Rick and Morty – Season 1, Episode 6 – “Rick Potion No. 9” – Consent is Key or Everyone Dies

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 Following the dark theme of last episode, this episode ups it more as Morty’s selfishness and Rick’s recklessness kind of end everything. This episode goes dark all the way and is a really good episode, though not a favorite. I will get into why further down, suffice to say there is so much more they could have done with both Rick and Morty this episode.

    The story involves Morty asking Rick to make him a potion that will make Jessica always love him. The potion goes wrong though and spreads to the world and Morty goes to Rick to try and solve the Morty-love Plague he’s unleashed, but Rick’s decisions just make it worse. Elsewhere Jerry faces his insecurities.

The Pros: Jerry’s Arc – Jerry’s arc is him getting confidence as him going to Beth at work in an act of revenge leads to him protecting her from her coworker who has turned into a mantis-man and later he and Beth come to dominate the wasteland full of monsters as their marriage is saved.

Rick’s Awe – Rick turns them into human-praying mantises by accident and later Cronenbergian Body horrors and all the time is fascinated at the new world he has helped create.

The Message – The message is great, consent is key…don’t force anyone to love or like you artificially cause that makes you a dick and an evil person that could bring about the end of the world. Morty understands this too as he is the first to take responsibility for the world becoming the apocalyptic wasteland it is leading to his and Rick’s escape.

The Alternate Universe – Rick and Morty go to a universe where the plague is stopped but where Rick and Morty are dead. The Rick and Morty we are following must bury themselves and the horror in Morty’s eyes as he realizes what his selfishness did is priceless and powerful as he realizes just how chaotic and uncaring the Universe is.

The Cons: The Minor Characters – None of them really get development and are just kind of there, and ties into how unfocused the episode feels at time.

This was a really good episode and shows how dark the show is ready to go for humor and for the development of their characters. I really liked that Rick called Morty out on the love potion being Rufi’s pretty much and that his selfishness sparked all of what happened. Rick is right though Rick’s detachment on solving things never helped either. Also I’m really glad Morty learned or it would be hard to watch the show going forward. At the end of the day he is a teenager who is growing up and he learned an important lesson on just how important consent is.

Final Score: 8.8 / 10

Rick and Morty – Season 1, Episode 5 – “Meeseeks and Destroy” – When Help Goes Too Far and the Dark Side of Fantasy

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    This episode is hilarious, dark and depressing but manages to have some good payoff for all the characters by the end, which is an element of the show. The writers know how to craft a good narrative and this is one of the best episodes there has been so far.

     The story involves Rick giving the family a Meeseeks Box which leads to the Meeseeks being summoned to solve problems for the family, but they soon find Jerry’s problem is impossible leading to a rampage while elsewhere Morty’s fantasy adventure where he chooses the place doesn’t go the way he planned.

The Pros: The Meeseeks – The Meeseeks are hilarious as each one says, “I’m Mr. Meeseeks!” In a loud and annoying voice and just want to help as existence is painful for them. This leads to trouble when they can’t solve Jerry’s problem. It is after they take hostages that he figures out his swing and resolves a conflict with Beth are her Meeseeks had helped her realize the marriage wasn’t working.

Beth – Beth is alone and isn’t appreciated by Jerry at all to the point that she becomes attracted to her Meeseeks before he goes away as his purpose is solved. She later resolves to try and solve the marriage issues and helps Jerry find his confidence.

Jerry – Jerry goes through a greater loss of control as the Meeseeks are unable to help him. This leads to things getting tense with Beth and them later fighting and resolving things as he finds his confidence and saves the hostages.

The Fantasy Arc – The fantasy arc is dark as the World of the Giants (a play on “Jack and the Beanstalk”) involves them being caught in a Giant’s house when he falls and dies, though their Giant Lawyer rescues them. Morty fights off a rape later as Rick finally enjoys being in this world as he wins a lot of gold that he uses to help Morty feel better by giving it to all the villagers they’d helped in the first place. When the villager’s king is the rapist Mr. Jellybean he escapes with Rick but the portal opens again so Rick can end the monster.

Rick and Morty – Rick learns to appreciate fantasy and find fun on any adventure while Morty realizes that the world can be a dark chaotic place…though in the end they find balance and even justice.

