The Hangman’s Daughter-Chapter 19

CHAPTER 19: VIRGIL

 

There was a great yellow moon sewn into the black and grey fabric of the night sky and the path ahead of the two men was a golden thread, leading them home.

“I hear there was a murder.”

“Yes.” Luke replied “Our magistrate.”

“I’m sure you’re all distraught.” said the youth tonelessly.

Luke did not reply, not wishing to lie, but not wishing to show disrespect for the dead.

“Did they catch the murderer?” and again the words were passionless.

“No.”

“Do you think they will?”

“I don’t know.”

The youth snorted at this, as if it amused him.

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My friends, the time has come for begging.

Okay guys, we’re now down to the wire for voting for the Blog Awards Ireland and Unshaved Mouse is now only a few (hundred) votes short of getting into the final ten. You know, some might think it’s impossible to get that many votes in three days. But I know you’ll simply consider it a challenge, because you are without fear.

If you got a mo, any votes would be most welcome. The link awaits beneath. Thanks guys.

Blog Awards Ireland

The Hangman’s Daughter- Chapter 18

CHAPTER 18: LESSONS

 

 

There is a way of waking up that cannot be bettered.

That way involves being woken by sunlight coming through the curtains, and slowly coming to consciousness like rising from the bottom of a warm bath. You spend a few seconds as a blank slate, waiting for the memory of who and where you are to return. The bed is soft and just warm enough. And then the smell of eggs, bacon and toast wafts up from the kitchen.

Marie woke up this way, and knew at once that it was going to be a good day.

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ian_paisley

Rev. Ian Paisley (1926-2014)

News has broken today of the death of Reverend Ian Paisley, former First Minister of Northern Ireland, founder of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster and former head of the Democratic Unionist Party.
And that is about as much as anyone on this island will be able to agree on.
Paisley’s legacy is…
Wow.
When we consider the life and times of Ian Paisley we must first Jesus Christ where do I even start?
Eulogies of people like Paisley are a tricky thing. You have to be truthful, but, at the same time lambasting an 88 year old man whose bones have not even been laid to rest is neither brave nor decent. I suppose all you can do is try to be fair. So, here it is.

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gauntlet

Challenge…extended.

See this guy here? This is my brother John. And he’s basically just been crowned King of the Impressions in Ireland.

(Fair warning, a lot of the celebrities he impersonates are Irish so you’re just going to have to take my word for it that he nails them to the frickin’ wall)

Since uploading this video he’s become something of an internet sensation. I’m very proud of him naturally, but as his older brother I feel it is my duty to make sure that he doesn’t get too up himself.

Also, I owe him for the time he broke my collarbone. And the time he split my head open with a rock. And the story that he told in his best man’s speech about the encounter between me and that Moldavian hooker that was nothing but a tissue of half-truths from beginning to end.

So, John, I’m calling you out.

An Impression Off. You versus me. Man versus Mouse. 25 characters chosen at random.

The winner gets bragging rights and the loser’s share of the inheritance.

You in? Or are you going to show them that your best impression is of a certain farmyard animal?

chicken

“He’s insulting both of us!”

Oh, and just FYI, the impression that you say is of Young Biff is actually Griff, his grandson from Back to the Future 2.

Tsk, tsk, tsk.

 

"Youre getting sloppy, Mouse."

