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My next novel is now available for pre-order!

Barnes and Noble are currently running a promotion for 25% off on all books being released in 2023 and guess who’s got one of those?

“Oh, more book schilling. How we’ve missed it.”

Quiet you.

Yes, my sophomore effort Knock Knock Open Wide is being released September 26th, in good time for Halloween. Per Barnes and Noble:

Knock Knock, Open Wide weaves horror and Celtic myth into a terrifying, heartbreaking supernatural tale of fractured family bonds, the secrets we carry, and the veiled forces that guide Irish life.

Driving home late one night, Etain Larkin finds a corpse on a pitch-black country road deep in the Irish countryside. She takes the corpse to a remote farmhouse. So begins a night of unspeakable horror that will take her to the very brink of sanity.

She will never speak of it again.

Two decades later, Betty Fitzpatrick, newly arrived at college in Dublin, has already fallen in love with the drama society, and the beautiful but troubled Ashling Mallen. As their relationship blossoms, Ashling goes to great lengths to keep Betty away from her family, especially her alcoholic mother, Etain.

As their relationship blossoms, Betty learns her lover’s terrifying family history, and Ashling’s secret obsession. Ashling has become convinced that the horrors inflicted on her family are connected to a seemingly innocent children’s TV show. Everyone in Ireland watched this show in their youth, but Ash soon discovers that no one remembers it quite the same way. And only Ashling seems to remember its star: a small black goat puppet who lives in a box and only comes out if you don’t behave. They say he’s never come out.

Almost never.

When the door between the known and unknown opens, it can never close again.

My own experiences with Rimini Riddle may have influenced the creation, who can say? Anyway, you can preorder it from Barnes and Noble HERE and if you use the code PREORDER25 you’ll get a stonking 25% off the price. Money out of my children’s mouths, but what do you care?

“Papa! Papa, we are ever so hungry!”
“Forgive me, child. But we must starve that Barnes and Noble may give their valued customers great savings!”
“Then I must be brave, Papa. For Barnes and Noble!” *cough cough*

Later Bat time, later Bat channel

Hi folks, really sorry but the Batman and Robin review is going to be delayed until next week. See, I forgot that this was the week I had a book deadline to meet, a TV proposal to submit, a driving test to take and everyone in my family was going to get sick with something. I didn’t plan the last one, but given the last few years that’s really on me.

Anyway, the review will go up February 2nd. Thanks as always for your patience and understanding.

“When did we become the joke?”

Before we begin, please take a look at these quotes:

“So one of the things that surprised me about this movie on re-watching was that it is much better than I remembered, or at the very least far more interesting. Thor exists in a much richer emotional universe than the two Iron Man movies or Hulk.”

“Something that I don’t think gets talked about when it comes to [Thor 2] is just how gorgeous it is. Seriously, the art design in this is just jaw dropping, it is hands down the best looking picture in the MCU.”

“A thought occurred to me as I watched Thor and the Revengers speeding towards a giant wormhole called the devil’s anus while blasting spaceships with lasers while Mark Mothersbaugh’s awesome techno score rippled in the background: is this movie the greatest thing ever? Yes. Yes it is.”

“Wow” you might ask. “What pathetic, gushing, blinkered, Thor-fanboy said THAT?”

“Um, me” I reply.

“Oh. Well, this is awkward” you might answer.

“Yeah. Yeah, maybe think before you say something really hurtful” I sob.

Sorry, feeling a bit emotional today. I put those quotes above to give some context. If there’s an internet reviewer who’s been as unstintingly positive to the Thor series as me I am unfamiliar with their work. I have gone to bat for this series again and again. I made Thor my highest ranked of the Phase 1 origin movies. I made Ragnarok my number one movie of the entire MCU. I HAD NICE THINGS TO SAY ABOUT THE DARK WORLD.

So when I say that Love and Thunder is not only the worst Thor movie but the worst movie in this entire 30 film franchise, I hope you understand that this is a big deal. Something that I loved has betrayed me and left me angry, appalled and ready for revenge.

