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Oliver Stone
Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Rodney Dangerfield, Robert Downey Jr., Tommy Lee Jones
Writing Credits:
Quentin Tarantino (story), David Veloz, Richard Rutowski, Oliver Stone

The Media Made Them Superstars.

Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis star as Mickey Knox and Mallory Wilson, two young, attractive mass murderers in love in Oliver Stone's wild-eyed satire on the American fascination with criminals. After killing Mallory's loathsome parents, the pair perform a ritual "marriage" and take off on a "honeymoon" killing spree that wipes out 52 people. Bloodthirsty tabloid reporter Wayne Gale (Robert Downey Jr.) reports their every move to an adoring public while warden Dwight McClusky (Tommy Lee Jones) is only too eager to welcome such celebrities to his prison.

Box Office:
$34 million.
Domestic Gross
$50.282 million.

Rated NR

Widescreen 1.85:1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
Indonesian Bahasa
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 122 min.
Price: $28.99
Release Date: 10/13/2009

• Audio Commentary from Director Oliver Stone with New Introduction
• “NBK Evolution: How Would It All Go Down Today?” Featurette
• “Chaos Rising: The Storm Around NBK” Featurette
• “Charlie Rose Interview”
• Deleted Scenes and Alternate Ending with Optional Introductions
• Trailer
• Booklet


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Natural Born Killers [Blu-Ray] (1994)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 16, 2009)

Before I saw Natural Born Killers during its theatrical run in 1994, I’d heard largely positive comments about it. The main thing going for Oliver Stone’s commentary on American culture appeared to be its aggressiveness and fierce imagery; apparently this was a movie that would assault the senses and leave no stone (pun intended) unturned.

While I agreed that the film was a loud and violent mix of pieces, I didn’t see it as anything more than a statement of the obvious. More than six years later, I took in the movie a second time and came to the same conclusion. Although Stone seems to believe that he made a deep and meaningful film, the truth is that Killers is nothing more than so much noise and activity with little substance behind it.

Stone seems to be an arrogant, self-absorbed man, and never have those tendencies appeared more clear than during Killers. The film depicts a murdering rampage effected by Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis), a white-trash couple who both come from abusive backgrounds. They kill for little reason other than the sheer pleasure involved, and most of the film’s first half depicts this side of the story. During the second part, the two are in jail and the movie builds toward a climax in which Mickey will be interviewed on live TV after the Super Bowl; sleaze journalist Wayne Gale (Robert Downey Jr.) attempts to use the popularity of M&M to boost his own show, “American Maniacs”.

Stone appears to believe that anyone who doesn’t “get” Killers is simply too old, staid, or misled. Granted, he’s right on some accounts. Many people took it too seriously and didn’t see that it was a satire. I had no problem with that aspect, as it did appear clear that the movie wasn’t supposed to be truly reality-based. While I thought it left the realms of sensibility too often - the worldwide adulation experienced by M&M seemed asinine to me - but I can’t fault the film’s over-the-top nature.

Where I run into problems stems from the movie’s condescending attitude and general pointlessness. In Killers, we discover the remarkable concepts that a) the media exploit misery and pander to the lowest common denominator, and b) many folks aren’t too bright and they eat up this junk. In a world where Jerry Springer was allowed to make a feature film, none of this information comes as a surprise.

Had Stone approached the topic with any form of understanding of or compassion for his subject, the film might have been a more compelling exploration of the nature of popular society. However, Stone’s extreme disdain for these elements comes through with ferocity at all times. He has no understanding of the reasons why some people think and behave these ways, and he clearly feels nothing but disgust for all involved.

I won’t defend trash TV, but I simply don’t get the point of Stone’s exploration in Killers. It feels like nothing more than simple back patting; he reminds himself how smart and civilized he is while he tells us how dumb we are. His arguments against those who dislike the film follow the same lines; clearly they “don’t get it”, which implies a level of intelligence lower than his.

Stone is definitely an intelligent man, but he misfired during Natural Born Killers. The movie provides a reasonably entertaining piece of junk, but it lacks any form of depth. Killers is nothing more than artificial blather that lets some self-inflated blowhards feel superior to the great unwashed.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Natural Born Killers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. An attempt to present a unified opinion of this film’s visual quality is nearly impossible; Killers combines a radical variety of different film techniques and stocks that rarely stay the same for more than a few seconds. I’ll make some general comments, but remember that variations frequently occurred.

Sharpness seemed consistently good. Any instances of softness were clearly due to the director’s intentions, and the vast majority of the movie looked crisp and detailed. Moiré effects and jagged edges presented no concerns. Numerous print flaws appeared - most often in the form of film grain, which could become quite heavy - but these also were intentional. Not only did a lot of grain result from the use of different film stocks - Stone utilized Super 8mm at times, plus 16mm and videotape in addition to the standard 35mm - but Stone optically created grain in some scenes to give the movie a grittier appearance. As such, expect lots of ugly material, but don’t blame the transfer; it’s all intentional.

Colors varied from natural and real to wildly surrealistic and excessively saturated. That said, I thought the disc handled the wide variety of hues with aplomb. Even when the image featured intensely heavy reds or thick greens, they always seemed appropriate and fairly clear; there were no signs of noise or bleeding to mar the presentation. Black levels came across as deep and rich, and shadow detail seemed nicely dark but not too heavy. Ultimately, too much of Natural Born Killers looked ugly - though intentionally so - for me to give it a grade above a “B+”. However, I just want to reiterate that I do not blame the transfer for this; I believe the disc accurately reproduced the original material.

