Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Walter White Wednesday 70

In this week's episode, "Confessions," Walt continues on his rollicking road to hell, but his games are beginning to backfire.  Emperor Walt may be out of the meth-making business, but making a clean break is far harder than he expected it would be and Walt doesn't do well when he encounters roadblocks.  There are any number of confessions in this episode - some are true, some are not, and the worst are a mixture of truth and falsehood.

Meanwhile, Skyler's involvement with Walt's schemes has always been contingent on no harm coming inside the house to threaten the family - well, at the end of this episode, that's long ago and far away.  Evil seldom stays in the rear-view mirror, and Sky has a lot to worry about.

Spoilers abound ahead, so read on at your own peril!

Most uncomfortable dinner since Jesse came over!
First, Todd's neo-Nazi Uncle Jack and sidekick Kenny (if he dies, I'm totally having a South Park moment) are moving the lab back to New Mexico (now that there's been a "change in management"), which is going to bring heat back to ABQ, and therefore, back to Walt.

And let's not forget Jesse.  While we don't see any evidence in "Blood Money" that the White house is fenced off because it burned, Jesse is splashing gas around the family room around like a madman - something's going to happen there pretty darned quick and that certainly brought the danger straight into the house.  (Aside - Walt may be "the one who knocks," but Jesse is "the one who crashes into the house.")

Walt's reprehensible taped "confession" shows just how far he's descended since the pilot episode, which also featured him making a taped confession, only that one was in the desert and was considerably more honest.  At this point, Walt really is a monster and a deluded one at that.  He still seems to be able to believe his own lies, even when Jesse calls him on it in the sandy alone of the desert.  But Walt buries the truth in the desert - literally, in the case of barrels of cash - and he refuses to answer Jesse.  However, he's a lousy liar when it comes to Skyler - look at the scene towards the end of the episode when he's making lame excuses to get to the soda machine and then to leave the car wash with his frozen .38 snub.  How will he explain the gas fumes?

Hank doesn't have the piece of evidence he needs yet that will allow him to snap the trap shut, but pieces are in play.  Jesse, purely through chance, has put together a puzzle that could easily drive him to turn on Walt.  And Skyler, in order to save the kids, has reason enough to turn on Walt.  And that's leaving out Todd and Lydia, who prize their own skins above Walt's.

Five to go.

Don't forget to check out my co-author's take on this episode over at his blog!  Ensley F. Guffey and I have different lenses to view these episodes and you'll enjoy his post, I promise!  And don't forget to follow us on Twitter - the button's over there on the right - for all the latest Wanna Cook? news!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

"W" for the Win!

It feels a little like Sesame Street, but this blog post seems to be brought to you by the letter "W," as both films I'm going to discuss begin with that letter and both belong in the "win" column.

First, the new Simon Pegg The World's End is out, completing the trilogy begun with the hilarious Shaun of the Dead and continued with Hot Fuzz. For me, this one was a winner with unexpected heart to it.  In World's End, a drunken, middle-aged Gary King reassembles his pack of school chums to complete an epic pub crawl that fizzled out when they were all teenagers.  For Gary, this was the best night of his life, while for his chums, it was a night when they were all about 18.  Gary's never moved on - his car, music, and attitudes are frozen in time and it wasn't a pretty time to begin with.  There are some laugh-out-loud moments and some oddly touching ones as well.  Oh, and alien-controlled robots.  Did I leave that part out?  (And they're right - "robot" is a Czech word that means "slave."  I learned that from Whedon's Dollhouse which featured the Rossum Corporation, which took its name from the playwright who coined the term back in the 1920s.  More on that here, if you're interested.)  It's a good one, and be on the lookout for the Cornetto references.   Verdict:  go see now!

