Howdy peeps! I hope it’s as beautiful a November day where you are as it is here in Ireland.
“Colours. Remember them?” “No.”
The fundraising for Joanna is progressing at a fair clip (we’re already at 16%) so I thought I’d drop a few links that might of interest.
Firstly, here’s our Facebook Page, where we’ll be updating with news on the production, interviews with cast and crew and all kinds of stuff.
And here is our Twitter page which you can follow. And because it’s Twitter it’s free to use. It won’t cost you a thing!
And lastly, a very nice write up about us in the Sunday Business Post. (There’s a paywall but you can still read some of the article.)
Oh, and lastly I have a little bit of bad news for people reading the Devil’s Heir. It seems that some of the chapters have gone…missing. It’s possible that they got lost in the shuffle from moving from the wheezing asthmatic contraption that was my old computer to my new one so I’ll have to search there but there may be a hiatus on new chapters for a while. Sorry.
Anyway, thanks for reading and for all the support.
Kathy wondered if she was going mad. It was a common enough condition for people like her, she knew that. When simple, basic facts like what year it was or what country you were standing on could change purely on your own whim, it wasn’t really conducive to a stable sense of reality.
No, she reassured herself. I’m not mad. I’m in shock, traumatised, psychologically scarred, neurotic and constantly on the verge of a panic attack but I am most definitely not mad.
Well. Thank goodness for that.
To be perfectly honest, in the aftermath of the bombing, she had been plagued with a horrible feeling that she was coping too well. It was almost as if there was a giant cartoon anvil of utter grief hanging overhead, to which she was totally oblivious. Only when she chanced to look up, it would come crashing down on her, crushing her with the memory of everyone she had lost.
Milo was gone. There was no way that had struck home yet. When she finally acccepted that, when she finally realised he had gone…
Or maybe she wouldn’t. Maybe this was all there was. Maybe this was all the grief that she could actually muster, and she just felt guilty because it seemed such a pitiful offering for such a terrible loss.
Maybe she was just some kind of souless machine.
Maybe she was a sociopath and didn’t know it.
Maybe she was going mad.
Maybe she was exhausted, stressed and needed some sleep.
Maybe that was it.
“Sure you don’t want me to come in with you?” Eamonn asked.
They were standing outside the door to Mariana’s home.
Know what movie I’m absolutely dreading having to review? Go on. Guess. You’ll never guess.
Seriously. You’ll never see this coming. Ready?
Land Before Time.
Why? Do I hate it? Do I think it’s a bad movie? Do I project some of my utter loathing for Dinosaur onto it inadvertently? No, absolutely not and yes, but I’m working through my issues with the help of friends and the love of Jesus. No, the reason is that any review of that movie has to address the elephant in the room, said elephant being the awful, awful tragedy that was the death of Judith Barsi.
I mean, you have to make note of it, and then you have to go back to reviewing the rest of the movie and cracking jokes and “Bahia! Kookaburras!” and…yeah. I don’t know how I could pull that off. Today’s movie offers me something of a dry run because it is another beloved Don Bluth film with the spectre of tragedy draped over it like a quilt (albeit not quite as awful). Elizabeth Hartman, the actor who voiced Mrs Brisby, tragically took her own life in 1987.
The Secret of Nimh was Hartman’s last major Hollywood role, a beautiful coda to a tragic career that exploded into existence with her rapturously received performance opposite Sidney Poitier in A Patch of Blue. At 22 she became the youngest woman ever nominated for Best Actress at the time but as the years went by both the roles she was offered and her problems with depression grew steadily worse. So it goes.
Since her death, Mrs Brisby has become Hartman’s defining role, to the point that amongst the movie’s fandom Mrs Brisby’s full name is “Mrs Elizabeth Brisby” (we never learn her first name in the film). And there’s no denying that the struggles of Mrs Brisby take on a special resonance when watched once you know what happened to her.
A mouse trying to stop a tractor.
As accidental analogies for the struggle with depression go, I’ve certainly heard worse.
