[One Piece Film Retrospective] #12: Film Z (2012)

After the very brief and very odd interlude of Straw Hat Chase, Toei “came to their senses” and the next year released another proper One Piece film, surely having learned that these movies are at their most successful when you have extra side-corn to market them, as in OVA and small filler arcs for the TV series, alongside the eventual promotion with retailers and shit.

So yeah, this had a tie-in filler arc in the TV anime, and an OVA set slightly before the events of the movie, Glorious Island Z, aka Nami and her big floaties taking more screentime (and “choice angles”) than Luffy eats meat during any meal of the day.

Fitting title, though.

Even if viewership can be spotty as some people got bored or tired of the TV series’ pacing (especially if they already know what’s gonna happen from reading the manga), you can bet chances of these people taking a look at the trailer for a new shiny One Piece film, even more if you market it by saying that this will pit the Straw Hats against one of their most powerful enemies ever.

Continua a leggere “[One Piece Film Retrospective] #12: Film Z (2012)”

[One Piece Film Retrospective] #7: The Giant Mechanical Soldier of Karakuri Castle (2006)

Always felt some sort of pity with this one, because it had the unbelievable “luck” of coming out after a far more ambitious, creative and artistically impressive take on the same series, and while almost anything was gonna be looked down upon as a “follow up” to Baron Omatsuri and The Secret Island… going fully back on the formulaic and “mild” didn’t help, even it was “inevitable”.

Okay, that’s a bit cruel, but i guess the mixed reviews Baron Omatsuri received were taken into consideration, so the experimental period was basically declared over, time to slip back into the comfort zone and play it super safe, despite that movie being as successful as any One Piece film was.

Not that this is necessarily the sign of a bad movie, i do like “regular” One Piece after all, of course i do, but i’m not exactly impressed when a film series based on a super popular shonen series is playing to the familiar tunes immediatly after an entry took risks, and was mostly rewarded for it’s ambition, the desire of director, screenwriter to make a very different film while still playing within (& with) the established world and characters of said series. A different, risky vision.

Giant Mechanical Soldier of Karakuri Castle is another cuttle of fish, as in, the usual for One Piece feature films, we’re back to the regular scheduled fair, for better or worse.

Continua a leggere “[One Piece Film Retrospective] #7: The Giant Mechanical Soldier of Karakuri Castle (2006)”

Earth Defense Force: World Brothers PS4 [REVIEW] | BROTHERS EVERYWHERE-

While we wait for EDF 6 to come out this august in Japan, the previous spin-off finally went on proper sale on the PSN some time ago, so i finally got to play (bought the Deluxe Edition on sale, so complete of all Season Pass content, FIY) and review Earth Defense Force: World Brothers, another spin-off of D3 Publisher’s beloved cult series about space ants and giant robots, handled by Yuke’s, which did previously develop another EDF spin-off the year before, the quite solid EDF: Iron Rain.

The story it’s actually a more comedical take, with the aliens invaders from all previous EDF game scoming back (with a mothership each) under the guise of the new villain, just called Dark Tyrant, destroying “voxel earth” into many pieces in a single shot, so what’s left of the EDF has to find a way to put it back the pieces together and repel the invaders, one mothership at the time.

Instead of going for the serious faced ridiculousness played totally straight seen in the mainline titles and even the previous EDF Iron Rain, World Brothers just revels in the sea of clichès, deliberately having a voice acting that’s so ridiculous or “old fashioned cringe” for the also ridiculous as hell dialogues, here more on the zany side, which is further reinforced by the stylistical choice of going “voxel” in terms of graphics.

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Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2045 (Season Two) [REVIEW] | To Doublethink Outside The Cage

Yeah, let’s tackle something a bit more challenging before we once again dip our toes in braindead killer animal exploitation crap.

When i reviewed the first season of this new Ghost In The Shell series back in 2020, i wasn’t expecting it would take 2 years before the second part/season would finally air, not because these projects aren’t time consuming (they are), but the general lack of interest in this new 3D CG iteration of the franchise shown by fans and the lack of much news at all almost made wonder if Netflix didn’t consider cancelling.

But then again, in the meantime we saw that it would take a gargantuan dumpster fire such as the live action Cowboy Bebop to make the streaming giant go and actively go “yeah, we’re gonna make more of this trash but we actually decided not to”.

A rare move, given WHAT this company is usually okay with greenlighting in excess, while killing stuff people actually likes.

