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: Dudes (1987)

Release Date: September 18th, 1987 (Toronto Film Festival)
Directed by: Penelope Spheeris
Written by: Randall Jahnson
Music by: Charles Bernstein
Cast: Jon Cryer, Catherine Mary Stewart, Daniel Roebuck, Flea, Lee Ving, Glenn Withrow

Vista Organization, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Look, Milo, we’re talking about real life here, okay? Real life is not California. Real life is a shit sandwich and every day you gotta take another bite.” – Grant

Dudes is a pretty cool movie for its time. It sees three teenage punk rockers from Queens go cross-country in an effort to make it to California and hopefully a new, better future.

However, along the way, while camping out in the desert of Arizona, the three teens are attacked by a gang of vicious rednecks and one of the boys is murdered and their stuff is then stolen.

The two surviving teens find the local cops to be useless and ultimately, decide to take down this gang by themselves. Along comes the local tough, hot chick that teaches them how to actually shoot a gun properly.

Now maybe the premise sounds a bit wonky but the story works well within the world that this film creates for itself. Sure, the movie is a comedy but it’s still got a lot of real drama and heart to it. I also think that Jon Cryer was the perfect guy to handle what was needed for the lead role. He’s good at comedy, can handle serious stuff and he’s likable as hell and can give a convincing performance with the right material.

I also really enjoyed Daniel Roebuck as his large, punk rock sidekick. While Roebuck looks like the more imposing of the two, I like that this movie’s plot doesn’t just run with that and it gives us something more realistic where the big punk rocker is more of a gentle giant.

Catherine Mary Stewart was perfect as the local girl. I’ve always loved seeing her ever since I first watched The Last Starfighter, as a kid. Here, she reminds me a lot of her tough girl role in Night of the Comet, which is my favorite role she’s ever played.

Additionally, you have two real musicians in this. Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers plays the friend who is murdered by the gang while Lee Ving of Fear is the leader of the scumbag gang. Both of these guys brought their A-game to the picture and showed they had legitimate acting chops.

Dudes really is a western movie at its core. Being that it takes place in what was modern times when it was made doesn’t really matter, as it follows the beats of that genre. Maybe there are other punk rock neo-westerns out there but I don’t think I’ve seen any others and it’s kind of a cool mix now that I’ve seen it come together.

All that being said, I dug this movie quite a bit. It was well cast, the story was decent but made better by the performances and it leaves you pretty satisfied at the end.

Rating: 6.75/10

Film Review: Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)

Release Date: April 8th, 2004 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Music by: RZA, Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine, Julie Dreyfus, Gordon Liu, Michael Parks, James Parks, Bo Svenson, Samuel L. Jackson, Larry Bishop, Sid Haig, Sonny Chiba

Super Cool ManChu, A Band Apart, Miramax, 137 Minutes

Review:

“Bitch, you don’t have a future.” – The Bride

I dropped my review of Kill Bill: Vol. 1 a week ago but I watched them back-to-back and reviewed them that way, as well. But I like to save my last review on Fridays for bigger, well-known films, so that’s why this one dropped out of sequence.

I wanted to watch these back-to-back primarily to get the full effect of the story. I’ve done that before but it’s been a really long time since I’ve watched these and I wanted to really make a day out of it due to how much I loved them when they were still fairly current films.

As I said at the end of my review for the previous film, it was a near masterpiece but it was also outdone by this movie.

I think the main reason for that, is that this one switches to more of a spaghetti western style than the Yakuza revenge flick the previous movie was. Martial arts are still alive and well in this picture, though, and it gives this a really unique feel. Also, despite the tonal differences in the films, the martial arts aspects still tie them together well and in some regards, this reminds me of the Kung-Fu television series, which oddly enough, also featured David Carradine, this film series’ primary antagonist.

I liked the spaghetti western feel because, well, I’m a big fan of that style. This was also Tarantino’s first attempt at delving into a western aesthetic and he did a tremendous job with it. Sure, this is more of a neo-western, as it is set in modern times but it kind of laid a solid foundation for him to build his skills off of in the genre. Without this, he may not have done Django Unchained or The Hateful Eight. Granted, in my opinion, this film is still superior to both of those.

