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A. Foxley (UK)
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X-Men Origins: Wolverine [Blu-ray]
X-Men Origins: Wolverine [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Hugh Jackman
Price: 5.25

3.0 out of 5 stars Good Blu Ray, Average Film, 2 Nov 2009
'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' is arguably one of the most anticipated comic book movies of all - Hugh Jackman's portrayal of the eponymous hero was one of the highlights of the 'X-Men' series of films, so it was only natural he'd eventually get to take centre stage in a film of his own. As the title suggests, this film explores Logan's background, from childhood right through to his meeting with General Stryker (as seen as 'X-Men 2', here played by Danny Huston) and involvement in the sinister US Government Weapon X project. What the film does well is fleshing out Logan's backstory a little, though whether that was entirely necessary, I'm not sure - there was certainly no point where I felt I knew or understood the character any better than I would have done had the film been a straightforward solo adventure set alongside, or after, the events of earlier films. The Weapon X element of the plot felt like it had been explored sufficiently in 'X-Men 2', and as a result, those segments were among the least interesting to me, as there was the definite feeling that this was re-treading old ground. The wider plot was engaging even if it didn't feel especially original, and there were a few superficial similarities to some earlier 'X-Men' films that lent it a 'recycled' feel at times.

The film's big strength - and draw - lies in its characters, though. Hugh Jackman is everything you'd expect as Wolverine, and easily the best thing about the film. He's come to embody the character, at least on screen, in a way that relatively few actors can manage in a role of this kind. Re-cast in the form of Liev Schreiber, Sabretooth / Victor Creed is an improvement upon his portrayal in the first 'X-Men' film (which is seemingly disregarded here), though despite his connection to Wolverine, he's not a hugely memorable character, and the film could possibly have done with a more interesting central antagonist. Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) could possibly have provided that, had his screen time not been restricted to the bare minimum, and his involvement in the plot been anything more than the equivalent of an end-of-level boss in a video game. The rest of the film is peppered with characters who will be familiar to 'X-Men' comic fans, though as someone who's not particularly familiar with them, one or two (especially Taylor Kitsch's Gambit) could been been explored and explained a little better - I'm still not entirely sure of the nature of Gambit's mutant powers, for instance.

Director Gavin Hood does a decent job of bringing Wolverine's origin story to the screen, and although it was generally an enjoyable effort, it's solid rather than spectacular. When the first 'X-Men' film appeared, there weren't many comic book films being released - now, it's not uncommon to find a few every year among the summer blockbuster contingent, and as a result, 'Wolverine' probably needed to raise its game to stand out from the crowd. It's unfortunate that it generally doesn't, and so whilst it makes for a diverting couple of hours, it's unlikely to stick in the memory like some other recent films from the Marvel stable.

The Blu Ray presentation is everything you'd expect from a generously-budgeted blockbuster title - picture and particularly sound quality is very good indeed, and there's a decent assortment of special features, including two commentaries and a number of featurettes. There's nothing that stands out as worthy of particular note, but all are pretty interesting, and worth taking the time to look through. This pack also comes bundled with a DVD copy of the film, plus a digital copy which can be loaded onto a portable media player such as an iPod or iPhone. Opinion seems to be divided as to the merit of these alternative options, but as it doesn't seem to have affected the price point for the release, it's a welcome bonus that might prove useful for some. Ultimately, whilst the film itself was a slight disappointment to me, the overall presentation of this release is very good, and on the strength of that, HD enthusiasts with an interest in this film shouldn't hesitate to add this one to their collection.


Doctor Who: K9 Tales Box Set (Invisible Enemy/K9 and Co) [DVD]
Doctor Who: K9 Tales Box Set (Invisible Enemy/K9 and Co) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Elisabeth Sladen
Price: 9.75

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars K-9 Heaven, 30 Sep 2009
It's fair to say that if you don't like K-9 (and frankly, why wouldn't you?) this set probably isn't for you. If you do, there's so much to enjoy here. It bundles the 'Doctor Who' story 'The Invisible Enemy' (marking the robot dog's first appearance) with 1981 spin-off special 'K-9 and Company', and whilst neither are 'Doctor Who' at its finest, they're not quite as terrible as some would have you believe.