   This is an episode where nothing goes as planned, but the payoff that Morty gets in regards to his rapist getting murdered by Rick once he figures out what happens is rewarding, as well as his successful fighting of him off. This is an episode that shows the darker underbelly of things and the chaos of the world and universe. Our characters face the horrors and end up growing.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Rick and Morty – Season 1, Episode 4 – “M Night Shaym-Aliens!” – The Tragedy of Jerry and the Long Con

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     This is an episode that I had to watch a second time to really appreciate. It is actually pretty brilliant in how it manages to be meta and shed a light on itself and some of it’s own tropes it has (Rick being able to solve everything and we also see just how miserable and broken Jerry is in his small life and it’s wonderful how they do it.

     The premise involves aliens trying to trick Rick into giving up the recipe for Concentrated Dark Matter so they can travel quickly through anywhere in the Universe, this involves an elaborate con that Jerry was pulled into as well but never sees until it comes crashing down around him.

The Pros: Zigerions – These guys are wonderful, they are like one big corporate family and the big boss thanks all his workers when they have what he believes to be a successful con. Their fear of private parts is wonderful too in that it makes those who are trying to trick them uncomfortable. I hope we see these guys again even after what goes down.

The Long Con – The Long Con involves Rick eventually telling Morty the recipe, though it is the wrong one as he cons the cons and they end up destroying themselves, though they win in a way as he is having trouble trusting reality after.

The Tragedy of Jerry – Jerry is a sad small man who feels inadequate around everyone. The one time he thinks his stupid marketing scheme for Apples is a success he confesses to be a fraud and can’t see everyone around him is clearly fake and an illusion, the illusion is the only joy he has in his life and his wife being a doll and him making love to her is the only time he’s ever had good sex showing that before he never did…which is sad considering he’s had two kids. Beth is probably in a similar place, no wonder their marriage is falling apart.

Rick -Rick being suspicious comes to be a great advantage in this episode, but even he can’t see past the illusion of Morty until the very end and is only able to get back at being conned by lying about the recipe. After he drunkingly questions the real Morty leaving him afraid…his instability with good intentions come out in this episode.

   This is an episode I’d recommend, though it may take a second watch to truly appreciate. Jerry is hard character to root for and it took watching it twice to really get how hopeless his character is. I think Morty is much better for carrying an episode though, Rick is a sad man but he isn’t all that smart or complex.

Final Score: 9 / 10

The World’s End (2013): Alien Invasion Meets “Hangover” Meets the Apocalypse

The World's End

    “The World’s End” is better on a second viewing but is not as good as “Shaun of the Dead” or “Hot Fuzz.” It’s a film that has too many similarities to the party comedies like “Hangover” and comes off weaker because of it, the arcs are also less apparent in many cases which hurts the overall story and there are a few other issues too I’ll get into further in the review, though I do still recommend this film and consider it good. It isn’t bad, I don’t think Wright and Pegg together are capable of creating a bad film.

   Being the 3rd film in The Cornetto Trilogy the film was directed by Edgar Wright and who also co-wrote the film with Simon Pegg and produced by Nira Park, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner.

     The film involves Gary King (Simon Pegg) getting his old childhood friends together to finish “The Golden Mile” where they hit up all the pubs in Newton Haven but conflict occurs when all of them have grown up while Gary is still the same Gary and soon they realize the unchanged town is more than it appears to be.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Cinematography – Bill Pope does a wonderful job on the cinematography creating a picture perfect image of the town and later a sci. fi. nightmare when the alien invasion is revealed.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack has lots of great rock and is good at capturing the mixed perspective of our drunk protagonists as well as the rising tension as the aliens slowly close in around them. Steven Price did a great job.

The Characters – The main characters are still great, and even a few of the minor characters even if they don’t have the same level of depth and comedy of the minor characters in other films.

Basil – David Bradley is back as the conspiracy theorist and one of the few people who doesn’t get turned into a blank by the network. He does a great job as the clearly mad man who in this instance happens to be right.

Oliver – Oliver is the guy who is all business and whose sister tends to be the but of jokes. Martin Freeman is awkward and does a great job as the one who is mostly doing things out of obligation. When he is turned into a blank (an android) he still keeps his personality as a Realtor after the world ends at the end of the film.

Steven – Paddy Considine plays the one good guy of the group whose arc is finally falling in love and starting a life with Sam as he shows that he is the most mature person of the group. He was a good minor character.

Sam – Rosamund Pike is awesome! In this she is great at setting boundaries with characters and also is able to find happiness and to save the guys when they are living their idiocy of the pub crawl as the Network slowly kills and replaces them with Blanks. She like Steven is one of the few mature characters.

