Total Recall (2012)

This is the last film I’ll be seeing with my (now expired) Cineworld card. I picked up the preview ticket before my card ran out earlier this month but I was honest and did tell them it wouldn’t be valid by the time of the preview! Expect film reviews on the blog to be a little less frequent until Niamh is a little older and we can get out more. Or we cut down on gigs… It’s a shame as there are some great looking films coming out soon. The trailers before this showcased some stuff I’d really like to see. Ah well.

Total Recall (2012)

“If I’m not me, then who the hell am I?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Man wants to get memories implanted to cover up his drudgy life, but finds there are already a bunch in there.

See it if you like: big, effects-heavy sci-fi action films which attempt to have a plot

There are two ways to look at this film – something new, or a rehash of the 1990 original. Having seen the Arnie vehicle from back in the day (several times), it’s hard not to compare the two which is a little unfair as they’re different enough that they’re not overly comparable.

The basic plot (lifted from Philip K. Dick‘s “We Can Remember It From You Wholesale”) is the same. Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), labourer and husband of very fit wife (Kate Beckinsale), is bored with his humdrum existence and decides to spice it up with a trip to Rekall. There, they’ll implant some sexy memories that he can pretend are his own. Something thrilling like… ooh, being a secret agent. Only, for some reason, these memories clash with ones that are already in there…

Cue pandemonium, chases, explosions, another fit woman and a plot involving a rich politician trying to get richer at the expense of an innocent populace while being hounded by a resistance movement. The single largest different between this version and the original is the setting – it’s all on Earth. Mars doesn’t get a look-in.

Instead, the world is divided in two: the rich United Federation of Britain and the poor Colony (Australia), a melting-pot of cultures aptly illustrated by the use of Chinese, Korean and English signs all over the grubby place. The Colony is wonderfully imagined, looking very Blade Runner-esque whereas the UFB has a similar technological look while being that bit cleaner and sleaker.

The two are joined by a huge “train” called The Fall that passes through the earth. Workers travel from Colony to UFB each day and back again.

The biggest star of the film is the setting and the effects associated with it. It’s a beautiful looking film and all credit should be given to the CGI masters who’ve brought it to life. Add in a good dollop of imagination as they’ve obviously strived not to remake the original and credit where it is due. Certainly the cast put in passable performances, but nothing outstanding. Farrell, for instance, was far better in Phone Booth which actually required a modicum of acting talent.

For an action romp, it’s very watchable though the plot does slow things down from time to time. As a thriller, there’s not enough story. The balance could be a little better. Having said that, I did like it. The action sequences are very well put together and, if you haven’t seen the original, the plot’s not bad either. There are plenty of references to the 1990 film, sometimes in passing, sometimes simply in the way that something happens which has the same outcome but is done differently than it was 22 years ago. I don’t want to list examples as that would be spoiler-icious!

On the whole, it’s worth seeing. The original was a classic, but it was also released in a very different era where a film like that came out once a year or so. Nowadays, big films with this level of effects technology pop out at the rate of a handful a month. The fact that the visuals and the overall scale of the scenery impressed so much is down to a huge team who’ve put in some excellent work and that, for me, was worth seeing the film for.

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FRAUD: www.silverjewellerysonlineshops.co.uk

Fake jewellery
Fake jewellery (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

My other half just picked up some stuff from www.silverjewellerysonlineshops.co.uk as gifts. Their web site states that they’re genuine, and they’re not. All knock-offs and not at knock-off prices. The stuff we received was a) partially incorrect and b) crap. Damaged, badly made and obviously sub-standard.

There is no indication of where they are located – it turns out when the stuff arrived that it’s China. They also took more off Gillian’s debt card that they were authorised to do so.

Correspondence with them (via a Yahoo email address…) has resulted in them claiming that it’s “not worth” refunding as the postage charges would be so high to return it. They offered £10 (of a £70+ transaction). Then £13. Now £18. It’s like haggling.

Unsure if trading standards will touch it, but the web site takes GBP payments and is a .co.uk domain so I think I’ll be making a complaint to their registrar. A quick search on MoneySavingExpert.com popped up a story about “Operation Papworth” a couple of years ago where 1,219 similar Asia-based sites were taken offline.

We’re looking at talking to the bank and using something called Chargeback – further details on the Which? web site.

Please PLEASE share and repost elsewhere. If they won’t refund our relatively small amount after defrauding us, then perhaps some negative advertising will cost them more.

www.silverjewellerysonlineshops.co.uk – you are thieves, fraudsters, liars and scum. I hope you die a severely unpleasant death, that lingers for many hours until you are begging to be put out of your misery.

