Natural Born Killers (1994) Blind Spot Review

Natural Born Killers (1994)

Directed by Oliver Stone

Story by Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Robert Downey Jr, Tommy Lee Jones, Tom Sizemore, Rodney Dangerfield

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
A satirical black comedy crime film that tells the story of two victims of traumatic childhoods who became lovers and mass murderers, and are irresponsibly glorified by the mass media.

My Opinion:

Here we are with movie number three of my 2016 Blind Spot picks. I can’t believe I’ve actually managed to review one each month so far! (the previous two were An Education & Summer Wars). Other than The Doors & Platoon, I can’t say I’ve really liked any Oliver Stone films all that much so I went into this one with fairly low expectations. Plus, I’ve never exactly loved either Woody Harrelson or Juliette Lewis. Well, I have to say that I liked this one quite a bit and both those actors have gone up a little in my estimation (22 years later!).

I suppose it helps that Quentin Tarantino wrote the story? He wasn’t involved with the actual screenplay (I read that they changed his story quite a lot) but this movie has the overall vibe of the films he directed – not just in the extreme violence, of course, but also in the rich characters & dialogue.

I think it’s difficult to make a satire on our obsession with violence that then uses excessive violence to get its point across. Does this movie glorify violence just as much as it claims the media does, thanks to shows such as the film’s American Maniacs as hosted by Robert Downey Jr’s character? I read that, at first, this movie was going to be a straight-up action film before Stone decided to turn it into a satirical black comedy. I think changing the direction of the movie was a very wise decision. Actually, this is what I read at Wikipedia – I can see why he changed his mind:

“As the project developed however, incidents such as the O.J. Simpson case, the Menendez brothers case, the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan incident, the Rodney King incident, and the Federal assault of the Branch Davidian sect all took place. Stone came to feel that the media was heavily involved in the outcome of all of these cases, and that the media had become an all-pervasive entity which marketed violence and suffering for the good of ratings. As such, he changed the tone of the movie from one of simple action to a satirical critique of the media in general.”

I think the movie very much gets its point across and is even more relevant today as violence seems to be at an all-time high but, also, scenes of graphic violence are even more immediately accessible now than in 1994 thanks to the explosion of the Internet. It’s not some true-crime TV show (hosted by Downey Jr with, I gotta say, a really annoying fake Australian accent) that we have to worry about these days. Hell, American Maniacs looks like a Saturday morning kids’ cartoon compared to today’s video games & torture porn films never mind the disturbing clips of real-life violence which are far too readily available online thanks to everyone having their own damn video cameras in their phones. (Off Topic Rant: Man, I love my phone but wish I could time travel back to 1985 when peoples’ private lives weren’t being constantly recorded & uploaded for all to see. Kardashian-free 1980’s life sounds like a damn utopia now! Rant Over). So, Natural Born Killers is more relevant today but also wouldn’t actually work if made now as it’s no longer satire. Watching it now was quite scary, in a way, as I imagine it felt far-fetched in 1994? Now it just feels like one of those Making A Murderer type of true story documentaries that are so popular on Netflix.

I’m actually a huge wuss when it comes to violence in movies (I watch Tarantino’s with my hands over my face half the time) but am more accepting when the movie has a message like I feel this one does. There’s lots of blood in this but I was able to watch it all as it’s not as “gory” as Tarantino-directed films (which do glorify violence but are so cleverly written that I can’t help but love them anyway as a fan of film). Will someone go on a murder spree after watching this? Maybe. But someone who does that would’ve done that anyway whether or not they’d watched a violent movie or played a violent video game.

Oh crap – I really didn’t want to get into a deep discussion about the film’s message and about whether the media has a responsibility to humanity to not glorify violence and blah blah blah. That’s one of those arguments that can go around in circles for an eternity. All I’ll say is: Society is fucked. The media – including movies, TV, video games, websites – is just a reflection of society. It gives us what we seem to want based on our behavior. I think Natural Born Killers displays that logic perfectly but it’s a shame that its message, although extremely blatant, seemed to not be fully grasped by everyone at the time.

I think what worked for me with this movie besides the film’s message was its style. I loved the psychedelic scenes and Stone’s use of different colors. I thought the I Love Lucy sitcom-style scenes involving Rodney Dangerfield as the abusive father of Juliette Lewis were very inventive and the scene in the rattlesnake-filled desert was trippy. Hell, I even found the “marriage on the bridge” scene oddly romantic in a messed-up way. That’s the thing – I think most people watching this movie find themselves liking Lewis’ & Harrelson’s Mickey & Mallory despite the fact that they’re psychotic killers with no remorse. But that’s the whole point, of course. The media in the movie makes them stars and the movie itself has made their fictional characters stars. By the end, you want Mickey & Mallory to live happily ever after and THAT is truly fucked-up. That’s how good the movie is, though – it turns us into the Mickey & Mallory-worshipping audience of American Maniacs.

