No Hard Feelings

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Sony Pictures;
Comedy;
Box Office $50.45 million;
$34.99 DVD, 38.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for Sexual content, language, some graphic nudity and brief drug use.
Stars Jennifer Lawrence, Andrew Barth Feldman, Laura Benanti, Natalie Morales, Scott MacArthur, Matthew Broderick.

Jennifer Lawrence joins the ranks of raunch in a coming-of-age comedy that blends the sensibilities of Superbad with a premise not unlike Failure to Launch.

Lawrence plays Maddie, a 32-year-old slacker eking out a meager living in the Hamptons living in a house left to her by her late mother. Falling behind on her property taxes, her plan to save the house through providing ride shares is thwarted when her car is repossessed.

In desperate need of supplemental income, she stumbles upon an ad from a pair of helicopter parents who will give one of their used cars to a girl to sleep with their recent high school graduate son to bring him out of his shell before he leaves for college. The parents (Laura Benanti and Matthew Broderick) were seeking someone more in their son’s age range, but Maddie convinces them her relative maturity will bring the desired results.

Maddie then sets out to seduce Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman), whose awkward demeanor makes him wary of her at first, but he’s quickly ensnared by her aggressive sexual advances. Her plans hit a snag, however, when he seemingly falls in love decides to abandon college to stay with her.

The story was supposedly based on a real Craigslist ad discovered by the filmmakers, who found Lawrence was more than willing to partake in the risqué nature of the humor. The performances are solid and the script offers some good laughs, but the film misses an opportunity for a truly madcap scenario suggested about halfway through when Percy is invited to a party by a girl he went to school with who also seems to want to sleep with him. As Maddie’s deal with the parents is contingent upon Percy not dating anyone “the natural way,” she has to crash the party to put a stop with it, leading to all sorts of “older people at a kids party” jokes. But it also raises the question of what if Maddie wasn’t the only one the parents hired, thus making the unsuspecting Percy the prime target in a Hamptons battleground of young women eager to jump his bones.  

Thrusting Maddie into the middle of such a free-for-all kind of plot might also have been good for a few “Hunger Games” jokes, so it’s understandable if Lawrence would have preferred the film not go in that direction. Instead, the filmmakers chose an ending that leans more toward the sentimental.

Home video extras include an amusing three-and-a-half-minute gag reel, plus two behind-the-scenes featurettes. The six minute “A Little Wrong: Making No Hard Feelings” covers the production in general, while the seven-minute “A Motley Crew: Meet the Characters” focuses on the performances of the main actors.

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.”