21 February 2017

Film Review | The LEGO Batman Movie directed by Chris McKay

I never reviewed 2015’s LEGO Movie as, shortly after its release, I read a review that quoted the writer’s child, whose one-line offering encapsulated my own views far more concisely than I could have. As a huge fan of Batman and DC as well as LEGO, though, I’ve got plenty to say about this year’s LEGO Batman Movie. Truth be told, I’d been looking forward to it as much as T2 or even The Last Jedi.

The LEGO Batman Movie is far from being the brick-built Caped Crusader’s first on-screen outing, though. Since the original, straight-to-home video LEGO Batman movie (DC Superheroes Unite), he’s made countless home video appearances, mostly alongside his Justice League compatriots (and all conveniently to be found on DVDs displayed at the end of most supermarkets’ aisles, right next to The LEGO Batman Movie sets and minifigure packets), before playing a major – and arguably show-stealing role - on the silver screen in The LEGO Movie. Yet The LEGO Batman Movie is the first not only to properly showcase the ninety-year-old DC icon, but also to celebrate him, and everything that he is – and could never be. It’s as if all the triumph and tragedy of the Dark Knight has been distilled and exaggerated to such a degree that everyone from the three-year-old moviegoer to his reluctant granny will instantly connect with the character.

ROBIN: Wow! Does Batman live in Bruce Wayne’s basement? 
BATMAN: No, Bruce Wayne lives in Batman’s attic!

This movie’s Batman is, as he should be, a one-man crime-fighting machine. It’s also implicit that he lost his parents in his youth, but without LEGO having to terrify its youngest viewers with unnecessary flashbacks to their murder. The film even buys into the old DC conceit that “Superman is just Clark Kent in a cape, but Bruce Wayne is Batman’s mask” by literally having Batman don the cowl throughout the movie (unless Alfred forces him to take it off in order to masquerade as a playboy billionaire). Where the LEGO Batman differs from his comic book and counterpart though is in his attitude. For a man who “gets up at four in the afternoon every day to pump iron” so that he can keep the city safe, he’s bombastically selfish and arrogant – traits upon which most of the movie’s comedy is built. From his opening voiceover dissing Superman to his (priceless) claim of having nine abs and his willingness to use Dick Grayson as “expendable” cannon fodder, Will Arnett’s heavy metal, beat-boxin’ Batman is a study in narcissism. The man’s in the wrong trade - he’s practically a walking WWE promo.

Yet inside, he’s still the child that lost his parents. He throws actual tantrums rolling around on the floor (his “No, no, no, no…” perfectly in tune to the old TV series’ famous theme), gets put in time-out, makes himself laugh with childish passwords (“IRONMANSUCKS” and “ALFREDDBUTLER”), and eschews any meaningful connection to anyone to avoid the pursuant hurt. I love in particular the humorous insight that the movie offers into Batman’s – not Bruce Wayne’s, mind, Batman’s – home life. He gets in from “work”, slips into something more comfortable (still wearing his cowl, obviously), then sits down to laugh at a romantic film, which he seems to genuinely believe is a comedy. It’s brilliant. The film straddles the fine line between tragedy and humour dexterously, somehow portraying a tragic character as a hilarious one without really altering any of his core characteristics.

ROBIN: Kids call me Dick.          BATMAN: Kids can be so cruel.

On the hero side of the divide, most of the heart and humour is borne of Batman’s relationships with his bumbling ward, Dick Grayson (Robin), his loyal butler – and surrogate father – Alfred, and the newly-minted Commissioner Gordon… Barbara Gordon. The first admires him, the second loves him, and the third thinks that she’s better than him (and what’s particularly funny is, she actually is – just look at the stats she’s got to prove it!) Every scene manages to be both witty and insightful, making the audience laugh while progressing the narrative and, more often than not, making light of hitherto inviolate comic book lore. Take Batman telling Robin to use the “dark parts” of his [bright yellow, red and green!] costume to blend into the night, for instance - it leads into Barbara promptly spotting them both, reinforcing Batman’s ineptitude in her eyes. Similarly, Batman’s aggressive, unforgiving “encouragement” of Robin as he infiltrates Superman’s Fortress of Solitude leads into a delectable scene in which a devastated Batman finds the entire Justice League – not just the big guns, but Hawkman and Hawkgirl, Green Arrow, the whole lot of ’em – having a party without him.

