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Review: 'District 14; Season 1', by Pierre Gabus & Romuald Reutimann

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District 14: Season 1Wow!

I mean …

Wow!

Jeff “Bone” Smith, in his Foreword, expresses it more elegantly, but I don’t think that he has any more idea than I do of what’s going on in these 300 awesome pages.

District 14 is an intoxicating brew of early twentieth century Americana, a world filled with immigrants, gangsters, and heroes. It’s like a dream mash-up of Little Orphan Annie, Dick Tracy, noir and gangster films, as well as 10 cent comic books from the ‘40s … oh, and toss in Babar the Elephant for good measure (the authors are French, after all). (p. 4)

Um, yeah. And with aliens in flying saucers, a phony human superhero, gun-toting tadpoles and their frog crime boss, several anthro-animal underworld gangs at cross purposes, a crime-fighting goose newspaper editor and his fearless beaver reporter, various characters with unexplained psychic powers, some extortionists who are dubious good guys (after they beat the s--- out of you and you pay for their protection, they genuinely protect you), the Babaresque main character who has deep, dark secrets, and … lots more. Definitely noir. VERY noir!

Foreword by Jeff Smith. [Translation by Natacha Ruck & Ken Grobe]
Los Angeles, Humanoids, Inc., February 2013, hardcover $39.95 (300 [+ 4] pgs.)

Review: 'Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed'

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Sonic & All-Stars Racing TransformedOh no, here they go again; Sonic trying to tread on Mario’s toes and milk a little bit of his success by pushing in on his turf. It wouldn’t be the first, and most certainly won’t be the last. But I’m sure the blue hedgehog hears enough about being a faker by a certain black hedgehog — so let’s take a step back to look at the latest game featuring the blue blur with a more open mind. In other words, let’s not question why he’s racing in a car; let's just look at the game.

Opinion: Furries, Freud, art, and "sexual correctness"

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The Rumpus, a blog aimed at the challenging side of pop culture, brings up Furry Fandom's most divisive topic in Oh So Furry: The Rumpus Interview with Kilcodo.

Rumpus: Are cartoons sexy? Are animals sexy? Or are both of those statements irrelevant? Is it more the re-imaging idea?

Kilcodo: It depends on the person, but I think if you look at the way that we use language and the way we think about what is and isn’t sexy, we’ve constantly used anthropomorphic language. We call a sexy woman a fox. We call an older sexy woman a cougar. We call men bear, wolf. I’ve heard otter being used in the gay community. And I think that’s because as sexual beings we can see eroticism in many different organic forms, and I think because animals are beautiful, people like to meld the two forms together, so you have a human body and a majestic head of an animal, and people find that beautiful and even erotic.

Kilcodo's thoughtful answer brings to mind the Freudian term "Polymorphous perversity".

Review: 'The Right to Arm Bears', by Gordon R. Dickson

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The Right to Arm BearsThis “novel” collects Dickson’s three light space-opera adventures about humans, the bearlike Dilbians, and the jovial-but-sinister Hemnoids: Spacial Delivery, first published as a novel by Ace Books, November 1961, 123 pgs.; Spacepaw, first published as a novel by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, February 1969, 222 pgs.; and “The Law-Twister Shorty”, a novelette in The Many Worlds of Science Fiction, edited by Ben Bova (E. P. Dutton, November 1971, pp. 51-105).

Planet Dilbia is in a crucial location for both humans and their adversaries, the Hemnoids. Therefore making friends with the Dilbians and establishing a human presence there is of the utmost importance, which may be a problem, since the bearlike Dilbians stand some nine feet tall, and have a high regard for physical prowess. They're not impressed by human technology, either. A real man, er, bear doesn't need machines to do his work for him. But Dilbians are impressed by sharp thinking, and some have expressed a grudging admiration for the logical (and usually sneaky) mental maneuvers that the human "shorties" have used to get themselves out of desperate jams. Just maybe that old human craftiness will win over the Dilbians to the human side. If not, we lose a nexus, and the Dilbians will learn just how unbearable Hemnoids can be.... (back-cover blurb)

Riverdale, NY, Baen Books, December 2000, 431 pages, 0-671-31959-0, $6.99

Review: ‘Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two’ for the Wii

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Epic Mickey 2This game is a nostalgia trip. Much like the original Epic Mickey, it highlights a diverse cast of classic Disney characters that don’t always get the spotlight; sure, there’s a matchmaking questline that unites Donald and Daisy Duck as romantic partners, but there’s also one featuring Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar. When was the last time you saw those two characters featured?

