El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

When Breaking Bad ended I thought it was the best we would get for years. Even with so many great shows out there, Breaking Bad is without any rivals. It gave us the landmark for perfection. Nobody wanted the legacy of the show touched or messed with as it could potentially take away from it. But then creator Vince Gilligan shortly after the show’s end decided to make a prequel series that starred one of the favorites from Breakin Bad, with Saul Goodman. Everyone was skeptical about Better Call Saul and for all the right reasons. It seemed as if it would be a cash grab as Breaking Bad in the last couple of years took off and this would be a way to further capitalize on the franchise. It turns out that wasn’t the case. For one, Vince Gilligan could have gone on to do anything he wanted when Breaking Bad ended, and yet he stayed because he had more stories to tell in this realized world he created. When Better Call Saul premiered it was overall positive with some hesitation. The same was said about Breaking Bad when it premiered, and the further the show goes along the bigger the stakes and investments we have towards it. Today, Better Call Saul is heading into its fifth season next year and is servicing the characters in ways we didn’t expect. It’s not more Breaking Bad, but it’s close.

'El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie' film premiere, Arrivals, Regency Village Theatre, Los Angeles, USA - 07 Oct 2019

After the success of Better Call Saul, we were willing to go anywhere Vince Gilligan wants to take us and without question… until he confirms a movie post Breaking Bad. For a show that ended so perfectly, it’s sacrilege to us fans for him to touch it. As the movie nears we make exceptions for the movie if it’s bad, thinking we can just scrub it from our minds. However, when thinking about it the one person who would not want to ruin the magnum opus of a franchise is Vince Gilligan. That being said we know he would only do this if he had a great story to tell, and I’m happy he did.

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El Camino starts us off right where we left off in the finale of Breaking Bad. Walter White has just got his revenge against the men who killed Hank. Walt then saves Jessie. Jessie flees the scene as Walt dies. And here we are. The movie is about watching Jessie get himself away from the manhunt out for him. While Walt may no longer be with us he is still with Jessie. Jessie is using what he learned from Walt to access each problem head-on. Jessie is thinking three steps ahead and what we have with Jessie is still this sense of innocence. That’s something we lost with Walt near the end until he redeemed himself to us in the last episode. A lot of the movie is watching Jessie come up against dead ends and trying to escape. Every time it seems he may be stuck we see a flashback that helps give us context on how Jessie can see a way out. By the end, one may think this is it for Breaking Bad, but we’ve had so many returns to this world that I’m not so sure.

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There are many surprises to be found in El Camino and it keeps you nostalgic in a good way. It doesn’t hurt Breaking Bad whatsoever. If you thought you knew what happened to Jessie when he got in the car at the end of Breaking Bad, you would not have guessed this adventure. It made me so happy to see more Breaking Bad in every possible way.

El Camino is a perfect companion piece to the last episode of Breaking Bad and acts as a bittersweet epilogue to the series. Watch it on Netflix now.

Robert Ring

Between Two Ferns: The Movie

YouTube is so packed with so much content from so many creators that it’s rare for any of us to be watching the same videos as our friends. That’s not to say that the stuff we watch is bad or mediocre, but YouTube now has niches within a niche. That’s why it’s great when we get a celebrity on YouTube making a show that is for one actually great. Zach Galifianakis being a celebrity makes him viral-worthy and we can share these clips with our friends and have these great watercooler moments.

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On Between Two Ferns Zach plays an exaggerated version of himself that is hilarious to watch as he mispronounces each celebrity on his cheap-looking talk show. The talk show is quite literally two chairs between two ferns. This makes it easy for them to recreate the sound stage anywhere. Apart from seemingly being aloof with his manners, Zach asks questions that make the guest celebrity feel awkward. As the years go on the show has slowed down quite a bit in what appears to be an effort for Zach to outdo himself. I mean he even had President Obama on the show. So how can you possibly beat the show?  Well, a movie of course!

