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My ten favourite Classic Who stories

Whocember continues as we dive into the past. Whilst I may have grown up with the new series beginning in 2005, I also love the original run of Doctor Who from 1963-1989. It has so many iconic monsters, scenes, stories and Doctors. With well over a hundred stories it was very hard to pick just ten but I have picked stories which I believe to be the best Classic Who has to offer. Let’s start with a Colin Baker story (naturally)…

10. Vengeance on Varos

I’m going to play devil’s advocate here and say that I actually like Colin Baker’s TV stories. His Big Finish is better and The Twin Dilemma and Timelash are terrible but I enjoy the rest. Vengeance on Varos is a highly original and complex adventure which sees the Doctor and Peri trapped in the Punishment Dome on Varos, where people are tortured and ridiculed to keep the people of Varos entertained and to allow the Governor to stay in power. The alien Mentor Sil finances the Dome in exchange for the rare Zeiton-7, which the Doctor needs to fix the TARDIS. It’s a fantastic satire on television, mass media and corruption, with fantastic characters such as the Governor and Sil, who is easily the best villain from 80’s Doctor Who. There are two characters presented throughout the story who serve as a Greek chorus and comment on events transpiring through watching the Dome on their television. They exist to examine culture on Varos and give another perspective on events. It’s insanely clever and the story just gets more and more relevant. It’s dark and quite shocking but it adds to the story and gives the whole adventure a real sense of danger.

9. Carnival of Monsters

Much like Vengeance on Varos, Carnival of Monsters is incredibly meta and almost fourth wall breaking. Here, the Third Doctor and Jo are trapped inside a Miniscope owned by a travelling performer called Vorg who captures different specimens from planets and shows them to the general public. The story takes place on Inter Minor, where the natives are planning a coup against their leader and the border control who are in charge of letting Vorg through are planning to use the creatures inside the Miniscope to overthrow the government. It may sound convoluted, but it’s really not. The Doctor and Jo spend most of the story caught in the Miniscope and wondering what is going on, as they find themselves on an Edwardian boat which is soon overrun by the awesome Drashigs, giant worms which devour everything. The genius of this story is the sheer bonkers nature of the events and how the events inside the Miniscope tie into the plot on Inter Minor. The Third Doctor is at his best here as he finds out what’s going on and helps move events forward. This story isn’t trying to say anything, it’s just sheer joy and the imagination throughout is brilliant.

8. Ghost Light

The Seventh Doctor is one of my favourite Doctors and this story demonstrates why. The Doctor and Ace find themselves in a Victorian manor house full of bizarre and offbeat people such as a Neanderthal butler and a mysterious creature in the cellar. It also has links to Ace’s past and contains an incredibly complex but brilliant main plot involving a mysterious alien called Light. The atmosphere in this story is superb and the mystery builds and builds and presents so many interesting ideas and concepts such as evolution, racism and colonialism. The story isn’t afraid to deal with very dark subject matter and the story truly dives into the Doctor and Ace’s relationship, which is one of the show’s best in my opinion. The dialogue is amazing (I can’t stand burnt toast. I loathe bus stations. Terrible places. Full of lost luggage and lost souls. And then there’s unrequited love. And tyranny. And cruelty. We all have a universe of our own terrors to face’) and the story rewards multiple viewings to unravel every detail. It’s probably the most mature Classic Who story and I love it.

7. The Daemons

The quintessential Master story. The Master originally appeared for all five stories of Season 8, with The Daemons serving as the finale of the series. In it, the Master leads a cult of demon worshippers to revive Azal, a powerful being who the Master wishes to control. The Doctor and UNIT are called in to investigate. This is just pure class from beginning to end, with great cinematography that gives the whole story a realistic feel to it and fantastic direction and visual effects. One of the best things about this story is how high budget it feels and how the story feels epic on a tiny budget. I always love it when the show deals with supernatural beings and creatures beyond the Doctor’s understanding and The Daemons serves as one of the best examples of bringing in unnatural and magical elements into the show. I love the Third Doctor and this is one of his finest outings, with great roles for all of UNIT and a true sense of scale and threat barely seen in the show.

6. The Mind Robber

This one is hard to explain. Essentially, the Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe end up in a fantasy land called the Land of Fiction where things get bizarre. There’s Robinson Crusoe, Medusa, a unicorn, a superhero, Rapunzel and a minotaur. It may seem simple but the whole story just shows how offbeat and weird Doctor Who could get and the literally endless potential it has. The first episode in particular is probably the best episode ever in Doctor Who, with incredible atmosphere and a simple but genius mystery that gets more and more bizarre as it goes on. Like with Carnival of Monsters, this story isn’t trying to make a point- it’s just trying to entertain and it does that with some of the best imagery and ideas in the show. There’s a part where Jamie loses his face and the Doctor puts it together, only for him to get it wrong and Jamie has the wrong face for an episode. The revelation of what’s really happening is great and I would love to see a sequel to this awesome, awesome story.

5. Remembrance of the Daleks

How can I not have this story on the list? One of my favourite Doctors is caught up in a civil war between two rival factions of Daleks who are desperate to seize control of the Hand of Omega. This is top ten of all time for me, as everything I love in the show is present here. Instead of just being action, the story actually explores the Doctor’s psychology and dissects his nature from the very first episode. The Daleks are also examined as their rivalry caused by a tiny difference in genes mirrors the racial conflicts of the 60’s, where the story is set. The Seventh Doctor’s chessmaster attitude and his manipulations are brilliant and there are so many iconic scenes- the Daleks flying up the stairs, the clip above where the Doctor questions what the consequences of his choices are, Ace with a baseball bat, unlimited rice pudding, the Doctor talking the last Renegade Dalek into self destruction… the list goes on and on. The music is awesome, the action is great and everything just clicks.

4. Genesis of the Daleks

It’s an obvious choice, but it’s a classic for a reason. One of the most famous and iconic stories the show has ever done, this story is utterly brilliant in every way. The nature of war is examined on both sides as the Kaleds and the Thals both try to end their endless war by any means necessary and the story never holds back in showing the dark sides of both of them. The Doctor is never better than when he is contemplating whether to end the Daleks for good or when he is talking to Davros about the power to end all life. Behind the scarf and jelly babies, the Fourth Doctor was a really complex and very dark Doctor, at least in his early years. Sarah Jane and Harry (one of the most underrated companions may I add) have their best showings here too, with Sarah Jane acting as the moral compass to keep the Doctor in check. I haven’t even discussed Davros, who gets his absolute best story. Later stories tended to portray him as a ranting maniac, but in Genesis of the Daleks, Davros is cold, calculating and captivating to watch. This story is a masterpiece on every conceivable level.

3. Kinda

On the whole, the Fifth Doctor is probably my least favourite Doctor. Peter Davison is awesome and the era still had good elements but I just didn’t get into his Doctor as much as the others, mainly due to the writing and the frequently annoying companions. That said, Kinda is a work of art and stands head over heels above the majority of stories. It’s about an entity called the Mara who takes over Tegan and seizes control of the Kinda, the native population of Deva Loka. The planet also has an expedition crew of humans led by the mentally unstable Hindle and Sanders. The stunning script discusses the nature of dreams, the different layers of human mentality and more obvious themes such as the pros and cons of colonialism. The Doctor is superb in this story and even though I don’t like Adric or Tegan both of them, especially Tegan, are fantastically characterised in the story. Well, Adric less so but at least he’s not ultra annoying in this one. The Mara is an awesome villain and I desperately want to see it return. I also adore the dynamic Five has with Todd and it was certainly an interesting pairing which I would have loved to see more of. All in all, an amazing story.

