IR TV Review: DISNEY GALLERY – THE MANDALORIAN – EPISODE 6 (“Visualization”) [Disney+]

After the texture of the previous episode with “Practical”, the next episode of “Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian” rightly focuses on “Visualization”. This bridges the gap in how the practical in this area and the technology of something like The Volume have to work together. It is an interesting balance. The initial impression is that it would leave less room for spontaneity and more restriction in terms of planning. It does this but probably can’t work in a lot of productions. It works well here simply because of the visual effects involved. Also the idea of a director being involved in a TV show 2 months before shooting as Deborah Chow, the director of 2 of Season 1’s episodes and also the director of the upcoming “Obi Wan” series relates. She says that this is unheard of in many ways especially in a show like “Mr. Robot” where they had 6 days to shoot an episode. It all comes down to budget and how meticulous something might need to be. There likely will be some spectacular work to come out of this technology but also misfires. It will be interesting to see.

Granted the fact of being able to see the entire episode in a game engine setting before a frame is shot is an interesting one. “Star Wars” is a very specific monster though because of the money involved but Favreau did pick the correct team to do this with. Rick Famuyiwa, whom we interviewed for Dope in Cannes a couple years back, is an unusual choice but makes sense in his love of certain type of movies. Again for re-shoots it is an specific move as Waititi and Favreau discuss overall in terms of adjusting something like “Iron Man” and “Thor: Ragnarok”. But then again these are large movies. The question becomes of those great moments based out of on the set inspiration.. Granted the reality is that Lucasfilm and Favreau did not have to show behind the scents. It could have simply been kept a mystery except within Hollywood. They wanted to show how it is done which speaks to them wanting to inspire another generation coming up. That is the concept of what Favreau is doing. Very few make the transition from actor to indie director to big budget filmmaker to the kind of open minded technology that is happening now. The journey continues to show the way.

B+

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: HARLEY QUINN – EPISODE 10 (“Dye Hard”) [Warner Brothers Animation-S2]

The amount of psychological upheaval in Harley Quinn’s head heading into Epsode 10: “Dye Hard” is a conundrum. The fact that some of the unused art which is featured as the main art in this review is not even featured in this episode is undeniable. It reflects the Id hiding below the surface of Harley. After being slighted by that which she loves, the instinct is just to go out and party and gloss it over. But in Harley’s case that will make it worse simply because the bartender she tries to avoid may or may not be a brainwashed Mr. J. She is trying to fight against her own baser nature. She doesn’t really want to be back with Mr. J but the path seemingly leads back to him whatever she does. Harley is not meant to have a nice happily ever after. This darker perception of Harley is a really neat texture of this series but one you could do not do in a big movie. They tried to do glimpses of it in “Birds Of Prey”. It is tricky to do as an animated series as well but the door seems open to do things alot more outside the box. The story room would be interesting to sit inside here to see where the balance of ideas comes from.

While there are odes to “Die Hard” for sure the inventive element is not the will they or won’t they but the questioning Harley has herself. Is this a schizophrenic journey of what it means for her to be happy. What is undeniable is that Poison Ivy is not anywhere in this episode though her presence is felt throughout. She is a sense of calm for Harley whereas Joker is chaos. Ivy makes her contemplative and crazy. Joker makes her insane and crazy. The paradox of the ending that plays back using the bigger cast of characters is a little contrived, especially since Psycho as a character is all over the place. Ultimately Gordon and Batman just becomes the sidekick humor that don’t help that much. It is like the writers saw alot of “Teen Titans Go” and decided to make a grown up version of two kids where one has real cool toys and the others does not while the girls are trying to figure out what is the issues are with their relationship. That is a simplification but an accurate reflection. “Harley Quinn” is many things but a simple animation endeavor it is not. The season continues as the pendulum continues to swing.

B+

By Tim Wassberg

IR Film Review: TOMMASO [Kino Lorber]

Abel Ferrara has always been an interesting amalgamation of sources. Back during film school at NYU in the mid 90s, Ferrara and Nick Gomez were the bad boys on cinema. I remember crossing paths with him and his actors various times at film school, with the TV station, at the Washington Square News covering a film or on the streets of the Lower East Side. The Addiction with Lili Taylor shot on NYU’s campus. Some of us at film school went out to set when a scene from The Funeral was shot in Brooklyn with Chris Walken. A van was set on fire to film while we drank Goldschlager watching filmmaking happen from afar as Manhattan loomed in the distance. Ferrara was New York grunge guerrilla film-making. Like Darren Aronofksy who was just coming up with “Pi”, Ferrara had a view of the world but also lived the life to point. At a certain point though, it became completely enveloped in drugs. Some people can’t emerge from that. For some, it creates a tunnel of creativity. Dennis Hopper had that ability. It is just a matter of living through it. Ferrara quieted down for a couple years and his story sort of fell off the radar. That is why seeing it re-ermege in a way in a new series of films starting with “Tommaso” starring recent collaborator Willem Dafoe is an interesting one.

This is effective since both of them now live in Italy married to Italian women younger than them. it is an interesting progression that truly reflects in the film which very autobiographical in certain ways and yet a reflection of themes that have always fascinated Ferrara. He was always King of the long takes with religious imagery. Many times they would be hard to watch and take on a grotesque form of imagery that simply was being extreme for that sake. Ferrara’s films were always gritty as if you were there in the alley with him, low budget, and yet once in a while (there is a scene in this movie) where he sues religious music and a gliding camera to almost highlight performance art. And the one show here is inherent and specific to Dafoe’s filmic career. You can tell it is real people watching when he films. it is about blurring that line between reality and fiction. This is where the story lies as well.

