Jeff gets good and bad news about Vivian
Henry manages to get inside Shawshank to meet with the feral inmate found in the basement. Alan Pangborn harbours secrets.
Ulrich discovers life shattering secrets from his past. Jonas searches the caves using maps left by his father.
Elliot wakes up to a new relationship with Ray. The attack in China has repercussions all the way back to America.
Foxtel’s The Kettering Incident
Episode 3: “The Search”
Directed by Steve Krawitz
Written by Cate Shortland
* For a review of Episode 2, “The Lights” – click here
* For a review of Episode 4, “The Mill” – click here
Out among the forest surrounding Kettering, moths float about, and at home Dr. Anna Macy (Elizabeth Debicki) feels as if she can literally see the air around her. She continues to record everything in her notebook. She’s in the bed of Fergus Mcfadden (Henry Nixon). Meanwhile, Fergus has found the cellphone of missing Chloe (Sianoa Smit-McPhee). He brings it to Max and Barbara Holloway (Damien Garvey/Sacha Horler), the parents, and her brother Adam (Brad Kannegiesser) is there to hear the news, too. They have somewhere to begin now. Although they hvae no idea where the road is headed.
Anna has to contend with Dt. Brian Dutch (Matthew Le Nevez) asking all sorts of questions re: Chloe. We know his intentions. However, even without knowing everything Anna has a sixth sense about guys like him.
On the cell, Fergus listens to the voicemail from Chloe, the terrifying message. He questions Eliza Grayson (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) about whether it’s a joke. She is a good pretender. A faker, really. She doesn’t realise that tihs time, Chloe isn’t faking. What we’re seeing is the hysteria in Kettering: “I guess I just wanted to be a part of it,” says Eliza. All a sham.
Bad boy Dutch is over to see Dane Sullivan (Dylan Young) about the rest of his drugs. Now the young guy is on the hook for $10K, and the dirty cop’s not exactly the forgiving kind. He has jobs to do that need a hand. Just great.
Anna heads back to her father Roy’s (Anthony Phelan) place. She finds a map marked with spots in the Kettering forest. Out there people are searching for Chloe. A base camp is setup, all sorts of operations. When Anna winds up there nobody is exactly welcoming. Not after all that’s happened. Although she manages to muscle her way into Deb Russell’s (Alison Whyte) vehicle for a ride up to where the search parties are moving. On the way they hit a small kangaroo. Deb watches on as Anna puts the creature out of its misery with a rock to the head. Chilling, though only because Deb sees this as creepy herself. We know Anna’s probably the least capable of murder in ole Kettering.
Nobody at the search is pleased to have Anna there, not even Papa Roy. Doesn’t help she has blood all over her hands, literally. She gets the cold welcome from Craig Grayson (Ben Oxenbould) and others, as well as the semi-longing star of activist Jens Jorgensson (Damon Gameau). Nevertheless, everyone heads into the woods, protective gear on, police with their dogs alongside.
Between the trees Anna sees something red. She starts hearing noises, seeing lights in the woods. She gets stuck in the mud, calling out for “Gillian” but it’s only Adam there to comfort her surprisingly.
Dutch is at the Holloway place. Of all people to be leading that side of the investigation. Not only is he dirty, he and Barbara have an affair going on. He gathers up a piece of clothing, talks about combing through Chloe’s social media accounts. Then once he gets a moment to himself in her room he finds the package for which he’s looking so frantically. All the while Eliza has her eye on Barb and Dutch.
Husband Max is just numb. And perhaps there’s a bigger worry behind all that. We know there is a lot more to Max. Likely something sinister down the pipes.
When Adam takes Anna back to the search site, Roy shoos his daughter away. Typical. There’s only more suspicion and paranoia for Ms. Macy. Even her own father doesn’t know what to think of her innocence, or guilt. The whole town is leaning her way mostly. In some way. For Roy’s part he seems to have something to hide, too. He was a cop, sure. There are further skeletons, though.
Anna secretly discovers Deb’s cancer, seeing the chemo implant on her chest. She also suggests Anna’s attitude “sucks” and that changing it may help her fit in. But further than that Anna finds out more about the Dr. Fiona McKenzie (Kris McQuade) with whom she was trying to speak at the hospital recently. Turns out she works as a tour guide at a prison nearby.
Over at the mill, Roy lets Max know the search is over for the day. He also talks about the Sullivan place. There’s more to that land than just the UFO sightings. Something else happened out there.
Dutch goes through Chloe’s computer. He finds videos on the presence of alien life, et cetera. Also there are pictures of him, all over Kettering. She kept a nice visual log of his comings and goings. At least for a little while. Smart girl. Now, the detective heads things off with his access to her things. Sketchy, dude.
Finally, Anna goes to see Dr. McKenzie and finds out lots more. “Things started happening,” she tells Anna. “Strange cancers” and all sorts of other things. One of those cases includes Deb. All of Kettering both threatened Dr. McKenzie, plus labelled her crazy. She knew Chloe had nosebleeds. She knows more than she even lets on to Anna, only warning she ought to leave. Now. Afterwards, Anna winds up talking with Fergus across the bar, as Dutch keeps his eagle eye trained on them. She tries getting to Gillian’s files, to dive deeper into the investigation herself. Sadly, Fergus can’t understand the greater significance of what’s been happening in their quaint town all these years.
Renae Baxter (Suzi Dougherty) continues believing her daughter Gillian is out there. Her man Travis (Kevin MacIsaac) is not at all interested in entertaining those thoughts, to the detriment of their relationship. When she calls him “simple minded” and a “leech” this is more than his fragile masculinity can take. He beats her. A real piece of shit. We see a better side to Dutch, as he responds to a call that brings him to Renae’s place. His mother was a battered woman. Well, Renae is tragically typical, not wanting anyone to know. Especially not the police. Travis doesn’t respond too kind to Dutch, as he knows about the detective and his drug dealing. But Dutch isn’t a pushover. He threatens the guy, fatally, if there are any more domestic abuse calls.
