unshaved mouse

220px-How_to_Train_Your_Dragon_Poster

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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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?
sharptooth.jpg

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…”

Make Mine Music Video Review

The Make Mine Music video review is now up and here and waiting and let’s go party YAY! Erik’s really done a fantastic job with this one so be sure to check it out.

 

Felidae_moviecover

Felidae (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.)

"Let me in you oversized landmass! I have to talk to Mouse!"

“Let me in you oversized landmass! I have to talk to Mouse!”

"Not happenin' man. I'm handlin' Mouse's security. And until we know who this Blucatt guy is no one sees Mouse. Got it?"

“Not happenin’, man. I’m handlin’ his security. And until we know who this Blucatt guy is no one sees Mouse. Got it?”

"But that's why I need to see him! I know who Blucatt is!"

“But that’s why I need to see him! I know who Blucatt is!”

"So spill. Who is he?"

“So spill. Who is he?”

"I can't tell you. I have to tell Mouse in person."

“I can’t tell you. I have to tell Mouse in person. He has to know why I…”

"Why you WHAT, Moustache Man?"

“Why you WHAT, Moustache Man?”

"Forget it. Just...give him this note."

“Forget it. Just…give him this note.”

"Aiight. But I won't have a chance to until he finishes reviewing Felidae."

“Aiight. But I won’t have a chance to until he finishes reviewing Felidae.”

***

Guys…I…I think I may be going crazy.

I mean, really, I think I might be starting to lose it. First there were all those weird messages appearing, and then this whole stuff with Blucatt and then suddenly there’s Foodfight! fanfiction appearing on my blog (who would even do something like that?)…

I’m starting to feel my hold on reality loosening and I don’t think it can be entirely explained away by the fact that Class A drugs were briefly legal in my country. Which brings me to today’s movie; Felidae. I knew next to nothing about this movie going in but my research seemed encouraging. Most expensive animated film ever to come out of Germany, based on one of the best selling German novels of all time. Large cult following, 7.9 rating on IMdB, 85% viewer approval on Rotten Tomatoes (though no reviews from professional critics). The consensus seems to be that this was a dark, engaging film noir murder mystery with cats. Okay, sounds cool. I can dig it.

And then I watched it.

What. The. Close. Up. Mouth. Whore. FUCK?

People like this? People? Actual people?

Because I can honestly say, without a hint of hyperbole, that I have never reviewed a movie for this blog that I hated more than this one. No. Not even Home on the Range. Not even Dinosaur. Not. Even. Foodfight!

Now I know what you’re thinking. “Mouse. You’ve lost it. You’ve gone nuts…”

Yes, did you not read the first lines of this review?

“Shut up and let me finish. You gave Foodfight! 0%. Zero. The big goose-egg. How can this possibly be worse than that?”

Well I didn’t say it was worse. I said I hated it more. Foodfight is just total, utter failure on every level. Felidae is not like that. There is a base line of competence that it never goes below. But…that actually makes it more unpleasant. Because they succeed in what they set out to do. It’s relentlessly, repulsively nasty and it’s good at it.

It sets out to appall you and it succeeds. 

How bad is it?

Let’s take a look. But you won’t thank me.

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"Cats dont dance poster". Via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cats_dont_dance_poster.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Cats_dont_dance_poster.jpg

Cats Don’t Dance (1997)

(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 I have this recurring nightmare…
Well, actually I have several recurring nightmares. You don’t live a life like mine without picking up a few ghosts in the attic. Horned King nightmares. Coachman nightmares. Foodfight nightmares. And this new one where a blue cat seems awfully mad at me for something that I can’t remember doing but I’m getting off topic.
So, in this nightmare it’s like that scene from The Untouchables where all the gangsters are having a banquet except instead of gangsters it’s movie critics. All the big critics are there and I’m sitting where Jon Lovitz did in the movie. And Al Capone (Roger Ebert) is giving the big “Teamwork” speech and then he stops in mid-sentence and he looks at me.
“You.” He says.
“Yeah boss?” I say.
“You’re a critic, huh?”
“Well…yeah.”
“What did you think of Citizen Kane?”
“Uh, never actually saw it.”
The Godfather?”
“Sorry.”
Before Sunset?
“Not really into chick flicks.”
Battleship Potemkin?”
“It’s on my list, I swear to God. I’ve seen Crash though, and that won an Oscar so that’s something right?”
And then Roger Ebert beats me to death with his Pulitzer. And then I wake up in a cold sweat screaming “I’m a fraud! A FRAUD! AND THE UNTOUCHABLES SUCKED!”
More like the "The Unwatchables" amirite?

More like the “The Unwatchables” amirite?

Yeah, so I’m actually quite conscious of the fact that for someone who reviews movies I’ve seen relatively few of the Greatest Movies Ever Made. I’ve been slowly working on expanding my cinematic palette beyond animated films and computer game cut scenes however, and one of the all-time classics that I recently discovered and happily found earns its hype and then some is the 1952 musical Singin’ In the Rain. You probably don’t need me to tell you this but if by some chance you let this one slip you by then I whole-heartedly recommend you change your life and get right with God because that movie is awesome. Great songs, fantastic choreography, iconic performances and fruckin’ hilarious (I use “fruckin'” when “frickin” is too mild and “fuckin'” is too coarse). Today’s movie, Cat’s Don’t Dance has a lot in common with Singin’ in the Rain. They’re both love letters to the golden age of Hollywood and they both benefited from the talents of the great Gene Kelly, who acted as choreographer for CDD. It might sound weird for a cartoon to need a choreographer, but lemme tell ya: These cats can fruckin’ dance. And they do. In fact, this movie probably has one of the most misleading titles in cinema history, right up there with The Never Ending Story and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.
In fairness, "Friday the 13th: There's Gonna be 8 more of these fuckin' things so get comfortable, folks" was never going to fit on the marquee.

