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4.3 out of 5 stars
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (The Criterion Collection)
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60 of 64 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2003
Format: DVD
This DVD finally gives one of Terry Gilliam's lesser-loved (but brilliant!) films the red carpet treatment. The commentary from Gilliam is crazed and passionate; Depp and Del Toro really show off their wit, charm, and intelligence along with producer Laila Nabulsi's back-stage insight, and the last commentary is a rather odd and screwball one from Thompson himself. I won't tell you a thing about the last commentary. You've got to buy this and check it out on your own. (Here's a hint: 'Screeee-ahhhh! Raaaaaaaagh!' *other assorted sounds*)
The second disc is crammed with some great goodies as well - Depp reads letters written to/from Thompson. There's a great BBC documentary showing HST and Ralph Steadman undertaking a trip from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. Another gem is a snippet from an audio-book recording of Fear & Loathing with Jim Jarmusch as Raoul Duke! All definitely worth it.
Fear and Loathing isn't just a drug movie (as all the extras on the DVD will reiterate over and over again) - it's a truthful, imaginative, twisted, and subversive take on the death of the most idealistic decade and generation. We get to see it all through the eyes of two renegade professionals, one a journalist and the other a lawyer, both fighting the good fight against scum and villainy.
We can't stop here! THIS IS BAT COUNTRY.
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43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2003
Format: DVD
If, when you rent this film, you are expecting a Cheech and Chong film, think twice. People frequently compare the two, but Fear and Loathing is not only infinitely better, it is not the screwball comedy everyone seems to think it is.
Johnny Depp plays Raoul Duke, alter ego to gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who wrote the book this film is based on. He is sent on an assignment by Rolling Stone to cover a motorcycle race in Las Vegas. Coming along for the ride is Dr. Gonzo (aka Oscar Zeta Acosta), Duke's repulsive attorney, played by Benicio del Toro. The two rent a very expensive convertible and bring along with them a case full of illegal drugs.
The film is essentially the journey of two drug-fueled madmen through one of the most unfriendly cities in the country, but it's also a study on what life was like in 1971. In the end, as funny as it may be, it's really a docudrama. Gilliam directs the film in his classic "nightmarish" style, creating a truly hellish vision of America. But the biggest surprise of all is how true the screenplay is to the novel. Sure, like any adaptation, some good stuff is taken out, but if you compare what's written down, there isn't that much of a difference.
Most enjoyable, however, are the performances. Johnny Depp is hilarious as Duke and Del Toro, despite how disgusting his character is, is nothing short of a scene stealer. The film is also ripe with cameos, the most memorable are the ones delivered by Harry Dean Stanton, Tobey Maguire, Gary Busey, and of course, Flea of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
I recommend this to any Gilliam/Thompson fans, though in order to enjoy it, you need to watch it in a generally filthy atmosphere, and for some of you, you may need to see it more than once to really appreciate this. Overall, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a very good film filled with moments that stick with you for a long time.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2004
Format: DVD
Fear and Loathing is just outright "wet your pants" hilarious at every junction. Not only does Del Toro sport the best beer belly in the business but Depp's take on Hunter S. Thompson just goes to show what a talent he is because the performance is 610% perfection in every department. This film just cracks me up!
The problem with this film is that it assaults mainstream movie-goers unconditionally from start to finish by never conforming to the standards that keep them "safe" inside their shell. If you don't let go then chances are you are another false member of that which Hunter S. Thompson is expounding about - the crook called the "American Dream". The person on your left is laughing. The person on your right is sitting smug faced. The one behind is complaining and the one in front is crying. The result is that if you hate this movie you hate it because you can just never understand it, like the business guy who walks into the toilet only to see a grown man sniff LSD from another's felt sleeve. The person leaves confused, will never understand it, because he has never experienced anything like that and has no clue what it is all about. People will try and deal with all of this by labelling it somehow. "Drugs! Its all about those druggies and only druggies will get it!" some may cry out. The truth is that people who may have done drugs will know a little about the unconventionality that this film is based on but yet again there are many others who will also get it, but never have done drugs. This film attacks a certain type of personality - those who are stuck so far up their own orifice with the American dream that they have limited their perceptions of life indefinitely and remain wooden throughout the rest of their existence.
Here we see two guys just make it to freedom of the "self" in any way that they can. The movie is one big trip of letting it all go and is by the far a screaming ride of absolute insanity from start to finish. There is not many mainstream Hollywood productions that do this and Gilliam's take on it is done passionately. This is just a wholly original riot of a move about utilizing mayhem and madness to transcend the banality of chasing phantoms that very few will obtain. While masses delude themselves with power and riches, the rest will just put their feet up and play with the cards that they have been dealt.
This movie is a wonderful experience that just goes to show that not everyone in life is an Ikea slave debaser of themselves. This is a film that has some humanity sown in among the insanity. Love or hate it, it is still needed and fills that cultural void nicely.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2003
Format: DVD
I must admit, when I first saw the movie at the late, lamented Worldwide center (second run movie house) in Manhattan, I thought it was noisy and unfocused, and a lesser effort by a brilliant director. I bought the DVD anyway, mainly because any Terry Gilliam movie is worth having, and Criterion versions doubly so. Well, my opinion of the movie has done almost a complete 180 degree turn. Perhaps the movie, coming out during the epicurian excess of the Clinton years, seemed like a sad relic of decades gone by-sort of an art house Cheech and Chong movie. But now, with the nation and the world in such turmoil, and the divide between the left and the right in this country moving back to center stage, the movie feels completely of, and perhaps ahead of, the times. Far from being a pro-drug movie (Duke and Dr. Gonzo are never held up to be the good guys, and their various "trips" are scarier than anything the anti-drug legions can come up with.) this is a movie about anesthesia, One group may use drugs, another may use money, or power, or sex, but the effect is all the same. These are people trying to escape from the reality of their existence, and for our "heroes", the anesthetic doesn't so much wear off, but pulls them even deeper into the horror.
The movie itself is an overlooked gem, but the good folks at Criterion have packed the dvd and companion disc with some of the best features they've ever attempted. A Terry Gilliam commentary is always welcome, and Depp and Del Toro have their say, but how about a commentary by Hunter S. Thompson in full gonzo mode. Well, it's here, and the second disc covers both the film's checkered life (especially the WGA screenplay flap: who'dve thought that arbitration was so fascinating), and the historical context of "Fear and Loathing", including some footage of the real Dr. Gonzo, Chicano attorney Oscar Ceasar Acosta (who's been missing since the mid-70's) reading from one of the books he authored. In short, the disc succeeds as both a film, and as a study of a much misunderstood era in recent history. I'm not sure yet, but it may just be the best DVD purchase I have ever made. Thanks, Hunter Thompson, Terry Gilliam, and Criterion.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2004
Format: DVD
i have seen a lot of reviews saying you will only enjoy this movie if you are high. thats the farthest thing from the truth. almost every review i've read says its just a movie about drug use with no plot. apparently a chestnut is watching the movie, because there is an obvious plot. saying this movie is only about drugs, is like saying fight club is only about guys beating the crap out of each other, requiem for a dream was only about drugs, american history x is only about black people hating nazi skinheads, and pulp fiction has no plot.

