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Oohhh... Linklater's A SCANNER DARKLY screens in Houston! How'd it go?

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a review of our own Austin boy's next flick A SCANNER DARKLY, adapted by Richard Linklater from Philip K. Dick's book of the same name. I'm psyched to see this. I got two reviews for ya', one that loves it and one that really, really likes it. Enjoy 'em!


I just attended a screening for A SCANNER DARKLY, and the PR squad claimed it was the first ever audience screening of the movie in progress. Linklater was there in the crowd. Portions of animation were unfinished, the music was temp, but there were opening credits and it looked mostly completed.

This will be a nonspoiler review.

A SCANNER DARKLY represents not only the best Philip K Dick adaptation to date, which we all could expect given Linklater's reverence for the subject in the past. But it's also Linklater's most challenging and accomplished film, in an already impressive career.

The suits who will be challenged to market this film may fail to bring an audience, because the single most compelling thing about the film is the fact that it challenges the audience. The audience is not pandered to in any way. Complicated story ideas are rendered faithfully, directly, and without obvious techniques to clarify Dick's convoluted story. Can't exactly put that as a tag-line on a poster, can you? "Trusts your intelligence more than most films" doesn't quite have the must-see factor does it? But it should.

Among the many things to admire about the film is the animation technique. Unlike Waking Life, where the art went abstract early and often, the art style in A Scanner Darkly first provides a layer of realism and solid ground, a place where the laws of physics are mostly normal. This allows the more "trippy" visions to have full impact. But the relatively increased realistic animation isn't dry or boring, it's a very effective impressionist style. Backgrounds are allowed to drift and sway in just subtle enough ways to bring the viewing experience into the subjectivity of a protagonist whose mind has been altered by substances. Performances are freed from the confines of starkly rendered reality. Moods and emotions flow in an original and fresh way.

I expected all of that, quite frankly, from the trailer. What I didn't expect was the excellent supporting performances and the amount of humor in the film. Robert Downey Jr's performance is fascinating. As with Andy Serkis's groundbreaking work as Gollum, Downey's performance proves that performance capture is just as expressive as "true acting" and deserves recognition. Perhaps this is another angle Warner can target to bring people to this film that demands attention, and that's by highlighting the fact that in an age of entertainment glut, here is something that truly makes you say I Haven't Seen That Before. A collaboration between thespians and visual animators, something you quite haven't seen in this way before.

Every performer gives us a memorable character, which is especially challenging for Keanu Reeves. His buddha-like enlightened, serene, and somewhat stoic Neo style is in full effect, however instead of enlightenment we get disillusion. Instead of bliss we get despair. The damn guy can be like a Rorsharch test sometimes, and if any role in all of geekdom calls for it, Bob Arctor aka Fred is certainly it.

One minor spoiler in this paragraph involves a cameo appearance. Skip this paragraph if you don't want to know. But, for followers of Linklater's work and the Austin scene in general, there is a jaw-hurtingly funny cameo from The Screaming Hellfire Master Himself, Alex "Infowars" Jones.

The only negative aspect of the current state of the film is the music. I'm assuming what we saw was temporary. Portions of the second act felt like they dragged a bit, but that was probably more to do with the lack of a true vision for the music. This film needs a soundtrack that matches the innovation and surprise of the visuals, the storytelling and the performing.

So, Philip K Dick geeks, all I can say is SUCKS FOR YOU that you haven't seen the flick yet. You will not be disappointed, and it will be worth the wait. The conclusion of the movie does not pull any punches, it does not sell out, and, quite honeslty, the end is Motherfizzing Transcendent; the pink laser of Philip K Dick's divine presence will shoot right through you.

I think my official AiCN call sign should be:


For those of you who can't read a positive review without thinking of gardening, here's one that has some more bones to pick with the movie, even if they ultimately rank it high:

Hey Harry,

There was a screening here in Houston tonight for A Scanner Darkly, the new Linklater film, so I thought I would tell you about it.

Im really interested in how they are going to promote this film, as it takes on the same style as Waking Life, only it seemed a bit more cell shaded. It looks amazing, although some parts werent quite done. But with such big actors (Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr, Winona Ryder and Woody Harrelson), I just dont see it playing strictly in art-house cinemas, and I also dont see it being embraced by the mainstream.

