TV Review: Breaking Bad (2008-2013)

Original Run: January 20th, 2008 – September 29th, 2013
Created by: Vince Gilligan
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Dave Porter
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, Bob Odenkirk, Giancarlo Esposito, Jonathan Banks, Laura Fraser, Jesse Plemons, Steven Michael Quezada, Charles Baker, Matt Jones, Krysten Ritter, Mark Margolis, Michael Bowen, Bill Burr, Raymond Cruz, Jere Burns, John de Lancie

High Bridge Entertainment, Gran Via Productions, Sony Pictures Television, AMC, 62 Episodes, 43-58 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I came to the Breaking Bad party pretty late but after multiple seasons of people raving about it, I ended up binging through it all just before the last season premiered.

I also almost quit the show, as the beginning of the first season drags. But once I got to the end of Season One, everything just sort of clicked and I was hooked. But even then, I thought that it would be good but that it would slowly lose steam, as all shows do and eventually, I wouldn’t care about it.

Breaking Bad did something that almost no other show has been capable of doing, though. It continued to improve and get better as it rolled on.

Just when you thought the show reached its peak, it’d throw a curveball or shock you in a way that television shows before this were never able to do. And most importantly, it either gave you satisfying resolutions to plot threads or it subverted expectations and actually gave you something better and surprising.

Frankly, I hate the “subvert their expectations” bullshit that creatives in Hollywood seem to be clinging onto because 99 percent of the time, it’s just an indicator that they’re out of ideas and their only solution is to take a big shit and go, “Ha! You fans didn’t see that coming! I’m a genius! Adore me!”

No. Breaking Bad subverts expectations and gives the viewer something better. And it didn’t just do this once or twice, it did it quite often and it was consistently really fucking good at it. More than anything, that’s what made this show so great.

Additionally, very extreme things happen on the show but it never jumps the shark or takes you out of reality. Everything feels real and plausible and it does a superb job in staying grounded and not taking a turn for the ridiculous, as many shows have done that started out really strong.

I’d have to say that the best thing about this, though, is the cast. Everyone, top to bottom, is perfection.

Almost every character in the show starts at one end of the spectrum and finds a way to make it to the opposite side. All of this happens slowly and naturally. Characters you like become ones you despise and ones you might not have liked become lovable. There are secondary characters that stay the same throughout but many of them are there to be measuring sticks, to show you how every main character evolves in their own way over five seasons.

I know that there has been a ton of hype about this show for years but it is one of the few that lived up to it and actually, in my opinion, exceeded it. Breaking Bad is as close to a perfect show that you can get for a crime drama with neo-western and neo-noir flavors.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other modern crime dramas but this is the best of the lot.

Film Review: Rambo (2008)

Also known as: Rambo IV (unofficial title), Rambo IV: End of Peace, Rambo IV: In the Serpent’s Eye, Rambo IV: Pearl of the Cobra, Rambo: To Hell and Back, John Rambo, Rambo: First Blood Part IV (working titles)
Release Date: January 23rd, 2008 (Kuwait)
Directed by: Sylvester Stallone
Written by: Art Monterastelli, Sylvester Stallone
Based on: characters by David Morrell
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Paul Schulze, Matthew Marsden, Graham McTavish, Tim Kang, Rey Gellegos, Jake La Botz, Maung Maung Khin, Ken Howard

Lionsgate, The Weinstein Company, Millennium Films, 92 Minutes, 99 Minutes (extended), 80 Minutes (heavily cut)

Review:

“You know what you are… what you’re made of. War is in your blood. Don’t fight it. You didn’t kill for your country. You killed for yourself. God’s never gonna make that go away. When you’re pushed, killing’s as easy as breathing.” – John Rambo

This was a film that I never knew I wanted until I saw the trailer for it back in 2007. But after the success of Stallone’s return as Rocky Balboa in Rocky Balboa, a decades late Rambo sequel felt like a natural follow up, creatively speaking.

I assumed the Rambo character, like Rocky, was long gone. I figured that someone would eventually just do a shitty remake. But no, we got this, a legit sequel and one of the most intense action films of its decade.

Rambo is super violent, supremely extreme and it doesn’t just feel like a throwback to ’80s action movies, it feels like a fucking throwback to ’70s gore porn exploitation! I’m not even sure what Stallone or the other executives were thinking but this movie was like a big “fuck you” to the Hollywood status quo, who ruined action and horror by forcing every genre filmmaker to keep their art neutered for PG-13 audiences.

