El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019) – Bringing Closure to the Amazing Show

    I loved this film. “El Camino” is the perfect Epilogue and closure for Jesse Pinkman and “Breaking Bad” as a whole. “Breaking Bad” is one of my favorite shows of all time, and this film captures so many of those reasons why it is. Like the show the filming is stark in coloration, the music also gives it that intensity and the writing is the perfect example of showing and not telling. No wonder Vince Gilligan created a masterpiece in the show, as he does this so well again here. If you are a fan of the show, you will at the very least enjoy the film. I highly recommend it.

The film was directed and written by Vince Gilligan.

The story follows Jesse after his escape from the Neo-Nazis as he tries to find a way to freedom away from all that has happened as he seeks out his friends and connections for help.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The World – As a fan of the show, it was great finally getting closure. I enjoyed seeing all the characters still alive interact and their connection to Jesse as well as those who were dead and how they were defining the way he would live. The world of “Breaking Bad” is harsh and cruel and there isn’t much hope. Most of the series involves Jesse taking a literal and metaphorical beating so it was wonderful seeing that there were still moments of light in the dark. The soundtrack and cinematography bring this to life too with how stark scenes are shot and even the brightest day can be one of complete isolation and claustrophobia. Dave Porter’s soundtrack brings this world to life to the point that it is like being back in the show once more.

Jesse Pinkman – Aaron Paul is truly an underrated actor. This is a film where we get to fully know the depths of who Jesse is. Jesse is complicated, but in the end he is someone who wants to do good by others. We see that he only kills in self-defense, he wants to give everyone a chance and will surrender if he is ever caught while still doing all he can find freedom and start over. In the end he gets that when he gets revenge against those who built his cage for the Neo-Nazi Meth Game who had enslaved him and when Ed keeps his word and grants him a new identity in life in Alaska. Leading up to this we see Mike talk to him about Alaska being the best place to start over, Walt talking to him about going into business and college, Jane talking about meaning and making your own choices and the support from his friends Skinny Pete and Badger who risk everything for him as he retraces the cook for the Neo-Nazi’s Todd to reclaim his money. It is powerful and I love how much we learn about Jesse.

Is Redemption Possible? – The major theme of the film is redemption and if it is even possible. Jesse has hurt a lot of people and this is a film where we do see him try to make amends. He tells his parents it isn’t their fault he is who he became, and the cleaner Ed he gets him the money and kills to do so, knowing what it will cost him inside, even if revenge is still part of it. Jesse is so broken when he first escapes and it is Skinny Pete and Badger’s compassion that even gives him a chance at a life again and chance for redemption as they do a car swap and give him money to keep the police off his back. Jesse carries that with him. All he has is his life and the desire to live and to not hurt anymore, and in the end the film says there is a chance. The last conversation wouldn’t have been with Jane talking purpose otherwise.

Responsibility and Moving Forward – How redemption is possible is through responsibility. This is fulfilled in the show in Walter sacrificing himself to atone to Jesse and getting the money to his family and we see it once more with Jesse in how he doesn’t kill and at every chance the law accuses him he is surrenders willingly. Ed, giving him his out shows it too as he calls the cops but leads them away and tells Jesse, once he has the money the deal for a new life will happen. They even have a great talk at the end and Ed talks about how he doesn’t care about Jesse’s feelings, he made his choices. He is the closest thing to a father for Jesse in the end and I love their relationship as his stubbornness and in the end helping Jesse does help him to heal. R.I.P. Robert Forster, you were one of the best parts of “Breaking Bad” and this film.

Okay:

Film to Show as New Trend? – The fact that this is a film that is based off a streaming show is a trend that I’m putting as okay, as in I’m a little worried. I look towards Disney plus and see how they could you this trend to gain an even greater monopoly on television than they already have. This is a horrifying thought and I really hope that in the competition between streaming services we get more gems like this that are in no way tied to Disney.

This is a character study of Jesse Pinkman and in that it fully succeeds. We get the beautiful score and cinematography of the show and a bittersweet ending, showing us that maybe there can be hope even in the worst of despair. Like the ending of “Breaking Bad,” this film works. It completes Jesse’s story and I’m glad it was made. Aaron Paul’s Jesse and the amazing supporting cast appearing in this film make this an unforgettable ride. The only way I could see this working again is with a character like Saul Goodman who also has so many characters tied to his story. I don’t think that will happen and that I think that is good. This epilogue gives the show a completion I didn’t know it needed. It was a great ride and one I would highly recommend.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10 The near perfect television film. I wish it had been longer.

