[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)”

Dynasty Warriors (2021) [REVIEW] | Wuxia Warriors Of The Three Kingdoms

One last review to end this year’s Musou May (and yes i want to make this a regular column) proper, and it couldn’t be anything else than the Dynasty Warriors live-action film that came out last year in Chinese territories and has landed on Netflix pretty much everywhere. In 2021.

I genuinely did not knew it arrived last summer, and somehow Netflix forgot to tell me they even had it, shocking given my cronology, and due to me genuinely looking forward more to the movie than to mainline Dynasty Warriors games, as i’ve lamented before.

Though it’s one that both leaves you with a lot and very little to talk about, at least in terms of plot, since the series it’s one of the many adaptations of the Romance Of The Three Kingdoms novel, and despite their over the top nature, the games stayed fairly loyal to the source material in terms of characters and events, heck, even on stuff like the sparing supernatural-magic elements.

Continua a leggere “Dynasty Warriors (2021) [REVIEW] | Wuxia Warriors Of The Three Kingdoms”

[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] Tutankhamun: The Last Exhibition (2022) | Here Comes The Centhury Boy

Docufilm time!

This one is an italian production directed by Ernesto Pagano, with some narration by Manuel Agnelli in the original italian release, and by Iggy Pop in the english/international one.

The documentary goes into the early discovery of the tomb of pharaoh Tutankhamun in 1922 by english aristocrat Howard Carver, talking about the impact on western popular culture the discovery had (including popularizing the “pharaoh’s curse” in various medias) and showing the preparations made for a London based exhibition that started in 2019 to put on the display the many treasures and relics found inside.

All with commentaries by various “talking heads” from the egyptian, italian and british side of things.

It’s not a bad documentary, necessarily, but it’s one that feels like it has to appeal to everyone, so it doesn’t quite committ to a certain direction nor goes into any detail. For example, in a docufilm about Tutankhamun you don’t learn much that wasn’t already common knowledge, you’d think they took the opportunity to actually go further and try to depict who this young pharaoh was a person (more than in a couple of passing lines, anyway), his lineage, the historical background he lived in…

Heck, i would have preferred some more footage of the exhibition itself (since due to COVID pandemic the tour stopped and Egypt decided not to move the artifacts out of the Giza museum), but nope, we have a cool narrating voice trying to fashion some kind of fictionalized “epic” scenes… only to then move to scenes of people slowly misuring, cataloguing and inspecting the artifacts.

It’s not “offensive” nor a complete bore, and it’s short, just 80 minutes long, but that exacerbates the feel this was made just to have something out celebrating the 100th anniversary of “King Tut”’s tomb being discovered.

[EXPRESSO] Belle (2021) | Every Me And Every U

You know what, i did have some expectations from Mamoru Hosoda’s Belle, as i did quite like Mirai, and i hoped the streak would continue… and it kinda did.

That it, when i wasn’t baffled by the script “skipping” to the main scenes but forgetting to introduce actually crucial information that would lead to said scenes, as Hosoda’s ambition it’s sadly overreaching, and the final result really lacks cohesion, coming off as both overwrought and undeveloped in some aspects. Which is a goddamn shame because the premise, the themes and the overall concept are pretty damn good, but are elaborated on in a way where there’s too much to it.

Belle it’s about the 17 yo Suzu, a very timid and shy girl who has lost her mother and lives with her father in a rural small town. One day she receives an invite to “U”, an advanced and immersive social network with millions of users, receives the avatar of “Belle” and – with the help of her tech savvy friend – becomes a sensational hit singer. But soon she meets with a reviled user with the avatar of a dragon-like beast, hunted by U’s “police force”.

The animation is pretty good, the visuals are quite nice and sometimes pretty dazzling, the music – a big part of the movie – it’s also good, some scenes are quite good, so it’s frustrating how it’s dragged down by the oversprawling script, which makes some questionable choices and really could have used more than a trimming to flesh out the characters betters… and to explain how the hell some characters – out of the blue – know plot crucial information, among other things.

Overall, it’s a decent movie, but it’s too all over the place for its own good and ambition.

Ice Quake (2010) [REVIEW] | Alaskaquake On Ice

Guess what, Homestar Runner was indeed a precursor of language on the internet, as it teached us things and cracked jokes that crappy disaster movies would brazenly weaponize without any shame, remorse or wit.

Yes, indeed that bit from an old Strong Bad Email was forecasting of the “natural disaster suffixation-o-rama” the 2010s would unleash to a – mostly – undeserving public, but since this isn’t about giant insects, arthropods or monsters whose names could make for a tortured title pun… they just called it Ice Quake. I guess “Cryoquake” would have been too snotty and “high brow”.

