What we know so far about Vince Gilligan’s “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” (2019)

Netflix has dropped a teaser trailer for Vince Gilligan’s El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019), with authorities interrogating Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) as to the location of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), according to The Guardian. Taking place after Jesse’s escape in a stolen Chevrolet El Camino at the end of AMC’s Breaking Bad (2008-2013), the only painstakingly curated, spoiler-free details Netflix will release about the film are that for Jesse to have a future, he must face his past. The picture will be uploaded to Netflix October 11, and it is anticipated to be broadcast on AMC as well.

Andrew Lincoln returning as Rick Grimes in “The Walking Dead” film

Andrew Lincoln will reprise his role as Rick Grimes in an untitled Universal Pictures theatrical release after playing the character for nine seasons on AMC’s The Walking Dead (2010-), according to BuzzFeed News. A short video teaser premiered at a 2019 San Diego Comic-Con panel for The Walking Dead and AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead (2015-), with a helicopter rescuing a half-dead Rick at the end of his final episode. Executive producer Scott M. Gimple, chief content officer for The Walking Dead universe, is writing a series of films revolving around the character, which were initially expected to air on cable until Universal, in search of a new hit franchise, became involved.

Netflix review: AMC’s “Breaking Bad” (2008-2013)

With the (now controversial) Academy Awards sweep for Sam Mendes’s American Beauty (1999), Hollywood made the bed for its love affair with the mid-life crisis.

If it’s because there’s something to be said about straight, white men of a certain age running the industry, then the fate of Walter White is what they deserve.

If you don’t know what to watch next, AMC’s Breaking Bad (2008-2013) is available to stream on Netflix. Showrunner Vince Gilligan saw the series win sixteen Primetime Emmy Awards.

Leading man Bryan Cranston took home four of them, co-star Aaron Paul earned three, and leading lady Anna Gunn won two.

The neo-Western crime drama, set and shot on location in Albuquerque, spins the yarn of Walter White (Cranston), a high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with lung cancer who produces and distributes meth with former student Jesse Pinkman (Paul) to provide for his family.

Simultaneously, Walt finds himself trapped in a violent criminal underworld that threatens not only himself, but also the lives of his wife, Skyler Lambert (Gunn), and his DEA agent brother-in-law, Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), who he’s desperate to keep in the dark about his business.

Through it all, Walt becomes an increasingly powerful (and dangerous) drug lord.

The theme of Breaking Bad is addiction, and the key to addiction is escalation. Walt, the “average,” domesticated suburbanite, grows to be as addicted to his dark alter ego, “Heisenberg,” as users are addicted to his meth, and as addicted as the binge watcher is to his downfall.

Breaking Bad is the once-in-a-lifetime show that improves with each season until it reaches that even rarer “perfect” finale, intensifying its mythos to such a transcendent crescendo, it feels as though the writers had the entire series charted from the beginning.

It is a slow burn from an intoxicating initial hit to a dizzying high with nowhere to go but down, which is why Gilligan led the noble maneuver to bow out gracefully at the production’s peak, rather than beat a dead horse.

His ethos, on the other hand, lands a somewhat more discordant note. In the Breaking Bad universe, actions have consequences, and crime doesn’t pay.

Still, many fans fail to see Walt’s abusive, narcissistic behavior for what it is, instead demonizing one of his longest-suffering victims: his own wife, Skyler.

Skyler White is something of a lovechild between Patty Hearst and Lady Macbeth, a housewife who wakes up one day to find her American Dream perverted into her worst nightmare.

The home she made is now a prison, the family she raised is now in jeopardy, and the man she married is the monster who started it all.

As she is forced to launder his blood money to protect her children from the truth about their father, Skyler cannot scrub her own hands clean. It’s a life she never asked for, and it’s a cross she’ll have to bear forever.

She is hypocritical and manipulative, but her flaws are what help her survive in Heisenberg’s unforgiving empire.

Overall, she’s a contradictorily-faceted, nuanced, tragic character, played to pitch perfection by Gunn. She is hardly the megalomaniac Walt is – where Heisenberg says family is his motivation to rationalize his deadly lifestyle, for Skyler, it’s the truth.

Regardless, the fanbase turned against her with such vitriol, the actress herself was the recipient of death threats.

Most likely, it’s because Walt’s role as the “antihero” at the focal point of the narrative seduces the audience into sympathizing with him, falling for the “meek,” “mild-mannered” persona which turns out to be just another lie.

It’s a masterfully verisimilitudinous character study, but it unfairly cuts Skyler into an antagonistic figure – in the end, she is right to condemn Walt’s choices, even if he ostensibly made them for the sake of her, because he is ultimately what destroys everything they have together.

For the objective, ethical consumer, with enough critical remove to see behind Walt’s mask,  Breaking Bad is a work of art that will be studied centuries from now like we study Shakespeare today.

