Tag Archives: Drug Abuse

The Quarry by Iain Banks

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“The Quarry” is a novel focusing on the slow-paced exploits of an appealing narrator, eighteen-year-old Kit, and seven exasperatingly mean-spirited nincompoop side characters, whose rants and abrasive political views take up a copious amount of the book. Kit, a high-functioning Autistic with an avid video game fandom, lives with his abusive, foul-mouthed (and dying) father Guy in a ramshackle house on the edge of a quarry. The house is scheduled for demolition as soon as Guy kicks it and the government vacates Kit, who is wondering seriously about the probability of supporting himself after his father’s death.

Guy has cancer and isn’t expected to make it much longer. To accompany Guy in his final days- or drive him to an early grave, the more likely outcome (with friends like these, who needs enemies?) a group of Guy’s university friends come over to the water-damaged wreck of a house. I won’t go into great detail describing them for you; suffice to say they are horrible people, intellectual wannabes/ vacuous losers who aren’t really there for Guy at all.

No, what these self-righteous pricks want has nothing to do with altruism- they have their sights set on a missing videotape that allegedly contains shocking footage that nobody wants found. I was initially sucked in by the mystery of the tape, but the resolution of this plot thread was disappointing to say the least. I hate to say bad things about this novel- writer Iain Banks was dying when he wrote it and it was obviously a very personal project to him. Indeed, “The Quarry” has some very good qualities- just not enough.

You’ve got Kit’s story for starters. If you focused on Kit and cut out all the extraneous bullshit (i.e. the side character’s political crap,) you’d have one hell of book. Kit has a unique way of seeing the world due to his condition, and for every moment he was self-absorbed and painfully immature, there was another where he was charming and likable. And that’s as it should be- people with disabilities aren’t saints, and pretending they are is nothing less than careful, calculated nonsense. I’ll never look at traffic jams the same way again after hearing Kit’s wonderfully quirky take on their spiritual dimension.

Sadly, about 25% percent of “The Quarry” is simply unnecessary- long, pointless tirades haranguing the bureaucratic bullshit of just about everything. None of the characters besides Kit are remotely likable, and even the only one who serves as a friend to Kit, film critic Holly, ends up betraying him in the end. Kit wants to believe in Holly, and convinces himself she cares about him and has his best interests at heart. That’s not the point. We don’t believe in Holly. If anything, we believe she should get her free-loading ass out of Kit’s house.

The creepiness of Kit’s indecent  interest in mom-figure Hol didn’t even bother me. I just found parts of the book terribly dry and didactic. The character’s scathing monologues are more exhausting and annoying than affecting- does anyone actually talk like that? And do we really want to have anything to do with these terrible, and more to the point, completely uninteresting people?

Iain Banks’ first novel, “The Wasp Factory,” was great, and there really are moments that shine in “The Quarry.” I like Kit’s way of dissecting the fine points of the  everyday niceties that don’t come naturally to him, although sometimes he seemed more socially intuitive than most neurotypical  people. I just see a lot of filler that would be better off in the writer’s paper wastebasket. It’s a shame that he didn’t write a better book with his last time on earth.

Children of Men (2006)

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In these visions of the future, do things ever go even slightly well? Okay, okay, I’ll grant you “Star Trek,” with it’s intergalactic exploits and shows of compassion and friendship between James T. Kirk and the impeccably logical Vulcan Spock. “Star Wars” maybe, But for the most part, for every good thing that happens in a science fiction film, a hundred shitty things happen almost simultaneously.

Take the government for example. The government in Alfonso Cuarón’s “Children of Men” is shady at best, completely, reprehensibly corrupt at worst. They even offer suicide kits for disillusioned citizens with which to off themselves in a pinch. “Ah, but at least there IS a government,” you say? Well in this society, even total anarchy seems preferable to this Hell on earth. Never has a post-apocalyptic future looked so bleak.

In “Children of Men”‘s world, women have become infertile, causing mankind to lose faith in our survival. Politically apathetic citizen Theo (Clive Owen) is begrudgingly hired by his ex-girlfriend Julian (Julianne Moore) to smuggle the teenaged Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey,) the first pregnant woman in eighteen years, out of the ransacked Britain to a program that supposedly can help her.