2. The War Games

A mindblowing end to one of the best Doctors. Ignoring the questionable Mexican stereotype towards the end, I can’t think of a single fault with this epic adventure. It starts off with the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe seemingly stuck in World War One before turning into the most bonkers adventure ever, with multiple wars being fought at the same time under the control of the mysterious War Lords. Sounds simple right? There’s a reason this story is ten parts long and it’s due to the complex dynamics at play between the hierarchy or villains (the War Lord, the War Chief and the Security Chief in descending order, not to mention Smythe and Von Weich) the vast array of characters, the thoroughly engaging mystery and plot and a magnificent sense of escalation. The Second Doctor proves why he is one of the best Doctors and his steadfast determination to save everyone is one of the noblest acts the character has done. The story gets even better when the Time Lords are introduced and the Doctor is presented as the outcast from Gallifrey that he is. Never again will the Time Lords be portrayed in this way again. When I did my 60’s Who retrospective last year I called this my favourite Classic story, but that was before I saw…

  1. Warriors of the Deep

What a perfect, perfect story. Where to begin with this one? Let’s start with…

Wait, hang on. My sarcasm mode on my keyboard has broken. Whoops. Whilst I fix things, let’s dive into some honourable mentions-

The Aztecs

The Invasion

The Ambassadors of Death

The Curse of Peladon

Planet of the Spiders

The Seeds of Doom

The Deadly Assassin

Image of the Fendahl

City of Death

Enlightenment

Revelation of the Daleks

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy

The Curse of Fenric

And with that, let’s move onto my favourite story from the show’s original run…

  1. Inferno

Yeah, it was gonna be Pertwee. What else did you think it was going to be? I watched this story aware of its reputation as a classic so I was worried that I might be disappointed by the hype but it did not disappoint one bit. The final story from the perfect Season 7, Inferno is one of the most nail biting experiences a Whovian can have. From the very first frame the gritty camerawork and direction make this a very realistic and tense experience. The incidental music is replaced by the constant sound of drilling and the superbly layered characters have to constantly yell to be heard. The mere premise is genius, as a drilling project UNIT and the Doctor are investigating produces primeval slime that turns people into mutated monsters. This may not sound particularly original, but the story throws in a whole new parallel universe which the Doctor slips into- a universe further ahead in the drilling project and is about to tear itself apart with the lava spewing out of the Earth. It’s a race against time as the Doctor must escape back to his universe before the one he’s in is destroyed and warn his Earth of the impending disaster. Episode 6 is perfect, as the tension is racked up to the extreme and the cliffhanger is in my opinion the show’s finest, with a wall of lava engulfing the parallel Earth and the Doctor unable to help as he is pulled back to his universe. The parallel universe is very well detailed, with the British Republic as a facist regime being overseen by the awesome Brigade Leader. Despite the characters being from a facist regime, they are still sympathetic and their deaths have a strong impact on the Doctor. The characters in both universes are brilliantly fleshed out, the Doctor is at his absolute best and Liz is great. She is such an underrated companion. Everything about this story clicks to become one of the best stories the show’s produced, and my favourite story from the Classic era.

Whilst these are my ten favourites, there are so many strong episodes in the show’s original run. I haven’t even mentioned The Caves of Androzani, Pyramids of Mars, The Robots of Death, The Power of the Daleks or The Web of Fear. There’s just so much good in Classic Who. Up next in Whocember, the Christmas specials ranked.

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Every New Who series ranked- Whocember!

It’s the start of Whocember! This month I’ll be going through some Doctor Who posts, including a ranking of the Christmas specials, my favourite Twelfth Doctor stories, a review of Twice Upon a Time and perhaps some other stuff. There’ll be a brief Star Wars interlude as I review The Last Jedi but I shall mostly be focusing on Doctor Who, and every week starting from today we’ll have a Doctor Who post, starting today and ending with New Year’s Day with my Twice Upon a Time review.

As one era ends, another begins and what better time than to look back on all the previous runs of New Who (I would also do Classic Who but we would be here forever otherwise. Although I have just thought another post for Whocember…). I love all the seasons of New Who but there are some that are better than others and some I enjoyed more. Let’s start…

10. Series 7

This series has many strong episodes, such as The Rings of Akhaten, A Town Called Mercy, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and The Name of the Doctor, as well as many pretty good ones such as The Power of Three, The Angels Take Manhatten, Cold War and The Crimson Horror. If we include the specials, there’s a very strong Christmas episode, the awesome 50th anniversary and a pretty decent end to Matt Smith’s Doctor. The issues lie with the inconsistent nature of the series, lack of truly classic episodes, some pretty poor episodes such as Hide and Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, a weak companion in Clara as well as rushed endings, hardly any good villains and no two parters. I still like the series overall though, and Matt Smith remains my favourite Doctor.

9. Series 9

I know, it’s bizarre that I complain about no two parters in Series 7 and then have the series full of two parters next. Whilst many episodes such as the opening Dalek story, the Zygon story and especially Heaven Sent were strong, I have many issues with this series. Peter Capaldi’s Doctor had a complete 180 character turn and turned into an older, less fun Matt Smith and Clara just annoyed me. Quite why she was in this series when she essentially did nothing for most of the stories and then died before coming back to life in the worst way possible completely baffles me. The stories were mostly fine but once again had very few strong villains and Hell Bent was just… bad. Did Steven Moffat think that was an adequate ending to a companion who should have already left one series ago? The finale is the reason why this is lower on the list, as a better final episode could have propelled this series much higher.

8. Series 2

There are three absolute gems in this series- School Reunion, The Girl in the Fireplace and The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit. The problems however are similar to Series 9’s, with an inconsistent Doctor, a companion who got gradually more annoying as time went on and some very poor stories in New Earth, Love & Monsters and Fear Her. This is easily the most inconsistent Russel T Davies series and there are flaws with the arc such as the implied romance between Ten and Rose (which should have never been allowed to happen). That said, episodes like Tooth and Claw remain nostalgic classics to me and the series is very fun on the whole. The finale isn’t the best but it wrapped up the series well and how can a Dalek/Cyberman war not be cool?

7. Series 8

Ignoring the awful Kill the Moon and In the Forest of the Night (tied with Hell Bent and Love and Monsters as the worse New Series story), this series is mostly very good. It’s Clara’s best series and there are some fantastic episodes such as Listen, Mummy on the Orient Express, Flatline and the finale. I also have a soft spot for the hilarious Robot of Sherwood. My main problem with the series is how unlikeable and uncharismatic Twelve is (The Sixth Doctor was equally unlikeable but was much more fun to watch) and how the series got dragged down by an inferior version of the Amy/Rory relationship. The positives far outweigh the negatives though, as my favourite Master owns the final two episodes. It’s just not a series I rewatch as much as the others, hence its placement.

6. Series 6

I will forever defend this series. It’s not perfect (the Flesh two parter and Curse of the Black Spot are noticeably bland) but the highs of this series are incredible. My all time favourite story, The God Complex, is in this series. So much of Matt Smith’s run is made better by that story- it’s like a reverse Hell Bent. Other gems include The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon, The Doctor’s Wife and A Good Man Goes to War (I would also like to issue an apology to The Girl Who Waited. It’s not my favourite story ever but it’s decent and it’s not the worst story ever, no matter what my ten year old self says). The arc is compelling, the regulars are fantastic and whilst The Wedding of River Song is mediocre, it still wraps things up moderately well. Not perfect, but a series I love to rewatch.