if you can only focus on the violence/sex/drug use in movies, you should stick to watching the many adventures of winnie the pooh.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2003
Format: DVD
There are two ways of looking at this film:
1. Two men, every drug known to civilization, and Vegas!
-or-
2. Two men stuck in a 60's mindset, trapped in a city that represents everything wrong with America.
The first is how many viewers will initially see the movie, and though there's nothing wrong with looking at it that way, it entirely misses the point of the film. The second, though essentially the same as the first, is how it's meant to be seen. Also, the quote at the beginning explains a lot about their personalities...
"He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man."
But many viewers dismiss it and look at the characters as simple drug addicts. However, DO NOT let me stop you from adding your own interpretation to the film, I'm just providing the basic groundwork. The great thing about this movie is that 10 people can watch it and come up with 10 different meanings for the movie.
The greatest aspect of this movie is not the over the top drug hallucination sequences, or even Johnny Depp's portrayal of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (which in my opinion, is his best performance to date). It's the dialogue that pulls the movie together, hilarious and endlessly quotable.
One of the largest gripes with the film is that it's pro-drug use, though how someone could come up with that theory is entirely beyond me.
To sum it all up, great movie, watch it, love it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2006
Format: DVD
What a lot of people don't understand about movies/books, is that an plot isn't always neccessary. Either are Conclusive endings. If this story was conclusive it would be a bad one. A good conclusion should show how a character's life is some how changed, or how a character overcame a change in there life to get back to normal. If this doesn't happen there is nothing to conclud and there shouldn't therefore be a conclusion.

Hunter S. Thompsons life was nothing but a cycle of drugs and self-degradation. This is simply a story of one of his more interesting drug binges.

What makes this movie so grandiose is the narration taken from Hunter's book. It relates his actions to Normal life, Characterizes the drug culture and shows that Some peoples drug addiction is less of an addiction and more of a passion.

This movie is also incredibly funny, incredibly well directed, and it has my personal favorite of Johnny Depp's acting roles (I've seen Ten of his movies).
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
A jouranlist from L.A. known as Raoul Duke ( Johnny Depp) with his lawyer Dr. Gonzo ( Benico Del Toro) are in search for the American dream in Las Vegas in the year 1971, as they are trying to cover for a story involving a motorcycle race but go into a journey of a trip involving drugs and hallucinations even if it involves harrassing the tourists, bothering the locals and trashing some hotel rooms that they stay in.

