Charlie the Unicorn (2005)

I hate the internet sometimes. Sometimes I feel like it’s just this huge malevolent thing that holds me in its thrall, designed to make me outraged and depressed and extract as much money from me as is physically possible. Sometimes it’s hard to keep sight of just how much it’s changed the entire world, and often very much for the better.

Oh yeah, this series is still going. Sorry about the delay. One of the reasons why (apart from work being crazy) was the sheer, monumental task of picking just one animated short to represent the first decade of the 21st century. It’s like I said; before now there were only so many animation studios producing shorts in the West to choose from. Now though, virtually anything that appeared on Newgrounds between 2001 and 2010 was fair game, literally thousands of creators. How to pick just one? I bounced around between Homestar Runner and Badgers, which was essentially “something I could never cover in just one post” versus “something I couldn’t talk about long enough to fill even one post” before finally settling on today’s short; Charlie the Unicorn.

I said back when I reviewed Injun Country that just because a cartoon is cheap doesn’t mean it can’t be good and Charlie is a pretty excellent example of that. It is objectively the worst animated of any of the shorts I will review for this series but it overcomes that through a combination of strong writing and hilarious voice work (all done by animator Jason Steele) all leading up to a single, hilariously dark punchline.

It’s a great short, and pretty much a perfect summation of my generation’s sense of humour. There’s a clear Simpsons influence with an even bigger debt to South Park, two of the single most important shapers of the comedic voices of anyone who grew up in the nineties. It’s also a reaction to the  ridiculously saccharine cartoons of the eighties, correctly twigging that there was something undeniably sinister about relentlessly chipper characters who want everyone to get along and have fun no matter what.

Be honest. If it turned out the Care Bears were harvesting organs, would you be shocked?

Animation was once one of the most exclusive and gated art forms in existence, with only a handful of universities and companies worldwide offering an entry point. Now, with the explosive democratisation of the artform brought on by the internet, anyone with an idea or a story to tell can buy some inexpensive software and become an animator. And, with the advent of sites like YouTube, they now have the perfect platform to thrive on.

Animated shorts never died, they just went to heaven.

 

“You want to protect the world. But you don’t want it to change.”

The Marvel comics universe is overflowing with some of the greatest villains created in any medium, from the regal majesty of Doctor Doom to the saturnine, brooding splendour of Galactus to the cackling, twitching megalomania of Annihilus. And amongst these villains, one of the greatest is, without question…not Ultron.

Just my opinion, mind.

The character was first created in 1968 and introduced in the pages of The Avengers as the creation of Hank Pym, whose long storied history of fucking up we will touch upon at a later point in these chronicles. But make no mistake, Hank Pym fucks up in the same way that Michaelangelo painted. He fucks up like it’s what God put him on this earth to do. Created by Pym as an artificial intelligence based on his own brainwaves, Ultron decided pretty quickly that it hated Hank Pym like the Sharks hate the Jets and tried to kill him. Which, considering that Pym based it on his own mind, should tell you everything you need to know about the state of Pym’s self-esteem (dude needs a hug).  Ultron later expanded his to do list to wiping out all human life and returned to bedevil the Avengers and threaten the world again, and again, and again. My problem with Ultron is that there’s just not much “there” there. He’s an angry shouty robot who wants to kill everyone. Have there been good stories with the character? Sure. Have there been writers who found interesting things to do with him? No doubt. But Ultron’s basic default setting has just never grabbed me as particularly compelling. Nevertheless, Ultron is generally regarded as the Avengers’ ultimate arch-enemy, the Moriarty to their Holmes if Sherlock Holmes was a conglomeration of brightly coloured WW2 era adventurers, Norse gods, billionaire tech-messiahs and former circus performers (and who wouldn’t read that?). But even that’s kinda by default. Loki is a Thor villain who sometimes fights the Avengers. Red Skull is a Captain America villain who sometimes fights the Avengers. Ultron would technically be a Hank Pym villain, but since Hank has never been popular enough to headline an ongoing series of his own Ultron just kinda became an arch-enemy for the whole team, like how the rest of the family adopts your little brother’s hamster once it becomes clear he can’t look after it himself. So when it came time for Marvel to follow up The Avengers with a sequel, choosing Ultron to be the villain was about as obvious as having the Joker be the bad guy of The Dark Knight. Who else was it going to be?

Shaddup.

