[EXPRESSO] Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko (2021) | Niku Niku Ni!

Anime cinema time!

Finally arriving here as a 3 days only event screening, Fortune Favours Lady Nikuko (based on a novel of the same name by Kanako Nishi) is the latest feature film from director Ayumu Watanabe (Children Of The Sea, Space Brothers) and once again animated by Studio 4C.

A more straightforward tale than Children Of The Sea, the movie tells the story of the titular Nikuko, an easy going, cheerful, incredibly passionate and gluttonous woman who falls for crappy men that swindle her, forcing to continuously move elsewhere with her 11 yo girl, Kikuko, whom is unsurprisingly embarassed by her mother penchant for eating, her goofy demeanours and naivetè. Despite having nothing in common, they settled in living on a boat in a small port town.

Incredible animation, realistic portrayal and characterization of kids that age, a good balance between drama and comedy, some effective emotional moments, great characterization, there’s pretty much everything that makes a good film… and this is a good film, flawed but still good.

Despite being the title character, this is the story of her child, Kikuko, while Ninuko feels like a support comic relief, as she’s animated differently for that very purpose, and while you can’t really hate her, it’s frustrating how she ultimately lacks the proper nuance as a character to be more than a butt for the many visual fat jokes.

Also, while you get invested in the events, there’s barely a plot at all, more like a collage of slice life sequences focused on character study, which is fine but there’s also not much even in terms of overarching conflicts, so it’s kinda hard to stay invested all the way through.

Even so, it’s still a good film…. you most likely will not fall in love with at first watch.

[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] The Cuphead Show (Season One) (2022) | Ragtime Round

Unlike many videogames to animated series adaptations, Cuphead having his own Netflix show makes some sense, given its aesthetic molded after the style of 1930s cartoons, why not make a cartoon using the characters and the retro-aesthetic?

I’m gonna say this now so we can move on from it, but yes, i really wanted the team to opt for a full proper rubberhose style animation, but that would have required a fuckton more time and money, and honestly the animation is pretty good, with some episodes even mixing live-action sets, and overall i gotta say it delivers on the presentation.

The voice acting is on spot in terms of accents and lingo too, the character designs and mannerism are perfect but in terms of content it’s a bit uneven because it doesn’t really go all the way to imitate the source material, i mean, you expect a lot more in terms of guns, cigars and gambling, but nope, it’s kinda mild and forgettable.

It also basically ignores the plot of the videogame it’s based off, instead going for mostly episodical…. mundane adventures. Yeah, Cuphead owns the Devil its soul… but that goes ultimately nowhere, and the writing it’s uneven, as some episodes do manage to work in a musical number, some good jokes and a good rhytm to the slapstick, others feel like they exist to waste time and deliver cheapo jokes that come off as too modern.

The Cuphead Show it’s an odd case of a series stuck in between a cheapish low effort animated comedy and a tribute to 30s style cartoons, so ultimately it’s just kinda there, inoffensive, fairly short and easy to binge, cute but just with not much of substance going on under its “borrowed” aesthetic.

A second season has already been greenlit, regardless. Mh.

[EXPRESSO] The House (2022) | Trifecta Triumphant

New stopmotion animation film on Netflix with (also) animal people, you know i’m already in.

Even more since it’s a small anthology of 3 stories, one about a poor family meeting a miraculous proposal, one about an anxious ratman constructor trying to score estate success, and the last about an exhausted landlord, all tied together by revolving about the same house, while taking place in different epochs and with different kind of characters, going from humans to ratman and catmen.

The character models aren’t clay or the odd-papermaciè style seen in Mary Shelley’s Frankhole, but go for a very textured felt-wool look, with a very fuzzy feel juxtaposed to the horror atmosphere and visuals, even though just the first story has actual supernatural horror elements, there’s always a sinister or weird tone to most of the events, with some very stilish visuals to match.

Animation it’s top notch, the character models have very good designs and craft, and it’s a quite good trifecta of stories, with a balanced mix of horror, satire, drama and comedy, quite grabbing as you always wanna see where they’re going in exactly. I think the second one it’s arguably the best, as you never quite sure what direction it’s gonna go, gets weirder and has an even weirder ending.

And stuff like a trip-out insects & maggots musical sequence.

And free-roaming hippie catmen.

Honestly, i don’t really have much to complain about or add in general, if your ears peaked up like a fox at “animated stopmotion anthology film with lots of style and fun substance”, the chances are good you’re gonna like this one, easily. And it comes in a pretty good 90 minutes package, with everything in it feeling as long as it needs to be.

What a really great surprise, too. Excellent.

12 Days Of Dino Dicember #12: Journey To The Beginning Of Time (1955)

It’s the final day of the 12 Days Of Dino Dicember, so let’s end it with a proper obscure gem, the Czech movie Journey To The Beginning Of Time. As in the original, not the re-cut, re-filmed version that reached US territories in 1966 under the same name.

Today thankfully you can watch it as it was released on a region-free Blu Ray by Second Run, which also includes the English version, but i’m not gonna bother with that for now. Sorry, but i simply can’t afford the time to watch that as well and compare the two.

