Wednesday, April 19, 2017

I Saw This!! What I Watched Pt. iii

I Saw This (double exclamation point) is our feature wherein Graig or David attempt to write about a bunch of stuff they watched some time ago and meant to write about but just never got around to doing so. But we can't not write cuz that would be bad, very bad.  Miss a Next Big Thing bad.

Part i, ii are here.

Dollhouse S2, 2009 -- Blu-ray

I did a Season 1 post during its days on Netflix. I didn't get around to a ReWatch post when I cracked the seal on my Blu-ray Xmas gift, but I thought it fitting to do one for Season 2.

Having powered through S1 again, I have to admit, the basic premise, the titillation with the Eliza Dushku doll was not there for me this round. This time it was all about the Bigger Picture, the one I knew was there, behind the scenes happening piece by piece. I believe Whedon wanted this series to be his Westworld, a scifi show with a big moral statement behind all the flash and action and exposition. Unfortunately, S2 was the last season he got, and with due notice, at least he got to rush to the finish line.

We come into the season with all the pieces in play. Ex-FBI Ballard is now inside the dollhouse, working alongside Echo, who has survived her Alpha (Alan Tudyk) ordeal, the 36 personalities seemingly expunged back to doll state. But she is really in there, a unique personality that is separate from her body's own, a person unto herself. The wipes don't work anymore. But she plays a good game for her puppet masters.

The conspiracy spirals, including and excluding characters, with Topher becoming more and more self aware of exactly how dangerous all this tech he has created can be. He has already let it fall into the wrong hands, but can he stop The Apocalypse before it happens? As we have already been exposed to the episode Epitaph One, we know he cannot.

Despite his obvious and myriad flaws, my heart is with Topher this season. He is an amoral man who thought he could ignore consequences and just have as much fun as his big brain could allow. But he is ill equipped to deal with guilt and realization when it comes slamming down. Despite that, he still makes the right decisions.

Now with Whedon knowing this was the final season, he got to go Full On Whedon inviting in all his favourite actors from Buffy and Firefly. Whedon should always indulge, not just to bring smiles to the faces of his fans, but because with the chemistry already there, the interaction becomes effortless. Alexis Denisof and Summer Glau are there briefly, enough to build great characters and further the plot (and I do mean plot) along. But they bookend nicely into the already familial interaction going on with the core cast.

The series ends on a ... well, a low note. We knew it would, as Epitaph One leads to Epitaph Two, where the penultimate episode win still collapses, and the end game of the doll tech leads to the collapse of the planet. Someone releases it into the wild creating a 80s style PoAp world full of rage zombies and a few original personality people who avoid technology while seeing sanctuary with the dollhouse gang. The world may have ended but that doesn't mean they cannot save the day.

A Series of Unfortunate Events S1, 2016 -- Netflix

The older movie was OK. Jim Carey wasn't terrible.

But the idea of Neil Patrick Harris playing Count Olaf had me rather excited. And now that I know what the word twee means, I am rather getting into the aesthetic. OK, it's true, I have always enjoyed the liberal use of mish-mashing timelines.

Plot brief. The Baudelaire children have just lost their parents, and are sent by an upwardly mobile but emotionally stunted banker, to live with their closest living relative, geographically, Count Olaf. Olaf is a terrible actor (community theatre) cum criminal who wants the Baudelaire fortune. He is not worried by the fact that he can only get it if the kids die.

As the title states and to which we are constantly reminded by the narrator Lemony Snicket (Patrick Warburton), things only get worse.

Set dressing, background design, minimal effects, costuming and songs -- all are absolutely brilliant. And so are so many of the performances, but it didn't all pull together for me. I am not sure why, maybe sliding into it being far too impressed by itself. I felt it almost wanted to be Brian Fuller meets Wes Anderson, both in styling and tone. But it never quite achieves.

And I am still amused that they cast Malina Weissman, to look like Emily Browning, from the Jim Carey movie.