Thursday, March 9, 2017

Breaking Bad Season 3

Breaking Bad simply continues to enthrall as it turns its next chapter, which somehow always find a new place for our characters to open numerous possibilities. In this case we are given the reassessment period as Walter White, again Cranston still amazing, almost seems to settle to become an employee in the drug trade through a new connection, briefly introduced in season 2, of Gus Fring, brilliantly played by Giancarlo Esposito. It's not all so simple though since as Walt finds a comfortable place to make drugs, he loses such comforts as home as his wife finally confirms that he is hiding something. Despite the fallout of their actions this season again has perhaps a lighter tone in certain respects, and once again effectively so as though this is the reprieve before they go too deep. Again what I can say but the show continues to be entertaining, thrilling and engaging in just about every respect. It continues on though as it leads to violent turning points for the character whether it is with Hank suffering the fallout of Walt's actions, or Walter and Jesse taking desperate measures to save themselves. Again the progression of the series is sheer brilliance as it so naturally moves our characters forward in their arc while doing it in always such a compelling and enthralling fashion. Great scenes is merely the norm whether it is a tense confrontation in a junkyard, a faithful minute of waiting death, or a speech on "half-measures". Also I suppose I should note the episode of "Fly" the only filler episode in the whole series, is not the bad episode, the bad episode I referred to in season 1 is still yet to come. "Fly", though it doesn't accomplish anything, is just a fun breather with some great interactions between Jesse and Walt. The series once again does not miss in bringing you exactly what you want while carefully reinventing itself at the same time.

Breaking Bad Season 2

Breaking Bad season 2 has been called the slow season, although that seems almost like a joke given how the season opens. This is because we are technically given a season climax in the first few episodes, due to the writer's strike. Well that opening is quite the thrilling one to be sure where our "heroes" take down our first main villain in the effectively outrageous Tuco. The show though then phases into what I'd honestly call the fun season, though don't let that fool you. I call it the fun season though because here we get Walt and Jesse plunging head first into becoming drug kingpins, except this time they have no idea what they are doing besides making great crystal meth. The show is very entertaining this regard, particularly in the episode where we are introduced to Bob Odenkirk's scene stealing sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman. It isn't all fun and games though as the show still instill the fears of what drug dealing truly means in an effective fashion. Again though I love the way the show eases you into these moments showing the appeal before giving you the truth. The two major examples, which are connected directly, are found with Jesse's drug fueled relationship with an addict Jane which eventually goes too far, then later in a epic catastrophe that bluntly reveals the collateral damage of Jesse and Walt's actions. It is basically given that the leads are great once again, as is Dean Norris as Walt's law enforcement involved brother in law, and are so many of the players with such minor roles such as Mark Margolis's seemingly catatonic old man or Jonathan Banks's fixer. The show visually is always engaging yet never feels overblown. Although most importantly the series continues to captivate through its depiction of one man's decay, almost all the sides stories have something to offer whether it be a bit of humor or a bit heartbreak.

Breaking Bad Season 1

With Breaking Bad Season 1 began what has come to be known as the greatest television drama ever made. Although it is interesting to see that this perhaps stemmed from the growth in the use of telling a continuous story, rather just a slight, if any, continuity with an eventual sometimes arbitrary end. Breaking Bad makes wholesale use of the concept starting with the concept of turning Mr. Chips into Scarface, which effectively grants a different sort of flavor for every season. The first season is the initial turning point where we see our main character Walter White, played brilliantly by Bryan Cranston, meekly enter into the drug trade through his knowledge of chemistry and the aid of a junkie former student of his Jesse Pinkman, played brilliantly by Aaron Paul. The first season is almost a series of unfortunate events from White's diagnosis of lung cancer to his rather hapless foray into the dark world of drugs as he attempts to change himself to become more like the men he ends up having to kill to save his own life. There is no reason to go episode by episode as there actually is only a single bad episode of the entire series, and it's not in this season. That isn't to say there are not a few weak points, the show seems to have no idea what to do with its female characters in this season other than have them complain, but one can almost forget that given the strength of the rest of the season. The series effortlessly balances comedy with drama, as even as dark as it eventually becomes there are still laughs in the series that feel natural to the story. The funny thing is this season is even incomplete, accidentally so do to the writer's strike, but that hardly matters. The thing is everything that happens in the pilot might be what another show might cover in 8 episodes. Breaking Bad doesn't take a break, yet never seems rushed. Here we are given the proper introduction to our main protagonist, his sidekick, and the underworld of old sunny Albuquerque.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Detective Story

