Thursday, 17 August 2017

The latest issue of Starburst Magazine is out now! Well, tomorrow really. But it's the evening, so shops are closed now anyway. When they next open, the mag will be there. My copy arrived today, anyway.

The point is, it's a good one. I have a four-page feature in which I visit the set of new sci-fi web series Space Junk and interview the cast, and my Doctor Who news column takes the Jodie Whittaker controversy completely seriously (well...).

Plus, there's lots of Blade Runner content - if that doesn't sell it to you, you're probably not a Blade Runner fan, and thus I don't want to sell you my magazine anyway, you don't have good enough taste to deserve it.

Purchase Starburst 440 from the official site here.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

On 8.8.17 by KieronMoore in , ,    No comments

Full review on Starburst.

The subject matter of this insane '80s movie, featuring a love triangle between an architect, his new computer, and his neighbour, might just scrape by as plausible if rejigged for a modern movie about AI, along the lines of Spike Jonze’s Her, but it’s downright ludicrous when it’s 1980s technology we’re dealing with. 

Thankfully, though, the film knows its own silliness and plays everything with tongue firmly in cheek; Rusty Lemorande’s script is chock-full of gags which play on the daftness of the computer’s desire for love.

But it’s Steve Barron’s direction that really makes Electric Dreams, well, unique. The director of Michael Jackson's Billie Jean video applies that aesthetic sensibility to his first feature, shooting it as a ninety-minute music video; sweeping close-ups of computer parts are intercut with shots of Miles looking forlorn and moody, edited to the blaring sounds of ‘80s synthpop. 

The result is a visually and aurally cluttered film, in an enjoyably cheesy way, but the scenes that develop Miles and Madeline’s relationship are less competently handled; Barron’s stylistic focus means that the characters, like those in a music video, never step out from being 2D archetypes into rounded people we can believe in.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

On 20.7.17 by KieronMoore in , , ,    No comments

Full review on Starburst.

The X-Men film series has become a mess. It has tried to juggle a huge amount of characters, and as well as the resultant continuity clusterfucks, instalments like Apocalypse have ended up as unfocused and dull CGI-heavy smash-ups, big on epic spectacle but low on character stakes.

This year’s Logan attempted to remedy that by focusing on a small number of characters and telling a different kind of story. Tasked with protecting a young girl with powers similar to his own and with the ailing Professor X in tow, the man who was once Wolverine takes a journey across America that uses the visual cues of the modern Western much more than those of the typical superhero movie. In Logan’s worn-down settings, fights are violent and bloody, and heroes need to be tough and brutal rather than stylishly super.

What’s important, though, is that Logan uses its grim aesthetic to serve poignant character stories, the strongest in the entire X-Men franchise. Xavier’s Alzheimer’s is a particularly clever use of the superhero genre to tell a human story, but this is Hugh Jackman’s movie, really, his send-off to the franchise that has defined his career, and his performance here channels every hard-drinking, gruff-talking gunslinger you’ve ever seen. 

Logan, then, is low on epic spectacle but high on character stakes – the opposite of the X-Men franchise at its worst. 

Young Pauline explores a Kent countryside village and meets an oddly welcoming stationmaster with a gnome-like hunch, beard and hat, as well as his brutish, half-witted friend. It’s not too much of a spoiler to say that Pauline gets herself murdered very early on in the film, and the focus then shifts onto this strange duo as they try to cover up what’s occurred.

The Orchard End Murder is a strange, strange movie, willing to take completely unexpected turns at any moment. You think you have a handle on its idyllically dull portrayal of village life, complete with lengthy small talk, and then suddenly someone slams a live rabbit into a fruitcake before ripping its innards out. And that’s just the first ten minutes.

Indeed, there are many odd decisions in this film’s story, and not all in a good way. Some scenes make little sense, such as the men’s decision to bury the body a few metres away from where the police are currently standing, and the way that the story ends couldn’t feel more forced. 

Nevertheless, it has an odd charm about it and never feels boring, perhaps due to a combination of just how unpredictable the whole thing is and Peter Jessop’s artful camerawork, which carefully juxtaposes the beautiful country landscapes with the much more sinister.

The Doctor and Romana materialise the TARDIS underground in the opening of Subterranea, the latest Fourth Doctor audio play from Big Finish. But this doesn’t mean they’re far from civilisation – this planet’s mole-like inhabitants live in huge vehicles called Drill-towns, which constantly mine their way around the rocks. And there’s another race among the rocks; the cyborgs known as Silex are on the prowl and have a habit of feeding on the Drill-towns.

The story, from veteran Who writer Jonathan Morris, plays out simply but enjoyably, well fitted to the hour-long format and to the era of Who in which it’s set. There are some nice twists, particularly at the end of part one cliffhanger, and the Silex are effectively threatening villains, if at times overly reminiscent of the Cybermen. Perhaps a name not starting with the ‘cy’ sound would have helped.

