Breaking Bad (Season 4): The pressure’s turned up even higher as Walter White and his protégé Jessie Pinkman play a dangerous game of tactics with Mexico and ABQ’s top drug kingpins. This is the first season of BB that comes out of the blocks sprinting, starting dramatically, with the coldest murder to date. Almost every episode has a narrative purpose, story & character development and some solid drama – it’s not just about the characters anymore (finally). Needless to say the acting is some of the finest on TV; Walt and Jessie continue to evolve, but it’s Gus who shines brightest as an ever-calm, focused, calculating, courteous, professional, ruthless, business-minded, innocuous drug lord. Hank gets a lot more time, and a gripping sub-plot as he does some top investigation work; as does Mike, Gus’ hardened, dryly comic right-hand man. Visually, the show is like nothing else, with so many innovative & beautiful time-lapses, montages, and knockout camera shots. They’re often unusually high or low which sticks out; attached to an object (like a shovel or self-navigating vacuum cleaner); and sometimes stuck inside / behind / under something – a pipe or oven – and there’s even a dodgy ‘filming up through glass pretending to be underground’ shot. The show’s visual flair is one of its best and most unique features, and something that always keeps you on your toes. The tone also becomes more eclectic as everything closes in on Walt: synth music and manic laughter wouldn’t feel out of place in The Shining, and there’s some flat-out slapstick moments like Walt scrambling around his house trying to evade hitmen. Season 4 is when Breaking Bad finally makes the leap from good to fantastic and unmissable TV; every aspect is continually improving and evolving in to everything you could ask of a show; stylistically, plot-wise, and such 3D characters – which comes together to produce a final product that is entertaining, thrilling, dark, funny, ‘gritty’, and believable.
Breaking Bad Season 1 Review
Breaking Bad Season 2 Review
Breaking Bad Season 3 Review
The Duel Project started out as a drunken bet, when Japanese movie producer Shinya Kawai challenged two up-and-coming directors to each make a film that had only two actors, who would fight to the death, in a single location – it also had to be shot in less than a week, and stick to a tiny budget. The results were 2LDK and Aragami. (ARAGAMI REVIEW HERE)
2LDK: two actresses – who are also flatmates – have auditioned for the same leading part: they’ll find out who got it tomorrow morning, if they haven’t killed each other by then. This is split into two distinctive parts; 30 minute setup and observational comedy about living with an annoying flatmate, the other 30 minutes is simply two girls beat the tar out of each other in the ultimate catfight. Hearing the inner-ramblings of two polar opposites (paired with their polite spoken dialogue) as they grate on each other is entertaining, although it takes a few moments tuning in to 4 quickfire word tracks. The two actresses are great, but the main star is Yukihiko Tsutsumi with direction that has urgency, impact, flare and style, all in abundance; the framing is also superb. Such great direction means that the tension and action are served up raw. For a one-week rush-job the make-up and FX really add to the brutality. 2LDK is a highly enjoyable, momentum building, entertaining movie, that’s strangely relatable for anyone that has ever shared a flat.
BReaking BAd (Season 3): picks up soon after the explosive Season 2 finale, Walter and Jessie’s operation keeps growing, but is attracting yet more interest from the feds and rival gangs. By the time S3 had started we’d seen the ups and downs of the Walter-Jessie relationship several times, this season was – for me – the first time that another relationship became more interesting; Walter and Gus – which ranges from courteous & professional to explosively volatile – you also get the feeling that Walt has finally met his match, as Gus puts the squeeze on him, and the people he cares about. It’s definitely the best source of drama in this season. After Walt comes clean with Skyler their relationship also changes significantly, yet, not exactly in the direction you’d expect. Because so much emphasis is put on characters, family and relationships it takes over four episodes (of only thirteen) for any real plot to happen, and the only tension comes from the two silent cousin gang bangers. I find it fascinating in America that Breaking Bad depicts in-depth drug making techniques, drug use + abuse, violence, a man’s head being crushed by an ATM machine… but the word ‘fuck’ is bleeped out. Season three has some of the best moments (Car Park, Ladder confession, finale) in the series so far… yet it’s also got some of the slowest, most plodding and outright bizarre episodes (‘Fly’ episode feels out-of-place, and Walter – for the first time – appears ridiculously simple). The most defining feature of Breaking Bad is that it all still feels relatively normal and realistic – you believe in the characters, their families, their lives, their roles. You know people like these. That’s still the show’s strongest suit, but after 3 seasons it’s hard to see how much longer it can rely on character development over drama.
Take: A parent and a gambling addict are linked by a life-changing event, and years later they each have to face their demons. Depending on how you feel, the film’s fragmented narrative will make or break this for you – it combines two completely different filming styles (indie/arthouse & power-drama) and there’s four different stories playing over two timelines – so it takes a while to properly tune in. When it’s indie/arty, the film gets a little cold and isolating but when the drama kicks in it more than makes up for this – playing the long-game with a slow-burning, dramatic, poignant, gritty story that comes to a head in an intense 15 minutes near the end. This was one of Renner‘s last films before – and undoubtedly a huge factor in his casting for – the Hurt Locker: he does really well with his repenting scumbag character. I’ve never been a big believer of Minnie, but she delivers plenty of clout here – hats off to by both leads. It could do with being a little shorter and punchier – cutting the clunky religious scenes with pastor, and lots of long, heavily-filtered arty shots – but it there’s also some lovely/striking lomo-style ‘Americana’ visuals to be found. If you can handle a non-linear story, and like your drama fairly hefty, Take is well worth the effort.
The Assassin Next Door: when her only way out of prostitution is to carry out a few hits, a desperate woman jumps at the chance. Set in an Israeli slum, and opening with a couple of prozzies being beaten and stabbed up, you know this one’s going to be a gritty affair. What you don’t expect from a film called “The Assassin Next Door” is a well-acted foreign drama about women fighting against the odds, that just happens to have a few action scenes. In a way it’s reminiscent of Leon in that you actually care about properly developed characters and their predicament. Kurylenko is shockingly good in this, but you kind of feel that she’s wasted in the part, and should be appearing in more heavy-hitting films. You know the film’s good when things like a sexy Bond Girl holding a big gun, Bond Girl getting her lungs out, and lesbian undertones are only minor distractions from the dramatic story! Despite being a mid-budget affair this boasts decent script and solid acting by all involved.
Bad Santa: An alcoholic deviant and his pint-sized sidekick pose as Santa and an Elf for a seasonal job; they then plunder the mall they’ve been working at, but can an 8 year old show them the real meaning of Christmas? BBT is superb at playing a senseless degenerate and all round terrible person, but no matter how low he stoops the scrooge in all of us still connects. With any other Santa, the Kid (Brett Kelly) would have been the star, pulling off a shockingly good junior Rainman. Then there’s the Dwarf, Mall Manager and Security guard… all great characters. For a festive film, this one’s as smutty as they get, sex, swearing, conmen, booze, strippers, blood, violence for the duration… The dwarf’s insults in particular are pure entertainment – great to listen to. The film’s backbone is some fantastic deadpan humour & black comedy, championed by a few recurring lines; shit right for a week, fix a sandwich, etc. It’s well made, well written, well paced, with well measured and well timed jokes. While it’s an anti-Christmas film, it’s still quite festive and uplifting towards the end. Great holiday movie, but don’t watch it with the kids.
Merry fuckin’ Christmas!