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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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The Avengers: Age of Ultron (spoiler free review)

Okay, before we get into the actual movie let’s talk about The Ball. As in, “When are Marvel going to drop the ball?” We are now on the eleventh film set in the shared Marvel Cinematic Universe and the studio has yet to release a flick that was worse than the perfectly acceptable Incredible Hulk or the shaggy-but-still-fun Iron Man 2. And Marvel fans are starting to get paranoid. Sooner or later Marvel’s going to drop the ball, law of averages. One of these movies will eventually flop, and when it does, all we can do is hope that it doesn’t flop so badly that it puts the whole MCU project in jeopardy. And with a movie like Age of Ultron, the stakes are even higher. If Ant-Man tanks, Marvel will walk it off.

If Age of Ultron flops, or even performs below expectations, it could bring the whole thing crashing down. So, as a huge fan of these movies, I was more than a little nervous sitting down to last night’s screening and I knew I was not alone. Looking in the eyes of my fellow Marvel cinephiles I saw the same fear that would take the heart of me. Because one day, Marvel will release a colossal turd.

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Lion-Force

Random posts combine!

Every so often a collection of things I need to say, otherwise too bitty to put in individual posts, will combine together to form a Voltron-esque combined post. This is such a day.
Okay, first order of business…
The Hangman’s Daughter
As many of you know, I finished serialising my novel, The Hangman’s Daughter last month. Big thanks to all of you who read, commented and gave advice and encouragement. I especially want to give a shout out to Sr. Honkengoose and maxy44 who I’m pretty sure commented on every single chapter and gave me tons of good notes. Legends both. Many of you have been asking when you might be seeing more and after giving it a lot of thought I’ve decided that I’m going to start posting chapters of the second novel in the series, The Devil’s Heir.
However, there is a catch.
As I’ve already mentioned before, The Devil’s Heir is not actually finished yet. Worse, it’s still the sequel to an older draft of The Hangman’s Daughter (one where, amongst other things, Mariana was a dude). This means each chapter will have to be revised and edited so that it’s consistent with the most recent draft of HD, and I don’t have time to do that right now because my life has become an endless looping reel that goes worktoddlerblogplaycomicsleeeeeepworktoddlerblogplaycomicsleeeeeeep. So my brother Eamonn has very, very kindly agreed to edit the Devil’s Heir to get it more in line with the story so far and occasionally make changes that he feels improve the material.
“…and then they all died and the rugged, dashing, one-eyed Mouse was king of the universe. The End.”

“…and then they all died and the rugged, dashing, one-eyed Mouse was king of the universe. The End.”

So, starting soonish, there will be a new chapter of the Devil’s Heir going up every month. Yes. Month.
“Hey I gotta life too, y’know.”

“Hey I gotta life too, y’know.”

Moving on!
Age of Ultron
So Avengers 2 is being released in Europe around a week earlier than it is in the States due to…I dunno, the collapse of American hegemony or whatever. Being the massive nerds we are, my wife and I will be at the midnight screening on 23 April and I’ll be posting a review later in the day. This won’t be a full length Unshaved Mouse style review, obviously. Just a few paragraphs about my thoughts on the film and whether I thought it was any cop or not. You know…a review like actual critics do.
And lastly, revenge 
So regular readers will know that I recently learned my entire life has been a charade orchestrated by the diabolical warlock known to the world as Walter Elias Disney. You may recall I swore a blood oath of vengeance against Disney, promising to review the very, very worst movie that bears his name. And I need your help to do it. Sound off in the comments, what is the very, very, worst Disney movie that has ever been released and help me stick it to Walt but good.
See you all on the 14th of May for How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Train my Dragon. Mouse out.
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The fair city…

I’ll (hopefully) be putting up some recommendations for blogs to tide you over while Unshaved Mouse goes on a brief gallstone-enforced hiatus. Of course, if you want a recommendation for your blog from me so badly, why don’t you marry me?  That’s what my wife did, and so I’m now recommending the blog of the person who has been previously referred to in the comments as Spouse of Mouse, a nickname that I do not endorse in any way.
“Thin. Ice.”

“Thin. Ice.”

Anyway, if you like things that are jaw-droppingly beautiful you should check out my lady’s photo blog of Dublin. She’s captured some really gorgeous images of our hometown in all its shambling magnificence and it’s really worth a look. Also, it’s our ten year anniversary this month so you’d be doing a bro a solid.
Mouse out.
Keith Thompson

Patron Saints of America (Mouse wrote a movie! Apparently…)

Back in college I wrote a play called Patron Saints of America which holds a unique position as being the oldest thing I’ve written for stage that I can now look back on and not shudder. In hindsight, while I don’t think it’s perfect by any stretch, it’s probably the first thing that I wrote that reads like something I’d write today. It’s where I think I found my voice, I guess you could say (prior to this I was just making exaggerated hand gestures). Now, that play was directed by two friends of mine Finbarr Doyle and Jimmy McNulty.
He is probably the only person on earth who hates The Wire for that very reason.

