Breaking Bad breaks all the rules of TV storytelling. Normally, if the big reveal you’ve been building toward the whole series — say, that the brother-in-law of a meth kingpin discovers that he has a meth kingpin for a brother-in-law — happens, you delay the resulting conflict for as long as possible. Not on Breaking Bad. One episode after Hank’s (Dean Norris) toilet revelation about Walt (Bryan Cranston) being Heisenberg, we got…a confrontation between Walt and Hank. Likewise, when a flash-forward has been teased at length, you expect that to be a tease of events in the far distant future. Well, the destruction of Casa White (Casa Blanca?) actually seems to be nigh.
Jesse (Aaron Paul) has officially lost it. And instead of getting blazed with his seemingly bottomless stash of weed, he’s going to set a blaze: a fire that could leave Walt’s house in the state we’ve seen it in those post-52nd birthday teases. Who wants to bet that he’s also going to spraypaint “Heisenberg” on the wall before striking that match?
“Confessions” continued to tighten the noose around Walt’s neck. Jesse’s on a pyromaniac spree, Hank’s going to be out for blood more than ever — even if he’s been momentarily stalled — and Todd, the scariest character on the show, has done something that could have major repercussions. We saw him follow up the massacre of Declan and his men by spilling all to his companions about the train heist. He even revealed Walt’s name. His companions seemed impressed, especially since that jump off a moving train was like the Burt Reynolds movie Hooper. (First, Star Trek. Then, Scrooge McDuck. Now Burt Reynolds movies!) Now, I’m not saying that his companions will come gunning for Walt, or that they’re secretly undercover Feds or whatever, but they will reveal what Todd told them, mark my words. Anyone who laments the continued presence of ashtrays in airplane armrests, since smoking itself is no longer allowed, is going to talk.
As far as Hank’s interrogation of Jesse went, that wasn’t nearly the explosive showdown we were expecting — another subtly subversive twist. Hank immediately leveled that he knew Jesse had been working with Heisenberg, his brother-in-law. Jesse didn’t deny it, but he said Hank would have to beat a full confession out of him. He may not have much love for Walt, but he’s still not a rat. He may be looking for redemption but the spiritual cleanse he seeks won’t necessarily come from the Law. Saul then showed up, raised hell, and got Jesse out of there in a heartbeat. I mean, giving money away is hardly a crime.
Marie continued her bid to kidnap Walt & Skyler’s kids. This time, Walt Jr. was her target. Notice how she exclusively calls him "Flynn now." Before he could go to his aunt’s to help her with “some computer thing,” his dad told him the cancer was back. Yep, that was the way to keep him nearby. Instead, he would have Skyler tape his “confession,” then the two of them would meet Hank & Marie at a Mexican restaurant for lunch: Gardunia’s Taqueria. Oh, the awkwardness that is interacting with a relentlessly sunny waiter when you are anything but. “Hi, I’m Trent, I can take your drink order. And how about some tableside guacamole?” They make the guac right there at the table! As bad of a mood as Walt and Skyler were in, Hank and Marie were far worse off. Marie is so uncertain about the truth of anything her sister has said that she even wonders if her affair took place — something I’m not certain Skyler herself revealed to Hank and Marie, but Walt may have. (Funny that would be the one thing her sister would rattle off, as if she’s almost jealous of Skyler if indeed the affair took place.) Basically, Marie took over the whole lunch, just as she did her conversation with Skyler last week. She even suggested that Walt should just kill himself, since he’s going to die anyway, and then all their problems would be solved. Skyler did not go for that. Nor did Hank, who thought that would allow Walt to get off too easy. He also suggested that he would see to it that Skyler pays too, if she sticks with her husband. So Walt slid a DVD over to him and quietly left. It seemed he’d decided to turn over a full confession and, his family’s financial future secure, accept the consequences of his crimes.
Except that’s not what he did. Not by a long shot. What followed were three of the most harrowing, truly disturbing minutes I’ve ever seen on television. Hank and Marie popped in the DVD and watched Walt’s confession. A confession that he was indeed a meth cook and had made a fortune cooking the blue stuff…but that he really worked for Hank, who’d learned the know-how to build his own meth empire while working for the DEA. When Kingpin Hank crossed his partner Gus Fring, he was attacked by two hitmen. Hank plotted with Hector Salamanca — who, remember, came to the DEA shortly before blowing himself up — to kill Fring in retaliation. And Hank even demanded that Walt pay $177,000 for his medical treatment. The fact is, there’s just as much evidence on the table currently to “prove” that reading of events as there is what really happened. What’s amazing is how this revealed the complacency and utter stupidity of Marie: to accept that money and really believe that it was from gambling. I mean, who makes $177,000 from poker or blackjack? She’s one of Walt’s accomplices too, really. And Hank knew it. “You’ve killed me here,” he said to his wife. “That’s the last nail…that’s the last nail in the coffin.” He may hate his brother-in-law more than ever now, but he has no choice but to call off the investigation and even tell those men of his to stop tailing Jesse.
