Tag Archives: drugs

T2 Trainspotting

29 Mar
Johnny Lee Miller and Ewan McGregor reprise their roles as Sick Boy and Renton, both a little older but not much wiser

It’s been 21 years since Danny Boyle and Ewan McGregor shocked audiences with that creepy dive into a fecal-fleeced toilet in Trainspotting, somehow making being a heroin addict a hilariously biting — albeit tragic — trip along the way. Part gonzo romp, part sad social satire, the stylish weave followed the vein-piercing antics of four Edinburgh junkies, slaves to skag and capable of doing anything to score their next fix — including ripping off their best mates. Not a great lot to throw in with, but a highly entertaining one as the fix-needing squabbles reached the near hyperbolic absurdity of the Three Stooges.

At the end of that 1996 adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s cult novel, one of the four is dead and another runs off with the group’s hard-earned drug money, which leave affairs in a difficult place to pick up, but Boyle and his screenwriter John Hodge, who adapted T1 and has collaborated with Boyle on several other projects, have a real feel for the lads and leverage Welsh’s 2002 follow up, Porno to give the middle-aged blokes a shot at redemption before heading off for the nursing home.

We first catch up with McGregor’s Renton (the guy who stole all the money and — as the film has it — ruined everyone else’s life) now living in the Netherlands and who appears to have made good on his promise at the end of Trainspotting to change, but a small cardiovascular event trips him up (literally) and sends him back to Scotland where he learns his mom has passed. A quick check in with old pal Spud (Ewen Bremner) finds unhappy times for the sweetly pathetic user who’s been unable to shake his monkey. The reunion is cemented by an uproarious eruption of vomit that becomes one of the film’s most lingering images the same way excrement took center stage the last time. Next up on the reunion tour is Sick Boy (Elementary‘s Johnny Lee Miller) who half wants revenge but also needs Renton to help launch a massage parlor that’ll offer happy endings to those in the know. Renton agrees partly out of remorse and old time’s sake but also because he’s drawn to Sick Boy’s girlfriend and house-madam-to-be, Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova, who’s sultry, yet knowing presence lights up the screen). Continue reading

‘The Black Panthers’ and ‘7 Chinese Brothers’

13 Sep

In two very different films opening this week, much is asked of society. In one, “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution,” a documentary about the black activist group going to extremes to illustrate the plight of blacks in post-civil rights America, equality, fairness and a place at the table are demanded with shotgun bravado and mod hipness; in the other, a sleepy slacker tale, “7 Chinese Brothers,” Larry (Jason Schwartzman), the central protagonist, would like to drink and do drugs and not have to worry about money or work.

091115i 7 Chinese BrothersLarry’s not a bad guy, he’s got an inert French Bulldog with the greatest facial expressions and he looks after his ailing nana (Olympia Dukakis ) who’s in a nursing home, but he does get fired from his waiting job for stealing booze – and keys a coworker’s car on the way out. Around the corner at the same shopping mall complex, Larry quickly lands a job at a Quick Lube oil change shop, where her enjoys the discipline of assembly line work (he vacuums out the cars and has to pay a loose-money finders fee to the lube monkeys higher up the food chain) and falls for his new boss Lupe (Eleanore Pienta).

Not much really happens in “7 Chinese Brothers,” written and directed by Bob Byington. The muscular guy who got his car keyed (Jonathan Togo) looms, as does Lupe’s quick-tempered ex (Jimmy Gonzales), but the real stake through Larry’s world is Major (Tunde Adebimpe), the caregiver who looks after Larry’s nana, supplies him with pills and has a killer way with the ladies – including Lupe – and is the closest thing Larry has to a has to a human friend.  Continue reading

Cartel Land

9 Jul

The documentary “Cartel Land” from Matthew Heineman – and boldfaced produced by Kathryn Bigelow – is a stunning exposé of the lawless southwest along the U.S.-Mexican border, where the crystal meth drug trade thrives and vigilante forces on both sides of the fence try to stem it. It’s nothing short of “The Wild Bunch” meets “Traffic,” sans the cathartic denouement.