Another thing that makes this the better half of the series, is that it is the culmination of everything that The Bride has set out to achieve. It’s the finale, the big final fight. But this also doesn’t give you a grand final battle. Instead, it subverts expectations in a beautiful and much more meaningful way. Unlike most modern filmmakers who like to take giant shits on well-established franchises like that never-been-laid fucknut Rian Johnson and that fart sommelier J. J. Abrams.

Anyway, the climax of the film is incredible and it has probably the best acting I’ve ever seen from David Carradine, as well as Uma Thurman. You believe that they have a lot of love between them, as well as a lot of anger and it’s fucking heartbreaking to watch, regardless of how many times you’ve seen it. Adding in the fact that there’s a young child placed between them makes the final showdown emotionally tragic but more complex and serious than it otherwise would’ve been. At this point, this moves beyond just being a simple revenge story, as the hope for a real life emerges at the end of The Bride’s violent journey.

Apart from the finale, the film also subverts expectations well in how Bud dies. He’s someone else on The Bride’s hitlist but he gets the best of The Bride and actually defeats her, quite easily. He underestimates her drive, though, and she goes right back on the hunt while he feels he’s safe from her wrath. However, by the time The Bride reaches him again, there’s a pretty big twist, which pits her against Elle, the second to last name on her list.

The fight between The Bride and Elle in Bud’s mobile home is damn good and it utilizes the cramped environment exceptionally well.

In the end, this is just a great fucking motion picture and one of Tarantino’s best, hands down. It’s my favorite and even though it’s not as talked about, these days, as his other movies, it’s still the best of the lot from where I stand.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Kill Bill films, as well as other movies by Quentin Tarantino, as well as the many films this homages.

Film Review: Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

Release Date: June 9th, 2002 (CineVegas International Film Festival)
Directed by: Don Coscarelli 
Written by: Don Coscarelli 
Based on: Bubba Ho-Tep by Joe R. Lansdale
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Ella Joyce,  Heidi Marnhout, Bob Ivy, Reggie Bannister

Silver Sphere Corporation, Vitagraph Films, 92 Minutes

Review:

“What do I really have left in life but this place? It ain’t much of a home, but it’s all I got. Well, goddamnit. I’ll be damned if I let some foreign, graffiti writin’, soul suckin’, son of a bitch in an oversized cowboy hat and boots take my friend’s souls and shit ’em down the visitors toilet!” – Elvis

I’ll always have a certain level of respect for Don Coscarelli, as he gave the world Phantasm and Beastmaster, two films that had pretty profound effects on me as a kid.

However, I saw this back when it was new and it didn’t really speak to me like I hoped it would have. I haven’t watched it since then but I do love Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis, so I thought that giving it another shot was long overdue. Plus, tastes change, I’m nearly twenty years older and I often times find myself enjoying movies that I previously hadn’t.

I’m glad to say that I enjoyed this much more than I originally did in 2002. But, at an older age, I think it’s also more relatable. Plus, I’m probably just able to enjoy the slow pace and the nuance of the picture much better.

The plot surrounds two guys that become best buds in a nursing home and discover that something strange is afoot when a reanimated mummy starts killing some of the residents. The odd thing is that Bruce Campbell believes he’s Elvis Presley and he might very well be. Ossie Davis believes he’s John F. Kennedy, after being reconstructed in a lab and dyed black. We never find out if they really are who they believe themselves to be but it doesn’t really matter and it’s part of the movie’s unique charm.

So basically, we have a story where an elderly Elvis and an elderly, black JFK team-up to fight a killer mummy. What’s not to like?

My first impression of the film, years ago, was that it was kind of cool but it moved way too slow and felt uneventful. Now, I like the pace and it isn’t slow, so much as it tries to really develop the characters, their personal bond and build up some suspense before the big final fight at the end.

It’s still far from Coscarelli’s best work but it’s definitely better than the later Phantasm sequels and the Beastmaster movies he didn’t direct.

