Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The latest issue of Starburst Magazine is in stores now.

This one is full of King Kong and Resident Evil coverage. You'll also find my Doctor Who news column and reviews of The Art of Rogue One and Cadet Anderson: Teenage Kyx.

Buy it here!

Thursday, 19 January 2017

On 19.1.17 by KieronMoore in , ,    No comments

I've started contributing movie and TV-related articles to TheRichest, and my first article's up now! Really, it's just one more excuse for me to spend my time thinking about Star Wars. Take a look.

Monday, 16 January 2017

On 16.1.17 by KieronMoore in , , , ,    No comments

[One very SPOILERY paragraph later on, but I'll warn you when you get there]

About halfway through La La Land, John Legend’s Keith asks Ryan Goslings’s Seb to join his synthy, poppy, electronic-y jazz band, but Seb isn’t sure, preferring to stick to classic jazz. Keith argues that he has to accept that music is moving forwards if he wants to do something revolutionary, rather than being a traditionalist recreating the old greats.

Which is an odd argument to make half way through a highly reverential throwback to classic ‘50s musicals.

Revolutionary it ain’t. Which is why I’ll be annoyed if (or do I mean ‘when’?) this beats the likes of Moonlight to nab the Best Picture Oscar, especially just five years after last time Hollywood gave it to a film about how great Hollywood is.

And yet, it’s so, so well made and I can’t for one second deny the all-singing, all-dancing pleasures of it. The story aims its emotional beats high and low, the songs are bombastically catchy, and Gosling and Emma Stone are a modern Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds. I could happily look at his cheeky grin and her in those Technicolor dresses all day, if I weren’t distracted by how stunning everything else in this movie is.

That shot of the two of them against the purple LA sunset – if you stuck that in a ‘name the classic movie’ picture quiz, I’d feel bad for not getting which ‘50s masterpiece it’s obviously from. There are some experimental camera techniques which you wouldn’t see in Singin' in the Rain, too – that opening long-take with the camera flowing around the freeway blew me away. Damien Chazelle has a real flair for both visuals and music, and the way he brings the two together is just incredible.

[BIG SPOILERS IN THIS PARAGRAPH] But even that’s just a natural development of a classic genre rather than anything challenging. The only trope of the old Hollywood romance which La La Land dispenses with is the happy ending. And with that... I’m not sure it was the right decision. That last scene feels meaningful – they both got the lives they wanted, but not the love they needed – but out of tone with what you expect from the otherwise uplifting story.

One thing I wondered whilst watching was whether the film would have been more progressive – artistically and politically – had a black actor been cast as Seb. It would certainly have added depth to his going on about the history of jazz if he was talking about his African American culture. Donald Glover, maybe? I reckon he has the charm. But then again, I guess it was safer to bank on a bigger star.

Enough musing. I’m off to find the soundtrack on Spotify.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The imagination of H. G. Wells and the visual talents of Ray Harryhausen are such a good match that it’s a surprise they only came together for one film.

When Victorian businessman Bedford discovers that the reclusive inventor Cavor has come up with a technique to negate gravity, he's soon whisked along on a trip to the moon, with his narked-off girlfriend Kate accidentally on board, too.

The characters and performances are clichéd – the opportunistic businessman, the mad scientist, the whiny-but-actually-not-as-annoying-as-she-could-be girlfriend – but this does allow for some lively comic interplay between them. There’s also tension derived from Bedford and Cavor’s attitudes to the aliens, with an ultimately optimistic message about the importance of understanding other cultures.

Retaining much of Wells’ tale, this is a fantastic science fiction adventure, and the naïveté of the Victorian science only adds to the quirky charm – it’s a film where you can jump around the moon in a diving suit, because “if it can hold water out, it can hold air in”. But what allows this 1964 movie to remain entertaining today is Harryhausen's delightful stop-motion, a highlight being the giant caterpillar-like beast that accosts Bedford and Cavor.

For animation enthusiasts, sci-fi fans, and kids not yet corrupted by the lure of CGI, First Men in the Moon showcases the work of two of the most pioneering, revered names in fantastic entertainment. 

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Another year, another Disney Star Wars movie. Because spoiler-free reviews are ten-a-penny, here are some SPOILER-filled notes, from my perspective as both a Star Wars nerd and a writer, on what I thought of Rogue One. Which contain Rogue One SPOILERS.

