Humour

It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012)

It is with the greatest embarrassment that I must admit that despite reviewing and writing about animation for almost eight years now I had never heard of Don Hertzfeldt. I know, I know. That’s like saying you’re really into rock music and never having heard of The Common Sense. It’s like putting yourself out there as an expert on Renaissance painting and knowing nothing about Vincentio.

For crying out loud, it’s like saying you’re obsessed with American history and not knowing about William Batholomew Brockholst.

I mean can you imagine? Not knowing about Brockholst? And all the stuff he did?

Hertzfeldt is one of those guys who makes you go “oh, this fucking guy”.

At 18, he single-handedly animated and scored Ah, L’Amour which won the Grand Prize Award for “World’s Funniest Cartoon” at the HBO Comedy Awards. This launched him into a career where he basically became the indie-animation Pixar, except he’s not an animation studio, he’s just one dude and if anything he’s gotten more critical acclaim and he never made Cars. He’s been nominated for an Oscar twice but never actually won so you know he’s not a sellout. And his films have frequently been named as the greatest animated films of the year, decade or all time. He also looks younger than me despite being six years older and he probably does yoga.

Oh, this fucking guy.

It’s Such a Beautiful Day is actually three of Hertzfeldt’s short films strung together (seems kinda lazy to me, but what do I know?): Everything Will be Okay, I am so Proud of You and It’s Such a Beautiful Day. Despite being made over several years, the three films integrate seamlessly into a flawless whole because of course they fucking do.

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Heathers (1988)

“Okay everyone, are we ready to review Don Hertzfeld’s “It’s Such a Beautiful Day?”

“Uh Mouse, we got a problem.”

“Oh, what’s up?”

“Well, it turns out “It’s Such a Beautiful Day” isn’t available on any of the main streaming sites.”

“Well, darn.”

“So you’re going to have to order the DVD instead.”

“Well, darn.”

“And the DVD’s not going to arrive until after the review is due to go up.”

“Well, darn.”

“Because the world’s in the grip of a global pandemic the likes of which has never been seen in living memory, the whole country is in lockdown and western civilization has been brought to its knees.”

“Well, darn.”

“So you’re going to have to review something else.”

“Okay, Heathers is next in the queue, let’s just do that.”

“Wait…what was the last one you said?”

Heeeeeeeeeey so things have been a little more immediately apocalyptic around here than usual, huh?

Hope you all are staying safe and indoors. For obvious reasons, this review is going to be on the short side.

“What reasons? You’ve been at home for the last week, if anything you should have MORE written than usual.”

“Yeah, but I was working from home and you’d be amazed how much work you have to do when you’re not being distracted by office politics.”

Anyway, this is going to be less of a plot point by plot point recap and more…a sort of…movie review if you can imagine such a thing.

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Mars Needs Moms (2011)

Whereas other film-makers are driven to explore certain themes or character archetypes or genres, what seems to get Robert Zemeckis out of bed every morning artistically is the tech: How can this or that new special effects technique be used to tell a story that’s never been told? And while I personally don’t think that’s necessarily the greatest starting point for telling a story, fair is fair, it’s lead Zemeckis to create some truly fantastic films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the Back to the Future trilogy and also movies that people insist on thinking are fantastic, like Forrest Gump and Cast Away.

Robert Zemeckis is a true film-making pioneer. And by “pioneer” I mean “person who goes to strange new places that it might have been better for all involved if he’d stayed at home”. Specifically, with his 2004 film The Polar Express he discovered the Uncanny Valley and liked it so much he decided to build a cabin and the spend the rest of his career there. Today’s movie is part of a sequence of Zemeckis directed and/or produced movies that used the gimmick of taking famous actors and slathering them in digital paint to create something that eschews the believability of live action while also avoiding the tedious charm and inventiveness of animation (I know, right? Isn’t that the dream?). Seriously though, I am genuinely agog at the amount of time and money Zemeckis has spent on something that could never be anything other than the worst of both worlds. Motion capture can be a wonderful tool, sure, and many films make excellent use of it. But Zemeckis seems to want this one tool to be the whole movie. It’s like he’s trying to build a house entirely out of spanners. It would be pointless, as there are far better materials to build a house out of and a spanner house would be ugly, cold and utterly unsuited for actual human beings so I think this metaphor is doing trojan work.