“BoJack Horseman” Season 2 – A Masterpiece on the Paths of Self-Destruction and Change

BoJack Horseman Season 2 Poster

    “BoJack Horseman’ Season 2 is a masterpiece. The lack of focus during the first 1/3 of Season 1 isn’t there and all our characters have arcs and we get to know what motivates them more. The darkness in our characters never leaves either, but we get moments of hope that show the other side of being alive. It’s easily one of my favorite Seasons of a show and I am really excited to see what they do in Season 3. Raphael Bob-Waksberg really created an amazing show.

 The story picks up with BoJack starring in “Secretariat” but in turn finding the ugly underbelly of making a film as well as his own demons rising to the surface as he plays a character so much like himself. Elsewhere an old flame comes back into Princess Carolyn’s life and Diane has the chance to take her writing around the world to help people. Throughout it all old phantoms return as characters discover they can’t go back to the way things were.

The Pros: The Animation – The animation continues to be top notch, especially in the scene that they show as a continuous shot before Mr. Peanutbutter begins his new show.

The Soundtrack – Jesse Novak continues to make a great soundtrack that so greatly expresses the sadness and intensity our characters are going through. It manages to be apathetic but let us feel at the same time.

The Writing – The writing is fantastic! The depths of our characters are explored and we get to know more of why they are the way they are. BoJack and the main cast get the best development but there are even some amazing minor characters whose motivations and desires we come to know and understand.

The Characters – Outside of the themes and writing, the characters have always been the strongest part of this show and this season does away with a lot of the references to actually explore our characters and really show what it is they want out of their situations.

Beatrice Horseman – Beatrice’s mom says she’s sorry. It doesn’t change how abusive she is but her having some level of responsibility is powerful (she calls BoJack after his book comes out). It’s powerful and she expresses the brokenness of BoJack and the cast so well as we see  how broken she’s been her entire life as well. Wendie Malick did a fantastic job!

Rutabaga Rabbitowitz – Rutabaga is the highly ambitious character who doesn’t want to face consequences. He’s a smart and nice guy but he uses Princess Carolyn as a mistress and never divorces his wife even when he promised to do it when he and Carolyn would make their own Agency. He faces the consequences though as Carolyn sets down boundaries and leaves him leaving him to pick up the pieces of his own life.

J.D. Salinger – Salinger fakes his death in this universe and ends up being pulled into network television and it is awesome! He comes up with a reality show where celebrities are mocked and the depths of humanity can be explored which leads to BoJack and Mr. Peanutbutter fighting verbally and in turn revealing BoJack’s envy of him and his pride. Alan Arkin was perfectly cast for the voice actor.

Herb Kazzaz – Stanley Tucci gives a lot of life to this fascinating character who we see as the idealist man making a show, to screwed by the studio and BoJack and dying of cancer…but we see moments of joy with him, BoJack and Charlotte and when they were all young and hadn’t been eaten up by Hollywoo and changed or moved on from Hollywoo (Charlotte). His funeral is a major episode as it turns out his book he was writing sucked so his friends decide to keep it unpublished to save his legacy.

Wanda – Wanda is BoJack’s girlfriend for a while as she was in a coma for 30 years so she has no idea who he was so she treats him like she would anyone else. Things don’t go well though as she is committed and loves what she does while BoJack is listless and she is caring while he is always lashing out which eventually leads to her dumping him. She was a great character. She works in television and producing shows for the network and is an owl.

Kelsey Jannings – Kelsey is the director to “Secretariat” and she is awesome! She has no patience for BoJack but they actually do connect at times and we see she is a pretty great hardcore feminist and makes great art but when she tries to tell a great story with the film, the studio comes down on her and fires her. I hope we see her character again though, she helped BoJack face himself and to use his craft to grow.

Todd – Todd is Todd. He has more adventures in this, from making his own Disneyland and eventually leaving to join a Improv Group that is also a cult that he ends up being rescued from by BoJack as Todd is the one good part of BoJack’s life and the one time he did something good for someone else and it wasn’t for any ulterior reason.

Princess Carolyn – Princess Carolyn really gets her direction in this as we see her leave “Vincent Adultman” when his charade of being an adult stops working as he tries to be Vincent’s son and Vincent and after Rutabaga comes back into her life looks beyond her job where she’s under appreciated. Her arc is complete when she prevents Rutabaga from doing the same things and kicks him out of the new agency when his emotional blackmail tendencies become apparent to her and the fact that he isn’t going to leave his wife for her and never planned on doing so. Amy Sedaris is great.

Charlotte – Olivia Wilde plays BoJack’s old friend who he was interested in but moved on and now has a family and life in New Mexico. When he tries to get with her she lays down the boundaries clearly and after kicks him out when BoJack tries to get with her daughter. She is tough in this and gives us some great wisdom too as she makes BoJack aware of the tar within himself and that we always carry that with us. You don’t mess with Charlotte and if BoJack contacts her or her family again, he’s dead.