I found it easier to judge the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of Killers. The soundfield generally favored the forward spectrum as it presented a loud and immersive presence. As one might expect from such an assaultive movie, the mix came at me with a lot of sound at all times, and the material seemed to blend together well. The music showed especially prominent presence, and effects were also integrated neatly. The surrounds started out somewhat slowly, but as the film progressed they became more involved and ultimately created a broad and encompassing environment.

Audio quality seemed strong. Dialogue consistently came across as clear and natural, with no concerns related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects were bold and convincing. From the quietest bird chirps to the loudest gunfire, these elements seemed clean and realistic - or hyper-realistic, as the case may be - and lacked distortion. Music seemed especially involving and bright. The songs were clear and deep. Ultimately, the soundtrack of Natural Born Killers nicely reinforced its visuals.

When we head to the set’s extras, we open with an audio commentary from director Oliver Stone. In his running, screen-specific chat, Stone discusses cinematography and visual techniques, cast and performances, music and audio, themes and tones, and changes made for the director’s cut.

At his best, Stone can provide insightful commentaries. Killers definitely doesn’t find him at his best. Mostly he just semi-narrates the movie; he adds a little interpretation, but since Killers is already so lacking in depth, his notes are unnecessary. Stone also gives us basics about the production, but don’t expect to learn much that really seems interesting. The commentary just rambles on and on; it fails to deliver the goods.

Stone originally recorded the commentary in 2000, I believe, so he adds a new three-minute and 43-second Introduction here. He tells us a little about the movie’s era and how society has changed since then – not for the better, in Stone’s estimation. He also throws out some portentous quotes in this tedious, pretentious opening.

For another new component, we get NBK Evolution: How Would It All Go Down Today?, a 21-minute and 59-second featurette. It includes notes from Stone, actors Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis, TV reporter Steve Dunleavy, famous meatheads Tila Tequila and Joey Buttafuoco, X17 Paparazzi Agency co-owner Brandy Navarre, Boingboing.net co-editor Xeni Jardin, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, Flickr general manager Kakul Srivastava, and Youtube news manager Olivia Ma. They look at the film’s goals, reactions to it, the nature of the media and changes over the 15 years since the movie’s release. The show also looks at thoughts about how the Mickey/Mallory characters would work in the world of 2009.

Should you expect anything meaningful here? Not really. The folks involved with Killers talk about how awful the media and pop culture are, while most of the others defend their side. It’s tedious and often condescending. Some of the thoughts about how Killers would play today are mildly interesting, but they’re not particularly insightful.

Next we get Chaos Rising: The Storm Around Natural Born Killers, a documentary about the making of the movie. This 26-minute, 30-second program features interviews with Stone, Harrelson, Lewis, producers Don Murphy and Jane Hamsher, editor Hank Corwin, cinematographer Bob Richardson, and actors Tom Sizemore, Robert Downey, Jr., and Tommy Lee Jones. As a whole, it’s a fairly interesting piece. We get a good impression of how the shoot went, and there’s some nice discussion of the film’s impact. It’s a solid feature that didn’t make me appreciate the movie to any higher degree - I still think it’s simplistic and inane - but I enjoyed the ride nonetheless.

A variety of Deleted Scenes appear, as well as an Alternate Ending that can be found separately. The latter features an introduction from Stone that gives us some background about it. Including the intro, the “Alternate Ending” lasts four minutes and 54 seconds. It’s decent but not spectacular.

The six other deleted scenes run a total of 20 minutes and 49 seconds. These clips can be viewed with or without introductions from Stone; if you include Stone’s remarks, the running times grow to 24:08. All of the pieces are interesting, though one can easily understand why Stone cut them. For example, a courtroom scene in which Mickey cross-examines a witness is very entertaining, but it would have been very out of place in the completed film. Stone’s remarks discuss the reasons for their removal.

More commentary from Stone appears in a Charlie Rose Interview. Here we find 11 minutes and 38 seconds of footage in which Stone and Rose discuss the film and reactions to it. The clips are fairly compelling, though Stone offers nothing new here; he essentially just discusses issues already covered elsewhere on this disc.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a thick booklet. This includes two introductions from Stone – one new, one not-so-new – along with production notes, biographies for cast and Stone, trivia, 1994 “Director’s Notes” and an essay called “America’s Tradition of Violence”. It’s a nice complement to the package.

Note that I’m pretty sure the booklet mostly duplicates the material found with the 2008 Blu-ray of the film’s theatrical cut. All of the biographies refer to 2008 releases as upcoming, so clearly a) it’s a dated product, and b) no one bothered to update it for the 2009 Director’s Cut Blu-ray. It’s still a good booklet, but outside of the 2009 intro from Stone, I believe it’s recycled from its predecessor.

Natural Born Killers remains one of Oliver Stone’s most controversial films, though the attention it’s received seems unwarranted. Despite its lack of intelligence or insight, many appear to view it as a clever exploration of the place of media in modern society. Unfortunately, it simply reiterates a great deal of information that seems quite evident to anyone with half a brain and it never achieves anything worthwhile, though it can be a trippy and exciting ride. The Blu-ray provides purposefully inconsistent but strong picture plus solid sound and a collection of generally good extras. I have no complaints about this Blu-ray, but as a film, Killers is arrogant nonsense.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5555 Stars Number of Votes: 9
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