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“Dollhouse” Season 1
a review by Darby O’Gill

What if you could do anything, be anyone, and nothing you did ever had any consequence? Take one part Quantum Leap, one part Charlie’s Angels, add a truck load of Joss Whedon’s imagination, and you’ve got one hell of a show. If you missed the first season of Dollhouse, you’re in luck because the DVD is out now, and it’s time for you to play catch up. A few of my friends tuned out after episode three, but as I told them, you really need to hang in there till episode six. Episodes one through five are basically stand-alone episodes, to please the network I would imagine, but episode six is a real game changer and is truly where the series shows it’s full potential.

In Dollhouse we follow Echo, played by Eliza Dushku, a seemingly unwilling Active in the Dollhouse, an underground organization that for the right price will program human beings to fit your every need or desire. Actives have had their brains wiped, and are imprinted with new personalities, and abilities, that allow them to become anyone or anything to achieve their objective. What illegal underground organization would be complete, with out an obsessed F.B.I. agent determined to bring them down? Agent Paul Ballard, played by Tahmoh Penikett, finds himself filling that role, and the deeper he digs the more entwined he seems to get. When we first get to the Dollhouse, an Active, codename Alpha, has gone rogue, and in the process has left a trail of bodies in his wake. For some unknown reason Echo was spared. But, that’s not the only unique thing about Echo. She also seems to be retaining, or recalling memories while in her wiped doll state, raising the question, can you ever truly clean a slate?

This show is a dream on so many different levels. For one, it’s an actor’s dream, because they can be a doctor, a lover, a spy, an assassin, or maybe just someone there to help someone that can’t help them self. In episode four, Eliza Dushku and Dichen Lachman play the same character, when Echo and Sierra get imprinted with the same imprint.  Two actors playing the same character, with the same traits and speech pattern at the same time! This is what truly makes this show unique. The cast is amazing! The amount of talent on this show, in front of and behind the camera, truly boggles the mind. The other thing about this show is that it raises smart and intelligent questions dealing with morality. Whether it be slavery, human trafficking, or just basic human rights, Dollhouse once again enforces the belief that mankind will always exploit and abuse any and all technologies they discover. I think the part I liked the most about re-watching season one, was knowing all the twists and turns, and being able to see things I might have missed the first time around. I’ll say it once again; Dollhouse is an amazing television series! Don’t believe me? Well, why don’t you get the DVD, and tune-in to Dollhouse season two this year, and see for yourself? Feel free to thank me later.

Rating:

5 Little People

DVD Special Features:

  • 3 Audio Commentaries on Selected Episodes

Joss Whedon and Eliza Dushku do a commentary track for “Ghost,” where they talk about the show’s shoe budget, and while Eliza’s strawberries maybe loud, Joss’ tummy commentary is louder.

Joss Whedon does a commentary track for “Man on the Street,” and talks about the importance of the turning point in this episode.

Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen do a commentary track for the infamous unaired 13th episode “Epitaph One.”

I would have liked a few more commentaries on some more key episodes, but three is better than none.

  • “Epitaph One” Never-Before-Seen 13th Episode

The infamous unaired 13th episode stars Felecia Day and Zack Ward, and takes place in 2019. I would suggest not watching this episode if you want to be surprised by the upcoming relationships and events of the Dollhouse series. It doesn’t tell you the hows and whys, but it does show you things they hope to do with the series. Could be a spoiler for some; you’ve been warned.

  • Original Unaired Pilot “Echo”

This is the pilot episode that Joss pulled the plug on and thus decided to take a three week hiatus to rethink the show opener. I for one am glad he did. The episode moves too fast and gives away way too much. But, it wasn’t a complete loss, because they ended up cutting it up and sprinkling bits and pieces here and there throughout the season.

  • Deleted Scences

  • Making Dollhouse Featurette

A behind the scenes look at the making of Dollhouse

  • Coming Home Featurette

The Cast & Crew share their stories and memories of working on other Joss Whedon shows, Buffy the Vampire SlayerAngelFirefly, and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.

  • Finding Echo Featurette

A look at Eliza Dushku’s important role as producer and star, and how she and Joss developed the idea for the show.

  • Designing the Perfect Dollhouse Featurette

Joss Whedon takes us on a tour of the soundstage that houses the Dollhouse.

  • A Private Engagement Featurette

The Cast & Crew talk about what their ideal doll would be.

DVD Special Features Rating:

4 Little People


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Tokyo!
a review by Darby O’Gill

In the spirit of Four Rooms and Paris, Je T’aime comes Tokyo! a collection of three short films about Tokyo, as told by three visionary directors, Michel Gondry, Leos Carax, and Bong Joon-Ho. We’re going to take a look at the three films individually, and then rate the project as a whole.