This is the best Rambo movie since the original: First Blood. It, like the other films, has a message and a point to it, as it draws attention to just how shitty the decades long genocide was in Burma. It’s unapologetic in how it displays the sadistic nature of the fascist dictatorship and its treatment of its citizens. Since the movie, things have improved in Burma (actually officially called Myanmar).

In fact, the film was banned there by the government. However, it was eventually disturbed via bootlegs by the resistance, hoping to use it as anti-military propaganda. It also went on to inspire the people in the country, who adopted some of the film’s most notable lines in their battle cries. Learning of all this, Stallone said, “That, to me, is one of the proudest moments I’ve ever had in film.”

I point that out because some people have wondered as to whether or not things in Burma were as bad as the movie portrayed. Also, it shows that Hollywood can make a difference and inspire change when it addresses real world problems and doesn’t get fixated on faux bourgeois identity politics or being overly fixated on trashing the other end of the political spectrum most of them subscribe to.

The film’s story is pretty simple: a group of missionaries charter Rambo’s boat in Thailand. They want to go up the river into Burma to deliver aid to the people there. Rambo reluctantly agrees. The missionaries eventually get captured and Rambo goes back to Burma with a group of mercenaries to bring war to some of the worst humans on the planet.

If you thought that previous Rambo films were too violent, then you might want to skip this film. This is insanely violent but when the villains are as evil as they are in this movie, it feels gratifying to see them literally blasted to bloody chunks.

Also, Stallone feels completely at home in the John Rambo character; like no time has passed and he’s been living in Rambo’s head for twenty years, waiting to get out. For die hard fans of the film series, this more than makes up for a twenty year gap between the third film and this one.

It’s a short, quick and badass motion picture. It’s also one of the best that Stallone, himself, has directed.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Rambo movies, as well as other ’80s and early ’90s Stallone movies.

TV Review: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008-2009)

Original Run: January 13th, 2008 – April 10th, 2009
Created by: Josh Friedman
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Terminator by James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd
Music by: Bear McCreary
Cast: Lena Headey, Thomas Dekker, Summer Glau, Brian Austin Green, Garret Dillahunt, Shirley Manson, Richard T. Jones, Leven Rambin, Stephanie Jacobsen, Dean Winters, Dean Norris, Stephany Jacobsen, Busy Philipps, Theo Rossi, Chad L. Coleman

Sarah Connor Pictures, Bartleby Company, C2 Pictures, The Halcyon Company, Warner Bros. Television, Fox, 31 Episodes, 43 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

There are nearly a half dozen versions of what happens after Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Having seen all the sequels and reboots, I have to say, this is the best version of a sequel to the first two iconic films.

Now I haven’t seen the new movie that just came out, so I’ll have to see how that measures up once I get around to watching it. But the only real selling point for me is the return of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor.

But, if I’m being honest, I really like Lena Headey’s version of Sarah Connor after having finally seen this show.

Additionally, I also like Thomas Dekker’s John Connor, Summer Glau’s Terminator and the inclusion of Kyle Resse’s brother Derek, as played by Brian Austin Green, who I loved in this.

The cast is pretty solid, all around. Richard T. Jones did fantastic, as did Garret Dillahunt, who actually gets better as the show rolls on. I really thought that Dean Winters was a scene stealer in the episodes he was in though. I actually wish we would’ve gotten to see Winters more but then again, I wish this show could have survived beyond just a half season and one full season.

While this is an hour long drama show made for network television, it didn’t get bogged down by too much of the slice of life stuff. That did exist in the show but each episode had a purpose, was well paced and structured and you never felt like the characters were safe. There was always danger, they had to move a lot and thankfully, we didn’t get Summer Glau’s Terminator evolving into a happy homemaker, which was something I worried about before actually watching the show.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles builds off of the established mythos quote well and it explores some really interesting territory that none of the films have explored. There is a rogue liquid metal Terminator (played by Shirley Manson of the band Garbage), who is trying to build an anti-Skynet. You also have multiple timelines and different versions of characters that pop up. There was just a lot of neat angles the show took that we never get a real payoff to, as the second seasons ended on a cliffhanger that was never resolved.

This was a fantastic show that sadly didn’t get the longevity it needed to complete its story. Granted, everything could’ve gone to shit but I think that it probably would’ve been satisfying to see it all play out. Well, at least more satisfying than all the other attempts at a Terminator 3.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the first two Terminator films.

