Monday, September 26, 2011

Awesome BREAKING BAD Quotes - "Crawl Space"

Context- and commentary-free moments from this week's episode.

Episode 11, Season 4
airdate: September 25th, 2011
"I don't want to talk about it - to you or to anyone else. I'm done explaining myself."
- Walter White
"I'll tell you what this is about Mr. Beneke. This is about you and me doing our best to keep Huell happy."
"Huell? Who's Huell?"
"This is Huell. Huell, you happy?"
"What would make you unhappy?"
"This little mofo not doing what he's told."
- Saul's other A-team member (played by Bill Burr), Ted Beneke, Huell
"Does the laundry have to be dirty?"
- Walter White, Tyrus Kitt
"Last I asked for your help, you said, 'I hope you end up buried in a barrel in the Mexican desert.'"
- Jesse Pinkman
"If you try to interfere, this becomes a much simpler matter. I kill your wife. I kill your son. I kill your infant daughter."
- Gustavo Fring
"It was an act of God. Ain't no account for no act of God."
- Huell

Monday, September 19, 2011

Awesome BREAKING BAD Quotes - "Salud"

Context- and commentary-free moments from this week's episode.

SPOILER WARNING: Do NOT read the last quote before watching "Salud."

Episode 10, Season 4
airdate: September 18th, 2011
"Tell this asshole if he wants to learn how to make my product, he's gotta do it my way. The right way."
"I speak English."
"So you understand what 'asshole' means. Now go get me my phenylacentic acid, asshole."
- Jesse Pinkman, Cartel Chemist
"I made a mistake. It's my own fault. I had it coming. It's all my fault. I'm just... I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
- Walter White
"Celebrities have to get their cars washed like everybody else."
- Saul Goodman
"Remembering you that way wouldn't be so bad. The bad way would be to remember you the way... the way you've been this whole last year. At least last night you were... you were real."
- Walter White, Jr.
- Gustavo Fring
"Make yourself useful -- find a gun."
- Hitman Mike
"Don Eladio is dead. His capos are dead. You have no one left to fight for. Fill your pockets and leave in peace. Or fight me and die!"
- Gustavo Fring
"Bug" - Episode 9

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Reel Low: Contagion [2011]

Just in time for flu season, Steven Soderbergh brings us a film that will make you seriously consider extreme couponing for hand sanitizer. Contagion [2011] explores one of the bleakest scenarios imaginable -- a disease so powerful, it decimates the population as it escalates into a worldwide pandemic. However, the film does so with such intelligence and command of the subject and drama, that you won't even mind being overcome with germophobia.

We live in a world where the transmission of a new disease has the potential to plague the entirety of humanity in little over a day. So rapidly can it travel the globe and infect millions -- roughly a quarter of the population -- the spread of it even outpaces progress in the search for a cure.

But this blight isn't the only danger sweeping through the world of the film. If one out of every four people are contracting the disease, at least twice that number were fully infected by panic, allowing the moral fabric of society rip apart with rampant looting, rioting and even more extreme measures (like kidnapping and murder) to assuage that fear. These events were often fueled by rumors -- some of which had merit and others entirely unsubstantiated -- but all of which are just as impossible to control in the times we live in as the it would be to cease the spread of a disease of this magnitude. The ripples of terror passing around globe were just as epidemic as the virus itself.

Infused with a barrage of stars and supremely talented character actors in minor roles, Contagion is a vehicle for everyone involved shine. The movie is comprised of multiple storylines, but ultimately they all spin out of one of three main threads. The first is driven by a CDC official played by Laurence Fishburne who is leading the charge at containing, understanding and curing the disease. There's also Matt Damon's portrayal of a husband and father who's painful personal account leads us through the decay of social order in suburbia. And finally the journalist/blogger, conspiracy theorist, and ultimately shrewd opportunist played by Jude Law, who through his incessant rejection of mainstream news leads him to and beyond the horror of the disease from the very beginning.

