DVD Reviews: Total Recall, The Amazing Spider-Man

Total recall

Director: Len Wiseman

Cast: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston

Label: Sony DADC

PrIce: Rs 599 

Film ***

Special features ***

When ordinary factory worker Douglas Quaid (Farrell) needs a break from his frustrating life, he chooses to take a mental vacation when a company promises to turn his fantasies into real memories. But Quaid ends up discovering that his life is made up of false memories and goes on a quest to regain his real life. The clues lead him to his true identity of a secret agent where he must now face off against the government’s forces.

A sci-fi action film, Total Recall is set in a dystopian futuristic world filled with slick futuristic technology. The film will keep you on the edge of your seat wondering what’s next and does a decent job making the audience question what’s real, at least in the beginning. However, while it can boast of non-stop action and high-end effects, the film exhibits minimal emotional engagement between the characters and even less character development. Don’t expect memorable dialogue or meaningful relationships. Watch it for the future it portrays with the technology it presents.

The special features included in the DVD consist of three elements. “Designing the Fall” talks about the Fall – a transportation device featured in the film – where an elevator goes through the core of the earth. This section gives the audience a brief look at how the concept for the elevator was designed and the details that were kept in mind. For instance, they wanted the device to look convincing but they didn’t want to completely divorce from reality and made efforts to make it relatable.

The next section titled “Science Fiction Vs Science Fact” stars a professor of Theoretical Physics, Michio Kaku, who talks about the technology used in the film and its physical and scientific possibility. Speculating on the science fiction used in the film, Mr. Kaku believes it could well be real in a few generations. What makes this part interesting is the real life, present day experiments he refers to that correspond with the sci-fi in the film.

The third part consisted of the Gag Reel which made for a fun seven minutes. It included botched takes, stunt rehearsals, all round silliness from the actors who sometimes broke out into giggles when they weren’t breaking out into dance and also had Kate Beckinsale apologising a lot.

The special features in general and the film in particular are pleasant enough to watch, but nothing your DVD collection desperately requires.  

The Amazing Spider-Man

Director: Mark Webb

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans

Label: Sony DADC

Price: R599

Film: ****
Special Features: **** 

Peter Parker discovers his father’s suitcase, the contents of which he hopes will help him understand his parents’ disappearance. His quest leads him to his father’s former partner, Dr Curt Connors, whose experiments in genetic modification lead to Peter’s superpowers as well as the doctor’s transformation into his villainous alter-ego, The Lizard. In the midst of saving his city, Peter also manages to squeeze in some romance with schoolmate Gwen Stacy.

The film traces Peter’s evolution from a high-schooler who’s uncomfortable in his own skin to a cocky, quip-shooting Spider-Man, ready to save the world.

Unrelated to the first three films, The Amazing Spider-Man works well as a standalone film. It focuses on the characters’ emotions and relationships.

Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man is vulnerable and funny in equal measure which is good because we like our superheroes with a sense of humour. The last scene between the credits also generously hints at a sequel.

The special features in the DVD offer an entertaining peek behind the scenes of the production process. There are 11 deleted scenes, some of which include scenes that played out differently than they did in the film. We actually preferred a few of the deleted scenes though the one with various versions of The Lizard entering Peter’s high school did make us thankful it was cut out.

In the stunt rehearsals, we witness perfectly choreographed and rehearsed moves with stuntmen kicking, punching and leaping away to glory. It was refreshing to see that the stunts weren’t a result of some elaborate CG technology.

From line drawings to extensive detailed portraits of Spider-Man, including different versions of his costume as well as Curt Connors’ transformation into the Lizard, the concept art offers an interesting insight into the amount of details that went into the smallest of things.

The audio commentary with director Mark Webb and producers Avi Arad and Matthew Tolmach explains the importance of scenes in relation to the whole story, points out character nuances that might otherwise have been missed, has fun trivia about the actors and also mentions a few details about characters that weren’t brought up in the film — very useful for someone for whom the film is the first foray into the Spider-Man world. The three narrators clearly love their actors and speak passionately about their performances.

With its extra features, the DVD is perfect for people who eagerly devour behind-the-scenes details that don't take away the magic of the film by revealing its tricks but only enhance the overall experience. 

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