Thursday, 25 August 2016

Originally released in 1991, Studio Ghibli’s Only Yesterday, based on the manga of the same name, only received an English dub this year, featuring the voices of Daisy Ridley and Dev Patel.

Set in 1982, Isao Takahata's story sees 27-year-old Taeko (Ridley) take a break from her busy Tokyo job to visit distant relatives in the countryside. Here she meets Toshio (Patel), who left his office job to run an organic farm. As she helps out on the farm and bonds with Toshio, Taeko’s childhood memories are stirred.

The film takes a thoughtful tone, lingering on the details of Taeko’s nostalgia as her past informs her present and she begins to wonder whether she’s happy in her big city life. This allows the story to explore a range of themes, including the disparity between the countryside and the city and the role of women in Japanese society. It also has a lot to say about organic farming processes. Well, Toshio does. It’s all he seems to talk about, and the film forgets to be subtle about this. Believable, emotional conversations are sometimes ruined when he butts in with a non-sequiter about organic farming.

Despite this, though, it’s a beautifully constructed movie. The animation is as gorgeous as you’d expect from a Studio Ghibli movie, with equal attention paid to character design and expression as to the bustle of the city and the bright colours of the rural landscapes. Patel and Ridley both give sensitive, charming performances, though it is a shame that Ridley unnecessarily puts on an American accent. 

In certain moments, such as when Taeko’s memory of falling for a boy at school turns into her imagining herself flying, all the film’s themes and stylistic quirks come together to create something truly captivating. The joy of Only Yesterday lies in these moments and the way they’re juxtaposed against perfectly captured normality.
On 25.8.16 by KieronMoore in , ,    No comments

This weekend, I'll be at the Starburst Film Festival in Manchester. It's looking set to be a fantastic weekend, including:

  • Film screenings, from classics like Aliens to lesser-known cult films like Battletruck to a range of new independent shorts.
  • Drinking
  • Premieres of brand new episodes of Red Dwarf and Inside No. 9
  • More drinking
  • Q&As with famous guests including Steve Pemberton, Toby Whithouse and John Glen
  • Hangovers
If you're in Manchester, come along! Tickets are available here.

Also, to promote the event, I wrote this Pokémon Go-fuelled trip through Manchester. It's one of the weirder things I've penned for Starburst, but there you go.

Friday, 19 August 2016

On 19.8.16 by KieronMoore in ,    No comments

A long time ago in a galaxy far... no, wrong sci-fi series.

The new issue of Starburst is out now, and it's a Star Trek special! I actually started watching the original Trek series this month, so soon I'll be able to spot all the errors I missed when proofing this issue.

No Trek content from me, as you may have guessed, but I've written an event report covering July's Manchester MCM, my reviews of The Booth at the End and Warship Jolly Roger are printed, and you can catch up on all things Doctor Who with my Outside the Box column.

Starburst 428 is out now at some good newsagents! Or online!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Midnight Special is an odd film. It opens with two men and a boy on the run. The boy, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), is the biological son of one of the men, Roy (Michael Shannon). Roy and his friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton) have abducted Alton from the Texas ranch on which he was brought up. Cut to the ranch, where we find out Alton’s adoptive father is the pastor of a fervently zealous congregation who believe that Alton has predicted the apocalypse. Alton, you see, has some kind of superpowers and has drawn the attention of both the FBI and the NSA, particularly NSA analyst Paul Sevier (Adam Driver). Roy, Lucas, and Roy’s wife Sarah (Kirsten Dunst) are taking Alton to… well, to say any more would be to spoil the film’s many surprises.

One of the oddest things about Midnight Special is trying to work out when it’s set. Director Jeff Nichols has clearly gone for a 1970s Amblin look, with vintage cars and timelessly fusty suits aplenty, a look reinforced by Adam Stone’s unflashy cinematography; the people on the ass-backwards ranch, meanwhile, dress as if they’re from the 1870s. But then, is that NSA techie using a laptop? This is typical of the disorientating classic-meets-modern feel of Nichols’ movie, which takes influences from E.T. and Close Encounters, but also from modern superhero fare and from sadder, darker, grittier dramas. Whether this works or not is up for debate; at times, the film feels a little too pleased with its own profundity, and the confusing final act doesn’t answer half of the questions you’ll have been asking about the mysteries of Alton’s powers.

But yet, there’s something magical and moving about the whole thing, largely due to the family story that anchors all the weird gubbins. It’s a film about a father and mother who can’t begin to understand their son but love him unconditionally anyway, and Michael Shannon and Kirsten Dunst portray these characters with a tragic believability. Just don’t expect all these issues to be sorted out and tied up in a bow – Nichols may cite Spielberg as his main influence, but uplifting this is not.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Not mentioned, but worth adding here: when the pacing drops outside of the arena scenes, so does the colour scheme, and everything becomes '70s brown, from the suits and walls to James Caan's chest hair. The future used to be so drab.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Full review on Starburst.

