REVIEW: EL CAMINO: A BREAKING BAD MOVIE

Aaron Paul in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)

 

Starring

Aaron Paul (Westworld)
Jesse Plemons (Game Night)
Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones)
Charles Baker (The Blacklist)
Matt Jones (Mom)
Scott Shepherd (Dark Phoenix)
Scott MacArthur (The Mick)
Tom Bower (THe Hills have Eyes)
Kevin Rankin (Claws)
Larry Hankin (The Last Hand)
Tess Harper (The Jackal)
Michael Bofshever (United 93)
Johnny Ortiz (Ali)
Robert Forster (Jackie Brown)
Bryan Cranston (Power Rangers)
Jonathan Banks (Gremlins)

Aaron Paul in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)The movie begins with a flashback to Mike and Jesse chatting around the time they decided to get out of the meth business. Jesse asks Mike what he would do if he could start all over as a younger man. Mike says he would relocate to Alaska to start fresh. Jesse likes the idea and says he wants to put things right. Mike somberly shoots down that idea, saying “Sorry kid. That you can never do.”Aaron Paul in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)Cutting back to the present, Jesse escapes Jack Welker’s compound in an El Camino and hides out with Skinny Pete and Badger. He displays heavy signs of PTSD, never leaving his gun out of his sight. He calls Old Joe to dispose of the car, but Old Joe scans it and sees the LoJack has been activated. Joe flees and Badger, Skinny Pete, and Jesse do a three way car swap. Skinny Pete keeps the Camino, Badger drives off with Skinny Pete’s car and Jesse takes Badger’s.Aaron Paul in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)Jesse needs money. He has flashbacks to his time in captivity when Todd had him help with random tasks. It’s revealed that Todd killed a cleaning lady at his apartment because she found where he hid his drug money. Todd and Jesse drive out to the desert where Jesse buries her. During this job, Jesse finds a gun in glove compartment of Todd’s car after Todd asks him to retrieve a pack of cigarettes. He takes it with the intent to kill Todd, but ultimately decides not to.Aaron Paul in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)In the present, Jesse returns to Todd’s apartment for the money. However, Todd changed his hiding spot, leading to Jesse ransacking the place all night long to find the new hiding place. He finds it inside the door of Todd’s refrigerator just as two cops show up to collect any evidence left behind in the apartment. Jesse confronts them but refuses to become a cop killer and surrenders. The two cops freak out, revealing themselves to be imposters also looking for the money. Jesse tells them where the money is in exchange for letting him go. They split the money three ways. As Jesse leaves, he finally recognizes one of the fake cops as a welder who worked at Jack’s meth lab – he set up the metal rigging that Jesse was chained to.Aaron Paul in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)Jesse visits every vacuum repair shop in Albuquerque before finding the right one. He recognizes the van he almost fled in during the events of Breaking Bad. He uses the money to pay the repairman, Ed, but it’s not enough – Ed demands double because Jesse bailed last time. Jesse calls his parents and asks them to meet him at a park they would frequent during his childhood. After luring them and multiple cop cars stationed outside away from their house, Jesse breaks in and steals two pistols from his father’s gun safe.Jesse then goes to the welder’s shop and asks for more money – he only needs an extra $1800 and doesn’t wish to hurt anyone. Instead of giving him the money, the welder from Jack’s meth lab challenges Jesse to a duel – winner takes all the money. He sees the pistol Jesse has is old and inaccurate, believing that he has a much better gun. Jesse agrees to the duel. As the welder prepares to draw, Jesse aims the second pistol through his jacket pocket and shoots him dead. His partner reaches for his own gun, but despite firing a few rounds, he misses and Jesse kills him as well. He takes the money and blows up the welding shop to erase any evidence of his presence. He has a flashback to his time with Walter, where Walt tried to talk to him about his future. “You’re really lucky, you know that? You didn’t have to wait your whole life to do something special.” Jesse pays Ed, who smuggles him to Alaska. He hands Ed a letter to mail, addressed to Brock Cantillo. As Jesse drives off to start his new life, he has a flashback to his time with Jane. He tells her how he admires that she always lets the universe take her wherever it pleases. She says that is not always the best thing, for sometimes the universe pulls you to a bad place. “Sometimes, it’s better to make those decisions for yourself.”If you’re a Breaking Bad fan, you’ll enjoy this return to a familiar world. Jesse, perhaps the most troubled and complicated character of the original series, is a worthy subject of this story. His plight to escape his old life at his very lowest point means he needs to find a strength that we have never seen from him before, and for 120 minutes of well-thought-out storytelling this film brings that struggle alive.