Mr. Peanutbutter – Mr. Peanutbutter’s arc is really finding his self-respect as we see in flashbacks that his past wife was abusive. We also see how supportive he is too and even though he and Diane clash at times (he does things for her and for himself in regards to parties and big events and always goes big) but that at the end of the day he just wants to be with her and that the shows and things he does are just ways to keep busy, since for him life is pointless and we all die but if we keep things interesting it isn’t so bad. He also confronts BoJack over his kissing of Diane last season and forgives BoJack for his envy and the kiss. Mr. Peanutbutter really grows as a character and is shown to be one of the most stand up guys in the series along with Princess Carolyn and Kelsey Jennings.

Diane – Diane goes abroad to help in a war torn nation and tell an eccentric billionaire’s story after she isn’t used at all in the film “Secretariat” and finds that she it isn’t for her as the billionaire’s ego is too large and the events are way too traumatic. This leads to her living with BoJack and lying to Mr. Peanutbutter about what she’s doing. It’s sad and we see what happens when your dream isn’t what you expect. BoJack helps her get her life together though as when he returns to New Mexico he begins cleaning up his life and tells her she should too. We see her in her darkest here as she is drunk and high all the time watching “Horsin’ Around.” It’s sad but she gets out of it and finds a job working on the media side for Princess Carolyn.

BoJack – BoJack like Diane discovers “Secretariat” is not what he expected, especially when the Studio drastically changes the story and fires Diane, leading to him leaving the set, being dumped by Wanda for being a dick and going to New Mexico to try and get together with Charlotte as being with her was the last time he was happy. It doesn’t work and he messes up big when he takes advantage of her daughter by not setting boundaries and we see just how broken BoJack is. In the end he returns to Hollywoo and rescues Todd as he discovers Todd was the one person he did something nice for for no other reason than to be nice. He also starts working on himself and begins running and we’re left with the possibility that things can get easier. He is also being asked to be in a New York play from someone he knows from his past.

Dreams are not Always What They Seem – For both Diane and BoJack the dreams they had where not what they expected. For Diane she found she wasn’t cut out to be abroad in war torn areas of the world and for BoJack he wanted to be in a story that was actually good, which wasn’t “Secretariat” after the studio changed it. He also discovers this again when his dream of being with Charlotte is shown to be a delusion that is only hurting himself and those around him. You can’t go back to what’s already happened.

You Can Never Go Back – This is a huge theme and really defines BoJack’s life in a big way as he tries to be friends with Herb after 20 years of no contact, he tries to get together with Charlotte and run away and finds that doesn’t work either. He is always trying to run backwards but it only leads to more pain because time didn’t stop, only he did.

Everyone Is Broken – Everyone on this show is broken, even Mr. Peanutbutter who has huge insecurities and has been in past abusive relationships (and can be super passive aggressive). The characters who are wise have made peace with this like Kesley or integrated it like Charlotte and Carolyn by the end. The rest are just trying to get by ignoring it or running from it.

Things Get Easier – The season ends with a runner telling a collapsed BoJack that it get’s easier. This is the bright moment in the series and shows that in all the brokenness and despair it can get easier to face and to deal.

    This is one of the best seasons of television and I’m really excited to see what Netflix does for Season 3. If you like dark and powerful shows, this is the show for you. The characters are complex and interesting and feel real. There weren’t really any cons this season since enough minor characters were major in regards to the plot and explored that they balanced out the joke characters. The themes are also powerful and timeless too and show even in things being difficult and hard and dreams not being all they are cracked up to be, that things get easier. Living gets easier, and sometimes that’s enough.

Final Score: 10 / 10

“BoJack Horseman” Season 1 – A Nihilistic Comedy With Depth

Bojack Horseman

     It took a while but I finally got through Season 1 of “BoJack Horseman.” I got to say I’m impressed. It is heavy, depressing and funny and ends up having a great payoff. I look forward to seeing where the future seasons go. This is a show that didn’t seem to know where it was going at first, it just seemed like a day in the life like “Horsing Around” (the sitcom BoJack stars in) but it gave it’s characters arcs which turned it into a very strong and funny show.

     The show was created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg and airs on Netflix.

     The story involves the once famous sitcom actor BoJack Horseman from “Horsin’ Around” trying to recapture the glory days and be loved by people again which leads to him taking on a ghost writer named Diane Nguyen. From here things unfold as BoJack’s own demons come back to ruin whatever he touches.