“See? This guy gets it.”
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That time of year again.

I had a conversation on the bus with Spouse of Mouse recently where I mused about what I was going to put in the end of year wrap up. “I dunno” I said. “2022 felt the first kinda “normal” year in a long time. Doesn’t feel like anything super crazy happened.”

She looked at me like I was insane. 

Screenshot 2022-12-19 at 13.51.04

Oh riiiiight, the thing.

My God, you can get used to anything can’t you? Yes, ignore me, I don’t even know what time is any more and it’s been that way for some…something, I don’t know what the correct term is. Anyway, after the orgy of book schilling that was 2021 the blog must have seemed very sedate this year. The new year will not be like that. Big things in the pipeline folks. We’re gonna have to call a plumber…

But in the meantime, check out this absolutely stunning cover for the Czech translation of When the Sparrow Falls from Planeta 9 publishing. 

2184: Pád Kaspické republiky. Prvé české vydanie (Planeta9, 2022).

Or, as it’s called in Czechia, 2184: The Fall of the Caspian Republic. Because, as one Czech reviewer noted “who would buy a book called When the Sparrow Falls?”

Screenshot 2022-12-19 at 16.20.39

Anyway, here’s what I did this year.

In 2022 I reviewed 1 Canon Disney movie, 4 MCU movies (plus Hulk), 3 X-Men movies, 3 animé, 3 live action movies, 4 non-Disney animated feature, 2 animated series and 1 Batman movie. 

It was a pretty great year, honestly. After the fairly paltry showing of last year I actually managed to make some sort of dent in my review pile and I discovered plenty of new movies that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Best movie this year isn’t even close. 

redline-gif

Redline reminded me of why I love animation in the first place. As for worst? Alice in Wonderland, which increasingly feels less like a movie and more like an early onset symptom.

Even if 2022 wasn’t actually a return to normality in any way, I hope it at least fooled you like it did me. 

Have a wonderful, safe and happy Christmas and a great new year.

Nollaig shona daoibh go léir,

Mouse.

 

The Polar Express (2004)

It’s probably a testament to just how jaded I am that my first thought when watching The Polar Express was “actually, this animation isn’t half bad”. The Polar Express is notorious for being the start of Robert Zemeckis’ turn to the dark side, where one of the most respected directors of genre cinema became a professional corporate necromancer.

Oh shit, I acknowledged its existence. Someone fetch my flail.

And The Polar Express was his first attempt at making an all CGI mocapped film and is infamous for being utterly, skin-crawlingly unsettling in its depiction of human characters. And yet, maybe it’s because I‘ve seen the absolute depths to which this accursed path would lead Zemeckis I found myself not minding the animation too much, for the most part at least. It just looks like a computer game cutscene. And, if I’m being scrupulously fair, there are even shots that I think are honest to God beautiful.

My, this review is trending rather positive isn’t it? I wonder if that will last.

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Heavy Metal (1981)

Heavy Metal began in 1977 as an American translation of Metal Hurlant, a French science fiction fantasy magazine that featured seminal work by such legendary creators as Moebius, Enki Bilal and Jean Claude Forest and had a massive influence on the entire comic book medium because TITS.

Tits tits tits. Melons. Gazongas. Knockers. Hooters. Tatas. Jugs. Boobies. Yayas. Bosoms. Chesticles. Mazumas. Badonkadonks. Big ol’ greasy Baps.

Was there some genuinely thought provoking and visually spectacular sci-fi in its pages? Absolutely! Playboy also published plenty of great articles, what’s your point?

Heavy Metal, the 1981 anthology animated film that adapts many of the magazine’s most iconic stories, has tits. It has many tits. It has big tits and small…actually no, it only has big tits. In the ancient swamp of the pre-internet age, that really was enough. The marketing campaign could literally have been the words “CARTOON BOOBS, YA DIG?” plastered on every available surface and this movie would have been a success.