In fairness, “Friday the 13th: There’s Gonna be 8 more of these fuckin’ things so get comfortable, folks” was never going to fit on the marquee.

This movie was part of the wave of animated features that followed in the wake of the Disney renaissance, with studios desperate to have a Lion King to call their own. CDD was produced by Turner Animation, the great American animation studio that never was. This was actually the only full length animated feature the studio ever made before Turner was merged into Time Warner but on the strength of this movie I think they could have been a serious contender. They definitely had the talent, not least of which was director Mark Dindal who later made the fantastic Emperor’s New Groove  and the actually-not-so-bad-if-you-go-in-with-an-open-mind Chicken Little. Let’s take a look. 

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CHARITY MOVIE DEATHMATCH: ROUND 2!

Face off

Blood on Snow

Kung Fu Panda

Boromir

Lurtz

Quint

Guys, I’m not sure we can keep doing this. I mean, the carnage we’ve seen in the last week…it gives the word “deathmatch” a bad name!

Week 2 is over and Kung Fu Panda, Maleficent and Land Before Time have all been dispatched to the big cinema in the sky. Our remaining and increasingly nervous fighters are:

Balto

An American Tail 2: Fievel Goes West

Fritz the Cat

The Secret of Nimh

The Iron Giant

Watership Down

Only YOU can save your favourite movie and ensure it gets a review by donating any sum, small or large to Love Without Boundaries and email your receipt to unshavedmouse@gmail.com along with your vote. Now let battle resume!

I love this, God help me I do.

 

Fifty-Shades-of-Grey-Film-t_720x1080

The fault in our shades

I have this idea for a non-fiction book that I may write sometime, tentatively called Everything I know about God I learned from Comic Books. It would be a look at how the history of superhero comics so often parallels that of the major world religions, like how issues of canonicity are decided (The First Council of Nicaea/Crisis on Infinite Earths), how older belief systems get incorporated into newer ones (Celtic deities becoming saints in Gaelic Christianity/ Captain Marvel becoming part of DC continuity), the violent schisms that can erupt between adherents of different sects (the Crusades/Cassandra Cain versus Stephanie Browne) and how they deal with the Problem of Evil/Frank Millar. I bring this up because, oddly, one of the best and simplest pieces of moral advice I ever received was from a comic book. It was an issue of X-Men where Bishop, a mutant cop from the future, almost kills the man who murdered his sister before realising that he can’t cross that line and simply arrests him. Bishop is tormented by guilt over what he almost did and Charles Xavier gives him this line (as near as I can remember it, it’s been years): “It is not our thoughts that mark us, but our deeds.”
This, I think, is a very important moral. We cannot control our thoughts, our desires, our prejudices or our emotions. And, take it from the guy with the Catholic upbringing, trying to is a real good way to go nuts. In fact, if you ever find yourself in the trenches and want to be invalided back to Blighty, don’t bother sticking underpants over your head, just try to not think about something for ten minutes and that should do the trick.  Having bad thoughts does not make you a bad person. Acting on them does.
Speaking of bad people, I hardly ever read other people’s blogs, which I feel incredibly guilty about because I always want people to read mine and that makes me a rather massive hypocrite. Honestly, it’s just a question of time. Between work, family, blogging, watching movies to review and trying to keep on top of other writing projects (not to mention a rather serious gaming habit) I normally just don’t have the hours. Recently however, I made an exception and plowed through all of author Jenny Armintrout’s extensive re-cap of Fifty Shades of Grey over on Trout Nation. It’s hilarious, excellently written and I heartily endorse it.
"I am Unshaved Mouse, and I approve this blog. All my readers should check it out!"

“I am Unshaved Mouse, and I approve this blog. All my readers should check it out!”

"Huh. My stats just went up by a barely perceptible ammount. As if theyd been kicked by a tiny, tiny ant."

“Huh. My stats just went up by a barely perceptible amount. As if theyd been kicked by a tiny, tiny ant.”

Now, even though I know damn well that every last one of you knows what Fifty Shades of Grey is, blogging law stipulates that I give some background on what I’m talking about on the off chance that one of you has awoken from a coma so here we go. Fifty Shades of Grey is E.L. James’ re-purposed  Twilight fanfiction where mousey milquetoast Anastasia Steele (Yes. Yes, really.) becomes involved with chiselled blonde billionaire Christian Grey and they have lots of badly punctuated sex. It was famously described by Salman Rushdie as the worst-written novel to ever be released by a major publishing house and so naturally became a huge commercial success.
"Welp, I guess they proved ME wrong."

“Welp, I guess they proved ME wrong.”

It is also porn.
And that’s not a criticism. It’s simply a statement of fact. It’s a piece of fiction written to get the reader off. Simple as. Now, during the course of the book Christian Grey does a lot of incredibly awful things. He emotionally manipulates Ana, plies her with alcohol, coerces her into sexual acts that she really does not want, beats her, threatens her, demeans her, isolates her from her friends and family and literally checks every item on the list for being an abusive partner (not hyperbole, Jenny actually did that very thing).

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