It was with puffy eyes and groggy minds that Hypable writers Selina and Harri arrived at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, London. Starting the day at 4 A.M. to arrive at Leavesden by 10:00, we were obviously feeling weary – but none of that mattered. As the shuttle bus (plastered with pictures of Diagon Alley) pulled out of the lay-by, we were greeted by the comforting sound of “Hedwig’s Theme” and watched by the towering Wizards’ Chess pieces that guarded the entrance. Any fatigue instantly dissolved and was replaced with bubbling excitement and anticipation.

Note: This review contains spoilers for the tour setup.

 

It was over eight months ago now that J.K. Rowling told us Hogwarts would always be there to welcome us home. For any witch or wizard, arriving at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter will feel like returning home after a long time away.

When the doors of the Great Hall swung open, we embarked on a journey of wonder and magic. Yes, magic. It may be one of the most clichéd (and least imaginative) words anyone could use to describe a behind-the-scenes tour of the Harry Potter studios, but, trust us, it’s the only one that can even begin to explain the experience.

Sure, it’s not perfect. There is a bit of a clunky start, with the forced video introduction from Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint (some dodgy dialogue and clear reluctance on their part made it all a bit awkward), but once the tour suddenly and brilliantly kicks off, the real enchantment begins: goblin faces, floating candles, portraits, potions, pets, stunning Yule Ball gowns and so much more.

Experience everything you love about the films, from memorable sets like the Great Hall, the Gryffindor Common Room, Dumbledore’s office, and Diagon Alley to breathtaking props like Ron’s howler, U-NO-POO, the Marauder’s Map and Harry’s Hogwarts letter. Everything is handled with such care and consideration, even tiny papers that never appear on screen are faithful to the continuity and have artistic merit. When you aren’t staring open-mouthed at the craftsmanship, you can be riding a broom, sipping a Butterbeer or magically chopping carrots at the Burrow.

We want to focus now one some specific parts of the tour that we absolutely loved. There are also a few areas we feel have room for improvement – but don’t worry, WB, we’ve got you covered with our brilliant suggestions!

 

Top 5 reasons to visit the Harry Potter Studio Tours

#1: The staff
This sounds weird, but one of the best things about seeing the sets of Harry Potter is the presence of the staff members. We might just be cynical Europeans, of course, but neither of us had ever experienced such pleasant and consistently friendly treatment – even the guy behind the Starbucks counter in the foyer wanted to know all about our tour! Every member of staff was eager to get our input on the tour and hear about our personal experiences with Harry Potter, and they also had interesting stories of their own to share. One story in particular stuck with us: manning the Yule Ball section of the big room of sets was a former extra on the films! He’d come from one of the local schools, and, according to him, had spent more time being a Hogwarts student than an actual student! But he’d loved every bit of it, and when he realised he could continue to work within the fandom, he jumped at the chance. Another member of staff revealed to us that they’re actually quizzed on their Harry Potter trivia and that they’ve had extensive training by the actual set and visual effects designers to make sure they are absolute experts on how it all came together. They aren’t messing around. These people are professional Harry Potter fans. New dream job?
 

#2: Diagon Alley and Hogwarts
We both felt that the tour got better and better as it went on, and some of the final areas took our breath away. First there’s Diagon Alley, with its incredibly detailed shop windows. We probably walked up and down the street a dozen times, just because we could, and there was always more to discover! McMullpepper’s Apothecary almost made us wish Pottermore was working again, with all the incredible ingredients we could stir into our potions, and Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment was packed with trinkets (“bits and bobs for doing your wizardry,” eh??) that we really wish had been available in the gift shop! The best windows to peek through are probably those of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes and Flourish & Blotts, though. An incredible Gilderoy Lockhart display fills up the latter, and you know all about the Weasley products – only this time they are right in front of you! If only we’d have been able to enter some of these shops… but maybe some day they’ll expand the accessibility. The only reason we managed to tear ourselves away from Diagon Alley though was because of what awaited in the next room: Hogwarts. Scaled down of course, but still absolutely massive. And unbelievably real. We stood there in silence for a good 20 minutes, squinting to make it seem like we were really seeing Hogwarts. The detail of this model is unreal, and seeing it really encapsulates how the movies have brought this incredible story to life.
 

Selina's going to Ollivander's!

