Total Recall and Dredd With IMDb's Keith Simanton

In our monthly conversation with IMDb's Managing Editor Keith Simanton, we discussed this weekend's box-office disappointment Total Recall. A reinvention of the Schwarzenegger-tastic original by Paul Verhoeven, the movie reinvents a story by Philip K. Dick, whose work has been adapted into other movies, including Blade Runner and Minority Report. What did Simanton think of the newest interpretation of the film?

A bit like Marty McFly said about rock 'n' roll, those of us over 25 might not appreciate the film--but our kids will love it. Read on for more.

Certainly this weekend should be interesting; you had this thing where Universal moved The Bourne Legacy out of the way of this weekend--how's Total Recall looking?

Well, I'm guesstimating--and this is just me speaking--that it's actually around $28 million [note: Total Recall actually made $25.6 million and took second at the box office this weekend]. It's not going to get great reviews from critics, I don't think. I think it's going to be middling--right now it's at a 6.4, which is actually not bad here. It was pretty fascinating in that I found it pretty tedious--and it has this one conceit in it which is a major, major plot point.

It's got this major conceit, and it's in the prologue so I'm not giving away too much here. There's been this apocalyptic scenario and there's only a few habitable places. One of them is basicallyi the U.K., and one of them is Australia, which is The Colony. The bizarre thing is that they travel back and forth through what they call The Fall, which is a big chunnel between the U.K. and Australia, and it only takes fifteen minutes.

So you're living in a society where you've perfected faster-than-sound travel for the ordinary man, but you still can't figure out a way to make most of the world even remotely--

--Habitable, exactly! Somehow clean it up from radiation or whatever the Sam Hill happened.

And so I think for anyone familiar with the Martian conceit or the Philip K. Dick story, it's just an odd and not very worthy substitution. I mean, you can think of a lot of things that you could do, but this wasn't one of them.

What I found completely fascinating is that I walked out of there just kind of shaking my head and I brought my oldest son and his buddy and they're both fifteen and had never seen the Verhoeven--and they really liked it. They were like, "He was really the bad guy! That's cool!" The whole idea--the whole notion of Total Recall still works pretty well for the uninitiated, and that was rather fun to see even though I didn't care for the movie very much.

And Jessica Biel just leaves me flat.

Yeah, she was rumored for The Wolverine a while back and that got quashed pretty quickly but during those couple of days, the real venom and vitriol I heard from some comics fans was out of this world.

I try to mute that; it's just someone I've never cared for and I don't find her all that winning.

She's the flipside of what we were talking about for Kristen Stewart, I think, in that whatever grief she gets, there's something about Stewart that really makes me want to give her the benefit of the doubt, but Biel for whatever reason just doesn't win me over that way.

Exactly. I just find her rather--it's interesting that so many of these actors just seem so vacuous. I mean, I'm sure Carey Mulligan's just not getting the call for Total Recall (or maybe she is, who knows, and turns it down).

Even looking to the small screen, though. if all you need is a pretty girl who can convincingly kick some ass, I feel like you could just as easily lure someone like Alison Brie. So yeah, I mean--we're not casting directors, and we don't know what goes into that job. At the same time it does seem strange to see certain people who just get work over and over again in spite of the fact that they have no appreciable fan base.

Yeah, what's the angle there? Is it becuase she tests well with young men? Perhaps. I guess it might be "We've got the geeks because they have to go anyway." Maybe she has female appeal, that gals find that they like her enough, that she's someone they can relate to somehow? Or Stana Katic from Castle--she seems like somebody who could pull something like that off reasonably well, but yeah, it's Biel again.

So, fascinating becuase the three-breasted hooker's there, there's a lot of foul language...I think this would have been close to an R not very long ago. There's one F-bomb, so they ride it pretty close to the rail, but still cut it enough to get the PG-13.

The other thing about this is, if this is a $30 million open and it doesn't make a ton of money, what do you think this does for Colin Farrell? Wasn't this kind of his step back into the spotlight?