As I went into in the Fox and the Houndreview, in 1979, Don Bluth and nine other animators left the Walt Disney company with a simple mission; to save the feature length American animation as an artform. Bluth recognised that Disney basically had not made any major innovations in their animation techniques since the studio’s near-death experience with Sleeping Beautyin 1959. Ever since then, in order to keep costs down, the animation had been cheaper, scrappier and less technically challenging. Bluth envisioned a return to the dark, moody animation of Disney’s golden age; a film that would challenge formula rather than using it as a crutch. Basically, Bluth wanted to create a Tar and Sugar movie.
Before we get on to the fun part of unveiling which of the 123 (I’M SORRY I’LL REPEAT THAT AGAIN ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY FRICKIN’ THREE) Movies and TV series that you nominated made the cut, let’s go through how this works again.
Leave a message on the Kickstarter page (or an email to firstname.lastname@example.org) telling me who gets your vote or votes ($5 counts as one vote, $10 counts as two).
We’ll be running the Kickstarter for thirty-eight days. Every two weeks, the lowest scoring three movies/series will be eliminated in entertainingly gory ways.
Highest scoring three movies/series at the end of the month get reviewed. Simple as.
Mouse? I’m rich, and I believe the rules do not apply to me.
How can I get you to review a movie or series I want and skip all this foolishness?
A $25 dollar donation and I’m yours for the night, baby. That automatically gets you a review of any movie or episode of a TV series your heart desires. Anything at all. Doesn’t even have to be animated or a comic book movie. Anything. I will review a damn sexual harassment training video if you want.
What’ll you do for $40?
Oh what are you, a cop?
Ohhhhhkay…What if I buy a review for a movie or series that’s competing in the death match?
In the case of movies, if you give a $25 donation and request a movie that loses the deathmatch, you get the review anyway. If your movie wins the deathmatch then I will contact you and ask you for your second choice and you get two movies that you wanted reviewed instead of one. Fair enough?
In the case of a TV series that wins the deathmatch, I’ll review an extra episode for every person that gave a $25 donation for that series.
“And that, children, is how the Unshaved Mouse had to review Gravity Falls for the rest of his life.”
So, without further ado…LET’S MEET OUR CONTESTANTS!
Age: 24 (Now don’t YOU feel old?)
AKA: “DW”, “The Killer Bill”, “Ol’ Motherducker”
A grim spectre of the night, Darkwing Duck brings peerless martial arts skills and cutting edge gagetry to the deathmatch arena. Coming face to face with DW, many fighters will turn tail and run when they hear three words: “Let’s. Get. Dangerous.” ELIMINATED
AKA: “Dismemberer of the Night”
A savage and lethal combatant, Gargoyles swoops from the shadows, picking off unsuspecting opponents and tearing them to pieces before they have a chance to react. Temporarily allied with its Disney stablemates, how long can this fighter resist its own beastial nature before it turns on them? Not long. Not really…no, not long at all. Matter of minutes.
A Goofy Movie
Run Time: 78 minutes
AKA: “The Super Goofer Trouper”
In a very Disney-heavy field this perennially overlooked and disrespected film has nothing to lose and everything to prove. And that may just make him the most dangerous fighter of all. “You want to get nuts with Goofy!?” he yells through bloodied teeth “C’MON! LET’S GET NUTS!” ELIMINATED
Episodes: 38 and counting
AKA: “The Inevitable G”
No movie or series entered this contest with more hype. No other fighter has as much love from the crowd. And perhaps, no other fighter is as big a target or has as far to fall. Beloved though it may be, Gravity Falls should remember the fate of The Iron Giant, another highly popular fighter who was favoured to win and then got blown up by a nuke. Makes you think.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame 2
Run Time: 69 Minutes
AKA: “Ol’ Worse Than Cancer”
Guys, I’m just going to drop the schtick for a second. This movie can’t win. Do not let this movie win. Don’t be stupid now. This thing will be the death of us all.