As I get older in age, I feel like I can just relate to the movie and its characters much more than I did in my early twenties. It probably reflects where Coscarelli saw himself at the time that he made it, as well as the two stars. Davis died a few years later and even though Campbell is still going strong, today, by 2002, he had to be feeling age creep up on him.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Don Coscarelli movies, as well as other films starring Bruce Campbell.

Comic Review: Iron Sights: 2 Psychos

Published: May, 2020
Written by: Richard C. Meyer, Carlos I. Silva
Art by: Ibai Canales, Kelsey Shannon (cover)

Splatto Comics, 100 Pages

Review:

I really dug the first Iron Sights, which upset some of the sensitive, snowflake types that are out to “cancel” Richard C. Meyer just because he criticized a dying comic book industry full of talentless shitheads.

Anyway, I’m happy to say that I enjoyed this sequel even more. Meyer had a few issues with his writing in his earliest books but he’s definitely improved quite a bit in the less than two years since he’s been publishing his own comics on a regular basis.

That being said, unlike his detractors, Meyer listens to criticism and learns from it, which is apparent after seeing how he’s improved over his last two releases.

Overall, I enjoyed this story a lot, even more so than the first and it has some interesting surprises that makes me enthused about the eventual third book. I don’t want to spoil any of the plot details but if you are a fan of neo-western films of the last decade or two, this will most assuredly be your cup of tea.

Additionally, the artist, Ibai Canales received a lot of criticism over the first Iron Sights. While his style wasn’t for everyone, I liked it. However, in this second story, the guy has vastly improved over his previous work. It gives me hope for the future, as I see the guy only getting better, as he keeps working at his craft. Seriously, he’s made really noticeable improvement here and I’m glad that Meyer kept him on and gave him the opportunity to keep working on this series.

At it’s core, this is a hard-edged, action packed crime saga that goes for the gusto and succeeds at building off of what came before it while keeping the reader excited about what could be next.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: it’s predecessor, as well as Richard C. Meyer’s Jawbreakers comics.

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, Larry Hankin

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: Future Force (1989)

Also known as: C.O.P.S. (Sweden)
Release Date: November 9th, 1989
Directed by: David A. Prior
Written by: David A. Prior
Music by: Mark Mancina, Steve McClintock
Cast: David Carradine, Anna Rapagna, Robert Tessier, William Zipp, D.C. Douglas, Kimberly Casey

Action International Pictures (AIP), Winters Hollywood Entertainment Holdings Corporation, 84 Minutes

Review:

“David Harris? I’m John Tucker, Civilian Operated Police. You have committed a crime and are presumed guilty. You have a right to die. If you choose to relinquish that right, you will be placed under arrest and imprisoned. I haven’t got all night.” – Tucker

This movie is nowhere near as badass as its poster implies.

Also, for a David A. Prior action flick, this one is pretty goddamned dull.

I like Prior films like Deadly Prey and The Final Sanction. Even though they are over the top action films full of cheese, violence and men with more testicles than just a pair apiece, Future Force doesn’t quite bring the same level of badass, insane intensity.

Although there is a pretty sweet and bizarre scene where Carraidne’s cyborg glove starts flying around trying to knockout the baddie.

The film was also kind of a letdown when I saw it as a kid because the police force in this movie is called C.O.P.S., so my little mind in 1989 thought this might be a live action C.O.P.S., you know, that cool cartoon that came on after school in the afternoons. But no, it has no association and rightfully so, as this is one big ass glass of suck.

Hell, I can’t believe that Carradine followed up Bird On A Wire with this, as Bird should’ve brought his career back up into the mainstream. He was a solid f’n villain in that and then six months later, he’s doing this movie?! I can only assume that he got paid in video arcade tokens because that’s not real money and he was high on coke and thought it was actual gold. I hope the studio at least sent pizza to his trailer. Wait… who am I kidding? He probably had a wheelbarrow.

Anyway, this is boring, uneventful, Carradine looks bored and out of shape and it’s one of Prior’s worst films, which if you’ve seen his movies, is a really, really low bar.