My Rating: 8/10

Advertisements

Scarface (1983) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

IMG_8998

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Melissa of Snap Crackle Watch!. Thanks for the review, Melissa! 🙂 Now let’s see what she has to say about Scarface, IMDB rank 130 out of 250.

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

Top 11 Reasons Scarface Is Still A Badass Movie

I watched Brian DePalma’s 1983 classic hit, Scarface for T9M’s IMBD challenge weeks ago. I have been racking my brain about what I could talk about or say that hasn’t already been said a million times about this movie. I am sure almost every single person in the world out there has at least heard of it, seen a scene or two or at least knows the most infamous lines. Needless to say, putting words to paper has been proving difficult. I decided to take a different turn and let’s just say this, Scarface is a great movie; I love it to death and could watch it over and over again. Some might hate it, but I am fan.

IMG_8821

I figured I’d compile something telling you why this movie 31 years later is still freaking awesome and fun to watch. Here are my 11 top reasons why Scarface is still a bad ass movie.

  1. Tony Montana is one sick, crazy, bad ass gangster: Enough said, but really before there was a Tony Soprano type bad ass in films, there was Tony Montana. He was twisted, crazy and hell bent on success. I find it hard to even think about another character as bad as him. The way he dressed, his swagger, he was just an all around kick ass ruthless dude. If you told me that he hung out with the “most interesting guy in the world,” I would totally believe it.

IMG_8841

  1. Al Pacino. This movie would not be what it is had Pacino held back. To say that he pushed the envelope is putting it nicely; he went all out, acting grandiose, narcissistic and overly confident to the point that he could make people believe he was “someone’ when he was as he put it “a nobody.” This movie sealed Pacino as one of the great actors of our generation and without him, the character of Scarface would never have become as iconic as it is today.

IMG_8842

  1. The film depicts events that are based on history. For one the crisis that was going on in Cuba at the time was tumultuous and Miami in the early 80’s was a hot bed for cocaine usage. Combine that with the fact that Cuban refugees did not have much to their name in terms of money, this helped to create a group of people who were willing to do anything and everything for some cash flow. The distribution and selling of drugs offered refugees an opportunity to make money and something of themselves. The movie has been criticized for being too violent and too overt, but say what you will this time in history fueled events that were aptly depicted in the film, bloodshed and all.

IMG_8843

  1. It’s written by Oliver Stone. It is evident that Stone was growing his penchant for movies involving drugs, sex and violence. At the time Stone himself was battling cocaine addiction and I am sure this only helped in making the movie seem more realistic. The thirst for that white gold was evident throughout the entire film. He indefinitely put his stamp on the film, he melded politics with current events of the 80’s and was able to tell a story that truly unveiled the psychosis of someone intent on pursing and staying in power. Stone said “Luxury corrupts far more ruthlessly than war,” and this underlying story is what makes it such a good film.

IMG_8844

  1. Michelle Pfeiffer as Elvira Hancock. She was sexy, blond and cool, and has inspired numerous female characters. Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction is reminiscent of her, Jessica Chastain’s new character in A Most Violent Year looks like her spitting image and Rosalyn in American Hustle had a bit of Elvira in her. With an iconic bob and bombshell body, she wore those silky 80’s dresses with sass and sophistication. I always loved that she didn’t let Tony boss her around and she was a woman who spoke her mind.

IMG_8845

  1. The movie is not subtle. As I mentioned before when this movie first came out it was criticized for being too violent. People walked out of the theater, especially during that chainsaw scene. I am sure if this movie came out today, no one would bat an eye, but had DePalma not pushed the envelope the way he did, it may not have the place in history it does now. I believe that the violence shown helped to elevate this film’s cult status and I am sure inspired other directors as well, maybe even Stone!

IMG_8846

  1. The cinematography by John A. Alonzo. What Alonzo was able to create from an aesthetic viewpoint helps to make this an even more remarkable film. The color scheme of dark played against the bright colors of Miami created a film that paired visually perfect for the story that was playing out on the screen. What turned out in the end was a movie that looked like pop art at its finest.

IMG_8847

  1. The epitome of the American dream. The story of Tony Montana is proof that anything is possible in America. Only in the US, can a refugee who just stepped foot in America, with no money in his pockets, end up as one of the richest men. Tony had no usable skills, but what he had was the confidence to succeed. He worked his way from just a hired hand to the mob, all the way to becoming the main boss. But what is really at work in this film is showing the dark side of the dream.

