Friday, 9 October 2020

On 9.10.20 by KieronMoore in    No comments
Abe makes a deal to bring back the eyes of a lost relative… 

Shot during the brief period of this summer when it was safe to go outside, here's a new short film written and directed (and produced, shot and edited...) by me. It's a bit grim, as that's my 2020 mood, and was designed as something easy to shoot on a low budget and while remaining COVID-compliant, but hopefully the silliness will provide some amusement.

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

On 17.6.20 by KieronMoore   10 comments
I've been keeping myself from going stir crazy during lockdown by working on some creative projects, including this sketch, filmed over Zoom, which I wrote and directed with Tom Woffenden. It's turned out quite well given we had no idea how the technology would work, or how we'd direct actors to riff off each other when at opposing ends of the country. Look out for my vocal cameo as 'Danny's Dad'.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

On 10.6.20 by KieronMoore in ,    No comments

I hope all my followers are coping well in this weird time. Being without a job to go to or a social life outside of a computer screen for the time being, I've decided to make a few updates to this neglected site, and that includes an announcement about Spectrum, the film I produced over 2018.

After a successful festival run last year – including screening at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival and winning Best Short Film at the Gilbert Baker Film Festival – we had one more screening lined up for the end of March, but due to one thing and another, that didn't happen, and it doesn't look like there'll be any more anytime soon.

Therefore, we've decided to release the film online, and are happy to announce that it's found its new home on Amazon Prime Video.

Spectrum is available now (click here to see it!), free to stream for Prime subscribers, or to buy and rent for everyone else – but we're all signed up to every streaming service these days, aren't we?

If you enjoy the film, don't forget to leave us a positive review, and to share it with friends, family and pets.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

On 22.12.19 by KieronMoore in ,    4 comments

[This review contains spoilers. If you want a spoiler-free review, there are enough out there.]

In 2015, when the popular opinion of the Star Wars franchise was that the prequels had forgotten the fun, action adventure feel of the original movies, JJ Abrams was the right choice of director to bring it back. The Force Awakens was a whistle-stop tour of what we used to love about Star Wars, and the fact that some plot elements were very much a replica of those from A New Hope was outweighed by the new perspectives added onto this plot by charming new characters, and by the energy which Abrams injected into every scene.

But then The Last Jedi upped the game, keeping the same charm but twisting it into something new. Its writer/director Rian Johnson recognised that, if the sequel trilogy stayed reverent to the originals, like so much of our nostalgia-fuelled pop culture, the trilogy would fall flat, and so made a point of not doing that. He pushed those characters in new directions and gave us us a more thoughtful film, twisting The Force Awakens’ best idea – that Luke Skywalker and the Jedi had become myths in the Star Wars galaxy, reflective of the characters’ beloved status in our culture – with the most daring theme of any Star Wars: nostalgia and myths can be dangerous; question your heroes; "we are what they grow beyond.”

In my opinion, it was the best Star Wars film to date. Some people didn’t agree. Which is fine. Opinions will vary. But some people really didn’t like it, seeing the way it refused to be adoring of every aspect of Star Wars iconography as a betrayal of the franchise. The backlash expanded from fair criticism into bullying. Two of the film’s stars were hounded off social media by the most toxic, outspoken elements of fandom. It became difficult to have a fair discussion around this film without getting bogged down in the pervasive nastiness.

When it came to the final instalment of the sequel trilogy, Disney and JJ Abrams, at the helm once more, had a choice – stick to their guns, or fall back. 

The Rise of Skywalker falls back, and then some. It’s a regressive movie, both in ideas and execution.