To the Holloways goes Anna. She brings a bottle of wine, looking to know if Chloe had any strange marks on her skin anywhere. Barb doesn’t remember anything specific, eventually wanting her out. Although Max is a little more reasonable, it’s probably best for them all. Upstairs, Eliza is dressed in Chloe’s pyjamas, and there’s an odd moment between her and Max. An almost eerie look from him, though that could just be my eye.
Then Anna makes a big mistake. She has sex with Dutch. Or at least begins the lead into it before getting a nosebleed. In the couch, Anna finds a necklace; you know which one. This gets her quite suspicious. Immediately that puts Dutch in aggressive mode, defensive. The questions from Anna start to shed light on his shady behaviour. Glad she didn’t fall into bed with this guy.
Dutch: “Why did you come back?”
Anna: “It‘s my home”
Dutch: “You don‘t have a home”
The reoccurring “Crimson and Clover” interest comes from Anna and Gillian having loved the song, recording their own version on a tape she carries with her. Roy isn’t pleased with his daughter’s attitude or behaviour. He doesn’t like that Anna went to talk to Dr. McKenzie. You just know there is something more to it all, that Roy knows more than he leads on. He tries to push his daughter away from home, but she is not leaving. We discover more about how Renae and Roy had an affair, which is a sore spot for him. He drives Anna out his house after she brings it up.
Next day the search continues on. Roy finds Anna gone, elsewhere. Anywhere. Barb and Max spend their days apart staring out separate windows; her at home, him busy over at the mill trying to keep his mind occupied. In a pile of logs, the body of Chloe is found. Right under the nose of her father. So god damn sad.
One truly intense episode. A great chapter in this mini-series. Love this show! Great drama, lots of mystery. I dig when a show can draw things out properly, and the writers are doing a fantastic job. Next episode is titled “The Mill” and it looks extremely intense.
James White. 2015. Directed & Written by Josh Mond.
Starring Christopher Abbott, Cynthia Nixon, Scott Mescudi, Ron Livingston, Makenzie Leigh, David Call, David Cale, Benjamin Brass, Lori Burch, Scott Cohen, Adriana DeGirolami, Jeanette Dilone, David Harris, Rosemary Howard, & Sue Jean Kim. BorderLine Films/Relic Pictures.
Rated R. 85 minutes.
Producer Josh Mond has been behind a few really excellent films such as Martha Marcy May Marlene, Afterschool, and others, as well as the upcoming Christine (not a Carpenter remake). His first feature film, James White, is a little flawed, but overall an honest, raw look at the life of a New York City Millenial stuck in a brutal situation between trying to reign in his own childish behaviour and taking care of his very sick mother, all after the death of his father. In a day and age where many young people are starting to deal with the death of parents, just as every generation has before them, this is certainly a film with huge impact.
Often the battle against cancer is portrayed in an almost romanticized way. Many movies will show the devoted individuals caring for their sick loved ones as unabashed caregivers, noble, nearly saint-like. Instead of the cliched, emotionally manipulative picture many mainstream Hollywood movies paint, James White is the portrait of a young man, imperfect and stubborn, whose life is upended. He becomes caretaker to his mother while also trying to discern his own place in the world. Along the way we watch his destructive self unfolding in the emotional massacre of his life. There are portions of this film that are genuinely sweet and beautiful. Still, the ugly side of love in a time of disease is on display to make sure the honest truth never slips from our memory.
The center of this film, above its gritty real life feel, are the two major performances from Cynthia Nixon and Christopher Abbott. I mean, honestly, this doesn’t have to be your cup of tea. Although, if it doesn’t move you there may be parts of your insides made of concrete. Immediately we’re drawn into the reality of this story because of cinematographer Mátyás Erdély (Son of Saul, Miss Bala), his natural feeling lens hooks the eye. We’re able to drop into the perspective of the main character James because the camera follows closely behind him, near him, hovering over his shoulders constantly. So once we’re put in that position, Abbott’s talent further pierces us. He is enigmatic, and at the same time upfront. He’s enigmatic because there are things he’s not saying, leaving below the surface, as the drinking problem and everything else, his bravado, masks what’s truly going on. Simultaneously, the camera lets him be upfront because we see his darkest moments. And under all that machismo, there’s a sensitive part which eventually breaks through those barriers. Abbott is able to give us all the aspects of James that makes him interesting. They’re not always easy to watch, nor are they enjoyable. Sometimes you want to smack him and scream into his entitled face. But always, always he is able to command your attention with a brave, truthful performance.
Added to Abbott is the fantastic(ally underrated) Nixon. Her performance is even more exceptional, simply because of the condition she portrays. Her character, Gail, is often difficult, though loving, and many other opposites. Because the disease is ravaging her. It’s the way she shows us the disease which is powerful. It will stop you, freeze your eyes to the screen. One in particular sees her unable to speak, as she says later her brain couldn’t get the words to her mouth, and that moment between her and James is extraordinarily gripping. You’ll almost want to hold your breath.
Ultimately, the two performances together, the relationship between James and his mother, this is what drives the film. I love the look and feel of it all, but these are what makes the whole thing worth it. The threat of cancer and disease is something we all know, and if not yet then someday soon. It touches everybody. To examine the issues – such as how a child might end up having to totally care for a sick parent in an event like James experiences – can really turn heartbreaking. And no doubt, James White both character and film will break your heart to pieces.