Documentary Review: Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown (2008)

Release Date: July 24th, 2008 (Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival)
Directed by: Frank H. Woodward
Cast: Ramsey Campbell, John Carpenter, Guillermo del Toro, Neil Gaiman, Stuart Gordon, S. T. Joshi, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Andrew Migliore, Robert M. Price, Peter Straub

Wyrd, 24 Frames, BintFilm, 90 Minutes

Review:

I didn’t know if there was a good documentary on H.P. Lovecraft but I felt like I wanted to watch one, so I found this. Luckily enough for all those who are interested, it is streaming for free on YouTube. Granted, that could change at any moment.

What’s great about this is that it is a pretty legit and well produced documentary. It features several notable people between Neil Gaiman, Guillermo del Toro, John Carpenter, Stuart Gordon, Peter Straub and others.

This goes through all the motions like you’d expect it to, as it discusses Lovecraft’s childhood, the things that shaped him and then it delves deep into his work and what it meant to people, primarily those being interviewed.

Overall, this is pretty standard, even though it definitely doesn’t feel like some hastily thrown together extra for a random horror box set. It’s a documentary created to stand on its own and it does quite well.

All of the interviewees did a good job providing stories, context and discussing how Lovecraft has influenced their creations.

It’s definitely worth checking out for fans of Lovecraft’s work, the stories he’s inspired or even just his film adaptations like Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dagon and more.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: H.P. Lovecraft film adaptations, as well as other documentaries about great literary figures.

TV Review: Ultraman Mebius: Side Story (2008-2009)

Original Run: 2008 – 2009
Created by: Tsuburaya Productions
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Cast: Keiichi Nanba, Motomu Kiyokawa, Shunji Igarashi, Makoto Miyoshi, Masaki Nishina, Ai Saikawa, Daisuke Watanabe, Kenta Uchino, Misato Hirata, Minoru Tanaka, Takeshi Kusao, Hiroya Ishimaru, Seizō Katō, Hisao Egawa, Daisuke Gōri, Ryōichi Tanaka, Hideyuki Hori, Hideyuki Tanaka, Jirō Dan, Kohji Moritsugu, Susumu Kurobe

Tsuburaya Productions, 5 Episodes, 13-26 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

While these five episodes were originally released as three separate stories, for their American streaming release, they were bundled together as five 13 to 26 minute episodes under the name Ultraman Mebius: Side Stories.

The first episode was originally released as a 13 minute short called Ultraman Mebius: Hikari Saga, episodes two and three were a two-parter titled Ultraman Mebius: Armored Darkness, while the final two episodes were another two-parter, Ultraman Mebius: Ghost Reverse.

All three stories take place after the Ultraman Mebius television show and serve as the official conclusion to Mebius’ story, even though he’s appeared in other Ultraman films and shows since these were released. But in any event it’s the finale for the normal human characters that fans came to love in the Mebius show.

Overall, this was pretty cool to see, as it’s been a while since I watched Ultraman Mebius and this made me properly nostalgic for it. So I guess it really did its job in that regard. And frankly, I would have watched this just after I saw Mebius but it wasn’t available in the US until just recently.

This, like many Ultraman events, was full of multiple Ultramen and multiple villains, many of whom played a major part in the Mebius mythos over the show’s 50 episodes.

The special effects and tone are exactly what one should expect from an Ultraman special event of the time. It truly looked like an extension of the show and could honestly just be five episodes tacked on at the end and most people wouldn’t know the difference.

I thought that the effects were a wee bit better than the norm but this probably had a bigger budget per episode than the television show that had to be more frugal due to the scale of the production.

If you like Ultraman Mebius, I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t enjoy this, especially the Armored Darkness story.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the Ultraman Mebius show and other Ultraman movies and specials.

 

Film Review: The Spirit (2008)

Also known as: Will Eisner’s The Spirit (poster title)
Release Date: December 25th, 2018
Directed by: Frank Miller
Written by: Frank Miller
Based on: The Spirit by Will Eisner
Music by: David Newman
Cast: Gabriel Macht, Eva Mendes, Sarah Paulson, Dan Lauria, Paz Vega, Jaime King, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson

OddLot Entertainment, Lionsgate, 103 Minutes

Review:

“I’m gonna kill you all kinds of dead.” – The Spirit

I really wanted to like this. I really did. But alas, it was as bad as everyone has said. That doesn’t mean it’s all bad but even the positives couldn’t save it. I’ll explain.

To start, I really liked the visuals for the most part. It’s very similar in style to Sin City. In fact, it feels like a spinoff of it, even though it has no real connection to it, other than the visual style and the director, Frank Miller, who directed some of the scenes in Sin City. However, in the previous film, Miller also played third fiddle behind all-stars Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino.

