Friday, 29 August 2014

On 29.8.14 by KieronMoore in ,    No comments

The third and final episode of my sitcom Breaking News is online now. Check it out below and don't forget to watch episodes one and two as well.

In this episode, the Nuntpool Gazette faces its most deadly challenge yet - well, it's not really deadly, but the new tabloid in town does have a lot of unsavoury images in and is threatening to shut down our intrepid heroes.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

On 28.8.14 by KieronMoore in ,    No comments

The second episode of my sitcom Breaking News is online now. Check it out below, and catch up with episode one here.

It's the eve of Nuntpool's prestigious over 50s jet ski competition, and Holly decides the Gazette urgently needs to move into the digital era. But when a face from Callum and Mary's past shows up at the office, the whole team are left desperate to impress.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

On 27.8.14 by KieronMoore in ,    No comments

The first episode of Breaking News, a sitcom I wrote and produced as a final university project, is online now. Check it out below.

I'll be making episodes 2 and 3 public over the next couple of days.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

On 26.8.14 by KieronMoore in ,    No comments

The Big Picture Magazine are running a spooky series of horror-themed articles to tie in with Film4's FrightFest, and I've gladly spent a couple of days watching some scary movies so that I could contribute this piece, a look at the representation of the British countryside in horror

Turn the lights out, have your spare trousers at the ready, and enjoy.

Monday, 25 August 2014

“Eleven’s hour is over now, and the clock is striking twelve”, as the unusually appropriate Christmas cracker exclaimed back in December. And on Saturday, as 6:50’s hour became over and the clocks struck 7:50, the Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi made his debut proper. 

There are two distinct ways to do a Doctor’s first story – making a fresh start entirely, such as Rose and The Eleventh Hour (which I love and will reference throughout this review), or bringing in some old friends to smooth the transition, such as Spearhead from Space and The Christmas Invasion. Deep Breath, written by showrunner Steven Moffat, was firmly in the latter camp, with the Doctor and companion Clara crash-landing in Victorian London and immediately joined by the recurring Paternoster Gang – Silurian detective Vastra, her wife Jenny, and Sontaran butler Strax. There was also an inexplicably big T-rex and a series of spontaneous combustions to be investigated.

First things first, I’ve not heard a bad word said about Capaldi. As we’ve been told countless times, he’s ‘a darker Doctor’ and the intensity of his performance really carries this. He’s a Doctor we don’t always trust, at one point seemingly abandoning Clara without so much as a ‘good luck’, and he’s a Doctor we can believe would kill – and thankfully, the ‘Doctor as killer’ aspect is being explored rather than nonchalantly glossed over à la Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. But just because he’s ‘a darker Doctor’ doesn’t mean he has no lightness – Capaldi’s a talented comic actor and delivers his wittier lines with charmingly furious flair – “Look at these eyebrows! They're attack eyebrows. You could take bottle tops off with these.”

But how can we get used to such a different Doctor? This was a question explored through Clara, who didn’t impress Madame Vastra with her inability to accept the older-faced Time Lord. While Vastra wrote her off as vain, Clara’s arc through this episode was learning that her disbelief was perfectly natural and that she should accept the new Doctor as well as mourn the old one, topped off with a push from the Eleventh Doctor himself. Matt Smith’s cameo was a lovely moment, reassuring Clara that this new man is indeed the Doctor, and doing all but winking at the camera to tell us at home that we should run off with him too. It was an interesting way to smooth the transition into the new Doctor and felt like one of Clara’s best episodes too, though I’m not over her terribly inconsistent characterisation over the past series. Maybe now that the ‘Impossible Girl’ bollocks is out of the way and Moffat seems to be going down a more character-oriented route, we could get to like her. Fingers crossed on that one.

The Paternoster gang, meanwhile… well, as ever, they made some people angry because there are lesbians on family telly, and they made some people angry because there are lesbians who have no character depth beyond gay jokes on family telly. While it is nice to note that we do have a female same-sex couple as the modern equivalent of the Brigadier, they are indeed pretty depthless, especially compared to the much more connectable side characters written by Moffat's predecessor Russell T Davies. On the other hand, I’m not ashamed to admit that I laughed at Strax knocking Clara out with the newspaper.