Villain-wise, Seth Grahame-Smith’s narrative blossoms out of Batman’s crippling limitations as a human being – he’s even an inconsiderate adversary, it seems. Poor old Joker, who wants nothing more than for Batman to just acknowledge his status as the Dark Knight’s foremost foe, finds himself casually spurned in favour of the likes of Bane and Superman –“He’s not even a bad guy!” protests the Clown Prince of Crime – as the Caped Crusader likes to “fight around”. So unfurls a plot that sees the Joker willingly committed to the Phantom Zone so that he may return with a legion of horribles, all intent on putting Batman and his precious Gotham City to the sword.

An action-packed but thoroughly riotous mêlée ensues, and so Batman has to turn to his accidentally-adopted “son”; his war-dog of a butler dressed as the 60s’ Batman; Barbara “Batgirl” Gordon; and, best of all, all the scum and villainy of Gotham City in order to battle the Joker’s forces of darkness. And what a force they are - Voldemort, Sauron, King Kong, the Wicked Witch of the West, even the Daleks. Watching The LEGO Batman Movie made me realise how fortunate the kids of today are – they’ve got it made built. Yeah, they might have to put up with populism gone mad (specifically Brexit, Trump, and the wacky notion that a female Doctor Who is not merely “OK”, but somehow inevitable), but on the flip-side they get to see Batman fighting Daleks and enjoy some mind-blowing merch. The movie’s tie-in sets are impressive enough (my eldest daughter opted for set 7092: Catwoman Cycle Chase - not to get the Catwoman and Batgirl minifigures, but for the hilarious and endearing Robin, whom she seems to be half in love with), but the twenty-strong minifigure series is something else altogether. Lobster lovin’ Batman and Catman are joined by allies and adversaries both obscure and nefarious; like the film, it’s a celebration of ninety years of Batman – even the camp and concealed bits. The LEGO Batman Movie is less a film, more an event.

Building upon the spirit of 2015’s LEGO Movie, 2017’s LEGO Batman Movie takes the franchise to a whole new level. Photo-real animation brings to life a story that’s as surprising as it is funny, and as emblematic of both the LEGO and Batman properties as anything possibly could be. ’Twas surely for this film that the phrase “best of both worlds” was coined…

16 February 2017

Rants | The "News About Your Ticket" E-mail from the National Lottery's Cruelty Department

Waking up on a Sunday morning to an e-mail telling us that we’ve won the National Lottery is a surprisingly common occurrence in our house. Yet here we are, still not millionaires.

Rather than simply sending players an e-mail to advise them that they’ve won a £25.00 prize (just think what dastardly cyber criminals could get up to were they to intercept an e-mail telling you that you’ve got that sort of dosh on its way into your bank account…), instead the National Lottery send their players a cryptic message telling them that they have “some news” about their ticket from the previous evening’s draw, and that they are advised to sign in to their accounts as soon as they can for more information.

The first time this happened to us, I was convinced that we’d hit the jackpot. I spent hours trying to log into our account, but for some reason the page wouldn’t load. Eventually the penny dropped that the lottery is - technically - gambling, albeit gambling of an unrealistic sort, and as such the site was blocked by our parental controls, the password for which eluded me for a microcosmic eternity. Later that day, I finally managed to log in to our account to find out about our £25.00 prize. I was actually annoyed – no, incensed – that we were £25.00 better off. This preposterous, nonsensical, needlessly clandestine National Lottery notification system had left me beside myself with rage about actually receiving a minor windfall – something that’s almost universally considered to be “a good thing”. What should have been the cause for minor celebration soon became “another Cineworld”.

