Oliver Stone

Scarface

Year: 1983
Directed By: Brian De Palma
Written By: Oliver Stone

RYAN’S REVIEW

Somehow we managed to pass where this movie should have been on the shelf and didn’t notice when it wasn’t there. It dawned on me recently when I was in Mexico that we hadn’t reviewed this movie. I was listening to all the Spanish being spoken and suddenly thought of the classic Spanish speaking mobster from Cuba. Somewhere along the line I must have lent my copy of this movie to some asshole who never bothered to give it back.

I’m not entirely surprised we passed it without noticing. Don’t get me wrong, like any normal person, I love this movie. Nevertheless, I have always found its overwhelming popularity to be a bit annoying. This is a great movie but I don’t think it belongs in the same category as other mobster movies like The Godfather or GoodfellasI would categorize it easily with a movie like Blow, but overall I think a movie about a drug dealer is fundamentally different than a movie about organized crime.

I would concede that Al Pacino might be better in this movie than he is in The Godfather movies but only because Tony Montana is a much louder character. A ruthless and unpredictable villain that simply outmatches the cold and calculating Michael Corleone when it comes to entertainment. The Don may have ordered a hit on his own brother, but Tony didn’t hesitate to personally kill his best friend at point blank range. Maybe the drugs had something to do with it in Tony’s case but it was just another move in Tony’s unpredictable behavior. Regardless which character is more entertaining I think it can be said that both are awesome. Al Pacino does a phenomenal job bringing both characters to life and he will be remembered forever for doing so.

When I was in college, like so many other people, I had a Scarface poster hanging in my apartment bedroom. Mine was huge and big enough to cover an entire window. I always had it draped over a window like a curtain so the black and white image of Tony Montana was always illuminated in my room. The image was from the end of the film, a tired and stoned Tony slouched at his desk behind a massive pile of cocaine. I still have the poster but it languishes away rolled up in some forgotten closet corner.

For the last ten years or so I have heard whispers about a possible remake of this film and I can’t stress enough how disappointing that would be. For a number of reasons it is the most ridiculous idea of all time. First would have to be how lame it is to make a remake of a remake. Yes we live in the era where studios have gotten so lazy they simply remake or reboot everything in order to cash in on name recognition but this is different. This is a classic movie that can’t simply be remade. You can’t recreate the writing of Oliver Stone or the performance of Al Pacino. Another reason being how you can’t recreate the 80s as they really were. One of the things I love about this movie is how it stands as a window into time. This movie is a picture of life in the early 80s and a modernized version would simply take away from something that was already great.

The newest news is that this movie is being remade with a script from the Coen brothers and Diego Luna set to star. Now if you’re going to redo Oliver Stone in his prime I can’t argue with the choice of the Coens. Two of the most clever writers there are, but I don’t think they are going to get involved with coke personally for inspiration. It is well known that Oliver Stone lived with his coke dealer for a while when preparing to write the movie and kicked the habit as he put pen to paper. I do really like Diego Luna, fresh off his Rogue One success, but he’d have to give the performance of a lifetime to win me over as a new Tony Montana. I have to admit I like the effort here in doing something special but I am still totally against it. It’s a travesty to sully a classic film with a new rendition.

I never understood why Steven Bauer didn’t reach greater heights as an actor. As one of the true Cubans in the film he was instrumental at not only bringing Manny Ribera to life but adding to the authenticity of the film with advice on his own culture. I have actually always liked Manny a little more than Tony Montana and hate the scene where he is gunned down. In a criminal organization you simply can’t replace a guy like Manny and Tony made a rash and critical decision when he murdered him over something stupid. As far as Steven Bauer goes I simply don’t know what ever happened to him. His career continued with many roles I haven’t seen myself but I always thought he was capable of more. This was one of the first movies he starred in and I simply can’t understand how it didn’t lead to much bigger things for him. The only other thing I have seen him in besides this movie was his awesome part as Don Eladio in Breaking Bad. I recognized him despite the aging that he has undergone and thought he was a perfect choice to be head of the Mexican cartel that was causing problems for the Chicken Man.

Like everybody else I love this movie for all the mobster shit but I like it too for it’s place in history. I like that Tony was part of a fool’s plan to bring over lots of immigrants from Cuba. After decades of conflict between Cuba and the United States it seemed inevitable that Cuba would clean out its prisons when it shipped people over to the states. I like that Tony is part of the Cuban Crime Wave and loved the scenes in Freedom Town. I was not alive when any of this went on but I think that’s part of what makes this movie great is it’s effort to cover something relevant at the time.

As hard as it is to believe I still come by people who have never seen this iconic movie. To those people I give a befuddled look of awe because I don’t know how they managed to miss it. This movie has been so influential over a wide range of media that I think those who haven’t seen it must be confused by a lot of things. If you haven’t seen this movie then it is a must watch. It’s a long one but it’s definitely worth your time to see it.

 

 

 

 

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Platoon

Year: 1986
Directed By: Oliver Stone
Written By: Oliver Stone

RYAN’S REVIEW

Back in 2003 I was 19 years old, in college, and aggressively involved in the world on a larger scale for the first time. At that young adolescent age my mind was exploding and I was hungry for all the knowledge in the world. For the first time I had stepped out of the world of Ryan (high school years) and started paying attention to the world around me. I was heavily invested in the Iraq War, both politically and emotionally. I was inspired and full of ideas in a way that only the young can be. I’ll never forget the feeling of despair I had when I sat in front of the TV and watched as the Iraq War officially began. I remember that once it had ultimately started I went to my tiny movie collection and put in this movie. I no longer wanted to see the reality of what must be taking place on the other side of the world. Instead I chose to watch the only thing I had that remotely related to the conflict, which was this movie.

Now there are several similarities between the Vietnam and Iraq wars but that had nothing to do with why I watched this film that night. I not only watched this film that night but I watched it every night after for probably as long as two months. This movie drew me in, it taught me something. It was real and a representation of the consequence of such actions. I watched it so much I knew every character in the film and when their character perished. This movie was made by a man who knew, a man who gave up his cushy life to fight alongside the common man who had no choice. This movie was based on the real life experiences of the man who made it, a man who lived through war. That meant something to me as my country entered another war that would undoubtedly lead to dire consequences for so many.