Second, the 2009 straight-to-DVD animated movie Wonder Woman.  I know, I know.  "Straight to DVD" doesn't usually mean anything good.  As a Joss Whedon fan, I breathlessly awaited his big-screen version of Wonder Woman, but I (along with a lot of other fans) was disappointed, as he never completed a full script.  Only now I know that I wasn't disappointed - they made the Wonder Woman movie I wanted to see; they just didn't bother to tell me that it was a cartoon.  In this case, I suspect that DC Comics knew that they had a good movie on their hands that would have a hard time finding a multiplex audience.  It's a cartoon, but it's a cartoon that deserves its PG-13 rating.  (Apparently, the first cut was given an "R," which I find intriguing.)  While the movie isn't perfect (the Invisible Jet needs some explaining, for instance), this is a lovely, touching portrayal of the origin of the Amazon princess.  Maybe it had too much Greek god stuff for mainstream USA (after all, Thor is now known as the PRINCE of thunder, which has got to be considered a downgrade from serving as the GOD of thunder to generations of the Norse) is or maybe it was the pointed feminist message; I don't know.  What I DO know is that I liked this immensely.  Diana's (voiced by Keri Russell) pro-feminist view is one that badly needs to be heard these days and it keeps from teetering into "man bad/woman good" by Steve Trevor's (Nathan Fillion) being quick to call Diana on her simplistic view when it veers in that direction.  Russell and Fillion had worked together in the indie gem Waitress in 2007 and they clearly work well together.  Beneath is a brief clip from the film - here, Diana has just arrived in New York and meets a crying child who is being excluded from a game of pirates.  I like her advice - and the response of Trevor.  Not in theaters, so seriously - go rent this one.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Walter White Wednesday 69

We knew that things were going to happen rapidly - after all, there are only a handful of episodes left and in last week's "Blood Money," we saw Hank put the pieces together.  Keep in mind that the entire series has scarcely spanned a year (not counting the flash-forwards that started in "Live Free or Die") and you begin to appreciate the breakneck speed of Walt's descent.


But what exactly happens?  Skyler balks and Hank is stuck. Hank is also having to wrap his mind around the fact that nailing Walt is likely to end his career, since Walt-as-meth-kingpin was operating right under his government-detective nose.  And, for all her flaws, when Skyler makes a decision, it seems to stay made, which brings me to one of my favorite moments from this episode, which is aptly named "Buried."*


Marie's easy to make fun of - she's often shrill, and nosy, and too fond of purple.  But at her core, she's got a wonderful quality - she's loyal.  (Possibly to the point of foolishness, but she's loyal.)  So when her face goes hard and she cracks Skyler solidly across the face - well, there's a moment.  There's a little echo of last week's Hank/Walt confrontation, but this was more shocking to me, probably because I don't see Marie as the physical type.  By the time Marie says to Hank, "You've got to get him," she's put the pieces together about Hank's shooting and I think there's going to be an empty chair at the next family reunion.  I completely understood Marie's desire to get Holly out of that house and I thought that scene was very nicely done - all sound and fury and Hank trying to restore sanity to an insane situation.

And what will Junior do?  He idolizes his dad and that jig is up.

A large fortune buried in the desert.  Jesse in custody and seeming to not care.  And Lydia - hard enough to order multiple murders, but too squeamish to look upon her own works as she minces over the blood-stained sand in her Christian Louboutin heels.

Six to go.

Don't forget to check out Ensley's take on this episode over at his blog - and we'd love to have you follow us on Twitter as well - it's a great way to keep up with all the latest Wanna Cook? news.

*Oh, there are a lot of great moments here.  Including the henchmen-reclining-on-a-bed-of-money and Jesse's exhausted, listless spinning on a child's toy.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Miss & A Hit

Well, they can't all be good.  Kick-Ass 2 tries hard to capture the bright-eyed, sharp-edged joy of the original, but falls short.  I'll admit - I liked the first one more than I thought I would and much of that was due to the performance of Chloe Grace Moretz as the deadly pint-sized Hit Girl. While the movie had a level of violence that many would find disturbing, especially involving a young girl, Kick Ass had a certain glee to it that carried the film beyond just being a series of fight scenes.

