Month: April 2016

News Round Up

Hi guys. Couple of items of news to cover and I might as well start with the big effing news.
THE BIG EFFING NEWS
Remember that play I was writing for the Abbey Theatre? Well, I handed it in and they said “sure, why not?” So. Yeah. A play of mine is getting a professional production in the national theatre.
Excuse me for a moment.
A Falling Ton of Iron should be going up sometime in 2017-2018 and I’ll keep you all posted. Nothing left to do now but wait and hope I don’t go down in history as the worst thing to happen to the Abbey since Ernest Blythe. Moving on!
The Devil’s Heir
Remember when I said that my most recent draft of the Devil’s Heir had been lost? Well, it’s been found.
It was actually on an old USB key but you get the gist.

It was actually on an old USB key but you get the gist.

New chapters will be going up soon, thanks for your patience.
New York, New York
This month Ms Mouse turns thirty so to celebrate I’m taking the love of my life to see Hamilton on Broadway.
“You packed?”

“You packed?”

 “Yep.”

“Yep.”

“Now remember, we’re mice in New York, if we get seperated…”

“Now remember, we’re mice in New York, if we get seperated…”

“I climb the tallest building I can find and sing “Somewhere, out there.” until you find me.”

“I climb the tallest building I can find and sing “Somewhere, out there.” until you find me, I know.”

Anyway, this means I won’t be around to do the next review but it’s okay because…
Meet your new Mouse
Paper Alchemist has very kindly agreed to step up while I’m in the States.
“Hey folks! I’ll see you all in two weeks!”

“Hey folks! I’ll see you all in two weeks!”

“Mouse, are you sure about this?”

“Mouse, are you sure about this?”

“What? Amelia’s a great reviewer.”

“What? Amelia’s a great reviewer.”

“No doy. Remember what happened when John Stewart left The Daily Show and John Oliver subbed for him.”

“No doy. Remember what happened when John Stewart left The Daily Show and John Oliver subbed for him?”

“Yeah, it worked out great. In fact, people actually preferred John Oliver and he ended up getting his own show that became even more popular than the Daily Show oooooooooooh…”

“Yeah, it worked out great. In fact, people actually preferred John Oliver and he ended up getting his own show that became even more popular than the Daily Show oooooooooooh…”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.”

“Ah it’s fine. I’ll just leave her a movie to review that’s so horrible it’ll destroy her will to review anything ever again.”

“Ah it’s fine. I’ll just leave her a movie to review that’s so horrible it’ll destroy her will to review anything ever again.”

“Hey Mouse. Thanks so much for letting me do this.”

“Hey Mouse. Thanks so much for letting me do this.”

“No problem. I’m a good friend.”

“No problem. I’m a good friend.”

So that’s it. Thanks for everything guys. Check in on 12th of May for Amelia’s review, and then I’ll be back on the 26th for the Avengers review. Mouse out.
Movie_poster_watership_down

Watership Down (1978)

In the 1970s Richard Adams, a British civil servant and WW2 veteran wrote down a story about rabbits he had told to his daughters. He sent it to a few publishers who rejected it before it was finally printed by a small London based publisher, became an instant international bestseller, won the Carnegie medal and allowed Adams to quit his job and work full time as a writer.
This, and I cannot stress this enough, does not usually happen.
The book’s success was so stunning that it immediately gave birth to a sub-genre of animal fantasy stories. Colin Dann’s  The Animals of Farthing Wood was published a few years later and it feels like half the books I read growing up were about a group of some species of animal trying to get from point A to point B without getting run over by Toyotas. Seriously, there were Watership Down-esque books about hares, owls, squirrels, foxes, otters, even fish.
Yes. This was a real goddamn thing.

Yes. This was a real goddamn thing.

Some were good. Some were terrible. Some were about fish. But none were ever able to match the popularity of the original. Because there is only one Watership Down. Well, until Adams published the sequel in the nineties. Then there were two. Anyway, my point is; other books have fans. Watership Down has cultists. And I’m one of them. I fell in love with this book in primary school and checked it out of the school library so many times that the librarian finally said “You know what? Just keep it.”
Yeah, pretty much.