'The Invisible Enemy' is nothing spectacular - it's your average 'Doctor Who' story from the mid 1970s, with Tom Baker as the Time Lord, accompanied by Louise Jameson as Leela, with a fairly humdrum plot that owes a lot to 'The Fantastic Voyage'. It's probably appropriate that it makes its DVD debut in this box set, as K-9 is probably the best thing about it. Otherwise, it will do little to dispel the perception of the show as a cavalcade of crummy acting, unconvincing (if not necessarily wobbly) sets and endearingly daft monsters. And they don't get more endearingly daft than the Nucleus of the Swarm, which winds up resembling a giant prawn for its final battle of wits with the Doctor - one of many, many absurdities in these four episodes. That said, if you're minded to be able to chuckle at the production's shortcomings, or at the very least forgive them, the whole thing rattles along at a decent pace, and is never dull.

If 'The Invisible Enemy' is absurd, then 'K-9 and Company: A Girl's Best Friend' is even more so. It's particularly fascinating now as a kind of prototype for modern day spin-off series 'The Sarah Jane Adventures', albeit much slower in pace and not particularly tailored to be child-friendly. The plot is simple - Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) moves in to look after her Aunt Lavinia's country residence (and Lavinia's ward, Brendan), only to find the Doctor has sent her a present. That present is K-9 Mark III, who accompanies her as she investigates strange goings-on in the local area, seemingly linked to Black Magic rituals. Quite why the English countryside was thought to be the natural setting for a K-9 spin-off, heaven only knows, and in reality it's more Sarah Jane's show, her mechanical companion proving to be of somewhat limited use, particularly on location. It's a decently-made, if slightly misguided, piece of television, though now chiefly remembered for its vaguely hilarious title sequence and theme music, which tries to follow the template of shows such as 'Cagney & Lacey', but basically boils down to Lis Sladen jogging through the countryside and K-9 resting on a wall. If viewed firmly with tongue in cheek, though, it's a lot of fun.

As ever with the 'Doctor Who' DVD range, there's a host of special features, including commentaries from cast and production personnel (I particularly enjoyed the one for 'K-9 and Company', which unites Sladen and K-9 voice artist John Leeson with guest actress Linda Polan and script editor Eric Saward), production featurettes, behind-the-scenes material, trailers, and perhaps most interestingly of all for K-9 fans, PDF versions of several spin-off books featuring the mechanical mutt, including the sole 'K-9 Annual' from the early 80s. Whilst there's perhaps less here than on some other releases, one could hardly say there was a shortage of bonus material. Also, for anyone desperate to have the 'K-9 and Company' DVD sleeve match those of the 'Doctor Who' titles on their shelves, that disc features a reversible sleeve.

'K-9 Tales' is good fun, and probably little more than that - but there's nothing wrong with being fun. It's not a high point of the DVD range, but your collection would be all the poorer without it.


Doctor Who: The Forgotten
Doctor Who: The Forgotten
by Tony Lee
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.71