A major aspect of why this movie is intense lies in the decision to look at how a young man out of the Millenial Generation is forced to cope with a parent dying. There are so many dumb think-pieces in the media these days, so many ridiculous opinions about the younger generations today, that we’re often forced into believing there are no serious issues at stake for Millenials – and so you know, I just barely fall into this category being born in 1985. With an intensely emotional screenplay by director-writer Mond, this movie allows us a window into a microcosm of that generation. Left with one parent, whose time is numbered due to cancer, James is confronted with trying to make dreams into reality. He’s a struggling young man that wants to be a writer, though circumstances in his life throw him into complete chaos. In an already bad economy, being a writer is a tough life decision; one I know all too well personally, being a writer (I don’t only write reviews). With his father gone, his mother on the way out, he’s almost got a limited amount of time to construct his life. And with so much time spent being there for his mother, he’s had no time to concentrate on getting himself better, he has neglected his best interests. While there’s a noble aspect to that, he is left with a gaping abyss ahead of him, and with no one there to help guide him.
This is a film about cancer, the effects it brings down upon those caring for a sick loved one. It also comes at a time where people in their twenties can relate. Because even as the older generations start to die out (Gail here is not particularly old though) and make way in a sense for the younger ones, there is an element of loss, aside from personal loss, because now we are the ones left to guide the way forward, to steer the future. And like in the case of James, not everyone is ready for the burden.
Absolutely a 4-star experience, from the cinematography and its hyperreal atmosphere, to the directing and the screenplay from Josh Mond. Hopefully Mond will go on to do more directing, apart from his great track record as producer. He is talented, and the personal nature of his writing shines through, even if things are grim, uncertain throughout. James White is difficult but necessary cinema in many ways. Aside from its raw look at something which affects us all, this film really speaks to a passing of the torch, willingly or not, from parents to children. And the torch will pass, no matter if its ugly, or if it passes silently in bed during the night.
AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 1, Episode 5: “Gray Matter”
Directed by Tricia Brock
Written by Patty Lin
* For a review of the previous episode, “Cancer Man” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Crazy Handful of Nothin'” – click here
The fifth episode of Breaking Bad opens with Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) circulating his “curriculum vitae” – his words – to try and get a sales position. Only it’s not what he thinks; more so an advertising gig. One that involves putting on a big dollar bill costume and waving a sign. After walking out, Jesse finds his old friend Badger (Matt Jones) is doing the job currently. They end up smoking a joint together. A little talk and Jesse starts thinking more and more back to his amazing meth, the stuff he made with Walter White (Bryan Cranston). Badger wants to partner up and make a bunch, though, Jesse seems to want a normal life. It doesn’t look like it’s in the cards for him, all the same. He pours through the classifieds, but then heads back to see Badger. His decision’s made, I guess.
In Walter’s world, he and Skyler (Anna Gunn) are going to a party thrown by Gretchen and Elliott Schwartz (Jessica Hecht/Adam Godley) – the old partners he worked with in his real chemist days, before teaching high school. Elliott’s birthday is well underway with all sorts of people. A few awkward moments pass where Walt is introduced to others, his role in Grey Matter, the company Elliott and Gretchen run, is talked of then he has to slyly get through a man asking which university is it where he teaches now. Most of all, we get the impression of Walt’s supposed missed opportunities, all that sort of thing. Not that Walt has a bad life. He just has shit luck, now compounding with the fact he didn’t stay with Grey Matter. Although, there are many slight clues as to why he didn’t, and those are things we come to find out more of later, as well. For the moment, Walt ends up pissed. We understand the connection he and Elliott had once upon a time, but Skyler ends up telling the man about Walt and his cancer. Bad move, at least in Walt’s eyes. He’s a proud man, and when Elliott offers him a job, it’s more than Walt can handle; a sort of peace offering, a “fig leaf” (olive branch, Walt?), to bridge their troubled relationship. He knows what it’s for – not to help, rather a way for Elliott to assuage any guilt about the company, what happened between them all those years ago, and so on.
When Badger and Jesse get together in the Winnebago, the change in Pinkman is obvious. He’s been touched by the partnership with Mr. White. Even if it’s not immediately clear to him, as it is to us. First, he corrects Badger on the different beakers and “basic chemistry, yo“. Very similar to how Walt had to initially show Jesse a few things when they started cooking. But now Jesse is back to the lower class, if meth cooking can ever be considered anything except low. They use a ton of ingredients Badger had to lift from pharmacies around town. Plus, Jesse has to do everything properly, the way Walt showed him. While Badger jokes around with a crossbow, eats cheesies, and a ton of ridiculous stuff. More than that, Jesse is not pleased with their final product. It’s glass grade stuff, but not as perfect as he and Mr. White made originally. He constantly regurgitates lines from Walt, such as the fact their customers will expect a certain “standard“, all the time Badger is freaking out over the meth Jesse keeps throwing out. Later on, they fight. Badger ends up thrown from the Winnebago trying to crossbow the R.V., as Jesse takes off through the desert.
Cut to Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) and his friends outside a convenience store. Of his three friends, Walt Jr has to go ask a guy if he’ll buy them beer. Turns out he’s an off-duty cop. What luck, right? Well, luckily for Jr he decides to call Uncle Hank (Dean Norris) instead of Walt. Hank helps him out of the situation, but cautions maybe Jr should’ve called his father: “Not cool,” says Hank. At the White house, Skyler isn’t impressed with her son. Hank and Marie (Betsy Brandt) try to put her at ease. They all have a talk about Walt, where it finally comes out he was smoking pot, and not Jr, which Marie believed. Laughing, Hank comments: “Shit. Didn‘t think he had it in him.” But Skyler decides they have to stage a sort of “family meeting“, or “intervention” as Marie calls it, so that they can all tell him how they feel about his refusing treatment.
The family all meet. Except Walt is adamant – he will not be having treatment. Everyone has their say, including Jr who calls his father “a pussy“. At the same time, Hank and Marie sort of understand Walter and his decision, to die on his own terms, in his own way.