#3: Butterbeer and the gift shop
Yeah, we’re materialistic suckers! Anyone who’s been to the Wizarding World in Orlando has already experienced something similar to this, of course – although we CAN confirm that the chocolate used for the frogs is British, not American (and therefore more yummy, in our opinion) – but we were overwhelmed. The butterbeer, which is available halfway through the tour, was probably what we had been looking forward to the most, and it didn’t disappoint! Although it wasn’t served in the iconic pints (hint: we wish it could have been!), the froth was delicious and the drink itself lightly sparkling and sweet, just like J.K. Rowling likes it! And the gift shop, that was an experience in itself. There was just so much to see, we’re sure we missed a lot in our quest for souvenirs. Iconic props lined the shelves along with the merchandise, and we almost missed things like the stained glass window from Goblet of Fire and the lamps from Slughorn’s party in Half-Blood Prince! We also didn’t feel that the merchandise was unreasonably priced. Most of the typical souvenirs like Quaffles, Hedwigs, mugs, and notebooks ranged from about £7-£20, and the candy went for about £2.50-£9. There was definitely something to pick up for everyone, even those who only wanted a small token to remember the trip by. Of course, there were also the pricier items, like a replica of the Sword of Gryffindor, a chess set and a Horcrux ring (something for your Great Hall wedding, perhaps??), and lots more. We tried to control ourselves and just bought some candy (it was like someone was whispering “Anything off the trolley, dears?” into our ears), but there were so many things it would have been amazing to own. Like cuddly Pygmy Puffs (if Selina could have remembered whether Arnold was purple or pink, she definitely would have got one for herself!).
 

#4: The display cases
Easily one of the tour’s highlights are the display cases littered throughout studios J and K (the lettering a total coincidence, we were told). All the small artifacts that were created for the films can be studied in acute detail, allowing fans to take in things that they couldn’t see in the movies. Staring at the Horcruxes, reading Lily’s letter to Sirius, looking at Hogwarts through the Marauders Map or reading an article from The Quibbler are just a small selection of the things you can do. We could have easily spent several hours giggling, gasping and gawking at the little touches like Cheeri-Owls cereal, the Yule Ball invitations and Dumbledore’s will. While the inability to observe the sets in as much detail was a disappointment, the props are a magical treat in their own right.

 

#5: The special effects room
After a Butterbeer and a photo in the Ford Anglia or aboard the Knight Bus, visitors start the second leg of the tour in the Special FX/Creatures room. House elves, goblins, mer-people, Fawkes, and even the corpse of Harry and unconscious dummies of Draco, Ron and George stand eerily around you. If you can peel yourself away from these amazing and life-like models for just a moment, you will be treated to a video from Warwick Davies and the Creature Department that shows you exactly how everything was assembled and used. A display case in the centre allows you to push buttons that make Hedwig turn her head or the Voldemort fetus struggle for breath. Go through an archway, and you are face to face with Aragog, staring into the eyes of the Basilisk and looking up at a scaled model of the Hungarian Horntail. Finally, you can bow to Buckbeak and hope that he graciously lowers his head to you. That isn’t even half of it – the Creature room is something that needs to be seen to be believed.

 

Tips for improvement

#1: More time in the Great Hall
The first official stop on the tour is also one of the film’s most iconic sets – The Great Hall. With an introduction to compliment it in the greatest (pun intended) and most surprising ways imaginable that we won’t spoil for you here, it’s safe to say you really are plunged into the Wizarding World head first. The set itself lives up to even the highest of expectations, with wonderful costumes and props from all of Harry’s years at Hogwarts, as well as tiny little details that you wouldn’t have noticed while watching the films. But it’s all over too quickly. By the time you’ve noticed hidden House crests, or tried to take a fleeting picture with Dumbledore’s eagle-podium you’re being rushed along to the next step of the tour. Understandably, there are plenty of other groups that need to see the Hall, but the beginning of this wonderful experience feels rushed. In fairness, the rest of the tour is unguided and you are free to spend as much time as you like gawking at the names on portraits and inspecting every coloured bottle you find. It just feels that, being the largest and most overwhelming stop on the tour, it would’ve been nice to have the chance to soak it all up.
 

#2: Such detailed sets, why hide them away?
The tour may be called The Making of Harry Potter, but what’s wrong with letting visitors explore some more of the sets? The detailed exhibits on how the props, costumes and sets were designed, made, and used are undeniably fascinating. But fans can only explore Diagon Alley and (fleetingly) the Great Hall in any close capacity. The rest are fenced off so that you can only peer into your favourite magical places instead of walking through them.  It is important that everything is kept clean and undamaged, but, without being able to see everything, visitors can never truly appreciate the hard work that was put into crafting the series. An example of this is Dumbledore’s office. We could just about see what looked like the Headmaster’s living quarters behind the main study, and since we never saw this in the films it would have been amazing to finally see it now. But with only one vantage point, all we could really see was an abundance of green and purple velvet cushions. perhaps with the set walls expanded and a walkway put in place (as was done with Diagon Alley), we would have been able to see everything without actually touching it.
 

