Better Call Saul Midstream Debrief

NOTE: As with my Breaking Bad post, NO SPOILERS will be found herein.

Kettleman!

If I ever have a child, I will name him or her Kettleman.  On the other hand, Ehrmantraut has a nice ring to it…

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Better Call Saul might not be the best show ever aired, but that’s debatable.  It must be the most purely entertaining.  And though I indicated it was mere coincidence that Saul Goodman’s arrival on Breaking Bad heralded that series sweeping into the clip it would ride to the end, know now that it was more than coincidence.

As a spin-off, Better Call Saul could not be more different than Breaking Bad.  Except, possibly, in those scenes with Saul, Breaking Bad is completely devoid of humor.  Better Call Saul, on the other hand, deftly folds equal measures of comedy and taut drama.

Better Call Saul - text blockLike its progenitor, Better Call Saul suffers from moments of incredulity — a Vince Gilligan trademark perhaps.  An easy way the show could have greatly lessened this flaw: just throw out that first run-in with Tuco, and save him for later.  It’s just one too many coincidences.  Even so, this show is so fun that those few moments click by rapidly, and become even more inconsequential than in Breaking Bad.  I only bring it up, really,  as a point of comparison to Mad Men, which has no such instances.

As a counter-balance, Better Call Saul offers one of the most realistic depictions of the work lawyers actually do that I have ever seen on TV or film.  Name another show that features — time and again — the grunt-work of sifting through stacks of paper.  That essential bane of actual attorneys is rarely if ever included in courtroom dramas.

Oh and the relationships!  Between Kim and her boss, between Jimmy and Chuck, between Jimmy and Kim… oh how I adore this show!

Season 1 is available on Netflix, and if past is precedent, you’ll have to wait a week before the Season 3 premiere (i.e. another year) before Season 2 comes on board.  On that note: Vince Gilligan appeared on celebrity Jeopardy!, and was asked why there were not more episodes.  The answer was that the network would love more, but he felt the quality would suffer.  And he has a point — I think that’s another kink with Breaking Bad: things getting a little stretched out at times, something Better Call Saul never suffers from.

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Breaking Bad Debrief

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NOTE: Don’t let the post title scare you off.  There will be NO SPOILERS in this post.

In the second season of Breaking Bad, a pair of junkies who can barely put one foot in front of another supposedly are able to pull off the heist of an ATM from a convenience store and ferry the cash-laden machine back to their den.  This is the most extreme example of a loss of logic that occasionally drags on the series.  Those moments — often necessary to continue the story — usually occur amidst high-tension drama and are therefore fairly easily overlooked.  And these lapses are the only negative I can mention about Breaking Bad.

Wikipedia:

Breaking Bad is widely regarded as one of the greatest television series of all time… [and] entered the Guinness World Records as the most critically acclaimed show of all time.

I certainly don’t put Breaking Bad at the top of all television series ever — the aforementioned momentary lapses of reason are enough to knock it a peg below, say, Mad Men.  But it’s way up there, certainly in the top ten.  The series Breaking Bad - Sleepingstarts off a little roughly, but coincidentally once Saul Goodman enters as a recurring character half-way through Season 2, the show falls into a highly entertaining groove and never leaves it.  It is almost always riveting, edge-of-your-seat entertainment.

In other words, I highly recommend Breaking Bad.  Unlike Mad Men, make sure to watch starting with Season 1 Episode 1.  The entire series is available on Netflix (Yay!).

Indie Log: Metro Manila

Metro Manila - poster
For some reason — maybe the poster artwork — I thought Metro Manila was going to be a highly stylized, slick action pic.  But it’s hardly anything of the sort; rather, it is a brutal, straightforward depiction of a family attempting to survive abject poverty in a place where it is readily commonplace.

Especially regarding the wife, Metro Manila avoided plumbing the ultimate depths it might have.  But make no mistake: this is a great, suspenseful foreign indie.  8/10

Availability: Netflix

VOD Log: Making a Murderer

Making a Murderer - title shot 2

Making a Murderer on Netflix is a magnificently compelling, gut-wrenching, and heartbreaking series.

SPOILER ALERT!!  Spoilers follow:

Assuming the facts presented in the series are accurate and more or less complete, a logical individual would have to conclude that there is at the very least  solid evidence that reasonable doubt has been established in the case of Steven Avery.  Not one bit of her blood was found anywhere on the Making a Murderer - title screenAvery premises except on that bullet and in the back of her own vehicle — as just one glaring example of the facts pointing toward his innocence.

As far as Brendan Dassey, there is no evidence of his involvement at all.  His conviction was based entirely on his own confused and constantly contradictory and coerced words.  There isn’t even circumstantial evidence against him.

I think the moral of the story is that the legal system is completely broken, unless you’re on the side of prosecution.  Regardless of guilt or innocence.  Not that we didn’t know that already.

[End of Spoilers]

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Watching my first VOD-exclusive TV series has made me rethink TV a bit more.  Now, with one of my favorite filmmakers Jim Jarmusch producing an Amazon exclusive, I may finally have to cave to a Prime subscription.  Ugh.  Well at least I’ll get free shipping.  Which I get anyway with a minimum order.  Then if and when Twin Peaks comes out on Showtime… well another subscription there.

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I am loving “Lazarus” from David Bowie.  He pulled a Johnny Cash / Warren Zevon, recording a final album as his own death knell.  I suppose it’s just the timing, but it seems to fit Making a Murderer perfectly.

VOD Log: Two Step

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Credit to my sister for bringing this low budget indie to my attention.  Two Step features a good, tense storyline driven by one mean hombre.  But a movie needs depth.  6/10

Availability: Netflix, iTunes

Two Step - text blockComparison Notes: (all recommended, and better examples of what Two Step was trying to achieve): I’ll See You in My Dreams, Last House on the Left, Eden Lake, Vacancy

VOD Log: An Honest Liar

An Honest Liar - poster

I felt An Honest Liar was good, compelling, and very interesting; ninety-five percent of what you want from a documentary.  But I knock it down a peg because the promise of The Amazing Randi as himself some sort of profound contradiction, or deception, went unfulfilled as far as I was concerned.  Still, recommended — and I like the title — it reminds me of The Unknown Known.  7/10

Availability: Netflix