Aside from that, not that it would really hinder my opinion, I thought it was a pretty good movie. It kind of integrated the awesome dialogue that Linklater uses in Slacker and Waking Life into a structured story. It is kind of hard to explain, but basically, its the standard undercover cop getting too deep in his cover. Now throw in some sci-fi identity shields, and hemisphere deteriorating drugs and you have A Scanner Darkly.

The acting was really good aside from Keanu Reeves, they couldve picked anyone else and this movie would be so fucking amazing, but I dont know, I just seem to be so fixed on making sure this guy messes up every role he gets. I mean, it helps that hes in a drug induced state throughout most of the movie, but Jesus Christ I just dont see why you would pick him over any great actor that I'm sure Linklater could get. ANYWAYS, my favorite character in this movie, hands down is Freck played by Rory Cochrane, whom I really havent seen in anything, but does such an awesome job as a strung out drug fiend. Its kind of similar to Almost Famous boy in Spun, only good and stuff. The movie opens up with him hallucinating over bugs crawling on his skin, then taking a shower, then seeing bugs crawling all over his dog and then showering with him. Every scene with him is so funny and so entertaining. Woody Harrelson and Robert Downey Jr play well off of each other, though alot of their scenes really kind of slow down the movie. I mean it was enjoyable, but irrelevant. Winona Ryder does a good job too, theres not too much, but you her animated

The animation and score wasnt complete, but the animation from what I saw was pretty good, a little different from Waking Life. There are some parts that I couldve sworn were real, I dont know if that will change, but it was cool. And dear god I hope they change the score, I'm scared the temporary might be what theyre going for, but every time Keanu Reeves has a little speech when talking to himself, they played this overdramtic shit that just killed the good artistic mood and made into something its just gives me a bad taste in my mouth.

Overall I would give it a very strong 7, and could be an 8 with some better editing and score. Hope this is of interest.

-Francis Buxton

Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 31, 2005, 5:05 a.m. CST

    Keanu again?

    by cagirl

    C'mon...let someone else be "the one" in a few movies.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 5:09 a.m. CST

    almost first

    by Jearom

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 5:10 a.m. CST

    Well, shitburgers.

    by Nordling

    If I would have known about this, I woulda been there. Dammit.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 5:13 a.m. CST


    by MAGGA

    I love Waking Life, if this is anywhere near as cool I

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 5:51 a.m. CST

    Winona's Animated Tits

    by Itchy

    Damn Winona for not busting those huge boobies out years ago when she was teh new hotness .... they look glorious. Now she's old and busted and no one wants to see them.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 6:30 a.m. CST


    by MrNelson

    You are one sad person. I feel sorry for your parents having such a disfunctional kid. Enjoy your Playboy collection, sad fuck.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 6:51 a.m. CST

    It was obvious that this film was f*cked the moment Keanu was ca

    by workshed

    ...I was hoping Matrix would kill his career once and for all. Shame that it had to be this story. This adaptation of one of the best sci-fi novels ever has been ruined, it seems, by another of Keanu's bullshit, overpaid 'performances'.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 7:25 a.m. CST

    cell shading

    by gredenko

    unless i'm way off base, cell shading is a term that applies to video game graphics, but not animation like this. i heard from someone who was there and was in the focus group that the flick was good and that the focus group was pretty kind to it, with only a few gripes about some scenes that dragged.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 7:31 a.m. CST

    They should put Keanu in the Charles Schaub commercials..

    by Brock DD Landers

    If he wants to be animated so bad, let him ruin those. And every fucking year, it seems like there is less and less silence in movies. Everything has to have some hack fucking score going on constantly.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 8:06 a.m. CST

    I think I will like this film...

    by FluffyUnbound

    ...But I trust the first reviewer about as far as I can throw him. No spoilers, and it's better than Blade Runner? OK, if you say so. And to fulfill my duties in any Linklater talkback, let me add: WAKING LIFE sucked.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 8:08 a.m. CST


    by Henry Jones Jr.