  • First off, the tone of Rogue One is what makes it work so well – that mixing of what we think of as Star Wars with both other film genres and entirely original elements. It looks like Star Wars but not too much, whereas last year’s The Force Awakens imitated the original trilogy so much that, while it was great at the time, on rewatch the plot and visuals don’t stand up by their own merit (I still love Rey, Finn and Poe, though). It’s a grittier take on Star Wars, with moral greyness to the Rebellion and a commando movie-style finale. And there are planets that aren’t snow or desert-themed!
  • And it looks so good. Barely a scene goes by without a striking image that sticks in the mind long after leaving the cinema. The Star Destroyer above Jedha City. Galen standing firm by his farm, his ragged hair and poncho making him look like a character from a Kurosawa movie. Bustling streets, with dirty-armoured Stormtrooper patrols throwing the citizens around. Vader’s scarred body almost revealed in the healing tank. It’s cinematic.
  • The story both stands on its own and ties very nicely into Episode IV. That's how to do a prequel! They’d make a very good double bill, in fact – not only the close timeline link between the end of one film and the start of the next, but the way this film’s events add depth to A New Hope. The added moral murkiness to the Rebel Alliance and the destruction we’ve seen the Death Star do on places we’ve got to know makes the rebels’ attack on the Death Star much more climactic and negates the old criticism that Luke Skywalker is actually a mass murderer. This is a Rebel Alliance we believe would have no qualms with blowing the thing up. I do also like that the flaw in the Death Star was deliberate and not just an idiotic oversight.
  • I’ve seen a lot of praise for the film for having a female lead, which is indeed great, but feel it’s worth pointing out that, out of the nine main characters (the Rogue One squad plus Krennic, Galen and Saw), only Jyn is female. So it could be doing better on that front. It’s very racially diverse, though, which is great. I love this story Diego Luna posted on Twitter.
  • On a significantly less relevant to the real world diversity note, why is almost everyone human? Having an alien or two in the squad, à la Chewbacca, would have made it that bit more Star Wars-y. According to the concept art book, Chirrut and Baze were originally aliens, and I wonder why they changed this. It also stands out that all but one of the soldiers who join up with the squad in the final act are human (and, again more importantly, are all male).
  • I like the ideas behind Jyn Erso as a character – a girl who’s been beaten down by the authorities all her life to the point that she’s a rebellious criminal who’ll stand up for herself and take no shit, but is reluctant to join any organisation doing the same, even the Rebel Alliance. But I don’t think the story arc she’s given fits with this. Making it about her losing her parents (first her mother, then her adoptive father, then her real father, to be precise) brings too many comparisons with Luke Skywalker’s story. And it grates how she spends half the film trying not to join the Rebel Alliance, then finds out they tried to kill her father, and only then decides to join them. Sure, it can be partially explained as her wanting to complete the mission her father left her, but still... it’s awkward.
  • Similarly, I really like Cassian Andor, but his sudden reluctance to kill Galen when he’s happy killing even people on the same side as him (such as Daniel Mays in Cassian’s introductory scene) in the name of duty feels wonky.
  • The scene where Jyn saves that terrible child actor who’s idiotically standing in the middle of a firefight is such a ‘Save the Cat’.
  • K-2SO is hilarious, a very important edge of comic relief. It does sometimes feel awkward when other characters, usually played straight, get funny lines that don’t work as well. But Chirrut Îmwe gets the best gag – “Are you kidding me, I’m blind!”
  • I do agree with all the criticisms that CGI Peter Cushing is icky. It doesn’t look great, particularly his mouth when he talks. But what allows me to forgive this is that he’s worked very well into the story. Tarkin’s the antagonist of Krennic’s side plot, which is the best character story in the film – the ambitious officer struggling hard to rise through the closed-off ranks having credit taken away from him by this posh wanker. It adds a more personal level of nastiness to Tarkin that makes him seem even more evil when you rewatch him destroying Alderaan (another way this adds depth to A New Hope), and allows Krennic to be one of the most fleshed-out baddies of the Star Wars universe.
  • The cameos are a mixed bag. C-3PO and R2-D2 popping up in the Rebel base is fun and makes sense, as does the film’s final shot, but Ponda Baba and Dr Evazan happening to bump into Jyn in Jedha City is a coincidence of astronomical proportions and pure fanwank with no narrative purpose.
  • I'm surprised there's not been a controversy about how Jedha's political, religious and military climate is clearly based on Middle Eastern conflicts, but with the extremist insurgents being on our side, the occupying force being the Empire, and the holy city being that of the Jedi. There are even extras walking around wearing the space equivalent of burkas. There's a good thesis to be written on this if anyone's up to the job.
  • Kudos to Disney for allowing Gareth Edwards to use that ending. Never has killing off an entire film’s cast seemed so... uplifting. The word ‘hope’ may be in the title of the next film in the chronology but it’s the clear theme here, and the sadness of their deaths is cleverly balanced with the hope their victory has brought.
  • Minor point, I know, but the very first scene with adult Jyn – imprisoned somewhere with a tentacle-faced bloke – is jarring and pointless. The only information we gleam from it is that she’s imprisoned somewhere, and so is a tentacle-faced bloke. We get this exact same information, plus actual story, from the following scene in the truck. Plus, the speed at which we cut from this short scene to the exterior of the asteroid where Cassian is makes us think the prison is on this asteroid, which it isn’t. It just stood out to me, as that would be one of the first things to go if I were to cut the film down to ease its running time. On a similar note, this blog post’s going on a bit. So, one final point...
  • I like Jimmy Smits! And not just because I like saying his surname.