In case I’m being a little too subtle up in here, Mars Needs Moms is a bad, bad, bad film. It’s the kind of movie that legendary film critic Pauline Kael would have referred to as “a stinking pile of the devil’s ass biscuits”.

She was a treasure.

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“Since when is a shortcut cheating?”

“Are you there God? It’s me. Mouse.”

“WHAT TROUBLES YOU MY SON?”

“Well, I’m supposed to review Captain Marvel…”

“AH, AND YOU’RE WORRIED BECAUSE YOU’RE KINDA OF MEH ON IT BUT YOU DON’T WANT TO INDULGE THE MOST TOXIC ELEMENTS OF FANDOM BY GIVING IT A BAD REVIEW?”

“Actually, I was more wondering whether I really have to give an exhaustive way-too-long explanation as to why there are so many DAMN characters named Captain Marvel?”

“YES, YOU DO.”

“Why?”

“BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT I PUT YOU ON THIS EARTH TO DO.”

“Fair enough.”

That’s right people, we’re doing this. If you want to just skip ahead to my thoughts on the movie you’re free to join us after the jump. Just know that you’re dead to me. Now, I would bet good money that there have been more characters named “Captain Marvel” than any other superhero mantle. There have been a few Batmen, a bushel of Flashes and a whole mess o’ Green Lanterns, but by my count there have been no fewer than TWELVE Captain Marvels and that’s not even counting Captain Marvel Juniors, alternate future versions and weird rip-offs like Marvelman, Marvel Boy and the Marvellous Ms Maisel. So what gives? Well, it comes down to a combination of legal shenanigans, bad luck and weird coincidences far too complicated to go into here. Nonetheless, I will go into it them here.

Okay. So. Our story begins in 1940, a mere two years after National Comics (later DC) birthed the modern superhero genre with the creation of Superman. Fawcett Comics introduced their new character, Captain Marvel, whose gimmick was that he was actually a little boy named Billy Batson who turned into a suspiciously Superman-like superhero when he shouted his magic word “SHAZAM!”.

It was, and remains, one of the most perfect concepts for a superhero ever. If you subscribe to the belief that superheroes are, at their core, innocent power fantasies for small children, that is about as perfect a distillation of the concept as you can get. Kids could imagine one day growing up to be Superman. But you could be Captain Marvel now. And it was easy. Just say a magic word and you could be bigger, tougher, faster and smarter than anyone else. Which, when you’re a kid growing up in a world where everything is tough and confusing and bigger than you…that’s the dream, right? The comic also introduced the obligatory kid sidekick, Captain Marvel Junior and the almost as obligatory distaff counterpart; Mary Marvel:

She’s Billy Batson’s long-lost sister Mary Batson with the same powers who also took the Captain Marvel mantle for a time so we’re counting her. She’s also one of the very earliest female superheroes and beat Supergirl to the punch by almost a full decade. Anyway, back to Captain Marvel.

So not surprisingly, with such a killer concept, Captain Marvel quickly became the most popular superhero in America, even outselling his inspiration, Superman. National Comics, obviously, weren’t going to let that slide and brought in a new top-tier creative team with fresh ideas to re-vamp Superman and nah just kidding they just went crying to Johnny Law. National took Fawcett to court over copyright infringement and the judge decided that two Caucasian superheroes with black hair was just too big a coincidence and ruled in National’s favour. By this point, the superhero boom was on the wane so Fawcett simply ceased publishing Captain Marvel. That was not the end of the story. In fact, that was barely the beginning of the beginning. So now, let’s talk about Marvel Comics, and how they came to acquire…

“But what about me Mouse?”

“Oh Christ, I’d forgotten about you, MF Enterprises Captain Marvel.”

Yeah, okay, weird little digression here. By 1966 the rights to the character name “Captain Marvel” were up for grabs and a comics company called MF Enterprises published three issues featuring…this.

So…this is Captain Marvel. Allegedly. He’s an android who can split into his constituent parts by yelling “SPLIT!” which is a word. He reforms by yelling “XAM!”, which is not. His alter ego was Roger Winkle. He is, by near unanimous decree of the world’s foremost Marvelogists, the worst Captain Marvel. And it pains me to say this as he was created by Carl Burgos, creator of the greatest superhero of all time; the Original Human Torch.

Man loved his androids. That he did.

Alright moving on.

