Friday, February 26, 2010

Flowers for Alcatraz

Spoiler alert: if you haven't read the book "Flowers for Algernon" or seen the movie "Control" and want to be surprised at all by either, stop reading now.

One of the things I love about Netflix is how I now watch all kinds of movies I never would have before; both via DVD delivery and (even more so) via the "Watch Instantly" service. When you're standing in a RL video store and are confronted with what is assuredly a pretty bad movie at a cost of $2-5 to rent, plus the pain-in-the-ass of bringing it back... no soap, polar bear. I've turned around and walked out of Blockbuster empty handed dozens of times because I couldn't justify the cost-to-value ratio of any of the junk I saw.

Now? Bring on the junk. I've already paid my monthly subscription. And if I can't sleep because I'm waiting for my migraine meds to kick in, and need to do something brainless yet mildly attention-keeping... Netflix Watch Instantly. B-Movie opium on my computer or Xbox.

Which leads me to the film "Control," starring Ray Liotta and Willem Dafoe with smaller roles played by Stephen Rea and Michelle Rodriguez.

There are some actors I will watch in anything. Willem Dafoe is one of them. I just like him. I'm not claiming he's awesome or anything. But I just dig the guy's vibe. There are other actors who turn me off entirely. Ray Liotta is one of them. His presence in this film alone would have dissuaded me from picking up the box in a Blockbuster. Stephen Rea is a wash, as I think he has a certain charm... but not much acting ability. And Michelle Rodriguez maybe adds 5% interest as she has pretty eyes.

Note: the one actor who will ENTIRELY keep me from seeing a movie is Eric Roberts. I refuse to see anything with that man in it. Period. There's just something about him that makes me feel like if I have to watch him for more than 30 seconds I'll end up with hepatitis. I will admit that I saw "Batman: Dark Knight," which had him in it, but I didn't know about it ahead of time. Same with "Phat Girlz." Anyway...

So during my most recent migraine med waiting period, I streamed "Control." And I actually liked Ray Liotta in it. Which surprised the crud out of me. I was prepared to turn the thing off after 15 minutes because of my dislike for Ray. But he was playing a psychopathic killer (go figure) pretty well (go figure) and Willem kept me interested.

Here's the whole plot in 29 words. Sociopathic killer saved from execution by kindly doctor working on anti-aggressiveness drug gradually mellows out only to discover his transformation was predicated on a placebo and then dies.

I was reminded of the book "Flowers for Algernon," which I had to read three times in junior high. In that book, a mentally handicapped man is given a drug that makes him smart. For awhile. Then he goes back to the way he was, and we (young readers) are left with questions of morality, remorse, value and pets.

If you are standing in Blockbuster, I would still recommend you leave "Control" on the shelf. It ain't worth $3 and the cost of gas to return it. But if you can stream it, go ahead. I'd give it a solid "C" for "I shoulda 'C'-een the ending coming from a mile away."

Oh. Wait. If you read this far then you probably won't want to see it now anyway.

God love the Internet.

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