Drugs

January 31, 2013

Holiday Hangover: Savages

Savages – C’mon

There are times when a film comes around that you hear about, wait to see it, finally see it, are extremely pleased with the results, but come the end of the movie you’re thinking to yourself, “What just happened?” That’s the film “Savages,” where come the end of the film, or what you think is the end of the film, you scream out, “C’MON!

When you think about Oliver Stone you have to think about the amount of directors that he’s influenced;  I would bet one American dollar that there isn’t a director, living or dead, that would say they weren’t influenced by either the writing or directing talents of Stone.  He uses spiritual imagery in an effective way, loves to show sex and violence, but there is still a tongue-in-cheek element when he goes to the extreme, especially in his post-“Platoon” work.  Lately he’s had his ups-and-downs, trying to cash in on old ideas (“Wall Street”), but when “Savages” was announced I was a little excited.  It looked and felt like old-school Stone, circa “Natural Born Killers.”  Gritty, bloody, sexy, and violent.  Even the cast was young and hip.  So why was “Savages” a let down?  Let’s take a walk.

“Savages” stars Blake Lively as O, or Ophelia, who is “shared” by two independent pot growers/sellers, played by Aaron Johnson and “Mr. Chicken Burrito” himself, Taylor Kitsch.  Everything is going swimmingly for the three until they turn down a request from Baja Cartel Mistress, Elena.  Things go from bad to worse for the three as they find themselves at war with the Cartel.  The violence is brutal at times, but what would you expect from a vicious Mexican Cartel.  Just read or listen to the news and I’m sure you’ll read, or hear, much worse.

Lively is the backbone of this film, and rightfully so.  I think she kind of gets a raw deal in Hollywood due to her “Gossip Girl” ties, but she holds her own in “Savages” and gives a pitch-perfect performance of a girl who is both the “damsel in distress” and the “strong heroine.”  If you want to see Lively in another good performance check out “The Town.”  For someone who you would take a quick glance at and write her off as just eye-candy, she can act, and takes chances.  We need more Blake Livelys and less Brooklyn Deckers and whoever that girl is who can’t close her mouth in “Transformers 3.”

The plot twists and turns and keeps you on your toes throughout.  You really never know who is the next person to get killed or get caught in the crossfire, and the stakes are pretty high throughout the film.  That is until the “end.”  If Stone had more balls he would have ended the film ten minutes earlier.  The “end” is what you would have expected the whole film, but I guess that’s the whole point.  You expect something Shakespearean, but you get a curveball that really makes you say, once again, “C’MON!”  Like “Hamlet” you expect a tragedy, and you get close, but I of course won’t spoil the fun, because all in all “Savages” is actually the best Oliver Stone film since probably “Killers” or I might even go as new as “Any Given Sunday.”

The one thing you’ll take away from “Savages” is that Stone still has it.  He can still make a film just as visceral as he did in his younger days.  After years of dealing with George W Bush, September 11th, and going back to “Wall Street” there was a question as to whether Stone wanted to deal with darker subject matter. We all know that he’s an intellectual, and a thinking man’s filmmaker, but it was great to see him go back to his hungrier and darker ways with “Savages.”

Fun Fact:  As of 2012, according to the U.S. Government, the largest and most dangerous cartel in Mexico is Los Zetas, which is an off-shoot of the Gulf Cartel.

September 10, 2012

The Wire, Wrap-Up

*Spoilers Ahead*

The case is closed on “The Wire.”  Some of the good guys won, some of the bad guys won, and there were plenty of people caught in the cross-fire, but it was a ride that everyone should be willing to take if you enjoy story and character-driven dramas.

While this is not so much a review, as a wrap-up, I will be detailing characters, plot lines, and a few top ten lists, including; Top 10 Characters, Top 10 Tragic/Offing Moments. (Just to clarify, an offing is a death or murder of a character)  Now allow me to drop you back into”The Wire.”
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Cheese: “This is some shameless shit!”
Omar Little: “Oh, ain’t no shame in my game, doe.  I’m here about my business, ain’t dat right Joe!”
– Season Four
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It’s a little difficult to pick just ten characters that I would classify as the best from the entire series.  In such a character-driven show all your characters should be great, and trust me they’re all great.  So here goes nothing as I unveil MY Top 10 characters on “The Wire.”

10.  Det. Roland “Prez” Pryzbylewski:  The funny thing about Prez is that he went from an asshole detective who was messing up left and right to someone who I truly respected come the end of the show.  Once he started his new career as a middle school teacher, the character became a tragic reminder of someone who continues to have hope in a hopeless situation.