Labyrinth (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.)
Sigh.
Some days are harder than others in this job unpaid perpetual indentured servitude.
This review came about because one of my very, very closest friends donated embarrassingly generously to Joanna and simply asked that I review a beloved childhood movie of hers, Jim Henson’s Labyrinth.
And now I’m going to crap all over it because I’m classy like that.
Oh, and she’s just announced that she’s engaged (Congratulations Fleur!).
Sorry.
Sorry to everyone who loves this film and I know there are many of you. Sorry to fans of David Bowie and Jim Henson (of which I consider myself one on both counts). Apologies to all you ladies out there (and a not inconsiderable number of you gentlemen) for whom the sight of David Bowie in those pants was your Leia in a Gold Bikini.
This is one nostalgia wave you must surf alone while I sulk on the beach complaining about the sand up my crack.
Don’t like it. Never have.
Labyrinth came about during the filming of Dark Crystal when director Jim Henson and concept artist Brian Froud started throwing ideas around for a movie that would be similar to Dark Crystal but maybe a tad less traumatising for the man cubs. Froud is an absolutely phenomenal fantasy artist, but unfortunately his work is often little more than pro-fairy propaganda, and I cannot recommend any artist who’d try to burnish the image of those baby-snatching, milk souring, potato mooching, cow-hassling little mother…
Sorry, sorry. I swore when I began this review I wasn’t going to let this turn into an anti-fairy screed.
Anyway, Labyrinth began and remained to the end more of a showcase for Froud’s designs and the Henson company’s animatronic wizardry than a real attempt to tell a story. The movie is really just another entry into the surprisingly large genre of “young girl enters a strange land, makes some weird friends and sees some craaaaaaazy shit man”, joining such other exemplars of the form as Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz and that time your older sister went backpacking in Amsterdam.
David Bowie was cast as the Goblin King Jareth, over other possible choices like Sting and Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson as the Goblin King is one of those things that could have gone very, very right or very, very wrong but on the whole I think they made the right choice with Bowie. He’s still not my perfect casting for the role though.
Dr-Frank-N-Furter-the-rocky-horror-picture-show-1716659-500-590

I should be a casting director. I should live in Hollywood and have a big house and a fancy car.

George Lucas produced, Bowie provided songs, Monty Python vet Terry Jones wrote the script and the puppeteering features work by veterans like Jim Henson and Frank Oz. A lot of talented people and George Lucas worked on this. No question.
So what’s my beef?
Let’s take a look.
***
So the movie opens with a barn owl flying over the credits in what is actually the first ever attempt at rendering a photo-realistic animal in CGI in a motion picture. It always bowls me over to think that, far from being new or cutting edge, computer animation has been used in film for well over three decades now. As 1980s computer animation goes it’s…not at all bad actually. I mean, it’s clearly CGI but the animation is fluid and realistic and it actually holds up pretty darn well.
In a park, Sarah (Jennifer Connolly) is running around in a white dress and talking guff about goblins.
I…honestly have no idea what she’s doing here. She’s fifteen years old and playing by herself in a park. In costume.
Is she role-playing? Rehearsing a play? Feigning madness to catch the conscience of the king?
I have a theory that Sarah is actually in a constant state of delusion and that the movie and all the stuff with the Labyrinth that happens is just what she does every single day. Connolly of course went on to have a long and fruitful acting career but here she’s…a very nice young lady who’s doing her best. Alright, I know that acting almost entirely with a cast of puppets is a real challenge for any actor, but honestly I think she’s actually better in scenes where she has to interact with the various denizens of the Labyrinth. When she has to carry a scene on her own though, things get iffy. There’s some really weird line readings. Like when she hears the town clock ringing and yells “Seven O’Clock! It can’t be!” and it’s less like that she’s surprised that it’s that late and more like the very concept of seven o’clock is unthinkable because she was always taught that the clock only goes up to six.
Anyway she runs home and her parents are angry with her because they’re going out tonight and they need her to babysit her baby brother Toby. Toby, incidentally, is played by Toby Froud, Brian Froud’s son. He was originally called “Joey” in the script but they had to change the character’s name because Toby would only react to his own name on set.
Brando used to pull shit that like that all the time.

Brando used to pull shit like that all the time.

Sarah is super pissy that this baby sitting gig has called her away from LARPing solitaire and her stepmother essentially says that at her age she should be out getting laid.
"Its the EIGHTIES for Gods sake! Do some coke! Live a little!"

“It’s the EIGHTIES for Gods sake! Do some coke! Live a little!”

Her parents chew her out for causing them to be late and she goes to her room and throws herself on the bed in a huff because nobody gets her.
Youre nuttier than squirrel poop, whats to get?

You’re nuttier than squirrel poop, what’s to get?

