Pinocchi-O-Rama #1: A Tree Of Palme/Palme No Ki (2002)

While it’s not completely unknown, i’d say A Tree Of Palme it’s quite obscure, definitely forgotten, overlooked and rarely discussed, despite being created, written and directed by respected anime veteran Takashi Nakamura, who also previously worked as a key animator for Nausicaa And The Valley Of The Wind, joined the acclaimed anime anthology of Robot Carnival in 1987, and just the next year would be animation director for a little movie called AKIRA.

It was also laboriosly made over the span of 6 years, and you can just tell by the cinematography that indeed A Tree Of Palme was treated as a big project that Nakamura wanted to cultivate as well as possible without compromises to his vision.

The story concerns the titular Palme, a puppet created by a man for his sickly wife, and upon her death the puppet becomes paralyzed by sorrow, until he accidentally stumbles upon a misterious woman (whom Palme mistakes for the man’s dead wife, Xian) being pursued, and she entrusts the puppet to deliver a certain special item to a sacred place called Tama.

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[EXPRESSO] The Plane (2023) | Militia Landing

There’s something to be said about a movie title that’s so incredibly generic and yet so apt it basically comes around to be perfect, as a plane it’s indeed the central focus, even when this big budget disaster b-movie about a pilot (played by Gerard Butler) trying to maintain order and make the passengers live through a ill-advised flight route (made worse as they’re forced to also take a convinct on board) over the South Chinese Sea…. well, it turns into another action movie about fighting off separatist militia thugs, because they happen to land into an island in the Philippines where there’s no real police or regular army presence, but local terrorists militia group/cartels control the place, forcing Gerard Butler to trust the convinct in getting the passengers back…

If you saw the trailer it’s exactly what you’d think it would be, that kind of unapologetic, moderately over the top (but not THAT over the top) action flick where Gerard Butler is here to save the day from generic action movie danger, the cliches overflow like blood from a goth fountain, but you could guess all of that by…. just the fact it’s a movie with Gerard Butler in it, let’s be frank.

You don’t go to see a movie like this to get out of your comfort zone, quite the opposite, as you want something that’s easy on the ol’ cerebellum, you want to snuggle with the expected stuff like the pilots keeping printed photos of their family with them and whipping them out to tempt fate, etc.

You want something predictable yet fun to kill some time, and i can’t deny The Plane it’s quite entertaining action movie junk food (but in a “good” way) all the way through, surprisingly a bit better than expected.

Decent timewaster.

Pinocchi-O-Rama: the 2022 “Pinocchio frenzy” and celebrating the 140th Anniversary of Collodi’s classic

No review today, sorry, but we’re doing something a bit special.

If you remember, last year was surprisingly full of Pinocchio adaptations, from the resurfacing of Guillermo Del Toro’s project, that cheap russian retelling/reworking with the infamous Paulie Shorie english dub (called Pinocchio – A True Story, FIY), and Disney continuining with their crusade of shitty live-action remakes of their classic animated films.

And italian audiences were also treated with a live-action Pinocchio movie in 2019, directed by acclaimed italian director Matteo Garrone (Dogman, The Tale Of Tales), and starring beloved italian actor Roberto Benigni, which already was world famous for playing the titular character in the 2002 Pinocchio movie.

If you’re like me, as in italian and pretty much hailing from Tuscany, living nearby Florence, hence more than familiar with the original book by Luigi Collodi, you’d be wondering why now, as it seemed random to see a resurgence of Pinocchio adaptations out of the blue. I mean, the book was already in the public domain in the U.S. since 1940, so i wondered if there was some anniversary relating some of the more famous adaptations…. but nothing that made sense.

As in, the original book was first published (in full, after it was published in a weekly children’s magazine starting 1881, then stopped and eventually resumed with the second part) in 1883, so the following year would mark the 140th anniversary, notable but not the kind of number that publisher choose to publicize some new edition of a popular book.

Doesn’t have quite that ring, but somehow 2022 was the “Year Of Pinocchio” regardless, so irked by this i’m gonna do “sumethin about it” and actually spotlight a noteworthy or overlooked Pinocchio adaptation or “heavily inspired by ” work each month of 2023, with special reviews, starting with a post/review at the very end of January.

There will be no precise release windows for each piece, just each a month for the entirety of 2023.

[EXPRESSO] Babylon (2022) | The Jazz Orgies Of Caligula

Didn’t Square Enix and Platinum Games already did th- nope, this isn’t that kind of “Babylon” (which will die at the end of this February, btw, look forward for a review of that).

