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“Well, at least we can all agree the third one’s always the worst.”

“2021! We made it, people! We beat the hell year!”

“Everything’s going to be great now, and we don’t have to worry about that awful coronavirus anymore because it just magically vanished at the stroke of midnight like a Fairy Godmother’s pumpkin coach!”

“Uh, Mouse?”

“Who dares interrupt my hubris?”

“Sorry, but it looks like the virus heard we’d created a vaccine and took it…kinda…personally…”

“YAAAAAAAAAAARGGHHHH!!”

“Oh please. So this “mutant strain” is a touch more virulent, how bad can it really be?”

“Oh crap.”

***

Hi. Welcome to the blog. Make yourselves at home. WASH YOUR GODDAMN HANDS AND DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING IT MAY BE TRANSMITTABLE THROUGH THE INTERNET BY THIS POINT WHO KNOWS YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IT CAN DO.

Ahem. So, here in Ireland we’re back in full lockdown as the virus runs rampant through the streets, overturning cars and making lewd comments at our gentle lady folk. As a result, we’re keeping Mini and Micro Mouse at home which means I’ve been full time Dadding it for the last few weeks. Which is my weasely way of saying that this review is going to be very short as I’ve been spending every waking hour minding my awful time sucking monsters sweet, darling little angels.

“Can I watch five solid hours of Avatar the Last Airbender again?”

“Does Daddy have the strength or will to stop you?”

“No.”

“Then. Why. Ask?”

Oh and it’s a shame too, such a gosh darned shame that I won’t be able to spend much time on X-Men Apocalypse. Such a layered work. So brimming with craft and ideas and actors clearly giving it their all and happy to be there. So obviously not directed by a man giving instructions from his trailer as the chickens of his past behaviour come home to roost. So…I can’t maintain this level of sarcasm, I’m not as young as I used to be, I HATE THIS MOVIE.

Not fun hatred either. Not the kind of hate that gets you pumped and excited to tear this thing a new critic hole. Just weary, dispassionate disgust at the whole bloated mess.

But I was going to give it a full length review, honest. Just couldn’t because of the mutant corona virus. Which, shockingly, is only the second worst thing involving mutation I’ve had to contend with recently.

(more…)

Peace on Earth, good will to all…

I’ve been doing end of year recaps on this blog for a few years now and I’m always a little torn when I sit down to write one. On the one hand, it’s satisfying to just take stock of everything that I managed to get through/accomplish/survive in the past 12 months. But it also feels a little self-involved.

Not this year though. This year it feels incredibly narcissistic.

Like, here’s what I did on my little blog during one of the most significant years of the post war era that will surely go down as a major inflection point in human history.

Even as the first vaccines are being rolled out, the pandemic’s impact will be felt in every sphere of human existence for years to come; be they political, economic, social or enviromental. I think (God, I hope) it’s the closest that any of us under the age of 75 will come to living through a world war. There is this massive, impossibly huge, impossibly terrible thing looming over all aspects of our lives and everything from planning a wedding to going to the shops for milk has been warped by it.

And yet, despite the horrendous loss of life worldwide, I find that I’m far more optimistic about the future at the end of 2020 than I was at the start, and not just because of America’s half-throated rejection of Trumpism, the resilience of our social fabric to the disease and the borderline miraculous scientific achievement of creating a safe vaccine in less than a year.

I hope and pray that things are starting to turn a corner.

Anyway, here’s what I did on my little blog this year.

In 2020 I reviewed 1 Canon Disney movie, 3 MCU movies, 1 X-Men movie, 3 animé, 4 live action movies (not counting 1 review where my brother very kindly stepped in), 4 non-Disney animated features and 1 animated series.

Also, we had two instalments of Bats Versus Bolts, covering the silent era and the 2010s.

Oh, and I reviewed a newly discovered episode of The Rimini Riddle and lived to tell of it.

It was definitely a year when I stepped outside of my comfort zone and thanks to reader requests I discovered plenty of films that I might not have otherwise had a chance to enjoy, including the best film I reviewed this year and now one of my all time favourites; Night of the HunterOf course, reader requests also dragged the soggy carcass of Mars Needs Moms, to my door, so it was a mixed bag. All in all though, I felt this year I reviewed a stronger crop of movies than any year since I reached the end of the Disney Canon.