Rey’s arc began in The Force Awakens by centring on how her desire to know about her parents dominated her search for personal identity (to the point of holding her back – she initially refused a place on the Millennium Falcon’s crew so she could go back to Jakku and await them). This was playing into one of the more conservative aspects of Star Wars – an equating of parentage with destiny. Luke’s fate being determined by his Skywalker bloodline was such a large part of the original films that the release of the first two sequels was surrounded by endless, dull theories about who Rey’s parents were. Is she a Skywalker, a Solo, a Kenobi, a Palpatine? My thought about all this was – who cares? And that’s why I loved the twist in The Last Jedi. It’s who she is that matters, not who her parents are. Someone playing an important role in the galactic saga because it’s their familial destiny to do so is the equivalent of someone becoming Prime Minister because their parents’ mates in the House of Lords and their teachers at Eton always told them they were going to; I’m much more interested in the story of someone who comes from nothing, makes the choice to join the fight, and creates their own destiny. 

But the theorists weren’t happy about that twist. They weren’t happy about the film daring to go against the unspoken rules of Star Wars and surprise them with a revelation that didn’t fit their carefully plotted theories. And so The Rise of Skywalker gives in, pulling right back. Rey is, via a half-arsed retread of The Empire Strikes Back’s big moment, a Palpatine now.

Maybe not liking the twist is a matter of opinion, though. Maybe for some, particularly those who didn’t like The Last Jedi, Rey (pictured above) being the Emperor’s granddaughter is a neat reveal, bringing the themes of the saga full circle. But even if you do like the idea, I don’t see how anyone can defend the execution – Kylo casually saying “oh yeah, I was lying in the last film.” The backtracking is excruciatingly palpable.

I do think there’s some merit to the idea of Rey flirting with the dark side in this final instalment. Having failed to turn Kylo to the light and with her master Luke dead, Rey doing whatever it takes to win, and being lured via Palpatine’s schemes into making bad decisions, is an interesting way to move her arc forward. But this potential story gets lost among the baggage of her being his granddaughter, which deviates the film away from any possible point about what makes people commit evil. (And again, the whole thing is so clumsily done; a lowlight for me is when she thinks she’s killed Chewbacca, then it turns out she didn’t, and the explanation is “oh, maybe it was a different transport”, despite the fact that there clearly was only one transport.)

Kylo Ren’s arc is just as poorly compromised. In The Force Awakens, he was on his way down to the dark side, but consumed by inner conflict, hesitant when it came to killing his father. In The Last Jedi, Rey became obsessed with whether she could redeem him, as Luke redeemed Vader. This dynamic took up much of that film, with a fascinating back and forth, exploring the potential for his redemption from various angles and even very nearly seeing Rey succeed, before she was given the answer: no. He’s gone too far. The film ended with him undeniably evil.

We have to remember that this character is a fascist, at the same time that, in the real world, the far right is on the rise again in many countries. Yes, I know, I’m making the silly space movie political, but all art reflects the culture that produces it, and this comes at a time when we have to ask ourselves questions about whether we stand up to fascism or placate it and hope it goes away (clue: it doesn’t). Kylo Ren is an alt-right kid. He’s also a school shooter; he massacred his class. He is, as of the end of The Last Jedi, evil.

And the first half of The Rise of Skywalker backs this up. He’s slaughtering his way across the galaxy, determined to collate his power and to wipe out the Resistance heroes who oppose him. He’s evil, evil, evil. Rey seems no longer concerned with redeeming him but with finding a way to stop him. 

And then his mum reaches out to him through the Force, he gets injured, healed, and suddenly he’s good. Wait, what? It’s all so sudden, over and done in a scene. Like with Rey, even if you like the idea of a redemption arc – and I don’t – you can’t deny the clumsy execution.

“This is so stupid,” I thought while watching it, “they might as well go for broke and have Rey and Kylo make out.”

For fuck’s sake.

Speaking of Kylo’s mum, the use of previously shot footage to fit in Leia is awkward, but I can forgive that – the filmmakers making the best of an unfortunate situation. But I can’t forgive the awful death scene, as arbitrary and half-arsed a part of Leia’s arc as it is Kylo’s. I found it hilarious how everyone accepted her death without question. 

The scene goes like this:

Poe: I need to talk to the General.
Conspicuously lesbian rebel: Poe... she’s gone.
Poe: Oh, that’s sad, but OK.