Since that day a few years ago, we’ve had around £200.00’s worth of £25.00 wins, the most recent of which followed last Saturday’s draw. Overall, that’s the equivalent of a week’s food and warmth for a family of four, a decent little smart TV for the bedroom, a top-tier LEGO set, a large Transformers Masterpiece or – if I were a smoker – three packets of cigarettes. And yet, every little win has felt like a digital slap in the face; it’s as if each £25.00 prize came attached to an invisible clown, whose mocking laughter drowned out anything positive that we could possibly have done with the extra cash.

National Lottery, you don’t need to e-mail me the details of the account that you’re paying our £25.00 into. You don’t need to include any information that could lead to any sort of cyber security breach. All you need to say is “We’ve got some news about your ticket from the draw on [date]. Congratulations – a prize of £25.00 has been paid into your bank account.” My reaction to such an e-mail would be along the lines of - “Get in!”, “Nice one!”, or - if I were feeling even remotely Alan Partridgey - “Back of the net!” To be clear, and for the avoidance of any doubt, that would be infinitely preferable to my involuntary response to your current e-mail.

Larger prizes, such as those with four figures before the decimal point, as opposed to overall, then yeah – a login might be prudent. But please, please, please - stop making us think we’ve won the damned jackpot when in fact we’ve not even won enough to pay for a modest meal out, because no matter how many times I get your accursed e-mail with its “news”, and no matter how absurd the odds of us hitting the jackpot are, there’s still always an unwelcome little pang of excitement that follows receipt of each cruel little e-mail – a pang that quickly blossoms into unbridled fury once I login and realise that you’ve done it to us again.

LEGO Ideas Review | 21304 Doctor Who

Many of the sets released under the LEGO Ideas umbrella have been exactly that - LEGO ideas dreamt to life by imaginative builders at home. They’ve uploaded their ideas to the LEGO Ideas website, gathered support, and then, upon gathering a quorum of supporters, LEGO designers have turned their idea into an on-shelf reality. However, when it comes to certain sets, “LEGO Ideas” is a misnomer. Every builder who follows Doctor Who has had the same impossible idea of making a LEGO TARDIS - but only one has managed to make the dimensionally-transcendental time and space machine materialise in building block form. This set is less a “LEGO Idea” and more a “LEGO Bloody Miracle”.

Subject as they are to the physical laws of a non-fictional universe, I’d always failed to shape LEGO pieces into a model bigger on its inside than its out. A labyrinthine, scaled interior could easily be built inside a blue box the size of most LEGO cities, just as easily as a minifigure-scaled police box could comfortably house a brace of minifigures - but little more. This left only a bitesize version of the TV producers’ approach: shove your minifigures into a tiny LEGO blue box, suspend your disbelief and pull ’em out again, finally setting them down in a separate interior. Not much fun, and not at all marketable.

An exercise in compromise as much as anything else, Andrew Clark’s wonderful creation stretches each of the above techniques as far it can to create a stunningly detailed hybrid model. The premise is inspired: you build a police box shell and a separate console room, opening out the former and attaching its sprawling form to the latter to create the illusion of a cavernous interior stretching out from the outer shell. Deft little flourishes like the inverted police-box detailing on the reverse of two of the TARDIS doors and the late Smith / Capaldi-era TARDIS wall on the opposing pair conspire to make the brick trickery pleasing, if still imperfect.

As I expected, the TARDIS exterior is my favourite part of the set - principally because it makes for such a stunning LEGO ornament. No part of the design has been fudged; each door panel is a separate component, there are no cost-cutting stickers to be applied, and two of the doors even open. Fair dues, they open outward, rather than inward; you have to take the top off and lift up at least two hinges to get them open; and, most significantly, they’re the wrong doors. Overall, though, it’s an acceptable trade-off when considering that the fully-opened capsule clicks comfortably onto the end of the console room’s ramp, giving us at least the illusion of being able to pass through the police box doors into the ship. As I can’t suggest a better alternative, it’d be more than a little churlish to complain.

The console room itself is just as well-thought-out and detailed, though inevitably it lacks the forceful impression of the iconic exterior, which, save for the addition and removal of the odd accoutrement has remained much the same for more than half a century. Again, for me it’s the little touches that sell it: a working lever, custom pieces printed with Gallifreyan symbols. The design even reflects the current console room’s multi-level layout, with stairs leading down to the rest of the ship.

