Never pick a fight with an Australian. Lesson. Fucking. Learned.
This one hurt, folks. Space Chimps manages to encapsulate so much of what has gone wrong with 21st century animation that I almost feel like if I burned the DVD all those sins would just evaporate as the spell was lifted. It’s awful, but it’s awful in so many different ways at once that it has inestimable value as a teaching tool. I feel like you could teach an animation course on what not to do based on this movie alone. This is the first movie by Vanguard Animation that I’ve reviewed on this blog as I’ve not had the unalloyed pleasure of viewing Valiant, Happily N’Ever After or Space Chimps 2: Zartog Strikes Back….
Sorry. When I typed that last one I felt an ice-cold shudder and had to go check that all the doors and windows are locked. Anyway, Vanguard is at the rearguard of modern American animation and was founded by John H. Williams who is, as the DVD cover is quick to remind us, one of the primates who brought us Shrek. And I have one question. What the hell is Shrek? Shrek? Sounds like an Eastern European currency. Boris bought a red cabbage and a bottle of vodka for three shrek.
Highest grossing animated film of all time you say? No, doesn’t ring a bell.
“Heeey everyone. I was just hoping we could have a little chat before Mouse starts the review. Just us.”
“I know you all think it’s really funny that you got Mouse to review Fritz the Cat. I’m sure you’re all having a big laugh. “Ha” you might say, and also “Ha.”
“But here’s the thing. This movie messed him up so badly that I don’t know if he’ll ever recover. And I’m a simple mouse who lives by a simple rule: You hurt the ones I love?”
“I WILL FUCK YOUR FUCKING SHIT RIGHT THE FUCK UP. IF YOU EVER PULL ANYTHING LIKE THAT AGAIN I WILL TRACK YOU DOWN THERE IS NOWHERE YOU CAN HIDE. PAIN? I WILL MAKE YOU LONG FOR SOMETHING AS SWEET AS PAIN.”
“’Kay? Enjoy the review.”
Do you know what it’s like to review Fritz the Cat? To sit in the dark watching that cat fuck everything that moves, to feel your brain slowly coming apart from the constant assault of surreal, messed up, toked out, crazy shit? No. You don’t. Because you’ve never been out there, man. Out in the real deep shit. This movie man. You don’t know, man. It’s like, you think you have a handle on things, man, like life and art and truth and beauty man like they’re all just packaged and sold in these neat little Styrofoam boxes, man, and then this movie comes along and it’s like, you know man? Like, what does it all mean, man? I…I…I shouldn’t be doing this man, I should be a pair of ragged claws scuttling across floors of silent seas, man…
“Mouse, relax. You’re going crazy over there, man.”
“YOU WEREN’T THERE, MAN!”
Sorry. Sorry. I’m alright. Okay. Let’s do this.
For as long as there have been comics there have been “underground” comics, the kind of comics that aren’t read in a newspaper at the breakfast table on a lazy Sunday morning but are more usually read at night. Under the covers. With a flashlight.
Pornographic comic books or “Tijuana Bibles” were especially popular in the Great Depression and usually featured well known comic book characters or public figures engaging in what scripture calls “the hard fuckin’”. No one was safe. Popeye, Betty Boop, Superman you name it, someone drew them doin’ it.
Trust me, just be glad it’s Minnie and not Pluto.
By the 1960s the underground comics (or “comix”) scene had merged with the broader counter culture movement. In contrast to mainstream comics which had to abide by the Comics Code Authority, comix were uncensored and didn’t abide by jack shit. These books were absolutely steeped in sixties drug and music culture, often politically radical and transgressive and extreme in their depictions of sex and violence. They also, it must be said, frequently had a streak of misogyny a mile wide. But at its best, the comix scene produced some of the finest American sequential art of the twentieth century (Art Spiegelman, for example, honed his craft in indie magazines in the seventies).
The one creator who is probably more associated with the comix scene than any other is Robert Crumb and his most famous creation is almost certainly Fritz the Cat, an anthropomorphised cat who’s kinda like Felix crossed with Roosh V. The Fritz strips first appeared in the magazine Help! where the editors famously responded to his submission with a letter saying; “Dear R. Crumb, we think the little pussycat drawings you sent us were just great. Question is, how do we print them without going to jail?” The comic became a genuine breakout hit and was read by many a long-haired hippie degenerate, one of whom was our old friend Ralph Bakshi.
