I’ve finally shaken my Candy Crush addiction

Most of us, once we pass the age when we wash our own underpants, don’t play games on a PC or a console. We think ‘Twitch’ is what you get when your spouse stacks the dishwasher and ‘Discord’ is what comes next. But you bet we play Candy Crush on the commute. Mobile gaming is still gaming, and it’s a big deal. Problem is, most of it’s crap. This is true even when the games are OK. Take the new Strange Horticulture, which ports a well received PC/console original to mobile. It’s a cartoon-gothic puzzle game (you identify plants apothecary-style; there’s a murder plot; vibes abound) which is dragged from

From Botticelli to Marvel: why artists love St Francis

‘A small, black, repulsive picture’ is not how most people today would describe Zurbaran’s haunting painting of ‘Saint Francis in Meditation’ (1635-9) in the National Gallery. But that was how one Protestant critic of its acquisition in 1853 described this image of an Italian saint satirised three centuries earlier by the German Lutheran cleric Erasmus Alber in his Koran of the Franciscans. Alber chose his title advisedly, for one of this peacemaking saint’s legendary acts of diplomacy was initiating an interfaith dialogue with the Muslim Sultan of Egypt, al-Malik al-Kamil. In 1219, so the story goes, Francis crossed to Damietta, then under siege by troops of the Fifth Crusade, slipped

Schlock: Everything Everywhere All At Once reviewed

We’re doing multiverses now. Last weekend, a friend dragged me to see Marvel’s latest product, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. For two hours I watched characters earnestly talk about their trauma, and then fly around firing jets of coloured magic at each other, and then more pompous trauma talk, like five-year-olds playing at adult emotional life, and then more joyless beams of coloured magic. I left the cinema muttering like a deranged war veteran. ‘Someone needs to be punished for this. We need show trials. We need to make them suffer for what they’ve done.’ My friend spoke, but I could barely hear him. I stared at an

Why the British don’t do superheroes

I don’t know about you but I’m a rather a fan of Batman or The Batman, if you prefer to give him the definite article as the new film does. It’s also rather heartening to see so many fine British actors earning a pretty penny portraying him – Robert Pattinson dons the cowl in the new film, hot on the heels of Christian Bale. And it’s not just Gotham’s bone crushing vigilante that our acting schools are clearly adept at preparing actors for: Brits Tom Holland Andrew Garfield have both slung webs as Spider-man and of course Henry Cavill has done the blue leotard proud playing Superman four times. As

In defence of Marvel

The teaser for Spider-Man: No Way Home, out this Christmas, which had a record number of 355 million views in the first 24 hours of online availability, delivers three minutes of thrills. Tom Holland is back, in the titular role, with his girlfriend from the previous Spidey movie, his best friend Ned, references to Mysterion, jokes from Benedict Cumberbatch as master wizard Dr Strange, plus engagement with that most playful of Marvel concepts, the multiverse. Bring in the multiverse, and anything, everything, is possible. Are you old enough to recall that moment in Dallas when the shooting of JR was revealed to be a dream? Well, the multiverse does all

Lame and formulaic: Black Widow reviewed

Black Widow is the latest Marvel film and although I’d sworn off these films a while ago, due to sheer boredom, I was tempted back by the fact that this one stars a lady (Scarlett Johansson) and another lady (Florence Pugh) and even a third lady (Rachel Weisz) and is directed by a lady (Cate Shortland). Could be wonderful, I thought, except it isn’t. More women is its only decent idea. Otherwise, it’s business as usual. Otherwise, it’s all formulaic bish-bosh, smash-crash action scenes broken up by lame jokes and lame philosophising along the lines of: ‘Your pain only makes you stronger.’ Not if you’re dying in hospital and they’ve

Audiences don’t want woke: comic-book writer Mark Millar interviewed

Mark Millar has a raging hangover but he couldn’t be more chirpy or enthusiastic. ‘People say they get worse as you get older but I get reverse hangovers where I feel amazing. I wake up at four or five and I’m ready to go!’ I’ve caught him on a Sunday morning, on his way to Mass, after an exhausting three weeks in which he has been doing up to 45 interviews a day to promote Jupiter’s Legacy, his blockbuster superhero series for Netflix. He ought to be nervous: this is his first big project off the blocks since (in 2017) the studio bought up his publishing company Millarworld for a

Like trying to understand some obscure but fashionable meme: WandaVision reviewed

‘What the world needs now is a black and white pastiche of classic 1950s and 1960s sitcoms reviving two Marvel superhero characters who were last seen getting killed in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame,’ said… well, I was about to say: ‘said no one ever’. But clearly someone did, because this is what we’ve now got on Disney+: a bizarro series called WandaVision. I feel terribly out of the loop for not quite getting it. But possibly I’m not the target audience. For a start, I haven’t seen either of those Avengers movies; nor am I sufficiently familiar with the nuances of the Marvel comics universe to get all

Tacky and incomprehensible: The Sandman audiobook reviewed

Listening to the tacky and incomprehensible audio-adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel series Sandman, I couldn’t stop thinking about the 19th-century Swiss artist Rodolphe Töppfer. Did Mr Töppfer realise what he was doing when he one day decided to draw a narrative in sequential panels with captions underneath? His satirical novel in pictures, Histoire de M. Vieux Bois, was published in 1837, and made its way to America five years later as The Adventures of Mr Obadiah Oldbuck. ‘Mr Oldbuck drinks ass’s milk’ reads one caption, and then overleaf: ‘His physician recommending exercise, he buys an Arabian courser.’ Riding the courser, ‘Mr Oldbuck increases his speed, advancing at the rate