This “confession” may have just been about the worst thing we’ve ever seen Walt do: a relentless threat of such calculation that the family he’s tried to protect will now be sundered forever. I’ve never felt such abject loathing for him as I did watching his go-for-broke performance sobbing to the camera that Hank was the true villain. And that came just moments after hoping he actually would stick it to Hank and Marie following their display of banal moralism at the Mexican place. That kind of narrative calibration, that ability to snap our identification from one character to another that quickly, is a sign of master storytelling. The term “Hitchcockian” is bandied about so readily these days and rarely with any true justification. But this toggling of our loyalties, of being able to cause us to root for both Walt and Hank at the same time — as Hitchcock did in making us cheer on both Farley Granger and Robert Walker in Strangers on a Train, Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins in Psycho — is truly Hitchcockian. It’s suspense so relentlessly, so tightly coiled we don’t even know how it can be relieved at this point.
And none of this has even involved Jesse! Walt finally did meet him out in the wilderness and told him to visit Jim Beaver, the guy who can create a new identity for him, a new life. Jesse just wanted Walt to level with him. “Can you stop playing me for just five minutes?” He knew Walt wanted him to get out of town or he’d be killed just like Mike. Walt’s only response was a hug.
Jesse went to Saul, who advised he should start over in Florida, get a tan, hang out with the “Swedish bikini team.” Nah, Jesse wanted to go to Alaska. The complete opposite of anything these people were suggesting for him. (Didn’t you love Huell’s “’Scuse me” when Jesse squeezed past him?) He indeed went to meet with Jim Beaver, except he couldn’t go through with it. He noticed that the ricin cigarette in the pack was gone. Walt must still be planning to use it. Other people might still get hurt. This isn’t over. After all the platitudes, all the reassurances, they were still stuck in the cycle of violence. And Jesse wouldn’t stop until it was truly broken. He may have broken into Saul’s office, beaten him silly, pointed a gun at Huell, and splattered gasoline around Walt’s home to torch the place, but all of this may actually have been the sign that he’s broken good. This violence would end with him.
How has Jesse broken good? Well, every other character on this show thinks that forgetting the past, by moving forward and trying to do better in the future, is a viable, defensible goal. They rationalize, justify, or outright forget or censor their terrible crimes: Lydia saying she doesn’t “want to see” the carnage she unleashed in having Todd’s crew kill Declan’s; Walt choosing to whistle away the pain of that young boy’s death. I mentioned a couple weeks ago Budd Boetticher’s idea in Ride Lonesome that forgetting the horrors we’ve unleashed is humanity’s default position: “A man can do that.” But if you do forget, how can you ensure the cycle is broken? You can’t. Jesse is asserting the morality of remembering, that carrying around guilt, and making sure others do the same, can prevent history from repeating itself, can end the violence. Moving to Florida and getting a tan isn’t going to do that. Remembering is the first step toward living a more just life. It’s the opposite of Walt trying to act like everything is copacetic with Skyler when he’s really going to retrieve his snub .38 from the vending machine to protect himself. Remembering is in itself a moral act. It’s why “admitting you have a problem” is the first step in 12-step programs. Walt is still in denial.
Maybe a cleansing inferno will help wake him up.
More: ‘Breaking Bad’ Recap: Skyler Stands By Walt, But Will Jesse? Recap: Walter White Vs. Hank Schrader Huell: Stop Rolling Around in Money Jonathan Banks’ Casting Shows ‘Community’ Is Where ‘Breaking Bad’ Characters Go When They Die
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J.K. Rowling's first published adult contemporary fiction novel, The Casual Vacancy, has riled some folks already, so much so that a group of concerned readers in India are actually trying to have the book banned. But that's not the only place you'll find controversy.
Many, many fans are taking issue with Rowling's new subject matter, which is decidedly more graphic and mature in its themes and language (yes, J.K. Rowling uses the word "f**k"). Apparently, Rowling has a few things to say on the matter, because she told The New Yorker, "There is no part of me that feels that I represented myself as your children’s babysitter or their teacher."