The opening to this movie was really strong. The scenes of The Spirit running from rooftop to rooftop during the credits was fantastic. Initially, I also liked the score. It did, however, sound like it was trying really hard to channel the feel of Danny Elfman’s work on the 1989 Batman score.

That being said, the score did end up being a problem for me, though.

While it started off cloning Elfman, it was inconsistent throughout the picture. It would get jazzy at times, like it was trying to accent the noir look of the picture and then it seemed like it was mimicking Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western scores, primarily those used in the Sergio Leone films of the ’60s. The score just had multiple personality disorder and none of it seemed wholly originally, it just seemed like homages to other things that don’t necessarily fit well together.

Then there is the plot itself. I do like the origin story of The Spirit and how it ties to the villain, The Octopus. But apart from that, everything else seemed overly stylized, ridiculously hokey and nothing was fluid. The film felt like a bunch of scenes sewn together without any regard for pacing or a consistent tone.

Humor was used a lot in this movie and most of it just doesn’t work. Everyone feels like a caricature and therefore, is lacking any real depth. Without depth, you don’t care about them, can’t relate to them and don’t even find them to be all that interesting. Sure, The Octopus changes his look in nearly every scene and he usually looks cool but when doesn’t Samuel Jackson look cool? Also, when doesn’t Scarlett Johansson look stunning? Here, she always looks great but she delivers her lines like she’s dead. I don’t blame her for that, I blame Miller’s script and his direction.

The only actor I actually liked in this was Dan Lauria. His role here felt tailor made for his personality. But I’ve always loved Lauria since The Wonder Years and I thought it was cool seeing him essentially play the Commissioner Gordon of this movie, even if he felt more like Harvey Bullock.

The Spirit lures you in with its credit sequence and its overall look but after about twenty minutes, you grow tired and bored of it. The humor is bizarre, the tone is confusing, the music is distracting and the actors deliver their lines like they’re in a film that should be lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

It’s no wonder why there was never a sequel to this, even if the ending leaves things open for one.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: the Sin City and 300 films.

Film Review: Step Brothers (2008)

Release Date: July 25th, 2008
Directed by: Adam McKay
Written by: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, John C. Reilly
Music by: Jon Brion
Cast: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Richard Jenkins, Mary Steenburgen, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, Rob Riggle, Ken Jeong, Phil LaMarr, Seth Rogen, Horatio Sanz

Relativity Media, The Apatow Company, Mosaic Media Group, Gary Sanchez Productions, Columbia Pictures, 98 Minutes, 106 Minutes (unrated cut)

Review:

“I wanna roll you up in a little ball and shove you up my vagina… You could just live there, it’s warm and it’s cozy… Oh I’d just walk around with you in there and just knowing, whenever I feel a little tickle or scratch it’s your hair on my vagina!” – Alice

Full disclosure, I’m not a huge Will Ferrell fan. I did like him on Saturday Night Live, in an era where the show was good, and I do like his chemistry with John C. Reilly. But still, that’s not enough to make this film work for me.

The problem is that Will Ferrell’s comedies have a few jokes that land but they’re usually lost in a sea of misses. And really, most of his jokes have been recycled to death and predate him.

I do like a lot of stupid comedies but Ferrell’s don’t do much to help that genre evolve. He relies on low brow humor and by milking the same cow that the worst comedians have been milking for decades. He just makes his movies zanier, which I guess is supposed to make them funnier.

Now I mostly liked this film the first time that I saw it but it’s not something that I ever needed to watch again. Also, from a narrative standpoint, nothing that happens here matters or holds any sort of weight. There really isn’t much of a story, there’s just a plot thread set up to weave together a bunch of fart and dick jokes. Also, there’s the obligatory over the top profanity because yelling out “fuck” in the middle of a joke’s delivery makes it funnier or something.

I don’t want to sound like I’m shitting on the guy or this movie but by the time that this did come out, his shtick really ran dry for me. Although, I do have friends that adore this movie for some reason.

It is funny in parts and the two leads have charm and always seem to work well off of one another. However, Reilly has proven he’s a much better actor than this and he’s actually superior to Ferrell in regards to his comedic roles.

I don’t know, this is just a stupid film to me. It doesn’t have a lot of replay value and I have to deduct points off of any movie that has Rob Riggle in it. When people were boycotting the NFL because of freedom of expression being un-American, I was boycotting it because Rob Riggle was hired to work on a Sunday pregame show.

Anyway, I really like and respect Mary Steenburgen, so I’ll say that she’s a beaming light of sunshine and positivity in this but I really don’t need to ever watch this again because I saw this movie before it was even made.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other Will Ferrell movies and “bro” comedies of the ’00s and ’10s.