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Breaking Bad: The Complete Second Season

(AMC)

Review [21.Mar.2010]

25


Breaking Bad: The Complete Second Season
Sony Pictures


On its surface, Breaking Bad is about Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston in an Emmy-winning role), an over-qualified high school chemistry teacher with a pregnant wife and a son with cerebral palsy, who has recently begun cooking high-grade meth with a former student after finding out that he has terminal lung cancer. He does this in order to provide for his family (whom he keeps the meth-cooking secret from) after he dies. Yet the show is about so much more. It asks questions such as, When does a person cross the line from being bad from good? What distinguishes someone from being truly bad and just desperate? Does death absolve us of our wrongdoings? What would you do for your family? It also dives deep into the meth trade, which has largely remained off TV due to its unseemly devastation across “flyover” country. In short, Breaking Bad isn’t light-hearted fun-time material, which is why all the premium channels (HBO, Showtime) turned it down. The show ended up at AMC, where it landed in the lineup behind Mad Men. In short order, Breaking Bad not only surpassed Mad Men in quality and storytelling; it is, without question, the best show on television. Andrew Winistorfer


 

 



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Best Worst Movie

Director: Michael Stephenson
Cast: George Hardy, Michael Stephenson, Darren Ewing,  Jason Steadman, Jason Wright, Claudio Fragasso

24


Best Worst Movie
New Video Group


Unless you already know Troll 2 essentially by heart, there’s really no excuse for watching Best Worst Movie on its own. The film’s entire purpose is to re-examine Troll 2, a singularly bad (and strange) movie, and to trace its impact on a cult fanbase and on the cast and crew who worked on it. Directed by Troll 2‘s now-grown child actor Michael Stephenson, Best Worst Movie works as a hilarious “what went wrong?” post-mortem and a poignant “where are they now?” examination of what happened to these people afterwards. Not surprisingly, almost none of them went on to successful acting careers. Also not surprisingly, Italian director Claudio Fragasso slunk back to Italy after Troll 2, never to direct an American film again. Both films were released on dvd (not to mention a two-disc Blu-Ray for Troll 2) in late 2010, and doing a double feature of both films is by far the best way to watch Best Worst Movie. Chris Conaton


 

 



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The Red Shoes

Director: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Cast: Moira Shearer, Anton Walbrook, Marius Goring, Robert Helpmann, Léonide Massine, Albert Basserman, Ludmilla Tchérina

23


The Red Shoes
Criterion


The sublime, sensational carnival of The Red Shoes represents the pinnacle of Technicolor achievement and remains, after an astonishing 62 years, one of the most visually rich films to ever grace the screen. It bangs its drum proudly for the tremendous importance of art, going so far as to present it as a matter of life and death. Like the ballet within the film, with which it shares numerous other parallels, The Red Shoes is a triumph of collaboration between artists at the height of their powers. The film’s visionaries, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (known together as The Archers) were masters of subverting the staid view of both the British as a people, and Britain’s filmic output. The dynamic duo’s films are unmistakably idiosyncratic; combining irreverent wit, exceptional visuals and extraordinary passion. To them the British are honourable, amusing, determined, cheeky; tea drinkers and beer swillers; heroes, rakes, lovers and artists. Despite its madly heightened unreality, The Red Shoes is utterly believable, intoxicating and impossible to resist; seducing you with its outrageous beauty, vibrancy and sackfuls of charm. This beguiling fantasy is one of the greats of British, nay world cinema. An inspiration to filmmakers and audiences alike, the restoration and Criterion’s superb packaging have reinvigorated this fine, fine film for a new generation. Magnificent. Emma Simmonds


 

 



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Avatar: Extended Edition (Blu-ray)

Director: James Cameron
Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Joel David Moore, Giovanni Ribisi, Sigourney Weaver

22


Avatar: Extended Edition (Blu-ray)
20th Century Fox


At this point, the cynical response would be “cash grab” and this after a billion dollar take plus at the box office. We live in such jaded times, so the belief that James Cameron had anything significant to add to his already overheated ecological fantasy parable was cast in dollar sign doubt. But there is more to the Extended Edition of Avatar beyond the proposed Na’vi ‘sex’ scene. For the first time, we understand why Jake Sully takes his dead brother’s place, the view of Earth as an overcrowded layer of Hell given the entire ‘escape’ to Pandora that much more resonance. Even better, the increased disc space allows for Cameron and his technical wizards to explain away many of the movies most magical secrets. Argue over its simplistic sci-fi message and lack of true allegorical gravitas, but when post-modern cinematic game changers are outlined, this almost wholly CG creation will stand high above them all, no matter the amount of money it made/makes. Bill Gibron


 

 



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Inception

Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page

21


Inception
Warner Brothers


Honestly, Inception could have been released as a bare-bones DVD and would still have made this list on the mere principle that each viewing of the film allows for at least one or two new clues to emerge, and sometimes one or two new whole theories. The special features that exist do enrich the viewing experience, yes, but nothing included on the disc could beat the film itself, a powerful masterwork that only gets richer with each passing viewing, and only gets more fascinating with each subsequent thought. To have it preserved on DVD and Blu-Ray for all time, though, insures that Christopher Nolan’s thematically rich epic will never be “a half-remembered dream… possessed of some radical notions”, but something much, much more than that. Kevin Brettauer


 
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