Andy – Andy is Gary’s former best friend and played by Nick Frost. For him it is standing up to Gary and them resolving their issues with one another as Andy becomes the most hardcore drunk once the alien invasion is in full swing and is their biggest threat. In the end he becomes a child again but finds himself as the storyteller and friends again with Gary though he loses Gary after the World and Newton Haven are destroyed leaving an apocalyptic wasteland.

Gary King – Simon Pegg is great as the friend who is an ass and assumes privilege over everyone. His arc is realizing that he really is a mess up and it is at the end of the world that he finds his place in the world as a man fighting for the Blanks who are recreations of his childhood friends as they wander the wasteland together. He also no longer drinks as the end of the world solved his drinking problem. A better film would have been their adventures in the Wasteland not the “Hangover” type Satire that we got.

The Blanks – The Blanks are androids/robots until the end when they come into their own and deal with discrimination from the populace. Them as a sect of the people is wonderful to see and deal with and I wish they had received more development.

The Message – The message is to choose to be free and not conform even if the rest of culture sees you as a loser. To some degree I think this makes sense, at least in the political sense when dealing with fascism and control…but eventually you have to grow up as it seems Gary King does as he is a good survivor after the end.

Okay: The Satire – I never felt the films like “Hangover” were being fully satired, it was almost like celebration at times and the alien invasion story that was “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and “Day the Earth Stood Still”esque fell apart due to the Network being such a weak villain and idea. The satire was sill there and decent but the fact that it wasn’t as clear as “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead” was obvious, also at the end of the day this film was just less funny.

The Cons: The Network – Villain that replaces people with robots blind to it’s will and apparently it part of a larger collective of aliens? The proposal struck me as full of crap and a okay satire of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” where a fascist alien collective wants to raise humanity up but sees they are too ruled by fear. Same deal here with the Network but it replaces those who don’t conform. So glad it left. Poor villain which brought down the script and story.

The Drunk Film Tropes – The guy who doesn’t drink gets drunk, Gary can’t remember anything, drunk man confesses feeling and gets the girl (Steven and Sam) and drunk man becomes a hero (Gary and Andy). These tropes are tired and they weren’t pulled off creatively at all.

   This is the weakest of the Trilogy but is a lot of fun on a second viewing. It is truly a good but not great film and it is not a favorite by any stretch of the imagination, but it is still a good film. Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright are geniuses at their craft and really, I’d so far recommend anything they’ve worked on and this film is no exception…with it’s flaws and all.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Shaun of the Dead (2004): Subverting the Rom Com, Popular Culture and Zombie Films

Shaun of the Dead

      “Shaun of the Dead” is a film that does a great job satirizing modern society as well as managing to subvert some of the Rom Com tropes as Shaun is a character who most of the time manages to makes situations worse by trying to do right by his relationships. The weakest part of the film is Ed (Nick Frost) who seems to function as one big joke and in a way wasn’t needed for Shaun’s story to be told.

       The film was directed by Edgar Wright who wrote it with Simon Pegg and produced by Nira Park.

      The story involves Shaun (Nick Frost) and Ed (Nick Frost) missing the Zombie apocalypse until it is in their home forcing Shaun to reconcile with his family and ex named Liz (Kate Ashfield) as he becomes the leader of the group and plans to get them to the pub called the Winchester, believing it to be the only safe place in the city.

The Pros: The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful (as is the editing) as the soundtrack is beautifully put into the film to reflect the characters and situations. For example when David is working the lights it is like a concert with the zombies moving to the lights and music while Liz and Shaun fight to Queen. David M. Dunlap did a great job.

The Action – The action is great in this and given that these are slow walkers that says something…the Zombies actually manage to be threatening and a force even if most of the problems that happen are caused by Shaun and his own stupidity and the stupidity of his party.

The Characters – The characters are tropes in this but they get enough development that they feel real. I know people like these characters so it manages to actually be compelling in regards to what happens to them.

Pete – Pete is a dick but he also tries to be as open and supportive as he can even though Ed is giving nothing to rent and their life and he only turns on Shaun and Ed after he is bitten and can’t get any sleep because they are drunk and mixing records as Liz had just dumped Shaun that day.

Philip – Bill Nighy plays Shaun’s step-dad who was always hard on him but finally admits he’s loved him all along before he turns. He is a great character as we we gruff man not used to showing feelings finally opening up at the end and in turn revealing Shaun’s tender side too. It was great seeing him again in this too as before I’d only seen him as Davy Jones in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” Trilogy.

