[One Piece Film Retrospective] #8: Episode Of Alabasta: The Desert Princess and the Pirates (2007)

What happens when Toei wants a new One Piece movie out each year but doesn’t wanna pay someone to write an original story? We get what are basically “recap movies”, that’s what happens, with this being the first but not last istance of the series dabbling in cheap arse territory, and an iffy proposition in itself.

Sure, you may want to see the canonical events from that arc of the series on the big screen, with better animation and production values overall, and i get why Alabasta, as it was the arc that really made people take notice and cement One Piece as one of the biggest shonen manga series ever, so for many fans the proposition of seeing the classic arc on the big screen had some attractive.

I see very little point in describing the plot since it’s a recap film, and Alabasta it’s like one of the most beloved and notorious arcs in the series as a whole, but let’s pretend you don’t know. Let’s cover the basics, just in case.

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One Piece Film Retrospective begins!

As promised, at long last we’re reviewing all One Piece films here on Wise Cafe International, to celebrate the new One Piece film releasing in japanese theathers the 6th of August 2022, One Piece Film: Red, which also it’s the first film One Piece movie about or involving Shanks outside of the usual flashbacks with Luffy as a kid.

Before some one points this out, yes i did review all these movies (aside from Stampede, which also had just launched in japanese theathers) years ago on one of my older italian blogs, but this are all new reviews, completely rewrote from the ground up (so to speak) of all 14 already released One Piece films, and will be posted daily from tomorrow until the 15th of august.

After that i will be taking a break from full lenght reviews and stuff until for a month, maybe 3 weeks at best, but until further notice we’re starting again at full gear from 15th of September.

In the meantime only the EXPRESSO rubric will remain active.

I won’t be doing a ranking since Film Red’s release would immediatly make the ranking outdated halfway through the retrospective, maybe next year, since One Piece movies now seem to come every 3 years or so.

Oujia Shark (2020) [REVIEW] #sharksncrocs

2020 was one hell of a year, and homegrown filmakers pumping out shark movies like these didn’t help the situation. Especially if this one was actually finished in 2017 (to ride on the gravy train of Oujia: Origin Of Evil, released in 2016 as the prequel to the 2014’s film Oujia), but wasn’t released for 2/3 years, that’s the mark of quality if i’ve ever saw one. I mean, this isn’t an exception to the rule like Death Bed: The Bed That Eats, which undeservedly sat unreleased for 3 decades.

Yeah, let’s end the month on something extra tacky and cheap, but let’s give Mark Polonia a deserved rest, since we have Brett Kelly directing this one, using the age old trick of using a pseudonym, “Scott Patrick”, and it’s not the only time he used this specific one.

Why bother in the internet age i don’t know, but i guess it’s tradition, after all.

Yep, the director of fan-unfavourites like Jurassic Shark and its quasi-sequel Raiders Of The Lost Shark, which we previously covered before. And a bunch of mockbusters of the 1st MCU cycle, alongside something called She-Rex. Hmmm! takes note

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[EXPRESSO] Top Gun: Maverick (2022) | The other kind of “dogfighting”

Guess i’m really showing my age in saying i never saw Top Gun in “my days”, but i didn’t, so i simply watched the 1986 movie literal hours before going at the cinema to see this legacy sequel.

And honestly it’s good, it’s a pretty loyal follow up that feels like a proper continuation of where we left off 36 years ago, and while of course the movie has nostalgic moments harking to the original movie, they do serve a purpose as they directly affect some of the events in this sequel, so it ain’t a naked cynical attempt at milking the feels, because the movie honestly earns it.

The plot sees Captain Pete Mitchell basically dragged back by the military to serve as a Top Gun instructor (recommended by Colonel Tom “Iceman” Kazinsky), to prepare new cadets for a secret stealth operation involving the destruction of a soon to be operative uranium refinery captured by a “bandit force”. All made more complicated as among the cadets he sees the son of his old fallen co-pilot “Goose”.

