No time for a long post today, so these reviews will be a little shorter than I'd like. It's unfortunate, but that's the way it is.
I finally made it to see John Carter, and I have to say that I was disappointed. I haven't read any Edgar Rice Burroughs, but, from what I can tell by looking him up, this was a poor adaptation. That wouldn't matter except that it was also a poor movie. If it had been a faithful adaptation, I would have given it a pass on some of the last minute rescues and whatnot that filled the movie, but, no, it appears all of these were a part of the "adaptation" only since those sequences don't appear to be in the source material. Stopping the bomb at the 1 second mark may have, at one time, been the height of suspense, but, when a movie like Galaxy Quest (which is great, by the way) makes fun of such last moment saves so blatantly, you know it's time to move away from them. There is no longer any suspense in those moments.
All of which is to say that John Carter, above all else, is cliched. It's also hopelessly muddled and full of short cuts to get past issues that wouldn't have been there at all if they'd been more faithful to the source material (like the magic juice Carter drinks so that he can speak Martian).
So... while I was looking for a fun space romp (which should have been easy enough to do), what I got was something that failed to be exciting on any level despite the wonderful visuals. This is a movie that Disney really should have just aimed at kids, as it appears the older one gets the less likely they will really enjoy it. Here's my evidence to support that:
Daughter (age 8): It was good!
Son (age 11): Awesome!
Son (age 16): eh, it was okay...
Friend of son (age 16ish): >shrug< it wasn't the best...
Breaking Bad (season 1)
After hearing many good things about Breaking Bad, my wife and I decided to try it out. That was unfortunate. The show uses every contrivance and cliche you can think of. It started with the one I hate the most: the flash forward (you can read more of what I think about this device here). It was so horrible. And this is going to be full of spoilers (but only about the first episode), so skip down if you don't want to know. We start out with the "hero" running from the law in his underwear. "What an interesting situation," you might think. "That's something you certainly don't see every day."
It goes on long enough that I turn to my wife and say, "This better not be one of those situations where they flash back to the real story." The "hero" gets out of the vehicle he's driving ready to... well, we don't know what he's ready to do. Go down in a blaze of glory? Commit suicide? Stand in the road in his underwear with a gun in his hand, that's for sure. And, then... "Three weeks earlier" WHAT THE HECK?!?!
So they go about getting us back to the point where he's in the road with the gun in his hand, and all I find out is that they lied to us to bring about the tension:
1. The sirens that we (the audience) are hearing are police sirens, but the vehicles, when they show up, are fire trucks. That's a cheap trick.
2. The way the character acts during the whole scene where he's running is completely not the character they build for him in the rest of the episode. You can buy it when you see it at the front of the episode, but, once we get to know the character, it doesn't work. He would not have acted like that.
3. The fire the trucks are responding to? There's no way. The fire was out in the middle of nowhere in the desert in New Mexico, yet we are expected to believe that the firemen respond immediately. And not just respond immediately, but that the "hero" knows they're coming and gets scared and runs. The fire was nothing. A little grass blaze, but fireman rush out into the desert within moments of it being started? I don't think so.
This is just the first episode. Don't get me started on the gas mask and all the completely ridiculous stuff with high school.
We did complete the first season. My wife wasn't as completely turned off by it as I was, but, by the end, neither of us cared enough to be interested in going on to season 2. Jesse Pinkman is the only character that's remotely interesting. And none of the side characters are at all likable or interesting. And Walter's life seems to be full of making bad decisions because he's full of pride, so I find very little in him to make me want him to succeed.
All of that leads me to this:
My wife and I started into season 2 of Justified last night. I love this show. So far, it has refused to use the horrible "flash forward" device, but that's not why I like it. It just makes me like it more.
Justified stars Timothy Olyphant, who is, in the end, the reason we watched Justified to begin with. See, my wife loved, I mean absolutely loved, Deadwood. I thought it was pretty good, too. However, Olyphant is so wooden and stiff in it that I often wondered if he was really a bad actor in a perfect role or a wonderful actor. As it turns out, he's a wonderful actor. But that was why I rented Justified; I had to know if he was always like that... like he had a pole inserted up his butt into his back. And, I have to say, that I am even more impressed with his role in Deadwood after seeing Justified, because, man, it must have been difficult to be the way he was in Deadwood all the time, but he did it.
As we watched the opening of the second season of Justified, the thought went through my head, "This is so much better than Breaking Bad. I had to wonder why that comparison came into my head when it's been weeks and weeks since we watched Breaking Bad (and I really never intended to talk about it here at all).
It's about the story telling. And the characters. Justified is full of interesting side characters. People you can relate to. Even the bad guys. You really just see them for who they are and end up liking them anyway. Like Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder. This is the bad guy, but, wow, he is just an interesting character. You end up rooting both for Raylan Givens (Olyphant's character) to catch him and for him to get away at the same time. This is after thinking that Boyd was just a throw away character at the beginning, too.
Justified has not (so far as we've seen) fallen victim to any of the normal conventions of TV or the associated cliches. My wife and I sit down each night to watch one episode of a show (that we rent, because we don't "have" TV), and, generally, we watch whatever episode that is, and I'm fine with it and ready to do whatever else I need to do before bed (like Farmville. Or the dishes (always the dishes...)). Not so with Justified. I'm never ready to turn it off. I want to just keep watching.
In my book, that's pretty compelling.
"It was justified."