This is the movie that helped me understand war. The movie that taught me that war is more than action and wrong on several levels. There is “the way of war” and it’s an awful thing. No matter the circumstances that bring it about, when war becomes an option it is the innocent that suffer. In the way of war people are fighting for their lives. You have two sides pushed to the extreme and you have people caught in the middle. Who is to blame when horrible and awful things happen? The circumstances are a recipe for mayhem. When war is established life becomes dog eat dog for the people involved. It sucks but that is “the way of war.” Once the point of no return has been crossed the consequences that follow are inevitable.  Wars are fought by the young, especially this war because most of the men serving were drafted. Teenage boys carrying guns through the jungle can’t be held accountable for when they snap under the pressure. The people caught in the middle can’t be to blame because they are just trying to stay alive. There are so many unfortunate circumstances created by war. These things can never be lost on the men making the decision to go to war. People are going to suffer when war becomes necessary, it has to be for good reason or else it is just wrong and there is no justice to it at all.

When I was 19 years old I thought Oliver Stone was a God. Not literally of course but I thought he was head and shoulders above other filmmakers. He was the number one director in my mind and I felt his career was one of the greatest. Those illusions came crashing down a year later when the much anticipated, to me at least, Alexander came out. I had eagerly awaited that movie only for it to claim the highest echelon in the ranking of movies that crushed my soul. That is neither here nor there though as a year prior when I was watching this movie night after night I still had all my hopes and dreams for films invested in this man. Oliver Stone was Private Taylor from this film played by Charlie Sheen. Stone had dropped out of Yale to fight in Vietnam, something admirable that I respected then and still do today. Oliver Stone may be a bit of a conspiracy nut and like all conspiracy nuts he will bend the truth to serve his own purposes but there is still plenty the man deserves our respect for.

I had become infatuated with Stone for the wrong reasons prior to 2003. Like most young adolescent boys I was rebellious and as a movie fan I was drawn to the films that inspired my wild and immature inclinations. I liked to walk the fine line between good and bad and experimented with an aggressiveness that was encouraged by the movies I loved. Stone came into the picture with films like The DoorsAny Given Sundayand of course Natural Born KillersThese movies fueled my endeavors into rebellion, drug use, promiscuity, and profanity. There were several films and filmmakers that had this affect on me but it was Stone I stayed with as I matured from a boy into a young adult. With films like Platoon, Wall Street, Nixonand JFK Oliver Stone inspired me in new ways that molded my personality during the developmental years that continue in college. I have since grown out of the stage I was in when these films inspired me and I no longer see Stone in the same light I did back then. Nevertheless I still hold most of his films in high regard and I will always respect the man. A man that lived the life he does and did the things he has done deserves respect. I know better as an adult than to take everything he made at face value but there are still plenty of things I took away from his films and I appreciate the lessons that they taught me.

I have always found the Vietnam War to be fascinating and prefer the war movies from that era as opposed to the ones from before. There are different themes from those differing generations that I think are important. WWII left Americans with the impression that they were the greatest country in the world and could do no wrong. Many WWII movies I find enhance this theme. As a young man I whole heartedly believed in these all-American ideas as well but when I grew up I felt differently. Vietnam was like a slap in the face to Americans because it reminded them that not only were they not the unbeatable super power who could do anything but they were not even the good guys in some circumstances. Vietnam happened during a time when the children of the Baby Boomers were coming of age and they had different ideas about the state of the union.  The things happening in Southeast Asia were being broadcast on television every evening for the first time and the news was rarely good. It left an impact on the younger generations not only because it was in their face but because many of them were being recruited to fight in the conflict. Vietnam was going on during a cultural change in America. It was not a time where the country united to protect the world for the greater good like in WWII, but a time when the country was bleeding at home and divisions among the public were fueled by the conflict at hand. I feel like WWII films tend to represent the propaganda age of America while Vietnam films represent the realism that the country had to face. Vietnam films usually focus on the reality of war, the consequences that it creates, and the truth that we all need to understand as a people.

This movie taught me many of those truths, and I took them more seriously because the man teaching was one who knew. He was there and had firsthand experience in what he was trying to explain. I still find this film just as inspiring as I did when I was watching it for the first time and I still find lessons in it that we can all learn from. I am no longer the diehard Oliver Stone fan I was in my youth but that is by and large due to growing up. As an adult I am not as infatuated with the stoned and suspicious mind of Oliver Stone. The man’s work is on screen and he made some incredible things, but in the grand scheme of things they spoke to a younger version of myself that went into hibernation years ago before my kids were born. There is often a fine line between brilliance and insanity and Stone danced that line till he fell over into the insane side a long time ago. I am no longer the young and impressionable adolescent who believed in such grand ideas as the JFK conspiracy and believed that with a strong enough voice things in the world would change for the better. The world is what it is; you can only accept it at face value and keep moving forward. Delving into the larger scheme of things is only going to bring you disappointment and amount to wasted time.

There is something from this movie that I always used as an example to suggest Stone’s abilities and it had nothing to do with his take on the war. In this movie Oliver Stone got an impressive performance from Charlie Sheen in the role of Private Taylor, and again a year later in Wall Street. Charlie Sheen is an incredibly interesting person, but that aside, he has never been a particularly good actor. In the years before all his crazy antics in the press I used to wonder how it was that this man was such a celebrity and made such a good living at it. There were so few performances aside from the two already mentioned that I thought were worth anything. Point being, he was not a very good actor. However, I have always believed that a bad actor can be made great in a film by the right director. Hence the impression of Stone I had grew because of the performance he was able to get out of Sheen. In contrast I felt that in 2004 the opposite was true. Despite all the time he had invested in the film Stone made a horrible movie with his Alexander and specifically got an awful performance out of another bad actor, Colin FarrellAlexander, as far as I am concerned, was the end of Oliver Stone’s career for me as a fan because it signified a decline in skill. A couple years prior to Alexander one of the greatest directors ever, Steven Spielberg, had gotten a good performance out of Farrell in Minority Report. If Spielberg could do something that Oliver Stone could not it suggested to me that Stone had lost something, and I still feel like that holds true because in the last 10 years nothing he has done has impressed me as it did prior to Alexander.