Who is probably the only person on earth who hates The Wire.

Not too long ago, Jimmy and another friend of mine, Keith Thompsons (who played the character of Bruce onstage) arrived at my house to tell me that, as a birthday present to me, they actually went and turned Patron Saints of America into a short film that they managed to shoot in one night. I know, right? Happy birthday, here is a motion picture.
Now, while I’m obviously biased, I think this turned out kind of amazing. The movie’s below, let me know what you think.
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

The Unmitigated Gall

Alright, you’re all  probably wondering why there’s going to be such a long break between now and the next review. So I thought I’d do what I usually do in these situations; hold a hypothetical conversation with a mysterious person who only speaks in boldface.
Hey Mouse, why you no review long time?
Good, if rather ungrammatically worded, question MPWOSIB.
To answer that I need to explain something about me.
If the only information you were provided about me was a list of what I eat in a given week, you would conclude the following: This person is not merely fat. He is SO fat that he can neither lift his arms nor fit in a bathtub, meaning that the only way he can bathe is to get the elephants in the carnival that he tours with as an attraction to stand in a circle around him and douse him with their tusks. The delivery guys know me by name, sight and scent. You name it, I have had it delivered to my door; Chinese Food, Pizza, Fish and Chips, this new restaurant down the road that just brings a barrel of lard to your house and pumps it straight into your stomach…
But, oddly enough, I’m pretty much at my ideal weight for a male of my age and height and have been for pretty much all my adult life. For whatever reason, I kinda just don’t put on weight and you hate me now and that’s good.
"Hate keeps a man alive."

“Hate keeps a man alive.”

 

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Ah ha ha...really funny guys.

A Troll in Central Park (1994)

(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.)
Previously on Unshaved Mouse: After months of ominous threats and warnings, Mouse finally came face to face with his most determined enemy yet; the mysterious, lethal, Blucatt. Blucatt brutally murdered Gangsta Asia and then revealed himself to be none other than legendary animator Don Bluth, who accused Mouse of destroying him as an animator, a charge which Mouse shockingly did not deny…
“…and another reason why Emperor’s New Groove is the third most under-rated Disney movie…”

“…and another reason why Emperor’s New Groove is the third most under-rated Disney movie…”

  “…and another reason why Emperor’s New Groove is the third most under-rated Disney movie…”

“SHUT. UP. Shut up. You’ve been stalling for two weeks. Now tell everyone why it’s your fault that my movies suck.”

Alright. Alright. I knew this day would come. I’ve talked about Don Bluth on this blog before, mostly in the American Tail review and in passing when I covered The Fox and the Hound. But now it’s time to talk about Bluth’s legacy as an animator and how that legacy was destroyed by many factors.
“By you.”

“By you.”

“By many factors of which I was one.”

“By many factors of which I was one.”

“Funny, I don’t really remember there being that many factors.”

“Funny, I don’t really remember there being that many factors.”

Okay, animation history time. Don Bluth split from Disney halfway through production of The Fox and the Hound, taking a good chunk of the Disney animation team with him.
He told them they were going to pick apples. They never got to pick apples.

He told them they were going to pick apples. They never got to pick apples.

Now this group was known as Don Bluth Productions (and then later on as the Bluth Group) and in 1982 they released Bluth’s first directorial feature, the now legendary Secret of NIMH. NIMH had critics slavering all over it but died at the box-office as it only had a limited release and was released during one of the best years in history for genre movies.
There is no shame in losing to ET.

There is no shame in losing to ET.

In fact, between ET walloping NIMH at the box-office and an industry wide animators-strike, Bluth had to declare bankruptcy.  NIMH was therefore a once-off. Don Bluth Productions did not release any other feature length animations; the rest of their output during this period was stuff for TV like Banjo The Woodpile Cat (no, I’m not reviewing it. I’m done with cartoon cats for a good long while), the computer games Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace and animated sequences for the movie Xanadu. Most of what people consider “Don Bluth movies” were actually made by a company called Sullivan Bluth. Well, you all know who Bluth is, who the fruck was Sullivan? Sit down and I’ll learn ya.
By 1983 Bluth had managed to turn things around thanks largely to the phenomenal success of Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace.Sure, they played like mules on Quaaludes but those games looked a good two decades ahead of anything else on the market. But then, the video game market imploded in late ’83/early ’84 thanks in no small part to the white-hot grease fire of pure failure that was the Atari tie-licence game of…ET.
Man, Don Bluth must have hated that alien so much.

