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] 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.

[EXPRESSO] Avatar: The Way Of The Water (2022) | Catboys Galore

In a way, i was looking forward to see this in theathers, as in i wanted to get this thing done and dealt with as soon as possible, so i could move on to far more interesting releases.

And watching the movie confirmed exactly what i feared/expected: another constipated public dump by James Cameron (of James Cameron fame) about space “non-native americans” tribal catboys that have to defend their land from the evil humans that want their planet and resources.

Set 10 years after the event of the first movie, Way Of Water introduces Jake’s family and their struggle to escape from an old enemy (returning into a Navi’ body), by leaving the jungles of Pandora and seek refuge into one of the water-dwelling tribes of Navi’.

Still a lot of vapid neo-age tribalistic mumbo jumbo bullshit designed to look pretty but with an artstyle derived from a mid 2000s “alien landscape wallpaper” search, be technically impressive but devoid of any substance that couldn’t be found into a 90’s kid movie about climate change, the character are mostly paper thin, by design too.

We gotta make room for all the other excesses that could have been cut from the movie, but let’s never explain some incredible shit that might actually need it, all made worse by an incredibly bloated and unwarranted runtime (for this theatrical cut) that goes BEYOND the 3 hours mark.

Still, despite all these issues, i gotta admit some of the new stuff it’s pretty cool (like the new robots/mechs), the movie delivers on the spectacle, there’s a lot of action, Cameron still knows how to direct some really fuckin cool action-combat scenes, and there’s enough to make it entertaining on a basic level, even if it IS cinematic constipation.

Not looking forward to the third one.

[EXPRESSO] Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio (2022) | Splintered Spectacular

Years in the making, but Guillermo Del Toro’s take on beloved italian literary children classic Pinocchio is here, available worlwide on Netflix, after a very brief debut in some select theathers.

It takes many liberties from the book but does so in a way that makes it a more interesting adaptation of the story, and the changes (also needed cause of the tale being retold/reinterpretated squillions of times) do compliment that, like it now taking place in fascist WWII Italy, Jiminy Cricket being an actual character with agency and some background to him, Geppetto being more important of a character, with a new tragic backstory involving its dead, unwooden, real son.

It embraces the darker tone and themes of the original work, like, completely, far more than 2019’s Matteo Garrone take, for one, as in to committs to retain the savage nature of many events, Pinocchio’s ability of being far worse than “rambuctious”, and the often terrifying imagery, while also showing a lot of creativity in both reworking or adding new characters and lore to expand the story, give some surprises and changes to make the story interesting and different from previous adaptations, without completely transforming into something that isn’t Pinocchio anymore.

After all, this is Del Toro’s vision and if i wanted the original Pinocchio experience, i’d just read the book (which i still recommend doing, if you haven’t, btw) again.

I’d say more but i would just spoil some of the original material, so i will just bite me tongue.

the stopmotion animation it’s excellent, absolutely impeccable work, the songs are nice enough, plenty but quite brief (never overstaying their welcome, and overall i’d say this is easily one of the best adaptations of Pinocchio, like ever, and somehow able of actually living up to expectations.

Simply excellent.

A review of Pokemon Scarlet/Violet is coming later this month, actually + EXPRESSO review of Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio

While i did make some first impressions/ramble on both Pokemon Arceus and the Diamond/Pearl remake, i figured this time i HAD to make a proper full lenght review of the first 9th gen Pokemon title, especially since it’s a mainline release. And since i did actually preordered the damn thing this time around, and i kinda wish i didn’t. Kinda.

Seriously, while the game has already been discussed and fairly criticized enough for the obvious reason (it runs and looks like ASS, let’s be brutally honest about it), and while the undeniable fact of Violet/Scarlet selling 10 millions in 3 days it’s kinda depressing and makes it clear once again how “boycotts in videogames” are useless for many reasons and most often feel moot since we’re talking about franchises that do incredible numbers by name recognizition alone… we do gotta talk about Violet Scarlet’s issues proper.

Especially since the fact of it being Pokemon means for many the plethora of issues are mostly handwaved or pre-forgiven, when we’re pretty much in a Cyberpunk 2077 situation, yet we didn’t and we’ll never see the same backlash, despite derserving it and the criticisms being pretty similar in origin and nature.

So i’ll do what i can to “balance the scales”, and talk in length about the many problems and strenghts of Scarlet/Violet, a game i’m currently enjoying despite everything, but one i’m also feeling quite disappointed, since it was clearly something that Game Freak should have been made able to cook in the “development oven” for at least 1 more year.

To misquote Strong Bad “this goose isn’t cooked”.

Seriously worried this will be become another costant issue plaguing Pokemon releases, because sure as shit Nintendo isn’t gonna make Game Freak take more time, but crack on with the “AAA pretty much biannual” style of releases.

On another tangent, while i did find some theathers that showed Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio almost a week before it’s Netflix release date… it was literally like 5 days, as much as i prefer watching movies in theathers i also can use to save me some cash, and i still have a Netflix subscription, so the EXPRESSO review for that it’s gonna be a little later than it could have been, but regardless, it’s coming soon.

[EXPRESSO] Violent Night (2022) | Santa Hard

Tommy Wirkola is back after last year’s The Trip (available on Netflix) to the snow tinted realm of horror…. but not quite.