Unsurprisingly, Soderbergh handles this web of crisscrossing characters and plot masterfully. He ramps up tension early, making you cringe at even the thought of someone coughing on the other side of the theater. And although the film is never quite as suspenseful as those early moments again, it refuses to let your attention wane. At seemingly every perfect moment, he switches to another subplot as you become invested even deeper into the revolving door of the afflicted. Complimenting this progression is the magnetic industrial score from Cliff Martinez, as it made taut scenes even more uneasy and sometimes downright disturbing precisely when it needed to.

However, more than anything else, I adore how Contagion treated the audience as adults. There are a multitude of scenes where highly technical, sciency virus jargon is being dicussed, and thankfully Soderbergh doesn't inject some government stooge in a suit asking, "Explain that in English" at the end of them. Thankfully, he realizes that if you believe the characters understand what they're talking about and they're scarred shitless, we will be too. More filmmakers should take note of that technique.

Forget the Roland Emmerich and Michel Bay CGI extravaganzas of the last 20 years -- this is the sort of disaster movie I prefer, but that's probably because it's more of a procedural than traditional apocalyptic flick. The events depicted are completely plausible, a testament to the stellar script and strong cast. Contagion will creep you out; I know I used my sleeve-covered palms to open the door on my exit from the theater. This is real-world horror on screen.

Pardon me while I seek out a flu shot.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The 2011 Summer TV Report Card

Unlike last summer, I didn't have the time to start up any new shows or catch up on what I am behind on, so there will only be a recap of shows that finished recently. Period dramas and slice-of-life comedies were the prizes of what I was taking in this summer, but there was other good stuff too, as you'll read.
This edition covers shows having ended after June 15th, where my last recaps (part 1 & part 2) ended, through September 12th, 2011.

The Borgias
(Season 1, Showtime)
Who doesn't like a little bloodshed and sex with their papal dynasties? Or, in the case of this show, a lot? Based on the actual exploits of the Borgia family in the late 1400s, Jeremy Irons plays patriarch Rodrigo Borgia with empiric sliminess. I know I should despise him -- you know, with all the nepotism, simony, promiscuity and torturing he engages in -- but ultimately can't. Even more impressive is Fran├žois Arnaud's performance of eldest son, Cesare, whose good intentions tend to go horribly awry, not to mention his nefarious ones. The season started off strong, and before rebounding in the final few episodes, wandered excessively amongst infidelity and familial strife a bit too often for my taste. A second season has been ordered by Showtime.

(Season 1, Starz)
What began as an interesting twist upon the standard Arthurian legend we've seen numerous times over the years on film, quickly descended into a barely watchable clusterfuck in the span of 10 episodes. Plagued by dull writing and poor casting -- particularly with Jamie Campbell Bower as Arthur, who was often outright unlikable as our hero -- and those twists quickly lost their luster. Joseph Fiennes (Merlin) and Eva Green (Morgan Le Fay) could only do so much with what they were given, and usually shone above the remaining elements of the show. However, after the great James Purefoy's early exit, it was largely downhill going forward with too much emphasis on Claire Forlani as Arthur's mother (if anyone knows what the hell happened to her face since the late '90s, please let me know in the comments; botox alone can't be responsible for that mess) and the Arthur/Guinevere tryst epically failing to place two of the three involved in that love triangle in a positive light. However, Camleot's ultimate fate was likely decided when HBO's Game of Thrones, which happened to be airing at the same time, proved to garner vastly superior ratings and critical acclaim. Considering these developments, it's little wonder a second season was not ordered.

Curb Your Enthusiasm
(Season 8, HBO)
Dare I say this wass the best season yet? I really think it was. If you're not a fan of Larry David's humor, nothing here is going to change your mind about him. But for the already converted, revel in his continued brilliance. Single Larry continues to be the great driving force behind the show's resurgence, begun a few seasons ago. The year was also boosted by the mid-season relocation to New York, which gave a slight twist on typical Curb scenarios.

