Breaking Bad: Walt vs. Jesse

With The Sopranos off the air and Dexter clearly unable to deliver after season four, Breaking Bad has cornered the market on morally ambiguous television characters.

By definition that means everything is subjective to the viewer’s perception and moral compass. Understandably, some people are unable to move past the widely-accepted commandment of “thou shalt not kill” and are therefore unable to get behind the serial killer killing serial killer, Dexter Morgan. By the same token, some viewers side with Mr. Garrison that, “Drugs are bad, mkay?” and therefore are unable to comprehend Walter White’s “steal a loaf of bread to feed his family”-esque dilemma.

I, on the other hand, find morally ambiguous characters to be the most intricate and fascinating. To that end, Breaking Bad offers me something that no other show has – the ability to see how a good guy turns into a bad guy. In this case, the journey of a mild-mannered teacher becoming a brutal drug lord. It’s that evolution that has me enamored with the tale of Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul).

In the weeks leading up to the season 5 premiere (which will be the final season, sort of. It’ll be split into two eight episode arcs under a season 5 umbrella – you know, so AMC can ride the wave as long as possible, plus boost DVD sales), a few friends have finally taken the time to catch up on what I consider the best show on TV. In talking to them, I’ve found that we have very differing opinions on the meth-making duo.

SPOILERS AHEAD! 

The story opens with Walter White as a kind, unassuming chemistry teacher who contracts lung cancer and decides to use his considerable chemical knowledge to manufacture meth in order to provide enough money for his family after his untimely demise. In the process, Walter involves former student, Jesse Pinkman – a small time ice dealer/manufacturer – to help him distribute his unparalleled crank.
As expected, the transition into his new role is not an easy one for Walt as he is quickly faced with killing in order to protect himself and his secret. After successfully dodging any consequence for the kill (or the drugs), we see Walt start down a slippery slope of ego, power and greed. In the final episode of season 4 (“Face Off”), it’s revealed to us that he has crossed a line into darkness for which there is no turning back. Docile Walter White no longer exists; only a cold, savage kingpin remains.

The yin to Walter’s yang is his partner, Jesse Pinkman – an underachieving drug addict known for his comedic use of the words “yo” and “bitch.” For all intents and purposes, Jesse is a burnout who, if not approached by Mr. White, would most likely have lived his life as an addict and small time dealer, maybe doing a little jail time, possibly cleaning up to have a quaint life with a wife and a couple kids… who knows. Jesse is full of potential, but it’s taken four seasons of killings, beatings, addiction and death to finally see it flourish.
Although they share the same occupation, Jesse’s narrative is one of self discovery. As Walt degenerates, Jesse “improves.” (I only include the quotes because, after all, he is still making and selling meth.) Once you get past the initial impression that Jesse is a useless idiot, you find that he’s actually a sweet kid that has made some bad decisions, likely driven by his desire for love and acceptance. Under the mentorship of Gus and Mike, Jesse is now clean and has the confidence, intelligence and drive to take charge of his life.

That is where the debate comes in.

It’s said that adversity reveals character. If this is true, then it seems to me that Jesse has been our protagonist all along. My friends don’t necessarily agree with that perspective. They’re of the opinion that Jesse only serves as an obstacle to Walter’s otherwise flawless master plan to become the overlord of New Mexico and beyond. What they fail to realize is that without Jesse, Walt’s scheme is impossible. At this point, Jesse is more valuable to Walt than Walt is to Jesse.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’ve watched this story unfold over a matter of four years; it’s been spelled out for them in the matter of four weeks. Without the gift of that time to ruminate about the characters, their situations, decisions and actions, perhaps Walt’s decline and Jesse’s ascent seem less drastic.
Maybe some viewers relate more to Walt’s initial motivations and are therefore more understanding and forgiving of him than they are of Jesse.
Maybe Jesse just rubs some people the wrong way, bitch.

Whatever the case may be, the discussion leads me to this: if the final season comes down to a showdown of Walt vs. Jesse (and I have no idea how it wouldn’t), who do you want to win?

- Rachael Jamison

Breaking Dawn: Part 1

Eclipse

 No measure of time with you, would be long enough. But we’ll start with forever.

The Best Thing About It: My drive-in burrito. I kid, I kid! (Well, sort of. It was really delicious.)

