• Total Recall (Lionsgate) 4k UHD/Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Lionsgate
    Released on: December 8th, 2020.
    Director: Paul Verhoeven
    Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Shaorn Stone, Ronny Cox, Michael Ironside
    Year: 1990
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    Total Recall – Movie Review:

    Directed by Paul Verhoeven and based on the story ‘We Can Remember It For You Wholesale’ by Philip K. Dick (adapted by Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon, and Gary Goldman), 1990’s Total Recall stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a construction worker named Douglas Quaid who dreams of taking a vacation to Mars despite the protestations of his foxy wife, Lori (Sharon Stone). When Quaid finds out about a company called Rekall that can give you memories of the vacation you’ve never had, he’s intrigued enough to visit their lab where he’s talked into taking the ‘secret agent’ package complete with nefarious villains and a femme fatale of his own design.

    As he lays back and lets the Rekall employees mess with his mind, something happens and he flips out, something is triggered and he soon learns through hints that he left himself some time ago that he actually was a secret agent named Hauser and that he was trying to take out a man named Vilos Cohaagen (Ronny Cox), the man in charge of the Martian colony. When he starts to put the pieces of the puzzle back together, he quickly finds out that his whole life has been one elaborate plot to keep him out of Vilos’ hair, but with Vilos’ right hand man, Richter (Michael Ironside) on the hunt, Hauser will need all the help he can get to uncover the truth about what’s really happened in his past and what’s really happening on Mars. Thankfully he’ll find some help in the form of Melina (Rachel Ticotin), a foxy thing who works at a house of ill repute…

    Total Recall was a lot of fun when it debuted in 1990 and it remains a lot of fun now. The film moves along at great pace and Verhoeven’s knack for darkly comic scenarios ensures that the film is in capable hands. There are plenty of impressive effects sequences and set pieces and loads of action and violence, but much of it is cartoony and comic bookish, never unpleasant or particularly nasty. Realism doesn’t seem to have been a concern here, the focus is on the action – so with that in mind it makes sense that Arnold Schwarzenegger would be cast in the lead. While hardly the world’s greatest actor, he actually does fairly well here, playing his character with a sufficient amount of seemingly genuine confusion and handling himself well when in the film’s many action set pieces.

    Michael Ironside is a lot of fun as Richter, the man in charge of the manhunt to bring Doug/Hauser in. He’s sinister and cruel and seems to be capable of doing whatever it takes to get the job done. Cox makes for a perfectly nasty ‘man behind the scenes’ type character, pulling the strings politically on the red planet to get what he wants out of it, consequences be damned. Obviously the ramifications of his actions are dire but of course, they do have consequences as we learn once the action heads to Mars and we’re introduced to the mutant underground. Upon revisiting the film, it’s easy to see why it’s remained as popular as it is over the years – it delivers constant and completely uninhibited entertainment from start to finish.

    Total Recall – 4k UHD/Blu-ray Review:

    Total-Recall arrives on UHD from Lionsgate on a 100GB disc in a 4k transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in HEVC / H.265 encoded 2160p with HDR 10 and Dolby Vision enhancement using a transfer provided by Studio Canal. The first thing you’ll notice is how damn good the colors look on this new transfer, especially one the action shifts to Mars and those reds start to dominate the palette – it’s reproduced wonderfully, really looking so much better than past editions have on home video before. Detail is also much, much stronger here, though with that comes the fact that the early nineties effects work shows its limitations more obviously than it has in the past (we see this with some of the green screen and miniature work as well as in the steam/smoke/explosions in the film’s finale) but that’s just the way it is and hardly a flaw with the picture itself. Fine grain is handled perfectly, there are no noticeable compression issues and edge enhancement and noise reduction are never obvious at all. This always looks nice and film-like, and the image is remarkably clean, never showing any real print damage at all.

    The main audio option on the UHD is a Dolby Atmos track that also offers quite a nice upgrade over previous editions. Bass and the LFE could have had a bit more power to it in a few scenes but otherwise this sounds excellent. Rear channels are really used almost entirely for sound effects and Goldsmith’s impressive score, with the vast majority of the dialogue up in the front of the mix, but it works really well. Levels are properly balanced and the track is clean and crisp throughout, often times exhibiting some really impressive moments of immersion and depth.

    Optional 24-bit DTS-HD tracks are provided in English 2.0 Stereo, French 5.1 and Spanish 2.0 Stereo with subtitles available in French, Spanish subs and English SDH.

    Extras on the UHD disc start with the archival commentary track featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Paul Verhoeven that was recorded for the DVD way back when. If you haven’t heard it before, it’s a great talk that covers everything you’d want it to. These guys are having a lot of fun together as they go over how they each came on board, what it was like on set, how they got along with the other cast and crew members and loads more. It’s one of those tracks that is as enjoyable as it is interesting.

