The Garden of Words (2013)

Like Unshaved Mouse? Please consider supporting my Patreon.

Not so long ago, in the pages of this here very blog what are you reading like, I reviewed Makoto Shinkai’s 5cm per Second and my good Lord, it bored me so. It bored me like Sarah, plain and tall.

Well, Shinkai apparently took my criticisms onboard and went away and created Garden of Words, a movie that has all of 5cm per Second’s stunningly gorgeous visuals and sumptuous sound design but which actually marries them to interesting characters and some class of plot. I mean, I don’t want to take credit for this critically acclaimed film but honesty compels me.

Anyway yes. Okay. I am now on board. I am on the Makoto Shinkai train (and the dude does love his trains).   Like 5cm per SecondGarden is slow and relies heavily on atmosphere but there is a definite sense that it’s telling a story patiently and methodically and not faffing about and wasting your time. The characters are also far more distinctive and memorable, compared to the 5cm per Second’s leads who were so bland and grey you could use them to wallpaper the walls of a dentist’s office.  For instance, one of the main characters, Yukari, spends her days in the local park drinking beer and eating chocolate because her depression has dulled her sense of taste and those are the only flavours she can experience. That’s good writing, because it informs us of an important character trait (her depression) but does it in a way that’s unique and memorable and makes her stand out from all the other sadsacks (I’ve had depression, I get to use that word).

The movie begins with the two things that get Makoto Shinkai out of bed each morning; weather and trains.

“Shit’s my jam, yo.”

(more…)

A whole mess o’ trek…

You know, I remember a time in 1994 when Star Trek: The Next Generation was in its final series, Deep Space Nine was trundling along merrily and the Star Trek fandom was eagerly awaiting the first Next Gen movie and this new show called Voyager. It felt like peak Star Trek, like there was more Star Trek than we could ever need. But that was nothing compared to the veritable tsunami that is currently cresting on the horizon and preparing to sweep us all away. Is it a good tsunami? Is the tsunami made of water or piss? Well, like most tsunamis, I would hope it’s mostly water but can’t disregard the fact that there will almost certainly be some piss in there. Fish piss probably. But maybe some human. Who can say? Where was I?

Oh yes, Star Trek.

So I’m writing this post more or less because I just want to get straight in my head exactly how many potential new shows and movies are floating out there. We’ll start with the concrete stuff that is definitely happening first and move onto the less likely ephemera.

Star Trek Discovery Season 2

What is it?: After a hella troubled production and a good to great (though no means universally beloved) first season, the crew of the Discovery are back and now under the command of Captain Christopher Pike to search the galaxy looking for Spock.

Is this definitely happening?: Yeah. Definitely. It’s already been filmed and everything. There’s a trailer, look.

Will it be any good?: I thought Discovery’s first season was fun, occasionally dumb, visually gorgeous and overall a pretty good time. That has me excited for Season 2 as all Trek series (with the exception of TOS) took at least a season to get going so I’m expecting the show’s sophomore outing to be even better. Also, the Klingons have hair now and I can breathe again.

Ohhh that’s so much better.

Short Treks 

What is it?: A series of short, fifteen minute episodes set around Star Trek Discovery and being released periodically over Winter ’18, Spring ’19.

Is this definitely happening?: Yup.

Will it be any good?: No clue. Because it’s not being streamed in Ireland. Because CBS are racist.

 

Untitled Picard Series

What is it?: A series set 25 years after Star Trek exploring the continuing adventures of a now elderly Jean Luc Picard.

Is this definitely happening?: Looks like. Patrick Stewart is signed up and they’re due to start filming in April ’19.

Will it be any good?: They can’t screw this up, can they? I mean, this is like slamdunking with a step-ladder. This is the series the fans have been crying out for (a look at the post-Nemesis timeline) starring the greatest actor in the history of the franchise playing one of its most beloved characters. They can’t screw this up. Bring back John de Lancie as Q, give them back their balls from the little locker Janeway keeps under her desk, sprinkle with some TNG cameos and boom. Instant classic. They can’t screw this up. They can’t screw this up. Oh God, they’re going to screw this up, aren’t they?

Lower Decks

What is it?: Okay, follow me closely. It’s a Star Trek comedy. Done by one of the creators of Rick and Morty. Taking place on the least important ship in Starfleet. And it’s a cartoon.  

Is this definitely happening?: Uh…maybe? Apparently? Yes? Unless I’m being pranked, yes this is a real going concern.

Will it be any good?: Look, it’s not like there’s never been a Star Trek cartoon before. There was. It was weird as balls.

Related image

Yup. That’s a regular sized Spock looking up at a giant Spock that they just found on a random planet. Oh this is nothing, NOTHING!

If this is done kinda like Blue Harvest where it’s obviously not taking place in the main series continuity it could be really funny. If they try to make this canon though, I don’t see how that’s gonna work. It means every time I watch an old episode of any other series I’ll be thinking about how weird it is that somewhere out there there’s a ship full of cartoon characters wubba-lubba-dub-dubbing around.

Image result for star trek 4 kelvin

Star Trek 4 

What is it?: The next instalment of the Kelvin timeline movies.

Is this definitely happening?: This is pretty much definitely not happening. Both Chris’, Pines and Hemsworth, are apparently unwilling to return which means the series is probably dead. Jim.

Would it have been any good?: Ehhhhhh…the Kelvin films seemed to have a reverse curse going on with the odd-numbered movies being good (well, acceptable) and the even numbered one being bad (well, a festering atrocity on the buttocks of the franchise) so going by primitive Trekker superstition, probably not. Plus, the plot apparently involved Chris Hemsworth returning as Jim Kirk’s father despite being

  1. Hella dead and
  2. No seriously. Really, really dead.

So I’m going to say we dodged a phaser blast with this one. Rest in peace, Kelvin timeline. You sure were a thing that existed.

Image result for quentin tarantino star trek

Quentin Tarantino’s Star Trek Movie

What is it?: Yup, Quentin Tarantino wants to direct a Star Trek movie and who can blame him?

Is this definitely happening?: Since it was announced that Tarantino would direct in December 2017 things have been quiet so don’t get your hopes up.

Will it be any good?: It’s really fascinating to speculate whether this would have been/will be a Quentin Tarantino Star Trek movie or a Star Trek movie directed by Quentin Tarantino. On reflection I don’t think this will be/would have been what most people imagine with this mash up, with dude massacreing their way through the Federation, dropping F-Bombs and noting how on Qu’onos they don’t call it a gagh with extra tentacles they, call it a gagh Royale. Tarantino’s first and foremost a fan and I’d expect a Star Trek movie that homages the movies that went before it in tone, cinematography, costumes, everything, and absolutely laden down with nods and references to Trek lore. Average Joe probably wouldn’t be able to make head nor tail of it but I’d dig the hell out of that.

Image result for empress georgiou

Untitled Philippa Georgiou Series 

What is it?: Alright, spoiler warnings for the last season of Discovery. Apparently, Michelle Yeoh is in talks with CBS to star in a spin-off series as Empress Georgiou, the evil former ruler of the Mirror Universe Terran Empire who’s currently running around the regular Trek universe having adventures and cackling evilly.

Is this definitely happening?: This is very, very early days and honestly I’ll be surprised if it goes beyond initial negotiations.

Will it be any good?: Think about this for a minute. The Empress is a an absolute hoot and Michelle Yeoh is clearly having a blast playing her. But we’re talking about basing a series around genocidal, cannibalistic space Hitler. It’s…it’s a little removed from Gene Roddenberry’s vision, no? I’m going to guess that this doesn’t come to pass and also remind the execs at CBS that cocaine is a hell of a drug and they should quite while their septums are intact.

And that’s it…that is all the Trek that is currently percolating around out there like nebula-fresh coffee. Am I overlooking anything? Let me know in the comments.

Sly fox…

Hi guys. Firstly, thanks and welcome to new patron Felreign, a recurring villain in Marvel’s Eternals in the nineteen eighties. Fans would always look forward to his team-ups with main villain Ghaur, which would always result in Felreign betraying him, leaving Ghaur shaking his fist impotently and screaming “CURSE YOU FELREIGN!”

Also, my brother Dónal has a new music video out and it’s absolutely awesome. Check it out.

Why do we Irish drink so much? Foxes and peer pressure. Now you now.

The Return of the King (1980)

This review was requested by patron Allison. If you’d like me to review a movie, please consider supporting my Patreon.

Way back in the before times I reviewed Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings, an important step on my journey to realising that Ralph Bakshi is a pretty terrible filmmaker, his importance in the animated canon notwithstanding. Well, Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings (BLOTR, henceforth) was originally intended as part one of a two part series but United Artists never actually got around to making the sequel, despite the first movie turning quite a tidy profit. So Rankin-Bass, proud purveyors of “good enuff” animation, bought up the rights to Return of the KingRankin-Bass had previously done a made-for-TV version of The Hobbit (which I haven’t seen but have it on good authority is good enuff) and together with that movie and BLOTR they form a kind of loose trilogy, albeit the kind of trilogy with wildly different animation styles, voice actors and plots that only have a tenuous narrative continuity. Still, if you were living in a pre-Peter Jackson world and didn’t want to have to sit through three chapters of Tom Bombadil humble-bragging about how hot his girlfriend is, it did the trick.

(more…)

Bill Maher on the death of Santa Claus

The guy who, for millennia, has flown around the world every Christmas to give presents to small children out of the goodness of his heart is dead, and America is in mourning. Deep, deep mourning for a man who inspired millions to, I don’t know, give each other gifts, I guess. Someone on Reddit posted, “I’m so incredibly grateful I lived in a world that included Santa Claus.” Personally, I’m grateful I lived in a world that included oxygen and trees, and an entertainment industry where you can become a millionaire despite looking like your face was dunked in batter by an angry spouse, but to each his own. Now, I have nothing against gifts – I was given them now and then when I was a kid and I had kept my promise to stop torturing the dog. But the assumption everyone had back then, both the adults and the kids, was that gifts were for kids, and when you grew up you moved on to big-boy things like cocaine and never getting married because that’s a form of slavery.

But then two thousand years or so ago, something happened – adults decided they didn’t have to give up kid stuff. And so they pretended that gifts were actually something that grown up people give each other to express human emotions like gratitude and friendship and love. And because America has over 4,500 colleges – which means we need more professors than we have smart people – some dumb people got to be professors by writing theses with titles like All of the Other Reindeer-Rudolf as a metaphor for exclusion in the LGBT community. And now when adults are forced to do grown-up things like buy auto insurance, they call it “adulting,” and act like it’s some giant struggle.

This is all Santa Claus’ fault somehow.

I’m not saying we’ve necessarily gotten stupider although we definitely have and I, Bill Maher, am very smart and would make an excellent king. The average Joe is smarter in a lot of ways than he was in, say, the years before Santa Claus, when a big night out was dying of dysentry and a Carmen Miranda musical. The problem is, we’re using our smarts on stupid stuff.

I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to suggest that Donald Trump could only get elected in a country that thinks Santa Claus was important, and as an entitled white male who’s constantly been rewarded for being a loud-mouthed asshole with ever greater money fame and influence I think I know what I’m talking about . I mean, Santa Claus? What’s he ever done for anybody? Has he embodied the worst caricatures of the liberal elite by basically embodying the Token Evil Atheist from a Left Behind movie? Has he aided the cultural polarisation of an entire nation?

Fuck Santa Claus, I hope he burns.

“No resurrections this time.”

Like Unshaved Mouse? Please consider supporting my Patreon.

Every so often in superhero comics, a character will come along who is so ground-breakingly original, so instantly arresting, that they become an archetype. The obvious example is Superman. Supes shows up in 1938, and creates an entire genre. Every “Cape” type superhero follows in Superman’s footsteps, every “Cowl” has a bit of Batman (who, it must be said, got that bit from Zorro). Got an angsty teenage super-hero with real world problems the audience can relate to? Cut Stan Lee and Steve Ditko a check. When it comes to superheroes there are the archetypes, and the rest are copycats. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. As I mentioned before, Black Panther, Daredevil and Moon Knight are all derived from Batman but manage to put a different enough spin on the archetype to be great characters in their own right.

And the villains have their archetypes too. And no villain casts a longer shadow in comics than the master of Apokolips, DARKSEID.

Who is DARKSEID? Fool. DARKSEID is.

See?

Jack Kirby spent much of his career in comics attempting to create a new American mythology with all new pantheons of gods and heroes. In DARKSEID, he created his Satan, a brooding, pitiless tyrant who can never truly be defeated because he is evil itself. DARKSEID is an archetype, and you don’t have to look far to find his descendants across all comic book companies big and small.

Oh what? You think I’m not going to use this to plug my own work? You must be confusing me with someone who has shame.

The most blatant (and admitted) rip off of DARKSEID is, of course, Marvel’s Thanos. He’s also the most interesting.

Whereas DARKSEID cares for nothing but himself, Thanos is usually depicted as something of a romantic, devoted utterly to the woman of his dreams. Unfortunately, the woman in question is Death itself whom Thanos tries to woo by eradicating as many of the living as possible. There is a kind of primordial mythic scope to that which I love. I mean, imagine you get transported thousands of years into the past and you got adopted by a local tribe and they asked you to tell them one of the stories of your people. And, as you crouch around the campfire, you tell the tale of the great giant Thanos who so loved death herself that he killed half of everything that lived to woo her, and still she spurned him.

That’s the kind of story cavemen would tell each other. It feels ancient and epic. It’s deep shit man.

And of course, that is the element that the producers of the MCU decided to do away with. Now, I’m on record as predicting that the whole MCU project was going to come a cropper because it was building to a final confrontation with Movie!Thanos and that he was a boring character, an awful villain and a terrible lover.

So. Here we are.

“Quit stalling.”

Yes, I was obviously wrong (uuuuugh what is this sensation I don’t like it) but, in my defence, I do still think that Guardians of the Galaxy completely mishandled Thanos. I just didn’t reckon with the Russo Brothers, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely pulling out the mother of all salvage jobs. Cards on the table, Infinity War is by far my favourite Avengers movie and one of the best entries in the MCU thus far and, bizarrely, that’s mostly down to Thanos, the element I was most expecting to tank the entire endeavour.

How did they do it? Let’s take a look.

(more…)

Here is the news…

Hi guys,

Firstly, a very belated thank you to new patron PandorasHomeoBox, THE hottest club in New York from 1972 to 1987 before it burnt down during a wizard’s duel between David Bowie and Prince.

Second, in case any of you were wondering how my play reading went then I am happy to report that it went pretty darn well. Huge thanks to AboutFace Theatre, the cast and the NewVember Festival, legends all.

And lastly, long time friend of the blog Erik Copper is kickstarting his album and you should head over  and throw money at him. Make it rain up in there.

That’s yer lot, Mouse away!

Stan Lee (1922-2018)

Stan Lee is dead.

For any other creator, “comics legend” would seem grandiose. For Stan, it feels too small. Calling Stan Lee a comics legend feels like calling the Beatles “a popular music band”. Technically true, but truly a catastrophe of understatement.

Without question, the most famous creator to ever work in the medium, Stan Lee (née Lieber) had the quintessential American origin story. Born to impoverished Romanian Jewish refugees in a tough Manhattan neighbourhood, Lee had aspirations to be a novelist from an early age. As a teenager, he got a job as an office gopher at Timely comics where he’d meet his future collaborator, the legendary Jack Kirby. Stan found some outlet for his literary ambitions writing along with his more mundane duties, writing a Captain America prose story which saw the first use of Cap’s shield as a throwing weapon. After Pearl Harbour, Stan was drafted and set to work making propaganda. Many who only know Stan Lee as the “creator” of various comic book characters automatically assume that he was an artist, but the truth is his only professional artistic work was done during the war years, when he drew a poster of a smiling American G.I. with the logo “VD? NOT ME!”

Stan was almost court-martialed when he was discovered breaking into the post room to mail some scripts back to Timely. However, he was released when it was revealed that he was the writer for Captain America, such was the good captain’s importance to Army morale.

After the war, Stan continued to write for Timely, later Atlas, later still Marvel Comics. The forties and fifties were frustrating times for Stan as he was required to write simple, juvenile fare with one-dimensional characters and simplistic morality. By the early sixties, he was ready to leave the industry and his wife Joan convinced him to write the kind of story he would actually want to read as his swan song. The result was the Fantastic Four, and the Silver Age of comics was born.

In his excellent assessment of the life and legacy of Stan Lee, written a few years ago, Chris Simms described Stan Lee as being simultaneously the most over-rated and under-rated creators of all time. For many years Stan was regarded by the public at large as an auteur, a one man genius who singlehandedly created Spider-Man, Daredevil, the X-Men, Fantastic Four, Thor and on and on and on with little or no credit being given to his collaborators like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. This was flatly not the case but was understandable for a couple of reasons. Firstly, that Stan pioneered the “Marvel Method” of comic book production whereby the artist had considerably more discretion on the story than if they were simply following a script. Secondly, Stan Lee was the kind of instantly telegenic showman that any producer would kill to book whereas Kirby and Ditko were quiet reclusive men who shunned the spotlight. Guess who got the most attention?

Now, did Stan ever try to correct the record and give Ditko and Kirby the credit they were due? Sure. Did he do enough? Well…

This has led to something of a backlash in comic book circles, with die-hard Kirby and Ditko fans claiming that Stan was nothing but a talentless hack exploiting the skills of artists whose brushes he was not fit to wash. This, frankly, is bananas. Stan Lee may not have “created” Spider-Man et al in the way he was often credited with, but in a very real sense he “created” Marvel. Stan Lee created modern comic fandom as we know it. He created a distinct personality for Marvel comics (his own), and pulled back the curtain on the comics process for fans. He engaged with his readership, cracked jokes with them, he respected them and made them feel a part of something wonderful.

Then there was his writing style. Corny? Sure. Overblown at times? Most def. Severely satured in splendiferous superfluous sesquipedalian loquaciousness? Yah. But absolutely bursting with humour and energy and the simple, innocent joy of language. In the great Kirby/Lee/Ditko debate I take no sides and respect all three men. That Lee needed Kirby and Ditko is beyond dispute,. But if you honestly believe that Kirby and Ditko didn’t need Lee, there’s a very simple test.

Read anything that Kirby and Ditko did with Lee, and then read something that they did without him.

Without Lee, Spider-Man would most likely be an angry Randian ranting about how poor people just need a punch in the face to get motivated. And Kirby? Well, he would no question still be one of the all time comic greats thanks to his work for DC, but I’d be lying if I said any of that topped his runs on Fantastic Four or Thor.

If nothing else, there is no way Stan Lee would have let a character called “Glorious Godfrey” ever see the light of day.

Stan never achieved his dream of writing the Great American Novel. Instead, he re-defined the great American Art Form.

His legacy and impact on global culture is nothing short of staggering.

I was going to finish this obituary with an “Excelsior!” but that felt too obvious. So instead…hey, was that Stan Lee?

Yes. That was Stan Lee.

New Patrons!

A belated thank you to these new patrons:

Isaacblue72, an AI from the future who came back in time to teach us all about the magic of future funk.

Ragnar Haukur Sverrisson, who ruled the Viking settlement of Dublin from 1041 to 1982.

Castiel Destler, villain of the relatively obscure but well regarded James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Mission to Russia with a View to a Deadly Kill. 

Gregory Horror Show (1999)

Like Unshaved Mouse? Please consider supporting my Patreon.

“Keep up Mouse, we’re almost there!”

“Yeah, but where are we going? It’s Halloween and I’m Irish, I should NOT be running around creepy forests with undead warlocks on Samhain that is just asking for trouble.”

“I’m looking for an old friend of mine and I have a hunch he’s somewhere around here. Check into this hotel for us while I have a look around.”

“Yeah. No. That’s a death hotel. That’s clearly a death hotel.”

“Would you rather stay at the Days Inn?”

“Okay, okay, jeez. I’ll book us into the death hotel.”

“And make you sure get a twin room. If you pull any of that “oh they only had a double available” shit I will melt your eyes.”

“Wow. You have completely misread my feelings towards you.”

(more…)