25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: HOME ALONE

Starring

Macaulay Culkin (Saved)
Joe Pesci (JFK)
Catherine O’Hara (Beetlejuice)
Daniel Stern (The Wonder Years)
John Heard (Runner Runner)
Roberts Blossom (Christine)
Angela Goethals (Spanglish)
Anna Slotky (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Devin Ratray (R.I.P.D.)
Gerry Bamman (Runaway Jury)
Hillary Wolf (Sunday Drive)
Larry Hankin (Breaking Bad)
John Candy (Spaceballs)
Michael C. Maronna (40 Days and 40 Nights)
Kristin Minter (Highlander: The Series)
Kieran Culkin (Scott Pilgrim vs The World)
Diana Rein (Dennis The Menace)
Senta Moses Mikan (My So-Called Life)
Hope Davis (Captain America: Civil War)

Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone (1990)The McCallister family is preparing to spend Christmas in Paris, gathering at Peter and Kate’s home outside of Chicago on the night before their departure. Peter and Kate’s youngest son, Kevin, is being scorned by his siblings and cousins. Later, Kevin accidentally ruins the family dinner after a fight with his older brother Buzz, resulting in him getting sent to the attic of the house for punishment where he berates Kate and wishes that his family would disappear. During the night, heavy winds cause damage to the power lines, which causes a power outage and resets the alarm clocks, causing the family to oversleep. In the confusion and rush to get to the airport, Kevin is accidentally left behind.Macaulay Culkin and Daniel Stern in Home Alone (1990)Kevin wakes to find the house empty and, thinking his wish has come true, is overjoyed with his newfound freedom. However, he soon becomes frightened by his next door neighbor, Old Man Marley, who is rumored to be a serial killer who murdered his family; as well as the “Wet Bandits”, Harry and Marv, a pair of burglars who have been breaking into other vacant houses in the neighborhood and have targeted the McCallisters’ house. Kevin tricks the pair into thinking his family is home, forcing them to put their plans on hold.Macaulay Culkin and Joe Pesci in Home Alone (1990)Kate discovers mid-flight that Kevin is missing and upon arrival in Paris, the family discovers that all flights for the next two days are booked. Peter and the rest of the family stays in his brother’s apartment in the city while Kate manages to get a flight back to the United States, only to get as far as Scranton, Pennsylvania. She attempts to book a flight to Chicago but again, everything is booked. Unable to accept this, Kate is overheard by Gus Polinski – the lead member of a traveling polka band – who offers to let her travel with them to Chicago on their way to Milwaukee in a moving van, which she graciously accepts.Meanwhile, Harry and Marv realize that Kevin is alone, and on Christmas Eve, Kevin overhears them discussing plans to break into his house that night. Kevin starts to miss his family and asks the local mall Santa if he could bring his family back for Christmas. He goes to church and watches a choir perform and meets Old Man Marley, who dispels the rumors about him. He points out his granddaughter in the choir, whom he never gets to meet as he and his son are estranged; Kevin suggests that he should reconcile with his son.Kevin returns home and rigs the house with booby traps to take on the bandits. Harry and Marv break in, spring the traps and suffer various injuries. While the duo pursues Kevin around the house, he calls the police and flees, luring the duo into a neighboring home which they previously broke into. Harry and Marv subdue him, but Marley sneaks in and knocks them unconscious with his shovel before they can harm Kevin. The police arrive and arrest Harry and Marv, having identified all the houses they broke into due to the latter’s habit of flooding them.564564465On Christmas Day, Kevin is disappointed to find that his family is still gone, and discovers that Santa is not real due to the untouched state of his cookies and milk. He then hears Kate enter the house and call for him; they reconcile and are soon joined by the rest of the McCallisters, who waited in Paris until they could get a direct flight to Chicago. Kevin keeps silent about his encounter with Harry and Marv, although Peter finds Harry’s knocked-out gold tooth. Kevin then observes Marley reuniting with his son and his family. Marley notices Kevin, and the pair wave to each other. Buzz suddenly calls out, “Kevin, what did you do to my room?” at which point Kevin runs off.lead_960All in all, ‘Home Alone’ is probably the best Christmas movie to rise out of the film industry in the last twenty years. It seamlessly blends humor, pain, emotion, human instinct and some great booby-traps all into one little bundle. This film has stood the test of time greatly.

