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Posts Tagged ‘Breaking Bad’

Just like most movie bloggers, at this time of year I start to think about my top ten movies of the year.  Having only seen 28 movies at the cinema (I have averaged about 110 a year for the past two decades) I am not as excited by the idea as in previous years.  However I have watched more TV than ever before, practically through the first lockdown.  The best shows I have watched are The West Wing, and The Wire that I had not previously seen, and Breaking Bad that that I started watching last year.  But what of the new, and ongoing shows?  It’s actually been a really good year:

The Queen’s Gambit – Three years ago Scott Frank gave us Godless, a fantastic seven part western TV miniseries, who would have thought his next project would be about chess? As with Godless, Frank directed every episode, and wrote them with co-creator Allan Scott. Based a novel from 1983 from Walter Tevis, and telling the story of a (fictional) chess prodigy.   I have long thought Anya Taylor-Joy is the best young actor around at the moment, this has proved it, her performance is probably the best I have seen all year, in film and TV.  Hitting a lot of the beats of a sports movie, but where a sports movie has the challenge of making the sport look realistic, this has the problem of making chess exciting, it does it with ease.   As with Godless, Frank directed every episode, and wrote them with co-creator Allan Scott. 

The Mandalorian, seasons 1&2 – We had to wait until this year for the first season of The Mandalorian, it was worth the wait, to add to this, the second season was even better.  Set a few years after the end of the original Star Wars trilogy and telling the story of a Mandalorian bounty hunter.  Created by Jon Favreau and providing a perfect antidote to the patchy sequels.  Essentially a western in space, the stories are great but the real appeal is the characters .  With numerous rumoured spinoffs, it may be the starting point for the next generation of Star Wars, it certainly provides a strong template. 

Normal People – Marianne and Connell are two, well, normal people.  Coming from very different backgrounds in the same small town in Ireland, the story follows them from their final year at school, through their time at university.  Coming just two years after the publication of Sally Rooney’s novel on which it’s based.  Released on BBC Iplayer in one go, it was one of the summers most binge-worthy shows.  The performances from little known Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal are sensational. 

High Fidelity – Nick Hornby’s 1995 novel was adapted into a really good film in 2000 directed by Stephen Frears and starring John Cusack.  The TV show is better than them Movie.  Moving the location to Brooklyn (the book was set in London, the movie in Chicago), but more significantly the casting of Zoë Kravitz changed the dynamic of the show, she is also brilliant.  Criminally, by the time it reached the UK, it had already been cancelled, so we don’t get a second season, this is a great shame. 

Gangs of London – Created by Gareth Evans, the man behind The Raid movies.  An undercover cop finds himself at the centre of a power struggle in London following the death of a gangland boss.  Full of recognisable British actors, but the standout performance comes from Sope Dirisu.  Episode five, is possibly the best single episode of TV this year. 

His Dark Materials – Season 2 is based on The Subtle Knife, Philip Pullman’s second novel in the His Dark Materials trilogy.  The first season was good, the second is even better.  Dafne Keen has really grown into the role, as has Amir Wilson who has much more to do than in the first season.  The real star remains the brilliant Ruth Wilson.

What We Do in the Shadows, Season 2 – Based on the 2014 New Zealand mockumentary written and directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi.  Continuing the mockumentary style of the movie but following a different house of vampires, this time in Staten Island.  The beauty of the comedy, is that however absurd it gets (it gets extremely absurd), it is totally deadpan.

Save Me Too – Marketed as Save Me Too, is the second Season of Save Me.  Co-written by star Lennie James.  The story revolves around a man searching for is estranged teenage daughter.  Spoiler: by the end of the first season he hadn’t found her.  The second season picks up eighteen months later, to its credit, it doesn’t always go where you expect. 

Sex Education, Season 2 – With the help of a classmate, the son of a sex therapist starts a sex advice business at school.  Set in an fictional British town that seems to exist out of time, with a school more reminiscent of American TV. What sounds like a terrible idea for a show is actually brilliant thanks to a the brilliant script, and performances.  The kids are all very good, but Gillian Anderson steals the show. 