Julian is a member of an underground group known as the Fish, which rebels against the government, often through acts of urban terrorism. She and Theo have a big-time history, having had and lost a child together. As Theo and Kee make a desperate bid for survival, everyone wants what Kee’s got for their own twisted agenda- including some of the Fish, who think ownership of the child will help their political cause.

“Children of Men” seems hyper realistic despite it’s mostly unreal premise, which nonetheless bears resemblance to many aspects of societal discord, including the Fish as kind of a post-apocalyptic IRA. The actors give excellent performances, including virtual unknown Ashity as Kee and Michael Caine as an amiable pothead who’s long since retreated to live apart from society’s electric eye.

I like the fact that Kee is promiscuous and not at all attempt to capture the sanctity of a Virgin Mary-type character. The girl’s got a mouth on her, and, you know, I kind of like that. However, she and Theo form a (strictly platonic) bond as they evade the corruption of futuristic Britain. There’s also a Holocaust-type vibe to the story as Illegal immigrants are caged and brutalized for the sake of the country’s ‘purity.’

I was initially not sure if I would like this movie, since it was not on my immediate radar, but “Children of Men” proved to be timeless science fiction, up to par with “Blade Runner” (I personally think “2001” is about as riveting as watching paint dry, to use a film-critique stereotype, so you won’t get my support on exulting that one.) I actually found myself tearing up at one point, which I only do occasionally, because “Children of Men” has what many apocalyptic fests lack- a heart. This is one of the few science fiction movies I would even readily describe as ‘beautiful.’

Violent but strangely sad and tender, “Children of Men”knocks it out of the ballpark and is most not just another stuff-goes-wrong-in-the-future motion picture. People with short attention spans might be disappointed, but those who approach the experience of watching a movie as akin to reading a book will instinctively know what I know- that patience, and thoughtfulness, holds its own rewards.

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Death at a Funeral (2007)

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Frank Oz’s 2007 madcap comedy “Death at a Funeral” is a movie that did not need a remake, in the opinion in yours truly, and the wise move on your part would be to rent this version immediately and avoid the pointless rehash. 2007’s version finds the dysfunction taking place at a British country house, when the patriarch of a well-to-do family dies and friends and relatives cast away simmering tensions to attend his funeral.

Daniel (Matthew MacFadyen) is the dutiful son, perpetually disregarded in favor of his often absent brother (Rupert Graves.) Simon (Alan Tudyk) is the deceased man’s niece’s boyfriend, who trembles at the thought of coming face to face with his beloved (Daisy Donovan)’s disapproving father. Simon mistakenly consumes a hallucinogenic concoction in an attempt to ‘calm his nerves’ and spends the rest of the movie in a midst of a psychotic breakdown. You may think the portrayer of Simon will not be able to consistently draw laughs when handed out such a tough and over-the-top role, but Alan Tudyk (from the terrific TV series “Firefly”) may just win the honor of giving the most uproarious performance in a very funny movie.

The family’s issues are exacerbated by a lecherous guest (Ewen Bremner,) a mysterious and latently homosexual dwarf blackmailer (Peter Dinklage, who certainly showed potential before his breakout performance in HBO’s “Game of Thrones,”) and hallucinogens that get passed away like a game of ‘hot potato.’ During all this the guests attempt to keep a stiff upper lip- perfectly British, but the harder they try to give the dead man a ‘dignified send-off’ the more complicated things become.

This is a ensemble comedy, and even the actors who have somewhat boring roles (as a posed to drug-addled Tudyk and the socially hopeless hypochondriac Howard (Andy Nyman))- like Matthew MacFadyen- are very good with the material they’re given. I can’t think of a single weak spot in the cast. I couldn’t stop laughing at the crazy situations that befell this upper-class family when they were trying to behave like good, impeccably polite Brits. Great use of physical comedy, dark humor, and funny dialogue.

