Movie Reviews

Total Recall ***

Inspired by the sci-fi short story ‘We Can Remember It For You Wholesale’ by Philip K Dick, Total Recall (12A) stars Colin Farrell as working stiff Douglas Quaid. Bored by his mundane existence, despite being married to the beautiful Lori (Kate Beckinsale), Douglas craves the excitement provided by Rekall, a company which implants memories in the mind.

Fancying himself as something of a spy, Douglas taps into more than he bargained for when the Rekall experience sparks a terrifying reality in which Douglas discovers he is actually an undercover resistance operative fighting against the tyrannical Federation. Or is it all a dream?

Farrell fares particularly well in terms of the inevitable comparisons with the original Total Recall (1990), being a far more plausible Everyman than the one-man army that was Arnold Schwarzenegger.

For the first hour or so Len Wiseman’s film is a satisfying blend of hi-octane action and philosophical concepts, as Quaid — now Hauser — runs from the deliciously immoral Lori and struggles to separate fiction from truth. Can Quaid trust his friends, including resistance agent Melina (Jessica Biel)? Can he trust himself, and his understanding of who he is?

The latter stages lack the heft of the set-up, however, as the story jettisons the more thought-provoking aspects of Dick’s tale to become a straightforward shoot-’emup.

It’s a solid thriller, certainly, but one undermined by the sense that the story’s true potential is unfulfilled.

A whirlwind romance on an exotic island between Mia (Laura Brent) and David (Xavier Samuel) results in wedding bells, with typically understated British chap David leading

A Few Best Men (15A) all the way to Australia. There he discovers that he’s marrying into the Australian equivalent of the Kennedy dynasty, and that his future father-in-law, Jim Ramme (Jonathan Biggins), actively disapproves of the impending nuptials.

With his hapless groomsmen running riot on a cocktail of booze and drugs, can David persuade Mia that he’s man enough to become an honorary Ramme?

Most of the humour in this low-brow comedy is mined from the culture clash between floppy-haired Brits and largerthan-life Aussies, but very few of the gags raise more than a titter.

There’s a very crude best man speech that serves as both the comic highlight and gross-out low point in a movie that might more accurately be described as A Very Few Good Jokes.

Samsara (12A) is made by the same filmmakers responsible for the ground-breaking Baraka (1992), and offers a similar visual feast.

Filmed in various locations around the world, it’s essentially a series of images celebrating the beautiful, the strange, the grotesque and the fantastic.

The effect is hypnotic, particularly the wonderful stop-motion camera work, and there are repeated clashes between the most urbanised industrialised parts of the planet with some of the most fabulous untouched natural wonders.

Directed by Ron Fricke, it’s a fascinating document, even if the occasional heavy-handed foray into unnecessary editorialising about contemporary political issues does tend to burst the bubble.

Set in contemporary Tehran, Maryam Keshavaraz’s debut feature Circumstance (15A) follows teenage girls Shireen (Sarah Kazemy) and Atafeh (Nikohl Boosheri) as they fall in love.

Spied upon by Atefeh’s brother Mehran (Reza Sixo Safai), a former musician who now secretly works for the ‘Morality Police’, the girls find themselves in danger of savage retribution from the State should their relationship become public.

The opening act of Circumstance sets up a fascinating clash between the younger and older generations in the devoutly Muslim Iran (the film was shot in Beirut), as the teenagers dance, drink and party behind closed doors, flouting the strict laws of their elders.

It’s a compelling opening, but Keshavaraz, who writes and directs, chooses to focus on the intimate details of Shireen and Atefeh’s relationship rather than explore the consequences of their actions.

Overall, the film fails to deliver on its initial promise, but it’s an intriguing debut nonetheless.

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