Better Call Saul
Greetings and welcome to the first blog update of 2023! ’Better Call Saul’ is a spinoff of the pop culture hit, ‘Breaking Bad’, and serves as both a prequel and sequel to the iconic show. The series ran from 2015 to 2022 and consist of 63 episodes spread over 6 seasons. It is centred on the exploits of Jimmy McGill, a crooked lawyer, as he embraces his mischievous side to become the sleazy scam artist Saul Goodman. Many actors from ‘Breaking Bad’ reprise their roles for this show including the main star Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut as well as a few other key figures as the programme progresses into its later seasons. There are also plenty of new cast members who give excellent performances such as Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler, Michael Mando as Ignacio Varga, Patrick Fabian as Howard Hamlin and Michael McKean as Chuck McGill. The music was composed by Dave Porter who is mostly known for his contributions to the ‘Breaking Bad’ universe.
The plot begins after the high stakes finale of ‘Breaking Bad’ as Saul Goodman, now going by the alias ‘Gene Takavic’ as was assigned to him by relocation expert Ed Galbraith, is trying to live under the radar and escape from the fallout of the chaotic mess created by drug lord Walter White. ‘Gene’ works as a manager in a Cinnebun store in Nebraska, far from the state of Albuquerque where Saul committed his unlawful deeds and aided the Heisenberg criminal empire. Despite fleeing from his past, it is clear in the quieter moments in the mall store when he has time to reflect that Saul misses the exciting old life he had lead which was fraught with danger and thrills. One night ‘Gene’ goes to his empty home after a long day, indulges in alcohol as he puts on a VHS tape of his old ‘Better Call Saul’ advertisements and tearfully recollects how his life had gotten to this low point.
The main story starts in May of 2002, 6 years before he encounters Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, when ‘Saul’ was a struggling lawyer simply known as Jimmy McGill. His squalid office is a boiler room located at the back of a Vietnamese nail salon and his work seems to bring in a feeble income with his latest job only racking in $700 after defending 3 teenagers. On top of having difficulties in his work, Jimmy is also responsible for looking after his older brother known as Charles. Hi brother, also going by the nickname ‘Chuck’, is a hermit that is housebound due to a perceived illness known as electromagnetic hypersensitivity. The mental issue means that Chuck cannot be near electricity and lives entirely without items that use it as a power source. With such an unenviable life, Jimmy begins to be tempted by ‘get rich quick’ schemes when he meets two scam artists who sloppily attempt to con him.
Despites its slow first season or two, I certainly came to love this spin off and think of it as a worthy addition to the franchise as it grew into its own the longer it went on. I always liked the smarmy Saul Goodman and considered him to be one of the best characters to inhabit the underworld of Albuquerque. As such, I was curious to see what Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould would do to flesh out this character and they certainly didn’t disappoint in their efforts. They made Saul a complex individual and introduced other equally compelling characters such as Kim Wexler, Saul’s love interest and a fellow lawyer who becomes increasingly corrupted due to Saul’s presence in her life. I always find it interesting that this show was spawned by a throwaway line in ‘Breaking Bad’ when Saul, kidnapped by a masked White and Pinkman, is knelt in front of a freshly dug grave and starts to plead for his life once he believes he has been kidnapped by Lalo’s men, a villainous figure who only appeared in the spin off. This one is a must watch in my opinion.
Quote of the Day
This is the Way.
Happy New Year: 2022 Review!
Greetings and welcome to the last blog update of the year! 2022 will undoubtedly be remembered as a historic year for the turbulent events that transpired within these past twelve months. From the outbreak of conflict in Europe on a scale not seen since the harrowing days of the Second World War to the public assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, it is safe to suggest that the year won’t be fading from our minds too soon. In Britain alone, Number 10 saw three Prime Ministers enter its famous door in quick succession of each other as one premiership flamed out after the other. Of course, the most striking and profound change was the end of the modern Elizabethan Age with the passing of Queen Elizabeth II and the ascension of her son Charles to the throne which commenced the Carolean era.
While all these important events were unfolding, I busied myself by delving into many great television shows, films, games and books to keep myself entertained. There was a lot of excellent content that I indulged in throughout the year and I have listed some of the best I experienced and reviewed during this time below.