Frank Oz directed the comedy “In & Out” with Kevin Kline in the 90’s- which, despite occasional laughs, can’t compare to this as far as hilarity is concerned. This is not a movie to watch with your grandmother- there’s sexual content, language, mordant humor involving grief and death, and toilet jokes. Still, despite off-color content that might be attributed to American cinema , it’s still extremely British in style. The humor is in the fact that you can sympathize with and relate to the characters’ mortification and embarrassment while still laughing at them and not taking it too seriously.

If you’re not too sensitive about good taste (although I’m probably making it sound racier to the Liberal viewer than is necessary) I highly recommend this farce. The trailer truly doesn’t do it justice. Thanks to this movie, I am inspired to grow up into a old person of Uncle Alfie (Peter Vaughan)’s degree of meanness, hitting people with my cane and whatnot. You haven’t really lived until you’ve spent your twilight years being an insufferable ass. Anyway, I really hope my review inspires you to pick up this movie, as it is a riot with an unbeatable cast.

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The Way, Way Back (2013)

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After a rocky, strident beginning, “The Way, Way Back” straightens itself into a pretty darn lovable movie, which also has the honor of giving a decidedly dark and against-type role to funnyman Steve Carell. Carell plays Trent, the verbally abusive, passive-aggressive boyfriend of needy Pam (Toni Collette.) The abuse perpetrated by Trent is not directed towards Pam but towards her self-conscious 14-year-old son, Duncan (Liam James.)

Duncan is in that awkward stage of youth where just about every phrase uttered by him is monosyllabic and he’s at a loss to talk to anyone, especially girls. Trent is frequently hostile and bullying but plays nice in front of Pam, who doesn’t seem to notice the behavior. Trent takes Pam, Duncan, and Duncan’s bitchy daughter, Steph (Zoe Levin) (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I suppose) to vacation home for the summer.

Surrounded by unbearable adults, including an alcohol-guzzling floozy (Allison Janney) and Trent’s insufferable friends (Amanda Peet and Rob Corddry,) angst-ridden Duncan loiters at the theme park Water Whizz, and is befriended by the park’s wise-cracking manager Owen (Sam Rockwell.) Owen recognizes a kid in need of support in Duncan and offers him a job. The summer proves to be empowering and life-changing for Duncan, who even falls in love for the first, with the floozy neighbor’s attractive and similarly disaffected daughter Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb.)

The beginning scenes are a little bit on the overcooked side, as we are introduced to an assortment of dingy grown-up’s, each with the apparent identical goal of making Duncan’s life as awkward as possible. It’s hard to believe anyone could be this stupid, or at least with such a lack of subtlety, even Kip and Joan, who we are led to believe are incessantly high.

There is a definite improvement in storytelling and substance about thirty minutes in, when Duncan breaks away from Trent’s asinine friends and neighbors and starts spending a numerable amount of afternoons with Owen. Owen might be a bit childish and hedonistic, but he’s exactly what Duncan needs to develop a sense of self-worth and confidence.

Owen also knows that strictly verbal abuse can be as harmful as physical blows, and he tries to help Duncan move past Trent’s taunts. Duncan’s conversations with Susanna are cute not because of what he says but because of what he doesn’t say, which is basically anything of discernible value. So paralyzed by shyness is Duncan that he is reduced to mumbling “I guess” and “I dunno” and babbling about the weather. We’ve all been there, but what makes  the duo so charming is that the incredibly patient Susanna still likes Duncan, still LIKE likes him, not I-want-to-go-to-the-movies-as-friends likes him. For a kid who barely even likes himself, that’s a small miracle.

“The Way, Way Back” might have a little bit of the “Juno” syndrome, where witticisms are a bit too pithy to be natural (nevertheless, haters, I still love “Juno”) and the script might have some sitcom-y moments, but it is still a charming coming-of-age story for those whose movie tastes run toward the quirky and the droll.. There should certainly be more Owens in the word, who can see the  good and the worthy in the most gawky adolescent. If that were the case, my teen years might have been a Hell of a lot less miserable.

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Pulp Fiction (1994)

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First off, I’m an unabashed fan of Tarantino. I’ve liked pretty much all his stuff, from “Reservoir Dogs” to “Django Unchained” to even his segment in “Four Rooms” ( which no one likes.) I think the guy’s brilliant. So it should come as no surprise to you that I consider “Pulp Fiction” a masterpiece of dialogue and plot.

