IR TV Review: PICARD – EPISODE 1 ("Remembrance") [CBS All Access]

The essence of continuation is always an interesting progression. The ideal with certain ideas is how do you make it different than what has come before. In the structure of the first episode of the new CBS All Access series “Picard” entitled “Remembrance”, it takes a well known persona within the Star Trek pantheon and gives him a different perception. In an age that is much different from The Next Generation where the vision of Trek is darker, finding the right balance while not offending the die hards is tricky considering the recent blowback in the Star Wars universe. This pilot harks back through a little bit of IDW’s recent Picard comics which paints what happened to Picard during a Romulan refugee crisis. The interesting structure is that this story takes place in the Prime timeline which is the one the Chris Pine-led Star Trek takes place in which gives it leeway but also an interesting netherworld of detail…what happened and what it ultimately affected. The story of Nemesis and Data’s death still stand but time has given an interesting impact. This is of course what likely drew Stewart back having see the interesting progression, as he has said, of Logan where he played the aging Professor X.

Without giving too much away, the pilot sets up a McGuffin without relying too much if at all of previous Next Generation lore. But that said, the possibilities are endless. It relies though on the theory for years that Picard has been hiding in a way from himself or what he believes to be right. That creates a question, which is shown in a way in the comics, of what could have so fundamentally changed what he believes in. As the first episode ends, there is a connective tissue but it speaks back to an incident that undeniably changed Picard halfway through the Next Generation run. Where it progresses depends on the story dexterity and how much Stewart fundamentally wants to push the character since he has a say this time in the direction of the story. Time shall show.

A-

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: DOCTOR WHO ("Nikola Tesla’s Night Of Terrors") [BBC America – S38]

The relevance of Doctor Who reflects in its ability to show its perspective of life giving a little bit of cheeky adventure sometimes with a heartfelt story. The dexterity of most of the episodes requires a little more mythology understanding than others. But placing it in an interesting perspective (especially today of most days) is an interesting angle. The episode “Nikola Tesla’s Night Of Terrors” has the team going back in time per se pursuing an alien trying to track and take advantage of Tesla’s inventions specifically his invention of distributing energy wirelessly. The Doctor shows up when something doesn’t quite feel right. While most of the posturing is done relatively for comic effect, there is some scenes especially between Tesla and The Doctor at one point, that seems almost romantic which is interesting to say the least but also telling to the Doctor’s psychology as well.

The reflection that builds, as always, functions with elements of some orb and a couple aliens. But it is the elements of invention, especially in Tesla and his assistant who sees his potential that speaks volume. The fact the Goran Vinsic, straight from “Timeless” plays the inventor is no idle casting. The irony for fans of that defunct show is interesting. The idea of which the Doctor and her comrades know is if it ever comes to fruition. The enthusiasm and heart and especially the rivalry with Thomas Edison and Tesla is well played, especially in the passion vs. commerce discussion. The parallel in this moment reflects in Elon Musk whose Space X today did an abort launch test blowing up a rocket on purpose after launch to show the abort system of the Dragon Capsule. Now whether or not he will achieve commercial space flight or going to Mars doesn’t diminish what he has done but will people remember his name in 100 years. The parallel of Tesla (which Musk’s production car is named after) who doesn’t get as much credit as Thomas Edison is an interesting parallel. But it is a nice homage which “Doctor Who” doesn’t forge. In fact, it embraces it with a bit more subtext than usual while still delivering the episodic thrust needed to keep The Doctor on her way.

B

By Tim Wassberg

IR Film Review: BAD BOYS FOR LIFE [Sony]

The relevance of making a sequel revels in the notion of what it brings to the table and its identity. When Joe Carnahan was first thought to be doing the film as a director, there was a jump since, having talked and known Joe early in his career,  it was known he would bring a grittiness but also the texture of Michael Bay in a way as know in SMOKIN’ ACES for example but also NARC. He split with the project over creative differences which is interesting to perceive since he still has some story and screenplay credit on the final film. The themes he likes are there but the familial structure and drama is definitely his. The comedy seems to be more mainstream in the final product which is with two Morrocan co-directors. There is an interesting baseline of what this film is and what it could have been. I did the interviews for BAD BOYS II in 2003 with Bay at the height of his intentions which is great because BAD BOYS I and II were about that and that slickness which carried in a certain way to the darker MIAMI VICE a couple years later. While the aspect of growing older in this installment provides the background, it tends to jump all over the place without being as cinematic as it could have been. Granted all in all, it is still fun but it doesn’t feel like as much of a BAD BOYS movie but a very good TV version of it with some odes to what came before.

