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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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] Alice In Borderland (Season Two) (2022) | Fallen Figures

After a good year plus of waiting, the second season of Alice In Borderland is here (again, as a Netflix exclusive show), picking up where the cliffhanger finale left our protagonists, who now are pretty much forced to confront the new games held by the high ranking card figures, with teams of “inhabitants” that challenge the players directly, in the hope of figuring out a way to come back home, or if there’s even a way out to begin with..

There are some surprise comebacks, new faces, and the various games are quite entertaining and creative, the returning characters get more characterization, and ultimately we also learn a lot more about this “Borderland” world, even though we don’t get many answers because we’d lose that vague mystique and there’s technically enough source material for a third season.

Speaking of which, while i’m personally kinda tempted to lower the overall score/vote for the ending alone – that and some really cliched and basic philosophical wafflings – … i will give it credit since it could work as a proper conclusion for the series overall.

As i said before, you can clearly tell it’s adapted from a manga series, one that draw easily into the popular branch of suspense/supernatural death games (very akin to The World Ends With You crossed with stuff like As The Gods Will) and also belongs to the battle royale subgenre, though this live-action adaptation had the accidental luxury of releasing worlwide just before Squid Game – and its craze that re-popularized the battle royale – came into existence.

Overall, i’ve enjoyed this one more than the first season, it’s just more compelling in terms of characters, death games and stakes, making me surprisingly glad i gave it a chance, even if it’s a bit flawed at times.

[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] 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.

12 Days Of Dino Dicember #23: Land Of The Lost (2009)

FIY, i didn’t know this movie’s history beforehand, i figured we could use a mainstream released feature with actors people might have actually have seen before, you know, in theathers and all, it wasn’t an obscure product from a country that no longer exists and it was “2YK survivor”.

So i just slotted into the list, only to later find out i basically enlisted “comedy Hitler” for this Dino Dicember, as this thing was widely hated back in 2009, with the deadly combo of being both a box office bomb and receiving overwhelming amounts of negative reviews from the press.

And also won 7 Razzies, which – as said before – i don’t really acknowledge, but by all accounts it had everything going against it, as it was regarded as an awful, awful sketch comedy, and made people extra salty because it was technically one of those “parody movie adaptations/remakes” of an older, beloved TV series, in this case Sid and Marty Krofft’s Land Of The Lost from 1974.

Which i never saw since i’m technically a Millennial and whatnot.

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12 Days Of Dino Dicember #21: Hatched (2021)

Clearing up some of the last year’s releases with Hatched, a 2021 dinosaur film about a woman and her family moving to her reclusive brother’s farmhouse to check on him, only to find out he moonlighted as Dr. Alan Grant, resulting in many living dinosaurs that trap the family inside the house.

Yes, the dinosaurs are coming from inside the house, hur hur.

I’ve heard this one described as “Michael Myers but if dinosaur”, for some reasons that don’t really make much sense when you think about it for more than 3 seconds, but i would say we’re more in Carnosaur or Raptor Ranch territory, because we’re yet again talking about someone doing clonosauruses around chicken coops and shit.

At least we’re not in space?

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12 Days Of Dino Dicember #15: Terror Birds (2016)

‘m cheating a bit with this one, since it’s about an extinct clade of carnivorous flightless birds from the cenozoic period, going by the scientific name of Phorusrhacidae, vulgarly called “terror birds”. So, dino birds, pretty much.

If anything, i don’t regret fitting this one in a proper Dino December… because the plot reminds me of Raptor Ranch, as yet again we have scientists cloning extinct animals in fuckin Texas ranches of all places.

Then again, what do i know, maybe there the demand for dino beef is high. Yeah, this time isn’t about raptors and company, but about these prehistoric apex bird predators, and the usual group of teenagers (with her ex-boyfriend who she’s gonna hook up later, because dumb b-movie script) that stumble upon the “dino ranch”.

This time there is a reason for it, because the father of one of the girls, Maddy, went missing during one of his usual birdwatching excursions.

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Pokemon Scarlet/Violet NSWITCH [REVIEW] | Out Of The Pokéoven

My first review of a new Pokemon mainline title here, yay!

Felt like i had to since i didn’t do so for Legends: Arceus or the Diamond/Pearl remake (as i previously explained), and we do need to talk about this one. Sternly, too.

I only wanna preface i won’t be considering the competitive aspect or balance there of as i honestly never cared too much for that even decades ago, less so today, meaning i can’t and won’t be giving a throughout evisceration of the meta, so to speak.

Fair warned be thee.

The first titles of Pokemon 9th generation, Scarlet/Violet take place in the Paldea region, heavily inspired by the Iberian peninsula, so if you felt the spanish and portoguese vibes from the trailers, you were correct. The story starts off with you reaching the school’s annual Treasure Hunt event in time to encounter your rival/friend (aka the pokemon rival equivalent of Son Goku from Dragon Ball), but interestingly (and as advertised) this lead to three story routes you can follow, which also include the regular old fashioned fights against Gym Leaders for badges leading to fight that region’s Elite Four equivalent and then the Champion.

The other ones involve a region-wide quest for mystics herbs protected by giant Pokemons, and the storyline that pits against an antagonistic team of trainers, in this case rebellious students that form a gang called Team Star, spread in various bases with a respective Leader ruling it.

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[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.