El Camino – A Breaking Bad Movie


Viewed – 11 October 2019. Netflix

I don’t really know what I was expecting from a movie continuation of arguably one of the best TV shows ever made. Breaking Bad had one of the more satisfying endings, and so was there really anything left to explore?

Focusing on what happened next when it comes to the character of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) seemed the obvious answer, as we explore just where he was driving off to after being freed by his captors by series lead Walter White (Bryan Cranston). Whilst keeping one step ahead of the law, he turns to old buddies Badger and Skinny Pete. So yeah, we get several returning faces, mostly during a number of reminiscing scenes that surprisingly make up for a good portion of the runtime … meaning that there really isn’t much going on here other than getting from point A to point B. Paul is very good and layered as Jesse and despite his circumstances still manages to reveal a few of those fun Jesse characteristics that made his character so memorable in the show.

I’d have liked a bit more ‘life and death’ stakes to his situation but that barely comes across and I always felt Jesse was going to be fine. Which took away some of the drama. Also scenes of flashbacks and smaller moments are dragged out just to celebrate the show rather than offering any really service to the plot.

Not a revelation then, and can’t touch some of the bigger moments of the show but as a swan song to a beloved character this was precisely what it needed to be and nothing more.

Verdict: 3 /5

Advertisements

Joker


Viewed – 08 October 2019. Cinema

I didn’t get the most positive impression upon seeing the trailer for this. Although I believed Joaquin Phoenix was an ideal casting for the clown prince of crime … the realistic approach and the fact the movie looked simply like a guy laughing a lot and acting a bit strange didn’t fill me with excitement. There’s more to Joker than being a clown and a bit of a weirdo … but thankfully having sat through this, such feats are swept aside as director Todd Phillips delivers precisely the origin story fitting to the iconic character.

Phoenix plays Arthur, a guy with more than a few mental problems, not helped by an over dependant mother, a thankless job as a street performer, hopeless aspirations to be a stand-up comedian and living in a city that doesn’t give a damn. However with a girl next door who catches his eye, not all is bad. That is until a series of events finds him sinking further into madness and eventually finding a confidence in himself – as the Joker is manifested. Welcome support comes from Robert DeNiro as a chat show host but this is clearly Phoenix’s show and despite (favourable) comparisons to Nicholson & Ledger, he somehow makes the character his own in a complex, at times heart-breaking – yet still menacing portrayal.

This can be seen as a snapshot of our current society. It’s a brave exploration of how the powers that be can create a monster. At the same time, the movie plays cleverly with the viewers interpretation of what is real and what is fantasised . In the closing moments this approach is almost its undoing but with very strong echoes of Taxi Driver and even Black Swan I still came away surprised and particularly impressed. A must-see.

Verdict: 5 /5

It Chapter Two


Viewed 01 October 2019. Cinema

I only have vague memories of the original made for tv two parter in the early nineties – but I strongly recall being underwhelmed by the second part. However having liked the first in this re-adaptation, I sat down to this with anticipation and optimism. Twenty seven years after the events of the first movie, following an incident involving a young man as well as several disappearances of various children, it’s time to get the losers club back together in hope of putting an end to that f***ing clown, once and for all.

In the hands of the same director and with solid choices made when casting the adult counterparts of the first movie’s young cast, I was quickly drawn into this again. It’s filmed with panache and no end of style. Like last time there is a focus on character that works brilliantly, with a welcome dose of flashbacks to the young cast delving deeper into the gang”s friendship where clearly additional scenes were filmed rather than just copy and pasting from the last movie. It helps build up each individual character and made me care for all of them – very important when Pennywise turns up to deliver a wealth of set piece scares.

It’s here with a reliance on said set pieces that the movie falters, and it quickly dawned on me the approach here was maximum frights instead of gradual menace, meaning some of those scares just aren’t earned. It helps that the set-pieces are often imaginative and visually freaky – there’s just so many of them it does get exhausting. Thankfully performances across the board are great, with names like Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy and especially Bill Hader all delivering.