Between Two Ferns: The Movie sounded too good to actually be good. We’ve seen this type of thing done before by others like Martin Short playing Jiminy Glick for years and yet his movie was pretty terrible. It has however worked well for Sacha Baron Cohen as he spun off The Ali G Show characters into their own movies. The thing that works about Between Two Ferns: The Movie is it’s like ten episodes of the show strung together with an interweaving plot. The entire movie is based on him getting ten shows of Between the Sheets recorded so he can have a “real” talk show. The interweaving plot is simple like a 90s Pauly Shore film, but it works well enough to keep our interest and flesh out Zach’s character.

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Overall, I am always up for more Between Two Ferns and I’ll be watching in whatever form it comes in. Please watch all the credits and the after-credits scene, it’s hilarious.

Available now on Netflix.

Robert Ring

Creed II

Creed was a movie that was better than anyone could have expected. Sure it was by Ryan Coogler fresh off directing Fruitvale Station, but still, how could any director pull it off? As it turned out even Stallone had to be persuaded. Creed is an exceptional film on its own, but as a Rocky film, it’s superb. I would also say that it could debatably be the best film in the franchise; however, I think the first Rocky edges it out.

The first Creed follows Apollo Creed’s son Adonis the illegitimate son wanting to pave his way into the boxing ring like his father before him. Rocky Balboa, Apollo’s old rival and later friend eventually takes Adonis under his wing. The road to the top is similar to the first Rocky film with a fresh take. The parallels of the original Rocky movies don’t end there but continue to enhance the franchise in Creed II.

Creed II centers around the theme of family. The story delves into Rocky’s family, and Drago’s as well. Drago’s character may be the most interesting in the entire film because we are catching a glimpse into a guy who had it all before being abandoned by his own country after losing the fight to Rocky all those years ago. Drago’s story is about redemption, and he seeks it by training his son to be able to take on Creed. Creed being at the top is like his father, Apollo in the first Rocky film with all the ego before fighting Rocky. The story takes a few neat twists and turns down this road, and as for Rocky, he is filling the Mickey role now.

The best order for watching the Rocky franchise is probably Rocky I-IV, and Creed before attending this one. Rocky V is notoriously bad, and Rocky Balboa is good but skippable. I gave a mini review of each here on the first Creed trailer a few years back now. Creed II was enough to finally satisfy me if they do choose to close the book here on the Rocky franchise. If they do make another in the same ilk, I’m there.

If Creed is the greatest fan film of all time, then Creed II is the icing on the top.

Check it out.

Robert Ring

Bad Times at the El Royale

First of all, this film has one of the best trailers of the year. It has an ensemble cast, and it is the best film of the year after The Quiet Place.

The El Royale is this hotel sitting smack on the middle of the state lines between Nevada and California. The line dividing the states can even be seen going right through the lobby. Guests can choose which state they want to have a room in, with California rooms costing one dollar more.

The film begins with an array of characters coming to stay at the El Royale. We see a salesman (Jon Hamm), a drifter (Dakota Johnson), a priest (Jeff Bridges), and a girl far from home (Cynthia Erivo). The story unfolds with vignettes of each character and how they were motivated to come to the hotel. Each role in this movie is worthy of a film of their own. Jeff Bridges and Cynthia Erivo outshine everyone else, which is hard to do with so much talent surrounding the production. Their story arc is the most endearing of them all. Cynthia Erivo was so good in fact that she’s now on my radar, and I’m sure she’s going to be offered a lot more work hereon. Her acting was second to her singing, and she can make a man cry with that voice. Cynthia was also the most level-headed character throughout the film. Like things go nuts, and she reacts the way we all would. Chris Hemsworth gives his best acting to date. And Bill Pullman’s son Lewis Pullman is the next Paul Dano regarding acting ability.

