Breaking Bad (Season 2): picks up immediately where Season 1 finished, as the two rookie criminals slowly harden and come to terms with murky business that they are now a part of. With almost double the episodes, and the character groundwork laid in S1, there’s much more scope for the story strands to finally go somewhere. You get the feeling that the show is finally changing up the gears in the drama department. The biggest change is that we now see a lot the effects that the duo’s meth is having, in particular the social slant is much rougher than S1, with a proper – no-holds barred – look at the users, their families, and the more ruthless cartels. Both leads remain fantastic while their limits and attitudes constantly evolve, and it’s weird that no matter how horrific or low the things they do are, you’re still behind them all the way. Saul; a fascinating, funny, crooked lawyer, is a solid addition, and good comic relief in parts. Stylistically, it’s still very much unique, retaining it’s punky visual edge and stylistic colouring – which can, and does, liven up the slower sections of storytelling. So the stakes are higher, the operation’s bigger, the rivals are tougher, police more involved, personal lives more strained – what’s not to like about Season 2!? One of the few shows on the telly that manages to strike a great balance between entertainment, drama and comedy.
Heat: a professional robber and homicide detective go head to head in a battle of wits, guns and getting the job done. The film is laden with superb moments & set-pieces: action, suspense and climaxes, which means that the film is gripping, explosive and unpredictable for the most part. You couldn’t hand-pick a greater cast of actors at their peak – right down to the extras (including Henry Rollin’s neck!!). Both leads are fantastic, equally volatile yet in-control men, despite the contrast between Pacino’s shouting / flailing and De Niro’s calm / focused anti-hero. Both portrayals are physical, entertaining, and career-tipping performances, so much so that by the end, you don’t really want either to snuff it. The biggest problem is that, by wanting to keep the film believable and give it more clout, almost every character gets some back-story, which means that the film spends some time opening lots of minor tangents, many of which are never resolved or revisited – or related to the plot. There’s no question about it, Heat is an outstanding film, and I’d love to give it 9, or 10, but I’d have been much happier watching a three-hour film focused almost exclusively on the two central performances, than have them share the runtime with a multitude of smaller, less relevant characters.
“Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.”
A very Harold and Kumer 3D Christmas: [3D] It’s Christmas eve and when a magical doob burns down Harold’s one-of-a-kind Christmas tree the two must find a replacement before the big day. And yes, this film is every bit as stupid as the title would suggest. There’s babies on drugs, dick jokes, racial stereotypes, lesbian nuns/pedo priests, drug use, dealer Santa, a surgery montage, sexy massage, and a robot that makes waffles (and hates pancakes) – it’s totally mental, 100% crude but so festive that it’s almost impossible not like. The stoner element is minimized to a few scenes and 3D smoke rings, and it feels more like a ‘Hangover’ type situation-after-situation affair. The 3D was brilliant: very aware, gimmicky, in-your-face pointy-pokery – the way it should be. Surprisingly funny, solidly uplifting, and equally offensive to every and all age/race/belief this could well be one of the best modern Christmas stories!
Con Air: a released prisoner (former U.S. Ranger) gets caught up in a plane hijacking carried out by the criminal cargo. This is one of the best examples of ridiculous, over-the-top 90s action films (homage to 80s). There’s something about the huge fiery explosions, big loud action and epic weeping / heroic guitar licks that plunges me right into these films. Cage, despite being laughably shit and doing THE worst accent in the history of cinema, holds the film together surprisingly well. Malk is the perfect villain – whose calmness only makes him more terrifying – and his band of crazy henchmen are all gratuitously evil. Cusack is good, but his dashing young looks always make him feel miscast as an authority figure. Everything towards the end of the film (In Vegas) is beyond excessive, ludicrous, and poorly cut – but I guess that’s Vegas for you! Held together by the supercast this is a solid, big action, big entertainment, film that still holds up well.
Machete: A betrayed Federale butchers his way through a corrupt syndicate to avenge the death of his wife and child. The full 105 minutes of Machete are just absolutely absurd, from the first fully naked chick pulling out her mobile to intestine misuse and seeing Seagal attempt a latino accent… The grindhouse / shock element is pretty cranked to parody / laughable; although the film relies more on CGI than the inventiveness and real gore that genuine b-movies usually would. In saying that, the action is sweet, bloody and OTT fun – although the editing makes it all seem a bit haphazard. A lot of the story rooted in both sides of a real immigration issue – albeit exaggerated. Action hall-of-famer Danny Trejo finally gets his shot at playing a lead, although the Machete character could be any of his memorable previous roles. Everyone else is effective but pretty forgettable, except for De Niro, whose career just seems to be irretrievable. For the gents in the cast the film’s about 10-20 years too late – there’s nothing really exciting about seeing a fat Seagal and out-of-shape Trejo trying to duel. The deliberately old and retro look and feel to the film works quite well, and Rodriguez is clearly a B-movie/exploitation fan, but with all the CGI – and big names – it does lose the certain appeal of real B-movies. For what it is, and what it’s supposed to be, Machete totally hits the mark. Tongue-in-cheek Mexploitation. Fun, entertaining, over-the-top schlock.