Saturday, March 7, 2009

PTA/GVS marathon #2:Drugstore Cowboy.

"Most people don't know how they're gonna feel from one moment to the next. But a dope fiend has a pretty good idea. All you gotta do is look at the labels on the little bottles. " Bob(Matt Dillon)
Drugstore Cowboy is a movie about four people who spend their days robbing pharmacies to feed their drug addiction. We follow their escapades as they avoid being caught by cop Gentry(James Lemar) deal with one member who is not in sync with the overall group, and to make sure that there is never, I mean never, a hat put on a bed. It is a very different movie to the other ones about drug addiction, movies like Requiem for a dream, because here drug addiction isn't displayed as a wasteful life where you would crawl into the gutter for illegal drugs(or maybe the worst toilet in Scotland), instead a life that contains thrills and spills, but is also dangerous for all involved, like what Goodfellas did for gangsters. sure it isn't perfect, but it's a hell of a lot better then being Renton from Trainspotting(remember? this is the guy who didn't choose life?)
Here we are presented with characters that break through the cliche before it existed. Characters that can keep their drug addiction and their sanity, to still live reasonably ordinary lives.
And it works, well. But I couldn't help leaving a bit disappointed. It's a good movie, definitely, but I was expecting this to be a very experimental Van Sant film, one in the lines of Elephant or Paranoid Park. to see this movie played straight was a bit of a let down, and especially since I think the filmmaking does nothing substantial to the movie. It is good, but I couldn't see Van Sant's style in the movie. I think I may need to see this one more time to fully appreciate it, but I wasn't as taken with this as I thought I would be.
It was more a story I took the ride with, watching these people try to sate their addictions, to stay away from the destructive lifestyle of a lonely drug addict. wondering what was going to happen after the group is hexed(Dogs. Don't mention dogs.) the hexes were the most interesting part of the film, with the largest hex not being described fully, a nice touch, and after one gang member rebels, and hexes the group on purpose, to watch their operations go into decline horribly(Sheriff's convention. Who could have guessed?). It also has a shocking and disturbing ending, one that catches you off guard but makes perfect sense. It was a movie I was caught up in.
Yet it did nothing for me. I have no interesting things to say about Drugstore Cowboy. It's just a pretty good drug movie. However, Matt Dillon is amazing in this. He perfectly embodies this man who thinks that drugs are the answer to life, who can't stop thinking about the next score, and who can't let go of his superstitions. He makes Bob distant, but believable, which in a role like this is perfect. the supporting cast does their job well, with no real stand outs, at least for me.
I can recommend this film, as it is a well wold story, but with the pedigree of Van Sant bringing nothing interesting to the table, I was incredibly disappointed.
Verdict: A well told story, but where the hell did Van San go?

Friday, March 6, 2009


"The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout 'Save us!' And I'll whisper 'no'" Rorschach(Jackie Earle Haley)

Hmm...So many ways to start this review. I could start by talking about it's long and torturous creation process, which went through directors such as Terry Gilliam, Paul Greengrass, and Darren Aronofsky(who was on the project twice). Or I could mention the director Zack Snyder, who has been given the monumental task of appealing to fanboys, with a track record of just Dawn of the Dead and 300. Or maybe the comic itself, a complicated mix of post apocalypticism, heroes who aren't heroes(I think it was Snyder, I may be wrong, that said that this world is one where "Superman hates people, Batman can't get up, and the villain is the one who wants peace.") and subtle messages, beautifully written and drawn up by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. But I think I'll just talk about all the ways I could start this review(Wait a moment..)

I'm split in two halves about this movie. In one corner, I loved it. It perfectly recreates a novel I love, while updating it, at least stylistically, to the modern day, and not loosing the overall feel of the book. It doesn't leave out any important parts, only little things change(When Laurie is taken by Jon to mars, he meets her in another room, he isn't standing outside the ship) but the main themes still resonate with the audience, which is what the movie was going for in the first place. Many of the scenes are really effective, most noticeably the final scene with Rorschach. Then there's the action scenes, which were well made.Plus, it contains my two favorite Bob Dylan songs of all time, which was nice to see.

But there are problems as well. From the trailers, this has been advertised as a very high octane, action movie. It is not. You know that awesome scene with Rorschach and the police in the trailer? That lasts two minutes. And is one of the maybe three action scenes, which all last about two minutes. This is a movie about people talking, and that works well. But there were moments I just wanted to shoot it. Sometimes the music screamed so loud it hurt my ears(although sometimes the music is good, like when Dr. Manhattan is confronting his past on mars.) and some scenes, I think of a certain sex scene involving a flying owl ship, are just embarrassingly awful, and didn't need to be shown. We could have just skipped it but noooo, Snyder wanted it shown. and it was awful to watch, mainly down to execution.

Snyder, however, doesn't hold back for the kiddy vote. He doesn't reveal in the violence of a man's dog having his head split in half, but he's not afraid to show it. He doesn't however, show complete faith in the source material. He is faithful, taking out parts not fully needed to the story, (like the kid and newspaper stand owner, however they do get a cameo.) He feels the need to hollywoodise some, though maybe not all, of the scenes, giving this overbearing sense that he can't let the film breathe on it's own. Doing this sucks all the subtlety and, while the film looks beautiful, it lacks substance. This is what I was afraid of.

Now I usually I don't like to spoil movies, but here, I feel I need to. So if you haven't seen the movie our read the book, please skip to the next paragraph. I feel, and I'm alone on this, that the ending is completely compromised in the movie. So there's no squid, instead there's just a bomb, so there's no difference, right? But for me, the reason I call this novel a masterpiece(and I do call it a masterpiece.) is the image of dead bodies strewn around New York, bodies lying on the streets, pouring out of windows, it's amazing, and absolutely horrifying to look at. The way that Moore builds up tension by focusing on the side characters we meet in the novel, to see them come together at the same place, all to disappear in a flash of light, replaced by bodies and blood, It's amazing, especially because it is so much worse then what has come before. However, when I saw the bomb explode, and it's after-effects, I just said "So that's it? Thanks Zack Snyder." so the world gets compacted like a car in a trash yard, it isn't as bad as what was there before it.

The ensemble here works effectively though. Jackie Earle Haley, as Rorschach, is incredible. So is Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Patrick Wilson. They all nail their characters. The other three, Billy Crudup(who has the hardest role by far), Malin Akerman, and Matthew Goode are all serviceable. They aren't brilliant, but they play their characters well.
What I want to see though, is the Paul Greengrass version of Watchmen. I think he works in Hollywood but in a very unHollywood style, and would love to see what he would do with this material.

This was a disappointment.

Verdict: On one hand, this is a very faithful adaptation of a great novel with fantastic performances. One the other hand, Zack Snyder makes this a very Hollywood affair, the wrong way to go with something as complex and deep as Watchmen.