REVIEW: VERONICA MARS – SEASON 1

Starring

Kristen Bell (The Good Place)
Teddy Dunn (Jumper)
Jason Dohring (The Originals)
Percy Daggs III (Detention)
Sydney Tamiia Poitier (Death Proof)
Francis Capra (Izombie)
Enrico Colantoni (Flashpoint)

Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Michael Muhney (The Young and The Restless)
Corinne Bohrer (The Flash 90s)
Amanda Seyfried (Les Miserables)
Lisa Thornhill (Agter The Sunset)
Kyle Secor (The Purge: Election Year)
Daran Norris (Izombie)
Brandon Hillock (Villains)
Bradley Joseph (Stone & Ed)
Patrick Wolff (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)
Duane Daniels (Fashion House)
Jonathan Chesner (Bones)
Christian Clemenson (Apollo 13)
Aaron Ashmore (Smallville)
Wilmer Calderon (Fast & Furious)
Paris Hilton (House of Wax)
Ryan Hansen (2 Broke Girls)
Bobby Edner (The Amanda Show)
Paula Marshall (Murder In The First)
Alison MacInnis (Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue)
Kyla Pratt (Dr. Dolittle)
Adam Wylie (Child’s Play 2)
Robert Baker (Supergirl)
Sam Huntington (Superman Returns)
Melissa Reneé Martin (The Secret Craft)
Lisa Rinna (Days of Our Lives)
Jane Lynch (Glee)
Harry Hamlin (Clash of The Titans)
Amanda Noret (Bunny Whipped)
Jessica Chastain (Zero Dar Thirty)
Adam Kaufman (Buffy: TVS)
Steven Williams (Jason Goes To Hell)
Bonita Friedericy (Chuck)
Alona Tal (Cult)
Tina Majorino (Scorpion)
Erica Gimpel (God Friended Me)
Anastasia Baranova (Z Nation)
Jonathan Bennett (Mean Girls)
Chris William Martin (The Vampire Diaries)
Megalyn Echikunwoke (That 70s Show)
Kevin Sheridan (Heart of Dixie)
Emmanuelle Vaugier (Two and a Half Men)
Max Greenfield (New Girl)
Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)
Christopher B. Duncan (Legacies)
Katie Leclerc (The Big Bang Theory)
Bridget Hoffman (Total Recall)
Anthony Anderson (Transformers)
Jowharah Jones (Ugly Betty)
Ken Merckx (Masked Rider)
Christine Lakin (Family Guy)
Adam Scott (Krampus)
Leighton Meester (The Roommate)
Alyson Hannigan (Buffy: TVS)
Cynthia LaMontagne (Austin Powers)
Zachery Ty Bryan (Home Improvement)
Erin Chambers (Stargate: Atlantis)
Ken Marino (Agent Carter)
Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Last Man Standing)
Theo Rossi (Luke Cage)
Joey Lauren Adams (Chasing Amy)
Roy Werner (Power Rangers Time Force)
Kyle Gallner (American Sniper)

