Friday, 5 January 2018

A round-up of a few reviews I've done recently over at Starburst...

Doctor Who Audios

Thursday, 21 December 2017

There are enough spoiler-free reviews on the internet already. Here's my very spoiler-ridden list of things I thought during and after watching Star Wars: The Last Jedi:

  • Back in 2015, I really enjoyed The Force Awakens at the time I was watching it, but over time, it dropped in my estimations, largely due to the realisation that it does share a few too many plot points with A New Hope. It's a hit of Star Wars nostalgia, which is perhaps what the brand needed, but fails to add much truly new to that nostalgia. Its main strength, which still holds up, is in the characters of Rey, Finn and Poe, and what Episode VIII needed to do was push those characters, and the series, in new directions. The Last Jedi certainly does that. I feel that, like The Force Awakens, my opinion on it will change over time, but already, it’s going the opposite way to that film - reflecting on it is revealing depths and strengths that can’t be appreciated in a first-watch hit. Ultimately, The Last Jedi is likely to be looked back on as the better film.
  • That said, there are things I’m uncertain on. The storyline of the Resistance fleet being chased across space by the First Order allows for some nice tension, in a manner reminiscent of the brilliant Battlestar Galactica episode 33, but highlights how the two sequel films so far are really unclear about what state the galaxy as a whole is meant to be in. How can the Resistance fleet be so small and unsupported when just a couple of weeks ago in story time, they were linked to a galaxy-wide Republic? What does life on the average planet look like right now? If the FO do hold control, how’d they do that so quick? The small scale of this war jars compared to the presentation of a vast, multicultural galaxy as seen in the rest of the saga, particularly the prequels.
  • But I can forgive flaws in this greater story because it's a narrative that is - unlike the prequels - built on top of strong character arcs. The moment when The Last Jedi completely swept me away was the three-way confrontation in Snoke’s throne room. There are so many good moments in that scene: the genuine uncertainty as to which way Kylo’s going to turn; the punch-the-air moment when he kills Snoke; the ballsiness of killing off the main villain halfway through a trilogy; the gorgeous cinematography of the shot where Rey and Kylo fight the guards back-to-back; wondering who the villain will be now Kylo’s apparently turned good; the heartbreaking realisation that he hasn’t. From that point on, the film really began to surprise and enthrall me.
  • And then there’s the reveal about Rey’s parents, which I'm so glad turned out the way it did. All these silly fanboy theories about her being a Skywalker, Palpatine’s genetic creation, the reincarnation of Boss Nass, etc. are just so inward-looking and naff. Making the story about her overcoming that disappointment and realising that the daughter of junk traders, a true underdog, can be the hero of the galaxy is so much more poignant than any of that. And Adam Driver delivers it in such a beautifully nasty way.
  • Kylo, by the way, is such a good character. Too many blockbusters these days put all the work into their heroes and leave the villains with no characterisation other than a cape and a desire to kill everything. It’s so good to have a villain with psychological depth and tangible motivation, who grows in parallel with the heroes.
  • Going back to that point about underdogs, the final scene is magnificent. It really got to me. (So, who do we reckon Broom Kid’s parents are?)
  • I notice that the people who were angry about Rey being too perfect are now angry about Luke Skywalker not being perfect. And sure, it’s never easy to find out your heroes aren’t, and that we have to hold everyone to account for their mistakes. That brave twist is the heart of the thematic depth which The Last Jedi has and which The Force Awakens does not, and is perhaps the element of The Last Jedi which will, in the long term, see it remembered as one of the greater Star Wars movies.
  • I heard from a couple of people before I saw the film that they felt it has too many jokes. Having seen the film, I cannot begin to understand that criticism. No, it doesn’t. The humour never overshadows the serious dramatic scenes, and when it is there, it’s funny.
  • My favourite laugh out loud moments were the ironing droid and Chewie eating Porg BBQ. The Porgs are reasonably funny, and not in it enough to become annoying.
  • The script is careful to give all of the minor players something both characteristic and useful to do. Like how, near the beginning, Chewie helps Rey get to Luke physically by bashing the door down, while R2 also helps out by playing to Luke's emotions with the Leia hologram. No character is wasted.
  • Except maybe Phasma, who doesn't do much at all.
  • The shot from the Battle of Crait where Poe slides across the salt and smoothly lands in the trench is my new favourite image of Oscar Isaac. And I have a lot of images of Oscar Isaac in my head.
  • I’m not sure about Luke declaring near the end that Rey is a Jedi. Surely the point of all this was that she can move on and create something better than the Jedi?
  • Luke’s death reminded me of the War Doctor’s from Doctor Who. They’ve won the enormous battle and all come out unscathed! Oh, he’s dead now.
  • A point I also made with Rogue One - I want more alien characters with speaking parts. The galaxy feels very human-centric. 
  • The much more important counter-point to that is, as with Rogue One, the human cast is wonderfully diverse.
  • I’m nervous about Episode IX. Partly due to the director’s chair returning to JJ Abrams, who made a good film with The Force Awakens, but one that played it safe, when IX needs to continue the boundary-pushing of this film. And partly because I have no idea how they’ll deal with the Carrie Fisher problem, given that Last Jedi’s ending sets Leia up as a big part of the story to come.
  • Of all the characters who could have had a topless scene, why did it have to be Kylo?

