The original 1990 Total Recall starring Arnold Schwarzenegger was a perfectly serviceable action flick and one of Arnie’s better efforts as an actor. There seems to be no particular need for a remake other than a dearth of ideas. For all that, the story of a factory worker, Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) who begins to suspect that he is a spy after visiting a company that purports to implant exciting memory experiences, has plenty of potential for Len Wiseman’s (of the Underworld franchise) action-oriented filmmaking. Quaid, inevitably, finds himself on the run, and there are plenty of high-octane sci-fi action sequences. Star Farrell is backed up by a solid cast that includes Kate Beckinsale as Quaid’s wife, minder and potentially his executioner, and Jessica Biel as the love interest.
High school romance and coming of age movie from director Yang Ya-che (楊雅?), who made his name with the surprise hit Orz Boys in 2008. GF*BF, is, as the title suggests about boyfriends and girlfriends, buddies and rivals, ideals and the mundane realities of people trying to live together. The film follows its three stars, Kwai Lun-mei (桂綸鎂), Joseph Chang (張孝全) and Rhydian Vaughan (鳳小岳), through the 1980s to the present day, making the most of nostalgia for school room drama and touching on issues related to the student movement of the 1990s. Director Yang is clearly looking to create a big picture about changes in Taiwanese society, sweetened with romance and friendship between his good-looking leads. Solid performances won the film best actor and best supporting actor at the Taipei Film Festival.
The big name cast and clever ideas give Red Lights an initial appeal, but sadly director Rodrigo Cortes lets it all fall apart at the end. This does not necessarily detract from the tightly constructed first three-quarters of the film, in which Sigourney Weaver and Cillian Murphy, as two scientists investigating claims of paranormal activity, create great expectation, but then Robert de Niro, as the villain Silver, a world-renowned psychic who has resurfaced years after his toughest critic mysteriously passed away, takes over the picture with monologues and exposition that leaves the narrative flow floundering. Good enough for an entertaining night with a DVD, but not worth the price of a big screen ticket.
Chicken with Plums
A new film from French-Iranian animator Marjane Satrapi, whose debut film Persepolis, an autobiographical account of a girl’s coming of age against the backdrop of the 1979 Islamic revolution, released in 2007, won plaudits for its effective use of animation to tell an intimately personal story. In Chicken with Plums, Satrapi folds in sections of animation with a predominantly live action drama. The director draws once again on family history to tell the story of her great uncle, a musician who is first inspired and then broken by his ill-starred love affair with a clockmaker’s daughter. The film’s whimsical, magic-realist tone is a rich concoction, full of bittersweet humor, and the overall effect, with its heightened emotions and super saturated colors, can feel a little cloying. For all that, the film is also very clear-eyed about both the beauty and self-indulgent aspects of art, one of a number of themes it explores, and this provides it with a solid core that holds the film together.