Man, Don Bluth must have hated that alien so much.

“Hes next on my list”

“He’s next on my list”

This left Bluth bankrupt again and it’s at about this point in the story that Sullivan enters the picture. Morris Sullivan was an Irish-American businessman who was also an avid cartoon nut who decided to invest in Bluth. To bring down costs and also to avoid the kind of industrial disputes that had plagued NIMH (and were also causing trouble for the early production of An American Tail) Sullivan convinced Bluth to move the newly formed Sullivan Bluth Studios to Dublin, Ireland*. This was pretty much the big bang for Irish animation, and the impact is still being felt to this day. Bluth set up an animation course at Ballyfermot Senior College that trained a whole generation of Irish animators. Nor was Bluth by any means the only animation company that set up shop here to take advantage of generous government support and an underemployed, English speaking workforce desperate for wages to pay the landlords and their thrice cursed gombeens.
The Bluth Animators circa  1989.

The Bluth Animators circa 1989.

They were daycent, hardworking animators. Quick with their fists, and quicker with their brushes. Why, you might even have heard of some of the movies and TV shows they created…
Remember this little thing? Rather popular at the time if you can believe it.

Remember this little thing? Rather popular at the time if you can believe it.

So, what’s all this got to do with little ol’ Mouse? Well, Sullivan Bluth employed hundreds of Irish people and one of those was my aunt**. So I guess you could say I had a very personal relationship with these movies growing up. I was able to hold the original cels from An American Tail and Land Before Time that my aunt kept around the house. I was at the European premiere of An American Tailin Dublin with my massive plushy Fievel Mousekewitz and wearing a Sullivan Bluth An American Tail kid’s T-shirt.
Mouse. Pre...mouse.

Mouse. Pre…mouse.

I saw all of Don Bluth’s movies. And the weird thing about that is I saw them even though they all TERRIFIED THE SHIT OUT OF ME LIKE RIGHT OUT SHIT EVERYWHERE.
I mean, I’ve already told you what a nervous child I was.
“I believe the term is “snivelling coward”.”

“I believe the term is “snivelling coward”.”

So how do you think I handled this?
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Ah, there's that good old-timey Bluth terror.

HELLO!

Ah. There's that old timey Bluth terror.

The_Hellhound

These movies were not fun for me! They were endurance tests! Which is why…
Oh boy…
Okay, so…you’ve all heard of Rock A Doodle? You know the bits at the beginning in live action with the little blonde kid who makes Jake Lloyd look like Laurence Olivier? What you probably don’t know is that originally that movie was going to be all-animation. So, like when they brought deer and lions into the studio at Disney when they were making Bambi and Lion King, Don Bluth had a load of kids brought into the studio to run around and tumble and generally act like little idiots so that the animators could get an idea of how kids walk and run and act like little idiots.
And…I was one of those little idiots...
 dramatic chipmunk
And it was during this child-zoo that I found myself face to face with Don Bluth. And I told him his movies were too scary.
Now, you gotta understand, by then the Disney renaissance had started and Bluth had just been pummelled by Oliver and Company and The Little Mermaid. Things were looking grim and I can only imagine that Bluth was trying desperately to figure out a way to get back in the lead. Something, anything. And here’s a member of his target audience telling him to his face that his movies are just too damn scary.
Shortly after that, pre-production started on Thumbelina.
Guys, I’m sorry.
I am so, so sorry.
“After that everything fell apart. My movies became saccharine dreck. It was like I was cursed. That’s when the Horned King approached me. He offered to give me a world where I could rule for all time and all I had to do was slowly torture you for all eternity. It was win win. Win fucking win. But you couldn’t even let me have that, could you? You had to escape and ruin everything.””

“After that everything fell apart. My movies became saccharine dreck. It was like I was cursed. That’s when the Horned King approached me. He offered to give me a world where I could rule for all time and all I had to do was slowly torture you for all eternity. It was win win. Win fucking win. But you couldn’t even let me have that, could you? You had to escape and ruin everything.””

“Look Don, I dont know what to say. I was a stupid kid. I didn’t know what I was talking about.”

“Look Don, I don’t know what to say. I was a stupid kid. I didn’’t know what I was talking about.”

“Alright. Well, the important thing is that you learned your lesson. Bye.”

“Alright. Well, the important thing is that you learned your lesson. Bye.”

"Really, thats it?"

“Really, that’s it?”

““HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…no. No, revenge will be mine. You’re going to review A Troll in Central Park.”

““HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…no. No, revenge will be mine. You’re going to review A Troll in Central Park.”

“Never heard of it.”"

“Never heard of it.””

“Stanley’s Magic Garden.”

Stanley’s Magic Garden.”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO…”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO…”