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 4 – Of Lost Innocence and No One Being Born Broken

  “Bojack Horseman” Season 4 is the best season of the show thus far. It is easily one of the most depressing but it gives growth to it’s characters and reveals their brokenness in different ways. This season gives dimension and the status quo from past seasons can’t be established again, our characters have changed too much. This is the strength of the show and what really makes the show succeed over past seasons, which have also been great, but not reached these heights.

The story involves Bojack missing for over a year as her rebuilds his childhood home in Michigan as we learn about his Mother Beatrice’s backstory and how she became broken and abusive. Eventually he returns back to L.A. where Mr. Peanutbutter is running for Mayor and Hollyhock comes into his life, believing Bojack to be her father. From here the story unfolds as Bojack has to face his himself as the rest of our characters do the same in their struggles.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Power of Perspective – One of the most powerful aspects of storytelling this season is the power of perspective. We get an episode from Bojack’s point of view where we see his self-destruction from his point of view and self-hatred, we see Beatrice in her decaying mind and the last of her memory as it fades and we see Princess Carolyn dreaming about her story being told by a future ancestor telling her class about how Carolyn had got through the trouble and became a hero. Each one is sad as it humanizes these characters, even as we see them hurting themselves and those around them. The perspective from their point of view gives us an ability to empathize with them, even if we don’t agree with what they may do.

Loss of Innocence and Cycles of Abuse – A major theme this season is loss of innocence and cycles of abuse, and how from it we see why people don’t trust or allow themselves close to others. Whether it is Beatrice witnessing her father’s abuse of her mother and her, her abusive husband and from that how she brings out her brokenness on Bojack which he later brings back on her from the abuse he received as a kid. This is a cycle that most of the main cast is going through but this season lazer focuses on Bojack and Beatrice as the way to show it and it is done amazingly.

Integrity and Change – This is the first season where Bojack finally grows and changes, and he does it by owning his crap. We see this when he takes Princess Carolyn’s contract and thanks her for all she’s done for him and owns how terrible he’s been…we see this in how he still has a relationship with his half-sister Hollyhock after he finds her fathers and tells them about how his mother was the one poisoning her and from that they have a relationship again. He even helps her find out who her mom is, when he’d been not really looking for it because he didn’t want to lose her and just wanted someone else around so he wouldn’t be alone. Bojack owns all of this (really for the first time this series) and he grows. It is because of this he has chance to possibly be friends with Todd and others he has hurt again someday, he finally took the first steps and has changed in recognizable ways.

There was so much that worked about this season and some things that I didn’t write about but will mention here, Todd comes out as asexual and finds a support group of others like him as he becomes empowered and comfortable in his identity and Mr. Peanutbutter and Diane’s relationship falls apart as their ways of showing they care about one another end up falling apart as their core personality strengths and flaws become too much. Seriously, this is a powerful season and one I’d highly recommend if you are already watching the show. There wasn’t anything that brought it down for me.

Final Score: 10 / 10

 

 

“BoJack Horseman” Season 3 – Individually Great Episodes But Overall Narrative and Ending Bring it Down

Bojacks3

   “Bojack Horseman” Season 3 is probably the weakest of the 3 seasons so far. It isn’t bad, by all means it is still great…but after the levels met in the last two seasons this one doesn’t cut it as it ends up suffering from a disjointed narrative and a strange end that feels slightly contrived and doesn’t answer any questions in regards to Bojack and the choices he made this season (or only in the vaguest sense answers those questions). There are some amazing stand alone episodes that are the best of the show so far (that I’ll talk about further down) but overall this season never reached the heights of last season.

      The series was created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg and is a Netflix original show…showing that only does Netflix get drama but it gets animation too as I’ve been watching this season for 3 seasons now and have yet to be dissapointed.

     The main drama this season is Bojack’s destruction of his relationships and his pursuit to win an Oscar for “Secreteriat” all the while dealing with his own inner demons as his friends face theirs and deal with the new relationships in their lives and Bojack.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Animation – The animation is beautiful and is easily one of the things that keeps me coming back to the show. The visuals are smooth and there are a few episodes that illustrate this beautifully.

The Dark Comedy – The dark comedy is still fantastic as our characters are put into and put themselves into awkward situations that reveal their darker sides or the cynical hopeless world they are a part of.

The Characters – The characters are one of the strongest parts of this show and even though I found some character decisions that were chosen to be a little contrived, there was a lot of good especially for characters like Todd.

Mr. Peanutbutter – Mr. Peanutbutter deals with loss for the first time when his brother goes in for surgery, and his kindness finally pays off when a random idea he had of buying a bunch of strainers leads to him rescuing Ocean City and with it getting everything and being a hero in this world. (is next his fall like Bojack’s and Carolyn’s?)