#3: More photo opportunities
While you are able to take pictures throughout the tour, one of the things the museum-like setup doesn’t allow for is for fans to really get in and experience the story. Of course we get that they can’t have thousands of feet and grabby hands all over everything every day, but only being able to watch the sets from afar is sometimes a bit like freeze-framing a scene from the movies (which you could do at home). One thing we think could improve the tour is to allow for visitors to take more organic, interactive pictures of themselves experiencing the sets. There are already several, great opportunities for this, like getting your picture taken on a broom (see above! Magic is real you guys) or having your face put on an Azkaban poster, and outside you can get pictures in the Ford Anglia and on the Knight Bus, but this could be taken even further. You can’t get up to the actual owl pedestal Dumbledore uses in the Great Hall, so how about making a replica and making a space for it on the side, for fans to get on and strike their best “Weeeelcome, weeelcome!” pose? Also, one of the biggest dreams of most Harry Potter fans is to sit in the Gryffindor common room (or any of the common rooms, actually), and while this can’t happen, perhaps an armchair could be placed in front of the display, so anyone who sat in it would look like they were actually in the room. Just small things like that would really improve the interactivity and give the experience a more hands-on feel.

 

Personal notes

Selina: Being more of a book fan than a movie fan, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But the tour really won me over – mostly because of the staff. I’ve never encountered such a nice group of people, and they really can’t get enough praise. I’d be curious to see them again after a few months, though; listening to “Hedwig’s Theme” over and over again would drive me up the wall within a week! Walking down Diagon Alley was incredible, and seeing Hogwarts was more emotional than I thought it’d be. But, for me, the very best thing about the tour was really random: I finally saw my name in canon! When I spotted it on the wall of portraits I think I let out a squee worthy of a Mandrake. But that’s okay, I was surrounded by people who got my geeky excitement! Introducing, what I shall henceforth claim is my name… Selina Sapworthy (and note: she’s a Gryffindor. Take that, Pottermore!). I’m curious to see what expansions they’ve got planned though. I really felt the absence of sets like the Slytherin common room, the Room of Requirement and the Owlery, and it’d be great to have more areas you could actually walk through (like Diagon Alley) as opposed to just walk by. But all in all, I had an amazing time!

Harri: The Leavesden Harry Potter tour is an informative, rewarding and touching experience for fans of the films and books. If you’re a hardcore fan, you won’t find out much more about the making of the films then you didn’t already know through interviews and DVD featurettes – but the interactive and immersive nature of the tour is worth it. There is so much to see and do that one visit doesn’t seem enough. The official guide estimates that visitors will spend about three hours in the tour. Selina and I spent five hours going around, and even then we wanted to go straight back in to study everything that we might have missed the first time through which can only say good things for the tour. The atmosphere, staff, and Butterbeer were some of my personal highlights. If you have any doubts about going, don’t worry – you will love nearly every second. But look carefully, there is so much there that you can miss some amazing pieces just because they are hidden above doors or behind ticking clocks, and you won’t want to miss a thing!

 

Is it worth it?

One of the big questions we’ve been getting has been whether, when all is said and done, the Harry Potter Studio Tour is worth the £28 admissions fee (plus travel expenses). We came with no real expectations and left only with our arms full of chocolate frogs and camera batteries dead, but also with a deep feeling of having come that much closer to Hogwarts. If that’s what you’re looking to get out of this, then yes, it is absolutely worth it. In the words of J.K. Rowling (whose words are immortalized in the wand room), Hogwarts was there to welcome us home.

As far as getting to the studio, once you’re in London it’s really not that difficult. Trains leave regularly from Euston, and at Watford Junction station Mullany’s Buses operate a regular shuttle service to the Leavesden lot. They say the tour takes three hours – we were there for about five (the butterbeer kept us going!). There is so much to see, and rushing through it would be a huge mistake. We’re both already thinking about going back there, because we probably missed loads! Enter a room, turn and look up, and there’s Luna’s lion hat. Blink and you miss it.