This is a spanking brand new – well, kinda, it came out at the very end of last year and we’re getting it here just now – movie from Damien Chazelle (La La Land, Whiplash), about the transitional period of cinema during the late ’20s, when the industry moved from silent to sounds films, and the movie depicts the rise and fall of actors, producers and cinematic figures during this time, gleefully showing – with a scope befitting the title – the grandeur and decadence that preceed the “fall” of the old ways cinema had been made, imagined and immortalized.

Excess is the keyword and Babylon revels in it, christen its offspring, before flinging it to the jester dwarf man jousting an inflatable cock as to entertain the coked up orgy attendees, like we’re watching 1920’s cinema-themed scenes from Tinto Brass’ Caligula, though regardless in the first 10 minutes you see golden showers and a bountiful anal evacuation from the costipated party elephant.

You are not gonna hear me complain about the obvious debauched exploitation style direction and contents Damien Chazelle went for, we had more clean or fantastical retellings of period pieces about cinema& its making-of, so we definitely can have a comedy-drama like this that – while also having a cornucopia of big name actors – embraces the medium and its many excesses in a unfiltered fashion, and is able to deliver a lot of laughs, excellent cinematography, incredibly entertaining over-the-top scenes, but also some hearfelt exchanges and touch upon heavy themes.

And never feel tiresome despite the mammoth sized 3 hours runtime.

Loved it!

Taking the post-Christmas break now instead of never

Since i couldn’t take the break post-12 Days Of Dino Dicember as usual (due to some releases i wanted to cover before they could be “forgotten” or whatever), i’m… taking it now before the chance slips aways entirely.

From today until (and including) the 20th of January , the blog will take a complete break, with even EXPRESSO going on a hiatus in the meantime.

[EXPRESSO] Warriors Of Future (2022) | Robosuits vs Plant Alien Necrobugs

Dipping once again into Netflix exclusive selection of Hong Kong and mainland China by testing my luck on sci-fi action alien shoot em up Warriors Of Future.

Plot rolls the common “meteorite smashes into Earth” situation, and no, there’s nobody fashioning the meteorite pieces into arrows thousands of years later for cool superpowers, nope, this meteorite just had a lot of “grass alien invaders” in it launching a massive offensive.

The elite human forces (escorted by advanced war robots) are almost wiped out, minus a suicide squad with just a few hours left before mankind it’s completely eradicated…

There is a bit more to it, as the invasive plantlife ironically also happens to be beneficial to this dystopic cyberpunk world by converting the polluted air into breathable oxygen, so the evil government guy that dedicated his entire life into machines that do the same very thing isn’t too pleased and tries to sabotage the team, because he’s evil and that’s about it as “motivations”.

Not really a spoiler as he makes it clear he’s gonna do that, nor the heroes (say “hi” to the eyepatch guy) fare much better, like the plot they’re pretty much constructed with stock action sci-fi movie building blocks, heck, even the robosuits they don at some points feel like the result of a confusing laundry day with Iron Man, Isaac Clark from Dead Space and Oshii’s Kerberos Corps.

I do mention videogames because while the production values are indeed high, big screen high, the action scenes and the CG (especially for the feral plant monsters) feels very “videogamey”, a lot like high budget cutscenes, BUT even so i can’t deny Warriors Of Future it’s a very entertaining, quick moving, belly-filling serving of action sci-fi dish that delivers some decent fun.

And sequelbaits to the stars.

[EXPRESSO] EO (2022) | Wanderdonk

Clearly inspired by Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar, this 2022 polish movie follows the life of donkey that, after escaping from a polish circus sets on a “picaresque” journey through Europe, witnessing various realities of modern european countries along its aimless wander.

And intriguingly enough here it’s in theathers, limited release but not that fleeting, it stuck around more than Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio, so that’s nice.

As expected the titular donkey and his accidental European trip is a device to depict various episodes of humanity and its often unsavoury sides, sampled through many various vignettes, going from Eo joining a farm with other mules to being used as a scapegoat by violently murderous football fanatics, being rescued by robot dogs, used as workforce in an illegal fur farm, and so on…

So the donkey himself isn’t the focus of the narration, makes sense but since we’ve seen this type of film done before, EO it’s kinda disappointing because it straddles between committing to fully characterize the animal protagonist (even indirectly) or fully utilizing his role as a narrative tool to eviscerate humanity’s many, many facets.

