Sunday, 22 December 2013

Rick Grimes: From a Man to a Punching Bag

I do believe that watching a TV show in big chunks has its set of advantages. You can see a bigger picture, you get less irritated by the omnipresent cliffhangers, and you are capable of forgiveness. What do I mean by forgiveness? Well, you can choose to ignore some of the episodes that weren't all that good, simply by holding on to the aforementioned big picture. That is just what I did, and it worked... To a point.

Some time has passed since I gave up on watching the Walking Dead - a time of peace, a time of prosperity. However, recently (just when I thought I was out) I got pulled back in. Well, not really pulled in (I hope you got the reference there?), more like intrigued in, if there is such a word construction. People kept telling me I should continue watching, that it got good, that I wouldn't regret it etc. Well, I gave it a shot - episodes five, six, seven and eight.

Rick Grimes and his bloody hand
We shouldn't fight, my hand hurts

Firstly, as I could have guessed it, they were still drooling on (even literally) with all that sickness that went around. All the famous faces, all the same walls, and a slow extinction of unimportant characters. I was ready to give up, once again, frustrated by the dullness of the show. Coughing each other to death is just not my kind of genre. Although maybe that really should be a new genre? A cough-off. A gruesome, disgusting genre, but still... I'm just rambling on (and off course).

So, what happens then? The Gov'nah walks right in. And the show takes on the aspect they were quite familiar with, way back, the retrospective approach. All of a sudden he becomes the leading man, and truth be told he does a good job. I do believe people cared for him, perhaps recognizing in him some of the former qualities of Rick Grimes - the leadership, the decisiveness, even humanity. So, Rick Grimes... Perhaps a dozen lines and only here do I mention him, irresponsible of me, but deal with it.

Rick, well, you know him, you know what he was, and more importantly, you know what he has become. Like I said, I enjoyed watching Brian take the lead, because when he gets motivated he really becomes a gigantic force (whether good or bad is of no relevance). After a few episodes I saw the prison and knew I would face the dullness of the first four episodes and I didn't know if I could bear it. Rick was now a broken man, one that all the guns in the world couldn't repair.

Now I know, he had a rough life (not counting the pre-plague one), with loosing his wife, and killing as many people as he killed Walkers - by the way, I haven't seen a Walker run the whole time. Perhaps they are unable to. Perhaps the starving world made them live up to their names and forsake running. I don't know. Back to the point. When it came to the final shootout I cheered for The Governor, despite him reverting to his psychotic self again. And quite a shootout it was. Perhaps something of a comment on society, how people always end up killing other people, not sure. So, when (spoiler alert, I'm too lazy to change the font or something) Hershel gets a shave cut, and the Governor and Rick finally come fist to fist we get let down. I'm ignoring the fact that Rick was unable to shoot his nemesis in the face from a talking distance, and focusing merely on his melee attacks. When all the rage should have built up in him, the memory of the problems Brian caused then and now, the thought of being able to end it all instantly, Rick fails. And he fails miserably, as he gets beaten and dragged off to the death's cliff, but in the nick of time saved in the manner of deus ex machina, or rather, Michone ex machina.
That really just summed up in the few minutes, what I was thinking about Rick until then, that he's gone beyond soft, he's probably liquid now... Having said that, I can't but feel sorry for him, since I remember his glory days, his normal days, really. Will he ever return? I sincerely doubt it.

The real question is - what now? The Governor has left us, and we are yet again forced to lay our hopes into this man. They all got separated into groups, because that's the only thing writers are able to come up with, and beaten down Rick is left alone with his son, who is probably tougher than him. I alone can think up of around a dozen of possible scenarios, but knowing Rick he'll go for the sappiest.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Breaking Bad (The Untold Story)

Walt threatening Gretchen and Elliott
Red dots signify happiness
Before I even started writing this it became clear to me that not everyone would be keen on the concept and that though what I'm proposing might not be as popular as the original, I do believe it is necessary. So, like I've discussed in my earlier posts, I really wasn't satisfied with the ending, and not just the ending but the whole other aspect of this show never explored due to the possible unpopularity among the viewers.