5. Series 1

Apology number two- The Parting of the Ways. Quite why I hated this story baffles me. It’s fantastic! The series as a whole was a very, very strong start to the new show. The Ninth Doctor isn’t my favourite Doctor but his arc over thirteen episodes was very well done and immensely satisfying. My favourites of this series are Dalek, The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances and Father’s Day. Rose was very likeable in this series and serves as a great audience surrogate. In terms of flaws, I still find the story arc lazy, the resolution of Parting of the Ways to be terrible and I find the Slitheen two parter quite weak, but this is a very impressive run of episodes on the whole and it was wrapped up very well indeed. Underrated gems include The Unquiet Dead and Boom Town. The series has dated quite a bit but the writing still holds up and it’s a joy to rewatch.

4. Series 3

What a strong series this is. After an inconsistent last series, Russel T Davies knocked it out of the park with this series. The arc is one of the best in New Who, with every episode being tied into the finale in a very clever and well though out manner. The standouts of this series were easily Human Nature/The Family of Blood (one of my favourite stories ever) and the magnificent Gridlock. Blink, Utopia, the finale, 42… so many fantastic episodes were in this series and Martha is one of my favourite New Who companions, with a great arc and character development. The only wobble this series had was the pretty poor Dalek two parter, but it’s not horrible and it’s still entertaining, not to mention it sets up Series 4. I honestly don’t think this series had any major stumbles the way Series 7, 9, 2 and 8 had and I need to move on before I gush too much about Gridlock and the finale.

3. Series 4

Easily the best David Tennant series. A brilliant run of episodes with so many knockout episodes- The Fires of Pompeii, Planet of the Ood, Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, Midnight and Turn Left constitute half the series and they are all amazing. The other half is very strong, with the weakest being the pretty fun and inoffensive The Doctor’s Daughter. I will admit that Journey’s End is quite melodramatic and overindulgent but I can’t hate a story that brings together Doctor Who, The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood together. I haven’t even mentioned Donna, the best New Series companion, who manages to ground the Doctor in a way very few companions do. I adore this series, but there’s two more I love even more.

2. Series 10

Recency bias? Nah, this series is incredible. After years of Clara we finally had a fun, well developed companion again in Bill and we were lucky enough to have also have Nardole, the most unexpectedly awesome character to ever come out of Doctor Who. Peter Capaldi was finally given a good balance of grouchiness and fun that had been missing previously and the Twelfth Doctor came alive in many great stories. Oxygen and Extremis are absolute classics and the finale got a place in my top ten favourite stories ever. The fun energy and sense of renewal that the series had missed returned and it was glorious. We got two Masters, Mondasian Cybermen, Ice Warriors and even the First Doctor. The only stumbling block the series had (and the only reason why this is number two) was the disappointing and messy ending to the Monk trilogy. Other than that, this series was superb, with Steven Moffat going out on a high.

  1. Series 5

It only seems natural that my favourite Doctor should be in my favourite series. Series 5 is perfectly done in practically every way. When a series’s weakest story is the alright Victory of the Daleks, then it’s a very strong series indeed. The arc that was built up in this series and the relationships the characters had were unparalleled in the show before and since. The finale is spectacular and makes everything so much better on rewatch. There’s the genius Amy’s Choice, the brilliant and underrated Hungry Earth/Cold Blood, the awesome Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone and the phenomenal Vincent and the Doctor, which is my second favourite New Series story, with the other episodes being very strong. Steven Moffat may have had his wobbles, but his first series remains an outstanding run of episodes that I still love to this day.

Can Series 11 beat Series 5? Will Twice Upon a Time be a strong send off to the Moffat era? Will I ever issue more apologies to episodes? Who knows? What I do know is that we have had five fantastic seasons, three very good seasons and two good seasons of Doctor Who since 2005 and I expect we’ll get many more to come.

The superhero films of the year- A look back

With the release of Justice League this past week, the annual bunch of superhero films has come to an end. And what a year it has been for Marvel and DC! Two Batmen, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Thor, Wolverine, Baby Groot and more. To me, this has been an outstanding year for comic book movies, so let’s go through one of the craziest, most insane years in superhero film history. We’ll start from the beginning, and there will be spoilers for all movies apart from Justice League and Thor: Ragnarok-

Way back in February, we had the hilarious LEGO Batman Movie. I haven’t seen the LEGO Movie, although I’ve heard it’s good and based on this movie, I will be first in line to the sequel (I’m also hoping for the Doctor to appear in that film). This is a great, fun film for fans of LEGO, DC and good movies. I honestly didn’t expect to love the movie as much as I did.

This movie homages and references all eras of Batman, from the 30’s to Batman V Superman. This Batman is absolutely hilarious, less of a Dark Knight and more of a spoilt rich kid who happens to be a superhero. In the first case of “superhero father problems” this year, Batman has to learn to raise the orphan Dick Grayson as his own son whilst also having to fight off the Joker, whose attempts to get Batman to notice him causes him to ally himself with every villain from every franchise Warner Bros can get their hands on. Behold, as we see Voldemort, Sauron, King Kong, Daleks and more team up with the Joker to invade Gotham City. The results are glorious-

This movie is just awesome. It contains so many references and in-jokes to over 75 years of Batman that I just couldn’t help but love every second of it. This is the first Batman film to have the Bat Family, the first to have Condiment King and the first (and only I think) to have the shark from Jaws defeated by Bat Spray. A great start to a great year of comic book movies.

And now for something completely different in the best comic book film of the year, Logan.

I saw this movie and the LEGO Batman movie less than a month apart. The difference could not be bigger and it’s a testament to the diversity of comic book films that these two movies exist in the same year, let alone a month apart from each other. I’ve gone on about how this movie deserves serious consideration at this year’s Oscars and I still haven’t thought of a single legitimate reason why it wouldn’t. In terms of final bows, I can think of nothing better than Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine for one last time. Please Fox, don’t recast him, just leave this chapter of comic book history alone.

In part two of “superhero father problems” (yes I did just link the LEGO Batman Movie and Logan), an ageing Logan has to care for a dying Professor X in the near future, in the same way Xavier used to care for him. The daddy issues truly come to ahead when Logan ends up on the run with Laura, a young girl who happens to be a genetic clone of Wolverine. Logan now has to care for his “father” and make his “daughter” a better person than him, all the while escaping from the Ravagers. This is easily the darkest and least comic book like superhero film since The Dark Knight and is more like a western character study which happens to have a clawed mutant. This movie delves deep into themes such as redemption and what it means to have a family, and juxtaposes some of the best action scenes I’ve ever seen with complex character dynamics and moments of quiet.

Give. Patrick Stewart. An Oscar. Comic book films honestly don’t get better than this, and I honestly think this should be the last X-Men film (barring Deadpool films, but they’re allowed to exist because they’re Deadpool films). To end one of the oldest ongoing comic book franchises on this note will be so much better than the next continuity confusing X-Men movie. Seriously, the timeline is so confusing and whilst it’s not clear what timeline Logan is set it, I don’t really care seeing how this is a standalone film. The best comic book film this year, no question, and I expect to see this movie reap in many nominations come Oscars season.

Moving on to the giants of superhero movies, the Marvel Cinematic Universe-

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the third part of the unofficial quadrilogy of 2017 superhero films about problematic fathers, and it’s the movie most obviously about the issue. The second Guardians film is a joy to watch, filled with fantastic comedy and great character growth. I’ve touched upon why I love this film previously, but since May I’ve grown to love the film even more, to the point where I love it more than the first film and it’s now one of my favourite MCU films.

