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A Scanner Darkly (Widescreen Edition) [Import]

Keanu Reeves , Winona Ryder , Richard Linklater    R (Restricted)   DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best film of a Philip K. Dick story Aug. 20 2007
By Gary Fuhrman TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I've been an avid reader of Philip K. Dick for 40 years and have seen several film adaptations of his work. In terms of storytelling, none of them come close to this one. (Blade Runner is a classic rendering of Dickian atmosphere, but is only loosely related to the story it is purportedly based on.) Linklater follows the original novel closely in incident and dialogue, with only minor and judicious changes. The rotoscoping technique works perfectly and makes the most of excellent acting by the whole cast; the result effectively blurs the line between reality and hallucination. And the film leaves us with plenty to ponder, just as Dick's prophetic novel does -- some of it intensely personal (Do you really know who your friends are? Do they know who you are?) and some of it covertly political (the terrorist "war on drugs" bleeding into the paranoid "war on terror"). And on top of that, much of this film is hilarious. Definitely worth watching several times.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fever Dreams Feb. 18 2012
By Jonathan Stover TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Adapter/director Richard Linklater achieved at least three remarkable things with A Scanner Darkly: he created the most faithful movie adaptation of a Philip K. Dick novel or short story ever; he created an outstanding science-fiction film; and he maximized the limited acting ability of Keanu Reeves by casting Reeves as a burnt-out case in the midst of a drug-fueled mental breakdown.

Reeves plays Bob Arctor, a near-future California undercover government narc charged by his superiors with helping win the war against Substance D, a highly addictive illegal substance that rapidly causes irreversible brain damage in those addicted to it, partially by severing the connection between an addict's left and right brain hemispheres.

Arctor is deep undercover, sharing a house with two other addicts and buying Substance D from a third in increasingly difficult-to-supply mass quantities in the hopes of moving up the supply chain. The government knows what the main ingredient of Substance D derives from -- a small, blue-flowered plant -- but it doesn't know who is growing it, refining it, and putting it on the street.

Dick based much of A Scanner Darkly on his own drug experiences of the 1960's and 1970's, experiences which saw him committed to a mental asylum for a time, and experiences which caused him to interact with a large number of doomed and mostly doomed addicts. Indeed, the movie appends a portion of the novel's afterword to the end of the movie -- a roll call of the dead and damaged.

The hyper-colourful, rotoscoped animation Linklater uses here (he first used it in Waking Life) suits the material and the tone of that material -- the movie looks like a fever dream, a pulsating nightmare in which nothing is stable.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It was fine June 4 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
The cd arrived and had popped off the centre holder in the box. It played alright.

The movie, of course, was excellent.
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0 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars One of the worst films ever. Aug. 29 2009
Considering the cast of this film I though this would be cool, boy was I wrong. Extremly hard to watch, bad plot,...did I mention hard to watch, the "cartooned" actors is someones idea of being clever but it is not. A waist of time that I will never get back.
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  290 reviews
100 of 108 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Worthy Version of a Classic Story Jan. 19 2007
By Lisa Shea - Published on Amazon.com
This is a movie you definitely want on DVD - because you'll want to watch it first with just the movie playing, and then after that with the audio soundtrack that includes director Richard Linklater, actor Keanu Reeves and most importantly the daughter of Philip K Dick. The insights that she provides into the movie and the storyline are priceless.

It's important to realize that Philip K Dick usually wrote about characters, not action sequences - and specifically, he wrote about those in society who did not "fit in" well. If you look through his stories, you'll find they often feature people who are misfits, who society overlooks or forgets. In A Scanner Darkly, the featured 'oddballs' are druggies hooked on Substance D - a drug that is never really described, but apparently causes paranoia and hallucinations.

The key here is to sit down with a glass of wine, a big bowl of popcorn and settle back for a character-driven story. This isn't a Rambo or Dirty Dozen story - it's about how people relate to each other, in many subtle ways. It's a study of interactions.

I really appreciate that this was done in a combination of real life acting and animation. It floors me that in modern times anyone might look down on this because it is a "cartoon". Is a Renoir less worthy than an Ansel Adams because a Renoir was done by hand? Animation isn't inherently kiddie. Hand drawn works can contain quite mature topics. In this case it is *ideally* suited to the story - because a main aspect of the tale is that the characters never quite know what is real and what is imagination. Are the bugs really there? Can he trust what he sees? All signs point to NO. The viewer is caught up in this same confused world. If this had been live action, then 'odd things' would have instantly stood out. But the point of a drug haze is that everything seems 'unreal' - and so odd things fit into that flow much more smoothly.