Not too long after the family sit-down, Walt agrees to go for treatment. He realizes the massive hole he will leave financially, but more so he sees the emotional hole. He knows how deeply Skyler loves him, same with Jr, and so he agrees reluctantly, bravely. Walt lies and tells Skyler that Elliott will be sending a cheque, or at least that he’ll “take care of it“. We all know what’s about to come down the pipe shortly. Regardless, now we watch Walter begin the treatments for his lung cancer. It isn’t gruesome, there’s simply something about watching him get strapped into the plastic bag-looking contraption that makes me feel weird. Always has, each time I watch.
Then, before the episode closes and after his treatment, Walter pulls up in front of Jesse’s house. His eyes are full of regret and an unsure instability, yet he forges on. Before that, though, he gets a call on his cell from Gretchen. She’s heard of “the cancer” and offers more of their help, which Walt does not want. She wants him to take the money for the treatment, saying that money belongs to him anyways. Now, we hear of the “you and me” between Walt and Gretchen, something we briefly saw in an earlier episode where the two of them worked on a problem together. He lies to Gretchen about being covered by his insurance. We understand more why Walt won’t take the money; it isn’t simply business, it is very personal.
“Wanna cook?” asks Walt, as Jesse comes bursting from his garage, sort of pissed.
The next episode is titled “Crazy Handful of Nothin'” and brings us closer to the end of this first season.
AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 1, Episode 4: “Cancer Man”
Directed by Jim McKay
Written by Vine Gilligan
* For a review of the previous episode, “…And the Bag’s in the River” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Gray Matter” – click here
Agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) introduces a new operation for the DEA. They have their eyes on Krazy-8, whose car was found in the desert recently with high-grade meth in it. Turns out, he was ratting on people. They’re both missing, which we know already. But the focus here is the methamphetamine – purest their lab “has ever seen“. The gas mask found out there tested for the same grade meth.
Amazing editing here. Cutting from Hank talking about a new kingpin in the city to Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in his tighty whiteys, brushing his teeth like a dummy and looking hilarious, it is absolute genius. Makes all the difference for the writing and a juxtaposition for us to see what irony there is in this statement.
At the White residence, everyone is having a nice barbecue. Walt and Hank are poolside by the grill, as Skyler (Anna Gunn) and Marie (Betsy Brandt) are sitting in the shade, the latter having a drink. The happy family is happy, though, Skyler eyes Walt; not suspiciously, but with a sad eye. At the end of the previous episode he was about to reveal something to her. She knows something now, and it weighs on her. Heavy. In fact, as the story of Skyler meeting Walt for the first time (over crossword puzzles) comes out from his lips, she breaks down slightly and their strong front is weakened. Walt then tells everybody what’s been going on: he has terrible cancer. Everyone is obviously shocked, Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) is devastated. Worse than that is the fact Walt hid it from his family so long, a whole month. He’s just such a strong, independent type. He doesn’t want people doting on him, worrying, and most of all he doesn’t seem like a person who wants other people to make his decisions. Walter is a man of principle, despite his faults. When Hank says “I‘ll always take care of your family“, you can see the look on Walt’s face; an appreciation is there, but the fact is he wants to take care of them. Only him.
Walt: “You know I, I just think, that ah, things have a way of working themselves out.”
Jesse (Aaron Paul) introduces his friends Combo (Rodney Rush) and Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) to the new product he and Walt cooked up. Now, the meth is out there. It’s already digging claws into addicts. Even Jesse alone, who we find in the next scene alone by the window, paranoia running wild as he peers outside, smoking another bowl. The editing again here is perfect. It brings out his paranoia so well. Then he has a vision of two bikers coming up over his lawn wielding weapons. This entire sequence really plays with your head for a few seconds before you figure out what’s actually happening – two Mormons are knocking at the door, leaving a pamphlet when nobody answers. Meth psychosis is real, folks.
Tending to the plate shard wound in his leg at home, Walt uses a bit of glue to seal the wound, patching a bandage over top. Then a little blood seeps through his pant leg. The whole time he coughs and hacks over the sink. His double life is ever so slowly, like the blood through his pants, soaking into the fabric of his regular life, Skyler just outside the door knocking and wondering what’s going on.
More money piles up in debt at Walt’s door, as Skyler and Marie have hooked up a five-star oncologist to give a second opinion on the lung cancer. There is a further need for money now, worse than before. This will likely drive Walter back to the meth instead of staying away from Jesse and that entire world. The double life reels him back in. For the time being, he uses money from the stash in a vent, conveniently in the baby’s new room.
We see Walt have a run-in with a guy who steals his parking spot. Well, there’s no confrontation, only a pissed of Walt left waiting in the lot. Inside the bank this guy talks loud enough to fill the room, everybody noticing his obnoxious nature, which isn’t easy to ignore. Walt eyes him with an evil eye, then goes about his business. This is not a red herring, a passing thing. We’ll come back to this guy and his vanity license plate.
Cut to Jesse falling all over the patio furniture at his parents’ house. They’re not overly thrilled to see him. His younger brother is a vastly different person than Jesse. Although, it’s clear the parents haven’t given up on their oldest boy. He is no doubt a disappointment, especially considering all the stuff they don’t know, even while they know a good deal. Still, if they could see what he’s been doing they might never look at him in the eyes again. They clearly worry for him. Jesse wants to try setting things right with his parents, after the events of the first few episodes have rocked his soul to the core. But they’re reluctant to just dive right into forgiving him, letting him do what he surely does every time. With one scene we feel the history of the family, so evident and in your face. Again as I’ve said plenty already the writing in this series from Vince Gilligan has been something special.