Veronica Mars is set in Neptune, California, a town without a middle-class. Everyone’s either a millionaire or works for one, and the man largely responsible for Neptune’s unparalleled success is Jake Kane (Kyle Secor), the resident billionaire software mogul. Kane and his family are still reeling from the murder of his daughter Lilly (Amanda Seyfried) some months earlier, and as if that loss wasn’t enough, the beloved Kane family was doggedly pursued by a county sheriff convinced that they were hiding something. Public sentiment turned against Sheriff Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni), who was ousted from office and abandoned by his wife.Kristen Bell and Jessica Chastain in Veronica Mars (2004)Cue the title character. His daughter Veronica (Kristen Bell) had already lost her best friend with Lilly’s death, but standing by her father also cost Veronica her friends, her social status, her house…even her mother. Veronica had already been unceremoniously dumped by Lilly’s brother Duncan (Teddy Dunn) shortly before her friend’s murder, and a defiant visit to face her former friends at a party weeks later led to Veronica being drugged and raped. Despite having lost so much, Veronica is resilient enough to move on with her life, and as her father struggles to stay afloat as a private eye, Veronica puts her smarts and determination to work to help ease the caseload at Mars Investigations. She also puts her talents to use to help her classmates with their troubles — for a price, of course. To cap it all off, Veronica’s faced with a couple of her own mysteries to solve. What convinced Lianne Mars to abandon her family, and where is she now? Who was it who drugged and raped Veronica last December? Also, is her father right — did someone other than disgruntled Kane Software employee Abel Koontz murder Lilly? If there is, who orchestrated the conspiracy that led to Koontz’ confession and why?Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)The dialogue in Veronica Mars has the same sparkle as Joss Whedon’s work…arguably better, even, since Buffy sometimes sounded like a deliberate attempt to be hip, whereas Veronica Mars manages to be witty and clever without feeling quite so forced. The writing doesn’t skew as young as one might expect from a TV show set in a high school. If anything, the target audience seems to be twentysomething — I don’t know how many fifteen year olds would be able to appreciate references to Archie comics or 21 Jump Street, f’r instance. Characterization is another strength of the series, and part of the reason Veronica Mars works as well as it does is that the audience truly does care about the characters. Despite having a seemingly endless array of talents, Veronica isn’t some sort of idyllic Mary Sue. She’s not always right. Her investigations frequently take morally questionable turns. Things don’t always go the way she wants. Not every episode has a happy ending.Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)Along with the cases that are solved in the space of forty minutes and change every week, a couple of mysteries are introduced in the pilot that are gradually explored throughout the entire length of the season. That’s right — unlike the hydra that is Lost, where answering one question spawns ten more, all of Veronica Mars’ mysteries are resolved by the time the season finale rolls around. (The finale tosses out a couple questions of its own, but if a second season hadn’t gotten the green light, it still would’ve been a fitting end to the series.)Veronica Mars has a capable cast to match the quality of the writing. Veronica is strong and cynical…bright and sarcastic…and even though all of the trauma she’s suffered over the past year has aged her somewhat, she’s still an emotionally vulnerable teenage girl.Kristen Bell and Alona Tal in Veronica Mars (2004)That’s a lot to juggle, but Kristen Bell is talented enough to make such a colossal task seem effortless and captivating enough to carry a show on her shoulders. Of course, Bell is joined by a strong enough supporting cast that she doesn’t have to shoulder it all herself.VM-S2D2_04After cutting down Wallace (Percy Daggs III), the new kid at school, who’d been stripped naked and duct taped to a flagpole, he and Veronica become best friends. In teen-TV land, it’s an immutable rule that people of different genders can’t just be pals…there’s this endless temptation to couple everyone. Veronica Mars manages to resist, resulting in one of the few platonic friendships like this left on television.Enrico Colantoni, who plays Veronica’s father, is another fan favorite, able to shift from warm, loving, and borderline-goofy to secretive and deadly serious when the situation calls for it. There’s also Eli “Weevil” Navarro (Francis Capra), the leader of a local biker gang from the wrong side of the tracks who engages in some mutual backscratching with Veronica.Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars (2004)The character who stands out the most — aside from Veronica, of course — is Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring). Like Kristen Bell, Dohring is endlessly engaging. He’s introduced as an “obligatory psychotic jackass”, but as the season progresses, Logan’s humanized without being watered-down; even when he’s doing something as thoroughly loathesome as bribing a homeless vet to join in on his homebrew Bumfights video, there’s an undercurrent of understanding why Logan is the way he is. The character changes throughout the season, but the shift feels deserved and natural, not just because that’s what’s scrawled on the whiteboard in the writing room.Other guest stars throughout the season include Napoleon Dynamite’s Tina Majorino as computer whiz Mac, Aaron Ashmore as a love interest with a shady past, Logan’s movie star family (played by Harry Hamlin, Lisa Rinna, and Alyson Hannigan), Anthony Anderson, Zachary Ty Brian, Joey Lauren Adams, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and, in a shameless bit of stuntcasting, Paris Hilton. Kristen Bell and Francis Capra in Veronica Mars (2004)The fact that the second episode of Veronica Mars manages to be really good despite a Paris Hilton guest spot really is a testament to how good a series this is. Oh, and, in true Laura Palmer fashion, just because Lilly Kane is dead doesn’t mean that Amanda Seyfried can’t rear her head in nearly every other episode.The conclusion to most of the mysteries caught me by surprise. Throughout the entire season, the only time I correctly guessed the culprit was in “Lord of the Bling”, and even then, the motivation and execution were well out of my reach. The many twists the stories take are clever, and watching these episodes a second time, I could spot all sorts of clues and hints that didn’t seem that important the first time through. Veronica Mars is a series that’s easy to dive into as a marathon, but for viewers catching these episodes for the first time, I’d recommend drawing it out a bit.