Beyond Charlie Sheen this movie offers a very rich cast of actors. Tom Berenger gave one of the best performances on his career playing Sgt. Barnes. The role of Barnes was initially meant for Kevin Costner, who I think could have pulled it off well but Berenger made it his own. Willem Dafoe gave an equally good performance as Sgt. Elias. Dafoe is such an interesting actor and continues even until today to show a range and diversity as an actor that is impressive. Stone intentionally cast Berenger and Dafoe in roles contrasting what the public was used to seeing them play. Berenger, who usually played good guys, was cast as the ruthless and cruel Sgt. Barnes while Dafoe, who usually played villains, was cast as the crusader Elias. An interesting idea that worked well and brought more diversity to the careers of both men.

In the roles of other Sergeants were long time Stone collaborator John C. McGinley and the scariest man ever, Tony Todd. McGinley never reached that upper echelon of stardom but he played so many terrific parts over the years. Tony Todd plays a small part in this movie but his presence in anything should never go unnoticed because when you fail to notice Candyman he comes up behind you with a hook and kills you. Johnny Depp played the translator Lerner in one of his first roles ever. Stone reportedly met with him during casting and immediately predicted his future fame. In fact he considered casting Depp in the lead role of Taylor but didn’t because Depp was so young and unknown at the time. Keith David plays one of the biggest parts of any of the grunts in King. I am a big fan of Keith David and like just about everything he has ever done. Also as another grunt was future Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker whose part was small but shouldn’t go unnoticed.  Kevin Dillon played Bunny, the sadistic grunt who by the end nobody knows what to make of. Dillon probably had high hopes for his career in 1986 but he turned out to be the less famous brother of his not so famous older brother Matt Dillon.

The making of this movie was quite an incredible thing that went a long way with how the final product came out. As a veteran Stone didn’t just cast actors and put them in the jungle. He went farther and put them through an actual boot camp in the Philippines that ended the day before shooting. He didn’t want them to have any down time after the camp because he didn’t want them getting soft again before shooting the movie. It was a rigorous shoot that had some actors feeling like they had actually been in the war by the time they got home. Charlie Sheen reportedly kissed the ground upon his return to the States. These guys went into the jungle and did it the hard way; the way it should have been done to get it right. Even the fun stuff during this shoot was hard on the actors. In the scene where King takes Taylor to “meet the heads” the actors had been actually getting high all day on potent Filipino weed. By the time they actually shot the scene they were all stoned out of their minds and some were even feeling sick. An interesting story that I’ve always figured had to play into the long term drug use of the young Johnny Depp and Charlie Sheen. I don’t know but if I had to guess I’d wager Oliver Stone was the guy who introduced Charlie Sheen to his favorite drug of choice, cocaine. I imagine the Filipino weed was merely a stepping stone for Sheen as he moved onto coke and ultimately…tiger blood.

This movie is important to me because it taught me something that I will never forget. However this movie is important for many more reasons because it was a great movie and it accomplished what it intended to. The screenplay for this movie was written back in the 70s when Stone returned to America and didn’t appreciate how the war was depicted in John Wayne’s The Green BeretsIn that sense it succeeded in depicting a more realistic view of what the war was actually like. It wasn’t alone in trying to send that message as a few films about Vietnam came out around the same time. Most notably, Full Metal Jacket came out the following year. Both are great movies but they should not be compared because they are so different. Platoon was a film about the Grunts while Full Metal Jacket was a film about the Jarheads. The significant difference there was that men were drafted into the army while the marines are a branch made up of volunteers. That makes all the difference as one film is about men who chose to serve while the other is primarily about men who had no choice in the matter.

The Vietnam War was a fascinating chapter in American history and a true example of how history is never used enough going forward. Had the powers that be reflected on history during the development of the conflict in Vietnam the whole thing may have never happened. On the flip side, had the lessons from that conflict specifically been learned the US may not have entered another long war to force democracy down the throats of people who had no interest in it. It is difficult to fight a war on the other side of the world for reasons that mean little to the inhabitants. Guerrilla warfare is hard to combat, the British learned that over 200 years ago but somehow the lesson seems lost on the US. When the enemy can be anybody and can come from anywhere bad things will happen all around to everyone involved. The soldiers fighting under the pressures of their lives being on the line can’t be held accountable for the things that happen nor can the inhabitants who at some point may just get fed up and take up arms against the foreign soldiers in their country. It is the “way of war” and war never goes well. It’s not an action movie and it’s not a video game. When it happens people are going to suffer and someone’s hands are going to get dirty.

Movies are made to entertain but they are so much better when they can actually teach us something at the same time. This movie can do that and I appreciate it more for that very reason. This is a great film and it doesn’t need my stamp of approval on it because it has plenty already. If you haven’t seen this movie then you are missing out. If you don’t know the incredible history of the Vietnam War you are missing out, but you’d need a lot more than a movie to learn about that. As time moves forward things get lost behind us but it is important to never forget the lessons the past has to offer. This movie, for me at least, represents such a lesson and that makes it worth everybody’s time. This is an awesome movie and I think everybody should see it.

NEXT MOVIE: Pleasantville (1998)

Natural Born Killers

Year: 1994
Directed By: Oliver Stone
Written By: Oliver Stone, the original screenplay that was picked up off the bottom of a pile of rejections was by Quentin Tarantino

RYAN’S REVIEW

It gives the wrong impression, it’s not something I generally admit to people openly, but this is my favorite movie of all time.  Since the very first time I saw it I was in love with it. It is unlike any movie I have ever seen and I think it is indisputably a work of art, despite its content.

