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IR TV Review: DOLPHIN REEF [Disney+]

While many nature films sometimes struggle for a sense of personality or go for the essence of shock and awe with the degree of technical prowess, the essence of the humor of the situation is touch and go. With some celebrity narrators it works and, at other times, it seems either too wooden and lacking in connection. In “Dolphin Reef”, there is a different approach. Whether it is better or not remains to be seen. But Natalie Portman brings herself to the reading. Having met her many times, there is a sense of fun but balance with an essence of value and seriousness behind her presentation. She is not afraid of making a joke at her own expense, if it is the right one. That is why many of the vignettes work here because it waxes at times both funny and maybe a little awkward but always heartfelt. “Dolphin Reef” isn’t inherently about the dolphins but more about the community of animals that make up this area. It starts off following a young male Dolphin named Echo with his mother. Having in the past few years become a mother herself, that essence of the story seems very authentic and plays very well on Portman’s behalf. This is a piece of artistic work that she can show her children and definitely balances within the Disney structure that maybe has been too slick in its docos lately. Many of them have felt like certain mirrors to BBC’s productions (which are sometimes done in concert). This one feels more Disney which is helped by the fact of Portman’s continuing collaboration with the Disney company. The circle of life as shown through the different ideas of life both with fear of night, cleaning spots for turtles and an especially fun mantis shrimp which has to deal with falling debris from parrotfish, This gives the short feature a nice balance leading into a story of humpback whales which revolves around to mating and protection in the animal kingdom. Considering her real world advocacy and rightfully so, it is also nice to see Portman reflecting in the narration of the natural course in the wild since there is balance in nature.”Dolphin Reef” is inherently watchable as it is a story of family but it also doe not shy away from the comedy of life.


By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: STAR WARS – CLONE WARS – FINAL SEASON – EPISODE 6 (“Deal No Deal”) [Disney+]

Knowing what the mission is and knowing the right action to take has always been at the corner crux of what makes Ahsoka Tano tick. She knew what her Jedi Master was doing. She could see the cracks…but she likely thought that he was simply operating outside the box. However it was in the aspect that Anakin got too close to people and he couldn’t control it until it spun out of control. In the continuation of her final season story in Episode 6: “Deal Or No Deal,” Ahsoka tries to help newfound friends against her better instincts and watches as she has to adjust them and help much like she did at lesser points with Anakin. The difference is that his instinct was mostly correct and helped her and supported her in balance. The balance of her new friends and their ambitions is an aspect of operating in the dark.

Ahsoka’s instincts are still good but she doesn’t know what she wants. She had the right temperament for a Jedi, better than many, but that is why her post-Jedi path needs to make sense. We see, in a sense, down the line in “Rebels” and perhaps beyond, where she ends up but it all needs to fit together correctly. Mostly it is trying to realize and help others to the best of your ability but if they are headed down a certain path, one can only try to cushion the blow, and not stop the trajectory. There is one moment when a connection happens across space. It is a great moment though nothing is said. The intersection plays out but it is able to breathe which it seems within this new iteration/continuation works better than its predecessor. These little character beats say so much more and at times exceeds the plot that the season might ultimately be aiming for.


By Tim Wassberg


IR TV Review: PICARD – EPISODE 9 (“Et In Arcadia Ego – Part II”) [CBS All Access]

The aspect of evolution in terms of idealism or perhaps in moderation of experiences had has been part of the duality of “Picard” as a series. It began with an incomplete matriculation of Data’s last iteration in “Nemesis” (what is interesting for the reviewer is that I am fairly certain I interviewed Brent Spiner, Stewart and director Stuart Baird for that film for TV back in 2002 – the interviewed likely buried on some digital tape somewhere). Wrapping those strands of psychology from that film is what gnaws on both sides of the season finale (“Et In Arcadia Ego – Part II”) here. While the thrust of the narrative when it finally arrives at its end point seems sounds, it also seems too neatly put together. This is not a criticism overtly since it makes totally sense and works within the existential nature of the project overall.

As it moves in the final hour of the season, it brings into focus the nature of Picard but creates it on a very large scale. While it is not integrated as a space battle per se (without giving anything anyway) there is a sense of breath to it, especially when the viewer sees who is at the helm. The brother Soong is an interesting quandary since one is not quite sure the mythology behind it. It actually ends in a way that is more hopeful than where it began which I gather is part of the point of this specific journey. The coda per se that leads towards the epilogue is what really fans came to see all season and rivals some of the specific moments when Picard reunites with Riker and Troi on their planet.

It makes complete sense though that it feels like an adjusted addendum but it very much plays within the Shakespearean elements that Stewart so loves. There is sort of a paradoxical take on “The Tempest” within its walls. As it continues into the meaning of its conclusion, it dovetails into those ideas that sometimes change in path, much like Spock’s in earlier transgressions (even before the reboot), which again reverts back to the Romulan conflict and also their sense of identity. All works well. The final shot however tries to infer too much when it was not necessary and could have been done with more subtlety. While it did offer a slight hiccup, it doesn’t heavily diminish what the episode achieves.


By Tim Wassberg

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