While I ended up posting a lot less this year what with the new baby and taking on a lot of new writing work, I hope you enjoyed what I did manage to post this year and hopefully I’l be able to devote more time to the blog in 2021 (hah!).

I hope, despite the incredible and often heart-breaking turmoil of last year you were able to find your own moments of joy and triumph. If not, I hope 2021 is your year.

Thanks so much to all of you for reading and commenting and letting me know you’re all out there.

Have a wonderful, safe and happy Christmas.

Nollaig shona daoibh go léir,

Mouse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the Garden Wall: The Old Grist Mill

Over the Garden Wall is the creation of Adventure Time alumnus Patrick McHale which first premiered on Cartoon Network in 2014. Consisting of 10 ten-minute episodes, the series is a gorgeously animated brew of 17th, 18th and 19th century Americana, children’s literature and deep cut references to the Golden Age of animation. Which, as you can probably guess from that description, means that if it was any more my jam I’m be spreading it on my crumpets. Throughout October I’ll be doing short reviews of each episode so let’s crack on. Episode 1. The Old Grist Mill.

Wha’ Happen’?:

After the opening song a montage introducing many of the characters we’ll meet over the course of the series we meet two young boys, Wirt and Greg (and a frog) making their way through a dark, spooky forest. Wirt realises that he has no idea how they arrived there and begins to panic because this place is creepy as hell and everything just seems slightly off. Greg, who’s very much “the Mabel” in this Dipper/Mabel dyad, offers to leave a trail of candy behind them but that’s of little use since they’re already deep in the spooky, scary forest.

“You can’t make squirrels wearing bow ties creepy!” they jeered, mockingly. Patrick McHale simply smiled coldly.

They come across an elderly woodsman carrying a lantern and chopping down trees that are filled with a strange, black ooze. Wirt’s too afraid to approach the woodsman but then the boys are approached by Beatrice, a talking bluebird who offers to help them escape the forest. She flies off when the Woodsman overhears them talking and demands to know what they’re doing.

The Woodsman tells them that they’re in a place called “The Unknown” and that they need to am-scray because “The Beast walks these woods”.

The Woodsman takes them back to his mill and offers to let them stay the night. Wirt is getting serious stranger-danger from the Woodsman and asks him what he’s doing out in the forest. The Woodsman tells them that he has to grind the wood of the Edwelweiss trees into oil to keep his lantern lit. Wirt nervously suggests to Greg that they might need to knock the Woodsman out and make a run for it, before immediately dismissing that as a really bad plan. Seeing that Wirt’s nervous, he tells the kids that they’re free to go whenever they want but that if they’re still at the mill after he’s finished with his work, he’ll try to help them fin their way home.

Unsure of what to do, Wirt stays by the fire while Greg goes looking for his frog.  Outside the mill he gets attacked by a terrifying beast who, as Greg notes, has beautiful eyes.

Over the Garden Wall / Nightmare Fuel - TV Tropes

 Greg runs back into the house, chased by the beast. The Woodsman tries to defend the children but gets knocked unconscious by Greg, who didn’t get the memo that they weren’t going with that plan.

Over The Garden Wall — cartoon: The best of Greg from Over the Garden...

The boys are chased by the beast into the mill where it ends up getting caught in the gears. This causing the whole mill to break apart but also dislodges one of Greg’s candies from the beast’s throat, which causes it to change back into a perfectly ordinary dog. (EDIT: Thanks to Alice Shattuck for pointing out that it’s not actually the candy that caused the dog to transform but the turtle that the candy was stuck to because it turns out that the black turtles have a mysterious connection to the Edelweiss trees and the Beast itself because dang but the lore is deep in this despite the whole thing clocking in at 100 minutes). The Woodsman regains consciousness and is furious to discover that the mill is gone and most of his oil has been lost. Wirt says that, hey, at least they got the Beast and the Woodsman yells that the dog was not the Beast. A beast, sure. But not The Beast. Wirt gets angry at Greg but the Woodsman tells him that as the elder brother, Greg’s dumb-fuckery is his responsibility and as an older brother myself that I find that sentiment to be rank Only Child Privilege. Anyway, the Woodsman wearily sends them on their way, calling after them “Beware the Unknown! Fear the Beast! And flee these woods if you can!”