At its best, the sequel is meh.  Perhaps it's that what once was fresh is now stale.  After all, we've seen plenty of teenage superheroes and that's what both Hit Girl and Kick Ass have become in this film.  She's no longer a cute child who we want to somehow protect from this violent life and he's no longer a nebbishy nerd type whose desire to do good gives us sympathy.  The film also suffers from some extremely lazy writing - way too many people are in the film solely to give someone else a reason to exact revenge on the wrongdoers and John Leguizamo is criminally underused.  Mind you, I think Mark Millar (who wrote the original comics) has grown lazy in his writing.  He uses sexual violence so often it becomes cheap and it's downright disrespectful to female comics fans and yes - we do exist.  (That's not just my opinion by the way.  Click here.) Jim Carrey might have been dumb like a fox to disavow this clunker.  Honestly, this one isn't even a rental.

On the other hand, I watched Holiday the other night and enjoyed it thoroughly.  It's an early Cary Grant/Katharine Hepburn comedy, directed by George Cukor, who would work with these stars again in the nigh-perfect The Philadelphia Story.  (Cukor also directed Gaslight, which is a fun one.)  While the story in Holiday is fairly slight, the whip-smart dialogue and physical comedy made it a delight.

So the overall advice this week - skip the Technicolor cartoon and watch the one from the 1930s.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Walter White Wednesday 68

It may have been a long time coming, but "Blood Money" was worth the wait!  Breaking Bad has a lot to do in only eight episodes, and it certainly started with a bang!  My co-author, Ensley F. Guffey, has written about the episode (and his squee-worthy interview with director of photography Michael Slovis!) over in his blog, and I strongly encourage you to read that.  As for me, I'm going to discuss just a couple of aspects of this episode - you'll have to buy Wanna Cook? when it comes out next spring for all the juicy details!

Naturally, there be spoilers ahead.

"Blood Money" has an amazing cold open.  This is the Walt of last season's "Live Free or Die" - a Walt with hair, a beard, heavy glasses, and an almost Mike-like attitude of being deeply tired, but having a job to do.  Walt's gone home, but home isn't "home" anymore.  The house that once had blocks of cash stuffed into the very walls is now abandoned - no Sky, no kids, no family dinner around the table.  Everything looks dead - the pool where family cookouts were held (and where Sky waded in too deep that one memorable time) has been drained and is now a makeshift skateboard park.  The dark paneling of the living room is decorated with the name Walt wants people to remember - "Heisenberg" - spray-painted in bright yellow.  The next-door neighbor, Carol, is horrified to see Walt in the driveway.  Just what the hell happened here?  The one thing - and at this point, the only thing we know for sure is that Walt's precious vial of ricin was still behind the faceplate in the bedroom and that he now has it, along with the M60 in the trunk.

In the present day, Hank knows that "W.W." isn't Willy Wonka and it's not Woodrow Wilson, either.  Life changes for everyone when he steps out of the bathroom with Walt's copy of Leaves of Grass.  But knowing isn't enough for Hank - he has to prove it and he painstakingly builds his case.  Walt learns that Hank knows and, while he may try to intimidate his brother-in-law with his advice to "tread lightly," Hank's having none of it.

So who's the weak link?  Lydia, who can't cook meth as good as the now-retired Walt?  Skyler, who's willing to run Lydia off?  Saul, who intends to not go to jail?  Or is it Jesse, who's throwing money away in a bid for some sort of late-night redemption?

That house didn't get empty because Skyler decided she didn't like the paneling.

Seven to go.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Taking Flight

This weekend, I watched two new releases that, at first, seem to have absolutely nothing to do with each other - Neill Blomkamp's Elysium and Disney's Planes.  While the two films have a vast gulf between them, they do have one thing in common - flight and the desire to follow the advice of the American aviator and poet John Gillespie Magee and "slip the surly bonds of earth."  (That's from his poem "High Flight," by the way - great, great stuff!)

