December Blind Spot Review: Once Upon A Time In America (1984)

“You’ll be carrying the stink of the streets with you for the rest of your life! “
– Max

SYNOPSIS: A former Prohibition-era Jewish gangster returns to the Lower East Side of Manhattan over thirty years later, where he once again must confront the ghosts and regrets of his old life. – via IMDB

You know, I am not going to pretend that I didn’t have high hopes for this one. I did. Old school organised crime and Robert De Niro? Uhm, yes, sold. Well. Well. Uhm, yeah. Okay, I will just come out and say it. I didn’t love it. I wanted to, but I didn’t. There was just so much here that put me off of it completely.

Once Upon A Time In America treats women horifically. Like fuck my life, what the hell was that?! I am going to address this as my primary issue because, well, you can’t watch this movie and miss that. I was horrified. Women were objects there for sex and amusement, and didn’t really stand as their own characters. Just watching how they get treated by the men of the cast really makes you hate the men of the cast, and no storytelling can save it. For instance, this movie features one of the most drawn out, disgusting rape scenes I have ever had the misfortune to sit through. As if I didn’t dislike Noodles enough, that was enough to make me hate him, and there was no redeeming him. The movie tried, too, like it was just a thing, and I was horrified by how meek Deborah was when seeing him all those years later, like there was still this fire between them. Fuck that. Not to mention Carol at the break in, and Peggy in the beginning of the movie. DISGUSTING.

Not to mention the story was skinny, too. I had to sit down six different times to try and get through this movie. I have no issue with a movie coming in with a super long runtime, as long as the story is good and it is all put together well. Here, I didn’t feel that the time was utilised correctly. There were times where it was good to watch Noodles and Max together, even though what they are up to is dodgy (because that’s how organised crime rolls, but you can enjoy the show), but then there is rape, gratuitous sex, violence, and lots of rambling with no story to fill it, and the story that was woven through the almost four hour runtime? Pretty fucking thin, and I didn’t appreciate that at all.

Some of the performances were clunky, too, and I don’t care who has what to say on that. Some of the performances were excellent – De Niro, for instance, sickened me to my core, but portrayed his character really well. Jennifer Connelly was great, and McGovern hit with a bang. Woods was solid, too. I was also not a fan of the extremely limited music used throughout the movie. It was annoying and grating. Of the entire movie, I must be honest and say I preferred watching the half when they were kids (even though the acting was truly godawful, the story was better), pre-prison for Noodles, even though there were some super issues with it, too.

While lauded as one hell of a gangster film, I was immensely disappointed with Once Upon A Time In America, and will not be rushing to rewatch it. Horrific treatment  of women, a stupidly skinny story, and a mixed bag of performances, I found this to be disappointing and excessively long for what it is.

September Blind Spot Review: JFK (1991)

“Telling the truth can be a scary thing sometimes.”
– Jim Garrison

SYNOPSIS: New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison discovers there’s more to the Kennedy assassination than the official story. – via IMDB

A movie about the JFK assassination? Man, this must have been tailor made for me! Ask anyone I know (Natasha knows about as well as my husband) how I feel about the Kennedy assassination. It is ridiculously fascinating and I love reading about it or watching things on it – it never gets old for me. So yeah, this is something I just never got to, and this was the year to correct that.

I think JFK is actually a great movie for someone to watch who doesn’t really know much about the Kennedy assassination, or the ludicrous explanations that were put forth about it, and that embarrassing investigation into it. Really, it covers a lot of relevant ground, and also happens to have another story over and above it, bringing to Zodiac to mind, because of watching Jim Garrison’s obsession with the case. A lot of research went into this and that is evident, but I would not say to go into this movie and take everything it presents as gospel, for reals. Look at it as entertainment, don’t take it as a hardcore documentary and the holy grail for answers to the JFK assassination. Enjoy it for the conspiracy it discusses.

The movie is shot well and I enjoyed the pacing – it is long, but takes the time to lay down the evidence and the story and then get going with it, which I liked, but I can see how it could annoy others. One also cannot deny that the movie looks and feels dated. The pacing was just fine here, and the performances were pretty damn good all around. I was so engrossed by the telling of this from Stone, how the case was presented and researched and pursued. It was quite tense and definitely entertaining. There are obviously a lot of issues with the movie in the sense that there are a lot of fictitious characters brought in and spewing “facts” and Stone sets out the good guys and the bad guys in a classic black and white way without actually finessing anything there. The movie is also presented as “fact”, which at times is a little difficult to swallow, and you can see a lot of confirmation bias going on for Garrison at times. That being said, this movie had a lot of things to balance, from fact to fiction and everything in between.