(Season 8, HBO)
Thank God I can finally stop watching this. Had it not been the final slew of episodes, I would've tossed it aside. There were parts of these final eight installments that were actually pretty good (the idea of Bobby Flay as Ari's nemesis was freaking hilarious while it lasted), but most of what I was prepared to applaud was negated after an extremely sloppy finale that was more interested handing out happy endings to our heroes instead of earning them (Drama's and, I suppose, Ari's were acceptable; the others were awful). Had they begun the resolution to these stories a few episodes sooner, I could've bought into them. That's how easy it would've been to get me to buy into it. But the fate of these characters were left to the genius' who didn't think something might be amiss to play Led Zeppelin's "Going to California" as their private jets took off from L.A. in the final moments of the show. *Sigh.*

Falling Skies
(Season 1, TNT)
There's a lot to like about this post-alien invasion drama produced by Steven Spielberg. Decent cast, decent writing and decent production value. Overall, it's a decent show. Nothing wrong with that. The creature work and special effects are pretty darn good actually, which was a nice touch. But I was never excited to see the next episode, probably because it generally played it safe. Battlestar Galactica it is not. It is, however, family friendly and feels like a Spielberg production, which could be either a good thing or a bad thing depending on your preferences. I dug the cliffhanger at the end of the season, and it will be back next summer, so you can expect another report on the show in a year's time.

Game of Thrones
(Season 1, HBO)
Summarizing this one is a challenge. Packed with plot and unafraid to do horrible things to characters you adore, every episode of Game of Thrones was thoroughly enjoyable -- even the ones where you find yourself yelling "NO!" at the screen. This entire season was based upon the first novel in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice series. (I've begun reading it because I'm dying to know what happens next. The differences between the book and show are minor, although the book predictably contains more detail. I still have about 200 more pages to go, however, so that may change.) It's a fantasy series, but not really much like Lord of the Rings and definitely not like some of the other period action/dramas cable pay channels have been broadcasting in recent years.  Curiously, much of the show probably can be boiled down to people literally sitting around talking about shit that went down 20 years ago (without the aid of flashbacks, no less). But even when Game of Thrones does this, it somehow remains riveting. I really think it has something for everyone. There's so much character depth and development for an almost exhaustive list of cast, and they're presented with suburb performances, cinematography and direction. This has quickly become a must-watch show.

The Hour
(Series 1, BBC)
For some reason this was billed as a British Mad Men by mainstream reviewers. Aside from being set in a comparable time period (in this case a few years earlier, in the mid-1950s), being well written and produced, and everyone smoking all the time, there is really nothing the two have in common. A better comparison would probably be to look at it against some of Aaron Sorkin's work. While not at that level, what The Hour excelled at was driving and peppering the narrative with (usually) strong and eloquent dialogue, although not necessarily realistic. But there's a elements of murder mystery and espionage genres mixing in with the forefront subjects of television journalism ingratiating itself with global and national politics of the time. And, since it's a British production, social class is an ever-present theme as well. It was great to see Dominic West (Jimmy McNulty from The Wire) do good work again as on-air anchor Hector Madden. But, for me, Romola Garai stole the show as Bel Rowley. With the Mad Men set up, I immediately identified her as this show's Peggy Olsen, which is an apt correlation, but I found her character to be far more interesting (and you know I love me some Peggy Olsen). Most of the rest of the cast was fantastic as well, and the next installment of the show is high on my watchlist.

(Season 2, FX)
As much as I enjoy Curb Your Enthusiasm, the formula Larry David utilizes for each episode is highly transparent, which is why I can't give it a higher rating. Not so with Louie, which is always unpredictable and constantly hilarious, even in the most gut-wrenching moments of Louie CK's blackest humor. This second season has solidified this show amongst the elite comedies on the air now, and it looks like it'll remain there for the foreseeable future. There's really no need to re-watch previous episodes if you're coming around late to the show, as there's no continuing plot to be concerned with. That is, of course, if you're okay with denying yourself awesome television.

(Season 4, BBC/Starz)
After two mixed bag seasons and a third brilliant one, the Doctor Who spinoff returned with a slew of changes. Unfortunately, the American version of this show really just didn't work for me. It wasn't until I sat down to write this that I realized how much I didn't care about anything that happened on Torchwood: Miracle Day this season, and kinda hated most of the new characters I was supposed to root for. The season's plot -- suddenly no one in the world is able to die and mass chaos ensues, hence the "Miracle Day" subtitle -- was initially an intriguing one, but as the source of that disaster was revealed in such cartoony fashion, it was hard to take any of the real-world implications presented seriously. That said, there was one amazing episode (written by the always great Jane Epenson) shoe-horned into the middle of the season that sorta made watching the others worth it. But it was a flashback episode that ultimately only gave us the first kernel of what the big bad reveal ended up being, as well as a giant red herring that cost another episode, and little else. If Torchwood is to return, could Russell Davies please embrace the time-traveling, tri-sexual adventures of Captain Jack Harkness? I can't imagine I'm the only one who would rather see those than the haphazard yet dull exploits of the new Torchwood team. Hell, let them travel with him if you want to keep it a team show; just make it more interesting. The peices are already there for you. Stop merely alluding to them and make use of what you've created. Whoops. How'd I get onto this soapbox?