The minifigures are a mixed bag, though. Matt Smith’s Doctor is the obvious standout as not only is he the spit of Eleven, but he also comes complete with a sonic screwdriver and fez. The latter doesn’t really work on his head, though, as it makes him look bald and leaves him with his alternative-expression face showing on the back of his head. This is especially frustrating as a custom-moulded composite hair and hat piece (as seen on many of the recent Disney and LEGO Batman Movie minifigures, for instance) could have remedied this. Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is less recognisable, clad as he is in an awful shade of purple (I’d have preferred him in a dark hoodie with a guitar), and whilst Clara’s outfit is convincing, her hairpiece is anything but. The Weeping Angel, however, is sublime in its terrifying simplicity, and the Daleks are nothing short of perfection. I’d had reservations about their design before I’d built them as I’d thought that a custom mould would have been in order for creations of their calibre, but that would have been at the expense of the sheer joy that comes with putting a couple of Daleks together out of nothing but existing bricks.

Another delight of this set is its packaging. The glossy box, whilst still cardboard, is sturdy and can be opened and closed without ruining it - it’s clearly intended to be a keeper. Similarly, the instructions are far from flimsy and are adorned with facts and features about the TV series as well as the set’s designer. The only flaw is the lack of numbered piece bags, which is most unusual for a set of this size and makes the build more laborious than I’ve become used to.

This mostly enchanting set’s greatest weakness, though, is its timing: it’s very much a Capaldi-era set, just as you’d expect it to be as he’s the incumbent Doctor. For me, this is a real put-off as, despite a Herculean effort, I’ve been unable to find any love for the TV series since The Day of the Doctor aired. I’d have been much more thrilled with a “grunge phase” interior and the Russell T Davies Doctors than I would those I associate with the new series’ nadir, and I dare say that there are those who’d have opted for white roundels and long-scarved minifigures, given the choice. This isn’t a criticism of the set per se; rather an acknowledgement of the fact that it really only serves to whet the appetite for a fully-fledged LEGO Doctor Who range: incarnations of the Doctor alone could sustain a decent minifigure series, never mind the various alien ships and structures which have the potential to rival the standard-setting Star Wars range. Watch this (time and) space...

This set has now been retired, but can still be found online and in stores for as little as half its original RRP - which I why I finally gave in and bought it.

27 January 2017

Book Review | T2: Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

When my teacher training was in its death throes, I’d regularly cite either this book - then known as Porno - or the author’s earlier Filth as being my favourite reading material whenever the topic arose in workshops or seminars. Not because they were, you understand; just because it provoked either an amused or judgemental reaction, the achievement of which was just about the only reason for my continuing, sporadic attendances (the other being the continued receipt of my bursaries and loan instalments). The thing is though, both truly are superlative titles, and whilst I’m not one for favourites, Irvine Welsh’s 2002 sequel to both Trainspotting and Glue is perhaps the one book in his canon that showcases a little of everything that the Scots scribbler brings to the table - a ‘best of’, if you will, rather than an outright best. 

It is nonetheless a very different beast to Trainspotting, most obviously because it is a novel in the traditional sense, with all the structure and plot threads that you’d expect thereto, rather than a series of snippets that are, by and large, capable of being enjoyed in isolation. Another significant difference is focus - Trainspotting will forever be synonymous with heroin, whereas in T2 it barely gets a mention, as most of its characters are now only partial to the peeve or a bit of ching. Indeed, as most would readily infer from the title, this book’s focus is the world of adult erotica, from Juice Terry’s stag movies shot in the upstairs of a Leith tavern, all the way up to the Cannes (Adult) Film Festival, and all the aspirant undergraduates in between.

“In your twenties you can do it on looks, your thirties on personality, but in your forties you need cash or fame. Simple fucking mathematics.”

