El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Sony Pictures;
Drama;
$40.99 Blu-ray/DVD Steelbook;
Not rated.
Stars Aaron Paul, Jesse Plemons, Charles Baker, Matt Jones, Scott MacArthur, Scott Shepherd, Robert Forster.

The Blu-ray edition of this follow-up movie to “Breaking Bad” is the kind of fan-pleasing disc studios tend not to bother with much anymore. Loaded with extras in support of a fantastic main feature, the El Camino Blu-ray offers practically everything a “Breaking Bad” fan could want from it.

The movie serves as something of an epilogue to “Breaking Bad.” Written and directed by series creator Vince Gilligan, the story deals with what happens to Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) immediately after escaping from the criminals who were holding him hostage in the “Breaking Bad” finale.

Whether by coincidence or design, the movie is paced so it feels like watching three episodes of the show. The movie’s story can be roughly broken down into three sections, with a moment at the beginning of each section where one could imagine fitting in the iconic “Breaking Bad” title graphics. If one were inclined to think in such terms.

Even with all the baggage of serving as a sequel to one of the greatest TV series of all time, El Camino works just fine as a movie on its own — a neo-Western about a man’s quest to free himself from the consequences of his criminal past.

To set himself up in a new life, Jesse needs cash. And to get it, he recalls an incident with Todd (Jesse Plemons), one of the criminals who was forcing him to cook meth for them in the final episodes of the show. Several well-constructed flashbacks set during the time of the series inform on Jesse’s current actions, as well as giving the show’s fans plenty of material to fawn over. The movie is crammed with background details and Easter eggs.

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Even the title is emblematic of Gilligan’s knack for layering multiple meanings into his projects. While an El Camino is the type of car Jesse uses to make his escape, the words el camino are Spanish for “the road,” representing the way forward for Jesse as he tries to escape his past.

And there are a few welcome but not altogether unsurprising cameos from some old favorites.

This is also one of the final roles for beloved character actor Robert Forster, who reprises his role from an episode of “Breaking Bad” as a man who specializes in creating new identities for those who need them (and can pony up big bucks to buy them). He died the same day the movie premiered on Netflix. Forster ended up reprising the role again (posthumously) in an episode of the “Breaking Bad” prequel series “Better Call Saul.”

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The Blu-ray, which comes in an attractive Steelbook case alongside a DVD version, includes two great commentary tracks, one featuring Gilligan and Paul, and the other with 46 members of the cast and crew providing scene-specific insights.

Also included is the half-hour “Making of El Camino” featurette, as well as three scene breakdowns totaling nearly 23 minutes that offer picture-in-picture comparisons with a scene from the film to its storyboards, which Gilligan refers to as “homework.” There are also two-minutes of visual effects progression reels, showcasing a lot of subtle work in creating various backgrounds to match the look of the show.

Gilligan’s original cut of the film was reportedly three hours long, which eventually was trimmed to just over two hours. The Blu-ray includes seven deleted scenes that run about 17 minutes and include a few surprises. There’s also an amusing six-minute gag reel.

Rounding out the package is a trove of promotional material, starting with the two-and-a-half-minute short film Snow Globe, which centers on Todd. There are also two faux commercials for some of the fake companies used on the show, and a three-minute “Enchanted” music video featuring clips from the series.

Last up is the film’s trailer, plus a couple of teasers. The “Skinny Pete in the Box” teaser also pulls double duty as a sort of deleted scene.

The only thing missing is a digital copy so fans can add it to their digital libraries alongside “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul.”

Lionsgate to Bow ‘The Turkey Bowl’ on DVD Jan. 14

The comedy The Turkey Bowl arrives on DVD Jan. 14 from Lionsgate.

The film is now available on digital and on demand.

Co-written and directed by Greg Coolidge, creator of the “Ride Along” franchise, and co-writer/director of Employee of the MonthThe Turkey Bowl stars Ryan Hansen, Matt Jones, Kristen Hager, Brett Cullen, Barry Switzer and Alan Ritchson.

