Mouse Smash

JC Lau's blog about geekery, gender and other rants

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Review: I saw Arrival and have some feels about it


I didn’t read any reviews about Arrival (except this one) before I went to see it at theaters today. So, all I knew about the film was that there were aliens and something about scientists trying to communicate with them (which, if you think about it, they do in almost all films involving aliens).

What I wasn’t expecting, then, were lessons in the construction of language, the importance of clarity and perhaps something about not losing faith entirely in humanity.

Spoilers may follow, so be warned.

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Mouse Smash Reviews: Suicide Squad is a Resounding “Meh”


One of the problems in film, generally, is being able to present a cohesive story with backstory, arcs, character development, conflicts to resolve and loose ends to tie up within a limited window of time. Now, the more characters you have in the story, the less time you can give any one of them, so that their stories get condensed and abridged until they aren’t really robust anymore.

Suicide Squad suffers from this problem in scads. With the DC comic villains each having their own origin stories and arcs from the comics, it’s hard to transpose those into a coherent narrative, and instead the overarching story feels like it’s cobbled together with a handful of random metahumans doing what they’re good at, with the writers being ordered to make a comic book film more like Marvel’s. At least they tried, I guess. Continue reading

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Imagined Universes and Their Inhabitants

GotG lineupWhen Marvel announced last year that Thor was going to be female, there was some backlash from pockets of comic book fandom saying that the change went against the mythology of the comic, and that Marvel was just pandering to feminists. Of course, given our cultural climate, it’s hardly surprising that an objection would be made on the basis of Thor’s gender. But what’s weirder is that the basis of this objection is that it wouldn’t fit into a universe which, by its definition, was a fictional one, and as such could encompass whatever sort of characters we can imagine.

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Iron Sky: The Coming Race trailer

What’s better (or worse) than Nazis on the moon?

How about Nazis riding dinosaurs at the center of the Earth?

Maybe zombie Nazis riding dinosaurs?

Maybe zombie Nazis riding dinosaurs?

Yep. The team that brought you Iron Sky in 2012 are launched a new crowdfunding campaign today to make a sequel, which is available on Indiegogo.There are a variety of tiers of contribution, with $10,000 buying you the title of Associate Producer. Continue reading

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UPDATED: Marvel’s Avengers 2 Trailer is Here!


Marvel planned to debut the Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer during Agents of SHIELD next Tuesday, but it looks like the trailer has leaked online. It’s since been taken down, but not before it was posted elsewhere. The trailer can be found here, albeit in rather poor quality.

A few things to look out for in the trailer:

  • Iron Man in the Hulkbuster suit
  • Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver
  • Captain America’s broken shield
  • Thor picks Iron Man up by the throat… what? (Also, Hulk then fights with Iron Man… also what?)

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The Pacific Rim Trilogy?


So we know that Legendary Pictures has greenlit Pacific Rim 2, with a release date of April 7, 2017. But now Guillermo del Toro has announced that he’s planning to make a third Pacific Rim movie which will continue immediately from the conclusion of Pacific Rim 2.

In an interview with Collider, del Toro confirmed that the first draft of the Pacific Rim 2 script is now complete, and he expects to begin pre-production on the film August or September 2015, with shooting to take place toward the end of the year in November and December.

However, Pacific Rim 2 is going to be a “different experience” from the first film. Del Toro said:

“Some of your favorite characters come back, some others don’t because we have decided that we’re going to shoot ambitiously and say ‘Let’s hope we have three movies,’ so some characters come in at the end of the second, hoping that it will ramp up on the third one.”

This makes it sound like Pacific Rim 2 will end with a cliffhanger to be resolved in Pacific Rim 3. However, as long as the experience still involves giant robots fighting giant alien sea monsters, I think we’ll be okay. There will also be an animated series leading up to Pacific Rim 2, so it looks like the franchise will be expanding in all directions.


Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori

As for which characters return for PacRim 2, del Toro hasn’t been specific, but here’s hoping that Mako Mori (played by Rinko Kikuchi) will feature with more story arc and development. After all, she has her own version of the Bechdel Test to pass.

Pacific Rim 3 has not been greenlit yet, so perhaps it’s appropriate to be cautiously optimistic. After all, Hellboy 3 got nixed, and sometimes less is more: just because something is successful as a standalone movie doesn’t mean that it should be expanded into a trilogy (I’m looking at you, Matrix).

Pacific Rim made three times as much at the international box office as it did domestically.

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There’s bloodsucking and then there’s just… sucking: Review of Dracula Untold (2014)

Director: Gary Shore

Cast: Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper, Sarah Gadon

Genre: Action, Drama, Fantasy

Now with more bats than Batman

Now with more bats than Batman

Dracula Untold is a tale that should have stayed, well, untold.

The film, based on the life of the real Vlad the Impaler, is set in the 1460s, where Prince Vlad (Luke Evans) returns home from his impaling days to his wife and children, only to be ordered to provide 1,000 Transylvanian boys to serve in the Ottoman Army. Alas, Vlad doesn’t have an army to defend his kingdom. What to do? The obvious choice is, apparently, to wager with a creepy cave-dwelling vampire (who turns out to be Tywin Lannister from Game of Thrones) to gain his powers.

Unfortunately, Dracula Untold is confused about what kind of film it wants to be. On one level, it’s an awkward love story about Vlad as a family man. It’s also a war movie, although some of the imagery and cheap jump scares suggest that it might be attempting to be a horror film too. It’s also a tragic biopic : we know that despite Vlad’s best intentions, things aren’t going to work well for him. Oh, and there’s also a helpful etymology lesson on the origins of the word “Dracula” thrown in for good measure.

As a result, the film’s writing is laughably hokey, especially on the frequent occasions when it takes itself too seriously. Vlad’s not portrayed as a monster, but anything else with pointy canines is a threat that must be destroyed right away. Vampire clichés abound: they hiss at crucifixes, get flayed by the sun, and die on stakes (well, he is the Impaler), although are no cloves of garlic to be seen. The special effect with a swarm of CG bats is considerably impressive, but film logic means that those bats easily take out a full army in platemail without so much as anyone getting hantavirus.

Not surprisingly—and despite its attempts to depict Vlad’s family—the film is also extremely testosterone-driven: there’s only one instance in the entire 92-minute cheesefest of two women talking to each other, and even then it barely scrapes by on some variants of the Bechdel test (they’re talking about Vlad’s son). Still, the film limps along, cobbled together in Frankensteinish fashion, when it really should just be laid to rest.

Dracula Untold opens on October 10 in US cinemas.