Detective Story is an adaptation of play, and potentially that can be seen as most of the action takes place in a single room. William Wyler though manages to never make the material seem stagy infusing the right sort of life within that single setting. Now it is there where the film really thrives. Seeing the detectives work the smaller cases, such as dealing with a shoplifter, are oddly enough the most engaging elements. The actors and Wyler makes this moments feel so honest which range from being rather amusing to rather moving. The least engaging aspect of the film actually concerns our main detective played by Kirk Douglas. Douglas's gives a good performance but the film gets bogged down in the character's backstory as well as the backstory of his wife. All of that material feels extremely melodramatic and frankly ill-fitting to the rest of the film. With Douglas's character's reason for "hating crime" seeming out of a rote detective novel and the secret of his wife being more than a little convenient and implausible. That indeed is the main story but the supporting material is the better material. Luckily the film does have a balance between that main story and all the little side stories which do make up for the weaknesses of that mains story.

The Big Heat

The Big Heat is rather rough crime drama and pushes some boundaries for its time given its director Fritz Lang, who always seemed like he trying to find someway to bring the harder edge you'd find in his earlier crime film M. That film isn't quite as extreme as that film, yet Lang does find ways to kind of undermine the more ideal elements requested by the Hays code. Here we do have a good hero at the center, Glenn Ford in one of his better performances, but he is only into the entry point into the truly seedy underworld presented by the film. In this the film does not hold back with a vicious performance by Lee Marvin as an amoral gangster, and Gloria Grahame a gun moll who only finds a conscience after being permanently scared. The film is an effective film noir thrilling by allowing itself to fall into the darker elements needed for the genre, where Lang seems to thrive particularly in his depiction of the casual amorality of the life. Marvin's lead villain isn't this grand villain, but rather a jerk who likes to take things the easy way. Although I do think the film shirks greatness through its hero, who perhaps stays a little too clean throughout the film, but it is a memorable entry within the genre.


Gilda is a film noted for the breakout of Rita Hayworth, and it is notable for the rather provocative moments of her first appearance well being asked if she is "decent". The legacy is in Hayworth, and even more so more in terms of iconic imagery than truly a great performance. The rest of the film is a noir troubled by a lack of an engaging cast. Not that they are wholly bad, but their is no one there to really energize the proceedings past a rote noir. The characters, outside of Gilda, are incredibly forgettable and really again Gilda isn't in herself a great character as they avoid a true femme fatale unlike in Ava Gardner's breakout role in The Killers from the same year. There are certainly memorable moments in the film, the aforementioned one in particular, but overall it is not all the memorable as a film.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Trial (1955)

Trial from 1955 is directed by Mark Robson who earlier told a dark tale of a boxer in Champion, once again subverts potentially inspirational tale to something much more vicious in nature. He it seems a socially conscience film about a lawyer defending a Mexican teenager being accused of murder. Although that would seem like enough a film it does not take as simple of an avenue as that. We even have the good lawyer, played by the perhaps too straight forward Glenn Ford, working with a hot shot lawyer Arthur Kennedy who is more than meets the eye. It stops being about passion, and instead reveals to be as much as some sort of cautionary tale of Communist infiltration into social causes. That technically is a very interesting topic, that I honestly I would think we be something to explore, but given the time it is used instead as a hurdle against our hero. As the film frames it as good vs evil, not surprising given the time of the film's release, with the communists wishing to purposefully lose the case in order to create a martyr. The film perhaps should have delved deeper yet still stands as an engaging film of its type.


Champion presents the rags to riches story of a boxing, very well played by Kirk Douglas. Douglas excels in creating this endearing protagonist which is actually one of his early starring roles. Boxing pictures were a dime a dozen during the period but this one does standout through the vivid world it creates, granting a sense of desperation before the period of success. The success though is not an inspirational story instead depicting the central character becoming a vicious egomaniac, which Douglas also happens to excel at. The film delves deeper into the psyche of a man who fights for his life, but rather than finding the solace he only finds pain in his strive to be on top.