And whilst many paperback editions of the book are emblazoned with the same names burned into Britain’s collective consciousness thanks to the fame that they found through the 1996 Trainspotting movie’s ubiquitous mock-identity parade posters, T2 actually focuses on just one of them: Simon David Williamson, the abovementioned ‘Sick Boy’. Whilst his three famous friends (four, if you count Dianne, who’s gained an extra ‘n’ since her silver screen days) all have pivotal parts to play, the novel formerly known as Porno is driven by Sick Boy - which is really quite fitting, given that it’s about Sick Boy’s drive. The plot focuses on Felinus Vomitus’s quest to make a “proper” adult “fillum” and the scams that he pursues in and around it. Time has marched on since his former best friend, Mark Renton, “chose life” and did a runner with drug money belonging to both him and their psychotic associate, Franco Begbie. Sick Boy’s been married since, and indeed divorced. The Beggar Boy’s inevitably in the nick, serving a murder-reduced-to-manslaughter charge. Loveable Spud is living unhappily ever after, off the junk and married to Ali, but trying and failing to write a book on the history of Leith. Erstwhile jailbait Dianne is at university, reading psychology and writing a dissertation of the sex industry. The Rent Boy, meanwhile, is running a nightclub in Amsterdam, and it is here that a chance encounter with an Edinburgh DJ (Glue’s N-Sign) leads to an unwelcome reunion with one of the men that he screwed over. Before long, Sick Boy and Rents are superficially as thick as thieves again, agreeing to put their differences behind them and form a porn-pedalling partnership. In truth, though, one man is trying to manipulate circumstances to get the other killed, who in turn is setting in motion an extravagant plan to rob his once-best friend for the second time in as many books, but this time on a much larger scale.

It’s refreshing to follow these events mostly through the eyes of the book’s antagonists, as both Trainspotting and its recent sequel, Skagboys, settle upon the generally more amiable Renton as their voice. Sick Boy dominates, Welsh’s first person prose allowing the reader to see the proud and prejudiced turning of every cog in his mind, but Begbie gets more exposure than he ever has too, offering a frighteningly narrow perspective that’s constantly flitting between terrifying and comically tragic. The reader can almost see the old psycho blossom into “a deep fuckin thinker” here, believe it or not, as those “blazing coals of enmity” set deep in his skull are finally opened to the fact that he may be the toughest son of a bitch in the old port, but ultimately he’s everybody’s mug; nowt more than a weapon to be wielded.

More surprising still is the attention given to non-Trainspotting characters. ‘Juice’ Terry Lawson and Rab Birrell of Glue fame both feature heavily in the first half of the book, though Welsh - much like Sick Boy, ironically - only uses the former as an eager prick, and the latter as a ready-made road into the undergraduate world of the book’s female players. This is a little disappointing as “the best-known aerated waters’ salesman” that Edinburgh ever produced, even when he’s purely there to find wood, is so relentlessly entertaining that he’s sorely missed once he falls by the wayside, while Rab’s storyline just peters out, left in desperate need of a coda. The female contingent, however, are used exceptionally well, from the studious and repressed Lauren all the way up to fiery Reading diva Nicola Fuller-Smith, who is in my view the book’s real star. Porno is, after all, all about the girls.

“It’s not the penises that are the problem, it’s the attachments; they come in varying sizes alright, varying sizes and degrees of annoyance.”

I knew a number of girls like Nikki in my university days - outwardly intelligent, independent, ambitious, fit as fuck and don’t they know it, yet silently tortured by well-hidden low self-esteem and jealously that leave them vulnerable to exploitation by the likes of our Mr Williamson. It’s been well reported that Welsh has a keen academic interest in the study of feminism (his MBA’s thesis was on creating equal opportunities for women), and to my delight this is often embodied by his strong female characters, but in a way that eschews cliché or even subverts expectation. Nikki might not be quite as indomitable as one of Welsh’s Wedding Belles, and she may have admittedly poor wanking skills for a part-time masseuse, but any male reader is sure to follow every male character in the book and fall instantly in love with her, and thus find themselves on a rollercoaster ride that takes in arousal, anger and utter vexation before she finally manages to have her cake, eat it, and then throw it up before it can damage her (you’ve got to give it to Welsh, he’s got a gift for squalid metaphor).