So National’s old rival Timely Comics had, by the sixties, changed their name to Marvel. Realising that the formerly most popular superhero in America coincidentally had the same name as their company, they figured it was a no-brainer to buy the name for themselves and create their own Captain Marvel.

The first Marvel Marvel was Mar-Vell, an alien spy of the Kree Empire who comes to Earth to prepare the way for an invasion and ends up falling in love with this planet of psychotic apes and becomes a superhero. Mar-Vell never really caught on as he was strictly squares-ville, daddio. He was like Reed Richards without the Thing as a foil, or Captain America without the instant, irrevocable cool that comes from having punched Hitler in the face. To make Mar-Vell more Hip to the Trends, Marvel roped in Rick Jones, perennial sidekick and the Young Peoples’ favourite. Now the status quo was that Mar-Vell was trapped in the Negative Zone but could swap places with Rick Jones in the real world whenever he was needed, a premise that superficially resembled the Billy Batson/Captain Marvel set-up while simultaneously losing everything that made that concept appealing. Captain Marvel asks “what if you could turn into an all-powerful superhero” and Captain Mar-Vell asks “what if you could go to a lightless never-ending void while a strange grown man did things with your body?”

One of them is timeless wish-fulfillment, the other is the kind of thing that takes many years of costly therapy to process.

So it’s not surprising that, like Shakespeare’s Thane of Cawdor, nothing became Mar-Vell in this life like the leaving of it. The best remembered Mar-Vell story is Jim Starlin’s The Death of Captain Marvel, in which Captain Marvel applies for a mortgage just kidding he bites the big one. What made this story so unique at the time was that Mar-Vell doesn’t go down fighting some giant, world-ending threat. Instead, he succumbs to cancer and dies quietly in bed surrounded by his friends. The story was well received and is one of the reasons why Mar-Vell’s death is one of the few in comics to never have been permanently reversed (at the time of writing). And it’s at this point in our story that our Marvel-trickle becomes a full on Marvel-deluge.

So, this is the root of why there are so may DAMN Captain Marvels. Firstly, the name is versatile, gender-neutral and doesn’t nail you down. If your character is named “Batman”, for instance, you’re kind of limited in what kind of superhero he can be. Your options are basically; Weird Creature of the night, baseball-themed vigilante or British Officer’s Gentleman’s Personal Gentleman during the Great War. But for Captain Marvel, all you need is a character who is in some way marvellous and the superhero community’s famously lax attitude toward the chain of command. You can slap the name “Captain Marvel” on any random hero regardless of their power set and it makes about as much sense as any other. Secondly, it doesn’t really look good if the dude or dudette bearing the company’s name is a third string scrub (spoiler, a lot of these dudes and dudettes were third string scrubs), so when one Captain Marvel is a bust, editorial has plenty of incentive to reboot and try again. Case in point…

Monica Rambeau, an African American lady with energy powers, first debuted in 1982 before Mar-Vell’s sheets had even cooled. She didn’t have any connection to Mar-Vell and didn’t keep the name for too long, later being renamed Photon, Pulsar and Spectrum to the point where she’s one of those superheroes who’s better known by her civilian name. Monica is actually one of the most successful of the Marvel Marvels, rarely being off the shelves. As a diversity two-fer with a cool power set and pretty solid fanbase, she’s appeared in multiple team books such as the Ultimates, Nextwave and even lead the Avengers for a time.

Alright, how many is that? FIVE?!

Okay speed round. The Vells!

Okay, Genis-Vell. Mar-Vell’s son who took up the old man’s mantle before going crazy and then dying. Interesting titbit; Peter David and Bill Jemas had a bet to see who could get the most sales for their respective books. David at the time was writing the Genis-Vell version of Captain Marvel and Jemas was writing Marville which was…it was something. It was many things. Post modern deconstruction of superheroes. Satire of  the Aol-Time Warner Merger. Philosophical-religious treatise. Strong contender for worst comic of all time. Captain Marvel won that one, which I’m mentioning because God knows these characters need something in the win column.

I am very tired and I have not even begun the review. Phyla Vell!

Genis-Vell’s sister. Took up the mantle after his death before becoming the new Quasar (another cosmic superhero mantle that gets around). Played a pretty big role in the Annihilation sagaaka one of the greatest comic events of all time, so she’s okay by Mouse.

“Aw, thanks Mouse.”