Saturday, 21 October 2017

On 21.10.17 by KieronMoore in , , ,    2 comments

I've become a bit lax with posting out links to reviews I've written for Starburst recently, so here's a bunch of 'em, along with some slapdash attempts at micro-reviews to get you in the mood:

Doctor Who Audios
Other Stuff
On 21.10.17 by KieronMoore in , , ,    No comments

The latest issue of STARBURST Magazine has hit the shops, like Batman might hit an unarmed old woman in one of these dark Zack Snyder takes on your favourite comic book 'heroes'. That's relevant, because it's a Justice League-themed issue.

What you're really gonna buy it for, though, is the feature in which I wank over how great the Coen brothers are for four whole pages. It's a good one. If you like that kind of thing.

Also: my Doctor Who news column, my review of Accent UK's excellent new comic The Lizard, and a letter complaining about my ignorance of 1980s computer culture. You get it all in STARBURST.

Buy it in stores or online!

Friday, 1 September 2017

On 1.9.17 by KieronMoore in , , ,    1 comment

Full review on Starburst.

An expedition is sent into the jungle to join the reclusive Dr. Thorkel, who’s been digging up radioactive ore using a device that looks something like a giant Incan dildo. The radiation, it turns out, makes organisms smaller! Soon, our heroes find themselves shrunk and struggling to escape from the insane scientist, who, through a rather contrived mythological analogy, they’ve dubbed... Doctor Cyclops!

It’s not the only classic sci-fi movie that features people being shrunk, and you’re probably wondering how it compares to the more well known The Incredible Shrinking Man. Well, despite being made seventeen years earlier, the effects in Cyclops stand up just as well, if not better. For a start, it’s in colour, lending an exoticism to the Amazon setting which is backed up by probably-stock footage of various ferocious beasties.

But the story and characterisation is where this movie falls apart, even given that you know from the start it’s going to be schlocky. To go back to that same comparison, The Incredible Shrinking Man knew to keep its plot simple and its characters sharply defined in order to let the effects lead; Doctor Cyclops, however, gets itself lost amidst the wonky science of its eponymous madman’s plans, while making the bigger mistake of not explaining why he’s doing any of this.

Full review on Starburst.

The Seventh Doctor, Ace and Mel land in a Merseyside shipyard run by an old university boyfriend of Mel’s, Stuart Dale, who's become very successful thanks to a mysterious new material he’s been given possession of by a mysterious new client. You can see where that's going.

The Blood Furnace is an imaginative sci-fi mystery that plays out against the background of the political and social atmosphere of the early ‘90s. Real life concerns, such as the shutting down of the shipyards and the difficulties of finding jobs, are brought into characters’ motivations in a way more reminiscent of Russell T. Davies’ later revival of Doctor Who, working well to add depth to the story and its world. 

It would be nice to have more development of Mel’s relationship with Stuart, which plays a large part in the opening chapter of the four-part story but becomes sidelined after that. Nevertheless, this trio of TARDIS travellers continue to work very well together.

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.