Barbara – Penelope Wilton (the Prime Minister from “Doctor Who”) is great in this as the mom who doesn’t want to intrude upon Shaun’s life. She is super sweet and when she dies you feel it as she was someone doing the best she could and living the theme of survival.

David and Dianne – Dianne is an out of work actress but comes up with the brilliant idea of them pretending to be zombies to get into the Winchester. David was always crushing on Liz and Dianne helped him get over it, him ignoring and denying that hurts her a lot and she goes to protect him when he is being devoured alive by zombies leading to her implied death too.

Yvonne and her Party – Yvonne is the one who seeks out the British Army and saves Liz and Shaun who are the only ones in their party who survive the apocalypse. She is always on it and is the only one with a clear head in all the events that go down. Her boyfriend is also played by Martin Freeman and the characters in her party mirror Shaun’s party. The romantic relationship – Martin and Liz as an example.

Subverting the Rom Com – In the Rom Com the man child (Shaun) usually grows up and redeems himself showing that he is a good guy. In this he is the same guy after he just now knows he courageous and has dealt with all his repressed feelings. When he is the leader he isn’t very good at it and he brought them to the Winchester which was an open pub surrounded by Zombies…nothing he does really helps and his friend

We are the Zombies – The way this is shown best is Shaun in his retail job where everyone is repeating the same phrases again and again, his morning routine as the apocalypse unfolds and him not noticing until a zombie is in his home and the television showing the crap reality television shows before and after the apocalypse and how they were essentially still the same.

Okay: Ed – I couldn’t stand this character, which might have been part of the point. He is selfish, lazy and doesn’t do anything for anyone without first measuring how it benefits himself. I think he was meant to be a joke though as he is played as normal after he turns at the end, showing he was a Zombie in a way, all along.

I would actually rate “Hot Fuzz” higher in the Cornetto Trilogy at this point as I found Nick Frost’s Danny a much more compelling character than Ed (who exists in every film of this nature usually played by Seth Rogen or a Sandler actor) and though I consider this film a favorite and found the overall satire hilarious, “Hot Fuzz” had better payoff with the jokes and dialogue. Still, this is one of the best satires, horrors and comedies and without a doubt my favorite zombie film I have ever watched.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

Hot Fuzz (2007): A Brilliant Satire of Cop Films with a Compelling Story

Hot Fuzz

      “Hot Fuzz” is amazing, though it is in steep competition to be the best film in Pegg’s and Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy. This is a film that captures the absurdity of both television and film cop dramas, while also shining a light and critiquing small town and city culture at the same time…while giving our stars character arcs! There is a lot that is needed for a comedy to work, and this film manages to achieve that.

     The film was directed by Edgar Wright who also wrote it with Simon Pegg while being produced by Nira Park, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner.

SPOILERS ahead

      The story involves Sgt, Nick Angel (Simon Pegg) the best cop in London being sent to the village of Sandford since his stats are making his fellow cops look bad on the force. In Sandford he soon learns all is not as it appears to be as mysterious deaths continue to pop around town accompanied by hooded figures running from the scenes of the crimes. He must work with the Police Chief in Sandford’s son PC Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) in order to solve the case and the dark side of the village.

The Pros: The London Police Authorities – Martin Freeman appears as Nick Angel’s higher up as do two other actors but Freeman was the most memorable as the one trying to make the demotion look like a promotion. By the time the highest one is reached he tells Angel that he being sent away because he is too good and makes them all look bad. It’s a really hilarious joke and critique of the City.

The Cinematography – Jess Hall did a fantastic job on the cinematography. The film is polished and looks like a modern day cop drama as it emphasizes eyes, guns and loss whenever someone gets shot. It’s really good work and we see the use of darkness used to build tension.

The Writing – The writing is hilarious. Wright and Pegg are a great pair and know their comedy well, and not just comedy…they give their characters arc. Nick Angel and Danny Butterman are not static characters, events and circumstances change them and help them to grow into better people than they were before.

Callback Jokes – The callback jokes are wonderful! At one point they run into an old man named Webler (played by David Bradley) who has a whole bunch of guns and a water mine which doesn’t work…Nick and Danny later use the guns to attack the NWA and the mine is used to kill the last one who tries to kill Nick at the end before the mine destroys the Station.