Bakshi had set up his own animation studio and was looking to create animation for adults. He came across one of Crumb’s books and bought the rights to the strip. Warner Bros originally were going to fund it but then they saw Bakshi’s early shoots.
Instead, the movie ended up being funded by Cinemation Industries, purveyor of such highbrow classics as The Black Godfather, Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song and The Eighteen Year Old Cheerleaders.
It’s important to remember that there was a weird period from the late sixties to around the mid-eighties where porn was pretty much mainstream, and you could just go to the cinema and watch a big budget porno made and financed by a large studio as opposed to some dude with a camera and a couch. Fritz the Cat is very much a part of that. It’s not solely a porno but it’s got relatives who are pornos if you catch me. So before we get into this review please take note that this is a movie with sex and nudity, pretty grotesque ethnic caricatures, frequent homophobic and racial slurs and some generally fucked up shit.
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.
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 Downhas 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.
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.”
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 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.
And so, as another year ends we face the aftermath of another Movie Deathmatch. Dammit, we must build a better world. When will the killing end?
So, as you all know, this time around I was trying to raise money for Joanna VR, a filmed version of my play for virtual reality. We were aiming to raise €12,500. We got around €3,000.
Meh. It happens. We’ll sit down, work out where we go from here, figure out a new way to do it and try again. All part of the process and not one you guys have to worry about. What does concern you is the results and here they are. The winners of the increasingly misnamed Unshaved Mouse Charity Movie Deathmatch 2015 are:
3. Steven Universe
2. Gravity Falls.
1. The Hunchback of Notre Dame 2
Oh wait. Sorry, sorry.
No, first place was actually Gargoyles. Yeah. And for those of you agitating in the comments to get people to vote for Hunchback 2? I have a list. And I will find you.
Stories will be told around campfires.
Huge thanks to everyone who voted. Also, special thanks to people who gave larger donations and requested reviews outright. They were Alex Hu, Martha Brady, Michael Tyndall, JBull, Roger Courtney, Adrienne Gallagher and my brothers John, Eamonn and Donal Sharpson who donated just to make sure that I have to review three of the WORST FUCKING MOVIES OF ALL TIME. Thanks to all of you (except the last three) and if there’s anyone I’ve overlooked please let me know in the comments ASAP.
Star Trek the Animated Series, Pacific Rim and A Goofy Movie have now all been killed. Would you like to know which of them were cowards? If you want the movies and TV series below to escape the same grisly fate, you know what you gotta do: head over to the Joanna VR Kickstarter page, make a donation of five or ten and leave a comment to let me know who gets your vote of vote. And remember, for a vote of €25 or more you can request a review of any movie or tv show you like. The remaining fighters are:
The Hunchback of Notre Dame 2
The Lego Movie
Voting closes 31 December when I will be putting up the winners. Thanks for all your support guys.
And so the first round comes to an end the way they always do, with senseless, awful, awful violence (maniacal cackle).
So? Fan of DarkWing Duck? Lover of Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles (the cartoon I mean, not actual reptiles)? Friend and well-wisher of SwatKats?
My condolences. They are with God, now.
Our surviving fighters are:
A Goofy Movie
The Hunchback of Notre Dame 2
The Lego Movie
If you want one of these movies or series to survive to fight another day, head over to the Joanna VR Kickstarter page, make a donation of five or ten and leave a comment to let me know who gets your vote of vote. And remember, for a vote of €25 or more you can request a review of any movie or tv show you like.
Before we get on to the fun part of unveiling which of the 123 (I’M SORRY I’LL REPEAT THAT AGAIN ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY FRICKIN’ THREE) Movies and TV series that you nominated made the cut, let’s go through how this works again.
Leave a message on the Kickstarter page (or an email to email@example.com) telling me who gets your vote or votes ($5 counts as one vote, $10 counts as two).
We’ll be running the Kickstarter for thirty-eight days. Every two weeks, the lowest scoring three movies/series will be eliminated in entertainingly gory ways.
Highest scoring three movies/series at the end of the month get reviewed. Simple as.
Mouse? I’m rich, and I believe the rules do not apply to me.
How can I get you to review a movie or series I want and skip all this foolishness?
A $25 dollar donation and I’m yours for the night, baby. That automatically gets you a review of any movie or episode of a TV series your heart desires. Anything at all. Doesn’t even have to be animated or a comic book movie. Anything. I will review a damn sexual harassment training video if you want.
What’ll you do for $40?
Oh what are you, a cop?
Ohhhhhkay…What if I buy a review for a movie or series that’s competing in the death match?