    Don't be talking smack to Itchy- he is right on the money. Winona should have been baring those babies a decade ago. But I'd still like to see them anyhow. Although, Meg Ryan's were really disappointing in "in the cut." BTW- Scanner Darkly is a cool book. Hope Linklater does it justice. Going to opening day on this one.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 8:22 a.m. CST

    One of the few gushing reviews on this site that I don't thi

    by InspectorDoppler

    I actually get the sense I'll agree with the first reviewer, I'm really looking forward to this flick. Now stop being such a pussy, Linklater, and DO THE VALIS TRILOGY!!!! 350 million dollar back-to-back-shooting LOTR style, Orlando Bloom as Horselover Fat, summer tentpole release. Boffo BO, baby.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 8:24 a.m. CST

    No, you don't understand

    by MonkeyBytes

    The quote from the review is as follows: "Winona Ryder does a good job too, theres not too much, but you her animated". So we don't see Winona's animated tits... we actually ARE her animated tits! This is groundbreaking interactive cinema, people. Undoubtedly this will result in audience members groping, licking and pinching themselves as they suddenly realize they ARE WINONA RYDER'S ANIMATED TITS! Now, tell me you can wait to see this one.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 9:24 a.m. CST

    keanu reeves is my favorite actor

    by reckni

    Don't sleep on "Feeling Minnesota." That movie is the bomb.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 10:01 a.m. CST

    "Now she's old and busted and no one wants to see them."

    by Osmosis Jones

    Speak for yourself, Itchy. Winona just turned THIRTY-FOUR!!!

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 10:55 a.m. CST

    "but you her animated"

    by white owl

    that's hilarious. I'm looking forward to taking a few unsuspecting friends to see this so I can lighten a few minds to the imagination of PKD. Lord knows you can't get anybody to read books these days ("Books? Who does books?" is a quote I got some time ago. Stupid America, grumble grumble). Anyways, Waking Life is awkward on its first viewing, but later viewing, most while under the influence of weed and shrooms, make the film better and better, in my eyes. I liked the scene with rich playing pinball and he tells about his dream. Totally ..."whoa". And that's where I come to Keanu Reeves. I cannot stand him anymore and I hope he doesn't mar the film from otherwise being excellent among a year of mediocre studio films.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 11:18 a.m. CST

    George Takei will own your ass !!!

    by jesuschrist

    Including the anti-matter. Owned! Takei! Deal with it!

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 11:23 a.m. CST


    by Prague23

    Someone had to say it.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 11:27 a.m. CST

    A Scanner Darkly....what the hell is that?

    by MonteCristo

    Really, what is it? I'll have to check it out.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 11:38 a.m. CST

    I'd say Keanu's been...

    by Childe Roland

    ...irrevocably typecast, but that implies he'd be capable of playing any part other than the semi-literate, overwhelmed-by-what-he's-seeing, emotionless, personality-less cipher for the audience to enter the world of the film through. He was the gaping hole through which we all entered the Matrix (brilliantly cast, by the way), but as dsoon as they tried to develop his "character" beyond that, the whole series fell apart. Every First Person Shooter videogame character should be played by Keanu "insert your own personality here" Reeves. Whoa!

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 11:43 a.m. CST

    I Think...

    by KarmicRelief

    I'd rather see Keanu in a remake of "Scanners". A single "whoa" before his fucking head explodes. That'd rule...

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 11:57 a.m. CST

    Winnona's not old...she still looks pretty hot

    by jrbarker

    I'd do her.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 12:06 p.m. CST

    Can't wait!

    by Lord_Soth

    Such a huge fan!

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 12:30 p.m. CST

    Even if Keanu isn't the best actor in the world, I'm sur

    by Doc_Strange

    That and you get Winona's animated set. This movie will be one to watch. Plus, I read this film only cost 30 million to produce. I'm sure it'll make its money back.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 12:31 p.m. CST

    WAKING LIFE - A film to watch if you feel like listening to a bu

    by TheGinger Twit

    And that animation.... Clever, but geezus it was ugly. Seriously, has there ever been such a pretentious film as wkaing life. I've lost friends over this film. They told me how good it was and how they applied the knowledge to themselves. I refused to talk to them ever again. Philip K Dick is awesome though!