A bizare, entertaining and mesmerizing dark comedy drama from the director of "12 Monkeys" Terry Gilliam and based on the classic book by Hunter S. Thompson is a odyssey of a flick that is one of the most misunderstood flicks there was. Originally opened in 1998 in theaters, it was panned by some critics but has became a midnight movie favorite since then and i anticipated this movie since i saw the cool ads back then but didn't see it in theaters as i only saw it on video as it blew me away. Featuring an all-star cast like Cameron Diaz, Christina Ricci, Gary Busey, Harry Dean Staton, Ellen Barkin, Tobey Mcguire, Fea and Lyle Lovett this is a mind-blowing and provactive fun flick that may not be for all tastes but if you want to view what it is to be in the eyes of a junkie then i recommend this movie.

This 2-Disc Criterion Edition DVD has awesome picture and sound quality with chockloads of extras like three audio commentaries, deleted scenes, storyboards & set design galleries, "Fear and Loathing on the Road to Hollywood" 1978 BBC documentary with Hunter S. Thompson and illustrator Ralph Steadman, still gallery, publicity materials and more.

A fantastic underrated flick on a deserving Criterion DVD is a must see if you like stoner comedies or who want a good freak out flick.

Also recommended: "21 Grams", "Where the Buffalo Roam", " Natural Born Killers", "Pulp Fiction", "Repo Man", "Fight Club", " Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle", " Blue Velvet", " Wild at Heart", " Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me", "Heavy Traffic", "Half Baked", "American Pop", " Dazed and Confused", "Naked Lunch", "A Clockwork Orange", "Requirem for a Dream", and "Crimewave".
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon November 3, 2006
Format: DVD
As all of us are aware about Terry Gilliam's border limits scripts, the repercussions and tendencies that occur, product of a progressive crumbling of the human mind; there us a visible breakthrough respect the established order, and the way to respond before this anomaly vary according the case.

In particular, this movie may disturb most of viewers, in case you are not totally immersed in the spirit of that age, plenty of absolute lack of respect and negation of basic premises. Don't forget the famous French May's ideological emblem: "Forbidden to forbid."

Caustic, acidic and uncensored gaze around these outlaw period of a recent history, that now is part of the anthological retrospective.

All the cast was absolutely superb; and the movie reflected with absolute veracity the essential profiles of its hallucinating characters.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 2003
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
This movie not about drugs, violence, sex, or the love generation, it is about something much more basic... something that in the United States we call "The American Dream". . That is some kind of sense of righteous destiny in a place where good always triumphs over evil and nice guys finish first. The book is about that, or rather the realizations that it's not true: the death of The American Dream.
Basically, most folks believe that it is their right -- as long as they aren't hurting anybody else... they pretty much should be allowed to do what ever the heck they want to do, even if, and maybe especially if... the things they want to do harm themselves.
This movie is based on the book of the same name -- which it follows closely -- written by Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, whose alter ego basically is Raoul Duke. Thompson liked this movie adaptation of his book. The book was what Uncle Duke saw as a failed attempt at Gonzo Journalism... that had at its heart that sometimes the best truth is encased in fiction.
Some other more recent movies have, in their own ways, also been about the same subject matter: "American Psycho", "Gladiator" and even, in a rather weird kind of way... the Lord of the Rings movies.
The American dream either died somewhere along the way or did it simply never really existed at all, and we are somehow just mourning its passing like a bunch of drug crazed wacko's in the same way lots of other folks on a long strange religious trip mourned the death of a flat earth? Many of us believed in The American Dream once, we were raised to believe in it. But then something happened... something bad? Nixon took office and started defecating on the Constitution? Maybe we just woke up -- grew up? Who the heck knows really, because I doubt we really ever understood just what we believed in at the time.
To quote a line from the book (from the wave speech): "History is hard to know, because of all the hired bulls*, but even without being sure of "history" it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time-and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened."
The book and movie are, in some kind of way, an examination of ourselves... in the way you sometimes hear that an unexamined life is not worth living... the problem is that, when we look deep into the inner core being of ourselves...sometimes we find nothing. Which leads to the "paradoxically benevolent BS" -- "the desperate assumption that somebody-or at least some force-is tending that Light at the end of the tunnel".
Which is why, in my opinion, a lot of people don't like this movie. They are uncomfortable thinking about themselves in ways where the conclusion isn't clear and succinct. They want to believe they are holding on to life firmly by the handle. They want to live in a world where everything makes sense. Of course, they are wrong. Or maybe, in the unkindest cut of all, they are perfectly correct. The world does make sense - and airplanes are supposed to crash into tall building and thousands must die in order to feed the egos of the small groups of evil men who run the world. These are scary places and times, ones where you don't need drugs or alcohol to be scared. But then maybe only the truly sane are getting whacked out on acid and heroin.
There are lots of good extras on the DVD's, the best are:
- A few scenes cut out of the film
- Three excellent commentary tracks from the Director, Actors and Hunter Thompson.
- A BBC documentary
- Johnny Depp reading from selected letters by Thompson
It is a very good movie if you are open to uncomfortable thoughts.
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