My next novel is now available for pre-order!

Barnes and Noble are currently running a promotion for 25% off on all books being released in 2023 and guess who’s got one of those?

“Oh, more book schilling. How we’ve missed it.”

Quiet you.

Yes, my sophomore effort Knock Knock Open Wide is being released September 26th, in good time for Halloween. Per Barnes and Noble:

Knock Knock, Open Wide weaves horror and Celtic myth into a terrifying, heartbreaking supernatural tale of fractured family bonds, the secrets we carry, and the veiled forces that guide Irish life.

Driving home late one night, Etain Larkin finds a corpse on a pitch-black country road deep in the Irish countryside. She takes the corpse to a remote farmhouse. So begins a night of unspeakable horror that will take her to the very brink of sanity.

She will never speak of it again.

Two decades later, Betty Fitzpatrick, newly arrived at college in Dublin, has already fallen in love with the drama society, and the beautiful but troubled Ashling Mallen. As their relationship blossoms, Ashling goes to great lengths to keep Betty away from her family, especially her alcoholic mother, Etain.

As their relationship blossoms, Betty learns her lover’s terrifying family history, and Ashling’s secret obsession. Ashling has become convinced that the horrors inflicted on her family are connected to a seemingly innocent children’s TV show. Everyone in Ireland watched this show in their youth, but Ash soon discovers that no one remembers it quite the same way. And only Ashling seems to remember its star: a small black goat puppet who lives in a box and only comes out if you don’t behave. They say he’s never come out.

Almost never.

When the door between the known and unknown opens, it can never close again.

My own experiences with Rimini Riddle may have influenced the creation, who can say? Anyway, you can preorder it from Barnes and Noble HERE and if you use the code PREORDER25 you’ll get a stonking 25% off the price. Money out of my children’s mouths, but what do you care?

“Papa! Papa, we are ever so hungry!”
“Forgive me, child. But we must starve that Barnes and Noble may give their valued customers great savings!”
“Then I must be brave, Papa. For Barnes and Noble!” *cough cough*

Later Bat time, later Bat channel

Hi folks, really sorry but the Batman and Robin review is going to be delayed until next week. See, I forgot that this was the week I had a book deadline to meet, a TV proposal to submit, a driving test to take and everyone in my family was going to get sick with something. I didn’t plan the last one, but given the last few years that’s really on me.

Anyway, the review will go up February 2nd. Thanks as always for your patience and understanding.

“When did we become the joke?”

Before we begin, please take a look at these quotes:

“So one of the things that surprised me about this movie on re-watching was that it is much better than I remembered, or at the very least far more interesting. Thor exists in a much richer emotional universe than the two Iron Man movies or Hulk.”

“Something that I don’t think gets talked about when it comes to [Thor 2] is just how gorgeous it is. Seriously, the art design in this is just jaw dropping, it is hands down the best looking picture in the MCU.”

“A thought occurred to me as I watched Thor and the Revengers speeding towards a giant wormhole called the devil’s anus while blasting spaceships with lasers while Mark Mothersbaugh’s awesome techno score rippled in the background: is this movie the greatest thing ever? Yes. Yes it is.”

“Wow” you might ask. “What pathetic, gushing, blinkered, Thor-fanboy said THAT?”

“Um, me” I reply.

“Oh. Well, this is awkward” you might answer.

“Yeah. Yeah, maybe think before you say something really hurtful” I sob.

Sorry, feeling a bit emotional today. I put those quotes above to give some context. If there’s an internet reviewer who’s been as unstintingly positive to the Thor series as me I am unfamiliar with their work. I have gone to bat for this series again and again. I made Thor my highest ranked of the Phase 1 origin movies. I made Ragnarok my number one movie of the entire MCU. I HAD NICE THINGS TO SAY ABOUT THE DARK WORLD.

So when I say that Love and Thunder is not only the worst Thor movie but the worst movie in this entire 30 film franchise, I hope you understand that this is a big deal. Something that I loved has betrayed me and left me angry, appalled and ready for revenge.

“See? This guy gets it.”
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That time of year again.