070915i Cartel LandHeineman gained a perilous unlimited access to his subjects; it might be more accurate to say he’s embedded. The film begins with the steamy nighttime capture of an outdoor meth lab where the brewers wear bandannas to conceal their faces from the camera – and the noxious vapors. They do what they do out of opportunity. “As long as god allows it, we make drugs,” one offers meekly. They learned how to make their cocktail from an American chemist and his son. (Maybe Walter White is still kicking around?)

From there we meet Tim “Nailer” Foley, who leads Arizona Border Recon and is listed as an extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He and his posse are well-armed, skilled and intrepid and never seem all that extreme, though some of their philosophies on other races and their intermingling might gain Donald Trump’s assent. Foley is a man’s man in every sense, lean, angular, philosophical, survivor of a hard life and tragedy, and he’s charismatic to boot.

You could see “Nailer” in a Clancy novel or Peckinpah movie, as well as Dr. José Manuel Mireles, who across the divide leads a paramilitary Autodefensas group that liberates villages from the tyranny of the drug cartels. Mireles, tall, striking, with a broad mustache, looks something like Robert Ryan in “The Wild Bunch,” and when we meet him he seems to have the popularity and adoration that followed Pancho Villa. About the only ones who have issues with his bringing stillness and order to remote outposts are the drug dealers, kidnapers and Mexican authorities, who as Heineman has it look to be complicit with those corrupting agents – a point that doesn’t get well explored.

Foley’s reflection on his troubled past and the revelation that Mireles is a surgeon by day and a grandfather give depth to the men and their community, while chaotic scenes of gunfire – with Heineman right in the middle of it all filming – fill the screen. It’s gorgeously shot and a step up for Heineman, whose last doc, “Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare” was a heavy handed look at the ills of the medical/insurance industry. “Cartel Land” is much more organic and visceral, and the image cut by the two figures, both fearless and fighting their own righteous war, is legendary in scope, even if the pendulum or reality says differently.

Inherent Vice

9 Jan

There’s drugs and free love a’plenty in Inherent Vice, but the characters steal the show 

Doc’s Orders

Joaquin Phoenix takes the audience on a trip in  'Inherent Vice'

Warner Brothers Pictures

Joaquin Phoenix takes the audience on a trip in ‘Inherent Vice’

Clearly Paul Thomas Anderson has a thing for the storied eras of America’s past. Boogie Nights welcomed in the rise of the porn industry during the flared-pant, disco-fueled 70s; the more nuanced The Master took up the arc of an L. Ron Hubbard-like charlatan in the wake WWII; while There Will be Bloodnegotiated the nasty, avaricious early roots of the American oil grab. Anderson’s latest, Inherent Vice, is no exception. In texture it’s an ode to the psychedelic 70s of free love and rampant recreational drug use.

Anderson’s always been a contemplative filmmaker with a keen sense of perverse quirk, and those qualities really come to the fore in Inherent Vice, a gumshoe noir on LSD if ever there was one. The stalwart indie director —who proved his ability to handle the opus works of literary lions by spinning Upton Sinclair’s Oil! into There Will be Blood — delves deep into Thomas Pychon’s far-roaming 2009 novel with baroque gusto. Continue reading

Better Living Through Chemistry

15 Mar

<i>Better Living Through Chemistry</i> Review

A pharmacologist who pilfers from his own stash doesn’t make for much of a story. It’s over-the-counter, flat, hypocritical and none-too-interesting. Love & Other Drugs tried to walk that (similar) line by throwing in a satirical skewering of the pharmaceutical biz with a heavy dose of amour while Better Living Through Chemistry tacks into it with a whacky rom-com skew, and as with the launch of any new panacea, the results are mixed, and some even concerning. The diagnosis of which leads directly to the writing/directing team of Geoff Moore and David Posamentier, who treat their cinematic go as an alchemy experiment, crushing in aBody Heat-styled femme fatale element along with pill-popping madness, dysfunctional youth mania and alpha female hen-pecking all blended together under a quirky Wes Anderson-like sheen.  Continue reading