First thing’s first. My friend and co-editor at PANK, M. Bartley Seigel, has a book coming out this month called This Is What They Say. It is gritty, soulful prose p
I participated in Michael Martone’s Winesburg, IN project for Booth Magazine and wrote a story about Tara Jenkins and I wrote an essay about coming out and privacy and so on for The Rumpus. I wrote an essay for Salon about Jonah Lehrer, hubris, and genius. I crowdsourced a list, a highly incomplete list, of writers of color.
Yes, I am writing a response to Silverman’s essay at Slate that’s more my way of thinking through what criticism should be. You should, though, read Michelle Dean’s impeccable response in the meantime.
I have clearly not been sleeping. I’m going a little nuts but whatever.
I finally went to see Dark Knight Rises and largely found it bloated, ponderous, interminable, indulgent, and terrible. That movie was just terrible. Talk about never ending story. I certainly enjoyed moments and found the ending quite satisfying and a nice set up for future installments but getting there was, at times, pure misery. As I watched the movie, I kept thinking, “Why does Christopher Nolan hate me? How can I make him stop?” I am writing an essay about the movie and the fetish for strength that rises out of broken places and so on. Sometimes, people are broken
at the broken places. Can’t that be okay?
Let’s talk about Bane, though. It’s criminal to hide Tom Hardy’s beautiful face save for that one glorious scene where we could see his pretty. The other problem was that I only understood 37% of his dialogue which made the movie, at points, nearly unwatchable. Someone needs to reign Nolan in. Dude is totally out of control.
Remember Red Dawn? WOLVERINES? Fuck Yeah America?!!! Well, a remake has been planned for years and then the project was shelved because the enemy was the Chinese and I don’t know, there were some political/financial considerations. Now, finally, three years after the movie wrapped, the villains are the North Koreans. Thor plays Jed and he looks goooood. I mean, he’s no Patrick Swayze but he’ll do in a pinch. Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays the old military guy who helps the young’uns. Anyway the movie is coming out on Thanksgiving, so let’s start planning our field trip right now.
What really matters, though, is Total Recall. I loved the original. Arnold is fascinating and the movie had a woman with three breasts which is also excellent. I loved the Mars setting and the action and it was just so enjoyable. I was pretty bummed when I heard that the reboot was going to take place in a different setting but I was willing to give the movie a chance because I give all movies a chance and because Colin Farrell is very attractive and so is Kate Beckinsale who is, for some reason, one of my favorite actresses.
As an aside, this ongoing drama between KStew and RPatz actually makes me like her.
The Total Recall remake is quite, quite good—ludicrous as movies these days are wont to be but well paced, competently acted and directed, and the movie looks amazing. I am not sure what the final budget was but you see it on the screen, and I am guessing at least $200 million was spent. There were times when I was literally holding my breath, on the edge of my seat. Total Recall is an utterly delightful way to spend two hours.
The movie opens with writing on the screen. This is a sure sign a screenplay is week because the movie needs you to understand a lot of backstory real fast rather than telling the story while telling the story.
As you might expect, the backstory provided is kind of… anemic but still hilariously elaborate. As usual in Future Movies, some bad things have happened because humans are terrible and most of the planet is uninhabitable for reasons that are vaguely described as human-originated mutually assured destruction. There are only two cities left on opposite ends of the world–United Federation of Britain and The Colony which is basically like Australia. Connecting the two countries is LOL, seriously, a fancy elevator called The Fall, that runs through the earth’s core. This was the first time I laughed really hard. Then I thought about the amazing (terrible) movie, The Core, starring Aaron Eckhardt and Hilary Swank and was really happy.
The rich folks live in the UFB and the poors live in The Colony and head over to UFB to do the work they don’t want to do. Wonder where they got that idea! It’s great when movies make social commentary.
When Total Recall begins, there’s some action taking place–Colin Farrell aka Doug Quaid and Jessica Biel are trapped in a room and then he’s caught by this Future Taser gun that wraps people in a band of lights that looks exactly like this:
Jessica Biel is where you might expect, dangling from a window while Colin holds onto her and then he begs her to let go. He says, I will find you and she lets go and falls into some conveniently located water just below.
Then, we see a delectable set of pectoral muscles. They are round and juicy. I very much wanted to squeeze them. Colin wakes up with a start. Poor baby has had a bad dream and needs some comfort. Fortunately, his hot wife Kate Beckinsale is there to comfort him. Unfortunately, she doesn’t do it with her mouth like a good wife would. They talk about married boring stuff and how life maybe hasn’t turned out the way they want. You know how it is. She’s called into work. We’re not clear what her job is but it’s something like Future Paramedic.
Colin hangs out drinking coffee, bare-chested and wearing some sexy pajama pants slung around his hips so we can see those tapered to his thigh man muscles.
