Film Shots: Ted and Savages

Ted: 3.5/5

There was a time where I loved Family Guy. Saying that now makes me feel dirty, especially how grating the show has become with its non-sequiturs and languid punch-lines. Nonetheless, the first two seasons are fine examples of a show being refreshing and unapologetically brash. Ted is representative of the  first seasons. Written and directed by Seth MacFarlane, Ted is a foul-mouthed fantasy revolving around a man who can’t grow up. The man,  a Boston born and bred man-child named John (Mark Wahlberg), holds a deep relationship with a living teddy bear that guzzles beer and loves physically surveying the nether regions of women. For over twenty years, John and his bear, aptly named Ted, have proudly faced arrested development together, one bong hit at a time. Their form of contained chaos takes a hit when John’s girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis), pleads with him to leave his fuzzy partner behind.  Through drunken stupors and a romantic ultimatum, Ted and John fall apart. Fortunately for us, their strained relationship leads to some hilarious moments. From a plot point hinging on an 80’s film superhero to a prostitute’s active bowels, there is a surprisingly high ratio of laughs present.

There are certainly moments where MacFarlane uses prototypical Family Guy jokes. From recall jokes to lame pop culture references that miss the mark, MacFarlane doesn’t entirely rid himself of the comic stigmas that plague his TV show. With that being said, there’s still a lot to laugh at. At the forefront is Mark Wahlberg as the affable John. For all intents and purposes, John is a dumbass that deserves our mocking glare, but Wahlberg shines brightly, lending his character a level of lovable charm. His commitment to a joke is beyond admirable. As for Ted, voiced by MacFarlane, he is weirdly adorable. With his thick Boston accent and penchant for destructive behavior, Ted is always endearing despite his need to reach for the lowest common denominator. Now, I can justify the humor found within Ted, but I can’t justify its running time or plot. Realistically, Ted feels like a vignette of sketches stretched thin. Not that comedies need an airtight narrative, but the film drags to the point that it’s hard to imagine why it’s as long as it is. Nothing of significance is at risk. Everything supplements the joke, and when that’s the case, the road to pointlessness can become cumbersome. Despite its irrational longevity, Ted still harnesses enough laughs to grant a viewing. I hope you’re ready for teddy bear sex.

Savages: 2.75/5

Oliver Stone films are often overly provocative. Through his kinetic imagery, Stone pounds away on a controversial stance that feels as subtle as a drill to the head. Every once in a while he connects in a large way (Platoon, JFK), while his other excursions are unmitigated messes (Natural Born Killers, Wrong Turn). Savages finds itself comfortably in the realm of the latter. Taking place between the nightmarish landscape of the Mexican drug game and the posh, sun-kissed world of Laguna Beach, Savages takes a look at the unfortunate souls peddling drugs and information in favor of leverage. Kick starting a turf war are pot wunderkinds Chon and Ben (Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson ), Yin and Yang pot dealers that have created an herbal supplement that’s ten times emore ffective than one’s  normal bud. Crafting quite the market for themselves, and a stylish life straight out of a Beverly Hills tourist magazine, Chon and Ben possess a product other drug rings yearn for. And when other drug kingpins want your business, submission is a necessary act to avoid decapitation by chainsaw. Looking to elicit an obedient response from Chon and Ben is Elena Sanchez (Salma Hayek), a semi-ruthless kingpin that is feeling her territory slipping away. Elena, after being denied her request for expansion, attacks Chon and Ben where it hurts:  their shared girlfriend in O (Blake Lively). Elena holds O hostage in lieu of the boy’s profitable business. Revenge becomes the clear mode of operation.

A barrage of bullets and double crosses propel our characters to behave like wild animals. Favors are called in, bodies pile up and everyone ends up begging for a level of trust in the untrustworthy.  From a corrupt DEA agent (John Travolta) to a malevolent enforcer named Lado (Benicio del Toro), Stone ensures that everyone involved partakes in the savagery. The only problem plaguing the no holds barred war is a of lack concern from the viewer. Stone attempts to paint these characters as complicated, which pays off in moments of misplaced morality, but otherwise we could care less about the destruction they create. Their back sliding, gun-toting ways become tedious and exhausting. Instead of exploding to a rollicking finish, Savages limps to an over thought “gothca” ending that just elicits a listless shrug. I must admit, there is one clever detail in Savages that demonstrated its potential. Ironically, when a character is staring death in the face, they ask for mercy in the name of their children and lovers. Only in death do these savages actually begin to reconsider their lifestyle and the people they love. If only they used that mindset earlier to avoid a damning life. Stone could’ve learned from this. If his characters were given the time to breathe, disaster would’ve been averted.


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