Parallel to Jesse and his family there’s Walt and his own. The opposite situation. They’ve all watched Walt live his life as a straight and narrow type of guy. Suddenly, he’s transforming into a starkly difference human being. Seeing the two characters of Jesse and Walt go through their separate yet oddly similar troubles, it’s a great way to bring out the life in them. We feel bad for Walt, even if he is resorting to criminal activity; his situation sucks. Likewise, even though Jesse is a bit of a washout, smoking meth and cooking it, generally going nowhere, you feel bad because now we’re seeing more of him – who he used to be, before drugs took him. As a former drug addict, I know what it’s like to change, and see the person you once were. Strangely enough, Jesse finds an old chemistry test he failed, big red marker on it from Mr. White. Then after all this beginning of growth, our feelings for Jesse starting to rise, Combo calls and needs some of the new meth. Tempting Jesse away from any thoughts of trying to change.
Jesse goes to Walter’s place, after the “ball breaker” leaves. He wants to have a little meeting with Walt, to “touch base“. Only it turns out Jesse has a bunch of money, and everyone is loving their meth. To an extreme. Junkies on the street are already dying for more of the product, they want, need, any and all of it. Seems as if Jesse’s fleeting dreams of something more were exactly that. Now he only wants to do more cooking.
And perhaps the $4,000 from the initial batch might start to change Walt’s mind, too.
At the same time, Walt also goes to meet the new doctor. He’s told about great, supposedly effective treatments at the clinic aimed towards prolonging life. What we’re seeing now is Walt having to make a choice: chemotherapy, or no chemotherapy. It is a tough choice, no doubt. Problem being others want to try and make it for him. He doesn’t feel in control, yet this is one way he can control his life; by choosing to not do something, if that’s what he truly wants. His family, obviously, is concerned.
Over at the Pinkman house, the maid finds a joint. Everyone assumes it belongs to Jesse. His parents confront him. Then after all sorts of argument, Jesse discovers the weed belonged to his little brother, the angelic little boy nobody expected. Jesse takes the fall, but also crushes the joint instead of giving it to his brother. An admirable moment here from a guy nobody seems to want to help. He’s a lone wolf.
The White family has a confrontation over Walt’s decision to possibly not seek treatment. Walt Jr is upset, as is Skyler. They want him alive. He just doesn’t really want to go that route, having to hook up to chemo, to suffer through all that brings on. He also is afraid of the money, not wanting to leave his family in crippling debt. “Then why don‘t you just fucking die already?” Walt Jr yells at his father. “Just give up and die.”
Walt coughs blood into his hand a little while later while driving. It just so happens this nasty surprise brings a better one. Pulling into a parking lot, Walt ends up seeing the tool from earlier: KEN WINS, on his license plate. The man parks at a gas station, still talking on his Bluetooth headset. Walt saunters over to the pump and picks up the windshield squeegee, pops the hood and jams the thing inside. It sparks, creating fire. It explodes, as Walt walks back to his vehicle and heads out.
Maybe Walt can’t control cancer. Maybe he can’t beat it. For now, he’ll take settling up with one of the world’s assholes.
Next episode is titled “Gray Matter”. We’ll start to get more into the family dynamics and the cancer diagnosis, as well as the series starts to bring in more of Walt’s life from earlier on after former research partners reach out to try and help funding his treatment. Stay with me.
AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”
Directed & Written by Vince Gilligan
* For a review of the following episode, “Cat’s in the Bag…” – click here
A large Winnebago is barreling down a road out in the desert surrounding New Mexico. Inside there’s a man driving wearing a gas mask and only tighty whitey underwear, in the passenger seat is a passed out man wearing the same (gas mask; not tighty whiteys). After a minor crash, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) runs out and frantically, at the sound of sirens, records a message to his family, tears in his eyes. Then he heads out onto the road confidently, with only a shirt and underwear on, brandishing a gun at the sound nearing him.
Intense opener to a favourite show of mine.
Walt: “My name is Walter Hartwell White. I live at 308 Negra Arroyo Lane, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 87104. To all law enforcement entities, this is not an admission of guilt. I am speaking to my family now.”
Switching gears, we’re back with Walter lying in bed next to his sleeping wife Skyler (Anna Gunn). There are baby things everywhere. Colour swatches, likely for a baby’s room. On his wall in another room are commendations for scientific work in his name. In the morning, Skyler has a cute 50 spelled in veggie bacon over his eggs – Happy Birthday. Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) isn’t impressed with that.
At school, Walt drops his son off. Inside, he teaches chemistry to uninterested teenagers. We’ve all been in that position, as teens; I’m sure chemistry teachers know the feeling on the other side. Then there’s the real dick kid who makes it tough on Mr. White, if only for a moment. Part-time Walt also works for a caterpillar-browed man named Bogdan Wolynetz (Marius Stan). Humiliatingly enough the dick student from earlier ends up having his car cleaned by Walt after Bogdan needs him to do a bit of extra work.
It’s after this event, on the way home, we see a great subtle little moment with Walt alone in the car – his glovebox will not close and he repeatedly bangs it up, frustrated. Sort of symbolizes his life at the moment.
A surprise party really does take Walt by surprise at home, late to his own party. Skyler’s sister Marie (Betsy Brandt) is there, along with her husband Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) and a ton of others. Everyone’s drinking and having fun. Meanwhile, the loud and boisterous Hank gives a toast to the birthday boy. Then quickly brings everyone to the television where he’s on talking about a big bust. Here is the first mention of meth we see in Breaking Bad. The seizure was big, tons of money. Walt takes notice. Even further, Hank tells him to get a bit of “excitement in your life” offering to take him out on a raid someday. Later, Skyler flicks around on her laptop in bed while trying to jerk Walt off with one hand.