UPDATE

I contacted the four jewellery manufacturers for whom the frauds list themselves as authorised resellers. Tiffany & Co have already replied and were very grateful for the heads up, and the additional details I gave them about the domain registration. Apparently the domain is owned by a lady in Belfast, according to the whois data. I reckon this is a crock as well, frankly.

The domain registrar did have a look, but said there was nothing wrong with the site that they could see which is fair enough. On the front it looks genuine, it’s after the purchase has gone through that you find out they’re scammers. I’ve forwarded them the correspondence we exchanged with the thieving bastards afterwards.

Also, our bank have said they’ll issue a Chargeback against the transaction which means we get a full refund from the thieves’ bank account.

So as a result of trying to screw us over, they’ve lost not only a sale minus a small overhead but the entire sale, plus postage, plus the shoddy goods they sent out. In addition, there’s every chance their domain will be taken off them as well.

Do not mess with my other half. I will hunt you down…

FURTHER UPDATE

From their domain registrar:

Hello,

Thank you for your response. We have asked the owner of the domain to remove all the infringing content from their website within the next 24hrs, failure in doing so will result in suspension of his domain. We would also request you to file a complaint against this domain with your local cyber crime department.

Regards,
PDR Abuse Team.

Score!

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The Expendables 2

I’m cramming films in while my Cineworld card is still valid. Despite thinking the first one was a bit poo, I decided that as long as it wasn’t costing me anything I’d check out:

The Expendables 2

“Who next? Rambo?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: A recovery mission goes slightly bat-shit so the gang head out on a somewhat over-the-top revenge mission

See it if you like: watching things go “boom”. And “splat”. And “ak-ak-ak-ak-ak-ak”.

I didn’t enjoy the first Expendables film. I don’t know why, but I think it was because – after it got over the ridiculous cast – it became just another action film with a poor story, worse acting and nothing to hold the interest.

This, however… this is different. This is brilliant.

Importantly, it doesn’t take itself seriously. In fact, it goes right to the end of the scale marked as “self-deprecation”, more commonly known as “taking the piss out of oneself”. There are so many bits of bad dialogue that would have been right at home in an Eighties action film that they simply must have been put there for that reason. References are made left, right and centre to well known films and characters. Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis play Musical Catchphrases, using each other’s best known lines with wild abandon.

The opening sequence is bigger, louder and bloodier than most other action films can ever dream of having for a finale.

This really is a film you can’t afford to take seriously. The bad guys can’t shoot for toffee and despite loosing off enough bits of hot lead to sink an island nation, pretty much always fail to hit anything other than blank concrete and glass. Apparently firing a machine gun through a glass window will cause it to shatter but won’t pepper the enemies on the other side with bullets. Firing at soldiers from elevation with ridiculously powerful weapons will not cause the deaths of any innocents stood nearby. Ever.

Importantly, though… who fracking cares?

With a cast this size (and I mean that in all respects – they must have stolen the entire 1980’s Russian Women’s Olympic shot-put team’s steroid supply), it would be easy to expect most of them to be there just to make up the numbers. But with enough in-jokes about the actors themselves, quirks, piss-takes, banter and overblown action scenes that simply doesn’t happen. They even manage to shoe-horn a girl into the group this time out. Avoiding the obvious casting of Michelle Yeoh (surely the most well-known female Asian action star in the West?), they’ve gone for Nan Yu who I honestly haven’t heard of before. She’s good, though, and kicks as much ass as any of the inflated male cast.

This is, quite simply, a must-see. At one point, several members of the (small) audience cheered out loud. And I didn’t care. I was so wrapped up and giggling that it just seemed like a perfectly acceptable thing to do.

If you even remotely like action films, you’ll enjoy this. If you’ve seen the “classics” from days gone by then you will enjoy it all the more for the cast and references. Far, far better than it has any right to be – and the first film in a long time I’ve considered going to see for a second time. That alone makes it highly recommended.

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The Bourne Legacy

With wonderful grandma looking after baby Niamh, we snuck out to catch one of the last few films we’ll see before my card expires. It’s one Gillian had had her eye on since the early trailers:

The Bourne Legacy

“Jason Bourne was just the tip of the iceberg.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Remnants of the Treadstone project are being killed off… but one particularly hardy specimen survives and is a little pissed off

See if it you like: Intelligent, well-paced thrillers with a nice dose of action

Completely not based on the novel of the same name – making it a mystery why the decided to use that title - The Bourne Legacy takes a step sideways from the first three films, continuing in the world of Bourne but without the actual character. Instead we’re introduced to Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), another agent and part of the Treadstone initiative to create faster, stronger soldiers.