In the case of movies, if you give a $25 donation and request a movie that loses the deathmatch, you get the review anyway. If your movie wins the deathmatch then I will contact you and ask you for your second choice and you get two movies that you wanted reviewed instead of one. Fair enough?
In the case of a TV series that wins the deathmatch, I’ll review an extra episode for every person that gave a $25 donation for that series.
“And that, children, is how the Unshaved Mouse had to review Gravity Falls for the rest of his life.”
So, without further ado…LET’S MEET OUR CONTESTANTS!
Age: 24 (Now don’t YOU feel old?)
AKA: “DW”, “The Killer Bill”, “Ol’ Motherducker”
A grim spectre of the night, Darkwing Duck brings peerless martial arts skills and cutting edge gagetry to the deathmatch arena. Coming face to face with DW, many fighters will turn tail and run when they hear three words: “Let’s. Get. Dangerous.” ELIMINATED
AKA: “Dismemberer of the Night”
A savage and lethal combatant, Gargoyles swoops from the shadows, picking off unsuspecting opponents and tearing them to pieces before they have a chance to react. Temporarily allied with its Disney stablemates, how long can this fighter resist its own beastial nature before it turns on them? Not long. Not really…no, not long at all. Matter of minutes.
A Goofy Movie
Run Time: 78 minutes
AKA: “The Super Goofer Trouper”
In a very Disney-heavy field this perennially overlooked and disrespected film has nothing to lose and everything to prove. And that may just make him the most dangerous fighter of all. “You want to get nuts with Goofy!?” he yells through bloodied teeth “C’MON! LET’S GET NUTS!” ELIMINATED
Episodes: 38 and counting
AKA: “The Inevitable G”
No movie or series entered this contest with more hype. No other fighter has as much love from the crowd. And perhaps, no other fighter is as big a target or has as far to fall. Beloved though it may be, Gravity Falls should remember the fate of The Iron Giant, another highly popular fighter who was favoured to win and then got blown up by a nuke. Makes you think.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame 2
Run Time: 69 Minutes
AKA: “Ol’ Worse Than Cancer”
Guys, I’m just going to drop the schtick for a second. This movie can’t win. Do not let this movie win. Don’t be stupid now. This thing will be the death of us all.
Run Time: 132 minutes
AKA: “The very confused one”
“Help!” Pacific Rim yells, banging furiously on the bars of its cell “There’s been a terrible mistake! I’m not an animation or a comic book movie! I shouldn’t even be here! Let me out!”
“There is only one way out.” a wise old movie tells him “Win the crowd, and you will win your freedom.” ELIMINATED
AKA: “The Hanna Barbarians”
SWAT Kats steps into the arena with cutting edge weaponry, EXTREME ATTITUDE and a total disrespect for spelling convention. It’s like the nineties never went away, baby. ELIMINATED
Star Trek: The Animated Series
AKA: “The Terror From Beyond the Stars”
“Captain’s log, stardate…unknown. My crew and I have found ourselves transported to a strange alternate dimension where it appears we are to be made to fight for the amusement of beings of incredible power. Of course, the taking of sentient life in arena combat is barbaric and anathema to the code of any Starfleet officer but…well, that’s never stopped us before. Mr Spock, it’s time to choke a bitch.”
“Logical, Captain.” ELIMINATED
Episodes: 73 and counting
AKA: “Cruisin’ for a Fusion”
Another highly favoured fighter, Steven Universe will stop at nothing to win the Deathmatch and return Earth to Homeworld Gem control.
Run time: 114 Minutes
AKA: “Most Righteous Death Edge of the East”
Word of the Deathmatch has traveled even to the Far East. A lone warrior, masterless and taciturn, Summer Wars comes to test its skill against the mightiest warriors the West has to offer. Only then, will it finally be able to quell the rage that dwells within its heart.
The Lego Movie
Run Time: 100 Minutes
AKA: “The Brick Shithouse”
The youngest of our fighters, The Lego Movie eschews speed and skill for pure, brute power. As anyone who’s stepped on a lego brick barefoot in the dead of night can attest, Lego is lethal business.
