‘Breaking Bad’ Was the Last Great Antihero TV Show

Breaking Bad 10th Anniversary

Breaking Bad, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this week, was far from the first TV drama focusing on an antihero. Bland chemistry teacher-turned-meth chef and eventual kingpin Walter White followed in the footsteps of mobster Tony Soprano, bad cop Vic Mackey, enigmatic ad man Don Draper, and other dark leading characters of television in the 2000s. What makes Breaking Bad so remarkable to consider now, after a decade, is twofold: it’s arguably the best of the antihero dramas and marked the beginning of the end of the subgenre’s heights.

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Paddington 2 Warner Bros

Any film critic worth his or her salt will tell you that January is a pretty rough month for new releases. It’s a month marked by high-profile films from the previous year expanding around the country as they aim to get awards attention. Rare is the January release that rises above the status of being forgettable. But rare too is the sequel that improves upon its predecessor, and yet, here we are with the North American release of the utterly delightful Paddington 2. Bringing together many of the key players from the delightful 2015 original, Paddington 2 doubles down on the previous film’s many charms, introduces a cheeky new villain, and is thoroughly giddy fun.

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2017 character actors

While 2017 has, overall, been a tire fire of a year, it has also been a largely rewarding year for cinema. (It should go without saying, but every year is rewarding for cinema.) Though there have been thematic throughlines in unexpectedly similar films, and unavoidable, sometimes unintentional parallels to real-world events, 2017 in film has been the year of the ubiquitous character actor.

In a strange coincidence (or just a sign of taste from various filmmakers), a handful of character actors have not only appeared in a number of the year’s most notable films, but they’ve each appeared in movies that may well end up with Oscar nominations aplenty next month. Let’s look at four character actors who seemingly showed up in every movie released in 2017: Caleb Landry Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tracy Letts, and Bradley Whitford.

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Hank and Spielberg

In such a fraught year as 2017, it’s hard for The Post — about pioneering journalists reporting a shocking truth that the American government wants to keep hidden, starring two of the biggest movie stars on the planet and directed by the most distinguished filmmaker of modern American cinema — not to feel Very Important™. Of course, Very Important™ Movies often feel very stodgy and lifeless, more notable for the well-intentioned people behind the project as well as the subject matter than for being lively and as vital as the subject matter itself.

Steven Spielberg’s The Post has the unique benefit of not only being Very Important™ but also feeling exciting and urgent, a reflection and refraction of our current state that is at once damning and thrilling. It’s also pleasingly familiar, as Spielberg is once again working with Tom Hanks, his go-to acting collaborator when depicting intense periods of 20th-century American history, though in a fresh, somewhat overdue new context.

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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 80th Anniversary

(Welcome to The Disney Discourse, a recurring feature where Josh Spiegel discusses the latest in Disney news. He goes deep on everything from the animated classics to the theme parks to live-action franchises. In this edition: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs came out 80 years ago today, so let’s reflect on that.)

Many of the best stories from the Walt Disney Company revolve around a seemingly impossible gamble. (The same goes for newer, less exciting stories, like Disney buying Fox, as well.) It was a major gamble for Walt Disney to create a theme park that was both inspired by some of his films as well as a general sense of adventure, optimism, and futurism. But Disneyland Park has been a massive success for over 60 years, leading to other theme parks and resorts around the world. It was a major gamble for the Walt Disney Company to distribute a fully computer-animated film at a time when such technology was primarily used for brief effects in blockbusters or in TV commercials. But Toy Story was a huge success for Disney, and Pixar has become one of the most influential studios in Hollywood. The original gamble, famously known as Disney’s Folly, was in the same ballpark as Toy Story, yet even more daring at the time: making a feature-length hand-drawn animated film.

Today marks the 80th anniversary of that folly. Some of the oft-considered great films in American cinema did not initially get a warm reception from critics and audiences; movies like Citizen Kane and Vertigo only grew in prominence over time as opposed to being championed by the consensus upon their initial release. But Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has ridden a wave of love almost from the moment it premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater in Los Angeles, California on December 21, 1937. It is arguably one of the five or six most influential films ever made — though it is not the first animated feature released anywhere in the world, it’s the first American-made animated feature — and was immediately praised as one of the greatest films ever by filmmakers and icons like Sergei Eisenstein and Charlie Chaplin. But what is the true mark of the influence that Snow White left behind? The state of animation is vastly different now than it was 80 years ago, in ways that are so tangled as to barely see Snow White’s cinematic footprint as being present.