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 12:58 p.m. CST

    All I want for Christmas...

    by cyanide christ a good adaptation of a PKD story. Why do they keep fucking it up?! Blade Runner was one of the best and it sucked. I'm not even going to waste any more words on Minority Report.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 2:09 p.m. CST

    If Winona's Tits Were In Itchy's Vicinity...

    by filker-tom

    He'd drown in his own drool. God knows the rest of us would. ;)

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 2:42 p.m. CST

    What exactly happens when a movie "owns"?

    by slone13

    Can anyone tell me? Seriously. I own a bunch of things. A house. A car. A dog. The funny thing is, the fact that I own them actually means nothing. My dog still craps when he wants. My car still needs gas to run. And my house still needs its mortgage paid. So, in essence, me "owning" them is a real drag, to a certain degree. So please, please, please, you language starved fanboys, please tell me what you mean when you say a film will "own". Go ahead. Try. I dare you. Also, you are not allowed to use the word "meh" in your description, for a number of reasons. The major one being the fact that "meh" is not even a word.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 2:43 p.m. CST

    And I concur with everything "TheGingerTwit" said

    by slone13

    He's right.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 2:47 p.m. CST

    "pink laser"

    by DarthCorleone

    Good reference on that first review. I am very excited about this film.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 2:54 p.m. CST

    I fucking agree,

    by Winterchili

    This movie is going to be fucking good. Fuck.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 3:12 p.m. CST

    KarmicRelief, you are a funny fuck.

    by 3 Bag Enema

    I just got home from being fired from my job, and you made me laugh. It's funny, because it's true. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go kill myself.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 3:13 p.m. CST

    It depends on what context you use "own" in

    by Doc_Strange

    In this case own means rules or kicks ass. Basically when you know you can kick someone's ass, you say you own them. The same goes for superiority in all things.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 3:33 p.m. CST

    Why Keanu?

    by Mars1

    Think about how similar Keanu is to Wiley Wiggins in Waking Life...casting makes sense.Linklater likes that type... Waking Life is funny as hell if you watch it with a phd Philosophy guy that bitches (loudly) all the way through it. Gingertwit, I wish you could borrow mine, it works well as MST3000.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 5:10 p.m. CST

    Can't wait

    by oducerproducer

    I'm a fan of past Linklater films and this one looks pretty good.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 5:30 p.m. CST

    Keanu is perfect for Arctor

    by MissyHHades

    Really, I can imagine him as Bob Arctor anyday. He has all that confused and lost look that anyone in that situation would have. I read the book some weeks ago and it's easy to imagine Keanu as Arctor and Downey as Barris. And the guy does stoned very well, as in Rivers Edge. Plus, he is not ashamed to try odd roles and independent stuff, he could very well stuck with safe action movies and he would get work. And he never claimed to be the best actor in the world, so I can't understand why people still demanding that from him. People are always complaining but when he fits the character he is good and one can't deny that the guy knows how to choose roles and the people with whom he works. I'm not a die hard Keanu fan but, really, I like many of his movies and think he was a nice choice to play Arctor and that the movie looks very promising and, at least, one of the few projects who aims to challenge the audience in the middle of many mindless movies that are slated for next year.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 5:54 p.m. CST

    I'd rather see UBIK on the big screen.

    by Incrediburgible

    And not in the form of some "flash"-in-the-pan superfluous animation that's going to date this film immediately and bore and distract the fuck out of its audience 10 minutes into the film.

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 6:13 p.m. CST

    Tits are great.

    by tango fett

    That is all.

  • I wanna see!

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 8:20 p.m. CST


    by jesuschrist

    It means this. George Takei is the legal owner of your ass. Even though it's on your body, it belongs to George Takei, for him to do with what he will. Owned!

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 8:44 p.m. CST

    Alex "InfoWars" Jones in cameo appearance

    by prisonplanet

    I'd see this for that alone. That seen in Waking Life had audiences here in Raleigh, NC, just balls-out hollerin'! It just makes me smile when I see that people are waking up to the fact that the "left and right" in this country are just "two sides of the same coin", lovin it!!.....