When it should have been:

Poe: I need to talk to the General.
Lesbian: Poe... she’s gone.
Poe: Huh? Where?
Lesbian: No, I mean, she’s dead.
Poe: Dead? How?
Lesbian: I don’t know, I just left her for a minute and then when I came back she was lying there. Must have fallen over or something.
Poe: Fucking hell, do we not have any doctors? How did you idiots let this happen?
Lesbian: I’m sorry, I only left to call my wife and – 
Poe: Your what?
Lesbian: Oops.
Poe: You know you’re not meant to actually mention her. Get back to the background of shot.
JJ Abrams: This film has LGBT representation.

Anyway. At least Rey and Kylo, and to a lesser extent Leia, get to be characters

Poe and Finn had charm and promise in The Force Awakens and grew new layers in The Last Jedi. Here, they’re little more than toy soldiers, bumbling through the plot making ‘witty’ comments, as are the rest of the figures who pop in to do their bit. Lando is here for the sole purpose of Lando being here, in a role in which he doesn’t do anything distinctly Lando-ish and could have been swapped out for any other character. Hux’s change of side is another bonkers consequence of putting superficial tropes over letting characters drive the plot, a far cry from the devout believer in his neo-Imperial cause who we met in The Force Awakens screaming from his Nuremberg-esque platform about the sins of the Republic. Rose Tico is an extra.

These characters are thrown from set piece to set piece as the plot regurgitates the highlights of previous Star Wars films; as Abrams did in The Force Awakens, yes, but this is no longer enough. He even retreads his own effort, with half the film taken up by the search for a MacGuffin that will lead the way to a hidden planet, just like the map to Luke Skywalker. Then we have a loose retread of Return of the Jedi’s climax, with a lot of spaceships thrown in from Abrams’ toy box and the whole galaxy suddenly deciding it would be a good idea to liberate itself (in The Last Jedi, no one answered the call for help; here, Chewie and Lando do a quick whip-round and every planet decides to simultaneously commit all its forces to the Battle of Exegol and rise up against the First Order locally... where to start with that one?).

But it’s the final scene on Tatooine which sums up how nostalgia – and remember how ‘nostalgia can be dangerous’ was the theme of The Last Jedi? – is this film’s downfall. It’s regressive in how it takes us back to a location from the original film to please fans rather than for any obvious story reason, and regressive in how it brings Rey back to where she started, where The Force Awakens told us she needed to get away from – alone on a desert planet – all her character development, finding her place and her friends among the Resistance, for nothing. Rian Johnson knew this franchise needed to move on; JJ Abrams pulls it right back.

There are some small things I liked... Babu Frik is delightful. C-3PO gets a few good bits. The reveal of Snoke’s origin makes narrative sense and is handled efficiently. And the line “It’s not a navy, it’s just... people” is powerful. Though even that hurts because it hints at a potentially much better film, one that not only has some kind of grasp of what’s going on in this galaxy but also properly explores what makes people either give in to or resist oppressors, rather than just faffing around on the surface.

This is a bad movie. It’s a movie in which someone turning down sex with Oscar Isaac doesn’t even make the top ten list of biggest nonsenses. The prequel movies may have been horribly flawed in execution, but at least they had ideas, a story to tell. 

It’s a gut punch. It’s not just a bad film, it’s a disastrous film, a victory of style over substance except without any style. But more than that, it’s a victory of commerce over art, another victory for the bullies in a decade where the bullies keep on winning, a loss for a franchise supposedly centred on hope at a time when we have little.

Still, at least The Mandalorian is good. Ahem... so I hear.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

I haven't posted on here for a while, as life has been pulling me in all its many directions, but I thought it time to round up the links to the reviews I've written for STARBURST Magazine so far in 2019:

New movies:
  • High Life - messy but poignant space-set drama
  • Jarman V2 - nice BFI packaging of the queer cinema pioneer's work
  • Kingdom - about bananas and capitalism

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Earlier this week, I started thinking about how Series 11 had been going, and realised that, though some early episodes were decidedly mediocre, we hadn’t had a completely awful episode.