I’d prefered it “went harder” in many ways, because the execution often made me wish the movie would committ to show more small, gritty or unflinchingly realistic stories, or to contextualize more the ones shown. That and while it’s sincere, at times i felt it was a bit too enamored with being artsy for its own sake, and again, the final result feels compromised and hence it never properly achieves the emotional potency it clearly wishes for.

It’s not a long watch, it does have some very effective moments, i was intrigued all the way and i would recommend watching if you can, but i won’t deny i also felt kinda disappointed by it.

[EXPRESSO] M3GAN (2022) | Child’s Ploy

Killer robots are back to the big screen (using the plural since there was apparently a christmas killer robot santa movie that also came out last year but it’s still US only, in a legal manner), and intriguingly James Wan it’s back as writer after his friend (and Saw co-creator) Leigh Wannell delivered the excellent cyborg thriller Upgrade some years ago, this time with a new take on the killer doll trope, which while sharing similarities with Chucky (even more considering the surprisingly solid recent remake), manages to stand on its own.

Even though the title character starts out as an anti-Chucky figure of sorts, since it’s a robot created as an advanced life-sized child companion/tutor/friend and pitched by a woman working in a toy company after her sister’s family dies on a crash, with only her young nephew, Cady, surviving the incident, after realizing the nephew treats Megan as a real friend, realizing she can kill two birds with one stone by also forwarding the robot unit instead of the toyline she was supposed to fix.

Problem is “Megan” has been built with an adaptive learning pattern and soon cold logic brings the robot to realize that extreme measures will need to be taken in order to protect Cady…

2022 was indeed the year of Pinocchio more than i realized, but aside from that the movie it’s good, not great, but definitely good, the script is strong, characters are quite likeable, the drama delivers, the title character-killer it’s creepy as fuck, the effects are good, and direction by Gerard Johnstone is quite solid too.

Takes a bit to get going, but when it does you’re in for quite the fun killer robot horror film… and one that kinda ambushed me with how funny – deliberatly comedic – it was.

[EXPRESSO] The Fabelmans (2022) | Cut n Spliced

Spielberg is back after last year’s excellent remake of West Side Story with The Fablemans, a romanticized semi-biographic retelling of his upbringing, especially the Arizona period of his childhood, following Sammy Fabelman, a boy that grew in a post-WWII jewish family and developed a deep love for cinema thanks to his mother.

He then further seeks refuge in cinema and making it after learning a shocking family secret, finding in the seventh art a way to process the uncomfortable truth he stumbled upon, alongside the many challenges he faces growing up, also due to his specific religious upbringing.

To state the obvious and to corroborate what Spielberg already explained in a very small pre-movie introduction, it is and indeed feels like the director’s most personal film yet about family and cinema, this kind of insight could have been autogenerated more than written.

What’s more important is that you easily kinda forget this is a semi-fictional story about Spielberg’s own childhoood and how his love for cinema blossomed, because you quickly become invested in the troubles of the Fablemans as a whole, the characters are that good indeed, the cast (which also includes David Lynch in a fantastic small role) it’s amazing, the themes are dealt with maturity, realism, the drama and comedy perfectly balance out each other, etc

I could use some more trite expressions, but i prefer to just go straight to the point with this one: it’s really, really good, exactly what you’d expect (in the positive sense) from the celebrated director, just Spielberg knockin it out of the park again, proving – if proof was needed to begin with – that he has more than “still got it” and that 2021’s West Side Story wasn’t a fluke.

Just go see it, even in a law abiding fashion.

12 Days Of Dino Dicember #24: The Last Dinosaur (1977)

What, no japanese rubber monstersaurus this time? Of course no, you silly billys.

I left this one for last, because it’s not just a japanese giant monster movie.

It’s a Japanese AND American coproduction, and it’s actually just one of the many movies to come out of the Rankin Bass and Tsuburaya Productions collaboration, including The Ivory Ape and The Bermuda Depths, just to cite the adventure/monster movie stuff or adiacent ones.

But this time you might already had an inkling of familiarity with the giant t-rex body suit shown in the poster, especially if you were already familiar with another piece of Tsuburaya Productions’ prolific output, as boy it does look like the evil t-rex mastermind from Attack Of The Super Monsters, and hence from the anime-live action series Dinosaur War Izenborg.

Continua a leggere “12 Days Of Dino Dicember #24: The Last Dinosaur (1977)”