Well, probably the last Epic Mickey game; you also get that nostalgic kick just listening to the opening screen music if you’ve already played the first game. The world of the Epic Mickey, Wasteland, is a bizarre world of forgotten and buried cartoons; at one point, I found myself looking at a bizarre new form of sedimentary rock formed of discarded Disney paraphernalia. It’s a nice place to visit; I’m not sure if I want to live there, though. It’s strangely creepy.

And the camera still stinks, too.

SPOILER ALERT: I have tried to hide late game plot revelations as best I can, and believe I did an alright job. However, I totally spoil the ending of the first Saw movie after the break.
Update (Jan 29): Disney shutters Epic Mickey creator Junction Point Studios

Retrospective review: Shady is best pony in ‘My Little Pony: The Movie’

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My Little Pony: The MovieDuring the early eighties, the FCC began to back off on restrictions on advertisements in children’s television, despite pressure from parents’ groups to apply more. The upshot was a series of Saturday morning cartoons (as well as other children’s shows) that were nothing but glorified commercials for various toy lines.

Hasbro was one of the companies involved in selling chunks of plastic to kids who could then nag their parents via the magic of animation. To be entirely fair, their products were probably the most artistically valid at the time, which I should stress was not saying much. Most of their shows have had a remarkable shelf life, long after the need to sell toys have gone.

In 1986, Hasbro had two movies hitting theaters based on their toylines; Transformers: The Movie and My Little Pony: The Movie, with a G.I. Joe: The Movie planned for 1987. However, both became massive box office flops, and G.I. Joe was sent direct to video. While Transformers quietly went on to become an animated cult hit, My Little Pony, well, didn’t.

The reason for this is simple; it’s not a very good movie. But looking at it today, it offers insights into why the newest incarnation of the property, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, has followed in Transformers: The Movie footsteps to become its own animated cult hit, as well as why bad movies are bad in general.

Animation: The cat wants a bar mitzvah

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The Rabbi's CatFrom January 18 to 25, the GKids (Guerrilla Kids International Distribution Syndicate) distributor gave the 98-minute French animated feature The Rabbi’s Cat (Le Chat du Rabbin), directed by Joann Sfar and Antoine Delesvaux, produced by Autochenille Production (a studio set up in 2007 by Sfar and Delesvaux to make this movie), and based on Sfar’s French five-volume graphic novel of the same name (volumes 1, 2, and 5 of it, to be exact), a one-week American limited “general” distribution, in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego on the West Coast. It will have an East Coast release in mid-March.

The original French release, on June 1, 2011, won the Annecy Crystal for Best Feature at the 2011 Annecy International Animated Film Festival, and the 2012 César Award (“the French Oscar”) for Best Animated Film. It had a one-week release in one theater in America on December 7-13 to qualify for 2012 American film awards, and was nominated for the Annie in two categories, Best Animated Feature and Outstanding Achievement, Directing in an Animated Feature Production.

On January 20, my sister and I went to the Laemmle Town Center 5 in Encino to see The Rabbi's Cat, in French with English subtitles. It was playing for a week, and has gotten a mixed but generally favorable illustrated review in LA Weekly, January 18-24, 2013, the major citywide free alternative newspaper. Rotten Tomatoes gave it 93%.

Review: 'Iron: or, The War After', by Shane-Michael Vidaurri

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Iron: or, The War AfterThis anthropomorphic graphic novel requires going back and forth several times to understand the complex and incomplete story. In a bleak landscape of perpetual winter, a civil war has ended but the losing revolutionaries are continuing a guerrilla warfare. James Hardin (rabbit), a secret agent of the Resistance, has stolen a top-secret document to distract the N.P.O. (National People’s Organization; roughly the militaristic government) from a planned sabotage of a train over a strategic bridge. General Hanslowe (lion) assigns Officer Pavel (crow) and Captain Engel (tiger) to track him down and get the document back. Engel berates Pavel as a coward for allowing Hardin to escape in the first place. During the search, the N.P.O. team does not realize that Pavel accidentally kills Hardin.

The surviving rebels (Giles, a goat; Timothy, a frog, and Charlotte, a fox) plan to carry through Hardin’s real plan. Hardin’s orphaned children, James Jr. and Patricia, trying to help, sneak away and board the train. James triggers the detonator prematurely, destroying the train but not the bridge.