Concerning the storyline - Edward’s backstory. They reveal that he was basically a vampire version of Dexter, which is a really smart and interesting concept, but then immediately wussify (yep, I just made up a word) him. I think I’d enjoy old, badass Edward. If they make a movie about him, I’ll see it even without the lure of a greasy, meaty treat and a blog to vent my feelings.

Concerning the filmmaking – Breaking Dawn: Part 1 is technically leaps and bounds ahead of any of the rest of the saga. The dream sequence in which Bella imagines herself and Edward standing over the bloody, white-clad bodies of her family and friends at her wedding was perfect. But maybe even more impressive than that is the fact that Bill Condon managed to get Kristin Stewart to actually look people in the eyes and, at some point, I almost understood that she had emotions. Since this is the first I’m seeing of it, I’m going to credit that with the director’s instruction. I’m thrilled to see that he will continue to direct Part 2.

What Would’ve Made It Better: If something would’ve happened. Obviously I’m exaggerating a little, but it’s really not that far of a stretch. Since I watched Breaking Dawn at the drive-in with a clock visible at all times, I was painfully aware of how long things were drawn out. The first hour of the movie literally covered the wedding and honeymoon. AN HOUR! The second hour of the movie was everyone waiting around for Bella to have the baby. While I’m sure these are events that book fans have been eagerly awaiting, for us movie-only watchers, it just dragged on and on… and on. I’m all for taking time so viewers can experience what the characters are feeling, but in this case it was ineffective. I just kept waiting for something to happen, but in the end all I got was a minute long teaser in during the credits. Guess they’re saving the “good stuff” for the last movie.

Random Thoughts: I’m off Team Jacob. Not because I want to switch teams, but because both of these guys are far too stupid for me to pick sides.
I felt for Jacob, but now he’s just become pathetic. She’s married and is clearly only keeping him around because she’s selfish and sees him and someone who can fill a void that Edward can’t. Have some self-respect and move on with your life, Jacob. Stop risking everything and turning against your family to defend her. She chose Edward – it’s now his responsibility, not yours.
I can’t be on Team Jacob until he grows a pair. I respect that he’s secure enough to allow Jacob to hang around, but come on! Bella mentions that she’s cold and immediately Jacob is there offering to warm her with his body heat. Do blankets not exist in Forks? This is something that should irritate him. Bella suggests they name their son EJ (Edward Jacob) and he doesn’t have a problem with that?! I’ll suggest to my future husband that we name our son after all the guys I’ve had feelings for and see how that goes over. And, maybe the worst infraction of them all, Bella tells Jacob in front of the entire Cullen clan that without him she doesn’t feel complete. Hasn’t Jerry McGuire taught us anything?! Still, no reaction. What the what?! Be a man, Edward. Do something! You’re a flipping vampire!

How long was Jacob on-screen before he took his shirt off? Hmm.. 13 seconds or so. Hilarious.

“Bella, you can’t let Edward turn you!”
“Oh, well he’s not going to do it until after the honeymoon.”
“What?! You’re gonna have sex with him before he turns you? He must turn you now!”
There’s no pleasing Jacob.

Since Bella and Edward having sex was supposed to be some big (pardon my use of words) climax, shouldn’t it have been more passionate? First, they’ve been waiting to do this so I expected some sort of emotion to be involved. Second, apparently he could’ve killed her with his penis, but everything seemed pretty boring. And third, he freaks out over a few bruises when clearly it could’ve been much worse and she was fine. I know it’s just a sex scene, but given the bit of history we do know about the characters, it should’ve been handled better.

Could any movie be more heavy-handed about two people being in love? Jiminy Christmas.

Who spends their honeymoon playing chess on a beach? BORING!

When it comes to music, Breaking Dawn is the Full House of movies. Every time there’s some “meaningful” moment, the filmmakers goad you into emotion with musical cues. Unfortunately this takes place in over 93% of the movie.

The Twilight saga is pretty bad, but the wolf conversation with the pack in wolf form was so bad that it even looked stupid in a Twilight movie. Either have the conversation in human form or sub-title the wolf groans. The talk/growl combo was horrible.

Why not turn Bella when she starts having problems with the pregnancy? Wouldn’t that have saved all sorts of problems? I’m assuming they addressed that in the book, but I’m not reading the book so they should’ve filled the rest of us in.

