Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr. Banks tells the story of Walt Disney’s crass and culturally clueless attempts to persuade Mrs. PL Travers, the very English (but actually Australian) author of Mary Poppins, to turn her book into a Disney film. Now Missiz (that’s an inside joke) was a woman who was notoriously close to her subject, and a lot of the humour of the piece comes from the culture clash between the Yanks and the Brits, as the studio kak-handedly attempts to (unsuccessfully) charm Mrs Travers – as well as her cracking put-downs in response. It’s not necessarily an easy watch though, because it veers towards maudlin as the making of the movie brings back sad memories from the author’s own past. Anyway, Emma Thompson is just so good, you kind of want her to be happy and get her own redemption from the film.


A lot of the movie is spent on the gorgeous Disney lot in Burbank, where I spent a fairly miserable summer with AFCI and the PGA’s Produced By Conference. It’s lovely to see those leafy, immaculate lanes again (even though I hated every minute when I was actually there.) In fact the whole movie is beautifully styled and you can almost smell the sixties. Chlorine and sweat, apparently. Chlorine and sweat.

Total Recall

First, an admission: I remember Total Recall, the Arnie version, from the first time round. I enjoyed it; I enjoyed Sharon Stone’s punch up, I enjoyed the bit where The Gubernator pulls a big electronic bug out of his nose, I enjoyed the clunkily-imagined (even for 1990) sci-fi future. But hey, I’m up for a remake every now and again, and it seems respectful somehow, to see how updated CGI can better-visualize Philip K Dick’s trippy imagination on screen. Unfortunately, this 2012 version, doesn’t quite do him justice….

In spite of gobsmacking, multi-level cityscapes, multiple moving parts, and pretty much non-stop action, the movie feels soulless. It gives us nothing to connect with – not Doug Quaid’s personal challenges, not the struggle of the grimly colonized against vile oppressive masters (lebensraum!), not gloriously wicked, subversive, sexy memories bought at Rekall. Instead, it feels dull, featureless and entirely too self-important for its own good. Kate Becknisale plays Robert Patrick as The Terminator 2, only runnier, Jessica Biel is lovely, and Colin Farrell…? Ah Colin Farrell, what can one say? I happen to think he’s an astoundingly handsome man, almost perfect (with his asymmetrical eyebrows and everything), and yet, yet, he does absolutely nothing for me. There’s a redeeming crack or two of likeability in there somewhere, but mostly he just comes across as a tosser. And when he beats up Bryan Cranston in the finale, it’s like watching someone unsavory laying into his dad.

For all the futuristic sets, Total Recall filmed mostly in and around Toronto. There’s behind-the-scenes stuff around road closures and bemused visitors here and here. One thing I would recommend though, is to swing by the faux-website for the Rekall business. I love this kind of thing, and it’s a tantalizing glimpse of how the movie might have challenged our imaginations instead of just putting them into neutral.