IR TV Review: DISNEY GALLERY – THE MANDALORIAN – EPISODE 4 (“Technology”) [Disney+]

While the progression of what “The Mandalorian” is, in terms of bigger themes is obviously important, the underlying myth of what allowed it is be realized is part of what makes it work. While never actually spelled out for the most part, in Episode 4 of “Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian”, the use of what becomes known as The Volume is quite intricate and mind blowing but shows how forward thinking the show was in terms of capture. Interestingly enough, the tech advance as far as the main push here came from Jon Favreau, which is ironic having come from his independent background (although that was what George Lucas initially was). It was Favreau’s initial work on “The Jungle Book” and “The Lion King” with photo-realism that set him on this path. The exploration of virtual sets that are mostly done in VR helmets made sense. But having the camera be able to change the background in real time on an actual set as it is being shot is something else entirely…because that means instant rendering in an unbelievable dexterity of HD.

In The Volume with the lighting and the LED projectors there is a sense of what this can actually mean for film making but also one in thinking of how much did the technology actually cost. Favreau speaks to its inception as not proprietary but using game engine technology, specifically Unreal. While this is true, creating this sound stage itself (who knows where it actually is) is interesting for what can come next. It brings to the forefront that all the episodes were shot inside this actual space. No exteriors at at all. That aspect with showing almost natural lighting opens the world up in terms of film making and creating creating new visions. The only thing not clear is how much of the backdrop needs to be shot as a set plate or does the computer build them. Obviously a lot of pre-production needs to be worked on in terms of set extension in practical view and to match the floor. In a sense it becomes a large form of theater.

But that said, it makes these types of science fiction shows much more doable in an increasingly controlled environment but with no post budget almost per se since everything is done in camera. This texture is undeniable in many ways of course. But does it make the films better. Ultimately that is people. Even Carl Weaters talks about the fact that if you can respond to something directly in front of you and not green screen, it makes the scenes and acting more organic. While the episode reflects back that Lucas wanted to do something similar and tried as much as he could in the prequels, it has come to fruition. You see a little bit of Lucas’ reaction but not as much as you would have hoped.. But again, with such advances, it will be interesting to see how it changes the industry, especially with what is happening now in the world. Strife despite its hardship sometimes brings along great innovation

A-

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: HARLEY QUINN – EPISODE 8 (“Inner [Para] Demons”) [Warner Brothers Animation-S2]

After the progression of the last episode, there seemed to be some darker treadings going on but “Harley Quinn” seems to try to move it back into balance with a expected but “true-to-form” aspect of Harley overcompensating with her feelings. The emotional reasoning, not that it needs to be there, is a little slapshot since it has to do in reflection with Commissioner Gordon, who himself tends to look over his inadequacies as well. It is only Barbara Gordon as Batgirl that seems to understand this imbalance of the two. Poison Ivy, for her part, seems to have a handle on what is going on but Harley seems much more disturbed by it for probably numerous reasons. The aspect in relating it back to her psychology background is pretty cool and diametric if the show ever tries to get fully into it. It tried to when it showed her initial treatment of Mr. J. The show does dip into the areas once in a while but not with more than a couple passing glances.

This episode: “Inner(Para)Demons” throws its day glo personifications at the wall bringing in the essence of Darkseid when Harley wants to bring the hurt to Gordon. To be honest, it takes the story to a different realm and over the top which the Justice League cartoons can do easily but it doesn’t add anything here. It just seems to muddle the issue a little bit when, in many ways, it is a very simple human story that doesn’t need the big set pieces, more just a texture of the tongue-in-cheek. Harley and Ivy sitting on the edge of the pier blowing up henchmen has a lot more paradoxes and depth than Harley wearing a cape and leading the spawn robots of the dead. The series should function more about Batgirl’s growing frustration of the shortcomings of both sides including that of Batman. Harley then becomes simply and effectively a cautionary tale. While many of the episodes moving towards this one  showed a dexterity of thinking, this episode instead took it a little too far in terms of scope where the middle of the ground spoke more to the “reality” of the story per se.

C-

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: HOLEY MOLEY II – THE SEQUEL – EPISODE 1 (“Literally Jumping The Shark”) [ABC]

The aspect of competition shows has always been great but the comedy of errors within can be even more gratifying. But the question becomes what motivates people or even the reality of who they are versus (say) actors. That is the crux of “Holey Moley II: The Sequel” which makes mini-golf the stuff of buffoonery legends but with a “Titan Games” spin. While such shows like “Bonzai” out of Japan were great because it just shows the human barometer from a diffferent cultural standpoint, it is as much about willing stupidity but also willingness and unwillingness to do so. It can be a truly fun thing to watch. Here with Episode 1: “Literally Jumping The Shark”  Rob Riggle is a perfect fit for this though it would be great to see guest commentators like the “Whose Line Is It Anyway” people. However the shenanigans might be more controlled than we know. However different paths like Dragon’s Breathe placing people on fire is cool (though possibly a bit staged).

The first of the final holes that literally shocks people if they miss a shot is awesome but if the contestants signed a waiver, they are open game. The inclusion of Jon Lovitz is funny as a pirate who drives a golf ball blind or half blind is good (even if he goes a bit meta and says “Where did my career go?” Neither he nor Dana Carvey has gotten a little bit of that Sandler love for whatever reason. With Sandler’s Netflix deal it is surprising that hasn’t happened. But back to Holey Moley II, the progression of the different aspects of the holes especially people jumping onto a moving inflatable shark or trying not to get knocked in the water by rubber windmills or port-a-potties being opening, the list of course obstacles is pure entertainment. In a time when things don’t have to be serious, this kind of show is needed and understood. Riggle even goes meta and says in one instance “Where is the water?  I guess we ran out of money!” Only time will tell since 250K is set for the winner at the end of the rainbow wherever that may be.

B

By Tim Wassberg