Now, let’s get this out of the way. For all you people who ask why I don’t, for example, review Moana the very second it comes out? This is why. To do a review justice takes time, preparation, fasting and prayerful contemplation. The review/tongue bath I gave Age of Ultron the day after it came out back in 2015 was written while I was still basking in the afterglow of explosions and Whedonisms falling on my ears like confetti and I did not see the plotholes and padding and questionable charecterisations and clear signs of executives sticking their grubby oars in. Honestly if I had it all to do again, I imagine I’d be a lot more critical. Oh hey, look at that. I have it all to do again.

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Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

Do you guys plot against me?

Seriously.

Do you sit in darkened rooms and tent your fingers and cackle darkly that “Yessssssssss, this shall break him?”

Because with these requests, you are officially taking the piss.

Guys, I review cartoons and superhero movies. That’s what works for me. That is my comfort zone. What made you think an austere, melancholy arthouse film like Where the Wild Things Are was a good fit for me? People, this movie is fancy. To review a movie like this you need to know about… like…shots…and…sound mixing and…mise en scenes and shit.

I mean, what’s next? A wacky Unshaved Mouse review of Andy Warhol’s Empire?

Bahia!

Heading into this review I feel like so many screenwriters who’ve tried to adapt Maurice Sendak’s 1963 classic children’s book must’ve felt; “How do I get a movie/review out of that?!”

But, I’m proud, I’m stubbourn and I’m too damn dumb to quit so let’s do this.

Where the Wild Things Are wasn’t really part of my childhood growing up, (we were a Dr. Seuss and Narnia fam), but I’ve come to appreciate it as an adult since it entered MiniMouse’s story rotation. In less than 200 words it tells the story of Max, a young boy dressed in a wolf costume who acts so wild that his mother sends him to bed without dinner. Then his room changes into a jungle, he goes on a journey, meets some monsters, becomes their  king, has a party, has a moment of reflection where he wonders what he’s even doing with his life and returns home to find his dinner waiting for him. That’s it.

But it’s not. Or maybe it is. Where the Wild Things Are is one of those books that’s just begging to be interpreted. It’s like, it’s there on your bookshelf, taunting you: “What could I mean? Oooooh, what could I mean? There’s a boy, in a wolf costume. Is he a metaphor for wild, unchecked masculinity? Look at my gorgeous art, am I not dripping in symbolism? What about the Goat Boy? He’s got to represent something, right?”

The Goat Boy represents goats.

Couple this with Sendak’s weird, elegant, ever so slightly off prose and you have all the elements of a cult classic: It’s pretty, it’s weird, and no one knows what the fuck it all means. It also sold like gangbusters, which put it in the company of books like Watchmen and Cloud Atlas, books that everyone wanted to make into a movie while having absolutely no idea how. It presents a unique problem to any adaptation; there’s simultaneously too much and too little. Disney worked on an animated adaptation for a while back in the eighties before finally throwing their hands in the air. But it was Maurice Sendak himself who finally decided that the best person to bring his story to the big screen was Spike Jonze, director of such modern classics as Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and the single greatest thing ever:

Am I wrong?

Production began in 2006 and finished three years later, massively over-budget and dogged by rumours that its own studio hated it. How did it turn out? Well, we’re going to find out. On this blog. Where I review it. Because somebody thought that was a good idea.

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Frog Reviews : Beauty and the (Incoherent Wailing)

Hallo. Yes, it’s been a while. I’ve been busy, biding my time. I actually saw several good movies (Logan, Moonlight and The Lego Batman Movie), the reviews of which are forthcoming despite them probably being gone from your local cinema by the time of reading. But really, I wanted a film to hate. A film to boil my blood. I was waiting.

Waiting.

Interminably waiting.

But now….

Strap your arses in lads, for I saw…

I SAW…

//What have they WROUGHT???

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Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959)

Americans calling my nation’s national holiday “Saint Patty’s Day” is one of those things that, as an Irishmouse, I am supposed to be Very Annoyed About. Honestly, it doesn’t bug me. Way I see it, if Irish Americans hadn’t turned March 17 into a major celebration of Irish identity and history in the eighteen hundreds, today the feast of Saint Patrick would be about as big a deal as the third Sunday of Ordinary Time so I say let ‘em call it whatever they like. At this point, it’s as much theirs as ours. Ireland and America have always had a very close relationship, culturally. This has often been a very positive thing, but it does cause problems. Picture Ireland as a man with a very quiet voice and a huge megaphone with the words “MADE IN AMERICA” emblazoned on it. Ireland has a global cultural presence and clout far, far beyond what you’d expect for a small country with a relatively paltry population and that’s largely due to the outsize influence Irish emigrants have had in the shaping of the world’s only cultural hyperpower. But what that means is that what the world perceives as “Irishness” is often filtered first through an American prism. Small Irish voice, big American megaphone. The result is that how we’re perceived by the rest of the world is often completely out of our hands.  Take a look at this picture:

The photo was taken in 1946 in County Kerry in the West of Ireland. The gentleman on the left is one Séamus Delargy, the founder of the Irish Folklore Commission, an organisation tasked with collecting and cataloguing the vast body of oral folklore, songs and poetry that had been passed down by word of mouth by the Irish people since time immemorial. The Irish Folklore Commission, incidentally, later became the Irish Folklore Department in University College Dublin where I got the degree that has made me the wealthy, eminently employable mouse I am today.

Oh, and the guy on the right is Walt Disney.

So, around the end of the second world war, Disney had set his heart on making a film based on Irish legends (Disney’s great-grandfather was from Kilkenny). He was put in touch with Delargey and over the next decade the two men corresponded continously. Delargy viewed Disney’s film as a chance to bring some of the treasure trove of Irish folklore his commission had uncovered to a wider audience, and dispatched crates of books, plays and manuscripts to Burbank. To Delargy’s disappointment however, Disney eventually decided to base his Irish film on Herminie Templeton Kavanagh’s “Darby O’Gill” books. Here we have the relationship between Irish folklore and it’s American amanuenses personified. Delargy says “Here is a huge and varied body of folktales full of magic, heroes, epic quests, tricksters and romance.” and Disney replies “That’s nice. Leprechauns, please.”

This movie’s reputation is a little hard to assess. In America, it’s fairly obscure, but amongst those who know of it it’s quite highly regarded. Hell, no less an authority than Leonard Malthin, a man who eats Disney movies and shits special limited edition Blu-Rays , called it “not only one of Disney best films, but certainly one of the best fantasies ever put to film.”

Well. Clearly SOMEONE’s never seen Hawk the Slayer.

 In Ireland it is most certainly not obscure. And our relationship to this particular movie is…complicated. It was a huge hit when it was released here, with Disney himself attending the Dublin premiere which virtually brought the city to a standstill. But it arrived at a very crucial period in Irish history, when Taoiseach Seán Lemass was trying to cast off the nation’s image as a rural backwater and promote Ireland as a modern economy ready to do business with the world. The success of this movie and it’s bucolic image of rural towns and cheerfully superstitious peasants had many in government muttering between clenched teeth: “You. Are. Not. Helping.” Today it remains a staple of Irish television, particularly around Saint Patrick’s day, and is one of those movies that almost every Irish person has seen once, along with Michael Collins and Die Hard*. But there has always been an undercurrent of resentment to this movie, with many feeling that it’s…what’s the word I’m looking for?

“Racist?”

“Ah, no.”

But “Darby O’Gill” has definitely become a shorthand for fake, inauthentic Oirishness in film. But is that reputation justified? Let’s take a look, just to be sure. To be sure.

To be sure.

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“What a bunch of A-Holes.”

Guardians of the Galaxy first debuted on comic book shelves in 1969. It starred a team of superheroes defending the solar system from alien invasion in a far off future. It was based in an alternate continuity, and outside of the name had virtually nothing in common with today’s movie so let’s just forget I even mentioned it.

Why it’s all your favourite characters! Square-man! Blue Land Shark! And Princess Sparkly Hands (later re-named Groot).

Why, it’s all your favourite characters! Square-man! Cosmic Bunny! Blue Land Shark! And Princess Sparkly Hands! (later re-named Groot).

Let’s talk instead about Cosmic Marvel. The modern Marvel era began with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four #1. This kicked off an explosion of creativity in the Marvel offices with most of the really iconic Marvel characters being created in the span of a few short years. And the Fantastic Four was always the engine room of this new burgeoning universe, acting as a central hub from which all the other characters spun out from. I mentioned in the Fantastic Four review just how much of the early building blocks of the Marvel universe were crafted in that one book. Now, as superheroes, the Fantastic Four were less about beating up muggers and more about exploration, charting new planets, galaxies and whole other dimensions. Pretty soon, the Fantastic Four had established a massive supporting cast of “cosmic beings”; Gods, living planets, alien warlords of incredible power and menace who stood astride all eternity in Wagnerian splendour. Combined with these heady concepts was the surreal, mind-expanding art of artists like Jack Kirby. This was a big reason why Marvel comics became such a sensation on American college campuses in the sixties. These things were trippy, man.