“SHUT UP AND KEEP MOVING THERE’S NO TIME!!”

Who’s next? Oh didn’t think I’d remember you did you, Amalgam Captain Marvel!?

“Bless you, kind sir.”

So funny story, after killing the original Billy Batson Captain Marvel in court, DC comics actually bought the rights to Fawcett’s old characters. However, since Marvel had trademarked the name “Captain Marvel” this meant that DC could use Billy Batson’s Captain Marvel but couldn’t actually call any of the comics he was in “Captain Marvel”. And that’s why DC have desperately been trying to gaslight you into believing that the character is actually named “Shazam” for the last few decades. Incidentally, Eggman is actually named Robotnik and we have always been at war with Eurasia. Anyway, in the early nineties DC and Marvel did a crossover called DC versus Marvel where the two universes collided. This culminated in a glorious bit of silliness where the two companies created Amalgam Comics, an entire comics line of grotesque merged abominations like DarkClaw (Batman crossed with Wolverine) and Super Soldier (Superman smushed into Captain America). Billy Mar-Vell was the result of cross-breeding DC’s Captain Marvel with Marvel’s Captain Marvel and I’ve typed the word “Marvel” so often now the word has lost all meaning and has become a weird glyph.

“Mouse! We’ve got no room left for all these Captains Marvel!”

“STACK ‘EM SIDEWAYS LIKE FIREWOOD WE’RE NOT STOPPING!”

Next up is…oh not this asshole…

Kh’nhr. Oy. Okay, so during the Civil War event Reed Richards was building a Gitmo for superheroes in the Negative Zone and discovered that Captain Marvel (Mar-vell, obviously, why would that be confusing?) was still floating around in there because time in the Negative Zone is loopy doopy. Reed is all “hey, so you’re gonna die of cancer in the future but while you’re here, wanna help me trample on your friends’ civil liberties?” and Mar-Vell says “sure”. He then spends a few issues moping and doing absolutely feck all until it’s revealed that this Captain Marvel is actually a Skrull sleeper agent impersonating Captain Marvel named Kh’nhr. That’s right. The Skrulls sent this guy to Earth disguised as someone who was already dead. From this, we can deduce that they thought he sucked and deserved to die. They were correct.

Who’s next? Mahr-Vell from the Ultimate universe.

He’s like Mar-Vell. But in the Ultimate Universe. Got an extra “H” in his name. Like Mar-Vell, he turned on his Kree Masters to save the Earth. Unlike Mar-Vell, he came to regret it as everyone in the Ultimate Universe was a massive asshole.

Okay, coming up to the home stretch now.

Noh-Varr! Birthed from the Victorian opium den that is the mind of Grant Morrison, Noh-Varr is yet another Kree but this time from an alternate reality who washes up on Earth like a drunken sailor. A bad experience with SHIELD has him declare war on Earth and all humanity but he was eventually convinced to become a hero by Kh’nhr, which is is basically like being inspired to pursue a career in music after a chance encounter with Kid Rock. Usually going by Marvel Boy or Protector, he is on this list solely for that one time Norman Osborn recruited him to be on his Dark Avengers team as Captain Marvel. He peaced out as soon as he realised that they were actually the bad guys. Which, considering they were called the “Dark Avengers” he really should have twigged earlier. Thank God he’s pretty.

Which brings us to drumroll please…

Carol Danvers. Actually one of the older characters on this list, but the newest and current Captain Marvel. Back in the seventies, Marvel was in the habit of cranking out distaff versions of their male characters just so nobody else could do it first (which is how you got She-Hulk, Spider-Woman and Womanverine)*. One of these characters was Carol Danvers, aka Ms Marvel who gains Mar-Vell’s powers after being caught in an explosion with him and getting some of his DNA (that’s their story, anyway). She had her own series written by Chris Claremont which didn’t sell but was well regarded by those who read it. After it was cancelled, she bounced around the Marvel universe for a while until the creative team decided to celebrate their #200th issue with a story where Carol is abducted, brainwashed and raped by her own child. And it’s presented as a love story.

Man, I hope ToysRus got their money back.