First we have “Interior Design” by New York based French director Michel Gondry. Gondry based his short on a graphic novel by Gabrielle Bell, called “Cecil and Jordan in New York.” In Gondry’s version, it’s the story of a young couple moving to Tokyo, and crashing at a friend’s flat as they look for one of their own. Hiroko, played by Ayako Fujitani, was the more together of the couple, but seems to find herself being the less than useful one in Tokyo. As days turn into weeks, Hiroko finds herself more and more out of place. Until one day a strange event leads her to find her place in the world. All the stories in this collection are that of surrealism, but Gondry’s is definitely the most surreal. Wonderfully shot, and with an amazing special effect shot you would only come to expect from Michel Gondry.

Next we have “Merde” by French director Leos Carax. Now I have to say this one surprised me. Not the short itself, but the fact that it wasn’t directed by Bong Joon-Ho. I honestly watched this entire short thinking it was Joon-Ho, and even thought I was seeing signs of his film style throughout. Wow. It’s not Bong Joon-Ho, but it is Leos Carax’s short, and quite simply the best of the collection. It’s the story of a “creature,” or more like a homeless full grown leprechaun, that crawls out of the sewers and wreaks havoc on the streets of Tokyo. A frightened Tokyo reports various sightings of the creature on the news and even holds a bizarre trial for the creature. I mean, you can see why I thought it was Joon-Ho: a creature that lives in the sewer, has a smoky white eye, spreads horror across Tokyo via newscasts, and is a plot heavily laced with offbeat humor. This short is fantastic! The cinematography is amazing and the performance of Denis Lavant as the creature is purely stellar. “Merde” is anything but shit. I would love to see more of this story some day.

And now, sadly, we have to talk about the last short in this collection, “Shaking Tokyo,” by South Korean director Bong Joon-Ho. I honestly have to say, that I was really looking forward to this director’s piece. The Host was an amazing film that I’m so glad I heard about in time to be able to see it when it opened in theatres, and was more than excited to see something new from its director Bong Joon-Ho. I just wish it was “Merde” and not “Shaking Tokyo.” The story in “Shaking Tokyo,” is that of a man that is a shut-in that has shut himself out of the outside world for the last ten years, but it’s in the eleventh year that his world crashes down around him. I’ve got to say this story is really weak. It wants to be grand; but it’s a short, and doesn’t have the time to take its time. It also keeps the viewer in the dark, which is the case in all three of these stories. But, in “Shaking Tokyo” it keeps you in the dark, and never really lets you know what the hell is going on. Joon-Ho has an amazing sense of the characters in his films, and this is no different. His characters don’t have to say a word, and yet just looking at them through his lens seems to speak a thousand words. I only wish the story had more time, to make it worth telling. It’s just sad that the movie has to end its collection with this short. It might have been better off in the middle of the film.

Rating:

3.5 Little People


DVD Special Features:

  • Making of “Interior Design”
  • Making of “Merde”
  • Making of “Shaking Tokyo”
  • Director Interviews
  • Photo Gallery
  • Trailer

The “Making of” featurettes are outstanding! No, truly. They’re even longer than the short films themselves. Each one gives you an amazing look into the very distinct directing style of each visionary director. Gondry likes to keep the film rolling. By doing so he feels it doesn’t let the actors get out of the moment. It’s quite ingenious really, because when a film crew cuts, they stop down for a good ten or twenty minutes. Hair and make-up step in, the lighting team checks lights, and actors stop being their characters. This concept is new to the “Tokyo!” actors working on “Interior Design,” and it takes a little while to warm-up to the idea of not cutting at the end of a take. Also, during the behind the scenes interview with Ayumi Ito, it sounds like someone’s having sex in the background, but it’s just the interviewer. It took me a few minutes to figure out. She should just quietly listen to what the actors have to say.

When it comes to Leos Carax, I was amazed to find out that he shot the first street scene at least, without a permit and in a total gorilla filmmaking style. In his “Making of,” we watch the cast and crew rehearse, step by step, the pacing of the scene off site. It’s truly filmmaking at its best. Also, watching Carax and Lavant develop the character of the creature is fantastic. Which brings us once again to Bong Joon-Ho, but this time it’s good news. His “Making of” finally let us in on what he was trying to say. I think the real downfall of his short is that he’s not the type of director that can be rushed or given a time restraint. I’ve never seen a director pay more attention to the timing of a shot and his actors, almost to a fault. But it’s clear that is what makes his filmmaking so unique. Sadly, this project just doesn’t lend itself to that style of filmmaking. The one saving grace is that in the “Director Interviews,” it seemed clear, to me that is, that even Joon-Ho wasn’t pleased with the outcome of his short. Seeing him talk about what he was trying to do in the short definitely helps you see the short in a different light; but it still doesn’t change the fact that it doesn’t work.

DVD Special Feature Rating:

4 Little People