The Satire – The Satire is brilliant! From the NWA being so concerned with appearances that they murder for it, Danny being obsessed with cop films and doing events from said films (“Point Break” and “Bad Boys” as an example) and Angel rejecting it not realizing he is the trope before he finally embraces at the end, and with it all the paperwork.

Sandford – Sandford is an idyllic small town, it is mostly farms with a few stores and we see that everyone knows everyone. All the small town tropes exist here, from the village gossip, the crappy journalist and the overbearing Police Chief in a town obsessed with conformity.

Simon Skinner – Timothy Dalton does a good job as the CEO of the convenience store who is set up to be the big bad but is only one of the many members of the NWA responsible for the murders. He is good at being creepy and overbearing to everyone around him as he only speaks in threats.

The Sandford Police Force – The Sandford Police Force is wonderful, Olivia Colman plays the only woman on the police force and there are two mustached guys and one nervous guy who does whatever Nick says but is also a good strategist…they all break and embrace the tropes they were written into leading to a great faceoff in Skinner’s store at the end.

Frank Butterman – Jim Broadbent is wonderful as the likable but for appearance of useless Police Commissioner who is all about village appearances. He is a good antagonist as we see he is the way he is after his wife killed herself since she was so obsessed with winning the competition. He is good at leading Nick Angel on false leads and he is the unspoken leader of the NWA.

PC Danny Butterman – Danny’s arc is realizing how serious it is to be a cop and dealing with the truth of his father…after he does he is able to turn the police force against his dad and help take out the NWA with Nick as we see that they now compliment each other as Danny’s socialness is what helps Nick Angel get outside of his obsession with the job as Nick’s obsession rubs off on Danny and helps Danny to become a hero and good cop.

Sgt. Nick Angel – Nick is man obsessed with being the best cop to the point that he lost his relationship and is alone with his plant. It takes Danny (who he arrests when he first arrives in Sandford) slowly getting him out of his shell and helping him open up that we see him mellow out and become not just a good cop in doing the right things to catch the bad guys, but also in how he treats others…this arc is completed in him choosing to stay in Sandford at the end, rather than returning to London when Freeman’s character offers him the chance (since things have gotten so bad after him leaving). Simon Pegg is brilliant and the best part of the film.

Okay/Cons – Pacing – There are a few moments where the film drags, this is partially due to the film being very quick in it’s action. This is the only real con outside of a plot hole I’ll list in the next one.

The Cons: Where are the Families of the Missing People – The Neighborhood Watch Alliance and Associates (NWA) kills anyone who makes the town look bad (the hoodies, the kids who were drinking in the pub) so that they continue to win town of the year…where were the families of the people killed? My theory was that they were living in fear of the NWA but we never have conformation of this, so that was a small thing that bothered me in the film.

   This might be my film in the Cornetto Trilogy, though “Shaun of the Dead” is hard to beat and may still be better. Regardless, this is a film I’d highly recommend. If you like a great satire, comedy and film that celebrates Cop Dramas while at the same time celebrating aspects of them and the tropes they invented, you will like this film. It’s one of my favorites and one I will no doubt watch again in the future.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

“Better Call Saul” Season 1 Assessment – A Matter of Self Respect, Family and Life’s Shades of Grey

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      “Better Call Saul” kicks off the show strong and shows once again that Vince Gillian and  Peter Gould know what they’re doing. This was a show that I was a little worried about going in, especially when there was early talk about it being a comedy. Gillian can do comedy well but he is so much better at drama and tackling the shades of grey or moral decisions and choices. This is a huge part of why “Breaking Bad” is one of my favorite shows, besides how well the character arcs are handled and the beautiful writing and cinematography…all of which “Better Call Saul” has, though it is much more focused in it’s narrative than “Breaking Bad” was.

      Before I go into more detail, this review does contain SPOILERS for both “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul,” since for me they shows inform each other, and not just because “Better Call Saul” is a prequel spin-off. There are some of the same characters and we get their backstories and also very similar themes too, though they are handled differently than the Fall of Walter White as Jim McGill (Saul before he was Saul Goodman) is a very different person. Also, as a side note I will eventually be reviewing “Breaking Bad” in full here on the blog.