This movie has one of the most emotional and powerful stories in the whole MCU, with Star Lord coming to terms with his father and completing his emotional journey across two films. The Guardians go through a lot in this film and whilst they come out on top, their world will never be the same again. Seeing all the arcs and subplots come together in the final act is immensely satisfying. This film is about belonging somewhere and embracing family. Ego is one of Marvel’s best villains, brilliantly playing off Star Lord and giving the movie a sense of real menace. The plot with Rocket and Yondu is my favourite part of the film, as they bond over their reluctance and then acceptance of fatherhood (Rocket with Baby Groot and Yondu with Star Lord).

This is a truly well written and complex movie with every character’s arcs tying into some way about the idea of family, friendship and trust. However, this is still a movie with a talking raccoon, a tiny dancing tree and Taserface, so it’s not all doom and gloom. But it’s the way the hilarious comedy is weaved together with this brilliant story that makes this one of Marvel’s absolute best. I do love the first film, but I honestly believe this film surpasses it in every way. A triumph.

And with that, we move onto the movie I’m so happy ended up being so good, Wonder Woman-

Oh DC, DC, where do we start with DC? I’ll go into their current predicament later, but for now let’s cast our minds back to June, when DC made a movie everyone could agree was good. I honestly prefer DC to Marvel overall (I’ll happily read a Green Lantern comic over any Avengers comic) and I only really like the Marvel characters in movie form. DC on the characters have characters I unreservedly love, especially the Justice League. So I was happy when Wonder Woman was great, as it was such a breath of fresh air for the DCEU movies. I didn’t hate the other films, but this movie was clearly superior to the others.

What this movie nails most of all is how to embrace the silly comic book roots whilst also dealing with incredibly dark themes and ideas. This movie is all about war and it doesn’t sugarcoat it in any way- Diana sees first-hand the horrors of the First World War and has her optimistic view of the world of man shattered. The movie also deals with the idea that humanity is flawed, which is something that Diana fails to grasp, as she sees defeating Ares as the key to ending the war, only to realise it is the humans causing the war with Ares merely guiding them. A lesser movie would have painted the conflict in black and white but Wonder Woman is all about what war really is, as anyone who knows history knows the First World War was far more complex than just good vs evil. It’s a really mature story but at the same time it embraces the comic book roots and has delightfully over the top action and effects. The No Man’s Land scene is, in my opinion, the absolute best scene in any comic book movie this year-

What a scene. I hope future movies write female characters in this way- make them strong because of who they are, not based on their gender (this applies to male characters too). This film could have easily been about how Wonder Woman is awesome because she’s a woman, but instead she’s awesome because of who she is and what she values. Ares is a great villain and I love how the film misdirects the audience into thinking it’s Luddendorf (who was actually a real person whadyya know?) before revealing the much more satisfying and thematically profound answer. This movie embodies who Wonder Woman is and why DC has endured for so long. If it wasn’t for Logan, this would be my favourite film of the year.

Moving on to the most iconic Marvel character, Spider-Man-

Remember how I said I mostly prefer Marvel characters in film form? That’s not the case for Spider-Man. I’m a huge fan of the comic book character, especially the original Stan Lee run. They’re incredibly cheesy but heartfelt and genuine, which is something this movie captures well. One of the highlights of Civil War, it was great to see a fully established Spider-Man and not having to go through the origin again. In Uncle Ben’s place we have Iron Man, whose role as a surrogate father figure and his clashes with Peter make this part four of superhero dads. This Spider-Man is just a normal kid, which I really appreciate, as it’s how the character started.

What works about this movie is how small scale it is. The world is not at stake and it’s not a part of the ongoing Thanos saga- it’s just a standalone film about a kid who wants to be a hero. The small stakes allow the villain to work- and I mean really work. The Vulture looks awesome, is awesome and is the best comic book villain of the year. You understand where he is coming from and why he’s doing what he’s doing, which is not something I can say for a lot of Marvel villains. In terms of characterisation, this Spider-Man is probably the closest we have to Stan Lee’s original vision and it’s great to see the MCU stripped down to Earth. In terms of past Spider-Man films this is very unique as it deals with issues not faced by the other ones, especially seeing how the MCU’s desperately wants to join the Avengers.

This is probably my second favourite Spider-Man film after Spider-Man 2 (which to be fair is a very high bar to reach) and it captures the care free nature of the comic so well. I particularly like the action scenes, as they feel really cartoony and ridiculous, which is what a Spider-Man film should be. I also love how Spider-Man leaves the Vulture alive, setting up not only a possible reunion but also a possible Sinister Six film. It’s also a really funny film, with lots of great laughs. And it’s not even the funniest Marvel film this year! But most importantly, much like Wonder Woman it captures who the main character is perfectly. I still love the original Sam Raimi Spider-Man films more (well, the first two), but this Spider-Man is my favourite. If that makes any sense.

And now to my favourite Marvel character, Thor-

I’ve written a review for this as my last post so I’ll keep it brief- this was my most anticipated movie of the year and it did not disappoint. Everything I want from a Thor movie is here and more. Every character is awesome, with the highlights being Korg (spin-off please!), Valkyrie and the Grandmaster. Thor is as funny as he always is, Hulk is great in a movie that shouldn’t really have him in it, and Loki is just Loki. Even Doctor Strange is awesome for the brief time he’s on screen. Incidentally, both Thor and Doctor Strange are Marvel characters who, like Spider-Man, I love the comics for as well. It’s also so, so funny- as in laugh a minute. It has amazing action, great character development and is the ultimate comic book blast. I can’t really dive into this one seeing how it’s still fairly recent but if you haven’t seen it yet, there’s still time. In short- watch it. Can’t wait for Black Panther and then… Infinity War.

And now for the elephant in the room, Justice League. This movie is causing quite a stir so let’s dive straight into this-

OK, this will be less about the film itself and more to do with the fallout after this movie’s poor box office. Firstly, I’m going to come out and say that I actually like this film. Admittedly it’s mainly because Wonder Woman’s in it and I really like this universe’s Batman now that he doesn’t kill people. Seeing the Justice League together was really cool and I’m glad Superman is actually Superman. The only character I wasn’t too keen on was Aquaman, as I think he was too similar to Thor in terms of personality and didn’t really resemble the comic book character. He could have been any hero. The villain wasn’t too great but overall I still enjoyed watching it. That said…

Let’s talk about the future of the DCEU and how they can improve. At this point the movie is severely under performing at the box office, causing mass panic for Warner Bros. It isn’t superhero fatigue (a term coined by cynical art-house critics; the other six films this year have all performed brilliantly) but mostly due to a lack of faith in DC properties and the mixed reviews. Whilst I basically ignore reviews for superhero films, a lot of people don’t and that has clearly affected Justice League- Wonder Woman was a success due to the positive reviews and its standalone nature, whilst Justice League has the highly divisive Batman V Superman in its shadow.

So what’s the future for DC? I don’t see Wonder Woman 2 being affected seeing how that’s the only successful franchise they have right now. Aquaman is still being released and depending on how successful that is we may have another hit franchise. As for the rest, I think Warner Bros honestly need to step back and think about this carefully. Personally, I would use Flashpoint to restart the universe, keeping everything that works (Wonder Woman) and changing everything else. Start the universe with a Wonder Woman film with the same continuity as her previous films, then do solo films for each Justice League member with the team up film simply called Trinity. I mean, they could make do with the current universe, but the fans have spoken and as a DC fan, I think a fresh start is in order. That said I still enjoyed this version of the Justice League, but I can’t see the current DCEU surviving outside of Wonder Woman.