Let's start with Elysium.  Now, I've been a fan of Blomkamp's District 9 since it was released in 2009.  I think some viewers have felt a bit let down by Elysium for not being District 10, which seems unfair to me.  Yes, it's less subtle a film than District 9 is, but it's a good movie nevertheless.  Dealing with dystopian themes that science fiction has wrestled with since Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Blomkamp has created a film that calls into question the distribution of wealth, medical resources, and serves as a interesting allegory regarding immigration to boot.  Are the rich "better" than the poor?  Are they somehow more highly favored by God and therefore, enjoy a life of leisure and ease?  (The name "Elysium" comes from Greek mythology - where it was the name of a section of the afterlife reserved for the heroic and righteous dead.  Hmmmm.)  The film does some interesting things with language - English is spoken by both the indolent rich living on the glittering "habitat" of Elysium and by the teeming masses who scratch out something like a living on the scorched Earth, but the secondary language on Earth is Spanish, while the Elysites (?) speak gentle French.  The casting in Elysium is quite good, with Matt Damon turning in a strong performance as the reluctant hero Max and Jodie Foster doing her best with a role that's a bit of a cardboard cutout.  There are some juicy supporting roles here, including the lame Spider (Wagner Moura) and the oily Carlyle (William Fichtner).  But the jewel of a role here is that of Kruger, played by Sharlto Copley, who was the milquetoast Wikus in District 9.  His tuneless humming of a lullaby was enough to make me check under the bed the night after seeing Elysium.  A powerful actor and he works very, very well with Blomkamp.  Oh, and there are several strong South African references in Elysium, including Kruger's name and the markings on his ship.  

It's better up there, even with the shaky camerawork.  Go see this one.

Planes, on the other hand, is a lighthearted, feel-good kid's movie that would never have gotten made if not for the runaway success of 2006's Cars.  It's got the same style of animation and the same director (John Lasseter).  While Cars was about a hotshot becoming a better person car by way of a badly-needed comeuppance, Planes is about the Little Cropduster That Could.  It's not at all a bad movie; it's just that you've seen this before.  The kids in the audience with me when I saw it were cheering out loud for "Dusty Crophopper" and some of the aerial animation is gorgeous.  But Cars made me want to get my hands on some land yacht with tail fins and explore Route 66, while Planes made me - want more popcorn.  It's interesting to see the more global take on casting, but then again, Planes involves a race around the world, while Cars was all about the American love affair with the open road.  Also, while the takeaway message of Planes is supposed to be that "you can be more than what you were built to be," by the end of the movie, very little of the original Dusty is still there.  Perplexing.  Rental.

Also, Breaking Bad started airing its final eight episodes last night - "Walter White Wednesday" has much to discuss, so check back here in two days!!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Walter White Wednesday 67

 It's finally here!!  Breaking Bad returns on Sunday!  Naturally, these "Walter White Wednesday" posts will get longer and far more detailed starting next week as Ensley F. Guffey and I ramp up the work on these final eight episodes for Wanna Cook?  It's going to be a fun-filled (read:  insanely busy) couple of months as we watch, comment, write, and re-write to get Wanna Cook? in final shape.

While I can't tell you too much about one particular extra that we've got cooking, I can tell you that we're nutso-excited about it.  We have always wanted Wanna Cook? to be more than "just" the best episode guide you've ever even thought about, but we feared scheduling would keep certain items from working out.

Seems we were worried over nothing.

I can't say anything more, but you're going to love it!!

(Insert maniacally-pleased laughter here)

Now to find out how Walt got to that Denny's . . .

And have you checked out "Alchemy" yet?  Note that the plan is for this "interactive experience" to continue after the final eight episodes have aired, which opens up all sorts of ideas . . .