Run Time: 132 minutes
AKA: “The very confused one”
“Help!” Pacific Rim yells, banging furiously on the bars of its cell “There’s been a terrible mistake! I’m not an animation or a comic book movie! I shouldn’t even be here! Let me out!”
“There is only one way out.” a wise old movie tells him “Win the crowd, and you will win your freedom.” ELIMINATED
AKA: “The Hanna Barbarians”
SWAT Kats steps into the arena with cutting edge weaponry, EXTREME ATTITUDE and a total disrespect for spelling convention. It’s like the nineties never went away, baby. ELIMINATED
Star Trek: The Animated Series
AKA: “The Terror From Beyond the Stars”
“Captain’s log, stardate…unknown. My crew and I have found ourselves transported to a strange alternate dimension where it appears we are to be made to fight for the amusement of beings of incredible power. Of course, the taking of sentient life in arena combat is barbaric and anathema to the code of any Starfleet officer but…well, that’s never stopped us before. Mr Spock, it’s time to choke a bitch.”
“Logical, Captain.” ELIMINATED
Episodes: 73 and counting
AKA: “Cruisin’ for a Fusion”
Another highly favoured fighter, Steven Universe will stop at nothing to win the Deathmatch and return Earth to Homeworld Gem control.
Run time: 114 Minutes
AKA: “Most Righteous Death Edge of the East”
Word of the Deathmatch has traveled even to the Far East. A lone warrior, masterless and taciturn, Summer Wars comes to test its skill against the mightiest warriors the West has to offer. Only then, will it finally be able to quell the rage that dwells within its heart.
The Lego Movie
Run Time: 100 Minutes
AKA: “The Brick Shithouse”
The youngest of our fighters, The Lego Movie eschews speed and skill for pure, brute power. As anyone who’s stepped on a lego brick barefoot in the dead of night can attest, Lego is lethal business.
Run Time: 73 Minutes
AKA: “Lean Green Machine”
Combining the techniques both old and new, Turtles Forever is an excellent all round fighter that just might have the skill and tenacity to come out on top. ELIMINATED
“Luke. I know lifelong habits are hard to break, but please don’t be stupid.”
“Get out of my house.”
“Don’t be stupid Luke.”
“Out. Of my house. Now.”
“Luke. Don’t be stupid. And put the knife down.”
“I warned you what would happen if you showed up in my kitchen the last time we met. I thought I made my feelings very clear.”
“You did. And I still have the scars. As I’m sure, do you. Put the knife down, Luke, or I‘ll show you how it’s used.”
“I‘ve nothing to learn from you.”
Marie listened intently. Her father’s voice was so cold and full of hatred that she hardly recognised it. The stranger’s had an almost animal growl to it. It was the voice of a man who could do terrible things without a second thought.
“Ah, but there’s truth in that. How many have you killed now, Luke? More than my tally I’d bet. How many necks have you stretched by now?”
“At least one less than I should have. And if they catch you around the village they’ll see to it I stretch yours.”
“Then best I move along, perhaps. For both of us.”
“What do you want?”
“I’ve none for you.”
“It’s not for me I ask it. Wouldn’t want your money, dripping in blood as it likely is. No, not for me, but for my children, hungry and shivering under the bridge to guard against the wind. Hoping that father will bring back a crust for them to gnaw upon.”
“I owe nothing. Not to you or your children.”
The coldness in her father’s voice when he said that made Marie shudder. That was not how she remembered him. Even the stranger seemed taken aback.
“Come now, Luke. That’s not you.”
“I’ll say this once. You don’t know me. You don’t know who I am or what I can do. Get out.”
“Luke.” the stranger’s voice was softer now, almost plaintive “they’re starving.”
“Along with half the world.” Luke’s tone was pitiless “They’re nothing to do with me. I’ve got my own to look after.”
“Ah yes, your little girl…”
Marie started back from the door as there was a ferocious noise, a struggle, chairs being kicked over, hissing and cursing.
“Don’t you even think of it!” she heard her father roaring over the sound of the stranger’s frenzied struggling. From the sound she guessed that her father had him pinned to the table, perhaps holding the knife over his face “Don’t even talk about her! You try to get at me through her and you won’t have to wait for me to hang you, I’ll kill you right here where you stand!”