(Season 2, HBO)
This is not a show for everyone. While season 2 improved upon stabilizing the narrative structure presented last year, it's still a bit scattered, mainly because there are so many characters covering just about every major walk of life in New Orleans and a few in New York City as well. You could make the argument that David Simon intended to make the show's scrambled nature in season 1 slowly come together mirror life in post-Katrina NOLA, but I think you're giving him a little too much credit. There is no villain. There are just clusters of loosely connected people trying to live their lives in the wake of one of the greatest tragedies to strike our nation in recent memory.

True Blood
(Season 4, HBO)
As much as The Walking Dead tried to make zombies the new vampires last year, those bloodsuckers aren't about to be dethroned just yet, especially if they continue to give us gratuitous action and sex scenes as True Blood is so fond of doing. (And have we really gotten to the point where we want to see nekkid zombies? I think not.) Following last year's expansion of supernatural creatures with werewolves, the addition of witches and magic to the forefront was an excellent decision. There were still usual missteps, most notably spending an insane amount of time with that baby all just to explain that Lafayette had lots of magic mojo, which was obvious before this season anyhow. But to my complete surprise, the show actually wrapped up most of its storylines in satisfactory fashion and set up some of next year's as well (it finally looks like some good Terry and Andy stuff is on the horizon in season 5). All in all, this was the strongest season of True Blood yet, and there's still plenty of things they could improve upon.
I'll be checking back in at the close of the year with what should be another great collection of returning fall shows, including Boardwalk Empire, It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia and, of course, Breaking Bad.
There are some new ones that seem interesting and I'll be checking those out as well (but who knows if they will stick in my rotation), namely Person of Interest, Terra Nova and the American version of Prime Suspect.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Awesome BREAKING BAD Quotes - "Bug"

Context- and commentary-free moments from this week's episode.

Episode 9, Season 4
airdate: September 11th, 2011

"Should I even ask?"
"I wouldn't."
- Walter White, Hitman Mike
"Can you walk? Then get the fuck outta here and never come back."
- Jesse Pinkman

"Hermanos" - Episode 8
"Problem Dog" - Episode 7
"Cornered" - Episode 6

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Awesome BREAKING BAD Quotes - "Hermanos"

Context- and commentary-free moments from this week's episode.

Episode 8, Season 4
airdate: September 4th, 2011

"This is what comes of 'blood for blood,' Hector. Sangre por sangre."
- Gustavo Fring
"Pollos Hermanos, where something delicious is always cooking."
- Gustavo Fring
"It wasn't until the, uh, 5th grade that I found out that she liked me too. But by then, her family had moved to Scottsdale, so... (sigh).  Carpe diem, okay?"
- Saul Goodman
"What if this is like math? Or algebra? You know, you add a plus douchebag to a minus douchebag, then you get, like, zero douchebags."
- Jesse Pinkman
"Look at me, Hector. Look. At. Me.
Maybe next time."
- Gustavo Fring

"Problem Dog" - Episode 7
"Cornered" - Episode 6

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Fuzz Box - A Genres & Judgements Mixture

Hey, look! A post without "breaking" in the title.

Had to make a sudden trip out of town, so I won't be able to devote much time to this week's post as I had planned. Fortunately, a reflection upon the state of Marvel's Ultimate Comics line can wait a little while. So here's a quick mix of songs I've been listening to over the last month or so instead. I needed to put some tunes together for my trip anyhow, so yadda-yadda...two birds. The next mixture will get a proper breakdown of each song, I promise.

Description and track list available after the jump.