazan. It also stars her real-life boyfriend, Paul Dano.

Dano plays a former child prodigy author, who is still living off of his hit “Catcher in the Rye”-esque novel, written about a decade or more ago, when he was in his late teens. Now a hipster slacker living in a fancy, modern Los Angeles-area condo, he continues to feel like a loser because he cannot write anything else and cannot live up to that first novel. But soon he begins writing about a woman he’s dreamed of, Ruby Sparks (Kazan). And he becomes obsessed with her, typing day and night on his typewriter (he does not use a computer). Before long, she suddenly comes to life in his apartment and they are lovers, just as in his book. While Dano is shocked, his brother (Chris Messina) is even more surprised. They take Ruby to meet their preppy-turned-hippie mother (Annette Benning) and her second husband (Antonio Banderas). Dano learns he can make Ruby do whatever he wishes, if he only types it that way. But manipulating people you love to do as you wish has its price.


Watch the trailer . . .

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14 Responses

From what I have seen, Total Recall looks like a direct remake of the original:

Talk about not even trying.

Pats on August 3, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    When it comes to Ahnolt, I feel sick. I remember the day his housekeeper introduced Ahnolt Jr. to Maria.

    Sheesh… no one deserves THAT!

    As Goes... on August 3, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Wow, Debbie. Our tastes finally agree on a whole trio of movies! I also loved the first “Recall.” Saw it in Troy, MI opening day and there was actually a huge blooper in the print: there was a big, obnoxious boom mic hanging over Arnold and the Latina chick’s heads when they were looking over the Martian landscape at the end. The took it out by the time I saw it again – they had to have replaced every print back then in ’90. Not sure I’ll even bother with this remake.

As for “Diary”, I also loved both and specially #2. Really fast-paced, consistently funny movie for anyone unless you need to T&A and.or violence as a prerequisite for watching a movie. I may actually see this one in the theater, but only at a twilight or matinee as I usually do.

“Ruby” sounds like it’s something I’d like, too.


DS_ROCKS! on August 3, 2012 at 1:49 pm

La Debbie, my sweet babydoll!

RE: Total Recall. You didn’t mention the one guy who made the original such a great movie, Ronny Cox. He was so over the top vicious, after usually being the sweet guy in most movies, that he nearly stole the picture. His line before blowing up the planet, “I’m gonna blow this planet and be home in time for cornflakes.” Then, when he was telling Melina he was going to reprogram, “Uh uh, sweetheart, we’re going to make you a sweet little housewife.”

I might sneak over a bit just to glimpse the ultra hot Kate Beckinsale, but otherwise I’ll just watch the original on DVD.

Jeff_W on August 3, 2012 at 1:52 pm

I should have looked it up befoe posting, here’s Ronny Cox’s character actual line to Melina, “Uh-uh, Princess. We’re having you fixed. You’re gonna be respectful, compliant, and appreciative… the way a woman should be.”

I am betting there is NO WAY they will say anything like this in these PC times.

Jeff_W on August 3, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Total recall is a great story. However, you would have to read the story by Phillip K Dick to truly appreciate it. The name is “we can dream it for you wholesale.” The man was a fantastic SF writer. Then again not to many people read quality anything anymore.

Glen Benjamin on August 3, 2012 at 2:14 pm

I recently saw Blade Runner for the first time, after hearing about it from so many of family and friends.


Not horrible. But not that good, either.

LindaF on August 3, 2012 at 6:17 pm

I do believe this is the first time I’ve seen Debbie review movies that got at least one Regan each.

David B on August 3, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Linda, too bad Blade Runner didn’t live up to your expectations. I know how you feel even though I saw it as soon as it came out and LOVED it. At the time it certainly was avant garde but recently I got to see ALL versions again and it has lost something that you may would have liked better if seen during it’s popularity. I really loved the ORIGINAL (Harrison Ford’s voice-over helped fill in some lines that the director’s cuts (sans voice-overs) don’t) and I hate the “happy” ending of the ORIGINAL but love the ambiguous ones of the two directors cuts. Three versions and all feel differently.

Yikes. Never saw Total Recall (other than part in the clip above) because I NEVER liked Ar-nald. To me he’s always been a cheap, bad one-liner…but I am a movie snob so don’t feel badly if you liked it. Yuck. Also am not a Colin Farrell fan.

I was curious about DS’ review of “Ruby Sparks”. Good chance it may be passable to me. Who knows? I am always pleasantly surprised to like any American Film but I do prefer art-house films.

(I just saw the new BATMAN and it was fan-f***ing-tastic! Way too long and not tight but right up my dark alley. I wish he picked (the director) better women for his films (he always pics ones I hate with a passion like Gyllanhaal and Hathaway…and that 9/11 truther idiot…). One can see why that idiot chose THAT movie to act heinously in Colorado (the theme in the movie was nihilistic). He must have read up on all the hype about the film (which I did not). What a tragedy for the lives lost and affected!

I was super-excited to see the great Australian actor Ben Mendolsohn in it! He is so fun to watch no matter what he is doing! Also Cillian Murphy in a bit part. Just good actors all through and it was funny that the best part of Tom Hardy was covered up the whole movie. I loved it!)

Skunky on August 3, 2012 at 7:51 pm

I’m certain some Hollywood idiot has entertained remaking Blade Runner. It makes my skin crawl thinking about it.

The only thing Hollywood today uses to “remake” old movies is computerized digital fakery. And TBH, Blade Runner looks as good as any of the current crap in the special effects department, even though it was made 30 years ago (has it been THAT long?..)

PitandPen on August 3, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Ruby Sparks is a remake of a Twilight Zone.
Same exact thing, the writer creates a woman on his typewriter.
Only he creates several women.
His wife suspects him of seeing another woman and she finds out it is created woman.

She gets mad and doesn’t believe him. She then throws his manuscript into the fireplace.
You then find that his wife was a created character and she disappears as the manuscript burns.
The writer calmly puts a new sheet of paper in the typewriter and writes that his wife is bringing him a drink.
A woman appears and lovingly walks over to him with a drink in her hand.

Steve on August 3, 2012 at 11:06 pm

If I recall correctly the object that created the women was not a typewriter but a reel to reel tape recorder. The created characters were on snippets of tape and not manuscript paper.
…and here it is on NetFlix:
Season One, Episode #36 ‘World of His Own’

theShadow on August 4, 2012 at 12:58 am

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