She heard the sound of boots scraping on the floor, someone of great weight being hauled roughly to their feet.
“Get out!” Luke said again, and she could hear the stranger being literally thrust at the door. There was silence.
Marie began to feel light-headed. The wood on her hands began to feel less solid, as if it was melting to mist. The sounds around her were more distant, as if they were coming through water. The Lethe water was wearing off, she was starting to wake up.
Not yet, she thought desperately, at least let me see him! But then she caught something.
The stranger was speaking, and she strained to hear the words before the room faded away totally.
“I didn’t come here looking…ight. I did not…to ro…r threate…ou, Luke.” She was only catching every second word.
“Strange day.” she thought she heard the stranger say “Strange day to greet another.”
So, here is fifteen minutes of test footage for Joanna VR which you can (hopefully) watch either in your browser or on your phone. Give it a look and let me know what you think. Don’t forget, the Movie Deathmatch kicks off on Monday 23rd of November (Yes I got the date wrong originally, thanks to Nat for pointing that out).
This is, as the title should indicate, a big important post. Don’t worry. It’s not a “we need to talk” post, or an “I just spoke to the Doctor” post. It’s a cool one. An exciting one. It’s also one that is a little difficult to know where to begin. Firstly, you need to know about a person and you need to know about a thing. The person is this guy:
That guy is Doctor Abraham Campbell (Abey to his friends). Abey is a computer scientist currently lecturing in University College Dublin’s Chinese school in Beijing (UCD has a big campus) and probably Ireland’s foremost mind in the field of virtual reality. He’s also a buddy of mine. That’s the person. The thing is this:
In case you haven’t heard of it, that’s the Oculus Rift, the first real, high-quality, no-fooling, virtual-reality headset that is going to be commercially available for sale in early 2016. Now, there’s no way of knowing whether Virtual Reality is going to be just a weird little technological gimmick or a game changer like the smartphone. But we’re going to find out. Soon. This is happening. Abey, who incidentally is the smartest human I know by a significant margin, is betting on the latter. His goal, as he’s told me before, is that one day he’ll be able to hand a headset to someone in Sub-Saharan Africa that will contain an entire third level education. He’s also working on a holographic version of himself that he can broadcast to China so that he doesn’t have to leave home to teach his classes and yeah, I’m just going to play the music now.
So, why am I telling you all this? Well, because there’s no point in buying a SNES if there’s no Super Mario to play on it. The platform needs media.
Last year, the readers of this blog helped to fund Joanna, my play about a vigilante who savagely murders rapists as an avatar of the breakdown of civilized society caused by the betrayal of the social contract inherent in the justice system’s complete impotence in dealing with the crime of rape (It’s a comedy). One of the people who saw that play was Abey, and he approached me with an extremely exciting idea. Short version:
We’re turning Joanna into the world’s first full-length, mature virtual reality film.
This is potentially historic. This could, quite literally, be The Jazz Singer of the Virtual Reality era.
This could, quite literally, be the Steamboat Willy of the Virtual Reality era.
Throughout the summer Abey, myself, our extremely talented cast and crew and our director Jeda De Brí have been shooting tests scenes and experimenting with how this whole thing works. I’ll be doing follow up posts where I talk about the challenges of filming in 360 degrees and what we’ve learnt but the short version is this; we are now ready to create something that is thrilling, terrifying, and totally unlike anything else you’ve ever seen. And what’s more, you won’t need an Oculus Rift to view it (although that will certainly give you the best experience). With a decent smartphone and headset you will be able to experience Joanna for yourself. How do you get a headset? I’m getting to it (told you this was a long post). Below you can see our Kickstarter video. The Kickstarter page hasn’t gone live yet so you guys are actually the first outside of the production to see this. (Oh, and there’s some guy we hired to stand in for me because Abey thought that anti-rodent prejudice might affect our ability to raise money and like a coward I listened).