Friday, 6 January 2017

I've not got around to spamming out links to reviews I've written for Starburst recently, so here in one blog post is an explosion of pent-up critical energy...

I reviewed Absolute Power and Quicksilver, two Doctor Who audio stories featuring Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor. Colin's Doctor returned alongside Alex Kingston in The Diary of River Song, because why should Matt Smith have the monopoly on sharing her sexy archaeology antics?

Rogue One - A Star Wars Story hit cinemas in December. It's a really beautifully designed film, and so The Art of Rogue One is an awesome treat and a real stand-out among the usual cacophony of tie-in books and merch.

If you're thinking "I hate Star Wars and Doctor Who, give me some Germanic folklore!" then you're in luck, as I also reviewed the DVD release of Three Wishes for Cinderella. It's a Christmas classic in Czechia!

And for the comics readers, I've written some words on Cadet Anderson: Teenage Kyx from 2000 AD and Martin Eden's The O Men: Book Five.

Monday, 2 January 2017


I'd recommend all my writer friends go see Passengers.

It's a masterclass in how to take a really good concept and botch it at every single opportunity, and thinking of all the ways it could have been written better is a great creative exercise.

Two passengers wake up early from cryo-sleep on a spaceship heading to a colony planet - there’s so much potential there. And they’re played by Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence! I’m so sold.

But then… well, the creepy twist that everyone's talking about is the most rubbish bit. The film’s desire for a cheery Hollywood romantic ending means that the message is essentially ‘forgive your abusers’. Hey, women! Has your man utterly and completely ruined your life? It’s fine, he only did it because he was lonely. Go back to him.

But there are lots of other rubbish bits too. For instance, Laurence Fishburne shows up as Captain Exposition, the most pointless cinema character of the year, and tells Chris and Jen how to fix the ship should it break. Chris is a mechanic, could he not have worked this out himself? Larry then conveniently dies at the exact moment the ship breaks. The only way he progresses the story is by giving them his ID pass, but surely they could have got through the locked door in a less time-consuming manner.

Also, the science of it – OK, as a Doctor Who fan, I know that scientific accuracy isn’t exactly everything, but come on now. The ship’s travelling at half the speed of light and they wander out for a pleasant spacewalk? That can’t be right, can it? And the ship’s design is just distractingly weird. I don’t buy into it. [Scientists: feel free to correct me if there is an explanation for all this.]

Talking about alternate ways to tell this story, here are a few ideas I jotted down (by no means completely thought through, and I’m sure there are even better ways):

  • Open it from Jen’s perspective. The opening twenty minutes as they are do a good job of setting up the world and Chris's character, but they turn the thing which should be a twist into a set-up. Start with her waking up, the first ten minutes can be pretty much the same but with her, then he wanders in. We might suspect him of waking her up but don’t find out for sure until she does.
  • Give Jen some practical skills. I know, I’m insulting my own work here, but writers are useless in space, and it’s clear Chris does most of the work.
  • Two ways to deal with Larry F. One: cut him out entirely, they find a different way to open the doors. Two: he still wakes up, albeit before Jen has worked out Chris’s secret. He goes off to inspect the hibernation pods, and the next time we see him, he’s keeled over in the process. We knew he was dying so might not think too much of it, but it later turns out he confronted Chris about the tampering and it turned nasty between them. It's less of a contrivance, and it gives him some development as the desire to hide his secret turns darker.
  • Chris should be more of an antagonist in the final act. The added environmental threat of the ship falling apart is good, but it makes no dramatic sense for them to have hugged and made up before this happens. How much more tense would it be if they were at their lowest point with each other when the ship starts falling apart? She’s just found out he lied to her and/or that he caused Larry’s death, and now they have to work together.
  • Obviously, she should let the fucker freeze in space after he’s fixed the ship. Maybe she could even lie to him that she’s forgiven him in order to motivate him to fix it. As long as she gets her revenge.
  • Get rid of the deus ex machina of “oh look, we can put someone back to sleep after all”. It’s ludicrously over-convenient, even if it isn’t used. Maybe the positive point of the ending is that, through standing up to Chris, she’s learned to live an independent life and can be happy having the ship to herself.
Yeah, I think that’s better already. Throw in a funny robot and you have yourself a movie.