The next day at work Walt has a short coughing fit, which puts him on his face in the car wash. He wakes up in an ambulance with an EMT asking if he smokes cigarettes and Walt has laboured, heavy breaths. Tests at the hospital lead to a cancer diagnosis, naturally leaving the poor guy reeling: inoperable lung cancer.
Only Walt can’t help but focus on the doctor’s mustard stained white overcoat. Then he’s back at home, not telling his wife about what happened yet. Slowly, things begin to feel different for Walt. He’s outside himself almost. Nothing else is important compared to the whopper of a diagnosis he received.
Walt: “Fuck you, Bogdan.”
Walt: “I said fuck you, and your eyebrows! Wipe down this.”
Quitting his part-time job at the wash, Walt has Hank and his partner Steve Gomez (Steve Michael Quezada) take him for a ride along. They stay stashed outside a house supposedly run by a Captain Cook: he puts a dash of chili powder in his methamphetamine. A SWAT team shows up from the DEA, busting the place in. Out in the jeep, Walt gets information on the way meth operations run, et cetera, from an eager Hank.
But when Hank and Steve head in for a minute, a guy in his underwear slips out the top window of the house, pulling on pants while falling off the roof. A familiar face to Mr. White – former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). He takes off in his car, license plate THE CAPN.
Walt catches up with Jesse later, the latter covering his car to avoid any heat. The older of the two makes an offer to “partner up” in the meth business. Walt’s looking for a quick payday cooking crystal.
The relationship between Jesse and Walt in this episode is perfect. “Did you learn nothing from my chemistry class?” asks Walt. “No,” replies Jesse, “you flunked me. Remember?”. As a scientist, Mr. White wants to do things perfectly, to make the most excellent product on the market. Only problem is they need a proper place to cook. Jesse knows someone needing to sell a Winnebago. Supposedly. Handing over every last bit of his money to Jesse, Walt puts his trust in him.
Jesse: “Nah, come on, man. Some straight like you, giant stick up his ass all a sudden at age, what, 60, he‘s just gonna break bad?”
Walt: “I‘m 50”
We start to see a tough side to Walt when he and his wife take Walt Jr out to get clothes. Some people are making fun of Junior who has trouble trying on some pants, due to problems with his disability. But Walt takes the guy down from behind, grinding his foot into the guy’s knee on the floor. He intimidates the guy and his friends, who leave. Junior looks impressed with his father. Is this the change in Walter budding?
Cut to Jesse and Walt out in the desert with a Winnebago. This is their new place to cook. Walt starts to take his clothes off and Jesse’s a little weirded out. In they go with Walt in his tighty whiteys. They start to get things ready and the cook begins. The yield? Glass grace crystal meth.
Jesse: “This is art, Mr. White.”
Trying to sell some of their new work, Jesse goes to see an acquaintance, Krazy-8 (Max Arciniega). Their meeting happens to be a bit tense, ending in a sequence which will bring us back to the episode’s opener.
With Jesse along, Krazy-8 and his cousin go to see Walt with a bag of cash. Not exactly friendly, though. When the cousin, Emilio, recognizes Walt from being with DEA Agents Schrader and Gomez, things go sideways. Using a bit of basic chemistry, Walt outwits the would-be captors and locks them inside the Winnebago until they suffocate, or at least pass out. Grabbing a passed out Pinkman, the panicking Walt tries to tame a fire started from Emilio tossing a cigarette earlier.
Now, we’re back in the driver’s seat with Walt at the start of the pilot.
I love everything about the episode. Because how it’s filmed has a certain charm to it: both visually appealing, though, it’s not overly complex most of the time. The music, both soundtrack and score, is totally fun. And the plot is just incredibly wild, as well as darkly humorous. This episode sets up a ton of things to come in a vivid, interesting fashion.
A final shot sees Walt running money through his dryer. Then crawl into bed, late, to a worried Skyler. This new life, plus the cancer, is creating a divide between them already. It’s bound to widen. For now, Walt assuages any guilt of his and worry on her part with sex.
The following episode, “Cat’s in the Bag”, will be reviewed shortly. Stay tuned, fellow fans. I know most have already seen this, but hopefully you may find something worth re-reading. I’ve watched the series a few times over, so I want to see if there is anything I might spot a third or fourth time around.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 7: “The Dead”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Brad Falchuk
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Axeman Cometh” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Sacred Taking” – click here
This episode begins with a flashback to Kyle (Evan Peters) and his bros at a tattoo shop, back before they were smashed to bits after most of them gang raped Madison (Emma Roberts). Kyle rocks out to Toto, deflecting awkward jokes about his mother – who we now know molested him – as well as shares his aspirations to be an engineer. And that’s why he does not want to get a tattoo: “I got one life, and I’m not wastin‘ it.” Even as a man with tattoos, I respect him for that, wanting to go into a particular career path and wanting to do everything as straight and narrow as possible. Particularly it’s admirable because he wanted to get away from his mother, who caused him terrible pain. Then we flash to the now Frankenstein-like Kyle; he wails after finding the tattoos of his friends on his newly pieced together body.
But will he live much longer? Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) is armed with a gun in hand coming down to the basement of the academy. And it looks as if she intends to put poor Kyle out of his misery.
Madison is back. She doesn’t seem too pleased, though. In a voice-over, she talks about the Generation of Entitlement, supposedly, the Millenials. There is a great sadness in watching her sort of haunt the halls of Miss Robichaux’s Academy, trying to find a way to not “look like Marilyn Manson anymore.” She can’t feel anything, holding a lighter under her palm as it fries. Not a thing, not since coming back from the dead.
Downstairs, Zoe tells Kyle: “You know how this has to go, right?” And he sort of does, cowering at the sight of the gun. The sad part about this is that Zoe doesn’t have any idea what Kyle’s mother did to him, she thinks he’s just gone crazy and that coming back from the dead like this made him into an animal. But deep down she doesn’t want him gone, she doesn’t want him to die.