The rabbit children are taken to a military orphanage for rebel children; Engel plans to use them to find their father, who he believes is still alive. Subsequent events show which of the children, and of the adults, is the stronger.

Los Angeles, Archaia Entertainment, January 2013, hardcover $24.95 (152 [+ 8] pages).

[Audio interview] Artist Spotlight: Kadath

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Kadath sipping coffeeIsiah takes the opportunity to interview furry artist Kadath on several recent aspects of his career. Future plans for projects and characters are discussed, including some mature content.

MP3 Download (60 Mb; 1:04) - FA comments - on YouTube

Three comic book reviews: Pull List #5 (‘Avengers Academy,’ ‘Hack/Slash’ and ‘TMNT’)

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Well, here’s number five of the series, which is two after the invitation for other writers to add their two cents to the “what comic books are you reading?” discussion. Nobody else threw their hat into the ring, so I guess you all just really hate comic books, then, huh?

Furry Movie Award Watch: January 2013

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The Oscar nominees have been announced, and it is a weird year. It was so weird, most Oscar pundits had a better idea of what would win Best Original Song than Best Picture. Now that the nominees are out, it looks like Best Picture is finally clear, but most pundits (this one included) have a better lock on Best Foreign Language Film than Best Animated Feature. So much for “we’ll know come November.”

Artist spotlight: Jeremy Bernal; a retrospective

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In honor of the ten-year existence of SexyFur, and the recent publication from FurPlanet, Isiah interviews Jeremy Bernal about his career as a furry artist. Some mature topics are covered.

Isiah Jacobs: Hello, Mr. Bernal, thank you so much for joining me today! It's a great pleasure to have you on the show!

Jeremy Bernal: Thanks for the opportunity of the interview.

Isiah Jacobs: For the very few furries out there who have never heard of you before, you are the owner of two of the most well know furry porn pay sites, SexyFur and Tail Heat. SexyFur has been around for pretty much ten years now, and you just recently came out with your first official publication; a decade's worth of retrospective pin ups.

Jeremy Bernal: I'm not sure if it's the first official publication. We've done some other artist books and comics before the retrospective book. But it's probably the first "new book-like thing" I've put together in a few years.

Review: 'Badger's Moon' by Elleston Trevor

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'Badger's Moon coverFor Christmas 2012, I received an unexpected present from a friend. The accompanying note explained that he'd acquired a second copy of a beloved book from his childhood and had thought of me as someone likely to appreciate it. The book was Badger's Moon by Elleston Trevor, and appreciate it I certainly did.

Who was Elleston Trevor? A prolific writer across a variety of genres, under several names. He is most famous for the novel Flight of the Phoenix, which has been filmed twice, and for his series of spy stories starring an agent named Quiller (as in Memorandum). He also wrote a large number of books for children, including Scamper-Foot the Pine Marten, Ripple-Swim the Otter, and Wumpus, which stars a koala. He was born in 1920 and died in 1995.

Badger's Moon is part of a series of children's books featuring the Woodlanders. These anthropomorphic creatures inhabit an idyllic, timeless landscape of hills, woods and rivers, rather like Winnie-the-Pooh's Hundred Acre Wood or Mole and Ratty's Riverbank. Other titles in the series include Mole's Castle and Sweethallow Valley.

Review: 'Miss Bianca in the Salt Mines', by Margery Sharp

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Miss Bianca in the Salt MinesThis is the fourth book in Margery Sharp's fantasy series "for all ages". As always, the central characters are the two mice, Miss Bianca and Bernard, and various other members of the Mouse Prisoners' Aid Society; and, as usual, the plot revolves about Miss Bianca's kindhearted determination to rescue some poor human from undeserved durance vile in an absolutely escape-proof prison -- this time, it's a little boy, Teddy-Age-Eight, enslaved in the salt mines. As before, Miss Bianca is sophisticated and charming, and Bernard is devoted and persevering; the plot and dialog skip wittily along, and a happy ending is soon reached for all.

It's not that I didn't enjoy the book, but I was disappointed to discover that it didn't say anything new. Miss Sharp has written the same book for the fourth time now, and the novelty of the basic plot has worn off. The series has not deteriorated, exactly, but it is noticeably beginning to stagnate.

Boston, MA, Little, Brown and Company, June 1966, 148 pages, 0-316-78311-0, $3.95. Illustrated by Garth Williams. Full text available.

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