If you do go, savour it. Spend ages inspecting all the props in the display cabinet and the windows in Diagon Alley. Imagine yourself at Hogwarts as you watch the lights change from night to day. Gaze at the incredibly detailed concept design artwork. Talk to the helpful, friendly and knowledgeable staff who will tell you amazing stories about how the Harry Potter movies brought the magic to life. Keep calm and have a butterbeer.

We’ll leave you with this incredible piece of artwork by Adam Brockbank, depicting the Dumbledore funeral scene that should have been. It’s for insights like this that you want to explore the movie magic:

Tickets for the Studio Tour can be purchased on the official website.

The 2017 Grammy nominations have arrived, and Beyoncé leads the industry with a total of 9 nods.

Coming in close second are Drake, Rihanna, and Kanye West each with eight nods, while Chance the Rapper comes in third with seven.

The 2017 Grammy Awards will be hosted by Carpool Karaoke genius James Corden on Sunday, February 12. “I am truly honored to be hosting the Grammys next year,” said Corden when the news was announced. “It’s the biggest, most prestigious award show in music and I feel incredibly lucky to be part of such an incredible night.”

Read full article

The 2017 Grammy nominations have arrived, and Beyoncé leads the industry with a total of 9 nods.

Coming in close second are Drake, Rihanna, and Kanye West each with eight nods, while Chance the Rapper comes in third with seven.

The 2017 Grammy Awards will be hosted by Carpool Karaoke genius James Corden on Sunday, February 12. “I am truly honored to be hosting the Grammys next year,” said Corden when the news was announced. “It’s the biggest, most prestigious award show in music and I feel incredibly lucky to be part of such an incredible night.”

2017 Grammy nominations

Album Of The Year:

25 — Adele
Lemonade — Beyoncé
Purpose — Justin Bieber
Views — Drake
A Sailor’s Guide To Earth — Sturgill Simpson

Record Of The Year:

“Hello” — Adele
“Formation” — Beyoncé
“7 Years” — Lukas Graham
“Work” — Rihanna Featuring Drake
“Stressed Out” — Twenty One Pilots

Song Of The Year:

“Formation” — Khalif Brown, Asheton Hogan, Beyoncé Knowles & Michael L. Williams II, songwriters (Beyoncé)
“Hello” — Adele Adkins & Greg Kurstin, songwriters (Adele)
“I Took A Pill In Ibiza” — Mike Posner, songwriter (Mike Posner)
“Love Yourself” — Justin Bieber, Benjamin Levin & Ed Sheeran, songwriters (Justin Bieber)
“7 Years” — Lukas Forchhammer, Stefan Forrest, Morten Pilegaard & Morten Ristorp, songwriters (Lukas Graham)

Best New Artist:

Kelsea Ballerini
The Chainsmokers
Chance The Rapper
Maren Morris
Anderson .Paak

Best Pop Vocal Album:

25 — Adele
Purpose — Justin Bieber
Dangerous Woman — Ariana Grande
Confident — Demi Lovato
This Is Acting — Sia

Best Pop Solo Performance:

“Hello” — Adele
“Hold Up” — Beyonce
“Love Yourself” — Justin Bieber
“Piece By Piece (Idol Version)” — Kelly Clarkson
“Dangerous Woman” — Ariana Grande

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance:

“Closer” — The Chainsmokers Featuring Halsey
“7 Years” — Lukas Graham
“Work” — Rihanna Featuring Drake
“Cheap Thrills” — Sia Featuring Sean Paul
“Stressed Out” — Twenty One Pilots

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album:

Cinema — Andrea Bocelli
Fallen Angels — Bob Dylan
Stages Live — Josh Groban
Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin — Willie Nelson
Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway — Barbra Streisand

Best Dance Recording:

“Tearing Me Up” — Bob Moses
“Don’t Let Me Down” — The Chainsmokers Featuring Daya
“Never Be Like You” — Flume Featuring Kai
“Rinse & Repeat” — Riton Featuring Kah-Lo
“Drinkee” — Sofi Tukker

Best Dance/Electronic Album:

Skin — Flume
Electronica 1: The Time Machine — Jean-Michel Jarre
Epoch — Tycho
Barbara Barbara, We Face A Shining Future — Underworld
Louie Vega Starring…XXVIII — Louie Vega

Best Rock Performance:

“Joe (Live From Austin City Limits)” — Alabama Shakes
“Don’t Hurt Yourself” — Beyoncé Featuring Jack White
“Blackstar” — David Bowie
“The Sound Of Silence” — Disturbed
“Heathens” — Twenty One Pilots

Best Metal Performance:

“Shock Me” — Baroness
“Slivera” — Gojira
“Rotting in Vain” — Korn
“Dystopia” — Megadeth
“The Price Is Wrong” — Periphery