Well, that sentiment doesn't seem to sit too well with her Harry Potter-loving fans. As you can see below, it's been less than a week since the book's release and the Amazon comments section is already a veritable battleground of injured, violated, and emotionally wrecked fans. You're tearing us apart, Jo! Here are the seven phases of dealing with Rowling's first foray into adult fiction, as presented by Amazon.com commenters: Phase 1: Ignorance, Straight UpWhat you don't know won't kill you, but it might ruin a book... or your childhood. Phase 2: That River You're Standing In Is Called De-NileThere's no way these people didn't know what they were getting themselves into. Or maybe they did. Either way, they're severely confused. To clarify: this book has nothing to do with Harry Potter. Phase 3: This Guy. We're Not Really Sure What His Deal Is.Maybe he's playing a trick on us? Phase 4: Fear of Not Being English Enough.That's right folks, literature is no longer an international pursuit. You don't like the book? Don't worry; it's a continental thing. Phase 5: My Eyes! Oh My Virgin Eyes!Curse words? I'm sorry, the only curse words I know are mudblood, Voldemort, and Avada Kedavra (get it? Because it's a killing curse). Phase 6: But, The Economy!You want me to pay how much? You do know we're in a recession, right? Phase 7: "Eternal Sunshining" a.k.a. Willful Memory LossWhy let Rowling ruin your life when you can just erase her altogether? We all know that worked out so well for Jim Carrey. Did you read Rowling's book? Is it tearing you apart? Or would you like to come to Jo's defense? Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler [Photo Credit: Warner Bros.] More: Does JK Rowling's 'The Casual Vacancy' Really Need to Be Banned? JK Rowling's 'The Casual Vacancy': Should It Be a Blockbuster Adaptation? Attention Harry Potter Fans: Rowling May Have More Books Up Her (Wizard) Sleeve
In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
Enigmatic and deliberate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes no reservations while unraveling its heady spy story for better or worse. The film based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carre is purposefully perplexing effectively mirroring the central character George Smiley's (Gary Oldman) own mind-bending investigation of the British MI6's mole problem. But the slow burn pacing clinical shooting style and air of intrigue only go so far—Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sports an incredible cast that can't dramatically translate the movie's impenetrable narrative. Almost from the get go the movie collapses under its own weight.
After a botched mission in Hungary that saw his colleague Jim (Mark Strong) gunned down in the streets Smiley and his boss Control (John Hurt) are released from the "Circus" (codename for England's Secret Intelligence Service). But soon after Smiley is brought back on board as an impartial observer tasked to uncover the possible infiltration of the organization. The former agent already dealing with the crippling of his own marriage attempts to sift through the history and current goings on of the Circus narrowing his hunt down to four colleagues: Percy aka "Tinker" (Toby Jones) Bill aka "Tailor" (Colin Firth) Roy aka "Soldier" (Ciaran Hinds) and Toy aka "Poor Man" (David Dencik). Working with Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) a conflicted younger member of the service and Ricki (Tom Hardy) a rogue agent who has information of his own Smiley slowly uncovers the muddled truth—occasionally breaking in to his own work place and crossing his own friends to do so.
Describing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as dense doesn't seem complicated enough. The first hour of the monster mystery moves at a sloth's pace trickling out information like the tedious drips of a leaky faucet. The talent on display is undeniable but the characters Smiley included are so cold that a connection can never be made. TTSS sporadically jumps around from past to present timelines without any indication: a tactic that proves especially confusing when scenes play out in reoccurring locations. It's not until halfway through that the movie decides to kick into high gear Smiley's search for a culprit finally becoming clear enough to thrill. A film that takes its time is one thing but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does so without any edge or hook.
What the movie lacks in coherency it makes up for in style and thespian gravitas. Director Tomas Alfredson has assembled some of the finest British performers working today and they turn the script's inaccessible spy jargon into poetry. Firth stands out as the group's suave slimeball a departure from his usual nice guy roles. Hardy assures us he's the next big thing once again as the agency's resident moppet a lover who breaks down after a romantic fling uncovers horrifying truth. Oldman is given the most difficult task of the bunch turning the reserved contemplative Smiley into a real human. He half succeeds—his observational slant in the beginning feels like an extension of the movie's bigger problems but once gets going in the second half of the film he's quite a bit of fun.