What makes Subterranea well worth a listen, though, is not the plot but the characterisation of the race who live on this planet. There’s an Industrial Revolution-esque style to them, which makes the whole thing feel like a Dickens novel crossed with Journey to the Centre of the Earth

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

On 18.7.17 by KieronMoore in    No comments

I've taken a short holiday in Berlin over the past week. Here's what I learned:
  • The Germans really love their techno music. Not only is it played in all the bars and clubs, but sometimes people sit next to you on the train and start playing techno at you.
  • I don’t like techno.
  • They also really love their beer. They drink it in the street, and shops that appear to be corner shops actually sell little but beer. I first thought that beer was really cheap, but then I realised it’s everything else that’s expensive. One club I was in charged €3 for the cheapest beer, and €2,50 for water. 
  • Cider doesn’t exist.
  • Marlene Dietrich was the coolest film star ever (and the film museum is amazing).
  • There's a U-bahn line called U2, and imagining the train's being driven by Bono never stops being funny.
  • The term for East Berliners is ‘Ossis’, though I actually met more Aussies than Ossis - Berlin is a prime destination for Australian tourists.
  • And some New Zealanders, though never compare them to Aussies.
  • The entire history and culture of New Zealand.
  • Germany's equivalent of WHSmiths is called McPaper.
  • There are so many types of absinthe, with names like ’Suicide’, ‘Leaky Crucifix’ and ‘Death Suckle’ (I made one of those up).
  • Lola Rennt is even more of a '90s masterpiece when you're watching it in a hip Berlin cinema rather than across two German lessons at the end of term.
  • The Germans sure know how to party. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe...
  • English really does seem to be the lingua franca, and I heard it probably as much as I heard German. Visitors to Germany, wherever they’re from, are more likely to know English than German, so bartenders, waiters, etc. tend to switch to it very quickly when they realise someone ain’t from around these parts.
  • Despite this, I managed to maintain a few conversations in German, but my Achilles heel is 'sorry' - if I got in someone’s way in the street, I’d immediately say this and forget to even attempt a German equivalent.
  • If they get in someone’s way in the street, the Germans generally don’t attempt to apologise in any language.
  • They do, however, have perfect etiquette when it comes to waiting for the red man at road crossings. Even if there’s no traffic at all.
  • The burgers at ‘The Bird’ are the best in the world, ever.
  • Speaking of birds, the term for what happens to one when it flies into an aeroplane engine is ‘ingested’.

Monday, 17 July 2017

On 17.7.17 by KieronMoore in , ,    1 comment

Jodie Whittaker has been announced as the Thirteenth Doctor. I personally reckon she'll do an excellent job, but not everyone is convinced. In light of the overblown controversy and awful, nasty comments all over social media, here are my reactions to all the arguments against casting a female Doctor Who:

"The Doctor has always been a man!" - He was always William Hartnell until he was Patrick Troughton. He was always over 45 until he was Tom Baker. He was always English until he was Sylvester McCoy.

"Time Lords can't change gender!" - Humans can. If anything, it should be easier for Time Lords.

"But it's ridiculous!" - Mate, the Doctor lives in a police box that's bigger on the inside and travels in time and space. If the gender change is where it becomes too difficult for you to believe, the problem isn't with the show.

"It's lazy, why don't they make an original show with a female lead?" - There should be more original sci-fi/fantasy with female leads, sure. Some international productions have managed that, such as Orphan Black and Buffy. But it's really difficult to get genre shows produced in Britain - writers I've spoken to who've pitched sci-fi to the BBC or ITV have always concluded that commissioners hate the genre. Doctor Who is kind of all we have; it has that existing platform to provide a role model to young girls, to show them that they can be heroes too, and good on it for using that. Plus, it's not only all we have, it's iconic - when they cast a Doctor, they're not just casting an actor to be in a TV show, but someone who'll represent the brand at conventions, whose face will be on lunchboxes and action figures, who'll be part of the show's mythology for as long as it runs - what other series has that platform to make such a statement?

"Boys need role models, too!" - They can still watch it. Lots of boys liked Rey in Star Wars. It's healthy for them to have female role models so they don't grow up to be like those men who've emerged on the internet since yesterday.

"Rubbish, when I were a lad I wouldn't be seen watching something with all girls in!" - Oh for fuck's sake, the companion will probably be a dude, alright?

"It should be all about the quality of the writing, not feminist politics!" - Well, yeah, obviously quality storytelling is important. No one's saying it isn't, or that Chibnall now has a free pass to write a whole series of Dinosaurs on a Spaceship-level cack. But representation matters too, and in things such as how they represent society through the diversity of their characters, all stories are political. The gender imbalance in TV can't be ignored, and is a separate issue to how good the scripts are.

"What next, Jane Bond?" - The reaction to that would be hilarious, but the gender flip might actually be a more awkward fit. Bond's always been stuck in that '60s macho spy mentality, whereas Who is about change and forward thinking. Or maybe that's why they should do Jane Bond.

"It's not the same show as in my childhood!" - Well, obviously not, that was 40 years ago, old buddy. Times change. But the old ones are available on DVD if all you want is to replay the past. Except the ones that got wiped.

"It's ruined my childhood!" - D'awww.