Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2045 (Season Two) [REVIEW] | To Doublethink Outside The Cage

Yeah, let’s tackle something a bit more challenging before we once again dip our toes in braindead killer animal exploitation crap.

When i reviewed the first season of this new Ghost In The Shell series back in 2020, i wasn’t expecting it would take 2 years before the second part/season would finally air, not because these projects aren’t time consuming (they are), but the general lack of interest in this new 3D CG iteration of the franchise shown by fans and the lack of much news at all almost made wonder if Netflix didn’t consider cancelling.

But then again, in the meantime we saw that it would take a gargantuan dumpster fire such as the live action Cowboy Bebop to make the streaming giant go and actively go “yeah, we’re gonna make more of this trash but we actually decided not to”.

A rare move, given WHAT this company is usually okay with greenlighting in excess, while killing stuff people actually likes.

Still, after a while it became clear this second season wasn’t exactly making anime fans go in the streets to demand it big time. Riots were not made for SAC 2045 Part 2, that much is undeniable.

Eventually, in late May 2022 the second season dropped on Netflix, preceded by a compilation film of the first season, called – fittingly so – GITS SAC 2045: Sustainable Warfare, which we talked about in its EXPRESSO review, and overall served as a good refresher since 2 years had passed.

Continua a leggere “Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2045 (Season Two) [REVIEW] | To Doublethink Outside The Cage”

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] 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] Choose Or Die (2022) | Curse Text Adventure

It was just a matter of time before we got a movie like Choose Or Die, not only due to the rising prominence of videogames in popular culture, but also as a byproduct of the various legends like the Polybius one, and inadvertly of the metacurrent, as i got whiffs of an hypothetical Pony Island X Jumanji reboot crossover (plus references to the Waterworld Atari contest and the likes) from this.

Plus, it has Robert Englund in it. Always nice to see, regardless of the movie.

The plot sees two friends booting up an old 80s videogame, intrigued by the fact there was a competition with money on the line, but nobody ever claim the rewards in the following decades.

To their dismay, they actually enter the game, Curs<r, and will have to survive the surreal world laying before their eyes, as the game it’s actually, literally cursed, and can alter reality with destructive, immediate effect, forcing the player to make horrible binary choices.

It’s a simple premise but it’s novel enough, and the execution it’s surprisingly good, the direction is confindent has quite the bite, taking advantage of the premise (in this case the videogame elements) in a straightforward but also quite interesting and satisfying manner, leading to some really grisly (yet not over the top in terms of graphical violence) setpieces that show off some style to boot.

The likeable characters (especially the main protagonist), and compact runtime round up the package, making Choose Or Die a very nice surprise, overall, especially for Netflix’s often lacking offerings in terms of horror films.

It’s nothing special or deep, and maybe it was a bit longer it could have actually explored in any depth some of its themes, but regardless, a solid, fun, fresh teen horror romp with some pizzaz.

[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] Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) | Hostile Makeover

There’s a lot that could be said about the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series, but you won’t hear it from me now since i really didn’t bother with anything aside the original and the delightful spoof sequel Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. I knew this was gonna be another “Godzilla style” sequel to the original that ignores everything else, so i rewatched that for a refresher before this one released as a Netflix exclusive a couple of days ago, but that’s about it.

Set decades after the events of the original movie, the story focuses on the aged serial killer Leatherface, targeting a group of young entrepreneurs that arrive in the ghost town of Harlow to basically sell it to rich people, and him coming in contact with a veneful survivor of his killings.

Yes, it’s Angela from Sleepaway Camp. Seriously, it’s not like it could be anyone else, and the movie right away it makes no secret that Sally is still alive, but basically handles it’s legacy character in a disappointing fashion, feels like they wanted to avoid a complete mimicry of what Halloween 2018 did… even thought otherwise it’s exactly what they did anyway.

As in, the attempt is pretty clear in intention, the result is more akin to to Halloween Kills, sans the messy baggage (and overburdened script), among other things.

It’s not “good”, but it’s quite entertaining in the same way as that movie was, as in delivers gore, lots of kills and good production values, the modern stuff makes sense, but in terms of story and characters it’s a mostly forgettable wash.

For a direct-to-video sequel it’s “fine”, and since it’s also really short, i say give it a watch if you like the series or slashers in general, just don’t expect much beside some entertaining kills.

[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.

[EXPRESSO] El Paramo (2022) | Thy Patience Consumed

Some really fresh (as in “new”) Netflix content for me and you, El Paramo is set in 19th centhury Spain, where a family living in a remote house is haunted by an entity that feeds on their terror, and it falls upon the young boy Diego to save his mother from the entity… and herself.

…. or so this is premise as Netflix puts in the description. A correct synopsis that doesn’t spoil the experience, i’m not harping on that, i just prefer to describe this movie as “mother simulator”, since the mother not only has to suffer her husband basically disappearing and never coming back most likely due to the wars happening outside their isolated refuge, having to defend herself from a supernatural beast that she thought was just a legend, but also having to put up with her son, one of the most annoying and dumbass child character i’ve seen in a recent horror film.

Stupid, grating and spineless too, just in case the kid wasn’t annoying enough to deal with, even though it eventually leads to his character arc going where you would expect…but until the last act he doesn’t come off as the more sane and kind character he actually is, but as cowardly dumbass that almost makes this movie an accidental “anti-Babadook”, as for most of it i was rooting for the mother to get rid of both “annoyances”, not only the monster, and have some peace.

That said, let me stress that the movie it’s not bad, the setting it’s pretty good, the cinematography it’s also quite nice, the creature’s lore and design are spooky enough and played fairly decently for tension instead of jumpscares, and there are some atmospheric moments, but there’s just not much to it and overall it’s mostly average.

[EXPRESSO] Dos (2021) | Flesh Sewn Shut

Browsing Netflix new releases and this caught my eyes, i mean, the simple title made me curious and i’m always in when it’s a spanish horror thriller about two complete strangers waking up to found themselves literally sewn together and placed into a room.

It’s not human-to-walrus surgery, but i will indulge regardless, it’s also fairly short, clocking just above 60 minutes (plus credits), quite surprising some other bloated films Netflix has as exclusives.

It has definitely an arthouse feel (the finale with the title reveal it’s really indicative of director Mar Taragona’s ambition), but the bold decision to compact it all in a shorter runtime pays off in spades, both for impact and in cutting out the fat from the narrative.

The main mystery keeping the story going is the identity of the culprit, and of course the purpose of joining together two people by literally sewning their flesh together, which is ultimately not the Saw-esque random ass gruesome torturer with a deviant penchant for justice and retribution you might think it’s gonna be revealed. It’s not that… exactly, and it’s a shame because the script never properly explore the themes it tackles, nor manages to fully utilize the isolated setting and premise, going for an arthouse ending, with some impact but ultimately not that satisfactory.

A shame since the movie is already intriguing before that, with plenty of questions and the grisly circumstances, while the two are trying to make sense of the really uncomfortable – even more since they’re butt naked – situation they’re in, leading to some good drama and time spent with this likeable and relatable “surprise duo”.

Shame it hasn’t much depth to it as it clearly wanted, (i’d guess it was originally meant to be a lot longer), but it’s a decent watch.