The real problem with Deep Breath is the plot and its pacing. With a leisurely eighty-minute running time, you’d expect a meaty mystery for the Doctor to flex his new brain over, but it’s incredibly thin – one easily-found lead brings him and Clara to the villain’s lair, they’re captured, they escape, Doctor kills villain. That’s basically it. Meanwhile, there are scenes entirely irrelevant to both the plot and to the character development – what purpose does Strax examining Clara serve, other than a cheap sex joke? Don’t get me wrong, after having criticised much of the later Matt Smith era for being far too fast, I like the extra running time and the calmed-down pace, but I would have liked that running time to be used for story rather than sketch comedy.

A related problem is that, when the plot does develop, it isn’t our heroes moving it forward. The Doctor sets out to solve the mystery and then sort of stumbles into the solution, being led from set piece to set piece by forces outside of his control with no real problem solving on his (or Clara's) part. Which is not how to write a murder mystery story – the detective should solve the mystery! Compare this to The Eleventh Hour, where the Doctor notices Rory on the green and deduces the location of Prisoner Zero, then comes up with a complex plan to trap Zero and tell off the Atraxi to boot.

And, while the Doctor wasn’t really being very clever, nor were the villains. The clockwork robots had a brilliant body horror concept, and some great costume design plus a great performance from the guy playing Half-Face Man made the mix of robotic and human damn creepy, but what exactly were they up to? Building a hot air balloon out of human skin to go home, which was on a different planet in the 51st century? Huh? And how could they recover the dinosaur’s optic nerve when they’d burnt the shit out of it?

Ah, well. Despite the stupidity of his plot, Half-Face Man did eventually reach the Promised Land, in an intriguing coda scene, and came face to face with Michelle Gomez’s Missy, the Mary Poppins of Heaven. While it is annoying that we have yet another mysterious female claiming to be the Doctor’s girlfriend, one of Moffat’s more notably overused tropes, I am intrigued to see where this storyline goes…

On the visual side of things, this was the first of two episodes directed by Ben Wheatley. Yes, Ben ‘Kill List, Sightseers, and A Field in England’ Wheatley. Which I was very excited about. But, as it turns out, this wasn’t even a particularly well-directed episode. He did a fine job with the slower, character-focused scenes, but the action scenes were… well, awkward. The Doctor riding a horse that’s consistently just out of shot, with a joke about him directing it the wrong way that clearly worked better in the script because on screen it doesn’t actually change direction. And the climactic Paternosters vs. droids battle felt that bit too constrained, sticking to tight shots so as to avoid being clear as to what’s actually going on. Hopefully, Wheatley will do better next week, but I’d like to see more of the energy and inventiveness that director Adam Smith brought to – yes, it’s that comparison again – The Eleventh Hour.

This review may sound harsh, but there were a lot of enjoyable moments in Deep Breath. The Doctor contemplating his new face while confusing a tramp. Clara struggling not to breathe while escaping the activating robots, terrified and alone. Strax’s newspaper antics. The Eleventh Doctor’s cameo. I just wish all these moments had been placed within a more coherent narrative. Deep Breath may not be a patch on The Eleventh Hour, but it introduces a fascinating new Doctor, may lead to an interesting new direction for Clara, and sets up a story arc that I’m excited to see more of, so I’m awaiting with bated breath my next appointment with the Twelfth Doctor.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

The first trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy is one of my favourite trailers of recent years (competing only with The Social Network). The subversion of superhero tropes when the villains don’t recognise Star-Lord, Peter Serafinowicz declaring the heroes to be “a bunch of a-holes”, Blue Swede’s ‘Hooked on a Feeling’ over the drawn out hero shot. It’s irreverent, hilarious, and incredibly energetic, and I couldn’t wait to see what looked like Star Wars from the director of Slither.

So, does Guardians live up to the expectation?

Yes. But not entirely.

The latest offering from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Guardians stars Chris Pratt as Peter Quill, who was abducted from Earth in the 1980s and re-invented himself as space-faring outlaw Star-Lord. After coming into possession of a mysterious orb (knowingly compared to the Maltese Falcon, king of all MacGuffins), Quill ends up in an unlikely alliance with assassin Gamora, terrifyingly muscular Drax, wise-cracking raccoon Rocket, and tree creature Groot. All with criminal records and troubled pasts, this space-faring Dirty Dozen have a mutual enemy – the radical Ronan, an alien warlord intent on wiping out the nice peoples of the galaxy.