Best Rock Song:

“Blackstar” — David Bowie, songwriter (David Bowie)
“Burn the Witch” —Radiohead, songwriters (Radiohead)
“Hardwired” — James Hetfield & Lars Ulrich, songwriters (Metallica)
“Heathens” — Tyler Joseph, songwriter (Twenty One Pilots)
“My Name Is Human” — Rich Meyer, Ryan Meyer & Johnny Stevens, songwriters (Highly Suspect)

Best Rock Album:

California — Blink-182
Tell Me I’m Pretty — Cage The Elephant
Magma — Gojira
Death Of A Bachelor — Panic! At The Disco
Weezer — Weezer

Best Alternative Music Album:

22, A Million — Bon Iver
Blackstar — David Bowie
The Hope Six Demolition Project — PJ Harvey
Post Pop Depression — Iggy Pop
A Moon Shaped Pool — Radiohead

Best R&B Performance:

“Turnin’ Me Up” — BJ The Chicago Kid
“Permission” — Ro James
“I Do” — Musiq Soulchild
“Needed Me” — Rihanna
“Cranes in the Sky” — Solange

Best R&B Song:

“Come and See Me” — J. Brathwaite, Aubrey Graham & Noah Shebib, songwriters (PartyNextDoor Featuring Drake)
“Exchange” — Michael Hernandez & Bryson Tiller, songwriters (Bryson Tiller)
“Kiss It Better” — Jeff Bhasker, Robyn Fenty, John-Nathan Glass & Natalia Noemi, songwriters (Rihanna)
“Lake By the Ocean” — Hod David & Musze, songwriters (Maxwell)
“Luv” — Magnus August Høiberg, Benjamin Levin & Daystar Peterson, songwriters (Tory Lanez)

Best Urban Contemporary Album:

Lemonade — Beyoncé
Ology — Gallant
We Are King — KING
Malibu — Anderson .Paak
Anti — Rihanna

Best R&B Album:

In My Mind — BJ The Chicago Kid
Lalah Hathaway Live — Lalah Hathaway
Velvet Portraits — Terrace Martin
Healing Season — Mint Condition
Smoove Jones — Mya

Best Rap Performance:

“No Problem” — Chance The Rapper Featuring Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz
“Panda” —Desiigner
“Pop Style” — Drake Featuring The Throne
“All The Way Up” — Fat Joe & Remy Ma Featuring French Montana & Infared
“That Part” — ScHoolboy Q Featuring Kanye West

Best Rap/Sung Performance:

“Freedom” — Beyoncé Featuring Kendrick Lamar
“Hotline Bling” — Drake
“Broccoli” — D.R.A.M. Featuring Lil Yachty
“Ultralight Beam” — Kanye West Featuring Chance The Rapper, Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin & The-Dream
“Famous” — Kanye West Featuring Rihanna

Best Rap Song:

“All The Way Up” — Joseph Cartagena, Edward Davadi, Shandel Green, Karim Kharbouch, Andre Christopher Lyon, Reminisce Mackie & Marcello Valenzano, songwriters (Fat Joe & Remy Ma Featuring French Montana & Infared)
“Famous” — Chancelor Bennett, Ross Birchard, Ernest Brown, Andrew Dawson, Kasseem Dean, Mike Dean, Noah Goldstein, Kejuan Muchita, Patrick Reynolds, Kanye West & Cydel Young, songwriters (Kanye West Featuring Rihanna)
“Hotline Bling” — Aubrey Graham & Paul Jefferies, songwriters (Drake)
“No Problem” — Chancelor Bennett, Dwayne Carter & Tauheed Epps, songwriters (Chance The Rapper Featuring Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz)
“Ultralight Beam” — Chancelor Bennett, Kasseem Dean, Mike Dean, Kirk Franklin, Noah Goldstein, Samuel Griesemer, Terius Nash, Jerome Potter, Kelly Price, Nico “Donnie Trumpet” Segal, Derek Watkins, Kanye West & Cydel Young, songwriters (Kanye West Featuring Chance The Rapper, Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin & The-Dream)

Best Rap Album:
Coloring Book — Chance The Rapper
And the Anonymous Nobody — De La Soul
Major Key — DJ Khaled
Views — Drake
Blank Face LP — ScHoolboy Q
The Life of Pablo — Kanye West

Best Country Solo Performance:

“Love Can Go To Hell” — Brandy Clark
“Vice” — Miranda Lambert
“My Church” — Maren Morris
“Church Bells” — Carrie Underwood
“Blue Ain’t Your Color” — Keith Urban