I admit that I use to feel sorry for Sarah when I saw this movie as a kid. Now of course, I have a baby of my own and know that unreliable babysitters deserve only tortures not seen since the darkest days of the reign of Caligula.
Toby wakes up crying in the middle of the night and instead of, y’know, comforting him, or changing him, or feeding him Sarah goes in and just yells at him for five minutes and I really, really don’t like this scene at all. One, because it establishes Sarah as such a horrible person that I really can’t root for her after this and two, because Toby Froud doesn’t have a fucking clue why Jennifer Connolly is yelling at him and is clearly just freaking out.

Sarah tells the kid a story about a beautiful young girl whose horrible baby brother was carried away by the Goblin King. Somewhere, in some dark nether-realm, an army of filthy goblins springs awake.

Kinda like what happens whenever someone mentions misogny on the internet.

Kinda like what happens whenever someone mentions misogyny on the internet.

The Goblins listen intently  as Sarah says “I wish! I wish! I can bear it no longer! Goblin King! Goblin King! Wherever you may be take this child of mine far away from me!”

The goblins complain that “it didn’t even begin with “I wish”” and I gotta say, I think the Goblins are being overly generous to Sarah here. I mean sure, it’s not a complete sentence but I think any reasonable judge would rule in their favour if they just snatched the kid there and then.

Anyway, Sarah finally does make the wish and leaves the room and as soon as she closes the door the baby stops crying, and I’ll admit it’s an extremely creepy moment.

Sarah goes back into the darkened room to find Toby gone and finds herself face to face with the Goblin King (David Bowie, at his very Bowiest). I’ll admit, I love Bowie’s performance here, even though I’m not sure you could exactly call it great acting. It’s kind of like the performance a lot of actors give in Muppet movies, not exactly mugging for the camera but very clearly in on the joke. There’ s no denying that the guy has incredible charisma though, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s sporting a package that would be the pride of a male pornstar or indeed an internet critic.

The Fremen call it “Shai-Hulud”. The Old Man of the Desert.

The Fremen call it “Shai-Hulud”. The Old Man of the Desert.

Sarah begs him to let her brother go, saying that she was actually just joking and Jareth reveals that as well as being king of the land of the Goblins he is also Emperor of the Confederated Realm of No Backsies. Jareth tells her that if she wants Toby back she’ll have to make her way through the labyrinth to his castle in thirteen hours.

Jareth then disappears and Sarah sets off on her journey, saying “C’mon feet!”
She’s talking to her own feet.
"Wow. Shes craaaaaazy."

“Wow. Shes craaaaaazy.”

"You said it buddy!"

“You said it buddy!”

At the entrance to the labyrinth she meets Hoggle, a dwarf, who’s spraying fairies with flit and oh yes, again! Again!
Now step on em! Crush their little heads!

Now step on ‘em! Crush their little heads!

Sarah, feeling sorry for the gold-hoarding little shits actually picks one of the fairies up which then bites her and Hoggle asks what she expected from a fairy.  Yes. Yes! Exactly! It’s them or us, listen to the dwarf!
I’ve got to make mention of Hoggle here because, as well as being remarkably clear-eyed about the fairy menace, he’s an absolutely amazing effect. Apart from the design, which is a perfect rendition of Brian Froud’s style, Hoggle was achieved by having little person actor Shari Weisner portray his body movements while essentially wearing a robot face controlled and voiced by Brian Henson (it was originally going to be Terry Jones doing the voice but that ended being too much hassle). It looks gorgeous.
Gorgeous.

Gorgeous.

Hoggle shows her the way into the Labyrinth and then leaves her to it. At first Sarah doesn’t know what to do because the Labyrinth actually seems to be more of a corridor that just goes on and on without any turns (and I gotta admit, as a way of keeping people out of your castle, that’s a pretty good labyrinth). Fortunately, she’s helped out by a friendly worm who shows her a hidden entrance and she’s on her way.
Meanwhile, in the Goblin King’s castle, Toby won’t stop crying because he’s a baby surrounded by a bunch of creepy ass Goblin puppets and I don’t like this. This kid’s not acting. He’s a one year old baby who’s obviously really scared and they filmed that and put it in a movie for our entertainment and I do not like that.
Anyway, to shut the kid up Jareth sings Dance Magic. and tells the goblins that they remind him of the babe.
"What babe?"