Still, after a while it became clear this second season wasn’t exactly making anime fans go in the streets to demand it big time. Riots were not made for SAC 2045 Part 2, that much is undeniable.

Eventually, in late May 2022 the second season dropped on Netflix, preceded by a compilation film of the first season, called – fittingly so – GITS SAC 2045: Sustainable Warfare, which we talked about in its EXPRESSO review, and overall served as a good refresher since 2 years had passed.

Continua a leggere “Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2045 (Season Two) [REVIEW] | To Doublethink Outside The Cage”

[EXPRESSO] Lightyear (2022) | Space Mediocrity

Ok, let’s leave aside the whole “identity crisis debacle”, despite Pixar being outright silly in starting the movie with the premise that THIS is the movie that in 1995 spawned the Buzz Lightyear toy Andy from Toy Story got. Also ignoring the 90’s animated TV series that served as a backstory to the character, because it’s clear this is a different interpretation-canon.

WHATEVER, who cares, let’s move on from this non-sense.

Though i can understand it’s quite tempting to do so since the ludicrous meta footnote is ripe for lampooning, and the actual movie leaves very little to say for itself.

But first, the plot.

I has been described by many as a sort of rip-off of Interstellar for children, and i agree, as we see Buzz and company investigate a newly scanned planet that the ship flew by during their voyage.

This alien world immediatly reveals to be rife with hostile fauna and flora, and in attempt to escape, the ship gets damaged, forcing Buzz and all the other people on board to camp and live there, while they find a way to create the specific fuel need for lightspeed space travel in order to contact base and leave the planet. They do manage to create the special fuel, but things turn for the weird as Buzz keeps failing the lightspeed flight test and returns to learn that his minutes long voyages translate to years of time passing in his absence….

I’ll say that this ain’t bad. I didn’t expect much from the trailer, but sadly despite the plot having some potential to be better, it all comes off as a generic “origin story” through and through, from the action to the characters, everything it’s pretty mild, predictable and – again – generic.

Enjoyable, but sadly quite middling overall.

[EXPRESSO] Congo’s Caper/Joe & Mac 2 SNES | Sun Wukong Upon A Star

Ah, yes, the three inescapable truths of life: death, taxes and SNES caveman platformers that somehow you didn’t play or knew existed, like todays’s Congo’s Caper, just recently rereleased on the NSW Online subscription/retro apps.

This one it’s a bit more recognizable than stuff like Prehistorik Man, as it’s basically a spin-off of the Joe & Mac: Caveman Ninja series by Data East, but also the second game in the series, since it was actually sold as Joe & Mac 2 in Japan and PAL regions.

And i kinda get why, as Data East also recycled some characters from the mainline Joe & Mac series, like the devil or the first stage t-rex boss , and the controls are similar, as it retains the high jump, but not the weapons, as you use only a small club to attack.

The more distinctive feature is the player character turning back into a monkey if hit, and regaining your human form with a red crystal (Mario style), with the ability to enter a “super saiyan” invincibility state too, you’re a half-monkey man after all.

Controls are actually pretty smooth, arguably better than the original Joe & Mac, the new protagonist has some new abilities like hanging from vines, so it should be better…. and it arguably is, it’s definitely more polished, has a lot more levels, BUT it’s too easy for its own good, it’s fun, but it lacks challenge, and the level themselves are very short, while also not providing anything you haven’t seen (or heard, as some of the sound effects are pretty much “ripped off” of Super Mario World…. or its sound libraries) done better in terms of level design.

So it’s not a bad game, but a decent one that could have been potentially quite good.

Shame, really.

[EXPRESSO] Ghost In The Shell -Stand Alone Complex 2045: Sustainable Warfare (2022) | Cyborg Cut

I’ve reviewed the first season of Stand Alone Complex 2045 before in detail, but as a refresher for season 2 finally arriving (2 years after the first one, dang) later this month, i’d figured i watch the film-like compilation cut of Season 1, titled Substainable Warfare, recently arrived on Netflix.

Btw, yes, this actually follows the continuity from the older Stand Alone Complex series, being set 11 years after the event of the movie Solid State Society, BUT, in typical GITS fashion, it’s also a separate entity that can be enjoyed on its own… even though in this case you really need to have some familiarity with the Stand Alone Complex series to get the most out of it.