The thing is, when we meet Walter he already has quite a lot of history behind him, something that really supports his actions and determines who he is. The flashbacks in the show just weren't enough. I'll try and point out what should have been dealt with during the making of the show.

So, imagine Walter, a young, successful chemist, with so many roads ahead of him, and a vision of the future that seems quite bright. He has a girl he's in love with, Gretchen, and he joins forces with his friend and colleague Eliot Schwartz to make Grey Matter Technologies. All seems well as we see Walter and Gretchen brooding on the components of a human being. However, there's a problem. Walter is not from a wealthy family; all he has he created with his own hands, using his brilliance. That is thrown in his face when he is to meet Gretchen's parents, who Walter sees as belonging to a higher class than himself. This thought troubles him (one thing you notice throughout the regular show is that Walter is always aware of his social status) to the point that he leaves Gretchen and the company he created. He feels out of place there and needs to run away. Now that must be quite a shock for him, especially when, later, his pride kicks in as he sees the company he left flourish and become highly successful. It certainly doesn't help that Gretchen, his former love of his life married Elliott, his former friend. All of this basically kills a part of Walter. He is torn into pieces and seeks comfort by recreating himself as a man who assimilates. That way he won't get hurt again; you can't fall down if you don't even try to fly. So he settles in a small home, with a small job, and a small family, far away from his previous life, far away from any glamour. Just when it seems enough time has passed, after he has submitted himself to the uneventful life, he gets cancer and his world starts falling apart. Everything comes back to him, all he once had, all that could have been, all that he is now - nothing that he will become!
Had we been acquainted with all that we would have realized how understandable Walter's further actions were. The glare in his eyes when he finds a new way of becoming successful (and by using his own hands and mind!), not wanting anything from Gretchen and Elliott, ever again, and all of his later re-awakening.

I know this first part probably wouldn't attract that many viewers, but I do believe it is necessary for understanding most of the show, and basically for giving it some depth (and quite a depth it is).

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Breaking Bad - Satisfied with the End?

Young Walter writing on a blackboard
Just add water

Should I mention there will be spoilers? I'm basically one giant spoiler. So, I found myself running low on episodes in my, at the time, favourite TV show Breaking Bad. It was all down to the last season, and my mind was flourishing with possibilities. There was a matter of telling Hank, laundering the money, 
dealing with the wife, Saul, Pinkman… And just as in the season before I felt that Walter was a supporting character (basically an old fellow who grunts complains and is powerless most of the time), here I felt he hasn’t restored his first seasons-respect and charisma. I understood that he became more vicious and unforgiving over the years, but somehow it just felt weak and unfulfilled.
Like I said at the beginning, I expected a lot. I imagined Hank chasing after Walt, Walt going into hiding, something that could have been done in a couple or more episodes, just in order to give it a proper ending. But no, they just carried on, as if the show would last for ages, and then in the final episode (or two) resolve all of it. By this “resovle” I am refering to a link to those opening scenes where Walt visits his old house, now ruined, that are shown in the beginning of the season as a kind of a teaser. And basically I liked it, I liked it very much, as it responded well to my overall idea of how it should end. However, one gets the impression that what we have here is a couple of scenes they just forget about in a manner “we’ll cross that bridge when we get there”.
That being said, wasn’t there an easier way for total annihilation near the end. A man who is a master chemist goes on and builds a self-rotating machine gun? What happened to that explosive imitation of crystal meth? That would have worked out fine, just like some sort of poison, or gas. Of course, I am forgetting, this is still American television (no matter it isn’t your usual one) and epic fights and shootouts are apparently a must!
Hank died in a soldier-blaze of glory way, which was mildly disappointing, though realistic. What bothered me, however, is how all the main characters remain alive just enough for some meaningful lines and acting (I’m refering to Hank’s scene, as well as the self-rotating machine gun one).
Finally, I was very disappointed with how Walt’s past was depicted (or not). We are left guessing about his past love interest, her husband, Grey Matter company, younger Walt, scientist Walt, ambitious Walt, rising-star Walt. I believe that part is crucial when it comes to understanding why Walt is how he is now. We need to see how he fell, why he fell and how he came to accept the simple, uneventful life that followed. I think that in that lies another, separate TV show, one maybe even emotionally stronger.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Harry Potter - now, why did I watch it?