But for a jaded, modern reviewer who sees boobs once (maybe even twice) a month, it’ll take more than that. So, is there more to Heavy Metal than awesome bewbage? Let’s take a look.

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Rock and Rule (1983)

Imagine you go to a Burger King and the guy at the counter serves you with a smile, promptly brings the food to your table, thanks you kindly for your custom and wishes you a good day. Someone, in short, who doesn’t have to put nearly this much effort into their job but does it anyway because, gosh darn it, if you’re going to do a job you might as well do it well.

That’s Nelvana. Nelvana is an extremely prolific Canadian animation studio who produced basically any cartoon you saw in the eighties or nineties that wasn’t made by Disney, Hanna-Barbera, Filmation or Warner Bros. They’re probably most famous (if you’re my age, at least) for their many, many licensed animations for properties like Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake and My Pet Monster. Nelvana were front and centre in the saccharine, corporatised swamp that was the American TV animation scene in the Reagan era. Like many of their peers, Nelvana had to make ends meet in the burger joint by cranking out barely concealed animated toy commercials. Unlike many of their peers, Nelvana actually seemed to give a damn. Their shows were, broadly speaking, better than they needed to be and demonstrated real skill and craftsmanship in their animation. There were always hints that, if given time and a budget and a premise slightly less anodyne than “Will Grumpy Bear ever get that stick out of his ass?”, Nelvana had the talent to make something truly special. And, if ever there was a time to do it, it was the early eighties.

The late seventies/early eighties were the “Warring States” period of American Feature Animation. The senile old king, Disney, had fallen from his throne and seemingly every animator who could hold a pencil was scrambling for the crown. This was the heady time when Rankin Bass, Ralph Bakshi and Don Bluth battled for control of the artform, right up until 1989 when the old king came back and was like “I’m feeling a lot better now everyone, thank you for your concern“.

But all that was in the future. Nelvana was formed in 1971 by Patrick Loubert, Clive Smith and Michael Hirsh with the stated intent of creating a Canadian Disney.

“You fucking hoosers, eh?”

After several well received Christmas specials and animating literally the only part of the Star Wars Holiday Special that deserved to be spared the flame (the cartoon that introduced Boba Fett), the studio began work on their first feature length animation; Rock and Rule. It’s an obvious passion project, clearly made by a young team just bursting with talent and ambition and love for what they were doing. It’s also something that was very obviously begun without a complete script or even a set plot. It’s weird. It’s uneven. It’s a wild, uncontrolled shambling mess of eighties animation that failed when it was dumped into theatres with no marketing by a distributor that neither loved nor understood it. Which obviously means that it was made for me, Mouse, personally.

“I shall take this movie, and raise it as my son.”
“Poppa!”
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Sailor Moon R: The Movie

This is one of those reviews where I feel like literally every single person interested enough to read it already knows far, far more about the topic than I do and is just waiting for me to make a massive ass of myself. I never watched Sailor Moon growing up and was only vaguely aware of it as the animé that most people think of when they hear the word “animé”. So I went on a rather fascinating tvtropes binge (did you know that the entire Japanese magical girl genre was inspired by the American sitcom Bewitched?) and I’m proud to report that I’ve gone from being absolutely clueless to loveably befuddled in record time.

Okay. So. Let’s start at the end and work our way backwards.

What is Sailor Moon R: The Movie?

Sailor Moon R is a movie based on Sailor Moon R.

What is Sailor Moon R?

Sailor Moon R is the second season of the Sailor Moon animé.

What is the Sailor Moon animé?

The animé adaptation of Naoko Takeuchi’s manga about schoolgirl Usagi Tsukino who discovers that she is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior princess from a kingdom on the Moon. As Sailor Moon she battles evil monsters with the help of other girls/reincarnated warriors such as Sailor Mars, Sailor Venus, Sailor Mercury and Sailor Jupiter. It’s a fusion of the magical girl genre with the sentai superhero genre.

What is best in life?

To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you and to hear the lamentation of the women.