Television Show of the Year: The Prisoner
It was certainly tough to choose my television show of the year after watching a lot of gripping series but I believe ‘The Prisoner’, the cult hit from the sixties, stands out the most to me. I was intrigued by the unusual premise of this show and its colourful strangeness years before I had even seen a clip of it. Like a lot of my first impressions of cultural works, I was introduced to the series when it was spoofed in a classic ‘Simpsons’ episode. The plot revolves around an unidentified British spy who wakes up in a mysterious society known as the Village after being gassed and knocked unconscious in his home. Relegated to the moniker of Number 6, the protagonist tries to escape the Village after it becomes clear the authorities there want to extract highly sensitive information from him that he must protect at all costs.
Book of the Year: Doctor Sleep
It is always difficult for authors to build on top of a much beloved work and carrying on from a novel as highly acclaimed as ‘The Shining’ must have been a daunting task for King but he did it admirably. Many decades after the first book was published, ‘Doctor Sleep’ follows a now adult Danny Torrance, who works in a hospital, as he is haunted by the same spectre of alcoholism that his father Jack fought against and lost to. With the help of copious amounts of alcohol, Danny is able to supress his unique talent of the ‘Shining‘ which so troubled him and his mother, Wendy, at the Overlook Hotel in his childhood. He may have learned to overpower the ghosts but there is a new evil named the True Knot that Danny must face and save the gifted young Abra Stone from.
Game of the Year: Tomb Raider: Legend
‘Tomb Raider: Legend’ is a game from 2006 which saw Lara Croft return to her well renowned gaming series ten years after her first outing in the original PlayStation days. It is the first entry in the ‘Legend’ trilogy which also consists of ‘Anniversary’, a remastering of the trailblazing 1996 title, and 2008’s ‘Underworld’. I certainly enjoyed this game which has a good mix of action and puzzles to solve, as one would rightfully expect from a Lara Croft game, but it doesn’t have much of a complex plot or well fleshed out supporting characters. This is particularly the case for its one dimensional villains who I found to be unfortunately quite forgettable. On the other hand, Keeley Hawes’ performance as Lara Croft is of note as she brings a lot of fun to the role and captures the essence of the character nicely.
Film of the Year: The Founder
This biographical film from 2016 is a must watch in my opinion as it follows businessman Ray Kroc as he transforms McDonalds from a small restaurant in San Bernadino into a corporate juggernaut that conquered the world through the revolutionary idea of fast food. The film has a great cast that is comprised of Michael Keaton, who displays a level of smarm and sleaze that is reminiscent of his earlier Beetlejuice role, as well as Nick Offerman and John Caroll Lynch among its main talent. It is a fascinating if ultimately bleak movie to watch as the audience is all too aware that the hardworking and innovative McDonalds brothers are going to be slowly pushed out of their rightful success by the crafty and ambitious Kroc. ‘The Founder’ greatly succeeds in making the audience sympathetic towards the struggling Ray Kroc at the beginning and turning him into a loathsome character by the end of the movie.
Did you have any favourite media yourself that you watched, read or played these last several months? If so, feel free to leave your highlights or recommendations in the comments. While I’d like to give an optimistic appraisal of the coming year and be more uplifting, I believe we are in for a troublesome period ahead to put it mildly which even the most apolitical of laymen should be able to see at this point. Nonetheless, I am hopeful that 2023 will be a good year on a personal level regardless of what is going on in the world at large and I’ll be back to blogging in January with my usual reviews. Have a Happy New Year and all the best for 2023!
Quote of the Day
My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don't know.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Merry Christmas 2022!
Greetings, its Christmas Eve once again and as usual I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas! I hope you take it easy tomorrow and enjoy the festivities with plenty of eating and drinking sprinkled in during the day. I believe there was a strong Write Wise challenge this year to celebrate the season which is always something I look forward to. I certainly had fun writing ‘Festive Fright!’ and returning to ‘Dark Legacy’ with Alan and Adele taking centre stage once more. My next update will be on the 31st December 2022 as we bid farewell to one year and welcome in another but in the meantime, have a Merry Christmas!
Quote of the Day
Midnight. Merry Christmas, Holmes.