Yeah, pretty much.

So what makes it so good? Well at the most fundamental level Adams is just a phenomenally good writer with a lovely, clear, elegant prose style that can switch between bucolic descriptions of the English countryside to a muscular blow by blow account of two rabbits kicking the hraka out of each other. Coupled with that, the personalities of the various rabbits are simple but distinct and vivid. Adams based the personalities of the main rabbits on his squad from the war back when he was a smouldering, sensitive young officer with dark unfathomable eyes and a soft voice that could win the heart of any army nurse who crossed his path.
"Jerry's an alright sort. He's just being lead by a bad egg."

“Jerry’s an alright sort. He’s just being lead by a bad egg.”

But the most important trick of any fantasy novel is to bring you into its world. It’s why Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones are so beloved, because the amount of detail and thought that has gone into crafting Westeros and Middle Earth makes reading the books almost like taking a holiday in a foreign country, albeit one filled with rampaging orcs (so, like Lanzarote).
This is the real genius of Watership Down. Adams gives his rabbits a language and a mythology and threads details of it throughout the larger narrative. And while they have been anthropomorphized to an extent, they’re still very much rabbits. They behave and react like wild animals, and they have difficulty understanding sophisticated concepts like art or, say, numbers higher than four.
Today’s movie was released in 1978, a mere six years after the book was published. And given the length of time it takes to get an independently financed feature length animation off the ground we can probably take it that the movie was in the works almost as soon as the ink was dry on the first print run. The film is now regarded as a classic of British animation and Total Film named it as one of their greatest British films of all time. But it’s also been at the centre of controversy ever since the British censorship board rated it “U” or suitable for all ages, a decision that they are still getting complaints about almost forty years later. And loathe as I am to side with the Helen Lovejoys of the world, yeah. No way in Inlé should this have gotten a U rating.
Yes. "Mild" violence. If youre a fucking DROOG!

Yes. “Mild” violence. If you’re a fucking DROOG.

 

  But is the movie really as good as all that? Let’s take a look. Spoiler warnings for both the movie and book ahead.
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Captain-america-the-first-avenger-movie-poster

“I don’t want to kill anyone. I just don’t like bullies.”

True story. A few years ago now when I was getting ready to move out of my parents’ house, I was clearing out my stuff from my bedroom, the bulk of which was pretty much every issue of SFX magazine published between 1997 and 2004. And I found myself with two copies in my hand, one from August 2001 and the other from October 2001. I idly flicked through the August issue and found myself reading the comic reviews, one of which was a little quarter-page panning of Captain America # Fifty Bajillion drawn by Who Knows and written by Who Cares. The review was scathing; the art’s terrible, the writing’s appalling and worst of all, the main character’s just not interesting or relevant anymore. The review finished by noting that Marvel had been dropping hints that one of their oldest characters was going to be killed off and it didn’t take a genius to figure out that Cap was not long for this world. I then flicked through the October 2001 issue and again turned to the comics section. And there was a full page review of the new Captain America #1, with a top tier art and script team and a story about Steve Rogers defending Muslim New Yorkers from racist attackers while trying to track down an Al Qaeda cell.

Cometh the hour. Cometh the man.

For a character whose entire schtick is being a man out of time, when he was originally created Captain America was actually ahead of his time. In America in 1940 public opinion was firmly against become involved in another European war. In New York however, many of the men working in the comic book industry were  the children of Jewish immigrants who often still had family back in Europe and felt a personal connection to the horrors being committed by the Nazis. One of those men was Joe Simon who conceived of a patriotic, Nazi-battling character named “Super American”. Deciding that the name was a little too similar to a certain other superhero, he changed it to “Captain America”, a name so instantly iconic that nowadays you just have to put the word “captain” in front of any random noun and it sounds like a superhero name. Simon pitched the idea to his editor Martin Goodman who liked it so much that he ordered him to create a solo Captain America series, a big gamble to take on an untested character. Simon’s usual partner was artist Jack Kirby but Simon wanted to bring in two additional artists to deal with the workload of creating an entire book’s worth of stories based on one character. But Kirby was so invested in the character of Captain America that he insisted on drawing the entire book himself, which he did, and on time.