If you don't know druggies, rest assured that characters like this are quite average - and this story is in essence an autobiography of Philip K Dick's life in the 70s. He lived in a house just like this with his two brothers after his divorce. He lost his wife and two young girls. He was very paranoid that one of his house-mates was a narc, spying on their druggie activities. One of his friends did think bugs were crawling on him. At the end of the movie is Dick's actual ending to the story - a list of his friends who were damaged or slain by drugs. Included on this list are his ex-wife and himself.

So what you have in the movie are the druggies at turns being nice to each other, being very cruel to each other, mistrusting each other, and turning to each other for help. One of the druggies - Bob - is actually a narc cop code-named Fred. He's gone undercover to figure out who is supplying Substance D to the area. Unfortunately, he's gotten himself hooked during his undercover work. Even worse, part of what Substance D does is to destroy your brain - so he's developed in essence split personalities. The Bob-Druggie part forgets most of the time he IS a narc. The narc half of him, when he's in the police station, knows he's spying on this group of druggies but forgets that he is one of them. So when the narc is told to specifically spy on "Bob", he literally doesn't realize that this is him.

Here's where the movie - trying to stuff a dense book into under 2 hours - has some problems. If you haven't read the book, it's not clear at all that Narc-Fred forgets who he is when he goes undercover as Bob. It's a big twist in the book, but in the movie it seems clear to the watcher that it's the same person, and it's not made clear in the story that he's forgetting his "other half".

Other than that, the story is really pretty straightforward, plot-wise. The druggies are paranoid about the world around them and plug on with their lives. The cops are trying to figure out who the supplier is, so they bug the house and try to get that information. Like most Dick stories, there's a twist, although to be honest I thought it would be a much larger twist. Also, like most Dick stories, there's little female presence and the ending is only slightly hopeful. These aren't happy-go-lucky romances that he writes - they are dark warnings about where society is heading when it marginalizes those who don't fit in perfectly.

If you're confused about the movie, I definitely recommend reading the novel. That might be easier to grasp and give you more insight into the characters. Then go back and watch the movie again - taking it slow. Pay attention to the nuances of what they say, and how the characters relate. See how they feel society is treating them - and then take a look what society actually does with these people. Maybe they aren't quite so paranoid after all - maybe there is some resaon for how they feel.
146 of 167 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's High Times for Moviegoers July 19 2006
By Chris Pandolfi - Published on Amazon.com
Here's the interesting thing about Richard Linklater's "A Scanner Darkly": for a film about heavy drug use set in the not too distant future, it's probably one of the most honest and complex anti-drug stories ever told. I say this in spite of the fact that I found the specifics of the plot incredibly difficult to grasp. All I could comprehend were the general bits of information, most of which were gathered from trailers and commercials. Apparently, a fictional drug called Substance D rules the streets of Orange County, California. It's a highly addictive, brain-frying narcotic that has a long list of negative side effects. It's also an illegal substance, one that undercover cop Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) has gotten quite familiar with in his attempt to locate its main distributor. Upon infiltrating the home of a group of pill popping slackers, he starts using in order to blend in. Unfortunately, this drugged lifestyle eventually leaves him unable to distinguish reality from hallucinations.

Through the cinematic process of rotoscoping, Linklater has enabled the audience to feel the exact same way as Arctor does. Each frame of film was traced over and stylistically repainted, making the world the characters live in--as well as the characters themselves--look half like a cartoon and half like the physical realm. It was an absolutely incredible look, and I found that it gave the story an added dimension by representing a kind of realistic unreality (if that makes any sense at all). In that sense, it's almost symbolic that the undercover cops wear scramble suits, which are high tech cloaks with anatomical images that continuously shift from one to the next (apparently, a single suit can project millions of appearances). The state of the world these characters live in is ruled by uncertainty and deception. Arctor is ultimately tested, not only in terms of what he believes to be the truth, but in terms of his state of mind, as well.

I now understand why that rotoscoping process was used for an adaptation of a Philip K. Dick novel. Only he could have written about the life-destroying effects of an addictive substance. Likewise, only this kind of film can do justice to the point he was trying to make, namely that you can't trust anyone, especially when you're addicted to a powerful drug. Unfortunately, elaborating on that point would give too much away; I will say that all in this movie isn't exactly as it seems, and more than a couple of characters have hidden agendas. There are a number of truths hidden amongst the film's eccentric style, and by the time you get halfway through, you're completely lost.