Run Time: 73 Minutes
AKA: “Lean Green Machine”
Combining the techniques both old and new, Turtles Forever is an excellent all round fighter that just might have the skill and tenacity to come out on top. ELIMINATED
This is, as the title should indicate, a big important post. Don’t worry. It’s not a “we need to talk” post, or an “I just spoke to the Doctor” post. It’s a cool one. An exciting one. It’s also one that is a little difficult to know where to begin. Firstly, you need to know about a person and you need to know about a thing. The person is this guy:
That guy is Doctor Abraham Campbell (Abey to his friends). Abey is a computer scientist currently lecturing in University College Dublin’s Chinese school in Beijing (UCD has a big campus) and probably Ireland’s foremost mind in the field of virtual reality. He’s also a buddy of mine. That’s the person. The thing is this:
In case you haven’t heard of it, that’s the Oculus Rift, the first real, high-quality, no-fooling, virtual-reality headset that is going to be commercially available for sale in early 2016. Now, there’s no way of knowing whether Virtual Reality is going to be just a weird little technological gimmick or a game changer like the smartphone. But we’re going to find out. Soon. This is happening. Abey, who incidentally is the smartest human I know by a significant margin, is betting on the latter. His goal, as he’s told me before, is that one day he’ll be able to hand a headset to someone in Sub-Saharan Africa that will contain an entire third level education. He’s also working on a holographic version of himself that he can broadcast to China so that he doesn’t have to leave home to teach his classes and yeah, I’m just going to play the music now.
So, why am I telling you all this? Well, because there’s no point in buying a SNES if there’s no Super Mario to play on it. The platform needs media.
Last year, the readers of this blog helped to fund Joanna, my play about a vigilante who savagely murders rapists as an avatar of the breakdown of civilized society caused by the betrayal of the social contract inherent in the justice system’s complete impotence in dealing with the crime of rape (It’s a comedy). One of the people who saw that play was Abey, and he approached me with an extremely exciting idea. Short version:
We’re turning Joanna into the world’s first full-length, mature virtual reality film.
This is potentially historic. This could, quite literally, be The Jazz Singer of the Virtual Reality era.
This could, quite literally, be the Steamboat Willy of the Virtual Reality era.
Throughout the summer Abey, myself, our extremely talented cast and crew and our director Jeda De Brí have been shooting tests scenes and experimenting with how this whole thing works. I’ll be doing follow up posts where I talk about the challenges of filming in 360 degrees and what we’ve learnt but the short version is this; we are now ready to create something that is thrilling, terrifying, and totally unlike anything else you’ve ever seen. And what’s more, you won’t need an Oculus Rift to view it (although that will certainly give you the best experience). With a decent smartphone and headset you will be able to experience Joanna for yourself. How do you get a headset? I’m getting to it (told you this was a long post). Below you can see our Kickstarter video. The Kickstarter page hasn’t gone live yet so you guys are actually the first outside of the production to see this. (Oh, and there’s some guy we hired to stand in for me because Abey thought that anti-rodent prejudice might affect our ability to raise money and like a coward I listened).
Abey, Jeda, myself and our associated henchpersons have set up a Kickstarter page so that you can give us your money to fund this exciting endeavour. For as the Bible says, is money not the root of all evil? Better off without it, I say, we’ll take care of it for ya. And, as is customary, we will be offering rewards for donations. These are cumulative, with a new reward added to each level which I’ve put in bold. They are as follows:
$1– A thank you, sincere and genuinely felt.
$5– Your name in the credits.
$10- Now we’re talkin’. You get to download your own copy of the movie. (FYI you’ll need a smartphone with a four inch display that can play mp4s.) Plus your name in the credits.
$25-All of the above plus a limited edition Joanna Google Cardboard viewer for a better viewing experience.
Summit like this.
$40- A digital download of the movie, the Google Cardboard viewer, your name in the credits and a movie poster signed by the cast, director and author.
$60- A digital download of the movie, the Google Cardboard viewer, your name in the credits and a movie poster signed by the cast, director and author and a signed Joanna screenplay.
$75- Now we start getting fancy. You get the movie, your name in the credits and a movie poster signed by the cast, director and author and a signed Joanna screenplay. And you get a snazzy as bejaysus plastic limited edition Joanna VR viewer.
Snazzy. As. Bejaysus.
$100- A digital download of the movie, your name in the credits, signed movie poster, signed Joanna screenplay, snazzy as bejaysus plastic limited edition Joanna VR viewer and a Joanna T-Shirt.
$150- A digital download of the movie, your name in the credits, signed movie poster, signed Joanna screenplay, snazzy as bejaysus plastic limited edition Joanna VR viewer, Joanna T-Shirt and an assessment of your script by our director Jeda DeBrí and our author Neil Sharpson (currently under contract with the Abbey Theatre, Dublin). They’re very constructive and super nice (usually).