Perhaps the most remarkable thing of all about T2 though is that it’s actually quite light on how’s your father. For me, the images of Del Boy and Rodney conjured by the original edition’s blow-up doll cover aren’t all that out of place as, for all its base and shallow cruelty, T2 is quite a hoot. It mischievously toys with Begbie’s sexuality, for instance, running a little with the aspersions cast by the actor who played him on screen by bombarding him with “poof’s porn” in prison and then rendering him impotent upon his release when he tries to get a ride from his new squeeze. Poor old Terry, meanwhile, is treated like he’s in a particularly lewd Carry On film, enjoying only a few R-rated scenes as a “fly-in-shit with all his needs met” before his banjo string snaps, and doctors tell him that a hard-on during the healing process could lead to the amputation of his penis, leading to a hilarious procession of gags involving his female Seven Rides for Seven Brothers co-stars. When things do heat up, though, the man who’s called ‘Welsh’ despite his patent Scottish pedigree holds his own against the dominating mummy porn pioneers of today, vesting Sick Boy and Nikki’s nuclear war of a lovelife with a vividly-described physical passion that certainly wouldn’t have passed censorship had John Hodges T2 screenplay followed the book more closely.

“Sick Boy: vain, selfish and cruel. And that’s his good side.”

However, T2 was never going to find itself on a pedestal like Trainspotting because Trainspotting was such a specific and insightful thing; a cultural pipe bomb. This is a pity, really, as the erstwhile Porno deserves better than second prize - it’s just as thoughtful as its predecessor, in many ways, offering as balanced an appraisal of the sex trade, pornographers and prostitutes as Trainspotting did of hard drugs. And this time around, the appraisal is at least couched in the more familiar guise of a tortuous and relentlessly gripping narrative.

Irvine Welsh’s recently rechristened T2: Trainspotting is now available to download for £4.99 from iTunes or Amazon's Kindle Store

If this review seems familiar, its because I wrote and published it on here in August 2013. If Vintage can republish and rename Porno, then I can do the same with its review. I’ve even tidied up a few bits...

21 December 2016

Spoiler-Light Film Review | Rogue One: A Star Wars Story directed by Gareth Edwards

A good title can do a lot for something, and Rogue One is a case in point. It immediately calls to mind Star Wars without having to have “Star Wars” bludgeoned in there (much in the same way that Enterprise said Star Trek perfectly well before CBS hammered on its superfluous prefix in its third season), while at the same time setting the film apart as, quite literally, the first rogue one in the franchise’s live-action cinematic canon. Perhaps most importantly though, it eschews the pulp-fiction serial feel that the likes of The Empire Strikes Back and Attack of the Clones so purposefully engendered, setting the stall for the decidedly gritty tone of Disney’s first Star Wars Anthology tale.

All seven episodes of the
Star Wars saga to date have had much in common. Structurally, they all open in the same distinctive manner, share analogous themes, and even adhere to narrative beats as if they were stanzas of the same poem. All Rogue One shares with its forerunners is an opening card grounding it in the same universe – almost everything else is different. Tell-tale swipes and segues are gone, replaced with sharp cuts and text info-dumps. Once forbidden flashbacks are not only permitted, but embraced. Even the duty of scoring the action is given to a new composer, Michael Giacchino (Star Trek) who, whilst paying due homage to John Williams’ immortal themes where appropriate, imbues the movie with a mood that speaks to another genre entirely. 

However, what really sets this movie apart from the main saga is its angle. Episodes IV to VI presented heroic rebels battling the evil Galactic Empire. Rogue One presents psychotic terrorists, would-be murderers and a few heroic senators and soldiers looking to bring down the evil Galactic Empire, whose minions range from devoted to enslaved. Indeed, the whole plot turns on the machinations of a conscripted Imperial scientist standing up to his paymasters in the only way that he can. It’s therefore a much greyer, much grittier and much more plausible long ago and far, far away - if I didn’t know better, I’d say it was a Chris Nolan take on George Lucas’s most prized creation. 

