We knew at the end of last week's premiere, when Walt's super-sized magnet(s, bitch) heist accidentally resulted in the discovery of Gus Fring's offshore bank accounts, that someone was about to take a fall. Unfortunately, once again, it wasn't the one person who really, really deserves it. This week, showrunner Vince Gilligan found a way to keep Mike in the game by having Hank, and one of Fring's more murderous associates, put on the pressure. Despite Walt's soothing reassurances to Skyler at the end of the episode, Mike is Breaking Bad's true family man, and the opportunity to keep his family safe and financially accounted for is enough to justify another contract with the devil. We're sorry Mike, but also oh-so-happy that Gilligan found a reason to keep you in town.
Last week at Comic-Con, Gilligan told panel-goers that this season would feature more German subtitles than Spanish, and we got our first taste of that tonight, when the multi-national corporation Madrigal was introduced. Madrigal, which according to the internet means "a part-song for several voices, typically arranged in elaborate counterpoint and without instrumental accompaniment," and in my high school meant "choir nerd," funded Fring's drug empire under the Los Pollos Hermanos banner. We saw a low-level employee remove Hermanos' sign from the company's headquarters, and we also saw Madrigal's unfortunate fall guy commit suicide via electric shock. Someone has to take the blame for what happened on multiple sides of Fring's operation, and the scramble to find (or silence) those unfortunate mid-level players was the driving force behind tonight's episode. We briefly met Madrigal's icy corporate honcho (and the company's heir) as he (with Fring-ian levels of composure) expressed his distaste for his fall guy's appalling actions, and his belief that this man, Schuller, acted alone. "An innocent man does not kill himself," he told the DEA. "My people and I are here to help." Basically, Mr. McGerman is far wealthier and more powerful than Fring, and he is entirely guilty. Ding ding ding, I think we just met our new bad guy. (Well, besides Walt.)
Now back to Mike: When the increasingly mobile and newly energized Hank took a look at those offshore bank accounts, he found millions stored under the names of the under-the-table guys helping Fring's operation. Earlier in the episode, a list of those same names was given to Mike by one of Fring's wealthier and more hidden accomplices, Lydia, with the hope that Mike would find a way to "silence" them. Mike refused, insisting that his hand-picked men would never talk, but this was before he knew that their finances had been compromised.
Unfortunately, this meant that Mike's finances were compromised too. As expected, Hank brought Mike in for questioning, resulting in a scene that could have been straight out of Breaking Bad fan fiction, if such a thing existed. Hank is more like a film-style attorney — calm, slightly sarcastic, and puposefully passive aggressive for the sake of drama — than a cop with his questioning. He nailed Mike. First Hank wondered out loud why Fring would hire a disgraced ex-Philly cop (more on this later?) to question pimply fry cooks and protect inventory, then he let Mike go when he said he knew nothing of Fring's drug empire. But as Mike walked out the door, Hank causally mentioned the $2 million in an off-shore bank account that was stored in Mike's granddaughter's name. "S*** man, this fifth grade girl is the muscle behind Fring's entire operation," Hank joked, as Mike's world fell apart before his very eyes. Hank said she might get to keep some of that dough if Mike talked, but talking to the cops isn't really Mike's deal, and it would probably get him killed, anyway.
But since Lydia was still terrified of getting caught, not talking almost got him killed, too. He was called over for a meeting by one of the men on Lydia's list, Mr. Chow, under the guise of a financial conversation, knowing full well that a hired assassin was there waiting for him. (RIP, Mr. Chow. RIP, Mr. Assassin-man.) He headed over to Lydia's house with the full intention of killing her, but his family-loving conscience got the better of him. (God, I love a complicated assassin with a heart of gold. This show does shades of grey better than Mad Men. There, I said it.) Lydia didn't plead for her life — she only asked that he wouldn't hide her body, so that her elementary-aged daughter wouldn't think she'd abandoned her. It was a heartbreaking scene, and it instantly made Lydia — who five minutes ago was the weird, frigid b**** who tried to kill Mike — a semi-sympathetic character. Which is good, because it looks like she'll be sticking around — her maternal instincts stayed Mike's hand.