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Revisiting ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ 25 Years Later

Revisiting The Muppet Christmas Carol

Too few adaptations of Charles Dickens’ iconic A Christmas Carol are gimmick-free. Though a couple of stellar versions exist that focus squarely on Dickens’ story of redemption during the holidays, focusing on a nasty moneylender, the majority of adaptations are defined by their unique and extra hook. It’s A Christmas Carol — but as a modern comedy starring Bill Murray! It’s A Christmas Carol — but in motion-capture animation with Jim Carrey playing multiple roles! It’s A Christmas Carol — but as a big, splashy musical starring a young Albert Finney! And so on.

This month marks the 25th anniversary of another Christmas Carol adaptation, and one with a pretty obvious gimmick: The Muppet Christmas Carol. Remarkably, though, The Muppet Christmas Carol features one of the best-ever Ebenezer Scrooges on film, often to the point where it feels like a better Christmas Carol adaptation as opposed to being a good Muppet movie.

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Pitch Perfect 3 - Official Trailer [HD] (screen grab) CR: Universal Pictures

Pitch Perfect 3 cannot shake the stench of desperation from start to finish. Here is a film that has no good creative reason to exist, made by people who are painfully aware of that fact. Though this third entry in the unexpected franchise brings together most of the key players who made the 2012 original mostly delightful, there is a tired, frantic sense to these proceedings. Once, Pitch Perfect wanted to be a playful, upbeat modern musical. Pitch Perfect 3 can’t help but struggle to achieve even that basic ambition. This movie is being marketed as the final chapter, which still might be one too many.

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Why Disney Fans Should Be Concerned About the Fox Deal

disney streaming

(Welcome to The Disney Discourse, a recurring feature where Josh Spiegel discusses the latest in Disney news. He goes deep on everything from the animated classics to the theme parks to live-action franchises. In this edition: why Disney fans should be very concerned about the upcoming deal to buy 20th Century Fox.)

Let’s get this right out of the way: yes, this is going to be a Debbie Downer essay. By now, it’s been a few days since the Walt Disney Company confirmed the rumors: they are aiming to buy 21st Century Fox, meaning that everything from Avatar to Die Hard to the X-Men to Hulu, FX, and National Geographic is going to be under the House of Mouse, should the deal be finalized and approved by all necessary parties. (It should go without saying, but that hasn’t happened yet, and may not happen for a little while.) Some folks, of course, are rejoicing at this news, tantalized by the thought that Charles Xavier and his mutant friends might make a pit stop in an Avengers movie somewhere down the road, to just name one example. There are, no doubt, financial upsides for both Disney and Fox in making this deal, but from my point of view, it’s hard to see a lot of good in this story.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi has a large burden on its shoulders. The 2017 film is not only the highly anticipated follow-up to J.J. Abrams’ rousing and wildly successful 2015 revival of the Star Wars franchise, The Force Awakens, it also has The Empire Strikes Back looming over its head. The 1980 film has long been held up as the high watermark of sequels, let alone the peak of the Skywalker saga. How can any new Star Wars movie hope to measure up to such a pinnacle? The answer arriving this weekend presents a self-aware mirror image of the 1980 film, and pushes its familiar characters further than ever before. The Last Jedi, amazingly, moves above and beyond its predecessor, just like The Empire Strikes Back did decades ago.

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Dunkirk vs. Darkest Hour

It’s one of those strange coincidences that occurs every few years: two different films cover the same subject matter and happen to be released in close proximity. Typically, it happens in big-budget situations – audiences were able to see two different movies about asteroids headed for Earth (Armageddon and Deep Impact) as well as two different movies about anthropomorphized ants (Antz and A Bug’s Life) in 1998. This year, something similar is happening and even more remarkably so. Two very different, very British films cover a specific period in World War II: the evacuation of British soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk, France.

This summer, Christopher Nolan delivered his latest big-budget affair, the relentlessly intense, excellent Dunkirk; Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour, currently in limited release, follows Winston Churchill as he makes the decisions that would kickstart the Dunkirk evacuation. The difference between the two films is stark.

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