Reel Critics: Oliver Stone's 'Savages' twists and thrills

I was going to review of Woody Allen's "To Rome with Love," but why waste your time? Except for the scenery, it's a major disappointment. Oliver Stone's pulpy, ferocious thriller"Savages" makes greed good and exciting.

Set in Laguna Beach, two best friends (Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson) have become the Ben & Jerry of cannabis growers. Their product is so successful they get the attention of a Mexican drug cartel led by the ruthless Elena (Salma Hayek) and her two lieutenants (Demián Bichir and Benicio Del Toro).

The plot is twisty, and the violence swift, gruesome and terrifying, especially when Del Toro is on screen. His wolfish grin can be slyly funny but is usually the signal something nasty is about to happen.

Hayek is a standout too — a savvy businesswoman with Cleopatra hair who thinks nothing of kidnapping, torture and murder. John Travolta is fun as a federal agent who plays all the angles to save his money and his life.

Finally there is Blake Lively, a free-spirited rich girl as golden as the sun, used to having the world spin around her.

And in Oliver Stone's film, it does.


Spinning a web with an edge in 'Spider-Man'

Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created the originalSpider-Man comic books. As screenwriters, they team up with director Marc Web to create the ultimate re-boot of their franchise."The Amazing Spider-Man" is a complete makeover of the first movie's origin story with rip roaring special effects, great acting and a first-rate screenplay.

There's now a gritty edge to all the action. There's a realistic tone to the personal dramas of Spidey's double life as teenager Peter Parker. Andrew Garfield (Eduardo in"The Social Network") brings unexpected gravitas to the role of the troubled young man with sudden super powers. Of course, the plot creates a new super villain to challenge the super hero.

Emma Stone is outstanding as Peter's high school sweetheart. Martin Sheen and Sally Field play the aunt and uncle who raise Peter after his parents die under mysterious circumstances. All the actors power the emotional connection that pulls the audience into the heart-pounding exploits on the screen. Their success at this endeavor is what makes this "Spiderman" a rousing summer entertainment.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

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