How was it?: The Old Grist Mill is simultaneously an excellent cartoon and probably the worst OGW episode. Not a criticism, it just shows how insanely high this series sets the bar. It’s great, but the night-time setting means we don’t get the gorgeous autumnal colours of the later episodes. Beatrice (the blue-bird) only gets an early-bird cameo (see what I did there?) and while Lloyd is fantastic as the Woodsman, he’s no Auntie Whispers or Quincy Endicott. My point is, knowing all the fanastic stuff that’s coming down the line makes this first episode seem a little drab in comparison.

Holy Crap, that sounds like…: Wirt is played by Frodo Baggins himself, Elijah Wood. The Woodsman is played by a magnificently husky Christopher Llloyd.

Can I see some references?: This episode draws heavily on classic fairy tales. The two children lost in the woods, the candy trail and the Woodsman are all echoes of Hansel and Gretel. Greg’s terrified “You have beautiful eyes…” to the dog is a clear reference to Little Red Riding Hood. As for animation references, the creepy forest with its macabre, scowling trees is pure Snow White.  And the whole concept of a huge, gooey monster becoming small and harmless after a single corrupting influence is expelled reminded me very much of Hayao Miyazaki.

This frog’s name is: After the Woodsman tells Greg to give the frog a proper name, Greg spends the rest of the series trying to do just that. This episode, the frog is called Kitty and Wirt (to avoid confusion, Greg renames Wirt “Kitty”)

“It doesn’t have to be good to be a classic.”

Let me tell you about the only comic book to ever make me cry in public.

From the first page of Amazing Spider-Man #121 something is off. There’s no title. Simply a sombre note from editorial telling the reader that they won’t actually learn what the name of the story is until the end. But it’s still very much a seventies Spider-Man story; bright primary colour palette, soap opera melodrama to burn and an exclamation point/period ratio of around 90 to 1. Norman Osbourne, who used to be the Green Goblin but has forgotten the whole thing because of amnesia, is undergoing a psychological breakdown because his son Harry went on a bad acid trip (did I mention that this came out in the seventies?). Suddenly, he relapses and remembers not only that he’s the Green Goblin, but that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. Racing to Peter’s apartment to enact his revenge, he instead finds Peter’s girlfriend Gwen Stacey who he abducts. Peter desperately pursues the Goblin to a bridge (George Washington per the text, Brooklyn according to the art) and Spider-Man and Osbourne have a desperate, thrilling mid-air battle that comes to a horrific halt when Gwen Stacey is thrown of the bridge by the Goblin.

Frantically, Peter shoots his webs to catch her before she hits the ground…and he does! He’s saved her! He’s won! Good triumphs over…

No. This time it’s different. And, on the final page, we at last learn the name of the story we’ve been reading which is, of course The Night Gwen Stacey Died. This is the panel that always makes me well up. :

At this point in the comics, Peter Parker was no longer a teenager. He had graduated college, he was an adult. But he was still very much a children’s character. And I find something indescribably tragic about this child’s superhero cradling the body of the woman he loves, unable to comprehend that his world has changed and that the old rules don’t hold true anymore. Good does not always triumph over evil. The innocent are not always spared. The guilty are not always punished. The people you cannot live without will be taken nonetheless. It’s a story about the loss of innocence we all go through and it’s one of very few single issue comics that I would hold up as an absolute work of art. It’s a piece that’s moved me deeply and that I feel a real personal connection to. And I think one of the reasons why it is such a gut punch is because the brutal tragedy at the heart of story is contained in all this colourful, innocent Silver Age goofiness, like a hand grenade with a pink smiley face on it. It wouldn’t work a tenth as well if done in a moody, gritty “realistic” style.

The Night Gwen Stacey Died became an instant classic and to this day is usually considered the demarcation point between the Silver Age and the Bronze Age, a period marked by a more mature and literary style of comics that produced some of the greatest masterpieces in the genre. Unfortunately it also taught a generation of hacks that they could kill the hero’s girlfriend for some cheap drama and pathos. Nowadays, the phenomenon of female supporting characters being killed to provide motivation for the male lead is usually called “Women in Refrigerators”, a term coined by writer Gail Simone after a particularly notorious Green Lantern storyline, but before that it was called “Gwen Stacey Syndrome” because it was really this story that opened those floodgates. To be clear, this does not make The Night Gwen Stacey Died a bad story (or at least, I certainly don’t think it does). The problem is the raft of imitators who failed to realise that what made Gwen’s death so shocking and effective was that it was so rare. Hard as it might be to believe, prior to 1973 women almost never died in mainstream comics, and if they did (Batman’s mother for example) it was almost always off panel. So what does this have to do with The Killing Joke?