Here’s what you need to know about The Colony. It’s a combination of Venice, Italy, the favelas in Rio, and Kowloon’s Walled City floating in midair. Also, it rains ALL THE TIME. There is seriously not one scene in The Colony where rain is not involved.
Colin gets ready for work and goes to The Fall where he meets up with his BFF, Bokeem Woodbine. Yes, for real, Bokeem is working again. Colin is suffering from some real existential angst and tries to talk about it with his BFF but Bokeem is all, YOLO! This is what it is. They sit in their seats and they’re strapped in just like a roller coaster. Colin starts reading because he’s very sensitive and intellectual. Bokeem is just chilling.
The good news is that the trip to UFB only takes 17 minutes and during the journey, polarity is reversed and you get to float a little. Future!
When they arrive on the other side of the world (LOLOL 17 minutes!!!), they go through security and have to show their papers. Not much has changed in the Future. Then they go to a factory where they build police robots. As they get ready for work, Colin mentions he might go to Rekall to get some awesome memories and Bokeem is all, “OH HELL NO, they mess with your mind, man!” Colin sighs. Sad Colin.
Colin is called to his boss’s office and learns he hasn’t gotten a promotion so his angst becomes even more profound.
You will want to rush the screen at this point to console Colin but sadly, the movie is not 3D. It won’t work. I tried.
Colin heads back to the assembly line, shouldering the white man’s burden. He’s training a new coworker, who tells him he should totes go to Rekall where he can get new, exciting memories so he can cope with his sad, sad life. When Colin gets home from work, he opens the refrigerator and takes out a Heineken which is still terrible in the future but in a much prettier, tapered bottle. When he closes the refrigerator, there’s a note from The Wife. She’s in bed, asleep. No sex for Colin. Sadddddddnesss.
Future apartments, and really all of The Colony, are made out of concrete. Invest in concrete, now! Furnishings are provided by IKEA.
Colin goes out, meets Bokeem for a drink, then he’s walking around and runs into a woman with three breasts and she’s all, HAAAAI but Colin is not interested. He asks where Rekall is and she points the way.
At Rekall, Colin is quickly ushered into the back where he is strapped and injected with things. They run a psychographic lie detector test on him because you can’t get a Rekall experience that mimics who you are in real life. Colin selects Secret Agent and settles in when suddenly, the lie detector goes off. The guy who’s running the show is Harold from Harold and Kumar only he has white hair. He gets really angry, and says, “You lied!” and Colin says, “I don’t have a mistress!” and Harold says, “You are a secret agent,” and Colin is so confused and keeps insisting he doesn’t know what’s up. It was kind of like this:
(This image is from an incredible episode of Star Trek: TNG when Picard is interrogated by the Cardassians and they keep trying to get him to say there are five lights but Picard is a boss and he shouts, THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS! I work into conversations as often as possible.)
Suddenly, a bunch of robocops burst into Rekall and Colin does some gunkata and kills all of them.
If you are not familiar with gunkata, please see the movie Equilibrium.
Colin is very confused. What is going on??? He runs home and his wife is awake, looking frantic. On the news, it says someone killed 20 people at Rekall and Colin immediately starts blabbing. Dude cannot hold water. Kate hugs him, tries to make it better, and then, she’s trying to choke a bitch. Colin wrestles himself free and his confusion deepens and Kate explains, “Look, you’re not you and I’m not me and we are not we,” and she sassily says, “I give good wife.” They have a pretty major tussle. She is very, very determined. At one point, she does this, sliding across the concrete floor, back arched prettily:
If you enjoyed that move, worry not, she’ll do it several more times throughout the movie.
Colin manages to escape after more chasing and fighting. Suddenly, his hand lights up. Seriously, y’all, there is a phone in his hand. He tentatively answers it, while trying not to lose his shit completely.
The voice on the other end tells him to stick his hand on a glass surface and we see a video call appear and the mystery man explains what’s going on to Colin who is directed to a safety deposit box. He also tells Colin to get rid of the phone and Colin finally starts acting reasonable and says, “HOW???”
After the phone call, brace yourselves, Colin finds a dirty piece of glass on the ground in a wet, dirty place, cuts his hand open, and pulls out the phone. All I could think was, “That’s going to get infected,” and, “I hope he’s had his tetanus shot.”
A slacker is hanging out nearby and picks up the discarded phone that is remarkably devoid of blood. We do not bleed from the hand in the future, apparently.
Colin goes to the bank and finds his deposit box, biometrics are big in the future, finds passports and future devices he doesn’t understand. He watches a video from himself, and it totally freaks him out but he’s directed to an apartment in the UFB.
On the other end of the world, a woman who looks suspiciously like the head exploding woman in the original Total Recall walks through security. It’s a nice little nod to people who know the original movie well.
The Asian man following her is stopped and he’s asked to go through the scanner again. Suddenly, we realize, it’s Colin wearing a future hologram mask. Everything is mostly awesome in the future. There’s more gunkata absurd action and Kate is there full of anger and determination. She’s going to catch Colin because, well, it’s never explained, but she’s a super agent of some kind and she’s good at her job.