Sirius Black pushing Harry back
This is how you do it!
I believe there comes a time in every man's film-watching life when he needs to take a break from all the von Triers, Aronofskys, Leighs etc... (I carefully didn't mention Gilliam). I came across such time recently and was struggling with myself not knowing what film to watch that is suitable for my current sensibility. So, a thought came to my mind - that little wizard guy and that whole bunch of films I never cared much for, why don't I watch that? It seemed rather light and utterly benign in just the right amount.

Well the first film with that stone and stuff came rather annoyingly to my mind; I was on the verge of giving up a dozen times, but I pulled through. In all the duration of the film I was faced with this joyful, enchanting (mind the vocabulary) world that I really couldn't care less for. I noticed some famous faces but it just seemed to me they were forcefully dragged into appearing in this awfully childish realm. And so, I advanced to the next film, equally unimportant and containing again just a hint of darkness...

And then comes the third film, in comes David Thewlis, a figure from my past film-watching experience; as if he came to drag me out of this adventure merely for children and back into the sphere of some serious (not Sirius) film-making. Then in comes Gary Oldman, a marvelous actor, one of the greats and delivers his usual high-quality performance... Although some parts of the film were again childish and naive, a new power emerges from it, something more adult and profound, as if by accident placed in there...

Fourth installment, a rather boring competition that I found yet again childish and over-joyful. Even though Miranda Richardson appears, an actress that has shaped most of my childhood with her appearance in the Black Adder, and delivers a suitable performance, I was still unable to see past this festivity of a film. All that being said, near the end comes a rather fantastic surprise; Mr Ralph Feinnes comes in, triggering in my mind his performance in Schindler's list, as well as in the Red Dragon, and delivers a combination of those two fantastic performances... I was quite stunned. The whole franchise advanced to a new level...

All other films were done pertaining to that achieved level, more or less, with some brilliant moments that I was surprised to find in such a "light entertainment". For example the scene in which Gary Odlman's character mistakes Harry for his old friend, his father James, during a fight is a timeless one. It summons something between the lines, approaches you with a specific emotion that you need to discover yourself by connecting in your mind the situation at hand, a man who lost his best friend, and was wrongfully accused, convicted, and now obliged to take care of his godson - Harry, and in that one moment, he recalls his past, and I can't but give in to his marvelous performance...
Those moments are what makes this franchise worth watching, although most of the films were naive and childish, together they form an interesting mix, that leaves you with some fantastic scenes that won't go away. I've come to watch something light, to relax and rest my mind, but I came across a much heavier undertone overall...

Monday, 4 November 2013

The Walking Dead - How I Stopped Caring

Rick Grimes looking at the camera
You filmin'?

One day, while I was wasting my time surfing the net (does anyone say that anymore?), I felt a sudden discomfort as the words from the television set flew to me in a form of a barely noticeable breeze. It took me a while to focus, to discern the words that were imposing so shamelessly upon me. They belonged to the first scenes of a new episode of my, once beloved, tv show "The Walking Dead". What struck me as odd at first is how I was oblivious of it's airing date; I used to look forward to every time a new episode would start - that tingling feeling of intrigue when watching something that is new, fresh...

Basically, what bothers me the most in the new season is that they've succeeded in making me not care - at all! Stacking up more and more of the new characters and then making me watch as they are slaughtered by some random events really beat every emotion out of me. Those characters are not even constructed fully before they are sent off to "we don't even try" Walkers, who tear them apart limb by limb, in a desperate attempt to make the audience care by facing them with abominations.

That being said, a new form of stirring in a lifeless safety of the prison is added by some unknown disease which appears as an unimaginative instrument for retrieving long lost dynamics of the show. Now the counter effect they get is that I (and I'm probably not alone in this) really don't care if a nuclear bomb wipes them all away in the next episode - somehow they've managed to make me feel like that.

And so, what to do? To watch, or not to watch? Maybe it is for the best that, in case you decide to go against your instincts and continue watching, you find a different character as a protagonist. Why not focus on one of the walkers? I mean, they rarely last more than one episode, but with all the other "good guys" here it really isn't much better a situation. Farewell...