2022 TV & Movie Reviews: Better Call Saul / I Just Killed My Dad / Star Time

Law and order and utter chaos this week.

Better Call Saul (Season 6, Part Two)

Few series can boast a perfect ending – Six Feet Under, The Good Place, The Sopranos (in retrospect) – that’s about all I can think of. Not even Gilligan and Gould‘s universally praised previous outing, Breaking Bad, had a perfect ending (or perfect final season). But by god, Better Call Saul ends absolutely perfectly. It honors everything that came before with Breaking Bad while being something entirely different – and subtler.

The main challenge with a dramatic prequel series is that we already know what inevitably happens, but Better Call Saul wisely (if not a bit controversially) oversteps this by introducing a third timeline that takes place after the events of the original series. I say controversial because there have been some serious gripes about this, beyond the expected “it’s not as uncreative as I am!” moans from idiotic “fans.” The midseason time jump to the third timeline is jarring because on the surface, it turns the show into something it wasn’t before. It takes away all the different character dynamics to give us something smaller, and it ratchets down the pace to give us something slower and more deliberate, and far less quippy.

However, from a thematic standpoint, it’s still the same show it’s always been – part funny, part dramatic, always clever, and above all else, absolutely hellbent on uncovering the mind of Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman by exploring his back-sliding into old habits. It’s about the excuses we all make for ourselves to indulge in our shittiest behaviors. Sure, Jimmy/Saul (and Kim to a lesser extent) takes it one step further by literally ruining dozens of lives with his bullshit, but he’s a flawed character we can relate to much more than Walter White. The final two episodes, and the finale, in particular, are so perfectly constructed and emotionally satisfying, without taking any crowd-pleasing narrative shortcuts. Perhaps more impressively, they clearly lay out the thesis of not just the entire show but the entire Breaking Bad universe – which is that being dishonest with yourself creates your own worst enemy. It’s simple but that’s what it all boils down to.

This is a hard show to write about without giving anything away, so let’s step away from the plot of this half of the final season and focus on the technicals. The acting this year is as strong as ever with series leads Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn delivering career-best work. The supporting players were as strong as ever and the numerous surprise cameos, with one glaring exception, all served a very specific purpose. The writing is as strong as it’s ever been, somehow still able to constantly subvert expectations six goddamn seasons later. It’s also one of the most beautifully directed and shot series on television, and while some might bicker about the arguably superfluous dialogue-free cold opens and montages, I think they’re cool as fuck. I want a POV ant’s journey through a pile of Blue Bell’s Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream or a step-by-step process of how Gene makes the Cinnabon dough while being bored as shit. For me, that adds to the experience. That’s really what a lot of Better Call Saul was about, the little things. Grade: A (AMC+)

I Just Killed My Dad

Netflix shits these three-to-four-episode true crime docuseries out seemingly every week, and THANK GOD for that. I need something wildly salacious and emotionally stirring at the end of my treacherous work week. Something broke up into say a handful of 30-45 minute segments. The really good ones I’ll watch in one night, the ok ones I’ll finish over two days, and the ones that stink I’ll just abandon in my queue. I Just Killed My Dad falls into the middle category, not quite as engrossing and uniquely batshit as Bad Vegan but also not as tired and plodding as that John Wayne Gacy turd. This has a really interesting story at the core of it and while it’s definitely overstuffed – could have been a 44-minute episode of literally any True Crime show – it’s maybe the only one of these episodic Netflix murder parties to lead with empathy — for the killer. Our killer, who just killed his dad, is a psychologically abused and sheltered 17-year-old, who just barely knows his A-B-Cs. Over the course of the series more is revealed about his harrowing home life and the less and less bad we feel about his dad who got murdered. Was it even murder? Was it manslaughter? Where does culpability end and begin in a case like this? How can someone be held responsible if they are sheltered to the point of not even being a part of our society? How can someone NOT be held responsible for an act like this? All the big questions the show poses to us in a combined two-hour runtime. It’s worth two hours of your time. Grade: B- (Netflix)

Star Time (1992)

Not your typical Tubi adventure, in that this is actually a fairly well-made (in places) and often funny low-budget thriller. It’s a very 90s satire on how television and media, in general, can warp minds and make people obsessive baby-faced ax killers. Borrowing a shit ton from Scorsese‘s The King of Comedy and several David Lynch projects, Star Time follows a twenty-something dude (Michael St. Gerard) so upset they canceled his favorite generic sitcom, that he enlists the help of an old guy (John P. Ryan), who we as an audience can only assume lives in his brain, to become a star himself by murdering random people in their homes. Exuding far more artfulness than most Tubi shitshows, Star Time is admittedly pretty clumsy in places and the lead actor is not very good, but it features some really solid cinematography (for their budget), a great supporting performance by John P. Ryan, and some really dead-on satire. The film is a weird little problem child of a cerebral horror thriller, so it’s no wonder distributors had no idea what to do with this when it was released back in ’92. It’s not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it certainly didn’t get the attention it deserved back then. Now, you can catch it on Tubi and give it the due it deserves. It won’t rock your world, but nearly every frame is interesting. SIDE NOTE: I kept saying (to my roommate) that the lead actor looked like a stupid Elvis and it turns out he played Elvis in the 1990 ABC Miniseries about Elvis titled Stupid Elvis. Grade: B- (Tubi)

ALSO STREAMING OR IN THEATERS:

TV

Black BirdAppleTV+

Black BirdAppleTV+

Severance (Season 1)AppleTV+

Pachinko (Season 1)AppleTV+

Stranger Things (Season 4, Part Two)Netflix

Yellowjackets (Season 1)Showtime

Under the Banner of HeavenHulu

Barry (Season 3)HBOMax

Atlanta (Season 3)Hulu

Under the Banner of HeavenHulu

The Staircase HBOMax

Euphoria (Season 2) HBOMax

Worst Roommate EverNetflix

Bad VeganNetflix

Worst Roommate Ever (Season 1)Netflix

The Tinder Swindler Netflix

Ozark (Season 4, Part Two)Netflix

Heartstopper (Season 1)Netflix

FILM

Prey

Prey (B) – Hulu

Bodies Bodies Bodies (B-) – In Theaters

Nope (B+) – In Theaters

The Bob’s Burgers Movie (B) – Hulu

Elvis (B) – In Theaters and $19.99 rental on Amazon

The Black Phone

The Black Phone (C+) – In Theaters and $19.99 purchase on Amazon

Moonfall (A+/F/Whatever) – $5.99 rental on Amazon

Cha Cha Real Smooth (B) – AppleTV+

CODA (C+) – AppleTV+

Jurassic World: Dominion (D) – In Theaters and $19.99 rental on Amazon

Top Gun: Maverick

Fire Island (B-) – Hulu

Crimes of the Future (B-) – $5.99 rental on Amazon

Pleasure (B) – $2.99 rental on YouTube

Men (B-) – $5.99 rental on Amazon

Top Gun: Maverick (B+) – In Theaters

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