Aside from some modern technological and the more vague identity of the enemy force, it’s pretty much the same formula, where character drama and “military slice of life elements” are the main trust, with a slower pace to compliment that, and the action scenes – despite what you might remember – aren’t the main focus, while they’re important, spectacular, and quite fun, with that level of hollywood bombast allowed by the pseudo-realistic approach.

For better or worse (like it being Air Force advertising), it’s definitely Top Gun.

This sequel also has more actual plot for the narrative to “stand on”, and the slightly longer runtime is mostly to add more action scenes of aerial combat, so overall it’s solid good blockbuster fun.

[EXPRESSO] The Lost City (2022) | Tumble In The Jungle

It has been a fairly slow week in theathers, otherwise i wouldn’t have bothered to watch this.

No offense, but that’s the truth, it’s just that slow of a week for cinematic releases, and this was my “pick of the litter” of sorts, as i do like the premise of The Lost City (no “Z”s this time).

A successful (but fairly elusive and private) writer, Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) has hit series of romance novels about exotic places and centers about the male protagonist Dash, a handsome man that appears on the covers of the novels themselves with the looks of male model Alan (Channing Tatum). One day she has to do a promotional tour with Alan, only to be kidnapped by milionaire Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), whom believes she actually knows how to reach the lost city she writes of in her eponymous book.

Alan then intervenes to show her that he can be an actual hero instead of playing the part of one, with the two stuck in a real jungle adventure trying to get to the treasure before Fairfax does, in what almost feels like a reverse Tropic Thunder-ish sort of scenario.

I’ll be quite honest, this is a very nice little treat, as the humour is surprisingly more wittier than i expected, Bullock and Tatum kill it as the odd couple of academic loner writer and flamboyant “himbo” thrown in an actual, real jungle adventure scenario, Radcliffe it’s great in his – by now usual – unlikely & unhinged villain shtick, and the fairly frivoulous tone works as intended.

It’s a very cute that’s funnier i expected, though the comedy can be uneven, could have helped if it was a bit shorter than its 2 hours runtime.

Still, The Lost City it’s overall quite decent, almost good.

Final Verdict: Decaf

[EXPRESSO] Moonfall (2022) | Moon Machine Tentacles

Roland Emmerich is back again to deliver the kind of movie he’s definitely good at: the popcorn munching big dumb ass disaster flick. And i kinda mean that as a compliment, as he specializes in this type of cinema cheese, definitely its wheelhouse, and this is pristine Roland Emmerich all the way through.

It’s that special type of dumb and insane that i find hard to dislike, i mean, this is a movie that opens with astronauts debating the lyrics of Africa by Toto, that really sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the plot, which is fairly insane, as it concerns the moon…. randomly getting out of its orbit, then moving faster towards Earth.

Not to give away the rest of the plot (and there plenty of insane shit that happens in the last act), but basically the Moon it’s not the satellite we always though it was, but a kind of mega-structure of sorts built for some purpose by someone. We know that because there’s a conspiracy theorist dude (of course there is one, it’s an Emmerich movie) that figures out the orbital displacement will happen before the NASA does, and he ends up helping an astronaut that was defamed a decade ago for an “incident” that happened near the Moon’s orbit.

And i mean it when i say it’s definitely more insane than you think it would be, Emmerich really outdid himself, while also delivering a lovable kind of so bad it’s good type of writing, it’s nonsensincal and not good but honestly i was hugely entertained all the way through, the plot wasn’t really predictable as you would think, and the disaster spectacle was on point and abundant.

A lot of stupid, lovable, sincere insane fun that undeniably accomplishes all it sets out to do/be.

Attack Of The Lederhosen Zombies (2016) [REVIEW] | Up In The Alps

Ah yes, “snow zombies”. We had swamp ones too, so why not, but we’re not talking about the Dead Snow movies, love ‘em but a bit too obvious, so let’s scratch another “undead itch” with the alpine variety offered by the…..not very discussed at all Attack of The Lederhosen Zombies.

Shame, because it’s a nice little horror comedy that has pretty much all the elements to make it a cult film, including gore, lots of gore with surprisingly good practical effects, and a premise that’s about as silly as the movie actually is.