No Volturi? Blerg. Luckily they’ve put off all the potentially interesting stuff for the last four movies, so the finale should actually be entertaining. Should be.

Hottie Alert (for the dudes): Nikki Reed

The Verdict: While technically Breaking Dawn: Part 1 is substantially better that the rest of the saga thus far, the story line was a complete bore. “READ THE BOOKS!” I hear you yelling at me. I’m not arguing that the books aren’t better, I’m just saying that I’m watching the movie. I should be able to do that and still get a coherent story without reading the books. It’s irresponsible film making. They use their time so poorly, it’s should be embarrassing to Stephanie Meyer. I’m making an assumption here, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say there is more depth to these characters in the book. Instead of wasting time on meaningless stares and atrocious dialogue, why not use it to flesh out your characters so I care about them despite the rest of the flaws in the story? Harry Potter managed to do it successfully – Twilight could’ve done the same.
But what am I really arguing here? I’m up in arms about the series as a person who loves the art of filmmaking and dramatic story telling. These movies were not made for people like me. They were made for teenage girls. It’d be like me getting upset about a movie adaptation of The Babysitters Club. It’s not made to please me, so my opinion is moot. If the fans enjoy it, then it’s a success. And seeing the response I’ve got from my Twi-hard friends, it is. Still, I’m the one writing the reviews here, so in my moot opinion, Breaking Dawn: Part 1 gets a whopping 2/10.

Eclipse

New Moon


I kissed Bella.. and she broke her hand punching my face.

The Best Thing About It: The backstories of Jasper and Rosalie. It’s amazing what a little character development can do. Both of the stories combined maybe took up 5 minutes of screen time, but having the knowledge of where they came from and why they’re now part of the Cullen clan has made these minor characters some the most interesting in the saga to me. Oh, and Jasper and Alice > Edward and Bella.

What Would’ve Made It Better: If something new would happen. I was entertained by (how bad) Twilight (was) and New Moon exceeded my expectations, but now it just seems like the same story rehashed. I’m bored with the love triangle and they’re giving me virtually nothing new about the Volturi. Kristin Stewart still can’t act and the parts that did interest me (Jasper and Rosalie histories and the Victoria showdown) didn’t fill neraly as much time as they should have.

Random Thoughts: Why am I just noticing that Edward’s dad is Mike Dexter?! Shame on me. I blame the hair.

Riley’s transformation was by far the best opening of the Twilight saga.

Finally! Someone brings up the fact that Jacob is shirtless for no reason at all! Thank you, Edward.

Kristin Stewart should play a blind person. She only makes eye contact with people 23% of the time anyway.

I get why Jacob would show up at the graduation party, but why exactly did he and his wolf buddies get to sit in on the top secret meeting about Alice’s vision when they originally had no idea it was about Bella’s safety? Don’t they hate each other?

Was is supposed to be some big shocker when Bella put together that Victoria was the one building the army? Sometimes the plot is offensive to my intelligence. (Side note: I know Bella marries Edward and gets pregnant with a baby that’s killing her in the next movie. I’m gonna go ahead and call now that Edward turns her to save her life. Just a guess.)

Man, that tent scene was excruiating and may have caused Eclipse to lose a full point off it’s rating.

Hottie Alert: Mike Dexter.. err.. Peter Facinelli

The Verdict: Sadly, I have nothing new to report. I still hate Bella. I still don’t care about she and Edward’s love story.  Even though I’m firmly on Team Jacob, I’m getting irritated with the pissing contest between he and Edward over a girl that’s not at all worth fighting for. The laughable dialogue is becoming less funny and more pathetic. The plot is painfully predictable. And, to top it off, the aspects of the series that have to potential to really grab my attention are being suffocated by the teenage soap opera drama of it all. Of course, that’s what the Twilight saga is – a teenage soap opera… so at least it’s living up to it’s title. 2/10

Coming up next: Breaking Dawn: Part 1

New Moon

Twilight

Bella, you’re apologizing for bleeding?

The Best Thing About It: I’m a fan of vampires. I was before it became the trendy thing to do. And even though these vampires follow pretty much no established lore other than the whole blood sucking thing, I’m still interested to find out the history behind them and how their conflict will play out. With the introduction of the Volturi (yay Michael Sheen!) and the search for Victoria continuing, not to mention bringing the werewolves and the treaty they have into the equation, this is by far the most interesting element in the saga.

