[EXPRESSO] Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom (2023) | Dynasty Gauls

We’re going into “eurocomics” territory today (AGAIN), as in, the beloved Asterix & Obelix series, which is indeed quite nostalgic for many older folks that grew up by either reading the many print adventures of the titular duo of gauls, or the many animated movies based on them, and it’s regardless a very influential comic book series, even to this day.

While i’m very familiar with the series, i can’t say as much for the many Asterix & Obelix live-action movies.

I really can’t compare how it fares against the previous ones, so keep that in mind.

This time we have the village deal with, Fu Yi, the daughter of the current Empress of China which – alongside with her trusted bodyguard – escaped to ask help in saving the Empress and stopping the schemes of an evil prince that guns for the throne.

Honestly i think the idea of having them go to China is timely (and no, this is not based on an existing story, it’s an original script), and it’s perfect for the deliberately implausibile-but-not-quite approach to history the series always had, i mean, it’s a movie where we have Ceasar use “vibrating cum ringtone” carrier pigeons, and soccer player Ibrahimovic plays a divo centhurion that has the Roman soldier sing his Queen-style knock-off anthem.

So yeah, french actors in cartoony costumes that can send a person flying into the stratosphere with a single flick can have some wuxia stuff to contend with, why not, but the characters of Asterix and Obelix are on point and the comedy it’s pretty cute.

I mean, it’s aimed at a “young audiences-family” target (as it would be), and for that i feel it’s a decent silly romp, you could far worse in terms of live-action films based on old comics.

[EXPRESSO] The Plane (2023) | Militia Landing

There’s something to be said about a movie title that’s so incredibly generic and yet so apt it basically comes around to be perfect, as a plane it’s indeed the central focus, even when this big budget disaster b-movie about a pilot (played by Gerard Butler) trying to maintain order and make the passengers live through a ill-advised flight route (made worse as they’re forced to also take a convinct on board) over the South Chinese Sea…. well, it turns into another action movie about fighting off separatist militia thugs, because they happen to land into an island in the Philippines where there’s no real police or regular army presence, but local terrorists militia group/cartels control the place, forcing Gerard Butler to trust the convinct in getting the passengers back…

If you saw the trailer it’s exactly what you’d think it would be, that kind of unapologetic, moderately over the top (but not THAT over the top) action flick where Gerard Butler is here to save the day from generic action movie danger, the cliches overflow like blood from a goth fountain, but you could guess all of that by…. just the fact it’s a movie with Gerard Butler in it, let’s be frank.

You don’t go to see a movie like this to get out of your comfort zone, quite the opposite, as you want something that’s easy on the ol’ cerebellum, you want to snuggle with the expected stuff like the pilots keeping printed photos of their family with them and whipping them out to tempt fate, etc.

You want something predictable yet fun to kill some time, and i can’t deny The Plane it’s quite entertaining action movie junk food (but in a “good” way) all the way through, surprisingly a bit better than expected.

Decent timewaster.

[EXPRESSO] Babylon (2022) | The Jazz Orgies Of Caligula

Didn’t Square Enix and Platinum Games already did th- nope, this isn’t that kind of “Babylon” (which will die at the end of this February, btw, look forward for a review of that).

This is a spanking brand new – well, kinda, it came out at the very end of last year and we’re getting it here just now – movie from Damien Chazelle (La La Land, Whiplash), about the transitional period of cinema during the late ’20s, when the industry moved from silent to sounds films, and the movie depicts the rise and fall of actors, producers and cinematic figures during this time, gleefully showing – with a scope befitting the title – the grandeur and decadence that preceed the “fall” of the old ways cinema had been made, imagined and immortalized.

Excess is the keyword and Babylon revels in it, christen its offspring, before flinging it to the jester dwarf man jousting an inflatable cock as to entertain the coked up orgy attendees, like we’re watching 1920’s cinema-themed scenes from Tinto Brass’ Caligula, though regardless in the first 10 minutes you see golden showers and a bountiful anal evacuation from the costipated party elephant.

You are not gonna hear me complain about the obvious debauched exploitation style direction and contents Damien Chazelle went for, we had more clean or fantastical retellings of period pieces about cinema& its making-of, so we definitely can have a comedy-drama like this that – while also having a cornucopia of big name actors – embraces the medium and its many excesses in a unfiltered fashion, and is able to deliver a lot of laughs, excellent cinematography, incredibly entertaining over-the-top scenes, but also some hearfelt exchanges and touch upon heavy themes.

And never feel tiresome despite the mammoth sized 3 hours runtime.

Loved it!

[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] 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.

[EXPRESSO] Bones And All (2022) | Suspicious Minds

After his controversial but quite good remake of Suspira in 2018, Luca Guadagnino returns to the big screen with the coming of age horror road movie Bones And All.

An interesting proposition to be sure, sure as hell i’m not gonna turn down any chance to see a cannibal coming of age romance on the big screen by a big name director.

Set in 1980s Middle America, the movie it’s about teen Maren Yearly ( Taylor Russell) as she has to flee with her father from Virginia, after she bites off one of her classmate’s finger in a cannibalistic pulse, settling somewhere else then getting abandoned by her father as he doesn’t know what to with her anymore, only leaving a recording in case she wants to confront her mother.

On her voyage she also meets another young cannibal, Lee (Timothee Chalamet), and as they travel their way through small American towns they begin to fall in love.

The cast it’s great, the idea it’s sound, not that original, but still, promising, the blending of horror and romance works pretty well, and the period soundtrack it’s excellent.

BUT it’s also very uneven, as Guadagnino wants it to be set into a specific American period and mood, but it also feels more european in terms of how the themes of sexual liberation are tackled, so it never fully comes together in this regard.

