Sunday, January 8, 2012

Review - Adjustment Bureau and Total Recall

I've never read any Philip K. Dick, but I'm in love with his stories (or at least the movie adaptations).  Today I'll review two movies based on his stories.

The Adjustment Bureau:  The strange-hatted men in this movie, strongly reminiscent of the "Observers" in the TV show "Fringe," are the "Second Foundation" of Asimov's Foundation series.  They sit behind the scenes and make sure everything goes according to Plan.  If an important person begins to deviate from the Plan, these guys step in and give a little "adjustment" to get them back on track.

Those little books they carry show a person's path and alert them to any upcoming deviations.  Sound like fun?  I enjoyed it, but I'm one who likes the stuff that makes written sci-fi work so well.  Some may find this movie a little on the slow side.  It's more brain than action.  Perhaps this contributed to its modest intake of $62.5M USA ($127.9M worldwide).

Things go awry when David Norris meets the girl of his dreams and discovers the existence of the Bureau.  They can't kill David because he's too important to the plan.  But they also can't let him have this girl of his dreams, so they tell him to stay away from her.  You can probably guess what happens next.

One of the Bureau men is played by John Slattery of "Mad Men."  This role fits him perfectly.  As he runs around New York and up stairs and such, I wanted so badly to see him barf all over someone's shoes.  But I guess that's just me.

I highly recommend this movie to all sci-fi lovers.  It'll give you something to think about: free will vs. enlightened guidance.  Plus it has a few cool action scenes.

Total Recall (1990):  A classic!  I caught this on TNT sometime last year.  This movie was the Matrix before "The Matrix" was the Matrix.  What is real?  If you think it's real, is that enough to make it real?  And wouldn't you know it--there are two different ways to watch this movie: one where the Mars world is real, and one where it's all in Quaid's head.  Both ways are fun to watch.

The movie begins with Quaid bored with life and obsessed with Mars.  He decides to go to Rekall for one of those implanted Mars vacations--complete with secret agent action and a sultry girlfriend.  But something goes wrong.  People start chasing him, and he comes across a video of himself saying he's a secret agent.  Is it real?  Or is it the implant talking?  Hmmmm....

Schwarzenegger may not be the best actor, but Verhoeven makes it work.  This movie has some great one-liners, some cheesy ones, and who could hate Johnnycab?  It also has some fun action.  My favorite scene is when a doctor from Rekall tells Quaid he's stuck in his implanted vacation.

Since I caught this on TNT, it was edited for TV.  They cut out all the "boobie" scenes, and they silenced all the bad words.  I noticed two things: #1) the movie worked fine without them and #2) Wow!  Did they use a lot of language!  I rolled on the floor when Quaid's video tape said, "Get your ___ to Mars.  Get your ___ to Mars.  Get your ___ to Mars.  Get your ___ to Mars."

That touches on my main complaint with the original movie.  Verhoeven took a PG-13 plot and sprinkled it with Rated-R material.  The "boobie" scenes in particular detracted from the action.  Yes, the scenes were funny, but the humor seemed displaced and "fake."  Yes, that's the best word for it: "fake."  I'm really hoping that the remake coming out later this year will be PG-13, after all, it would be the perfect plotline for the teenage crowd.  But with Colin Farrell playing the lead role, I'm not holding my hopes too high.

Despite the Rated-R distractions, this movie remains one of my favorites.

If you like any of these two movies, you may also like these other Philip K. Dick shows.  I enjoyed each of these...
  • Blade Runner
  • Next
  • Paycheck
  • Minority Report
  • Total Recall 2070 (TV Series)
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