Blog Awards

Please nominate me, or whatever.

It’s Blog Awards Ireland season people! You know what that means!

It means I have to dance like a monkey to get as many of you to vote for me. More updates, more reviews, more content, more work, and all so I can funnel page views to the Blog Awards website and their advertisers before inevitably losing to the Waterford Whispers.

"Oh God. Not again. Not again!"

“Oh God. Not again. Not again!”

And why? Why do I do it? Because clearly, I didn’t get enough validation as a child.

"Um, we could just not nominate you this year, Mouse?"

“Um, we could just not nominate you this year, Mouse?”

"Are you kidding, I'd kill myself!"

“Are you kidding?! I’d kill myself!”

Fortunately, this year I’ve actually prepared. In fact, for all of September, when the actual voting takes place, I will be unveiling a new project and updating every two days. Yes. Every two days. NOT counting the regular reviews. It’s going to be a goddamn posting smorgasbord.

So yes. Please nominate me here. Please nominate this blog.

You goddamn bunch of enablers.

Check this girl out!

Normally when I do one of these recommendations I have to explain who the person in question is, but chances are you already know Amelia Mellor, or Paper Alchemist as she’s known around these parts. What you may not know is that she’s started her own blog where she reviews Young Adult fiction in a snarky style while interacting with stock photos and using visual gags and ohhhhhh how original. I’m on to you Mellor.

Seriously though, this is now one of my favourite blogs and I recommend it mightily. It’s called Under the Doona by Torchlight. I don’t know what a Doona is but Amelia’s Australian so I’m guessing something large, venomous and with more legs than anything could possibly need.

A Doona, probably.

A Doona, probably.

Anyway, head on over there and say hi.

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Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

(DISCLAIMER: 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.)
I sometimes get asked for advice on writing by desperate people who’ve got nothing left to lose and I usually give them some pap about being true to your art and letting the story flow naturally and blah blah blah. If I was honest, there’s really only one rule with writing; “It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.” Trite? Yes. Cliché? Absolutely. But also true.
I feel I owe you all an apology. Last time I tore into From Up on Poppy Hill because of its story problems, it’s lack of payoff, its glacial pacing. And it has all of those things. But this is the truth of the matter: I watched that movie and had an emotional reaction to it. I didn’t like it. And then I used those problems I mentioned before as justification for why I didn’t like it, both to myself and to you. And this is not just me. Every critic does this. We have subjective, emotional, often illogical reactions to movies and then use film theory to present those reactions as objective, dispassionate and perfectly sound. This doesn’t mean that From Up On Poppy Hill is a good movie, it just means that when I depict the movie as being bad because it breaks Law X of good screenwriting I’m being disingenuous. On the most fundamental level, I didn’t like it because I didn’t like it.
This was brought home to me rather powerfully by today’s movie, Tokyo Godfathers. This movie breaks two rules that are supposed to be pretty ironclad. Firstly, the action of the plot is largely driven by coincidence. Secondly, the ending only misses out on being a literal deus ex machina because it doesn’t involve a machine. And yet, it works. It really works. It works like German ants.
This the third of only four moves directed by the legendary Satoshi Kon before his tragic death from pancreatic cancer at the age of 46. I haven’t seen any of the others (although after seeing this you can bet your left buttock I am going to check them out). Even more unusually, each film in Kon’s tiny filmography seems to be wildly different from the others; Perfect Blue is a psychological thriller, Paprika is concept-heavy sci-fi,  Millennium Actress is a time-travel historical romance and Tokyo Godfathers is a straightforward caper movie. I went into this movie fore-warned that Kon was the “David Lynch of animé”, an idea that seems to promise weirdness so potent that even staring at it would drive you to gibbering madness. Tokyo Godfathers is most definitely not the movie that I expected. It’s actually one of the least alienating and most accessible animé movies I’ve ever seen, which is impressive as my DVD has no English dub and I watched this one in subtitled Japanese. The story is actually grounded enough that there’s really no reason the movie couldn’t have been made as a live action feature (although we would have been missing out on some fantastic animation if it had been).

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From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)

Remember how, ages ago, I did that list of my favourite non-Disney animated movies? Yeah, that list is probably due an update. There are so many fantastic films that I’ve discovered or re-discovered since then: Coraline, Prince of Egypt and of course Princess Mononoke. Still the highest scoring animated movie I’ve ever reviewed on this blog (or tied for first place if you count Who Framed Roger Rabbit). So when I was asked to review From Up On Poppy Hill, another Studio Ghibli film by Miyazaki that I’d never even heard of I was pumped. 

Yes.

Yes.

Yes.

Yes.

More

More.

Again.

Again.

Yes.

Yes.

More please.

More please.