Which, finally, brings us back to Walt and Jesse. At the beginning of the episode, Walt fully regained Jesse's loyalty when he tore through Jesse's apartment to help him find the missing ricin-laced cigarette. Since Brock hadn't smoked it it had to be somewhere, and when Jesse finally found it in his DJ Roomba (genius hiding place, Walt!), he broke down in guilty tears because he'd almost killed the "innocent" Mr. White due to his own careless stupidity. The way Aaron Paul played this scene — he not only showed remorse, but a remarkable amount of self-hatred over the fact that he'd almost seriously screwed things up yet again — was devastating, and Walt's stony unwavering expression made it so much worse. This man is worse than Tony Soprano. He can emotionally ruin his closet friend (and, like, kill his girlfriend) and feel no guilt.
So now that Jesse trusted Walt again, they were ready to get out of debt and back in business (against the wishes of Saul, who gave adequate legal counsel for the first time in his Breaking Bad career by telling them to take their losses and run). Their only rule is no more RVs, and their only need is methylamine. They had approached Mike earlier in the episode to join their team, but he wasn't ready until his run-ins with Hank and Lydia had him so backed into a corner that he was willing to work with a ticking time bomb to regain some power and stability for his family. Lydia would supply the methylamine, and Blue Sky would be back on the streets in no time. Happy endings for everyone! (Except Skyler, who can't get out of bed. Oh, and Jesse, who still doesn't know that his partner-slash-mentor has betrayed him in ways unimaginable. And Mike, who has to hang out with Walt.)
Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna
[PHOTO CREDIT: Ursula Coyote/AMC]
'Breaking Bad' Recap: Live Free or Die
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While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
Mutants proved victorious as the highly anticipated sci-fi sequel X2: X-Men United took in a mind-bending $85.8 million* at the box office this weekend.
X2's meaty box office take makes it the fourth biggest opener of all time, behind commanding champs Spider-Man, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
The comic book turned mega-movie franchise debuted Friday in 93 countries and territories around the world simultaneously, making it the broadest opening ever for a movie, a record that previously belonged to Star Wars: Episode II--Attack of the Clones.
This weekend's solid box office take, however, was still down more than seven percent from this time last year, which benefited from the opening of another Marvel comic book adaptation, Spider-Man.
THE TOP TEN
Twentieth Century Fox's comic book sequel X2: X-Men United opened with an ESTIMATED $85.8 million at 3,741 theaters, making its $22,948 per theater average the highest of any film playing this weekend.
X2 beat the first film in the series, X-Men, which took in $54.5 million when it opened in July 2000 and went on to earn $157.3 million domestically and more than $290 million worldwide.
The PG-13 rated sequel takes up where the original film left off, with Prof. Xavier still teaching gifted young mutants and the metal-controlling villain Magneto locked up in a plastic prison as the mutants continue their struggle against a society that fears and distrusts them.
Directed by Bryan Singer, it stars Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen and more.
Buena Vista's PG rated The Lizzie McGuire Movie opened in second place with a strong $17 million at 2,825 theaters and was the only pic that went unfazed by the X2 juggernaut. Its per theater average was a strong $6,018.
The film is based on The Disney Channel's Lizzie McGuire, a TV comedy series about a 13-year-old girl in junior high. Here, Lizzie celebrates her graduation from junior high by going on a class trip to Rome.
Directed by Jim Fall, it stars Hilary Duff, Adam Lamberg and Yani Gellman.
Sony Pictures' R-rated psychological thriller Identity, which debuted at the top of the box office last week, came in third with an ESTIMATED $9.5 million (-41%) at 2,733 theaters (unchanged, $3,476 per theater). Its cume is approximately $30.2 million.
Directed by James Mangold, it stars John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, Rebecca DeMornay and Alfred Molina.
