Friday, April 26, 2013

Total Recall: Mind-Bending Edition Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
Just in time for the 2012 release of the theatrical remake, fans can experience the original sci-fi masterpiece like never before now that Lionsgate has released Total Recall: Mind-Bending Edition on Blu-ray Disc and Digital Download. Comprised of an all-new Director approved, high-definition transfer from the original film negative and including exclusive bonus materials, there’s no better time to revisit this cult classic starring action legend Arnold Schwarzenegger (Terminator) as Quaid, a construction worker haunted by dreams of Mars in the year 2084.  Against the wishes of his sexy wife (Sharon Stone), Quaid goes to Rekall, a company that implants artificial memories so he can “remember” visiting the red planet that is now being settled by human inhabitants.  However, Quaid soon learns he is actually an amnesiac secret agent from Mars – or is he?.  Total Recall was also the winner of a Special Achievement Academy Award for its groundbreaking visual effects and it was also nominated for two other Oscars.

Film (4 out of 5 stars) 

The year is 2084 and Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) feels like he’s missing something in his life despite being married to a gorgeous wife named Lori (Sharon Stone).  He dreams of making a difference but he doesn’t know how or why.  He is plagued by nightmares of walking around on Mars with a beautiful woman and it ends with him dying on the martian surface when his visor is broken.  Lori keeps telling him to ignore his dreams, but Quaid is obsessed with Mars and tries to convince her to move there but she tells him no.  She reminds him that Mars has a civil war going on and that they’ve got it pretty good on Earth. The news show on tv backs her up as the fighting on Mars dominates the show.  The governor of Mars, Vilos Cohaagen (Ronny Cox) has cracked down on the rebels amidst the rumors of an alien artifact being found on Mars.
Quaid’s uneasiness leads him to go to “Rekall”, a company that implants memories for money.  Whether it’s a vacation, an experience, or pretty much anything you want, Rekall can offer it and it’s so real that it will seem real. Quaid opts for the trip to Mars and adds the bonus secret agent package to go along with it.  Just before the new memories are implanted, Quaid goes out of control and yells at them for blowing his undercover identity.  The Rekall technicians manage to sedate him again and they wipe his memory of ever having visited Recall to protect themselves.  Waking up at home, Quaid knows something isn’t right and that feeling is only deepened when his “co-workers” and his wife Lori attack him.  He’s forced to kill his co-workers and to engage in hand to hand combat against his “wife” who it turns out is a highly trained operative that works for Cohaagen and who is actually married to the sociopath Richter (Michael Ironside) who is Cohaagen’s number two guy.
Now on the run from Richter, Lori, and the rest of Cohaagen’s men, Quaid doesn’t know what to do until he is contacted by a strange man who tells him he is being tracked and how to remove the tracker.  Quaid also receives a suitcase that contains money, some tools, and a video of himself calling himself “Hauser”.  Hauser tells Quaid that he once worked for Cohaagen until he learned about an alien artifact that’s been discovered so he got his memory wiped to protect himself.  Hauser tells Quaid to go to Mars and meet a man named “Kuato” in a bar in the seedy part of Mars known as “Venusville.”  Upon arriving there, Quaid sees that the residents there have mutated thanks to the lack of proper shielding which has transformed them quite a bit.  In the bar, Quaid finds Melina (Rachel Ticotin), the woman who Hauser was in a relationship with who doesn’t react well when he tells her that he doesn’t remember her.  Returning to his hotel, Quaid is met by Lori and Rekall’s President, Dr. Edgemar who tells Quaid that everything he experienced up to now was part of his Rekall memories and that none of it is real leaving Quaid wondering what was real and what was a lie.
Part of what makes Total Recall so good is the fact that you never really know if what Quaid is experiencing is real or if it’s just a Rekall memory.  After all, if Rekall works as it should, Quaid should never know the difference between reality and an implanted memory.  The movie is based on the  short story “We Can Remember it For You Wholesale” by Phillip K. Dick and this and Blade Runner are the best adaptations of his work.  For a violent action-packed sci-fi thriller, this movie offers a lot of cleverness to go along with all of the action.  Part of that is due to the movie being directed by the under-rated Paul Verhoeven whose career is filled with massive hits (Robocop & Basic Instinct) and misses like Showgirls.  Verhoeven is a smart and boundary-pushing director who was an inspired choice for this movie.
Another great addition to the movie was adding Arnold Schwarzenegger as the confused but completely lethal Doug Quaid.  This movie was perfectly suited for his talents and it’s one of his best roles.  He is believable as both the working class man and as the bad-ass secret agent who can take on several opponents at once.  The rest of the cast are all good, especially Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, and Michael Ironside. The film’s  visual effects which were cutting edge at the time are still impressive and the inventiveness in the way they are used makes the movie even better.  I just watched the new remake starring Colin Farrell and I still prefer this original movie despite the new film’s more flashy special effects.  I always thought that this version of Total Recall should have gotten a sequel and it almost did as they adapted Dick’s story “The Minority Report” to work as a sequel but it fell through and was later re-envisioned for Steven Spielberg who directed his own version that starred Tom Cruise.  This version of Total Recall’s over the top violence, action, and comedy is a lot of fun and I enjoyed seeing it again.  If you want to take a trip to Mars, then make sure you see this version since the new one doesn’t even go to Mars!

Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)  

I own the DVD and the first Blu-ray release of Total Recall and I can tell you that the video quality for both of those releases completely sucked.  I am happy to report that this new 1080p (1.85:1) transfer from StudioCanal and Lionsgate finally gives us the quality that we’ve all craved.  In fact, the restoration of this film is so incredible the disc has included a before and after side-by-side comparison for several different scenes from the movie as an extra. Colors are much more vivid now, contrast has improved considerably, and there’s a lot more detail present.  Flesh tones look natural (except when bathed in the Martian red light) and the black levels are dark and inky without losing any details.  If you currently own the previous Blu-ray release of this movie, I recommend selling it and upgrading to this new “Mind-Bending” version!

Audio (5 out of 5 stars) 

Total Recall’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is even better than the upgraded visual quality!  This lossless mix is a showcase of bone-crunching action, with an active mix that utilizes every channel to their full capacity. Dialogue is clear and concise and never drowned out by gunfire.  The rear speakers deliver all of the many excellent directional effects along with Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic score for the film.  This is one of those high-octane mixes that shakes the house and is sure to trigger your wife’s wrath!  This mix is another good reason to upgrade to this new version!

Extras (4 out of 5 stars) 

The last reason why you should upgrade to this version are these extras which were largely absent on the last release.  While I’m happy with the commentary and the interview with Verhoeven, I wish there were longer featurettes devoted to the making of the film.
  • Audio Commentary with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Director Paul Verhoeven - This is an entertaining and informative commentary with the two primary people behind Total Recall’s success.  They talk about making the movie and the cast, as well as share funny anecdotes too.
  • Interview with Director Paul Verhoeven - This is another new extra that’s pretty cool as it’s interesting to hear from the director about what his intention for the film was and the struggles he encountered making it.  This is around thirty-five minutes long so it’s pretty substantial.
  • Making Of Featurette – One of the carryovers from an earlier release, this is a short featurette that contains clips of the cast and crew talking about the movie.  It has some good info but it’s way too short.
  • Models and Skeletons: The Special Effects of Total Recall - A look at the x-ray sequence and the studio that created it.  It was cutting edge at the time and the crew talk about getting cut out of the credits and winning the Oscar.
  • Imagining Total Recall Documentary – This is another vintage featurette that’s longer and more interesting that the “Making Of” one.  Plus it’s the only way to hear from the great Jerry Goldsmith who is no longer with us.
  • Restoration Comparison - If you want to see just how bad the movie looked before getting restored, then take a look at these scenes and be glad that we finally got a good transfer!
  • Photo Gallery
  • Trailer

Summary (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

Total Recall is a fun sci-fi action movie and one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s better movies.  The plot is ambiguous enough to offer an extra level of entertainment to the usual fighting and killings scenes which are pretty over the top in the movie.  While previous releases were subpar in quality, this new Blu-ray edition has been painstakingly restored and it really shows it.  The audio and video quality are fantastic and the new extras on this disc are also very good.
Order your copy today!

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