Also, no, despite the italo-german setting, it’s not the beer that transforms people into the undead (the videogame Zombeer did that a few months before this film, btw), stop assuming and let me explain the very simple premise.

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12 Days Of Dino Dicember #9: Killersaurus (2015)

Dinosaurs don’t kill people. People with dinosaurs kill people.

Another moving argument in the endless “dinosaurs carry law” circle of debate, fed to fatten the wallets of the dinosaur manufacturers. Or another cheap sci-fi flick about killer dinosaurs created in lab because some rich idiot had to burn some money in research for new bioweapons.

It’s also another Britishi production, as you can tell right away by the actors’ accents, them talking money in terms of “pounds”, with an opening scene about scientists 3D printing a dinosaur… which already sets up the “stupid” standard skyrocketing, as if most of the scientist acting with their mouth frozen in half-smiles wasn’t enough, and the special effects being so cheap, they just throw a “decapited” mannequin head with a wig on from off-screen to avoid showing anything.

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[EXPRESSO] Green Snake AKA White Snake II: Green Snake (2021) | Mystical Max

While looking at the trailer for this one in the “upcoming on Netflix” section, i was pretty sure that there was a slightly older chinese animated movie called “White Snake” i’ve seen some photos of, and yes…. it’s from the same team, but i haven’t seen that movie yet, so i’ll judge this one on its own.

The plot it’s about a warrior, Xiao Qing, trying to save her sister from a powerful monk known as Fahai, and founding herself transported to a post-apocalyptic dystopia, where she meets a mysterious man that has forgotten about his previous life, known as Asura, and struggles to survive the incredible hazards that continually bombard that world.

That’s the basic gist the Netflix page gives to the plot, and even if i didn’t knew of White Snake, the way the movie starts makes it feel like a sequel to something (and yes, it’s a sequel to that) that would help contextualize some of the stuff that happens in the prologue, but the “isekai device” make so you can follow the story of this one just fine, and the blend of Mad Max inspired post-apocalyptic warfare and mystical elements makes for an interesting scenario.

One that’s also more “western friendly”, i guess a given since this is a Netflix esclusive, and definitely not an animated film for kids.

Honestly, i was surprised by the top notch CG, the slick animation, plot is quite nice and the world is interesting, lots of well directed action, great visuals, and a lot happening at a pretty great pace too. The characters also end up being quite solid as well, even if some are just decent but so frustratingly close to being even better, same for the solid but sometimes not amazing designs.

Still a pretty good film, recommended.

[EXPRESSO] Army Of Thieves (2021) | Nibelungenlied

I’m not gonna question if someone was actually looking forward to this Army Of The Dead prequel, because that one got a divisive reception, and there’s always something that appeals to someone.

Not that the very idea of a prequel to Army Of The Dead is bad, so let’s go over the plot.

Army Of Thieves (directed by Matthias Schweighöfer) takes place 6 years before the event of Army Of The Dead, and it focuses on the character of “Dieter”, the safe cracker extraordinarie, who starts by making Youtube videos on the subject…. and get no online attention, until it’s invited to an underground safecracking tournament by a mysterious commenter.

The mysterious figure turns out to be Gwendolyne, a jewel thief that eyed him for his crew in order to make an incredible triple heist by cracking the first three safes done by legendary locksmith Wagner, all named after the major musical dramas of his homonymous composer.

This is not a bad movie, at all, it’s quite entertaining, the acting it’s good, the action it’s funthere’s some flair and wit to the script, Dieter it’s a lovable nerdy twink, and surprinsigly the other characters are quite likable… but it’s another heist movie, the rom-com bits are the weakest parts and you definitely feel its 2 hours runtime.

It’s a fun heist movie, though, and also one of those “detachable” prequels that can be enjoyed on its own… since it’s barely connected to Army Of The Dead, by design, and honestly i kinda enjoyed this more, it grew on me despite not really being enamored with the idea, i guess since Army Of Thieves it’s more focused on what it wants without trying to juggle 3 movies at once.

Arguably longer than needed and not “perfect”, but a fun watch nonetheless.