The first issue sold as well as any comic that features Hitler getting punched in the face should. The character was an immediate hit, becoming the first genuine superstar character of Timely comics (which would later become Marvel). Not all the attention was positive, however. American Nazis began sending threatening letters and one time even called the offices of Timely challenging Jack Kirby to come down and fight them in the foyer. Kirby ran down only to find they’d run off because it was Jack Frickin’ Kirby and they may have been Nazis but they weren’t crazy. Regardless, for a while the city of New York actually had to provide police protection to the building. After Pearl Harbour, Captain America became even more popular, with his comics distributed to American service men to boost morale. Many of the Timely artists and writers were drafted during this period. Stan Lee, for example, who got his break in Timely writing Captain America prose stories (he was the one who came up with the whole “throwing the shield as a weapon” thing) was put to work making propaganda. One day he was found breaking into the army post office, trying to mail a script off to Timely. He was told he’d be court-martialed, only to be released the next day when the editor of Timely rang his commanding officer to point out that jailing the writer of Captain Frickin’ America might be bad for the army’s morale.

Jack Kirby also joined the army but opted to serve on the front lines, becoming one of the few American soldiers who had experience fighting Nazis as a hobby before going pro.

Unfortunately, America won the war…I mean obviously not “unfortunately” in the grand scheme of things but unfortunate for Captain America. You see, Captain America was very much a reaction to the Nazi menace, which is what made the character so timely (pun!) and important. But of course, once that menace was defeated, Captain America didn’t really have a purpose anymore. In fact, the same could be said for the vast majority of superheroes who had followed in his wake. The superhero boom pretty much died with Hitler, with only a few characters like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman surviving the decade. Timely tried repurposing Cap as a commie fighter, but it just wasn’t the same. Timely changed its name to Atlas, dropped the superhero genre entirely and started focusing on sci-fi and monster tales.

It wasn’t until the sixties that Cpatain America got his second origin story. The third issue of The Avengers had the newly formed team finding Captain America floating in the Arctic Sea in a block of ice having gone missing near the end of WW2 (all the stuff about him fighting communists was retconned as actually having…you know what, fuck it, no time). Captain America then joined the team as a man out of time, a morally pure Rip Van Winkle trying to adapt to a confusing and complex modern world, and that’s pretty much been his niche ever since.

Since then, Captain America has had his share of classic runs and great stories, but there’s no denying that he’s a tricky character to do right. Like Superman and Wonder Woman, it takes a writer with skill to make him work (though it’s a truly wonderful thing when he does). For a long stretches of the twentieth century it often seemed like Marvel didn’t know what to do with Captain America, often giving him to creators who really had no business writing the character, which is how we got Rob Liefeld’s godawful Heroes Reborn Captain America.

I'd say "We do not speak of the Sentinel of Libertitty" but let's be real. We never stopped.

I’d say “We do not speak of the Sentinel of Libertitty” but let’s be real. We never stopped.

 Since the beginning of the 21st century however, Cap has once again become one Marvel’s top tier characters, attracting industry leading talent and the kind of popularity he hasn’t really known since the time of his creation. Part of that is, well, yeah, obviously…

"9/11 changed EVERYTHING Brian!"

“9/11 changed EVERYTHING Brian!”

But as well as the natural impulse to rally around such a patriotic symbol in troubling times, Captain America is simply a character whose time has come again. In the forties, Cap was popular but he was by no means unique. The stands were overflowing with patriotic, square jawed do-gooders. Hell, Captain America wasn’t even the first superhero to wear the American flag and carry a shield. But the superhero genre has changed so utterly since those days that what once made Captain America almost generic now makes him almost unique. Nowadays, a superhero who’s just a genuinely decent person is refreshing and almost edgy. He may be old fashioned, but these day? Like the man said, people need a little old fashioned.

