Month: July 2015

Asterix_in_Britain_(Astérix_chez_les_Bretons)_poster

Asterix in Britain (1986)

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)

TINTIN CAN SUCK A DICK!

Sorry! Sorry! That was uncalled for. I apologise unreservedly. Old habits just die hard. See, when I was growing up, every public library in Ireland had a well stocked collection of both Asterix books and Tintin books (because this is the greatest damn country on Earth). And pretty much every playground was divided, Sharks and Jets style, between Tintin fans and those of us who felt that the tales of a group of superpowered Celtic warriors battling against the most powerful empire on earth might be a tad more compelling than the adventures of LITERALLY THE MOST GENERIC MAIN CHARACTER IN ALL OF FICTION…

Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.

I apologise to all fans of Tintin and Hergé and his wonderfully crisp ligne claire style.  Some wars are still being fought long after they say “We have peace.”

I acually love the Tintin books, I just wish Herge had wised up and renamed them "The Adventures of Captain Haddock and his ginger sober companion."

I acually love the Tintin books, I just wish Herge had wised up and renamed them “The Adventures of Captain Haddock and his ginger sober companion.”

Okay. So. Asterix. When I announced two weeks ago that I’d be reviewing an Asterix movie the response was predictable mix of “Yay Asterix!” from my non-American readers and a big “who’s the blonde midget Viking?” from my American readers so now’s probably a good time to explain who and what Asterix is.

Hey, I know which side my blog is buttered.

Hey, I know which side my blog is buttered.

So Asterix is a Franco-Belgian comic that is still going since its first appearence in 1959 but was originally created by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo. The setup is this; it’s 50 BC and Rome has conquered all of Gaul (modern day France). All? Not quite. A tiny village of indomitable Gauls stills holds out against the Roman invaders thanks to a magic potion brewed by their druid, Getafix, that gives the Gauls superhuman strength. The heroes of these stories are Asterix, the blonde short-arse, and his buddy Obelix, who was dropped in a cauldron of magic potion as a baby and so is just superhumanly strong all the time (why the Gauls don’t just do this with all their babies is never explained). The main gag is not entirely dissimilar to that of the Flintstones, the past and present are pretty much exactly the same. The series draws its humour from many sources; slapstick, political satire, puns (as in, every single character’s name is some kind of play on words) and especially from affectionate riffs on European cultural stereotypes (the Goths are always punctual, the Greeks have flat noses like figures on urns etc). Despite the basic premise being “French people make fun of foreigners” the series is hugely popular, not only in its native France but everywhere in Europe from Malta to Finland.

"I literally could not give two fucks about...holy shit, ASTERIX!?"

“I literally could not give two fucks about…holy shit, ASTERIX!? I love that guy!”

Asterix is also huge in Latin America, India and even China. How popular is he? Goscinny and Uderzo have sold more books worldwide than any other French author. That’s right. More than Victor Hugo. More than Balzac. More than Dumas.

Well, its not like DArtagnan has his own theme park, does he?

Well, D’Artagnan doesn’t have his own theme park, does he?

So why are these books so popular? Well firstly, they’re just really, really good. Seriously. The artwork is beautiful, the character designs are Disney good in terms of being expressive, appealing and versatile and they’re goddamn hilarious. Also, the Asterix series have been blessed with legendarily good translators (the series has been adapted into over 100 languages). And yet Asterix has never really found much purchase in the United States. Why is that? Culture gap, partially. A joke about how Corsicans are constantly swearing vendetta would probably prompt some head-scratching on the other side of the Atlantic.

"Youve made an enemy today, Mouse."

“You’ve made an enemy today, Mouse.”

"Oh get in line."

“Oh, get in line.”

But mostly I think it was just due to bad timing. To get a foothold in the United States comic market Asterix would have needed to become popular in the fifties, before the Silver Age began and American comics just became SUPER HEROES SUPER HEROES SUPER HEROES SUPER HEROES FROM NOW UNTIL THE END OF TIME. The distributors for European comics just weren’t there and so Asterix missed his shot unfortunately. Oh well. Fear not Americans. It may be tricky for you to track down copies of his books but you can still watch one of the many fine animated adaptations of Asterix books that have been made over the years HAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAHAHAAAAAA …*collapses into a weeping pile.*

Oh Christ.

There have been nine (NINE!) animated Asterix movies and four live-action movies (all starring Gerard Depardieu as Obelix).

My God man! You were in JEAN DE FLORETTE.

My God man. You were in Jean De Florette.

Now, I haven’t seen all of the animated movies. But I have seen a LOT of them. And they can be broken down into four categories;

1) The ones with terrible animation,

2) The ones with terrible voice acting,

3) The ones with terrible animation and voice acting.

4) The ones with ALL THREE.