    The story is that of James “Jimmy” McGill (played by Bob Odenkirk) and begins after “Breaking Bad” where he now works at a Cinnebun and has a whole new persona and identity. He is sad and you see him watching his old “Saul Goodman” commercials before we get a flashback to before to 6 years before “Breaking Bad” began. It is here Jimmy is a small town lawyer and ex-con artist who is trying to make his way in the world while dealing with the shame of his brother Chuck (Michael McKean)who is paranoid and successful, his brother’s firm “Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill” where his friend Kim works and where he wants to be a part of, as he worked in the Mail Room when he left the scam artist track and now cares about law. From here things unfold as secrets are revealed and Jimmy must choose what type of lawyer and man he wants to be.

The Pros: The Cinematography – The cinematography is once again beautiful. The wasteland of the desert and isolation of the characters (especially Jimmy) is presented really well. I’d expect nothing less from the creators of “Breaking Bad” though. “Breaking Bad” always looked great and cinematography was used to present the themes of falling and brokenness really well, which “Better Call Saul” does in it’s own way too. Whether it’s Chuck’s fear when he goes outside and making the camera be from his point of view where everything is loud and bright or everything is in darkness, which is how Season 1 was filmed.

The Soundtrack – The country western theme is worked into it really well but there are also some great instrumentals too. The use of “Smoke on the Water” at the end of the series was great as well to show the choice that Jimmy makes. Dave Porter did a fantastic job.

The Writing – The dialogue is witty (again Gillian so wouldn’t expect any less) and there are great back and forths with anyone who Jimmy interacts with. Be it the nail salon owner, Kim, Chuck or his Old Testament like speeches to the law firm “Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill.” The script is also subtle too. When Churck admits that he’s ashamed of Jimmy and thinks he’ll always be a con, Jimmy silently leaves. It’s a powerful scene and the most you see is that he’s about to cry, but never fully does. It’s beautifully done and we see quite a few scenes like this where no dialogue needed because it was written and directed so well.

The Characters – The characters are all 3-Dimensional, with the exception of the gangsters who we haven’t really got to know. But the people at the law firm, the friends of Jimmy…none of them are simple. There are conflicts in the choices they make and it defines them in really interesting ways.

Mike Ehrmantraut – Mike is back from “Breaking Bad” and we get his backstory in this. In this we see that he’s a cop killer who killed the cops who were going to kill him and who had killed his son because after he’d convince his son to be corrupt his son had questioned, and that was enough for the cops to end hi. This leads to an investigation and he tells his Daughter-in-Law about what happens, as well as getting help from Jimmy against the Philadelphia detectives. In the end we see more of his road to Gus as he takes jobs as a bodyguard for people trying to stay under the radar and uses the money he has to care for his Grandkids. He’s a great character and has the defining quote of the series:

“I’ve known good criminals and bad cops, bad priests, honorable thieves. You can be on one side of the law or the other, but if you make a deal with somebody, you keep your word. You can go home today with your money and never do this again, but you took something that wasn’t yours and you sold it for a profit. You are now a criminal. Good one, bad one, that’s up to you.”

   Jonathan Banks continues to bring such depth to this complicated character.

Kim Wexler – Jimmy’s friend in the law firm and the person who he helps and who helps him a lot as he is getting on his feet as a lawyer. They’ve known each other a long time and she’s always celebrated his successes. Her choice is that between ambition (the partner track on the firm) and working directly with people the way Jimmy does. She chooses the partner track, at least for now and she wants to work with Jimmy as equals and has since he passed the bar. Rhea Seehorn is great in this role. She is Jimmy’s moral compass a lot of the time.

Chuck McGill – Jimmy’s paranoid brother who is a “Do it yourself” conservative type who looks down on those he sees as lazy, while not fully accepting that he is living on handouts from Jimmy and the company because of his paranoia of light and electricity. His character is tragic in this way as we see him working directly with Jimmy on a few cases, but we soon learn it was all for his own end as after he got Jimmy out of jail he never saw Jimmy as anything other than a crook. He’s a powerful character and much of what Jimmy does is a reaction to him or his firm. His character’s change is getting used to light again, or trying too, before retreating back indoors right around the time that he admits he is ashamed that Jimmy is a lawyer and doesn’t believe is a real lawyer at all. Michael McKean does a wonderful job in the role.