It really is a joy to travel from planet to space station to planet with our heroes as they work out just how to deal with the whole evil warlord situation. Pratt, recently seen in The LEGO Movie and sitcom Parks and Recreation, is a surprisingly good leading man, and, while his relationship with the lethal Gamora feels like nothing we haven’t seen before, it’s the bromance between Rocket and Groot that steals the show. Rocket is Han Solo brought up to eleven, in a furrier guise, and Groot is his Chewbacca. Voicing him, Vin Diesel finds a remarkable variety of ways to say his one line “I am Groot”, and somehow, combined with the great design work, he turns this lump of wood into the most caring and endearing member of the Guardians.

The big weakness of the film is on the other side of the cast list – Loki aside, Marvel films have never had the best villains, but Lee Pace’s Ronan is one of the worst. Utterly one-dimensional, he has no real motivation, and all his scenes are awfully po-faced, lacking any of the wit that characterises the rest of the film and being actually quite boring. His cronies aren’t too good, either – I’ve heard criticisms of Karen Gillan’s performance as Nebula, but, while she does indeed seem to drift between being Scottish and American, the character isn't given nearly enough action or depth to make any real impact either way.

Nevertheless, director James Gunn never dwells on the villains for too long, and directs Guardians with a panache that makes it very difficult not to enjoy. From the enormous-skull-turned-space-station Knowhere to the beautifully clean streets of Xandar via Quill’s Millennium Falcon-esque ship the Milano, it’s a beautifully designed film, and the rocking 80s soundtrack is a brilliant change from the usual booming score. It’s just a shame that the Bowie track is only used for about thirty seconds.

Guardians may not be quite the masterpiece hinted at by the first trailer – it’s let down by its weak villains, and some sequences lack the wit and irreverence of others, making it a patchy affair that doesn’t live up to this year’s other Marvel offering, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. But when it’s good, it’s very good. Not quite the new Star Wars, but a damn good effort, Guardians is daft blockbuster fun, with humour, heart, and a bit with a dog. A space dog.

Also, I found the post-credits scene hilarious, but literally no-one else in the cinema got the joke. Some people have no taste.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

On 12.8.14 by KieronMoore   No comments

A great comedian died last night. Robin Williams' death is an enormous loss, but he leaves behind so many great performances. Good Will Hunting, One Hour Photo, Insomnia, and so many more, all played a big part in building my love of cinema.

No one else in the world can say good morning quite like Robin Williams did.

While Adrian Kronauer may have been one of the most relentlessly upbeat of characters, depression can affect anyone. If you need someone to talk to, call Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

On 7.8.14 by KieronMoore in , , ,    No comments

Nobody Owens grows up in a graveyard full of ghosts, ghouls, a witch, a werewolf and a very tall man, neither alive nor dead, in a very long black cloak. The Graveyard Book is classic Neil Gaiman, all right. Originally released as a young adult’s novel in 2008, this fantastic fable returns to bookshelves this summer in the form of a two-part graphic novel, adapted by P. Craig Russell and illustrated by a number of artists, each in their own distinctive styles.

After almost an entire family is murdered by a mysterious figure known as Jack, the surviving toddler pegs it to a derelict graveyard where he is taken in by the ghostly inhabitants. This first volume sees Nobody (Bod for short) growing up in this weird and wonderful world and going on a series of adventures. He finds ancient treasure in the tomb of a Celtic warrior; he becomes the captive of ghouls on a trip to Hell and back; he goes on a quest to find a headstone for an unjustly murdered witch and he dances the danse-macabre. Meanwhile, the aforementioned Jack is on the hunt for his escaped victim.

Gaiman is one of the most acclaimed writers working in fantasy today and it’s not hard to see why. Masterfully weaving together influences from history, myth and fantasy, his stories capture a childishly adventurous spirit – spooky but not terrifying and dark but not gory. With an expert knowledge of the format, Russell has done a masterful job with the adaptation, remaining faithful to Gaiman’s prose and yet always finding the perfect way to cut it down and foreground the visuals. Simultaneously a childish adventure, a fantastic fairytale and a haunting horror; The Graveyard Book will make you think twice about what lies beyond the fences of that old cemetery down the road.