Continuing its mainstay in the Top Five, Sony Pictures' PG-13 rated comedy Anger Management fell two notches to No. 4 in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $8.5 million (-43%) at 3,471 theaters (-185 theaters, $2,449 per theater). Its cume is approximately $115.4 million.
Directed by Peter Segal, it stars Adam Sandler, Jack Nicholson, Marisa Tomei and John Turturro.
Buena Vista's PG rated teen comedy Holes fell from third to fifth place in its third week with an ESTIMATED $6.5 million (-48%) at 2,402 theaters (+53 theaters, $2,706 per theater). Its cume is approximately $45 million.
Directed by Andrew Davis, it stars Rick Fox, Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, Tim Blake Nelson and Shia LeBeouf.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Warner Bros.' PG-13 rated comedy Malibu's Most Wanted dropped from fourth to sixth place in its third week with an ESTIMATED $4 million (-45%) at 2,503 theaters (-163 theaters, $2,340 per theater). Its cume is approximately $28.9 million.
Directed by John P Whitesell, it stars Jamie Kennedy, Taye Diggs and Anthony Anderson.
Lions Gate's R-rated Confidence fell two rungs to seventh place with an ESTIMATED $2.5 million (-45%) at 1,871 theaters (unchanged, $1,336 per theater). Its cume is approximately $8.5 million.
Directed by James Foley, it stars Edward J. Burns, Dustin Hoffman, Andy Garcia and Rachel Weisz.
MGM's PG-13 multi-generational comedy It Runs in the Family dropped from eighth to ninth in its second week with an ESTIMATED $1.5 million (-45%) at 1,207 theaters (unchanged, $1,284 per theater). Its cume is approximately $5.1 million.
Directed by Fred Schepisi, it stars Kirk Douglas, Michael Douglas, Cameron Douglas, Rory Culkin and Bernadette Peters.
Benefiting from positive word of mouth, Fox Searchlight's PG-13 rated Bend It Like Beckham was the only film this week to move up in the order. The soccer comedy cracked the Top 10 in its eighth week of release stateside with an ESTIMATED $1.4 million (-5%) at 484 theaters (+63) with a per theater average of $3,006. Its cume is approximately $10.9 million.
The film follows the aspirations of a young Indian girl living in London whose only desire is to play soccer--even if it means going against her traditional family's wishes.
Directed by Gurinder Chadha, it stars Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
Rounding out the Top Ten is MGM's PG-13 rated martial art pic Bulletproof Monk, which dropped four spots from last week with an ESTIMATED $1.4 million (-67%) at 1,894 theaters (-1,061, $766 per theater). Its cume is approximately $21.5 million.
Directed by Paul Hunter, it stars Chow Yun-Fat and Seann William Scott.
Four new films opened in limited release this weekend, including Fox Searchlight's R rated drama The Dancer Upstairs, which earned an ESTIMATED $105,300 at 13 theaters with a solid $8,100 per theater average. The film expands to 55 venues Friday.
Sony Classics's R rated crime comedy Owning Mahowny premiered with an ESTIMATED $35,123, at nine theaters ($3,903 per theater).
Miramax debuted the R rated drama Blue Car at six theaters and took in an ESTIMATED $31,000 with a strong $5,167 per theater average.
Meanwhile, Thinkfilm's G rated documentary Spellbound opened Wednesday in a Film Forum exclusive in Gotham and earned an ESTIMATED $17,569 this weekend. Its cume is approximately $23,107.
The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $140.7 million, up a whopping 87.96 percent from last week when they totaled $74.8 million.
The Top 12 were down 7.6 percent from last year when they totaled $152.3 million.
Last year, Sony's PG-13 rated Spider-Man premiered at the top of the box office with $114.8 million at 3,615 theaters ($31,769 per theater); Universal's PG-13 rated The Scorpion King came in second with $9 million at 3,466 theaters ($2,610 per theater); and Paramount's R rated Changing Lanes came in third with $5.3 million at 2,642 theaters ($2,021 per theater).