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Platoon

In the late 1960’s, Chris Taylor (played by Charlie Sheen) arrives in Vietnam – fresh-faced, keen and naiive. He’s already one of a minority – he’s dropped out of college and volunteered for the Army. He joins his Platoon – lead by Sergeant Barnes (by Tom Berenger), a worldly-wise career soldier with facial scars to prove he’s experienced violence before – and Sergeant Elias (by Willem Dafoe), the complete opposite to Barnes, he manages to keep a spiritual calm despite the high stress jungle environment and his doubts about the war. Chris’ platoon buddies help him to familiarise with the ways of jungle warfare – the longer he’s here, the more he learns and the higher he’s valued by his platoon. Life in Vietnam for these soldiers is frightening and punctuated by incessant bugs, damp, exhaustion, rations, drugs and marking off a mental calendar until leaving again for home. Rainforest encounters with the enemy are difficult, chaotic and terrifying – and when violence erupts between highly stressed soldiers and Vietnamese villagers, things can get nasty very quickly. As the weeks pass, Chris becomes less and less confident in his quest and more and more distant from his home and much loved Grandma. His letters home are his journal – his thoughts, once moral and positive, become doubtful and sceptical. Who’s the real enemy here? … is this really what he signed up for?

This is a graphic war movie and it’s good. If you want a ground-level view of Army life for a jungle solider in the Vietnam War, this is probably a great place to start. The day to day boredom and terror of this life is depicted well by Oliver Stone – the viewer can feel the humidity, sweat, grime and horror that is experienced by these soldiers. Charlie Sheen is marvellous as Chris Taylor, it’s perhaps his best ever performance. Tom Berenger is excellent as the unpredictable and terrifying Platoon Sergeant Barnes – he was awarded Best Support Actor by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for this performance and nominated for an Academy Award (Oscar). Oliver Stone’s directorship earned him awards from the Hollywood Foreign Press, Directors Guild of America, Independent Spirit Awards, BAFTA, Berlin International Film Festival and Academy (Oscar). Willem Dafoe’s portrayal as Elias is a great counterpoint to the irrational Barnes and he was nominated for an Academy Award (Oscar) for this. The Platoon features several actors who went on to do marvellous work after this – Forest Whitaker, Keith David, Kevin Dillon, John C. McGinley and a very young Johnny Depp. The cinematography is great (it won an Independent Spirit Award and was nominated for an Academy Award [Oscar]) and the editing and sound are Academy Award winners too.  It’s a good war movie.

Made in 1986. Directed by Oliver Stone.

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Posted by on February 15, 2015 in Movies

 

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Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

In the heady days of the early 1990’s in the heart of the financial world – Wall Street, Gordon Gekko (played by Michael Douglas) is a mover and a shaker – one of the most successful and ruthless of financial market traders ever to operate out of “The Street”. But this comes to a stunning end when he is found guilty of insider trading and money laundering, then spends the next eight years in prison to consider his mistakes and contemplate his future. In 2001, Gordon is released a “changed man” but by 2008, his daughter Winnie (by Carey Mulligan) is estranged from him. She is a political activist journalist in NYC and is engaged to ambitious junior trader Jake Moore (by Shia Labeouf). Jake hopes Winnie and her father will reconcile, so he contacts Gordon while he is promoting the book he wrote (“Is Greed Good?”) after his release from prison. The global economy is on the brink of crisis and Gordon foretells this while he is speaking on the book circuit. But Gordon’s standing is tarnished, both in the eyes of the financial community and with his own daughter, so his life has a lonely edge these days. To make life a challenge, Jake’s firm collapses during the financial crisis – with the help of rival banker Bretton James (by Josh Brolin) – who also happens to be an old adversary of Gekko’s. So ensues a “tit for tat” story where each man sets out for revenge for the wrongs done to them by the others and become top dog of The Street … no, The World.

This movie is the sequel to the 1987 stunner movie “Wall Street” where we first heard Gordon Gekko utter those famous words – “Greed … is good”.  I understand that reviewers generally feel this sequel is not nearly as good as the original “Wall Street”. Perhaps that’s true, but it is still a good movie. There are several references to the original story throughout the movie, which is fine – and appropriate – and often quite fun. Best of all is the cameo by a key character in the original “Wall Street”, Bud Fox (by Charlie Sheen). There are great performances here – Michael Douglas totally owns the role of Gordon Gekko and I am pleased to say he reprises him in all his cold, heartless and ruthless glory for some sections of the movie, which is marvellous – he shines from the screen in these scenes. His earlier, “Gordon’s found a heart and a conscience” persona is not quite as compelling, but it’s interesting and almost endearing all the same. For me, the other characters are mostly peripheral, but Winnie is performed beautifully by Carey Mulligan. The two other key actors, Josh Brolin and Shia Labeouf play their characters Bretton James and Jake Moore as they need to – and Brolin’s is definitely the stronger of the two performances. Their interractions are fine and their story is easily watchable, but that’s all. Susan Sarandon appears as Jake’s mother, which is a nice touch. All in all, this movie is pretty good and it belongs to Michael Douglas – just as it should.

Made in 2010. Directed by Oliver Stone

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2012 in Movies

 

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U-Turn

Bobby Cooper (played by Sean Penn) is headed to Las Vegas in his slick, red convertible. He has to pay off a gambling debt to Russian gangsters and he’s behind in his payments – he’s already had two fingers cut off by the mob, one for each of the two weeks he’s late. While travelling down the Arizona highway, his radiator hose bursts and he must find somewhere to get it fixed. He finds Superior, a tiny desolate mining town and tracks down Darrell (by Billy Bob Thornton) – a greasy, rather unsavoury looking mechanic at the only gas station within 50 miles. Darrel cheerfully suggests Bobby “check out the town” while he fixes his car. So Bobby takes a look around.

Of course, this town is populated by some strange characters – he meets a wise, old Native American (by Jon Voight) who sees the world through blind eyes, the innocent teenager Jenny (by Claire Danes), Toby N Tucker [TNT] (by Joaquin Phoenix) a youth itching for a fight and the sexy but lonely and desperate Grace McKeena (by Jennifer Lopez) – who entices Bobby into a liaison which develops into a sticky situation with her rich husband Jake (Nick Nolte). The mobsters manage to track Bobby down while he is in Superior and when things get tricky, Superior’s Sheriff (by Powers Boothe) is on hand, These bizarre people each interract with Bobby in their own way, even though he tries to keep to himself. But then things take an even stranger turn when Bobby realises he doesn’t have the money to retrieve his fixed car and unless he gets money somehow he’s virtually trapped in Superior …  then as the stakes and tensions rise, things only get worse for him.

This really is a great movie. You can feel the tension from the minute Bobby steps into Superior – and practically taste the dust in your dry mouth when you watch him explore this bizarre town. Each of the strange characters evokes a particular emotion or moral dilemma for Bobby and Sean Penn plays this role marvellously. Billy Bob Thornton is totally unrecognizable as the strange Darrell and Jennifer Lopez is at her alluring best as Grace. Nick Nolte plays her rich husband running his own agenda magnificently too  The twists and turns in the plot are developed well and clearly depict Bobby’s building frustration and desperation. The excellent cinematography takes you right into the desert with Bobby and you feel hot, dry and sweaty right along with him. As you watch, you really do hope the movie is going to end well but somehow you also know that just might not happen. It’s a very good movie.

Made 1997. Directed by Oliver Stone

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2012 in Movies

 

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