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“Pulp Fiction” tells the interconnected stories of two chatty hitmen (Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta) who may or may not be on a collision course with fate, an aging boxer (Bruce Willis) who is paid to throw his last fight, and two cheap criminals (Amanda Plummer and Tim Roth, two of my favorite actors) who set out to rob a cafe.Nothing turns out the way it was planned in this ferociously violent, witty, and genre-defying masterwork.

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Don’t go into this movie looking for touchy-feely romance or particularly sympathetic characters, because you’ll get none of that. But as my dad likes to say, “It’s not the violence, it’s the dialogue.” The conversations between various eccentrics is rich in it’s insistent oddness.  I tend to be a little bit emotional, so certain scenes in this got to me (strangely, the rape scene wasn’t among them.)

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One was the scene in which Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) corners the kid, Brett (Frank Whaley) who made off with Jules’ boss Marcellus (VIng Rhames)’s briefcase. The whole sequence was very funny in a way (what ain’t no country I ever heard of!) and my family was laughing throughout, but I dunno. I guess I felt a little sorry for ol’ Brett. It takes a lot of nerve to take a man’s burger and his life the same day.

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The second scene was where Butch (Bruce Willis), the boxer, goes off at his girlfriend Fabienne (Maria de Medeiros) for leaving behind a family heirloom. I get it, the girl screwed up, but it seemed so much like something I would do that I felt sorry for her. Uma Thurman also figures into this movie as Marcellus’ girlfriend, Mia, and I had so much of a girl crush on her in this movie

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. I think “Reservoir Dogs” nearly stands up to this in terms of quality, especially since “Reservor Dogs” had a certain emotional quality that “Pulp Fiction” couldn’t copy (“…Fiction” is, like most of Tarantino’s work, cold as ice.) But “Pulp Fiction” has a certain muchness “Reservoir Dogs” can’t beat. The dialogue crackles,  the non-linear timeline is well-conceived, and the cast does a great job as well.

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Everybody who isn’t squeamish about violence should watch this movie to see one of the most influential films of the early 90’s. It’s unique, intense, and in it’s own way, weirdly hilarious. I’ve seen most of Tarantino’s films (sans “Jackie Brown,” “Kill Bill Volume 2,” and “My Best Friend’s Birthday,”) and this is my favorite so far. Modern cinema at it’s most memorable!

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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Witty and intelligent, ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ is a must-read for anyone who has ever felt trapped by their own isolation. It also has one of the most genuine teen voices I’ve ever seen. The protagonist. Charlie, is a good student but is never really noticed by his peers, and he lives inside of his head most of the time. Until the epic year that he meets Patrick and Sam, two free-spirited freshmen who encourage him put himself out there. Charlie promptly falls head-over-heels in love with Sam (a girl,) though she initially rebuffs him. The story is told from the point of view of a bunch of letters Charlie sends to a teenager he has never met. Charlie struggles with his psychological difficulties, dates. and comes to terms with a traumatic memory from his childhood he has repressed.

If that sounds boring to you and you would rather read a book with James Bond-style spy gear and car chases, maybe this isn’t the book for you. This is a book about life, teens, dating (but not that superficial teen stuff a lot of young adult books are about.) Charlie is a sensitive vulnerable kid, and doesn’t don the usual jaded teen voice that YA literature is rife with. He really wears his heart on his sleeve, and he is easy to love, although his naivete and immaturity can be troubling at times. The gay subplot between Patrick and a popular football player who won’t acknowledge him in school is sensitive and well-written.

I actually thought Patrick was a more vibrant character in the movie. I guess without Ezra Miller to play him, he falls a little flat. Also, some aspects were a little more fleshed out in the film. But there’s a on of great scenes and side-plots that weren’t in the movie. And actually, I liked and got to know Charlie a lot better in this. This book makes me a little melancholy (not in a bad way) because all the things Charlie is doing- getting out there, taking risks- are things I was told but never really did as a teen. I would have loved to have friends like Patrick and Sam. I would’ve loved to have one of those ‘infinite’ moments in a pick-up truck with the radio playing just the right song.