And even more badly sounding than “Arachnoquake”.

Continua a leggere “Ice Quake (2010) [REVIEW] | Alaskaquake On Ice”

[EXPRESSO] Demon Slayer: Mugen Train (2020) | Eternal Pyre

Fuck it, i’m reviewing this one as well, since it did eventually arrive just now in theathers here in Italy…. after being made available on Amazon Prime Video months earlier, but i’m willing to watch it again to support anime cinema releases, and to properly assess things further for a review.

Since the series it’s the more recent shonen manga success story, i doubt i need to introduce Demon Slayer/Kimetsu No Yaiba, even more since i feel its success lies in being pretty straightforward and easy to connect, as its set in a fantasy Japan of old, where demons lurk at night and feast on people, but are fought back by a secret order of samurai with mystical blades and techniques, the Demon Slayer Corps.

The protagonist, Tanjiro, becomes a Demon Slayer in hopes to undo the curse that made his sister Nezuko a demon, and along the way befriendes the cowardly lightining fast swordman Zenitsu, as well as Inosuke, a wild boy wearing a boar mask.

The plot revolves around the trio being tasked to – alongside an experienced demon slayer called Rengoku – embark a train and protect the people on it from eventual demon ambushes, and this isn’t an original story, a mostly disconnected one-off adventure, as most of these shonen anime movies are, but actually bridges the events of the first and second season, and has some important stuff happening in it, so i wouldn’t recommend jumping into this if you haven’t seen the first season (or red the equivalent manga chapters), for spoiler reasons.

That said, it can be watched fine on its own, and rewatching it made clear it’s a pretty good shonen manga film, with excellent animation from ufotable as expected, funny moments, good drama, likeable characters and intense fights with high stakes.

12 Days Of Dino Dicember #4: Attack Of The Super Monsters (1982)

It really IS Christmas time, because today we’re doing a movie that’s both dinosaurs and vintage tokusatsu cheesiness from the 80s. How can you go wrong? You simply can’t.

Add drill spaceship to the mix and you really can’t go wrong.

Though it’s worth pointing out this is actually an edited down TV series (i suppose it’s just the first 4 episodes of the series mashed together, as it was a common practice at the time), Dinosaur War Aizenborg, itself quite the interesting piece of media, as it’s an hybrid anime and live action show, with sentai style rubber suit and stop motion puppets action for the dinosaurs and giant monsters, but animation for the humans and most regular animals, played over live-action miniature sets.

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Biohazard: 4D Executer (2000) [REVIEW] | Parasite Evil

While we wait for the new Resident Evil film reboot, i’d figure we’d take a look at the other forgotten Resident Evil film series, the CG animated one that basically most people don’t remember, know or care to do any of that.

But before tackling the movies you’ve might actually vaguely heard about, we need to go deeper and unearth the first actual 3D animated Resident Evil movie, 4D Executer, so unknown and so “important” it never got the Resident Evil title, so it still uses the japanese title for the series.

Continua a leggere “Biohazard: 4D Executer (2000) [REVIEW] | Parasite Evil”

[EXPRESSO] My Hero Academia The Movie: World Heroes’ Mission (2021) | God Loves, Hero Kills

We’re at the third theathrical movie for My Hero Academia, and that itself it’s a testament to the popularity of the franchise, if nothing else. Make no mistake though, i quite like MHA.

That “disclaimed”, there are certain expectations that inevitably come with a movie based on a popular shonen manga series that still on-going, even though MHA started the modern trend of having the movies’ original stories being considered (somewhat) canonical by its creator.

I’m not gonna explain the premise of MHA here for time sake, but i will say it’s quite fitting how the plots of the movies for a series inspired by american superhero comics… borrow liberally from their heritage. Like Heroes Risings, the plot it’s heavily “X-Men inspired”, this time about Humarise, a sect of people that believe the power of the Quirks (the superpowers almost everyone in this universe has) will eventually get out of control and bring about the end of humanity.

So they plant bombs filled with a special gas that makes Quirks go berzerk, and pin the blame of their terrorist attacks on Izuku Midoriya and his new friend Rodney, having him and the Pro-Heroes at large intervene to stop Humarise’s agenda…

While the plot on paper should make the story more cinematic than before, in practice not so much , as most of the movie its spent with Deku and Rodney on the run, so the world spanning mission and the many heroes are put on the background, all for a new ally character that’s ultimately quite clichè, slightly better than the villain, not really interesting in characterization or design.

The script also suffers from more of the usual “shonen anime film”-isms, not exactly inspired.

It’s decent overall, but it’s the weaker MHA movie so far in pretty much every aspect.