Abey, Jeda, myself and our associated henchpersons have set up a Kickstarter page so that you can give us your money to fund this exciting endeavour. For as the Bible says, is money not the root of all evil? Better off without it, I say, we’ll take care of it for ya. And, as is customary, we will be offering rewards for donations. These are cumulative, with a new reward added to each level which I’ve put in bold. They are as follows:
$1– A thank you, sincere and genuinely felt.
$5– Your name in the credits.
$10- Now we’re talkin’. You get to download your own copy of the movie. (FYI you’ll need a smartphone with a four inch display that can play mp4s.) Plus your name in the credits.
$25-All of the above plus a limited edition Joanna Google Cardboard viewer for a better viewing experience.
Summit like this.
$40- A digital download of the movie, the Google Cardboard viewer, your name in the credits and a movie poster signed by the cast, director and author.
$60- A digital download of the movie, the Google Cardboard viewer, your name in the credits and a movie poster signed by the cast, director and author and a signed Joanna screenplay.
$75- Now we start getting fancy. You get the movie, your name in the credits and a movie poster signed by the cast, director and author and a signed Joanna screenplay. And you get a snazzy as bejaysus plastic limited edition Joanna VR viewer.
Snazzy. As. Bejaysus.
$100- A digital download of the movie, your name in the credits, signed movie poster, signed Joanna screenplay, snazzy as bejaysus plastic limited edition Joanna VR viewer and a Joanna T-Shirt.
$150- A digital download of the movie, your name in the credits, signed movie poster, signed Joanna screenplay, snazzy as bejaysus plastic limited edition Joanna VR viewer, Joanna T-Shirt and an assessment of your script by our director Jeda DeBrí and our author Neil Sharpson (currently under contract with the Abbey Theatre, Dublin). They’re very constructive and super nice (usually).
$250– Everything on the $150 level plus get out your fanciest duds ‘cos you’re comin’ to the wrap party in Dublin!
$300- Get those fancy duds out a second time because you’re coming to the premiere! Plus, digital download of the movie, your name in the credits, signed movie poster, signed Joanna screenplay, snazzy as bejaysus plastic limited edition Joanna VR viewer, Joanna T-Shirt, an assessment of your script by our director Jeda DeBrí and our author Neil Sharpson and you’re coming to the wrap party.
$500– You get to be part of the Beta, testing footage on Oculus Rift. You’ll get behind the scenes footage and see the film two weeks before it’s released to the public. Plus, you get everything at the $300 level.
$1000- As you are clearly someone we want to be pals with, how about you come on set and watch us film? Filming will take place in late January/Early February. Come, meet the cast and crew and let us answer any of your questions about VR technology and filming. And of course, you will also get to be part of the Beta, an invite to the wrap party, an invite to the premiere, a digital download of the movie, your name in the credits (probably in big flashing lights), a signed movie poster, a signed screenplay, snazzy as bejaysus plastic limited edition Joanna VR viewer, Joanna T-Shirt , an assessment of your script by our director Jeda DeBrí and our author Neil Sharpson and a partridge in a pear tree*
*Subject to very limited availability.
So yes. I’m asking you for money. And as usual, that can only mean one thing:
On November 23 when the Kickstarter page goes up, I will post the 12 movies and TV series that have been selected to compete this year, along with a guide as to how voting will work this year so be sure to check in for that.
So. Yeah. I know it’s all a lot to take in. Also, please share this far and wide. Know somebody who’s interested in VR? This is a really inexpensive way to get their hands on some cutting edge tech, so let them know. Know someone who’s big into gritty female-led drama? This might be for them. Please help us get the word out make this as big as it can be. Any questions, let me know.
She lay on the table, arms splayed, her breathing shallow.
“Mistress Angela.” one of the students whispered.
Angela turned to look. The student was pointing to Marie’s chest.
There was a bulge, visible now even beneath the fabric of her blouse, a protrusion in the middle of her chest that seemed to grow visibly.
“There’s something inside her.” Angela whispered.
The “customers” were now slinking one by one out of the cellar. They were all like Gameral, bald and wretched looking.