But overall. Charlie is not a character to envy. He’s just as messed up, confused, conflicted, etc. as any 15-year-old. He’s extremely bright and insightful, but sometimes those two things can be just as much a hindrance as a help, and he spends way too much time in his head. He is a very relatable character for me. Some people might not like the writing style, but I find that the somewhat juvenile way of telling the story helps it remain plausible. You really believe it could be being told by a 15-year-old.

‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ is one of the better young adult books I’ve come across the last few years. Maybe this sounds corny, but it really restores my faith in the genre. Also, I added a wonderful sketch by a deviantart user. I’m going to add a link to the picture so you can visit her page.  I recommend both the book and the movie version to book and movie fans everywhere.

Parallel Play: Growing Up With Undiagnosed Asperger’s by Tim Page

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A few years ago, I fell in love with John Elder Robison’s enlightening and entertaining autobiography Look Me In the Eye: My Life With Asperger’s. I was deeply appreciated Robison’s ability to shed a light on his foibles and faults, both within the diagnosis of and apart from his Asperger’s Syndrome. Little did I know that I would love Tim Page’s small but effective memoir, Parallel Play, even more. A former music critic and only recently diagnosed Aspergian, Tim Page is a brilliant, funny, and insightful writer. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve thought he’d been planning this book all his life, constructing the sentences so exquisitely so that the fellow Aspie could nod in agreement and wonderment, marveling that at last someone understood them.

“Parallel Play” chronicles Page’s life from the age of about four (a tricky age where he describes himself as a ‘grim little athiest,’ struggling with daunting existential questions) to the slump of middle age. In the years in between, Tim Page experiences many struggles, from crippling social anxiety and depression to drug and alcohol use. His love for books, music, and films keeps him afloat. Page’s self-deprecating wit lightens passages that might otherwise be hard to read (his adolescent suicide letter, the drunken car crash that took the life of several of it’s passengers and left him alive.)

The chronicle of Page’s childhood is insightful and often laugh-out-loud funny. His youthful years were lonely, yes, but also shaped him as a human being. He describes his love of music culminating at an early age, his dislike of his baby sister Betsy, and his father’s paranoia-fueled Cold War anxieties (I wonder if his dad had a touch of Asperger’s himself.)

Tim Page describes Asperger’s to the outsider looking in. The condition, a collection of social awkwardness, obsessive hobbies, sensory issues, and a unique wordview, is often confused with eccentricity, insanity, or just plain entitlement to the uninformed observer. But, in fact, Asperger’s does exist, and it’s not always so easy to be Asperger’s in a neurotypical world.

The later chapters are less about Asperger’s and more about Page’s misspent youth- pot, hallucinogens, and high alcohol intake that only exacerbated his panic attacks. He isn’t afraid to portray his younger self as ignorant (albeit brilliant,) pedantic, and snide. In a world of memoirs that portray their creators as victims in an uncaring world, how refreshing it is to see a man who is not afraid to shed light on his weaknesses! Furthermore, I found his chronicles of his urges and youthful sexual experiences fascinating rather than awkward.

You really walk away with a better sense of who this man is, rather than bogging us down with Asperger’s rhetoric. Some parts of the book were boring (like the passages that went on and on about classical music and the opera- Chapter 8 was particularly dry,) but if you indulge Page during the wordy parts, the rest of the memoir is incredibly rewarding.

 Parallel Play is honest and real where other memoirs are self-pitying and meandering. Tim Page has an incredible mind, and to read this book is to cast a deep, penetrating look into it. A slim volume, the book can be read in a couple days (incidently, I took longer) but you will not regret it. Tim Page should write another book for his fans!

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Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell

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“Winter’s Bone” is the rare book that, while effective, does not exceed the merit of the movie. The eponymous film, directed by Debra Granik, is a nearly perfect work of art, and I was wary going into the book because I did not expect the it to exceed the film. While I was partially right (Woodrell’s original is more emotionally remote and the film is a masterpiece in it’s own right) the novel is worthwhile and lyrically written, while not being inaccessible.