The Pros: The World – The World is full of humans and humanoid animals who have traits similar to the animal they are drawn from. Princess Carolyn is a cat and has a scratchy post, etc, It’s really cool and fits the offness of the world the story takes place in.

The Animation – The animation is great and flows really well. When BoJack does a drug trip near the end of the season it is really shown too as they get super creative with some of the images he sees and the animation (such as erasing the lines around him). It’s very well done.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack fits the nihilistic feel of the world and the world of Hollywood it draws from. Patrick Carney did a fantastic job. The opening theme is great too for capturing the loneliness of the characters.

The Characters – The main characters are the strongest part and really help capture themes of purpose and loneliness. There are a few side joke characters who I enjoyed too and listed as pros just because they were so funny.

Neal McBeal the Navy Seal – This characters is funny as he gets into a fight on television when BoJack takes his muffins that he had called. He gets justice though and pulls BoJack onto Mr. Peanutbutter’s reality show to get an apology, though it still gets intense as BoJack tries to get him to support his thoughts in regards to war. BoJack and Neal’s fight on television is one of the show’s funniest moments.

Pinky Penguin – Patton Oswalt plays this nervous Penguin who just wants to see his children. He’s a great character as he is extremely anxious and desperate but manages to pull it all off. He is one of the few completely sympathetic characters in the show.

Princess Carolyn – Amy Sedaris is hilarious is Princess Carolyn…BoJack’s agent who is all about her work and has an on and off relationship with him. She’s ruthless and great and at the end of the day truly cares about BoJack. Her arc is becoming top of her game and moving on from BoJack as we see her start dating again after Diane’s book is successful and her and BoJack begin making the “Secretariat” movie.

Todd Chavez – Aaron Paul is great as BoJack’s live-in roommate who is always doing drugs and partying. He has a great mind though and we see that BoJack keeps him down which leads to him leaving BoJack which leads to a somewhat establishing of boundaries when they become friends again. He’s the character who is successful when he tries.

Mr. Peanutbutter – Mr. Peanutbutter is overly positive and can be a bit of a dick like BoJack though he super loyal if he likes you. He is a fun character, though he doesn’t really have an arc beyond marrying Diane after getting over his insecurities of failing in his marriage. I like the character and think is a great contrast to both Diane and BoJack. Paul F. Thompkins does a good job.

Diane Nguyen – Diane is my favorite character on the show. She’s the ghost writer who writers BoJack’s memoir and helps him see all the dark things about himself he denies. She is also a bit of an outcast and comes from a pretty loud and abusive family. Her arc is finishing the book, getting over her fears of failure and commitment and marrying Mr. Peanutbutter and establishing boundaries and friendship again with BoJack after he kisses her. I can’t wait to see where her arc goes next season.

BoJack – BoJack came from an abusive family so became a celebrity because he just wanted to be loved. He’s narcissistic, egotistical and cruel but can also be kind and vulnerable. We see all of this over the course of the season and his arc is being honest with himself and accepting how alone he feels. He gets his dream role though of playing Secretariat, who was his idol as a kid who killed himself when he cheated at racing. Curious where BoJack’s arc is going to go as we see him admit to his mistakes and actually grow a little.

Loneliness – Loneliness is a major theme. All our characters are and deal with it in different ways. Diane with Mr. Peanutbutter, Carolyn with work, BoJack with women, drinks and acting and Todd with drugs. It’s a powerful theme that the show executes really well.

Good People? – One of the main questions of the show is the question of good people existing. The shows answer to that is no as egos get in the way and people are only their base selves. I agree to some degree but also think the show contradicts itself when we get the times of depth from characters like Diane and BoJack who are more than their traumatic childhood and hurt.

Okay: Side Characters – There are a few celebrity side character but I didn’t really see them as characters. They felt like guest appearances rather than characters within the narrative. From Colbert as a Frog and Naomi Watts as herself…they existed for the sake of the plot and that was it.

Sarah Lynn – She the former child star from “Horsin’ Around” gone crazy with drugs and that is the extent of her character. She brings out the worst of BoJack’s tendencies and her character never really goes anywhere. She works within the world at least.

The Cons: Early Show Meandering – Early on the show doesn’t feel like it has focus. It establishes are characters are lonely and self destructive but we don’t really get anything beyond that. The story really doesn’t pick up until Diane and BoJack start developing their relationship and that is where the solid arcs begin.

  This was a great show, even though it didn’t really find it’s footing till about a third of the way through. By that point though I was in and wanted to see what happened to the characters and how their relationships would unfold. The characters and themes are really what make this show great and in my Top 3 American Animated Shows currently though I’d still put “Gravity Falls” ahead of it. This shows gets my recommendation and I can’t wait to watch the next season.

Final Score: 9.3 / 10