As a very quick primer, GITS it’s about an unit of elite special agents, Section 9, led by Motoko Kusanagi abd working for the Japanese goverment, with its members having various degrees of cybernetic implants and specialized skills used to deal in terrorist attacks, infiltrations, hacking incident, and all that cyberpunk jazz.

Here we have the group mostly disbanded and acting as a mercenary unit in America, until the rise of the so-called “Post Humans” leds to Section 9 being re-formed to deal with the issue.

The recut itself it’s well done (though it does away completely with the “geezers bank heist” episode, shame), in terms of the material… well, it’s still better than Arise, though it tries a bit too hard to update/modernize the cyberpunk themes, and this first part/season ends on a cliffhanger when it starts getting good.

Then there’s the okay but kinda questionable choice of artstyle, going for a fairly good 3D CG that sadly doesn’t feel THAT much improved upon, 11 years after the same animation studio (Sola Digital Arts) curated Applesee Alpha in similar fashion.

[EXPRESSO] Pacific Rim: The Black (Season Two) (2022) | Kaiju Kult

Well, look’s who back, a series that i honestly even forgot existed, but they did announced this second (and final) season, guess that branding helped.

So yeah, while i didn’t hate the first season, Pacific Rim The Black was kinda the perfect example of “Netflix anime”, as in, it looks like anime, it’s produced by an anime company and japanese directors, but you could tell it’s written by non-japanese staff.

Which isn’t necessarily an issue, but you just can tell right away and it creates this slight disconnect, and due to that once again it’s hard to say for whom exactly this is made for exactly, given it’s still made in okayish but still janky 3D CG (and the specific “3D CG anime jank” of Polygon Pictures output), which is kinda offputting for most of the self-proclaimed “anime enthusiasts”.

But on the flipside, it’s not that bad, it’s honestly alright, it’s entertaining enough and this one picks from the point where the first season started having some interesting worldbuilding and character development, and manages to make the plot have some purpose (though it kinda has to, since this is the final season), introducing a death cult of Kaiju worshippers.

It’s an actual improvement over the first season, the writing it’s still nothing impressive, but it’s better, though despite being just another 7 episodes, i did wonder if it was ever supposed to be longer, as some resolutions and events happen very quickly, almost abruptly so.

Again, it’s alright, but as the idea of anime series based on Pacific Rim makes a lot of sense if you think about it, it kinda let you wish it had better animation and a slightly longer lenght.

Still, for a spin-off “western-ish anime” series that didn’t need to exist in the first place… it’s decent.

[EXPRESSO] Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (2022) | & Knuckles

Might as well, since i did watch the first live action Sonic movie 2 years ago, i didn’t hate it, so let’s see if there are some improvements or whatever. Shame that since it’s dubbed here i won’t be able to hear Idris Elba voicing Knuckles, but what can you do?

After banishing Eggman/Robotnik into another dimension at the end of the first movie, Sonic and his acquired human family move to a peaceful town in Montana. Sonic tries to moonlight as a superhero-vigilante but as he causes more trouble by doing so he’s recommended to lay low and wait until his powers will be needed again.

Turns out that time is sooner than expected, as Dr. Robotnik comes back from his fungine dimensional exile, bringing a powerful creature known as Knuckles fighting for him in search of the fabled Master Emerald, while Sonic finds an ally in the two-tailed fox Tails.

To my surprise, this one (in a similar fashion to the actual videogame sequel of the original Sonic The Hedgehog game) is better, still nothing mind blowing, but it’s definitely a step up, not only as the story ups the ante (as expected), introduces more characters, but also has more lore about the world from where Sonic was born, with the owls vs echidnas wars and stuff.

It’s just more fleshed out all around, with even the human characters having some funny bits, the various elements from the game being integrated more into the plot, which is pretty much predictable all the way but quite enjoyable, in no small part thanks – once again – to Jim Carrey’s gargantuan serving of acting ham as Doctor Robotnik, but also due to the more substantial plot.

It’s honestly a decent family-kids movie with a 90s flair (deliberately and fittingly so).

Nintendo Direct 9/02/2022 | Rites Of N

That time again, time to put on your robe and attend the ceremony with expectations so far out to make worshippers of the Old Gods looks like wannabe zealots!

Especially since all fair criticism of the company is dropped by most people (and publications) when a Direct happens. But again, this is sadly “business as usual”, let’s move on.

Continua a leggere “Nintendo Direct 9/02/2022 | Rites Of N”