So after this great year of comic book movies, I honestly think this has been the best year for fandom in ages. Marvel and DC were both on their best and I watched and enjoyed all the films. Next year is set to be even more nuts and if the quality of superhero films can keep up then we’re in for a good year. All we need is The Last Jedi and a good Doctor Who Christmas special to cap this year off in style.

Thor: Ragnarok review

Of all the comic book movies coming out this year, Thor: Ragnarok was easily the one I was anticipating the most. Yes, a LEGO Batman movie, Hugh Jackman’s last performance as Wolverine, the return of the Guardians of the Galaxy, a movie about Wonder Woman, Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Justice League on screen was all very exciting (and good, although we don’t know about Justice League. Hope it’s good seeing how awesome Wonder Woman was) but honestly, having my favourite Avenger return after eight movies since The Dark World and a minimal role in Age of Ultron was enough for me to count down the days until October 24th. My hype for this movie even overshadowed my hype for The Last Jedi and equal only to that of Doctor Who and Skulduggery Pleasant. Long story short, this movie was already in my good books from the second it was announced.

And then the Hulk was going to appear. In a loose adaptation of Planet Hulk. Then Doctor Strange was going to appear. Then the trailers came out.

OK, I wanted this movie now.

So, did the movie live up to my Hulk-sized expectations? Yes, yes and yes. Thor: Ragnarok is easily one of the MCU’s best movies, purely because it embraces the comics in such a firm way that it literally is a 60’s comic book brought to life. The last time I had this much fun at a cinema was the first Guardians of the Galaxy, and I consider this movie to be even better than that one, which is already one of Marvel’s best.

Without spoiling too much (the movie still isn’t out in America), the plot, as you probably gathered from the trailers, revolves around Thor having to reclaim Asgard from the clutches of Hela, the goddess of death. His travels lead him to re encountering the Hulk, now a gladiator on a distant planet following his departure from Earth. Together, and with the help of a bounty hunter known as Valkyrie as well as Loki, Thor and Hulk build a team to take back Asgard. It’s a really simple plot and very easy to follow, however it’s still compelling thanks to the characters and action throughout. This movie is not bound by the other movies in the series and can be enjoyed as a standalone. It’s very different from the first two Thor movies yet still finishes his franchise in an incredibly satisfying manner.

The best (and funniest) aspect of the movie is Thor and the various dynamics he has with various characters. His interactions with Loki (I won’t reveal how the ending of The Dark World is resolved) are just as hilarious and complex as ever and despite the constant humour there is still room for some heartfelt conversations. Their relationship really is one of the best in the whole MCU. Loki is just as delightfully wicked and sarcastic as ever and he remains one of the highlights of any movie he’s in.

Then there’s the dynamic with the Hulk which builds upon the character’s previous appearances. I can’t discuss his arc too much without delving into spoilers but I honestly think that this is the best portrayal of the Hulk yet. His appearance makes this movie so much more fun as superheroes working together will never not be cool. I love the juxtaposition of Thor and Hulk’s roles in the first Thor movie and this one- in Thor, Thor was a fish out of water adjusting to Earth. In this film Hulk, or rather Bruce Banner, serves as the fish out of water in Thor’s very alien world. I can’t wait to see these two again in Infinity War.

There are a whole load of new characters and they’re all great. The standout character to me was Korg, an enslaved gladiator who looks like a giant rock monster yet sounds like a soft spoken New Zealander (in fact he’s played by the film’s director, Taika Waititi.) The contrast between his appearance and his voice is hilarious and his personality is incredibly upbeat and fun. I hope he returns for future movies. The other standout character was Valkyrie, who steals every scene she’s in. It’s hard to discuss her arc without spoilers but suffice to say it’s very satisfying. Another character who ended up being surprisingly great was Skurge the Executioner. You wouldn’t think a minor character would have a well rounded arc, but he does and it’s great. Doctor Strange’s appearance in the film is great, but he has a very minor role to play. It is great how the characters can just cross over and this bodes well for the future.

The final main character is the villain, Hela. Marvel have been on a good track record with villains recently with Ego and Vulture both being fantastic. Hela is certainly better than Malekith but at the same time is a step down from the two recent ones. The main problem is that she is off screen for vast amounts of the movie as the story unfolds elsewhere and whilst her backstory is compelling there isn’t much done with it. That said, she’s still a great villain who poses a genuine threat to the heroes. In a movie this entertaining, the villain honestly isn’t the most important aspect. A minor villain who steals the show is the hilariously camp Grandmaster, who runs the gladiator arena Thor finds himself in. Every second he is on screen is utter hilarity. Just watch and see for yourself as he is one of the funniest characters.

The action in this movie is incredible and honestly feels like a comic book come to life. The colour pallate is completely insane and is very unique. Not even the Guardians of the Galaxy movies are this insane. The jokes come thick and fast and this is easily one of the funniest Marvel movies. As a result it may not be for everyone but for anyone who is concerned about how serious this movie is I can say without spoiling that the MCU has been changed in a major way and that the path for Infinity War has been set. I cannot wait.

All in all, I highly recommend Thor: Ragnarok. It’s easy to get into without needing context for the other Marvel movies, although it does help. It’s a non stop thrill ride that never stops having fun whilst continuing both the stories of Thor and the wider Marvel universe. For a Marvel and Thor fan, this movie was an absolute blast and anyone who loves Marvel will almost certainly have a good time.

Preparing for Ragnarok: The Thor-athon

Thor: Ragnarok is almost here (in the UK anyway) and to say I’m excited is putting it mildly. My favourite Avenger teaming up with the Hulk and Doctor Strange? Sign me up! Add on top of that the amazing trailers and great reviews and my excitement levels for this movie has hit peak levels. What better time than to reflect on the God of Thunder’s previous movie outings?

Let’s start by discussing one of my favourite Marvel movies, the first Thor. I feel like I’m in a minority here but I still consider this to be an outstanding movie and easily the best origin movie for Marvel. The best part about this movie is the intense character work at play- it almost feels like a Shakespeare story (although given the fact that Kenneth Branagh directed this movie I think that was intentional).

Thor goes through major character development. He starts the movie off as an arrogant prince who believes himself to be superior to others and acts rashly to impress Odin. Then, when he is banished he believes all he needs to do to get back to Asgard is to reclaim his hammer. This is not what needs to happen however, as he realises he needs to learn humility and defeat in order to return. It is so satisfying seeing this character development, which turns Thor into the more well rounded and fun character present in the Avengers movies.

The other fantastic character is Loki, who is still the best MCU villain by far. He is such a complex character who despite his selfish actions is easy to sympathise with and relate to. All he wanted was the same level of respect as Thor, however the way he sought that attention was wrong. He’s the kind of character we don’t get enough of in comic book movies- villains who don’t want world domination or the destruction of the universe. Personal stakes are sometimes so much more compelling than huge stakes, and that’s ultimately what Thor is about. The story is a simple story of brotherhood and family drama yet it’s shrouded in a familiar comic book tone, meaning this movie can appeal to anyone.

What an amazing scene this is. Tom Hiddleston is a fantastic actor and I think he’d be a great Bond.