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ten Doctors - One Fantastic Story, 21 Sep 2009
Originally published as a six-issue miniseries by IDW Comics, 'Doctor Who: The Forgotten' is an intriguing concept - when an amnesiac Tenth Doctor wakes up in the middle of a mysterious museum apparently dedicated to the Time Lord, Martha Jones must help him recover his memories by introducing him to a series of items from his past. And so, we get to see previously unseen adventures from his earlier incarnations, including a trip to Ancient Egypt for the First Doctor, a run-in with the Judoon for the Fifth, and a tantalising snippet of the Eighth Doctor's escapades in the Time War. Meanwhile, an enemy of the Doctor's is lying in wait, with a deadly agenda... Writer Tony Lee knows his 'Who' mythology inside out, and manages to create a cracking narrative which pays homage to the show's past whilst maintaining a compelling mystery. Whilst the plot falters slightly towards the end, there are some terrific twists and turns along the way, and 'The Forgotten' is a big improvement on IDW's first 'Doctor Who' miniseries. The artwork varies in style and quality from issue to issue, which is slightly disappointing, but a necessity after original artist Pia Guerra was unable to complete her commitments to the story - but that's a minor quibble, really, and I'd recommend 'The Forgotten' as one of the best 'Doctor Who' titles to be published under the IDW banner.


"Doctor Who" at the BBC, the Plays (BBC Audio)
"Doctor Who" at the BBC, the Plays (BBC Audio)
by Doctor Who
Edition: Audio CD

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Mixed Bag of Who-Inspired Drama, 21 Sep 2009
Although this is released under the 'Doctor Who at the BBC' banner, these are not 'Doctor Who' plays as such - they're actually plays inspired by the series to various extents.

I'd recommend this set for 'Blue Veils and Golden Sands', a Radio 4 Afternoon Play about Delia Derbyshire, the troubled electronic music composer and arranger responsible for the unique sound of the original 'Doctor Who' theme, with a fantastic central performance from Sophie Thompson. 'Regenerations' is more a play about relationships and friendships than 'Doctor Who' itself, although it is set at a 'Doctor Who' convention, and features a guest appearance by Tom Baker himself. 'Dalek, I Love You' left me somewhat baffled, I must admit, with its apparent drifts between fantasy and reality. As such, this is something of a mixed bag, and whether this is for you would very much depend upon your fondness for radio drama, and whether you're buying it for the 'Doctor Who' connection above all else - if the latter, you may be slightly disappointed.


TV Cream's Anatomy of Cinema: The Films That Criticism Forgot
TV Cream's Anatomy of Cinema: The Films That Criticism Forgot
by Phil Norman
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There's Nothing Else Quite Like This..., 21 Sep 2009
'TV Cream's Anatomy of Cinema' exists in a strange kind of filmic parallel universe - where those perennial lists of the greatest films ever made eschew acclaimed Hollywood fare such as 'The Godfather' and 'Citizen Kane' in favour of 'Holiday On The Buses' and 'Carry On Up The Khyber'. Holding no truck with popular opinion, the authors celebrate a variety of films that just didn't get the breaks, but are as fondly remembered in some quarters as any number of Hollywood classics. There are tributes to forgotten legends of British cinema - character actors whose faces you'd know, but whose names you wouldn't - and production companies long since closed down or swallowed up by some monolithic multinational.

It will serve both as a reminder of films half-forgotten, lost in the mists of time, and also as a handy primer for cult gems that one should seek out on DVD immediately. There's nothing out there quite like this, and for that alone, I loved this book.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 20, 2010 10:44 PM GMT


Wiffle Lever to Full!: Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy-eyed Nostalgia at the Strangest Sci-fi Conventions
Wiffle Lever to Full!: Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy-eyed Nostalgia at the Strangest Sci-fi Conventions
by Bob Fischer
Edition: Paperback

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Witty and Lively Trawl Through Sci-Fi Conventions, 21 Sep 2009
In this lively book, part-travelogue and part memoir of the author's formative years as a childhood sci-fi fanatic, Bob Fischer takes a tour of that most weird and wonderful of modern phenomena, the sci-fi convention. From events celebrating the likes of 'Doctor Who' and 'Star Wars' through to less obvious convention fare such as 'Robin of Sherwood' and 'Monty Python', it's an enlightening look at the ways in which people celebrate their favourite TV shows and films, and what they mean to them. The obvious temptation to mock is avoided, as the author throws himself wholeheartedly into the spirit of things - rediscovering some of the enthusiasm of his youth along the way. There's the vague sense that the idea behind the whole venture isn't particularly original - the humorous travelogue / memoir has been done to death in recent years - but this is a superior example. The end result is a hugely enjoyable read, wrapped in a wonderfully retro cover evoking classic sci-fi comics of old. If you ever longed for a Millennium Falcon toy for Christmas, this is for you!