After last month’s A Life of Crime saw Mel Bush re-united with the Seventh Doctor and Ace, the second part of this trilogy sees the TARDIS land the three of them in the heart of the Spanish Civil War. It’s 1938, and the tide is turning against the Republican forces. Captain Juan Romero and his men, along with the Doctor and companions, seek refuge from Franco’s bombers in the town of Farissa. But worse horrors await here, as townsfolk and injured soldiers are transformed by a nasty alien virus.

Though the Spanish Civil War is a lively and fascinating period of recent history, it’s been almost entirely untouched by Doctor Who media until now. Thankfully, it’s clear from the opening of Fiesta of the Damned that writer Guy Adams has really done his research and come up with a story that both fits well into this period and reflects on the themes of war and nationalism that inevitably arise. 

Plus, despite the historical detail and weighty themes, this is an action-packed story, with a gruesome and original villain for our heroes to fight, although one side plot near the end involving the Doctor faffing around with an alien computer does distract from this more exciting stuff. Ken Bentley’s direction brings this story to life – with carefully layered background sounds including townspeople and various animals, you can picture the military camp, town, and caves of Spain as if they were on your TV screen.

Monday, 8 August 2016

I've contributed another article to Creative Screenwriting, this time looking at Shane Black's The Nice Guys - a recent comedy noir which I loved - and comparing the tricks of its plotting to its noir antecedents, namely The Big Lebowski and The Big Sleep, bringing some of the wisdom of Alan Moore and Raymond Chandler into the mix.

Go read it!
On 8.8.16 by KieronMoore in , ,    No comments

Full review on Starburst.

Ever since the Millennium Falcon first took flight, the image of the ragtag band of space-faring criminals has been engrained in science fiction. The trope was perhaps perfected with Joss Whedon’s cult TV series Firefly, no doubt an influence on Warship Jolly Roger, the new comic series from Sylvain Runberg and Miquel Montlló.

This first 120-page volume opens amid a prison riot on planet Tullanium. Four mismatched convicts make a dash for a ship together – and there we have our set-up. As they’re on the run from the sinister authorities of the Confederacy, we get to know these characters. Jon Tiberius Munro is a former military officer imprisoned for a war crime he was forced to commit. Alisa Rinaldi is a notorious freedom fighter. Nikolai Kowalski is a violent and hot-tempered smuggler. And ‘Thirteen’ is a child genius who killed his parents for reasons unknown.

So while you may recognise some well-worn sci-fi tropes, Runberg’s story is excitingly plotted, with high stakes and great action, and the way this team develops, with hints to their pasts peppered throughout, is a joy to read. Outside of the main crew, the world of Warship Jolly Roger has clearly had a lot of thought put into it. Side characters, from black market dealers to Vexton’s military advisors, all have their own distinct characteristics, meaning that the dialogue, a few awkward moments of exposition aside, always feels believable and pacey. Artist Montlló has done a great job of designing characters, settings, and spacecraft alike – his style is cartoony enough to fit the fast and fun story and yet detailed enough to give the world an edge of grittiness. 

Thursday, 4 August 2016

On 4.8.16 by KieronMoore in , ,    1 comment

Full review on Starburst.

From UK-based small press publisher Accent, this anthology does exactly what it says on the tin – it’s a collection of five short tales, or moments, all with a classic adventure story feel.

It’s a nice variety of settings, pleasantly depicted in creator Colin Mathieson’s uncomplicated art style, and the two colourists do a good job of giving each tale a distinct atmosphere. The adventure story tone of the comics can seem old-fashioned, the Zulu-esque Day of the Dead Moon in particular, and the stories tend to end exactly how you’d expect from their set-ups. It’s a style that will put off some readers but charm others. All the stories are action-packed enough for the collection to rattle along at a quick pace,though, so you won’t get bored and will easily get through the whole thing over a lunch break.
On 4.8.16 by KieronMoore in , , ,    No comments

Full review on Starburst.

Set during the Third Doctor’s exile on Earth, The Blame Game sees the Monk offering the Doctor a lift away from Earth in his TARDIS, an offer the Doctor can’t refuse. Wanting to see the stars for herself, Liz Shaw stows away on board. Naturally, things don’t work out too well, and the three of them become stranded on a mysterious spaceship.

The highlight of this enjoyable adventure is the distrusting relationship between the Doctor and the Monk, working side by side but trying to one-up each other. Though his Jon Pertwee impression is far from the man himself, Rufus Hound brings both Time Lords to life with comedic energy.

What elevates this story from just a fun bit of banter, though, is its placement within the Doctor’s exile and writer Ian Atkins’ exploration of what this means for the character. It’s the first time the Doctor’s been able to leave Earth for a long while, which causes him to reflect on where his place in the universe really is and how exile has changed him.