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The director of Bad Times at the El Royale is Drew Goddard, who co-wrote and directed Cabin in the Woods. Cabin in the Woods flipped the stereotypes of horror movies and the self-aware nature of Wes Craven’s Scream to poke fun at the genre. Bad Times at the El Royale shares some similar sensibilities, but more to do with breaking expectations over humor. This second outing for Goddard shows that Cabin in the Woods was not a fluke. He has proven himself to be stylistic and a brilliant auteur twice now, so here’s to me looking forward to everything else he directs.

This film is excellent. It’s long at two hours and twenty minutes, yet the way we see the night play out through everyone’s point of view the film goes by like a breeze. If the bonkers nature in the third act of Cabin in the Woods turned you off it, I would still be inclined to recommend this to you because it’s not demons and monsters here. It is however crazy in the best way possible at times. Worst case you will have listened to a killer 60s soundtrack. Check it out!

Robert Ring

The Wife

I see one movie a week in theaters without fail since the first week of 2014. So I get to see most of the things I want to and feel apart of the conversation. Then there are weeks where I’m seeing something I have no real interest in. I’ll usually go to these alone and on a whim. More often then not I’m taken be these experiences. Earlier this year I saw Tully and it kinda floored me, I mean I was thinking about it for weeks, and of course, nobody saw it making it hard for me to unpack my thoughts on it.

The Wife is not officially released in the United States until August 18th so there haven’t been many reviews. While the reviews I glanced were generally positive most of them disregarded the core cast apart from Glen Close. This film is about Glen Close’s character, but it doesn’t mean she has any more screen time then her co-star, Jonathan Pryce. The Wife is the story of an award-winning writer, Joe Castleman finding out he is being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. While the focus is on Joe, it is his wife, Joan Castleman with whom we see constantly in the background watching Joe only paces ahead, yet always ahead of her. The relationship becomes understood throughout the film as to why she has taken the back seat to his acclaim. It’s the portrait of Joan that makes this simple film engaging. However, it is Joe who is the more interesting character to me, as I found the more we learn about their relationship the more my initial feelings for Joe changed over the course of the film.

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The Wife is a movie you would really enjoy if you are a fan of biopics like me. By the end of the film, I was convinced this was based on a true story. I quickly googled it as I exited the theater, only to find it was taken from a novel. It did specific things that made it remarkable by how much I believed it to be a true story. The secrets that are unearthed by the end are not unexpected, though they are executed very well. The ending was a mute one for me, that seemed too convenient for me. I hope there is some awards chatter for The Wife at the end of the year so more people will check it out. Currently, I would place it in my top three of 2018.

Robert Ring

Red Dead Redemption 2: A Western Rebirth?

The western genre is one of my favorites. When I start watching anything western I’m in for a slew of them. It’s hard to stop when they’re so goddamn good. They are not as prevalent as they were, but the genre has begun bleeding into dystopian films, so I take my fill wherever I can. That’s where Rockstar Games comes in and makes what looks to be the greatest western game ever imagined.

I would love to see Red Dead Redemption sweep into the psyche in a way that has Hollywood recommit to making some great westerns. The Magnificent Seven (2016), and Cowboys and Aliens (2011) are the last two big-budget westerns I can think of; however, they were not well received. Quentin Tarantino has been the closest filmmaker for the western of late with a portion of Django Unchained (2012), fulfilling us with hope and then The Hateful Eight (2015), which I thought was too much of whodunnit over a western. Rockstar Games has created a fantastic canvas for anyone to play out the role of a gunslinger, and I suspect will inspire a new generation to revel in the history.

Check out Rockstar’s Gameplay Video below:

I never played much of the first Red Dead Redemption because I was late to the party, and the mechanics never felt quite right to me. Mechanically and graphically this game is on a level above the previous entry and perhaps setting a new standard for games in general. This one looks to evolve player choice to a new height so we can choose how we want our gunslinger to be seen in the eyes of others. I want to be the hero and save the damsel, roughen up the vermin in the whore houses, and ride my horse into the sunset. By Red Dead Redemption 3 I expect to be able to play the entire game in virtual reality, wearing a hostel, a hat, and everything.

