What do you remember most about the original Total Recall? The woman with three boobs? Check. Arnold pulling a tracking device out of his nose? Check. Disguising himself as a woman to bypass security? Check. Shooting Sharon Stone in the head, then saying “consider that a divorce“? Double check! All of these scenarios manifest in some way, shape or form in the new Total Recall… well, except for the “consider that a divorce” line. Pity, because if this movie were a flesh-and-blood person, I’d totally shoot it in the head and follow it up with a lighthearted quip. The location has changed from Mars back to Earth and the main conflict from terraforming to colonial subjugation, but the basic premise is still in place. And, well, are you beginning to see the problem with this?
En route to the theater Sunday afternoon I encountered a homeless man ranting on the street corner. This is not uncommon. It’s New York. Yet his presence there unwittingly thrust me into the center of a moral quandary — do I use the $20 in my wallet to see to the latest Ben Stiller comedy, The Watch, or do I get all New Testament here and donate all I have to this obviously destitute individual? Actually, let me amend that slightly. At the time all I thought was, “look at this crazy asshole.” But after subjecting myself to The Watch, I was forced to revisit the situation with added perspective. The $13.50 I quite literally threw away that afternoon could have been put to better use. I don’t entertain some chimerical notion that such a sum of money would set him on the right path in life. But at the very least, it would have been enough to buy him a cheap bottle of bourbon with which he could wash away a few hours of his life and stave off the inevitable anonymity of his passing. Does that sound cruel? I prefer to call it an ethical compromise.
At the end of the day The Dark Knight Rises is still just a film. That’s not a point that necessarily needs to be made, but it’s a point that apparently has eluded a great many members of our society. Between anonymous Internet nerds issuing death threats to critics who pan it, to the very real, very horrifying violence that has manifested alongside it, it might be time for us to take a long, hard look at TDKR‘s central villain and perhaps consider stepping back a bit from the precipice of total moral oblivion. Full disclosure — I’ve never liked The Godfather. I think it’s a tedious film. But do you know how many death threats I’ve received as a result of my opinion about a film widely-regarded as the greatest of all time? None. Objectively speaking, The Dark Knight Rises is no Godfather, so why the distinction; why the ravenous rage all stemming from a film about an S&M gimp catapulting across a city? Well, I don’t think it’s appropriate to get into a weighty debate here on the shifting climate in pop culture, but suffice it to say that when a film becomes an extension of your life, that’s not dedication… that’s insanity.
At this point can we all agree that the saturation of reboots and remakes in the film industry has gone too far? We’ve reached the absolute nadir of creativity in the medium, where literally nothing released by major studios seems to contain even a hint of imagination. It should come as no surprise that as the curtain draws on Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, a reboot of the franchise is already rumored to be in the works. And why not? That has to be such a total cash-cow for Warner Bros. that it would be foolish to ever part ways with it. In the end, that’s really what it all comes down to though — money.
If you have the time and patience for it, one of the most amusing and thorough breakdowns of this concept is laid out in Red Letter Media’s review of the Star Trek reboot, but the basic idea behind it is a matter of marketability and brand recognition. This got me thinking; if the key to gaining access to Hollywood’s deep pockets is just incorporating a franchise tag to your product, why not take your taut little indie drama, throw a recognizable superhero into it and then just eschew any and all action movie conventions in favor of a bare bones drama? Say, Superman trying to overcome a consuming addiction to gambling, or the Hulk trying to sort out a personal love affair amidst his uncontrollable anger issues and paralyzing fear of commitment? You know, something a bit more personal than just fighting villains hell-bent on world domination. The good news is, The Amazing Spider-Man actually sort of attempts this. The bad news? It’s really fucking boring.
In many ways Ted is exactly the kind of film you’d expect it to be — raunchy, absurd, loaded with pop culture references. What it basically amounts to is an extended, live-action episode of Family Guy, which is either the most damning criticism this film could receive or a thoroughly ringing endorsement. It really depends on what you’re looking for. If jokes about a stuffed teddy bear having sex with a grocery store clerk on top of produce or a prostitute taking a shit on the floor as part of a dare aren’t your cup of tea, steer clear. Yet I would be lying if I didn’t say I laughed during it; I laughed straight through it, to be perfectly candid. I’m not above scatological humor, nor do I scoff at inappropriate jokes. It’s a matter of tone and I think in many ways Ted nails it. Is it cheap and easy? Of course. But it succeeds at what it strives for, and, believe it or not, that actually means something. One need only take a gander at the burned-out wreckage that is Adam Sandler’s latest cinematic debacle for proof that such humor can miss the mark that badly.
Lincoln once famously said, “If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.” Talk about foresight! Pity the same sort of measured approach wasn’t taken during the creation of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Then again, maybe that would be missing the point entirely. This is the cinematic equivalent to a crazy man standing on the edge of a cliff raving about crazy conspiracies. There’s nothing even remotely sane about it. No rhyme or reason to what it’s attempting. No ultimate goal in its narrative. It shouts breathlessly at you, spinning paranoid yarns about vast, shadowy vampire plots, and whether you choose to pay attention or not, it makes no difference — it’s going over the edge regardless.