This may be a sequel that considers bigger is necessarily better … more subtlety and a stronger sense of mood (with a need for about 30 minutes chopped from that run time) would have made this equally as good as the first movie. As it stands, this makes up for such shortcomings by still being solid entertainment that’s well acted and brings the story to a (albeit drawn out) decent enough conclusion.

Verdict: 3.5 /5

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood


Viewed – 14 August 2019. Cinema

Quentin Tarantino is for the most part probably my favourite director and has had very few missteps in a career that’s spanned over twenty years and so far 9 movies (if you count Kill Bill 1&2 as one movie). So it was with some degree of excitement I sat down to see his latest. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Rick Dalton, a washed up Western actor reaching the end of his career and along with best friend and stunt-double Cliff (Brad Pitt), they attempt to continue working in an ever changing industry. Meanwhile, a religious cult threaten to shatter the glitz and glamour and bring the Hollywood dream and sixties with it, to an abrupt and bloody end.

With knowledge of the real life murders and that of Charles Manson’s cult I thought this was perfect material to get the Tarantino treatment. Imagine my surprise then to discover that that aspect barely fills up even a quarter of this long, drawn out movie’s 160 minute run time. Which would be excusable if what we get otherwise pulled me in at all. Here, Tarantino is at his most self-indulgent and selfishly nostalgic, revelling in a Hollywood I’m guessing many of us won’t even recognise, name dropping tv actors I’d never heard of and even doing a deserving to those I had (Bruce Lee is pretty much relegated to gag-fodder). Margot Robbie turns in an appealing, sexy but otherwise redundant performance as Sharon Tate, wife of director Roman Polanski and the most famous victim of the Manson Family murders. Even the dialogue lacks the usual flow and zip of a Tarantino script, that whilst natural sounding, in a movie that basically has little to no actual plot, it really needed to shine. Also, if your idea of entertainment is to watch Margot Robbie for longer than necessary watching herself in a movie theatre, or countless women show off their bare feet, Brad Pitt drive (and drive) around Los Angeles or feed his dog, and DiCaprio cough a lot … then more power to you. The ending will also divide audiences for sure yet I suppose I get what Tarantino was going for … even if it kind of pissed me off.

So, Tarantino’s apparent ‘love letter’ to late sixties Hollywood somehow does the unfathomable and makes the behind-the-scenes lifestyle of the movies actually look boring, Pitt & DiCaprio are fine, but even they look like they’re only here to do a friend a favour and collect a pay cheque. It’s real redeeming feature then is often impressive camera work, because shock – even the soundtrack gets a bit annoying. Definitely the director’s weakest effort since Death Proof – and at least that was more fun. Disappointing.

Verdict: 2 /5

22 July


Viewed – 06 August 2019. Netflix

We live in scary times. Terrorism has scarred and seemingly shaped the modern world and one such atrocity occurred in 2011 in Norway that I still find hard to comprehend. When a group of students go to an isolated island for a summer camp getaway, unbeknownst to them a right-wing extremist, Anders Breivik sets off a bomb by the Prime Minister’s building, before disguising himself as a Police officer to get onto the island and proceed to gun down the students.

The movie hits the ground running with that horrific attack, and later focuses on three figures, firstly a student as he goes through rehabilitation after receiving horrific injuries, then the lawyer tasked with defending a monster … and finally Breivik himself as he awaits trial. Director Paul Greengrass’s movie is a tough watch and decidedly harrowing but very well done with authentic casting that whilst not always delivering the best performances, still aid the realism. Breivik is especially well cast and made this viewer angry at his arrogance and smug attitude.

I’d have preferred more backstory on Breivik as his motives are only shown in a very one-sided way considering his complex issues with the Norwegian government which are not elaborated upon. However as a portrayal of such an atrocious event, Greengrass delivers an effective yet respectful drama that’s very much worth seeing.

Verdict: 4 /5