9.  Dennis “Cutty” Wise:  Cutty, a former Barksdale enforcer, has been recently paroled when we first meet him.  He tries to get back into the drug game when he leaves prison but realizes that the life isn’t meant for him anymore and decides to open a boxing gym for the troubled youth of West Baltimore.  He is one of the lone bright spots in the show as he not only saves his own life, but indirectly saves the life of Namon Brice, the son of incarcerated Barksdale enforcer, Roland “Wee-Bey” Brice.

8.  Brother Mouzone:  While he only appeared in a few episodes, the suit, glasses and bow-tie of Brother Mouzone left a lasting impression.  Essentially Mouzone was a mirror image of Omar Little, only Brother wore a smart suit and sported a pistol while Omar preferred a brown duster and a shotgun.  The duo also supplied one of the more surprising deaths in the series when they gunned down Stringer Bell at the end of Season Three.
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Omar Little: “I knew you’d come back.”
Brother Mouzone:  “I trust you didn’t lose much sleep over it?”
Omar Little:  “Worryin’ about you would be like worryin’ if the sun gonna come up.”
-Season Three
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7.  Michael Lee:  During Season Four we were introduced to the youth of West Baltimore and the one character that really stood out from the rest of the pack was Michael.  From a broken home, Michael tried his best to walk the line between right and wrong while trying to protect his friends and his younger brother, Bug.  In the most poignant moment of Season Five, Michael, now on the run from Marlow, Chris, and Snoop, has to say goodbye to both his friend Duquan and Bug and disappear from Baltimore.

6.  Chris and Snoop:  I consider both Chris Partlow and Snoop pretty much the same character, just one male and one female.  They are both extremely loyal, and similar to Omar and Brother Mouzone, they both have a “code.”  Chris is the more calculating of the two, and while it’s not said directly, seems to be a victim of childhood abuse.  Snoop is the colder of the two and would do anything to protect the reputation of Marlo Stanfield.

5.  Reginald “Bubbles” Cousins:  With a show so grim, it was great to see how one character in particular went from a hopeless drug addict to a reformed member of society.  That character was Bubbles, a police informant, heroin addict, and just maybe, the lone bright spot on “The Wire.”  In the series finale, Bubbles finally opens up at an NA Meeting about losing a friend, and it always brings a tear to my eye.  It’s truly a beautiful moment in the series.
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Bubbles: “Ain’t no shame in holdin’ on to grief.  As long as you make room for other things too.”
-Season Five
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 4.  Russell “Stringer” Bell:  If anyone knows anything about “The Wire” you know Stringer Bell, portrayed by Idris Elba.  Stringer was the brains, while Avon was the brawn of the Barksdale Crew, and when Avon went away to prison he took over the crew and tried to steer them in a different direction.  Unfortunately, Stringer thought that drug dealers could be rationalized with and “trained” but the one thing he forgot about was the fact that he was still a drug dealer trying to move past his station in life, and that is pretty much what finished him off in the game.

3.  Marlo Stanfield:  Marlo was a different breed of drug dealer then what we had seen from Avon Barksdale, Stringer Bell, or Proposition Joe.  He was ruthless, had enforcers that would do all of his bidding, and he got to the kids early, looking for the next generation of hopper even in middle school.  But not even money mattered in the grand scheme for him, it was knowing that people feared him.

2.  Preston “Bodie” Broadus:  Bodie was one of those characters that I didn’t think much of when I first started watching “The Wire.”  I personally just thought he was some low-level drug dealing prick that would get killed early in the series, but as time went on, Bodie really fleshed out and became my 2nd favorite character on the show.  After Avon’s arrest, and Stringer’s death in Season Three, Bodie pretty much became all the Barksdale Crew had left and was the only dealer on the street that wasn’t scared of Marlo, and eventually, it cost him.
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Omar: “You got the briefcase……I got the shotgun…..It’s all in the game tho’.”
-Season Two
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1.  Omar Little:  I can pretty much sum Omar up in a few words.  “Omar don’t scare.” 

It is difficult to pick just ten characters as the best of the bunch on “The Wire” because they are all so damn good.  Moving on to the tragic/offing moments.

*Warning, there will be spoilers ahead*

10.Chris and Snoop torturing and killing Butchie for information on Omar.
9.  Seeing Duquan succumb to drugs.
8.  Bodie being gunned down by the Stanfield Crew while defending his corner.
7.  The death of Wallace by Bodie and Poot.
6.  Cheese being shot and killed by “Slim” Charles.  Probably the most “satisfying” death in the entire series.
5.  Frank Sobotka murdered by “The Greek”
4.  Stringer Bell gunned down by Brother Mouzone and Omar in his own building.
3.  Michael saying goodbye to Duquan and Bug
2.  Seeing Bubbles’ revenge plan backfire and kill Sherrod.
1.  Omar being gunned down by Kenard.

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