As to the content of this movie. This isn’t violence it’s anger, pure unadulterated anger.  Anger at a world that isn’t right.  Anger that manifests itself in a violent response.  Mickey and Mallory are the response to what this world was in 1994 and still is.  It is a violent and evil world; there is no innocence, even among the good.  Everything is mainstream and we all do as we are told.  Mickey and Mallory came from the worse elements of this world and what they turned into was simply reactionary. The response from the world depicted  by the public in this film isn’t off base either, that’s the sad reality of the whole thing.

I don’t think this is a movie that should be watched by a younger audience and I don’t think it’s wise for unsettled people to watch it under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs.  Both of which have caused unfortunate problems in the past and the consequences were grave.  It is an awful thing when people watch a film and do something crazy afterwards. I like it even less when the film is blamed because the actions that follow are on the heads of the perpetrator and not film.  Those people were and are crazy.  If it isn’t the film or song they were listening to that triggered them then it would have been something else.

I myself watched this movie at too young of an age in truth. I was 15 or 16 the first time I picked it up off the shelf at the video store I worked at.  I specifically remembered that my step-father had watched it with my older brother and found it repulsive; saying that the rest of us were never to see it.  More than anything it was the look on his face I remember, and the tone in his voice. Something about this movie made it different. We were forbidden from in it a way that somehow surpassed other such declarations. It was years later when I broke the rules and tasted this forbidden fruit alone in my room.  I can say honestly that it had me from the opening scene and instantly became my favorite movie of all time. It claimed the spot early and has never been toppled.

I have also, as a matter of fact, watched this movie under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs and I’m not afraid to admit that.  I was in college; a time long long ago in a town far far away.  Oliver Stone was under the influence of mushrooms at times before and probably during the filming of this movie.  The influence of psychedelics is obvious even to someone who has never experienced them. The scene when Mickey and Mallory eat mushrooms and get followed by a cop was actually based on something that happened to Stone and someone else while they were scouting locations.  Seeing this movie on mushrooms was like watching a different film and I have thought since that the movie was made to be seen like that.  Obviously it is not something I recommend to people and it’s not an experience I expect to have again as times are different now and youthful experimenting is a thing of the past.

I think this movie gets a bad rap, but it earned that in spades.  The content of this movie is harsh and it’s not for everyone.  I have just always seen through all of the violence and loved what is beneath.  Underneath it all is a relationship that I have always found inspiring.  Mickey and Mallory are two people completely in love and hopelessly dedicated to one another.  Their actions are fiendish and awful, but the connection they share is a beautiful thing.  When I was in high school I would tell people about this and tell them to look at the love story that was underneath it all.  I love their marriage over the river when they bond their blood and send it into the river.  I also love when they finally reunite in prison during the riot, great scene.  I don’t care for the implied rape of the hostage, and the very real allusion to it in the uncut version of the film.  These are really bad people, and these are the kind of things those types of people do.  I don’t condone any of the actions Mickey and Mallory take in the film. I love the characters but in no way think that anything about them is alright. It’s just a movie though, and rooting for bad guys is always a guilty pleasure. These bad guys happen to share a love that I admire and it is the love that gets me with this movie.  There is plenty to love and appreciate about this movie but for me it’s all about Mickey and Mallory.  They have a love for one another that is special.  Sure they are crazy, but they are crazy for each other in a touching way.

At the top of this review I credit Oliver Stone with the writing of this film and I want to explain why.  When Quentin Tarantino was trying to get started he sold two screenplays to earn enough money to get Reservoir Dogs started.  Those screenplays were True Romance and Natural Born Killers.  Both of which turned out to be good films. Good films both of which were about a couple that go on a wild cross country crime spree and kill a lot of people. Yeah the stories are different, but only by variation. Quentin Tarantino has loudly criticized this movie in the past because so much of what he intended was changed, and because…you know, his giant over bloated ego was wounded.  Tarantino is brilliant, but when he starts talking he rarely comes across as anything but an arrogant douche bag. Oliver Stone is an incredible writer in his own rite.  He picked up this screenplay off the bottom of a pile of rejected scripts and redid it in his own way. With all due respect to Tarantino, he is a great filmmaker, but he isn’t even half the talent that Oliver Stone was in his heyday.  I’ll be the first to admit things are dramatically different now and the exact opposite today but in his day Stone was hands down incredible.  He made some outstanding movies that, despite their content or political agenda, were works of art and most of them are absolutely unique in their own way.  This movie for example, is unlike any you will ever see.  If you can look past the surface and see it for what it really is you will see that this is more than a film.  It is the product of an artist who was in his element, with a camera as his brush and an editing room as his studio.

During his heyday Oliver Stone was the type of director that a lot of grade-A talent wanted to work with.  You only need to look over the casts of his films from the 80s and 90s to see that.  This movie was no different and the cast it offers is an outstanding one.  It starts with the lead roles of Mickey and Mallory.  Woody Harrelson is not only an interesting person personally but he is the kind of acting talent that it is hard to not like.  He has seemed to only get better with age and this day in age he is just so flawlessly cool.  He is excellent as Mickey Knox. Mickey is uneducated and ignorant but sly and cunning despite that.  He is vicious in the ways that only a man of lifelong repression can be yet he wins you over with that charming quality that can only be embodied by Woody Harrelson.  Harrelson has the benefit in this film of having an outstanding counterpart in Juliette Lewis. To cast Mallory Knox they had to find someone who could be sexy yet batshit crazy at the drop of a hat.  They couldn’t have chosen better.  Nobody pulls off batshit crazy like Juliette Lewis. She is such a badass, she actually broke Tom Sizemore’s nose while filming their scene in her prison cell. I don’t know what has happened to her lately as she only appears in the most random of films these days and always as a cameo.  She doesn’t capture the big roles anymore and I don’t know why because I have always thought she was an outstanding actress.  Like Harrelson she also has a really interesting back story personally.

Tom Sizemore brings his own element of crazy to this film.  I have always been a big fan of Sizemore but his personal life has loudly been problematic.  He has had significant struggles with drugs as well as anger issues that have led to problems for him before.  I do not condone his personal actions but I have always liked him in the supporting roles he is famous for.  In this movie he fits the part like no one else could have and I think he is really good as Jack Scagnetti.  The name of his character specifically is part of this movie that shows its roots from Tarantino.  Scagnetti is a name Tarantino has used before.  In Reservoir Dogs Mr. Blonde mentions his parole officer is named Scagnetti.