Dr John Watson
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Greetings, ‘Space Force’ is a Netflix original sitcom that ran for two seasons from 2020 to 2022. With a total of 17 episodes before its cancellation, the series is an easy and, in my opinion, an enjoyable watch. It was created by Steve Carrell and Greg Daniels and is based upon the most recent military arm of America, the United States Space Force, which was brought into creation by President Donald Trump in December 2019. The show has a sizeable cast of established actors and actresses such as Steve Carrell, John Malkovich, Lisa Kudrow and rising personalities including Tawny Newson, Jimmy O. Yang, Diana Silvers and Ben Schwartz. The music was conducted by Carter Burwell who is known for his numerous collaborations with the Coen brothers.
The plot begins with Mark Naird, an Air Force Lieutenant General, who is recently granted the rank of full four star general. With his new position, Mark believes and hopes that he will be promoted to the role of Chief of Staff of the Air Force. This turns out to be untrue. In a shocking moment for Mark, he is taken aback when he is declared the first Chief of Operations of the United States Space Force. As the most recent military wing with no accomplishments behind it to garner a reputation, the Space Force and, by extension, Mark are not taken seriously by the other arms and they are often belittled by them. Naird and his family who were contented with their lives are forced to relocate to Wild Horse in Colorado due to the new job as that is where the Space Force headquarters is based. One year after the hiring and there isn’t much going well for anyone in the Naird family. Erin, Mark’s teenage daughter, misses her old friends and hasn’t been able to adjust to her new life at all while Maggie, Mark’s wife, has been locked up in prison for a crime that is never explained.
Mark continues to press on ahead with his role despite his struggles which include trying to be a good single parent since Maggie has been sentenced to a few decades behind bars and his lack of respect from his colleagues in other divisions. To show politicians and the general public that Space Force is not a waste of tax payer’s money, Mark decides to launch a satellite named the Epsilon 6 into space. There are numerous setbacks with the satellite and a few politicians have been invited to watch the launch in person. With a deadline fast approaching, Mark is pushed into a corner and goes against the trusted advice of his scientists, including his main confidant Dr Adrian Mallory, when he commits to launching the satellite. Despite some concerns of making an embarrassment out of Space Force in front of the gathered politicians, the Epsilon 6 successfully makes its journey in to orbit. Mark and Adrian celebrate that night but come to realise a situation of dire political ramifications is on the horizon when a Chinese space craft is caught intentionally dismantling the Epsilon 6 and there are calls within the US government to retaliate.
Even though the series had an initially mixed reception before a much better rated second season came to the streaming site, I enjoyed this show from start to finish. This could easily have went on for a few more series in my opinion and it is unfortunate that it concluded on a cliff-hanger as I would have liked to have seen how it was going to be handled. Saying this though, the first season also ended on another cliff-hanger and the plot points were resolved off screen and addressed in the opening of the second series so it may have been anti-climactic. The characters are well fleshed out and easy to root for, this was the case for even some of the characters who were specifically designed to be somewhat annoying, as ‘Space Force’ balanced light humour and heart superbly. I would encourage you to watch this if you are looking for an easy going comedy.
Quote of the Day
We've got a computer. It's going to do lots of magical things, like make Harry Crane seem important.
The Quiz Part 14
Greetings, ‘The Quiz’ returns for the 14th year in a row with questions covering entertainment, events that are both current and historical as well as one question on our very own Write Wise. Last year proved to be a bit difficult for the contenders with Mark and Joh tying first place with 6 points out of 10 and Aaron not far behind on 4 points. It is quite possible that there will be a shake up in the rankings this time around with one or two tricky questions that could trip some bloggers up in their quest to win. As is always the case, the answers are below the questions and are located underneath the ‘Spoilers!’ tag. Please remember to put your scores in the comments and best of luck in your quizzing!
1. ‘Gone with the Wind’ was one of the first motion pictures to make use of the expletive ‘damn’ in its script but what was the famous line, which contained this word, that Rhett Butler uttered to Scarlett O’Hara in the concluding scene?
2. Who said this? – “Yes, I am, uh... I met him fifteen years ago. I was told there was nothing left. No reason, no, uh, conscience, no understanding and even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, of good or evil, right or wrong. I met this six-year-old child with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes, the devil's eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him and then another seven trying to keep him locked up, because I realized that what was living behind that boy's eyes was purely and simply...evil.”
