Breaking Bad: Season 1 (2008)

Breaking Bad: Season 1 (2008)

Original Air Date: January 20, 2008
Stations Airing: AMC
Number Of Episodes In Season: 7

Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is a high school chemistry teacher who discovers that he only has two more years left to live because of his unexpected stage III cancer. With nothing left to lose, and no other means to provide for his family, he enlists the aid of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), a bright but broken junkie and former student to help him distribute some crystal meth, which “Walt” is very proficient at creating. Soon, the duo find themselves not only at odds with each other but also crossing paths with heavy-duty drug dealers like the insane and violent Tuco (Raymond Cruz) as Walt and Jesse shoulder in on the meth-dealing business.

I had been extremely excited for this show upon seeing the original trailers on AMC back when I had cable. When it finally came on, I was not disappointed. I missed most of the original airing, but recently caught up on all the episodes using Netflix.

Right off the bat, the series and season one starts off at a decent pace, and you really get to both fear and love Walt by the end. I would say that the beginning half of the season is a nice segway into the dark, frenetic and chaotic second half with episodes like Crazy Handful of Nothin’ where Walt shaves his head and begins to really embrace his inner gangster. The dichotomy of Walter White, chemistry teacher with an extreme illness and Heisenberg, the meth-producing hard-ass is amazing and I can think of no better-written show in memory that could stand up to this series.

The relationship between Walt and Jesse is really, extremely well-done and is the subject of discussion even now among some of my friends. One of my friends, actually, (if you’re interested at all) has many theories about the show, especially when it comes to color symbolism. Check her out, but be careful because there might be spoilers if you haven’t seen the entire series yet. She makes some good points and observations, for sure, though. Her name is Erin Enberg and her website is HERE.

Breaking Bad has inspired so much conversation, between things like plot and characters, to other things like color symbolism. It’s that good. Do yourself a favor and check it out if you haven’t already. Just be prepared to become addicted to the show and not see the light of day until the series is over.

And even if you’ve already followed the show through to its satisfying conclusion, I found that it’s best to re-watch the series again right away from the beginning. You’ll really see how the characters have changed, mostly for the worse. Now get out of here and go watch it.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Trailer For Season One Of Breaking Bad 

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Everything Must Go (2010)

Everything Must Go (2010)

Original Theatrical Release: October 14, 2011
Director: Dan Rush

Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell) is an alcoholic struggling to kick the habit, but when he falls off the bandwagon, his wife has had it and throws all of his belongings out onto the front lawn in addition to having the locks to the house changed, and she goes away for a couple weeks. Unfortunately, this happened on the same day he was let go from his company, also mostly because he is an alcoholic. Forced to face the failures in his marriage and personal life, he must sleep amid his belongings and try to sell them off so he can start over.

This movie is based on a Raymond Carver short story that I’ve never read titled Why Don’t You Dance? I wasn’t aware of that until a friend pointed it out to me. (I’ll have to read it soon.)

Now, you wouldn’t think that Will Ferrell starring in a Raymond Carver story adaptation would be that great, but he was a very good choice for the role. People like to give Will Ferrell a bad rap, but he has proven himself in other films like Stranger Than Fiction and Melinda And Melinda, and so he doesn’t always have to be typecast as the normal, over-the-top roles he’s most placed in. He does have some acting chops. Rebecca Hall was okay as Samantha, but her role didn’t seem to add much and her character was pretty formulaic and seemed to exist just as a counterpoint to Ferrell’s character. I would have been more interested in seeing less of her character and more of the neighborhood kid, Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace) and his relationship with Nick.

The movie went along at a decent pace, and I really felt like Nick was a real person. Ferrell’s mix of seriousness and humor was a great blend. Dan Rush’s direction was great, but I’ll have to read the short story to see how well his adaptation matched up. I also happened to catch this film at the right time, having been through a recent separation and divorce myself, as well as ending up having to get rid of a lot of junk so I could move on. (I still have some work to do on that front)

If you’re expecting a lot of normal, Will Ferrell-style laughs like he’s given us in Step Brothers or Starsky and Hutch, you won’t find a lot of that here. Instead, you will find a lot of heart, though there are some laughs to be had.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Everything Must Go

Batman Begins (2005)

Batman Begins (2005)

Original Theatrical Release: June 15, 2005
Director: Christopher Nolan

Billionaire playboy, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), was made an orphan when his parents were brutally murdered in the streets by a common thug. Vowing revenge, as an adult he began training himself to fight before ending up as a student of Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) and Ra’s Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe) – both in a shadowy group dedicated to eradicating evil called the League of Shadows. When Bruce disagrees with their methods, he takes what he’s learned and finances himself as a vigilante superhero called Batman. With enemies from his past and present arrayed against him, Batman has a lot of work to do to clean up Gotham.

This isn’t your 1989 Batman, that’s for sure.

This movie starts and ends with a bang. There isn’t much time to think about anything except for the awesomeness up on the screen, but there are just a couple of scenes that are a little too slow or bog down the action.

The acting is all top-notch (aside from how anyone looks at Christian Bale’s Batman voice) and the characters from Batman’s canon were all brought to life, more vibrant than any incarnation that came before it. We had the amazing Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Michael Caine as Alfred. Not as great was the wooden Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes, but hey, she’s still easy on the eyes.

Nolan’s vision ties everything together and by the end of the film, we see a story that has been artfully pieced together that leaves us nodding our heads in appreciation as the credits roll. I still think the second film, The Dark Knight is the best in the trilogy, but this is a close second.

