“Savages” (Crime Drama: 2 hours, 10 minutes)
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, Blake Lively, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek and John Travolta
Director: Oliver Stone
Rated: R (Graphic violence, profanity, sexuality, nudity, drug usage and gore)
Movie Review: Chon (Kitsch) and Ben (Johnson) are major drug dealers. They have created a very potent form of marijuana. Both men are in a loving relationship with O, a.k.a. Ophelia (Lively). Chon and Ben’s pot business is fine until a major Mexican drug cartel ran by Elena (Salma Hayek) wants parts of their proceeds. When Chon and Ben refuse Elena’s request, Elena has her ruthless hitman Lado (Del Toro) Kidnap O. Chon and Ben love O to the point they are willing to do anything, including challenge a major crime syndicate.
“Savages’” strong point is it contains deep characters with unique relationships — such as the love triangle of Chon, Ben and O. Their ménage à trois is very reminiscent of the one in the 1994 film “Threesome” (Director Andrew Fleming), which also involved three people. Unlike the sexy infatuation of “Threesome,” the relationship in “Savages” is one where these three people genuinely love each other.
Other relationships also have their uniqueness. The relationship that forms between O and the woman keeping her hostage, Elena, becomes a likable mother-daughter bond. Also, Chon and Ben have an exclusive partnership with Drug Enforcement Agent Dennis (played humorously by Travolta). A two-faced Dennis is more unethical than Chon and Ben. The last relationship exists between Lado and Elena. She is his boss. He is ruthless and kills on a whim, so why does he seem to tolerate her?
Again, these relationships are unique, but they have an unwise “Magnolia” moment. In the Tom Cruise-Jason Robards “Magnolia” (1999), frogs drop from the air. Yes, the sky rains frogs. “Magnolia” was an intense film, so the frogs were odd but a welcome artistic surprise. Without giving anything away, the type of moment that happens near the end of “Savages” is out of place, and one has to wonder why a talented director such as Stone would err this blatantly? The ending appears as something on the director’s cut of a DVD, where two endings are offered. Both lack finesse.
Some have called this a mix of “Pulp Fiction” (1994) and “Reservoir Dogs” (1992). While fascinating because of several character relationships, “Savages” is neither as deep as “Reservoir Dogs” nor is it as artistic and cleverly entertaining as “Pulp Fiction.” However, it entertains and is never boring. It is riveting in its own disjointed manner.
Grade: B- (Worthy brutes)
“Katy Perry: Part of Me” (Documentary/Music: 1 hour, 34 minutes)
Directors: Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz
Rated: PG (Crude humor, suggestive material and some language)
Movie Review: Katy Perry the singer with many hair colors is the focus of this documentary. The film features moments about her life on and off stage during the popular singer’s California Dreams Tour. It featured 124 sold-out shows in arenas around the world. Viewers get to see Katy Perry in a variety of settings.
At her best, Perry shows how she enjoys meeting her friends. She seems to delight in her fans being weird like she is. In a scene, she thanks her devotees by saying, “Thank you so much for believing in my weirdness.”
Perry does have her own style. She wears multiple wigs, colors her hair unusual colors like blue, violet and a deep apricot and likes clothing that moves or has light fixtures. The set designs of her stage are often childlike. Think Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. One keeps expecting Pee-Wee Herman or Captain Kangaroo to spring out from behind a prop and tell you what today’s lesson is. Yet this is why Perry is perhaps liked by children and adults. She is an entertainer as much as a singer.
On the other hand, audiences have to opportunity to see Perry not at her best. Her failed marriage to comedian Russell Brand is a brief highlight. The marriage falls apart during the tour and so does Perry. Yet this film in public-relations fashion never lets fans know how tough it gets. That part appears planned or carefully edited.
Directors Cutforth and Lipsitz allow audiences back stage with Perry, but they are careful this does not become a reality show. They do a good job allowing her family life to show, but they stay away from — again carefully — anything in depth about the singer’s life that could be negative while supplying only a few subtle hints. If one blinks, those moments are easily missed.
At times, Cutforth and Lipsitz appear unsure whether they want to make this film about how Perry got her start, her relationship with Russell Brand, or her relationship and inspiration to fans. Each part is nice, although it lacks the hardcore focus of a superb documentary. Still, Perry’s style and music are entertaining enough that her fans will enjoy it, and others should be adequately pleased.
Grade: B- (Part of her is all viewers get, but it is enough.)
“Savages” (Crime Drama: 2 hours, 10 minutes)
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Cool Summer Reads
They don’t have the ad budgets or the hype of summer movies. They lack the radio airplay of summer music.
But summer books have a lot to offer.
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A play review
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Billings, Montana: Where the old West remains alive
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Stamp Out Hunger
Postal food drive returns this weekend
Langdale book seeks relationship between conservatism and the South
A former Valdosta resident has written a book that delves into both “the rise of the modern conservative movement and the demise of Southern regional distinctiveness.”
‘Iron Man 3’ has a rusty plot
Movie Reviews: "Iron Man 3," "The Big Wedding," ""Pain & Gain"
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