This was one of the last significant acting roles Rodney Dangerfield had as his career came to a close.  That is unfortunate as it was a very unsavory role but like Sizemore he just fit the part so well.  I was never a fan of Dangerfield’s loud style but in this movie he did something dramatic and different.  He plays a sick and depraved man. The type that makes you feel sorry for the daughter that grows up to be a psychotic killer. This was Rodney Dangerfield’s first and only performance in a dramatic film and I think he did an excellent job. Despite the role he plays in this movie Dangerfield deserves the respect and recognition of comedy fans.  He was a one of kind comedian who helped pave the way for those who would follow him.

Rounding out the big names in the cast is none other than Oliver Stone’s good friend Tommy Lee Jones who he shares a birthday with.  Jones is a bit over the top in this film but he did so on purpose.  As a Harvard graduate Jones is a highly intelligent actor who in fact was never schooled in his trade.  Jones never took an acting class but that has never inhibited him.  He has had a long and distinguished career as an actor that he continues to build on.  Jones was hot during the time this movie came out having hit it big winning an Oscar for The Fugitive the year before. This role is a much different part and that only highlights his talent as an actor.  He became a beloved actor playing straight laced types like we saw in The Fugitive or The Client but in this movie he is much more uncouth and heinous. It’s not my favorite role from Jones by any means but I still like what he brings to the table as McClusky.

This movie makes a statement about society, the media, human nature, and American culture in the mid nineties.  I think by and large it is misunderstood, but with good reason.  There is a lot more to this movie than meets the eye at first approach.  If you don’t see anything but the worst in it then you are missing out on what makes it the best.  I love this movie and I have never been afraid to admit it.  I have never been one to broadcast it because it sets the wrong impression but I will gladly mention this movie every time the question of favorites comes up.  This movie is my favorite because it is different, because it is bold, and because it says something about the world.

I don’t generally recommend this movie to people, because it isn’t for everyone and I fear too many just won’t understand.  I don’t argue about it either, the content is too controversial and strong opinions come with it.  A movie like this comes with certain preconceived notions and assumptions that can give people the wrong idea about a fan.  People will think what they think but anybody who doesn’t look deeper into this one is missing out.  It has been my favorite movie of all time since the first time I saw it and I love it just as much every time I see it again.  Watch this one at your own risk, it is what it is and not to be taken for granted.  It’s not like other films but that it part of what makes it special.

 

AMBER’S REVIEW

Ryan made me watch this when we were in college. I wasn’t allowed to see anything like this growing up. I didn’t know a movie like this even existed until Ryan showed it to me. I have seen it many times now over the years, but even today it sucks me in and intrigues me. The story is incredibly different than anything else I had ever seen, and still today is a great take on the media. It’s even worse today than when this movie was made. Imagine this movie set in today’s world, with social media the way it is today. It was ahead of its time, not even knowing what the monster social media would become.

Natural Born Killers PosterThis poster is cool. I don’t think it does the film justice, but for its time in history, I think it’s pretty cool. The image is set in all black and white, with the exception of his glasses, which also have the reflection of Mallory. There could be so many connections drawn here about the color and the image of Mallory, but I feel it’s all too cliché now, and probably wouldn’t work today. I just don’t feel like this poster is memorable or as special as the movie is. It really gives no allusion to what the movie is at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEXT MOVIE: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

 

 

 

JFK

Year: 1991
Directed By: Oliver Stone
Written By: Oliver Stone and Zachary Skylar.  Based on books by Jim Garrison and Jim Marrs.

RYAN’S REVIEW

In my early years of being a serious movie fan Oliver Stone was my absolute and unopposed favorite filmmaker. There were others I loved but none I thought had the talent or brilliance of Stone.  He had made the movie that today still stands as my favorite of all time and his body of work was impeccable as far as I was concerned.  Stone did more than make great movies; he made epic stories that were woven together with great acting, intelligent scripts, and incredible editing.  This movie was part of what I thought made him so great.  This movie is perfectly put together and will undoubtedly convince any unaware viewer that Lee Harvey Oswald was not only not an assassin but possibly some very important man involved in the greater and deadlier game of high end politics and conspiracy.  Having done extensive research on the matter I can all but guarantee that is not the case but that does not take anything away from this movie.  This movie is 100% fiction, but that does not change the fact that it is both a significant film and a true work of art.

First and foremost, as far as any conspiracy theory goes, it is important to know two things.  Number one being that Jim Garrison was not the character Kevin Costner portrayed in the film.  He was a bully and borderline madman who was not fighting for justice but simply stirring up trouble.  Secondly, Lee Harvey Oswald was neither a government agent, nor any kind of patriot as the movie will lead you to believe.  He was not a patsy; he was a nobody that changed the world by doing something big.  Oswald was a sad and pathetic man that hated this country as much as he hated his life.  What he did he did on his own, and there is enough evidence to that effect to prove it beyond any reasonable doubt. Oswald was an interesting person, as all sad and slightly unhinged people are but the fact of the matter was he was a nut job.  Plain and simple crazy is all he was and anybody that thinks otherwise simply needs to do their own research and quit listening to conspiracy buffs. Yes the circumstances of his life, and death, can easily lead people to the conclusion that there must be more to the story but there isn’t.  He did it, we know he did it, and a conspiracy on the level this movie implies is simply not possible.  Michael Rooker’s character said it best in the movie when he pointed out they were building an investigation into a conspiracy involving all levels of government, the mob, and military yet they could not keep a secret among 12 people in their own office.  People talk, a secret on this level could never be kept. Especially 50 years later.  I know there are undoubtedly many secrets the government has from us as citizens but one thing to keep in mind is that we learn many of them as time goes on.  Today we know who Deep Throat was, we know FDR secretly manipulated events to lead us into WWII, we know that the U.S.S. Maine wasn’t sunk by enemies; we know that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was overblown to lead us into war, and the list goes on and on.  These secrets are revealed when the history books are written yet conspiracy buffs will have you believe that this major conglomerate of conspirators have managed to keep this one secret even until today.  I am simply telling you it isn’t there.  Occam’s razor applies in this case.  Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK, and things are not as dramatic and exciting as we would like to build them up in our mind.