Are there flaws with the first Thor film? I suppose the Earth characters are not as fleshed out or interesting as the Asgardians, despite there being really funny scenes on Earth, such as this-

The problem is that the romance between Thor and Jane isn’t the greatest subplot in the world and the portions on Earth tend to drag more than the Asgard scenes. It’s all worth it however for when the two stories combine and Thor returns to Asgard to battle Loki. In a fantastic final scene, Thor breaks the rainbow bridge to save Jotunheim but he is unable to return to Earth and reunite with Jane. He makes the sacrifice for the greater good of Asgard, becoming the hero he always wanted to be. The stage is set brilliantly for The Avengers.

Our next trip to Asgard is often called the weakest Marvel movie and I both agree and disagree. On the one hand, Thor: The Dark World is one of the simpler Marvel movies with many flaws that I’ll go into and it lacks the emotion and character of the first film. That said, it’s still very entertaining and a great popcorn film that acts as a very good refresher between the character driven Iron Man 3 and the game changing Captain America: The Winter Soldier, if you’re watching the MCU in order.

Let’s start with the biggest negative here- Malekith. Marvel had Christopher Eccleston, an actual Doctor, playing the main villain and he’s completely wasted. He has no motivation, hardly speaks, is barely in the movie and is generally a wasted villain. This is a problem with other villains such as Ronan the Accuser but he had a very strong screen presence and was a genuine threat even if his character was a bit thin. Malekith on the other hand is just dull, especially compared to his charismatic comic book version. If Christopher Eccleston’s commitments to this film was the main reason he couldn’t do the Doctor Who 50th anniversary, then it’s a real shame that his role in Thor was so lacklustre (at least we got John Hurt in Doctor Who, so it’s really a two sided coin).

OK, onto the good stuff, as I do think there’s a lot of good in this movie that makes me ultimately enjoy it. The best thing about this movie is the humorous yet complex dynamic between Thor and Loki. Loki is a very interesting character in this movie as he isn’t the villain yet still does not have the best intentions, as the ending shows. He is forced to work with Thor and despite their antagonism he clearly still respects Thor. Their Asgard escape is my favourite part of the film, as it has both of them working together and frequently butting heads in hilarious ways-

The plot is actually very clever and despite Malekith being a weak villain, the Dark Elves as a collective are very cool. The siege of Asgard is very fun, being kicked off by an awesome scene of Heimdall taking down a Dark Elf ship and ending with the death of Frigga. This portion of the film truly embraces the comic book nonsense of Marvel and is a joy to behold. One thing I love about this movie is how quick paced and action packed it is yet it still has time for quiet character moments such as the conversation between Thor and Loki after their mum’s death-

The third act of the movie is fantastic. After escaping Asgard, Thor, Loki and Jane arrive in Iceland- sorry, The Dark World- and Loki seemingly dies. This was a great misdirection and a genius way to up the stakes of the movie. The battle for the Aether then reaches London and the Dark Elves invade Greenwich, forcing Thor to take the Tube-

He should just be glad it wasn’t rush hour. Trust me, that is not something you want to be stuck in. I don’t live in London but I have been caught in Tube rush hour a few times when I’ve been there and I fully sympathise with the people who have to commute every day.

After a great duel across dimensions, taking in Jotunheim, the Gherkin and the Dark World, the MCU’s weakest villain is defeated and regenerates into David Tennant (not really). There isn’t really much to discuss in terms of themes when it comes to this film as it is just a bit of fun, so I can see why people dislike it, but I still really enjoy it. It is one of the weaker MCU films, but considering how good they usually are that’s still an indication of a fun film.

Overall, whilst I do understand why some people find the Thor movies to be among the weaker movies made by Marvel Studios, I don’t really agree. The first movie is in my top five favourite MCU movies and the second is still very fun. I cannot wait for Ragnarok (I’m watching it on opening day, so I expect a full cinema) and given that it is currently critically acclaimed I can assume that the Thor franchise will end on a high.

The Nightmare Before Christmas review and why it’s awesome

Well, if you can’t beat them, join them. After years trying to physically combat Halloween I thought- why not just join in the fun? Everyone spends this month gushing about their favourite horror movies and whilst I’m not a horror movie fan, I am a fan of the awesome, holiday blending classic The Nightmare Before Christmas. What better time than to look back on one of my favourite movies? December? Probably, but October is as good as time as any. I mean, it’s always a good time to watch the Nightmare Before Christmas, but October and December are the best. I know it’s only the 4th of October and we have a while before Halloween but that hasn’t stopped the shops so it won’t stop me (although it seems to me Halloween is dying a slow and painful death in this country, which is great. Perhaps we could focus on a non-stupid holiday). Anyway, let’s dive straight into this-

The main reason why I like this movie? The songs. Rather than use them randomly, The Nightmare Before Christmas uses the songs to build a unique world. One of the reasons I’m not a huge Disney fan (I am aware that this movie is technically a Disney movie but I digress) is that the songs just seem pointless and tacked onto pre-established stories that didn’t have singing in them. The Nightmare Before Christmas is an original universe telling an original story and it uses songs as part of that universe. That’s how to make a musical I like. And with brilliant songs such as This Is Halloween, Jack’s Lament and The Oogie Boogie Song, which is my favourite, the singing and music just makes this movie what it is.

The world is so well detailed. Halloweentown feels like a real place full of really fun and interesting characters such as the Mayor with the rotating happy/sad face, the trio of consecutively smaller people who hide in each other’s hats, the vampires, the ooze guy and my personal favourite, the big tree with skeletons on him. None of these characters are fleshed out or given backstories but they don’t need to be- this really is a movie where you just enjoy the ride rather than try and look too deeply into anything. The whole idea of multiple holidays co-existing is also too cool for words and I would love to see the other holidays team up with the residents of Halloweentown and battle Oogie Boogie, Krampus and other holiday villains. However, at the same time I’m glad there haven’t been any sequels to this movie and how it exits on its own. The attention to detail and minor details such as a spider being the Mayor’s tie is amazing.

Jack Skellington is a great protagonist and I love the simplicity of his story. He tries to do the best but messes up, so he moves on and learns from his mistakes to try and be a better person. Sometimes that’s all a character needs. He is also one of the coolest looking characters ever, and between him and Skulduggery Pleasant I think I really like skeletal characters. I will admit that the romance “arc” between Jack and Sally comes out of nowhere and the two characters barely know each other until the end. It’s a pretty out of nowhere ending. It’s almost like Disney forced Tim Burton (who didn’t direct it despite his name being on the movie) and Henry Sellick (who directed this movie and the equally awesome Coraline) to include a romance. Incidentally, despite producing the movie Disney found the movie too dark to release it under the mainstream Disney banner, instead releasing it under Touchstone Pictures. However, they have brought the film into their mainstream banner due to the popularity it has gotten. This now means Nightmare Before Christmas is officially a Disney movie, and not in a Marvel or Star Wars sense- I mean a proper sense. Well, I guess that’s two Disney movies I like (this and the first Pirates of the Caribbean).

The Christmas elements are so well integrated into the film. It shifts from a creepy Halloween movie to a full on Christmas film for a few scenes before merging the two brilliantly. I adore the use of colours in this film, with the Halloween scenes being lit in grey and blacks whilst the Christmas scenes are all about bright reds and greens, perfectly contrasting each other. Even the music switches, with the sombre violins and moody sounds switching to cheery bells and trumpets. Making Christmas perfectly combines the two worlds in one of the film’s best sequences-

The stop motion involved is nothing short of breathtaking. The movie was made over 20 years ago yet it still looks perfect, with the stop motion animation truly making the movie unique and fun to look at. The style is perfect for the offbeat tone that the movie is channeling and I honestly couldn’t imagine this movie working with conventional animation, 2D or 3D. The film took two years to animate but it was ultimately worth it as the movie still holds up even now. It makes me wonder why stop motion animation isn’t more popular when this movie essentially showed the world it could work. This film is also a reminder that just because the movie is half about a holiday I don’t like and is in a genre I don’t like doesn’t mean I won’t like it. A good movie can come from anywhere and be about anything, as long as it’s good.

