SCIENCE fiction fans owe Philip K. Dick a debt of gratitude, as far and away the most interesting examples of the genre on the big screen have come, more or less, from his pen, with Blade Runner, Total Recall and Minority Report leading the charge. I say more or less because directors have variously used and abused the original material to suit their own purposes. In A Scanner Darkly, however, more actual Dick prose is thrown on to the screen than ever. Although this will suit sci- fi purists, the pity of the situation is that the story comes from Dick’s non- drug period and it wastes a lot of our time with ironic moralising. The plot, in which an ultra- addictive substance known simply as D sweeps through a Los Angeles of the near future, takes a back seat to the presentation: animation based on real performances, much as imaging software can turn any picture into some semblance of a drawing. Keanu Reeves plays Bob Arctor, an undercover narc who uses and deals D while reporting to his superiors. At first the animation has a wow factor because the voices are real and because it looks so, well, trippy. But before long it wears thin and you start wondering why they bothered. Interesting performances from Robert Downey Jr — whose druggie conversation has an authentic ring of experience about it — as well as from Reeves, Woody Harrelson and Winona Ryder can’t save A Scanner Darkly from a descent into tedium.
Ian Cuthbertson EXTRAS: Commentaries; featurettes A Scanner Darkly ( PG) Warner ( feature runs 95 minutes) $ 39.95 A FERRY packed with partying sailors and their families explodes on the Mississippi River in hurricane- ravaged New Orleans. Down river from where the 543 charred corpses are fished out, another body washes up, that of a beautiful black woman murdered hours earlier. Enter Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent Doug Carlin ( Denzel Washington) who is convinced that whoever killed the woman is also the terrorist who masterminded the ferry disaster. To assist his investigation, the US government introduces Carlin to a new top secret, satellite- based surveillance system that may be able to pinpoint the terrorist or terrorists. So far, so sensible. But the satellite surveillance system turns out to be a camera that, via space- folding technology, can watch the past and even zoom through walls, X- ray vision style, right into people’s houses. Oh, and it can also transport warning notes and, with a little bit of fiddling with the knobs, Carlin himself four days into the past. The idea of is enticing, as were the movie trailers on the film’s release. If you didn’t catch this film on the big screen, you may be excused for beating a path to the video shop or buying a copy of the DVD. is part of the present wave of films and television shows that embed science fiction in a realistic setting, but in this case think a poor man’s mixed with an episode of Watchable, but hardly worth the price of a new- release DVD.
( M) Buena Vista ( feature runs 125 minutes) $ 39.95
Deja Vu Minority Report Lost.
Extended scene; behind the scenes
Deja Vu THOUGH contemporary music lovers will likely be more familiar with Jeff Buckley, father Tim’s place in the scheme of things should be better understood. This DVD competently goes about redressing the paucity of information and recorded live performances. Buckley Sr met a tragic end at 28 when snorted heroin interacted with the alcohol and barbiturates already in his system. Jeff Buckley claims to have met his father just once, when he was about eight, and in a horrifying coincidence he also died young, going for a fatal evening swim when he was 30. David Browne, author of a book about father and son called is interviewed extensively here, as is longtime Tim Buckley songwriting collaborator Larry Beckett. But the meat of the DVD is the string of performances, from an appearance on television show ( the first performance of the amazing
which proved an even more influential recording when covered in 1984 by This Mortal Coil), to a host of British and American TV appearances, presented in chronological order. The chronology allows the viewer to witness the elder Buckley’s astonishing artistic growth through seven albums, three of which had their gestation in 1969, in his short but meteoric career. Aspiring songwriters and fans will find this DVD deeply satisfying.
Song to a Siren,
EXTRAS: Tim Buckley: My Fleeting House
( E) Shock ( feature runs 118 minutes) $ 34.95
Rare clips; interviews; album review by Lee Underwood and Larry Beckett; additional performance; short film