REVIEW: BREAKING BAD – THE FINAL SEASON

STARRING

Bryan Cranston (Power Rangers)
Anna Gunn (Sully)
Aaron Paul (Central Intelligence)
Dean Norris (The Big Bang Theory)
Betsy Brandt (Magic Mike)
RJ Mitte (Final Recall)
Bob Odenkirk (Operation: Endgame)
Giancarlo Esposito (Money Monster)
Jonathan Banks (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Laura Fraser (In The Cloud)
Jesse Plemons (The Post)

Bryan Cranston and Dean Norris in Breaking Bad (2008)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Matt L. Jones (Mom)
Charles Baker (Abysm)
Lavell Crawford (American Ultra)
Michael Bowen (Lost)
Bill Burr (Date Night)
Emily Rios (Snowfall)
Adam Godley (Powers)
Jessica Hecht (Dan In Real Life)
Carmen Serano (Next Friday)
Robert Forster (Jackie Brown)
Louis Ferreira (Stargate Universe)

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (2008)Since the beginning of Breaking Bad, there was always the question of if and when Walter White (Bryan Cranston) would be caught. His brother in law Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) was a DEA agent, so there were so many ways for his work as a meth cooker/drug kingpin to go south. And as the final eight episodes of Breaking Bad began, Hank had finally caught on to his brother in law. It was the start of the end, and it couldn’t end well, at least for the characters. For the audience, it ended spectacularly. Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (2008)First off “The Final Season” is what the packaging says, but that would surely include the episodes from the first half of the fifth season, but season five was divided into two eight episode chunks, even though they were shot and aired nearly a year apart. It must be some sort of contractual thing. The second half kicks off seconds after the last episode with Hank finding a book of poetry that the late Gale Boeticher gave to Walter. Hank puts it all together, and goes home to do research, struggling with a panic attack as his world comes crushing down. But the great thing about the show is that this tension of Hank knowing could have dragged on for episodes. By the end of the first, he and Walter confront each other. Meanwhile Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) has five million dollars and all he wants to do is give it to the family of the boy whose child was murdered by Todd (Jesse Plemons). He’s too emotionally distraught to make any rational decisions and is eventually arrested for throwing his money away.Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad (2008)Skyler White (Anna Gunn) is confronted by Hank shortly thereafter, and though both love her sister Marie (Betsy Brandt), Skyler doesn’t know what to do, and doesn’t want to incriminate herself so she stays mute. Walter raises the stakes on Hank – who knows his career is ruined the minute he tells his coworkers that his brother is a meth kingpin – to keep him at bay, but Hank is not the sort of officer who backs down because of threats. Meanwhile Todd and his crew are now making meth, and their work doesn’t make Lydia (Laura Fraser) all that happy because their purity levels are far below Walter’s and their meth isn’t even blue. Walter gets Jesse to Saul Goodman’s (Bob Odenkirk), and the plan is to take him to the long spoke of Disappearer, but though Jesse goes along with this, it’s at this time he realizes that Walter was the one who stole the ricin cigarette for him, and he wants revenge. Eventually, he teams up with Hank.Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad (2008)When it all goes down, it goes down in interesting ways that might not be predicted, but feel right for just about everyone. That’s led to problems because it’s a pretty neat package in the end. But that won’t stop Breaking Bad for being revered as one of the greatest accomplishments in television history, up there with (though not on the same level as) The Wire.Dean Norris and Betsy Brandt in Breaking Bad (2008)If it’s not as good as The Wire, it’s only because at some point Breaking Bad stopped being about the exterior world, and became focused on the human drama. In that way the series peaked in Season 2, when it showed the real world collateral damage of Walter’s pursuit of wealth and power. But the show always had pulp fiction roots, and in comparison to The Shield or The Sopranos, what’s most impressive is how tight the whole thing is – there are no seasons, no episodes, and only a few plot strands that didn’t pay off or add up, and that’s pretty amazing. Much of that had to do with the first season. Had they not had a shortened order for the first year, they might have pushed Walter too far along in his journey into crime, but the way it plays out now, there are 62 episodes and about forty eight hours of a near-seamless narrative that is mostly broken up into acts. And, as series creator Vince Gilligan said from the outset, this was about turning Mr. Chips into Scarface and so each season saw Walter fall further from sympathy, and further from his initial goals of simply taking care of his family. As the character says in the finale, only then can he finally admit he did it for himself.Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (2008)What the final eight episodes do is unravel everything, with “Ozymandius” the standout episode, as directed by Rian Johnson. To that point, the tension has been raised, and things have to explode, and so explode they do, with no one left uninjured. It’s one of the most harrowing and brilliant episodes of television ever filmed, and it’s amazing how well it pays off so much of what’s been building over the years. But the nice thing about television is that the show had two more episodes to unravel everything else, and gave Walter White a glimpse of Hell, and a moment to make things maybe a little less bad.Dean Norris and Steven Michael Quezada in Breaking Bad (2008)At this point, everyone on the show knew what they were doing, and so there are no bum performances, and everyone is doing career-best work, with a deep bench of great supporting players. Kevin Rankin and Michael Bowen play two of the head Neo Nazis, and though both had played toughs before, this isn’t just guest of the week stuff, these characters have lives and feel lived in. It’s weird how great Bowen is, many might know him from Valley Girl, or Jackie Brown (or a small part in Kill Bill), but he transforms himself into another person, and that’s just one of the minor characters in the season. Bryan Cranston is amazing in these episodes as he reveals the worst of the character and then tries to show empathy while doing the worst possible things. That people still like Walt, that people misguidedly champion him has everything to do with how good Cranston plays it. And it’s no surprise that Aaron Paul is moving on to a big screen career, because he and the creators took a nothing part and transformed the character (who was supposed to get killed off in the first season) into the heart and soul of the series.Michael Bowen, Bryan Cranston, and Dean Norris in Breaking Bad (2008)But then there’s also Anna Gunn, who many fans grew to hate, but who brilliantly played a conflicted woman who was in a relationship she couldn’t get out of, and would occasionally vacillate into accepting the evil around her. And RJ Mitte as Walter White Jr., the one person who fully believes in his father until he finally sees the monster within. And then there’s someone like Bob Odenkirk, who is mostly comic relief, but manages to bring a reality and empathy to his shyster lawyer, and that’s not to mention Jesse Plemmons great work as Todd, whose baby face is a perfect counterbalance to his sociopathic nature.Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (2008)It’s also worth noting that the show was shot on 35mm, and that mixed with the directors means this is one of the most cinematic shows on television. The camera moves in ways that advance the story, and where most TV shows can be enjoyed without watching the picture the whole time, here there is so much going on in terms of visual storytelling. If you watch “Ozymandius” a second time, during the flashback opening, a key prop is placed prominently in the frame, as if to set up its role later in the episode. You don’t get that from most TV shows.Ultimately, Breaking Bad is a great work, a great story, and it’s easy to see why people champion it as being as good as the best of cinema. Though that’s apples and oranges –it’s pointless to compare the greatness of Jaws to the greatness of Moby Dick, or Hamlet to The Beatles. That said, one wishes there were more than a handful of shows on this level. Hopefully Breaking Bad will spawn them.