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 8:57 p.m. CST

    In other news. Access Hollywood will be showing the new KONG tra

    by Orionsangels

    Kong and the T-rex are fighting and they fall off a cliff as they're falling thru huge vines. Kong is trying to grab one on the way down, effects look amazing

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 9:05 p.m. CST

    All right, let me be clear

    by Itchy

    First off, Mr.Nelson, if you don't want to see Winona's tits, then you are a poofer - go put on your Sulu uniform and watch your Vagina Monologues DVD and shut the hell up. For everyone else, yes indeed I would like to see Winona's boobies, but trust me - there's a HUGE difference in tits between ages 18 and 34. See Uma Thurman, for example. What I'm saying is Winona was the hottest thing going back in the Edward Scissorhands era - young, beautiful, "deep" and a talented actress. Then she must have had the worst fucking agent in the world, because she went from being bank to making a string of shit formula period pieces. If she really wanted to be a powerful and influential indie actress, she should have taken a cue from Christina Ricci and busted those things out in some "deep" role. So, in closing, Winona, there's still time - find the right role and get those things on pronto ... only now, you're probably going to have to show some off that beaver, too. And Lacey Cahbert, if you're reading this, you can still salvage your career too - it's not too late !

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 9:14 p.m. CST

    What about my kong news itchy?

    by Orionsangels

    perhaps you should acknowledge it and say its cool er something. like wow thats cool news. i didn't know that. thanks for informing me. this made my day or week or something. ok...peace out

  • Oct. 31, 2005, 9:23 p.m. CST

    cyanide christ

    by Monkey Butler

    Blade Runner was (and is) an incredible film. It's not Do Android's Dream of Electric Sheep?, but it's still an incredible film. Would it be fair to say that this is the first proper adaptation of a PKD story?

  • Nov. 1, 2005, 1:54 a.m. CST

    Linklater is a genius. This movie will rock!

    by Proman1984

    Enough said. But I'm still not sure it will top Minority Report as best Dick adaptation.

  • Nov. 1, 2005, 5:33 a.m. CST


    by Itchy

    Sorry, orionsangels ... just am not that interested in Kong. I trust Peter Jackson to do it right, but I've never really been that intrigued by the original, so I'm not that hyped about a remake. Maybe if I had some info that at some point, Kong mounts a naked and quivering Naomi Watts ... but I haven't heard that, so just don't care that much.

  • Nov. 1, 2005, 10:33 a.m. CST

    Speak for yourself Itchy. I'd still like to see them

    by R.C. the "Wise"

    Bring 'em out Bring 'em out!

  • Nov. 1, 2005, 11:29 a.m. CST

    About the whole Ryder breasts debate:

    by FluffyUnbound

    We're talking about animation here folks. That means you can draw a couple of tits on a piece of scrap paper with ball point pen, label them "Ryder's tits", and you'll have "seen" them just as much as you will in this film.

  • Nov. 1, 2005, 11:40 a.m. CST

    My understanding is...

    by Childe Roland

    ...that Winona's got herself a big brown beaver.

  • Nov. 1, 2005, 4:17 p.m. CST

    word, serenityfan

    by duanejones

    _waking life_ was painfully overrated. i think critics got suckered by the technique and, you know, it's all a dream, so why should the narrative be anything but episodic self-absorption masquerading as waxing philosophical? what worked SO well in _slacker_, SO did not work in _waking life_. and i further agree we'll yet see great work from this great filmmaker again -- perhaps, some would appear to be indicating, real soon...

  • Nov. 2, 2005, 12:34 a.m. CST

    Ryder Breasts

    by Powerpuff69

    I hate to burst everyone's bubble here, but as someone who worked on the movie I want to let you in on a little secret. It was shot first on DV and we animated on top of that video, and Winona was fully clothed in all the scenes. The animators had to use thier imagination for her breasts. So sorry guys, there will not be any live action shots of Winona's boobs floating around the net from this film.

  • Nov. 2, 2005, 5:26 a.m. CST


    by themanlikedave

    well well, surprise suprise, jesuschrist is talking about peoples arses again. come on out mate, you'll feel much better

  • Nov. 2, 2005, 10:06 a.m. CST

    Why is Winona even in this?

    by bingo the clown

    Donna is supposed to be 19.