Fortunately Chris Claremont was having none of it, and when he was handed the reigns to X-Men he had Carol deliver an epic “Fuck You” to the Avengers for basically abandoning her to her rapist and had her join the X-Men. Claremont ended up using a lot of the concepts that he had originally intended to use for Ms. Marvel, in case you were wondering why a series ostensibly about mutants fighting racism features so many aliens and giant flaming space birds. Anyway, her presence on the X-Men during Claremont’s run cemented Carol’s position as pretty much the most popular Captain Marvel-adjacent character at Marvel. So when the time came for Marvel to try for the UMPTEENTH GODDAMNED time to have a Captain Marvel that people actually gave a shit about she was pretty much the only choice. How’d that work out? Well…Marvel’s attempts at pushing her harder than Roman Frickin’ Reigns has definitely created some backlash, but there’s no denying that she’s the first Marvel Captain Marvel to have any real purchase in the popular consciousness. And of course, a big part of that is today’s movie.

Which I am finally starting to review after two and half thousand words what the hell was I thinking?

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Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

There are movies that I am just aching to review. Where I have jokes and observations and asides all ready and planned literally years in advance. Where I am just absolutely raring to go.

And then there’s movies like Kiki’s Delivery Service, a movie that almost feels engineered by some nefarious super villain to be absolutely impossible for me to review. Every tool in my critical toolbox is rendered useless by this thing. Can I rave about it? Honestly, no. It’s one of the slightest of the Studio Ghibli films, I didn’t grow up with it and I don’t have any particular affection for it.  Can I slam it? Hell no, it’s still Studio Ghibli after all and an absolute technical triumph. I can’t really do story analysis, because there’s not really much story. Is it even interestingly weird? It is quite possibly the most grounded and least weird piece of Japanese animation I’ve ever seen (low bar, I know, but still). Interesting or troubled production? Nope. Apparently it was just…like…a movie…that…got…made. No one went crazy during production. None of the animators were involved in a murder suicide pact. Nothing. Damn selfish, I call it.

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“A fourth wall break inside a fourth wall break? That’s like…sixteen walls!”

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When it comes to the various eras of comics history, the nineties have an image problem.

Get it? Because Image comics were terrible.

And that’s not fair. Not fair at all. There were some fantastic comics released during the nineties. Jeff Smith’s seminal Bone came out in this decade. You had Neil Gaiman writing Sandman over at DC. And at DC, the Batman titles were doing memorable storylines like No Man’s Land and Long Halloween. Meanwhile, at DC, Mark Waid and Alex Ross were creating one of the most visually beautiful mainstream comics of all time with Kingdom Come

“Hey, Mouse, what about Marvel?”

“…”

“HELLBLAZER WAS ANOTHER VERY WELL RECEIVED DC TITLE DURING THIS PERIOD…”

And yet, despite some very good comics being produced during this era by almost half of the two great American comic publishers, “nineties” is basically short-hand for “crap” amongst comics fans. Here’s the problem. Say I want to sum up the Golden Age of comics with one panel, it’d probably be this one:

Kirby’s cover of Captain America 1. If had to choose a panel to represent the Silver Age? Probably something like this from Sheldon Moldoff (if for no other reason than it doesn’t seem fair to have Jack Kirby define two eras):

And if I want a single panel that sums up the Bronze Age? That’s easy, Rorschach entering the Comedian’s apartment by Dave Gibbons.

But if I want a single panel that represents the Dark Age? Probably something like this.

And that’s your problem right there. All these eras were incredibly diverse in terms of the comics that were actually created during them, but they’re all defined in the popular consciousness by a single aesthetic. And the aesthetic that defines the nineties, whether fairly or unfairly, is that of one man. Rob Liefeld.

And it’s pretty objectively terrible. Now, this review is not going to be me dunking on Rob Liefeld for five thousand words because obviously I’d need more words and I don’t like to half-ass things NO BAD MOUSE.

I’m not going to dunk on Liefeld because that’s just beating the fine horse powder that at some point in the distant past was (if the elders are to be believed) a dead horse. Hell, making fun of Rob Liefeld was pretty much the reason we built the internet in the first place (don’t believe the porn industry’s revisionist propaganda). Liefeld was one of a rising generation of new comic artists in the nineties, and that generation was markedly different from the ones that had come before. See, if you look at the really big names of the Silver Age, your Stan Lees, your Jack Kirbies, your Julie Schwartzes, you’ll notice that these were all dudes who had were already working in comics during the Golden Age. The Silver Age was not the New Guard taking over, it was the Old Guard refining and improving on their first draft. But by the nineties, the Old Guard was ageing out of the industry and rising to replace them was a generation that had actually grown up reading the classic comics of the Silver Age and actually had “comic book writer/artist” as their dream job rather than simply something to fall back on if that career in publishing/fine arts never panned out. These kids, unlike their forbears, had come to the comics as fans rather than just professional artists or writers who needed a steady gig. They had read all these comics when they were twelve year old boys and dreamed of creating their own.