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For now, the game is set for October 26 on PS4 and Xbox One.

Are you excited for the new Red Dead, and what’s your favorite western?

Robert Ring

The Host (2006)

Monster movies don’t usually work for me because they are missing the human element, that’s not the case for this one.

The Host surrounds a dysfunctional family that love and care for one another, and while it is a monster movie, the monster creates suspense and plays an important part as the antagonist to the plot. The prelude shows a United States scientist ordering his assistant to empty a mass of toxic chemicals into the Han River and this mutates into a (fish?) monster. Next, the family is introduced, with the laughable Park Gang-Doo, played by Kang-ho Song, as the key protagonist. His first encounter with the monster results in the kidnapping of his daughter and the hunt to find her is what brings his family together. The government holds the family in containment to avoid spreading a said, “virus” that they have from being in close proximity to the monster. The director, Joon-ho Bong is not afraid to kill key characters to create tension, as half of the family we follow become prey to the monster. This monster movie has a bit of a political agenda when it comes to the prelude, which I could see as a complaint against the United States. It could be seen as such by the one American character that will take the easier route that essentially makes mistakes, and in this case destruction in the form of a monster, he accidentally creates. This may just be them throwing the long-standing joke of western monster films showing creatures birthed in Asia.

The film works best as a comedy and hits every note perfectly while also transitioning to jump-scares with ease. The Host did a lot of what Oldboy did commercially. It is not a better film, however, it is still of high quality and with that in mind, it proves that South Korea can make multiple hits that reach international success too. To date, The Host is one of the highest grossing South Korean films. It was at the attention of Hollywood very quickly after it was released, as it had not only become the highest grossing film of its time but also reinstating that South Korea has been diverse and creative with their films. It was also a popcorn type hit for international viewers and was immediately acquired for Hollywood rights soon after release, however, there is still no news on a remake. There was a sequel in the works for a while and there was even some test footage available online, yet sadly I think we won’t be getting it although I do hold out hope for a Hollywood version one day.

I really love this film and I think the CGI still holds up remarkably well. Check it out if you like comedy-horror.

Robert Ring

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Movies in the Digital Age

I was a serious collector of DVDs from the mid-2000s. I amassed thousands of DVDs. I would buy more than I could watch, and to this day I still own much more than I have seen. The great thing about owning physical copies is the ability to view the title whenever I choose. By doing this I was able to grow my knowledge outside the norm of most. I own and re-watch nearly every television show from the 90s, making it feel as if I spent my teens during that time instead of my 1s and 2s. Then I would have no one to talk about my experiences with these shows because they had no idea what something like Northern Exposure or Twin Peaks is. Streaming has effectively started bringing people that were once like me to the front. I love streaming services for that fact. You get to have all these watercooler moments with people and share in your love for the latest season or movie that hits one of these services.

I rotate between Netflix, Stan, and Amazon. Amazon is the weakest. Stan is perhaps the one I use most, and I think its library of content is similar to Hulu. Netflix is like a made for tv cinema with new attractions debuting every week. Then there are times where I know what I want to watch and spend about twenty minutes looking for it. Alternatively, I search for the title on Just Watch, but usually, I think I remember which streaming service I saw it on, and find myself nearly always wrong. Other times you cannot find it at all. Then I’m forced to search online stores to see if it’s still in print. Even worse is when it’s not available in the country, and you need to order overseas. Look at Say Anything, and it’s one of my favorite movies of all time. You can’t buy it here, and I think you can only stream it on iTunes. I get why some titles are only available on specific streaming services, but why are some just straight out unavailable? Even streaming services only keep content on there for a certain amount of time. And it’s times like that when I’m happy with my collection of physical discs. Overall, it’s not all bad compared to the era of VHS, and at least we all kind of share the same film and television lexicon, while people like me need to help steer others to the stuff, not in the readily accessible content. I like where we are at, for now.

Robert Ring