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The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, five more movies, and two TV shows

Breaking Bad (2008-2013)
and Better Call Saul (2015-2022)

Breaking Bad is among the best dramas ever seen on TV. It's the story of Walter White, a seemingly ordinary man who goes from being a high school chemistry teacher to being a crystal meth-making mastermind.

White has cancer, and the show is set in America, so that's a health crisis and a money crisis. it's questionable whether Walt can afford the treatment and whether he'll survive. Since he majored in chemistry in college, and making meth is chemistry, he moves into that illegal and lucrative line of work. 

All across five seasons, Breaking Bad is very well-written, and Bryan Cranston is damned good as White. As he slowly morphs into the Scarface of New Mexico and his crimes become unforgivable, the show is put together so well that it's still a blast even after you hate him.

There are no dull bits, but there's one episode where the show's ongoing storyline basically stops for an hour, and all that happens is that White, the perfectionist meth-maker, pursues and tries to kill a housefly that's wandered into his lab. My wife hated that episode, and when we re-watched the whole series a second, third, and fourth time, she skipped it, but she was always back for the next episode. I never skipped Walter vs Fly, and consider it an audacious high point for the show.

Unlike so many TV series with ongoing storylines — Twin Peaks, The Sopranos, Lost, etc — Breaking Bad never jumps the shark, and when it's over it's not a disappointment. You always feel like it's going somewhere, and it is. And it gets there, with no dramatic cheating or gaping plot holes along the way.

The Neverending
Film Festival
#72

Better Call Saul is the prequel follow-up to Breaking Bad, delving into the life story of White's slimeball attorney, Saul Goodman.

It's not up to Breaking Bad's standards, same as most movies don't measure up to Citizen Kane. It has some classic moments (which I won't list here because any mention would be a spoiler), and some episodes that aren't exactly magic, but Better Call Saul is worth watching.

Just about every major and many minor actor from BB pops up in BCS, so if you've been wanting more Spooge from BB, BCS has more Spooge. BCS introduces some new characters, all fully realized and marvelous. The chance to see Carol Burnett again should not be missed — she's great, and of course, so's Bob Odenkirk in the title role.

On both shows, the main character is an ass, but they're both lovable asses. Better Call Saul is a good sequel, though it'll have less depth for anyone who hasn't seen Breaking Bad.

Verdict: BIG YES for Breaking Bad, YES for Better Call Saul.

♦ ♦ ♦

Itsy Bitsy (2019)

This started bugging me during the opening credits, as ominous music played over imagery of people wearing 'scary' primitive facepaint. Sorry, nothing's inherently scary about facepaint. I saw someone wearing similar facepaint at the subway station on Saturday, and she only wanted spare change.

As for the movie, it's a big yawn. Someone breaks into archaeologist Bruce Davison's house to give him a big black egg. It's an ancient treasure, lots of inscriptions. Davison's disabled, so a woman is coming to be his caretaker/housekeeper/whatever. She brings her two children, and also her 'scary' flashbacks.

Then someone else breaks into Davison's place, smashes the black egg, threatens the mom, and runs away. If you're keeping track, that's two mysterious intruders to Davison's house in the first 15 minutes. Maybe start locking your doors, Doc Davison?

Itsy Bitsy was billed as a movie about spiders, but where are they? With only hints of spiders, I gave up midway through, and clicked it off.

Perhaps I was simply in the wrong mood, though. I dearly love being scared by spiders, so I came back to Itsy Bitsy a week later, watched it to the end, and regretted it.

It does start making some sense, eventually, but it never starts being scary or interesting. Davison's good of course, and it's nice to see Denise Crosby again.

I frickin' hate spiders, though, and all I asked was to be scared by some spiders. The spiders here are so-so, sometimes creepy, sometimes fake-looking, rarely seen and never icky like real spiders. I suspect the movie was made by someone who's not afraid of spiders.

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)

"Don't give in and play their game. Fight them any way you have to, survive."

Not since I was a kid myself have I given much thought to how damned oppressive things can be for children in some situations. You have no power to solve your own problems, few legal rights, and you're generally not allowed to make decisions for yourself beyond "chocolate or vanilla."

Here's a movie that deals with such issues, seriously. It's sometimes described as a horror movie, but I don't think it's that. It's a simple story of a kid who's treated shitty by life and by some of the adults in her world, but at least she's treated with respect by the movie.