This movie makes a really big deal about the “magic bullet” and that is what I hear most people mention when they insist there had to be a conspiracy.  The “magic bullet” does present a convincing argument but only because the facts are never all on the table.  This bullet didn’t make dramatic turns in midair or stop and start again.  It was simply one shot that traveled on a straight line and passed through both Kennedy and Connally.  What you don’t see in this movie or hear from conspiracy buffs is that the vehicle Kennedy and Connally were riding in was not typical.  It was built differently than most in which the front seat was lower and to the left of the back.  The bullet was a post Geneva Convention bullet that was specifically designed to pass through the body. There are plenty of diagrams online and in conspiracy books that will show you this strange pattern that no bullet could possible travel but they never take into account how the car was built or the exact positions of the passengers.  I have seen the true diagram in both the Warren Report, and in a very good book by Gerald Posner  called “Case Closed.” It’s not as dramatic as some would have you believe and it doesn’t leave much room for doubt if you understand the true circumstances of the shot.

Another important part of the conspiracy theory to consider is Jack Ruby, played incredibly in this film by Brian Doyle-Murray, brother of Bill Murray.  There is absolutely no room for Jack Ruby to have been involved in any conspiracy.  Not only is there documented evidence that proves his crossing paths with Oswald before he killed him was coincidental, but Ruby did not attempt to kill Oswald. This movie would have you believe that Ruby was a button man for the mob making a hit on Oswald when he shot him but that simply isn’t the case.  Ruby is on record saying that he never actually intended to kill Oswald, only hurt him badly and this is obvious.  If Ruby was in fact out to kill Oswald why shoot him in the stomach? He shot him in the stomach in an effort to put him in a world of pain, but if he had truly intended to kill him he would have shot him in the head or chest.  Ruby was a small time nightclub owner/snitch who would not have been the choice for this type of kill if it was a planned hit.  Ruby was deeply upset over the death of JFK and the effect it would have on his beautiful wife and children.  When he coincidentally showed up right as Oswald was being led out he saw a smirk on his face he couldn’t live with. Pulling his gun and shooting Oswald was nothing more than a simple crime of passion.  I said that Ruby crossing paths with Oswald was coincidental because it was.  There is documented evidence that proves Ruby was across the street wiring money by way of Western Union only minutes before he shot Oswald.  He literally only had enough time to walk back across the street and be there at the right moment.  Had it been a planned hit this is not how it would have happened.  Not only that, but Oswald should have been long gone by the time Ruby reached the parking garage anyway.  He wanted a different sweater or something before being led out and in the time it took to get one Ruby had wired his money and was coming back.  Executions aren’t done this way and if it was set up then Jack Ruby was the luckiest assassin of all time, and that just isn’t the case.

What this movie does a great job of is convincing you that there absolutely had to be a conspiracy.  Oliver Stone may have been a great filmmaker but he has always had something personal invested in his movies.  He has an agenda and in this case it was to convince us that there was a conspiracy regardless of whether there was any truth to it.  In fact many of the things that Stone has in this movie aren’t false, yet they aren’t based on any credible evidence.  Most of the interviews taken and quoted were from people who either changed their story later or eventually came out with the truth of the matter.  For example, the character played by Kevin Bacon, Willie O’Keefe.  There was no Willie O’Keefe; he is based off a combination of real life people who had no credibility.  Most notably he is based on a man named Perry Russo, one of the key witnesses against Claw Shaw in the real trial.  Russo was lying though, and in order to get the testimony he wanted Jim Garrison in real life both drugged and hypnotized Russo. As I said earlier though, the real Jim Garrison was not the person we saw Kevin Costner play in the movie.  The real Jim Garrison was a bit unhinged and a little crazy.  In the case of David Ferrie, played brilliantly by Joe Pesci in the film, the movie would have us believe he was murdered to keep him quiet.  In real life things were much different.  David Ferrie was a sickly man already, and it is said that the pressure put on him by the offices of Jim Garrison was what finally put him on his death bed.  He was hounded day and night by the offices of Garrison and became very paranoid and apprehensive.  The stress proved to be more than he could handle, he died shortly after the news of his involvement in Garrison’s investigation broke. There have been reports that he was in the CIA but all reports have been conflicting. The conspiracy theories that sprang up in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination eventually took on a life of their own.  It’s a school of thought that is still growing today and it has always called all kinds of people out of the wood work seeking their five minutes of fame with “new information.”

Despite any truth or accuracy as to the content of this film it is still one worth your time.  It’s a significant movie because it convinced so many people with its message that the case was actually re-opened by the government.  What did the government find in that investigation? Nothing, new evidence was released and scheduled for eventual release but nothing was uncovered to change what we already know.  Still, when a movie is powerful enough to call for government action it’s something worth remembering.

So while its message is way off base it’s still an incredible movie.  The cast is so large it would take me forever to go through everybody involved but I will say they all did a terrific job.  Gary Oldman might as well have actually been Lee Harvey Oswald he fit the part so well.  Joe Pesci was on the spot as usual, nobody brings intensity to a role quite like him.  Tommy Lee Jones plays a great part but I don’t think it was his best role in an Oliver Stone movie.  John Candy has an incredible cameo that shows he had the potential to be much more than simply a funny guy.  Brian Doyle-Murray was a great choice to play Jack Ruby and he did great. Kevin Costner was a big draw when this movie came out having hit it big the year before with Dances with Wolves.  I have never been a big fan though, and I don’t think he was great in this movie, merely OK.  I probably like him less though because of his obviously forced accent and the fact he played a guy who was quite a bit crazier than he made him out to be.  Sissy Spacek, Wayne Knight, Donald Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Ed Asner, Michael Rooker, and Laurie Metcalf also should be mentioned because each of them brought something to the film on their own.  I also liked seeing both Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in the movie as well, the men were both legends and it is unfortunate that they are not with us today.