    Total Excess: How Carolco Changed Hollywood is an hour-long, brand new documentary that includes new interviews with Verhoeven, Michael Douglas, author/film historian David J. Moore, Oliver Stone, editor Mark Goldblatt, editor Mark Helfrich, film music producer Robert Townsen and unit production manager Robert Latham Brown. This really well put together documentary covers how Carolco made loads of money by pre-selling titles to foreign markets, how Carolco felt like the A version of Cannon's B pictures, how the production company rose from low budget distribution to become a huge Hollywood player before then getting sunk after the flop that was Cutthroat Island, how Andrew G. Vajna and Mario Kassar met and started to work together after a meeting at Cannes and details on the lives and careers of both men, their experiences and success importing European and Hong Kong productions, how and why they got into producing their own pictures, the importance of their relationship with Sylvester Stallone and the success of the Rambo movies and how it lead to them working with Walter Hill, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Paul Verhoeven and others. It also details later projects like Jacob's Ladder, The Doors, Terminator II, Basic Instinct, Universal Soldier, Chaplin, Stargate, Showgirls and quite a few more. The documentary covers pretty much all of the ground you'd hope it would, and there's a lot of great clips and archival materials used here including photographs, script pages, lots of neat old newspaper ads, behind the scenes footage, magazine articles and plenty of vintage interview clips.

    Open Your Mind: Scoring Total Recall is a twenty-one-minute piece that talks with Lukas Kendall of Film Score Monthly, film music journalist Daniel Schweiger, author and film historian Jeff Bond, and film music producer Robert Townsen. It covers how Verhoeven wanted to work with Goldsmith prior but couldn't until Robocop's success got him bigger budgets, the importance of Goldsmith's score and how his style was entirely appropriate for the movie itself, the history of Goldsmith's career and how he became a legend in the business, Goldsmith's style and how it sets the stage right from the opening theme, how it enhances the suspense and the action in the movie and lots more.

    Dreamers Within The Dream: Developing Total Recall is an eight-minute piece that interviews concept artist Ron Miller. This piece covers his initial thoughts on the script, getting hauled off to Rome where the movie was made to begin work on it, the reason that production illustrations are used in the industry, how he went about illustrating key set pieces to help Verhoeven visualize what they'd look like in widescreen, changes that were made in the script over time (including changes to the character Schwarzenegger would wind up playing), getting the visuals for the Martian landscapes right and plenty more.

    The UHD disc also includes a theatrical trailer for the feature as well as menus and chapter selection.

    Extras on the first Blu-ray disc (which also includes a 1080p version of the movie taken from the same restoration) include the commentary, the Open Your Mind featurette, and Dreamers Within The Dream: Developing Total Recall as well as menus and chapters selection options.

    The third disc in the set, also a Blu-ray, includes the twenty-three-minute Models And Skeletons: The Special Effects Of Total Recall featurette, which was carried over from the past Blu-ray release. This is worth seeing for those who haven’t seen it before as it goes fairly in-depth on the technical side of things. It’s made up of interviews with miniatures supervisor Mark Stetson and CGI supervisor Tim McGovern, both of whom have some interesting stories to share about their work on this project.

    Imagining Total Recall, also carried over from the last release, is a documentary that offers up thirty minutes worth of behind-the-scenes interviews with the film’s stars and special effects specialists including Verhoeven, Schwarzenegger, Ticotin, Stone, production designer William Sandell, writers Ronald Shusett and Dan O’Bannon, editor Frank Urioste, effects supervisor Eric Brevig, and last but not least, the great Jerry Goldsmith.

    A shorter eight-and-a-half-minute long Making Of Total Recall vintage featurette is also here. Although it’s fairly promotional in nature it's amusing to see as it starts off like a commercial for Rekall.

    This third disc also includes the Total Excess: How Carolco Changed Hollywood featurette. A trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection options round out the extra features on the third disc.

    As far as the packaging is concerned, Lionsgate offers up a slipcover featuring the same art that is used for the cover insert. Tucked away inside the black Blu-ray-sized keepcase is an insert for a digital HD download version of the movie.

    Total Recall – The Final Word:

    Total Recall holds up very well as a great mix of action, adventure and science fiction filmmaking. Verhoeven’s unique take on things shines through without completely screwing up Dick’s story and Arnold’s performance is… fun. It’s just fun, the whole movie is a blast from start to finish, offering up an interesting plot, some great supporting actors and a whole lot of action and excitement. Lionsgate’s UHD release is a nice one, giving us a very strong 4k presentation and a load of extra features both old and new.

    Click on the images below for full sized Total Recall Blu-ray screen caps!