The switch does freshen the franchise up somewhat and the film is very much unlike the three previous instalments. However, it does help to have seen them for background’s sake if nothing else. In essence, the plot is nothing new. The CIA, or whoever, is trying to kill off a series of experimental agents and one of them gets away. The rest of the film involves them trying to hunt him down… along with the obligatory tag-along female, in this case Rachel Weisz‘s Dr Marta Shearing.

Whereas in the first films, the plot just plodded along with the occasional revelation figured out something he’d forgotten, in this instance we have a very fragmented method of storytelling, with incidents of Cross’s memory popping up as they’re relevant. It does throw the viewer a little at first, as the jumps back and forth aren’t titled and you have to realise that we’re flashing back and the projectionist hasn’t just skipped a reel.

Audiences come to a Bourne film for the action, though, and it takes a long time for this to build. The scenes are less spectacular than in the Damon films, but also harsher and more brutal. In fact, the film has a bit of a European feel to it despite most of the more action-packed sequences taking place in Manilla.

Talking of which, the motorcycle chase is a very exciting sequence though loses itself to a few bits of rushed editing which can make things hard to follow at times. Confusing angles and cuts that are too quick for you to figure out what you’re looking at. I seem to recall having the same problem with one of the more recent Bond films. Maybe it’s just me.

Overall, not a bad film and it’s nice to see the change in direction. It would have been very easy to have “another Bourne film”. Instead we have another film within the Bourne stable, which is subtly different. Variety is good.

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Ted

For the first time in a while, I went to the cinema by myself. Gillian has let her Cineworld card expire and mine only runs for another week or so. Too many gigs coming up, and one extra munchkin in the house to look after! My first solo film was supposed “gross-out” comedy:

Ted

“Death to Ming!”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Man lives with magic teddy bear who’s a bit of a bad influence on him, but has to split up his lifelong friendship to keep his girlfriend happy

See it if you like: Family Guy with actual swear words, Bad Santa with stuffing

You can see the plot above. It’s just a play on an old favourite; a well-meaning guy caught up between single life with his best friend (who in this case just happens to be a sentient teddy bear) and moving forward with his long-term girlfriend. So far, so “seen it all before” although it’s not a bad riff on the basic scenario. Beneath all the foul language and sex jokes is a decent enough story.

Seth MacFarlane directs, script-writes, motion-captures himself and voices Peter Griffin Ted. If he were a live action character he’d be played by Zac Galafikinoiwsis. Galafikinosos. Galak… the fact dude with the beard. Or Seth Rogen. You know, the other fat guy with the beard. Mark Wahlberg, complete with rather bizarre accent, plays John – a car rental employee who’s managed to land himself a rather hot and high-flying girlfriend played by Mila Kunis. She, in turn, is being hunted down by her misogynist rich payboy boss Rex (Joel McHale from TV’s Community). Added into the mix is a rather manic Giovanni Ribisi who is on a misson to capture Ted for his own little boy and you have a couple of little plot threads.

The humour is, generally, gutter-level. If you don’t like bad language or euphemisms for female genetalia (or jokes about poo, visual sexual humour, off-colour comments about race, flippant remarks about terrorist atrocities…) don’t come in. Go and see Batman again or something. Having said that, I didn’t get quite the kick out of it that I did with the aforementioned Bad Santa that genuinely did have me bent over, laughing so hard that I couldn’t breathe at points.

It’s not that Ted isn’t as funny, it’s just that there’s no continuous bam-bam-bam joke after joke after slap after punch after off-colour-remark that Billy Bob Thornton‘s hastily-buried (by the studio – they hated it) classic managed. Aside from a couple of moments it also seems to lack the shock value, too. Perhaps I’m jaded. Bad Santa was very novel for its time. Since then, we’ve had the likes of Family Guy, American Dad! and The Cleveland Show on TV plus a fair number of bad taste comedies in the cinema.

What really did make Ted for me was the nostalgia and references to the 1980’s, plus all the little in-jokes and guest appearances. Without giving any plot details away (I hope): Ted Danson in a fake Cheers DVD extra; Ryan Reynolds in a non-speaking walk-on; Sam J. Jones as Sam J. frickin’ Flash Gordon Jones.

If there was a sad moment, it was the realisation that – judging by the type of laughter in the theatre at the relevant moment – I was on the only person in there who’d seen the original Airplane! film. Good grief.

Having a brief review at some of the reviews (a handful linked below), some have said in harsher terms what I would agree with. As a comedy it’s just not funny enough. What jokes and situations there are do hit the mark – I don’t think there’s a single fall-flat effort in there – but there aren’t enough of them.

It doesn’t detract too much from an otherwise decent film and as I said at the start at least it’s got a decent story, so you’re not sat there twiddling your thumbs waiting for the next fart joke with nothing to concentrate on. Just don’t go in expecting to be in rib-wracking pain and you should come back out having enjoyed the ride.

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