One of the funniest scenes in this season yet comes when Delphine (Kathy Bates) and Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) go to a fast-food restaurant. The way LaLaurie reacts to the drive thru speaker is a crack up. More than that, the way LaLaurie talks about Queenie never being a real part of the coven because she’s black, it resonates with Queenie. You can tell this is going to start causing some problems.
Worse problems yet are the ones Hank Foxx (Josh Hamilton) plans on bringing. He has a ton of guns, he’s drinking. Will it be absolute savagery? Or will someone prevent a massacre?Meanwhile, Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) runs into Madison in the halls and discovers Fiona (Jessica Lange) was the one who killed her. Bam. But her dear mother is still with the Axeman (Danny Huston). They’re back at his place listening to some music, having a drink together. Despite being a brutal mass murderer, this guy has style; how could he not, played by Huston? I love him and Lange playing off one another in a scene. They are two incredibly respectable actors in their own rights. To see them as a pair onscreen is like a treat, one of a magnitude we rarely see on television. Plus, it’s interesting to see where this new relationship is headed. To what end will the Axeman’s character play a part? He’s got bodies in the bathtub, she’s the reigning Supreme, a murderer and cancer patient.
Zoe is trying to teach Kyle to talk again, almost as if he were an infant. They use little cards like a child might. But he gets angry, smacking them out of her hands. He’s frustrated, naturally. I love the interpretation of the Frankenstein type story of Kyle, how he learns to be a person again after coming back from the grave. Because there’s a juxtaposition with others who come back to life, in particular Madison. Whereas she has her own troubles, Kyle is really fucked up because he’s only partly himself; other bits are made up of other people, friends he once knew sadly. So I thought this was great writing, the way each person depending on how they died/how they come back has a different sort of disposition. We’ll see more of this to come with another character.
Over at the hair salon, Queenie shows up to see Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett). Of course more of the racial divide shows up now, with Marie stoking the flames – as well as making what looks like awesome gumbo. However, she makes sense at times. While Queenie isn’t exactly mistreated over at the academy, nobody truly appreciates her. She takes a backseat to the other white witches, when I’m sure Marie could easily integrate her into the house of voodoo she has going over there. Still, might take more than that to completely convince Queenie. You can see she wants to go. Yet some reservation, though. Either way Marie wants her to bring Delphine back to her. Not saying why, or what she’ll do. But she wants that old racist woman in the palm of her hand.
Cordelia’s new sense of sight has brought her more assertiveness. She and Zoe have a frank chat, as Cordelia tips a bit of liquor in her own tea. A little more of a lax type Cordelia now. With all the threats to the coven, and from Fiona no less, she’s finally making sure these young witches are ready for what comes next. Or what’s coming for them. Then there’s more tension between the witches, after Zoe finds Kyle violently humping Madison. Two walking corpses having sex, wow.
“Kill her once. Kill her good. Kill her dead.”
More romance for Fiona and the Axeman. He reveals to her how long his admiration has been growing. Ever since Fiona was a little girl, he watched her in the house and looked out for her. His fondness for Fiona began so long ago, now the Axeman grew out of a fatherly sense of love for her into one of romantic intention; seeing her become a gorgeous young lady, a bonafide woman, he had to have her. So in a sense it’s an eerie, creepy type of voyeur relationship on his part. At the same time, he doesn’t creep on her. He is very charming. Especially considering she’s at the end of her days, Fiona might consider this a good thing. Only she takes it all as insult, as if he “watched her grow old.” Though, he tells her in such a loving way. But she believes he haunted her life.
Up in the attic of the academy, Zoe seems to have found a tongue – belong to, of course, Spalding (Denis O’Hare). Now she has him tied up to his bed in that creepy little room he keeps, his tongue back in working condition. In fact, it was in a box belonged to the recently crispy Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy). Only Myrtle couldn’t bring it back. Zoe’s powers are stronger and she managed to put it back in place; a very neat and weird little sequence, which I loved. Except after the tongue is back in Zoe compels Spalding to say only truths, looking for information, and he gives it up – Fiona killed Madison. Then he gives up his life. Not willingly, though.
Queenie asks Delphine what the worst thing she ever did was, which prompts a story about one of the slaves who used to serve in her home, back in the day. Turns out LaLaurie had an unfaithful husband whose extramarital affairs involved a servant. A super unsettling moment where Delphine has a new batch of bloody makeup, revealing exactly where it came from to her frightened servant girl; this prompted the poor girl to commit suicide the next morning, jumping off the balcony. Hearing all this, as it would, disgusts Queenie. LaLaurie tries to justify it as being in a “different time” and a “different world.” She genuinely seems to be repentant in how she talks to Queenie, but still. She did atrocious things.
Then there is the new problem between Zoe and Madison. Although, Madison doesn’t seem attached to Kyle. She only wanted to have sex, I guess. It makes her feel something, as opposed to nothing else making her feel anything, at all. She proposes they share Kyle. He’s basically meat in this season, which is fine. There’s always a great powerful female vibe in each season, but I dig how Coven most of all has a very female-centred plot and how the men sort of play these peripheral, yet at times important roles. Overall, it’s all about the ladies and I find it refreshing.
The episode’s end comes with a finale that shocked me, in a great way. Queenie brings LaLaurie out on the town – dressed in a hilarious bedazzled tiger shirt – except they end up at Laveau’s place, in the salon. Now we can see Queenie is giving herself over to the voodoo queen. There are genuinely terrible things about to happen to Delphine, not that I can say she doesn’t deserve it. She does. But it’s sad to see her and Queenie fall out, I thought somehow, some way, Queenie might take a higher road. All the same, I don’t blame her really. Further than that it makes things interesting heading into the next episode. Where will this lead? What more intensity will this bring? Well before the episode finishes, Laveau is applying her own bloody makeup, made from the drained essence of LaLaurie herself. How the tables have turned.Stay tuned with me for the next episode, “The Sacred Taking.”