Best Country Duo/Group Performance:

“Different for Girls” — Dierks Bentley Featuring Elle King
“21 Summer” — Brothers Osborne
“Setting The World On Fire” — Kenny Chesney & P!nk
“Jolene” — Pentatonix Featuring Dolly Parton
“Think Of You” — Chris Young With Cassadee Pope

Best Country Song:

“Blue Ain’t Your Color” — Clint Lagerberg, Hillary Lindsey & Steven Lee Olsen, songwriters (Keith Urban)
“Die A Happy Man” — Sean Douglas, Thomas Rhett & Joe Spargur, songwriters (Thomas Rhett)
“Humble and Kind” — Lori McKenna, songwriter (Tim McGraw)
“My Church” — busbee & Maren Morris, songwriters (Maren Morris)
“Vice” — Miranda Lambert, Shane McAnally & Josh Osborne, songwriters (Miranda Lambert)

Best Country Album:

Big Day In A Small Town — Brandy Clark
Full Circle — Loretta Lynn
Hero — Maren Morris
A Sailor’s Guide To Earth — Sturgill Simpson
Ripcord — Keith Urban

Don’t know what to get your fandom-loving friend for the holidays this year? We’ve compiled a 2016 Holiday Gift Guide for geeks of all types.

From TV subscriptions, to the latest technology, to… waffle makers. We have you covered.

Hypable’s 2016 Holiday Gift Guide

For Harry Potter fans: ‘Chamber of Secrets’ Illustrated Edition

chamber-of-secrets-full-cover-illustrated

Read full article

Don’t know what to get your fandom-loving friend for the holidays this year? We’ve compiled a 2016 Holiday Gift Guide for geeks of all types.

From TV subscriptions, to the latest technology, to… waffle makers. We have you covered.

Hypable’s 2016 Holiday Gift Guide

For Harry Potter fans: ‘Chamber of Secrets’ Illustrated Edition

chamber-of-secrets-full-cover-illustrated

Sure, the Potter fan in your life may have the first editions of every Harry Potter book, but do they own the newly released illustrated editions? The beauty of every single page of these books can not be overstated. Most Potter fans may not have heard of these reissues, so they make a perfect surprise gift for the Harry Potter loving person in your life. As of right now only the first two books are available, with the rest rolling out over the next few years.

Related: Check out our review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone illustrated edition!

You can purchase Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on Amazon for $23.99, but we highly recommend going to a local book store, leafing through the beautiful pages yourself and then buying!

Honorable mentions: With Fantastic Beasts just hitting theaters, there’s plenty of merchandise related to the movie now available. We recommend the script book and The Case of Beasts for anyone who’s obsessed with the movie.

For techies: Amazon Echo Dot

Holiday Gift Guide Echo Dot

Home automation is all the rage this year. But the Amazon Echo Dot stands out because of its cute design, abundance of use and small price tag. The Echo Dot, which does the same thing as the Echo but without the giant speaker, is a hands-free, voice-controlled device that uses Alexa to play music, control smart home devices, provide information, read the news, set alarms and more. Consider it a smarter Siri. A few of us at Hypable have used this for a few months and absolutely love it.

You can buy the Amazon Echo Dot on Amazon for $49.99, or pick one up at a local Best Buy, WalMart or Target.

For cable-cutters: Sling TV

sling-tv

Cable-cutters, rejoice! If you’ve dropped your cable box, or are considering it, Sling TV is a good transition into the cable box-less lifestyle. Starting at $20/month, Sling TV offers a slew of channels including CNN, HGTV, Disney Channel, Freeform, AMC, and ESPN without the high cost of cable. Best of all, there are no hidden or additional fees (besides the need to pay for internet). If you’re looking for even more channels, you can upgrade your subscription with additional “extras” that suit your needs.

Honorable mention: On Wednesday, November 30, DirecTV launched a competitor to Sling TV called DirecTV Now. They’re offering a very enticing introductory offer: Commit to three months of service (for as low as $35 per month) and you get a free Apple TV — the new one Apple unveiled last year. What’s more, you can lock in DirecTV Now’s 100-channel plan for only $35 per month, and it’ll stay at that price for as long as you keep your subscription active. Normally the 100-channel package is $60/month, so you better act fast!

DirecTV is still missing key features like a virtual DVR, but AT&T says it’s coming.