Unfortunately, if you read the comics they were putting out, you would have been forgiven for thinking that they were still twelve year old boys. Liefeld wasn’t the only one of this generation, but he definitely epitomised them. Much as the Impressionists were identified by their use of open composition and an accurate depiction of light, the artists of the “Hot Comics” style were identifiable by blood, guts, gratuitous swearing and a…free-thinking…approach to accurate depictions of female anatomy. They also freaking idolised Jack Kirby which I find BAFFLING. Not because Jack Kirby doesn’t deserve to be idolised (and I got the shrines to prove it) but because Jack Kirby is legendary for:

  1. Technical excellence.
  2. Clarity of visual storytelling.
  3. A fearsomely original imagination.
  4. A work ethic that allowed him to smash deadlines like they’d been cracking wise about Mrs Kirby.

Basically, everything Liefeld and his ilk were not about. So you had a lot of talentless fanboys creating comics that only had merit to clueless, hormonally addled infants. So, of course, they were hugely, horrendously successful.

This thing sold five million copies and there’s bile in my mouth right now.

Liefeld is in this weird space of being simultaneously one of the most and least influential creators in the history of the medium. As I said, his style defined an entire era of comics history in a way very few other creators can be said to have done. Honestly, I think only Kirby rivals him in that regard. But whereas Kirby’s legacy on both the Marvel and DC universes will stand the test of time, very little of Liefeld’s influence remains in the modern Marvel universe. Certainly not his art-style, and precious few of his intellectual concepts proved to have any real staying power. Mostly because, well, his character concepts were possibly the only thing in the world that could have made you say “Jeez dude, just stick to art.”

“But Mouse” the strawman I have created for this very purpose cries out “didn’t he create Deadpool? Isn’t Deadpool a beloved character and permanent fixture in the Marvel universe?”

Well, the answer to both those question is indeed “Yes” but there’s a lot of history between the first “Yes” and the second. Liefeld did indeed co-create Deadpool with writer Fabien Nicieza but the character they created was impressive only in how much they managed to rip off in one sitting. So Deadpool, aka Wade Wilson is an “homage”…

…to DC’s Deathstroke aka Slade Wilson. See? It’s completely shameless. That makes it okay. They then added Spider-Man’s costume as imagined by a Taiwanese supermarket, threw in Wolverine’s healing factor because nineties, strapped a couple of guns on him and set him loose on the world. I’m not saying there weren’t the germs of a good character there, but they were just that, germs. Capable of only being seen with a microscope.

It was other writers that saw the potential in the character and added the elements that really made him click, most notably that he’s insane and that this insanity manifests in him actually being aware that he’s in a comic book. This is the version of the character that has won legions of fans the world over, including Canada.

One of said fans was actor Ryan Reynolds who is a huge Deadpool fan and was so gosh darned happy to be cast as the character in Wolverine Origin only to learn that this Deadpool would be a mute with his mouth sewn shut and THIS IS WHY WE DON’T MAKE WISHES ON CURSED MONKEY PAWS CHILDREN.

After Origins came out and did for Deadpool’s reputation what Superfriends did for Aquaman’s, Reynolds laboured with various collaborators to get his own vision of Deadpool to the big screen, with blackjack and hookers as God intended.

This movie almost died on the operating table multiple times. Consider:

  1. It’s about Deadpool, a character no one outside of comics fandom knew about unless they’d seen Origin in which case they hated him. Strike 1.
  2. Instead of being rebooted, he was still being played by the same actor. Strike 2.
  3. Said actor also made Green Lantern. Strike 3. Actually, let’s make that two strikes. Strike 4.
  4. This was going to be a Hard R rated movie full of tits and effin’ and jeffin’, likely to send dowagers across the land toppling in a epidemic of the vapours. Strike 5.

