Surprised that I didn’t hear about Lee Harvey Oswald in here at all.
This follows the true story of the heroic survival and rescue of two Port Authority policemen – Sergeant John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) and Officer William J Jimeno (Michael Pena) – who were trapped in the rubble of the World Trade Centre on 11 September 2001, after they went in to help people escape.
Back in 2006, when this was first coming, people had two reservations about it at first: 1. Is 5 years too soon? and 2. What the hell is Oliver Stone going to do with this material? To be honest, these reservations were both very reasonable and understood at the time because people were (and still are) grieving over their lost ones from that fateful day and Stone has always been known to get pretty crazy and paranoid about the topics he covers. But thankfully, nothing ever really goes down the wrong path here. I mean that too, nothing.
The best part about Stone’s direction here is that he doesn’t pull any punches with this touchy story. That means there’s no conspiracy theories about who was behind the Bush administration at the time or who was actually behind the attacks themselves, but instead just gives us a true story of courage and the man’s will to fight for survival no matter what the obstacles may be standing in their way. Sounds like something that is very out of the ordinary for Stone to direct but he doesn’t lose his mind with this material and keeps everything grounded to where this becomes one of those inspirational stories you would expect it to be.
Going into a film about this certain subject, you have to expect your heartstrings to be tugged at a bit and even though they do, it doesn’t feel manipulative. Simply put, this is Stone’s way of showing us how two policeman, fought for their lives just to stay alive, tell the story of it all, and go on back home to their wife and kids. It’s one of those sappy stories that we always see and hear about but it isn’t used in that same context here. It feels real, it feels genuine, and it feels like something that Stone really does rightfully care about and feel for. Weird to think that this is the same dude who was out there showing Mickey and Mallory shooting people’s heads off, would also be one of the first people to pay tribute to the men and women that died on 9/11.
But aside from being very genuine and true to it’s emotions and who it’s trying to give love towards, there’s not much else here that’s really eventful or groundbreaking in terms of story-telling which makes it a bit more tedious in a way. This is a story about real human-beings being in real-life situation/catastrophe, but maybe there should have been more excitement, more tension, more, I don’t know, more suspense as to know what’s going to happen. I wasn’t asking for a fast-paced action movie that took place in New York during 9/11, but I was just waiting for something to really pull me in fully and keep my eyes glued but instead I just found myself and my mind going into other places. I have no idea but it just did and maybe it was the fact that I wasn’t in the most perfect mood to watch this.
The movie looks great with plenty of detail and attention going towards how New York looked like during and after the Towers fell. It was really neat to see how realistic everything looked as you could almost feel the same pandemonium as everybody else did there but there could have been more of that. There was this really cool sequence where Stone gathers real-life footage from people checking out what happened on 9/11 from all over the world and it’s a sequence that shows you the kind of impact this even had on the world, not just our own country. This showed me that Stone maybe played it a little too safe in just focusing on this little story of two men, and could have gone a bit bigger by focusing on the environment surrounding them and how everybody felt during this time but I guess Stone didn’t want to go too far because then he would have had to start bringing out the conspiracy theories, and then things would have gotten bad for this movie.
Oh, another reservation some people may have had about this film beforehand may have also been that Nicolas Cage was in the lead role as Sergeant John McLoughlin, but no need to fear people, he’s actually pretty good here. I think it would be pretty hard for Cage to screw up a role like this, considering he barely moves and just stays underneath a huge piece of rubble the whole film, but the guy does well with it and reminds us that he can still handle roles like these. The one who really gets away with this flick is Michael Peña as Officer William J Jimeno, showing a sweet innocence to him that makes us sympathize with this character even more because all he shows is love and sweetness to everyone around him even before this happened. Both are good and work very well together, as well as everybody else in this cast, but those New York accents got to be a bit too much for me at points. I get it, everybody in this movie is practically from New York or somewhere near there so they have to have an accent but do they really need to be this deep? It get’s distracting at times, but you’ll start to forget about that once you start to see all of the notable faces that Stone has pop-up on the screen. It’s sort of like a really fun game of “Hey, remember me?”.
Consensus: World Trade Center is a rare example of Oliver Stone playing it really, really safe which has it’s positives and negatives, but mostly shows us the true story of two brave Americans that did whatever they could do stay alive in a time and place like New York City during 9/11.
Blake Lively stars as Ophelia, the girlfriend to two Laguna Beach entrepreneurs, one an ex-mercenary (Taylor Kitsch) and the other a principled environmentalist (Aaron Johnson), who’ve built a thriving homegrown industry on the best marijuana ever developed. When they refuse to sell their business to a brutal Mexican drug cartel (lead by Salma Hayek and Benicio Del Toro), Ophelia is kidnapped, and so begins an escalating series of ploys with savage consequences.