All in all, this is a wonderful start to the Batman Trilogy by Christopher Nolan, and I’m glad that we’ve gone away from the campy nature of the Batman films of the 1990’s.

Batman is pretty damned serious.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For Batman Begins

Starsky & Hutch (2004)

Starsky and Hutch (2004)

Original Theatrical Release: March 5, 2004
Director: Todd Phillips

David Starsky (Ben Stiller) is, at least in his own eyes, a super cop. He narrates his own life with a sort of grim, noir commentary and takes pleasure in being an officer of the law…one of the good guys. Ken Hutchinson (Owen Wilson), often called ‘Hutch’, is the exact opposite. Ending up as partners, they must resolve their differences and work together to take down the drug czar Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn) using intel and help from their informant, Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg).

I was never a super-huge fan of the show, as I only ever saw reruns when I was a kid. Once I reached college age, though, I started consuming some media I missed when I was too young to appreciate it, and Starsky and Hutch was one of the shows I started getting into.

First of all, the show isn’t really anything like this movie so it’s no use really comparing the two. One is mostly serious, one is pretty much a parody of the buddy-cop genre. With that fact kept firmly in mind, I must say the film was extremely successful with what it set out to do.

Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller, love ’em or hate ’em, do what they do best in this movie – which is to butt heads for comedic effect. They are, to me, a modern day Abbot and Costello and I thoroughly enjoy every movie I’ve seen them in together.

The movie isn’t too long, running at only 95 minutes or so, and that is just enough length for a movie like this. It’s not overly ambitious, but it’s a lot of fun to watch the interactions between Starsky and Hutch or really any of the characters in this film.

There are some cool car chase sequences in the film, making use of the Ford Gran Torino that is pretty much the flagship image of this movie and of the television show.

Overall, there’s not much to complain about here unless you don’t like the kind of humor that comprises the entirety of this flick. If so, you picked the wrong movie to watch.

Oh, and the Will Ferrell cameo is HILARIOUS. (Carmen Elektra, Brande Roderick and Amy Smart didn’t hurt, either…)

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Starsky & Hutch

The Warriors (1979)

The Warriors (1979)

Original Theatrical Release: February 9, 1979
Director: Walter Hill

Cyrus (Roger Hill), the charismatic head of the gang known as the Gramercy Riffs, calls a summit for all the gangs to send nine unarmed representatives to. He feels that they shouldn’t be fighting amongst themselves but should team up and take on the police, who would be vastly outnumbered. However, during the summit, Cyrus is shot by Luther (David Patrick Kelly), the chaotic and cowardly leader of the Rogues, who blames it on the Warriors instead. Now with a hundred other gangs out for their blood, the Warriors must bop their way home to Coney Island until they can clear their name.

This movie is based on the novel by Sol Yurick. I have never read the book so I can’t state any differences between the film and the writing. (It’s definitely on my to-read list, though)

What I DO know is that I loved the movie. The gritty atmosphere was very predominant. From the opening scene, you know what sort of world you’re about to inhabit. Graffiti-covered subways, tough-looking gang members strolling down the streets, and the dark but high-energy music heightening the anticipation of seeing what Cyrus is all about as you take the subway with the delegates from The Warriors to the opening scene after the montage/credits at the summit.

The gangs are all really cool and distinctive, from the iconic Warriors and Baseball Furies (Baseball Furies…..picture Marilyn Manson wearing a New York Yankees outfit and swinging a bat at you) to the denim-wearing Rogues, to the dirty, 1950’s gang-looking Orphans.

There is definitely some noir/pulp flash going on in the film as well, and I can really dig that. Also, the fight scenes are really great with lots of slo-mo shots that I thought seemed unusual for the time, but which lent itself to the pacing  of the fights. The main characters died, got dirty and got hurt and you really start to root for them to get home.

This is just one of those movies that sticks with you after you see it (especially Luther’s call to the Warriors to come out of hiding). Once you do, you will see constant references to it by other shows, music artists, video games and even other films. Give it a watch.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For The Warriors

Saints Row: The Third (2011 – X-Box 360)

Saints Row: The Third (2011)

Release Date: November 15, 2011
Developer: Volition, Inc.
Publisher: THQ

I couldn’t resist trying this game.

The story takes place in the fictional city of Steelport and you are in control of a gang called the Third Street Saints, eventually rising to the very top. The style of game play is open-ended (and similar to Grand Theft Auto), with a major story arc but lots of things you can do on your own as you battle for control against other gangs in the city and eventually, a militaristic gang-suppression squad called STAG.

I am not a huge fan of the entire series (due to ignorance, not any other reason), having never really played the first two games. Seeing the trailers for Saints Row: The Third, though, inspired me to buy it the same day it came out (though I didn’t make it in time to pre-order, so I didn’t get the cool Professor Genki stuff). I was not disappointed.

I am a spastic gamer, and when I first bought it, it ended up sitting on my shelf collecting dust for a year because, hey, I’m a busy man. I’d created a couple characters (really nice system for that, by the way) and it was fun but I hadn’t really gotten into the game until recently, with THQ being sold off.

It didn’t take me too long to beat the main story arc. It was probably only something like 30 hours, if that. (I take my time)

The graphics were all really nice, the animation was pretty awesome, and the story line was fun (Lots of sex and drugs and violence, though, so don’t let your kiddos play). I didn’t have any expectations of it other than it would be fun, similar to how I think when I go see an action flick.

It’s definitely one of the better titles I’ve played and I will be playing through again at least once or twice more now that I’ve beaten it to unlock everything and get the achievements.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Gameplay Trailer for Saints Row: The Third