Film Review: El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)

Also known as: Greenbriar (working title), El Camino (informal title)
Release Date: October 7th, 2019 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Vince Gilligan
Written by: Vince Gilligan
Based on: Breaking Bad by Vince Gilligan
Music by: Dave Porter
Cast: Aaron Paul, Jesse Plemons, Krysten Ritter, Charles Baxter, Matt Jones, Scott Shepherd, Scott MacArthur, Tom Bower, Kevin Rankin, Larry Hankin, Tess Harper, Robert Forster, Jonathan Banks, Bryan Cranston

High Bridge Productions, Sony Pictures, Netflix, 122 Minutes

Review:

“You’re really lucky, you know that? You didn’t have to wait your whole life to do something special.” – Walt

I wouldn’t call this movie a disappointment but it was incredibly underwhelming. But I also didn’t have much anticipation for it and the fact that I put off watching it for nearly two years, shows my lack of enthusiasm for it.

The reason being is that I didn’t need this. I very easily assumed that Jesse was headed to Alaska after the finale of Breaking Bad. Seeing this movie just lets me know that I was right.

All this movie really was, was Jesse running a few dangerous errands while having flashbacks before he could actually leave for Alaska. Granted, based off of how much he was wanted by authorities, he really should’ve booked it to somewhere outside of the United States’ jurisdiction. But whatever, there are some other logic flaws with the story.

I feel like this was made just because fans have been clamoring for more Breaking Bad since the show ended. Well, they got the Better Call Saul show, which seems to be doing well and satisfying the fan base.

If a sequel needed to be made, I would’ve rather it come much later and we check in on Jesse years later. Maybe some dangerous character from his past is also hiding up in Alaska and recognizes him, setting off a crazy series of events. But whatever this movie was, I didn’t need to experience it.

This isn’t particularly bad but it isn’t particularly good either. The acting was actually pretty stellar but I didn’t expect it not to be.

El Camino is what happens someone like Netflix comes along and throws a lot of money at a creator who is apparently just out of gas.

In the end, there were only two real highlights in this for me. The first, was the scenes between Jesse, Skinny Pete and Badger. That does hit you in the feels. The second, was seeing Robert Forster go out with a bang, as he died just after this was released.

Rating: 6/10

Film Review: Benny Loves You (2019)

Release Date: November 21st, 2019 (Buenos Aires Rojo Sangre Film Festival)
Directed by: Karl Holt
Written by: Karl Holt
Cast: Karl Holt, Claire Cartwright, George Collie, James Parsons, David Wayman, Lydia Hourihan

Darkline Entertainment, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Benny loves you!” – Benny

I didn’t go into this expecting it to be a masterpiece but I did expect it to be a film full of mindless, fun escapism that might have been cool and actually funny.

While it was mindless, it was incredibly mindless and I had to constantly suspend disbelief at an unbelievable level, as the characters are all extremely stupid and vapid.

Sure, I can suspend disbelief enough to believe in a killer stuffed animal. But I can’t suspend it for that and then suspend it at an even greater level because the characters act in a way that is more unbelievable than the concept of a killer stuffed animal.

I don’t mind dumb movies but they’ve got to have something endearing about them. They need heart and a sincere effort into making the movie. The people behind it don’t have to be technically skilled but they’ve really got to put their heart in it in a way that shines through. Frankly, I didn’t get that from this movie. What I got felt like the opposite.

The film’s star is also its director and writer and maybe he stretched himself too thin. He definitely needed someone else to come in and help him rework the script in a way that was actually logical.

I don’t think this guy actually understands people and how they interact. Maybe that’s just who he is and maybe that’s why this movie didn’t have heart and thus, couldn’t be appreciated just on the effort that went into it. 

By the end, I was just pulling for Benny to win out and kill all these morons. I was disappointed in that regard too. 

Rating: 4/10

Documentary Review: Bruno (2018)

Release Date: April 20th, 2018
Cast: Bruno Sammartino, Arnold Schwarzenegger, various

WWE, 46 Minutes

Review:

This was thrown together and released onto WWE Network just a few days after Bruno Sammartino passed away in 2018.

However, instead of trying to release it as quickly as possible, I really wish that WWE would’ve spent the time to put together a good, feature length documentary on Bruno. Hell, if anyone deserved it, it’s this guy, a legitimate legend that really helped make the World-Wide Wrestling Federation, decades before it became today’s WWE. In fact, this guy was the Hulk Hogan before Hulk Hogan. He was the megastar of the company and really carried it on his back.

Bruno and Vince McMahon had a falling out in the late ’80s, though, and they never really patched things up until a few years before Bruno’s death when he finally accepted a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame, after rejecting those offers for nearly two decades.

This documentary does go into Bruno’s life and his career but it mostly covers him coming back into the WWE fold and his reunion with Vince McMahon. It also features some neat backstage footage of Bruno and Arnold Schwarzenegger from the night of his Hall of Fame induction.

This was fairly decent but if I’m being honest, a legend like Bruno Sammartino deserved more and this just felt like it was slapped together to capitalize off of his death happening just a few days earlier.