For cable-cutters: Hulu’s No Commercial plan

hulu-live-tv-service

Another solution for cable-cutters: Earlier this year Hulu dropped their free service, and the announcement stung. But honestly? Hulu is worth paying for these days, because their “No Commercials” plan is fantastic. For $11.99 you get to watch current TV shows (save for CW shows — ugh) as if they were on Netflix. You hit “Play,” and it begins to play without pesky ads. No commercial breaks. Just the TV show. Shelling out $11.99 per month is worth the TV bliss.

Hulu also has an impressive lineup of movies, including the latest James Bond movie Spectre, Mockingjay, Part 2, and Creed.

This is a cable-cutters dream come true, and something we’d recommend over Sling TV. And if you need those CW shows, download the CW app and stream ’em for free.

For party people: UE BOOM 2 Bluetooth Speaker

ue-bluetooth-speaker

If you need a portable bluetooth speaker for parties, vacations, etc., look no further than the UE BOOM 2. Yes, it’s available in a variety of colors and offers unique features like an app that lets multiple people contribute songs to a single playlist, but this is the most important part: It sounds great. Seriously, seriously great. You won’t believe the amount of sound that comes out of the little thing.

The only problem is it’s a little pricey: From $169 to $199. But trust me, if you want to impress your friends and your ear holes, this is the first and last bluetooth speaker to consider.

(By the way: It can hook up with that Amazon Echo Dot)

For the organized Potter fan: A Divination Planner

il_570xN.1102831277_n9sh

Ruskerville has the best planners for any and every Potter fan. I would know; I’ve ordered a planner from this Wisconsin-based Etsy seller every year for the past three years. Ranging from daily to weekly and encompassing all of the Hogwarts houses, these planners have the perfect amount of flair to make every day of the year a great day to celebrate Harry Potter. You can choose your starting month and what layout you like best for your planner, which is really handy if you forget to buy one before the start of the year. Best of all, the planners are well-made and durable, even if they spend most of the year jostling around in your over-stuffed purse.

You can buy the Divination planner here for $24.00. Be sure to check out Ruskerville’s Etsy shop to see all of the Harry Potter planner options. — Danielle Zimmerman

For the Star Wars fan who loves breakfast: A Star Wars Death Star Waffle Maker

huik_sw_death_star_waffle_maker

Do we even need to say anything here? If you love Star Wars and waffles, you can’t possibly go wrong with this. With Rogue One coming out very soon, this is the perfect gift for your Star Wars loving friend.

You can buy the Death Star Waffle Maker for $39.99.

For the nerdy political junkie: Star Wars Propaganda: A History of Persuasive Art in the Galaxy

star-wars-propaganda-book

Fans of politics and political history can find their passions combined with Star Wars in Star Wars Propaganda: A History of Persuasive Art in the Galaxy. A gorgeous in-universe art book, Star Wars Propaganda tells the story of galactic politics through the evocative persuasive posters produced throughout all seven episodes. With “scholarly commentary” from Jaynor of Bith (the text is actually written by Star Wars mastermind Pablo Hidalgo) and ten beautiful art prints, this rich fictional history is a treat for both the eyes and the mind.

You can purchase Star Wars Propaganda: A History of Persuasive Art in the Galaxy for $28.54.

For the Tyrion Lannister in your life: Valar Dohaeris/Valar Morghulis Beer Set

GOT_Beer

Ommegang Beer takes the edge off the holidays (and the wait for Game of Thrones season 7) with their Valar Dohaeris/Valar Morghulis beer set. The Valar Dohaeris Tripel Ale is a new addition to the the brewery’s Game of Thrones line, and Valar Morghulis Dubbel Ale is a re-release of a popular bottle from 2014. Packaged in beautiful House of Black and White-themed box, the set comes with a commemorative glass and a delicious way to remind your friends and family (over the legal drinking age!) that no matter what, all men must serve.

You can learn more about the Game of Thrones beer set here. You’ll have to shop around at your local liquor stores to get your hands on it.

Do you have a favorite fandom gift that you know fans would love to receive as a holiday gift? Add a link in the comments below!

Andrew Sims, Michal Schick and Danielle Zimmerman contributed to this article.

It’s been eight long weeks. We’ve had drama, killer plants, kissing, killer flowers, death, more kissing and finally; more death. This weekend saw the season finale of Class – the first Doctor Who spinoff since 2011. So was it worth the wait? Let’s have a look.

‘Doctor Who’ spinoff ‘Class’ review

Overall Class covered quite a bit in just eight episodes. It had the tough task of developing five lead roles and a handful of supporting actors in what could be considered a short season from the BBC. While we did get to grips with each individual character, there were definite moments where I wanted to see some major developments, and all I got was tired old cliches.