There is a RiffTrax version of this you can watch though, if you feel compelled to do so.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel Future Zone, as well as other action schlock with David Carradine from the mid-’70s through the ’90s.

Comic Review: Coffin Bound

Published: August 7th, 2019 – November 6th, 2019
Written by: Dan Watters
Art by: Dani, Brad Simpson

Image Comics, 142 Pages

Review:

When I first saw that this series was coming out, I added it to my pull list.

The main reason is that I loved the art style. It’s well drawn with a unique style and the colors reminded me of something very giallo-esque.

Also, the story looked like it was a sort of mashup of the gothic horror and neo-western genres.

Now I absolutely loved the art, which was illustrated by Dani and colored by Brad Simpson. But it’s the story that mostly didn’t work for me.

This comic is full of cool ideas and concepts but I found the story hard to follow and a little too outside of the box that it became distracting and hard to focus on some of the details.

Frankly, I was looking for that piece to grasp onto but I just couldn’t find it and from a narrative standpoint, this fell flat and seemed kind of aimless and as if it were struggling to find itself.

And this is coming from a guy that loves really weird shit.

I honestly don’t know if I’ll give the followup miniseries a shot. I’ll probably wait until I hear some feedback from other people I trust.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: most of the modern Image Comics stuff.

Comic Review: Preacher: Book Six

Published: 1999-2000
Written by: Garth Ennis
Art by: Steve Dillon, Glenn Fabry (covers)

Vertigo Comics, 377 Pages

Review:

Well, here we are… the end of the road.

And man, what an end this was.

I was half expected the series to end with a whimper because everything I truly love never seems to know how to properly end itself. But Garth Ennis penned a worthy story that channels back to a lot of what he built this series off of and gives us a pretty satisfactory conclusion to not just the series but to all the plot threads involving the key characters.

Having also just finished the television series, I can say that the comic is, by far, the superior version of the story with the better ending for all parties involved.

This moved by at a brisk pace, pushed the envelope as it always does but it gave us a real slice of humanity amongst all the rubble and edgy boi ’90s shit.

I didn’t really know how much I loved these characters until their stories concluded.

It’s really hard to talk more about it other than my actual feelings because to delve into the plot, at this point, would kind of spoil the whole thing.

Frankly, just read this series if you haven’t. It’s one of the best long running series ever created for the comic book medium.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the other Preacher stuff, as well as ’90s Spawn and Garth Ennis’ run on Shadowman.

Comic Review: Preacher: Book Five

Published: 1998-1999
Written by: Garth Ennis
Art by: Steve Dillon, Glenn Fabry (covers)

Vertigo Comics, 368 Pages

Review:

At first glance, Preacher‘s fifth volume may seem like filler. The reason being is that it diverts from the main storyline for almost its entirety and only comes back around to the primary plot at the very end.

In this chapter, Jesse Custer is basically on his own after somehow surviving death, a confrontation with God and having his heart broken by seeing the love of his life and his best friend sharing some romantic gestures.

Very late in this book we do catch up with Tulip and see her leave Cassidy behind, as months after what she believes to be the loss of her love has left her broken.

The first two-thirds or so of this follow Jesse as he becomes the sheriff of a small town, goes to war with new villain Odin Quincannon, a character I didn’t know was in the comics and thought was created just for the first season of the Preacher television show.

Jesse must free the town from the tyranny of the supremely fucked up Quincannon, as well as his Nazi lawyer that has the hots for him. During this plot thread, Jesse also discovers that his mother is still alive and they are able to reunite and find some peace with the loss they both suffered from each other’s absence.

In the last third of this volume, we catch up with Tulip and see how shitty her life with Cassidy has become. Mostly, we get her origin story told over a few issues, which added so much context to her character and her harsh life.

Honestly, if I knew what the gist of this book was beforehand, I might have been apprehensive, as the main story was rocking along at a great pace. However, this book gave us so much more character development and context that it only makes the series stronger and has thus, built up my enthusiasm for the sixth and final book.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Preacher stuff, as well as ’90s Spawn and Garth Ennis’ run on Shadowman.