So this is the 17th Studio Ghibli film, released in 2011 after Arrietty and before Miyazaki’s final film as director, The Wind Rises. Aaaand that’s about as much as I know about it. I’m going into this one completely cold.
I mean, c’mon. What else do I need to know? It’s a Studio Ghibli film directed by Miyazaki. The only question is; Great Movie or the Greatest Movie? Let’s take a look.

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I am in all places. I am everywhere.

I love TV Tropes. I love it so much. And now I am TV Tropes! Unshaved Mouse has it’s own page (thanks to Rubber Lotus) so head over there and check it out, and be sure to add any tropes you can think of.

I don’t know what Tumblr is. I do not understand it. It frightens and confuses me. But thanks to the missus I am now apparently on it so if any of you are also on it, follow me and we shall be on it together. Together on the Tumblr. Doing…whatever people do on Tumblr. It’s a good chance to catch up on old reviews (complete with my notes on how my opinions on certain movies might have changed, and noting the first appearences of once beloved but now largely forgotten characters like Caveman Pangea and Anarchist Libertarian Haddock.) So…Tumblr, Tv Tropes. Am I forgetting anything?
"Ahem?"

“Ahem?”

“Yes, Satan?”

“Yes, Satan?”

“Oh. Um. Never mind. #heartbroken.

“Oh. Um. Never mind.” #heartbroken

All the reviews and some of the larger posts will be going up over the next weeks where they shall be Tumbld to meet the demands of the new media landscape.
I am old.
Prince_of_egypt_ver2

The Prince of Egypt (1998)

(DISCLAIMER: 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.)

Writing reviews is only partly why I do this blog. The other part is getting to know you guys; finding out your likes and dislikes, your passions and the things that drive you crazy. Learning the things that make you all wonderful unique human beings and then selling that information on to advertisers. And you’re a pretty diverse bunch. In the regular cohort of commenters I’ve met evangelical Christians, Mormons, Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Catholics and a larger-than-I-would-have-thought-possible contingent of furries.
 
"Not my fault. I didn’t ask to be this gorgeous."

“Not my fault. I didn’t ask to be this gorgeous.”

 
And by and large we all tend to get along and I’d really like to keep it that way. Sooo…just to remind everyone, today’s movie is Prince of Egypt, a 1998 animated movie based on the story of Moses. It is not a sacred text, even though it’s narrative is based on one depicted in a sacred text. But it’s a movie. Got that? It’s just a movie. And if I make jokes about Moses, please remember that I’m mocking Moses the character played by Val Kilmer and not the actual prophet and oh God, please, please don’t kill me I have a wife and child who’d kinda miss me oh dear God I don’t want to die.
 
Ahem.
 
So, let’s get a little background. The story of Moses and the Israelites’ escape from Egypt is probably one of the most widely known stories in human history, and only partly because it’s a foundation text of the three big Abrahamic religions. It’s just a phenomenal story, epic, sweeping, full of spectacular miracles and human tragedy. So it’s no wonder that there have been cinematic adaptations of Exodus for almost as long as there’s been cinema. Some stories work best on the page, and then there are some that are just crying out to be translated into a visual medium. When you read about Moses parting the red sea, or the plagues, or the pillar of fire, your first thought is “Damn. I want to see that.”
 
Be careful what you wish for.

Preferably without having to look at any Middle Eastern people.

Prince of Egypt was the first traditional animated movie Dreamworks made back when they were still trying to do CGI and cel animation simultaneously. I’m actually not entirely sure whose idea the movie was. More than a few sources that I’ve read have said that this was a movie Katzenberg had been trying to get made for years at Disney and failing, but in the “making of” Katzenberg actually says that it was Stephen Spielberg who suggested doing an animated remake of The Ten Commandments. Possible that both men just had the same idea of course, but the way Katzenberg tells it he makes it sound like he was wandering in the desert looking for an idea and Spielberg spake unto him. Of course, after years of having his dream project shot down, Katzenberg might have just come up with the Spielberg story as a cover: “Oh, you think this is a bad idea for a movie? Well guess who came up with that idea. Stephen Goddamn Spielberg, that’s who.”

Realising that their new company’s reputation was riding on this movie, Katzenberg and Spielberg pulled out all the stops; A-list cast, a host of former Disney animators at the top of their game and songs and music by Academy/Tony/Grammy winner Stephen Schwartz and the FUCKING ZIM!!

"ZIIIIIIIIIM!"

“ZIIIIIIIIIM!”

This movie was Dreamwork’s coming out party, a clear warning to Disney that their reign as the undisputed kings of American animation was about to come to an end. But with all the time, money and A-list talent poured into this epic, did the final movie measure up to expectations? Let’s take a look.

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What a day, what a day, what a day…

A warning. What follows will be rambling, disjointed and emotional.