I need to stop myself now because I have already said much more than I intended to in this review.  I have of course been very critical of the content of this film and I understand how controversial those opinions may be to the “believers.” Feel free to argue with me if you like but I encourage anybody unsure to simply do their own research and ignore all the people that would have you believe they know something about something that proves there had to be a conspiracy.  Nevertheless this is still an incredible film despite any objections I may have to the conspiracy theory and I can certify that the movie is still well worth your time.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I thought this movie was so amazing and intriguing the first time I watched it. I think we were in college, and being young and naive I believed it for true history. You know the ol’ conspiracy theory stuff. But then, my incredibly smart husband wrote an in depth paper on the assassination of JFK. I listened to him talk about it, watched him read these massive sized books about it until he finally came to the conclusion that there never was a conspiracy at all it a lone gunman doing something crazy and succeeding. Having said all of that, I don’t believe there was a conspiracy, but I do think this a great movie. He sure can make you believe there may have been one.

JFK

NEXT MOVIE: Judgment Night (1993)

The Doors

Year: 1991
Directed By: Oliver Stone
Written By: J. Randall Johnson & Oliver Stone

RYAN’S REVIEW

Ten years ago this was one of my favorite movies and I watched it all the time.  In hindsight, that was probably part of my problem in my late teens. I haven’t seen this movie in several years since I took a ride with it and it led me to a dark place.  This is a great movie made by a guy that was really really high when he put his vision together.  You can be stone cold sober and still feel like you are tripping when you watch this movie, but that’s part of what makes it exceptional. The soundtrack is also noteworthy.  I am still a fan of The Doors and their music plays throughout the entire film.

Oliver Stone has always been one of my favorite directors and he made many great movies in the 80s and 90s.  Stone has never been any stranger to drug use and I think that is more than obvious in nearly all of his films.  Even in the beginning of his career he was writing the screenplay for Scarface and basing it partly on his own personal experiences.  He was getting really high while making his Academy Award winning film Platoonalso based in part on personal experiences in the war.  He has been busted numerous times over the years for using drugs as well.  I don’t think there is really any problem with an artist finding his creative motivation with drugs though, especially if he is making something great.  I do think he made something great with this film too, but at the same time I must admit it didn’t do me any favors in my youth and I consider it a disruptive influence for anybody young.

Stone was a fan of The Doors and he put a lot of effort into this film.  He did a lot of research when writing but took many liberties with the story nonetheless.  Stone does that; he makes an effort to tell the truth but inevitably deviates from the plan in order to tell the story he wants to tell.  Jim Morrison‘s real life girlfriend Patricia Kennealy served as an advisor on the film and even played a small part as the priestess in the Wiccan wedding ceremony.  Yet she still had a problem with her portrayal in the film and Stone later admitted that he wrote her as a combination of many women and should have renamed the character.

Stone was initially reluctant to cast Val Kilmer in the role of Jim Morrison.  Kilmer was persistent in his efforts to get the role and personally financed the recording of him singing songs by The Doors.  He played a tape for Stone saying that some of the songs were him and some were Morrison singing.  When Stone couldn’t tell them apart Kilmer got the job and what a job he did.  This is easily one of the best performances of Kilmer’s career and he did a great job of looking and sounding just like Jim Morrison. Meg Ryan may have had the leading female role but I actually think Kathleen Quinlan played a better and more significant part. The film also has a great supporting cast including Michael Madsen, Kevin Dillon, and Michael Wincott.

I don’t watch movies about musicians and bands very often because they all seem to tell the same story.  The musicians that get films made about them are all self-destructive and arrogant people that don’t look so good in the feature.  I’m thinking mainly about Johnny Cash and Ray Charles in addition to this film about Jim Morrison. These men were all heavy drug users who took advantage of others around them and I think the movies about them actually tarnish their memory instead of honoring it.  I don’t like watching films that I feel like I have seen before so I specifically didn’t like Ray or Walk the Line. I’m afraid I only have room for one film about a self-absorbed and out-of-control musician in our collection and this is the one that got my attention early. It has ruined me on all the other films like it.

This is a great movie but it does drag out a bit too long at two hours and twenty minutes.  There are only so much drugs and alcohol you can watch Morrison ingest during that time and it gets to be too much at times.  If you are a fan of the music made by The Doors then you should definitely see this film because most of their best songs are played.  Otherwise I don’t know that there is much point to seeing this film.  I think it’s a good one and I still like it but it is only in our collection as a relic from our youth.  This one takes us back and reminds us of times when we lived a wilder life but we are different people today. So I will only tentatively recommend this film and warn you of its well deserved R rating, this film is good but buyers beware.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Gah, I don’t want to even write about this movie. It takes me back to college and the days I don’t talk about anymore because, well I am a mother now and moms don’t talk about their crazy college days. This movie is by the great Oliver Stone, and I am sure Ryan expressed his undying love for above. It is beautifully made and captures a time in history of chaos while following the life of Jim Morrision. I love the way they played the music throughout the film. It had all of the iconic songs and more of the ones you know if you are a Doors fan. This is a really cool movie, and it was obviously made for people who are on drugs. It is really trippy, just like the time, the person and the music.

NEXT MOVIE: Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993)

The Day Reagan Was Shot

Year: 2001
Directed By: Cyrus Nowrasteh
Written By: Cyrus Nowrasteh

No Trailer Available

RYAN’S REVIEW

What I have never really understood about this movie is why it is a made for TV movie.  This is a fascinating story that deserved to be broadcast on a larger scale.  Everything from the totally psychotic killer to the behind the scenes problems to the fact that the president survived at all make this story more than interesting. I am a student of history so naturally I really enjoy this movie but I think it is a story we can all relate to.  This film was made on a limited budget with limited resources but made the most with what it had.  Oliver Stone served as an Executive Producer on the film. It was his role in the film that was what initially got my attention.  I think I saw it for five dollars at Wal-Mart and I bought without even having seen it.  I take chances like that occasionally and I am happy to say this time it worked out well.