What Would’ve Made It Better: Re-cast Bella. I won’t sugar coat it – Kristin Stewart is horrendous.  Honestly, her bad acting was not just irritating to watch, it actually pulled me out of some scenes that had the potential to be engaging.
Here’s why her inability to act should really irk you as a Twilight fan: I’m told that in the books Bella is warm and kind and never waivers in her love of Edward. Nothing could be further from the truth for movie portrayed Bella. You can blame some of that on Melissa Rosenberg. Evidently she decided to create the Edward/Bella/Jacob love triangle (which didn’t exist in the book, if I’m getting good information), which served only to make me feel sorry for Jacob, hate Bella and stay neutral about Edward. However, there is no one to blame for the unfeeling, heartless way Bella interacts with the people she loves but Kristin herself. I can tell the dialogue is meant to make her likable, but her delivery is flat and unconvincing. Go back and watch the scene when Bella goes to Italy and pushes Edward out of the sunlight. After months of longing for him, her face shows no emotion. None. If I had any shot at feeling some sort of connection to their love story, she ruined it for me with one look.
My solution to the problem: cast Anna Kendrick as Bella instead of Jessica. Boom. Done. Simple.

Random Thoughts: I like Bella’s dad quite a bit. Same with Edward’s. Interesting to see so many strong older male figures in a movie directed at teenage girls. It’s refreshing. Kudos to you on that, Stephanie.

So there’s a group of teenage boys who walk around wearing no shirts and jean shorts with matching tattoos in Forks, Washington which hardly ever has sunny days and is chilly to cold most of the year, but no one is questioning this? Idiots.

When did Bella and Alice become besties? I don’t necessarily have a problem with it, but it’s yet another example of the screenplays inability to flesh out a story.

I’m not big on Jacob when he’s all wolfed out, but if that’s what it took get rid of that hair, it’s an even trade. (I know this makes me sound like an old lady that runs around chasing long-haired men with a broom calling them hippies, but I normally love me some long, flowing locks. It doesn’t work for Taylor Lautner.)

When was the last time you got a paper cut that produced enough blood for it to run down your finger and drop on the floor? I’m just saying…

Hey, another Thome Yorke song! I had no idea he was so predominate in the saga’s soundtrack.

I was wondering if the vampires inability to read Bella’s thoughts was going to take a True Blood twist and she would be some sort of mythological being, but at this point I’m convinced that it’s because she’s a robot. Think about it. It would explain SO much.

Hottie Alert (for the dudes): Ashley Greene

The Verdict: I’d been told that New Moon is the best movie in the Twilight Saga, and I can see why. It was better than Twilight in almost every way possible… Not to say I loved it, but it was decent. I liked it more than I thought I would like any part of this series. They addressed a lot of the problems I had with Twilight. For instance, Chris Weitz is a welcome replacement of Catherine Harkwicke. Weitz created a style; Hardwicke turned down saturation levels. Also, no unnecessary background music – Yay! And, most importantly, no laughably bad dialogue. (Bad dialogue, oh yeah. Heaps of it! Laughably bad, not really.)
The one thing they couldn’t fix (other that Stewart’s atrocious acting) was the fact that I’m still not buying the love story of Bella and Edward. I tried, I really did, but it’s just stupid. I was much more interested in the story of Bella and Jacob than I ever will be of its counterpart, so I guess you can now officially mark me on Team Jacob. Still, learning more about the history of these covens and wondering how the war will play out is making movies that could be a chore to watch bearable.
Halfway through the saga I’m beginning to see the appeal it has to teenage girls, but am still baffled as to why some adults enjoy it so much. New Moon earns an improved 5/10.

Coming up next: Eclipse

Twilight

The Twilight Project

About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire.

The Best Thing About It: Well, I can’t say I wasn’t entertained. Unfortunately, it was mostly for all the wrong reasons. There were a few minor redeeming qualities though.
First, I like the idea of vampires playing baseball. Sure, I had no idea why they were doing it or what sense it made in the context of the story, but I like the idea of it in a comedic sense. Sadly, it wasn’t used that way. Talk about a missed opportunity. Other things I’d love to see vampires do: play video games, go to an amusement park and attend a Michael McDonald concert.
Second, the fight between Edward and James was less sissy than I imagined it would be. Matter of fact, it was actually pretty good. Easily my favorite part of the movie. I’m far more interested in the war between the Cullens and the other covens than anything involving Bella, the robot girl.
Third, Rob Pattinson “Let Me Sign” and Radiohead “15 Step” are both great songs.