3. Which British monarch was the subject of the 2018 film ‘The Favourite’ and the queen who oversaw the Third Indian War?
4. Place these Indiana Jones Films in the order of their release dates – A. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade B. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc C. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull D. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
5. In what year was ‘Casablanca’, staring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, released?
6. What is the title of the ‘Karate Kid’ spin off television series that is named after Miyago-Do’s opposing team in the first film?
7. Name the character.
8. Unscramble the letters to reveal an actress – EFYA WYDAANU
9. Do the Write Wise entries ‘Demons’, ‘Guardian: The Lone Wolf and the Pack’ and ‘The Imposter Series: The Curse’ all contain a character with lycanthropy?
10. Which business magnate bought the social media platform Twitter in 2022 after a successful hostile takeover bid?
1. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
2. Dr Sam Loomis
3. Anne, Queen of Great Britain
4. B. D. A. C.
6. Cobra Kai
7. Dr Herbert West – The Re-Animator
8. Faye Dunaway
9. Yes – Terry Holloway, Dr Bernard Charles and Bruce Harper all have a werewolf alter ego
10. Elon Musk
Quote of the Day
I don't pass sentence. That's for the courts to decide. But this time - this time - I am sorely tempted to do the job myself!
Batman: The Animated Series
Army of the Dead
Greetings, ‘Army of the Dead’ is a 2021 film by Zack Snyder, the director behind some notable titles including ’300’, ‘Watchmen’ and ‘Sucker Punch’ as well as being involved in the DC Cinematic Universe. This film is an interesting concept as it manages to serve simultaneously as a zombie flick and a heist film set in the colourful background of Nevada’s Las Vegas. It stars an ensemble cast with Dave Bautista being the most well-known member as he became a household name due to his role as Drax in Marvel’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ back in 2014. Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera, Theo Rossi and Matthias Schweighofer are also portraying main characters. The music was composed by Tom Holkenborg who has worked on many previous projects such as ‘’Mad Max: Fury Road’, ‘Deadpool’ and ‘Godzilla vs. King Kong’.
The story begins when a military convoy heading from the mysterious government facility, Area 51, is travelling along the road and collides with a car just outside of Las Vegas. The cargo, a type of zombie, manages to break free from its restraints in the wreckage and makes its way into the desert. Soldiers comprising the convoy attempt to recapture the zombie but are ultimately killed by it in their efforts to do so. With no one left to stop the zombie, it makes its way to the helpless city of Las Vegas and the ignorant population who are unaware of the carnage that is headed their way. The situation quickly spirals out of control and the military fail to supress the zombie virus that spreads through the casino city. As such, they resort to the last possible course of action which is to quarantine the location with a large makeshift wall.
Six years after the incident and it has been decided by the President that he is going to launch a nuclear strike on Las Vegas to deal with the contained zombie threat. Upon hearing the news, a casino owner called Bly Tanaka approaches a mercenary, Scott Ward, who had lived in Vegas with a simple proposition. Bly wants Scott and a trusted team to break into the quarantined area to retrieve 200 million dollars from his own casino before it is destroyed by the nuclear warheads. Ward agrees to the terms and teams up with a diverse group with specific skills such as a world renowned safecracker and a tried and tested helicopter pilot. With the assistance of his estranged daughter who works in a nearby quarantine camp, Scott is smuggled past the security defences set up by the U.S. government and the group find themselves in the ruins of the city that is ruled by the walking dead.
While I enjoyed this movie for the most part, I wouldn’t classify it as a must watch for cinephiles although I wouldn’t consider myself a big fan of Snyder in the first place since I only really like his adaptation of Alan Moore’s comic book ‘Watchmen’. I certainly thought some parts were pleasantly fun and displayed a unique touch such as the zombie tiger which was an interesting reflection of the showmanship of the desert city. A problem I had with the movie, though, was the characters as most of them were generic and there was little emotional impact to be felt at their often bleak fates. The one character who stood out favourably to me however was Dieter, the German safecracker, played by Matthias Schweighofer. He was also the central figure in the prequel spinoff film named ‘Army of Thieves’. I have yet to see that movie but I will probably look into it at some stage.
Quote of the Day
Hi, I'm Chucky. Wanna play?
Chucky / Charles Lee Ray