The story follows Patrick Hodges, a former small-town high school quarterback — now a high-powered Chicago businessman engaged to a politician’s daughter — who hasn’t returned to his tiny Midwestern town in years. But his old friends have lured him back for Thanksgiving to force him to finish the legendary Turkey Bowl — a football game that was snowed out 15 years ago. Patrick must risk his future to lead his ragtag team against their bitter crosstown rivals, ultimately realizing how much he misses the simpler life and the girl that got away.

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Special features include an audio commentary with director Coolidge and co-writer Kirk Ward and deleted scenes with commentary.

Brightburn

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Sony Pictures;
Horror;
Box Office $17.3 million;
$30.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $38.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for horror violence/bloody images, and language.
Stars Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner, Emmie Hunter, Gregory Alan Williams, Annie Humphrey.

The common description of Brightburn paints the film as something of a dark superhero tale, a speculation about what would have happened had Superman turned out to be evil.

Such a summary is a bit of an oversimplification, both in terms of what the movie is trying to achieve and in the implication of what Superman is.

For the most part, though, the film is an effective thriller with a killer hook — what if Superman was the slasher in his own horror film?

The superpowered alien central to Brightburn is not Superman, of course, but a close enough stand-in given the circumstances involved. A childless couple wishes for a baby only to have one fall out of the sky in a spaceship. They adopt the child and raise him as their own, only for him to discover that he possesses wondrous powers.

After living a relatively normal childhood, Brandon Breyer (Jackson A. Dunn) quickly develops the powers of super strength, flight, superspeed and heat vision. Unlike Superman, he can also emit EM pulses to interfere with electronics.

Brandon’s alien nature has begun to assert itself, and his instincts tell him he was sent to Earth to take it over.

So he slowly embarks on his campaign of terror, first tormenting a young classmate he has a crush on. As the locals begin to shun him for his oddness, he grows more willing to kill in order to conceal his true nature. Even his adoptive father (David Denman) begins to distrust him, though his mother (Elizabeth Banks) refuses to give up on him.

The key difference with Superman, of course, is that Clark Kent was never driven by a preordained alien instinct for dominance. He was simply raised as a child with superpowers, and developed the moral lessons imparted upon him by his adoptive parents into his desire to pursue truth, justice and the American way.

But that’s neither here nor there as far as Brightburn is concerned. Produced by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) and written by his brother and cousin, the film relishes its chance to demonstrate how terrifying the prospect of a superpowered child can be once he realizes he is subject to no mortal constraints. Brightburn is creepy, disturbing appropriately gory in the best traditions of practical horror effects (with a modern assist from CGI).

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The idea at the heart of Brandon’s sudden turn toward bloodlust gives rise to the five-minute “Nature vs. Nurture” featurette included with the Blu-ray, which explores the film’s family dynamic and suggests the film is something of a parable for parenting a difficult child.

The sentiment is echoed by director David Yarovesky in a short “social vignette” and the film’s commentary track, in which he recalls his own troubled upbringing and calls the film a tribute of sorts to his mother for putting up with him.

Yarovesky shares the commentary with his wife, Autumn, who serves as the costume designer, and cinematographer Michael Dallatorre. Their lighthearted and often crude discussion comes across like a group of friends making fun of each other and reminiscing on their shared experiences in relating the story of the making of the film. There are some pretty good insights offered for fans interested in knowing more about the film, as well as a fair share of poop jokes.

The five-minute “Hero-Horror!” featurette takes a look at how the film puts a dark twist on the telling of the usual superhero origin story. It’s mostly a standard-issue behind-the-scenes video of the cast and filmmakers discussing the movie, but it doesn’t go much deeper into really analyzing the influences on the film from among the greater pantheon of superhero mythology.

Rounding out the Blu-ray are the aforementioned social vignettes. Labled “Quick Burns Social Vignettes,” they consist of three videos running a total of two–and-a-half minutes. One video features Elizabeth Banks plugging the movie’s virtues, another offers James Gunn singing the praises of director Yarovesky, and the third is the interview with Yarovesky in which he discusses how his background influenced his vision for the film.