John Hinckley Jr. shot the president in an attempt to get the attention of actress Jodie Foster.  Writers can’t even come up with things that crazy because no one would believe it. It’s crazy enough that this kind of nut job was even allowed close enough to the president to shoot him, but that he was successful was just pure insanity.  Hinckley is a good example of why the insane are not to be fooled with but to be taken seriously. He is also a good example of how our government’s inability to communicate efficiently has led to problems in the past, before 9/11. I don’t know specifically whether or not this film stays true to history, but I do know many of these things did in fact happen on the day that Ronald Reagan was shot. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this “Dr. Strangelove scenario did in fact take place in a command center at the behest of Alexander Haig and other high-ranking military men.

I said it was surprising and interesting that Reagan survived the shooting for a number or reasons.  His age being the number one reason, and the actual wound being another.  The bullet narrowly missed his heart.  Another reason being the long-standing presidential death curse. There is an alleged ancient indian curse that has correlated with the deaths of U.S. presidents elected on years ending in 0. It began with William Henry Harrison, who was elected in 1840 at the age of 68.  Years earlier Harrison led a troop of soldiers that killed some indians, and it has been suggested that one of them cursed him.  Harrison is the 68-year-old president who wouldn’t wear a jacket during a downpour when giving a particularly long inauguration speech.  He died of pneumonia a month after taking office.  Abraham Lincoln, elected in 1860, was assassinated in 1865. James A. Garfield, elected in 1880, was shot in the back and died during surgery in 1881.  William McKinley was re-elected in 1900 and assassinated in 1901.  Warren G. Harding, elected in 1920 suddenly died in 1923. He was a notorious philanderer and it was rumored that his wife poisoned him. FDR, who was elected to his third term in 1940 died shortly after winning election for his fourth term in 1945.  JFK was elected in 1960 and then assassinated in 1963. I do not actually believe in curses but nevertheless it is an interesting coincidence found in history.  It stopped with Reagan though, who managed at his age to survive the assassination attempt by Hinckley. These kinds of coincidences can be found all throughout history, we live in a world where unusual things happen naturally all the time.

This movie does tell a very interesting story and tells it well.  The movie sports a good cast for its limited budget including Richard Dreyfuss, Richard Crenna, Colm Feore, and Michael Murphy. I think this movie is more than worth your time.  This will probably be a lost movie in the years to come, a made for tv film that everyone forgets about.  I couldn’t even find a trailer to post on YouTube.  That’s unfortunate, because it is a good movie.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I love Ryan; I love everything about him. Even his extreme nerdiness. When we started watching this movie, he told me to please pay attention because this movie was actually, incredibly interesting. I think I made it 20 minutes into the movie before I fell asleep. Then I woke up and tried to watch the rest and although I didn’t fall asleep again, I really wanted to. Ryan finds films like these interesting because he has a degree in history. And although I find historical events interesting, I have a hard time paying attention and thoroughly enjoying boring films about history. Ryan thinks all history is like a story, and while I think it’s amazing that he likes stuff like that and can look at it like that, I just want to know about it and move on.

If you find you are like Ryan and usually like movies about history, then go for and watch this movie. It is a made for tv movie by the way. But, if you are like me and just don’t see the interest, then skip this one over.

NEXT MOVIE: The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

Any Given Sunday

Year: 1999
Directed By: Oliver Stone
Written By: John Logan, Oliver Stone

RYAN’S REVIEW

When we started this blog back in March I had hoped that by the time we reached this film on the movie rack that the ridiculous NFL lockout would be over. I am a huge NFL fan, and this lockout has been difficult to endure. I would personally like to stick it to them when they come back and take a stand to not watch any of the games.  That would be pointless though and who the hell would I be kidding anyway? I couldn’t avoid it, I need football and the lack of an offseason has been driving me nuts.  I hope that the situation will be resolved soon, it’s disappointing to see what greed is doing to the sport.  This movie however is one of my all time favorites because I love football so much. I usually don’t like movies about football or other sports, they tend to all be the same, but this one is different.  I watch this movie annually during NFL preseason every year, I hope that I will be able to do that again this year come August.

For a long time Oliver Stone was my favorite director, and he still is to some degree, but this was his last great film.  This was the cherry on top of a great portfolio, it was all downhill after this, but I think this was one of his best. Oliver Stone has an incredible mind and the vision and ability to transition it onto the screen.  This movie is star-studded, fast paced, gritty, and awesome.  It portrays the game well on several different levels, it captures what super stardom can do to someone, and it tells an excellent story. Oliver Stone had a great quality in getting spectacular performances out of his actors.  This movie is no different, Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, LL Cool J, Jamie Foxx, James Woods, Aaron Eckhart, Matthew Modine, and even Charlton Heston are all great.  Stone somehow manages to get them all a lot of screen time as well throughout the movie. Stone brought in several real current and retired NFL stars to play roles in the film too.  Lawrence Taylor, Jim Brown, Johnny Unitas, and Terrell Owens just to name a few, LT played his role exceptionally well.  Stone also puts himself in the middle of his epic football movie, as the play by-play commentator, I admire that.  Best place to be for a true football fan, I think it says something about him.

I say that it was all downhill for Oliver Stone after this movie because his next film, Alexander (2004), was apocalyptically bad.  I followed the production of that movie for over two years letting my anticipation build and I have never been so disappointed in a movie.  I haven’t seen anything Stone made since actually, but his magic was gone by then, it didn’t matter anymore.  If you have an opportunity to see this movie I think you should definitely see it. On second thought, if you are a football fan at all then go out of your way to get it and see it.  It’s a great movie.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I am a really big football fans and I usually like Oliver Stone’s movies but this one just doesn’t do it for me.  I know Ryan loves it and I know a lot of other people who love it as well but I’m just not a fan.  Also, just a note.  I have always heard people talk about how big the penis in that one scene was, I didn’t think it was that big.

NEXT MOVIE: Apocalypto (2006)