$250– Everything on the $150 level plus get out your fanciest duds ‘cos you’re comin’ to the wrap party in Dublin!
$300- Get those fancy duds out a second time because you’re coming to the premiere! Plus, digital download of the movie, your name in the credits, signed movie poster, signed Joanna screenplay, snazzy as bejaysus plastic limited edition Joanna VR viewer, Joanna T-Shirt, an assessment of your script by our director Jeda DeBrí and our author Neil Sharpson and you’re coming to the wrap party.
$500– You get to be part of the Beta, testing footage on Oculus Rift. You’ll get behind the scenes footage and see the film two weeks before it’s released to the public. Plus, you get everything at the $300 level.
$1000- As you are clearly someone we want to be pals with, how about you come on set and watch us film? Filming will take place in late January/Early February. Come, meet the cast and crew and let us answer any of your questions about VR technology and filming. And of course, you will also get to be part of the Beta, an invite to the wrap party, an invite to the premiere, a digital download of the movie, your name in the credits (probably in big flashing lights), a signed movie poster, a signed screenplay, snazzy as bejaysus plastic limited edition Joanna VR viewer, Joanna T-Shirt , an assessment of your script by our director Jeda DeBrí and our author Neil Sharpson and a partridge in a pear tree*
*Subject to very limited availability.
So yes. I’m asking you for money. And as usual, that can only mean one thing:
On November 23 when the Kickstarter page goes up, I will post the 12 movies and TV series that have been selected to compete this year, along with a guide as to how voting will work this year so be sure to check in for that.
So. Yeah. I know it’s all a lot to take in. Also, please share this far and wide. Know somebody who’s interested in VR? This is a really inexpensive way to get their hands on some cutting edge tech, so let them know. Know someone who’s big into gritty female-led drama? This might be for them. Please help us get the word out make this as big as it can be. Any questions, let me know.
Hi guys. So this is going to be one of those big weird posts where I update you on various unrelated pieces of news relating to the blog that I didn’t want to split up into individual posts. We all love those, right? Course we do. The news is, thankfully, pretty darn good, and I’ll be starting with the small beer before hitting you with the big exciting stuff. Let’s get started.
The Blog Awards Ireland
Huge thanks to everyone who voted. Won’t know for a while if I made the shortlist but we’ll see.
Ranking the Taoisigh
So the blog’s weird little detour into Irish political history has now wrapped up. Thanks to everyone who read, commented, and took the time to inform me that Seán Lemass was robbed. If you missed it, it was my attempt to review every Irish head of state in my usual “charming” style and you can get started here. Additionally, some have mentioned that they’d like to read through the entries chronologically to get a better sense of the historical narrative so I’m happy to oblige:
I’ve decided that I’ll be doing the “posting every two days for a month” thing next year, but on a topic a little closer to this blog’s heart. Ain’t sayin’ nothin’.
The Devil’s Heir
The sequel to the Hangman’s Daughter will start going up this Saturday with a new chapter every second Saturday afterwards. Huge thanks to my brother Eamonn for helping me with proof-reading and editing. If you want to get caught up on the first book before diving into the second so you know what the heck is going on and why all these Vikings and Cowboys are fighting demons and who the old lady kicking all the ass is, you can get started here.
What the blog is going to look like in the future
It feels like almost a year ago that I announced that I was going to start reviewing Marvel movies on this blog (what’s that? It was almost a year ago? I see). Back then I said I’d be starting in July 2015 but clearly that didn’t happen. Gallstones, crossovers, the whole BluCatt thing…mouse plans, God laughs, right? Anyway, I am now down to the last three reader requested reviews which will go up on the 15th and 29th of October and the 19th November. Then, Iron Man on the 3rd of December and we’re on our way, alternating with the winners from the first Move Deathmatch.
Wait a minute, “first”?
Yup. Okay, so there’s this new project I’m involved in that I can’t tell you about. Yet. I will be making an announcement soon. But it’s big. Potentially huge. Here’s what you need to know: We’ll be fundraising on Kickstarter and my contribution will be to run a second Movie Deathmatch here. This one is going to be a little different (for instance, for a larger donation you’ll be able to bypass the voting process and just buy a review) but for now I just need you to shout our your choices in the comments. Which movies do you want me to review? As many as you want. And as before, the twelve movies that seem to have the most support will be selected for the Deathmatch. Oh, and as well as animated features and comic book movies, this time I’m also accepting requests for animated series. Just name the series for now, we’ll figure out which episodes will actually get reviewed later.