Overall, I still love this movie after all these years. It really was the first movie I remember really liking and rewatching again and again on DVD, to the extent where I think I watched it every day at one point. Despite the fact it isn’t very deep or thought provoking, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a fantastic Halloween and Christmas movie that I recommend everbody watches no matter their age. It certainly made an impact on me. So this Halloween, watch The Nightmare Before Christmas and get immersed in the greatest non-Futurama musical ever.

Incidentally, this isn’t an endorsement of Halloween after my long war against it. I still think it’s highly pointless but if you have to do something for it, watching an awesome movie would be a pretty good way to spend an evening. Like I said though, any day’s a good day for The Nightmare Before Christmas.

3 reasons why Logan deserves Oscar consideration

It’s September, so the agonisingly painful Oscar season begins. This is the time of the year when movies which no-one has seen suddenly get called the “best movie of the year” and the past 8 months of movies get ignored. Although let’s be honest, this year has been pretty poor for blockbuster movies so I can actually sympathise with Acadamy voters getting fatigued by endless remakes, sequels and reboots no one asked for. That said, there is one movie, released just before the summer, that really does deserve Oscar consideration- Logan.

And I’m not alone in this, as 20th Century Fox have already sent the DVD out for consideration to Acadamy Award voters. Does it deserve award recognition? Definitely. Here’s three reasons why-

  1. People will pay attention to the Oscars

I’ve said this before, but the truth is no one cares about the Oscars anymore unless they’re directly linked with them or film buffs, like me. The general public don’t care what film wins due to the films being mostly inaccessible and unappealing to a general public. Here in the UK we don’t get the majority of Oscar movies until January/February the following year! How is that supposed to represent the best in film in the 21st century? The only times people pay attention is when something like Return of the King, Mad Max or Inception get recognised. The absolute best way for the Academy to make up for this year’s disastrous Oscars is to finally recognise the genre that’s been dominating cinemas- the superhero/comic book genre. What comic book movie more than any other deserves award recognition this year? I think you know the answer, and it’s not Captain Underpants. Nominating Logan, a movie that has been adored by both critics and fans (a rarity for Oscar winning movies) will make people go “Oh, there’s that movie I really liked- I’m going to watch the Academy Awards to see if it wins”.

2. It will act as a consolidation for the failure to acknowledge superhero movies in the past

If Logan is nominated for Best Picture, or (wishful thinking) win, then the Academy will gain serious credentials for actually remembering good movies do exist outside of their incredibly limited bubble of biopics and three hour long Swedish black and white movies with Greek subtitles. The superhero genre has been majorly snubbed by the Oscars. Heath Ledger won a posthumous Best Supporting Actor for the Dark Knight, Spider-Man 2 won Best Visual Effects and Suicide Squad (surprisingly) won Best Makeup this year. That’s the only three I can think of, and only one was for a major award. The Dark Knight wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture, which led to a massive backlash and made the Academy double the movies eligible for Best Picture from 5 to 10, something they have conveniently forgotten every year since. I’m not saying the Avengers or Wonder Woman is the kind of movie that wins Best Picture but Logan is, and ignoring yet another mature, critically acclaimed comic book property when they quite literally have no excuse considering how many they can nominate will prove once and for all that the Academy Award voters are out of touch with modern viewers and unable to look past the source material of a property. A comic book movie (I’m not saying superhero because the movie really isn’t a typical superhero movie) getting major credentials could be seen as the Academy acknowledging the genre as a whole, and the strengths it has. Think of a hypothetical Logan win as a win for all comic book movies, Marvel or DC. One of the finest examples of the genre, scooping the most prestigious award in the film industry and flying the flag high for the future of the genre.

3. It’s a great movie and isn’t that what the Oscars are supposed to be honouring?

Keep in mind that I’m not just doing this post because I want to see a comic book movie win Best Picture. I understand that most movies like Guardians of the Galaxy aren’t going to win Oscars- I would like a separate blockbuster category for the typical superhero blockbuster. Logan however has been genuinely hyped as the first superhero (again, that term is used loosely) movie that could sweep the board in terms of major awards, and it deserves it. It’s not just a great comic book movie, it’s just a great movie. The story is incredibly engaging and well told, the themes addressed are very dark and compelling and it’s a brilliant ending to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. This is a fantastic movie even without the comic book label. The Oscars are supposed to be honouring the best movies of the year regardless of genre. Now’s the time to actually uphold what the award is for. A comic book movie like Logan doesn’t happen every year, and this is the closest movie since the Dark Knight to break the mold of “superhero movies are dumb” mentality (a dumb, dumb mentality in itself). I cannot wait to see if this movie does smash through all the awards and breaks that mentality once and for all.

Is this all wishful thinking? I hope not, as Fox clearly think the Academy will consider it. At the very least I expect a Best Actor nomination for Hugh Jackman, who has been playing Wolverine in various movies across 17 years. That’s dedication. We’ll find out if the Academy have changed their mind on comic book movies early next year.

A trip to Chichester- Cathedral number 7

Yesterday I continued my crusade of going to every British cathedral as I stated here. This time, it was a trip to Chichester and the cathedral there.

Chichester is another one of those UK cities which is about the size of a small town yet has historical significance due to the cathedral. It’s about an hour away from Hampshire and much like Winchester the city is very compact and old. It’s very easy to get to the centre from the train station and the cathedral is impossible to miss.

The cathedral was founded in 1057 and was the second one built for Chichester, the first one being built in 681. It is the only medieval English cathedral which can be seen from the coastline and the entire population of Chichester can fit inside it. It is full of modern art and bizarre artwork, which I found quite interesting. My favourite part of the cathedral was a section which had a giant picture of all the English kings and queens up until Charles I. Some of them such as Richard III and William the Conqueror had vanished. I was told by a guide that no one knows how the pictures vanished- they could have been destroyed when the spire collapsed in 1861 or they could have been shot out by Roundheads during the Civil War. Edward VI’s portrait was used as target practice, which is a bit unfair I say. If any king deserved it, it was King John.

Read the rest of this entry

Skulduggery Pleasant: Resurrection review

Yeah, I was gonna review this the week it came out but… stuff happened. Annoying GCSE sized stuff. Well, now I have the time, let’s dive into the latest entry of the awesome Skulduggery Pleasant series. A warning that there will be spoilers, but seeing how you’ve probably all read it by now it doesn’t matter. In short, read the book. But you know that already.

The book takes place five years after The Dying of the Light. Roarhaven has become a giant, fully functioning society and Skulduggery is still solving mysteries and crime. Valkyrie has gone into hiding to make up for her actions as Darquesse and everything seems to be fine. Until a group of fanatics led by a mysterious masked figure called Lethe appear and form an “anti-Sanctuary” to rise up against the mortals, who they see as inferior. This forces Skuldggery and Valkyrie back together.