However, this is the kind of movie you don't mind getting lost in, even if you have no idea what's going on. I have to admit that while I understood the underlying message of the story, I barely understood this film as a whole. Watching the sequences unfold and listening to the characters interact is almost as brain scrambling as the evil Substance D is. This is especially true of the conversations between James Barris (Robert Downey, Jr.), Ernie Luckman (Woody Harrelson), and Charles Freck (Rory Cochrane), three of Arctor's equally spaced out friends. Their esoteric banter flows seamlessly from topic to topic in an Altered Consciousness sort of way, filled with anti-establishment ramblings that almost come off as poetic. It even gets comical at times; during a road trip to San Diego, Barris claims he left the front door of their house unlocked and attached a note for burglars to read (which, supposedly, was all part of an elaborate scheme to record the intruder and solve the mystery behind the Substance D ring).

There are some interesting moments shared between Arctor and his girlfriend, Donna Hawthorne (Winona Ryder). Their relationship revolves around their mutual abuse of Substance D, which doesn't exactly enhance their moments together so much as it leaves them in a perpetually dazed state of awareness. Their conversations are almost as esoteric as those of Barris, Luckman, and Freck, the only difference being a small degree of intimate, meaningful language. One also gets the sense that Arctor is trying to understand Donna as a person, specifically why she's behaving in certain ways. He knows how devastating the effects of Substance D can be, and he fears that maybe she's going too far with her usage. The two show genuine concern for one another, even when they find themselves lost in a conversation about drooping, floating cats.

Despite the free flowing course the story takes, everything does come together by the end. "A Scanner Darkly" is one of those movies that can cleverly hide behind a hallucinogenic facade in order to convey a serious message. If you're considering seeing this movie, you have to be willing to get jerked around somewhat, especially when it comes to your expectations for solid characterizations and straightforward storytelling. I think I knew all along that I'd find this film confusing; the ads made it perfectly clear that this was a very unconventional project. But in the end, I didn't really mind; the story takes on the form of a seriously warped puzzle, and I welcomed the opportunity to put the pieces together and figure things out for myself.

Let me end by quoting the tagline from Jim Henson's "Labyrinth": "A world where everything seems possible, and nothing is as it seems." I find this to be a fitting way to describe the world of "A Scanner Darkly." If you see it with that quote in mind, you just might come away with a better understanding of it.
45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark look at the drug subculture Aug. 13 2006
By cassdog - Published on Amazon.com
I enjoyed this movie thoroughly. It is not a movie glorifying drug use. It is a disturbingly accurate portrayal of the paranoia, confusion, selfishness and loss of personality that comes with the territory of being a junky. All told in a mildly sci-fi, hallucinatory and even humorous manner with a slight twist at the end. But don't be dissuaded if this sounds too heavy. It is quite entertaining, humorous and filled with great performances.

I am a little surprised at some of the reactions to this movie from people that couldn't understand it, or had trouble visualizing the movie with the unique animation, or didn't see the change in tone to a darker story that was blaringly obvious. To me the animation style was essential and even the scatter suits were reminiscent of the visualizations one gets on psychedelic drugs. The two doctors which were competing just like the two halves of his brain was amazing. The scene where he looks around his bosses desk and his visualizations aren't quite right is spine-tingling. The confused, paranoid, stoner scenes were brilliantly funny and equally disturbing but also very easy to follow. The performances particularly by Robert Downey Jr. were dead-on accurate, extremely entertaining personalities.

So don't be dissuaded by reviewers criticizing the specifics of the arresting animation, or who were confused by the plot and therefore thought it was thin and hard to follow. The problem in these cases lies with the viewer. This is a deeply emotional, easy to follow but very entertaining look at the drug subculture.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dick flick clicks (sort of) Sept. 25 2007
By D. Hartley - Published on Amazon.com
Richard Linklater entered the sci-fi arena in 2006 with his adaptation of the late Phillip K. Dick's semi-autobiographical novel "A Scanner Darkly". Set in a not-so-distant future L.A., the story injects themes of existential dilemma, drug-fueled paranoia and Orwellian government surveillance (hmm, that's timely) into what is otherwise a fairly standard undercover-cop-who's-gone-too-deep yarn.

Keanu Reeves stars as a dazed and confused narc who has become helplessly addicted to the mind-altering drug that he has been assigned to eradicate ("substance D"). Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder and the perpetually dazed Linklater alumni Rory Cochrane are his fellow D-heads who may not exactly be whom they appear to be on the surface.