Plus, after you’ve read it, the thin paper is great for rolling.

Plus, after you’ve read it, the thin paper is great for rolling.

Even after the sixties, with Stan Lee largely pulling back from writing duties and Jack Kirby’s acrimonious departure from Marvel, new writers like Jim Starlin helped keep the Marvel universe cosmic and weird. But then…the eighties.

The huge success of Frank Millar’s Daredevil and The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore’s Watchmen led to a sea change of audience expectations as to what comics should be. Both Marvel and DC shifted emphasis to gritty, street level stories featuring characters with few (if any) superpowers. At DC, this meant giving a major push to Batman and his supporting cast, at Marvel it meant an increased emphasis on Daredevil, Wolverine and the Punisher. And it also meant that the cosmic characters were pretty much benched. Oh, they made appearances now and then, but chances were if you were a character with a name like Lyja the Lazer Fist who wanted to get in a comic after 1986 you were shit out of luck. Then came the nineties which…let’s…just…no…and this sidelining of the Cosmic characters continued, as they were obviously too silly for the super realistic Dark Age of Comics.

We needed gritty, realistic heroes. Like Shadowhawk. He had AIDS.

We needed gritty, realistic heroes. Like Shadowhawk.                      He had AIDS.

But finally, in 2006, Marvel released Annihilation, a massive event that took their previously ignored cosmic characters and threw them into a massive war to save the universe from the dread forces of ANNIHILUS, RULER OF THE NEGATIVE ZONE!

IT.

WAS.

AWESOME.

If you just want pure, epic, batshit-insane space opera then Annihilation is your drug. It also re-introduced many of the characters who feature in this movie, like Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax and Ronan to the modern comic-reading audience. But it wasn’t until the sequel (2007’s equally awesome Annihilation Conquest) that we first saw something even resembling, sort of, if you squint, the movie version of the Guardians of the Galaxy in as much as you had Star Lord leading a team of alien criminals and misfits that included Rocket Racoon and Groot. Even so, these are very, very different from the characters you know and hopefully love. This, for example, is Groot circa 2007-08.

"Futility is beneath Groot." is a much better catchphrase, honestly.

“Futility is beneath Groot.” is a much better catchphrase, honestly.

The reason I bring this up is that, compared to the previous movies in the series, GotG  is playing fairly fast and loose with the source material. This, I think, represents a more confident, assertive MCU that’s saying “okay, we’ve figured out what works. We’re going to do that, and if we have to ding the material a bit to get it in the right shape, so be it.” How did that work out? Well, it’s the third most critically acclaimed Marvel Studios movie of all time and grossed almost 800 million dollars despite featuring some of the most obscure comic book characters this side of Egg-Fu so probably fairly okay. But is the acclaim earned? Is GotG actually any GooD? Is futility beneath Groot? All these questions, and more!, shall be answered.

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Tuam

You should have been cherished.

You should have been loved.

You should have been held.

You should have been warm.

You should have been told every day how wonderful.

How beautiful.

How unique.

How perfect.

You were.

You should have been told that there was never anyone else

That you were the first one like you.

The only one that had ever been

That would ever be.

You.

You should have danced every day.

And caught a smile every morning.

And ran in the rain like a wild one.

And lay in the sun and kicked the clouds.

You should have not have been made a thing in your own country.

Filth.

Broken

Nothing.

We did not love you.

We did not cherish you.

We’re breaking now.

We’re buried with you.

We’re sorry.

We’re sorry.

We’re sorry.

You should have been cherished.

 

Deathmatch 2017: Epilogue

unicorn

hunchback

avatar

And so we end another season of what I am pretty sure is the world’s most successful charity event/bloodsport! Deathmatch 2017 is over! A moment’s silence for the fallen.

So, our three contestants left standing are:

The Last Unicorn (First Place)

Avatar: The Last Airbender (Second Place)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame 2 (Third Place)

First two weren’t much of a surprise, I’ve been getting requests for Last Unicorn for years and Avatar is just a phenomenal cartoon. And of course, sadism is always a powerful motivator so I’m not too surprised to see Hunchback 2 make it over the finish line. There were some surprises though. I thought it was very odd that The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat didn’t get a single vote.

"Yes. Odd."

“Yes. Odd.”

Anyway, if one of your favourite fighters didn’t make it, don’t be too disappointed. No fewer than four of the eliminated movies/series were purchased outright so they’ll get a review as well. Your generosity has been truly humbling. Together you raised over a thousand dollars for the ACLU and have ensured that I am now booked up for the NEXT TWO GODDAMN YEARS. And it is going to be a WILD two years. We’ve got everything from Golden Age Hollywood classics to bargain basements schlock and everything in between (and animé. SO MUCH ANIMÉ).