This time around he cooked up a christmas black comedy that has been described as “Die Hard but with Santa Claus instead of John McClain”… because it’s pretty much that, set in a rich family’s villa where a group of terrorists (with the leader played by John Leguizamo) lies in wait to get their hands on a big chunk of million money.

It just happens that by accident the real, factual Santa Claus finds himself in that very house when shit goes down, and decides to fight them to save the family, especially as the younger child earnestly believes in him, by way of some magic, a warhammer and a lot of gruesome violence.

Yeah, it isn’t strictly a horror movie, it’s definitely heavy on action and comedy as you would expect from this deliberate pastiche of Die Hard and christmas movie, but again, it’s a Tommy Wirkola film, so it doesn’t really matter that this isn’t a new installment of Dead Snow or a christmas slasher, because we also get to see Santa pile up a more than respectable bodycount, using everything from ornaments to shovel to woodchippers and even a warhammer (tied to his backstory/lore here)

Heck, for good measure there is a straight up Home Alone “trap scene” and even that provides a lot of gore effects played for laughs that will still make you go “OW”.

There’s also the “Bad Santa” angle to the main character, but not quite, since he IS real here, and otherwise the surprisingly decent emotional moments would lose any kind of weight.

Violent Night it’s a pastiche of familiar elements indeed, but it’s a bloody fun holiday romp, too.

[EXPRESSO] Disney’s Strange World (2022) | The Ventures

Apparently Disney’s latest animated film (no, it’s not a Pixar joint) is bombing in theathers, and i do wonder why exactly, especially in its home market where people celebrate “turkey day”.

Probably the choice to market it a little too late to generate some online buzz, and as much it’s funny to point out how many “first gay character in a Disney movie that can be easily edited out for China” Disney seems to possess and parade about… in this case the discussion distracts from the fact this one it’s pretty good.

Strange World is a surprisingly good throwback to adventure films of yore, pulp adventure comics, and of course the old literary classics involving discovering new worlds with bizarre or extinct animals and fauna, especially Verne’s Journey At The Center Of The Earth.

The movie starts with a Davy Crockett-esque tale of Jaeger Clade bouts of ventures alongside his son Searcher, then we see Jaeger continue alone his voyage to find out what lies behind the enormous mountains that surround their village, while his son decides to remain to study a rare plant they found while exploring.

25 years later Searcher has basically created a new utopia as his botanical discovery led to them farming the plant (named Pando) and using it as an energy source/fuel that powers everything.

He lives with his wife and his son Ethan, but as the Pando plants begin to suffer from a sort of disease, he’s forced to journey into the inner depth to find out why, but it accidentally leds to them discovering an entire new world full of bizzare creatures, alien flora and living “isles”.

Likeable characters, fun interactions, lots of adventure and action in a world that does amaze and inspire in its oddities, and solid themes of enviromental coexistence.

[EXPRESSO] The Cuphead Show (Season Three) 2022 | Devilicious

I’m gonna be brutal and make it extra clear (in case you didn’t read the reviews of the two previous season/slices/cours): i’m kinda glad this is the end and i hope there’s not more of this to come.

Unsurprisingly so, the whole cliffhanger with Mugman dragged to literal hell by the Devil and Cuphead finding a way to rescue his brother is immediatly dealt with in the first episode, though at least it’s a longer opener to better make the Devil… basically Squidward. Even more than before.

After that we’re back to the usual episodic fair, but there are still some notable moments that also elicit some legit laughs even for the older audiences, and guess what, once again it’s due to the Devil being such a big pile of luciferian ham.

Just in time for some delightfully long christmas themed shenanigans, with a 30 minutes Devil-centric Christmas special that also happens to be the best episode, hands down.

Actually, to be fair, this season does involve the Devil more into the various episodes, might as well since his presence stopped being special, and he still the best character by far (alongside Porkrind and King Dice, of course).

As much i really forced myself through all of The Cuphead Show more for completition sake after season one, i can’t deny this show can still whip up some intriguing visuals and show off some nice editing and composition, alongside some decent jokes, not too bad for something that it’s aimed at kids and just isn’t interested in the amazing opportunity brought by its license…. to do anything that resembles the Cuphead “inspiration materials” aside from the looks.

It’s a Netflix style adaptation of a popular franchise/brand alright, but keeping all THAT in mind… it’s alright, it’s inoffensive. It sure is content.

Resident Evil: The Series (2022) [REVIEW] Teens & Weskers

Oh boy. This one.

So good a couple of months after its release Netflix cancelled the series all together.

Exactly like it did for its Cowboy Bebop’s live action series, but i doubt this will be the last time we see this treatment, as Netflix is committed to bring more live action crap into its folds, especially by picking a “random” videogame or anime/manga license.

But that discussion will have to wait for when the One Piece live-action series (also by Netflix and also handled by the same production team behind the aforementioned live-action Cowboy Bebop), for this is a Resident Evil affair, and the series already had its own spotted history of adaptations.

I was gonna review this thing anyway, but cancelling any further seasons it’s definitely a move that appeals to my vulturine tendencies, and also means i hopefully won’t have to talk about it again at a later date. Hopefully, who the hell knows with Netflix nowadays, since not even instant super mega hits that are well received by most people like The Sandman (adapted from Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name)… aren’t guaranteed a second season, as the very people making it explained.

Continua a leggere “Resident Evil: The Series (2022) [REVIEW] Teens & Weskers”