As I write this it’s half an hour passed ten on May 23rd, the morning after the referendum and since nine o’clock an army of dutiful citizens have been counting votes for the first election of its kind in the history of the world: a popular vote to allow marriage for our gay and lesbian countrymen. We were told we wouldn’t know until around three this afternoon. Turns out they didn’t need that long.

It was a walk. No contest.

Love took on the forces of bigotry, inertia, prejudice and fear and love kicked their asses like Captain America in an elevator.

Dublin went Yes by 75%. The victory was not a surprise, the margin was. But even in the rural areas, the “real” Ireland, it’s been a landslide.

Even Donegal, who usually vote against the rest of the country out of spite because they still don’t have trains, are 55% in favour.

The final tally is still being counted but we’re looking at 2:1 in favour.

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How to Train your Dragon (2010)

(DISCLAIMER: 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.)
My friends, let’s be frank. The last few months have been pretty darn rough on your beloved Mouse. I reviewed two stinkers that actually made me pine for the simple pleasures and artistic merit of Foodfight!, was almost destroyed by an enraged Don Bluth and discovered that my entire life was a sham orchestrated by Walt Disney. And that’s not even taking into account the vile stream of online abuse I’ve had to suffer ever since coming out. As being anti-Oxford comma. Everyone was actually really awesome about the bisexual thing. Anyway, point is, I need a fresh start, to make a clean break.  I’m ready to love again. I just…I just don’t know if I can trust him.
"Come Mouse. Don't I seem trustworthy?"

“Come Mouse. Don’t I seem trustworthy?”

Alright Katzenberg, you win. Let’s review a Dreamworks movie.
Yeah. So. Coming up on eighty animated movie reviews and I’ve yet to review even a single film by one of the largest and most successful animation houses in history. Weird right? And it’s not like I have some kind of bitter fanboyish grudge against DreamWorks. There are plenty of DreamWorks movies that I’d count as some of my all time favourites. I think the difference is, while I consider myself a Disney fan (or did, before recently swearing vengeance on the man and all his works and all his empty promises) I consider myself a Kung Fu Panda fan or a Road to El Dorado fan rather than a DreamWorks fan. The studio’s output is, let’s be honest here, all over the map. Not just in quality either (although Oh My God Yes), but also in style and theme and atmosphere and subject matter. Let’s put it this way; Snow White and Frozen both feel like they were made by the same studio despite being released three quarters of a century apart. Would you be able to guess that Shark Tale and Prince of Egypt were made by the same people? There’s far less of a unifying vision for the DreamWorks movies, and the stuff that they do have in common tends to be stuff that rubs people the wrong way (overreliance on A-list Hollywood talent over seasoned voice actors, pop culture references, dance party endings and that damned smirk). Because they’re, in a sense, less tonally monolithic than the Disney canon they have a harder time winning the same kind of devoted fanbase that Disney has (flipside, they’ll never have the hatedom either). What I’m trying to say is, there’s one Disney, but many DreamWorkseses, ranging from absolute dreck to “Pixar good”. How to Train Your Dragon is on the top of that curve, the most critically acclaimed movie the studio has ever done and a real game-changer for the animation industry. Jack Black once made a joke when he was presenting that Oscar for best animated feature that every year he gets a check from DreamWorks and bets the money on Pixar to win. After HTTYD came out that was no longer as safe a bet as it once was.
But is the movie really as good as everyone says? Let’s take a look.

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Equality Mouse

“If you met me, you’d never know.”

So. I’m bisexual.

And if you met me, you’d never know. You’d have no reason to suspect. For one, I’m happily married to my wife and have a daughter that we made with the usual method. And secondly, I work in theatre (well known to be the most macho of all professions). I rarely bring it up because, to be honest, it’s never really struck me as being that big of a deal. If you asked me to list all the words that define me as a person in order of importance, “bisexual” would be far, far down the list after husband, father, son, brother, writer, Irishman, Catholic*, blogger, Disney fan and tireless crusader for the abolition of the Oxford comma.

Your day will come, you tumour on the English language,you.

Your day will come, you tumour on the English language,you.

It’s like that for the vast majority of bisexuals, I think. We’re by far the most numerous of the LGB…T…Q…+ (Christ, you know you’re inclusive when your acronym is longer than most regular words) crowd and, weirdly, the least visible (especially guys). Most bisexuals tend to end up with a person of the opposite gender. Partially because of the tyranny of heteronormative oppression but mostly because of the tyranny of basic mathematics. In any given population around 47% will be women who like dudes and only 3% will be dudes who like dudes so…yeah, if gender is not a deal breaker for you either way the odds are you’re going to end up with someone from the other team.

Usually. Not Always.

And so we come to the topic that brings us together, today.

Mawidge

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