 

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: 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 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: THE SHADOW (1994)

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CAST
Alec Baldwin (Beetlejuice)
John Lone (Rush Hour 2)
Penelope Anne Miller (Kindergarten Cop)
Peter Boyle (Dr. Dolittle)
Ian McKellan (The Hobbit)
Tim Curry (IT)
Sab Shimono (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III)
James Hong (Blade Runner)
Ethan Phillips (Bad Santa)
Abraham Benrubi (Parker Lewis Can’t Lose)
Steve Hytner (Roswell)
Frank Welker (The Simpsons)
Robert Trebor (Hercules: TLJ)
Max Wright (Alf)
Larry Hankin (Breaking Bad)
In Tibet, following the First World War, an American named Lamont Cranston (Alec Baldwin), succumbing to his darker instincts during the war, has set himself up as a brutal warlord and opium kingpin under the alias of Ying-Ko (Mandarin Chinese for “Dark Eagle”). He is abducted from his palace by servants of the Tulku (Barry Dennen), a holy man who exhibits otherworldly powers and knows Cranston’s identity. He informs Cranston that he is to become a force for good. Cranston objects but is silenced by the Phurba (Frank Welker), a mystical sentient flying dagger that assaults Cranston, wounding him. Cranston is unable to refuse and remains under the tutelage of the Tulku for seven years. He learns to “cloud men’s minds,” a form of mystical, psychic hypnosis that allows him to influence others’ thoughts and bend their perceptions so he cannot be seen, except for his shadow (since light itself cannot be deceived), hence his new alias.
Cranston returns to New York and resumes his previous life. No one is aware of his past in the East; he is seen as a shallow and opulent playboy. He operates as The Shadow, a vigilante who terrorizes the underworld. Citizens who are saved by The Shadow are recruited to be his agents, providing him with informants and specialists. The existence of The Shadow is regarded by the public as nothing more than an urban legend. But The Shadow’s secret is endangered when Cranston meets Margo Lane (Penelope Ann Miller), an eccentric socialite who is a natural telepath. He is intrigued, but unable to continue seeing her as he cannot keep his thoughts from her.
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Cranston is challenged by Shiwan Khan (John Lone), another student of the Tulku who possesses even sharper powers, but had successfully resisted redemption and hence had stayed evil. Khan is the last descendant of Genghis Khan and plans to fulfill his ancestor’s goal of world domination. He offers Cranston an alliance, sensing that bloodlust and a thirst for power still exist in his heart, but Cranston refuses. Cranston acquires a rare coin from Khan and learns that it is made of a metal called “bronzium” (an impure form of uranium) that theoretically can generate an explosion large enough to destroy a city. This suspicion is confirmed when he learns that Margo’s father Reinhardt (Ian McKellen), an atomic scientist working for the War Department, has vanished. Shiwan Khan hypnotizes Margo Lane and sends her to assassinate Cranston, hoping that Cranston will be forced to kill her, thus reawakening his darker side. Instead, Cranston breaks Khan’s hold on her, but she is now aware of his secret identity. Cranston prepares to rescue Reinhardt but is thwarted by several of Khan’s henchmen. The Shadow suffers another setback when he confronts Reinhardt’s former assistant, Farley Claymore (Tim Curry), who has joined Khan’s forces. Claymore traps The Shadow in a submersion tank, but Cranston escapes drowning by mentally summoning Margo. The Shadow learns of Khan’s hideout, the luxurious Hotel Monolith, a building in the middle of the city that Shiwan Khan has rendered invisible; it appears to everyone else as an empty lot, but The Shadow can see through Khan’s mental clouding. Knowing that Khan has Reinhardt hostage and the completed atomic bomb in his possession, he infiltrates the hotel for a final showdown.hqdefault
The Shadow fights his way through the hotel, killing Claymore and Khan’s warriors. He faces Khan but is subdued by the Phurba, sustaining multiple injuries until he realizes that only a peaceful mind can truly control the Phurba. Overcoming Khan’s command of the dagger, he launches the Phurba into Khan’s torso. The injury breaks Khan’s concentration, freeing Reinhardt from his hypnotic state and rendering the hotel visible to everyone. The Shadow pursues Khan into the bowels of the building while Margo and Reinhardt disable the atomic bomb. The Shadow defeats Khan by psychically hurling a glass shard into his skull. Khan awakens in a padded cell, confused as to how he got there. He discovers that his powers are gone. He learns that the doctors saved his life by removing the part of his brain that harbored his psychic abilities. He demands to be set free, but is ignored along with the rants of the other inmates. Unknown to him, the doctor is an agent of The Shadow who has ensured that Khan is no longer a threat.
Now safe from Khan, Cranston gives in to his love for Margo, but duty calls soon after, and he promises to find her later that night. Margo asks how he will know where to find her, and Cranston reassures her, “I’ll know.”
This movie is stunningly produced, with excellent scenes. The characters are interesting, even if not often believable. The action is quite gripping, but is restrained.