The Ultimate Gift is the worst movie I’ve ever seen. You probably haven’t heard of it. Good for you. I don’t want to imply that it’s well-made, because it’s not, but there are certainly worse-made movies out there. Little Man, Date Movie, Space Mutiny, etc. But The Ultimate Gift is a special brand of awful because it takes a little girl’s cancer and uses it as nothing more than a plot point with which to forward the main character’s journey of self-discovery. Once the main character has supposedly become a better person, the little girl dies and no one really cares. Not sure about you, but to me, that is offensive. Now imagine a movie which does the same, only instead of using a cancer-stricken child, it uses a national tragedy the scope of which is still too large for many Americans to comprehend. Thanks to director Stephen Daldry, screenwriter Eric Roth, and a passel of others, you don’t have to imagine it. They’ve made it. And it’s called Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.
Hobo with a Shotgun is the feature-length adaptation of a contest-winning faux trailer shown with some Canadian prints of 2007’s Grindhouse; I haven’t seen the trailer, but maybe this stuff was amusing at two-and-a-half minutes. At 86 minutes, it is grim, nasty, and joyless. In aping the sleazoid vigilante flicks of the 70’s, I’m sure that was the intent of director/co-writer Jason Eisener. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Look, Planet Terror is great because it’s a well-crafted, old school adrenaline-pumper; Death Proof is great because it subverts grindhouse tropes while still managing to celebrate them. Both of them have moments of shocking violence, but they’re both clearly heartfelt love letters to the movies of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s childhoods. Hobo with a Shotgun feels like their obnoxious little shit of a brother who’s trying to outdo them at every turn, in effect making himself look all the more pathetic. There’s not much fun here. What there is, is a lot of sadism and stupidity. If that’s your thing, by all means, but I’ll be slowly backing away now. Extras on the Collector’s Edition (because apparently making less than $1 million at the box office warranted such a thing) include a making-of doc; a behind-the-scenes interactive mode; an alternate ending; deleted scenes; vlogs; an HDNet featurette; the original trailer; TV spots; theatrical trailers; commentary with Eisener and star Rutger Hauer; and another commentary with Eisener, producer Rob Cotteril, co-writer John Davies, and original hobo David Brunt.
(Originally reviewed by me in “Wow.”)
Breaking Bad‘s terrific second season was tightly plotted ahead of time, with ample foreshadowing throughout. For the show’s third season, however, creator Vince Gilligan and his writers turned into expert jazz players, improvising every note, changing rhythm, and exploring all sorts of new grooves. Gilligan and Co. repeatedly force science-teacher-turned-methmaker Walt and his junkie partner Jesse into corners there’s seemingly no way they’ll get out of; and the creative team had no idea if they could either, until they started writing the next episode. An approach like this could easily have been disastrous, but instead makes for one of the all-time great seasons of television. The jagged, frayed chemistry between Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul makes for the best duo on TV, both giving fierce performances. Stand-out episodes in a stand-out season include “One Minute,” with an intense set piece for the ages; “Fly,” which takes place entirely in the lab, examining Walt and Jesse’s relationship; and “Full Measure,” the epic season finale. Extras include commentaries by Gilligan and the cast; and a number of featurettes.