The definite highlight of the show was Katherine Kelly’s stellar performance of hard-arse teacher/alien Miss Quill. She perfectly portrayed a huntress in heels with an killer attitude to match. It’s a real pity that whilst the show revolved around the students at Coal Hill, they couldn’t hold a match to Kelly’s fantastic portrayal of her character. The younger cast members each had their moments where they shone, however Miss Quill definitely gets an A+. My fingers are thoroughly crossed she manages to high-kick her way into the TARDIS again at some point.

Read full article

It’s been eight long weeks. We’ve had drama, killer plants, kissing, killer flowers, death, more kissing and finally; more death. This weekend saw the season finale of Class – the first Doctor Who spinoff since 2011. So was it worth the wait? Let’s have a look.

‘Doctor Who’ spinoff ‘Class’ review

Overall Class covered quite a bit in just eight episodes. It had the tough task of developing five lead roles and a handful of supporting actors in what could be considered a short season from the BBC. While we did get to grips with each individual character, there were definite moments where I wanted to see some major developments, and all I got was tired old cliches.

The definite highlight of the show was Katherine Kelly’s stellar performance of hard-arse teacher/alien Miss Quill. She perfectly portrayed a huntress in heels with an killer attitude to match. It’s a real pity that whilst the show revolved around the students at Coal Hill, they couldn’t hold a match to Kelly’s fantastic portrayal of her character. The younger cast members each had their moments where they shone, however Miss Quill definitely gets an A+. My fingers are thoroughly crossed she manages to high-kick her way into the TARDIS again at some point.

doctor-who-class-miss-quill

While it’s important to note that the other cast members are significantly younger than Kelly, I personally don’t feel their character development was due to a lack of acting skills – but more poor scripting. Most supporting characters didn’t come to life and their dialogue all too often made my eyes roll involuntarily. Need an example?

MATTEUSZ: Please no more promises. I won’t make any either. Except one. I promise to love you today. And tomorrow, I will make this promise again.

CHARLIE: I’ll make that promise, too.

MATTEUSZ: I would quite like to kiss you now.

I’ll give you a moment to throw up before I continue. There were just too many moments where Class felt like its sole purpose was to twang the heartstrings of viewers by using worn out cliches. Even the characterization was a bit on the nose. Being gay myself, I’m all for LGBTQ representation on television, but there there were definitely times when it felt that the show was over-compensating. It made it apparent from episode one that Charlie (Greg Austin) was our comfortably gay lead character. This was all the audience needed to know about him and his sexuality.

Unfortunately, the show continuously reiterated that this character was gay and that it wasn’t a big deal. Sadly this had the reverse effect, and by reiterating that it wasn’t a big deal, it became a focal point of early episodes and subsequently a ‘big deal.’

Doctor Who Class Gay Character

On paper Class seems like an fantastic concept. What happens to the world once The Doctor has sauntered off? How will people’s day-to-day life be effected by the waves he’s caused in time and space? In reality, Patrick Ness dealt us a story about the Shadow Kin. A race of aliens who are basically the most grudge-y creatures in the Whoniverse and love to back-stab (seriously – count how many times it happens!). There was little tie-in to the events of Doctor Who, something that would’ve been a massive positive for Class. While the show had some surprising twists that caught me off guard, there were definitely moments that were lost on me because there was no build-up of tension.

Take the most recent episode, “Lost,” as an example. This is your “spoiler-alert” warning by the way…

Our favorite jock, Ram played by Fady Elsayed, is having a friendly kick around with his Dad. We’ve April (Sophie Hopkins) singing about how people lose things (keys, sanity, the audience), and then what-would-you-know, Ram’s dad is dead. Completely out of the blue he’s standing in the middle of a football field with a sword through his chest.

While this is one of several deaths Ram witnesses (don’t get me started…) it’s a turning point for the character. A switch flicks in his head and he wants blood. However the gravity of this moment was totally lost on me because there’s absolutely no build up leaving me a bit confused and scared to play football.

As always with any bi-product of the Whoniverse, we’re left with a cliffhanger keeping us wanting more. This time around, we head into the mysterious Room M107. After another death and a cameo from a Weeping Angel, we hear about “The Arrival”, which presumably will be the main arc for season two.

The question is, was Saturday’s last scene enough to entice audiences back for a second helping? Personally – this is the one Class I’ll be happily skipping.

Tags: class, Doctor Who