There are many new elements and characters in this book. The most important new character is Omen Darkly, a schoolboy who is not the Chosen One. The Chosen One is his brother (I love this aspect of Derek Landy’s writing. He’s constantly subverting cliches.) Omen is just a normal kid who happens to be the exact person Skulduggery and Valkyrie need for their investigations. He’s a great character and serves as a strong new protagonist, although the focus is of course on the two main characters.

Skulduggery is one of my all time favourite characters, and I am happy to report that Resurrection is a great showing for him. He’s still just as snarky and deadpan as ever, but his experiences over the past books have made him more moral and grounded. A very shocking event happens in the book, when Skulduggery is turned evil by one of the protagonists. In any other series this would have been very brief, but Skulduggery is working for the villains for quite a while. It’s nail bitingly tense whenever he meets Valkyrie, as you’re never too sure whether he’s still evil or turned good. The nature of his character means you cannot tell. Funnily enough I read this the same week Doctor Who aired The Lie of the Land, where the Doctor had also (supposedly) turned evil. Imagine my disappointment when he hadn’t. Obviously Skulduggery is back to normal by the end but the brilliant thing about him is that he’s never been a true hero, so his turning in this book raises questions of his Lord Vile days.

Another positive of this book is how the world has changed. Every character has changed- Valkyrie is no longer a teenage girl, she’s a young woman who still gets visions of Darquesse. China Sorrows is now the Supreme Mage and Tanith is nowhere to be seen. The entire universe of Skulduggery has shifted dramatically, and the tone of the book has too. It’s still funny and action packed, but it’s darker, more character based and more introspective. It’s easily the darkest book of the series but it’s still distinctly the same series that gave us “The sparrow flies south for winter”.

My favourite part of the book is how the other characters have to work around Skulduggery’s new alliance with the villains. The stakes are raised considerably and the book alternates between the heroes desperately trying to figure out how to stop the anti-Sanctuary and Skulduggery working with the villains to resurrect Abyssina, a powerful sorcerer who they believe will lead sorcerers to supremacy over humans. The story is epic and spans many characters. There’s even a subplot dedicated to the American President, who just so happens to be an egotistical billionaire who believes himself to be superior to everyone else. I don’t think I need to comment any further.

The ending of the book is open ended and leaves many unanswered questions, which I assume will be answered in future books. I would be reading them anyway, but leaving the book on a mild cliffhanger means that the consequences of this book will be far reaching. This is a staple of the series, and it’s why I believe a Sherlock-esque TV show of three movie length episodes per series will be the best way to adapt Skulduggery Pleasant, as the episodic format of each book is clear. This book was one of my most anticipated pop culture events of the year, and it did not disappoint. If you’re a fan, you’ve read it already. If you haven’t, start from the beginning and immerse yourself in the brilliant world of Skulduggery Pleasant.

 

 

 

Every British cathedral… that I’ve been to

The UK is a weird place. There are cities in this country that are about the size of a small town and large city sized towns which are not cities. Why is this? Well, city status in the UK relies on a few things. It helps if there’s a big cathedral in the area. There are many cathedral cities in the country- some are in big cities, others in small ones. I’ve only been to 6, but I hope to one day visit more- in particular, Canterbury Cathedral, where Thomas Beckett was assassinated in 1120 after disputes with Henry II and Leicester Cathedral, where Richard III is buried. But for now, here are the cathedrals I’ve visited-

  • Winchester

This cathedral is about 15 minutes away from where I live. I have been to Winchester countless times and the cathedral is one of the most impressive aspects of the city. The city is historically important as it was the capital of Wessex, one of the ancient kingdoms of what’s now known as England. King Alfred ruled Wessex from Winchester and his statue is still in the city. Winchester Cathedral is one of the largest in Europe, with the longest nave in Europe and it’s the burial place of Jane Austen. It also contains the bones of King William II, who was shot and killed in the New Forest and who was taken to Winchester Cathedral but never buried. There’s so much history behind the cathedral and it’s a very impressive sight, and I’m not just saying that out of bias. Next to the cathedral is Wolvesey Castle, a ruined castle which was the sight of a battle in the 12th century between Stephen and Matilda during the Anarchy.

  • Truro

Image by Steve Parker via Flickr

I visited this cathedral during my trip to Cornwall last year. It is one of the only cathedrals in the UK to have three spires and the first Bishop of Truro became Archbishop of Canterbury. When it was completed in 1910, it was the first cathedral to be built on new ground since Salisbury. The organ of the cathedral is often considered one of the best in the country. Truro itself is a very small, but interesting city. It’s the southermost city in the country and has a wide variety of shops and attractions. It’s got a great museum detailing the history of Cornwall. I recommend visiting Cornwall as it is a very interesting area of the country.

  • Salisbury

Another very large and very important cathedral, with the tallest spire in the UK and the largest cloister. It also has one of the four remaining copies of the original Magna Carta from 1215. The cathedral has been around since 1258 and has historical importance. When I visited there a few days ago, I learnt that the cathedral was built on marshland and the water from the marsh can be reached with a stick in a hole in the cathedral. The Magna Carta is one of the most important documents in the world, as it has been called the foundation of democracy. It was written by the barons of the country to control King John, who they believed had gone out of control. It was signed in 1215 in Runneymede (which I visited earlier this year) and some of the clauses of Magna Carta still exist, such as the freedom of the City of London (different from London. It’s complicated) and the right for anyone to have a free and fair trial. The copy of the Magna Carta is held in the Chapter House of Salisbury Cathedral.

  • St Paul’s

You all know this one. One of London’s most famous landmarks, St Paul’s is an icon of Britain and survived the Blitz. It has been around for over 300 years and even to this day buildings in London have to be built so the view of St Paul’s isn’t blocked. The original St Paul’s was destroyed in 1666 during the Great Fire of London and got rebuilt with the iconic dome structure afterwards by Christopher Wren. One of the most famous parts of St Paul’s is the Whispering Gallery, where any noise made against the wall can be heard at any other point around the gallery. If you visit London, visit St Paul’s Cathedral as it is well worth a visit. Doctor Who fans like myself will obviously recognise St Paul’s as the location of two Cybermen invasions in 1968 and 2014.

  • Sheffield

Image by Andreas Mortonus via Flickr

I went to Sheffield very recently as part of my holiday to the Peak District. My first taste of Yorkshire was very good and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit there. The modern cathedral is a combination of many different time periods, with the oldest part being from the 13th century. The cathedral was large and very interesting and the city itself was very different to what I expected. It went through a major regeneration so there are lots of incredibly new areas and pieces of modern art. The Winter Garden, which is full of plants all around the world, was a highlight. There was also an indoor market that reminded me of the Fremantle markets in Australia. In conclusion, this was a great day trip, and the cathedral was a prominent part of that.

  • Lichfield

Image by Mark Ellam via Flickr

We visited Lichfield on the way back from the Peak District. We needed somewhere to stop and rest so Lichfield it was. This is another cathedral city where the city itself is very small, much like Winchester. The cathedral is huge and looks awesome. There’s statues of various kings and bishops on the ledges of the building and it’s the only cathedral built in medieval times with three spires. During the English Civil War, the cathedral was heavily damaged by several sieges on both sides, which resulted in the stained glass, roof and spires being destroyed. A major restoration project took place in the 19th century to rebuild the cathedral. The buildings around the cathedral are known as the Cathedral Close and are some of the most complete in the country. This trip was a pleasant surprise.

That’s only 6 cathedrals compared to the many, many cathedrals scattered around the country. Most of these cathedrals are ancient and stand as a reminder of the history of the country. I love visiting new places and exploring the history of this country through cathedrals and other areas is always a highlight of trips.