17-year-old Ree Dolly (rendered less admirable and rougher-hewn in the book) lives in the Ozarks, surrounded by a cloistered community of violent and thuggish crystal meth cooks. Nearly everybody is related to everyone else somehow, and the mountain people defend their own kind against the cops- unless one of their own crosses the line. That’s what Ree’s dad Jessup did, and he’s missing. Worse yet, Jessup put bail bond on the house before he disappeared, and Ree has to prove that he’s dead before she loses the family home.

Ree almost single-handedly takes care of her mother, who has long ago turned insane, and her little brothers Sonny and Harold. She’s trying her best to cope with difficult circumstances. Ree’s rough, but sometimes roughness comes with persistence, and this girl’s nothing if not persistent. She tries to get the true circumstances of Jessup’s death from the locals, but they don’t like questions much. Soon she finds herself fighting for her life, desperately sinking into a situation that is fast getting out of hand.

Ree is  helped hesitantly by her enemy/lifeline Uncle Teardrop (played in the movie by the brilliant John Hawkes,) a crank cook whose criminal  activities she wants no part in. Although this is not mentioned in the movie, I got a strong feeling from the book that Ree was gay. On one level, the fact that Ree rejects the thought of pairing up with a man may stem from her fierce independence and the fact that the majority of the local men are leering, toothless pieces of white trash. But considering her activities shared with her friend Gail in her childhood and in the present (swimming together in the buff, kissing,) I got a slightly different vibe from the story.

The writing presented here is quite beautiful. You would think for a book set in such a bleak place, the writing would be similar to the setting- harsh and ugly. But it’s lovely. Sure, “Winter’s Bone” doesn’t for a minute romanticize the hardness and coldness of the Ozarks community Ree is forced to grow up and survive in. But it finds the prettiness in something nasty and tough.

“Winter’s Bone” transports the suburban, middle-class reader into a setting unlike most of us will ever experience. It may not be pretty, but it’s rough and real and thrillingly brutal. Instead of mocking its characters, it’s presents them as matter-of-fact and as direct as a slap to the face. I have to say, I could not stop picturing Jennifer Lawrence as Ree, although the novel stated the book Ree was a brunette instead of a blonde. I guess Jennifer Lawrence is so good at what she does that any other face feels like an impostor.

My mom LOVED this book and read it twice in a row; my reaction was a little more ‘meh,’ although I did think it was very good and solid. I like how in both the book and movie you felt hope for Ree and the kids. For all it’s bleakness, for all it’s toughness, you don’t see dead ends. You see opportunities. And you hope (and believe) that Ree will snatch those opportunities, which, after all, do not come easy in a place like this.

Dead Man’s Shoes (2004)

Bloody and brilliant, “Dead Man’s Shoes” is an emotional rollercoaster from beginning to end. The 57% rating on Rotten Tomatoes is both a crying shame and a sacrilege, because this is Shane Meadows’ masterpiece — a film that transcends the revenge genre, delivering a heart-pounding, intense story that lets events unfold in a way that is anything but simple.

Richard (Paddy Considine) returns home from military service with no intention of living a nice quiet life and settling down. The target of his rage: a low-rent drug gang that did some terrible things to his borderline simple brother Anthony (Toby Kebbell) some time before.

After Richard threatens a drug dealer and later gives him an unsettlingly twitchy apology, the gang of thugs suspect that ol’ Anthony’s brother might be a few screws short of a tool box, but don’t know how to react. Sonny (Gary Stretch), the most sadistic and smartest (and in a group like this, that’s not saying much), takes charge as best as he is able, but they are no match for Richard’s cool-headed brutality and military training.

This is when things get decidedly more ambiguous. What exactly happened to Anthony? What parts of Richard’s viewpoint are unreliable? When he faces the thug who has broken off from the gang and raised a family, Richard grows less and less sure of himself, leading to a shocking conclusion that rivals the majority of thrillers in its freshness and great writing.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that Paddy Considine’s performance here is one of the best acting jobs I’ve seen. He makes Richard thoroughly believable and doesn’t stoop to any tough-guy cliches. What Richard lacks in size, he makes up for in calm, calculated violence. His performance is powerful and a testament to lesser-known actors who seem to slip through the cracks all too often.