Well, The Killing Joke is a 1988 Batman story by Alan Moore with art by Brian Bolland, and since its release its been frequently lauded as one of the best Batman stories, the definitive Joker story and one of the greatest comics of all time. (thanks to Clifford who pointed out that I actually put it on my list of greatest comics which I had completely forgotten). However, it has also increasingly been viewed as being somewhat…problematic…

Frau_Blucher

Why? Well, because in the course of this story the Joker shoots Barbara Gordon, paralysing her, (possibly) sexually assaults her and then shows her father pictures of it in an attempt to break him psychologically. Like Gwen Stacey, Barbara Gordon is brutally assaulted in order to advance the story of a male character, in this case her father and Batman. So there’s quite a bit of backlash against this book, with even Alan Moore himself effectively disowning it. Although honestly, take that with a grain of salt. Despite being the most influential writer in the history of the medium not named Lee, Siegel or Finger, Alan Moore basically now regards the entire comic book industry the way Captain McAllister views the sea.

My feelings? Well…I basically feel about The Killing Joke the way I feel about 99 Problems.

Is it misogynistic? Yes.

Noticeably so for its time and compared to the rest of its genre? Not really.

To the point where it obscures its artistic merits? No.

Of course, reading it now you have the benefit of knowing how the story ends. That Barbara Gordon was able to overcome this tragedy, and became Oracle, a wheel-chair bound superhero who became an inspiration to many disabled comic book fans and one of the most valued heroes not simply in the Bat family but in the DC universe as a whole.

Barbara Gordon | Batman Wiki | Fandom

And then Bruce just had her fixed so she could become Batgirl again, which was inspiring to comic book fans with billionaire friends who magically solve all their problems for them.

Ultimately, despite the problematic…

Frau_Blucher

…elements of the story I still think it deserves to be considered one of the all time great Batman yarns. And I was really pumped for this animated adaptation. Look at this line up! Bruce Timm, creator of the legendary Batman the Animated Series was producing, well-regarded Batman scribe Brian Azzaerello was writing the script and the voice cast was shit shot: Conroy! Tara Strong! MARK HAMILL COMING OUT OF RETIREMENT TO DO ALAN MOORE’S JOKER YE GODS!

But then early word had it that the animated adaptation would be greatly expanding Barbara’s role in the story and I was leery. I mean, on the one hand, it’s certainly a laudable impulse to want to address criticisms of the original by giving Barbara Gordon more agency and putting her experience front and centre. On the other hand, that is a radical change to the story. Put bluntly, The Killing Joke is not a Barbara Gordon story. Hell, it’s not even really a Batman story. It’s a story about the conflict between Moral Nihilism as represented by the Joker versus Ethical Objectivism personified by Jim Gordon. So my feeling was that if the creators doubted their source material to the point that they would make such a radical change, they probably shouldn’t be adapting it in the first place.

My worry was that we would get a more progressive, more enlightened, less problematic version of The Killing Joke but probably not a better one.

Oh, oh, oh…

I wish that was what we got.

JESUS.

(more…)

Hello lovely Patrons!

Hi all,
Just a quick reminder that normal billing will resume at the start of the month so if you were planning on cancelling your pledge, now’s the time. Of course, if you want to continue supporting the blog just because you’re a font of awesome generosity and beneficence that is entirely your call.
Thanks as always,
 
Mouse

I’ve got a little list, I’ve got a little list…

Hi all,

As promised, here’s the list of upcoming reviews in alphabetical order. If you don’t see something you requested, or if you’ve already contributed via Patreon and didn’t get a chance to request, leave me a comment and I’ll stick it on. I…may be doing this a while.