REVIEW: BREAKING BAD – SEASON 5

STARRING

Bryan Cranston (Power Rangers)
Anna Gunn (Sully)
Aaron Paul (Central Intelligence)
Dean Norris (The Big Bang Theory)
Betsy Brandt (Magic Mike)
RJ Mitte (Final Recall)
Bob Odenkirk (Operation: Endgame)
Giancarlo Esposito (Money Monster)
Jonathan Banks (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Laura Fraser (In The Cloud)
Jesse Plemons (The Post)

Jonathan Banks, Bryan Cranston, and Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad (2008)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Jim Beaver (Deadwood)
Christopher Cousins (The Grudge 2)
Steven Michael Quezada (Girlfriend’s Day)
Matt L. Jones (Mom)
Emily Rios (Snowfall)
Charles Baker (Abysm)
Bill Burr (Date Night)
Louis Ferreira (Stargate Universe)
Michael Bowen (Lost)
Larry Hankin (Barry)
Michael Shamus Wiles (Lost Highways)

Jonathan Banks in Breaking Bad (2008)This is it – the beginning of the end. After four fantastic seasons that progressively made the series grow stronger and stronger, we’re just about there. I can’t say that I agree with the decision that AMC and Sony made to split the 16-episode fifth and final season into two parts, but I’m really excited for where it’s going. While this Blu-ray release labels itself as “The Fifth Season,” it’s really only the first half of season season five. I imagine that when the second half makes its way to Blu-ray, it will be labeled as “The Final Season.” The eight episodes contained in this set don’t quite function as a stand-alone season – there isn’t a complete arc – but it definitely sets itself up for what should be an intense finale. And with the show’s track record, it’s fair to assume that ‘Breaking Bad’ is going to end with a very loud bang.Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (2008)Season four ended with Mr. Walter White (three-time Emmy-winner Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul, who also has two Emmys of his own) obtaining complete liberation from their smart, intimidating, and oppressive distributor – Gus Fring. Without a single obstacle in their way and with the best “cook” in the world, the sky is the limit for our anti-hero duo. There are so many juicy moments in the contained eight episodes, moments sure to make every fan of the series giggle with excitement, that I’m going to try my very best to keep the details vague for those of you who have not yet watched it.Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad (2008)There are three major results of Gus no longer being part of the picture: the DEA – including Walt’s brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris) – are pushing hard to find every known member of Gus’ international operation; without a lab and distribution, Walt and Jesse must now find new methods of cooking and distributing their 99-percent pure crystal meth; and Walt’s ego is out of control. If you just took down biggest meth operation in North America, wouldn’t you have an inflated head as well?The Blu-ray cover art contains the text “All Hail the King” emboldened on the front. This isn’t a praise that we, the audience, give to Mr. White. No, it’s a praise that he gives to himself. Having defeated the one man that very well may have been smarter than himself, Walt is out of control. As we see, it’s his way or the highway. There isn’t a trace of Mr. White in Walt anymore – it’s all Heisenberg from here on out. It’s always been obvious that this series is all about the erosion of good man. At this point, the once-good man no longer exists and, in comparison, Jesse begins to look like a saint. Walter White may no longer have cancer, but he is a cancer. He brings death, ruining lives and families wherever he goes. His intentions were good in the start, but that’s no longer the case. The character that I once rooted for is becoming so evil that I cannot wait to see him meet his demise – assuming that’s where showrunner, creator, and writer Vince Gilligan is taking the series.Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (2008)But just because Gus is gone, it doesn’t mean that other problems aren’t going to arise. As we saw in her last scene from season four, Walt’s wife Skylar (Anna Gunn) no longer views her husband the same way. She will continue to launder his dirty money through their car wash, but she’s no longer happily cooperating and she’s going to fight Walt’s will until his – or her – dying breath. Aside from past issues with competing cartels, Gus’ operation was functioning flawlessly until Walt and Jesse came around. His team was silent and tight, their loyalty and trust never in question – but now that the DEA is applying heat and Gus is out of the picture, how quiet do you think his pressured henchmen will be now. And as if Gus’ 10 major employees weren’t posing enough of a threat, how do you think Gus’ right-hand man Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) is going to take the news of the season four’s final events?Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (2008)Season five doesn’t feel like a complete season (which I why I’m assuming the cover art doesn’t follow suit with the previous season releases by titling it ‘The Complete Fifth Season’), but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t filled with greatness. There are plenty of extremely memorable moments – for the good or bad of the characters – and it’s completely entertaining through and through. Starting with the season’s opening tease, there are plenty of puzzling twists and ominous foreshadowing. The episodes found on this Blu-ray set might have been strengthened by running fluidly with the final eight, but at least this set allows you to catch up and get refreshed prior to the final 8.

REVIEW: BREAKING BAD – SEASON 4

STARRING

Bryan Cranston (Power Rangers)
Anna Gunn (Sully)
Aaron Paul (Central Intelligence)
Dean Norris (The Big Bang Theory)
Betsy Brandt (Magic Mike)
RJ Mitte (Final Recall)
Bob Odenkirk (Operation: Endgame)
Giancarlo Esposito (Money Monster)
Jonathan Banks (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)

Jonathan Banks, Bryan Cranston, and Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad (2008)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Ray Campbell (The Shield)
David Costabile (The Post)
Jeremiah Bitsui (Natural Born Killers)
Lavell Crawford (American Ultra)
Jim Beaver (Deadwood)
Matt L. Jones (Mom)
Emily Rios (Snowfall)
Charles Baker (To The Wonder)
Bill Burr (Date Night)
Nigel Gibbs (Eagle Eye)
Maurice Compte (End of Watch)
Jere Burns (Bates Motel)
Steven Michael Quezada (Beerfest)
Michael Shamus Wiles (Lost Highway)
Javier Grajeda (Days of Our Lives)
Carlo Rota (Saw V)

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (2008)Breaking Bad, an offbeat series about a chemistry teacher turned crystal meth kingpin, has been a critical triumph in America. Each episode of the fourth season ratchets up the tension, danger and paranoia as things begin to fall apart with the grand scheming of Walter White, the main star of Vince Gilligan’s TV series set in Albuquerque, New Mexico.Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad (2008)Bryan Cranston (Walt) and Aaron Paul (who won an Emmy last week for his performance as Jesse Pinkman) give wonderful performances throughout a riveting season, and Giancarlo Esposito (as Gus Fring) is simply one of the most insidious and nasty “quiet guy” villains ever on a TV show. The way, in episode one, Gus deals with a colleague who disappoints him is a chilling vision of hell on earth. The violence in the series is shocking without seeming gratuitous.

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (2008)When interviewed Gilligan said of Esposito: “I knew his work before Breaking Bad because he was was familiar from Homicide and the movie The Usual Suspects but I have to give my casting directors Sharon Bialy and Sherry Thomas credit because they brought in Giancarlo via tape auditions. We were very lucky to have him.”Breaking Bad (2008)Dean Norris as Hank Schrader – Walter’s DEA agent brother-in-law – is also on top form throughout this season, as his suspicions about the drug trade in his home town begin to crystallise. Comic relief is provided by the crooked lawyer Saul Goodman (wittily played by comedian Bob Odenkirk).Giancarlo Esposito and Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad (2008)The 13 episodes are like a deadly game of cat-and-mouse between Walt and Gus, and the ultimate showdown is memorable. And the dialogue in Breaking Bad is gripping. Walt is asked by his worried wife Skyler about the danger from potential assassins who will knock at their door. He demonically shouts: “I am the one who knocks” – a line which was voted one of the best TV lines of 2011 by Time magazine. The line has since appeared on a popular-selling T-shirt.Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (2008)Fans of Breaking Bad are likely to watch the season in very quick succession and if you’ve never seen the series then what a treat you would have to watch all four. It’s easily one of the most interesting and challenging television shows of recent years.