Granted, it is based in the fact of did a sequel need to be made. The last film adequately set up the cool, riding into the sunset element like to be very honest, LAST CRUSADE did for Indiana Jones which made CRYSTAL SKULL a let down. The laughs are still there, Smith and Lawrence do their jobs well but they do lumber more, especially Lawrence but that is the point of the story. Smith understands this and is smart about it. What is also glaring, but more of a nitpick, is that one can tell that much of the film is not shot in Miami. Certain spots are for sure but the taking advantage of Georgia tax credits definitely played into this, which is disappointing for a Miami native. The AMMO crew, which is the new addition to this play has its textures and actually does ode this a little more to MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, which is likely what Smith as a producer, saw.

The eventual build up and essence of reveal is alright but the logic, which wasn’t such a big thing back in the 90s but is now, makes certain leaps in logic and logistics glaring. BAD BOYS FOR LIFE may have more depth than its past two outings but it lost something along the way. Despite Michael Bay’s overreaching style it does create a certain texture and when the chemistry of the actors is focused (as it has been for the most part saved for TRANSFORMERS) it works as well. The spark is still here but it is not the same.

B-

By Tim Wassberg

IR Exclusive Print Feature: MALIFICENT – MISTRESS OF EVIL [Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment]

The beauty of a film like “Malificent: Mistress Of Evil” can be reflected in its idea of perspective versus perception. The way that characters interact shows a dexterity of what is trying to be shown. In talking to Joachim Ronning, the director, it is reflected in ideas of the women involved. The balance of themes like ambition versus contentment, loyalty and betrayal. But ultimately reflected in his words, “Malificent “is a story of a mother and daughter. Malificent, ultimately in certain parts of her character, will never change but that bond is integral to the story. In speaking about scenes, we discuss the dinner scene, which specifically enough does not really employ any green screen so it is the most practically pure where all the characters are present. Very few actors in terms of presence can go up Angelina Jolie, especially in this role as she knows Malificent inside and outwards but Joachim believes that Michelle Pfieffer is one of actors. It is hard he admits to be able to adjust a performance like Angie’s since she knows it so purely. One aspect Joachim says he did try to bring to the film was a sense of humor (which is undeniably in the dinner scene). He relates that they had a week to filmthe dinner scene which itself was actually about 10 pages. There are some many elements of both masks and truth but they are essential to the character.

Another actor involved that Inside Reel spoke to for the release of “Malificent: Mistress Of Evil” was Warwick Davis who has had many experiences and knowledge of vast franchises from Star Wars to Harry Potter. He plays Lickspittle, who whittles away in the basement doing the bidding of the Queen played by Michelle Pfieffer. Warwick explains that the backstory of the character is important and integrates into the performance. He doesn’t lean on the make up and prosthetics which he often dons because from his perception, they will always be great so he needs to bring his own gravitas to the point and that always reflects in the emotion and physicality of the character and how he holds himself. With Lickspittle, Warwick says that this creature is not there of his own will. There is no place to sleep and that reflects in his playing with him. In selecting characters, it is inherent of the journey for Warwick. Some are more complex than others. Some are cameos as well but they are reflect him. I ask him about those tells that he sees or reflects. He says the simple neck angling of his Ewok character in Return Of The Jedi at certain points relayed so much and that same element can be seen in the shot he plays with his son in the recent “Rise Of Skywalker”. But the key he reiterates is listening either to your actors or the director. He recounts about George Lucas directing in the prequels where Lucas would say very little but you had to make sure you embodied that and made it work. Another director he relays he was very excited to work with was Gareth Edwards in “Rogue One”. He speaks of that approach where Gareth would let the camera run so an actor got a more organic style to the scenes. He also speaks of Ron Howard fondly. He relates that Ron being an actor really gave him confidence playing Willow as he was only 17 when he took on that role and it really helped guide him in many of his choices. Warwick is rumored to be taking back on the role in a new Disney+ series.

Making big movies like this is always tricky with so many moving parts. Joachim is most proud of his creation in the emotional connection…that specific connection between mother and daughter. As the father of two girls he related to this he said but also to this story of three very strong and different women. With his next directorial effort set to be the “Pirates Of The Caribbean” reboot after directing “Dead Man Tell No Tales”, the future is bright especially since the lead in the new film is rumored to be female. The emotional core and story always has to appeal which Warwick agrees with. But with a director, there is so many moving parts at any point. On the technical side Joachim is proud of the ending battle of the film since it took up nearly 30 pages. This can be a daunting task for any director and he was working on it up until the final days before the film was released. Ultimately “Malificent: Mistress Of Evil” stands on the world that it is created within but also he believes in the subtlety of humor and the through line within the tone that makes one believe in the transformative power of love through this mother and daughter.

By Tim Wassberg