2011’s Captain America, the first movie featuring the character that fans will actually acknowledge exists, works and works so damn well, because it gets that.

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Captain_america

“Could you please pull over? I think I’m going to be sick.”

Captain America is old school. Real old school. One of the very earliest generation of superheroes who has managed to remain not only relevant but arguably more popular than ever…
Hello?
Hello?
Where is everyone?
“C’mon guys, we got a review to do!”

“C’mon guys, we got a review to do!”

“Fuck you, mazerunner!”

“Fuck you, mazerunner!”

“WHOAH! DUDE!”

“WHOAH! DUDE!”

“We don’t review movies on 1st April. We told you this.”

“We don’t review movies on April 1st. We told you this.”

“Yeah dawg, this mo-fawkin day is like your personal “Friday 13th done knocked up Halloween and this here’s there ugly-ass day baby.” day”

“Yeah dawg, this mo-fawkin day is like your personal “Friday 13th done knocked up Halloween and this here’s there ugly-ass day baby.” day”

“We all know what’s going to happen. Horned King or BluCatt or one of the bajillion evil dudes you’ve managed to piss off will make you review something terrible and who suffers?”

“We all know what’s going to happen. Horned King or BluCatt or one of the bajillion evil dudes you’ve managed to piss off will make you review something terrible and who suffers?”

“Me?”

“Me?”

“US! So I refer you my previous “Fuck you mazerunner!” Good day!”

“US! So I refer you my previous “Fuck you mazerunner!” Good day!”

“Guys…”

“Guys…”

“I said “good day” sir!”

“I said “good day” sir!”

Guys c’mon. That was the old Mouse. This blog has become a lot more serious since I started reviewing Marvel movies. As the movies have become more mature, I say, so too has Mouse. Look, today’s movie is Captain America: The Original Avenger. It’s a great film, nothing bad’s going to…

Guys c’mon. That was the old Mouse. This blog has become a lot more serious since I started reviewing Marvel movies. As the movies have become more mature, I say, so too has Mouse. Look, today’s movie is Captain America: The Original Avenger. It’s a great film, nothing bad’s going to…

“Don’t you mean “first” Avenger?”

“Don’t you mean “first” Avenger?”

“No, look, it says here right on the cover…”

“No, look, it says here right on the cover…”

Wait. That’s not Chris Evans and his boyish blue eyes that would melt your heart.

Wait. That’s not Chris Evans and his boyish blue eyes that would melt your heart.

Oh no.
“Mouse. Sit down. Our game is about to begin.”

“Mouse. Sit down. Our game is about to begin.”

“Katzenberg?”

“Katzenberg?”

“Please. Please. Red Skull is fine. I have come to collect on that favour you owe me.”

“Please. Please. Red Skull is fine. I have come to collect on that favour you owe me.”

“I owe you a favour?”

“I owe you a favour?”

“Of course. I allowed you to review How to Train Your Dragon and now you must do something for me. You must review 1990’s Captain America, one of the worst Marvel movies ever made!”

“Of course. I allowed you to review How to Train Your Dragon and now you must do something for me. You must review 1990’s Captain America, one of the worst Marvel movies ever made!”

“Shock! Gasp! That thing you said would never happen happened!”

“Shock! Gasp! That thing you said would never happen happened!”

“Skull. You forget who you’re talking to. I’ve reviewed Foodfight. Your ninties Golan-Globus schlock has no power over me.”

“Skull. You forget who you’re talking to. I’ve reviewed Foodfight. Your nineties Golan-Globus schlock has no power over me.”

“Skull. You forget who you’re talking to. I’ve reviewed Foodfight. Your ninties Golan-Globus schlock has no power over me.”

“Then come. And let us see if this snark of yours is stronger than my hate.”

So I hope no one will object if I skip the historical overview and earnest analysis of Captain America as a character until the next review? When I review a Captain America movie that wasn’t assembled by meth-addicted gibbons? Brilliant, let’s crack on.
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