Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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The Spine of Night (2021)

Maybe not the ideal Easter movie, but The Spine of Night popped up on my radar (it is currently running on Shudder), and being in a dark fantasy/sword & sorcery mood (big news), I decided to take a look. I was duly impressed and highly entertained, and that’s all I was asking for.

On the technical side, The Spine of Night is a rotoscope animated feature, in the style of Ralph Bakshi’s Fire & Ice or Heavy Metal. With Fire & Ice shares a certain old school fantasy feeling, and like Fire & Ice it is an anthology movie, the single episodes tying in together into a larger overarching narrative.

In the movie, we witness the rise of a god-emperor thanks to the powers of a mysterious blue flower that is somehow connected with the deeper fabric of the universe. As the god-emperor extends his dominion over the world, we catch snippets of other stories, and get a good look at the underlying mythology of this world.

A good solid movie with a somewhat Lovecraftian twist, The Spine of Night is a very dark fantasy, with a nihilistic edge, and does not shy away from violence, gore and nudity – so if anyone tells you “animation is for children”, here you have your counter-argument.

The movie backgrounds are completely stunning, and while it takes a moment to get used to the style in which the characters are drawn and animated, once we get past that uncanny valley thing that rotoscoping causes, it’s all fine.

The voice cast includes Richard E. Grant, Lucy Lawless, Patton Oswalt, Betty Gabriel, and Joe Manganiello, and they all do an excellent job. The music is fine, and the direction – by Philip Gelatt and Morgan Galen King (who also wrote the script) is quite interesting.

Probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s good to see that this sort of movies still get made.


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The Red & the Black – a movie night

Two nights ago I was feeling like some light entertainment, and so I scanned the list of the available movie on my streaming platforms. Because when you live in the sticks, streaming platforms are a life-saver.

And of course I set my sights on Netflix’s feature film, Red Notice – an action comedy caper featuring Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds? That’s just what the doctor ordered after a long day writing and trying to put some order in my affairs.
So I got me a full teapot and my cat (yes, babies, this is as middle-aged as the Magna Charta) and I started the film.

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Steampunk shenanigans: Arcane (2021)

I have never played League of Legends, and I have no idea what it’s all about. I have seen a lot of game artwork around, and I have been duly impressed by the look of the thing, but I am not that much of a gamer anymore – if I ever was. On the other hand, I am a sucker for good animation, and for steampunk, so when the trailer of Arcane, the new Netflix series, was posted, it got my attention.

Now the first three episodes are here – and clocking at 40 minutes each, they are just what the doctor ordered for a break and a cup of tea between writing sessions.
And I am duly impressed.

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Suitable for seniors

I have always loved the radio. My earliest memories are not of television (that as something that existed only after 5 pm back in the day) but of listening to the radio, that my mother kept going all day long as she did her chores at home, and then listened to when she wanted to relax in the evening. Radio dramas (“original radiofonici” as they were called), and shows like the hit parade and “Alto Gradimento” (a radio comedy program that did for Italian radio what Monthy Python did for British TV).

Much later, when I was touring Italy, giving lectures in various universities, the radio kept me company during long drives, and a good way to stay awake. Also, as I had to spend my nights in dreary dorms and other cheerless places, I got myself a small, ultracheap multi-band radio from Lidl, that I carried with me on my travels, and that otherwise rested on my nightstand when I was at home.

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