It’s been a very long time since director Oliver Stone has made a good movie, or at least, made a movie that’s more entertaining than it is preachy. So for his return to form, it seems like Stone is back to making stories about hot people, hot guns, hot money, and most of all, hot Mexican drug dealers.
What I liked most about this flick is that it seems like Stone is really having a fun time with this material. Take it for granted, I never read the Don Winslow novel that this adapted from, but from what I hear, it’s a freakin’ cult-classic that keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time you’re reading it, which is very surprising to hear considering my only way of actually reading nowadays is watching a foreign flick. But anywho, Stone starts this story off well by giving us a setting, the characters, and an under-lining sense of impending doom that sooner or later, bad shit is going to happen and going to happen badly, too. Things never get to the full-on extremist-level that I feel like it could have gone towards, but any time it even tries to dance with that idea, it works and brings a whole bunch of fun and kinetic energy to it.
Another aspect of this movie was how I didn’t quite know what was going to happen next, after Ophelia eventually ends up getting captured. To me, I felt like I knew what was going to happen to these characters, how, when, and where, but for some odd reason, Stone totally changed things up on me. Stone starts to focus his attention towards different details, characters, and plot devices that made me wonder just what this guy really was going to pull out of his hat by the end of it all. But this film wouldn’t be a Stone film without any of the trade-mark changing of colors throughout the film, which we do get, but not enough in my opinion. Honestly, when you have a Stone flick, you can never go wrong with too many changes of color in one movie.
Problem with this film, is that whenever you think that this film is going to deliver the goods on when it showed to be Stone’s “most ruthless film since Natural Born Killers“, I didn’t see it. Yeah, there’s a couple of grisly kills here and there but when I go into a Stone film that promises me the type of blood-shed like his 1994 classic, I expect freakin’ blood and guts everywhere, not just two torture scenes out of a whole 2 hour and 10 minute movie. Even when the tension builds up in some scenes and we get a taste of Stone’s frenetic feel, it’s awesome and brings you right back into the story, but whenever it leaves, you feel disappointed like Stone had all of this crazy shit planned but didn’t decide to go with it because he seems to have a better appreciation for life in his older years. Boo old Oliver Stone!
What interested me about this flick right from the start of production, was the ensemble cast that Stone was able to assemble here that are all pretty good. First off, the young blood. Taylor Kitsch has had a pretty rough year so far and it only seems to get a lot worse considering he doesn’t really do much in this flick, other than just stand around, look tough, and call up his Army boys to save him when he feels like shit is about to go down. Maybe that’s how his character was written in the book, but it makes for a very boring and dull character, especially when you have him uttering out lines like, “life does not change, life changes you”. Give me a break dude. Blake Lively also doesn’t do much as O, even though the story is all surrounded her. The problem with Lively here is that even though some of her scenes can be good, her narration that carries on throughout the whole film just made me want to not only hope that she got killed, but whoever was taping her voice for the narration was as well. Her lines are terribly cheesy like one where she goes, “I had orgasms, he had Wargasms”. Really? Is that what we consider clever when we make jokes about sex?
The actual stand-out from these youngsters is probably Aaron Johnson, who shows that he is fresh face that deserves to be watched in the upcoming years. He’s pretty solid here as the hippie-like dude, Ben, and gives this character a total transformation from soft, peace-loving guy who loves the weed he grows and smokes from violent, hell-breaker that just wants his girl and his business back. Johnson definitely makes this character a lot more interesting than what was already written for him and it’s cool to see that this is pretty much the same kid from Kick-Ass, who is still doing the same things 2 years later, only this time, with weed added to the ass-kicking. My man.
Now, it’s time for the old-heads in our cast. Benicio Del Toro is pretty cartoonish as Lado, a vicious enforcer who wants to be his own man, but also can’t because of the orders he has to take. Saying that “he is cartoonish” isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because this guy can be pretty scary whenever he’s on-screen. Del Toro has a lot of scenes where you can just tell that this guy is up to no good and I guess when you have a Mexican drug dealer villain in any film, that’s always good, if a tad racist. Salma Hayek plays his boss, Elena, who shows off a new side to her where she’s chewing the scenery like no other with all of her yelling and screaming, but still has chances to settle it all down and be a real person. Definitely could have replaced Julia Roberts in Mirror Mirror. Then again, would have been a whole different film entirely. It was also a surprise to see John Travolta in a meaty role that shows him off as being sort of a dickhead of sorts. Travolta plays this crooked-ass DEA agent that’s on everybody’s pay-roll and you, just like the characters in the movie, don’t know whether or not to trust him. This is a great role for Travolta, because it reminds everybody that he actually does have some good acting chops still left in him, even if some can’t get past the fact that he may be playing for the same team. But hey, that’s OK in my book, just keep on bringing out some good roles.