Alice in Borderland – A late entry ontot he list as it only dropped on Netflix in early December.  A Japanese TV show based on a manga of the same name by Haro Aso.  Three friends find themselves in an abandoned Tokyo.  Trapped in the city they soon find they have to compete in a series of deadly games in order to survive.  Inspired by and taking elements of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”, it is wonderfully bonkers.  A second season has already been announced. 

The honourable mentions: Devs, The Boys – Season 2, I Hate Suzie, Bosch – Season 6, Snowpiercer, The Eddy, Hunters, Lovecraft Country, Warrior – Season 2, The Umbrella Academy – seaason 2, The Expanse, Season 5 (may have made the top ten, but only half the season has dropped at the time of going to press). And finally: Small Axe – Marketed as a miniseries or an anthology, I didn’t include it as a TV show, but is worth a mention as it is excellent.  A series of five movies about the experiences of West Indian immigrants in London during the 1960s and 1970s.  All films are directed by Steve McQueen, who also co-wrote them.  The first two Mangrove, and Lovers Rock were the standouts for me. 

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I subscribed to Netflix, predominantly for TV, namely the Marvel TV shows.  I have enjoyed them all, Jessica Jones being the best of them.  I have since mainly watched TV show, including: Breaking Bad, The OA, The Expanse , 13 Reasons Why, Hannibal, and Orphan Black (that I had started watching on the BBC).  I have recently also started watching Star Trek Discovery and Mindhunter, both of which are excellent from the couple of episodes I have seen. 

I have also watched several movies, mainly older ones that I have wanted to re-watch.  This is because I see most films that I want to see at the cinema.  Netfix (and Amazon Prime) can be useful for catching up on films that I missed at the cinema, and those that didn’t get a wide enough release to make in to a cinema near me.  And this is the problem.  With Netflix (and Amazon) getting more into the business of making movies are the chances of seeing some films on the big screen diminishing?  Is this a 21st century version of the vertical integration of Hollywood’s studio system? A system ended in 1948, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued the Paramount decision, aka the Hollywood Antitrust Case of 1948.  Not exactly but there are similarities.  I hope the industry can find a solution to the issue without the need for legislation, or one of the methods of screening suffering.mcu-netflix

The reason I have come to this conclusion; I have seen two films recently on Netfix that I would have liked to have seen on the big screen.  The first, Gerald’s Game is a Netfix Original, the second The Bad Batch skipped UK cinemas after Netflix acquired SVOD rights.

Gerald’s Game: Based on a Stephen King novel and directed by Mike Flanagan who had previously made the excellent Oculus.  Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood play a married couple who visit an isolated lake house in an attempt to rekindle their relationship.  Gerald (Greenwood) suffers a heart attack leaving Jessie (Gugino) handcuffed to the bed without the hope of rescue.  At times it goes where you expect it to, at others it will surprise you. Geralds Game

The Bad Batch: Ana Lily Amirpour’s follow-up to A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.  A young woman (Suki Waterhouse) dropped inside a vast fenced-in wasteland, declared to be outside of the U.S. and thus, American laws no longer apply.  There she encounters many strange people, most notably a group of cannibals.  The movie drifts along with a strange dreamlike narrative occasionally finding its way back to a plot.  It has been compared to every near future or exploration movie you can think of, none of these are appropriate, although the look and tone sometimes make me think of Peter Watkins’ Punishment Park.the bad batch

I really enjoyed both movies but with one big reservation.  I really wanted to see them on the big screen, but for different reasons.  The Bad Batch is beautifully shot in a vast landscape that needs a big screen.  As a horror/thriller, Gerald’s Game has moments that are best enjoyed with an audience.  But my thoughts go deeper than this;  if Netflix are making movies, or buying distribution rights before they make it to the big screen, this is surely the start of a new era of filmmaking.  A two tier system where cinema can be the only loser, and if cinema is a loser, the ultimate loser is the audience.

It is clear that streaming is the future of the home cinema market.  I don’t have a problem with movies being released on VOD at the same time as at the cinema; letting people watch movies at home legally and cheaply is a good way to cut down on piracy, but not when it’s at the expense of cinema screenings.  Streaming needs to be an addition or alternative to cinema not a replacement. 

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