Sir Anthony Hopkins penned an open letter to the cast praising their performances as the greatest of all time, and Cranston and Paul deliver, as protagonist and deuteragonist, respectively.

Even though Cranston isn’t the sociopath Walt is (or, at least, one would hope), this turn in his career is still a deeply personal one for him. Before Breaking Bad, he was a comedic staple on NBC’s Seinfeld (1989-1998) and Fox’s Malcolm in the Middle (2000-2006).

Heisenberg is as miraculous a transformation for Cranston as it is for Walt, a chameleonic alchemy of dynamism further tempting us onto Walt’s side at the beginning, when he’s at his most harmless, only to find ourselves, much like Skyler, bedfellows with a villain by the end.

Toxic masculinity and heterosexual, Caucasian, male egocentrism stand trial in American Beauty on meth, for the crime of vampiric selfishness, with five seasons of evidence to convict the accused.

Gilligan’s verdict ought to serve as a cautionary tale for all the other Walter Whites out there who seek empowerment through oppression.

AMC Theatres introduces “AMC Artisan Films” as an alternative to blockbusters

AMC Theatres is launching a new programming-marketing strategy called “AMC Artisan Films” to draw attention to more character- and narrative-focused features as opposed to blockbusters, according to Variety. Elizabeth Frank, the company’s executive vice president of worldwide programming, says not only is AMC known in the industry for distributing blockbusters, they also carry more artist-driven titles than any North American competitor. In an effort to boost the success of these lesser-known movies, AMC Artisan Films is seeking earlier runs from platform releases, as well as playing them longer in the theater in the hope that there will be enough time for positive word-of-mouth to reach audiences.

Netflix review: AMC’s “Mad Men” (2007-2015)

Tony Soprano… Walter White… Frank Underwood…

All three of these characters would be loathsome human beings, but, in the Golden Age of Television, they make for our favorite antiheroes. They are sociopaths with a body count between them that makes us ask ourselves why we root for them (or at least it should).

Don Draper ranks as one of the greatest among them, and he did it without killing anyone.

If you don’t know what to watch next, AMC’s Mad Men (2007-2015) is available to stream on Netflix.

No stranger to the antihero, series creator Matthew Weiner saw HBO’s The Sopranos (1999-2007) win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama in 2004 and 2007, when he served as their executive producer.

Mad Men itself earned the same award four years in a row, from 2008 to 2011.

Set in 1960s Manhattan, the period drama focuses on the hard-drinking Don Draper (Jon Hamm), the self-made creative director at a Madison Avenue advertising agency. Again, Don isn’t a violent criminal – his failure as a husband, father, and professional are what characterize him.

Meanwhile, all around him, the countercultural revolutions of the decade change life at work and at home.

An episode of Mad Men can go by without much happening, and its commitment to historical realism includes deadpan representations of the sexism, racism, homophobia, child abuse, alcoholism, and smoking of the era, which may be off-putting to modern audiences.

Though not for everyone, Mad Men’s slice-of-life experimentation with TV storytelling is complex with subtext. The setting itself is the star of the show, striking an unpredictable tone of crippling lawnmower accidents and nipples in gift boxes between the more mundane moments.

The aesthetic is a snapshot of the American Dream imperial capitalists at the time were propagandizing for the rest of the world in an effort to combat the global influence of communism during the Cold War.

Indeed, the 1960s may look glamorous on Mad Men, like one of Don Draper’s cigarette ads, but once you realize it’s only to sell a product that slowly kills the consumer, the glamour fades like the passing of time to reveal the social inequality and decadent consumerism lying underneath.

The fourth and fifth seasons are the crown jewels of the series, when the drama comes into its own, finds its voice, and develops its cast into their most dynamic.

One wishes, however, that Weiner were as ethical in his approach to Don Draper as he was with Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini).

In the final season of The Sopranos, Tony’s psychiatrist, Doctor Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco), comes to accept what an irredeemable monster he is and condemns him in a scene that’s cathartic for anybody who’s ever had to “break up” with an antisocial personality.

Mad Men, on the other hand, features no such reckoning for Don. The closest we get is a phone call in the series finale with leading lady Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), who he manipulates out of chastising him for his selfishness, to talking him down off the ledge.

As a result, Don’s actions could come across as romanticized for the less-than-critical viewer. In spite of everything else, he is a successful, talented, attractive businessman with a tragic backstory that, for those who long to identify with him, could make him too sympathetic.

The ambiguous ending does not clarify whether Don is a changed man or not after his conversation with Peggy, which could mean he gets away with his narcissistic behavior one last time…

…Or not.

While Mad Men is not known for lending itself to easy interpretation, that’s what lends it well to re-watches – you can binge it over and over again and find something new every time. It is a powerfully honest character study of a man on the run, not from the law, but from himself.