Overall, JFK is an entertaining watch sure to keep you hooked, especially if you enjoy conspiracies (whether you take them seriously or just like to hear what they are) and especially if you are interested about what happened that day in November of 1963, provided you don’t think this movie is going to give you all the answers, evidence and proof you are looking for. But as a movie taking a look at some of the conspiracies surrounding the assassination, balancing fact, fiction, everything? So worth it, truly.

Rapid Review: Lethal Weapon 3 (1992)

lethal weapon 3 poster

“When you retire, you’re not just retiring you, you’re retiring us.”
– Martin Riggs

SYNOPSIS: Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh pursue an arms dealer who is a former LAPD officer. – via IMDB

lethal weapon 3 double act

GRADE 6.5Yep, the boys are back. That is what I can say, and that I had a lot of fun here, too. Murtaugh is damn near about to retire, and his retirement will not only affect himself, but Riggs, too, which he didn’t take into consideration. They are still out there, causing trouble, pissing off the world, causing immense amounts of destruction while chasing down their leads, but it works. Again, Riggs meets a woman, but unlike Rika, who I felt was placed in the film purely for sexual reasons as well as to tie in the murder of Riggs’s wife, I think that Lorna is equal to Riggs and the one woman who can take his crap and give him hell. Leo Getz makes his return again, and at times his inclusion is good, other times he is simply annoying, once again. There is much enjoyment while watching the movie, but I must say that a week after the fact it just doesn’t stick with you quite the same way the previous two do. Not because it isn’t good, because it is entertaining, it just doesn’t come together as smoothly as the others – and the plot? Pretty much non-existent. The jokes came thick and fast though, so there was plenty to laugh at, and Murtaugh and Riggs show us, once again, why they are super tight. Gibson and Glover manage to work wonders with each other, and keep it fresh, convincing, and entertaining every step of the way, and they just click. I suppose that also helps to make this such an enjoyable watch. Rene Russo contributed to the story and wasn’t just some bimbo hanging around and I liked her. Trouble seems to follow Riggs and Murtaugh around constantly, but I am not complaining. Without them being so tight with Murphy, we wouldn’t have these movies then 🙂 Murtaugh’s retirement was something I was worried about. No ways, the dream team needed to work together still! Maybe later it could all stop! Thank goodness it was addressed though. Plus the Murtaugh family’s “retirement” board and countdown was classic. Overall, a fun, silly watch with a flimsy plot, but still does the job.

Rapid Review: Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)

lethal weapon 2 poster

“You are not dead until I tell you!” 
– Roger Murtaugh

SYNOPSIS: Riggs and Murtaugh are on the trail of South African diplomats who are using their immunity to engage in criminal activities. – via IMDB

lethal weapon 2 nail gun

GRADE 8I must say that I enjoyed this one, though I was shocked, too. Now that I am older and I understand the nature of my country, to see a film focused so heavily on South African baddies pre the fall of Apartheid was heavy. Now, if you’re from South Africa, just about any movies that refer back to our country way back in the day are bound to peeve you. They are usually stacked full of white guilt and terribly done, too, or done by people that don’t get the history so it becomes a hollow experience. Well, Lethal Weapon 2  didn’t try to be a very serious drama or anything. In fact, it took South African dudes as the bad guys and their awful racial biases and gave us a comedy. There are ridiculous accents (yes, Luke, it is an age old problem) to boot, though they did get some of the pronunctiation down, and I laughed at the Afrikaans tossed in there. I was shocked at the rate the k-word was dropped because here, by us? Say it in the streets. I dare you. Either you are going to get your ass handed to you or you are going to land up fighting a massive legal battle. True story. The plot was alright here, and I liked the small little things that they did to make it authentic for the South African bad guy – how dangerous the country was then (when Murtaugh went with Leo to “move” to SA) and the shipping containers being “Transvaal Lines” and the Afrikaans cussing… very cool. I actually laughed with Murtaugh at his final joke for the movie – racial punning but it was funny. I am probably going to be shot. I liked the reveal of more of Riggs’s past and the death of his wife, that was a little heavy. I was a huge fan of the partnership between Riggs and Murtaugh, obviously, and there were so many things that made me laugh (that commercial!), which is something I really value in a movie. Joe Pesci is introduced here, and while his character irritated me at times, I think he worked really well overall. It is such a cool thing for me to see how tight Riggs and Murtaugh are, and how Murtaugh’s family has taken Riggs in. He really is a part of them. The humour was good, the action was well worth it, there was some cheese, pretty fucking thin ideas and crazy shootouts and investigation techniques. The plot wasn’t bad either, and there were some pretty intense South African throwbacks. Overall, I think that this holds up really well after all the years, so definitely an action film to check out and enjoy!