In the future, cars move along magnetic highways that are simply awesome. This was when I felt myself moving around in my seat because the action was really well done. Things happen and suddenly this woman pulls up in a Future Magnet Car, tells him to get in, it’s Jessica Biel who he remembers from his dream, so he does as he’s told. They start a long chase and we learn that Future Magnet Cars have steering wheels that can, with the push of a button, slide from the driver to the passenger who becomes the driver, circle of life.
At one point, they get into this like magnet car elevator and move to a different set of roads, way high in the sky, and it’s all just glorious. This is the point of action movies–to show incredible, future, highly implausible things that look very sexy.
Eventually, Jessica and Colin get away, but she’s unconscious so they go to his apartment. There’s a piano in the middle of the room, and he starts playing it when suddenly, one of the keys is off. People have been nagging him about a key for a while, so he remembers something from his safety deposit box, replaces the problematic key, and plays the song he was playing until another hologram appears and we learn the rest of the story.
Colin was an agent working for Cohagen (Bryan Cranston) who, it’s not terribly clear, but is kind of in charge of the UFB. Colin was trying to infiltrate the rebellion led by Bill Nighy (who clearly, Len Wiseman, the director loves because he also cast him in the Underworld movies) but then Colin met Jessica Biel and she used sex to turn him to the good side so now he’s a double agent but he was captured by Cohagen, they erased his memory because he knows a super long numerical code that can turn off the massive robot army Cohagen has been building because he plans to invade and take over The Colony because the rich folks are running out of space in the UFB. Same story, different century.
Jessica wakes up and says, “we shouldn’t have come here.” They head downstairs and in the lobby of his apartment building, they’re surrounded by police. Bokeem is there and says Colin is still at Rekall and that Jessica is lying and that Colin needs to shoot Jessica to wake up. Just outside the glass doors, Kate is wearing a wifely wrap, looking tearful. Bokeem says, see? Your wife is here. Kill the whore! Colin doesn’t know what to do. He’s so so confused! Quelle crise! After an interminable scene with lots of trash talk, Colin notices a single tear falling down Jessica’s face and he knows what to do. He kills his BFF!
Girl tears–not just for getting out of traffic tickets anymore.
They run back to the elevator and at this point, the movie careens back to absurdity as they play an elaborate game of life sized metal cube Jenga.
Chasing, fighting, Kate inexplicably full of rage. It was at this point, that i basically thought:
When they finally escape, Jessica and Colin head underground to a dusty, ancient subway where they are greeted by people with very intense dreadlocks. This means they are rebels. They get on the train, wind it up, an air lock activates and they head into the No Zone, which has, to this point, not once been mentioned. Turns out that beyond UFB and The Colony, there are No Zones, where the air is not breathable.
At their destination, Jessica and Colin put on masks and go to a building and once in the air lock, there is Bill Nighy who is going to retrieve the very long numerical code in Colin’s head. Bill asks Colin, “Why are you here?” but the way he intones the question, it’s clear he’s asking something existential and Colin says, “I want to remember,” and Bill gets all Yoda like and says something like, “The answer is in your heart.” It’s one of those infuriatingly vague things a therapist might tell you when you really just want to know, “Should I break up with my boyfriend, check yes or no?”
Colin gets strapped into a machine, and Bill delves into his mind through the magic of Future Technology. They quickly realize it’s a trap, and there are Cohagen and Kate, gloating because they’ve captured the rebel leader.
This was all part of Cohagen’s dastardly plan, to get to the rebel leader. Colin is brokenhearted. He tries to keep Nighy alive and fails. Dude was on camera for about 5 minutes. Them’s the breaks. Cohagen grabs Jessica and orders his men to put Hauser’s (Colin’s agent name before he was sent to The Colony as Quaid, wait what, nevermind) old memories back in him. As he’s being strapped into the chair, the guy from the video phone is there, and he cuts one of the wrist bindings loose.
Colin escapes with more gunkata. He is the best super agent in the history of super agents. Nothing can stop him!
There is chasing and so on, in The Fall as Cohagen, Jessica, Kate, Colin, and a massive army of robocops hurtle toward The Colony. Bombs go off. There’s a romantic reunion, more fighting, implausible heroism, Kate raging, and so on. After all these kerfuffles, it’s still raining in The Colony, and Colin is unconscious. He comes to in a
Future Ambulance. Jessica is by his side, caressing him. Suddenly, he looks at her hand, and there’s no scar. She is supposed to have a bullet hole scar in the palm of her hand from this one time, at band camp. Anyway, he realizes it’s Kate wearing a future mask. They fight some more and blah blah blah, it’s just so overdone at this point. It never makes sense why she is so hell bent on killing this guy. Good triumphs over evil. Love triumphs over hate. Colin and Jessica live happily ever after, recalled totally!