And to say that Rogue One is the first Star Wars flick not to feature the Jedi, it doesn’t disappoint when it comes to its multicultural band of protagonists. From Vader’s twisted mirror Saw Gerrera (of Star Wars: The Clone Wars fame) to tragic Death Star designer Galen Erso, each supporting part is enthralling and distinctive, while the leads positively dazzle. Felicity Jones is superb as Erso’s unruly daughter, Jyn, whom we follow from interred criminal to galactic beacon of hope, and she’s matched every step of the way by Diego Luna’s clearly conflicted Captain Cassian Andor who, more than any other character, embodies both the physical and moral war waging at the heart of the movie. The standouts, however, are Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Îmwe and Jiang Wen’s Baze Malbus, failed guardians of the Whills. One’s blind to the world and the other to the Force, but together they see what must be done. 

Of course, Rogue One’s most controversial character wears the face of a dead man. Peter Cushing’s ghost is the face of the Empire here - a blend of CG effects and Guy Henry’s measured performance recreate Emperor Palpatine’s first and only grand moff almost perfectly. Nobody seems to have an issue with the terrifying veracity of this digital resurrection, but questions as to its ethics abound. Is it right? Well, yeah - of course it is. I don’t remember any complaints when Stephen Stanton breathed life back into Tarkin for his CG
Clone Wars and Rebels appearances. The only difference here is that the end result is photo-real, imbuing it with an unintended haunting quality that previous efforts have lacked.

And though his appearances in Rogue One are limited, Darth Vader still manages to enjoy his strongest theatrical appearance to date - at least in a literal sense. Taking a leaf out of Star Wars Rebels’ playbook, Vader is portrayed as an unstoppable force and immovable object; a creature so attuned to the dark side of the Force that his lightning speed and stupefying strength are only outmatched by his ferocious brutality. This is the Vader that I’ve always seen in my mind’s eye - not the lumbering cyborg of Revenge of the Sith or the reined-in, at-heel father of the original trilogy, but the Chosen One of Jedi legend gone bad; the ultimate Sith Lord who can throw a rebel to the ceiling with the flick of one wrist and cleave him in two with the bloodshine lightsaber that he holds in the other. Rogue One doesn’t limit itself to redefining Vader’s prowess in battle either. James Earl Jones delights in delivering deadpan dialogue that’s on a par with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi’s most memorable one-liners, and what’s more he does so from within Vader’s obsidian black fortress on Mustafar, which makes its first on-screen appearance here - bacta tank, hooded apostates and all. 

And yet, Rogue One is in some respects even more of a love letter to the original Star Wars movie than even The Force Awakens. Bursting at the seams with cameos and Easter eggs, its very subject matter seeks to dramatise the first film’s opening crawl, making the tapestry of that long-ago galaxy far, far away that much more intricate and alluring. It’s quite apt that, in defiance of every Star Wars saga movie to date, none of the characters here manage to get out the line, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this...”, because it’s hard to see how anyone possibly could. Last Christmas the Force awakened - this year, it’s on fire.

21 November 2016

Alternative Doctor Who iTunes Cover Artwork: The Patrick Troughton Era

Continuing the series begun last year, below you’ll find more Region 1 Doctor Who DVD covers repurposed to make replacements for the existing iTunes artwork along with tidied-up versions of the second Doctor’s recent digital releases (the BBC logo isn’t near enough the edge of the image for me these days).

As of the time of writing, only The Best of the Second Doctor (The Tomb of the Cybermen, The Ice Warriors, The Krotons and The Seeds of Death), The Power of the Daleks: Special Collection, The Enemy of the World, The Web of Fear and The Krotons are available to buy from iTunes, with the rest no doubt to follow in due course.

To adopt the artwork, save the images below to your computer; go into iTunes; right-click the episode in question and select ‘Get Info’; go to the ‘Artwork’ tab; and then use the ‘Add’ button to integrate the new artwork.

As before, the resolution of the images is limited by that of the source material.









The original Region 1 DVD artwork is copyright © BBC / 2 | entertain. These images are provided for personal recreational use only and no copyright infringement is intended.