Savages: Because They Got High

by Ethan Alter July 6, 2012 6:00 am
<i>Savages</i>: Because They Got High

It's not a popular opinion, but one of my favorite Oliver Stone movies is U-Turn, his little-seen 1997 crime picture starring Sean Penn that begins with a classic "man-walks-into-a-small-town" scenario before spinning off into some pretty bizarre territory. While it's not as consistent -- or even as coherent -- a film as Stone's best work (a list that, for me, includes Platoon, Wall Street and Nixon) what I enjoy about the movie is the lack of pretension and self-seriousness that often dooms his more "respectable" (i.e. awards-baiting) efforts. Based on a book by author and screenwriter John Ridley, U-Turn is an enjoyably sleazy and sultry thriller packed with great actors (Billy Bob Thornton, Nick Nolte, Powers Boothe and Jennifer Lopez back when she actually seemed interested in playing a character and not J.Lo) and told with a showman's visual brio. One can see the reflection of U-Turn in Stone's latest movie Savages and that connection may be why this was the best time I've had at an Oliver Stone joint since Al Pacino ranted and raved his way through Any Given Sunday, one of the all-time great guilty pleasure pictures.

Green Lantern: A Hero Falls

by Ethan Alter June 17, 2011 6:00 am
<i>Green Lantern</i>: A Hero Falls

There's an interesting conceit at the core of Green Lantern, the otherwise overstuffed and clumsy superhero outing starring DC Comics' ring-wielding interstellar cop. Instead of pitting Hall Jordan and his emerald knight alter ego (played by Ryan Reynolds, in his third comic book-inspired outing after Blade: Trinity and X-Men Origins: Wolverine) against a bad guy bent on world domination, the screenwriters -- a four-man team that includes TV veteran Greg Berlanti and comic book scribe Marc Guggenheim -- make his primary enemy his own fear and self-doubt. Okay, so technically the film does feature a bad guy bent on world domination, an enormous yellow space cloud named Parallax that's floating towards Earth with plans to feast on the terror of the entire populace. But thematically, Parallax is just a giant, gaseous manifestation of Hal's shaky confidence in himself and his ability to be the hero his world requires. When he stares into the cloud's vaguely demonic face, he doesn't just see a villain that needs defeating -- he sees his own inadequacies reflected back at him.

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