Why don’t girls like me?

Because you’re not actually a person, you’re just a rhetorical device I’m using for this review.

What? Wait come back!

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Redline (2009)

“Hey Mouse have you seen the new Pino..

Nope. Not gonna do it. Not gonna watch it. Not gonna blog about it. Not gonna contribute to THE DISCOURSE. Not, in short, gonna give the bastards the satisfaction.

Here is what I am going to do. I am going to talk about my new boo.

Redline, a 2009 animé movie released by Madhouse, instantly became one of my all time favourite animations and it didn’t even break a sweat doing it. Which is not to say that it’s one of my favourite movies, necessarily, but as a perfect sugar rush high of the purest joy animation can deliver I struggle to think of its equal. This thing took 7 years to make, comprising 100,000 cels of some of the most gorgeously detailed hand-drawn animation I’ve ever seen.

The movie is the debut feature of animator Takeshi Koike, whose Animatrix short World Record I reviewed a few weeks ago (all part of my cunning plan). But what is this “Red Line”, you ask. What’s it all about, eh?

Okay, so take 2000 AD comics, the works of Jack Kirby and Moebius, Mad Max and pretty much every Franco-Japanese Saturday Morning cartoon from the eighties and put them in a blender. Take enough LSD to turn into a pineapple and serve. That’s Redline. It is AWESOME. If I had seen this when I was ten years old I might have actually died from excitement.

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“You break the rules and become a hero. I do it and I become the enemy. That doesn’t seem fair.”

“And I know he’s here…”

I had a realisation when I heard that line. In the eighth episode of Wandavision, “Previously On”, Wanda Maximoff enters SWORD Headquarters to try and retrieve the body of her lover, the Vision. And something about how Elizabeth Olsen delivers that line. Some mixture of ragged sorrow, aggrieved entitlement and barely contained rage…like a soul that’s been crushed into diamond-hardness by life’s cruelties. It’s absolutely terrifying. And that’s when I realised that Elizabeth Olsen is the best actor in the MCU.

Now, a while back I said that I would be reviewing all of the Disney Plus Marvel shows as part of this series, but, in my defence, that was before I had seen most of them. In fact it was right around the time that Wandavision had me convinced that it was one of the most exciting, radical genre TV shows I’d seen in years. That’s…not how it turned out. The Wandavision finale wasn’t terrible, by any means, but for something that was shaping up to be the MCU’s answer to Twin Peaks to end in just another CGI blob fight in the sky…

Well, I wasn’t angry. But I was disappointed. And it turned out that Wandavision was the highpoint, so let’s just breeze quickly through the rest.

Not bad, really liked the John Walker arc, the Isiah Bradley stuff was cool but the villain was just nails-on-a-chalkboard and the two leads were the least compelling part. C+

Didn’t see it. I mean, I watched it but the whole thing was so underlit I don’t even know what happened. Picked up a bit towards the end with the Kang reveal but the writing needed to be a lot sharper for a show about the MCU’s wittiest character. C-

Damn, Marvel just does NOT like Star Lord, huh? This one’s hard to judge, any anthology show is going to have ups and downs. Overall, I think it balances out to be a B-.

Quit after episode 3. Automatic F.

Okay, a Hawkeye series is a tough lift. Fair enough. But how do you fuck up Moon Knight? I quit this twice. I tried to power through because I love the character but life is too damn short. Two Fs.

And I haven’t seen Ms Marvel or She Hulk yet.

Oh, but it looks GREAT.

So that’s us all caught up.

Multiverse of Madness is basically a thrown gauntlet to the audience. Prior to this, the TV corner of the MCU (whether that was on ABC, Netflix, Hulu or Disney +) was completely vestigial to the films. In fact, prior to Charlie Cox showing up as Matt Murdock in No Way Home, I can’t think of a single instance when the TV properties were even acknowledged in a main series movie (prove me wrong in the comments, folks). MoM though? If you are not at least fully caught up on Wandavision, Loki and What If?

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