Thanks for making Deathmatch 2017 an unqualified success. You guys rock.

Mouse out.

Bill Cipher reviews WEIRDMAGEDDON!

Previously on Unshaved Mouse: Mouse tried to review the series finale of Gravity Falls and it went about as well as you’d expect, with Mouse being possessed by the infinite evil of Bill Cipher who now threatens to turn the real world into an eternal playground for his cosmic malice and doom all humanity. Because it’s always something with this blog, isn’t it? Just saying, you never see this kind of shit on Alternate Ending.  Meanwhile, at the secret headquarters of the Legion of Animators.

Image result for meanwhile at the legion of doom

"JOSEPH SMITH ON A GRAM CRACKER WHAT HAVE YOU DONE DISNEY?!"

“JOSEPH SMITH ON A GRAM CRACKER WHAT HAVE YOU DONE, DISNEY?!”

"IT'S NOT MY FAULT! I SWEAR BY THE DARK POWERS IT'S NOT MY FAULT THIS TIME!"

“IT’S NOT MY FAULT! I SWEAR BY THE DARK POWERS IT’S NOT MY FAULT THIS TIME!”

"Somehow, I always knew you'd destroy the world, man."

“Somehow, I always knew you’d destroy the world, man.”

"SHUT UP HIPPY! WHY DID WE EVEN LET HIM JOIN?! HE SMELLS LIKE BEAR TURDS!"

“SHUT UP HIPPY! WHY DID WE EVEN LET HIM JOIN?! HE SMELLS LIKE BEAR TURDS!”

"It's the smell of artistic integrity, man."

“It’s the smell of artistic integrity, man.”

"Gentlemen. Calm yourselves. The situation calls for unity."

“Gentlemen. Calm yourselves. The situation calls for unity.”

"Miyazaki-san is right. We should listen to him. He is the wisest of all of us."

“Miyazaki-san is right. We should listen to him. He is the wisest of all of us.”

"Let us consider: An Nth level fictional construct has gained sentience and escaped to the real world. Even now it's power grows, and any hope of defeating it becomes slimmer by the second."

“Let us consider: An Nth level fictional construct has gained sentience and escaped to the real world. Even now it’s power grows, and any hope of defeating it becomes slimmer by the second.”

"True."

“True.”

"So I'm thinking, bail?"

“So I’m thinking: Bail?”

“Listen to this man. He’s wise, he’s Japanese, he knows the score. Let’s leave this reality and never come back.”

“Listen to this man. He’s wise, he’s Japanese, he knows the score. Let’s leave this reality and never come back.”

“Groovy, man.”

“Groovy, man.”

“No! Listen to yourselves! If we abandon this world it’s only a matter of time before Bill conquers all of reality. We have to stay! We have to fight! We’re animators! Masters of the Arcane and Dark Arts! Immortal warlocks of inestimable power!”

“No! Listen to yourselves! If we abandon this world it’s only a matter of time before Bill conquers all of reality. We have to stay! We have to fight! We’re animators! Masters of the Arcane and Dark Arts! Immortal warlocks of inestimable power!”

“I’m not.”

“I’m not.”

“Shut up Park!”

“Shut up Park!”

“Sorry.”

“Sorry.”

“We have one chance to stop Bill. Listen up...”

“We have one chance to stop Bill. Listen up…”

***

HEY MONOFORMS! HOW ARE YOU DOING?! I’M SWELL! THE MOMENT OF MY ASCENSION IS NEARLY AT HAND AND NO ONE CAN STOP ME! NO ONE! WHAT, YOU THOUGHT THOSE LOSERS IN THE INTRO CAN SAVE YOU? I LET YOU READ THAT BECAUSE I LIKE TOYING WITH YOU! I KNOW ALL! I SEE ALL! I BE ALL, YO! NOW LET’S FINISH OUR LOOK AT WEIRDMAGEDDON AND SEE HOW I ESCAPED INTO YOUR REALITY AND ALSO HOW LONG YOU CAN GO READING THIS ALL-CAPS TEXT WITHOUT GETTING A HEADACHE! OH, SORRY, IS IT DIFFICULT TO READ? HOW ABOUT IF I SPEAK IN BRIGHT BLAZING YELLOW?! YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT! DON’T MAKE ME PULL OUT THE COMIC SANS! I’LL DO IT!!!

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