Jinxed it, didn’t I?

Let’s start with what I liked:
“Yippee ki-yay, robots!”
The RenĂ© Magritte-esque exterior of the building 

And then they got inside it, and it looked like a Welsh power station.

The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos (I'm going to start spelling that wrong in a bit) is a shambles of an episode, executed with the sub-Stormtrooper precision of the robots who shoot each other in a scene shockingly on par with the barely first draft quality of this entire episode’s illogic. Everything makes you ask: why? Why would you set up the planet’s mind-altering field and then have it amount to giving the Doctor a bit of a headache? Why is it relevant that 3407 years have passed when all of this could have been achieved in six months? Why do they keep putting things on their faces this series?

If there’s anything that comes close to working here, it’s Graham’s desire for revenge against Tim Shaw. There is an idea in there for a way to close his character arc about grieving. But the episode almost completely avoids drawing any conflict out of this. The Doctor considers stopping him, then... just doesn’t. Graham gets the chance to kill Tim, then... just doesn’t. It’s all a load of nothing.

‘Nothing’ is also a fair description of the amount of development Ryan, Yaz or the Doctor get in The Wandering Around of Ranskoor Av Kolos, and of the depth of Mark Addy’s character, who might as well have remembered his name as Commander Exposition. A better script could have done something interesting with the Ux, exploring them as religious fanatics manipulated into extremism, but again this episode can’t even begin to do anything interesting because it doesn’t get past the level of basic competence; it’s utterly baffling that they start worshipping Tim so quickly and then, after 3407 years, are persuaded to stop so easily.

Perhaps on a side note, something that’s been irritating me this series is how many alien races are identical to humans, or in the Ux’s case, humans with squiggles on their faces, as if prosthetics haven’t moved on since the first few seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It makes the universe a lot less exciting.

Meanwhile, Tim Shaw has been stripped of all the cultural specificity he had in The Woman Who Fell to Earth in favour of being a cape-swishing supervillain screaming for revenge. He worked quite well in that first episode, but doesn’t have the gravitas to be a finale big bad. Compare the incredible appearance of the Dalek army in Bad Wolf or Missy’s reveal in Dark Water to the complete shrug that is the return of Tim, which boldly assumes everyone will recognise his generically evil voice and mask (surely what we remember about him was the face of teeth, but no, we get the mask).

And that lack of gravitas is the problem with The Battle of Rather Have Colonoscopy as a whole – with no tension, it’s utterly boring. Not what you want from a finale. In this respect, it’s possibly the worst final episode of post-2005 Doctor Who; while some of Moffat’s made as little sense, at least they felt big, and had moments that kept you halfway to the front of your seat, if not at the edge. Even The Name of the Doctor had the John Hurt reveal. Here, Chibnall seems averse to making us give a shit about anything. The Doctor’s task in the climax of this, the final episode of the series, is to put some planets that are already dead back in their orbits. Why?

Chris Chibnall confuses me. Sometimes he’s really on it – Broadchurch Series 1 and 3, for example, and there were some good decisions made in the run-up to this series, not least the casting of Jodie Whittaker and excellent choices of guest writers. But sometimes, he does Broadchurch Series 2, or Camelot, or this piece of P’ting shit. Perhaps he’s a worse writer under pressure – I’ve heard that Broadchurch Series 2 was rushed into production by the BBC, and that he struggled with being thrown into the showrunner role on Camelot – in which case, this may not be the job for him.

The BBC announced shortly after the episode finished broadcasting that Series 12 won’t be coming next year, but in early 2020. That’s a well timed decision, as after such a dire finale, it’s difficult to be eager for more. But it also might be a good decision; let’s hope the extra time allows Chibnall to do at least second drafts this time round.