What Could’ve Made It Better: What a loaded question! I could bring up several things that irked me in the first installment of this series, but I’ll focus on what I see as the biggest problem, mostly because it’s what the entire series is based on – the relationship of Edward and Bella. How exactly did we go from “He thinks I’m stinky. I hate him!” to “He’s a dreamy vampire. I love him!”? There was so little development that as someone with low expectations, even I was disappointed. Perhaps it’s addressed better in the books and that’s why so many viewers are enthralled with the love story, but it doesn’t translate in the movie. At best their love is based on the Florence Nightingale effect which is caused by fleeting emotion. (Back to the Future FTW!) I’m sure you Twi-hards see Bella and Edward as the Romeo and Juilet of our time, but due to poor writing, I see two teenagers (okay, so Edward is a really old 17-year-old) acting like typical teenagers, unable to differentiate love from hormonal changes. However, given that Edward is a vampire, their affection will most likely end up getting their loved ones killed. Plus, Edward could do better. I kind of hate Bella, but in the sake of fairness, we’ll chalk some of that up to Kristin Stewart’s inability to act.

Random Thoughts: I’ve admitted that I haven’t read the books, but for the love of God, I hope the dialogue in them is better than it is in the movie. The quote I listed at the beginning of this post had me laughing for a few minutes. I literally had to pause the movie because I couldn’t focus on what happened after that until I made it through my laughing fit.

Was there any scene in this movie without background music? Music is meant to set the mood of the scene, but when overused it just becomes obnoxious and distracting. AmIright?

Catherine Hardwicke, your shots are not artistic. Please stop trying to be cooler than you are. The shot that stands out most to me is when Edward and Bella are in the forest and Bella is telling Edward that she knows what he is. There are so many unnecessary long shots of the trees that it’s laughable. Not to mention that most of the movie is overhead after overhead. And don’t even get me started on the desaturation! Cinematography fail.

Okay, so Bella moves and goes to a new school and immediately the paper wants to write an article about her? My school was too small to have a paper, but I have a hard time believe that it’s protocol to write an article about every new student.  Was it because her step dad is a baseball player? I could see that if anyone at the school ever mentioned it, but it’s never addressed leaving me to believe that the students don’t even know about her step dad. She’s just a random transfer student.. who apparently has never seen rain because she’s from Arizona. (Psst.. It rains in Arizona. Just an FYI.)

Also, Bella mentions to Jacob that she wishes he went to her school so that she’d have a friend, but 30 seconds after arriving she immediately befriends 20 kids. It appears that it was Stephanie Meyers intent to paint her as an outsider, and yet she is quickly accepted in this high school society. Doesn’t make much sense.

“Hey guys, I met this girl named Bella. She’s a human to whom I’ve told all our family secrets. (Of course, it only took her two conversations and a Google search to figure out I was a vampire anyway.) She’s given me no real reason to trust her and could easily get us exposed and killed, but I thought I’d invite her over so we can all be besties. Also, she smells good.”
“That’s cool. We’ll make her dinner.”
Dumbest. Vampires. Ever.

Hottie Alert: Kellan Lutz

The Verdict: Let’s not fool ourselves. These movies weren’t made to be masterpieces, they were made as film counterparts for teen romance novels. Because of that fact, I’ll cut them some slack. They are what they are. As difficult as it is for me to try to slide back into that mentality, I’ll will make a consorted effort to watch the rest of the films through the eyes of a sexually confused 14-year-old girl.
I don’t say this with any intended disrespect toward adults who enjoy the movies, but why? It’s a serious question. Why do you like Twilight? To me so far it’s pretty pitiful from every aspect – disconnected, incoherent story telling, terrible acting and cinematography that looks like it was directed by a fashion school dropout with something to prove. Maybe if I could see what you see in them, I’ll enjoy the other films more than the first. However, the fate of the first installment is sealed. 3/10

Coming up next: New Moon