So, on paper at least, this movie was going to suck at baseball and Fox were considering scrapping the movie when somebody, some mischevious scamp, some mysterious rapscallion who shall remain forever nameless…

…leaked some test footage that saw the cry of “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!” echo throughout the internet.

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The Rise of Skywalker I saw (and nobody else did)

Spoilers for The Last Jedi from the outset, spoilers for Rise of Skywalker after the jump. 

I sense a great disturbance in the fandom…

Rise of Skywalker has begun its inevitable conquest of the global box office and people are about as mad at it as it is possible to be at something while still giving it a billion dollars. Call me Nostradamouse but I have the feeling this is going to end with two extremely angry, polarised factions dominating the fandom, those who love The Last Jedi and those who love Rise of Skywalker. And, while history shows that eventually the changes to canon Rise of Skywalker has wrought will be grudgingly accepted just like the New Editions, Midi-Chlorians, Leia being Luke’s sister, Jar Jar and the Ewoks…things are still pretty raw right now.

This is not my review of Rise of Skywalker because I’m not going to be doing a review of Rise of Skywalker because other than the occasional obscure bit of media here and there Star Wars is a picked clean zebra carcass on the Serengeti of the internet. Honestly, I don’t think I have anything to add by reviewing any of these movies. But in the coming great Jedi/Skywalker debate this is where I am:

Rian Johnson tried something bold, gutsy, admirable and radically deconstructive with The Last Jedi. Unfortunately, he did it with Star Wars, possibly the one major franchise least suited to that kind of take. Star Wars is very purposefully echoing the ancient tales laid out in Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces. They are supposed to be hero tales of the very oldest sort. What Johnson did was give us a fairy tale where the prince finds out he’s actually the heir to a small pub in the Netherlands, then gets eaten by the dragon, and the Princess frees herself and goes on to found a successful chain of business schools. It’s…different. Certainly. It subverts your expectations, no doubt. It’s probably got something frightfully clever to say about privilege and gender roles and such but it is also, on a very fundamental level, unsatisfying.  During Last Jedi I felt the following conversation was taking place.

“Ha! Isn’t this great? You don’t want to see some boring story about a Chosen One discovering a shocking secret lineage and fulfilling their Destiny as the galaxy’s saviour!”

“Of course not, why else would I be watching a Star Wars movie? Now please do something about all these ghastly space-ships.”

As for Rise of Skywalker, while the desperate back-peddling Abrams carries out to undo two of Johnson’s most significant choices would be hilarious if it wasn’t so bloody artless, I do kinda feel for the guy. Johnson left him with some very large corners to paint himself out of and precious little paint to do it (may cover that in another post). And yeah, Rise of Skywalker is a big messy, fan-servicey mess of fan-service (I’m a writer, me) but you know what? It’s fun. It’s got Oscar Isaac, John Boyega and Daisy Ridley having adventures and shooting flying storm troopers with C-3PO and Chewie and that is a good time. And Star Wars should be fun. Last Jedi feels like a slog, slowly watching our heroes being winnowed down and ground under by disappointments and betrayals.

Rise of Skywalker is like your typical Irishman. He has faults, and be God he has many of them. But he’s mad craic.

 But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the version of Rise of Skywalker that I saw and no one else did…

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Disney(ish) reviews with the Unshaved Mouse: Olaf’s Frozen Adventure

If you like Unshaved Mouse please consider supporting my Patreon.

Guys, tell me the truth. Am I going soft?

Do I just not have the same bile and critical killer instinct I once had?

Because I feel like I just don’t hate the way I used to. Maybe the Christmas spirit has managed to claw its way into my chest and lay its eggs along my cardiac wall. To put it another way, I’ve reviewed three Disney sequels/continuations this year and gave a positive review to every durn one of ‘em.

“Hey, it’s Old Man Mouse, let’s throw snowballs at him!”

“Why you little…beat it, you sequels!”

“Ooooh, whaddya gonna do? Give us a mixed to positive review?”

“Gasp! They’re not AFRAID of me anymore.”

It was with this in mind that I decided to review Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, Frozen short (well, I say “short”) that got people’s dander up something fierce two years ago when it was released preceding Coco. Whereas people were expecting a nice light, seven minute appetiser, they instead got a hefty twenty-one minute late lunch and the backlash was fierce enough that some theatres actually had signs warning ticket-holders that the snowman movie would be taking up more of their precious lives than they might have budgeted for. And, because it’s the 2010s and life is hell, the movie was also accused of racism, with the reasoning being that Disney were too racist to trust people to come and see a movie about Hispanic people without it being preceded by a short set in Scandinavia before the movie about Hispanic people that they had spent $175 million dollars making.