But honestly I think that even with top-notch talent in every area it would be damn hard to make a good Asterix movie that still resembled the original in any meaningful way. The comedy just doesn’t…work when you translate it to film. The timing is always off, it just doesn’t translate well (which is ironic, since Asterix is one of the most successful examples of translating comedy in human history). Today’s movie is Asterix in Britain, an adaptation of the eighth Asterix book and one of my personal favourites, firstly because it’s just classic Asterix and also because it included this guy:

His name is Overoptimistix. He was the only Irish character to ever appear in these books. He had one line, that included the word "Begorrah". And I loved him.

His name is O’veroptimistix. He was the only Irish character to ever appear in these books. He had one line, that included the word “Begorrah”. And I loved him.

So. Will the movie be a one, a two, a three or a four? Let’s find out.

(more…)

91103185_02c3d7192b_o

Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem (2003)

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)

So one day Music was walking down the street somewhere in early twentieth century America and he was feeling on top of the world. Thanks to fancy new technologies like the wireless and phonograph, and this crazy new thing called “Jasz”, more people were listening to Music than ever before and that suited Music just fine.
“Hey there Mistah Music!” the newspaper boys would call as they heard him pass by and Music would tip his hat to them courteously.
Occasionally a bum would yell “You think yer so big! With your phonygrams an’ ragtime! I remember when you was bein’ spit out of a harmonica!” And then Music would drag the loud-mouthed drunk into an alley way, knife him repeatedly, and leave his body as a warning to the other bums.
He stopped on a street corner to roll himself a ludicrously expensive old-timey cigar. It was then that Music saw a tiny, starving artform, no more than a few years old, flickering and shivering on a filthy doorstep.
“Hey kid.” Said Music “What’s eatin’ ya?”
“Golly gee!” Said the infant artform “Who said that?” (Because of course, Music cannot be seen, as Music is an eight legged dragon covered in hooks and shimmering scales that go up and down, up and down and anyone who saw him would instantly go mad.)
“What’s your name, son?” Music asked kindly.
“Animation, mistah.” said Animation “I was just born and ain’t got no cultural relevancy. And I wants cultural relevancy so bad!”
“Well Animation.” Said Music “I’ve been looking for a smart young visual medium to help me expand my business ventures. I like you kid, ya got moxie. You got razzmatazz comin’ out the hooey. You and me could do great things together, kid. Whattya say?”
And so Music and his young new protégé formed a partnership that would stand the test of time. So influential was the fusion of music and animation that it even wiped out other artforms that were hugely popular at the time but have now been almost totally forgotten, like smell sculpture, colour-dancing and Grand Schmopera.
Animation has grown up a lot since the early days and can now stand on its own two feet as a medium. But if you look at the very early animated shorts from the twenties and thirties, you see that animation was almost solely used to give a visual component to music. There’s a reason those series of cartoon shorts have names like Looney Tunes, Silly Symphonies and Merry Melodies. And the link lasted long after animation had started maturing into a more narrative based style with its own way of telling stories. At Disney, even after Snow White and Pinocchio we still had movies like Make Mine Music, Melody Time and Fantasia where the animation is very much guided by and in service to the music.
Animation and Music, to put it plainly, are tight. They go way back. They’re best buds. When Film kicks Animation out of the house, he crashes on Music’s couch. Music was the best man at Animation’s wedding, Animation is the godfather of Music’s child…Music…Junior…okay the analogies are breaking down in a big way, moving on.
 
Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem is French electro act Daft Punk’s 2003 album Discovery. Daft Punk are a band who…
Um…
Shit shit shit. Okay, I really didn’t want to do this, but I’m going to have to ask for some help from by evil brother, The Unscrupulous Mouse. See, he may be a twisted maniac, but he’s also a pretty awesome musician and he knows more about house music than anyone else I know.
"Ha" I knew the day would come when you would bow before my greatness, brother!"

“Ha! I knew the day would come when you would bow before my genius, brother!”

"Oh just get it over with."

“Oh get on with it.”

"Wait a minute, Mouse."

“Wait a minute, Mouse.”

"What is it, Nit?"

“What is it, Nit?”

"I thought The Unscrupulous Mouse was your brother Eamonn? Donal's your brother who's a musician!"

“I thought The Unscrupulous Mouse was your brother Eamonn? Donal’s your brother who’s a musician!”

"Eh...he's...look, he's a composite character. I have three younger brothers. He's based on all of them."

“Eh…he’s…look, he’s a composite character. I have three younger brothers. He’s based on all of them.”

"Younger? But TV Tropes said he's based on your OLDER brother!"

“Younger? But TV Tropes said he’s based on your OLDER brother!”

"Yes. Sometimes TV Tropes can be wrong."

“Yes. Sometimes TV Tropes can be wrong.”

"Gasp!"

“Gasp!”

"I thought The Unscrupulous Mouse was your brother Eamonn? Donal's your brother who's a musician!"

“Look, are we doing this thing or what?”

"Enlighten us, Maestro."

“Enlighten us, Maestro.”

"A person can talk endlessly about Daft Punk's music career. Their iconic house tracks revolutionised dance music in the mid 90's and their re-imagining of funk music brought it roaring back into the mainstream until pretty much right now."