Right, and I think what he did last year was interesting. I think he's got to wince that it's August because Fright Night bombed in August last year. But he's got Seven Psychopaths coming out with Martin McDonagh, with whom he had done In Bruges, Colin Farrell's best role, if you ask me.

I like Colin Farrell, I want him to do well and he often disappoints me.

I think he's in disappointing films. I think he's given his level best but he's kind of consistently in these lackluster films. He was actually pretty good in Horrible Bosses! He's actually quite funny in that, but Fright Night was just a misfire. And I think he's good in Fright Night, it's just a misfire.

Fright Night kind of reminded me of the way he played Bullseye in Daredevil.

That's not far off. Actually, pretty close.

And it's one of those films that proves that no matter who you are or how you're performing, there's only so much you can do with a bad script.

You know what surprised me? That was Craig Gillespie. So I'm assuming there was going to be this particualrly fascinating human element to it. That's what I thought was going to hark back to the original--because in many ways the original had a lot of--I don't know if you'd say empathy--but it gave more perspective as to why someone who might be an outsider, might be drawn to a completely different lifestyle even though it costs you your soul.

And I thought Gillespie was going to be able to handle that and he didn't even really deal with it at all. I don't know if he was told he couldn't, but there was just none of that, which was unfortunate and I think hurt it.

Well, let me just bounce from Total Recall to--did you get a chance to see Dredd when it was in California?

No, no. How was it?

I really, really loved it. In terms of just enjoyment factor, I think that of the four comic book movies that came out this year, it would be my favorite in terms of just sitting down and watching.

What were the other three?

I'd say Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man, probably in that order, not necessarily in terms of what is high art but in terms of where I had the most fun. It's essentially Die Hard, but if Die Hard was a very hard R. It's that same basic thing--he and his partner go to arrest someone and find themselves locked inside of what essentially is a city block surrounded by huge, concrete doors.

Kind of like The Raid for a city block, kind of thing?

Right, exactly. If the building in The Raid was 238 stories high and basically self-sustaining.

Oh, fun!

Yeah, like I say, it was an incredibly fun movie. I don't think that it has necessarily blockbuster written all over it because I don't know exactly who the audience is going to be, besides people who read 2000 AD, and then went to Judge Dredd in 1995 and said, "Oh, man, they f---ed it up!" Because it was--I mean, a really hard R. Without spoiling too much, there's a shot in the film where a character is thrown from the 200th floor or whatever, and the point of view shot that you get when they land is the face landing in slow-motion on the camera lens.

NO! It is not! [Laughs] Oh, that's disgusting.

Well, it's interesting that they're releasing it in September, too.

Honestly, it's Lionsgate. I almost feel like they--becuase they did the same thing with The Hunger Games, releasing it so early in the season.

Just counter-programming where they think they've got some distance to do it? Yeah, maybe.

Twilight, of course, is set in stone and has been for some time, but other than that I feel like maybe they don't have the juice to get it in 4,000 theaters or something and so they try and schedule it at a time when nothing else is going to open at $100 million and so they can at least leverage, say, 1,500. At least you're not getting steamrolled. So many people have gotten their pants handed to them at the box office this year that it seems to me that's a legitimate concern.

It's a year that we're actually up 6% but not over the last couple of months. That's completely because of a strong January and February--

--And Hunger Games didn't hurt, either.

And Hunger Games, yes.

You look at the would-be blockbusters this year and it's almost like the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. For Avengers and Batman and whatever else to probably gross a billion dollars by the time they're out of theaters, and then everything else to underperform, with the exception of things like Ted...

Well, that's largely true. I'd say that you've got some things that they thought were going to perform that just were lackluster. You know--Dark Shadows, Men in Black III--although they pulled their weight, I suppose.

Yeah, they're saying now that there'll be a fourth Men in Black sooner than later which to me is a testament to the growing strength of the international market.

Oh, absolutely. No question about it. And I think we're going to see that with Total Recall as well. I think where Recall makes its money is going to be internationally. Which is typically true but where it's three times the gross here versus two times the gross which I think is one of the demarcation points.