Arts and Entertainment Robert Downey Jr as Marvel Comics' superhero Iron Man

Eight of the top 10 financial sucesses of last year picked up on previous films

What's pink and sparkly and new this year?

Pink Sparkly And All Things Nice is among more than 100,000 Britons who changed their name this year.

Hall, left, with Brian Cosgrove outside Toad Hall for their adaptation of 'Wind in the Willows'

Mark Hall: Creator of 'Dangermouse'and 'Count Duckula'

The animator, producer and director Mark Hall created scores of programmes for British television. As half of Cosgrove Hall Productions, he worked alongside Brian Cosgrove from a converted warehouse in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, where they utilised drawings on cels, puppets and stop-frame techniques to create the critically praised animations (they were nominated for five awards at the 1986 Baftas alone) that enlivened countless childhoods.

Superhero spin on festive classic: 'Batman: Noël'

Batman Noël: Gotham City's caped Scrooge

With his pointy-eared mask, flowing cape, and underpants on full show, Batman could only have been created in the superhero golden age of the 1930s. But, in recent years, the Dark Knight has begun to resemble a character from a Victorian melodrama; an emotionally compromised mansion-dweller who rarely tolerates the company of anyone other than his butler.

Screen Talk: Service resumed for a super team

Hollywood is abuzz with the news that the film-maker Matthew Vaughn and comic book writer Mark Millar are drawing up plans to work together again.

The Interrupters (15)

An antidote to the recent spoofery of DIY superheroes (Kick-Ass, Super), this documentary presents the reality of "ordinary" people trying to fight violence.

Trollied, Sky 1, Thursday<br/>Superheroes of Suburbia, Channel 4, Friday

If Sky's first comedy doesn't quite rock us in the aisles, its terrific ensemble playing comes close

Navy Seals: Tough, all-action heroes who operate at highest level in a shadowy world

Officially, there is no Navy Seals Team Six.

Supergods, By Grant Morrison

All good books about superheroes, and the comics and films in which they appear, end up to some extent being memoirs. For people who stay interested long enough to think deeply and write, superheroes are tokens of memory and aspiration; we remember where we were when we first picked up a Spider-Man comic and why it spoke to our needs. Comics provide us with useful metaphors, ways of thinking, points of view.

Laurence Fishburne joins Superman: Man of Steel

Laurence Fishburne will play Perry White in 'Superman: Man of Steel'.

The Cap wasn't always so marvellous

The new Captain America film is a hit but, says Giles Brody, the super soldier's last outing provides a cautionary tale

Captain America: The First Avenger, Joe Johnston, 124 mins (12A)<br/>Arrietty, Hiromasa Yonebayashi, 94 mins (U)<br/>Horrid Henry: The Movie, Nick Moore, 90 mins, (U)

The fantastic world of comic books comes to life in a square-jawed action movie in which goodies and baddies reassuringly know their place

DVD: Super (18)

You can see what James Gunn wanted to do with his vigilante "comedy". In a movie world dominated by Hollywood superheroes, he's turned his satirical eyebeams on what might happen if some schmo (Rainn Wilson) donned a lurid outfit and took justice into his own hands.

Superhero comic takes on al-Qa'ida

The Arab world can take graphic art seriously, as any Danish cartoonist will attest, so goodness knows what sort of response will greet the comic industry's latest mooted blockbuster publication: a tale about al-Qa'ida that was designed, in the words of its creator, to "really piss people off".

A Dance with Dragons, By George RR Martin

It is hard to accept that something that enormous and that popular can be as good as people tell you it is. A Song of Ice and Fire, George RR Martin's vast fantasy epic – simply reading that phrase will close some minds instantly – has been appearing at irregular intervals since 1996. It is now being adapted as a television series. The first season, A Game of Thrones, recently aired on HBO and Sky Atlantic.

Batman Live, MEN Arena, Manchester

It is big, brash, very, very loud and coming to an arena near you this school summer holidays. Unlike the roundly panned musical exploits of Spider-Man in the US, the Caped Crusader live in the UK has enjoyed a trouble-free gestation to date. Yet at a cost of £12m it does carry a similarly grandiose ambition.

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Rio Ferdinand, Alan Shearer, Alan Hansen and Gary Lineker during Hansen's final broadcast
World Cup 2014
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Rihanna celebrates Germany's win
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Luiz Felipe Scoalri holds his hands on his head after watching Brazil succumb to a 3-0 defeat to the Netherlands
Globo Esporte claims Brazil's football confederation (CBF) not renew Scolari's contract
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Neil Young performs on stage at Hyde Park
musicAnd his Hyde Park set has rhyme and reason, writes Nick Hasted
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Women have been desperate to possess dimples like Cheryl Cole's
people Cole has secretly married French boyfriend Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini after just three months.
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AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
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The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
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Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor