injun-trouble

Injun Trouble (1969)

My friends, the time has come for me to tell you the tale of the last Looney Tune, and I feel less like an animation blogger and more like Red from the Shawshank Redemption. I wish I could tell you that the Looney Tunes fought the good fight. That they brought Chuck Jones and Mel Blanc and Michael Maltese back for one last time and went out with a short that could stand up with the very best of them. That when that really was all folks, those folks knew that something wonderful had gone out on a high. But animation is no fairy tale.

Well, except when it is. Look, we're getting off track.

Well, except when it is. Look, we’re getting off track.

What animation buffs call “The Dark Age of Animation” lasted from around the late fifties to the early to mid eighties (meaning the next few reviews will most likely just be me making sounds of pain and distress) and I don’t want to exaggerate it so I’ll just say that this was the worst period in human history where everything good and pure in the world was killed and hung from a gibbet. It was around this time that TV finally came into its own and starting muscling onto cinema’s turf in a big way. Facing increasing financial pressure, cinemas had to cut back on luxuries like lavishly animated cartoon shorts of pure loveliness. Cartoons in this period had to find a new home on television, where the appetite was there (boy, was it ever) but the budgets simply weren’t. The animation studios that survived in this era did so by being cheap, lean and mean. This was the age of Hanna Barbera and Filmation. A wolf age. An axe age. Hell, even the Disney movies in this era looked dog rough.

And what of the Looney Tunes? Bugs Bunny very wisely sat the sixties out after False Hare in 1964. I don’t actually know why Warners decided to retire the character after that, but in my mind he went to Italy to pursue a celebrated career as a director of independent film. It’s what he deserved.

The Looney Tunes/Merry Melodies in this decade, at least after Chuck Jones was fired in 1963 for moonlighting on UPA’s Gay-Puree, focused more on Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote as well as Speedy Gonzales, who was now paired with Daffy Duck, thereby capitalising on the well known and established hatred between mice and…

"..."

“…”

"..."

“…”

"..."

“…”

"..."

“…”

"Begone, pond-fiend. My kind have protected the internet from your filth for generations."

“Begone, pond-fiend. My kind have protected this land from you feathered scum for generations.”

"Your numbers grow few, furred one. One day you shall let your guard down, and the webbed ones shall rule over as was foretold in the prophecy!"

“Your numbers grow few, furred one. One day you shall let your guard down, and the webbed ones shall rule over all as was foretold in the prophecy!”

"Some day, mayhap. BUT NOT THIS DAY!"

“Some day, mayhap. BUT NOT THIS DAY!”

Sorry, where was I? Oh yeah. So Warners were still using a lot of the classic Looney Tunes characters but they weren’t resting on their laurels (they were doing something else on their laurels but certainly not resting). As well as featuring older established characters, the new shorts studio  under the management of Alex Lovy* introduced such timeless household names to the Looney Tunes Pantheon as Merlin Mouse, Bunny and Claude and Cool Cat. Truly a who’s who of “Huh? Who?” It was like the Itchy and Scratchy and Friends Hour except that Disgruntled Goat did not have his moments. I don’t want to rip on Lovy or Robert McKimson (who directed this short) because they were both seasoned professionals who worked on some great cartoons over the years. But at the same time, COOL CAT IS THE GODDAMNED DEVIL AND SHOULD BE ON FIRE ALWAYS.

cool_cat

The enemy. I shall teach you to hate him.

Now, my problem is not that Cool Cat is utterly, completely, instantly dated as a concept and a character. The fact that he is a sixties pop culture creation to his very bones does not mean that he could not be a good character in his own right. Know who else is utterly a product of his time?

He’s literally a parody of a Clark Gable character from a thirties movie called It Happened One Night mixed with Groucho Marx.

He’s literally a parody of a Clark Gable character from a thirties movie called It Happened One Night mixed with Groucho Marx.

But there’s a key difference.  Bugs comes by it honestly, he is a product of thirties pop culture created by young men who consumed, enjoyed and understood that pop culture. And Cool Cat was created by a bunch of old men desperately trying to relate to the youth of the time in the most cynical and pandering way possible.

Also, his cartoons suck and are not funny.

So let’s take a look at Injun Trouble.

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iron_giant_ver3

The Iron Giant (1999)

When I was a wee rodent there was a book in the school library called The Iron Man that I read many times. It’s a simple little fable, about a boy named Hogarth who befriends a giant robot of mysterious origin…and then the robot saves the world from a colossal alien dragon the size of Australia.
anywayyyy
I can’t honestly say I loved the book but it definitely stuck with me, as any novel featuring a continent sized extra-terrestrial dragon would and it’s picked up a largish following in the years since it was first published in 1968. One of those fans was Pete Townshend, the lead singer of that famous band.
"Who?"

“Who?”

"Yes."

“That’s them.”

Townshend adapted the story into a musical, the rights of which got picked up by Warner Bros, which had just swallowed Turner Feature Animation whole, along with most of its animators. One of those animators was a likely lad named Brad Bird, who has worked on some animation in his time and is generally understood to know what he’s doing. Bird was put in charge of adapting Townshend’s musical, which he did by making it…not a musical. ‘Kay. Regardless, when it was screened for test audiences the response was absolutely ecstatic. Unfortunately, Warner Bros had neglected to prepare any kind of marketing campaign for the movie because Quest for Camelot had tanked so badly the year before. This had convinced the excecs that audiences weren’t going to go see animated films that weren’t made by Disney.

Alice Facepalm

 Goddamit Warners. Quest for Camelot didn’t tank because audiences wouldn’t take a punt on non-Disney animation. Quest for Camelot tanked because sometimes God pays attention. So of course, released into theatres with zero publicity The Iron Giant crashed harder than a giant alien death machine falling from the sky. In the years since, it has become one of the most critically beloved animated American films of the 1990s. Does it live up to the hype? Let’s take a look.

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bullbugs

Bully for Bugs (1953)

Jiminy Christmas, hard to believe we’re already halfway through Shortstember. I’ve honestly been having a blast with these reviews and I hope you have too. The downside of focusing on only one short per decade, though, is that we’re now halfway through the twentieth century and I’ve already missed two chances to talk about Bugs Frickin’ Bunny and the Goddamn Looney Tunes and that shit ain’t right. The Looney Tunes series of shorts and its sister series Merry Melodies began in 1930 and 1931 respectively, as a naked attempt by Warner Bros to ride Disney’s coattails in the wake of Mickey Mouse and the Silly Symphonies Shorts. In case you’re wondering, the different between Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies originally was that the ‘Tunes were in black and white and the Melodies were in colour (kinda, Disney had Technicolour exclusively at the time) and certain characters were exclusive to each (Porky Pig and Bugs Bunny both started out in a Merry Melody despite now being the quintessential Looney Tune characters). By the forties though, both series were being done in colour and characters were freely crossing over from one series to the other and there wasn’t really any appreciable difference between the two. So, if I say “Looney Tunes” from here on in, just assume I’m talking about a Warners Brothers short that could have been either a Looney Tune or a Merry Melody. Makes no difference. They’re all beautiful, man.

Broadly speaking, (and I rarely speak any other way), the Looney Tunes started out as Poor Man’s Disney in the thirties, had become the sassy, irreverent anti-Disney by the forties but by the fifties Disney were completely out of the equation. Warner Bros had established an artistic and comedic sensibility that was entirely their own and was beholden to nobody. And we talk a lot about how funny these shorts were (and make no mistake, a top-tier Looney Tune is nothing less than the Platonic ideal of comedy itself) but less discussed is just how beautiful the shorts of this period had become, with special credit due to the absolutely stunning backgrounds of Maurice Noble.
noble-1
noble-2
noble-3
As for the animation, by the fifties the Looney Tunes characters had evolved from rubber limbed, bug-eyed loons to comic actors with the poise and timing of a Carey Grant or Peter Sellers. The phrase “Looney Tunes” conjures images of anarchic, bombastic violence but the fifties-era shorts are possessed of a wonderful sense of subtlety and comedic restraint. Forties era Bugs Bunny might turn to the audience and yell “Crazy, ain’t it?!”. Fifties era Bugs Bunny does the same gag with a single, perfectly raised eyebrow. This is the era where you get shorts like “One Froggy Evening”, “What’s Opera Doc?”, “Duck Amuck” and the hunting trilogy (“Duck Season! Wabbit Season!”). Every element just came into its own here, the direction, the voice acting by the incomparable Mel Blanc, the animation, the writing, the music…
To watch Looney Tunes shorts from the fifties is to be in the hands of masters at the very top of their game.
I’m not going to review one of the really big name shorts like the ones I’ve already mentioned because I try to go a little off the beaten track with this series (Steamboat Willie was an exception because its influence is so vast I knew I’d have to talk about it anyway) so instead, let’s take a look at 1953’s “Bully for Bugs”.

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IRON MAN 3

“Nothing’s been the same since New York.”

Before we get into the Iron Man 3 review, I should probably address the elephant in the room.
Dammit Francine, if I mean you I’ll use your name. Sit down.

Dammit Francine, if I mean you I’ll use your name. Sit down.

You may have noticed that the ads that were here for a few weeks have now vanished. The reason for that is that I was kindly informed by one of my American readers that the Trump Campaign had been advertising on my blog.
*CLICK*

*CLICK*

And good thing I acted quickly right? I mean, what more fertile pro-Trump ground than Unshaved Mouse? That’s the kind of savvy ad buy that gets you a 10% chance of winning the presidency. Unfortunately this loss of revenue has meant that I’ve had to turn to alternative sources of funding.
“Whoah. Wait a minute, you make MONEY of this?!”

“Whoah. Wait a minute, you make MONEY off this?!”

“No hablo Ingles.”

“No hablo Ingles.”

Thankfully, I’ve been able to secure investment from a less morally compromised source. Which is why I am proud to announce Unshaved Mouse’s new partner, the People’s Republic of China! Please give it up for new recurring character Fan Bing Bing!
“Hello decadent Westerners!”

“Hello decadent Westerners!”

It’s a rapidly emerging market, guys. We gotta move with the times. Anyway, review of movie.

 ***
Here’s a fun game to play with the MCU. Take each movie and imagine what would have happened if the villain had won.
  • Thor: Loki becomes King of Asgard and commits genocide against the Frost Giants.
  • Captain America:  Red Skull wipes out every major city on Earth and most likely ushers in an era of global HYDRA rule.
  • The Avengers: Aliens take over the world.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Whole alien planet gets wiped out and that’s just for starters.
  • Thor 2: Ummmmmm…something bad? With…elves? It’s bad, though.

Play the game with the Iron Man movies though and you always get the same result: “Evil rich guy becomes slightly richer.” These movies are actually kinda low-stakes when compared to other entries in the canon. That’s not a criticism. The Iron Man trilogy has always been less interested in “Can Iron Man save the day?” than “Can Tony Stark save his life from being immolated by the army of obsessions, personal demons and character flaws he has jumping around in the moshpit that is his brain?” That’s fine. Refreshing even. I just think it might help explain why this movie is had possibly the least impact on the larger Marvel universe than any other instalment. I’ve been wracking my brain to think of any elements that were introduced in this movie that got carried over into the larger MCU. Extremis? Aldridge Killian? AIM? Never so much as mentioned again in any of the movies (I am waaaay behind on Agents of SHIELD so apologies if I missed anything that showed up there). The Mandarin? Mentioned in a one-shot to keep the fanboys happy. Iron Patriot? Back as War Machine by Age of Ultron. Tony Stark destroying all his suits and giving up being Iron Man? Did not exactly take. This movie is practically in quarantine, and it’s kind of weird that it’s such a dead end at the front because it is deeply wedded to what’s gone on before, to the point that it’s kinda historic in a way I don’t think people necesarrily realise.

See, this is the fourth movie to feature Robert Downey Junior’s Tony Stark, and that’s pretty exceptional. Christopher Reeves played Superman across four movies of course, but by the third installment that series was running on negative continuity. There is no character arc for Superman from Superman I to Quest for Peace, they are just four movies with Christopher Reeves playing Superman. Again, with the Burton/Schumacher Batman movies you get a little bit of character continuity (tiny references to events in previous movies mostly), but by the time you have George Clooney resplendent in Bat-nipples it’s clear that Batman has drifted considerably from Tim Burton’s original vision. This is different. We have now had four movies featuring Tony Stark where the creators are clearly intent on holding to a consistent vision for the character. Iron Man 3 is one of the most polarising movies in the canon for reasons I will get into, but personally it’s my favourite of the trilogy because it asks a question that had never really been asked in a superhero movie before now. What happens to the superhero after he saves the world?

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Duty calls.

Hi guys. Iron Man 3 review is going to be a little late this week. Ms Mouse has been a little under the weather and I’ve been busy running back and forth between the abandoned tractor in the meadow bringing her medicine from the local cabal of genetically engineered rats. Hope to have it ready for you by Monday. Thanks for being so understanding, Mouse out.

[comm] fancy frogger 2

Frog Reviews – Pete’s Dragon

BACK.

IN.

POG.

FORM.

Actually, just regular form. Yes, hello again my internet friends and internet lovers (you love the internet, I mean, not me – although hopefully you’ll come to love me. Eventually).

We’re back in action for another fresh review, this time on the actually correct day of Monday.

And what cinematic treat did I consume this week?

 

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Eleventh Hour

Eleventh Hour (1942)

As Buzz Aldrin once noted “second comes right after first” and the Fleischer Brothers, Max and Dave, seem to have been cursed to always be the Buzz Aldrin to Walt Disney’s Neil Armstrong. A mere year after Snow WhiteParamount pictures released Gulliver’s Travels, the second cel-animated feature film ever, directed by Dave and produced by Max. Of course, just because Buzz Aldrin went second, does that mean he was somehow an inferior astronaut to Armstrong? Course not, but while Gulliver’s Travels was a fantastically animated feature, it just didn’t create the same sensation that Snow White did and while it certainly was a success at the box office, the Fleischer’s studio quickly found itself treading water financially. Smarting from the financial strain of Gulliver’s Travels, mired in the production hell of their second feature Mr Bug Goes to Town and with Max and Dave’s relationship having degenerated to Cain and Abel levels and with all parties coming to the realisation that animation is a demon bitch that burns alive all who dare love her, now was really not the time to take on an ambitious new project. So when Paramount approached the Fleischers asking them to make shorts featuring this new Superman character all the kids were going cuckoo over, Max and Dave told them that they could only do it with a budget of $100,000 an episode (or, around four times the cost of the most expensive Disney shorts). In 1940s dollars that was equal to “Holly Hannah! That’s a lotta scratch!” and Max and Dave expected Paramount to tell them to screw off, so they were stunned when the execs made them a counter offer of $50,000 and episode (equal to “Nice little pile. Goddamn, that’s a nice little pile”). Unable to turn down that kind of money, the Flesichers started work on what is still, adjusted for inflation, the biggest budgeted series of animated shorts ever made. And I cannot overstate how amazing these shorts are.
Look.

Look.

Look at this.

Look at this.

Here is some more.

Here is some more.

Do you see?

Do you see?

Do you see?

Do you see?

Look at this.

Look at this.

Do you understand?

Do you understand?

Do you?

Do you?

DO YOU?!

DO YOU?!

This series had it all, the cast of the Superman radio show doing the voices, rotoscoping used to set a new standard for realistic animation of human figures, an epic score, one of THE all-time great Lois Lanes and the art design YE GODS! There’s a reason Bruce Timm cites this as one of the major influences on Batman the Animated Series.  This series is the reason that Superman flies instead of just jumping everywhere like a grasshopper.

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[comm] fancy frogger 2

Frog reviews – NERVE

Hello, my friends and lovers.

Yes, tis I, The Frog. I have returned for another bout, another reckoning with the art of cinema.

Are ye prepared? You shouldst be. Verily.

Okay, that’s enough of the wordplay. On to this week’s review!

What did I engage my ocular nerves with this fine past week?

Why, NERVE of course.

Sadly it's not about a giant head chasing Dave Franco.

Sadly it’s not about a giant head            chasing Dave Franco.

 

I’m not gonna lie, my lovely readers, I went into this looking for blood. I wanted a SUICIDE SQUAD style uber-rant for the ages. I mean, LOOK at this fucking poster. How Neon-soaked can they get?

You'd

                       You’d

 

be

                      be

 

fucking

                         fucking

 

Surprised.

                              Surprised.

 

Holy shit. This thing looks like Drive overdosed on Drive after doing two speedballs composed of Drive Drive, Drive and Drive.

 

Hey Frog, shut yer noise!

              “Hey Frog, shut yer noise!”

 

"Woah, hey Ryan. So sorry. Big fan. At least you're not..."

“Woah, hey Ryan. So sorry. Big fan. Scared me, I thought you were Tom….”

 

...

                              …

 

 ...

                            …

 

Anyhow, moving swiftly along.

NERVE is a teen thriller based on a YA novel that the internet tells me it differs from on a a few aspects, including the ending.

But I have a teensie eetsie beetsie confession to make.

I kinda liked this film.

1266447

Yes, I know you did. Trust me, I wanted to give it to you. And there will be SOME blood. Some cuts’n’bruises. A light speckle. But… honestly, this film’s pretty good craic for the most part.

Alright, hear me out.

So, basically, NERVE is what happens WHEN POKEMON GO GOES BAD – a new app/game, in which you can choose to “WATCH” or “PLAY” a constantly streaming series of escalating dares performed for cold hard cash.  Using their phones and their tablets and their synced-up 3D TV sets and their skateboards and their fuckin’ everything, these cool cats are only one click away from superstardom…. OR DID THEY? DUN DUN DUN.

The film focuses on Vee Delmonico, the most YA-novel-name-having YA-novel-name-haver in the history of anything.  She is played by Emma Roberts, the daughter of Eric Roberts, and niece to Julia Roberts. You’ll remember Julia from that time she murdered the souls of all Irish people with her accent in Michael Collins.

 

Ah shore Jaysis and Begorrah Mickey, don't be going off now and doin' de big war on de British.

Ah shore Jaysis and Begorrah Mickey, don’t be going off now and doin’ de big war on de British.

 

And you’ll remember Eric Roberts from that time he murdered the first attempt at reviving Doctor Who.

 

(Genuine Snake Noises)

                 (Actual Snake Noises, seriously)

 

Emma Roberts is pretty good in this movie. I was surprised. I thought she’d be a precocious awful teen. She is, in fact, very charming and affable. She makes the most of some occasionally horrendous dialogue. She sells it. I liked her. I think she’s good.

 

We're losing him!!

We’re losing him!!

 

No, I’m awake! She’s good. She’s fine. Vee (short for Venus UGH) behaves like a pretty realistic and believable teenage girl throughout, except Emma Roberts is clearly 25 but eh, child labor laws aren’t what they used to be am I right Short-Round?

 

This is what I look like now.

“This is what I look like now.”

 

Ok, Cool.
Emboldened by her bratty/troubled cheerleader friend (also a capable actress), Vee decides to give this NERVE thing a try and see what happens despite the fact that her Mom (Juliette Lewis, yes Juliette Lewis is playing people’s Moms now) is in a depressed funk following the motivational DEATH OF A SIBLING DING DING DING well done Nerve you’ve won the Suicide Squad award for Motivational Dead Family Shorthand. Good job.

In order to get from Staten Island to the big city, she is driven by her PAINFULLY FRIENDZONED friend, Tommy (played by Miles Heizer). Okay, let’s talk about Tommy for a second.

 

Seen here being Zoned off into the Friend-zone

Seen here being Zoned off into the Friend-zone

 

Tommy is the best buddy/but just a buddy character. Heizer really does a good job of selling the “unrequited love” bit without ever showboating or overdoing it or anything. He’s actually really quite good in the movie, and I secretly  really empathised with him. I mean, Teenage Frog certainly would have been a “Tommy”.

Pictured here, forlorn in the rain.

Pictured here, forlorn in the rain.

 

That said, Tommy has some hilariously nonsensical dialogue regarding his time on “The Dark Web” and features in the prolonged climax of the film in a “Morgan Freeman Dark Knight” vibe that is utter balderdash. It suits the character to a tee, but he goes a bit HAxorNoob in a way that is just a bit cringe.

Anyhoo, Vee jets off the to city where her first dare is to kiss a boy!!! OMG!!!! ZOINKS. And who does she kiss except James Franco after 30 seconds in a microwave. Nah, I’m just kidding. It’s Dave Franco, James Franco after having been rolled in coconut flakes and nutella. Holy hell this guy handsome.

Ah, STOP!

Ah, STOP!

 

The two then jet off on adventures where they do relatively normal dare stuff, like get tattoos, drive fast on a motorcycle and all that jazz, encountering a rival evil player who has a mysterious tie to Dave Franco’s character and his shady past, and then the dares get darey-er and dangerous. Can you guess what the last dare is? Of course you fucking can.

Spoiler Alert - it is sadly not a hot dog eating contest.

Spoiler Alert – it is sadly not a hot dog eating contest.

The film is shot really fecking well – it taps completely into the current nostalgia-chic vibe going on these days that I personally am a complete sucker for. Neon lights, bokeh on a carousel, and synth-tinged ambient score make it a real treat for A E S T H E T I C wankers like myself. I fully admit all of the above may be a turn-off for some (likely many), but I really just love films that look saturated like this one does.

It also has a crackin’ soundtrack that has gotten me several new bands to explore, and any film that does that gets major props from me.

Sure, the thing goes off the rails at the end a bit. Maybe totally off the rails. The idea of “adults just don’t get us teens” doesn’t exactly extend to secret gladiatorial combat arenas in my book but it gets the central message of the film across to it’s intended audience and to be honest, I respect it for doing that in a way that is engrossing and seems to have something to actually say  about current social media trends, today’s teenagers,  and oppressive omnipresent gadgetry, without talking down to it’s teen audience them too much.

If I were 15 I’d probably really like NERVE.

As I am merely (REDACTED) Frog-years old, I’ll just say that I thought it was enjoyable. It features charming leads, a great look, it zips along at a nice pace, it features some great tunes, and it has a bit of fun without forgetting what it’s about.

It was a good (not great) way to pass the time.

Though, it would have passed in any case.

But not quite so Neon-y.

Frog out.