She's Rynn Jacobs (Jodie Foster, adolescent), who lives in a nice house outside of town with her poet father, who's seldom seen. I'll say no more, except that the movie is dramatic, romantic, scary, and riveting.

"How old do you have to be before people start treating you like a person?"

Verdict: BIG YES.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Parasite (2019)

A whole family — Dad, Mom, and two adult kids — are all con artists, waiting for the next opportunity to bilk somebody, and meanwhile surviving (poorly) on under-the-table payments for folding pizza boxes (poorly).

By forging documents and pretending he's a college student, the boy is hired to tutor a rich man's daughter in English. He soon recommends his sister, to teach art to his employer's young son, and she's a phony, too, but she's hired. Then Dad is hired as the family's chauffeur, Mom as the housekeeper and cook, and they're all pretending to have qualifications they don't and be someone they're not.

Maybe it doesn't sound funny typing it or reading it, but it's funny watching it. Parasite grows on you. It gets more and more outrageous, until it's so damned outrageous, I've decided it's a coded allegory about class and capitalism. I won't explain its political statement, though, because that would be telling, and also because I'm only mostly sure about it.

(click to enlarge)
Whatever the movie's meaning, it's great, it's by Korean big shot writer-director Bong Joon-ho, and it has the smallest-font closing credits I've ever tried and failed to read.

"With no plan, nothing can go wrong, and if something spins out of control, it doesn't matter."

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Slaughterhouse Rock (1987)

Hands with very long fingernails reach through walls to strangle and eviscerate teenagers, which is all fine and well. After that, though, it's followed by a long collection of other ghost and monster movie clichés. The title is the cleverest thing here, but the story takes place in neither a schoolhouse nor a slaughterhouse. 

There's one scene so dull I had to rewind and jot it down: the camera spends more than a minute and a half very slowly floating past ten tables in an ordinary, uninteresting restaurant, while we watch people eat hamburgers and drink beer. There's no dialogue, nothing else happening, and the people chewing burgers aren't part of the plot.

My guess is, they were the movie's key funders, getting their promised cameos, but jeez — a minute and a half of this? Get to the point of the pointlessness, please.

Verdict: BIG NO.

♦ ♦ ♦

The Towering Inferno (1974)

In a world where new super-tall skyscrapers can be built and opened without inspection, this glass tower has the cheapest electrical wiring they could find. On opening night it sizzles and sparks and the building goes up in flames.

Paul Newman is "the architect," who never noticed all the construction shortcuts. Steve McQueen is "the fireman," who goes up and down inside the burning building by riding the elevator, though we all know that's a no-no. Richard Chamberlain is enjoyably slithery as the guy who saved millions of dollars by buying cheap wiring. Bobby Brady is one of the fire's victims, and OJ Simpson rescues a kitty-cat. Faye Dunaway gets major billing, but has nothing to do on-screen except look worried. Maureen McGovern sings "We May Never Love Like This Again." Fred Astaire does not dance.

The building on fire, done by burning pre-CGI models, is fairly convincing. The story isn't anything. The Towering Inferno is exactly what you'd expect. Pure schlock. Despite not bothering to hit 'pause' when I needed to step out of the room, I'm pretty sure I didn't miss any of the film's complex characterizations or deep allegorical meaning.

Music by John Williams, who also wrote the theme for Lost in Space.

Verdict: MAYBE.

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8/23/2022 
 
Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. No talking once the lights dim. Real butter, not that fake crap, on the popcorn. Piracy is not a victimless crime. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.  

4 comments:

  1. I saw Itsy Bitsy on a date when it came out, in the pre-pandemic times when people went to the movies, and you're right, it was slow and boring. So was the man who took me to it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. >My wife hated that episode,

    I'm with Steph on this one. I scratched my head at "Fly." I'd say it's the only episode of the show that's less than a B-grade. And it's an F, IMO.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The Little Girl Down the Lane and Parasite and both essential movies. I watched Little Girl just a few months ago, and Jodie Foster was amazing.

    Some of the movies you choose to watch seem so undeserving of your time. Slaughterhouse Rock? Why?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sometimes I take movies seriously, but hey, schlock can be fun.

      Delete

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