Rating: 6/10

Film Review: Vacation (2015)

Release Date: July 29th, 2015
Directed by: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley
Written by: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley
Based on: characters by John Hughes
Music by: Mark Mothersbaugh
Cast: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Leslie Mann, Chris Hemsworth, Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Charlie Day, Ron Livingston, Norman Reedus, Keegan-Michael Key, Regina Hall, Nick Kroll, Kaitlin Olson, Michael Pena, Hannah Davis Jeter, Colin Hanks, John Francis Daley 

BenderSpink, David Dobkin Productions, New Line Cinema, 99 Minutes

Review:

“I just wanted to sing Seal with my family like normal people.” – Rusty Griswold

Full disclosure, I’m not an Ed Helms fan. I think the main reason for that is due to him making the final season of The Office pretty damn insufferable. I also don’t necessarily blame him for that, I think it was the writing and whoever was calling the shots on that show at the end. But with that, I was burnt out on Ed Helms for several years.

So, as I approached this film, I wanted to go into it with an open mind and without my previous biases. I knew I’d have to eventually get to this, as I was already watching and reviewing all the Vacation movies and didn’t want to simply omit this one just because it didn’t feature Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo as the leads.

I’m happy to say that I found this to be pretty decent. It does have some laughable moments, features cameos with a lot of people I like and Ed Helms had solid chemistry with Christina Applegate. Also, he played this version of Rusty Griswold pretty straight and not as over the top as his Andy Bernard character from The Office.

Ultimately, though, this is a rehash of what the original film was with the same destination in mind. The adventure on the way to WallyWorld followed similar beats and homaged some classic moments but there was enough original stuff in this to allow it to stand on its own and to not just be a paint-by-numbers remake.

I also like that this did bring back Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo in their iconic roles, even if it was just a small part within the larger movie.

I can’t really say that this is all that memorable, though. It’s better than some of the other Vacation movies but that was never really a high bar to begin with.

In the end, this is goofy, mindless escapism and while some jokes don’t land as intended, the movie still has a good, positive spirit about it and I liked the core characters.

Rating: 6.25/10

Documentary Review: Poverty, Inc. (2014)

Release Date: December 5th, 2014
Directed by: Michael Matheson Miller
Written by: Michael Matheson Miller, Jonathan Witt
Cast: various

Acton Institute, 94 Minutes

Review:

A friend of mine recommended this documentary while we were talking about the subject of how charity is often times a scam or mismanaged to the point of being ineffective, as those who are supposed to benefit never seem to grow out of impoverished situations.

So after checking out the trailer for this, I watched it immediately, as I was glad to see that some people came together to point out this obvious problem.

Overall, this was a decent and informative watch and I’d highly suggest it to those who are charitable but not because some celebrity told you to be but because you actually want to make a difference in people’s lives.

This breaks down what has become known as the “poverty industrial complex” and how it is just a big business that doesn’t really effect impoverished people in the ways it implies.

Also, this shows how a lot of Westerners with good intentions don’t see the actual consequences of their means of charity because they don’t see the region their trying to help from a local viewpoint. And often times, their charity does more long-term harm than good.

For the most part, I thought that this was well put together, well edited and made its points pretty exactingly.

This documentary presented things that everyone should really be aware of. 

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: Hotel Hell Vacation (2010)

Release Date: February 7th, 2010
Directed by: Bryan Buckley
Based on: characters created by John Hughes
Music by: Stephen Altman
Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo

Hungry Man, 14 Minutes

Review:

So this entry into the National Lampoon’s Vacation film franchise is the most unique, simply because it isn’t a feature length film and is actually a 14 minute short that was produced to promote a website from a decade ago that was essentially Airbnb before Airbnb.

The entire short film centers around just the Griswold parents, as they go to a romantic getaway in a hotel that’s terrible in every way.

The purpose of the film was to show that hotel stays are awful and that you should be renting people’s homes instead while on your vacation.

Website marketing aside, this is a fairly funny short that stays pretty true to the characters of Clark and Ellen Griswold. Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo committed to this project and their iconic roles.

Still, this is a short and it goes by rather quickly, as Clark and Ellen eventually escape “Hotel Hell” and meet up with their son Rusty, who is staying in a nice beachfront rental with his family.

While this doesn’t have the running time to tell a larger story, it’s still chock full of decent gags and it fits well within the spirit of the film series.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Vacation movies, as well as other Chevy Chase comedies.

Documentary Review: Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys (2014)

Release Date: January 14th, 2014
Directed by: Brian Stillman
Written by: Brian Stillman
Music by: Chris Ianuzzi
Cast: various

X-Ray Films, 70 Minutes

Review:

Plastic Galaxy is a documentary about the people who have a bit of an obsession with collecting Star Wars toys. It mainly focuses on the original line of toys from the original trilogy of movies and it also goes into their history and development.

I was initially excited to check this out back when it was a new film. However, it’s kind of light, if I’m being honest and suffers from some clunky editing, too much reliance on talking head interviews and, at times, being a bit overly dramatic.