IMG_8848

  1. The love story between Manny and Gina. There are not a lot of sweet moments in the film. Briefly we see Elvira and Tony fall in love, but maybe they just loved each other because they were high on coke. Tony’s BFF Manny though does fall head over heels for Gina, Tony’s little sister. That moment after Manny married Gina, he was so happy and in love. He was so ecstatic that he lost sight of reality and told Tony the truth. The corrupt love story is sad and endearing, but one that only furthered depicted the depths of Tony’s madness.

IMG_8849

  1. The dialogue. This movie has some of the most iconic lines in it; the most famous would definitely have to be “Say hello to my little friend.” Many of the lines in the movie have even inspired many songs out there, especially in the rap genre, just listen to Notorious B.I.G’s the “Ten Crack Commandments,” and you will hear all of Tony’s drug dealing tips. The infamous line of “First you get the money, then you get the power” has also been used by too many rappers to even list. In Bruno Mars’ new song, Uptown Funk, the first line references Scarface, “That ice cold, Michelle Pfeiffer, that white gold.” The fact that a few movie lines has spawned a generation of songs and phrases, only further enforces how bad ass this movie still is today.

IMG_8850

IMG_8851

  1. The Pace. The pace of the film is almost as iconic as the movie itself. It is frenetic, fast moving and it never slows down from the very beginning to the end. This makes it such a fun and entertaining movie to watch, you almost feel as if you are on this wild ride with Tony, at points you want to get off, but he won’t let you. By the time you are done, you are exasperated from the craziness, yet you want more.

IMG_8852

Platoon (1986) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

IMG_6201.JPG

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from John of 501 Must See Movies Project . He also reviewed Amadeus HERE. Thanks for the reviews, John! 🙂 Now let’s hear his thoughts on Platoon, IMDB rank 144 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. I’ve stopped receiving so many guest reviews now so if you send yours soon, it should post soon. I only have enough for the next month.

IMG_0848.JPG

The first casualty of war is innocence.

Charlie Taylor (Charlie Sheen) is a green, fresh to arrive recruit in Vietnam.  Platoon follows Taylor and his company as they cope with the hardships of war, and the film brings back the reality of what went on over there to the big screen for the first time since Apocalypse Now (1979).

The unit breaks into two contrasting camps: one with Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger), who believes in total war and winning at any cost, and Sgt. Elias (Willem Dafoe), who is battle-tested but gracious in contrast to Barnes.  Each side as plenty of support, and they battle,  as Taylor puts it, “for possession of my soul.”

Platoon features a whole slew of familiar faces (Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Keith David, Johnny Depp, Forest Whitaker, John C. McGinley, Tony Todd, Mark Moses), many of which were at the beginning of their careers.

A couple of things added to the authenticity of this film.  Oliver Stone’s experience in Vietnam, woven throughout the characters Taylor encounters, and the preparation the actors went through in making this film.  They trained for two weeks before filming began, building camaraderie as a unit, digging foxholes, encountering “night attacks” to get used to the special effects that would be used.  The familiarity these actors had with their weapons made the actions and emotion seem genuine.

The acting in this film is top-notch.  The characters evoke strong emotions in the audience: you either really like or really hate what a person says or does.  I found myself completely disgusted with some of the men in the Barnes camp as they abused and mistreated both Vietnamese peasants and their fellow soldiers.  An interesting commentary on this came from Taylor as he was airlifted out at the end of the film.  He describes that the Vietnamese weren’t the enemy, instead we were our own enemy.  There is a lot of killing, granted, but more of it being American killing American than one would expect.

I believe I’ve said it before, but Willem Dafoe is probably one of my favorite actors.  This film is one of the reasons for that opinion.  He is a strong, committed character whose performance I felt stood above all the others. I also found it interesting that he never wear a helmet.  Ever.  Tom Berenger, though I don’t agree with his characters outlook and way of carrying himself, brings that type of soldier to life and it fully committed to his character.

Charlie Sheen does very well in this movie as well.  The contrast and how quickly his idealized or unaware outlook at the beginning of the film is quickly shredded and almost gone by the end of the film.  He quickly loses the label of ‘new meat’ and becomes one of the guys.  His judgement and discernment remain, though, which is refreshing and relieving.

It’s interesting seeing John C. McGinley in a role like this after watching him at Dr. Cox on Scrubs, but hey that might just be me.

Platoon is considered one of the best films of the 1980s, it won the Best Picture Oscar in 1987.  It’s authenticity and superb acting both contribute largely to its success.  It’s one I enjoyed, and I’d definitely recommend seeing.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.