Willem plays a version of Ferrara with a young wife and a young daughter in Rome. The irony is that the wife and daughter are played by Abel’s actual wife Christine and their daughter Anna plus it is shot in their apartment for the most part. It shows the psychosis of life, temptation and desire with tinges of jealousy. It hits remarkably close and yet separate. There are the tendencies and yet his wife would have read the script. Willem plays introspective but yet loses it at times before compassion returns and then flares up again. There is a bipolar tendency but you can see the destructiveness Dafoe sees this in Ferrara’s work and how he can connect.

Even at one point, Dafoe is practicing a specific kind of yoga which he does in real life and yet right after the Buddhism which is internal and inherent to Ferrara currently creeps in on it. It is fascinating in many ways but also requires attention. The end is thematic overall and perhaps expected and yet the epilogue in terms of its realness shows the director in a different place. The reflection also in placing stories of his next film within this film is brilliant considering Dafoe is in that film as well (“Siberia”). “Tommasso” is an interesting examination of a director in a different world. It is like Godard in reverse but one which is now it his home. It is a fascinating if not maddening diatribe at times examining the normality of life and how your brain and lifestyle can adjust.

B

By Tim Wassberg

IR Film Review: SCREAM QUEEN – MY NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET [Shudder]

The idea of identity but also social strife interrelated with a horror film is an interesting quandary which is explored in “Scream Queen – My Nightmare On Elm Street”. The story of Mark Patton who was the lead in “Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge” is an interesting story in that his was the intersection of many different aspects that together form a unique journey. It nonetheless turns into a cautionary tale of sorts that with the advent of documentary and streaming in its current form as well as the increasing balance of society in some ways can be allowed to happen. Patton played Jesse in the 2nd film in the franchise. Patton was gay but wasn’t integrating that with his career as it wasn’t socially acceptable per in Hollywood at the time as far as the roles. But what the film (“{“Nightmare On Elm Street 2”) did through its story is seemingly overwhelming paint itself as a gay horror movie. That in Patton’s view and correctly overall destroyed his career even though the film was a success. The backlash it started to receive was interesting in its vitriol but cumulative to him.

The cross roads of that occurred when the sexual freedom of the 70s and “Don’t Ask/Don’t tell) [especially in NY] collided with the AIDS crisis of the early 80s for which there was no treatment or cure. Patton’s story is one of meteoric rise from the Midwest where he couldn’t be himself and his family simply didn’t give him support. He moved to NY and just his tenacious rise from living in a hotel which was a prostitute hangout to getting an agent to eventually being on Broadway with Cher in 1980 is just an insane trajectory. He ended up moving to Hollywood to pursue his movie star dream. His boyfriend was Tim Murphy who was a star on “Dallas”. They lived in the Hills and partied as young people do. Patton got the Freddy sequel role and at the same time his boyfriend came down with AIDS and eventually died. The storm didn’t hit when the movie came out but the homophobic savagery came soon afterward. His agents saw something in the film’s first cut also said they coudln’t sell him as the straight lead, maybe as a character actor.

Rather than dig in further, Patton left for Mexico where he sequestered for many years And in a short space in the documentary he relates that he too was stricken with HIV alongside tuberculosis where he was in bed for nearly a year. This man has gone through the ringer. He recovered miraculously. He was first interviewed for a Freddy documentary film and then start doing conventions which helped with money flow But he was always haunted by the fact that “Freddy 2” screenwriter denied that it was written as a gay horror movie or at least with those themes. The writer says it was only suggested with subtext but movies are collaborative. Was it is interesting is hearing Robert Englund (who played Freddy talk about one scene where the horror became suggestive.

It was a character choice and one within Englund’s perception of the themes and archetypes it shows (i.e. the beauty and the beast) is an interesting one….and much deeper than what the film was capable of delivering. But Patton explains that no one gave him advice that what he was doing could be misconstrued. Now years later it takes on a different perspective in a way but the journey itself is fascinating simply because of the history, the overarching trajectory and the simple psychological, mental and physical tolls it portrays Patton is able to tell his story but also allows those, maybe seeing their own lives in a different matter, might be able to gleam a sense of clarity.

B

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. – EPISODE 2 (“Know Your Onions”) [ABC-S7]

While the reveal of 1931 in the premiere of he 7th and final season of “Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” provided an interesting backdrop, the reality of “Know Your Onions” as Episode 2 teases reveals some of the texture without really allowing any more specific movement to progress. The existential perception of not-Coulson is an interesting one but is not quite built upon here. Without giving any spoilers, the question becomes what is the greater good and who knows what that looks like. There is also the structure of power which is both not in question but also debated. In creating a different timeline, what could happen? Not that that could or couldn’t happen. Could it reset what happened all over Phase 3. or as Dr. Strange put it, was there only one way that it could end where it didn’t create cataclysm. Many rumors point to the fact that this season will help wrap up Phase III while others point to Phase IV reveals. Of course these episodes were shot pre-pandemic so it will be interesting to see how it builds to where it might go. While the 2nd episode ends in a certain place, it might be the exact place it was headed all along though some hidden perspectives and mechanisms can definitely change.

B-

By Tim Wassberg