A Monster In Paris
A Series of Unfortunate Events
Aladdin the Series
Alice in Wonderland (the Disney live action one)
Ang Lee’s Hulk
Balto
Batman 1989

Batman: The Killing Joke

Bats vers Bolts: I, Frankenstein versus Dracula Untold
Bats versus Bolts: Nosferatu versus Frankenstein
Bolts versus Bats: Andy Warhol
Cinderella
Darkwing Duck

Daria: Episode 1

Detective Pikachu
Devilman Crybaby
Episode 4 of Death Parade
Episode six of Flip Flappers.
Evangelion: You are (Not) Alone
Felix the Cat
Frankenweenie

Freddie as F.R.O.7

Heavy Metal
Hercules and Xena the Animated Movie
Hoodwinked
Inherit the Wind
Into the Woods
Jimmy Neutron
John Carter

Joseph: King of Dreams

Judgement at Nuremberg
Kung Fu Panda 2
Little Mermaid the Series
Lu Over the Wall
Megamind
Metropolis (Osamu Tezuka)
Moomins on the Riviera
My Hero Academia: First 4 Episodes
Night of the Hunter

Once Upon A Time: Episodes 1 and 3

Over the Garden Wall
Pan
Perfect Blue
Planes
Raggedy Ann and Andy: A Musical Adventure
Redline
Return to Oz
Rock and Rule
Romeo and Juliet Sealed with a Kiss

Sailor Moon R: The Movie

Shin Godzilla
Something Eastern European
Summer Wars
Superman Versus the Elite
Tangled the Series
The Animatrix
The Dark Crystal
The Fantastic Adventures of Unico
The Good Dinosaur
The Land Before Time
The Land Before Time 13
The Polar Express
The Quiet Man
The Swan Princess
The Third Man
Titan AE
Tomorrowland

TMNT:Turtles Forever

V for Vendetta

Your Name

An announcement I have been waiting to make since I was eight years old.

Hi everyone. When I made my big end of year humblebrag a while back there was actually another bit of news that I couldn’t tell you because negotiations were still ongoing. So here it is.

I’ve been signed by TOR for a two book deal.

One of the largest publishers of science fiction in the world offered to publish my novel When the Sparrow Falls (until recently called The Caspian Sea) for summer 2021 with a second book for publication in summer 2022 and I said “Yes. I find this agreeable.”

This deal will be for North America and most of the world. For the non-American Anglosphere, the book will be published by Rebellion, the UK publisher of Judge Dredd.

So…

How’s you’re day going?

So, obviously this means I’m going to be spending a lot of time on edits and writing book #2 over the next three years as well as my usual work commitments.

“Aren’t you forgetting someone else?”

“Hi Dad!”

“Hi son! Are you still pooping literally all the time?”

“I am!”

Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Guys I hate to say it but it looks like I might have to shutter the blog…

“Whoah whoah, are you actually just going to throw away your hardwon fanbase RIGHT before you begin your career in publishing?”

“Not good?”

“Bit not good, yeah.”

“WHAT ABOUT US?!”

“Angry mob!?”

“WE’RE YOUR PATRONS! AND YOU OWE US REVIEWS!”

Okay. EVERYBODY CHILL! HERE is what I’m going to do:

Patreon

So I’ve put a pause on the Patreon and any patrons are not getting charged for June. Starting now I won’t be taking any more review requests because I already have a massive backlog. If you’re waiting for a review it WILL be done, but it’ll take time and with one book to be edited and a second one to be written over the next two years I will be shifting to a new schedule which means I simply can’t take any more reviews on.

SO. If you’re a $5 or a $10 Patron now would probably be a good time to cancel your pledge as I’m afraid I won’t be able to fulfill any new review requests.

New Schedule

After the conclusion of the Endgame review the blog will be shifting to an alternating monthly/bi-monthly schedule. As in, one month there’ll be one review, the next there will be two and then one again. I’m hoping this will just be temporary. I’m planning on taking a leave of absence from work later in the year to focus on being a full time writer and…wow I just wrote that. Really happening. Sorry, back on track. As I say, I will hopefully be shifting back to a twice monthly schedule in the Autumn but that will obviously depend on deadlines, workloads etc. etc.

Pending Reviews

Over the next few days I’ll be posting the complete list of scheduled, requested reviews. If you’ve requested a review that you don’t see listed leave me a comment and I’ll add it in. The reviews WILL be done, I promise.

Thank you all

Guys, some of you have been with this blog since the days when I didn’t even know how to properly crop an image. I would not be the writer I eventually became without your support. It’s been a crazy, wonderful eight years. Thank you all so much. Virtual group hug. Bring it in.