“What babe?”

"The babe with the power."

“The babe with the power.”

"What power?"

“What power?”

"What power you ask? How about the power of flight? That doing anything for ya? That's LEVITATION homes.."

“What power you ask? How about the power of flight? That doing anything for ya? That’s LEVITATION homes.”

"What are you talking about?"

“What are you talking about?”

"I...think hes talking about Power Girl."

“I…I…think he’s talking about Power Girl.”

The babe with the power.

The babe with the power.

Bowie is awesome in this song. His goblin backing vocalists are not however, and they really drag the song down. Other than that this song is only really memorable for the scene with Bowie throwing the baby high into the air.

Yeah. I could definitely see Michael Jackson playing this part.

Yeah. I could definitely see Michael Jackson playing this part.

Meanwhile, Sarah comes to two doors that are guarded by Scottish accented moustachioed camels (one of my favourite Saturday morning cartoons from the eighties incidentally) and has to solve a version of the Liar’s Riddle. This scene I actually really like, Connolly seems more engaged in her performance and it actually shows Sarah using intelligence to solve a problem rather than trusting to blind luck. If the movie had done more of this (I say “more” because it does do some) and actually showed how Sarah’s character learns and becomes a better person through her struggles in the Labyrinth I think it could have been a much better movie. The potential is definitely there, and shines through a lot of the time, but the script really needed more work to make the story more about Sarah’s journey rather than a random series of shit that happens to her. Anyway, she chooses correctly (I think?) and falls through an endless tunnel of grabbing hands.

Poor girl. Like travelling on an Italian subway.

Poor girl. Like travelling on an Italian subway.

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The Hangman’s Daughter- Chapter 17

CHAPTER 17: THE TOWER

 

Mariana stared at the spot where Thomas had been standing only moments before. There was nothing, no charred bones, no smouldering teeth. The lightning had melted the weather vane to black, dripping slag, and the thatch had caught fire and was hissing in the pelting rain.

Mariana crouched down, desperately searching the burning thatch for any trace of the Thief’s son. The flames died. And then there was nothing. Gone. He was gone.

“Oh no.” The old woman said under her breath “Oh no, no, please no…”

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The Unshaved Mouse’s Greatest Comics of All Time

Soon, I hope, issue Number 2 of my arc on League of Volunteers will be hitting the stands and will shortly thereafter, I have no doubt*, be acclaimed as the greatest comic ever. Before that happens, let’s take a look at some of the other greatest comics ever, before they are consigned to the ash pile of history.
 
Apologies gentlemen. C'est la guerre.

Apologies gentlemen.
C’est la guerre.

So here is The Unshaved Mouse’s Top 17 Greatest Comics of all Time. Why 17? Because I wrote the list and then realized I’d left off Bone and Maus (which would have been both hugely unfair and, in the case of Maus, also weirdly ironic).

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Winnie_the_Pooh_Poster

Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #51: Winnie the Pooh

(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.)
Dearly beloved.
We are gathered here today in the sight of the internet to mourn the loss of our dear friend, traditional Disney animation. TDA had of course been in very poor health this last decade or so, but we had thought he was finally turning the corner. The fact that he had been so close to a full recovery makes the circumstances of his death even more wrenching, especially knowing that his murderer still walks free.
You're a killer, Harry.

You’re a killer, Harry.

 What were you thinking Disney? Sending Winnie the Pooh out, alone and unarmed, against Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? In summer?!

"He knew the risks."

“He knew the risks.”

Well, there’s nothing left now. Traditional Disney Animation is dead. Lower him in.

Oh! Hold off the earth till I have held him in my arms once more!

Oh! Hold off the earth till I have held him in my arms once more!

"Mouse. C'mon buddy. You gotta be strong for Latin America."