 

REVIEW: BREAKING BAD – SEASON 3

STARRING

Bryan Cranston (Power Rangers)
Anna Gunn (Sully)
Aaron Paul (Central Intelligence)
Dean Norris (The Big Bang Theory)
Betsy Brandt (Magic Mike)
RJ Mitte (Final Recall)
Bob Odenkirk (Operation: Endgame)
Giancarlo Esposito (Money Monster)
Jonathan Banks (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (2008)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Jeremiah Bitsui (The Reunion)
Steven Michael Quezada (Girlfriend’s Day)
Charles Baker (Abysm)
Christopher Cousins (The Grudge 2)
David Costabile (The Wire)
Jere Burns (Bates Motel)
Michael Shamus Wiles (The Bronze)
Matt L. Jones (Mom)
Mark Margolis (Noah)
Javier Grajeda (The Lincoln Lawyer)
Emily Rios (Snowfall)
Carmen Serano (The Flock)
Larry Hankin (Billy Madison)
John de Lancie (Star Trek: TNG)
Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones)
Tess Harper (Amityville 3)
Tom Kiesche (The Animal)
Danny Trejo (Machete)
Taylor Dearden (American Vandal)
Julie Dretzin (Beastly)
Mark Harelik (Jurassic Park III)

Caleb Landry Jones (Byzantium)
Michael Bofshever (United 93)
Emily Rios (Snowfall)

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (2008)

A chemistry teacher, Walter White (Bryan Cranston), gets terminal lung cancer and decides to cook high-grade crystal meth in order to provide a nest egg for his family after he’s gone. We follow him as he and his former student turned small-time meth-dealer Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) drift deeper and deeper into South Valley’s violent criminal underworld.Bryan Cranston and RJ Mitte in Breaking Bad (2008)Season three opens with the devastating aftermath of a mid-air plane collision which rained flaming debris, not to mention body parts, on the Whites’ hitherto peaceful neighbourhood. This storyline is given an added frisson by the fact that we know something that the community doesn’t: that Walter was indirectly responsible for the crash. (The disaster happened because an air-traffic controller, whose junkie daughter died when Walter let her choke on her own vomit, was distracted by grief.)Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (2008)Indeed, this season finds Walter in all kinds of trouble. Not only is his wife Skyler (Anna Gunn), having stumbled on to the fact that he’s mixed up in meth, preparing to file for divorce, but there are two hulking assassins from a Mexican drug cartel closing in on him. Fortunately for Walter, the local restaurateur/druglord Gustavo Fring (played with icy menace by Giancarlo Esposito) needs his prized meth-maker alive – and is seemingly bent on protecting him. Elsewhere Jesse, who spent the tail end of the second season struggling with a drug addiction, is back from rehab, ready to take responsibility for his actions. “You either run from things or you face them, Mr White… I accept who I am… I’m the bad guy.”Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad (2008)Part of what makes Breaking Bad so exhilarating to watch is its slow-burn approach: it allows you to soak in the stunning visuals as well as appreciate the wonderfully nuanced performances, particularly from Bryan Cranston, who’s won multiple Emmy Awards for his role as Walter. It also allows tension to mount – and, boy, does season three explode into life later on. Tightly written and punctuated with Coen brothers-like humour, Breaking Bad is, rather appropriately for a show about meth dealers, eye-bleedingly addictive. I defy you not to become hooked.

