By Robin E. Simmons
EL CAMINO: A BREAKING BAD MOVIE
Netflix still reigns supreme in the all-out streaming wars now taking place on your favorite home video device. With almost two-dozen platforms competing for your eyeball and dollars, Netflix continues to solidify its global rule with original content and very deep pockets.
Last Friday’s premiere (previewed in the previous Screeners column) of Vince Gilligan’s follow-up to his groundbreaking series with a look what happened to Walter White’s young meth-cooking partner Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) after escaping the last episodes bloody finale that killed White.
On a sad note, Robert Forster made his farewell appearance as an actor (he died last Friday as the movie streamed into millions of homes. Other actors with minimal screen time include Tess Harper and Michael Bofdhever (as Jesse’s parents), Bryan Cranston in a truncated flashback), Jonathan Banks and Krysten Ritter in cameos reprising their roles in the series.
The movie itself starts slowly and never really takes off in spite of the muscle car referenced in the title. There are a couple of well-mounted sequences of tension and explosive action, but the film may not be satisfying to viewers unfamiliar with the series – it is not a stand-alone movie. However, that said, Paul is terrific throughout and gives strong emotional resonance to his character’s internal angst. It was fun seeing Cranston in a flashback cameo but it only served to remind how much he was missed.
NEW BLU FOR THE HOME THEATER:
THE LION KING
Director Jon Favreau’s brilliantly crafted all new, live-action reboot of the beloved 1976 animated classic is set in the African savanna where King Mufasa’s son Simba, is born. But not everyone is thrilled at the future king’s arrival. Scar, Mufasa’s brother and former heir has his own plans for the throne that result in Simba’s banishment. Will Simba survive long enough to seize what is rightfully his?
The main attraction to this new iteration of the almost Shakespearian tale is the incredible technology that allows the digital artists to create a verisimilitude of truly breathtaking photo realism of both creatures and landscape that must be seen to be believed. It’s hard to imagine what the future of film and computer driven art will be because this astonishing work appears to be as good as it can possibly get, especially in 4K UHD on a large hi-def screen. If there’s an issue here, it is the cognitive dissonance that prevents the full suspension of disbelief when the life-like animals that we know cannot be real start talking and emoting.
Let’s pray this film is a harbinger of better things to come. Now more than ever, anything that can be imagined can be visualized and brought to life on screen. The only drawback here is that Hollywood is more inclined to remake a successful title than risk investing in something truly original. Just think of all the great stories yet to be told. And now, anything is possible.
But aside from the tech marvels and the recasting of the voice talent, it’s hard not to think of this as anything more than cynical cash grab.
Movies matter, they are modern myths that remind us of our shared human experience and the consequences of our fears, hopes and desires. They deserve our best creative efforts since we crave stories that define what makes us human and the ways we are one family. Disney.
THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE
The critically acclaimed modern reimagining of Shirley Jackson’s legendary novel about five siblings who grew up in the most famous haunted house in America. Now adults, they’re reunited by the suicide of their youngest sister, which forces them to finally confront the ghosts of their pasts… some of which lurk in their minds… and some of which may really be lurking in the shadows of the iconic Hill house. Paramount.
Hailed as one of the best TV shows of 2018 by many critics and called “absolutely terrifying” by Rolling Stone.
Now Netflix has renewed it as an anthology series, telling a new story each season in this 3-Disc Blu-ray set that features all 10 episodes from the acclaimed first season, including for the first time, three extended Director’s Cut episodes with never-before-seen content. Both the Blu-ray and DVD sets also include exclusive commentary by creators and director Mike Flanagan on four episodes. Paramount.