“Mistress.” another student whispered to her “What are they?”
“Devils.” she said simply.
“Actually.” Gameral purred as he approached the table “We dislike the term “devil”. It’s so generic. We are the Rikitatae-el-Goli, the people of envy, the ninth legion.”
“Imps.” said Angela.
“Indeed yes.” said Gameral “And how is the lady Angela? Returned many sheep to the fold, as it were? I must enroll in your school one of these days. As you know, my people are always looking for a way to return to Heaven…”
“We’re full.” said Angela coldly.
“Yes. I’m sure.” Gameral sneered “I’m sure they’re breaking down the doors for the chance to repent and face their sins. You know, I have been coming to this city for a very long time now. And each time, it only gets bigger.”
There was a hideous sniffing laughter from the clump of imps in the corner.
“Gameral.” said Hoss “The girl?”
“Ah yes, yes, your little…”
Gameral stopped dead as he saw Marie.
“Oh…my…” he breathed.
There was a rustling as the other imps flocked around the table to get a better view, they hissed and spluttered incredulously and began conversing in their own language, which sounded like snakes writhing in acid.
(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)
I love reading history. I have a copy of Tacitus’ Annals on my bedside table (because I’m just that kind of pretentious prick) and as a modern reader there’s something really bizarre about reading history written in ancient times.
See, you’ll be into a very serious passage about corruption in the Senate or the war against the Parthians (those Parthians, buncha troublemakers I tell ya what) and suddenly ol’ Tacitus will veer off into describing all the dire portents about Nero’s future rule and it’s all dreams of blood, and visions of locusts and more virgins giving birth to two-headed snakes than you know what to do with.
And then he’ll talk about taxes.
As if the previous stuff was just perfectly mundane. But here’s the thing; for Tacitus it was perfectly mundane. Magic and visions and miracles and supernatural powers were just an accepted fact of life back then. And as a modern reader, sure, we might be a bit sceptical but…we kinda just have to accept all that stuff as part of the historical record. Because Tacitus said it happened and he’s our guy on this stuff, you know? You going to call Tacitus a liar? Did you write one of the greatest works of Latin literature, serve in the Senate and later become governor of Asia?
Yeah. That’s what I thought.
It’s less impressive when you realise that “Asia” was just a chunk of Turkey back then.
Of course, when you start getting into more recent history, magic and mysticism aren’t part of the picture anymore. Or, at least, they’re not supposed to be.
I think that’s the reason I was always fascinated as a kid by Grigory Rasputin. Here was a twentieth century figure who seemed to come from a time when magic was still real. In the early years of the twentieth century, the Russian royal family had their own wizard.
That is awesome.
In secondary school I actually did my final year project on Rasputin and the Romanovs and I’m something of a buff on this whole period of Russian history. And that low sound you just heard is all the Anastasia fans (of which there are a great many) in the audience groaning “Oh God. He’s going to pan it.”
And sure. I can get why you might think that. I mean, if I tore Saving Mr Banksa new one because PL Travers was crying for the wrong reason, I’m probably not going to look too kindly on the February Revolution being started by zombie Rasputin. Or am I? Maybe not. Or maybe yes? Ha ha ha ha! Which door do you choose, Anastasia fans?! Which door?!
“Ugh. Is this some kind of joke? I thought you were going to review one of my good films?”
“But…everyone loves Anastasia! It’s one of your most critically beloved movies! It made the most money of all of your films!”
“UGH. Yeah. And google it and see what comes up.”
Ooooh…that’s gotta hoirt.
“Fox asked me to make a Disney princess movie. I was desperate for the cash so I sold out. How was I supposed to make a good movie under those circumstances?”
I dunno Don. But I’ve seen where you can go with unfettered creative control and it often involves trolls and penguins with teeth. If it wasn’t for artists just doing it for a paycheck we wouldn’t have I, Claudius, Sherlock Holmes or half of Shakespeare’s stuff. Maybe, just maybe, you managed to make an accidental classic.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at Disney’s Anastasia.