Sextina Aquafina – Is more than just a quick talking pop star…in this we see her use the popularity of her getting an abortion (not really getting one but faking one, Diane Nguyen is the one who is getting one) and in the end when she gets pregnant we see she wants a kid. This character grew on me a lot. Also her music video is hilarious.

Princess Carolyn – Carolyn is pretty much running in circles this season but I like seeing her backstory and how it was in relation to Bojack that she first got inspired to be an agent and it is when he leaves her agency and their friendship ends that she starts it up again after it ends.

Emily – Emily is Todd’s friend and is wonderfully sarcastic and weird. I really like their dynamic as she is explorative and really like Todd and they are similar. You see why they are so close but also how they are so different. Emily has awareness, Todd doesn’t.

Todd – Todd finally calls Bojack out and leaves him after all of it (the last betrayal was sleeping with his best friend Emily) and we learn that he isn’t gay or straight and doesn’t know what he is (sex freaks him out). He is oblivious and overall pretty sweet in this.

Ana Spanikopita – Ana is a powerhouse who is only out for success but is also normal and vulnerable and it makes her relationship with Bojack interesting. She is good at letting go, where he can’t…

Diane Nguyen – Diane like Carolyn is shafted this season. I didn’t feel like she had an arc. Most of what she does is reacting to and being there for Bojack. I like that she helps Mr. Peanutbutter grow and that she shows she is great at social media…but we don’t really learn anything new about her. I still put her as a pro though, I like how she interacts with characters.

Sarah Lynn – In this we see Sarah Lynn’s fall as she eventually dies from a drug overdose after going on a drug and alcoholic rampage with Bojack. This season really showed how alone she was and that because of how popular she was so young…she never got the chance to form real relationships and in the end her only real friend was Bojack after he saw himself as having lost everything.

Bojack – Bojack hurts his friends and loses them and goes on a drug fueled rampage with Sarah Lynn leading to him reopening old wounds, living in his guilt and shame and finally running away. I liked it when he tried but I hate the spiral largely because it hasn’t ended…

You Can’t Fix Everything – Sarah Lynn stays an addict, Bojack regresses to where he was before, Princess Carolyn repeats and Diane treads water…all our characters are broken and can’t be fixed.

“Fish Out of Water” – This episode has no speaking in nearly the entire episode. Everything is told through music and sound and it is beautifully done as Bojack tries to make up with Kelsey for never talking to her after “Secreteriat” failing each time he tries to communicate.

“Brrap Brrap Pew Pew” – A fantastic abortion episode that reveals Sextina has more awareness than she’s given credit for and the power of music and humor to empower against fear as well as the power of narrative as it relates to media. One of my favorite episodes in this entire show.

“Stop the Presses” – This is a great episode exploring Bojack’s selfishness as he sleeps with Todd’s best friend Emily and we see how afraid he is to tell Todd and how that fear dominates him and how for him each new mistake and failure is tied to past ones and it is the reason why he’s forever digging his hole.

The Cons: The Ending – Bojack runs away after it is revealed he was never nominated for an Oscar. His possible daughter calls Carolyn’s new firm and Mr. Peanutbutter is a hero for saving Ocean City from a giant thing of pasta. T

The Way Things Fell Apart – Things seem to be going alright initially but he starts pushing people away after Princess Carolyn fails to get him one of the things he wants for future acting jobs…from here it just spiraled as he couldn’t answer the question of what he’d do after he won the Oscar…I get his guilt complex but this felt contrived.

Pacing and Focus – The pacing felt off this season as it felt like Bojack’s toxic choices didn’t make much sense given the characters around him helping to push him to focus (whether Ana or Carolyn) and even though he didn’t listen and was consumed by guilt…I felt more could have been done to show him doing the work. This felt like Season 1 Bojack and it made the pacing disjointed as it felt like they wanted focus wholly on Bojack or more focused on those around him.

   This season had a lot more cons than the last few seasons of the show but once again, this is a show worth checking out and Season 3 is still gold in so many ways. If you’ve been here this long you’ve gotten to know the characters and some of the ways they change or deal with pain is fascinating as it reveals so much about them. This is also the season we get the most into Bojack’s head, which in many ways made the series weaker in my opinion, but I at least understand why…it’s just a shame that they’d undo all the progress he made last season to show how toxic he is. Much like Walter White or Francis Underwood…he’s a bad guy who has some level of good in him buried under so much bad that you just want him to capture that good and live it more than the bad…given the nature of this show, I don’t know if that will ever happen. I can’t wait to see how it ends though, this season is well worth your time.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

“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