“A person can talk endlessly about Daft Punk’s music career. Their iconic house tracks revolutionised dance music in the mid 90’s and their re-imagining of funk music brought it roaring back into the mainstream right up to the present day.”

"But the main reason for Daft Punk's success is that they are completely anonymous. That means that it is impossible to hate them! They have no opinions, attributes or features and so can be judged solely on the merits of their music. The hipsters can't hate them because they're earlier music can be compared to what is popular in the underground scene at the minute, and all of the main stream listeners can't dislike them because....well I honestly believe that social media has brainwashed these people so they will like anything they've heard more than fifty times in the one day (Example: Get Lucky)."

“But the main reason for Daft Punk’s success is that they are completely anonymous. That means that it is impossible to hate them! They have no opinions, attributes or features and so can be judged solely on the merits of their music. The hipsters can’t hate them because their earlier music can be compared to what is popular in the underground scene at the minute, and all of the mainstream listeners can’t dislike them because….well I honestly believe that social media has brainwashed these people so they will like anything they’ve heard more than fifty times in the one day (Example: Get Lucky). “

"You don't like Get Lucky? You monster!"

“You don’t like Get Lucky? You monster!”

"In conclusion, the only reason you can hate Daft Punk is because they're French and have silly names."

“In conclusion, the only reason you can hate Daft Punk is because they’re French and have silly names. Now if you’ll excuse, my dark genius is needed elsewhere.”

 

Interstella 5555 is certainly not the first attempt to turn an album into a full length movie (you’re got The Wall and Yellow Submarine to name two), nor is it the first time Japan and France have collaborated in animation (Uly-seeee-eeeeeeeeee-eeeee-es). You might not know this (I certainly didn’t), but manga is absolutely HUGE in France, making up around half of all comics published there.

Likewise, animé has had a big presence on French TV for many decades, with most young Frenchlings having grown up watching shows like Dragon Ball Z and Robotech. Little wonder then, when Daft Punk were looking for a studio to animate their album, they looked East, not West. Specifically, they turned to legendary animator Leiji Matsumoto (the guy behind practically every animé TV series from the seventies and eighties) and Interstella 5555 is the product of their creative union. How did it turn out? Let’s take a look.
So the movie begins with footage of an interview with Matsumoto, flanked by Daft Punk in their robot costumes, discussing the origin of the film. Although, what with the grainy black and white footage, it looks more like the bit in a fifties sci-fi movie where the mad scientist announces to the world that his robot army will destroy them all.
“Fools! You called me mad! You denied the beauty of my children! But now the whole world shall bow before the steel legions of Doctor Matsumoto!”

“Fools! You called me mad! You denied the beauty of my children! But now the whole world shall bow before the steel legions of Doctor Matsumoto!”

(more…)

The Batman
Image #TB-BatmanReach
Pictured: The Batman
Credit: © 2005 Warner Bros. Animation

Batman will save us.

Hello.

If you’re reading this message, that can only mean one thing. I wasn’t able to get the review finished before my surgery on Monday. As you read this my gallstones have been removed and have been taken to a temple in Egypt in a last ditch effort to stop the Ultimate Evil destroying the Earth.

If they weren't actually this big, they sure as hell felt like it.

If they weren’t actually this big, they sure as hell felt like it.

I myself am now recuperating in hospital, hopefully out of my gourd on painkillers. But what about you guys? How can I leave my faithful readers without the animated reviews they crave like snarky manna from internet heaven? Allow me to recommend Manhattan Below Fourteenth Street by regular commenter Rubber Lotus. He’s in the middle of a project to review every episode of the unloved 2004-2008 cartoon series The Batman, which confusingly starred “a Batman” rather than “The Batman.”

A Batman.

“A” Batman.

THE Batman.

THE Batman.

It’s funny, snarky, insightful, often surprisingly affectionate and, long story short, you dig my stuff you will dig his.  Keep checking in for the Interstella 5555 review, I hopefully won’t be too late with it.

Thanks for all the well wishing.

Mouse.

UPDATE: It is now up. Hope you enjoy.

American Mouse

Murica! (and why I may be late with this week’s review)

Happy 4th of July to my American readers! Hope you all have a great one. Remember, every firework you set off is a stabbing pain in the ballsack of Putin himself.

"Ow! Ow! Ow! GOD I HATE JULY!"

“Ow! Ow! Ow! GOD I HATE JULY!”

Speaking of stabbing pains, I have some rather good news (is a sentence no one has ever written before). Thanks to my wonderful wife’s wonderful new job and their wonderful health insurance plan I’m finally getting something done about those gallstones I told you about in lurid detail back in April. I’m going in for surgery on Monday and I’ll be spending the around three days in hospital recovering. What this means is, unless I get the Interstella 5555 ready by Sunday night (which could happen) this one might be a little late. Thanks for understanding.

 

See you on the flipside.

Mouse out.