REVIEW: BREAKING BAD – SEASON 2

 

STARRING

Bryan Cranston (Power Rangers)
Anna Gunn (Sully)
Aaron Paul (Central Intelligence)
Dean Norris (The Big Bang Theory)
Betsy Brandt (Magic Mike)
RJ Mitte (Final Recall)

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad (2008)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones)
Steven Michael Quezada (Girlfriend’s Day)
Charles Baker (Abysm)
Christopher Cousins (The Grudge 2)
Matt L. Jones (Mom)
Bob Odenkirk (Operation: Endgame)
John de Lancie (Star Trek: TNG)
Tom Kiesche (The Animal)
Michael Shamus Wiles (The Bronze)
Raymond Cruz (Training Day)
Giancarlo Esposito (Money Monster)
Tess Harper (Amityville 3)
Mark Margolis (Noah)
Carmen Serano (The Flock)

Harry Groener (Buffy: TVS)
Jonathan Banks (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Sam McMurray (Drop Dead Gordgous)
Jeremiah Bitsui (The Reunion)
Nigel Gibbs (Eagle Eye)
Jessica Hecht (J. Edgar)
Danny Trejo (Machete)
Caleb Landry Jones (Get Out)
Dale Dickey (My Name Is Earl)
DJ Qualls (Road Trip)
Michael Bofshever (United 93)

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (2008)My goodness. Look how far we’ve come. We started watching this show with a pretty simple, though hard to believe, premise. A teacher needed extra money to leave behind for his family in the event of his death. He cooked meth with his former student and by the end, he had earned the respect and business of Albuquerque’s craziest drug dealer, Tuco, by blowing out the side of his office. Of course it sounds silly written out like that, but the source of Breaking Bad’s power isn’t its realism, it’s its realism based in its fantasy; at the end of the day, it’s still a TV show. Walt had set out with a goal and achieved part of it by the end of the first season, but by the final scene, we were given that glimpse of just the trouble Walt and Jesse had just put themselves into, a glimpse of what was in their future.Bryan Cranston, Raymond Cruz, and Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad (2008)That is, Season 1 was a preview. It was a taste of what the series was about, from the character development to the explosive scenes to the use of science in every day life to the tortuous limbo Walt had put his family in.Dean Norris and Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad (2008)Season 2 was a beautiful thing, maybe one of the best seasons in television history. Even though we knew the show for its explosiveness, its ability to fool us and to build on characters, it enriched its soil, providing richer loams from which to grow. Jesse has always been a good character at heart. No doubt that Season 2 was tough on him. He moved from a wannabe tough guy to a kingpin poser to a heroin junkie. He was kicked around a lot, physically and mentally. He crashed through a port-a-potty while breaking into an impoundment lot so he could find a place to sleep for the night. He lost the only girl he’s ever loved. We also found out just how much Walt cares for him, though, and there’s reason to believe he’ll be back on his feet in Season 3. Perhaps he’ll attain redemption before the series is over. Skyler meanwhile proved she’s just as smart and strong as she appeared to be in season one. Hank was crass, but loveable, and showed that his interior isn’t as tough as his exterior. The rest of the cast has proven to be well-rounded characters, capable of good and bad, everyone having their two sides, but each one with their own line drawn in the sand.

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (2008)Walt has been leaning into evil, he’s shown his inner conflict: (1) in “Bit by a Dead Bee,” where he saw the effects his absence had created (the three times when he looks at the painting on the wall in the hospital were, I think, the best part of the season), (2) the scene on the cots in the camper in “4 Days Out,” where he admits to Jesse that he deserves “this,” and (3) the scene on the couch in the finale when Walt Jr. explains how Walt is his hero and his eyes mist over.Breaking Bad (2008)Walt’s leading this chimerical lifestyle and it kills him inside. Again, part of that is the brilliant acting by Bryan Cranston, of giving those heartfelt words and moments while being able to turn around and say “f**k you” at Gretchen through clenched teeth or tell some cook wannabes to get out of his territory. He has that fire in the belly, that passion to succeed, even if it’s through illegal means, but he sees that its costing him the life he had, the family he loves. Though it seems like it’s heading towards Walt’s eventual corruption, Walt could continue to walk that fine line. Besides, Breaking Bad has already thrown enough curveballs to make us second guess any predictions.Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad (2008)And might I add, the series has done a great job of not abusing Walt’s science acumen to get him out of tough situations. The occasional use of chemistry has been infrequent enough to not warrant a “How will they get out of this situation with chemistry this time” weekly guessing game. Maybe, just maybe, what made Season 2 so great was how well they were able to give us the explosiveness we desired without tipping their hand to it. There were also numerous surprises that were just as meaningful, but not as physically explosive. By the end of Season 2, Walt established the connections he has wanted from the start, but at a big cost—and in the finale, he receives his cosmic justice, as the consequences of his actions rained down upon him.Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (2008)There was so little wasted in Season 2, so little plot that didn’t lead to something bigger, that it deserves a second, third and fourth viewing. It was impressive. Impressive if only because we started out with this neatly wrapped package and it exploded into this galaxy of deceit, despair, hope, trickery and the unraveling of our two antiheroes – all in thirteen episodes. Season 1 showed us Pandora’s Box and Season 2 opened it with a sledge hammer. Even in the end, when we were thrown that curveball ending, we wanted more.