Stoned again, thankfully 

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Regardless of whether you partake or believe in the actual smoking of it, there's no denying that marijuana is awesome when it comes to the movies.

Stoner comedies (usually a mixture of farce, self-discovery and fish-out-of-water themes starring two male leads who argue almost as much as they smoke) have been a successful genre since 1978, when Cheech Marin and Chong essentially invented cannabis cinema with Up In Smoke. Over the years, the devil's weed has helped propel countless half-baked ideas onto the silver screen but it's also been central to some true classics — who can argue with the Dude's logic in the Coen Brothers' classic The Big Lebowski or deny the high school nostalgia evoked by Dazed and Confused or the Sean Penn scenes in Fast Times at Ridgemont High?

And there's no way to deny the zany pleasures of flicks like Friday, Strange Wilderness, or the Harold and Kumar trilogy (which follow the stoner game plan of mixing clever social commentary in amongst its puffs and passes.)

Ted, still playing at both the Village 8 and Garibaldi 5, counts as a stoner comedy (it does star a talking, walking, smoking stuffed bear) but there is a different kind of weed flick opening in Whistler this Friday. Savages is a drug-war action/shoot-em-up starring Blake Lively as a hot chick in love with two brilliant and successful buddies who have established themselves as the good-guy pot kingpins of Southern California. When a Mexican Cartel kidnaps the girl in an attempt to establish some kind of lopsided "deal" with the Yanks, things get real violent and very, well, savage.

Director Oliver Stone (Natural Born Killers, JFK) has been accused of taking it too easy lately. Many feel that, considering his subject matter, flicks like World Trade Centre, W, and Wall Street 2 lacked intensity. It seems Olly got the message. Savages is bloody, intense, violent, funny at times, and full of those awesome oversaturated sunshine-y outdoor shots that add grit and beauty (see: Domino, the Constant Gardener).

Aaron Johnson (Kick-Ass) is the brilliant weed genius who grows/engineers the perfect product. BC-born Taylor Kitsch (John Carter) is the crap-kicking best buddy. Together they live it up and share Blake Lively in California's state of sunny happiness and legal marijuana dispensaries until a gnarly Mexican cartel led by Salma Hayek (Desperado) and Benicio del Torres (Traffic) step in looking for their piece of the product.

John Travolta (Michael) stars as the obligatory crooked DEA agent. After the girl gets dragged into Mexico, the boys head down to kick some ass and test out the old mantra that he who wins a war will be he (or she) who's willing to get the most savage. And it's a rocking good time, albeit a bit long at just over two hours.

Oliver Stone is an interesting, hit-or-miss director but he's also the guy that wrote Scarface and pre-visualized the viewing sensibilities of a generation raised (poorly) via Youtube with Natural Born Killers. On Savages he's riding a line somewhere in between those two and it works for me.

Interestingly, this type of drug-war ultra-violence has traditionally been reserved for cocaine (Blow) or crack (New Jack City) but times change and so do sales models. Everyone knows prohibition doesn't work (The Untouchables) but why wouldn't organized crime have something to say about decriminalization? This flick has a brain, a lot of blood and a hot chick in a hot tub.

It may not be a stoner comedy, but it's classic Oliver Stone.


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