Consensus: Though it is a tad messy and never goes to the full extremes of violence that it seemed like it promised, Savages is still a fun return to form for Oliver Stone, who shows that he still has the knack for choosing a great ensemble cast, and giving them good material to work with, even if some of them aren’t as good as others. I’m talking about you Blake Lively and Taylor Kitsch.
I don’t like it but Warren Beatty is starting to grow on me here.
California Sen. Jay Bulworth (Warren Beatty), reduced by years of compromise and scheming, hires a hit man to put him out of his misery. Kicking off an election campaign with nothing to lose, Bulworth lets his mouth get his ass in hot water.
Now for me I like a lot of satirical films, such as Natural Born Killers and also This Is Spinal Tap.., but I never really found the politician satirical films to be that interesting or funny. I always felt like they were just trying to imitate real-life figures in politics and make a different story, but this one is very different and I actually enjoyed it.
This movie is passed off as a comedy, but I think more importantly it says what we wish a lot of politicians would say all the time, which is the truth. Granted this movie is only one opinion, but the talk about race and more importantly class, is right on if you listen to what he actually says, part of it will either make you sick or really stop to make you think. The message that lies within the film is heartfelt and actually shows us a lot of true elements to what we want for our country but in a hugely melo-dramatic way, but with a really strong sense of comedy.
The comedy in this film never really gets old, and I actually found myself laughing at a lot of what Beatty said but also a lot of people around him were saying. The racist slang’s that Beatty uses are hilarious to listen too but also very true in what he says half of the time, and what shows to be the strength is it’s screenplay.
I felt like some parts in this film were not needed at all. The love story between Halle Berry and Beatty was pretty lame, and not needed, and put in just for the sake of having a love story. Also by the end of the film I felt it got a little too predictable. There is a little bit of symbolism that runs throughout the film that when it first came up basically made me know what was going to happen for the rest of the film.
Beatty, though as much as I try to dislike him, I just can’t help but love him in this film. This is basically his film as he is director, main actor, producer, and also co-writer. He does a very good job with all but ultimately succeeds in his acting. This isn’t the normal woman charmer dick like Beatty we have seen before he actually plays a different character than all of his other films, and breaks down barriers that some thought could never be broken. It breaks down and so does his performance and it really does show he can act in different roles and play different people, and not the same guy all the time.
Consensus: Bulworth is a little predictable by the end, but Warren Beatty does a great job at keeping this movie hilarious but also very true in it’s message about race in politics, without ever losing it’s charm.
One of the craziest acid trips, that I didn’t take acid for.
Mickey and Mallory Knox (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis, respectively) hit the road on an interstate killing spree that triggers a manhunt and garners amazing ratings for a tabloid TV star (Robert Downey Jr.).
Wow this surely is one of the craziest movies I have ever seen. The thing I can say about this film is that the violence, blood, gore, and everything else in between this film is what surely makes this film so controversial and insane.
With Natural Born Killers, the first time you watch it, it goes with visceral overload and you have to sort of stand back and catch the satire and comedy that’s interlocked with all that violence. The second time I watched and found the satire and mostly I found out what the real message behind it all was but it still didn’t come in too clearly as it may have been.
This is directed by Oliver Stone, who has always seemed to be my favorite. He directs this film with such pure authenticity and such art that it really is a beautiful movie to watch if you can get past the blood and violence. The visuals are certainly dazzling and overall amazing. Stone uses so many different takes within a scene that you can’t take your eyes off the screen cause your afraid you may miss a little footnote in the story, through the images shown. The color of this film is beautiful to watch and most colors during one scene change about 12 times and it surely is a beauty to see.
The message of the film is that the media praises and follows murderers as if they are some sort of celebrity. Through many other scenes Stone shows how evil and television pretty much do work hand in hand. Though I understood this message the second time, the first time not so much. I think that by the 3rd act the message does get a little over stated and worn out cause the violence is right there in your face and there’s really no message behind all the violence, it’s just violence and nothing else to it.
There are many parodies in this film all on old TV sitcoms, and cheesy crime TV shows which are pretty well done and actually funny. Stone’s ambition to show that the violence in this film influences what happens with the media and the rest of society. The message is comes pretty clear after the second watch if you can get past all the violence and blood.
The performances from the cast are very over-the-top. Harrelson and Lewis are great and you can actually feel the love and also the psychotically from these two that lies beneath them in every situation. The supporting cast of Tommy Lee Jones, Tom Sizemore, and Robert Downey Jr. all do equally as good as supporters and show their own type of parody’s as well.
Consensus: Not for the faint of heart. Natural Born Killers is bloody, satirical, violent, and chock full of a message that can be easily understood even if Stone does put a lot of guts in your laps.