“Mouse. C’mon buddy. You gotta be strong for Latin America.”

"There is nothing inside me. I am hollow now."

“There is nothing inside me. I am hollow now.”

You’re right. You’re right, I’m sorry.

Gotta get a grip.

A grip…

On Daniel Radcliffe’s lily white pencil neck…NO! BAD MOUSE!

 As absolutely crazy as it seems it retrospect, putting Winnie-the-Pooh up against Harry Potter probably wasn’t that outlandish an idea on paper. The two properties are aimed at quite different age demographics, and Disney was probably banking on their movie hoovering up all the younger cinema-goers who’s parents wouldn’t be willing to take them to a movie that is essentially Schindler’s List with wizards.

Oh Disney. Your naive belief that parents have any real control over what their children watch is what makes you so loveable.

Oh Disney. Your naive belief that parents have any real control over what their children watch is what makes you so loveable.

And while Pooh was undoubtedly the underdog in this fight, let’s not forget that the Bear of Very Little Brain is also the Bear of Massive Merchandising Revenue. Pooh may in fact be the single most valuable character in the whole Disney stable. So why was this movie absolutely crushed at the box office?

Okay fine, because it went up against fucking Harry Potter, but indulge me, please.

Bad reviews? Oh hell, no. Critics ate this up.

The fact that it was released in summer instead of in winter like most Disney movies? Nah, see I never bought the “People won’t go to see movies that are on at different times than movies like that movie are usually on” concept.

I have a theory.

If you want a bloodbath polite and well reasoned debate, ask a bunch of Disney fans how many sequels there are in the Disney canon. Rescuers Down Under  certainly. And Winnie the Pooh. But after that? Is Fantasia 2000 really a sequel considering it has no plot? Is Three Caballeros a sequel to Saludos Amigos? And if it is, does Melody Time  make it a trilogy since José Carioca and Donald Duck appear in it too? Hell, you could argue that Fun and Fancy Free  is a sequel to Pinnochio  because they both feature Jiminy Cricket and are both pant-shittingly terrifying.

But…if you were to ask just a normal person on the street how many sequels are in the Disney canon they’d look at you funny and ask “What’s a Disney cannon?”

Disney cannon

Pictured: A Disney cannon.

Y’see, to ordinary movie-goers the concept of a Disney “canon”, the idea that some movies are more Disney than others is meaningless. Disney made it, it’s a Disney movie. QED. Why should they care which part of the company created it? I mean, let’s be honest here, the whole notion of the canon is just a marketing gimmick that allows Disney to put a seal of quality on some of their movies while allowing them to pretend that their less exceptional output somehow doesn’t matter and OH JESUS CHRIST I’VE WASTED TWO YEARS OF MY LIFE.

Now, Joe Sixpack may not really get what the canon is, but he has slowly, and through painstaking trial and error, learnt one very important lesson:

Avoid Disney sequels like the fucking plague.

Rediscovering the original Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was one of my most pleasant surprises doing this blog. It really is a lovely little film. But it wasn’t the last Winnie the Pooh movie to be released by Disney.

 Not by a long…

...long...

…long…

...long...

…long…

...long...

…long…

...long...

…long…

...long...

…long…

...long...

…long…

...long...

…long…

...long...

…long…

Alright, screw this, I gotta review to write, you get the idea.

Alright, screw this, I gotta review to write, you get the idea.

And it’s not like these were all straight to video either, quite a few of those movies actually had theatrical releases. So is it any wonder that the public weren’t queuing down the street for this one? They didn’t know that all those sequels were done by DisneyToons and that the grownups were actually in charge of this one. All they knew was that Disney had released a long string of pretty shitty Winnie the Pooh cartoons (no pun intended, I honestly swear to God). It’s Disney’s fault. They didn’t protect their characters.

You release a movie called "Frankenpooh" you deserve every damn thing that happens to you.

You release a movie called “Frankenpooh” you deserve every damn thing that happens to you.

So here we are. This is how it ends. But how does it end? With inspiring last words, or a damp fart as the muscles relax with the onset of death?

Let’s take a look.

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