Toby Kebbell, who gets overlooked all too often is also very good as Anthony, a simple-minded fellow whose naivete proves to be dangerous as he navigates a rough area without his older brother, who he looks up to, to protect him. He is very believable playing a mentally retarded character, and doesn’t overplay his hand or make his character a ham-fisted caricature.

The other actors never match up to Considine’s ferocious portrayal of a vengeful loner, but they do fine on their own. There’s a scene between the reformed drug dealer and his wife that is very powerful and moving, and the thugs do good job as their drug-hazed obliviousness turns to fear.

There is also some humor (mostly derived from the stupidity of the antagonists) and some tender moments between Richard and his brother. “Dead Man’s Shoes” proves there is still some smarts left in the thriller genre, and boy do I love it for that. It benefits from a smart script and a blistering performance from Paddy Considine. Watch it, and you will not be wasting your time. I didn’t waste mine.

Tideland (2005)

“Tideland,” Terry Gilliam’s fantastical horror brain child, is an undeniably original, unmistakably repulsive journey into the life and mind of one troubled little girl (Jodelle Ferland.) To say it outstays it’s welcome it an understatement, the film clocks at over two hours and leaves an undeniably bad taste in one’s throat. The characters are hard to comprehend, much less like or understand.

All this would be bad enough without the bizarre intro by Terry Gilliam, who vaguely informs us that children ‘bounce back’ from situations such as these and tells us ‘don’t forget to laugh.’ But what is there to laugh at in a disgusting horror show such as this?  it’s as if Dave Peltzer of ‘A Child Called It’ fame had promised us a knee-slapping good time.

Between the role of Jeff Bridges as the girl’s junkie father, who sits down in a chair to shoot up, dies, and spends the majority of the movie in various states of decomposition, our prepubescent heroine trading ‘silly kisses’ and sexual curiousness with a mentally retarded man (Brendon Fletcher,) and Daddy (prior to his death) instructing his daughter to prepare heroin for him, I found very little to laugh at in this revolting freak show.

The fact that Gilliam expects us to laugh and see this whole travesty through the eyes of a child speaks volumes on the man’s mental stability. What does he think we are? Animals. Sub-human cretins who are all-too-eager and willing to laugh at the mental and psychological destruction of a child? Apparently, if Gilliam should have his way, we will be laughing at child endangerment through the eyes of that child, oblivious to the adult consequences of such atrocities. Mmm-kay.

After her harpy mother (Jennifer Tilly) O.D.’s Jeliza-Rose (Ferland), ten or eleven or so, is swept away from the squalid tenement she calls home by her druggie father (Bridges,) and tries her best to adjust to her new home in her father’s childhood house on the massive prairie, far away from anything. When Dad dies, Jeliza-Rose acts much as if he was alive, talking to his corpse and exploring the prairie, where she meets local freak Dell (Janet McTeer) and her brain-damaged brother, Dickens (Fletcher.)

Dell, who as it happens, bangs the stuttering grocery delivery boy (Dylan Taylor) in exchange for food, takes a liking to Jeliza-Rose and invites her and her doll heads (Jeliza-Rose frequently talks through her collection of severed doll’s heads, did I mention that?) to live in her and Dickens’ family home.

“Tideland” often references Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ as Jeliza-Rose ‘falls down the rabbit hole’ from one bizarre situation to another. Although technically well-made in many respects, “Tideland” is yucky, overlong, and had me begging for it to end by the halfway point.

Jodelle Ferland turns in pretty good performance as Jeliza-Rose (although I found her Southern accent exaggerated) and Brendan Fletcher gives a decent supporting performance as Dickens (who, through no fault of his own, reminded me a bit of Ben Stiller’s ‘Simple Jack’) but overall the film is a fail. I would recommend you watch “Alice” by Jan Svankmajer as a dark take on “Alice in Wonderland” rather than this. It is less sickening and doesn’t make you feel like you’re watching for hours on end, but hey, that’s just me.