There are still some noteworthy sequences, but the romance isn’t that great, the characters not that interesting, and – again – it’s pretty uneven, not helped by some really gratituous scenes (like the “pre-kill cornfield gay masturbation” one ).

Bones And All it’s not bad, but for all its pretension and ambition, it amounts to just being decent and kinda disappointing, since Guadagnino can and has done better.

[EXPRESSO] Knives Out: Glass Onion (2022) | Greece Getaway

Managed to catch this one in theathers during its premiere week, before it arrives on Netflix, as i planned to since i also saw the first movie in theathers.

This follow up arrives with some delay, as you could guess since the movie it’s set during full COVID-19 pandemic swing, not that it matters much outside of the intro part, which has world famous detective Benoit Blanc receiving the mysterious invitation (via a puzzle-operated special box delivered to him) to a secluded private island in Greece, where tech mogul is holding a private getaway with some of his old friends, inviting them to solve the mystery… of his own murder.

And before you go on a tangent, this was in the trailer and actually isn’t the big crux of the plot, at all, which indeed continues the type of comedy mistery affair that subverts or surprises the viewer by working with the classic elements of the murder mystery, the expectations it brings, while bringing in a new set of horrible people as potential suspects when the murders start happening, keeping the theme of “eating the rich and eat em hard” while delivering plenty of twists, reveals, laughs and damn satisfying bombast too, in some part.

There’s very little way to discuss the movie in any more detail without giving away or hinting at what actually happens in it, but i will say that this time Benoit Blanc it’s “proper” gay now.

Does it matter? Not really, as Bautista it’s playing a nerd streamer.

Now that i have distracted you, i can say that indeed Glass Onion it’s a pretty good follow up to the first movie, not a redo, but a new chapter/story, and i’m quite glad there will be more mysteries for Benoit Blanc to solve in the future.

[EXPRESSO] Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) | Vibranium Wars

For the record: i did enjoy the first Black Panther movie quite a lot when i saw it in theathers.

But i also saw how flippant is the quality of the MCU theathrical offerings, so expectations are as low as they have been for years. Especially with the passing of Chadwick Boseman, which is also honored and diegetically considered, as the death of T’Challa leaves Wakanda open to other nations trying to rob them of the Vibranium, forcing the reigning queen, the princess Shuri ( sister of the late T’Challa) and the remaining warrior women to fight for their land as Namor (i guess a different one from the Aquaman lore, despite the identical name) the king of a secret underwater-dwelling meso-american tribe rises up to force Wakanda into war.

After they take their sweet time, let’s be blunt, this one it’s almost 3 hours long, and boy you’ll feel it. It’s not even correct to say the movie it’s unnecessarily long, but it does take its time to set up various subplots and elaborate on the themes of legacy, inheritance and will that connect the Phase 4 Marvel movies together, as the characters deal with the emotional baggage left to them, which it’s fine but it feels like them ruminating/depending on the first movie to make you care this time too.

It’s the same issue plenty of these new Marvel movie have, and Wakanda Forever it’s no exception, arguably a little worse, which is a shame since the plot has some promise but never feels properly coherent, the cast it’s great, the villain is quite decent, but i found myself not really that invested in the new characters, the new kingdom and the new struggles Wakanda and its warriors face.

It’s a decent but unimpressive (and kinda bloated) sequel.

The Spooktacular Eight #11: The Corpse Grinders (1971)

Let’s celebrate this Halloween (and adjacent) season with some aged cheese and wine, picking from the prolific film portfolio of good ol’ Ted V “step on me ass with stilettos please” Mikels, may his toy robot laden soul (and his mustache too) rest in peace.

We’re doing one of his more notorious ones too, the one that’s not Girl In Gold Boots nor the cheap plastic zombie masks classic, The Astro Zombies.

Yep, it’s time to go King Crimson (the band) on your culinary habits and unseal a can of killer cat movie (again), which if nothing else it’s a refresher in how making great posters that are way BETTER than the movies they advertise has always been a thing for exploitation flicks since forever, and not just a modern thing. The more things change, the more some don’t, i guess.

Seriously, if you expect to see anything as graphic (or disturbing) as what the poster depicting you’re dreaming, because that would be accurate and require money to make effects for, and this ain’t just the style or budget good ol’ Ted V. Mikels was known for.

Continua a leggere “The Spooktacular Eight #11: The Corpse Grinders (1971)”

[EXPRESSO] Beast (2022) | Lion Puncher Idris Elba

I know what some of you thought when this one was announced.

“Isn’t this basically a remake of the movie “Prey” from 2007, but with Idris Elba?”

And indeed i thought the same, but luckily i forgot pretty much anything in detail about that movie, despite watching it in theathers when it came out, i only remember it being either quite shit or not good.

But yep, the premise it’s the pretty much identical, with a family going on a safari only to be forced into confronting a killer lion on a revenge mission against humans, after it survived an attack from some poachers. Don’t worry though, this potentially interesting facet it just mentioned and never explored, because it would cut into the cliched interactions between the family members.

Just some minor differences as it’s just the dad and the two daughters, since the wife died and this safari was meant as an experience to elaborate grief together, this type of mild tripe layered on top, but it’s kinda different as it’s a modern killer animal movie, so it not a full-on horror-thriller affair, it has horror elements but – curiously enough – it’s more about very old school adventure style scenes, despite the big antagonist being a lion acting pretty much like a slasher villain.

Keeping in mind it’s not really a horror (or horror-thriller) film, Beast it’s fairly entertaining, the acting is solid, good production values, and its hard to dislike a movie where Idris Elba punches a lion in the face multiple times, but the script is too cliched, generic and uninterested in actually explore any of the potential themes the premise provides, the characters don’t fare much better, so it ends up being a pleasing enough, fast moving experience but also quite a throwaway one.