April 20, 2012

Stooges, Lupin and Genius Party

I've been working hard on my student film, the freelance gig and the next Fester Fish short (which I'll be posting some work from shortly). But as always, I've also been watching things. Specifically...

The Three Stooges
I wasn't sure what to expect. I'm a huge fan of the original shorts (at least the Curly ones) and I knew it was a passion project for everyone involved, so I wasn't worried about the intentions behind the movie. It just seemed like such a terrible idea-- a full-length movie with one-dimensional characters created for shorts over 50 years ago, with new actors? Another factor was simply that modern life isn't as physical as it used to be, so there isn't as much to work with in coming up with physical comedy. I thought it might just regurgitate old jokes or feel out-of-date. But I was pleasantly surprised.
First of all, it was very funny. I couldn't stop laughing throughout the entire movie, and it was all original material! No jokes were recycled other than the general eye-pokes, double-slaps and Stooge shtick. Secondly, the impersonations and likenesses of the characters were spot-on. Third, it didn't feel too out-of-date or striving to be timely, except for a cameo by the Jersey Shore cast. But almost all of their screen-time consisted of them getting physically abused, so I didn't mind. I had a great time with this movie, and if you like the Stooges, or slapstick in general, you will too.

Lupin III: A Woman Called Fujiko Mine
I like this new series for the most part, although there's not enough comedy so far for me to agree with the people saying this is the closest the anime has ever come to the Monkey Punch comics. I still think the Yuzo Aoki stuff came closer, but this series does capture some other aspects of the early manga very well.
It has great exaggerated designs (although a little over-detailed for my taste; as an an animator I prefer less pencil mileage). The music, while not as memorable as Yuji Ohno's work, is fitting. I do love the opening theme, a sort of neo-classical/ 60s psychedelic piece called "New Wuthering Heights." I hate the visuals that accompany it though, and that's actually my biggest problem with the series-- way too much nudity. I don't mind a little bit of fan service, but Fujiko is naked almost half the time in this series, often for no discernable reason in the story. It just becomes embarassing to watch after a while. I'd have trouble recommending the show because of this, but if you can get past the nudity, it's pretty enjoyable so far (only the first three episodes have come out). There are talks of the production falling seriously behind schedule, which is worrying. The third episode did look pretty poor compared to the other two, but hopefully this is an isolated incident rather than a sign of things to come.

Genius Party & Genius Party Beyond
A few months ago I watched the anime anthology Genius Party. Yesterday I finally got around to seeing Genius Party Beyond, which I liked overall a lot more than the first one. I was slightly disappointed with the first GP film as a whole, but since all the shorts were all created as part of one big project rather than two separate anthologies, I prefer to look at it that way. It was pretty uneven, as most anthologies are, but I really enjoyed Happy Machine, MoonDrive, Wanwa the Doggy and Tojin Kit.

Here are a couple of screenshots from MoonDrive. All four of the shorts I listed had really great art and animation, but I think this one translates the best into still images. For instance, a picture of Wanwa wouldn't even give a hint as to what makes it so amazing.
Anybody who's interested in animation should find at least one short they really like in the Genius Party films, given the huge variety of art styles, subject matter and storytelling techniques.