I had a conversation on the bus with Spouse of Mouse recently where I mused about what I was going to put in the end of year wrap up. “I dunno” I said. “2022 felt the first kinda “normal” year in a long time. Doesn’t feel like anything super crazy happened.”

She looked at me like I was insane. 

Screenshot 2022-12-19 at 13.51.04

Oh riiiiight, the thing.

My God, you can get used to anything can’t you? Yes, ignore me, I don’t even know what time is any more and it’s been that way for some…something, I don’t know what the correct term is. Anyway, after the orgy of book schilling that was 2021 the blog must have seemed very sedate this year. The new year will not be like that. Big things in the pipeline folks. We’re gonna have to call a plumber…

But in the meantime, check out this absolutely stunning cover for the Czech translation of When the Sparrow Falls from Planeta 9 publishing. 

2184: Pád Kaspické republiky. Prvé české vydanie (Planeta9, 2022).

Or, as it’s called in Czechia, 2184: The Fall of the Caspian Republic. Because, as one Czech reviewer noted “who would buy a book called When the Sparrow Falls?”

Screenshot 2022-12-19 at 16.20.39

Anyway, here’s what I did this year.

In 2022 I reviewed 1 Canon Disney movie, 4 MCU movies (plus Hulk), 3 X-Men movies, 3 animé, 3 live action movies, 4 non-Disney animated feature, 2 animated series and 1 Batman movie. 

It was a pretty great year, honestly. After the fairly paltry showing of last year I actually managed to make some sort of dent in my review pile and I discovered plenty of new movies that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Best movie this year isn’t even close. 

redline-gif

Redline reminded me of why I love animation in the first place. As for worst? Alice in Wonderland, which increasingly feels less like a movie and more like an early onset symptom.

Even if 2022 wasn’t actually a return to normality in any way, I hope it at least fooled you like it did me. 

Have a wonderful, safe and happy Christmas and a great new year.

Nollaig shona daoibh go léir,

Mouse.

 

The Polar Express (2004)

It’s probably a testament to just how jaded I am that my first thought when watching The Polar Express was “actually, this animation isn’t half bad”. The Polar Express is notorious for being the start of Robert Zemeckis’ turn to the dark side, where one of the most respected directors of genre cinema became a professional corporate necromancer.

Oh shit, I acknowledged its existence. Someone fetch my flail.

And The Polar Express was his first attempt at making an all CGI mocapped film and is infamous for being utterly, skin-crawlingly unsettling in its depiction of human characters. And yet, maybe it’s because I‘ve seen the absolute depths to which this accursed path would lead Zemeckis I found myself not minding the animation too much, for the most part at least. It just looks like a computer game cutscene. And, if I’m being scrupulously fair, there are even shots that I think are honest to God beautiful.

My, this review is trending rather positive isn’t it? I wonder if that will last.

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Heavy Metal (1981)

Heavy Metal began in 1977 as an American translation of Metal Hurlant, a French science fiction fantasy magazine that featured seminal work by such legendary creators as Moebius, Enki Bilal and Jean Claude Forest and had a massive influence on the entire comic book medium because TITS.

Tits tits tits. Melons. Gazongas. Knockers. Hooters. Tatas. Jugs. Boobies. Yayas. Bosoms. Chesticles. Mazumas. Badonkadonks. Big ol’ greasy Baps.

Was there some genuinely thought provoking and visually spectacular sci-fi in its pages? Absolutely! Playboy also published plenty of great articles, what’s your point?

Heavy Metal, the 1981 anthology animated film that adapts many of the magazine’s most iconic stories, has tits. It has many tits. It has big tits and small…actually no, it only has big tits. In the ancient swamp of the pre-internet age, that really was enough. The marketing campaign could literally have been the words “CARTOON BOOBS, YA DIG?” plastered on every available surface and this movie would have been a success.

But for a jaded, modern reviewer who sees boobs once (maybe even twice) a month, it’ll take more than that. So, is there more to Heavy Metal than awesome bewbage? Let’s take a look.

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Rock and Rule (1983)

Imagine you go to a Burger King and the guy at the counter serves you with a smile, promptly brings the food to your table, thanks you kindly for your custom and wishes you a good day. Someone, in short, who doesn’t have to put nearly this much effort into their job but does it anyway because, gosh darn it, if you’re going to do a job you might as well do it well.

That’s Nelvana. Nelvana is an extremely prolific Canadian animation studio who produced basically any cartoon you saw in the eighties or nineties that wasn’t made by Disney, Hanna-Barbera, Filmation or Warner Bros. They’re probably most famous (if you’re my age, at least) for their many, many licensed animations for properties like Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake and My Pet Monster. Nelvana were front and centre in the saccharine, corporatised swamp that was the American TV animation scene in the Reagan era. Like many of their peers, Nelvana had to make ends meet in the burger joint by cranking out barely concealed animated toy commercials. Unlike many of their peers, Nelvana actually seemed to give a damn. Their shows were, broadly speaking, better than they needed to be and demonstrated real skill and craftsmanship in their animation. There were always hints that, if given time and a budget and a premise slightly less anodyne than “Will Grumpy Bear ever get that stick out of his ass?”, Nelvana had the talent to make something truly special. And, if ever there was a time to do it, it was the early eighties.

The late seventies/early eighties were the “Warring States” period of American Feature Animation. The senile old king, Disney, had fallen from his throne and seemingly every animator who could hold a pencil was scrambling for the crown. This was the heady time when Rankin Bass, Ralph Bakshi and Don Bluth battled for control of the artform, right up until 1989 when the old king came back and was like “I’m feeling a lot better now everyone, thank you for your concern“.

But all that was in the future. Nelvana was formed in 1971 by Patrick Loubert, Clive Smith and Michael Hirsh with the stated intent of creating a Canadian Disney.

“You fucking hoosers, eh?”

After several well received Christmas specials and animating literally the only part of the Star Wars Holiday Special that deserved to be spared the flame (the cartoon that introduced Boba Fett), the studio began work on their first feature length animation; Rock and Rule. It’s an obvious passion project, clearly made by a young team just bursting with talent and ambition and love for what they were doing. It’s also something that was very obviously begun without a complete script or even a set plot. It’s weird. It’s uneven. It’s a wild, uncontrolled shambling mess of eighties animation that failed when it was dumped into theatres with no marketing by a distributor that neither loved nor understood it. Which obviously means that it was made for me, Mouse, personally.

“I shall take this movie, and raise it as my son.”
“Poppa!”
(more…)

Devilman Crybaby (2018)

If you’ve spent any time reading about animé you will have come across the name “Osamu Tezuka”, almost certainly accompanied by the phrase “Godfather of animé/manga”. And that’s true, as far as it goes. Tezuka absolutely kickstarted post-war animé as a genre. But…it kinda feels like we’re missing something, doesn’t it? How exactly did we get from this:

To THIS:

Well to understand that we need to talk about the other godfather of manga and animé. For Osamu Tezuka created animé as a beautiful, innocent garden. But into that garden, there came a serpent. There came Go Nagai.

Hired as a writer and illustrator for Weekly Shonen Jump in 1968, Nagai became an instant cultural lightning rod and enfant terrible of manga with his series Harenchi Gakuen. An erotic comedy set in a school, the series attracted massive controversy in Japan (damn prudes!) with its boundary smashing depictions of nudity and sexuality in a comic ostensibly aimed at children (sometimes have a point!). Nagai’s entire career has been one long game of seeing what he can get away with. His work is categorised by coarse humour, extreme violence, body horror and a pessimism often bordering on nihilism.

“What’s nihilism?”
“Doesn’t matter.”

Also, Nagai is notorious for a, shall we say, somewhat cavalier attitude to the ethics of depicting sexual assault against women. To put it another way, much of his work is rapier than a full orchestral production of Blurred Lines at the Global Fencing Championships. Shit. Gets. Messed. Up. And his influence cannot be overstated. If you’ve ever watched some disreputable animé late at night and found yourself wondering…why?

Go Nagai. Go Nagai is why.

Go Nagai is why so much of animé is so violent, so weirdly horny and frequently so goddamned awesome. It’s a…complex legacy, to be sure. And much of Nagai’s work is definitely not for me. But he also blazed a trail that was followed by many of the most important and respected creators in the medium, like Katsuhiro Otome and even (I would argue) Miyazaki.

Now, the most important part of Nagai’s oeuvre is the massive Devilman franchise, a constellation of manga, animé adaptations, remakes and spin-offs. There’s a lot of overlap and differences between the various iterations but it usually goes like this; Akira Fudo is an ordinary Japanese schoolkid who gets recruited (or sometimes just duped) by his childhood friend Ryo Asuka into a war to protect humankind from demons. In order to do this, Ryo has Akira become possessed by an ancient warrior demon named Amon to fight other demons. Akira then becomes a superhero named “Devilman” (pronounced “DEEEEEEVILMAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNN!!!!”). From there, the story usually proceeds through a few monster of the week episodes with certain series-standard demons appearing to get the ever-loving demonic shit kicked out of them before taking a sharp left turn with humanity becoming aware of the existence of demons whereupon things get fucking dark.

Very violent. Very horny. Not for everyone. Go Nagai.

Now, there have been several animé adaptations of the original 1972 manga. There was the ridiculously toned down seventies Toei series which was kinda like if The Human Centipede was remade as a Saturday Morning Cartoon about a bunch of people who change into a giant centipede to fight baddies through the power of friendship. Then there was the far more faithful (and pretty damn kickass) OVA in the eighties, a couple of other OVAs in the nineties and early aughts and finally the subject of today’s review Devilman Crybaby, a mini series created by Science SARU for Netflix. Now, one of the reasons I pushed this review back to Halloween (other than just to have a horror themed review for Halloween) was that I knew nothing about this franchise and had a suspicion I would need the extra prep time. And I’m glad I did. Devilman Crybaby was an absolute juggernaut when it was released, becoming one of the most watched and successful animé series in years with a rabid fanbase. The kind of thing you really need to research and read up on before you come out with something like “I watched it and I didn’t really care for it”.

Anyway. I watched it.

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Sailor Moon R: The Movie

This is one of those reviews where I feel like literally every single person interested enough to read it already knows far, far more about the topic than I do and is just waiting for me to make a massive ass of myself. I never watched Sailor Moon growing up and was only vaguely aware of it as the animé that most people think of when they hear the word “animé”. So I went on a rather fascinating tvtropes binge (did you know that the entire Japanese magical girl genre was inspired by the American sitcom Bewitched?) and I’m proud to report that I’ve gone from being absolutely clueless to loveably befuddled in record time.

Okay. So. Let’s start at the end and work our way backwards.

What is Sailor Moon R: The Movie?

Sailor Moon R is a movie based on Sailor Moon R.

What is Sailor Moon R?

Sailor Moon R is the second season of the Sailor Moon animé.

What is the Sailor Moon animé?

The animé adaptation of Naoko Takeuchi’s manga about schoolgirl Usagi Tsukino who discovers that she is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior princess from a kingdom on the Moon. As Sailor Moon she battles evil monsters with the help of other girls/reincarnated warriors such as Sailor Mars, Sailor Venus, Sailor Mercury and Sailor Jupiter. It’s a fusion of the magical girl genre with the sentai superhero genre.

What is best in life?

To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you and to hear the lamentation of the women.

Why don’t girls like me?

Because you’re not actually a person, you’re just a rhetorical device I’m using for this review.

What? Wait come back!

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German Cover Reveal for When the Sparrow Falls!

Sprechen sie Deutsch? Nein? Well get on that!

I’m delighted to FINALLY be able to reveal that When the Sparrow Falls is being published in a German language edition by Piper Verlag.

The German edition will be released in April 2023 under the title Ecce Machina: Die Seele der Maschine and is available for pre-order HERE.

And now, feast your eyes on this gorgeous cover!

Keen readers will recognise this cover as depicting the scene where Johnny and Millicent Sparrow realise they have to put aside their differences if they’re ever going to save the orphanage. I was very proud of that scene.