Jimmy McGill – Bob Odenkirk owns this role. Jimmy is complicated. He starts out as the man who loves the joy of the con and wants easy and fast money but soon finds himself becoming a hard worker as he’s trying to make his own success and join his brother’s law firm on his own terms. He makes a lot of tough choices but is shown to have a good moral core as returns the stolen money that he was bribed with by clients and he saves the life of two other cons from Tuco at one point too. He has an awareness of others which makes a good lawyer and con artist. So much of his motivation initially is to do the right thing, impress his brother and become a lawyer in his brother’s firm. It is after he realizes it was never option and his con friend dies during their lost con together that he decides he will make his own path and get money whenever it’s offered after he rejected the chance for wealth tied to firm connected to his brother’s firm. His character is conflict over every decision he makes as he knows easy ways and how to connect with people but continues to be screwed by those closest to him making him resent the ones who have shaped him into the good person he was. What type of crook he will be remains to be seen but Mike’s quote applies to Jimmy big time.

Themes – Isolation (the McGills), betrayal (Jimmy on a few occasions as a con and when he does the right thing with the money, as well as Mike’s backstory), darkness and and light (extremes) and ambition (the McGills and Kim). Were the major ones I noticed.

The Message – The message is in Mike’s quote. You can be a good person whether you are a criminal or with the law, the important thing is will you choose to be? In the end Jimmy is shown to have a greater moral character than Chuck who could not forgive and looked down upon the person who was doing the most for him. This leads to Chuck being further isolated, just like when Jimmy lashes out he gets isolated from his friends too. There is also the warning that easy paths have greater trials later. The issue surrounding the stolen money leads to an episode arc where they have to steal the money from the family to force them to take the deal with Kim’s firm which will save more of them rather than them (The Family and Jimmy) going to jail. This happens a few other times too. The fast money of the underworld can lead to great rewards but very large falls which I think is something Jimmy may have forgotten at the end because he is reacting so strongly to his brother’s betrayal. These themes of goodness not defined by role and the danger of the fast track were the major messages of Season 1.

Okay: Nacho Varga – A criminal who works with Tuco but is trying to go his own way. We see this when he saves Jimmy’s life and wants the money from the family Jimmy was trying to con and we later see him keep his deal when the client Mike is protecting delivers him the pills. He’s smart but I haven’t seen kindness. Tuco cares for his family but what does Nacho care about? This is why he isn’t a pro.

Hamlin – Hamlin is presented as a tool and as the character we are supposed to hate as he is the will of Chuck we learn. He always like Jimmy but because of Chuck could never express it or show it as Chuck didn’t want his brother to be a lawyer. He’s very distant from everyone until he opens up about how much he respects Jimmy. I’m still putting him as okay because I would have liked to see more of that and I don’t know his motivations or why he likes Jimmy.

  If you liked “Breaking Bad” you will probably love “Better Call Saul.” Season 1 was much more solid than early “Breaking Bad” and was defined by drama that didn’t often involve life and death situations. This gave time for the show to be introspective in ways “Breaking Bad” early on wasn’t able to be. This is one thing I love about this show and if it can sustain this and Gillian and Gould know where they are taking the show, this could possibly surpass “Breaking Bad” in story and quality. It is still the beginning though, which means the arc could go in any direction. We are afterall, still 6 years before the events of that show, which gives us a lot of ground to cover.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010): An Amazing Satire of the Rural Horror Genre and Appearances

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“We continue comedy week with “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil.” “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” is brilliant. It is the intelligent kind of horror comedy that sadly does not happen often enough and does a brilliant critique of the assumptions the horror genre often makes about people, as well as even giving us a villain with a great motivation. There is honestly very little bad about this film, and I’ll get into the specifics why further down.

The film was directed and written by Eli Craig who came up with the original story, and the other co-writer of the screenplay was Morgan Juergenson. The film was produced by Morgan Jurgenson, Albert Klychack, Rosanne Miliken and Deepak Nayer.

SPOILERS ahead.

The premise of the story is that Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are heading up to the Appalachians to go to their summer home that they’ve been saving up for years. Along the way the run into some college kids who see them as dangerous hicks and treat them savagely when they treat to reach out and say hello. Miscommunication and death ensue when one of the college woman named Allison (Katrina Bowden) falls into the lake when the college kids are all skinny dipping. When Tucker and Dale rescue her, the unstable leader of the college kids named Chad (Jesse Moss) sees it as personal and seeks to destroy Tucker and Dale. From here the story unfolds.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise is brilliant! Take the guys who are rural country boys and are usually the killers in the wilderness (“The Hills Have Eyes,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” etc.) and make them the heroes! This was the smartest thing about the premise, also making Allison, who is a blond college student the smartest out of everyone was a great move too. She’s the one who gets past her prejudice and reveals Chad to be the true person filled with hate and the psychopathy. The premise works as well because we see a reporter killed by a scarred man in the cabin Tucker and Dale are going to at the beginning and early on Chad tells us the story of a massacre that happened in the hills setting the stage for the fear of hill billy killers.