Alfredson constructs Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy like a cinematic architect each frame dripping with perfectly kitschy '70s production design and camera angles that make the spine tingle. He creates paranoia through framing similar to the Coppola's terrifying The Conversation but unlike that film TTSS doesn't have the characters or story to match. The movie strives to withhold information and succeeds—too much so. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy wants us to solve a mystery with George Smiley but it never clues us in to exactly why we should want to.
Bosses at film studio Warner Bros. threw the lavish afternoon bash in a field near the studios in Hertfordshire, England where the popular movies are shot.
Radcliffe and Grint partied alongside other Potter actors including Tom Felton, Jim Broadbent, and David Thewlis - accompanied by his partner, Pushing Daisies star Anna Friel - to celebrate the end of filming on the popular series.
They enjoyed traditional funfair rides including dodgems and a ghost train, and a fleet of ice cream vans was on hand to keep the revellers cool.
But one star was notable by her absence - leading lady Emma Watson, who played Hermione Granger in the wizard movies, did not attend the bash.
Shooting on the final film in the series - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II - finished in June (10). It is due to hit the big screen next year (11).
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
A year has passed since the climactic events of 2007's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which culminated in the reemergence of the sinister Lord Voldemort. Darkness is spreading across the muggle and wizard worlds alike as the orthodontically-challenged Bellatrix Lestrange and the rest of her Death Eater crew roam freely between both realms leaving devastation and chaos in their wake.
Newly famous thanks to his heroic exploits Harry Potter has barely a chance to cash in on his celebrity before his old pal Dumbledore arrives to whisk him away on an urgent wizarding matter to the town of Budleigh Babberton. It’s there the two encounter the eccentric Horace Slughorn a former professor of potions at Hogwarts who now hides out in the homes of vacationing muggles. Convinced that Slughorn is withholding knowledge crucial to the defeat of Voldemort Dumbledore enlists his most famous student to help convince the starstruck professor to return to his old position at Hogwarts. He then tasks Harry with finding out what Slughorn is hiding.
As danger mounts outside the school romance blossoms within it. Oblivious to the affections of Hermione Ron Weasley has begun dating the cloying busybody Lavender Brown while Harry has developed a crush of his own on Ron’s sister Ginny who’s currently attached to Dean Thomas. It's quite the tangled teenage web; the element of magic with its love potions and other mind-altering concoctions only further complicates matters.
Unamused by the romantic proceedings is Draco Malfoy now clad entirely in black and simmering with hatred and envy for his rival Harry. Draco’s rage and resentment make him a perfect pawn for Voldemort who recruits the angry young lad to aid in the Death Eaters’ attempts to infiltrate Hogwarts and exact revenge upon Dumbledore.
Draco’s suspicious behavior doesn’t go unnoticed by Harry who becomes convinced that his long-time nemesis is surreptitiously working in league with the Dark Lord. But when his concerns are dismissed by the Hogwarts hierarchy Harry mounts his own investigation and makes a disturbing discovery: Draco has been receiving help from someone on the inside a traitor whose efforts could pave the way for Voldemort’s ultimate triumph.
WHO’S IN IT?
Looking increasingly comfortable in his adult frame Daniel Radcliffe is back for his sixth turn as the titular boy wizard in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Other notable returning castmembers include Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley) Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) Alan Rickman (Severus Snape) Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange) Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid) and Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore). Making his Harry Potter franchise debut in the role of Horace Slughorn is veteran character actor Jim Broadbent.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix director David Yates marks his second stint behind the camera with Prince taking on what is arguably the most challenging episode of the franchise to date. But he proves more than up to the task delivering all the visual grandeur and CGI fireworks we’ve come to expect from the Potter collection while simultaneously tackling the potentially thorny issue of adolescent hormonal urges with warmth subtlety and a good dose of humor.
Though it clocks in at over two-and-a-half hours the film never feels dull. Yates establishes a brisk pace from the outset skillfully transitioning between emotionally dense dialogue exchanges action-packed set pieces and comic relief. For all the travails facing young Harry he’s never weighed down by the gravity of his situation and neither is the storyline which thankfully avoids becoming excessively dark.
Equal parts scary funny thrilling and touching Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is quite simply the best Potter flick yet.
For all of its fevered set-up the film’s ending is something of a letdown: a brief unspectacular climax followed by a somber denouement. While it effectively sets the stage for the final episode of the franchise to be depicted in the two-part Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows it will undoubtedly leave many a viewer feeling a bit dissatisfied.
For sheer visual and technical filmmaking wizardry the quidditch sequence is hard to beat.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
Silly muggles. Multiplex of course.