That being said, I think that the Star Wars episode of Netflix’s The Toys That Made Us is a much better watch and a more professional production.

Still, this was neat to revisit and it’s engaging enough. But the 70 minute running time seems scant and I feel like this really needed to delve into the history more and provide more backstory.

All in all, this is okay but it could’ve been a lot better than what it was.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on toys, video games, table top gaming, collecting and specific niche fandoms.

Documentary Review: ReMastered: Tricky Dick and the Man In Black (2018)

Release Date: 2018
Directed by: Sara Dosa, Barbara Kopple
Written by: Jeff Zimbalist, Michael Zimbalist
Music by: Johnny Cash, Glen Matisoff (music coordinator)
Cast: Johnny Cash (archive footage), Richard Nixon (archive footage)

All Rise Films, Triage Entertainment, Netflix, 59 Minutes

Review:

Tricky Dick and the Man In Black is the story of how Johnny Cash and Richard Nixon crossed paths during a turbulent time in America. A time that was more turbulent than now, if you can believe it.

This covers how Nixon reached out to Cash to get him to perform at the White House, which is a hell of an accomplishment for any artist, regardless of who’s got the keys to the country. And this obviously happened before Nixon’s crimes would be exposed and he would go on to severely damage the reputation of the United States government.

Anyway, in 1970, Cash did perform at the White House. However, Cash soon developed some serious reservations about it as it became apparent to him that his ideals clashed with that of the president.

This examines what led up to the concert at the White House and the reasoning behind how Cash ultimately wasn’t happy with the regime that was in charge of the land he loved.

Overall, the subject matter was damn interesting but I feel like this documentary was too short and didn’t really get deep enough into the mud. But this story is mostly told through talking head interviews by people who aren’t Cash and Nixon, as they’re no longer with us.

This was still a worthwhile and entertaining watch, however. It just needed more meat and felt incomplete. 

Rating: 6.25/10

TV Review: Lost Territory: The Best of Continental Wrestling (2019)

Original Run: April 24th, 2001 (DVD Box Set)

Jadat Sports, 5 Episodes, 401 Minutes (total)

Review:

This was a five-disc set that I found on Amazon for a pretty good price, considering how much stuff was packed onto each disc.

This is a compilation featuring matches and angles specifically from Continental Championship Wrestling in the era when it was ran by Ron Fuller.

CCW is a little known territory to those outside of Knoxville in the ’80s. In more recent years, thanks to tape traders in the ’90s getting the ball rolling, the small wrestling territory has become more widely known due to how bonkers some of the angles were and because of how much talent moved in and out of the company.

Watching this collection is like watching a who’s who compilation of legends featured in matches most people haven’t seen.

This was a pretty cool set and watching each disc was a treat and they flew by rather quickly.

All in all, this was a great set bought at a great value. What’s not to love for the old school wrestling aficionado like myself?

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling compilations of the territories in the ’70s and ’80s.

Film Review: Train to Busan (2016)

Also known as: Busanhaeng (original title), Invasion Zombie (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay), New Infection: Final Express (Japan – English title)
Release Date: May 13th, 2016 (Cannes)
Directed by: Yeon Sang-ho
Written by: Park Joo-suk
Music by: Jang Young-gyu
Cast: Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-seok, Jung Yu-mi, Kim Su-an, Kim Eui-sung, Choi Woo-shik, Ahn So-hee

Next Entertainment World, RedPeter Film, Movic Comics, 118 Minutes

Review:

“Sorry, but you’re infected.” – Seok Woo

Apparently, this South Korean zombie film came out with a lot of praise and fanfare but I guess it just passed me by. That’s honestly my fault, as I barely pay attention to modern horror, as it just hasn’t been up to snuff for about two decades now, despite the occasional gem.

Well, this is one of those gems and I even liked it considering that I am most definitely exhausted with zombie flicks since they have legitimately monopolized the horror space in more recent years after vampire films cooled off and The Walking Dead became the most watched thing on television.

This film’s plot is pretty damn simple; a dad and his daughter get on a train to take them across South Korea just as a zombie outbreak happens. While on the train, people get infected and all hell breaks loose.

As the film progresses, we go from survivors trying to stay barricaded in train cars with zombies just a car away, then we get a great sequence in a train station and eventually, back on another train, as the few people left try to escape the hell that is chasing them.

As far as zombie movies go, this one, by the end, is one of the most emotional and heartbreaking ones I’ve ever seen. I don’t want to spoil anything but if you get to the climax and don’t feel like you’ve been mule kicked in the heart, you might not be human.

Additionally, the character arc of the little girl’s father in this is fucking superb. The guy goes from being a selfish coward to a real hero, after being challenged by his own daughter and another passenger that continually risks his life to save this sap, even after he nearly sacrificed the guy and his pregnant wife.

This was just a solid, fast paced movie from beginning to end and I couldn’t believe that it was nearly two hours as it flew by like it was only 80 minutes.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other foreign zombie movies with fairly fresh takes on the genre.