The Soundtrack – Michael Shields and Andrew Kaiser did a great job on the soundtrack. I don’t like country music generally speaking, but it was used beautifully in this soundtrack.

The writing  – Eli Craig and Morgan Jurgenson wrote a script where characters actually change, has a message and a point and is hilarious. To achieve all these things is difficult in general, in a comedy, even more-so,

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful, with foggy scenes, trees that look like spears and limbs and Tucker and Dale’s house looks haunted, as does the woodshed that appears later. The scenes are presented in such a way to create good tension too that only progresses as the stakes rise. David Geddes did great.

The Comedy – The comedy is wonderful dark comedy! The college kids all kill themselves trying to kill Tucker and Dale and most of what happens because of miscommunication because the college kids are so full of fear because of the warning from the cop and Chad’s horror story. This leads to them attacking Tucker and Dale who are fixing up the place and accidents ensuing from the forest and equipment around the house, like the wood grinder grinding one of the kids and a loose beam killing the cop. Tucker and Dale are powerless through most of it as they just want to Allison to be okay and to be left alone.

The Main Characters – All of the main characters are given a lot of depth and complexity making them a joy to watch. Beyond how well the script was, that was a big part of what kept me watching.

Chad – Chad is the sociopathic leader of the fraternity who was raised by his grandparents because his mother was institutionalized after the Memorial Day Massacre which is the horror story he describes of the hill billies who raped his mother and killed his father and their friends. It turns out his father was a hill billy too and this is too much for him to take as he filled with so much hate already. He’s never likable as he creeps on Allison all the time and uses people and only sees life as survival of the fittest. He is from the beginning what he hates most, a person ready to kill for no reason beyond enjoyment. He gets defeated but escapes and is the one who kills the reporter in current day when she’s exploring Tucker and Dale’s house. He’s officially become the monster and evil. Jesse Moss plays a good monster.

Tucker – Alan Tudyk has so much range! This film really showed it where he is the rural country boy who is all country and keeps trying to be all tough by putting his best friend Dale down. He is jealous of Dale’s and Allison’s friendship after Dale saves her life but after Dale and Allison save his life he is close to them both. He comes to respect them both and apologizes to Dale for how cruel he always was and tells him Dale should believe in himself. It’s a touching scene and after Chad takes off two of his fingers and kidnaps Allison.

Allison – I want to see Katrina Bowden in more films after this. Her character is sensitive and tough and is the smartest person out of everyone in this. She even makes progress with healing Chad beyond his prejudice before the remaining college kids ruin everything. She becomes Dale and Tucker’s friend and defends them to her college friends and in the end loves Dale. She has a great arc that is one of fear and uncertainty in herself to confidence and strength..just like Dale’s arc.

Dale – Dale is a large, shy and bearded guy who is the hero of the film. He has no confidence at first and could never harm a fly, and he never kills anyone either. He saves Allison two times and also gets saved as well and goes from a man with no confidence to someone who can stand up to Chad and fight him. He is smarter than he knows and stronger too and that’s what he realizes in his character arc. Tyler Labine brings so much depth to this role.

The Message – Don’t judge by appearances and always communicate and not give into fear is the main message in the film. All the kids kill themselves because they are trying to kill Tucker and Dale and never take the time to listen…and Chad is so full of hate he is unable to feel anything other than that. This leads to all the tragedy that ensues because the college kids didn’t take the time to get to know Tucker and Dale like Allison did. This is a great subversion of this trope in this type of horror movie too since it goes off the assumptions that you can’t trust rural country folk in the middle of nowhere and that all college kids are stupid. This film subverts all of that to create an amazing picture.

Okay: The Other College Kids – Most of the other college kids who aren’t Allison or Chad have no real motivation beyond having fun, which makes their deaths when they accidentally kill themselves (when they try to kill Tucker and Dale) just comedic. This is a shame as Allison and Chad get a lot of development and I wish the other kids could have too so their deaths would be tragic.

If you like comedy and films that are intelligent and have a point, you will probably enjoy this film. It is brilliant satire and dark comedy and has fantastic, writing, cinematography, music and writing. There is very little wrong with this film. I would check it out as the message is great at breaking down barriers between people, it has amazing comedy and a story that I could not stop watching. Definitely a favorite film.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10. One of the best comedies I’ve seen.