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Disney(ish) Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse: Tangled the Series/Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure

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

Yeah, but why though?

TangledYou gave a sequel series to Tangled? Aladdinfine. Big Hero SixCrying out for it. But Tangled?!

Hey, got nothing against the film. Y’all know that. #9 on my rankings. But of all the canon movies to try and spin a series of ongoing adventures out of why would you…

“Mouse?”

“What is it, SMOWE?”

“I just came to say goodbye. I’m going on a journey to find myself.”

“You’re going to…what?”

“What is my purpose? Who am I, really? Why am I called Sarcastic Map of Wartime Europe when most of the time I’m not even that sarcastic? I don’t know where I’ll find the answers to these questions. All I know is, it’s not here.”

“Wait a minute, is this because tvtropes called you a Flat Character?”

“Farewell my friend.”

Well…speaking of characters with hidden layers going off on adventures no one expected or even asked for, what even is this nonsense?

Firstly, what are the two things everyone knows about Rapunzel? She’s got long golden hair, and she’s trapped in a tower. By the end of Tangled, neither of those are true anymore. This is like doing a Robin Hood show where he no longer robs from the rich and has instead become a quantity surveyor. Plus, the movie’s only real villain is dead. And it’s not like this was a particularly rich world that desperately needed exploring.

Nothing against Corona. Lovely scenery, good schools, suspiciously low crime rate. But it’s a pretty generic fantasy kingdom, and fairy light on the fantasy at that. There’s no real magic apart from one flower. No mythical beasts that we see other than a horse who may be some kind of equine god.

And on top of that, we already know how the story ends! Tangled Ever After shows Rapunzel and Eugene getting married with all the main characters from the first movie still alive and the status quo from the end of the first film in rude good health. So what you’ve got is a series where either nothing can happen, or anything that does happen will be reversed and will be ultimately meaningless. Which is why I feel confident in predicting, sight unseen, that this series is garbage and a waste of everyone’s valuable time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m just going to go and validate my obviously correct first impression.

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Bats and Bolts versus Bandages and there are also Werewolves: Sommertime Sadness

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

“But THEN the blogger realised that his next scheduled post fell on HALLOWEEN!”

“Ooooooh.”

“Which meant that he had to review a SPOOKY movie or the commenters would piss and MOAN for all eternity.”

“Oh crap…”

“But THEN…when he went to look at his scheduled reviews…wading through Marvel movies, and Disney films and a metric shit-ton of animé the only horror movie that was left for him to review was…”

“VAN HELSING!”

“AHHHHHHH!”

“DUDE! DUDE! NOT COOL! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?”

“And the worst part is, this is a true story AND THAT BLOGGER WAS ME!!”

So a funny thing happened when I selected Van Helsing to be this year’s hastily thrown together Halloween offering. I watched it for the first time and it was so utterly awful that I realised I could not watch it again for the review. I am dead serious. Faced with sitting through all two hours and twenty five minutes of that monstrosity my brain temporarily paralysed me in my chair and said to me: “You watch that thing again, I am growing a tumour. Don’t try me, fool.”

And I did not go into this expecting to hate it. I was expecting trash. Fun trash. But this movie isn’t trash, it’s sewage. It’s just…God, I hate it. And this got me thinking, why is this movie so bad when it’s got so much in common with another film that I genuinely, unironically love:

Image result for the mummy 1994

Seriously, this flick’s my jam. Maybe not a top twenty film, but it’s a trusty old friend that I’m always happy to see. Now consider this:

Both these films are written by Stephen Sommers

Both these films were directed by Stephen Sommers.

Both these films are edited by Bob Ducsay.

Both are (at least nominally) action-horror-comedy remakes of Golden Age Universal horror flicks.

I guess my question is; what the fuck happened? Why are these two films, which are so similar on paper, on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of enjoyability? So, because I don’t really fancy getting a tumour, instead of doing the standard beat for beat review of Van Helsing, I thought it might be more interesting to compare these two movies in a Bats Versus Bolts style face off. With the understanding that this is less “Which movie is better?” and more “Why is the terrible one so terrible?”

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