  1. Rosa
  2. It Takes You Away
  3. Kerblam!
  4. Demons of the Punjab
  5. The Witchfinders
  6. Arachnids in the UK
  7. The Tsuranga Conundrum
  8. The Woman Who Fell to Earth
  9. The Ghost Monument
  10. The Bottle of Rick Astley's Cum

Saturday, 8 December 2018

I’ll put my cards on the table right away and say I love it when Doctor Who goes full-on ‘frog universe’ level weird. This was especially enjoyable in Ed Hime’s It Takes You Away as it came as a surprise, at the tail end of a series where episodes have tended to, for better or worse, do what it says on the tin.

This episode’s trailer, as unfortunately vague as all the Series 11 marketing, pitched it as standard ‘cabin in the woods’ horror fare, a trope which is worn out in horror films that are for an adult audience and therefore allowed to be actually scary and which I wasn’t particularly enthused to see a toned-down Doctor Who take on. But it turns out there’s a whole lot more going on inside this tin.

It’s an episode built around turns that take the story in completely different directions – from that cabin the woods we’re taken to a hellish cavern more delightfully alien and grotesque than anywhere we’ve been this series, and from there to a whole different universe, before culminating in a void with a frog on a chair. At any point in this plot, there’s no way you could predict where it’ll be in ten minutes’ time.

And yet, it all flows so well, due to the very sharp focus in its character stories. It’s a style reminiscent of Steven Moffat’s Who at its best – plots which similarly ran off on unexpected tangents with big sci-fi concepts but which were unified by their solid character focus. I say ‘at its best’ because it’s an approach that went wrong for Moffat as often as it worked. Here it works; with the missing father, the dead mother, the return of Grace, and the unspoken issue of Ryan’s father, this is an episode about absent family members, and that’s a thread that carries us through the surreality, like the string the Doctor uses as a guide through the caverns. Graham’s scenes with ‘Grace’ are heartfelt, and pairing Ryan up with another abandoned child works well to reflect his own issues.

There is a hint of Chibnall’s style too, in that stories this season have tended towards the procedural solving of mysteries, and the red herring with the ‘monster’ is a perfect example of that. It’s nicely worked into the plot – set up but you don’t see it coming – while also tying into that deeper theme. But it also leads into what’s missing from the conclusion: Erik is forgiven for his poor treatment of Hanne very quickly, and it’s a shame he never gets any dialogue with Ryan, who presumably has some harsh words to say to a runaway father; a confrontation between the two seems like a necessary beat towards the end but it’s skipped over.

While it’s Ryan and Graham’s story, this is also a great episode to show off Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor, perhaps largely because the climax is a show of compassion from her towards the Solitract rather than a confrontation, which plays to her strengths. That said, this is, I think, the first episode in which this Doctor has been put at odds with a companion, and both Whittaker and Bradley Walsh really shine in their argument outside the portal. If the next episode actually wants to feel like a series finale, though, this Doctor might actually have to confront some villains for once, so we’ll see how that goes. Meanwhile, Yaz is sidelined as usual, but at least her approach to Hanne feels like a solid and not superficial use of her police trainee backstory, with the additional purpose of highlighting Ryan’s awkwardness.

And then we have a universe in the body of a frog. A frog universe! That’s wonderfully ‘only Doctor Who would do this’ in its combination of the everyday and the enormous. And no, I don’t care that the animatronic is a bit shit.

It Takes You Away is the biggest surprise of Series 11, as well as the boldest episode with the possible exception of Rosa, and all the better for it. While Rosa felt like Chris Chibnall’s approach to Who but done really well, It Takes You Away brings to mind qualities some of the show’s best writers of past – the emotional resonance of a Russell T Davies script, the thrillingly pivoting plots of Moffat, and a bonkers ending that Douglas Adams would be proud of. It’s also quite Neil Gaiman-esque in its big sci-fantasy idea with an emotional punch – a god looking for a friend. What I’m saying is, Ed Hime can come back next series, please.

  1. Rosa
  2. It Takes You Away
  3. Kerblam!
  4. Demons of the Punjab
  5. The Witchfinders
  6. Arachnids in the UK
  7. The Tsuranga Conundrum
  8. The Woman Who Fell to Earth
  9. The Ghost Monument