This comes from Karel Zeman (no, not the soccer manager), nicknamed the “Czech Melies”, famous for his fantasy films combining live action and animation, and hugely influential, not surprising to fellow czech Jan Svankmajer (you can’t imagine how happy i am by just having the occasion of nominating him in any of these reviews, retrospectives, but beloved by many american directors, like Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton, and serving as inspiration to Jurassic Park itself.

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Resident Evil Damnation (2012) [REVIEW] | Slavic Struggle

4 years after Degeneration, Capcom followed it up with Damnation (i would wager they didn’t plan the titles beforehand, at all), made mostly to promote Resident Evil 6, released in Japan roughly 3 weeks before, as it acts as a prequel to that game’s storyline.

So yeah, it’s not really a sequel to Degeneration as there are no returning characters from that movie aside from Leon S. Kennedy and Hunnigan, and the events from that film don’t really ever get brought up or serve any purpose to the story of Damnation.

They just don’t.

Which i understand from a functional standpoint, you don’t wanna have people lost if they didn’t watch Degeneration, that movies was released 4 years prior and these CG movies didn’t exactly make people and fans drool over them en masse. But you could have tried to make some fuckin connections happen and try to build an overarching plot of sorts, if nothing else to artificially make the various plots seem more important and better due to the interconnection.

In hindsight it’s not a problem, so let’s talk about the plot of Resident Evil Damnation.

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[EXPRESSO] The French Dispatch (2021) | Tales From Ennui-sur-Blasè

Yes, i was quite excited when this was announced, i love me some Wes Anderson, especially when he’s doing stopmotion animation, but the live action casts for his movies have everyone in them, so i’m willing to “overlook” the issue time, though i’m not entirely sure about William Dafoe not being made out of clay to some degree.

After his japanese themed envorimental tale of samurai dogs, this time we’re dealing with a story about the world of journalism, as an anthology of stories adapted from the fictional “The French Dispatch Magazine”, here presented as a “real” side column to the Kansas-based paper “The Evening Sun”, originally conceived for travel logs and such but eventually got big and based itself in the little french town of “ Ennui-sur-blasè”, attracting the best journalists from all over the globe.

All framed as the newspaper founder dies and by his will the French Dispatch itself will close, with the writers and staff selecting the best stories for the last issue of the magazine itself, ranging to a student protest to a romance between a psychotic prisoned artist and his warden.

As you can guess, expect and tell, this sound indeed like an ensemble cast for a huge “vignette variety hour” on the subject of journalism, promising all the zany quirks of Wes Anderson’s eccentric directing and writing style… and sure as hell you’re not gonna change opinion on his works with The French Dispatch, which plays to all the strenghts and flaws of Wes Anderson with even more vigor than before, for best or worst.

Personally i loved it, but i think it’s fair to say it could have been better.

Especially since we have reasons to expect a lot.

Even so, at the very worst it’s good, so i do recommend it.

[EXPRESSO] Yaya E Lennie – The Walking Liberty (2021) | Jungle Rebel Yell

Time for some ambitious animation cinema from Italy, from director Alessandro Rak, the brand new Yaya E Lennie – The Walking Liberty, that premiered at the prestigious Locarno Film Festival this year, and had a limited theathrical run as an event screening here in Italy.

Produced by neapolitan studio Mad Entertaiment and animated in 3D CG via Blender, the movie follows the titular duo, a crafty girl and a gentle giant with the mind of a child (a direct reference to Lennie of Mice And Men) that travel this post apocalyptic jungle world with a free spirit, living day by day in a world where aside from the dangerous but free jungle also roam soldiers of the Institution, a military regime clinging to a fascist sense of order in a world newly remade primeval, and bent on bringing civilization at any cost to everyone everywhere.

It’s a children enviromental fable about the importance of freedom in spite of poisonous “progress”, and all that it entails, and it’s a pretty good one, it concedes to some of the animated children movies staples with a proud neapolitan angle, but also doesn’t really pull punches on the matters, uses a good amount of cursing, and also the Chaplin monologue at the end of The Great Dictator. So it’s definitely not pandering itself to toddlers, and manages to earn what it wants to represent, instead of just assuming it can without the actual work.

The characters are quite likeable, the art direction it’s great, there’s even a few lines that will get a chuckle out even the older kids, the story it’s solid enough, the only gripe it how the animation still has that issue with most 3D CG, as in it feels very robotic and “laggy” at times. Even so, it’s good work.

The Spooktacular Eight #6: Dominator: The Movie (2003)

Are you ready to rock and roll with the most unknown Spawn-rip off you never heard?

Are you ever heard of “brit-manga”? Me neither, but apparently Dominator was the “new wave of brit manga animation”, according to what the front cover of the UK DVD release claims.

Yeah, this is some rare shit indeed, an animated movie that involves familiar names in the horror sphere like Doug Bradley, Ingrid Pitt, and metal bands like Cradle Of Filth providing not only the music but the voice acting, based on a series of british comics by Tony Luke, one that was still ongoing in 2006, but has since then been in hiatus.

Continua a leggere “The Spooktacular Eight #6: Dominator: The Movie (2003)”