Adding to the mood of hallucinatory psychosis is Linklater's controversial use of rotoscoping (as per his underrated Waking Life). The rotoscoping technique does present challenges to the actors; Downey, with his Chaplinesque knack for physical expression, pulls it off best, while the more inert performers like Reeves and Ryder are akin to oil paintings.

Linklater's script keeps fairly close to its source material-particularly in relation to the more cerebral elements(Linklater's propensity for lots of talk and little action may be a turn-off for those expecting another Minority Report). Depending on what you bring with you, the film is a) a cautionary tale about addiction, b)a warning about encroaching technocracy, c) an indictment on the government's "war" on drugs, d) a really cool flick to watch while stoned, e) the longest 99 minutes of your life or f) all of the above.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Product of a Paranoid Mind 30 Years Ago. Timely Socio-Political Comment Today. Jan. 5 2007
By mirasreviews - Published on Amazon.com
"A Scanner Darkly" is director Richard Linklater's second feature to employ rotoscoping, in which illustrators draw over the film or digital image to create animation that preserves the actors' performances. This is especially suited to the uncertain reality and identity-concealing "scramble suits" of Phillip K. Dick's novel of paranoia and oppression. Seven years from now, a highly addictive drug called Substance D sweeps the nation, destroying the lives and brains of millions. Fred (Keanu Reeves) is a narcotics agent assigned to observe drug dealer Bob Arctor. Bob lives with a shifty, garrulous dealer named Jim Barris (Robert Downey, Jr.) and fellow junkie Ernie Luckman (Woody Harrelson), while he pines for frigid girlfriend Donna (Winona Ryder). But Bob is in fact Fred, who became a Substance D user while undercover and is now unable to connect his two identities.

Although "A Scanner Darkly"'s animation is drawn with relatively broad strokes, its "painterly version of reality" allows the actors' performances to come through clearly. Robert Downey, Jr.'s clever, nearly incessant chatter is particularly memorable. There are a lot of long, inane conversations that fans of the novel may appreciate while other viewers may feel should have been left out. Those conversations slow the film down a lot, but on the other hand, it 's funny stuff. There is no denying that this is a movie for a certain taste. The animation is self-consciously stylized. The pace is uneven. The story is nebulous. But it has a lot to offer.

"A Scanner Darkly" seems to be first and foremost about paranoia, a subject that Phillip K. Dick knew intimately. The story itself is paranoid. The characters are paranoid. Junkies, authorities, and the public at large are overcome by fear of one another. When Phillip K. Dick wrote the book in 1977, it was a comment on the government's persecution of the drug counterculture and a reflection of Dick's own state of mind. Thirty years later, the widespread surveillance, fear-mongering media, and suspension of civil liberties in the name of public safety seem to be taken from today's headlines. "A Scanner Darkly" could still easily refer to the War on Drugs, but a government that engenders fear at home to justify military adventurism abroad seems more like the War on Terror. Or perhaps it is just that all ideological wars are the same.

Phillip K. Dick put a lot of himself into "A Scanner Darkly" and dedicated the book to his friends who lost their lives to drugs. Sometimes that adds interest. Sometimes it muddies ideas that could have been more pointed, as in the film's conflicted attitude toward drug use. But Phillip K. Dick fans will find another layer on which to view the film in Dick's personal preoccupations. Bob/Fred's break-in to his own home seems to mirror Dick's suspicion that he may have himself been responsible for the break-in that bolstered his belief that he was under FBI surveillance. And Bob Farris' ratting out his friends to the authorities for no apparent reason? Richard Linklater wrote and directed " A Scanner Darkly" with fans of the novel in mind, preserving its quirks. What was a dystopian picture of the near future when it was written is now provocative film about contemporary questions of civil liberties and the politics of fear.

The DVD (Warner 2006): Bonus features are 2 featurettes, an audio commentary, and theatrical trailer (2 min). "One Summer in Austin: The Story of Filming a Scanner Darkly" (26 min) consists of interviews with Richard Linklater, the cast, and Phillip K. Dick's daughter Isa Dick Hackett, in which they talk about the film's themes and characters. Phillip K. Dick also appears in some archival interview footage. "The Weight of the Line: Animation Tales" (20 min) interviews Linklater, some of the lead animators, cinematographer Sterling Allen, and producer Tommy Pallotta about the18-month post-production process during which the film was animated. No discussion of the problems that resulted in firing the original head of animation. The audio commentary is by Richard Linklater, Keanu Reeves, Isa Dick Hackett, producer Tommy Pallotta, and scholar Jonathan Lethem. They discuss the film's themes, animation, and Phillip K. Dick.
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