The One Doctor (Doctor Who)
The One Doctor (Doctor Who)
by Gareth Roberts
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 11.32

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Comedy Adventure, 21 Sep 2009
There's only one Doctor. Or is there?

In this full-cast audio adventure, the Doctor and his companion Mel find themselves following in the footsteps of another Doctor - this one a con-man who fakes alien invasions, saves the day and then milks the publicity (and generosity of those he's saved). But when a real alien threat appears, both 'Doctors' are forced to team up in a desperate race to save the day... Co-writer Gareth Roberts has written 'The Shakespeare Code' and 'The Unicorn and the Wasp' for 'Doctor Who' on TV, and this adventure has the same blend of off-the-wall humour and adventure, whilst the impressive cast includes Colin Baker, Bonnie Langford, Christopher Biggins, Matt Lucas and Adam Buxton amongst others. Deliciously silly and terrific fun, this is well worth a look if you enjoy 'Doctor Who's dafter side.


To Be or Not To Be, Innit
To Be or Not To Be, Innit
by Martin Baum
Edition: Paperback
Price: 4.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not Half As Funny As It Thinks It Is, 21 Sep 2009
There have been many attempts to update Shakespeare's plays for modern sensibilities, often with humorous intent. Taking its lead from the likes of Charles and Mary Lamb's 'Tales from Shakespeare', this offers summaries of significant plays in modern 'yoof' slang - think the Bard as described by Ali G. Unfortunately, although the idea is a promising one, it doesn't live up to this promise, and is actually quite disappointing. Whether you appreciate this may depend on your sense of humour, but I'd say that if you're looking for contemporary updates on Shakespeare, there are better ones to be found elsewhere.


A Devil's Chaplain: Selected Writings
A Devil's Chaplain: Selected Writings
by Prof Richard Dawkins
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Absorbing Collection of Essays, 21 Sep 2009
This is, put simply, one of the most absorbing and accessible books on science that I have ever read - Richard Dawkins has a talent for making his readership comfortable and engaged with complex issues and ideas, even if they may not have a great aptitude for or interest in science. Not that this volume is exclusively concerned with scientific matters, it is a fine collection of writings on a wide range of subjects. Ideal for dipping into, 'A Devil's Chaplain' should prove enlightening and entertaining for the scientist and layman alike.


Homemade Hollywood: Fans Behind the Camera
Homemade Hollywood: Fans Behind the Camera
by Clive Young
Edition: Paperback
Price: 12.35

4.0 out of 5 stars All the Magic of Hollywood... in your back yard!, 21 Sep 2009
There are countless books out there about Hollywood and the film industry, but this is the first I've seen to properly explore that curious underground of fan film-making. Clive Young's intriguing book looks at the explosion of such films as it becomes easier than ever to make and distribute one's own home-made mini-epics, but more interestingly, he delves back into the history of the subject - uncovering tales of con men travelling from town to town in the silent era making fake Little Rascals films, impressionable youngsters creating their own Tarzan and superhero films in the local park, how some of these amateurs went on to become some of the most influential names in popular entertainment, and others... didn't. My own favourite chapter details the wonderful story of childhood friends who spent years attempting to film their own shot-for-shot remake of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', eventually getting to meet director Steven Spielberg when the fruit of their labours was finally completed. Not every story has a happy ending, though, and there are just as many frustrations as triumphs, but this book is a fine tribute to those unsung heroes who give up their free time to create a piece of Hollywood at home, and will hopefully inspire others to do the same.


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