Peau Blanche a.k.a White Skin. 2004. Directed by Daniel Roby. Screenplay by Daniel Roby; based on the novel by Joël Champetier.
Starring Marc Paquet, Marianne Farley, Frédéric Pierre, Jessica Harris, Julie LeBreton, Lise Roy, Joujou Turenne, Raymond Cloutier, Marcel Sabourin, and Jude-Antoine Jarda.
Rated 14A. 89 minutes.
I’ve been a longtime user of the Internet Movie Database, though not a fan of the message boards; mostly I dig trying to level out the ratings even in the slightest sense as one man, as well as doing shorter reviews for a few choice films here and there. As someone who’s seen 4,100 films and counting, I find it hard to just ask people “Hey can you suggest a movie for me?” because honestly – not trying to be grand here like a know-it-all, not trying to impress – but after that many movies it is damn near impossible for most people I know, who aren’t film buffs, to come up with something I’ve not seen. So, I end up turning to a lot of lists; other than a good friend of mine, a filmmaker by the name of Ben Noah, not many people in my circle(s) of friends are actually huge into movie watching.
Many lists, horror and otherwise darkly toned, end up suggesting La peau blanche (English title – which I’ll use from here on out: White Skin). The cover art alone always stuck with me, very literal with the white skin yet intriguing nonetheless. The guy on the front is white but a little less so, his eyes extremely blue. All contrast against the woman, her gingery near blonde hair flowing, then her face and neck almost disappearing into one as a wave of white skin, reddish lips around the middle. I’m often reeled in by interesting artwork for movies, some times this doesn’t work at all. But there’s something about a cool looking poster that can get me interested immediately. Not only that, when I hear words like cannibalism, vampire, succubus – these sorts of things – I tend to perk up even more. Add to all this the fact White Skin is a Canadian film, you’ve got yourself an interesting bit of work.
Thierry (Marc Paquet) and Henri (Frédéric Pierre) end up in a hotel with a couple hookers one night. During their encounter, one of the women attacks Henri, leaving his neck bloody and wounded. While Henri’s family is out for justice, neither he nor Thierry obviously wants to pursue things any further due to the fact of what they’d actually been up to.
A little while later, Thierry ends up seeing a woman in the subway playing the flute. Strangely enough he finds himself attracted to her, even though he earlier admitted to one of the prostitutes that redheads make him sick, all due to their incredibly white skin; he says seeing the veins under the skin turns him off. Yet somehow this woman, Claire Lefrançois (Marianne Farley), turns out to lure him. One night he sneaks in to watch her play piano at a recital. Further and further he’s drawn to Claire, until they start to see one another regularly. Despite the fact she insists they ought not see each other any longer. Thierry falls harder by the minute, almost to the point of physical deterioration. Mentally he begins to slip, from school to everyday life. He discovers Claire has cancer. Of course he stays right by her side.
But once there are even wilder, more dramatic revelations, Thierry discovers an entirely different world existing right below the one he used to know.
“We could discuss what’s eating you”
The U.S. title for this movie is awfully on-the-nose. Too much. Part of the enjoyment here is the slow build. You know there’s something not quite right. Very clearly once Claire starts telling Thierry he should forget her, it’s apparent. But getting there, the journey is what’s important. Cheesy, and true. Not only is there an excellent plot development happening over the course of the film, the weird love story itself is pretty good. I’ve seen complaints in reviews online that this was an area where the screenplay lacked. Now I’ve never read the original novel this is based on, so perhaps that’s got something to do with it in comparison. However, I find the movie has a few amazing scenes where the love story comes out. You might say the entire thing is a love story. It’s more of a mystery, filled with drama and horror. Definitely a dark fantasy sort of feel at times, like a modern day fairy tale. So to each their own. White Skin definitely has an interesting story at its core, as well as it surprised me at times when I had no idea where things were headed.
Even more than all that, the relationships are solid. Particularly I loved Thierry and his friend Henri. They have such a complex dynamic, not usual in a lot of films; something Canadian movies are always doing, the unusual in such a perfect way. There are numerous tense moments between Thierry and Henri, though, they feel like actual friends, as opposed to two characters written into a forced relationship. There are both sides of the coin – good times, bad times. So I think in a short time this friendship comes across well, the actors and the screenplay together make for proper character development between the two.
When all the horror aspects come flooding out, the movie gets fairly tense. Consistently I was never sure what might happen next. And man – did the ending ever catch me by surprise! It’s an odd finish to the film, yet at the same time it was fitting. Completely. It’s as if everything tangles into a big mix near the middle, then the last 15-20 minutes becomes pretty wild in moments, as well as some blood/gore sneaks in. All in all, I found the good relationships + the entire screenplay built up excellent tension. Afterwards, all the mysterious horror which breaks through only serves to be the cherry on top, so to speak. In the end, that big jumble of themes and character/plot development unravels into a nice finale.
I’m giving this a 4 out of 5 star rating. White Skin is a film all Canadians should see, simply to support homegrown cinema. Furthermore, it does a great job with all the elements from drama to mystery to horror. The movie is low budget compared to Hollywood, clocking in with one million dollars. At the same time, I don’t feel there are many instances where the budget shows in a bad sense. Most of the film is shot wonderfully, the actors are pretty much all competent at the very least, so anyone who says this is “too low budget” is only being foolish. Check this one out if you’re into semi-cannibalistic/vampiric stories, dark fantasy, or even if you just love a nice little mystery. Give it a chance. I was very happy with the DVD purchase – rare film, so I found it on eBay. Soon I’ll do a good DVD review, as there are a few quality special features included.